was successfully added to your cart.

Category

Sunday Reflections

Sunday Reflections, June 26, 2016: Summer Experiment

By | Summer Experiment, Sunday Reflections | No Comments

summer_experiment_promo

Last night was a beautiful end to this ministry season at the Practice. The entire experience felt like a gift in every way, from the opening liturgy right through to the benediction. The center of the night was Jason Feffer’s masterful guidance to help each of us create our Summer Experiment of Presence. I resonated so deeply with his correction of the commonly espoused “Jesus as gas station” model of understanding how to experience God in our daily lives. Under that model, we spend quiet time in prayer or meditating on Scripture to fill up and then “carry” Jesus into our relationships and circumstances each day. But, as Jason pointed out, there is no need to carry Jesus anywhere. He is already in every situation and the invitation is to become more attentive to his presence. And that invitation to attentiveness is precisely the idea behind the Summer Experiment.

So, Jason walked us through a time of reflection to get us started on how we might structure our time, thoughts, and practices this summer to become more aware of Jesus’ presence, particularly in those areas we tend not to notice his presence. Here are the six steps, adapted from Mark Scandrette’s Lenten Experiment framework, Jason used to help us develop our experiment:

  • Examine your life.

Where do you long to experience the presence of Jesus more fully in your life? Where do you hide from Jesus? What do you hold back from your relationship with him?

  • Explore patterns and root causes.

What keeps you from fully engaging the presence of Jesus in this area? What false beliefs do you have about God, which prevent you from opening this space to Jesus? What habits of distraction have you cultivated that keep you from engaging the presence of Jesus in this area and in the rest of your life?

  • Imagine the life that is possible.

Imagine living with Jesus in this area of your life every day. Can you picture a life in which Jesus is fully present in this space? Describe how your life would be different if Jesus were fully present in this area. Draw or paint a picture. Write a story, a poem, or a song.

  • Design your experiment.

What specific steps will you take to live more fully in the presence of Jesus? Practice a new spiritual discipline to address your false belief about God (breath prayer, prayer of the examen, silence, centering prayer, lectio divina, scripture memorization, spiritual direction). What habit of distraction will you refrain from during this experiment?

  • Commit to your plan and track it.

How will you remember and keep track of what you are committing to do?

  • Evaluate your experiment.

Check in regularly with your experiment. What are you learning about Jesus? What are you learning about yourself and the way you interact with others and the world?

Jason ended by listing out a few options we are offering this summer to check in on your experiment in the context of community. These include:

  • Join an in-person weekly check-in group at The Practice, which will be led by Jason and Erin Feffer on Sunday nights for four weeks beginning on July 10 from 6-7:30pm at Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington. (Details on the room we are meeting in will be shared via e-mail and the fb group closer to the start!)
  • Meet with one or two close friends to share your experiences with the experiment. We will post questions you can use on the Facebook page.

You can listen to Jason’s full teaching here.

And you can craft your own experiment at home using Jason’s handout which you can download and print by clicking here below:

Handout for crafting a Summer Experiment

After reminding ourselves that we cannot do this experiment without the guidance of the Holy Spirit or each other, we gathered back together, bringing our full selves and all the areas we long for Jesus’ presence to be known in our lives to the communion table.

We ended the night with a time of blessing I won’t soon forget. Our dear friends Rhianna Godfrey, Jenna Perrine, and John Perrine are transitioning off our staff and into slightly different roles at The Practice for the coming season. So, as a way of practicing and modeling blessing, we asked a few spiritual elders of The Practice, and individuals who have had a significant mentoring role in the lives of Rhianna, Jenna, and John—Gail Donahue, Joan Kelley, and Bill Donahue—to come forward and speak blessing over our friends. This was, of course, a beautiful gift to Rhianna, Jenna, and John, but it was a gift to each of us in the room too. We got to see how meaningful, encouraging, and holy it can be when we bless one another. May we do this in our lives more often! Oh, and we did give them each a deeply meaningful gift as well.

IMG_1973

We will gather as a community again on August 7 at 6:00 pm in the Chapel, but until then, we have a couple of great opportunities in addition to those related to the Summer Experiment, to get together and continue practicing:

Formation and Art

If you want to dig deeper into the spiritual practices or accompany your summer experiment with a weekly Formation and Art Workshop, join us on Thursday nights for a 4-week journey led by Lori Shoults and Sarah Carter. We will dive into the practices of journaling, 3-way listening, silence, solitude, and centering prayer. This workshop will begin on July 14. Details on the room will be shared via our community e-mail closer to the time. In the meantime, for more information, please send Lori an e-mail at lorishoults@att.net to hear more!

Practice BBQ

Join us on July 19 at 7 pm at Dan and Diane Niequist’s home for an epic community barbecue. Great food, connection, and perhaps a slip-n-slide! We’ll be sharing the sign-up information for this event soon.

Stay tuned for information about our Practice Retreat on August 28th!

May you grow in attentiveness to Christ’s presence in your daily life, allowing his love to pour out of you and into the world. And may our good God bless you and keep you until we gather again.

Blessings,

Kellye and The Practice Team

Sunday Reflections June 12, 2016: Blessing & Sending

By | Living the Liturgy, Sunday Reflections | One Comment

Last night at The Practice was such a wonderful end to our Living the Liturgy series., an exploration of the sacred rituals we practice each and every Sunday that shape our daily lives.

In this series we wanted to pull back the curtain and look at why practicing sacred rituals in our liturgy on Sundays is so formative for our daily lives. In the past three weeks we’ve been on quite a journey through scripture, confession & assurance, and the Eucharist – last night we ended our journey with an exploration of blessing and sending, the heart of our weekly passing of the peace and the benediction.

The night began on a more serious and somber note as our community took space in the liturgy to pray for Orlando as a community. The Book of Common Prayer has a heartbreaking and profound prayer that is to be used in times of crisis and heartache – so it was apt that we prayed that prayer along with a lament for gun violence and support for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters who have felt vulnerable and targeted since the event.

After holding up Orlando in this holy space, we continued through our opening liturgy with communal readings from scripture, immersing ourselves in the shared story of God’s people, the confession and assurance, and the passing of the peace.

Last night was also our final “Neuroscience with Jenna” experience – a look at the brain science behind how liturgy literally shapes our brain through ancient understanding of how our minds are formed. (I will say here that it has been such a blast sharing these insights with you all and seeing your enthusiasm for the connections between psychology and liturgy, thank you all for your encouragement!)

Before we turned to the message and practice for the evening, we updated our community on a last minute change of plan. As many of you know, our dear friend and faithful pastor to the Practice community, Kellye Fabian was scheduled to teach last night, but a last minute family emergency meant that our whole team agreed she needed to be present with her family rather than with all of us.

So to keep you all in the loop – Kellye will still record her beautiful message that she prepared for us this week and we will post it online and on the Practice Podcast as soon as it’s ready.

In the meantime – I got to step in and fill our teaching time with a little vision behind where the passing of the peace and the benediction come from, and how they shape us in our daily lives. Most importantly for last night’s practice – was the connection that in order to be a blessing to others, we must first be connected to how deeply blessed we ourselves are. You can listen to last night’s message here below, or through the Practice Podcast:

By exploring the passage of Jesus’ baptism – we got a picture of how even Jesus sought to be blessed and affirmed by the Father before beginning his ministry.

The most beautiful thing that stood out to me as I was preparing yesterday is this – that before God asks us to bless others – He first wants to bless us. That before God asks us to be sent out into the world to be a blessing – he first sent his son Jesus Christ to bless us. God is the great and grand initiator in our lives, and the passing of the peace and the benediction are ultimately deepened and will ultimately shape you to your core, only when you first grasp what it means to be blessed. The greatest motivator in this life is not fear, terror or pain – but love, joy and belonging in God.

Out of the message, John led us in a time of imaginative prayer (also included in the podcast!) in which we were invited to imagine ourselves in the place of Jesus as he received a blessing from God in the river Jordan that day. John masterfully and pastorally guided us into a space in which we were able to ask, what words of blessing do I desire to hear God speak to me?

After our time of prayer, we were invited to write down the words we desired to hear from God on a provided card and then approach a station around the room in which we could speak aloud our desire for blessing to a server and have them as a representative of the Church and of God, read a blessing over each of us, speaking truth to us about how God feels toward each of us.

There are no other words to say other than it truly was such a blessing to be blessed. To have the words of blessing spoken over us individually in a way that brought it home.

Curtis then led us to the table and we ended our service with communion with one another, partaking of the bread and cup that are at the center of why we gather.

The Kingdom Practices for this week are as follows:

  1. Keep those words of blessing that you wrote down with you, and allow God to speak them to you over and over again this week. Let the blessing be massaged deeper into your being, that you would serve out of your deep beloved-ness.
  2. Consider the ways in which you might be able to offer words of blessing to another this week – how can the blessing you’ve received overflow into the lives of others?
  3. Please remember that we are not meeting on June 19 (Father’s Day). Instead our resident liturgist and theologian John Perrine has created a Father’s Day home table liturgy that you can use at home with your family to meaningfully celebrate the day together.
  4. Finally – we have a lot of updates to share with you about our summer schedule, so please keep an eye on the e-mail and the blog for more information about shaping a summer experiment and other ways to engage this July.

Phew, what a night. What a gift to have friends like you all who are along for the journey.

May the peace of Christ be with you friends,

Blessings,
Jenna & The Practice Team

Sunday Reflections, June 5, 2016: The Eucharist

By | Living the Liturgy, Sunday Reflections | One Comment

We’ve had profound nights at The Practice, beautiful, deep, meaningful, and last night was several of those things. But most of all, last night was FUN. Of course, I spent a decent chunk of the evening over at the Practice Kids space, so that probably contributed to it.

The through-line of the night was the Good News that Jesus is there for us to cling to no matter our circumstances. We sang what is rapidly becoming my favorite Spiritual about how we want Jesus to walk with us through our sorrows, our trials, our journeys. We heard Scripture read about a God who lifts us up and doesn’t let our enemies gloat over us, and a Messiah who heals even the dead. We put that faith radically into action by praying a blessing not just for our friends, but for our enemies.

And then we got ministered to. It’s always a pleasure to have the mellifluous Southern Pentecostal tones of Jonathan Martin with us, but to have Nichole Nordeman too was a true joy. It was, of course, a privilege to have such a wonderfully gifted musician in the Chapel with us last night, but her lyrics punched just as hard as her voice. She brought to life in powerful ways the truth of Jonathan’s message, that in the darkest times and stormiest seas Jesus is a raft we can cling to. What a wonderful truth.

Jonathan continued our deep-dive into the elements of the weekly liturgy by bringing the Eucharist to life. The Table is the place that each week we get reminded that no matter what else is going on in our lives, Jesus died for us and offers us life. The Bread and the Cup are tangible proof that we haven’t been forgotten or forsaken. We can hold on for one more week. Or, more accurately, Jesus will continue to hold on to us just as he promised. Take a listen to the podcast here:

And then, of course, the fun continued when we were treated to a fantastic after-party. We gathered to celebrate the publication of Jonathan’s book How to Survive a Shipwreck with cupcakes, cheese, cookies, and soda bottles with colorful straws. The room was so full of life and warmth, and I for one hope that celebrations like that become deeply embedded in The Practice’s DNA.

And, let’s be honest, I want Rhianna and Lori to plan my next party!

Grace and Peace to you all this week, friends.

Curtis & The Practice Team

Sunday Reflections, January 10, 2016: A Theology of Vocation

By | Sunday Reflections, Visions of Vocation | 2 Comments

Visionsofvocation_sr1_header

This past Sunday, January 10th, the Practice tribe reconvened after a Christmas break with a deep dive into a new series on Vocation. For many of us, this might have been the last topic we wanted to dwell on, with the pressures of work seeming the very reason for sacred moments of retreat into the Chapel on Sunday night. Though that may have been the way we entered the chapel, I think it’s safe to say we were all at the very least challenged to consider how our vocations might matter to God.

As we once again worshiped together, the new section of the liturgy on prayer for enemies caught me dead in my tracks. Kellye invited us to consider, whether it was a face or a group, both a global and local enemy. I was surprised to realize my indignant resistance (“Like I have enemies!”), only to then begin seeing faces of imaginary foes, realizing that of course, this practice was for me.

As if prayer for enemies was not enough of a disruption, we then had the delightfully profound Steven Garber share a theology of vocation. You can listen to his message and the Q&A from the night here below, or through The Practice Podcast.


Steven’s stories ranged from the extraordinarily large (economists at Mars thinking through how to see M & M’s) to the intimately personal (a student getting ready to graduate and wondering what purpose there is to her job). As Aaron mentioned in his introduction, I couldn’t help but realize that Steven had given his whole life to help people like you and me think about why our vocations are integral and not incidental to the mission of God. It was almost as if you could feel the wheels turning in people’s minds as we each began to ponder, “Could my work actually matter to God?” or better yet, “Is the way I live my 9:00-5:00 actually part of the mission that God is inviting me to participate in?”

These are obviously deep, complex but important questions, which is why I was so thankful Aaron gave us a few minutes to breathe, to contemplate, and to invite God in to what was being stirred up through Steven’s sharing. We then followed those minutes with a wonderful Q & A. If Steven’s vision was immense, then the questions asked were correspondingly honest and heartfelt. “What does this mean for my work in the food service industry, where everything is fast all the time?” one asked. Another said, “Why is it that I struggle to connect the joy and worship I feel on the weekends with the job I enter into on Monday morning?” To each question, Steven’s eyes met the gaze of the inquirer, as he knowingly would begin his response, “ Oh that we could go on a walk, to discuss this further,” and only then offer forth a story or idea in response.

I commented to my wife Jenna last night after the service, that it felt like something beautiful and needed took place last night through Steven’s sharing and our community’s questions. The practices of rhythm which we explored last fall (Silence, Examen, Sabbath) are at the heart of what our community believes will transform each and every one of us more and more into Christ-likeness. However it can be so tempting to separate our “spiritual” formation from the daily pragmatic grind of our lives. For me, something clicked into place last night as Steven shared, that vocation is integral not incidental to the mission of God. It is in the very fabric of our lives, our relationships, our roles, responsibilities, and occupations that God wants to live, move, and have His being among us. That means that our jobs, far from being irrelevant, are actually the integral place in which God is working among and through us. Though there is so much left to explore, and likely many questions more that Steven has evoked, I conclude this reflection with a prayer for you my dearly beloved brothers and sisters, from the benediction last night, as we each enter into the vocation of our lives this Monday afternoon:

God of heaven and earth,
we pray for your kingdom to come,
for your will to be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Teach us to see our vocations and occupations
as woven into your work in the world this week.

 

For mothers at home who care for children,
for those whose labor forms our common life in this city, the nation, and the world,
for those who serve the marketplace of ideas and commerce,
for those whose creative gifts nourish us all,
for those whose callings take them into the academy,
for those who long for employment that satisfies their souls and serves you,
for each one we pray, asking for your great mercy.
Give us eyes to see that our work is holy to you, O Lord, even as our worship this day is holy to you.

Amen and Amen

 

Grace and peace,

John and the Practice Team

Advent Sunday Reflections, December 6, 2015: Crowding Out Christ

By | Advent, Sunday Messages, Sunday Reflections, The Practice Podcast | One Comment

12339604_538372249652034_4175049047823932041_o

 

“God disrupts everything.”

So said our prophetic brother Jonathan Martin. And wow, could we use some disruption right now. Fear is, indeed, in the air. Most of us could list a dozen things to be afraid of in our current global climate (including, well, the climate). Most of us could probably do so in less than a minute.

The normal, un-disrupted logic of fear plays out all around us these days. The violence and chaos of the world cause people to look around frantically for ways to get things back under control. The seductively obvious solution is to meet violence with more violence. To fight fear with force. This is the logic that calls for more bombs. This is the logic that caused the president of a prominent evangelical university to call this week for his students to start carrying guns “so we could end those Muslims” before they harm us.

But our liturgy last night kept highlighting the Advent promise of freedom from fear. Our opening gospel readings found the angels telling the shepherds not to be afraid and Zechariah proclaiming that Jesus would rescue us so we could serve God without fear. The songs we sang proclaimed the greatness of our Joy and that we would not be afraid because of God’s presence. Our prayers were made to the Prince of Peace who offers us an alternative to fear. We passed the peace to one another. And, of course, Jonathan Martin asked us to ponder the question of what fear we need to let go of so we might prepare room in our hearts for Christ. Take a listen to the podcast here:

Two thousand years ago God made his ultimate response to the chaos and violence of the world. Many in that day expected a response of power (after all, who is better able to power-up than God?). That was the expectation of John the Baptist, as Jonathan pointed out. But Christmas isn’t the celebration of the victory of a military commander, driving the enemies of God before him; it’s the celebration of the birth of a baby to a poor family in an out-of-the-way town.

Jonathan told us the story of Ananias, who acted out of faith to extend words of friendship to an enemy of God, Saul.   How could that be? Where does one find the strength to do such an irrational thing?

One could, perhaps, look to the story of Christmas, where God himself extended friendship to his enemies. Us.

God, at Christmas, chose not the road of power but the road of love. He disrupted everything, and promises to do the same for us, if we’ll allow it.

And that is what the practice Aaron led us through, of Examen, offers. Fear is all around us. We find ourselves receiving from our culture a “residual fear”, as Jonathan put it. It can slip in and permeate our thinking without us even realizing it. And so we stop to examine our hearts. We open up our thoughts, and our fear, to God’s light. And God, who disrupted a broken, fearful world with words of friendship, disrupts our broken, fearful hearts with whispers of love.

Come, Lord Jesus, disrupt everything.

Blessings,
Curtis Miller and The Practice Team

Sunday Reflections, November 22, 2015: Communal Listening

By | Communal Listening, Rhythm, Sunday Reflections | No Comments

12247016_534821523340440_1295829816417704385_n

 

Last night, on a cold and blistery Sunday with winter’s first snow reminding us the season has changed, our tribe practiced a different kind of gathering; our second night of communal listening. From the start, the evening felt different; with just Aaron on the piano, there was a kind of intimacy and connectedness (and perhaps a slight nervousness!) for the time of sharing to come. As I looked around the room, my heart swelled with joy at the commitment of so many to brave souls to lean in to the shared value of practicing together.

One interesting component of the night was our return during the opening liturgy to the assessment which we took as a community at the beginning of the Fall. Lori reminded us that this assessment was not a test or tool of compassion but an invitation to be true with ourselves before God of how we’ve been doing. The time following of space and silence to answer the questions proved a helpful check in, in some ways for myself the first space I’ve had in the past weeks to really ask how I’m doing before God.

Finally came the time of sharing together. One important realization I think the Practice community has been learning this Fall is that we can’t do these practices alone. We need each other if we’re to ever push beyond an isolated approach to God and truly connect our Sunday to our Monday-Saturday lives. It was therefore so exciting to watch as the room picked up their chairs and spread out into corners of the room, together pondering the following questions:

  1. What was God stirring in you as you did the assessment?
  2. What is the next step God is inviting you to take into unforced rhythms of grace?

The room came alive! How incredible that many people who hadn’t even met before, were able to reflect, share, listen, and connect. I saw everything from laughter to tears, as hearts were opened and stories shared. After sharing together, a new (and possibly my favorite) component of the night was the way we received communion together in our groups. After a short liturgy of confession, assurance and the Eucharist, bread and juice were taken to our groups so that we could serve communion to each other. Curtis shared before about the beauty of our calling as a priesthood of all believers, and there was something so meaningful about seeing it lived out in each of the groups.

Our Kingdom Practices this week were all suggestions to help us practice and remember that Sunday is not the main event as we move into Thanksgiving holiday season:

  1. Be sure to sign up for our email list and keep checking back here on the blog as we provide and point you to great resources for Advent.
  2. Jason Feffer is leading a Sabbath practice group the next three Tuesdays for anyone who feels led to lean into a rhythm of Sabbath. You can find out all the details by clicking here.
  3. Our very own Kellye Fabian wrote a beautiful Thanksgiving Table Liturgy – like Aaron shared last night, so many of us want thanksgiving dinner to be a meaningful time, but we don’t always know how.  We hope this resource could be one way to create that space this thanksgiving. Download and print the pdf. here.
  4. John Egesdal is pulling together an experiment for those who connect best to God through nature. If you want to be included in this conversation, please email John here.
  5. Finally, in speaking of our families at thanksgiving – Aaron thoughtfully reminded us that at a certain point, someone will likely bring up Obama or ISIS or immigration or Trump, and that certain family member will likely say something that makes your blood boil. Our Kingdom Practice for you is to ask, What does it look like to align with God’s rhythms in that moment? The following truth is our prayer for each and every one of us as we navigate turkey dinners and social media this Thanksgiving:

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
‭‭(Eph‬ ‭4:29-32‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Finally, our evening ended with a benediction

May we learn to listen to each other and in so doing, hear the stories of God.
May we learn to share our journeys, and in so doing remember that we are not alone.
May we continue to reflect on where we’ve been and how far we’ve come, and in so doing encounter the faithfulness of God.
And may we together, align the rhythms of our lives, to the unforced rhythms of God’s grace.
Now go in peace, my friend.

Go in peace,

John & The Practice Team

Sunday Reflections, November 15, 2015: How to Practice Sabbath

By | Rhythm, Sunday Messages, Sunday Reflections, The Practice Podcast | No Comments

IMG_0120

And I gave them my Sabbath days of rest as a sign between them and me. It was to remind them that I am the Lord, who had set them apart to be holy. –Ezekiel 20:12

Speaking of set apart, that’s exactly what last night felt like to me—a night set apart; a place set apart. From the opening prayer for our world to the closing benediction, we were aware of God’s presence in a unique, palpable way. News of the terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut rattled us and tempted us to fear. But then as we joined our voices with the soulful, beauty of The Brilliance, we remembered what is true and a peace settled over and among us.

Jason Feffer opened our eyes to new ways of seeing and keeping the Sabbath (the only one of the ten commandments Christians brag about breaking). He began by reminding us of something we already know but regularly ignore—we all have rhythm. God built a rhythm into every element of the created world. If we look, we can see that we are part of these rhythms. And more specifically, the rhythm Jason wanted us to grasp last night was the rhythm of work and rest, the rhythm laid out in the creation story of Genesis 1 and 2. The most compelling part of this teaching for me was the idea that keeping Sabbath is not a weekly practice, but a daily practice. For three days, we look forward to Sabbath. On one day, we welcome the Sabbath. Then for three days, we remember the Sabbath.

Aligning with this rhythm requires intentionality, of course, and Jason gave us some helpful guidelines to consider as we dip our toe into the practice of Sabbath. He reminded us first and foremost that Sabbath is a balance between resting and engaging. Just resting can lead to legalism. Just engaging can lead to meaningless busyness. Here are his suggestions on some ways to balance the two:

Sabbath Rest

  • Rest from productivity (anything that you might put on a to-do list any other day of the week). For me, this is responding to emails.
  • Rest from busyness (anything that tends to create hurry or rushing). For me, this is grocery shopping and errand running.
  • Rest from control (anything that incites a need or desire to control your environment, relationships, or image). For me, this is Facebook and other social media.

Sabbath Joy

  • Engage in joyful activities (activities that bring you delight and laughter). For me, this is going to the bookstore and the movies with my daughter.
  • Engage in joyful connection with God (spiritual disciplines that you wish you had more time for during the week and spiritual pathways that usher you into God’s presence). For me, this is wandering around outside, breathing deeply, and noticing the details of creation.

(You can listen to Jason’s full message on our podcast or here below and access more resources on his website.)

This week our Kingdom Practice is to practice Sabbath. Pick one day in the coming week and set it apart. If it’s helpful, use the handout Jason gave us last night to reflect on the kinds of activities you feel God calling you to refrain from and those he is calling you to engage in so you experience his eternal, loving, centering rhythms of grace.

And for anyone who wants to join Jason in a three week “Practice Group” on Sabbath, click here for all the info.

May God grant you the grace you need to align every breath, moment, day, week and season to His eternal rhythms.

Blessings,

kellye signature

 

 

Kellye & The Practice Team

Sunday Reflections, September 13, 2015: Grand Invitation to Rhythms of Redemption

By | Rhythm, Sunday Reflections | 5 Comments

photo-1429277096327-11ee3b761c93

The Practice is back for the Fall…and man am I excited.

Last night was so sweet for me. Seeing so many new and familiar faces walk through our doors ready to engage with The God of The Universe was such a beautiful sight to behold. If last night was your first time joining our little tribe, you were so welcome and wanted by us all – and if you are a regular presence at The Practice, it was so good to see you again!

We opened our time together, singing the sweet words from 1 Samuel 3:7-11 that have become so dear to us all at The Practice,

Please speak, Your servant is listening
Please speak, Your servant is listening
Please speak, Your servant is listening
Your servant is listening
O Hosanna

And from there we found our rhythm, getting swept up once more into the grand story of redemptive history and the kingdom invitation from God our Maker. Last week Aaron shared a taste of what is in store for us this Fall and last night marked the official beginning of learning to align our rhythms with the eternal rhythms of God for the sake of the world.

I woke up this morning with Aaron’s picture of a beautiful, powerful, slow moving river on my mind. The invitation to unforced rhythms of grace is beautifully summed up in this image – to let the current carry you towards God’s making all things new through his redeeming of the world.

But.

As Aaron so articulately put it – so many of us struggle to align with God’s rhythm. For most of us, we’re swimming upstream, struggling against the current of our Maker, slowly becoming exhausted by our forced rhythms of stress. Some of us can even look back and remember times when we’ve felt close to drowning.

You can listen to Aaron’s message through our podcast or online here below.

The Practice part of our evening was then spent taking an inventory created by Ruth Haley Barton and The Transforming Center called, “How is it with your soul?” This inventory was essentially a series of self assessment questions to help each of us discern are we resting in the current of God’s grace or are we struggling upstream?

How did the inventory go for you? Were those questions as penetrating for you as they were for me? Here’s the one that pinned me to the wall the most-

I am keeping up with what life requires but deep down I feel that I have lost touch with who I am in God and what he has called me to do.

This isn’t true of me always, but there are certainly days when this feels close to home. The busyness, the striving and the burn out can creep into the fringes of my life and try to threaten the freedom available to me in Christ. As Aaron read one of our core passages over us, our intention for this Fall became clearer still:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Friends, this is what we want to dive into this Fall. We want to help open your eyes to the ways in which you may be tired, worn out, striving upstream and we want to connect you to Jesus Christ, who desires you to learn the unforced rhythms of grace for the sake of the Kingdom of God being made real among us.

It begins at the Table – practicing the rhythm of centering our lives around the truth and reality of Christ alive in us through the bread and the wine each week. From there, we’re going to keep learning historic practices that help align the rhythms of our lives to Gods unforced rhythms of grace – silence, examen and sabbath. Will you join us? Will you get swept into the loving current of God’s redeeming river? I can’t wait to see what God does next.

Next Sunday, Ruth Haley Barton will join us to talk about what it means to connect to our desire in order to better align with God’s rhythms. You won’t want to miss it, she is a wonderful gift to our community.

A final beauty of the night, was Kellye’s beautiful benediction sending us out into the world. Some of you asked for her words to be shared and we’re happy to share them here, may they continue to wash over you this week as you take all we’ve practiced and learned into your lives.

Benediction by Kellye Fabian

 

Jesus came to

            bind up your broken heart;

            proclaim freedom over you;

release you from darkness;

comfort you when you mourn; and

provide for you when you grieve.

He came to bestow on you

            a crown of beauty;

            the oil of gladness; and

            a garment of praise.

He came to renew and restore and redeem.

So,

May you let go of whatever it is you are holding,

fling open your arms, lift up your eyes, and

allow the current of the river of God to

move you and carry you into

His eternal rhythms for the sake of the world.

——————-

Blessings,

Jenna Perrine & The Practice Team

 

 

Reflections: Praying for the World through Pictures

By | Reflections, Sunday Reflections | No Comments

(From the practice that Kellye guided us through on Sunday, August 9th)

I’d love to introduce you to or invite you back into a practice that has enriched my prayer life. It is a way to use the pictures we see every day about the tragedies in the world as a way to pray for restoration and healing and to celebrate God’s kingdom in the midst of these tragedies.

I will simply walk us through pictures relating to our own country, after each one, we will pray in our groups; and then we will join our voices together to seek God’s mercy. We will then do the same thing through pictures relating to the world. You will know the prayer time is done when Aaron plays the piano.

Each picture depicts people; and each picture depicts, in subtle ways, systems, systems that are unjust and broken, and systems that bring help to those in need.

May we offer prayers to our God who made and loves every human face; and who instructs us to seek justice, exhibit mercy, and love our enemies.

Our country

  1. Emmanuel AME Church in South Carolina

This first picture shows a gathering of congregants in prayer after nine men and women were killed at Emmanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina in June.

Let us pray for each deeply loved person in this picture and all those we don’t see, the families of the men and women who were killed, and the shooter, Dylann Roof. Let us pray that God’s kingdom will break through, in the midst of racial injustice, hatred, and broken systems in our country.

Space to pray

Please join me in seeking God’s mercy: Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

 

  1. Gun Violence in Chicago

This next picture is of a young boy and two police officers on the South Side of Chicago during the 4th of July weekend. Over the fourth of July alone, 10 individual men, women and children were shot and killed and 55 other men, women, and children were shot and injured.

Let us pray for each deeply loved person in this picture – the young boy and the two police officers. Let us also pray for this boy’s family, the individuals and families of all those who were shot or killed, and for the police officers working on the South Side of Chicago. Let us pray that God’s kingdom will break through, in the midst of the gun violence that is ravishing our city and our country.

Space to pray

Please join me in seeking God’s mercy: Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

 

  1. Politics: Clinton & Trump

This next picture is of two of our presidential candidates running in 2016, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Look at the eyes of the two people in this picture. This woman and this man were made in God’s very image, and are so loved by God that He gave His one and only Son to give them eternal life.

Let us pray for the woman and the man in this picture. Let us pray for every political candidate in the upcoming 2016 elections, especially for the one(s) you feel most resistance to in your mind and heart. Let us pray that God’s kingdom will break through in the midst of the divisive, vitriolic atmosphere that characterizes politics in our country. And let us pray that we would be examples of love and kindness so that all will know we are disciples of Jesus Christ.

Space to pray

Please join me in seeking God’s mercy: Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

 

The world

  1. Israel and Palestine

In this first picture, we see family members of an 18-month old Palestinian baby who was burned when the home he was sleeping in was burned to the ground by extremist Jewish settlers in the West Bank. The conflict in Israel/Palestine continues between people that have suffered in inconceivable ways and seek security and a people who are occupied and seek freedom.

Let us pray for each deeply loved person we see in this picture and all those we don’t see; Let us pray for the people who live in Israel and Palestine, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and non-religious; let us pray for the broken systems and governments that underlie what we see. Let us pray that God’s kingdom of peace would break through in the midst of this conflict.

Space to pray

Please join me in seeking God’s mercy: Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

 

  1. South Sudan

In this next picture, we see mothers getting food aid delivered to them in South Sudan. Experts predict that 2.5 million people will be subject to a deathly famine in this war torn area of the world. Tens of thousands of men, women, and children may die in the worst famine in 25 years.

Let us pray for each deeply loved person we see in this picture and the millions we don’t see; let us pray for the broken systems and governments that underlie what we see; let us pray that God’s kingdom would break through and that famine would be averted, that peace would reign, and that life would thrive in South Sudan.

Space to pray

Please join me in seeking God’s mercy: Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

 

  1. Syrian girl

This last picture is 4-year old Adi Hudea, a Syrian girl who raised her hands in surrender when she confused a photographer’s camera for a gun. Adi has been living in a refugee camp with her family since 2012. 220,000 people have been killed in Syrian’s civil war, which has created one of the largest refugee crises of our time.

Let us pray for Adi, this deeply loved girl, and every child caught in this Syrian war. Let us pray for all those impacted that we don’t see; and let us cry out to God for the broken systems and governments that underlie what we see. Let us pray that God’s kingdom would break through in the midst of this tragedy.

Space to pray

Please join me in seeking God’s mercy: Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

 

PRAYER OF ST. FRANCIS

 

Sunday Reflections, June 7, 2015

By | Discernment, Sunday Messages, Sunday Reflections, The Practice Podcast | 3 Comments

It was so good to gather together again last night at The Practice. I agree with Aaron, two weeks apart felt too long! I am always so encouraged to be among you all as we gather to worship and put the words of Jesus into practice with one another – such a holy community experience that I cherish.

Many of you may be aware that the end of this June marks the end of our 18 month experience here at The Practice. But fear not, in our discussions with leadership at Willow Creek and the community we can officially let you know that this is not the end. We have loved the sacred space and practicing community that has formed over our time together and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for us as we continue to grow and figure out how best to join in with God’s good work in the world.

So, in light of our desire to keep this experiment going we are dedicating the month of June to listening to God and trying to discern what His will is for the future of our community. We thought long and hard about how to do this and we realized one incredibly important thing:

Decision making is different from discernment.

Last night Kellye Fabian unpacked this poignant distinction by sharing part of her own story to illustrate a crossroads in her life in which she faced the difference between making a decision and discerning the will of God. I loved and felt so comforted listening to Kellye share, because I think we’ve all had those moments where the path before us isn’t clear and in our desire to figure out what to do next, a lot of us make a pros and cons list, think about it logically, worry incessantly and then finally, ask God to bless the decision we’ve logically made. As Kellye shared however, I knew I was resonating with how different discernment is.

Decisions are made, but discernment is given.

Discernment is given by God. It’s a process of discriminating what is of God and what is not of God in our lives, and surrendering to what God gives us. Discernment is often beyond logical pros and cons lists and looks more like listening to the quiet voice of God who may be calling us into the bold, unusual, or unclear path. When Kellye shared that the first job she received after ending her career as a lawyer was a position that didn’t even exist when she was trying to make the decision… I felt so challenged that discerning God’s will involves trust, leaps of faith and remaining committed to what is of God, even when other options may make us more comfortable in the moment.

Our community then moved into practicing a practice that is an important part of the discernment process – and that is, a prayer for indifference to anything but the will of God. Indifference may seem like such a harsh word, but when you think of it, it’s really praying the prayer that Jesus prayed when he said, “Not my will Lord, but Yours be done.” It’s a bold and vulnerable prayer that holds our deepest desires before God and says, “Lord, this is what I want, I trust that you know my heart and my honest desires, but ultimately I want to desire your will above my own.”

This is a radical practice. It felt radical last night as we all wrote down something we need discernment around and offered up our honest, deepest desires to God. I can’t wait to hear the stories from our community about how this prayer changes lives. For those of you who couldn’t be there, or who would love to listen again, check out what was shared in the latest Practice Podcast or by listening here below.

And it is in this spirit that our team wants to discern God’s will for the future of The Practice. We realized that we could make a lot of decisions in our own power, but the more important work would be to discern God’s will, which involves listening to God in our lives and listening to God in your lives to gain a sense of where we’re being invited.

Aaron shared on behalf of our leadership team, “5 things we know, and 5 things we don’t know” to kick off and set the stage for the month of June. You can watch this video to hear what he shared and how we’d like you to respond over the next week, but in short here are the five things we’ve learned from the past 18 months and here are 5 things we desperately want your help discerning from God about the future –

5 Things We Know

  1. We desire to be a holistic community. We can’t separate discipleship from evangelism, from mission, or from community. The invitation to put Jesus’ words into practice ultimately involves all of the journey and we want to reflect that.
  2. Our Core Values still resonate and uphold what we feel is important about The Practice and we will continue to value and grow in all of them.
  3. What we are doing here at The Practice is meeting a genuine unmet need in the church for Spiritual Formation, Sacred Space, and Contemplative Activism.
  4. We are going to keep consistently gathering as a whole in the spirit of liturgical/evangelical worship, and anchored exploration of the historic church and its practices.
  5. We know, that we don’t know who we are! And by that we mean, we are getting a lot of questions asking what are we? Are we a class? Are we a church? Are we a discipleship function? How do we fit into bigger Willow Creek? We love and are excited to keep discerning over the next year with God and with Willow how we be join in with God’s good work.

 5 Things We Don’t Know

  1. What is the best Day/Time of the week to meet? Whilst Sunday nights are a good fit for some people, they really inhibit a lot of other people from being able to come. We don’t have to change when we meet, but we’d love to have a discussion about what other possibilities are out there.
  2. Child and Family Formation. We want to explore how we can best serve and grow families down the road at The Practice.
  3. We need to explore how we can create more tangible opportunities for us to walk this journey of spiritual formation together.
  4. Sunday night is not the main event! Our real lives are the main event. How can we keep growing in how to make our lives the main focus?
  5. Artistic expression, story telling and communication. How can we keep artistically experimenting and exploring ways to express and immerse our community in this journey both during and outside of our Sunday gathering?

I hope you are as excited to keep discerning as we are! Incase you skipped the video, here are the three kingdom practices we wanted to invite you into this week in response to everything we shared last night:

  1. Partner with us by taking our survey. We want to hear your voice about how the last 18 months have impacted your life – please give us 15 minutes of your time to let us hear God’s voice through your experiences. To take the survey please click here.
  2. Pray the prayer for indifference in your life this week.
  3. Please, come back again next Sunday to share your voice and to contribute to the discussion of how The Practice can join God’s work and will in the future.

We cannot wait to gather together next week and hear from the community.

Grace and Peace to you!

Jenna Perrine