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3.19.17 Knowing our True Selves

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Sunday night was a wonderful gift in the middle of our Lenten journey. We started the evening weaving “Take us, Lord” throughout our opening liturgy. I have been sitting with and praying the lyrics this morning asking God to take us, shape us, send us, and use us.

Then, what a joy it was to have Ashlee Eiland with us! Ashlee helped us reframe a core question in our lives. What if we stopped focusing on how we are doing and instead explored our proximity to God in relationship? Ashlee taught us that our false selves focus on what we do, the ways we attempt to earn or prove the love of God in our lives, but our true selves rest in loving relationship with our creator.

Ashlee then shared a helpful framework for dying to the false self in order to truly live. We start with knowing. How can we live in close proximity to our creator so that we can continually know who we have been created to be? Then we inspect. We ask if our lives are arranged in a way that God can truly form us. Finally, we submit to our loving creator for pruning. Pruning is not punishment, it is a clearing out of the false in order to allow the fullness of our true selves to bloom and produce kingdom fruit.

Aaron then led us in a beautifully pastoral practice of the Examen. The Examen is a deeply formational discipline that helps us know and live in proximity to God. It helps us inspect how God is working in our lives and surrender to his pruning. Our practice led us to God’s presence in the holy sacrament of communion.

If you missed this week, please make some space to listen. You won’t regret it.

Because Sunday is not the main event, we have two Kingdom Practices this week. The first is to continue crafting, living, and refining the simple rhythm of life we each created two weeks ago. (If you haven’t crafted a simple rhythm yet, you can use this handout.) How might the description of your rhythm be refined by this week’s practice? As you practice the spiritual disciplines you identified for your rhythm, is there anything you sense God leading you to adjust or refine? Our second kingdom practice is to make time for the practice of the Examen. Will you commit with me to practicing the Examen daily this week?

Finally, The Practice is meeting next week, but we will not be in the chapel. We will be meeting in homes throughout the area to build community and share this journey together at our second ever Practice Table. If you would like help finding a table to attend, please let me know (jfeffer@willowcreek.org). We would love to help get you connected.

Additional Resources:
Coming Home to Your True Self by Father Albert Haase is a simple exploration of our true self using the story of the prodigal son.
The Gift of Being Yourselfby David Benner is another helpful book that explores Christian identity and the concepts of true self and false self.
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun is the best and most comprehensive resource for individual disciplines around.
Being Disciples is a short read (and FREE!) about the role of the spiritual disciplines on this journey.
Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Barton casts a beautiful vision for a rhythm of life.
God in My Everything by Ken Shigematsu is another wonderful book about rhythms of life.
Crafting a Rule of Life by Stephen Macchia is a practical resource for building a rhythm of life.

3.12.15 Tuning our minds to God’s presence

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What a gift it was to have Frederica Mathewes-Green with us last night! After a powerful opening liturgy, Frederica guided us in an exploration of God’s holy presence from an Eastern Orthodox persepctive. God is present in all things, and we must tune our minds like an inner radio to perceive God’s presence with us and in the world.

Frederica then led us in the Jesus Prayer. This prayer is a foundational practice in the Orthodox tradition. It helps us to put into practice Saint Paul’s teaching to pray continually, and it is an exercise for tuning our minds to the presence of God at all times. Our practice of the Jesus Prayer then led us into Christ’s presence at the communion table. Have a listen to the podcast.

Kingdom Practices
Our first kingdom practice for the week is to make time to practice the Jesus Prayer every day. Live in this prayer and see how the Holy Spirit might shape you through it.

Let’s also continue crafting our rhythm of life. At our gathering on March 5th, we zeroed in on the desires God is leading us toward in this season of life. Did Frederica’s teaching impact those desires? Were they challenged or pushed or refined last night? We also began the work of identifying some key disciplines that open us to the Holy Spirit to be transformed. How are your practices going? If you are struggling to identify a discipline, might the Jesus Prayer be one? If you were not with us on March 5th, this worksheet will be a helpful guide to craft your simple rhythm of life.

Additional Resources:
The Jesus Prayer by Frederica Mathewes-Green is a helpful resource for further exploring the Jesus Prayer.
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun is the best and most comprehensive resource for individual disciplines around.
Being Disciples is a short read (and FREE!) about the role of the spiritual disciplines on this journey.
Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Barton casts a beautiful vision for a rhythm of life.
God in My Everything by Ken Shigematsu is another wonderful book about rhythms of life.
Crafting a Rule of Life by Stephen Macchia is a practical resource for building a rhythm of life.

3.5.17 Crafting a Rhythm of Life

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It was so wonderful to come together with our whole community last night after gathering around tables in one another’s homes last weekend. Throughout our opening liturgy we sang of God’s greatness, and we prayed the Lord’s Prayer with both our words and our bodies. Then, Shari Voyda shared with us the story of her Practice Table experience.

One of my highlights last night was the buzz in the room as we spoke about Practice Tables. We just might be onto something here, meeting together and sharing our lives with one another. 🙂 I am so thankful for our community’s willingness to engage with one another in such a meaningful way.

Then we began the work of crafting a simple rhythm of life. We spent time identifying our deepest desires. Because the life we desire in our relationships with God, self, others, and the world is lived from the inside out (Matthew 7:18, 15:11, John 4:14), we spoke about the role of the spiritual disciplines in our rhythm of life. The disciplines are practices that open us up to God. The disciplines themselves don’t transform us, but they open us to the transforming presence of the Holy Spirit. We identified spiritual disciplines that align with the desires God is directing us toward in this season of our lives and crafted a rhythm for the next three months. (Download the handout here.)

If you struggle to connect with your desires or identify a discipline that aligns with your desires, a spiritual director is a valuable practice to help us listen to God. If you are interested, here are three resources to help you find a director: Evangelical Spiritual Directors Association, Sustainable Faith, or The Transforming Center.

Our kingdom practice this week is to begin practicing our rhythm. As we practice, we will want to pause regularly to reflect and explore the practice of our rhythms with God and with trusted community. What comes easily in your rhythm? Where are you experiencing resistance? What are you learning about yourself and God in the practice? Is there anything in your rhythm that needs to be changed or modified? One way to reflect on your rhythm in community is Practice Tables. If you are interested in hosting a table or getting connected to one, please let me know (jfeffer@willowcreek.org).

Additional Resources:
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun is the best and most comprehensive resource for individual disciplines around.
Being Disciples is a short read (and FREE!) about the role of the spiritual disciplines on this journey.
Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Barton casts a beautiful vision for a rhythm of life.
God in My Everything by Ken Shigematsu is another wonderful book about rhythms of life.
Crafting a Rule of Life by Stephen Macchia is a practical resource for building a rhythm of life.

2.20.17 Loved to be a Blessing

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This year as we each do the work of crafting a personal rhythm of life, we will continue to explore our deepest desires in our relationship with God, self, others, and the world. Last night, Kellye Fabian brought us into the fourth relationship, our relationship with the world.

Kellye began with a powerful statement: “God’s response to the sinfulness and rebellion and brokenness of humanity was blessing.” The heart of the Gospel is that we have been loved so that we can be a blessing to the world. To be a blessing we must be willing to see, to speak well of, and to sacrifice in order to love our neighbor. Blessing is more than being nice. True blessing requires giving a part of ourselves for one another.

Kellye continued, “What we need most to carry out and participate in God’s mission is to be transformed. We need God’s eyes and God’s heart to be people out of whom the love of Christ flows naturally.” This happens when we actually practice loving and blessing, and when we practice disciplines that open our hearts and open our eyes. Kellye then led us in a practice of seeing and praying for the world in images.

This week, will you continue to practice this discipline? What images do you see on a regular basis, in the newspaper, on websites, or on Facebook? Will you make time to pray using the images you see? Will you also choose to be intentional about blessing someone? How will you see, speak well of, and sacrifice to love someone this week?

Let’s also continue to craft a description of the life we long for in our relationships with God, self, others, and the world. This handout will help you write a description of the life you desire. You can also find additional information on this journey including some examples of descriptions from the Practice Team here.

Our descriptions will be important this coming weekend as we launch Practice Tables. We will not be gathering in the chapel but will be meeting in homes throughout the area to share a meal and our personal descriptions of the lives we desire. If you are planning to gather some people together for a table, please let me know. I would love to support you in any way I can and learn from your experience. Also let me know if you would like some help getting connected to a table. We don’t want anyone to be left out, so we would love to help you get connected. If you are hosting or want help getting connected, please send me an email.

Have a blessed week!

Additional Resources:
Sacred Fire by Ronald Rolheiser is a spiritual formation book that includes a chapter on blessing (seeing, speaking well of, and sacrificing).
Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Barton casts a beautiful vision for a rhythm of life.
Crafting a Rule of Life by Stephen Macchia is a practical resource for building a rhythm of life.
God in My Everything by Ken Shigematsu is another wonderful book about rhythms of life.
Being Disciples is a short read (and FREE!) about the role of the spiritual disciplines on this journey.
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun is the best and most comprehensive resource for individual disciplines around.

2.12.17 Designed to Reflect God’s Love

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This year as we each do the work of crafting a personal rhythm of life, we will continue to explore our deepest desires in our relationship with God, self, others, and the world. Last night, Curtis Miller helped us dive into our relationship with others. He masterfully guided us through our creation in the image of a loving, triune God and helped us understand that we were created to reflect God’s character to the world in loving community.

Our practice for the evening was a Visio Divina with Andrei Rublev’s icon, The Trinity. We asked God to show us what steps we can take to move into deeper, more loving community. We shared our reflections with one another, and then we spoke about Practice Tables.

There are four weeks scheduled between now and June when we will not gather in the chapel, but we will meet in homes to share a meal and our process building a rhythm of life. The first table is February 26th, and we will be sharing the description of the life we long for with one another. Here is a copy of a handout you can use to craft your description, and we will begin sharing some examples of descriptions at practicetribe.com/rhythmoflife.

If you are willing to gather some people together and host a table, please let me know. I would love to support you in any way I can, and I’d like to learn from your experience. You can also let me know if you would like some help getting connected to a table. We don’t want anyone to be left out, so we would love to help you get connected. (You can email me at jfeffer@willowcreek.org)

We have two Kingdom Practices this week. First, let’s continue refining the description of the life we long for in preparation for the first Practice Table on February 26th. As you listened to Curtis, what was stirring in you? Where did you sense the Holy Spirit whispering? How do you desire to reflect God’s loving image in your relationships with others? Our second practice is to take the next steps we identified in the practice time.

Additional Resources:
Spiritual Friendships by Mindy Caliguire is one of the best books you could read about spiritual friendships.
Sacred Companions by David Benner is a comprehensive look at the role spiritual friendships and spiritual directors play in our lives.
Behold the Beauty of the Lord by Henri Nouwen is the book Curtis referenced.
Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Barton casts a beautiful vision for a rhythm of life.
Crafting a Rule of Life by Stephen Macchia is a practical resource for building a rhythm of life.
God in My Everything by Ken Shigematsu is another wonderful book about rhythms of life.
Being Disciples is a short read (and FREE!) about the role of the spiritual disciplines on this journey.
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun is the best and most comprehensive resource for individual disciplines around.

1.29.17 Nurtured and Nourished by God

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This year at The Practice, we are each doing the work of crafting a personal rhythm of life. A rhythm will begin with a description of the life you desire at the deepest level, the life you long for in your relationship with God, your relationship with self, your relationship with others, and your relationship with the world.

Last night Shauna led us deep into our relationship with self and our belovedness. She started with a statement, “The love of God is the purest nourishment, the precise thing our souls and minds and bodies need in order to do the good work to which we’ve been called” and continued to unpack this statement using the Biblical metaphor of God as a nursing mother (Isaiah 49:15, 66:13, and Hosea 11:3-4). Like a mother, God is powerful, capable, trustworthy, sacrificial, and able to not only nourish but to heal if we allow ourselves “to be nurtured and nourished by a life-changing, soul-altering love.”

Our practice last night was the ancient discipline of breath prayer. I loved hearing how meaningful this practice has been for so many in our community last night. The specific breath prayer we prayed brought the last two weeks together, “God of Love, I belong to you.”

This week, will you join me in committing to two kingdom practices? First, please continue to reflect on the life you desire to live in your relationship with God, self, others, and the world. Specifically, how do you long for the reality of your belovedness to play out in your life? How do you want to be nurtured and nourished by God? Second, will you commit to praying our breath prayer each day this week? Set aside five to ten minutes to repeat the prayer reflectively and continue to pray it throughout the day. (You can find more information on the discipline of breath prayer here.)

We have been speaking a great deal about the first half of a rhythm of life, a description of the life we desire. The second half of our rhythm is the disciplines we will practice; the disciplines that open us to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit so that we can become the kind of people who can live the lives we long for. As you engage these disciplines, pay attention to which ones connect with you and your desires. These are the disciplines we will be looking to include in our rhythms of life.

Additional Resources:
Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen is both a simple and profound exploration of our belovedness
Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Barton casts a beautiful vision for a rhythm of life.
Crafting a Rule of Life by Stephen Macchia is a practical resource for building a rhythm of life.
God in My Everything by Ken Shigematsu is another wonderful book about rhythms of life
Being Disciples is a short read (and FREE!) about the role of the spiritual disciplines on this journey.
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun is the best and most comprehensive resource for individual disciplines around.

A Priestly and Prophetic Prayer for President Trump

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Hi friends. These are pretty extraordinary times, and regardless of where you fall on the political continuum, we can all lament the division, fear, volatility, and mistrust.

Last Sunday, as we prepared to gather two days after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, we decided to offer three prayers for our new president: (1) A priestly prayer, (2) A prophetic prayer, and (3) the Lord’s Prayer. It was a tender, uncomfortable, and beautifully holy moment. Many thanks to Fr Michael Sparough, SJ and Claudia Heinrich for leading us.

Listen to the prayers from Sunday night…

 

Download the written text….
A Priestly and Prophetic Prayer for President Trump

 

May we become instruments of God’s peace and justice.  We have a priestly role to play (praying and working for the blessing and flourishing of our leaders and world), and we have a prophetic role to play (speaking and embodying truth to power). It has to be both, not either. May we kneel and march. Submit and protest. Believe the best and courageously confront reality.

May we be priests and prophets in the Way of Jesus, for the sake of the world.

Blessings,
Aaron and The Practice Team

1.22.17 God is not loving; God is love.

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This year as we each do the work of crafting a personal rhythm of life, we will continue to explore our deepest desires in our relationship with God, our relationship with self, our relationship with others, and our relationship with the world. Last night Jonathan Martin helped us dive into love at the center of God’s character. I can’t stop thinking about his statement, “God is not loving; God is love.”

As you listened to Jonathan, what was stirring in you? Where did you sense the Holy Spirit whispering? How do you long for this to be made real in your life? As you reflect on the life you long for in your relationship with God, how do you long for God’s love to become a practical reality?

Our practice for the evening was a form of mediation. Jonathan led us to focus on our image of God in our holy creator’s presence, and he guided us into Matthew 14:27 as Jesus says to the apostles, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” Our kingdom practice for the week is to continue this practice of meditation either on our image of God or on Matthew 14:27. Let’s sit with it this week. Let’s mull it over and ponder it in the presence of God.

Remember that a rhythm of life is both a description of the life we long to live and the way we will live it; specifically, what disciplines will we practice to open us to the transforming presence of the Holy Spirit to help us become the people we were created to be and live the lives we long for at the deepest level. We will continue to learn and practice new disciplines this year. As we do, let’s spend time in each of them looking for the disciplines the Spirit may be inviting us into this season.

Additional Resources:
Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith is a wonderful resource for exploring who God’s character
Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Barton casts a beautiful vision for a rhythm of life.
Crafting a Rule of LifeSpiritual Disciplines Handbook by Stephen Macchia is a practical resource for building a rhythm of life.
Being Disciples is a short read (and FREE!) about the role of the spiritual disciplines on this journey.
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun is the best and most comprehensive resource for individual disciplines around.

1.15.17 Rhythm of Life

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Last night, we kicked off the next step in our journey at The Practice. So many of us have felt the ache for a deeper or more meaningful life. There is a gap between the life we long for and the life we are living. When we explore this ache with God, we find our most fundamental longing is for the life we were created to live, a life of wholeness and integrity, a life where everything is as it was created to be, a life of Shalom. This is the life we find when we make our home in God (John 15:1-8).

This year at The Practice we are going to do the work of making our home in God. We will be learning how to intentionally arrange our lives to keep company with Jesus and become the kind of people who can live a life of Shalom. We will do this together by crafting personal rhythms of life.

A rhythm of life is a description of the life we long for and the disciplines we will practice to open ourselves to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit to close the gap between the life we long for and the life we are living. We are going to base our descriptions of the life we desire on four relationships. What do we long for in our relationship with God, our relationship with ourselves, our relationship with others, and our relationship with the world?

Have a listen to last night’s podcast here.

Our practice for the evening was to start our exploration of our desires in these four relationships. (You can see the questions we used at the bottom of the page.) Our kingdom practice this week is to soak in these desires. Continue to explore them with God. How can you intentionally arrange your week to reflect on these desires with God? Let’s begin our work this year with a compelling vision for the life our deepest desires point us toward.

 

Additional Resources:
Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Barton casts a beautiful vision for a rhythm of life.
Crafting a Rule of LifeSpiritual Disciplines Handbook by Stephen Macchia is a practical resource for building a rhythm of life.
Being Disciples is a short read (and FREE!) about the role of the spiritual disciplines on this journey.
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun is the best and most comprehensive resource for individual disciplines around.

 

Describe the relationship you desire to have with God.
What does it look like in times of pain and struggle?
What does it look like in times of joy and celebration?
What do you want from God? What do you need from God?

Describe the relationship you desire to have with yourself.
How do you want to speak to yourself?
How do you want to respond to guilt, shame, and sin in your life?
What does this look like when you feel the pull to act like someone you are not?
How do you want to see and care for your body?
How do you want to use the resources you have been given?

Describe the relationship you desire to have with others.
What kind of person you want to be toward the people in your life and what you want from them?
How do you want to represent the love and grace of God to others? How do you want to receive the love and grace of God from others?
What does this look like in your family?
What does this look like with your friends?

Describe the relationship you desire to have with the world.
How you would like strangers you interact with throughout the day to experience your presence?
What do you long to be true about the way you live in your current job?
Describe how you want your gifts and passions to lead you to partner with God in his kingdom work intentionally?

12.11.16 Advent: Hope for new beginnings

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curtisLast night our gathering was once again blanketed in both snow and the presence of God. We opened with an antiphonal reading of the Magnificat, and continued to sing and reflect upon the glorious revelation of God with us.

Curtis followed Jerusalem’s invitation to identify with the longing of Advent with a call to hope. Every one of us has an innate longing for new beginnings, but so often they seem out of reach. Advent is a season in which we come face to face with the reality that our hope is fulfilled in God’s presence. We remember “our Holy God is intimately acquainted with our sinful, broken pieces.”

mary-comforts-eveOur practice for the evening was a visio divina on this painting. We soaked in the image and put ourselves in Eve’s place asking what new beginning we long for this Advent. Then, we turned to the Christ candle and brought our hope to God, who is closer than the air we breathe.

If you were unable to make it last night I hope you will find time to listen to the podcast and Curtis’s beautiful invitation to bring our hope for new beginnings to Emmanuel, God with us.

Our first Kingdom Practices is to continue the prayer we began last night. Let’s keep bringing our hope for new beginnings to Jesus this Christmas season. You may even light a candle, turn down the lights, and rest in God’s holy presence. Our second practice is to continue with the Advent garland Jerusalem brought us last week. If you did not get a kit, you can download a copy of the instructions here.

Two final notes as we close out 2016 with The Practice.

Last night the second ever Practice Survey was emailed. We would love it if you would take 15 minutes to complete the survey here. Your responses will help us better understand who we are as a community, how we fit in the larger Willow discipleship ministry, and how we as The Practice Team can better serve you. I promise we will personally read every single response.

Finally, I am really excited about our plans for 2017. We are going to begin the year exploring and developing a personal rhythm of life, a way of arranging our lives to walk and work with Jesus and learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I can’t wait to join you in that journey with you.

2017_practicepostcardv2

Grace and peace,
Jason and The Practice Team