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Reflections

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.

11.11.18 Listening to God in Rest

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What a gift it was to have Casey Tygrett with us Sunday night! Casey guided us beautifully through a perspective on Sabbath that I had never experienced before. “We don’t practice Sabbath because we need a break;” Casey said, “we practice Sabbath because we are free.” Sabbath is an invitation to remember the freedom into which we have been delivered.

This is such a fresh way of thinking about Sabbath. So often we are resistant to this practice. Sabbath is hard. It is easy to miss the reality on the other side of this costly practice, but “what would it look like to practice Sabbath not because we have to but because we are free?”

We then examined a memory of freedom on the Lord’s presence. When have we experienced a deep sense of freedom, and where do we find the presence of the Spirit in the midst of our freedom?

If you missed Sunday night, would you make some time to listen and engage our practice this week?

Kingdom Practices
This week, if God was working in a memory, spend some more time with it, share your memory of freedom with someone you trust. And make some time to take a small step toward a rhythm of Sabbath. We will never find space for Sabbath; we can only make space for Sabbath. This week, let’s make time to take a small step toward practicing Sabbath.

10.28.18 Listening to God in Prayer

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Last night we continued exploring practices of listening to God in prayer. We see in scripture that God speaks, and the normative experience of those who follow God is they will hear the Lord. There are many ways of listening to God in prayer, and last night we examined two.

We acknowledged that we often treat prayer as a practice we initiate. Whether we have a need or it is a set aside time of prayer, we begin the conversation with God. But what if sometimes God initiates prayer? What if in the middle of our day God is speaking, waiting for us to listen?

We also looked at the questions that arise in our lives: the simple questions, the foundational questions of our souls, and every question in between. We explored ways of bringing all these questions to the Lord and listening for a response.

When we learn to listen, our intimacy with God deepens. Dallas Willard writes, “In the progress of God’s redemptive work, communication advances into communion, and communion into union. When the progression is complete we can truly say, ‘It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me’ (Gal 2:20).”

Kingdom Practices
This week, let’s continue to listen. We might consider how we can more intentionally listen during our everyday lives, and we might return to the questions stirring within us, asking God and listening for the Lord’s response.

10.21.18 Listening to God in Prayer: The Examen

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What a joy it was to have Father Michael with us last night! Father Michael managed to both introduce the Examen to those of us unfamiliar with it, and take those who were familiar more deeply into its practice. A holy habit of practicing the Examen, Father Michael explained, seeks to change our consciousness so that we become more aware that we are always in the presence of God.

After an introduction, Father Michael led us into a particular Examen, one that helps us to examine a virtue God is inviting us to develop or some sin with which we are struggling. We can form our prayer around the examination of this vice or virtue in a way that invites God into our work, so that our growth is formational, flowing through God’s work in our everyday life.

Kingdom Practices
As we set aside time to pray this week, will you consider praying the Examen God invited you to pray last night? The steps of The Examen are:

Step 1: Become aware of and rest in the loving presence of God
Step 2: Review the day in gratitude
Step 3: Review the day in God’s presence, giving attention to the
virtue or vice God is inviting you to examine
Step 4: Chose one moment of the day to pray from
Step 5: Look forward to the day to come

You may also find it helpful to explore the Examen version of A New Liturgy. It includes some teaching from Father Michael and a guided Examen.

9.30.18 Listening to God in Scripture: Sacred Questions

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It was wonderful to have Kellye share her experience with the practice of sacred questions and to engage in the practice together. We looked at the questions people asked Jesus in the Gospels and noticed that these were not simple questions seeking some information. They were questions that arose from deep in a person’s heart after an encounter with Jesus.

Kellye invited us to begin reading scripture with an ear toward what questions surface deep within us as we encounter Jesus in the text. When we read this way, we encounter the real presence of God in the Bible, and it is in God’s presence that we are formed.

Kellye explained reading while listening for sacred questions is a daily practice. We begin with a prayer, acknowledging, “Here I am,” ready to encounter God in the text. Then we read a large chunk of scripture and listen for the questions that arise, and bring those questions to God in prayer. Finally, we bring our questions and what we have heard from God to community.

Kingdom Practices
As we read scripture this week, let’s all commit to engage this meaningful practice. Let’s listen for the questions arising within us as we encounter the presence of God in the text.

9.16.18 Listening to God in Community: Listening Groups

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Last night, we continued our time in practices of listening to God in community. Following a beautiful liturgy focused on the theme of walking with Jesus, we considered the importance of listening well. We explored the concept of “holding space.” When we hold space, we set ourselves aside in order to be fully present to another person. We allow her or him to feel what they need to feel, name what needs to be named, receive what needs to be received, and be who they were created to be all in the loving presence of God.

We then engaged a practice that helps us to hold space for one another, listening groups. In her book Seeking God Together, Alice Fryling says that listening groups “provide a place where individuals can experience what it means to be listened to and loved by others, so that they can learn to listen more attentively to God in their daily lives and be used by God to spread God’s grace and love throughout the world.”

This season at The Practice, we will be offering listening groups as a practice of formational community. Beginning on 10/14, all who are interested will gather in smaller groups to hold space and grow in community. If you are interested in joining a listening group, please let us know.

Kingdom Practices
This week, let’s continue to tend to whatever we heard from God in our time together in listening groups. If you were left with some questions to ponder, let’s ponder those questions. If God spoke some truth, let’s rest in that truth. If you sensed an invitation from God, let’s respond to that invitation.

We also want to spend some time in the coming weeks examining our spiritual practices of community. Anyone who is following Jesus will engage some kind of formational community. There are a number of practices that help us to live more fully in God’s presence in community. Spiritual direction, spiritual friendships, small groups, Practice Tables, and listening groups are just a few. If you don’t have a regular practice, what might God be inviting you into in this season? If you do have a practice, how is it helping you to live more fully in God’s presence? How are you being formed through your practice?

9.9.18 Listening to God in Community: Spiritual Direction

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What a gift it was to have Carolyn Arends and Lacy Borgo with us Sunday night! Carolyn joined the band to help guide our opening liturgy, and Lacy walked us through the holy practice of spiritual direction. “It is a remarkable thing,” she said, “to tend to the presence of Christ in another person.” Lacy shared how spiritual direction helps us to pay attention and lean into God. In direction, we find the sacred in the ordinary.

Lacy guided us through a series of reflections reminiscent of those we might engage with a spiritual director. We listened to God in two texts (Acts 8:26-39 and Luke 24:13-35) and explored a childhood image of God. Lacy helped us engage our imaginations as we drew our reflections in crayon.

If you weren’t able to be with us, please make some space this week to listen and engage this practice.

Kingdom Practices
This week, let’s continue to tend to the presence of God in whatever surfaced for us our reflection, and if let’s also consider if God might be inviting us to explore spiritual direction as a practice. If you are interested in finding a director, you can explore the following sites:

Network of Evangelical Spiritual Directors
Evangelical Spiritual Directors Association
Sustainable Faith

8.26.18 The Eternal Current: We Need Everybody

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What a joy it was to have Aaron back in the room last night! A beautiful opening liturgy led us to God, through confession and assurance, and culminated with Jesus declaring “I am the bread of life.” Then Aaron guided us through a teaching and practice of examining our faith tradition.

Within our community there is a great diversity in our faith traditions. Some grew up in a mainline Protestant churches. Others came to faith in the Evangelical tradition, while others experienced a Catholic, Pentecostal, or social justice upbringing. In his teaching, Aaron helped us to understand that regardless of our tradition, there are great blessings for us to hold on to. It is good for us to name them and thank God for them. It is also true that every tradition has its limitations. How can we name those limitations so we might grow to embrace the goodness of God revealed in other traditions?

Aaron then guided us through an examination of our tradition. We reflected on our experiences, but we also made space to listen to God. What is God inviting us to hold onto, and what might the Lord be inviting us to let go of from our tradition? In a time like this when we tend to view the world through a binary lens (something is either entirely good or completely bad), making space to identify and hold the tension of the blessings and the limitations of our tradition is so helpful and necessary.

Kingdom Practices
This week, let’s continue to reflect on our experiences and listen to God. Where might we need to name the blessings, and where might God be inviting us to identify and grow beyond the limitations of our tradition?