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Reflections

11.3.19 Invitation to Respond (part 2)

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Sunday night, our journey of stillness and response continued as we listened for God’s invitation for us in this season. Brad and Ben shared their stories of how God has been inviting them into the work of reconciliation in the world, Brad in prison ministry and Ben living with intention in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago. We then examined our stories and noticed where our hearts are broken by the injustice of our world as a way of listening to God’s invitation in our lives.

Kingdom Practices
Our hope in this series is that we have been listening to God’s voice. How are we being invited to join God’s work of reconciliation in the world? How has God invited you to respond? How has God refined that invitation in your life?

Sam shared three specific practices we might be invited into out of the night.
Being present to those around us so that we might serve and be formed by presence. Who might God be inviting you to be present to this week?
Reflecting on our relationships, and considering whether God is stretching us to build relationships with people who are different than us. Who might God be inviting you to reach out to this week?
Listen to your story and reflect on the moments of messiness and deep joy. What part of your story might God be inviting you to consider this week? (Check out One Life Maps for a great resource.)

10.27.19 Invitation to Respond (part 1)

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Sunday night, we continued our journey of stillness and response as we turned to examine how God might be inviting us to respond. How are you being invited to join the work of reconciliation God is already doing in the world? We are not leaving stillness behind. In fact, let’s continue to engage practices of stillness. (You may even choose to continue the outward Examenor abiding contemplation.) But let’s begin to listen for how we are being invited to join the work God is doing around us.

This week, David Bailey taught from the story of Esther and asked, “What does it look like for us to be a reconciling community in such a time as this?” It was an incredibly invitational and challenging night. The idea that God is inviting us to long for something that requires fasting and prayer continues to disturb my thoughts. This is the kind of teaching and practice that needs time, reflection, and space to listen to the Holy Spirit. If you couldn’t be with us, would you make some time this week to listen?

Kingdom Practices
This week, let’s continue to listen for God’s invitation. If you know where you are invited to join God’s workin this season, how is God refining that invitation? If you are unsure, you might return to the practice of Sunday night or even the outward Examen. And as we listen to the Spirit for our invitation, let’s continue to engage our practices of stillness.

10.6.19 Invitation to Stillness (part 1)

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Sunday night, we began a five-week journey of stillness and response. There is a temptation with the journey of formation to focus inward and remain there, but a wholistic experience of spiritual formation will always include an outward expression. Our formation is stunted if it does not result in us joining God’s redemptive work in the world. Jesus invites us to join this kingdom work, but he does not invite us to a life of constant activity and burnout.

How might we be present to God’s invitation to join the work of the kingdom and remain present as we join God’s work? This week, Father Michael Sparough shared the importance of both contemplation and activity, and he guided us in an outward Examen to help us cultivate a spirit of stillness as we discern and respond.

Kingdom Practices
This week, let’s continue to practice this outward Examen daily. We are certainly discerning how the Lord is inviting us to join his kingdom work, but let’s not discern and move on. Let’s stay with the Examen for at least this week. Let’s commit to stillness with the Lord as we cultivate a spirit of presence. You may use this podcast of the practice with Father Michael.

9.22.19 Invitation to Find Solidarity with One Another

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Kingdom Practices
In our time of practice, we listened for God’s personal invitation to us. How might God be inviting each of us to cultivate a space of hospitality and belonging in our community? We noticed: the invitation, the practical steps we needed to take in response to God’s invitation, what roadblocks we may encounter, what we need to be aware of, and shared our desire with God in prayer. You can find the handout here.

Our Kingdom Practice for this week is to discern God’s invitation and to share it with someone. When you have some clarity about God’s personal invitation, would you share it with someone in our community?

6.2.19 Invitation to Retreat

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Sunday night, we began our journey discerning how God is inviting us to rhythm of retreat this summer. When God invites us into something, Ruth taught, we know we are wanted by God. We know we are loved by God. Ruth guided us through the Biblical basis of retreat and explored seven specific invitations of retreat: strategic withdrawal, resting in in God, a new rhythm, intimacy in God’s presence, to discern, relinquish, and recalibrate.

Then, Ruth led a helpful meditation. Which of these invitations do we sense God drawing us toward in this season? If you couldn’t be with us last night, please make some time this week to listen and join us on the journey.

Kingdom Practices
Last night was the beginning of our discerning God’s invitation. Do you sense God inviting you into a rhythm of retreat? Did one or more of the seven invitations stand out? Or maybe you are unsure. This week, would you continue to reflect on the invitation to retreat? If you heard something specific, continue to listen for how God may be refining the invitation. If you are still unsure, would you continue to prayerfully consider how you might make room for retreat this summer? How do you desire to experience God’s presence in retreat this summer?

Next week, we will get more specific with the invitation as Gail Donahue and Joan Kelley will guide us in the practical application of retreat. How do we enter retreat, what do we do on retreat, and how do we transition out of retreat? This will be a meaningful and helpful night as we settle into God’s invitation for the summer.

5.19.19 Wisdom from our memories

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What a gift it was to have Casey Tygrett with us Sunday night. Casey guided us through the important role our memories play in the formation of wisdom. “To be ready for what is to come,” he said, “we are invited by God’s Spirit to learn from where we have already been.” We learn from our wounds, our successes, and our failures in order to receive wisdom from God. Wisdom, as the great Dallas Willard once said, is the knowledge of how to live well.

After teaching, Casey led us in an Examen based on our memories. If you couldn’t be with us, please make some time this week to listen and engage our practice.

Kingdom Practices
This week, let’s continue in our Examen of memories. Perhaps there was an invitation from God in your practice of the Examen. Did you sense a way you might carry your experience in this memory forward? Or maybe you will remember this practice, and spend some time with it as God brings memories to the surface in the coming weeks. Below are the steps of this helpful practice (summarized from As I Recall).

  1. Acknowledge and rest in God’s loving presence.
  2. Identify a memory you sense God inviting you to examine. Name what you are grateful for in the memory. If it is a painful memory, you may choose to express gratitude for how God has worked out of the memory.
  3. Notice the emotions that arise as you hold the memory in your mind. Express those emotions to God.
  4. Ask God how you might turn this memory and the experience of it into wisdom for the future.
  5. Listen for an invitation. Is God inviting you to pass on this wisdom in any way?

 

4.28.19 Lovingkindness Contemplation

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It was so great to have Chris Heuertz with us last night! Chris led us in an examination of why we practice. I appreciated his teaching that we engage contemplative practices specifically because we are bad at them. We struggle with living contemplatively, and we struggle to engage the world around us with compassion. So, we practice. We don’t beat ourselves up or heap shame upon ourselves, we slow down and engage the practices that open us to God, the one who forms us

Chris then led us in a lovingkindness contemplation. With 1 Corinthians 13 as a guide we prayed, “May I be full of faith. May I be surrendered to hope, and may I be aligned with love.” Chris guided us through a six-part contemplation, praying these words for ourselves and others in our lives.

Kingdom Practices
This week, will you continue to engage this lovingkindness contemplation? Let’s carve out fifteen minutes each day this week to repeat this prayer,

“May I be full of faith. May I be surrendered to hope, and may I be aligned with love.”

Practice this contemplation in six movements:

  • First, we hold ourselves in God’s presence with this prayer. We may choose to hold it for our inner child, for a vulnerable part of ourselves.
  • Second, we speak this prayer for someone who taught us in word or in deed what it means to be compassionate.
  • Third, we use these words to hold someone we love dearly or someone who loves us dearly in God’s loving presence.
  • Fourth, we speak this prayer for someone we don’t know or don’t know well.
  • Fifth, we hold someone who is difficult for us, someone we have disagreed with, or someone who has hurt us in God’s presence with this prayer.
  • Finally, we pray this prayer for all of humanity.

 

4.14.19 Listening to God Like Children

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What a wonderful night. I love having our whole families in the room for Palm Sunday. There is something good and beautiful and true about engaging worship together with all ages. The joy, frustration, and squirminess of our kids was on full display even as Kirsten taught about kids living fully integrated lives. As adults we often split and compartmentalize life. We disconnect our heads from our hearts and bodies. We struggle to live fully integrated, and open our whole selves to God’s presence. Living compartmentalized lives keeps us from living with the awe and wonder of a child.

Kingdom Practices
As we enter into Holy Week, let’s engage the events of this week with childlike eyes. Let’s consider how we are a part of the story. Let’s pay attention to whatever emotions arise in our contemplation, and let’s feel the weightiness of this week in our bodies. Let’s walk through this week with as whole people in God’s loving presence.

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.