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Stories of Resurrection

Sunday Reflections, May 1, 2016: Stories of Resurrection in Community

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Last night was one of my favorite kind of nights at The Practice. Over the past four weeks we’ve had the privilege to hear Stories of Resurrection from some incredible guests, testifying to the power of Christ’s Resurrection in Race, Religion and Iraq, but last night we got to bring the conversation closer to home, sharing stories of resurrection with one another within our very own community from our community.

I was talking with some friends after The Practice last night and we all agreed on one thing, these nights of sharing and listening with one another are always a little anxiety inducing – and sometimes it feels like it would be easier to sit them out, but every single time I participate in them, I have a deep and profound time of connection with real people in our community who are the hands and feet of Christ to me. I’m always so grateful to have been a part of it and at the end of each of these nights I always find myself saying – that was my favorite.

We began our night with a shorter opening liturgy, reading scripture together, a time of confession and assurance and a passing of the peace. Before our time of practice began, the wonderful Kellye Fabian got up to share with us all her heart and vision for this listening night.

One of the things I love most about Kellye is her thirst to know Why? Why are we doing this? I think that most people have found themselves asking the very same question about these listening opportunities and have craved a deeper and more compelling answer for why we do this and why others should take part. (You can listen to Kellye’s invitation here below or through the Practice Podcast.)

After Kellye invited us into the why, Lori Shouts got up to explain to us the how. Each time we have practiced listening and sharing of any kind at The Practice, we make it a point to follow the following important listening guidelines –

 

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These listening guidelines provide a safe container in which we are able to tend to Christ’s presence among one another without the pressure of fixing, advising or evaluating one another. After reviewing these guidelines we spent time journalling through the 3 questions that have shaped and guided our entire journey of Resurrection,

In what ways have you seen resurrection take place in your life and in the world?

In what ways are you longing to see more resurrection take place in your life and in the world?

In what ways could God be inviting you to join in his work of resurrection in your life and in the world?

After getting our thoughts down on paper, we broke into groups of 3 to begin our 3 way listening process. The format looked like this:

  1. Each group of 3 chose who would share first
  2. Then we held one minute of silence to prepare our hearts for sharing and listening
  3. One member then shared their answers to those questions uninterrupted for 5 minutes whilst the other two people simply listened (no talking/interrupting/question asking)
  4. When the five minutes were up, we held one more minute of silence to reflect on what we’d shared/heard
  5. Then each group had 2 minutes in which the two listeners were able to either affirm the person who had shared or ask a question that had come to mind for them as they were listening.

After this process was complete, we repeated it for each person until everyone had had a chance to listen and share. Once we were all finished we turned our chairs back to the center of the room and Kellye invited us all to share how the experience went for us, here is just some of the feedback we heard.

“The format of this allowed me to share things, deep important things, I don’t think I ever would have shared in church otherwise. I’m thankful for this opportunity.”

“It felt so good to be listened to.” 

“There was a common theme in our group between everyone who shared, and I don’t think that was a coincidence.”

“At first, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to share or listen for 5 whole minutes, but after trying this I wish we had even more time. The things we were able to share and explore with one another were so engaging.” 

“I was feeling anxious, because I came by myself and ended up in a group with two people I’d never met before. But after having listened to and shared with one another, it felt so good to listen to their stories and have my story shared. I feel like I have just gained two new friends.”

After this time of debriefing, we came back to the center of it all, the table, for Eucharist. John led us in our time of communion and after taking the bread and the cup we ended our time of worship with the doxology, praising God for all he has done for us.

We closed with a few important announcements that we will continue to share deeper and more exciting information about over the next two weeks, but in the meantime, keep the following thoughts in mind:

  1. We are NOT meeting next week, May 8, 2016
  2. Our next series Living the Liturgy will begin on May 15, 2016 – and we cannot wait to dive into the historic liturgical practices of the church and how they spill into the rest of your week with you all! An update is coming soon, but in the meantime – check out the dates on our calendar to stay in the loop!
  3. Curtis Miller has been working hard to provide an opportunity for more parents to attend The Practice by exploring ways to care for children during the gathering. During our Living the Liturgy series, we are excited to share that we will be experimenting with “Practice Kids” for kids up to 5th grade. More information coming soon!

Thank you all, as always, for being on the journey with us, it is a gift to share with you and to hear your stories of resurrection.

Blessings,

Jenna & The Practice Team

Sunday Reflections, April 24, 2016: Stories of Resurrection in Iraq

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Last night it was The Practice’s great privilege to welcome our courageous friend Jeremy Courtney, founder of The Preemptive Love Coalition, to share his story of resurrection in Iraq as part of our journey this Eastertide to have eyes to see the repercussions of Christ’s resurrection all around us in our lives and in the world.

Our opening song was woven throughout the night and was a perfect anthem of hope in light of Jeremy’s message:

Father of each citizen
Lover of each immigrant
God of everyone who has ever been an alien You’re Creator of us all
Animator of us all

Oh—You love your children, Love your children
Every daughter, every son
Oh—You love your children, All your children
Help us see You in each one

 

Through these words I was reminded that God is the father of every immigrant, alien and citizen in the world and it is so important to remember each life as an opportunity to glimpse the image of God here on earth.

After reading scriptures from the lectionary, praying for the world and passing the peace of Christ to one another, Jeremy stepped forward to share his story of resurrection. Aaron shared in his introduction that typically guest speakers who speak regularly on a global scale tend to have a set message that they share each time they are invited to speak – it was so special to hear that Jeremy had written a new message for our community in light of our series on resurrection. Jeremy was wrestling with the same framework that we have been working with over the past few weeks and had crafted a unique and vulnerable story of resurrection after reflecting on his life over the past few years. You can listen to Jeremy’s message through the Practice Podcast or here below:

Jeremy’s story was deeply beautiful and unsettling to me. It was so difficult to open my heart and engage in the overwhelming work of peacemaking that Jeremy and his family have been practicing in the middle east. Jeremy was raw and honest about the desert experiences they have had as they have sought out new life in such a war torn land. His family is no stranger to betrayal, paranoia, and longing. It is difficult, soulful work that has demanded a new perspective on life itself that I found so compelling. At one point Jeremy shared, “There’s a way to be so connected to life that we actually get in the way of resurrection.” It became apparent to me that Jeremy knew so much about resurrection because he has been so acquainted with sorrows, grief and death. It is only in the midst of very real danger, oppression and persecution, that a deep appreciation for life, and even more beautiful, life after death has been born.

The most compelling part of the evening for me came during our practice time, Jeremy shared three impactful photographs that modeled how God has given him eyes to see and have gratitude in the midst of conflict. The first image was painfully harrowing, a fragment of a skull that he and his partners came across as part of a mass grave – a true symbol of the literal death and war that marks the people of Iraq. The second image was of that same mass grave, but this time, bright yellow flowers were poking through, blooming into an image of new life out of the ashes of death – a symbol of hope. Finally, Jeremy showed an image of a field overflowing with these yellow flowers, how the entire space has been overcome by this new life. Jeremy explained that from these flowers, several Iraqi refugee women have partnered with his wife Jessica to create a livelihood through making beautiful organic soaps. In the face of pain, death and evil, life his spring forth in an unexpected way to extend an opportunity for business, livelihood and entrepreneurship amongst the widows, sisters and mothers torn asunder by middle eastern crisis.

It was a beautiful testimony of resurrection. Soap making in the midst of death is such a tactile expression of resurrection. (It is also my deep hope that every single one of you would check out the marvelous Sisterhood Soap endeavor, an opportunity of The Preemptive Love Coalition to give life back to refugees). A powerful question to consider is how can you be a soap maker in your own life? How can you partner in God’s work of resurrection using the resources God has put in front of you?

During our practice time we prayed to see gratitude, longing, and joining in with resurrection in our lives and in Iraq.

We then came to the table and took the most tangible step of resurrection available to us, by receiving the body and cup of Christ that bears witness to resurrection available to us that we take out into the world.

Our Kingdom Practices this week are simple:

  1. Consider becoming a soap sponsor with Preemptive Love Coalition. This is a tactile way to give the gift of new life and opportunity to refugees in Iraq, a space in which resurrection is so sorely needed.
  2. Consider the ways in which you can become a ‘soap maker’ in your own life. How can you join with God’s work of resurrection in your day to day life?

I hope you take Jeremy’s story with you into your life this week. I hope it haunts you, compels you, inspires you, and stretches you. We are all God’s children and we belong to each other – it is so easy to feel disconnected from our middle eastern brothers and sisters, but they need us, and I am convinced we need them to remind us of true resurrection.

Grace and Peace,

Jenna & The Practice Team

Sunday Reflections, April 17, 2016: Stories of Resurrection in Religion

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Springtime arrived in Chicagoland this past weekend, and even a little bit of summertime was peeking its head around the corner as we gathered this past Sunday night to hear Sarah Bessey speak on Resurrection in Religion. It was as if the deadness of winter was being shed for the new life of warm days and bright sun. A sense of expectancy and hope seemed to be in the air as we began our liturgy last night. After starting with a magnificent reading from the lectionary reading from Revelation, there seemed a recognition in the room that worship was taking place. Different refrains each echoed the same thought: for all our wrestling with grief this past season of lent, in view of Eastertide there is much to praise.

The liturgy continued into a confession and assurance–an invitation to reflect on the words of Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” After Jenna read the passage, she asked, “What word or phrase is standing out to you this evening?” For me, the words that stood out were fear and comfort. “I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me.” Those darkest valleys have been looming large, and I was in need of those gentle words.
Before passing the peace with one other,  we were invited in to the difficult practice of praying for our enemies. There was something so moving about being assured the provision and presence of God in Psalm 23, only to be called to respond by praying for those we’d prefer to scorn, blessing those who we’d rather curse. I’m embarrassed to admit faces easily came to mind for me, people both near and far, though as we prayed for those people, I felt their burden lift. Life is more lightly lived when we’re praying for our enemies.

All of this, of course, was rich preparation for a time of teaching and practice on stories of resurrection in religion. There truly could not be a more helpful voice to guide us into that exploration than Sarah Bessey’s. She wove together a complex tale of youthful faith, persistent doubts, tragic grief, and resurrected hope. You can listen to her message through The Practice Podcast or here below.

What stood out to me most about Sarah’s story was her peace in the midst of continuing questions. She modeled to us what it looks like to hold together all the beauty and brokenness. She told us about kind voices in the midst of lonely churches, and moments of celebration, watching her children dance in a charismatic church even as she needs the rhythms of contemplative liturgies.

We followed Sarah’s words with time to reflect on our stories of resurrection through three movements:

  1. Eyes to see gratitude for the resurrection around us.
  2. Eyes to see longing where resurrection has not yet occurred.
  3. Eyes to see the spaces and places in our lives where we are being invited to join with God’s resurrection.

Friends, as I conclude this reflection, I’m struck by Sarah’s story of unknown woman who approached her during her season of great sadness and said to her these beautiful words: “God has not forgotten you.”  I wonder if some of us, as we reflect on our stories with religion, need to hear those words today. Yet even more, I wonder if there are some of us who need to offer that word to someone we know. For resurrection to take place in religion, it requires faithful, Christ-loving women and men to join with God’s resurrection by offering new life to dead places. Is there someone you know who needs to hear a word of comfort from God this week in their own story of religion?

May we together be a community of believers with eyes to see the good news of resurrection taking place all around us, even as we extend that resurrection to others.

Grace and peace,
John and the Practice team

Kingdom Practices in Light of Resurrection and Race

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David at The Practice

David Bailey

Hello friends. On Sunday night, David invited to begin a deep and complex conversation about Race in America, the Church as a reconciling community, and our individual lives.  Obviously, to fully honor this topic will take years–not just one evening–but may God grow a garden of beauty from the seeds planted Sunday night.

A few tangible ways we can join God in watering these seeds…

(1) This week, may we actively seek to learn from someone who doesn’t look like us. Though the books we read, the conversations we initiate, the people we follow on Facebook and Twitter, the friendships we engage in the neighborhood…let’s begin noticing whether our influences are diverse or largely homogenous.

David often talks about the “cell phone test”:  look back over your last ten phone calls and notice the diversity of those ten people. (I recently did this with my twitter feed and couldn’t believe how overwhelmingly white and male my feed had become.)

This isn’t about shame or beating ourselves up. Condemnation is not from God. But the truth will set us free!  So let’s do some very honest noticing in our lives this week…and then begin taking intentional steps to expand that group.

Divided by Faith

Divided by Faith

(2) “Divided By Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America” by Emerson and Smith.  We can’t recommend this book highly enough–especially if you are a white evangelical who wants to humbly consider the deeper story. Based on a survey of 2000 white Evangelicals, and in-depth interviews with over 200, Emerson and Smith offer a fascinating, devastating, and insightful invitation into the conversation.

Please consider reading this book–slowly and with an open heart–either on your own or with a trusted friend or community.

(3) FREE DOWNLOAD of A New Liturgy No 2: Blessed to Be a Blessing.
This is a 25 minute liturgy to help us become a blessing in our world. Through songs, prayers, and a brilliant spoken word from Sharon Irving, may it help you create holy space to see the world with compassion and cry out “Here I am, Lord, send me!”.  (Also includes three bonus songs)  Free download for a limited time…

 

(4) Finally, here are three links from David Bailey…
An Internship Video – sharing the heart of their internship program
Support Link – this is an easy way for us to support this wonderful program
•The song (“Purge Me”) David played last night during his message…

 

 

 

Sunday Reflections, April 10, 2016: Stories of Resurrection in Race

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Last night our Eastertide series “Stories of Resurrection” continued with Stories of Resurrection in Race led by a new friend of The Practice, David Bailey.

The song we began our opening liturgy with was the song I left the chapel singing in my heart and woke up singing this morning. These soulful words so passionately captured the heart of why we were gathered to discuss our gratitude, longing and invitation to join God’s work of resurrection in race:

Aint gonna let division
Turn me round, turn me round,
Turn me round

Aint gonna let division

Turn me round,
I’m gonna keep on walkin’ Keep on talkin’
Marching on to freedom land!

We’re gonna let Resurrection
Turn us round, turn us round,
Turn us round

We’re gonna let Resurrection Turn us round,

We’re gonna keep on walkin’ Keep on talkin’
Marching on to freedomland!

As we sang this song in solidarity together, our hearts began to open up to the resurrecting work God is doing in race. After passing the peace of Christ to one another, David Bailey got up to share his story of Resurrection. It was a powerful message, painting a poignant picture of race in America and how we as Christians are called to engage with one another around race in light of the reconciling power of resurrection. You can listen to David’s message through The Practice Podcast or here below:

One of the things that has stood out to me most about David’s powerful message and call to resurrection, was his exploration and description of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria in today’s context. In some ways, Jerusalem can be understood as South Barrington, the people we bump into every day. Judea, can be seen as the wider area of Chicago and greater America. Finally, Samaria, is represented by anyone we consider an ‘other’ who we know little about.

These are the locations in which the Bible was situated, in which Christ called his followers to love one another with sacrificial and reconciliatory love across all walls and divides. It is so important to consider, in your context, how can you encounter and participate in racial reconciliation in your Jerusalem, your Judea and in your Samaria. We are called to pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and a crucial part of God’s kingdom is that it is made up of every tribe, every tongue, and every nation.

A question that has been speaking to me since David’s message, is, in what ways am I willing to be taught by other cultures and nations? So often our reconciliatory work is limited to the help we can offer the other, without stopping to consider how can we receive help and learn from others? By contributing to one another and creating new cultural artifacts of reconciliation that honor both cultures, God’s kingdom is glimpsed here on earth.

David then led us in a contemplative practice of having eyes to see:

1) Gratitude for where you have glimpsed resurrection in race in your life & in the world

2) Longing for where you have yet to see resurrection in race in your life & in the world

3) Opportunities to join in God’s work of resurrection in race in your life & in the world

Finally, our evening ended as it always does, by culminating around the Table for communion. John reminded us all, that without the power of Christ’s resurrection offered to us through the cup and the bread, our efforts of racial reconciliation are thin. It is only through Christ, with Christ and in Christ that we are able to become one people, united around one savior who have resurrected us all from the power of death and evil.

We have 4 Kingdom Practices for you all this week as each of you go forth to engage race and resurrection in your day to day lives and in the rest of the world:

(1) This week, may we actively seek to learn from someone who doesn’t look like you. Though the books we read, the conversations we initiate, the people we follow on Facebook and Twitter, the friendships we engage in the neighborhood…let’s notice whether our influences are diverse or largely homogenous. And then let’s take an intentional step to expand that group.

Divided by Faith(2) “Divided By Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America” by Emerson and Smith.  We can’t recommend this book highly enough–especially if you are a white evangelical who wants to humbly consider the deeper story. Based on a survey of 2000 white Evangelicals, and in-depth interviews with over 200, Emerson and Smith offer a fascinating, devastating, and insightful invitation into the conversation.

(3) FREE DOWNLOAD of A New Liturgy No 2: Blessed to Be a Blessing.  This is a 25 minute liturgy to help us become a blessing in our world. Through songs, prayers, and a brilliant spoken word from Sharon Irving, may it help you create holy space to see the world with compassion and cry out “Here I am, Lord, send me!”

(4) Finally, here are three links from David Bailey…

  • An Internship Video – sharing the heart of their internship program
  • Support Link – this is an easy way for you to support this wonderful program
  • Purge Me Song – here is the song David played last night during his message

May each of you have eyes to see the resurrection that has happened, and that still happens all around us thanks to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Blessings,

Jenna & The Practice Team

 

 

Sunday Reflections, April 3, 2016: Vision & Invitation

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It seemed an odd beginning to a night of celebrating God’s ongoing redemptive work in the world. There we were praying for a child who had been critically injured in a crash just steps from where we were sitting. How do you pivot from praying that prayer to a Psalm reading with the refrain of “Praise the Lord”? Hadn’t we left Lament behind in the empty tomb?

But as the night unfolded; as we prayed our prayers of gratitude, and read together words of praise and confession and doubt; as Aaron traced the theme of God’s redemptive, resurrective work throughout the story of Scripture and into our own lives; as we received communion and held the broken body and spent blood of our Savior in our hands I began to see that prayer as the perfect beginning to a night of celebrating God’s ongoing redemptive work in the world.

We don’t, after all, leave Lament behind in the empty tomb; that’s the whole point. The Lament follows us; the longing that Aaron mentioned is all around us; the yearning for resurrection is universal. Turning the page from Lament to Praise as easily as March to April would mean denying the reality of our lives and of the world. Pain continues, even after Easter. And yet.

And yet, God’s work of resurrection, the work that was begun in the ruins of the Garden, continues. Even now, today, as children fight for life and jobs end and relationships wither. Lament and Praise are not opposites, but two sides of one coin. We Lament because God can be trusted to bring about the resurrection he has promised. We Praise because God has acted in redemptive ways before and will do so again.

And, as Aaron said and Jenna led us through, both are critical components of joining God in his resurrective work. God is calling us to have eyes to see the reality around us, a reality that is so often missed. Throughout this series we’re going to be cultivating a practice of intentionally seeing, seeing in the name of Gratitude, Longing, and Joining.

Take a listen to the teaching and practice at The Practice Podcast or below…

I suspect that each of us will find one of those three easier than the other two, and probably one harder. For me, seeing through the lens of Longing is quite natural, the need for resurrection around me all too obvious. Children are dying, after all, sometimes right down the road. Far harder for me is seeing through the lens of Gratitude, seeing the resurrection that is already happening even in the midst of death. But that resurrection is real, just as true as the death, if only we have eyes to see. I’ll be working most intentionally to cultivate Gratitude in these coming weeks.

But as Aaron said, God calls us to do more than notice. God calls us to join with him in bringing new life to a dying world. God invites us to partner with him as he rebuilds and remakes and renews. These coming weeks, we’re going to hear some inspiring stories of people who have joined with God in his resurrective work. The hope is not that we will put these people on a pedestal, or simply admire their courage or smarts or initiative. The hope is that by hearing others’ stories, we would be able to see clearly our own, to have eyes to see where God is calling us to partner with him in bringing resurrection – in big ways or small – to the real world around us. I hope you’ll join with us in cultivating eyes to see, opening yourself up to where God might be inviting you to be his partner.

Grace & Peace,

Curtis Miller & The Practice Team

April at The Practice: Stories of Resurrection

By | Stories of Resurrection, Upcoming | 3 Comments

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In view of Easter, this Sunday begins a five week journey called Stories of Resurrection: Cultivating Eyes to See & Join God’s Redemption Everywhere. During Lent, we were encouraged to go deep and dark into lament, and now we are invited to go up and out in celebration of Resurrection. Please join us.

Friends, resurrection didn’t just happen one time in Palestine, 2000 years ago. Through the risen Christ, resurrection keeps happening–in our relationships, neighborhoods, hearts, churches, families, vocations, and any other realm of life that God cares about–which is ALL of life! Death didn’t have the last word over Jesus Christ, and it will not have the last word over the world that God so loves. We are invited to partner with God in the great redemption and restoration of all things.

Beginning April 3rd, let’s explore three ways to align with God’s resurrection…
(1) Gratitude.  Eyes to see where resurrection is happening in my life and world.
(2) Longing.  Eyes to see where resurrection is needed in my life and world.
(3) Joining.  Eyes to see how to join God’s work of resurrection in my life and world.

We’ll be guided by the stories, experiences, and prayers of four Christ-followers trying to live this out in compelling ways…

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Aaron Niequist
will share the big invitation and framework for the journey. David Bailey will talk honestly about race in America, and share his story of being a reconciler in the name of Christ. Sarah Bessey will share about growing up in Christianity, needing some part of her faith to die, and then experiencing resurrection in her own relationship with God and the church. Jeremy Courtney will tell his story about living with his wife and two kids in troubled Iraq, and how they see both horror and resurrection happening all around them. And then we’ll have a chance to share our own stories of resurrection with each other.

But those are just the speakers. Each gathering will begin with a robust opening liturgy, offer space to pray for the world, teach new ways to practice resurrection, and guide us to the Table to receive Holy Communion. Beyond hearing new ideas, we are passionately pursuing ways to put Christ’s words into practice for the sake of the world.

You–and anyone you know–are welcome to join us. 6pm in the Willow Creek Chapel.

Grace and peace,
Aaron and The Practice Team