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3.31.19 Listening to God in Anxiety

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Have you noticed that more and more people seem to struggle with anxiety these days? Maybe you have experienced greater anxiety yourself in recent years. When I see the growing divisiveness and the pain of our sisters and brothers around the world, it is hard for me to not slip into anxious thinking. That is why I am so grateful for our time together with Nader Sahyouni.

Nader guided us wonderfully through an examination of how God invites us to respond in our anxiety. It was such a thoughtful and grace-filled teaching with helpful handles for praying during anxious seasons. We follow the example of Jesus and Paul when we pray the pattern of please, thank you, and yes.

We begin asking God to fix the anxiety producing situation. What a gift to know this is not only a welcomed prayer but Jesus himself prayed it. Of course, we see in the example of both Jesus and Paul that God may not take it away. If that is the case, we know God is working to redeem it in some way, so we pray “Thank you,” asking for the redemption of our pain. Finally, we learn to pray, “Yes,” accepting the situation.

Nader then guided us through a practice of prayerful journaling. If you couldn’t be with us, would you make some time this week to listen and engage the meaningful practice in the podcast? You can also find the prompts for prayer below.

Kingdom Practices
This week we would invite you to continue to pray through the pattern of please, thank you, and yes in your anxiety. You may journal or pray this pattern in your time of prayer. But we would also ask that you share your prayer with a trusted spiritual friend. Anxiety grows in the dark, so how might you shine a light on your anxiety in community this week?

Please
Ask God to fix the anxiety producing situation.

Thank You
If God has not fixed it, thank him for how he is redeeming it. Pray for the redemption you know he is working out, even though you probably don’t see it right now.

Yes
Accept the situation in prayer. If it’s too hard to accept, first ask for strength and courage to say yes. If it’s still too hard, ask God to show you if you’re believing any lies about it. Finally ask him for the faith you need to say yes.

3.24.19 Listening to God in Sorrow

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Last night, we continued our Lenten journey as we explored how God speaks in our sorrow. In our culture, we tend to believe being blessed means having money, talents, and influence, but is that true? Dallas Willard said blessing is to “will the good of another.” When God blesses us, we might say God is willing our good, that God is bringing the greatest good into our lives. What if the greatest good does not come from comfort?

Scripture seems to suggest there is a deep gift in our sorrow. In our pain we discover the profound love of God. It is incredible to consider the creator of the universe would stoop low and be present with us in our grief. How might God redeem our suffering in such a way that it serves our formation in Christlikeness?

Lori, then led us in the practice of welcoming prayer. This practice allows us to welcome the emotions we experience in pain, to sit with them in God’s loving presence, rather than rushing past them.

Kingdom Practices
We have two kingdom practices this week. The first is to continue in the work God has been doing in your sorrow. Are you in a season of pain? If so, will you commit to leaning into God, and not pushing through the season more quickly than God would have you move, and if you sense some invitation from God would you respond to it?

The second practice is simply to notice sorrow. As you move through your week, where do you notice sorrow, both in yourself and in others? When you do, would you choose to be present with it? Let’s not ignore or stuff it. Let’s welcome whatever emotions arise in ourselves and others, and hold them in God’s loving presence.

 

3.10.19 Listening to God in Repentance

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Last night, we began our journey together through the season of Lent. Lent is a season of preparation. We reflect on our humanity and brokenness and embrace God’s loving invitation to repent in order to be ready for the joy of Easter.

In our time together, Kimberly Pelletier helped us examine repentance. How have we sought to meet a valid need in our life with something less than God? In what ways are we trying to control that need, and how might Jesus be inviting us to let go and turn to him? Kimberly guided us in an imaginative prayer that was deeply meaningful. It was an embodied prayer, helping us connect to the Lord’s invitation with our whole selves.

Kingdom Practices
As Kimberly said last night, repentance is a turning. We turn from something we use to seek security, affection, or power to Jesus. The invitation of repentance is more than a decision. How have you noticed an invitation to repentance? How is Jesus asking you to walk toward him in this season? Will you choose this week to take one practical step of repentance?

3.3.19 The Gift of Presence

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It was so wonderful to have Trevor and Lacy with us this weekend! Last night, Trevor invited us to consider the gift of presence. We explored the real encounter that happens when we learn to be present to the presence of God in all of creation. And Lacy helped us practice with a clementine. We then explored the great gift we offer to one another, the gift of our presence.

Friends, this was such an incredible time together. If you couldn’t be with us, would you make some time this week to listen and engage the practices in the podcast? As you engage it, there are two things that will help your practice. First, listen with a clementine. This will be important for the first practice of the evening. Second, would you listen with another person? This will be helpful as you engage the second practice of the night, offering a blessing to another.

Kingdom Practices
Last night, Trevor asked us to consider the gift of presence. How might we be more present to God’s presence in ourselves, in one another, and in all of creation? Did you sense God inviting you to learn to be more present in any of these spaces? As we bring our time in the practice of simplicity to a close, and look forward to Lent, do you sense God inviting you into any particular practice during the Lenten season?

2.17.2019 Listening to God in Simplicity

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Sunday night, we continued our month engaging the spiritual practice of simplicity. I am more and more convinced this practice is essential in our journey of walking and working with Jesus. The life Jesus offers is a life of simplicity. On Sunday night, we learned about the practice, and we crafted an experiment in simplicity. We listened to how God might be inviting us to practice this important discipline. You can download a copy of the handout here.

 

Kingdom Practices
As we move into the next few weeks, let’s fully engage our experiments of simplicity. Let’s pay attention to what God is revealing in our practice. What attachments are we uncovering as we wade into simplicity? And let’s share our practices with someone for encouragement and support.

Additional Resources 
If you would like to read more about the practice of simplicity, consider these resources.

Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster
Abundant Simplicity by Jan Johnson
Simplicity by Mindy Caliguire

2.10.2019 Listening to God in Simplicity

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Sunday night was such a gift! Warren and the Judson Choir guided our liturgy and led us beautifully into the heart of God. Then we explored the spiritual practice of simplicity with Ashlee Eiland. Friends, the more I sit with this practice, the more I realize how central it is to a life with God. Simplicity, Ashlee said, helps us to mend what is disconnected in our lives. She invited us to examine: what master are we serving, what are we not leaving space for in our excess, and to what might we be addicted?

If you couldn’t be with us last night, please listen to the podcast and make time to engage this important practice.

Kingdom Practices
This week, would you continue to reflect and pray about how God might be inviting you into the practice of simplicity? What was God drawing to your attention? Was it an invitation to serve one master, to bear good fruit, or inherit eternal life? Did God bring to mind any specific space where you desire or need greater simplicity? If you struggled to identify a space, would you continue to pray and listen? Perhaps God will show you something as you listen this week.

1.27.19 A base camp of spiritual practices

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My friends, I am so grateful for our community. I love worshiping and practicing with you. Last night, we acknowledged that we are uniquely created by God, and being uniquely created means our experiences with the practices will vary. We explored how we might craft a base camp of spiritual practices, practices within five spaces that honor the people we are created to be. If you couldn’t be with us, have a listen to the podcast and engage the practice. You can download the handout here.

Kingdom Practices
This week, let’s continue to reflect on the spiritual practices that have been life-giving and have helped us live more fully in the presence of God in our everyday lives. Is God inviting you to find a practice in one of spaces of the base camp? Is God inviting you to adjust a practice or lean in more deeply to a particular practice?

12.9.18 The Mystery of Advent

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What a wonderful night! Sam guided us with an invitation to open our hearts to the mysteries of Advent. “Great is the mystery of Advent, Christ has come, Christ is with us, and Christ will come again.” The thread holding these three Advents together is the gift of God’s presence. How might we slow down this week to see Jesus in those we encounter each day?

Sam then led the practice of Visio Divina. Visio Divina helps us to listen to God as we see. If you couldn’t be with us, please make some time this week to listen and engage this practice. You can find the image we used last night here.

Kingdom Practices
As we walk through Advent this year, let’s continue to practice the breath prayer we engaged last week, “Immanuel, I wait for you.” And as we grow in deeper awareness of the Lord’s presence with us, how are we being invited to respond to God’s presence in the people we meet every day?

12.2.18 Advent Waiting

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It was good to be back with you in community Sunday night and lean into the first week of Advent. Our night began with a brief update and prayer. This has been a challenging season for the community of Willow Creek as some hard decisions have been made about the 2019 budget. While we received the good news that The Practice will be funded without any cuts for 2019, many received the painful news that their jobs have been eliminated. We began our evening holding them in the loving presence of God. As you head into this season, would you continue to hold our community in prayer?

In our liturgy and teaching, we reflected on the invitation of Advent to wait in hopeful expectation for the coming of Christ. In the waiting we learn to slow down, to live with intention. Benedictine sister Joan Chittister says in Advent “we wait for what is beyond the obvious… to see what is behind the apparent. Advent makes us look for God in all those places we have, until now, ignored.”

The gift of Advent is that God is Immanuel. No matter how we experience the longing for God’s presence in this season, the Lord truly is “God with us.” We expressed our desire in the spiritual practice of breath prayer. Together we prayed the prayer, “Immanuel, I wait for you.”

Kingdom Practices
During the season Advent this year, will you join us in the practice of this breath prayer “Immanuel, I wait for you?” Will you set aside five to ten minutes each day to pray this breath prayer slowly and reflectively? As we pray, let’s focus our attention on God’s loving presence. Then as we go about our day, we’ll repeat the prayer a handful of times as it comes to mind. When we become aware of our longings for God’s presence, let’s pray, “Immanuel, I wait for you,” as a way of grounding ourselves in God’s presence during this holy season.

11.18.18 Listening to God in Rest

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It was so great to have Keri Wyatt Kent guide us with an invitation into a simple Sabbath rhythm. Keri did a fantastic job outlining the scriptural invitation of Sabbath as a gift to be opened each week. The question I keep coming back to is whether we can ever “experience the unconditional love of God if we don’t stop striving long enough to receive it.”

She then asked two important questions to guide our Sabbath practice. “What is one thing you wish you had more time for, and what is something you wish to be free from?” If you couldn’t be with us last night, please make some time to listen.

Kingdom Practices
Over the course of these next two weeks, can we choose one day each week for a simple Sabbath practice? Keri’s invitation is so wise. Let’s not start with a burdensome heroic Sabbath practice involving fifteen things from which we abstain or engage.

Let’s simply rest from one thing. What do you long to be free from? Is it some chore or task, maybe a responsibility, your phone, or maybe it is worry or fear? And let’s intentionally spend time doing one thing. What do you wish you had more time for? Is it taking a walk, reading, a meal with friends or family, or maybe even taking a nap.