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).

Friday, January 25, 2013

How to live life . . . an Archbishop's advice

In the Introduction to "Beginning to Pray" by Archbishop Anthony Bloom, the edition I found at a library book sale today, begins with an interview conducted by Timothy Wilson.  He asks Bloom if he has any difficulty communicating since the Christian faith is often not easily understood.  Here is the Archbishop's striking answer:

"What I aim at is to live within a situation and to be totally engrossed in it and yet free from involvement.  The basic thing is that I never ask myself what the result of any action will be--that is God's concern.  the only question I keep asking myself in life is: what should I do at this particular moment?  What should I say?  All you can do is to be at every single moment as true as you can with all the power in your being--and then leave it to God to use you, even despite yourself.

"Whenever I speak I speak with all the conviction and belief which is in me.  I stake my life on what I am saying.  It's not the words themselves that are important but reaching down to the level of people's convictions.  This is the basis of communication, this is where we really meet one another.  If people want to ridicule me, that's fine; but if it produces a spark in them and we can talk, then it means we are really talking about something which concerns us deeply."

This is the kind of communication worth learning and practicing for a lifetime.  Living with conviction, acting with conviction, and connecting deeply with others.

Beginning to Pray by Archbishop Anthony Bloom, Paulist Press, New York/Ramsey, 1970.