main cow pic

04.14.14

The Enneagram: hilariously painful

Filed under: life — 3:03 pm

Many of you know how much I hate personality assessment tests…AND yet how transformational the Enneagram has been to me, my marriage, and so many relationships. It has unlocked a number of doors: giving many of us language to name reality, and a set of practices to become more whole. Brilliant.

But all of that aside, these videos are hilarious.  And just for fun, the first video is my type (4), and the second video is Shauna’s type (7). Enjoy!

04.07.14

My favorite music documentary in a long time

Filed under: creativity,music — 7:15 pm

In the last year or so, I’ve loved a number of music documentaries – “Sound City”, “Beware Mr Baker”, and “Searching for Sugar Man”, and “Muscle Shoals” – but none of them held a candle to “Mistaken for Strangers“. It’s incredibly fun and complicated and touching and strange and hilarious. If you’re a fan of The National or music or funny family stuff, check this out…

There’s so much to love about this film – the music is incredible and I laughed at all the incredibly awkward moments – but honestly, I found the brothers’ relationship really touching.  To watch one of the coolest rock stars on the planet love and stand by his painfully awkward little brother, over and over, is beautiful. A smaller person would try to distance himself from the “messy” parts of his life, but this film feels like a bear hug in the opposite direction. Well done, guys.

03.20.14

Live in Bethlehem!

Filed under: music,Palestine / Israel — 2:37 pm

Hey friends.  Last summer a couple friends and I had the thrilling opportunity to perform at Bet Lehem Live in Palestine.  It was a profoundly beautiful and intense experience.  Check out my posts reflecting on it here, here, and here.

Well they are doing the festival again June 19-24, 2014, and just posted last year’s video.  Our little band even made the cut!

If you are interested in learning more about this, please let me know and I can help you get connected.

Shalom and Salaam.

03.12.14

Getting the tribe together for the first time

Filed under: church,Discipleship,The Practice,worship — 11:11 am
The first night

The first night

As you know, last Sunday was the first gathering of The Practice tribe.  To watch this holy experiment begin to live and breathe in the hearts and bodies of our community was really moving.  To me, as beautiful as it was to pray and worship and practice a “divine reading” of the scriptures together, the absolute highlight was communion. Wow. I can’t stop thinking about it and can’t wait for this coming Sunday.

Our prayer is that after 18 months, every one of us would have a Vision, a Practice, and a Tribe…

•A Vision of the Kingdom of God – the redemptive Movement of God on this earth and
His invitation for each of us to join Him.
•A set of Practices, or rule of life, that help us daily align with God’s Movement
•A Tribe of people who are walking and practicing together in Jesus name.

Vision / Practice / Tribe

To learn more and be a part of this journey, please visit us at PRACTICETRIBE.COM.

Every Monday morning, we will post the week’s Kingdom Practice on our blog. We believe that gathering
on Sunday nights is only helpful if it launches us to PRACTICE the way of Jesus for the rest of our week.
Sunday night is not the main event, but simply a springboard into where the actual
holy work happens: Our real lives.

So please practice with us!  This first week we’re diving into the ancient practice of Lectio Divina.  On our blog, you’ll find a short explanation, some simple coaching, and the specific texts we’ll all be engaging.  You don’t need to attend with us in order to practice with us.

Let’s learn the unforced rhythms of Grace.

03.05.14

Setting up for The Practice

Filed under: A New Liturgy,Discipleship,The Practice — 6:14 pm
The Chapel

The Willow Chapel

So excited.  We spent yesterday setting up the Willow chapel in preparation for our first gathering of The Practice this Sunday night.  I can’t possibly convey how much we’re looking forward to this new adventure.

Our goal for the chapel is to help it feel like a holy living room.  Simple, reverent, and human.  The chairs are set up in the round because we long to become a tribe together, and the Eucharist table is in the very center of the room because we know that Christ is the very center of everything.  It’s simple, but hopefully the room will preach louder than any words.

Becky and I even had the chance to run through some of the opening liturgy.  Friends, we can’t wait to dive into this with you.

T minus three days…

02.28.14

Asking different questions

Filed under: church — 4:11 pm
Moody Radio

During broadcast

Yesterday I had the fun of getting to dream about the future with my friend Skye on Moody Radio.  The title of the segment was “Rethinking Church”, and we got to share a few hopes for what the church could become – both inside and outside of it’s walls.

You can listen to the whole thing HERE.

During the interview, I realized that there was one idea beneath everything I was trying to say:  In order to change anything,
we must ask new questions.
 Beginning with the same question will always lead to the same core result, even if we update the packaging. Like trying to pour new wine into old skins.

For example, if my question as a worship leader is “How do I get the church pumped up during worship?”, then the correct answer will never be “corporate confession”.  Right?  But how can a worship community become fully healthy if we don’t include confession on occasion?

So I’m discovering that a more helpful question can be “What are the worship practices that we can do over the course of a year to form our community in Christlikeness?”  Or “How do I offer a well-balanced meal?”  These kinds of questions can help us get at the heart of what we’re all trying to do (help people follow Christ in a deeper way), rather than paint us into a corner.  I can’t tell you how much clarity and freedom has come from discovering new questions to ask.

Friends, what are the questions that drive you?  What are the questions that frame your decisions?
And then…Are these the questions that will lead to the future you imagine or desire?

What might it look like to ask different questions?

02.19.14

Solitude and Community

Filed under: Discipleship,God's movement — 10:45 am

Life Together

Life Together

On a retreat this weekend, we wrestled with these words…

“Let them who cannot be alone beware of community.  He will only do harm to himself and to the community… But the reverse is also true: Let him who is not in community beware of being alone.  Only as we are within the fellowship can we be alone, and only he that is alone can live in the fellowship.  Only in the fellowship do we learn to be rightly alone and only in aloneness do we learn to live rightly in the fellowship.  It is not as though the one preceded the other;  both begin at the same time, namely, with the call of Jesus Christ.”  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together)

Most of us lean strongly one way or the other, which is why these words are so challenging.  But even for me – an introvert who often seeks out solitude at the expense of deep connection with others – Bonhoeffer’s words ring true.  In terms of spiritual health, it really is both or neither.

What about you?  Where do you naturally lean and what would it look like to embrace both?

“Each by itself (solitude and community) has profound pitfalls and perils,” Bonhoeffer goes on to say.  “One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feeling, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.”

02.15.14

NT Wright’s advice for every Christian

Filed under: Discipleship,God's movement — 7:57 pm

Apparently, whenever someone asks NT Wright for advice about how to go deeper, he gives the same advice. Brilliant and so simple…

Scripture, prayer, the sacraments, and listening to the poor.  This resonates with me deeply, and yet is quite challenging.  The one thing I would add, however, is community.  None of us can do it alone.

I also love how Wright places these age-old practices squarely in the NEW thing God wants to do in and through us TODAY.  Such a hopeful and forward-looking embrace of our traditions.

Do his words connect with you?  Why or why not?

02.07.14

My new job

Filed under: church,God's movement,willow — 10:50 am

Hey friends.  In terms of vocation, the last couple years have been a tumultuously beautiful journey.
Great moments of pain and great moments of blessing - often in the same day.  But through God’s mercy,
the last few months have brought incredible clarity and a brand new adventure.

No, it’s not my life-long ambition to become a Chippendale’s dancer.  That dream will just have to wait.
But instead…

We are starting an experimental community at Willow Creek called The Practice: Learning the
Unforced Rhythms of Grace.  We aim to be a discipleship-focused, formation-oriented, practice-based tribe
asking two simple questions:  (1) What is the Life that Christ invites us into? and (2) What are the 
practices
we can do, together and on our own, to embrace this Eternal Life now?  Or said simply:
What is God doing and how can we join Him?

That’s it.

We’ll gather on most Sunday nights in the Willow chapel to explore this together.

Friends, I haven’t been this excited or hopeful in years.  This is the kind of work I was made for.
But more than vocation, this is the kind of tribe I desperately need to be a part of.  I need them.

Here are a couple foundations we’ll be building on…

(1) The Kingdom.  Jesus has invited every one of us to join God in healing and redeeming this
world.  Through the scriptures, story, and worship, we want to align ourselves with this good work.
(2) Equipping.  According to Eph 4, the church exists to equip the people for ministry.  Sunday
night is not the main event, but a training ground to be God’s hands and feet in our world.
(3) Practice-based. More of a spiritual gymnasium than classroom. The focus is on the practices and disciplines that form us into Christlikeness.
(4) Ecumenical. Relentlessly committed to humbly learning from other Christian traditions and practices.
(5) Eucharistic. Every gathering will culminate with communion to weekly anchor us in Christ’s death, resurrection, and promos of return.

Over the next few weeks and months, our little tribe will begin fleshing out these pillars.  Please pray for us!
Please pray that God would give us supernatural Wisdom, strength beyond ourselves, and deep humility.
Please pray that God would pull us into His Revolution in ways we never could have imagined.

And if you live in the Chicago area, we’d love for you to join us. (Sign up to our email list to learn more.)  We don’t have it all figured out…in fact…we don’t have almost anything figured out! But we are throwing ourselves into this adventure and can’t wait to see what God does.

Grace and peace,

Aaron

02.03.14

“Lord Have Mercy” FREE on NoiseTrade

Filed under: A New Liturgy — 1:05 pm

In preparation for Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent, we are giving away A New Liturgy No 3: Lord Have Mercy on NoiseTrade.  Maybe you happily belong to a modern church but want to also connect into something more historic.  Or maybe you are deeply rooted in the high church tradition, but are looking for a fresh way to engage this deep season.  May this be a bridge and a gift in some small way.  (Free until March 5th.  Available HERE after that.)

A couple ways you could use it…

(1) Personally.  Lent is such a great time to look inward and invite God to shine light into every dark corner.  Maybe you could set one hour aside each week to pray along with the “Lord Have Mercy” liturgy and see how God leads you to respond.

(2) Small group.  This may be a little intense, but might your small group be ready to engage this together?  You could listen and pray through the first six tracks together, and then after the “Litany of Penitence”, pause the recording and spend some time sharing with each other.  A question to start might be:  “What is one area in your life that you most need God’s mercy right now?”  And a second question:  “How can we, as your community, help you receive this mercy?”

(3) Ash Wednesday Service.  If you would like to lead your community through this liturgy (or a modified version of it) on Ash Wednesday, you can Download the basic chord charts and string quartet parts.  Feel free to use this in any way that would serve your church.

Peace,
Aaron

01.27.14

Stunning

Filed under: creativity,music — 8:01 pm

It’s not very original to talk about how great Lorde is.  But we don’t care…  Her performance last night was mesmerizing and entirely unlike anything else.  It blew me away.  The last Grammy performance I loved like this was Mumford and Son’s “The Cave” in 2011.  So fresh and raw at the time…

What did you think?

01.26.14

Feeding my enemy

Filed under: God's movement — 12:15 pm
Brothers

Brothers

This picture from a couple years ago is wonderful.  (An Afghan man gives tea to a U.S soliders of 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division patrol during a search operation to hunt members of Taliban in Nerkh district of Wardak province in west of Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, May 1, 2009. AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

It reminds me of Jesus and his teachings in many ways:  giving a cup of cold water (Matt 11:42), redefining my neighbor (Luke 10:25),  loving and serving our enemies (Matt 5:43), etc.  This Afghani Muslim man is a wonderful incarnation of Jesus.  And it raises a big question inside me:

Who is my enemy today and how can I give him a cup of tea?

Identifying the WHO will be the crucial first step.  But the real work will then be to figure out what it looks like to “give him a cup of tea”…  even if he is currently doing something that hurts or offends me.  (What could be more offensive to the Afghan man than a foreign soldier in his land?  And yet he chose to serve him.  So inspiring.)

O God, please help me to live out Jesus’ teachings like this.  Here I am, send me…

01.24.14

The Next Right Step

Filed under: church,Discipleship,God's movement — 2:38 pm

The last minute of this video is stunning in it’s simplicity and beauty.  (Starting at 4:57)

Apparently someone asked Dallas Willard “If a person wants to grow spiritually, where should they start? Read the bible? Go to church?”

Dallas’ answer was amazing:  “Do the next right thing you know you need to do.”  He explains…

“Doing the next right thing is what God wants you to do.  Now when you try that, you might wind up going to church, because you’re going to need some help.  Nothing will drive you into the Kingdom of God like trying to do the next right thing…because you will need help, and you will get it, because that’s where God is.”

First, I am struck by how much confidence Dallas has in God. He is confident that God is already working to help you know what you need to do. And he is confident that God will always give you the help you need, because that’s where God is.

These are stunning declarations of faith in the Goodness and present Grace of God. I wish I lived with that kind of faith.

Second, it makes me ask the obvious question: “What is the next right thing I know I need to do?” But rather than sharing mine, may I extend the question to you…

What is the next right thing you know you need to do?
And in the next seven days, will you take one step in that direction?

In this together,
Aaron

01.19.14

Transcend and Include

Filed under: church,God's movement — 12:58 pm

These two words are trying to change my life…if only I would let them.

I’m learning that true growth doesn’t happen by rejecting where we were…but by including it into the next season.  Or said another way, “step four” is not a rejection of steps 1-3, but the inclusion of all four steps.  In fact, you never would have arrived at step four without the gifts of step one, two, and three.

It seems that we face two great temptations:  First, to simply believe everything we were taught and never move beyond it.  Or second, to realize that we were only taught part of the story, and then completely reject that part of the story in favor of something brand new.  But both miss out on the great reality and opportunity of Life.

And so the simple (but incredibly difficult) solution is, in the brilliant Ken Wilber‘s words, to transcend and include.  We can’t stay where we’ve been, but we must honor and embrace the journey that has led and will lead us into a new future.

Let’s get really practical:  Math.  My 7 year old son Henry is currently learning addition and subtraction.  To his mind, these are the only ways to engage numbers.  But soon he will discover multiplication/division and be presented with three options:  (1) Head in the sand:  Ignore the new and be content with the math of his youth.  (2) Reject the old:  Feeling lied to by his addition/subtraction teachers, he could vow to never add again in the name of the revolutionary new multiplication table.  (3) Transcend and Include:  Bring his addition/subtraction skills into a more powerful way of engaging numbers: multiplication.

church

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Or let’s get a little deeper:  Religion.  If we’re honest, it can be very easy to critique the tradition we most recently came out of.  We can find grace for other traditions and religions, but have nothing good to say about our last church.  We left that for good reason…right?!?  But what if the church of your childhood (or the community you just left) is the tradition you needed to bring you to the point where you know you need more?  In that way it has been an incredible gift that will stay with you forever.

My friend Jeff has been doing some of that work.  He recently shared a beautiful reflection on some of the best parts of the Christian tradition he grew up in but has since left:  The Plymouth Brethren.  (Side note:  I grew up in the Plymouth Brethren tradition as well, so this post was especially moving to me.)

These days I’m working really hard to transcend and include in as many ways as possible: faith journey, politics, family patterns, etc. But it’s not easy for me.  My kneejerk is “transcend and reject,” which isn’t transcending at all–just rearranging the chairs.

What about you?

It there anything you’ve been rejecting that might need to be re-embraced into your new, bigger story?

How hard would it be for you to make a list of the best parts of your old church?  Or the biggest strengths of the political party you no longer align yourself with?  Or the best characteristic of a friend you don’t hang with much any more?

May we be people who people who transcend and include.

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