Thursday, January 1, 2015

Starting Over . . . New Year's Day 2015

In today's One Year Bible readings, I was reminded of one of the major reasons why I find it essential to read and re-read a book that I try to read through every year.  Read to learn from the wisdom of the Proverbs:

"Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise. Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair . . . Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser" 
(Proverbs 1:2-5).

The power of reading well is expressed in the following observation by author Susan Cain: "Proust called these moments of unity between writer and reader 'that fruitful miracle of a communication in the midst of solitude.'" (From Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Broadway Books, New York.)

Take time to read, reflect, and apply what you learn in 2015.  Happy New Year!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Learn to Master Time

"I think we must do exercises in stopping time and in standing in the present, in this 'now' which is my present and which is also the intersection of eternity with time," writes Orthodox Archbishop Anthony Bloom in Beginning to Pray.

He then suggests a way to do this: "sit down and say 'I am seated, I am doing nothing.  I will do nothing for five minutes', and then relax and continually throughout this time . . . realize, 'I am here in the presence of God, in my own presence . . . just still, moving nowhere.'

"Learn to master time, and you will be able--whatever you do, whatever the stress, in the storm, in the tragedy, or simply in the confusion in which we continuously live--to be still, immobile in the present, face to face with the Lord, in silence or in words.

"If you use words, then you can bring to God all that is around you, all the storm.  If you are silent, you can rest in the 'eye' of the cyclone or the hurricane, in the calm there, but leaving the storm around you to rage, while you are where God is, at the only point of total stability.

"But this point of total stability is not a point where nothing happens.

"It is the point where all the conflicting tensions meet and are counterbalanced by one another and are held in the powerful hand of God."

(Beginning to Pray, Paulist Press, 1970, pages 83-91.)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Ocean Splendour . . . a Visual Post for the New Year

As the New Year begins, here is my Happy New Year greeting . . . enjoy a glimpse of the beauty of creation as seen along the Coast of Northern California last weekend.  Ocean Splendour, a two minute video, now available on YouTube.  To view the video, just click on the link: Ocean Splendour.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A short introduction to spiritual reading

Torrent: a swift, violent stream--like an Oregon waterfall--rushing along and spreading with "impetuosity and abundance."
Continuing a thematic approach, from standing firm like a rock in a mountain torrent to another kind of torrent. This post introduces a simple way to read the classic devotional works by Christian writers through the ages.
  “God’s grace is like a torrent.  When it is stopped from taking its ordinary course, it looks for another outlet, and when it finds one, it spreads out with impetuosity and abundance,” Brother Lawrence’s classic,
The Practice of the Presence of God as quoted by Marjorie J. Thompson.
   “God has infinite treasures to give us. Yet a little tangible devotion, which passes away in a moment satisfies us.  How blind we are, since in this way we tie God’s hands, and we stop the abundance of His grace! But when He finds a soul penetrated with living faith, He pours out grace on it in abundance.”
   “Spiritual reading can be applied to texts other than scripture, especially to devotional literature or good religious poetry. Great spiritual classics may be read in small portions, savored, and reflected upon for personal nurture,” Thompson comments: “Now go back into these words with a mind seeking connections to your own life, and a heart open to being addressed by God in your current situation . . . Pause . . . allow questions to surface:
·       God do you really have infinite treasures to give me?

·       Do you desire to pour these out in my life?

·       Visualize—what happens when a torrent of water is blocked from its normal flow?

·       What blocks do I put in the way of God’s grace?

·       Am I satisfied with too little?

·       How do I become “a soul penetrated with living faith?     
  “Allow prayer to surface spontaneously from the meditations of your heart . . .
then take a few moments to rest in confidence that your desires are known and received
in the heart of God.  Find joy and peace in this assurance.  You have just completed a
process of spiritual reading.”

Soul Feast: An invitation to the spiritual life, chapter 2, by Marjorie J. Thompson
(Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, © 1995, 2005).

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Stand firm! A reminder for Timothy from the apostle Paul.

"Stand firm! Like a rock in a mountain torrent,"
   John Stott's summary of Paul's charge in 

   2 Timothy 3:14.

Earlier today I spoke with one of my Paul's.  
We exchanged some ideas around different 
ways of blogging.  This is one way.  

What are others?  Do you blog, or read blogs?  
What do you look for while searching or 
browsing online?  I'm interested in hearing 
your ideas!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Living with God in the World

What is Christian spirituality?  How can twenty first century followers of Christ live by faith in the contemporary world?  Is it possible to have a personal relationship with God?  If so, how, and what difference does that make in everyday life?

As James put it: "Dear friends, do you think you'll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything?  Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it?" (James 2:14-15, the Message).

Questions like these challenge contemporary Christians to examine our lives realistically and consider what practices we can actually begin and continue regularly.

"Spirituality has become the contemporary word of choice for expressing how we live with God in    this world," writes Marjorie J. Thompson.  But she prefers to use the phrase, "the spiritual life." This life is "the increasing vitality and sway of God's Spirit in us . . . The spiritual life is thus grounded in relationship.  It has to do with God's way of relating with us and our way of responding to God."

Like James, Paul wrote often about the way God's Spirit can transform any individual (see his explanation in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, and Colossians 1:15).  The life of a Christ follower becomes an ongoing process of  continual reshaping and becoming "clothed with Christ."

As Thompson writes in Soul Feast: "This reshaping is the basic meaning of spiritual formation in the Christian tradition.  The term formation lies at the heart of words like conformation, reformation, and transformation.  It invites us to consider:

"What or whose form are we seeking?  What in our personal or corporate life, needs to be re-formed?"

Subscribe to read more. A series of brief posts will share more practical insights and motivations from Soul Feast.

Soul Feast: An invitation to the spiritual life, by Marjorie J. Thompson
(Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, © 1995, 2005).

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Courageous and Joyful Practices

On a recent Saturday morning, my pastor said he’d like to see more Christians become like marathoners in their spiritual lives. A friend and neighbor began this year by running her first full marathon. 

She prepared well by following a carefully scripted training program.  Her disciplined hours of practice enabled my friend to achieve her goal.  Family, friends, and other runners also encouraged and supported her from start to finish.  If anyone wants to become a spiritual marathoner--a person who faithfully follows Christ for a lifetime—she or he can learn much from the preparations and the disciplines of marathon runners.

As Marjorie J. Thompson writes in her book, Soul Feast:  “There is a childlike simplicity to Christian spirituality.  In a certain sense we never get past practicing the basics.  This makes beginners of us all, a truth that is both humbling and freeing.  My purpose is to help people of faith understand and begin to practice some of the basic disciplines of the Christian spiritual life.  Disciplines are simply practices that train us in faithfulness.” 

Thompson explains her goal for writing Soul Feast:  “I trust that reading and reflecting . . . will draw you into a courageous and joyful exercise of those practices that may yield an experiential knowledge of God.”

How can Christians become more like marathoners in their approach to the spiritual life?  By practicing basic life habits that will sustain a growing personal relationship with God through Christ in dependence on the Holy Spirit.
Are you ready for a workout?  Are you a sprinter . . . or are you willing to train to become a marathoner?

Subscribe to learn more. A series of brief posts will share practical insights and motivations from Soul Feast: An invitation to the spiritual life, by Marjorie J. Thompson
(Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, © 1995, 2005).