practicing presence

What we think of prayer and speaking with God and how we practice such things may have little to do with how God speaks or communicates with us. Learning more of the nature of God’s communication and native language from the ancient Christian tradition can tremendously help point us in the best direction when it comes to unceasing prayer.

Prayer Muscles

Dave Brisbin | 3.12.17
On the second Sunday of Lent, looking at Lent as a positive-negative: an affirmative stripping away of anything that distracts, obscures, or keeps us away from God’s presence, we naturally turn to prayer. What is prayer really? And specifically, what is the continuous prayer to which Paul calls us? Using the Hebrew bride as the bible’s metaphor for the balance of living a balanced life of awareness and presence, we can start to look at prayer in the same way. Not a constant stream of words pronounced verbally or mentally, but a continuous awareness of our place and position and relationship to everyone and everything in any given moment—all infused and sourced in unseen Presence. 

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But is there a difference between mere mindfulness and prayer. How do we know the difference, practice the difference, and above all how do we develop the ability to pray without ceasing? It begins with intent, the intent of our mindfulness and awareness—what is it we are intending to be mindful of and present to? It has to do with our intent leading us an actual structure that we honor with the discipline of showing up day after day and moment after moment. It’s not complicated, just a patient and dedicated building of our prayer muscles.

Amiable Uncertainty

Dave Brisbin | 1.29.17
Just last week I was asked why churches and religions have to “always say that they are right and everyone else is wrong?” Great question from a young person looking at church from the outside in, trying to figure it all out: why the exclusion, the judgment. Why indeed? What is it about us that needs to build tall walls, delineate us from them, make our spirituality, which is inherently mysterious, an absolute certainty. In a word, it’s fear of course, and when we’re afraid that we may not be worthy of acceptance, love, or belonging, then we immediately begin the exhausting task of removing any pain, imperfection, and uncertainty from our near vicinity. We need to be right, be flawless, be certain, because the alternative is just too terrifying or at least uncomfortable to entertain. 

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And in the making of all uncertain things certain, there has to be winners and losers–a zero sum game in which there are haves and have nots, the elect and the damned. But it was not always so in Christian thought, and certainly Jesus never taught so. To begin to understand the transforming message that perfect love casts out fear is the beginning of a journey that will lead to an embrace of mystery and a faith based on trust and not certainty…to a living of life that once again makes friends with the unknown, finds contentment and adventure in an amiable uncertainty that admits that while we don’t have all the answers and may not be right about everything, we know we are loved in such a way that mere clarity becomes a footnote.

Kingdom Presence

Dave Brisbin | 1.22.17
We all want to be happy, don’t we? All our choices are arguably made in order to be happy, either in this moment or one further down the road in this life or the next. We’ve learned that certain things or activities make us happy so, we pursue them over and over looking to repeat the experience of happiness. One young man told me that happiness was opening a new can of Folgers coffee and just smelling that smell. Another person said that laughing made her happy. But if you really think about it laughing and fresh coffee don’t really make us happy, they make us present…and that makes us happy. Happiness is the feeling we get when we are completely present to a moment intense enough to clear away all the thoughts, emotions, expectations, and judgments that distract us from what is right in out midst. 

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When we chase the things we think make us happy, we’re chasing the effect instead of the cause. While laughter can lead to presence, presence doesn’t lead to happiness; presence is happiness itself. And we can have presence anytime we want, if we’re willing to practice it, whether we’re laughing or not, whether there’s any coffee in sight. To realize that happiness is presence and presence is always available right here and now is to finally begin to hear Jesus’ words, because kingdom is presence, which means kingdom feels like happiness too.

Happiness Is…

Dave Brisbin | 1.15.17
Just completed the move of our family home of 17 years to a downsized house closer to work and faith community, and just about every nightmare scenario that I could imagine and project on to moving day and was working and praying to avoid came to pass. Escrow was delayed so that new flooring was only half completed when moving crew arrived with all our belongings in the hardest driving rain that southern CA has seen in years with cable and internet crew arriving in the middle of it all to add to the chaos. 

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Trying to just stay out of the way and survive the day, I slowly became aware of the undaunted moving crew taking the rain as an adventurous challenge: to keep our stuff dry and keep their schedule intact while being unfailingly energetic and personable. Then arriving at the new house, the Hispanic crew laying the floor was blaring their music in Spanish and singing along as movers stepped over them with wet shoes and furniture… What is happiness and how and when is it experienced? Does it come from circumstances matching our expectations and prayers or as Jesus is trying to tell us, from a completely different direction, a direction we can choose anytime, even in a driving rain watching muddy footprints trailing off on newly laid floor.

Strange Beauty

Dave Brisbin | 1.8.17
The beginning of 2017 also marks the first anniversary of a dear friend’s death—his suicide to be truthful. Can’t help the re-flooding of mental images and emotion imprinted almost exactly a year ago on a rainy Wednesday night when I got that first phone call. And yet, a year later, an email from his sister says that after a year, having now been put into contact with me and all of us as result of her brother’s death, to lose a brother but gain new friends that have become so important in her life carries its own “strange beauty.” That phrase, strange beauty, sticks with me like flypaper on the brain, and I realize that she had captured so much of what life is really about. 

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Seeing the strange beauty all around us that is always present, but disguised or invisible because of the mental judgments we make on what is good or evil in the narrow window of our emotional vision. To breathe through the hardest times and keep breathing until the strange beauty of watching new life always following any ending, any death—giving it time to coalesce, trusting that it always will– is another hallmark of Jesus’ Kingdom.

Remaining Resolved

Dave Brisbin | 1.1.17
The beginning of each new year, with its imaginary line in time, has also become, or has always been, a time for reassessment and for resolutions for the new year. We all have made them and break them almost as quickly. Stats show that 97% of new year’s resolution won’t be kept and 30% will be broken in the first week. Why is it so hard to keep new year’s resolutions? Because they are lifestyle changes that can’t be kept solely in our minds. No matter how resolved we may be mentally, it’s only in living, day to day, in new directions that we remain resolved. And this is why it’s also so hard to follow Jesus. 

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We’d like to believe that our spirituality is really a mental affair: a one-time pledge of allegiance to a creed or the correct reading of scripture leading to a permanently correct theology and doctrine, but Jesus’ Way is really a radically different lifestyle that can only be followed with ongoing movement. All day every day. Remaining resolved has to do with letting go of our fascination with “bucket lists,” those things we want to do once before we die. Jesus’ Way is not a bucket list and salvation is not what we do once. Because we are not defined by what we do once, but by what we do over and over, all day, every day.

Mangers and Inns

Dave Brisbin | 12.11.16
In the run up to Christmas, what does the infancy narratives in Luke and Matthew have to tell us that is relevant to our day to day lives and choices? Especially, what are the details in those narratives that, understood from a first century, Jewish point of view, can not only make the story real, but clue us in to the central principles the authors were trying to convey? When we know what the word that has been translated as “inn” really means—start erasing our modern western concepts—the story takes on new life. 

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The essential details of mangers and inns begin pointing us in the right direction: toward the personal character and circumstances of Jesus and his family, their status as “anawim” those so destitute that they have only God as their provider…dependent, vulnerable, yet fully grateful and present even to their poverty. Francis of Assisi, who 800 years ago returned himself and his followers to the state of anawim, was also the first to recreate a nativity scene, a full nativity play, in order to recreate the experience of mangers and inns in a truly life-transforming way.

The Micro Life

Dave Brisbin | 12.4.16
With all the big news happening constantly, especially leading up to and from the presidential election, it’s easy to get caught up in the all these pressing macro events and even obsess over them, become the stereotypical political junkie, environmental junkie, or whatever. But regardless of what is happening in the macro, our lives are always lived in the micro—one moment and one person at a time. Often, focus on the macro becomes a way of avoiding our real life’s work in the micro. What is our basic purpose in human life?

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What does Jesus have to say about our priorities and where our emphasis should be placed? If he’s really telling us that the quality of our lives is always determined by the quality of our micro relationships and our ability to be fully present to them, then questions and choices become much sharper in focus.

waking

dave brisbin | 4.24.16
Continuing to look at the method and approach to spirituality at theeffect, one of the hallmarks is the contemplative life and contemplative prayer. How to understand contemplation? Simply stated, it’s the letting go of habitual thoughts, feelings, and behavioral patterns, letting of what we think it means to be ourselves, our ego-self in favor of what really is here and now present in the form of God’s spirit. What does that feel like? 

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It feels like waking up inside your dream, to realize you’re dreaming, that the dream isn’t real, and that you can make a different choice than the one your habitual thoughts and triggered feelings have always dictated. How do we do this? Through contemplative prayer and practice, the constant practice of presence, stepping away from all our mental activity to find that Paul called prayer without ceasing, not unceasing words, but the unceasing presence and awareness of someone who has awakened in waking life.

who, what, why

dave brisbin | 4.10.16
As we near our ninth anniversary as a ministry, seemed time to step back redefine what theeffect was founded to be and what we work to do each day in the minds and hearts of those with whom we connect. Our approach can be summed up as a working to help each individual find acceptance, get involved, build trust, and live theeffect of God’s love. 

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That love, the Good News, Kingdom, the quality of life lived steeped in the awareness of and participation in the Father’s presence is theeffect we seek and without which there is no purpose to a spiritual life.

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Everyone is recovering from something… Admitting this is the first step in spiritual life, because any unfinished business in our lives–trauma, unforgiveness, fear-based perceptions–fosters compulsive behavior and keeps us from connecting spiritually and emotionally.

Since we’re all recovering, we accept everyone right as they are—no expiration dates or deadlines. We don’t tell anyone what to believe or do. We present points of view that we hope will engage seekers in their own journey; help them unlearn limiting perceptions, beliefs, and compulsions; give opportunities to get involved in community, building the trust we all need to find real identity, meaning, and purpose. In other words, to engage the transforming Way of living life that Jesus called Kingdom…non-religiously understood from a first century Hebrew point of view.

 

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Embedded in the fun and laughter of each of our gatherings and events is the connection and accountability as well as the structure, discipline, and opportunity for service that authentic community is all about. We help create programs for physical support, emotional recovery, and spiritual formation that can meet any person’s needs. Such programs work at two levels: first to address a person’s physical and emotional stability—clinical, financial, relational,professional—anything that distracts from working on the second level: true spiritual formation centered around the contemplative way of life defined by an original Hebrew understanding of the message of Jesus.

Rather than telling people what to believe or think, we model and encourage engagement in a personal and communal spiritual journey that allows people to experience their own worthiness of connection and acceptance, to find the freedom from underlying fears that brings real meaning and purpose into focus.

 

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Seeing ourselves as a learning and recovery community that worships together, the focus isn’t on Sunday morning alone, but on every day of the week as we gather for worship, healing and support workshops, studies, 12 step meetings, counseling and mentoring sessions, referral services, and social events. We maintain a food pantry for those needing more support, a recovery worship gathering, and child care for those with little ones.

Our Sunday gathering starts at 10AM and our Recovery gathering on Tuesdays at 7PM. Both gatherings include worship with one of the best worship bands in the area. See our monthly calendar and our Facebook page to stay in touch with what is happening each week. You can also sign up on our elist for email enews updates.

 

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