A Reflection on Death, Abundance, and Compassion

Today’s scripture readings have a few themes:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120617.cfm

  1.  Death
  2.  Abundance
  3.  comfort/compassion

Death

In my late 20’s and early 30’s, I struggled with panic attacks.  I had an immense amount of anxiety about dying.  This manifested itself in different ways, mostly through a fear of getting sick or having a heart attack.  A few factors contributed that I could think of.  One, I was a new father.  We had Christopher and David a year apart and I was pretty nervous about not being present or available to them.  This had symbolic meaning to me as a fear of abandonment.  I didn’t want to abandon my kids and see them struggle without a father and I also had to cope with my own fears of being left fending for myself.  Two, I was just starting to work as a corporate chaplain and the stories I was hearing were very overwhelming.  Three, lack of self care.  I wasn’t eating, sleeping, or exercising very well.  The result?  Panic attacks.  

Here’s what helped me:  

  1. Talking with a therapist.  I was able to talk about the pain of being abandoned and how much it hurt.  It helped me realize that, while I felt abandoned, I could learn new ways of parenting myself so that I’d know that I can handle whatever life might throw my way.  In spiritual terms, I learned that I was never alone and that the Higher Power (Jesus) would be with me.  Growing up latino and in a pentecostal home, seeing a therapist was a taboo because we were taught that we really didn’t “trust God”.  That was nonsense!  🙂
  2. Self-care.  For me, this meant getting 8 hours of sleep, staying away from fast food and greasy food, and cycling.  I took up road biking, lost 20 lbs, and felt great. I also started making time to take regular retreats throughout the year.  I have to plan them in advance and then stick to them.
  3. Community.  I needed more friends in my life that I could go to eat with, go to concerts, and just be silly and laugh.  I needed connection and deep friendships.  

Abundance

We grew up with not a lot of money so I developed a fear of not having enough.  It’s driven many of my financial decisions.  But as I think about life and God, the scripture is clear that God thinks in terms of abundance, not scarcity.  I’m not talking about or promoting a “prosperity gospel” where abundance is the sign that God loves you and that you are more special than others.  But God does care about abundance and wants to lack no good thing.  I’d be very wary if someone used this to try and make a case for materialism or consumerism.  That’s just bad theology.  I’m talking about being able to have an attitude and heart that is at rest with what we have and isn’t ruled by “stuff”.  Fear of not having can be very costly.  And it usually doesn’t get us what we really want. 

Comfort/Compassion

In each reading, there is provision and comfort for the hungry, the needy, and the sick.  Death is overcome.  Sickness is healed.  And there is a feast of table for all people.  Jesus has compassion on the crowd.  Some are sick.  Others are hungry.  We read about a God who cares about the daily stuff, about the burdens that we carry.  He is not a god who sits by idly.  Jesus is engaged with the people and is about making wrongs right.  

I’m not sure I wholeheartedly believe that God is that compassionate.  I feel like have to earn his abundance and comfort.  I feel like if I don’t perform well as a disciple, I will be mistreated.  When I feel this way, I look at a picture of my sons or a picture of “little Roy” and imagine how much God loves us.  I want to trust that love from a Heavenly Father who is in heaven, and yet breaking into my world to transform my heart and mind.  This the concept of grace at work.  This energy, favor, love that God bestows is His hearts’ disposition.  

Questions for Reflection

*What are you most afraid of these days?  Can you tell God about it?

*Where do you feel like you are lacking?  Ask the Great Shepherd to lead you beside still waters and restore your soul.  

*How might God want to comfort you today?  Tell him where the pain is.

Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name.
May your new life fill us afresh.
May you cause to see how you are abundant in our lives.
May you have compassion on us.

Amen

A Prayer of Desire by Thomas Merton

Source:

A Prayer of Desire by Thomas Merton

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

 

Don’t Waste The Pain

“Revolution might sound a little dramatic, but in this world, choosing authenticity and worthiness is an absolute act of resistance. Choosing to live and love with our whole hearts is an act of defiance. You’re going to confuse, piss off, and terrify lots of people— including yourself. One minute you’ll pray that the transformation stops, and the next minute you’ll pray that it never ends. You’ll also wonder how you can feel so brave and so afraid at the same time. At least that’s how I feel most of the time… brave, afraid, and very, very alive. Rising strong is the final piece of this transformation.”

– Brene Brown

I’m thinking of the young man (it could easily be a woman) in his 20’s (maybe even 30s) who is trying to get his life together after making a lot of personal mistakes.  He feels like a failure, alone, and abandoned.  He may even be angry at the world for the bag he was given.

What you’ve been through is not fair.  The upbringing was rough…it wasn’t your fault.  And yet this is what you have to come to grips with.  You’ll need a lot of support, care, and love.  There will be days when you can’t make sense of the deep pain you feel in your heart.

Your greatest choice today is to live as one who is willing to rise strong, WITH all the anxiety and stress.  The gift of strength is for you to reclaim who you long to be.  It’s unsettling, uncomfortable, and necessary.  You must remember that you are the beloved!  That is your real identity and at the core of who you are.

You’ll need community, care, and courage.  You’ll need a power bigger than you.

And as a friend once said, don’t waste the pain.  I’m not sure what exactly that means.  But I’m starting to understand that with each set of waves (of pain), there is an opportunity to keep rising, growing, and being transformed.

 

Current Theological Heritage and Values

I have to write a paper and think through my “theological heritage/tradition”. I feel a bit lost trying to think through what it is.

  • I grew up in a pentecostal (apostolic assembly/latino) church until my early twenties.
  • In my twenties, I was part of a small congregation that was in part getting influenced by the “shepherding movement” in a charismatic setting.
  • Late 20s to early 30’s, I was part of a non-denominational church that was in part connected to PCUSA.
  • We did a stint with the Vineyard.
  • We’ve been most consistent at North Coast Calvary Chapel for the last 6-7 years or so.
  • I studied theology (spiritual formation) at a Catholic University and did my masters at a baptist seminary!!!

So how does someone like me begin to name their theological heritage and tradition?! aaackk!!!  LOL!!! At this point, I feel like I have a strong “ecumenical/theological” heritage and tradition.

I also feel like it’s important to name movements, beliefs, and people that have influenced me:

  • Henri Nouwen (catholic)
  • NT Wright (anglican)
  • Walter Brueggemann
  • Stanley Hauerwas
  • Lesslie Newbigin
  • Justo Gonzalez
  • Miroslav Volf
  • Ronald Rolheiser (catholic)
  • Eugene Peterson (Presbyterian)
  • Vineyard Movement
  • InterVarsity
  • Gifts of the Spirit for present day
  • Kingdom of God (here/not yet)
  • eschatology: a redeemed and renew creation (literally)…heaven coming to earth/not taken out of creation
  • world of psychology (brene brown, john gottman, hargraves, harville hendrix, and more)
  • Dallas Willard
  • Leadership theory

And the list goes on. I wasn’t sure how to capture all of this as a heritage until a friend gave me some advice.  He said to “make the same list focusing on the practices of faith (both personally and corporately) that you actually embody and the intersection is likely your actual theological heritage.”

So here’s an initial try at listing the practices:

  • wholeness:  learn from different disciplines and streams to integrate principles for flourishing.  I support therapists, learning from different theological streams (i.e. Catholic church, charismatic movement, etc)
  • integration:  I know this sounds like the first one, but I try to learn from each discipline and pull ideas together.  I read something from each discipline every week.
  • mission:  I deeply care to participate in God’s mission for this world.  I care about the stranger being included and invited to the table.  I believe that God is deeply hospitable, making room for the destitute, misunderstood, and excluded ones.  I engage in God’s mission for the world by serving the marketplace.
  • formation:  we are all shaped and formed into the person we envision.  Our upbringing, beliefs, mentors, influential people, habits and practices, and God all contribute to the person we’re becoming.
  • Holy Spirit:  reliance on the Spirit to guide, heal, transform, empower
  • wisdom:  we seek insight from the God who knows all things.
  • incarnational presence:  being in the daily life of the people we serve, making a home where they live and work.
  • worship:  the full expression of praise to God, expressing gratitude to God, confessing to God, fellowship with one another, communion, and proclaiming the word of God.
  • community:  serving and being in relationships with one another for the sake of encouragement, growth in Christ and for Christ.
  • justice:  seeking the justice of God’s heart in this world.
  • multi-ethnic/cultural expression:  seeking how to incarnate the gospel in the setting of the people–who they are (racial/ethnic profile, cultural practices, etc).

 

My heritage is a composite of the journey I’ve been on to serve Jesus and be a disciple.

Thanks to all of these people/movements/ideas for helping me on the journey.

Keep Calm and Quiet

 

Psalm 131

My heart is not proud, Lord,
    my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
    or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.

In my 20s and 30s, I often daydreamed of being “great”.  I think we live in a culture that praises heroes and greatness.  We concern ourselves with matters of greatness and big wonder.  We might have thoughts of how we’d run the country, a company, a local city, or implement reform on a national scale.  We say, “Well, I’d do it like this!” and walk off thinking we know what’s best.

It seems that the people who truly effect these great changes are those who have learned to keep calm and quieted their restless hearts.  They’ve learned to listen, observe, and take small steps and actions towards a possible reality/goal.  It’s a slow process.

How do we cultivate a calm and quiet presence?  There are two movements.  The first is to abstain from certain patterns of thinking.  One habit might be to think that we have all the answers and don’t need others to resolve issues.  That’s “haughty and ego proud” thinking.  The second movement might be to practice times of silence and solitude.  I find that it slows me down and helps me to be present to any anxieties or fears that are causing me to be reactive and frenetic.

Reflection Questions

*In the workplace, what might it look like for us to develop practices of calmness and quietude?  Would the company culture allow for it?

*Our culture says to make our voice heard for issues of injustice–and we should.  When are times that we ought to practice calmness and listening?

God Catching Our Attention

Everyone has a view of God.
Everyone has a theology of God.

One view is that we reach out to God.  We go to church, pray, read the bible.  It feels like we have to do all the work.  My upbringing was filled with this view.

Another view is that God is trying to get our attention, “trying to draw us into a reciprocal conscious relationship” (William Barry, Finding God in all things).

St. Ignatius believed that every moment of our lives, God is initiating relationship with us.  In doing so, God is attempting to introduce Himself to us, shaping and reshaping our views of who God is, that we might become aware of his existence and presence.

If safety and trust are key elements in a relationship, and if God is love, then we can presuppose that God is attempting to communicate to us, in every aspect of our daily living, an awareness of who God is.

We don’t read the bible to get close to God.  We read the bible to discover how close God has already been to us.  John 1 says that God became flesh and made his habitation among us.  He moved into the neighborhood and into our homes.  This view of God assumes a longing for humanity.  Discovering and deepening our awareness of God’s nearness is the purpose of prayer, table fellowship, study.

How is God present to you this moment?
How is God trying to catch your attention today?

Father/Brother/Mother/Friend/Savior:  Grant us eyes to see and ears to hear how you are among us today.

A Good Definition on Legalism

A good definition on Legalism (also described as superstition by Dallas Willard):
 
Legalism: [a ]claim that overt action in conforming to rules for explicit behavior is what makes us right and pleasing to God and worthy of blessing.   Dallas Willard
I grew up in a system that perpetuated conforming to rules that I might be pleasing to God.  It damaged how I felt, thought, and lived.
The dynamic power of God’s love shapes and reshapes my inward devotion, remaking my external habits and practices.  Basically, His love leads me to transformation.  🙂

Human Development through Scripture

To say that this is good would be a slap to the face.

Human development/stage development/stages of faith serve to help us name experiences and inner movements of the heart and mind.  They seem to be perennial and travel throughout generations and history.  They’ve help me to face my own inner angst and longings.


Source:

The Hebrew Scriptures are divided into three major sections: the Torah, the Prophets, and the Wisdom books. Theologian Walter Brueggemann observes that these three excellently represent the development of human consciousness itself. [1]

The Torah (the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) gave the Israelites the Law and a sense of their chosenness. For natural and healthy self-development, any culture or family follows a pattern of first providing structure, which develops identity, boundaries, and self-worth as beloved and special. It is easiest to start with an initial sense of “order,” as even educators now recognize.

The books of the Prophets represent the birth of good and necessary critical thinking. Without it, we remain far too self-enclosed and smug. The lack of healthy self-criticism within both Judaism and Christianity shows how little attention we’ve paid to this part of Scripture. (We read the prophets as if their only function was to “foretell Jesus” which is really not their direct message!) The Roman Catholic Church did not allow prophetic/critical thinking for almost 500 years after the Reformation, nor did the United States for most of its 200-year history (slavery and segregation are the most obvious examples). When the floodgates opened in the 1960s, there was no stopping critical thinking, and then it became widespread in postmodernism. Finally, Evangelicals are going through the same process on many levels.

While critical thinking typically arises in human development in the teens and early adulthood, it is usually oriented outwardly, in criticizing others. But honest and humble self-critical thinking is necessary to see one’s own shadow and usually well-hidden narcissism. Only when I encounter my shadow do I realize that my biggest problem is me!

The Wisdom section of the Hebrew Scriptures includes the books of Job, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, and many of the Psalms. Wisdom literature reveals an ability to be patient with mystery and contradictions—and the soul itself. Wise people have always passed through a major death to their egocentricity. This is the core meaning of transformation.

We have to go through interior deaths to reach the third stage of wisdom. Only here does contemplation and nondual thinking become possible; we can begin to learn to live with mystery and paradox and to develop true compassion. If stage one is order and stage two is disorder, then stage three is the final goal of reorder. There is no way around stage two! It is what Paul calls “the folly of the cross” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Conservatives tend to stop at stage one, liberals tend to get trapped in stage two, but only stage three is the full risen life of Christ.

Gateway to Silence:
Do not be afraid.

References:

[1] See Walter Brueggemann and Tod Linafelt, An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination, 2nd ed. (Westminster John Knox Press: 2012, ©2003).

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Way of the Prophet (Center for Action and Contemplation: 1994), audio, no longer available;
Prophets Then, Prophets Now (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2006), CD, MP3 download; and
Scripture as Liberation (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2002), MP3 download.

The Unhurried Life

My friend JT and I talk a lot about the subconscious.  So if I were to say to him that the other morning, the first thing that popped into my mind was the phrase, “The unhurried life”, he’d ask me to sit with the phrase and see how it might be speaking to me.

I’d respond and say that I’m too busy to do that (two snare drum hits and a crash hit).  😉

I sat with the phrase.  Why did my mind and heart lead me to this phrase?  What might it mean for my current life context?

The God of creation worked for 6 metaphorical days (God did create but the Creation story seems to be rich with poetry and I don’t subscribe to a literal 6 day-24-7 narrative, although I believe God can do that!).  He framed the world with earth and sky, sun and moon, water and land, plants and animals, humanity.  And then He rested on the 7th day.

The creation account has an unhurried tempo to it.  As a musician, I understand the value of tempo.  A song too slow can drag.  A song too fast can feel disjointed.  The right tempo is needed to express the feel of the song.  It can’t be rushed.  The song needs to stay in the pocket in order to convey the feel and spirit of the melody and rhythm.

God’s work has a tempo.  It’s unhurried.  God’s work in creation has a rhythm to it and it feels like a beautiful song that has great feel.  God was in the pocket.  Deep groove.

God continues to work in our midst.  We call this prevenience:  God taking the initiative and working redemptively, salvifically, and strategically before I’m even aware of it.  It’s the God who initiatives goodness into the ground, into our souls.  He initiates the work, we respond to it.  That’s what we call worship.  God sets the tempo and feel of the song.  We jump into the song and respond.

The unhurried life leans into God’s active work in our lives. We can listen and see what He’s up to, especially, when we are unhurried.

The temptation is to believe that I have to make things happen.  I have to hustle.  I have to work hard.  Nothing comes easy in this world!  Even typing this I start to rush the tempo.  I’m not opposed to hard work and effort.  Heck, sometimes I’m working a 12-14 hour day.  But what I’m learning to be opposed to is a reactive tempo that speeds up or slows down beyond/below the gracious work of God in this world.  My compulsive disease to be about the “next thing” prohibits me from being attentive to the work God is initiating in my life.  And today, the work meant listening to the phrase “the unhurried life”.

Redemption, healing, renewal.  These are the acts God initiates.  This is the good tempo.

A retreat for transformation

I won’t let up until you pay attention.  You haven’t been very patient or understanding lately.  Or loving.  I know you’re irritated and weary.  How do you think I feel?!  I have to do life with you 24-7.

Could you please hit the pause button and let’s retreat?

Sincerely,

Roy’s Soul


This weekend, I had the opportunity to be a retreat speaker for a spiritual formation retreat hosted by North Coast Calvary Chapel’s Young Adult Ministries.  I had a wonderful sharing and being with the retreatants.  It was personally refreshing for me as I sensed God speaking to me and abiding with me.  I am deeply grateful for the opportunity.

What follows are some notes and highlights of the retreat.

IMG_7425

Spiritual Formation Retreat at Heart Bar Campground

My task for the first session was to offer an introduction to what spiritual formation is, offer some information on spiritual development theory based on a few thinkers on the subject (Henri Nouwen, Dallas Willard), and to share some practical ways that we can engage in some spiritual disciplines (means) as we aspire towards our longings.  

Spiritual Formation

Spiritual formation is the process of undergoing a revolution of the heart and character so that it reflects the life of Christ.  To be spiritually formed into the image of Christ, we engage in practices/disciplines that foster attentiveness to God’s voice, His presence, and His guidance.  Without such experiences, we become less of the True Self and function more out of a disordered self.  Usually that disorderliness is filled with disconnectedness, waywardness, and self-destructive patterns.  

Spiritual Formation includes the task of looking within:  to reflect on our daily life, and to seek God and his active presence in our lives.  We use questions of reflection such as:

  • What’s happening within and how is God working within?  
  • What is he drawing my attention to?  
  • What movements, as we take a moment to listen, am I most present to?  
  • Am I present to joy, hope, love?  Or might it be frustration, anger, or hopelessness?  Is it a circumstance?  Perhaps a relationship, work, or finding my place in this world?  Or might I be avoiding looking within for fear of what I might find?  
  • Am I lonely?  Insecure?  Avoiding others?  Or mixture of all of it? 

The goal of spiritual formation is to reflect the character of Jesus, as we peal back the layers of the false self in order to see the True Self that God has blessed us with.

The process acknowledges that our lives have become unmanageable and that if we are to become who we truly long to be, we are to trust that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to our original design of goodness.  In Christian language, we call the unmanageability “sin”.  It feels like such a dirty word in our culture but it basically means that we are trying to manage our lives on our own terms.

I see spiritual formation as a means to engage the process of transformation in my character, vocation, purpose, and personality in this world.  It is of upmost priority in my life, mostly because I’ve seen how I can ruin my state of being based on disordered desires and decisions that I make.  I need transformation.  I can be filled with anger, short-tempered, judgmental, impulsive, compulsive.  I need a framework–a vision, intention, means–to engage with on a daily basis in order to keep accountable towards growth.

Dallas Willard’s VIM

During the session, I explained how Dallas Willard understood spiritual formation.  He saw it as a revolution of character and heart.  Using the acronym VIM (in latin, vim means vigor, energy, enthusiasm), he offers a developmental theory for transformation:

  • Vision:  rooted in goodness, truth, and beauty, we need a vision for what we long for in this world, who we long to be.  All transformation starts with a longing that we envision.  For those who struggle with alcohol, the vision is to abstain from alcohol in order to live a healthier life (emotional, relational, physical).
  • Intention:  a decision to lean into a way of being, a profession or vow.  We must make a decision towards the vision and transformation.  Sometimes we make that decision 50 times a day.  
  • Means:  ways for us to see our vision and decision realized.  It might help to identify roadblocks in our lives (i.e. I drink when I’m stressed).  Some other means can include meditation on Christ’s Teachings, learning from others in the Christian Tradition (saints such as St. Francis, St. Ignatius), both to fill our minds and hearts with new possibilities of being.

VIM is a standard way of developing a framework for any form of change.  It can be used for goal setting, employee development, character development, breaking unhealthy habits.

Henri Nouwen on Formation

Words and language are essential when undergoing transformation.  How are we supposed to understand what is happening in our mind and heart if we don’t have the words to articulate the movements happening in us.  Henri Nouwen understood that if we are going to undergo the inward journey towards the transformation of heart, it is vital to learn discernment and articulation.

Nouwen believed that:

“The key work here is articulation. People who can identify and articulate the movements of their inner lives, who can give names to their varied experiences, need no longer be victims of themselves but are able slowly and consistently to remove the obstacles that prevent the Spirit from entering. They can create space for the One whose heart is greater than theirs, whose eyes see more than theirs, and whose hands can heal and form more than theirs.”  

Nouwen, Henri J. M.. Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit

I like Nouwen’s framework of formation using the concept of polarities as well to name the movements happening within.

It should be noted that authors start with longing.  What is our deepest yearning desires in our hearts?  For some, we long for direction, vocation, clarity.  For others, we long for healing of past hurts, forgiveness, wholeness.  The Bible is filled with passages that address our longings.  One of my favorites is Proverbs 13:12,

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Nouwen encourages us to engage in a the daily spiritual disciplines of Lectio Divina and Silence and Solitude as prayerful means for transformation.

I offered the retreatants an overview of each discipline and then we had an hour to ourselves to engage in the practices.

Lectio Divina

*It is prayerfully reading the text to see how the Word is speaking to me in the present moment.  It means that I read the text, and the text reads me.  The Bible is not primarily for information, but for transformation. It is a way to read so that it names God’s active presence in our lives now!

My personal experience with the discipline has helped me to articulate what my longings are and how God is actively at present in my life.

Instructions

Select a passage that is about 6-8 verses in length.

(silencio):  silent, prayerful preparation as we come in touch with our desire to hear from God.

First Read:  (lectio) Listen for a word, phrase, or image that captures your attention.  Try not to overthink it.  Just be attentive to it.  It might be a word of comfort, discomfort, challenge, healing.  Trust that the Word wants to impart His word to you.  After the reading, we savor and reflect on this word in silence.  This is a time to feel the word, not to judge it or try to give it meaning.

Second Read:  (meditation) Read the passage a second time and reflect on how this word is touching your life.  We might ask, “What is it in my current season of life that needed to hear this word today?”  [NOTE:  St. Ignatius encouraged imagination and wonder so if it was a parable or story, he would say to put yourself into the story.  What is the setting?  For example, in the story of Jesus birth, what did it smell like?  What animals were there?  What was the mood like?  What character might you be in the story?  What am experiencing?  After we meditate, we sit in silence with this word again, trying not to overthink it.

Third Reading:  (oratio) the movement to respond to the word.  What is the invitation or challenge of the word?  How might we respond to God’s invitation?  Give full expression to the response.   (NOTE:  be present to whatever the response might be…fear, anger, hope, love, joy, self-awareness, wisdom).  We center back into silence.  

Contemplate on the word and rest in God’s presence and provision.  Let this word nourish you throughout the day.  Remember that God wants to enable and empower us to respond faithfully to His invitation.

Silence and Solitude

My personal experience silence and solitude has been a peaceful and restless relationship.  The first season of practicing this discipline, I felt a sense of release, relief, and renewal.  I felt more attentive to God, myself, and others.  But it was also unsettling.  I had nothing to “offer God”.  I was “doing” anything for him.  I was only offering my silence and presence.  That seems to be more than enough.  For ministry junkies or over-achievers, this practice seems to knock us off our throne.  It reminds us that we’re not charge (Hallowed by Your name, Your Kingdom Come, Your Will be done).  

“The longing for solitude is the longing for God. It is the longing to experience union with God unmediated by the ways we typically try to relate to God. By “unmediated” I mean a direct experience of God with nothing in between: an encounter with God that is not mediated by words, by theological constructs, by religious activity, by my own or other’s manipulations of my relationship with God. It is the practice that spiritual seekers down through the ages have used to experience intimacy with God rather than just talking about it.”  – Ruth Haley Barton

One main scripture that captures silence and solitude is Mark 1:35, Mark 6:30 (Come away with me),  and Psalm 46 (Be still and know).

Instructions

  • Find a comfortable place to quietly.
  • Breath deeply, becoming aware of God’s presence (breathe), and your desire for communion with him.
  • What thoughts, feelings, or life material do you notice?  Don’t’ rush or try to make anything happen.  Be still and know.  Let your heart speak:  is there joy, pain, hope, despair?  What movements do you notice?  A question?  A desire?  A loss?  
  • Remember that you are in God’s presence.  Sit and stay with the most present movement you’re experiencing.  Feel it.  Be with it.  What does it mean for you to be present to the movement and allowing God to sort it out, for him to do the work on your behalf?

Scriptures on spiritual formation 

Acts 17:28 “For in Him we live and move and have our being.”

Mark 1:35-38 (inward) Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 38 (outward) Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

John 17:24,25  “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you[e] known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Colossians 1:24-29 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.