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Preparing to Explore The Sabbath

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Pete Scazzero

Pete Scazzero

Hi friends.  As we prepare to engage The Sabbath this month, may I introduce you to a pastor, mentor, and friend who models Sabbath-keeping better than anyone I know:  Pete Scazzero.  Pete is a hard-charging pastor from Queens who almost blew up his life, marriage, and church.  Fortunately, through pain, grace, and his lovingly honest wife Geri, he found a more contemplative path that changed everything. Out of this transformation, they’ve created Emotionally Healthy Spirituality to help people all over the world find a similar freedom.

If you ask Pete the secret of an emotionally healthy spirituality, he will very quickly bring up Sabbath-keeping. He has found it to be absolutely central to learning how to “keep company with Jesus”. In fact, a couple years ago, he lead his entire church into a 7 week experiment of Sabbath-Keeping. To help them prepare, he created this simple document…

Receiving the Gift of Sabbath (Pete Scazzero)

Would you take ten minutes and read it this week? He offers both a beautiful vision of Sabbath-keeping AND a helpful way to practice it. I’m hoping that every one of us will read it so we can begin October 5th from the same starting place.

If you want to dig in deeper, Pete and his church have offered a number of free resources HERE. I’d especially recommend listening to his message “Part 1 – Stopping for the Gift of Sabbath”. Such a powerful vision!

“Sabbath, when lived, is our means as the people of God to bear witness to the way we understand life, its rhythms, its gifts, its meaning, and its ultimate purpose in God. Observing the Sabbath, we affirm: ‘God is the center and source of our lives. God is the beginning, the middle and the end of our existence.’” (Pete Scazzero) 

So please join us! And let’s discover the gift of Sabbath together…

Peace,
Aaron

Sabbath for the Suburban Stronghold

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This fall, we are learning four Practices For The Suburban Stronghold:  Centering Prayer, Sabbath, Solitude, and Advent. Our little community is trying to follow Jesus’ invitation of “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.”

God stirred us deeply through Centering Prayer in September, and continues to meet us in surprising ways. We’re learning that God is always speaking, the only thing that changes is whether we’re listening or not. We don’t do these practices to convince God to speak to us – as if we could somehow earn God’s attention – but we’re learning to slow down and get quiet enough to hear The Voice that is constantly with us. It’s all grace. Amen.

Many thanks to Phileena and Father Keating for guiding so wisely and humbly. But more than that, many thanks to all of you who were willing to jump into such a difficult and often terrifying practice. I’m so ridiculously grateful to get to be a part of this community.

In this spirit, let’s dive into October and see what God has for us through the practice of Sabbath.

I’m not sure what you think of when you hear the word “Sabbath”, but I’m guessing it has something to do with Jesus breaking the Sabbath, and/or the joy-crushing rules your grandma had about “not doing anything fun on Sundays”. Or maybe, like many of us, you’ve never given it much thought. But what if Sabbath is one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity?  And not just to the ancient Israelites…but also to worn out, over-worked, and exhausted you and me?

Friends, let’s dive deeply into this. October 5th will offer a big invitation and vision, October 12th will teach the tangible steps and practices, and October 19th will be a group experience of Sabbath.  And all along, we’ll continue to ask our Creator to teach us the best way to live. Life to the full. An eternal kind of life. Unforced rhythms of Grace…

Please join us!

Cultivating the Contemplative with Phileena Heuertz

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Friends, this Sunday (9/14) night will invite us into some rich and deep places. Phileena Heuertz of The Gravity Center will be with us to teach the Christian practice of Centering Prayer.  She’ll share her personal journey into contemplative activism, and help us work through a couple questions: What is Centering Prayer? Why do Christians practice it? How does it help align us with God’s unforced rhythms of Grace?

And then, of course, she will help us PRACTICE centering prayer and give a few tools to practice throughout the week. Don’t worry if this is brand new for you…Phileena is gentle leader who loves to meet people where they are at and help them take one, holy step toward God in prayer. We’re all in this together! I can’t wait to see how God uses this practice in each of our lives.

To learn more about Phileena’s story and the role contemplative prayer has played in her life, this is a great 5 minute video…

This Fall at The Practice

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Fall Practice

Fall Practice

Practices for the Suburban Stronghold

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Nearly everyone I know – including my wife and I – wrestle with the busyness, noise, and the complexity of modern life. The rush and racket feel relentless and overwhelming at times. Many of us are just plain exhausted.

Jesus invites us into “life to the full”, but full calendars and full shopping carts can’t possibly be what he means. Especially when it can feel so empty.

We need to find another Way.

And so this fall, we’re going to learn how to recover our lives through three spiritual practices: Centering Prayer, Sabbath, and Simplicity. These historic disciplines have been around for generations, and yet nothing could be more timely for our overly-connected, overly-busy, frazzled culture…

In SEPTEMBER, we will explore the practice of Silence and Centering Prayer.

“Silence is God’s first language; everything else is a poor translation. In order to hear that language, we must learn to be still and to rest in God.” (Thomas Keating)

The noise of our lives is deafening. We sincerely want to hear from God, but quickly find that God rarely speaks in the wind, earthquake, and fire of our stereos, strip-malls, and twitter feeds. Instead, our Maker is gently whispering. (1 Kings 19). And we’re missing it.

But thankfully, God keeps whispering and is gloriously patient with those who can be hard of hearing…which is all of us! Grace, grace, grace.

So let’s learn how to listen. Really listen.

During the month of September we will discover why silence is so central to the life of a Christ-follower, and learn a handful of tangible tools that help us practice it. Phileena Heuertz and few wise guides will walk with our community to teach and invite us into this life-giving practice of silence and centering prayer. Please join us.

And may this fall begin the next era of your walk with the Loving God. From busyness to groundedness. From anxiety to peace. From burning out on religion to learning the unforced rhythms of Grace

August 10: A night of worship, liturgy, and the prayer of Imagination

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This coming Sunday night – August 10th – is our one “summer Practice” gathering in the Chapel.  Please join us, 7-9pm!  We’ll begin with an extended time of worship, scripture, and prayer for the world. I don’t know about you, but the current state of our world has been weighing deeply on me this summer (Gaza, Ukraine, ISIS, etc), and I’m looking forward to lifting our brothers and sisters up in prayer with all of you. Whether your heart is heavy or hope-filled (or a mix of both), let’s bring the fullness of who we are to these prayers, songs, and intercessions. Amen. Which brings to mind the words of this great hymn…

This is my Father’s world.
O let me ne’er forget
that though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my father’s world!
The battle is not done;
Jesus who died,
shall be satisfied,
And earth and heav’n be one.

Father Michael leading The Examen

Father Michael leading The Examen

And then our friend Father Michael Sparough will guide us through the Jesuit practice of The Prayer of Imagination.  If you’ve never experienced Fr Michael or this practice before, prepare to go on a powerful journey with God.  Many of you have said that Fr Michael’s visit to The Practice in May was profoundly moving.  It sure was for me too.  (You can listen to it here).  What a gift for us to be lead by such a godly and gifted spiritual director.

Communion Table

Communion Table

Finally, as is our practice, we will end the night by gathering around the central practice of our faith: Holy Communion. Because our hope is Jesus Christ. We don’t trust in violence, power, or even politics to bring peace; we trust in the power and grace of Christ. We don’t trust in our own abilities to fix ourselves and become the people God made us to be; we trust in the power and grace of Christ. There are many things we can and must do, but our faith is in God alone. Hallelujah.

So please join us!  Everyone is welcome.

Grace and Peace,
Aaron

Four Weeks of Community

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COMMUNITY banner

Practicing and Becoming Community

Our next four weeks together…

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Over the last couple months, we’ve begun re-arranging our lives to put Jesus’ words into practice. If you’re like me, it’s been three steps forward and two steps back, but God keeps carrying us on. Amen. We’re finding that the Christian life is not about perfect performance…but learning to get swept up in the unforced rhythms of Grace. And THAT is some good news!

But we can’t do it alone. We need a tribe. We need fellow Practitioners to walk with us, carry us, and be God’s hands and feet. And they need us too.

So in June, let’s dive into Community. We get to learn from three brilliant mentors about God’s gift of community, and then practice the tools to lean into it. June will be a highly practical, practice-oriented month.  

Our prayer is that every one of us will take a step into Community by the end of June. Would you join us in this prayer: “God, who can I walk with in this next season? Please help me find my tribe.”

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June 8 – Spiritual Listening (Sibyl Towner)
June 15 – A Theology of Community (Dr Bilezikian)
June 22 – Transformational Groups (Mindy Caliguire)
June 29 – Celebration Feast
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June mentors

June mentors

 

Sybil Towner.
It’s hard to walk around Willow and NOT bump into someone who has been deeply impacted by Sybil Towner. For the last 20 years, Sybil has been a relentlessly redemptive force for good and beauty in the souls of so many people around here. (More) On June 8th, she will lay out a vision and practice for HOW we can hear from God on behalf of each other. Her “3 Way Listening” framework is profoundly helpful for becoming a healthy community, and we will practice it together.

Dr B.
About two hundred years ago, Bill Hybels sat in the class of Dr Bilezikian. This revolutionary vision and passion for the local church launched Bill and a few friends to flesh it out into Willow Creek. (More)  On June 15th, we’ve asked Dr B to go back to the beginning and give us a foundational theology of community – followed by a time of Q&A. This is like getting to ask Obi Wan to teach about the force. Such an honor to have him with us!

Mindy Caliguire.
We can’t overstate how influential Mindy has been on The Practice. Her wisdom, teaching, and spirit has lead our community in many ways, and anchored us in the “unforced rhythms of Grace”. (More) On June 22nd, Mindy will teach from her book STIR, and lead us in practices for each of the three stages of spiritual growth. One-size-fits-all doesn’t work! Check out this description of STIR to learn more…

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I can’t wait to go on this journey with you all. See you Sunday!

Aaron and the Practice team

Catching up on the last Three Weeks

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Father Michael leading The Examen

Father Michael leading The Examen

By God’s grace, some things have really come together over the last three weeks and we’re getting ready to explore our first shared “rule of life”.  Two reasons I’m writing this today…

First, if you want to catch up on the last three weeks of The Practice, we’re making the teachings available for free download.  (I’ve really wrestled with this because lecture is such a small part of our experience;  I don’t want to reduce The Practice to a set of spoken ideas.)  However, since we’re building our next season on the last three weeks, we want everyone to have the same foundation!  So please dig in…

04.27.14 “A Theology of Peacemaking” by Jon Huckins

05.04.14 “The Prayer of Examen” by Father Michael Sparough

05.11.14 “Practicing the Presence of God” by Kellye Fabian

And all the practices for these weeks are at practicetribe.com/blog.

Second, if you live anywhere near us, this Sunday is a big gathering.  Please join us!  We’ll reflect on where God has brought us, engage a couple practices that align us with His Kingdom, and share a vision for the future.  God willing, much of the next three months will spring from this Sunday.  Even if you’ve never been to a Practice, this could be a great introduction.  (Especially if you listen to a teaching or two above!)

As always, we gather in the Willow chapel from 7-9pm on Sunday nights.  You’re always welcome to practice with us.

Grace and Peace,
Aaron

Four Weeks of Action and Contemplation

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For the next four weeks, we will immerse ourselves in practices that help us become people of action and contemplation.  Most of us lean to one side or the other, right? We are naturally activistic (and often exhausted) or naturally reflective (and often self-oriented). But must we be either/or?

It’s no surprise that Jesus lived and invited us into a third way: To be prayerful activists. Engaged mystics. Grounded zealots. A community of humble courage, learning how to tangibly love God and everyone else.

Please join us as we practice, learn, stumble, and practice some more. We are not content to remain weary activists or isolated contemplatives, but we long to follow Jesus into the deeper streams of Both.  May His unforced rhythm of Grace lead us in every way.

And we’ll get to join up with a few friends…

threespeakers

On April 27th, my friend Jon Huckins will present a theology of peacemaking that teaches “Peacemaking is the mission of God and is the vocation of God’s people. It’s central to what it means to be a follower of Jesus.” And as we follow this theme throughout the scriptures and Story of God, Jon will offer four practices that can help us become peacemakers in our everyday lives.

On May 4th, I’m thrilled to partner with Father Michael Sparough, my spiritual director. From his Jesuit training – deeply grounded in both action and contemplation – Fr Michael will guide us through the practice that anchors his life and faith: the prayer of Examen. This is a prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern His direction for us.

On May 11th, our own Kellye Fabian will tell the beautifully tumultuous story of how God lead her – through grace and pain – to become a contemplative activist. Few people live the both/and as deeply as Kellye. And she will guide us through a number of stories and practices that help us all find ourselves on the continuum and live in the holy balance.

On May 18th, we will look back and begin to discern how God is calling us into lives of contemplation and action – both individually and as a tribe. This will be a night of reflection, story-telling, and much celebration!