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 the private Facebook community found at http://www.facebook.com/groups/thepracticesummerexperiment.
- 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:
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.
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 email@example.com to hear more!
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.
Kellye and The Practice Team