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Four Suggestions For Weaving a Habit of Gratitude

February 19th, 2018

Chris Morton

This Sunday in the sermon, Chris described that practice of gratitude. Gratitude is a fairly simple, yet valuable, way of forming a meaningful pattern of living like Jesus.

To help you get started this week, here are four suggestions for how to practice gratitude:

Gratitude Journal
Take a moment each day to recall three things for which you are grateful. In a journal, write down three things each day. As you write it down, take time to contemplate what you are grateful for. Try to be as specific and evocative as possible.

Send a card
Write a note a to person who you are grateful for. Try to be specific, naming something they did that you appreciate.

Have a conversation
Write a letter to a person you are grateful for, and describe why. Then call them or visit them and read them the letter.

Be Intentional!
Create a plan for gratitude for you and others at Austin Mustard Seed. Write out your intentions for how you will practice gratitude this week.

Describe, how, when, where and why you will practice. This is your chance to determine a practice that works for you!

Example: I will practice gratitude by keeping a gratitude journal. I will store this notebook next to my bed. Each night, right before I turn the lights out, I will write three things I’m grateful for. I will write at least one sentence describing each. I will do this to remind myself of how good God has been to me.

Gratitude (2018.02.18 Sermon)

February 19th, 2018

John Chandler

Chris Morton begins our Lent series on Patterns: Five Habits for Weaving a Life Like Jesus.

To share in the learning of these habits with each other, we have created this reflection guide. This offers all of us space to reflect on each of these habits, as well as guide our Community Group discussions during the season of Lent. Printed versions are also available in liturgy.

Join a Community Group to continue the discussion.

Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes

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Our Mission and Methods: Now What?

February 17th, 2018

John Chandler

We’ve spent six weeks — in liturgy, community groups, and family meetings — talking through our Mission and Methods.

Our Mission describes our primary activity and what it will lead to: To form communities of Jesus to experience and expand God’s work of renewal together. Our Methods, listed below, describe how we pursue that primary activity.

So now what? Well, as mentioned in the series, the Leadership Team has set goals for us to pursue as a church in 2018 in each of these areas. We wanted those to be both measurable and realistic for his year, and you can find them listed below.

Of course, our growth in these Methods is intended to go far beyond these 2018 goals. Our hope is for much greater things.

There might be one or two of these below that you have a passion for. We hope you’ll both feed that passion and find ways to explore it, and in turn, offer it to our church community.

Below each method you’ll also find books we hope you’ll consider reading. These are some of the books that have helped form our thinking on this method. But we’d also love for you to help form our thinking.

The areas where you see clear need for us to improve as a church are likely the areas you have the most passion to offer. If that’s so, setup a coffee date with someone from leadership. You don’t have to bring answers or ideas to the table — just knowing you have a passion to help push us forward in these areas is a good place to start as we build longer term dreams around each.

That said, on to our Methods with their 2018 goals and suggested reading:

We learn practices of Jesus so that we can know, love and follow him.
1. Offer a Spring discussion series outlining teaching and practical exercises of spiritual disciplines.
2. Host a Fall workshop focused on a specific need (ie parenting, marriage, etc.) for spiritual practice within our community.
Suggested Reading:
The Spirit of the Disciplines, by Dallas Willard
Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation, by James K.A. Smith

We cultivate relationships that lead to both friendship and formation.
1. Define relational and programming goals within the rhythm of our community for intimate and personal space.
2. Alongside the spring camping trip, plan an additional event in the fall that involves an overnight.
Suggested Reading:
Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown
Community and Growth, by Jean Vanier

We develop connections that teach us to how to love those who are not a part of a community of Jesus.
1. Launch a new website with specific content and CTAs to connect people into our Sunday liturgy.
2. Identify and help facilitate at least three interest based gatherings based on interests and influence already present in our church community.
Suggested Reading:
Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not Evangelism, by Carl Medearis
Reclaiming Conversation, by Sherry Turkle

We seek opportunities to expand beyond a fellowship of sameness to reflect the breadth of God’s kingdom.
1. Form a team to research and propose practical steps by September for aMS to become a more ethnically diverse congregation.
2. Identify and partner with a non-majority “white” congregation for at least one liturgy or event.
Suggested Reading:
Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep us Apart, by Christena Cleveland
The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity, by Soong-Chan Rah

We raise leaders who have the capacity to form communities of Jesus.
1. Identify and outline a minimum of 12 opportunities for tangible leadership (CG guides, classroom coordinators, etc.) within aMS and fill them.
2. Outline and implement an internship program for people with availability who want to have a professional ministry experience.
Suggested Reading:
Leading with a Limp, by Dan Allender
Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time, by Margaret Wheatley

How to Practice Lent With Kids

February 13th, 2018

April Karli

“We walk through a vale of tears on this earth and the only way through it is through it. It is a lesson we learn and live. I believe it’s OK to be sad; in other words, there ought to be space in our lives to learn the texture of sadness.” John Blase, Know When to Hold ‘Em

Lent is not often associated with children. It’s a season of the church lasting forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday (February 14 this year) and ends on Holy Saturday (March 31). The forty days of Lent represent the time Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted by Satan. During Lent we intentionally enter into darkness and Christ’s sacrifice.

There are aspects of Lent that are abstract and even difficult. But, Lent is a season that children can be invited into, and it can be experienced by all ages in meaningful ways.

Lent is about grief, lament, repentance, suffering, and loss. All of these things are part of our world and things we will encounter as we follow Jesus. As parents and those teaching kids to follow Jesus, Lent is a tool to help us talk about hard things with our kids. If we give our children a faith that is always about joy and light, they won’t know what to do when darkness comes. Lent teaches them, and us, how to lean into suffering and darkness.

As we choose to step into suffering during Lent and acknowledge God’s presence with us in it, we do so knowing that Jesus did the same thing. We teach our kids the truth that God will always be present with us even in pain and suffering. And after the forty days of Lent are over, the life and celebration of Easter will stand in even more meaningful contrast.

Here are a few ideas to make Lent meaningful as a family:

Ash Wednesday: Ash Wednesday is a solemn and quiet service which may be difficult for especially young children. However, there are aspects of the service that can be grasped, especially for older kids. Seeing everyone in their church family marked with ashes helps kids know they belong. The ashes are a powerful visual symbol that we are God’s family and connected to each other. In addition, Ash Wednesday carries the powerful reminder for kids that we all mess up, even adults, and we all are forgiven.

Kids are welcome at this week’s Ash Wednesday Lament Night Liturgy.

Holy Week: Holy Week provides several opportunities. On Maundy Thursday (March 29) invite friends over and share a meal like Jesus did with his disciples at Passover. Read the story of the Last Supper and break bread together. Kids really get excited about the idea of washing feet, too, if you’re up for it. On Good Friday (March 30) you can attend a service as a family and remember Jesus’ death on the cross. Sensitive kids might have a hard time processing this story. It is good for them to hear it with their parents where they can seek comfort and ask questions.

Lenten Pretzels: Legend has it that pretzels were first made by monks in Europe during the Middle Ages as a Lenten bread. They’re shaped to look like two arms crossed in prayer. Bake some pretzels with your family (or buy some from the store!) As you enjoy eating them together, pray for family, friends, your neighborhood, our church. Here’s a recipe you can try.

From our friend Christine Sine, here are Five Ways To Foster Creativity In your Kids During Lent. Christine presents some simple but thoughtful ways to stir our kids’ imaginations throughout Lent.

As always, Illustrated Children’s Ministry has another beautiful devotional for families to download and color. The devotionals are based on the lectionary gospel readings during Lent and include a reflection, discussion questions, an activity, and a prayer for each week during Lent.

Here are some “take home” ideas for disciplines you can practice as a family. Many people take on a new spiritual discipline during Lent. This blog offers several ideas for ways to incorporate that practice into your family’s routine during the season.

May the season of Lent be full of surprises for you and your family!

Five Habits for Weaving a Life Like Jesus (Lent Discussion Series)

February 12th, 2018

John Chandler

Lent is a time of slowing from our usual pace. We revisit our mortality, our brokenness, and the ways we have chosen anything other than the Life God has for us.

This time of slowing isn’t just about mental reflection, but it is also taken on through our actions. For centuries, Christians have given up certain foods or luxuries in order to focus more on suffering as we look toward the cross.

For this season of Lent, we are inviting all of our community into a shared exploration of habits that orient both our souls and bodies toward Jesus. Our liturgy and community groups will focus on each of the habits below.

Whether you give up something or not, we hope you will make time each week to join us exploring each of these habits below. You might not make a habit of all five, but our hope is that you will carry at least one of these habits beyond Lent as a means of “weaving a life like Jesus.”

Week of Feb 18 // Gratitude
Week of Feb 25 // Fasting
Week of March 4 // Confession
Week of March 11 // Scripture
Week of March 18 // Simplicity

Raise Leaders (2018.02.11 Sermon)

February 11th, 2018

John Chandler

John Chandler finishes our new Mission & Methods series with a teaching on our fifth method: We raise leaders who have the capacity to form communities of Jesus.

Quotes & Resources Mentioned:

  • In my experience at AMS, I have felt empowered to embrace my unique calling and experience and offer it within the church body. Historically there have been times where I have felt that my voice as a woman and my education in psychology were not valued by the church, which created difficulty in knowing how to lead within it. What a gift it has been to get to offer the church the part of God’s image he created me to embody. — Ashley Blackwell
  • When I ask myself if Mustard Seed is forming leaders of Christ’s Way, I simply cannot separate the question from the question is Mustard Seed a people that takes seriously the sort of discipline that comes to model Christ’s Way. Love and proximity always influence, human psychology tells us that. So those closest to me simply are being formed by me, as I am by them. We decide how we want to form others. It always is rooted in the question – how do we want ourselves to be formed. — Mason Parva

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Ash Wednesday Lament Night

February 7th, 2018

Chris Morton

Grief is a normal and natural response to a loss of any kind.

As we enter into the season of Lent, we embrace that grief is an unavoidable and valuable part of our mortal lives.

Ash Wednesday Lament Night is an opportunity to pause and acknowledge that we all carry grief from pain, loss and sin and that we long for God to make things right.

Children are welcome to attend and participate. Childcare will be provided for kids under five.

Click HERE to RSVP and invite you friends on Facebook

Family Meeting + Sundae Bar

February 6th, 2018

Chris Morton

It’s time to celebrate our story and dream about the future!

To close our discussion of Mission and Methods, we’ll gather for a family meeting celebration. At this Family Meeting you will:

  • Share your stories of how Austin Mustard Seed has helped shape you and your family
  • Hear from Leadership Team Members about why the Mission and Methods matter
  • Plan ways, you, your family and your Community Group can join in the mission

Here’s the best part:

The entire meeting will take place over an ICE CREAM SUNDAE.

Bring your favorite topping to share.

Child care is available.

Click HERE to RSVP on Facebook

Seek Opportunities (2018.02.04 Sermon)

February 5th, 2018

John Chandler

John Chandler continues our new Mission & Methods series with a teaching on our fourth method: We seek opportunities to expand beyond a fellowship of sameness to reflect the breadth of God’s kingdom.

Quotes & Resources Mentioned:

  • Whenever the church speaks of love or holiness, the psychology of disgust is present and operative, often affecting the experience of the church in ways that lead to befuddlement, conflict, and missional failure. — Richard Beck in Unclean
  • The best way to understand the full complexity of the gospel message is to learn from others who are seeing the story from a different angle. — Soong-Chan Rah in The Next Evangelicalism
  • We need to turn off autopilot and take the time to honestly examine our polluted perceptions. I do this periodically by making a list of different cultural groups and writing down what I think (what I really think, not what would ideally like to think) about them. Once I’ve named the specific biases that I hold, I can be on the lookout for them as I go about my day. — Christena Cleveland in Disunity in Christ
  • The work of reconciliation is often excruciating because it is the work of the cross. If reconciliation work isn’t painful, I’d venture to say that it isn’t really a reconciliation work. Reconciliation requires that we partner with equally imperfect individuals who are also clumsily scaling the cross cultural learning curve, forgive those who carelessly wrong us, repeatedly asked for forgiveness, engage n awkward and unpredictable situations and, like gluttons for punishment, keep coming back for more. — Christena Cleveland in Disunity in Christ

Download the Reflection & Discussion Guide

Discuss more in a Community Group

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How to Talk to Your Kids About Eucharist

February 1st, 2018

April Karli

At Austin Mustard Seed we practice an open table. That means when we celebrate the Eucharist everyone is welcome to receive the bread and wine, including children of all ages. In many churches children must attend a class or meet certain requirements before participating in Communion. For us, however, the Eucharist is a family event. Jesus’ ministry centered around table fellowship which included children. Passover itself, which is what we’re reenacting as we celebrate Eucharist, was a family celebration. Being present at the table with their parents is a way children learn to understand and respond to the gospel.

Here are four simple things you can do as parents to increase your child’s understanding of the Eucharist:

Read the story of the Last Supper. This story is told beautifully in the Jesus Storybook Bible or the Spark Story Bible. Children of all ages benefit from hearing scripture read directly from the Bible as well (Matthew 26:17-30 or Luke 22:7-38). Read the story around the dinner table as a family and have everyone imagine what it was like to be there. What were the smells, tastes? What did it feel like to have been one of Jesus’ disciples at that supper, or to have been Jesus himself?

Help your kids pay attention to the prayers during Eucharist. Some of the words change from season to season, but one part of it stays the same. Jesus’ words to his disciples, “Take, eat this is my body which is broken for you,” and, “Drink this, all of you, for the remembrance of me,” are said Sunday after Sunday. Draw your child’s attention to those words as they’re said.

Instruct your child what the bread and wine means. An easy way to do this is to tell them to listen to what the servers say as you tear off the bread and dip it in the wine. Let’s be honest. Eucharist happens close to lunch. We’re all hungry. And to the kids it looks like snack time. It’s ok to correct your child if they call it a snack or bread time. They may need a reminder each week that this is a special time our church shares together, as a family. Some kids may also need instruction to tear off only a small piece of bread as well.

Spend time reflecting as a family. The Eucharist means thanksgiving or to give praise. It is right and good to give thanks to God in all circumstances and at all times. As you return to your seats, say a short prayer together as a family about what you’re thankful for. This will help your children understand that the Eucharist is a special, sacred meal.

This may sound like an idealized view of family Eucharist. There will be Sundays when it doesn’t work out. But you can still set expectations and create a habit for your family.

Alongside these conversations you can have as a family, Karen Jordan and I are collaborating on a Kids’ Time class to teach the kids about Jesus’ Last Supper and Eucharist. This will take place on Palm Sunday. The PreK-5th graders will combine classes for a special Sunday. We’re excited for an opportunity to create a special lesson for the kids.

I value your commitment as parents to your children’s discipleship. It’s important work you’re all doing. We hope to offer support. If you have questions or other ideas to add about how to include kids in Eucharist or our Liturgy, please let me know.