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Advent

Imaginative Prayer Series: The Baptism of Christ (Matthew 3:13-17)

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This is the fifth contemplation in a series of imaginative prayer resources written by and recorded for The Practice community. Imaginative prayer is way of meeting with the Lord by using our imagination to enter a Gospel story. Using our imagination to experience the sights and sounds of the scene helps to bring our whole selves into the presence of Christ. The purpose of this prayer is to meet Jesus face-to-face and grow in intimacy with Him.

Our first prayer written by Father Michael brought us into the room with Mary at the annunciation, and the second contemplation was a reflection on the shepherds outside of Bethlehem written by Jason Feffer. In our third imaginative prayer Kellye Fabian helped us join the story of the Magi as they travel to worship the newborn king and the fourth was a reflection on the holy family’s escape to Egypt written by Roselyn Heims.

This fifth contemplation written by Sam Tinken places us on the banks of the Jordan at the baptism of Jesus.

(artwork by Daniel Bonnell)

Imaginative Prayer Series: Escape to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-23)

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This is the fourth contemplation in a series of imaginative prayer resources written by and recorded for The Practice community. Imaginative prayer is way of meeting with the Lord by using our imagination to enter a Gospel story. Using our imagination to experience the sights and sounds of the scene helps to bring our whole selves into the presence of Christ. The purpose of this prayer is to meet Jesus face-to-face and grow in intimacy with Him.

Our first prayer written by Father Michael brought us into the room with Mary at the annunciation. The second contemplation was a reflection on the shepherds outside of Bethlehem written by Jason Feffer, and in the third imaginative prayer written by Kellye Fabian, we joined the story of the Magi as they travel to worship the newborn king.

This fourth contemplation was written by Roselyn Heims. It is a reflection on the holy family’s escape to Egypt.

 

Imaginative Prayer Series: The Visit of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12)

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This is the third contemplation in a series of imaginative prayer resources written by and recorded for The Practice community. Our first prayer written by Father Michael brought us into the room with Mary at the annunciation. The second contemplation was a reflection on the shepherds outside of Bethlehem written by Jason Feffer. In this week’s original imaginative prayer written by Kellye Fabian, we join the story of the Magi as they travel to worship the newborn king.

Imaginative prayer is way of meeting with the Lord by using our imagination to enter a Gospel story. Using our imagination to experience the sights and sounds of the scene helps to bring our whole selves into the presence of Christ. The purpose of this prayer is to meet Jesus face-to-face and grow in intimacy with Him.

(The Mural “Adoration of the Magi” was painted by a group of Benedictine monks from Conception Abbey.)

12.10.17 The Incarnation

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Last night we continued our journey through the second movement of Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises by contemplating the scandalous mystery of the incarnation. Our opening liturgy once again tapped into our longing in this Advent season. We await the coming peace of Christ.

Then, we marveled at the incarnation. How is it that the creator of the universe would come among us in diapers? The humility of our God is absolutely astonishing. While we want to win and be right, Jesus emptied himself. He humbled himself to the point of assuming the entire human experience, even death. Because of the incarnation, God has personal knowledge of contentment and poverty, joy and sorrow, excitement and fear, strength and weakness, and even pain.

We then asked how we are coming into Advent and brought that to Christ in a colloquy. We imagined ourselves meeting with Jesus and sharing with him the primary emotion we are bringing into this season. Our time conversing with Christ beautifully led us to the table and the mystery of Christ’s presence in the bread and juice.

Have a listen to the full teaching and practice.

Kingdom Practices
For the duration of our time in the second movement we will continue the practice of imaginative prayer. In order to engage this practice, we have written and recorded ten original contemplations. Each one was written by a member of our community, and they will help us to enter a Gospel story and meet personally with Jesus.

Every Monday our email will include a link to the week’s prayer. This week, we begin with an original contemplation written by Jason Feffer. This contemplation centers on the birth of Christ, and the shepherds who first heard the good news. Please make some time this week to engage this practice.

Imaginative Prayer Series: The Birth of Christ (Luke 2:1-21)

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This is the second contemplation in a series of imaginative prayer resources written by and recorded for The Practice community. Imaginative prayer is way of meeting with the Lord by using our imagination to enter a Gospel story. Using our imagination to experience the sights and sounds of the scene helps to bring our whole selves into the presence of Christ. The purpose of this prayer is to meet Jesus face-to-face and grow in intimacy with Him.

Our first prayer written by Father Michael brought us into the room with Mary at the annunciation. This contemplation is a reflection on the birth of Christ as experienced by the shepherds outside of Bethlehem written by Jason Feffer.

(painting by James Jacques Joseph Tissot)

Imaginative Prayer Series: The Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38)

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This is the first contemplation in a series of imaginative prayer resources written by and recorded for The Practice community. Imaginative prayer is way of meeting with the Lord by using our imagination to enter a Gospel story. Using our imagination to experience the sights and sounds of the scene helps to bring our whole selves into the presence of Christ. The purpose of this prayer is to meet Jesus face-to-face and grow in intimacy with Him.

This original contemplation written by Father Michael centers on the Annunciation, Mary’s beautiful response to God’s invitation.

(artwork by Patricia Brintle www.patriciabrintle.com)

An “All of the Above” Advent

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Our culture approaches the month of December with several competing narratives. Among others:

There’s the “Christmas Cheer” narrative, where December is a month to be happy, joyful, celebratory, going from party to party and giving and receiving gifts amidst calls of “Merry Christmas”.

There’s the “At My Wits End” stress narrative, where the month is one unbroken string of adding social engagements, harried shopping, hosting extended family, and house decorating on top of schedule that was already crammed full in November without all the extra responsibilities.

There’s the “It’s All Fake” narrative, where the merry making just papers over the depression and dysfunction and pain that’s right under the surface. I think of any number of Christmas movies depicting the family dysfunction at the heart of some Christmas “celebrations” or It’s a Wonderful Life’s George Bailey before Clarence the angel intervenes.

And, of course, there’s the “Reason for the Season” narrative, where Advent is a time to push all distractions aside to bask in the reality of Immanuel, God with us. Peace on earth and all the holy accompaniments.

While there are certainly those who love everything about the run-up to Christmas, who connect deeply with the first or last of the above narratives, many of us find Advent more complicated, disorienting, stressful, even sad than we feel like it “should be”. We ought to be joyful; we ought to push away distractions; we ought to focus on Jesus, and love, and peace, and all that holy stuff, right?

But then real life returns, and we think of the obligations we have to fulfill, the person who isn’t going to be sitting around the Christmas tree this year, the to-do list that doesn’t go away, the pain that keeps nipping at our stockings. What are we to do with Advent? Which narrative is true?

What if the answer was all of the above? What if the distractions and holiness and pain and joy and stress and peace were all supposed to be wrapped up into one narrative, instead of us having to choose? What if God intended Advent to be a part of our real, complicated lives each year, instead of a fake imitation? What if the rough edges of our Decembers weren’t things to be sanded away?

We hope you’ll join us this Advent on December 4th and 11th as we explore how we can celebrate Advent authentically and deeply while still in the midst of the real world. After all, Christmas is the story of the joyful birth of our Savior…in the midst of donkey and sheep manure.

Many blessings,
Curtis

Advent Celebration on December 13th, 2015

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The Chapel.

Advent

On Sunday night, December 13th, the Practice community gathered together for our first ever Advent Celebration. After a time of dessert, coffee, and gallons of egg nog — because nothing helps you prepare for contemplation like sugar and caffeine (ha!) — we entered the Willow chapel in holy expectation that Immanuel would guide us deeply into reverent reflection and joy-filled celebration. God did exactly that. Hallelujah.

Instead of retelling the experience, we decided to simply post the full recording and printed liturgy. Other than cutting out the 5 minutes of silence and 10 minutes of communion, it’s simply an unedited recording of what happened that night. We hope this helps you get a sense of the journey we went on…and even enables you to experience it too.

Grace and peace in this Advent season.

Download Advent Celebration Liturgy

Listen to the night…

..

*All photos by Eric Niequist*

Advent Sunday Reflections, December 6, 2015: Crowding Out Christ

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“God disrupts everything.”

So said our prophetic brother Jonathan Martin. And wow, could we use some disruption right now. Fear is, indeed, in the air. Most of us could list a dozen things to be afraid of in our current global climate (including, well, the climate). Most of us could probably do so in less than a minute.

The normal, un-disrupted logic of fear plays out all around us these days. The violence and chaos of the world cause people to look around frantically for ways to get things back under control. The seductively obvious solution is to meet violence with more violence. To fight fear with force. This is the logic that calls for more bombs. This is the logic that caused the president of a prominent evangelical university to call this week for his students to start carrying guns “so we could end those Muslims” before they harm us.

But our liturgy last night kept highlighting the Advent promise of freedom from fear. Our opening gospel readings found the angels telling the shepherds not to be afraid and Zechariah proclaiming that Jesus would rescue us so we could serve God without fear. The songs we sang proclaimed the greatness of our Joy and that we would not be afraid because of God’s presence. Our prayers were made to the Prince of Peace who offers us an alternative to fear. We passed the peace to one another. And, of course, Jonathan Martin asked us to ponder the question of what fear we need to let go of so we might prepare room in our hearts for Christ. Take a listen to the podcast here:

Two thousand years ago God made his ultimate response to the chaos and violence of the world. Many in that day expected a response of power (after all, who is better able to power-up than God?). That was the expectation of John the Baptist, as Jonathan pointed out. But Christmas isn’t the celebration of the victory of a military commander, driving the enemies of God before him; it’s the celebration of the birth of a baby to a poor family in an out-of-the-way town.

Jonathan told us the story of Ananias, who acted out of faith to extend words of friendship to an enemy of God, Saul.   How could that be? Where does one find the strength to do such an irrational thing?

One could, perhaps, look to the story of Christmas, where God himself extended friendship to his enemies. Us.

God, at Christmas, chose not the road of power but the road of love. He disrupted everything, and promises to do the same for us, if we’ll allow it.

And that is what the practice Aaron led us through, of Examen, offers. Fear is all around us. We find ourselves receiving from our culture a “residual fear”, as Jonathan put it. It can slip in and permeate our thinking without us even realizing it. And so we stop to examine our hearts. We open up our thoughts, and our fear, to God’s light. And God, who disrupted a broken, fearful world with words of friendship, disrupts our broken, fearful hearts with whispers of love.

Come, Lord Jesus, disrupt everything.

Blessings,
Curtis Miller and The Practice Team

Advent at The Practice

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We all want to make room for Christ to move in and through our lives, but it’s easy to let the busyness of this season and the intensity of world events crowd Him out. Isn’t it painfully ironic how often we miss Christ because of the busy Christmas season? But we don’t have to! Advent invites us into another way. Let us explore how to practice it together….

December 6th – An Advent Examen
December 13th – An Advent Celebration

Jonathan Martin

Jonathan Martin

On Sunday, December 6th, we’ll ask the question: “What is crowding Christ out of my heart in this season, and how can I begin to let it go?” The first step of making room for Christ is naming what is currently in the way. Fear? Ambition? Busyness? Unforgiveness?  In the prophetic spirit of John the Baptist preparing the way for Christ, our friend Jonathan Martin will invite us deeply into these questions. In fact, he’ll remind us that God turned a religious terrorist (Saul) into the greatest Christian apostle (Paul) through the courageous grace of someone (Ananias) who let go of his fear and let Christ flow through him. This story has so much to teach us today. And then we’ll spend some time practicing an “Advent Examen” and let God speak and lead us. May this be a night of beauty, truth, and holy freedom.

Becky-Ykema

Becky Ykema

Sunday, December 13th, will be a full Advent Celebration. We’ll go on a journey of scripture, practice, prayer, and a ton of music through the whole Christmas story, and celebrate the God who has not given up on this world. After diving deeply into an Advent Examen the week before, we’ll bring our freshly opened hearts to Emmanuel and celebrate all the ways God wants to fill us for the sake of the world. Please join us! (One more thing: Great friend of the Practice, Becky Ykema, is flying back from Colorado to join our worship team this night. Can’t wait!)

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[And then we will be off until Sunday, January 10th.]

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Please don’t miss these next two weeks, friends. 6pm in the Willow Creek Chapel. We’re excited to explore the depth and beauty of Advent with you all….

Grace and peace,
Aaron