The Lent Project: Denial, Solidarity, Life

What does the "life to the full" that Jesus invites us into look like? How do we find it? And what if the comforts, securities, and pleasures surrounding us might actually distract us that life? 20150218_the_lent_project_banner

We'll be asking these questions throughout Lent and, each week, we'll experiment together with a specific practice of denial and fasting to help us stand in solidarity with the Majority World and seek the life of abundance Jesus promised. Each week of Lent will involve stories of practice, hearing the words of Jesus, and invitations into a shared week-long experiment.

  • February 18 - Ash Wednesday Online Liturgy (www.abluedoor.com/ashes)
  • February 22 - Invitation to the Extras Purge, Steward Team-hosted Family Meeting (during the Gathering)
  • March 01 - Invitation to Essentials Only (Soup dinner following the Gathering)
  • March 08 - Invitation to the Media Fast (Soup dinner following the Gathering)
  • March 15 - Invitation to the Comfort Fast (Soup dinner following the Gathering)
  • March 22 - Invitation to the Environmental/Commuter Fast (Soup dinner following the Gathering)
  • March 29 - Invitation to the Majority World Diet (Soup dinner following the Gathering)
  • April 3 - Good Friday Passion Sojourn
  • April 5 - Sunrise Hike + 5PM Easter Gathering

Guest Blogger :: Kate Schwass on Gratitude

Last Week, we explored grumbling and how toxic it is our Oneness and, therefore, our Witness.  To continue the teaching, I've invited some friends from Open Door whom I've watched experiment with thankfulness and in whom I've seen the fruit of joy being produced to reflect on their thankfulness practices & experiments. Here's what Kate writes:

“All unhappiness is derived from comparison.”  I heard this quote for the first time when I was in a theatre camp before my junior year of high school and it has resonated with me deeply ever since.  Think about it...every possible scenario which could make you unhappy really boils down to either you comparing your current state to someone else’s or to what your life was or could have been.  But how do you not find yourself muddling through life unhappy, caught in comparison?  The only true antidote to unhappiness and grumbling is to cultivate a thankful spirit.  

I’ve been actively pursuing a discipline of thankfulness in my life since college.  I’ve intentionally tried to focus my prayer life around giving thanks to God and have held myself accountable to not being whiney or entitled (or at least sounding that way)- especially on social media.  It seemed like a natural step, therefore, to participate in the practice of noting my thankfulness on Facebook each day the month of November..  Reflecting on this time and this practice brings several observations.

1. A discipline of gratitude creates a deep inner shift in my soul.  When I spend my day tallying thanks instead of adding up my complaints, my soul shifts towards God.  My prayers change.  I turn from spouting off complaints and needs to calling out joy, hope, beauty in everyday moments.  I notice the lavender growing outside my office.  A co-worker’s kind words add to an already overflowing cup rather than a desperate need for attention and approval.  My baby nestled her body closely to me makes my eyes fill with happy tears.  My life feels deeper somehow...and yet also more fragile and delicate and filled with beautiful gifts.  Ann Voskamp writes “A million little things will happen this week — and there are always really only Two Choices:  You get to decide whether you want to Complain.  Or whether you want Communion.  Life’s complicated.  That’s clarity: Complain...or Communion.”  I get to choose communion through cultivating gratitude.  

2. Gratitude is for me and it’s for them.  When I tune my conversations towards thankfulness, when I talk about things that are wonderful with my staff, when I point out beauty….complaints die down.  Grumbling ceases.  Conversations start to become about what’s working instead of what isn’t….about solutions instead of problems.  I notice my friends and family chiming in, adding blessings to my list, sharing the beautiful moments from their day.  And I have to believe that something deep shifts in their souls too.  Gratitude is contagious.  

3.  Gratitude changes communities.  At my job, we give “props” or appreciations at the end of every meeting.  We believe in putting the people first, above the material or the task at hand, and so we take time to recognize each other.  And you know what?  Everyone leaves these meetings smiling and feeling a bit more committed to their jobs and our mission.  I leave meetings feeling like I was noticed, that I have value.  I watch faces light up when someone says “I want to give props to…” and they hear their name uttered.  The practice of giving props also changes the character of our meetings.  Because we know that we will be acknowledged at the end of the meeting for how we showed respect, or honored new ideas or advocated for our students, we carry ourselves differently in the meetings.  We hold ourselves to a higher standard.  We think about our core values and try to have them reflected in our behavior.  Our community interacts differently because of gratitude.  

November is over.  The Advent season has begun.  I’m hoping that this spirit of thanksgiving carries me through this special time of year.  I pray that as I continue to tune my heart toward praise that I would find a new level of intimacy in the mystery of a God who came down.

The Core Experiment

You are invited into The Core Relationships Experiment.

This is a 12-week Woven experiment designed to guide us into mutually reciprocal core relationships.  Core Groups are made up of 3-4 people who commit to growing in their understanding and experience of Loving God by Loving Others through communal Rooting practices, authentic storytelling, gracious support, prayer, and accountability.  The experiment begins on March 3rd and concludes on May 19th with an evening of storytelling at our Sunday gathering.

Here are the five-steps into and thru The Core Experiment. Step 1 :: Ask Jesus, "Who are my 2 or 3?" Step 2 ::  Invite your 2 or 3 into the Experiment for the next 12 weeks (March 3-May 19). Step 3 :: Access the 12-Week Suggested Template Step 4 :: Determine time/place/frequency of connection points for the next 12 weeks. Step 5 :: Join us on May 19th for an evening of Storytelling.

If you're new or would like assistance into The Core Experiment:

If you are new or would like assistance entering into the Core Experiment, email coregroups@abluedoor.com and share the following by THIS MONDAY, FEBRUARY 25: 1.  A brief and specific paragraph describing who you are. 2.  Your cell phone number. 3.  Where you currently live. (i.e. Central Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Berkeley, North Concord, etc.)

Here's a suggested 12-week template for the Experiment:

Weeks 1-3: Hot Seat. Take one gathering per participant to hear the stories of one another and to ask good questions. Some Guiding Questions for Storytelling include:

  • What have been some of the most life-defining moments of my life?
  • Who have been/are the 2-3 most influential people in my life?  Why?
  • How did my family of origin contribute positively and negatively to who I am?
  • For those following Jesus: When and why did you say “Yes” to following Jesus?
  • For those not following Jesus: What has shaped your perspective of Jesus and where would you place yourself on the following spectrum: disinterested – intrigued – compelled – following.
  • Why did you say “Yes” to the Woven Experiment?

Week 4: Learn of how each other meets with Jesus.  You could also co-create a set of Rooted Practices that you would commit to living out for the remainder of the Woven Experiment. Here’s a potential template for studying the Scriptures, reflecting on our gathering, and paying attention to the content of everyday life:

Observe: What experience, word, phrase, verse, or image stands out to me?

Reflect:  Why this experience, word, phrase, verse, or image?  Why this more than others?

Consider:  What does this experience, word, phrase, verse or image say about:

  • My life? My relationship with God?  My spouse? The way I live out my family life, my recreation, my vocation?
  • What truth does this speak into my life?
  • What am I to stop?  To start?
  • What is God saying to me?

Plan: Today, how am I going to l live in light of this?  What’s the plan?

Account:  Ask God to hold you accountable and His Spirit to empower you to live the plan.

Act: Go and do what you’ve told God you’re going to do.

Weeks 5-12: Utilize the tool from Week 4 for your conversation.  Allow each person from the Core Group time to work through this process.

Observe: What are the realistic observations I’m making of Scripture & everyday life?

Reflect & Discuss: Out loud, reflect honestly, deeply, and intelligently about what God is trying to teach us.

Plan:  Get feedback on the action that I’m sensing I’m supposed to take.

Account & Act: Check in with each other about how you’re living out the action plans each person has developed.  This is the space of communal accountability, encouragement, support, and learning.  Through storytelling, help one another see how Jesus is forming you as you live out what Jesus is telling us to do.

Sunday, May 19: Join us at our Sunday Gathering equipped with stories to tell of how God used this Experiment to form you & to deepen your experience of being a healthy family on mission.