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Posts from the ‘Resources’ Category

Simplicity: A Simple Way to Get Started

March 20th, 2018

John Chandler

In this week’s sermon, Shane introduce the idea of a habit audit as a first step toward practicing simplicity. Below are the instructions for how you do your own habit audit.

This week, we invite you to perform what is called a habit audit of your life rhythms and habits in order to better understand what you love and, thus, what is forming you.

For one week, keep a short and simple diary of your habits and patterns of life each day. You can keep a small notebook on your person for the week, or use digital journal. Make note of the amount of time spent on each activity. Take particular note of the things to which you commit time, energy, and money.

Excerpts from such a diary may read something like:
15 minutes making coffee
30 minutes on social media
1 hour working out
2 hours of TV shows
2 hours and $30 at a restaurant with friends
1 hour and $25 shopping online

With the week and your diary complete, sit down to ask yourself a few questions:

  • What rituals and habits are shaping me?
  • What has been shaping me without my knowing?
  • Are the things to which I dedicate my time leading me to Jesus?

The above audit was taken from Practicing the Way

Reading the Bible: How to Get Started

March 13th, 2018

John Chandler

The Bible was written over thousands of years in multiple languages on three different continents. It’s big, broad and sweeping. Trying to figure out where to start can be overwhelming.

Our hope for everyone this week is simple: read three chapters of John per day. Start the day of your community group so you can wrap up by community group next week and share your experience with others.

Beyond this week, the best way to approach reading the Bible is to define two simple goals:

1) Choose a Plan to Read the Bible. Starting at the beginning usually isn’t the best way…even though Genesis is great! Here are some options you might consider:

  • Before you even tackle a reading plan, perhaps you want to get a little more familiar with the Bible and how to read it. Watch a video or two each day from the Bible Project. This series on how to Read the Bible is a good place to start.
  • Pick a plan that guides you through the whole Bible in a year or two. Check your App Store and you’ll find many options. Choose one that spreads out your reading across multiple parts of the Bible each day. The one I’ve used and found the most value in is the Moravian Daily Texts. It takes you through the New Testament and Psalms every year and the rest of the Old Testament every two years. It’s only available as an ebook.
  • Read something that includes both Scripture readings and helpful reflections. I’ve found the the “For Everyone” series by NT Wright to be very helpful for this. He’s written them for the entire New Testament, and I’ve read through all of them by reading 1 or 2 sections per day.

2) Make a Schedule. Once you choose a plan you can commit to how often. Some plans are designed for everyday to stay on track, while others offer more flexibility. Figure out what days and what times you will read and add them to your calendar. I’d recommend at least three days a week to get started so you have some consistency.

The simple two-step plan outlined above is helpful to get started, but reading the Bible offers opportunities to dive deep too. Here are some other resources you might find helpful along the way:

Confession: How to Get Started

March 4th, 2018

John Chandler

This Sunday we talked about confession as a practice to help restore and heal broken relationships between us and others and us and God. Through confession we examine ourselves for faults or weaknesses we can surrender to God and embrace the love and forgiveness of Christ which leads to transformation.

Here are the steps we discussed for how to give and hear a confession.

How to confess?:

  • Spend some time asking God to reveal your heart to you. Read Psalm 51, sit quietly and see what comes up.
  • Arrange to confess to someone you trust. Find someone with empathy, who keeps confidence, who won’t shrug off what you share with them as no big deal, nor will they be horrified at what you tell them.
  • Meet somewhere privately and share your confession.
  • Allow adequate time to pray about and share your confession.

How to hear a confession?:

  • Begin with an awareness of your own need for Jesus and God’s grace to remove any sense of superiority.
  • Keep confidentiality.
  • Remember you cannot control others. You are simply there to listen and to pray.
  • Be quiet, don’t pry, don’t relieve tension with your own stories. Wait in silence if the person you’re with needs time to talk or process.
  • Avoid giving advice or correction.
  • End by praying for God’s assurance of forgiveness over the person.

This is the prayer of forgiveness we ended with yesterday. You can modify this to pray over someone who has shared their confession with you adding their name to personalize it.

God, we know you love [name] as your daughter/son and that you have already forgiven her/him. We ask you to have mercy on [name]. Forgive her/him and deliver her/him from her/his sins. Build [name] up and strengthen her/him in your goodness. Help us bear with one another and forgive each other as you’ve forgiven us. Give her/him a clean heart, God, and remind her/him that she/he is yours so that she/he may serve you with a right spirit and a quiet mind, through Jesus Christ. Amen.

If your community group would like to practice the Rite of Forgiveness this week, here are some simple instructions

Form a large circle with the ends overlapping. Those two people facing each other will be the first to ask for and receive forgiveness. You can say, “[Name], for the ways I’ve wounded or hurt you, I ask your forgiveness.” Put it in your own words if you would like to. The person they’re facing responds, “[Name], I forgive you. Will you forgive me for how I’ve hurt you?” They’re forgiven and the pair embraces. Then everyone moves one person to the right where the ritual repeats itself until everyone in your group has had a chance to both ask for and receive forgiveness from everyone else. Include the kids too as they express interest in participating. Allow the Holy Spirit to work as things come up. End with some silence reflecting on the forgiveness you’ve all received.

Fasting: How to Get Started

February 26th, 2018

John Chandler

This Sunday, we talked about Fasting as a habit for living like Jesus.

Here are the steps we considered, with a few more guidelines below for extra measure:

1) Decide in advance when you will fast
A simple start would be to eat breakfast, and then fast through dinner, but most common is to fast from dinner one day to dinner the next. Choose a time where you don’t have other things going on during meal times.

2) Replace prep and eating time with prayer and reflection
We spend a lot of time eating, especially if we eat well. One of the main benefits of fasting is that we can redirect that time for intentional prayer and reflection. Use your normal prep and eating time during your fast to journal or go on a prayer walk.

3) Use your hunger to focus on your and soul rather than your belly
The time between your normal meals can be a difficult part of fasting as your body let’s you know it’s feeling neglected. Allow the needs your body is communicating to direct you to think about what needs your heart and soul have. Pay attention to the emotions you have as you experience the stress of hunger.

A few extra guidelines:
1) Continue to drink water during your fast.

2) If fasting might not be healthy for you, please don’t! If you are pregnant, have some other medical condition, or a history of unhealthy eating patterns, then consider other ways you could “fast” from something other than food this week.

One final word from Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline:

Although the physical aspects of fasting intrigue us, we must never forget that the major work of scriptural fasting is the realm of the spirit. What goes on spiritually is much more important than what is happening bodily. You will be engaging in spiritual warfare that will necessitate using all the weapons of Ephesians 6. One of the most critical periods spiritually is at the end of the fast when we have a natural tendency to relax. But I do not want to leave the impression that all fasting is a heavy personal struggle — I have not found it so. It is also “…righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).

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.

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.

How to Celebrate Advent With Your Kids

November 22nd, 2016

April Karli

Waiting is not something that comes easily to most kids. And waiting for Christmas is even more difficult. There are parties, decorations, lights, cookies, presents, and activity everywhere…did I mention cookies? The weeks leading up to Christmas are an exciting, sugar-filled time!

As we disciple our kids, we want them to grasp a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the days leading up to Christmas. We’re in the season of Advent. Advent is a time of patient waiting and expectation. We participate in the story of God’s people for centuries, longing for the Messiah to come. During Advent we prepare our hearts for the arrival of Jesus as a baby, and we prepare our world for Jesus to return again. Advent is also an opportunity to pause the Christmas chaos that surrounds us.

There are lots of ways to focus on Advent as a family. You can create an Advent wreath and light a candle every evening, participate in a service project, or use an Advent devotional aimed at kids. As my girls have grown up, I’ve experimented with different things and had varying degrees of success.

Instant Advent is a daily Advent devotional for families. It’s put together by sparkhouse which is the same curriculum we use during Kids Time on Sundays. Every day, from November 27 – December 25 there’s a video, a short reading meant to be read by a parent, discussion questions, and ideas for activities. Kids at Austin Mustard Seed are already familiar with the characters in these videos because they see them on Sundays. I got to preview all of the devotionals last week, and they are both meaningful and fun. Plus, they’re FREE!

Sign up here. The devotions will be delivered to your inbox every day.

Let us know what your family decides to do to observe Advent and how it goes. Whatever you do, may your Advent be filled with joyful anticipation and hopeful expectation for our Savior, Jesus, to arrive!

Thinking More About Sabbath

November 1st, 2016

John Chandler

img_2615As we learned in our more interactive sermon this past week, this is much for us each to consider as we think about the part Sabbath might play in our week to week. This Sunday was a continuation of a long conversation we have had in our church community though it still feel like just a beginning of what we have to learn about Sabbath.

Below, you will find some resources that should be helpful for you. And if you’d like to continue the conversation by sharing longer responses to our colloaration questions from Sunday, you’ll find a form below to submit those as well.

Previous sermons on Sabbath:
Sabbath BC (Sabbath series, part 1)
Sabbath AD (Sabbath series, part 2)
Sabbath aMS (Sabbath series, part 3)
Sacred Time: Resting

Books to consider:
Sabbath: The Ancient Practices, by Dan Allender
The Sabbath, by Abraham Joshua Heschel
Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now, by Walter Brueggemann

Examen: Five Steps to Start Finding Peace with God, Yourself and the World

June 1st, 2016

Chris Morton


Ignatius of Loyola was a Christian leader in the 16th century known for founding the Jesuits. Ignatius developed an approach to spirituality, where we meet God by engaging the imagination. You are probably already familiar with another one of his exercises, Lectio Divina.

The purpose of the Examen is, as Paul say in Corinthians, to be discerning of ourselves. It is a prayer made up of five movements, best used to review the day or week prior. Prayerful examination of one’s life is a central step toward finding and making peace.

Five Movements of Examen

Before you start, take a moment to settle ourselves into quiet. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. We are not dozing or daydreaming, so you may want to sit up straight with both feet flat on the ground. Take a few more breaths.

1. Pray for light.

Begin by remembering that your are in the presence of God. Ask God’s spirit to guide you as you look back over the previous week.

2. Review the day in thanksgiving.

Now, begin to look back peacefully over your past week with gratitude. Think back to the small pleasures, a tasty meal, a kind word, a peaceful moment. As you go through your week, pause on those moments experiencing them again, and thanking God for every good and undeserved gift you have received.

3. Review the feelings that surface in the replay of the day.

Look back at your week again. Let it replay in your mind like a movie. As you watch your week, take note of the feelings you experienced. Did you have moments of delight, boredom, fear, anticipation, resentment, anger, peace, contentment, impatience, desire, hope, regret, shame, uncertainty, compassion, disgust, gratitude, pride, rage, doubt, confidence, admiration, shyness.

4. Choose one of those feelings (positive or negative) and pray from it.

Now, chose one of those feelings and pray from it.  You may need to thank God for the joy of that moment, or express your pain and anger, or ask for healing. Be honest with God about how you feel.

5. Look toward tomorrow.

Finally, look forward to tomorrow and the week to come. What feelings does it raise in you. Excitement? Dread? A desire to plan, or to procrastinate? Share those feelings with God. After a moment, we’ll hand tomorrow over to God by praying the Lord’s Prayer.

Vocation Resources: Knowing Story, Knowing Self

October 5th, 2015

John Chandler

As we explore vocation this month, we will see that our own vocation will be more clear by knowing the greater story, and knowing our self. There are lots of great resources that can be helpful for your journey. Here are two in particular that we recommend for your further reflection:

Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human, by John Mark Comer
This book was only released last week, so it’s timing is helpful. Comer offers a rich understanding of the greater story we are in, and how our work and vocation fit within. If you have a sense of wanting to know the greater story, this book place to start.

The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery, by David Benner
This is a good book to lean into if you feel like you have a good understanding of story, but need a better understanding of your own self. Benner invites reflection on knowing our true self over our false self — a critical understanding to finding our sense of vocation.