Ember — it’s prayer and it’s a creative company

it begins in the prayer room

I have a high value for the quiet, personal place of worship, prayer, and communion with God. In my experience, knowing God deeply and intimately begins with private understanding. This idea is even mirrored in a gathering of like minded people also desiring to commune with God together — in Ember’s case, the prayer room. But this still feels like the quiet, intimate place. It feels safe, because there is no immediate cultural environment challenging the reality or understanding of God or our experience of Him. I don’t mean to say that we aren’t challenged in our understanding of God through his truth, but simply that there are no blatantly opposing social forces directly moving against the culture we are creating within the prayer room.

But when we begin to navigate outside of the prayer room, or any like minded spiritual community or gathering, in order to bring hope and impact to others of a different cultural or spiritual perspective, the metaphysical joins the practical. It’s from this place that we have the opportunity to share a taste of our normal experience and connection with the Spirit of God. As we share our reality with others, we have the opportunity to give people a new perspective of how God sees and wants to relate to them.

as a creative company

In this spirit, Ember takes the substance of hope—the testimony of Jesus—cultivated in quiet and intimate experience with God in the prayer room and works to multiply it beyond the walls of any one spiritual community — through music, video, blogging, and podcasting. He is Emmanuel, God with us. And his desire is for all to know him in a close and intimate way. Our desire is that through our perpetual content, individuals will taste little glimpses of experiencing God, prompting them to seek him out in deeper and more personal ways in their everyday experience.

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative Colitis

In 2009 I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (UC). The CCFA describes UC as “the result of an abnormal response by your body’s immune system. Normally, the cells and proteins that make up the immune system protect you from infection. In [ the case of UC] however, the immune system mistakes food, bacteria, and other materials in the intestine for foreign or invading substances. When this happens, the body sends white blood cells into the lining of the intestines, where they produce chronic inflammation and ulcerations.” — In short, your white blood cells have joined the other team… bummer.

You’re welcome to research UC in any depth that you would like, but basically, the symptoms of increased inflammation and ulcerations of the colon are frequent and urgent bowl movements, diarrhea, and bleeding of the inflicted area — again, total bummer.

I started experiencing symptoms of UC in 2007, but, as I said, it wasn’t until 2009 that I was formally diagnosed. My initial response to this prognosis was not necessarily a calculated one, but it was my response nevertheless. I was in my early 20’s at this time and I was invincible. Running was my daily exercise of choice. I had run a marathon several years before and would transition into training for and participating in Triathlons in the coming years. I had a healthy lifestyle, I had a good thing going, and no doctor was going to tell me that I had to depend on prescription drugs my WHOLE LIFE — I’m sure many of us can relate to these feelings in one way or another — insert personal life circumstance here. After my initial round of drugs and corresponding inflammatory remission, I decided not to take my prescribed medication and decided that God would either heal me or that my body would figure this out on its own. Neither ended up being the case and I found myself right back where I started.

I have learned to manage a life with UC, through the use of pharmaceuticals, as well as natural methods, but my intention with this article is not to focus on the condition itself, but rather, as an introduction to my journey of health, food, and wellness.

I don’t think of myself as disabled. I don’t dwell on this condition. And for the most part, I don’t let it impact my mood or my attitude day-to-day. Though, as close family and friends will attest, my battle with UC has become a filter by which I process my world. I don’t even say this negatively, but rather, realistically. I’ve gained the ability to say no to certain ways of life — foods, activities, rhythms. I’ve learned to give myself lots of grace in many areas — particularly in the aforementioned. And I’ve determined to look at circumstances through a new lens — opportunity, adaptation, and creative constraint.

 

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

Sabbath Dinner

Sunday Evening Dinner

About 18 months ago our family started a weekly dinner, it happens every Sunday evening at 6pm, regardless of other events swirling around our calendar. Our goal in this dinner is to have a rhythm for our family that increases our meaningful togetherness and our spiritual conversation. At Becky’s initiation, we crafted this space in our schedule as a communication of our values for God and for oneanother—this is our weekly Sabbath Dinner.

Becky and the kiddos—Demma (5), Cedar (2)—spend the morning and early afternoon leading up to dinner going through a rigorous checklist, getting the house ready, taking care of last-minute odds and ends.

I arrive home from work around 3:30 and we have our family meeting—a weekly rhythm sourced from Bruce Feiler—see The Secrets of Happy Families. This has also been a tremendous family rhythm for us.

After our family meeting the kids and I continue knocking out the checklist while Becky starts making dinner. My to-do list ranges from cutting the yard, changing out the air filters, watering the plants, or helping Demma and Cedar clean their room (which may have been well played in since 11:00am when they first cleaned it).

At 5:50pm several friends begin to trickle in with a side dish or a dessert, and somewhere between 6:00–6:30pm we sit down for dinner together. Each dinner begins the same way. The kids run around turning off all of the lights in the house and Becky lights candles on the table. Becky prays a prayer of blessing over our time together, asking God to be near to us and to delight in our conversation. I lead us through remembering the death and resurrection of Jesus through communion—together drinking from our wine glasses and eating our bread as we remember the blood and body of Jesus and his incredible sacrifice for us. The kids drink their grape juice from mini wine glasses, which they love. And over the last 12 months we have only had two casualties. I think that leaves us at a pretty good ratio.

Our meal transitions from communion to appetizers. As we eat, we reflect on the things that we are thankful to God for. Our remembrance can stem from things that have happened during the week or from moments that come to mind from other points in our lives—ways we saw God specifically impact our circumstances, our simple appreciation for his nearness, a late night conversation with a friend, or a favorite stuffed animal (Cedar’s go to). These are all legitimate content for our time of thankful remembrance.

We move on to our main course and the conversation evolves. Though Demma and Cedar are typically the first to finish, on this special evening, they are allowed to stay up as late as they are able to engage in conversation with everyone at the table. Becky and I like our kids have adult friendships and engage in some level of adult conversation. We feel that it helps them develop meaningful relationships and helps to build their confidence as individually wired human beings, contributing to community through their own ideas and aspects of the conversation.

There is a final transition after the main course; a few lights come on, the kids are tossed in a bath and prepped for bed, one or two people jump up to wash the dishes and clean the kitchen, and someone takes coffee orders. And with clean kids and a clean kitchen, we sit down again for dessert. In my opinion, this is where some of the deepest conversation occurs. It’s those special nights where no one has to rush home and everyone invests a little more time and vulnerability into one another. Coffee in hand, the conversation continues to ebb and flow around more or less meaningful topics—God, pop culture, current events, personal needs, new movies, or the next YouTube sensation. The evening may end with a board game, a movie night, or a simple “goodnight” and “have a great week” on the way out the door.

Several observations of our Sabbath Dinner.

Ritual is important. When we create rhythms around our values, we grow in these values and they become even more meaningful to us. Our kids can grow with tangible memories for each of these values.

Ritual is not everything. Ritual sets the stage for the meaningful and the authentic, but if we depend too much on the mechanics of ritual to create organic experiences and meaningful connections with God and others, we fall short. Even though we “show up,” we seem to miss out on the spontaneous moments and organic ties that are created as we continue to open ourselves up to vulnerability and authenticity.

I am thankful for our Sabbath Dinners. I am thankful for the ways they have helped our family interact meaningfully with one another, for the ways they have brought our friends into our family rhythms, and for the ways they help us remember God in the midst of an often chaotic and busy life experience.

 

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

One time decision & meaningful work

I have a high value for simplicity and rhythm. The core of my personality moves against non simplicity and things that feel chaotically untethered or messy. I am not communicating this as a positive or negative quality in and of itself. It’s simply a hinge point for how I approach the world. And it fuels my creativity.

Don’t strive for variation—and thus increase option consideration—when it’s not needed. Routine enables innovation where it’s most valuable. – Tim Ferriss

Simplicity in daily routine and systematizing daily decision making is a bedding for my creativity. These terms allow me to give mental equity to meaningful work, while flipping routine decisions over to autopilot.  I give time to problems and how to solve them. I think of beats and melodies for new songs I write. I dream up more effective ways to communicate ideas. I don’t want to think about what to eat for breakfast on Tuesday morning or what I should wear on any given Thursday.

The ways I work out daily rhythms change from year to year and season to season, but my need for them does not change. This year, I decided to take two specific items off of my “daily decision list” — clothing & breakfast — two early morning time consumers.

1. I paired my wardrobe down to my favorite things… and then I paired it down again. This is what remained: white v-necks (no surprise to anyone who knows me), black jeans, a pair of vans and a few pairs of boots — in the name of “variety” — and I kept a black cardigan for times when I need to “dress it up” a bit. And I included two pull overs for colder days. This is my one time decision wardrobe.

2. I decided on a breakfast menu for the coming months — frozen mango, assorted frozen berries, spinach, cocoanut, white tea or water base, and into the blender. Once again, the problem is solved and I have headspace to think about more meaningful things. This is my one time decision breakfast.

And there you have it. A peek into my one time decision. Again, the goal here is not to become ridged and systematized in every possible way. The goal is to free up mental equity from routine tasks while converting that capacity into meaningful and creative work.

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember