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Reflections

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?

8.12.18 Making Space to Grieve

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In a season like this, when our community is in pain, I am so grateful we have someone like Deirdré to guide us as we make space to grieve. We talk a lot about tending to Christ’s presence in our lives, but we cannot bring our whole selves into the presence of Jesus if we are not first present to ourselves.

When we find ourselves in seasons of pain, our natural tendency is to run from being present to the swirling emotions. Which is exactly why pausing as we did last night to grieve is so important. Deirdré reminded us that Isaiah called Jesus “the man sorrows, acquainted with grief.” We can allow our hearts to fully feel our sadness and loss in the pain, she said, because we follow one who knows personally what we are experiencing.

Deirdré then led us so beautifully through a practice of grieving. She helped us identify our emotions, hold them in the presence of God, and experience God’s loving comfort.

Kingdom Practices
This week, let’s continue to stay present to ourselves. Grieving is not a one and done practice. In the coming weeks, we will undoubtedly feel our emotions percolating to the surface. Let’s commit ourselves to stay present when they do. You many even choose to come back to this podcast and make space to let Dré guide you in this practice once again.

7.17.18 Acorn Faith

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Last night, was a beautiful reminder of God’s loving presence. Sam led us in a beautiful liturgy of rest, and then we had the privilege of welcoming Kristen Leigh Kludt to The Practice. What a gift Kristen was for our community! She shared deeply from her story and offered how she learned through a difficult season to have the faith of an acorn.  I loved these wise words from Kristen’s spiritual director, Sister Margaret, “This earth is very old, and our God is very patient. God is a gardener. Gardeners don’t go around kicking the cabbages telling them to grow faster.”

“Life with God is not about getting it right,” Kristen said. “When we let go of striving to make ourselves perfect and let God’s Spirit do that for us, we can find solace and delight in God’s love for us exactly where we are.”

How can we slow down enough to be present to our longings in God’s loving presence? How can we trust in God’s formational work in our lives, so that like a small acorn, we can grow—even through seasons of drought—so that we may grow to have the faith of an oak?

Kingdom Practices
This week, let’s continue to creatively make space for God in our everyday lives. Let’s slow down enough to pay attention to our longings and questions. And let’s listen to what God may have to say in our questions.

Kristen’s Field Guides for the Way is an exceptionally helpful resource for making intentional space in our everyday lives. Please take a look at her resources.

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?