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Sunday Reflections

Sunday Reflections, May 17, 2015

By | Eucharist And Mission, Kingdom Practices, Reflections, Sunday Reflections | No Comments

Our time of worship, prayer, and Eucharist last night, ending our six-week journey called Eucharist and Mission, left me feeling encouraged and strengthened both in faith and in community. Like so many things, the closeness we all felt as we left is a bit of a mystery, but my sense of it was that really listening to the story of healing in a person’s life and heart and body like we all did as Sarah so courageously and openly shared, reminds us that restoration is happening all around us all the time whether we know it or not. And this is such good news for us because maybe, just maybe, it’s happening to each one of us slowly and by God’s gentle hand through our gathering, our worship, our prayer, and our receiving and remembrance of Christ’s body and blood.

As Jenna shared the recap of where we have been this last six weeks, I think we all stood in awe of how much we’ve learned, yes, but also how our eyes have been opened to Eucharist’s urgency and relevance in the actual world, not just in buildings on Sundays. One of the images I can’t quite shake this morning is all of us standing and singing May Your Kingdom Come as we watched the pictures of deeply loved people so often enemies of one another, or suffering greatly from sudden tragedy or chronic poverty and pain, move across the screen. I would love to practice the kind of prayer we practiced together last night more often, refusing to be numb to the constant barrage of pictures of suffering, pain, and conflict and instead humming in prayer over each life, whether deemed a sufferer or an oppressor: “May Your kingdom come, may Your will be done. May Your kingdom come in us. May Your love be shown, may Your nearness known. May Your kingdom come through us.”

If you’d like to incorporate this prayer practice in your life, here is the framework we used last night:

  • Collect a series of pictures of events happening in the world today or this last week that show faces of actual people (many news organizations have “pictures of the week” that they post);
  • Review the faces seen and unseen in the picture and the broken or beautiful systems and governments that make the scene depicted a reality;
  • Pray
  • for each person, deeply loved and made carefully by God in His image, that you see in the picture and for those unseen, but represented in some way;
  • for the broken systems and governments that underlie what is depicted;
  • for the way God’s kingdom is and will break through in the midst of the suffering, pain, or conflict represented in the picture; and
  • Seek God’s mercy over the situation:

Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy.

We will meet again in three weeks, on June 7th, and, in the meantime, may you practice Eucharist in the world.

Grace and peace,
Kellye Fabian

Sunday Reflections, May 3, 2015

By | Eucharist And Mission, Sunday Reflections | 2 Comments

Broken Open for Reconciliation

I’ve realized between last night and today that you don’t hear a whole lot about what people are “for.” Mostly, we hear about what people are against. In fact, you are much more likely to know what your friends and family are against than you are to know what they’re for. Sadly, this is especially true among Christians. I’m sure you’d get more answers from the man or woman on the street about what Christians are against than what they are for!

So it was with great urgency that Austin Brown taught us last night about living lives that are for the things God is for, and specifically lives that are broken open for reconciliation, the fundamental marker of the kingdom of God. What truth Austin shared when she reminded us that the tables at which we typically find ourselves (dinner, coffee, board, executive, leadership) seat people who look and think just like us. Our tables reinforce over and over what we already believe to be true about people who are not like us and the issues of our day. So when we see things on the news about unrest, protests, riots, and violence, we become uneasy and fear disruption, causing us to retreat to the circles and tables filled with the people who will reaffirm what we believe whether or not it is accurate, fully formed, or one-sided.

To call us to something more, something that reflects God’s character and heart, Austin walked us through the time Jesus entered the temple courts in Jerusalem and turned over tables with a fire we don’t often associate with Him. In this story, we find three learnings:

  • Jesus declared first his vision for what should be. He said, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations…’” (Mk 11:17; Mt 21:13)
  • Jesus identified how the people had fallen short. After his first statement, he said, “But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Mk 11:17; Mt 21:13)
  • Jesus modeled what he said. Just after making these declarations, Jesus invited the blind and lame – the untouchables – to come to him in the temple. (Mt 21:14)

Out of this poignant and relevant teaching, Austin invited us into the practice and lifestyle of protest. (Although the word protest has come to mean “against,” it originally meant to declare or testify. For example, people accused of crimes would “protest their innocence,” meaning “declare their innocence.”) In other words, she asked us to model Jesus in the temple courts by declaring with fire what we are for, identifying the ways in which we have fallen short of that vision, and modeling what we declare with our lives.

Jesus broke himself open to reconcile us, in the midst of our brokenness, to God. He has called us to do the same: to break ourselves open to be reconciled to each other.

This week, I’m sitting with the handout we received last night, with its large-print, fill-in declaration: I am for ___________.

And, I’ll be praying for God’s guidance with these two prayers:

God, what is the gap between my desire (what I’m for) and my actual life?

God, what is one step I can take this week to begin bridging that gap?

I hope you’ll join me in this.

May you disrupt your tables in protest, to declare what God is for and take a step to reconcile what is broken and in need of healing.

Grace and peace,

Kellye Fabian

 

For those of you who weren’t there or would like to listen again, you can listen to Austin’s message here below or on The Practice Podcast.

Sunday Reflections, April 26, 2015

By | Eucharist And Mission, Reflections, Sunday Reflections, The Practice Podcast | 2 Comments

Tending to the Presence of Christ

It makes perfect sense that experiencing the presence of Christ at the Lord’s Table could have a significant impact on the way we live our lives. If I am intentional about remembering Jesus’ sacrifice once a week in communion, I will remember to love others throughout the week. But, to be honest, remembering Jesus’ sacrifice hasn’t actually allowed me to love more or better. In fact, even as we read through 1 John 3:16-24 in the opening liturgy last night, I kept wondering how to really do what Jesus commanded. The call to love others seems so high sometimes given my selfishness, susceptibility to fear, and desire for comfort and safety.

I almost stood up during David Fitch’s teaching last night to yell out, “Oh! I get it! I see!” His thesis: the Lord’s Table shapes us to recognize Christ’s presence here (the place we are receiving the bread and wine) so that we can recognize Christ’s presence out there (in our homes, neighborhoods, and beyond). David showed us in the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus that though Jesus was present with them, the disciples did not discern his presence until they were at the table and Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them. (Luke 24:13-31)

So, David asked: What happened that allowed the disciples to discern Christ’s presence in that moment? And what happens at the Lord’s Table that allows us to discern Christ’s presence? David proposed that when we come to the Lord’s Table in the following four postures, we are able to discern Christ’s presence:

  • A posture of submission: we come submitting to Jesus and to each other.
  • A posture of receiving: we come with gratitude and openness to whatever God might do.
  • A posture of ceasing striving: we come with a quieted ego and letting go of our desire to control.
  • A posture open to forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration: we come to receive again the forgiveness of Christ over our lives and to receive the renewal of the Holy Spirit.

You can listen to David’s message here or by subscribing to The Practice Podcast.

 

The beauty of David’s teaching was that it didn’t stop at the Lord’s Table. Instead, he challenged us to take these four postures into our lives, to our own tables, and to every table where we eat and drink. In this way, our participation in Eucharist allows us to tend to Christ’s presence in the world. What would it look like for us to have dinner with our families in a posture of submission? Or of openness and with a quieted ego that has released its desire to control? What would it look like for us to tend to Christ’s presence not just on Sunday nights, but at our every meal? And what if we took these postures with us to Starbucks and McDonald’s or wherever we may find ourselves sitting down with friends or strangers for a meal?

We practiced these postures during our seed-packing after our gathering. Many families across the globe will be able to grow gardens for food and income over the next year because of that packing. And, we were able to practice taking the four postures David taught us beyond the Lord’s Table and into our individual conversations across the table from one another, tending to Christ’s presence as we packed seeds.

I am so grateful that David opened our eyes to these postures at the table. I can’t wait to put them into practice at all the tables I find myself this week. I pray you’ll join me in putting what we’ve learned into practice.

May you take the presence of Christ with you every place you eat this week and tend to His presence there.

Peace and grace,

Kellye Fabian

Sunday Reflections, April 19, 2015

By | Eucharist And Mission, Reflections, Sunday Messages, Sunday Reflections, The Practice Podcast | 3 Comments

Everyone Is Welcome at the Table

I have not ever thought of the table (the Lord’s Supper or communion) as a scandalous place. A reverent place, yes. A place of great mystery, for sure. As I consider it now, I realize I’ve even thought of communion as a bit tame.  Everyone lines up neatly, and quietly waits to receive. Or, we silently and politely pass bread and wine down rows of well-mannered, good-intentioned church people.

But, last night, Jonathan Martin reminded us that Jesus was constantly getting in trouble for eating and drinking with the “wrong” people – tax collectors and sinners. Just look at Luke 5:27-32. There was nothing neat or tame about his table. He invited everyone, anyone.  All were welcome. At the Last Supper, the one that inaugurated our practice of communion, Judas, who would betray Jesus, sat at the table. Peter, who would deny Jesus, sat at the table. The remaining 10 apostles, who would each abandon Jesus, sat at his table. Everyone is welcome at Jesus’ table.

You can listen to Jonathan’s full message here or by subscribing to our podcast.

 

More than anything, Jonathan’s message got me thinking about what a scandal it is that I am invited to Jesus’ table. Really. Sometimes it is all I can do to even hold my hands out to receive the bread not only because of things in my past that still haunt me, but also because of things I thought or did just hours before stepping into the Chapel. I am utterly unworthy. It is shocking, scandalous that I am invited and welcome. I come to the table humbly and hungry, though, and when I do, I am overwhelmed by God’s grace and the mystery of Christ’s presence. It makes me long for God to expand my heart and give me courage to open my table to the “wrong” people, people who don’t receive invites, are seen as unclean, or are deemed unworthy.

Would you join me this week in identifying the person or group of people you have consciously or subconsciously deemed unwelcome at your table?  And once you’ve identified that person or group of people, would you invite them into a conversation or to have a meal?

May you hear the invitation of our Lord Jesus that you are invited to and welcome at his table.  And may you practice the scandal of Jesus’ table, inviting and welcoming the wrong people to your table.

Grace and peace,

Kellye Fabian

Sunday Reflections, March 15, 2015

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One can almost taste the spring that’s in the air these days. Days are longer. Jackets are being left at home. Snow is melting away. Spring is a glorious invitation to breathe in a new world, uncovered afresh after long months of being suffocated by blankets of cold and snow.

As I think back on last night, I sense the new breaking spring taking hold of our beautiful tribe. Kellye’s message on repentance and her invitation for us to embrace the postures of David from Psalm 51 seemed to be much like our new spring sun, warming the recesses of my heart that often becomes hardened from the icy cold of my own stubborn resistance to God.

I couldn’t help but resonate with Kellye’s description of her dog; that he had been so abused in his past that even the invitation to be let out the door would result in a flinch. So often, I too feel so ashamed and afraid of the pain of my sin, that even the word repentance causes my body to tense, my eyes to dart, and my heart to close. Yet, the experience of last night was such a wonderful reminder that repentance was always intended to be a gift from God.

What perhaps stood out to me most was how vulnerable it felt when I got my body involved in our time of practice. It was one thing to sit and listen to the lectionary readings, sing about the faithfulness of God, even listen to Kellye’s words. And yet, when we were each invited to stand and spread our arms out wide, I felt vulnerably open. In that moment, I realized that there was nothing I could hide, because there was nothing that God didn’t know. What began as a uncomfortable exercise steadily became a sense of relief. By the time we placed our hands together, I knew that God already knew and that he longed to wash me, to cleanse me, to scrub the dirt off my hands.


Perhaps most importantly of all, came as the third and final movement of David that Kellye pointed out; repentance was also meant to be for the sake of the world. As we were invited to open our hands before God and pray about how he might use them I couldn’t help but look down and marvel; “These hands God?” 

Only to hear Aaron’s final invitation, “What kinds of things could happen if God were to use these freshly cleaned hands for others?” Friends, the good news is that through repentance in Jesus Christ, our hands have been cleaned, but even more, God wants to use your hands and my hands for the sake of those arounds us. Just imagine what could be done, if we each joined God with the work of our freshly clenased hands.

Would you join us these next few weeks in continuing to practice the examen. Would you join us by continuing even on a daily basis to practice repentance, even using the three postures of arms spread, hands together, and palms open before God. (How about even practicing the two together?) Would you continue to join us in this season of Lent as we invite God to examine, reveal and cleanse us in preparation for Easter? 

May God, with the penetrating warmth of his son Jesus Christ, cleanse you through the practice of repentance in order that your cleansed hands might be used for the sake of the world.
Grace and Peace to you and all who you love,
John Perrine

Sunday Reflections, March 8, 2015

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When I arrived at the Practice last night, my hands smelled like Pine Sol because I had been cleaning the floors much of the afternoon, trying to get rid of the stains from the salt we’d tracked into the house all winter. The day was bright and the switch to daylight savings planted in me the need to clean, refocus, and remember that although the ground was still covered in deep snow, winter would indeed end and spring would come again. Darkness would abate, light would prevail.

And so it is with Lent, as Father Michael explained. Although Lent is modeled after Jesus’ 40 days of purification and testing in the wilderness, and associated with reflection, repentance, and fasting, “Lent” actually comes from a word that means “spring.” Lent is the season in which we prepare for the celebration of the central event of our faith: Resurrection Sunday (Easter). Lent is like spring-cleaning–while the snow still abounds, we prepare for the coming spring. It is a time for us to sweep under the furniture, mop up the traces of salt, and dust away the cobwebs.

To help us with our soul spring-cleaning, Father Michael taught us the practice of examen, an ancient practice intended to cause us to reflect on our lives and pull us back to center, to Jesus, the center of all things, the one in whom we live and move and have our being. Here are the five steps he taught us:

  • Invite the Holy Spirit’s guidance. You might do this by taking a few deep breaths, opening your hands, and becoming aware that you are in the presence of God.
  • Review the day in thanksgiving. Starting with thanksgiving centers us and allows us to remember and savor the blessings God has granted by his grace.
  • Review the feelings that surface. Here, we are noticing what feelings come up as we review the day. Joy, anger, lust, sadness. Father Michael suggested specifically focusing on the feeling that you struggle with most to see how you did that day in that particular area.
  • Choose one or two feelings and pray from those. Father Michael suggested paying particular attention to the feeling that is calling to you strongly (nearly jumping up and down to be noticed) and the feeling that begs not to be noticed (the one cowering in the corner).
  • Look forward to tomorrow in hope. Father Michael said this is a time to remember that there is another day coming, so there is reason to have hope. He encouraged us to identify what we learned and then to ask God for whatever grace it is we need to move forward.

We invite you, for the remaining 27 days of Lent, to practice this transformative practice. Father Michael encouraged us to make the examen a “holy habit,” not to waste too much time debating where and when and how, but to just go ahead and do it so that it becomes as habitual as brushing your teeth in the morning.

I’m jumping in and continuing my spring-cleaning! Would you join me?

May God grant us grace as we practice,
Kellye

 

Picture: Air Images/shutterstock.com

Sunday Reflections, 15 February, 2015

By | Forgiveness, Reflections, Sunday Reflections, The Lord's Prayer | 2 Comments

Last night was such a deep and profound time for our Practice Family. A week ago we immersed ourselves in what it means to experience and receive God’s forgiveness and last night we took on the difficult task of exploring what it means to become forgivers.

Dre spoke this time about the second half of this line from the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Some of the highlights from what she shared are still settling deep in my heart as I start my day:

  • The secret to becoming a forgiver is that we can only offer forgiveness after we’ve experienced being forgiven by God.
  • Sometimes we focus too much on the SHOULD of forgiveness, wrongly turning it into an issue of mind over matter. A caterpillar must go through stages of transformation before it can fly, so too do we need stages of transformation before we can forgive.
  • In the face of forgiving, sometimes it feels easier to disconnect from our heart to cope. But it’s a lousy life to live without a heart.
  • Forgiveness isn’t pretending you aren’t hurt. It doesn’t mean that trust is automatically restored. We need to grieve what has been lost.

An incredible gift of the night was Dre inviting Rhianna Godfrey to share her experience of how God has led her into forgiving her mother. It was so powerful to hear a real life experience laid out before the room, making forgiveness seem tangible, real and raw. I was so encouraged by Rhianna’s courage and honesty, hearing how she faced into the pain of the relationship with her mother to pursue forgiveness, yet knowing how human she felt throughout the whole experience. As Rhianna shared the journey God has been leading her through, I could begin to identify some important moments of transformation in her story; how God transformed her anger, increased her compassion and is continuing to give her strength to release and forgive.

In light of this beautiful testimony to God’s grace, Dre shared David Benner’s model as a suggestion on how to journey through forgiveness:

  • To begin the journey of forgiveness, we first need to feel our pain. Instead of pretending we aren’t hurt, we should allow the pain to resurface and invite God into our pain.
  • The next step is to let God reframe our pain, to reveal our offenders as human, to understand what happened to us in a new light.
  • The final step is to release the anger. Allowing God to redeem the aching parts of you, soothe your sadness and invite you into greater freedom.

What happened next was truly a sacred moment with the Holy Spirit. Dre led the room through a guided time of reflecting on the stages of this model, asking God if there is anyone he would like us to think about forgiving. I feel like the collective heartbeat of the room began to quicken, and as Dre held us tenderly in that moment, I could hear the sniffles and tears throughout the room as God brought people to mind.

It was a heavy time, but such a beautiful time of our community opening up our posture to the guidance of God. We ended by approaching the table for communion with John’s words ringing in our ears that this is ‘a table of reconciliation.’ How amazing to receive communion and in that moment feel the reality of our reconciliation with God, in doing so feeling hope that through that same power we could be reconciled to others.

I was so moved by the openness of our community and so proud of us for facing into the pain together. It truly is always safer and always better to pursue forgiveness in community and in relationship. It is my hope that each and every one of us would continue to heal in a trusted relationship as we navigate forgiveness – do not forget to follow up with our Forgiveness Next Steps blog that will point you to different ways to find those relationships.

Scott Gibson then closed us with the benediction and a beautiful word on how precious it was to serve communion to our community, to see each face and each story pass before him as they received the blood and body of Christ. He also wisely reminded us that forgiveness is a process – I certainly needed to be reminded of that.

I plan to sit with God in prayer this week and carefully consider, “Who can I walk this path of forgiveness with?” Would you pray with me and be bold in your prayer? If it’s a counselor, a pastor, a spiritual director, or a trusted friend – would you pray with me that God would give you the courage to reach out? If you woke up aching this morning from all we explored last night, remember, don’t do this alone. Find that relationship to heal within.

May we continue to take one step at a time, learning to receive forgiveness and in the process, learning how to be forgivers.

Blessings and Peace to you,

Jenna and The Practice Team

Sunday Reflection, February 8, 2015

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Last night held so many different layers of experience for me.  Beginning with Job’s heavy, hopeless words seemed like an ominous start, and yet, as we cried out to God, the one who heals the brokenhearted, something began to shift and rise. Having Psalm 34 read over us and the trumpet speak the sounds of our souls in a way we couldn’t with words, joined us together in remembering who God is and that our hope is secure in him.  And how important this turned out to be as Deirdre JVR (“Dre”) led us into a deep understanding of approaching God for forgiveness.

Dre spoke about the first half of this line from the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Some of the things she said are really resonating with me today:

  • By introducing the idea of forgiveness, Jesus brought a new way of relating to God and others that was totally contrary to the “eye-for-an-eye” approach that had been in place in the Jewish culture.
  • Forgiveness is the oxygen of any relationship and it is the oxygen in our relationship with God.
  • Most of us know we need God’s forgiveness, but we don’t know how to ask for it and/or we don’t know how to receive it.

As Dre led us through the two-minute exercise to reflect on the posture we take in approaching God when we are in need of forgiveness and the way we see his posture toward us, God illuminated something new for me.  In that short time of reflection, I saw myself jumping up and down and waving my arms to get God’s attention.  I realized that my default view of God is someone who is preoccupied and whose attention I have to work hard to attract.  He’s not disinterested, but just doesn’t have time for me.  What a distortion this is from who God really is: the father who sees me coming from a long way off, runs toward me, ready to throw his arms around me to welcome me with love and immediate forgiveness!  (Luke 15:11-32)  I need only look to the Communion table for evidence of this love and forgiveness.

I plan to sit with the story of the prodigal son this week in my quiet time and pray that God will reveal more about himself to me and correct my view of him.   I also love the question Dre taught us to ask, “Holy Spirit, would you show me where I am still on the throne?”  And, as Aaron asked:  “Where in my life am I in a far off land, and need to come home?”  Would you join me in these prayers?  Is there a step home you can take this week?

May God reveal his true character to you and may you have the courage to turn to him and receive his love and forgiveness.

Peace to you,

Kellye

Sunday Reflection, January 18, 2015

By | Sunday Reflections | 2 Comments

The kingdom of God.  Basketball.  These are not typically consecutive thoughts in my mind.  Yet today I can’t help but see them as tied together.  Steve Carter’s teaching last night about having eyes to notice the presence and the absence of the kingdom of God planted in me a desire to look more closely at the small moments.  Steve reminded us that when Jesus taught us to pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” he meant that we should pray that everything that is a reality there, in heaven, would become a reality here, on earth.  God, may all that is real and true and present there, become real and true and present here.

I can’t help but think of Paul’s words to the Roman churches, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…”  (Romans 14:17)  What Steve noticed as his first and second grade basketball team was being beaten by a score of 48-4 was the absence of joy and peace and righteousness (or right relationship).  His players’  joy and innocence was being stolen.  Their love for team and play and their collective belief in themselves was beginning to falter.  There was distress and tears.  So, Steve noticed the absence.  He prayed for God’s help and wisdom.  And then he lived out God’s call to reflect the kingdom of heaven on earth – he spoke words that restored worth, he reached out to remind them of the skill and improvement they had shown, and he identified the right things each child had done.

Notice.  Pray.  Live.  

As we practiced this last night, reflecting on the presence and absence of the kingdom in our family, our work, and our world, I was amazed by how many small moments came to mind.  Sometimes when I think about the absence of the kingdom of God, it leads me to despair.  I generalize – “Look at the Middle East!  There is an absence of the kingdom of God, obviously!  There is no hope.”  But as we reflected last night, I identified dozens of people and places in the Middle East in which and through which I have seen firsthand the presence, reality, and truth of the kingdom of God.  As I considered my family and my work, the same thing happened.  And even where I could identify the absence, I could see clearly my role in praying and living out God’s invitation to reflect his kingdom.

I can’t wait to notice, pray, and live this week!  Would you join in?

Notice.  Where do you notice the presence of God’s kingdom in the now?  Where do you notice the absence of God’s kingdom?

Pray.  Ask God for his help and his wisdom.  God, show me what step I can take to reflect your kingdom in this moment, in this situation, in this person’s life.

Live.  Go and do as best you know how to reflect the kingdom of God with the strength and grace of Christ.

As Lynne said in her closing comments, we have no time to despair of the kingdom’s absence.  We have been called to make a difference.  Let us be the ones who create the cracks for the kingdom of God to break through into the here and now.

May his kingdom come.  May his will be done.  In us.  Through us.  Amen.

Kellye

 

photo credit: © Toddtaulman | Dreamstime.com – Basketball On The Hardwood Photo

Sunday Reflections, January 11, 2015

By | Sunday Reflections | 8 Comments

I woke up this morning with a sense of deep contentment after our time together last night.  A phrase kept coming to mind, “speak to one another with psalms and hymns.”  I thought I remembered this might be from the Scriptures and so, like I do with just about anything I need to research, I typed that phrase into Google.  Ah, yes!  Paul’s instructions to the church in Ephesus:

[B]e filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.  Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(Ephesians 5:19-20)  Don’t these words describe our experience last night almost exactly?

Weren’t we receiving God’s assurance of his forgiveness and joy and peace for ourselves, but also for each other?  Didn’t we all draw from the same air as we breathed in and breathed out our prayers to our God who filled every crevice of the room last night (and every night)?  Weren’t we remembering for ourselves but also for each other as we shared communion that God is in our breathing, our resting, our hoping, our working, our weeping, our everything?  And didn’t we join together as a community as well as with Jesus in the word “our” as we prayed the words Jesus taught us to pray?

We began our Practices for Life in the Now and Not Yet last night, during which we will walk through the Lord’s Prayer line by line, and I will remember Aaron’s teaching on the phrase “Our Father in Heaven” for a long time.  It seemed to come out from the very heart of God.  Just a few highlights:

  • The address of our prayers is what distinguishes prayer from worrying out loud.  (quoting Dallas Willard).
  • “Our” – by this word, Jesus puts himself in our company and we put ourselves in the company of Jesus and the entire family of believers all over the world, past, present, and future.
  • “Father” – by this word, Jesus reminds us most fundamentally that we are invited by God, through Christ, into a relationship with the Almighty, who is bigger than our minds can conceive.  This word might raise objections deep within us.
  • I thought God was spirit, not male or female?  We know that God is spirit (John 4:24) but over time, we have formed him into the image of a man, as we conceive of gender here on earth, but many passages of Scripture describe the maternal/feminine characteristics of God.
  • I have a hard time separating the word “father” from my earthly father and, is that what God is like?  The word “father” is loaded for all of us because we all have a very human dad.  Even if we had an involved, loving father, over time, we realize they have faults and haven’t always loved us perfectly.   As we feel this objection in praying the “our Father,” let’s stay curious about what comes up and lay it before God for healing and understanding.
  • “in heaven” – this phrase has led us to imagine a great distance between us and God, but many scholars believe the better translation is “in the heavens,” meaning that God floods every part of the atmosphere and is closer than the air we breathe.  Think of Acts 17:28, “For in him we live and move and have our being.”  The beautiful image Aaron gave of God’s presence as water filling a room and moving through every person present will stay with me.

Jesus’ invitation to us is that we experience the nearness of God’s presence and Joan Kelley taught us breath prayer as a way to say yes to this invitation.  Let’s practice that this week and see if we begin to experience God’s closeness as Jesus’ disciples did when he breathed on them (John 20:21-22).  Here are Joan’s steps to help us practice breath prayer:

  • Quiet your body, mind and heart as you breathe deeply.
  • Notice the nearness of God with the rhythm of your breathing.
  • Breathe in a favorite name of God.
  • Breathe out a desire of your heart.
  • Continue this rhythm of prayer throughout your day.

Last night, the name of God I breathed in was “Father,” and the desire I breathed out was “help me.”  What about you?

May we experience our Father, who is closer than the air we breathe, individually and as a community.

Grace be with you,

Kellye