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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Cultivating Your Inner Life

In 1926 Evelyn Underhill described how the three chapters of her book Concerning The Inner Life were first delivered as informal talks given to a school for clergy in the North of England. Concerning The Inner Life is one of my favorite books because it is a thoughtful guide for anyone interested in deepening their prayer life. The book’s three chapters are:
The Heart of Personal Religion; The Goals of Inner Life; and Contemplation and Creative Work.

Underhill addresses the needs of parish priests and religious teachers. But anyone who aims to share his or her faith, anyone who wants to encourage others to grow spiritually towards Christ-like maturity, will benefit from her practical insights on how to cultivate the inner life.

“The very first requisite for a minister of religion is that his own inner life should be maintained in a healthy state, his own contact with God be steady and true . . . this fostering and feeding of the inner life is often in some ways far more difficult for you, than it is for those for whom you work and whom you teach” (Concerning The Inner Life, Oneworld Publications, Oxford, England, 1999, page 12).

Whatever role or responsibility you have as you care for others' spiritual growth, make time to feed your own mind, heart and soul. Make David’s prayer, your prayer:

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him” (Psalm 62:1).

Monday, December 24, 2007

Reading in a global context

Writing to one of her many correspondents in September, 1937, the English author and scholar Evelyn Underhill notes:

“I feel the regular, steady, docile practice of corporate worship is of the utmost importance for the building-up of your spiritual life: more important, really, than the reading of advanced books . . . No amount of solitary reading makes up for humble immersion in the life and worship of the Church . . . In fact the books are only addressed to those who are taking part in that life. The corporate and the personal together make up the Christian ideal.”

(Letter to A.B. quoted in The Letters of Evelyn Underhill, edited with an introduction by Charles Williams, Christian Classics, Westminster, MD, 1989, page 261.)

While our reading is an important and useful spiritual discipline, it becomes even more relevant when we read and reflect within the broader contexts in which we live—our local church community, our town or city, state, nation, and yes, our international, global community.

As I begin this blog, I plan to share occasional readings and reflections for those who identify with the perspective and context that Evelyn Underhill’s letter to a friend suggested just 70 short years ago.