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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).