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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.

1.21.18 The Public Life of Christ

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Last night, we continued our contemplation of the life and ministry of Christ. Gail Donahue led us through a meaningful exploration of hospitality. Hospitality is more than table settings, well cooked meals, and welcoming people into our homes. We can extend hospitality to everyone we interact with on a daily basis.

We see in the way Jesus was with people that extending hospitality is not simply nice to do. It is something we must do. The life of Jesus demonstrates that God’s heart is overflowing with hospitality. Gail shared the key elements of bringing hospitality into our everyday lives, and guided us in a practice that helped us experience the hospitality of Jesus and extend that hospitality back to God and to those in our lives.

Have a listen to the full teaching and practice.

Kingdom Practices
This week, let’s rest in the hospitality of Christ, and extend God’s loving hospitality to those in our lives. We are also continuing our practice of imaginative prayer. Our latest original contemplation was written by Gail, and it places us in a parable that demonstrates God’s extraordinary hospitality, the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

1.7.18 Discovering the Will of God

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It was so great to be back together with everyone last night and continue our journey through the second movement of Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. Our opening liturgy led us through a reflection on the baptism of Christ. We rested in the personal love of God, and soaked in the words of the Lord, “You are my child, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.”

Then Ashlee helped us move away from experiencing God’s will as a formula to solve and build a foundation of connectivity, gratitude and retreat. In Jesus, we see that every part of discovering God’s will happens in the presence of the Lord. I continue to sit with something Ashlee said as we transitioned into the practice. Do I want God’s loving presence more than I want an answer to a question?

Ashlee then guided us through a practice of recognizing where we are in proximity to God, releasing our anxieties and fears in order to receive God’s thoughts, and resting in the God’s loving presence.

Have a listen to the full teaching and practice.

If you would like to continue exploring the will of God, we would recommend Surrender to Love, The Gift of Being Yourself, and Desiring God’s Will by David Benner.

Kingdom Practices
This week, will you join me and continue to engage the practice Ashlee taught? Will you recognize, release, and rest in God’s presence this week?

We are also continuing our practice of imaginative prayer. This week’s original contemplation was written by Lori Shoults, and it will lead us deeply into the first miracle Jesus performs in the Gospels.

12.3.17 The Call of the King

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The second movement of the Spiritual Exercises is a reflection on the life and ministry of Jesus, and we began our reflection on the life of Christ last night by celebrating the first Sunday of Advent. The opening liturgy drew out the longing within each of us for the coming of Christ.

Then Father Michael wove the themes of Advent into the second movement of the Exercises. The journey of Advent, Father Michael said, is one of “coming to a fuller awareness of Christ breaking into the world, breaking into our lives.” He shared five ways we can prepare to receive the presence of Jesus before leading us in an Ignatian contemplation from the second movement of the Exercises, The Call of Christ the King.

Have a listen to the full teaching and practice.

Kingdom Practices
For the duration of our time in the second movement we want to practice the spiritual discipline of imaginative prayer. In order to help our community engage this practice, we have written and recorded ten original contemplations. Each one was written by a member of our community, and these contemplations will help us enter a Gospel story and meet personally with Jesus.

Every Monday our email will include a link to a new prayer. This week, we begin with an original contemplation written by Father Michael. This contemplation centers on the Annunciation, Mary’s beautiful response to God’s invitation. Please make some time this week to engage our practice.