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The Next Four Weeks

By | Rhythm, Upcoming | No Comments

This fall, we’re learning to align the rhythms of our lives to God’s “unforced rhythms of Grace,” for the sake of the world. It’s been quite a journey so far.  After naming our deep desires and exploring the foundational practice of SILENCE, we now move into the next two rhythms: Embodied Examen and Sabbath-keeping. Here’s why we’re so excited…

speakers final draft 1———
October 25th: Embodied Spirituality. We’ll explore what it means to be embodied spiritual beings. Many of us live largely in our heads–separated and even antagonistic toward our bodies–but God created us to be whole, integrated people. Bringing together neuroscience, psychological training, and our deep Christian tradition, Eric Connor and Jenna Perrine will engage the connections between our spiritual lives and our physical bodies, and help us put these connections into practice.

**Don’t miss our second “After-Party” this night, 7:30-8:30pm, for those who want to go deeper.**

November 1st: Embodied Examen. Building on the first week, Fr Michael Sparough SJ will return to teach us an “Embodied Examen.” As we examine our lives in God’s presence, we can become aware of what our bodies our telling us, since our bodies often know about our pain and joy before our brains do.  Fr Michael will teach us a practice to listen to God speak through our bodies.

November 8th: The Sabbath. This week, our friend Rabbi Evan Moffic will help us turn toward one of the most historic, difficult, and powerful spiritual practices: Sabbath-keeping. From his deep Jewish tradition, he will unpack the history and heart of The Sabbath, and teach us a number of concrete ways to practice it. Few people are able to connect our two faith traditions in such a beautiful and redemptive way, and we’re thrilled that Rabbi Moffic is part of the Practice extended family!

**Friday, Nov 13th, Rabbi Moffic has invited our community to join their community for a Shabbat service at their synagogue in Highland Park. Please join us!**

November 15th: The Sabbath. Finally, we’ll explore the nuts and bolts of Sabbath-keeping in our actual lives. Is it even possible to practice The Sabbath in 2015 in the NW Suburbs of Chicago? Jason Feffer will offer a strong “YES!,” along with tangible steps to align the rhythms of our lives to God’s original rhythm: 6 on and 1 off. Friends, many people live their whole lives apart from the incredible Sabbath gift that God is trying to give us. Don’t miss it!

Sunday nights at 6pm
Willow Creek Chapel
All are invited

Honored to be on this journey with you,
Aaron and The Practice Team

This Fall at The Practice

By | Rhythm, Upcoming | 2 Comments

After a month of listening and communal discernment (June), a staff retreat (July), and a series of incredibly helpful conversations with many of you in the community (August), we are thrilled to share the direction for this year at The Practice…

RHYTHM: Learning to align our rhythms with God’s Eternal Rhythms, for the sake of the world.

The Creator of the Universe has hard-wired certain rhythms into all of Creation: Six on and one off…inward reflection and outward mission…solitude and community…humble listening and courageous risk…withdrawing and engaging…etc.  And Jesus invites us to align our entire lives to these deep rhythms. He calls out to every one of us: “Come to me. Walk with me and work with me, watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of Grace.” (Matt 11)

Like a musician listening for the groove so we can play along.
Like an athlete learning to hear the coach’s voice so we can join the game.
Like a child falling asleep in his mother’s arms, allowing our hearts to sync as one.
Like a disciple, keeping in step with her teacher, breaking ourselves open for the world God desperately loves.

And so this fall, we want to learn how to align with God in four ways…
(1) Present Moment Rhythm – practicing the Presence of Christ
(2) Daily Rhythm – practice the Daily Examen
(3) Weekly Rhythm – keeping The Sabbath
(4) Yearly Rhythm – aligning with the Church Calendar
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Fall 2015

The month of September will be the VISION and INVITATION to align our lives with God’s eternal rhythms, and a tangible way to help us SELF-ASSESS our current rhythms.  In many ways, the first two weeks will frame the entire journey, so please dive in deeply with us.

October and November will lead us into three foundational practices for a life aligned with God: SILENCE, EMBODIED EXAMEN, and SABBATH. Silence helps us hear God’s still small voice and align with God in each moment of our day.  The Examen helps us look back upon each day and find God’s fingerprints in the most unlikely places.  Sabbath helps us reorder our days into the rhythm God established in Creation: 6 on and 1 off.

In December, we will align with the church calendar and celebrate the season of ADVENT.  This will be a very worshipful month as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, and also helpful to give a vision for why the church calendar is so helpful.

And as you can see, we’re thrilled to include three Sundays of “Community Listening” this fall:  Oct 11th, Nov 22nd, and Dec 20th. On each one of these nights, we’ll rearrange the chairs into smaller circles and practice communal listening together.  Our desire is that these gatherings will (1) Help us to process the journey and carry each other along the way, and (2) Teach us the skills to create transformational community in our relationships, small groups, and whole lives.  These nights are really important, and we can’t wait to see how God uses them to form us!

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The journey begins this Sunday, September 13th, 6pm, in the Willow Creek chapel.

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Friend, the invitation of Christ is LIFE to the full. It’s not easy or without heartbreak, of course, but it is the Way of deep peace, connection, healing, rest, and true freedom. And you are being invited.

If The Practice can help you “say YES” this fall, please join us.  We’re all in this together.

Grace and peace,
Aaron and The Practice Team

 

This Summer as The Practice 

By | Summer Experience, Upcoming | 6 Comments
July

July

As a community learning the unforced rhythms of Grace, we’re quite excited about this summer. Rather than meeting every Sunday night, our Summer rhythm is all about creating space:  to play, unplug, deepen relationships, learn, and let God lead us into the next year of practice.  May God plant seeds in this holy space…

JULY

Practice Potluck BBQs of Glory and Goodness
Thursday, July 16th and 23rd
6-8pm
We’re so excited about this.  Each BBQ will involve three things: (1) A mighty potluck dinner, (2) A chance to do something fun together, and (3) A campfire liturgy.  Part of the night will be open to hang, but we’ll also offer a framework to practice together. (We are “The Practice”, after all!)
You’ll hear from Rhianna next week with every detail–what to bring, location, and all other info.  Hope you can join us both nights!

 

AUGUST

Two Practice Gatherings
Sunday, August 2nd and 9th
6-8pm
The Willow Chapel
It will be so great to gather back together in The Chapel to worship, pray for the world, practice together, and receive The Eucharist.
Fr Michael

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Practice Retreat
Sunday, August 16th
9am-8pm
Bellarmine Retreat House in Barrington
If you are a part of the practice community, we really hope you can join us for this day away.  Fr Michael Sparough SJ will guide the morning (9-noon), we’ll spend the afternoon (12-4) continuing the conversation in various ways, and then we’ll end with a dinner feast that culminates in the Eucharist.  I can’t wait to see what God does in our community on this day.  (Once again, Rhianna and her team will be in contact shortly with more details and a way to sign up.)
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May God’s will be done in and through our community this summer. May we continue to learn and practice together.  May our friendships grow and deepen.  And may we have a ton of fun.
Grace and peace,
Aaron and The Practice Team

Why you should bring your mom this Sunday

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Hey friends. This Sunday night’s gathering has the potential to be quite powerful, and we want to specifically extend an invitation to your mom. And if you’re a mom, we’d love for you to join us. And if you’ve ever had a mom (which I’m guessing is right around 100% of us. ha!), please come and worship with us.  Here’s why…

God is not a dude.  In fact, God is Spirit…beyond gender as we understand it. And while the Scriptures use both masculine and feminine language to help us engage the fullness of God, we tend to think of God with primarily masculine characteristics.  These are absolutely true, but only a part of the story.

This Sunday night–in honor of Mother’s Day–let’s worship another side of God:  Our Creator’s maternal qualities.  Using the scripture as our guide, we’ll lift up the powerful ways that God mothers us…and then honor our own Moms for being an image of such a strong and loving God.

“For God created human beings in God’s own image…
male and female God created them.” (Gen 1:27)

Once anchored in gratitude and the holy scriptures, we’ll learn from a living example of what God can do through a woman who has found her calling in the world:  Lynne Hybels.

Lynne Hybels

Lynne Hybels

Lynne has been a part of The Practice community from the beginning, and this Sunday night we get to hear her story. She’ll share quite honestly about the “dark night of the soul” that dismantled her faith and launched her to follow Christ as a peacemaker into some of the most dangerous places on earth. It’s a beautiful, messy, and redemptive story of how God can use our brokenness to bring healing to the world.

At the end, as we prepare to approach the table, Lynne will leave us with three questions to help us move deeply into the heart of Christ and begin discovering how God is calling us to engage the world.  May her story heal, challenge, and inspire us all to be God’s hands and feet in this broken world.

See you Sunday,
Aaron and The Practice Team

 

Eucharist & Mission

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Eucharist. Communion. The Lord’s Table. What is this Holy Sacrament and why is it so important for our lives and the life of the world?

In light of Resurrection, for the next six weeks, please join us in the mystery and invitation of the Eucharist. Let’s explore WHY this practice is so central, and HOW it launches us into a life of Mission. Jesus Christ was broken open for the sake of the world, and we are invited and empowered to break ourselves open for the sake of the world.

It’s so much more than simply remembering what Jesus did for me.

Over the next six weeks, through God’s grace, guided by a fantastic team of teachers, pastors, and prophets, we’ll begin to build a theology and practice of the Eucharist…

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April 12th – After the Judson University Choir leads our opening liturgy, we’ll begin week one with a foundational teaching from NT scholar Dr Scot McKnight. Don’t miss this. Scot will unpack “the last supper” and help us understand the context and profound depth of the meal Jesus offered his disciples. Come ready to learn…and practice.

April 19th – From the theological foundation of “What is the Eucharist?”, we’ll move on to an equally important question: “Who is welcome at Jesus’ table? Did Jesus exclude anyone? Should we?” And we’re thrilled that friend Jonathan Martin will humbly and courageously shepherd this conversation. In the power of the Spirit, may it be a stretching, holy, and healing night.

April 26th – On week three, pastor/teacher/writer David Fitch will help us turn outward: Eucharist as Mission. What does it look like to not only receive the broken body of Christ, but to follow Him into breaking ourselves open for the sake of the world? What is the mission of God and how can we allow ourselves to get swept up in it?

The second half of the journey will begin fleshing out these ideas. What does it actually look like to break ourselves open for the sake of the world?

May 3rdAustin Channing Brown has given her life to the work of racial reconciliation. We’re thrilled she will share her story, connect it to the Big Movement of God’s reconciling work in the world, and teach us a practice to join this work. Austin is courageous, godly, and deeply wise…and we can’t wait to learn from her.

May 10th – When you look up “contemplative activist” on wikipedia, we’re pretty sure that Lynne Hybels‘ picture comes up. (At least it should!) For the last few decades, Lynne has been on the front lines of breaking herself open for the sake of the world:  from HIV/AIDS to The Democratic Republic of The Congo to Israel/Palestine to her recent visit to Iraq. Lynne will help us explore what peacemaking looks like in the name of Christ.

May 17th – We’ll finish this journey with a night of worship, prayer, and Eucharist for the sake of the world. A full band, full hearts, an open table, and open hands before God. “May Your Kingdom come, may Your will be done…in us and through us as it is in Heaven.”

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As usual, the Sunday gatherings–6pm in the Willow Creek chapel–are only a small part of the journey. You can connect with the Practice blog during the week, and above all, join us as we learn to put Jesus’ words into PRACTICE.

Honored to be on this journey with you.
Aaron and The Practice Team

 

Practicing The Lord’s Prayer

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Lords Prayer

This Sunday night, we begin a five week deep dive into The Lord’s Prayer.

The Gospel of Luke records, “Jesus was praying in a certain place” with his students. “After he had finished, one of his students said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just like John (the Baptizer) also taught his disciples'” (Luke 11:1).  And what Jesus gave them was both a compellingly robust picture of what Eternal Life looks like on earth, AND a powerfully tangible way to align with it. The Lord’s Prayer offers both a destination and a path, and for the next five weeks, let’s humbly immerse ourselves into it.

This first Sunday, January 11th at 6pm, I have the opportunity to lead us into the first line:  “Our Father, who art in Heaven”.  The more I meditate on the three key words–Our, Father, Heaven–the more I’m learning how foundational they are for our relationship with God.  And it’s such a beautiful foundation.  In the genius of Jesus Christ, these three words teach us so much about who God is and who we are…and invite us into an eternal kind of LIFE with our Creator.

So please join us these next five weeks as we immerse ourselves in The Lord’s Prayer and learn Practices for LIFE in the Now and Not Yet

(1) How is Christ inviting us into Life to the full?
(2) What can we do to align ourselves with it?

Or more simply said:  What is Jesus’ invitation and how can I say ‘yes’?

Grace and peace,
Aaron and The Practice Team

Practices for LIFE in the Now and Not Yet

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Beginning this new year, we are diving into Practices for LIFE in the Now and Not Yet.  We’re asking God to help us explore two foundational questions:  (1) What is the life to the full that Jesus invites us into?  (2) How can we actively align ourselves to it?  Or said simply:  What is Jesus’ invitation and how do we say “yes”?

This question is at the heart of the gospel–not just believing the good news, but letting it soak in and transform every square inch of our lives and world. The apostle Paul calls this becoming a new creation. Dallas Willard’s names it renovation of the heart. And Jesus poetically promises that streams of living water will flow from within us.

No wonder the early followers heard this and said “Wow, that is good news.”

So on January 11th at 6pm, let’s begin with the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray, and spend the first six weeks of 2015 putting The Lord’s Prayer into practice. Each week we’ll immerse ourselves in one line of this beautifully subversive prayer…letting it guide us deeply into LIFE in the now and not yet. By God’s grace, may we become loving, grounded, courageous, and humble students of Jesus Christ–the master teacher of LIFE.

After this deep dive into The Lord’s Prayer, we’ll join up with our wider Christian family to celebrate the season of Lent. I can’t wait to learn about, explore, and walk through those holy 40 days together.

Please join us, friends, and let’s get swept up into the full LIFE of Christ…

January 11th / “Our Father in Heaven”
January 18th / “Your Kingdom Come”
January 25th / “Give us Today our Daily Bread”
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February 8th / “Forgive us as We Forgive”
February 15th / “Lead us Not into Temptation”

 

Advent: December at The Practice

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This Sunday begins our fourth Practice of the Suburban Stronghold:  ADVENT.

After practicing Centering Prayer in September, Sabbath-Keeping in October, and Simplicity in November, we now join with the historic church and cry “Come, Lord Jesus, Come”.  Advent invites us to slow down and prepare our hearts and lives to celebrate Emmanuel, which means “God with us”.  Advent is a season of deep longing …but above all, HOPE.

We will gather on two Sunday nights…

December

December

December 7th:  After an opening Advent liturgy (scripture, song, and prayer for the world), Fr Michael Sparough will lead a Prayer of Imagination into the story of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  This scriptural mediation will offer us holy space to interact with Emmanuel in a fresh and personal way.  Thanks be to God.  And out of this encounter, we’ll gather around the communion table together.  May the Spirit of Christ guide us in every way.

December 14th:  One of our favorite bands, The Brilliance, is coming on Sunday the 14th.  We’re so excited!  David Gungor and his incredible team of musicians will lead the opening liturgy;  and then after a time of practice, they’ll help lead us through communion. I can’t wait for their melodies and strings to fill the chapel.  But that’s not all.  After a 30 minute break for dessert in the lobby (7:30-8pm), everyone is invited back into the chapel for a free Brilliance Advent Concert at 8PM.  Come early to make sure you get a seat.

Finally, throughout this season, we’ll post resources and reflections to help us practice Advent in big and small ways.  American culture tells us that December needs to be the most overwhelming, stressful, consumeristic, exhausting month of the year, but Jesus Christ invites us into another way:

“Come, all who are weary…and I will give you rest.”

May this season of Advent be marked by deep longing, powerful hope, wise preparation, and the unforced rhythms of Grace.

Free: November at The Practice

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This fall, our “Practices for The Suburban Stronghold” have been all about FREEDOM.
In September, Centering Prayer invited us to get FREE from the noise of our world, and the noise in our heads. We learned how to daily turn our thoughts over to Christ and be with God in humble silence. In October, Sabbath-keeping invited us to get FREE from the busyness and stress of our overly-scheduled lives. We learned how to stop, rest, delight, and contemplate the reality that we are no longer slaves to what we do, but children of the Good God who holds the whole world in His hands.

Which brings us to this Sunday…

In November, let’s get FREE from our stuff. Through practices of contentment and simplicity, guided by my friend Mark Scandrette‘s profoundly practical book Free, let’s learn how to spend our time and money on the things that matter most.  “The scripts we’ve inherited about material prosperity are wearing us out, robbing our joy, and destroying the planet,” explains Mark. And during the month of November, our practicing community will explore the more beautiful way of Jesus. Here’s how Mark describes the journey…

Mark is the founding director of ReIMAGINE – a center for integral Christian practice based in San Francisco. And over the last year, he’s become a friend and mentor. In fact, his book “Practicing the Way of Jesus” (along with an epic six hour afternoon with him in San Fran), has inspired our experiment more than anyone else. I can’t overstate his influence on The Practice.

And I can’t wait for you to meet him!  This Sunday night (November 2nd), Mark will be at the Practice to launch us into “Free”, teach a number of practices, and help us name what matters most. God willing, Sunday night will set the stage for the whole month, so please make sure you can join us.

Friends, the invitation of Jesus is freedom, joy, and life to the very full. We don’t have to live exhausted and anxious lives. We don’t have to follow the script of our world and chase after the things that will never satisfy. Through Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we really can learn how to be FREE.  Let’s do it together…

Grace,
Aaron

Rest

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Rest.  What a wonderful word.  My soul longs for deep rest.  The kind of rest that allows my mind to settle, my eyes to open, my body to still, and laughter to come easily.  The kind of rest where I remember that I am not holding the world together.  The kind of rest where I remember the things that brought me joy when I was six.  The kind of rest where I remember that I am deeply, unconditionally, forever loved and that nothing will separate me from this love.

But I ignore all calls my body, soul, and mind make to get me to stop, breathe, and delight.  Somehow despite my longing for rest, I decide to worry, scroll through high-school friends’ Facebook posts, and be “productive.”  What is this resistance to rest?  Do you suffer from this same resistance?  Is it fear?  Lack of practice?  Pride?

I’m so excited about the next three Sundays as we learn about and practice Sabbath.  As I have been reading and practicing in preparation, I came across the following beautiful passage in a book by Wayne Muller called Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives:

If we forget to rest we will work too hard and forget our more tender mercies, forget those we love, forget our children and our natural wonder.  God says: Please don’t.  It is a waste of a tremendous gift I have given you.  If you knew the value of your life, you would not waste a single breath.  So I give you this commandment: Remember to rest.  This is not a life-style suggestion, but a commandment – as important as not stealing, not murdering, or not lying.  Remember to play and bless and make love and eat with those you love, and take comfort, easy and long, in this gift of sacred rest.

May we learn the gift of sacred rest.

Grace and blessings,

Kellye