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Reflections

6.10.18 Stories from the family of God

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This month we have been acknowledging that our formation into the people we were created to be is always for the sake of the world. Last night, we had the joy of learning about serving those struggling with poverty from the Executive Director of Open Arms Ministry, Darrel Washington.

Darrel encouraged us to sit, do, and become. We need to sit with our brothers and sister, to spend time with them and build relationships with people who are different. Only after sitting with someone can we know what we can do. When we begin with a relationship we are not just doing something for someone, we are doing with them. When we have sat with someone and learned how to served them, we are able to become one, unified in Christ, with our brothers and sisters.

Darrel left us with these three questions to ponder.

  • What opportunities is God giving to me to sit with people who are different?
  • How can I be certain what I am doing is beneficial for those I serve?
  • How am I becoming one with others in my community and in the larger world?

 

Kingdom Practices
My prayer for our community is that we would be attentive to the way the Spirit is stirring within us to join God’s kingdom work in the world. I want each and every one of us to be able to name how and where we are serving the kingdom. I want people to look at the Practice community and say, “Those people are contemplatives in action!”

So, let’s continue to listen to how we are being invited to join God’s kingdom work in the world and respond to God’s invitation. How are you serving the kingdom?

As we seek to join God’s kingdom work, Darrel shared some opportunities to join the work he is doing with Open Arms Ministry.

  • We can give financially here.
  • As a small organization, much of the work is done through committees. There are opportunities to serve on the following committees:
    • Finance – to insure all finances are handled properly, including day-to-day finances, audits, taxes, and investments.
    • Fundraising – to raise funds through grant writing, individual donors, special events, corporate/foundation giving, etc.
    • Outreach & Engagement – to build, maintain, and retain a base of volunteers, establish relationships with colleges and universities for internships and service opportunities, and build relationships with the business community, like-minded organizations, as well as local, state, and federal governments.
    • Communications and Marketing – to get the word out and create branding for Open Arms using social media, web, newsletters, and other online spaces.
    • IT – to support Open Arms’ IT needs including website design, maintenance, building a client database, data analysis, etc.
  • Open Arms also has multiple open seats on its board. There is a need for people with the passion and experience to help advance the vision and reach of Open Arms Ministry.

If you are interested in any of these opportunities, you can email Darrel at darrel@openarmsministry.org.

6.3.18 Stories from the Community

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We have just finished a journey through the themes of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola. The Jesuits, the order begun by Ignatius, are often referred to as contemplatives in action. Ignatius understood the work God does in our lives is intended to influence our actions in the world. Our formation in Christlikeness is always for the sake of the world, and last night we had the great opportunity to hear how God has been stirring people in our community to join God’s kingdom work in the world.

Ashlee and Delwin Eiland shared God’s invitation to adopt. I was so moved by how their understanding of being adopted into the family of God influences their journey and their journey is deepening their understanding of being adopted into the family of God. (You can learn more about their journey here)

Keri Wyatt Kent shared her call to serve a local Syrian refugee family. It is beautiful to see Keri’s love for this family, and her willingness to simply be present with them and to bring joy into their relationship. (You can learn more about the organization Keri is working with here.)

Finally, Lori Shoults and Rhianna Godfrey shared how God has been moving them to join the work of City of Refuge in Ghana. I love seeing how their formation into the people God created them to be is guiding their journey, and God is using their passions and gifts to join the important kingdom work happening at City of Refuge. (You can learn more about City of Refuge here.)

Kingdom Practices
This week, let’s continue to listen to how we are being invited to join God’s kingdom work in the world and respond to God’s invitation. You may choose to spend more time listening to God using the questions from last night.

  • Where have you sensed God stirring in you recently? Where have you been moved to sorrow or anger? What has broken your heart? Spend at least five minutes listening to God. Do you hear an invitation to join God’s kingdom work in this space?
  • What are some obstacles to responding to God’s invitation? Where is there an internal resistance? What external complications threaten your ability to join God’s work? Spend at least five minutes talking to God (speaking and listening) about these obstacles.
  • Finally, ask God if there is a specific invitation to respond in some concrete way in this season. Spend at least five minutes listening to God.

5.20.18 Resurrection Love

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For nine months (nine months!) we have been walking through the themes of the Spiritual Exercises. We rested deeply in God’s personal and creative love for us and owned the sorrow of our inadequate response. We engaged the life and teaching of Jesus as we used our imagination to enter the Gospel texts. (You can find the imaginative prayers Father Michael mentioned here.) We joined the suffering of Jesus on the journey to the cross, and we celebrated the fully embodied resurrected Christ.

Last night, Father Michael beautifully brought our nine-month journey to a close leading us in the four-part contemplation of God’s love. “God’s love,” he taught, “is expressed in deeds not words.” It is marked by mutual sharing. It was a beautiful night. If you weren’t able to join us, I would encourage you to make some time this week to engage this four-part practice.

Kingdom Practices
This week, let’s continue to contemplate how we are called to embody God’s love. How might God be inviting you to respond and express love in deeds rather than in words alone?

5.6.18 Resurrection Life

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Last night, we continued our journey through the season of Easter and the final movement of the Spiritual Exercises. We reflected on the life Jesus said he came to bring in John 10:10. This life in the kingdom of God is the life we long for in the deepest place of our souls. It is the life we were created to live. And the good news, the gospel, is that it is available to us now. Jesus came to bring abundant life, and this life begins today. That is good news isn’t it?

Jesus teaches us that eternal, abundant life is knowing God (John 17:3), bringing our whole selves into an interactive relationship with him. Last week, Jonathan reminded us we are more than our reason. We have bodies, but we are not just physical beings. We have hearts. But we are not just our emotions. We have heads.

We are whole beings, and in the Gospel accounts of the disciples meeting the resurrected Christ, we see Jesus caring for their heads as he opens the scriptures. He attends to their hearts as he engages their emotions, and he ministers to their bodies as he invites them to touch and see.

This led us into a practice of imaginative prayer where we joined the disciples on the road to Emmaus and opened our whole selves, heads, hearts, and bodies to the presence of Jesus.

Kingdom Practices
This week, let’s spend our time resting in the Gospel stories of the resurrected Christ. As we do so, let’s reflect on how God might be inviting us to open ourselves more fully to the loving presence of our Lord.

4.22.18 Resurrection Hope: Taste and See

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What a gift it was to welcome Jonathan Martin back to The Practice! We opened ourselves to the presence of the Good Shepherd through a beautiful opening liturgy. Then Jonathan shared a profound invitation from Jesus. Jesus invites us, just as he invited the first disciples, to touch and see. (Luke 24:39)

When the resurrected Christ appeared to them, the disciples were confused and trying to understand what was happening. They were afraid. They wondered if Jesus was a ghost. Even in their joy the scriptures say were “disbelieving and wondering,” but Jesus simply responded, “Do you have anything to eat?” So much of our Christian life is lived in our heads, trying to figure it all out, but Jesus asks us to come bodily to him, to be fully present with him. The more embodied our faith becomes, the more it will be built on a personal encounter with the risen Christ. It is through touching and tasting, Jonathan said, that we will see.

We then practiced an embodied Lectio Divina, engaging our whole body in a contemplation of Psalm 34:4-9, which brought us to the ultimate opportunity to “taste and see that the Lord is good” at the communion table.

Friends, if you missed last night, please make space to engage the podcast and practice this week.

Kingdom Practices
This week, let’s continue respond to God’s invitation to taste and see. How might God be inviting you to take a step into a more embodied faith this week?

4.8.18 Resurrection Joy

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What a beautiful night of entering into the joy of the Easter season. Our opening liturgy carried us into the celebration of Easter in song and scripture. Then our good friend Sibyl Towner guided us in a contemplation on the risen Christ.

We acknowledged there is work we cannot do for ourselves, stones we need rolled away by God’s work of resurrection. Some of us are like Thomas who longed for the stone of doubt to be rolled away. Some of us are like Mary longing to be known, to hear Jesus speaking our name. Or maybe the stone we need to be rolled away is fear or confusion, or perhaps we need to hear the gracious words of Jesus in response to our failures.

Kingdom Practices
This week, let’s continue hold space for the resurrection we long for in our lives. When Jesus appeared to the disciples following the resurrection, he always met them in their point of need. This week, let’s expect Jesus to meet us too.

3.11.18 The Passion and Compassion of Our Lord Jesus Christ

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Last night was the continuation of our journey through both the season of Lent and the movement of the Spiritual Exercises that leads us to the cross. Two weeks ago, Ashlee guided us through a practice in which we brought our suffering to Jesus in the garden, and last night, Kellye Fabian helped us recognize that Jesus actively and intentionally joins in our suffering. “The passion of Jesus,” she said, “was the greatest act of compassion the world has ever known.”

Kellye reframed our understanding of passion and compassion as she outlined the model of Christ. In his suffering, Jesus submitted, surrendered, and sacrificed, and he is our model for engaging suffering in the world.

Kellye’s teaching led into a practice to help us identify and join the suffering of someone in the world. Through imagination and contemplation, we joined the suffering of another and imagined being present with Jesus and the person in her or his suffering. But we didn’t stop there. We asked how God might be leading us to take a physical step of solidarity to be present with his or her suffering.

It was a sacred and meaningful night. If you couldn’t be with us, I would encourage you to make time to listen to the teaching and engage the practice through the podcast.

Kingdom Practices
This week, in addition to deepening our experience of prayer and fasting to find greater freedom let’s respond to God’s invitation in the practice. Whose suffering did God bring to mind, and how are you being invited to be with that person in her or his suffering?

2.25.18 Agony in the Garden

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Last night, we went deep into the Garden of Gethsemane. Our opening liturgy tuned our hearts to the season of Lent. Then, Ashlee brilliantly brought us into the garden with Jesus. I continue to ponder the support God sent to Jesus in his agony and God’s presence with us as when we are filled to the brim with sorrow.

Ashlee then guided us gently into prayer. We brought our sorrow into the presence of Christ and joined the agony of Jesus on our knees wrestling with God’s call on our lives and the way suffering attempts to divert us from God’s divine errand.

It was a profound and beautiful night. Please make some time to listen to the teaching and engage the practice through the podcast.

Kingdom Practices
This week, let’s continue in the three traditional practices of Lent: prayer, fasting and alms-giving. As you deepen your practice of prayer in this season, would you consider continuing the prayer we began last night? Would you also consider where you desire greater freedom? Is there anything you might consider fasting from during Lent? Finally, would you consider how you might physically join with the suffering face of Christ in the world around you, and would you also consider how you might prepare to give? On April 8th, we will take a special offering for the Celebration of Hope fund as a way of engaging alms-giving. How might you prepare for this offering?

 

2.11.18 Journey to the Cross

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Last night was such a deep and wonderful service. Dr. Warren Anderson and the Judson University Choir led us in our opening liturgy. What a gift it is to be so beautifully led by a full choir!

Then Father Michael led us into the third movement of the Spiritual Exercises. “It is one thing to be with Jesus in his glory,” he said, “it’s another thing when Jesus invites us to be with him in his hour of agony.” Father Michael called this third movement, a time leading us into the season of Lent, a “purification of love.”

We enter this season of preparation for Easter with three traditional practices, prayer, fasting, and alms-giving. Last night, we began to consider how God might be inviting us to deepen our experience of prayer, to let go of something we that keeps us from surrendering to God, and express solidarity with the poor and suffering face of Christ in the world.

Father Michael led us in a profound practice of imaginative prayer to begin asking Christ how we might enter the season of Lent with these three practices. If you were not able to be with us last night, please listen to the full teaching and practice.

Kingdom Practices
This week, let’s continue to ask these three questions in preparation for Lent.

How is God inviting you to deepen your practice of prayer during Lent?
What might God be inviting you to fast from to experience greater freedom in Christ?
How is God inviting you to express solidarity with the poor and suffering face of Christ in the world?

1.28.18 The Rite of Forgiveness

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Friends, I am so grateful for our community. I am grateful to be a part of a community that is willing to learn from and engage practices from deep streams of the Christian tradition that are different than ours. Last night we welcomed Eastern Orthodox teacher and author Frederica Mathewes-Green back to The Practice. Following our opening liturgy, Frederica introduced us to the Rite of Forgiveness.

She pointed out that the most persistent formation we receive in how to see our life and identity comes from advertising. We are told that we are the center of the world, that we are superior, and we should enjoy ourselves at all costs. But this formation stands opposed to the humility of Christ, who emptied Himself in order to become one of us and redeem His creation.

The Rite of Forgiveness stands as a counter-formational practice. It reminds us that our sin is more than a collection of things we have done or not done, it is a condition like air pollution that we all contribute to and suffer from. As we stand across from one another and ask forgiveness for the way our sin pollutes the world in which we all live, we are formed into the kind of people who can own our brokenness and live in humility and love.

It was a beautiful practice. I was deeply moved as I confessed to our community and friends to my mother-in-law and to Erin. Thank you for engaging this uncomfortable and holy practice.

Have a listen to the full teaching and practice.

Kingdom Practices
This week, let’s continue the practice of forgiveness. Is there anyone God might be inviting you to humble yourself toward and ask for forgiveness? We will also continue our practice of imaginative prayer. This week’s original contemplation was written by Joan Kelley, and it places us in the boat with the apostles as Jesus calms the storm.