These are good words to consider when life seems to be getting the best of you.
Monthly Archives: June 2013
For over a fifteen hundred years monastics have practiced the discipline of silence. The monk knows that God is best heard in silence and community harmony is best maintained with an absence of excessive verbage. St Benedict understood that silence as an essential element of life. This is so that we can learn to listen to God more exclusively. God speaks to us in the Bible, but also in the depths of our heart and, as we begin to tune into him, we learn to be attentive to his presence in others. Thus harmony with God and man is achieved as we practice silence.
- Silence allows us to focus on God.
- Silence allows us to think outside of ourselves
- Silence creates an attitude of other worldliness
- Silence gives value to others
When we withdraw into silence and spend this special time with God we equip ourselves to be joyful Missional people. It is a most excellent way to prepare ourselves for the opportunities God provides for us.
The more we listen to God, the more capable we are of listening to each other. As we listen, we hear needs and cries from our friends and neighbors that have been lost in the noise of this world. If we are to be about the mission of God then we have to take time to become people of silence.
Each of us wants to be all we can be as disciples of Jesus Christ. Let me suggest that you carve out some time each day that you observe total intentional silence. If daily doesn’t work then do it weekly but DO IT. God will richly bless your efforts.
- Way of the Monk – Creating A Rule of Life (shpcdialogue.wordpress.com)
The mind exists in a state of “not enough” and so is always greedy for more. When you are identified with mind, you get bored and restless very easily. Boredom means the mind is hungry for more stimulus, more food for thought, and its hunger is not being satisfied.
When you feel bored, you can satisfy the mind’s hunger by picking up a magazine, making a phone call, switching on the TV, surfing the web, going shopping, or — and this is not uncommon — transferring the mental sense of lack and its need for more to the body and satisfy it briefly by ingesting more food.
Or you can stay bored and restless and observe what it feels like to be bored and restless. As you bring awareness to the feeling, there is suddenly some space and stillness around it, as it were. A little at first, but as the sense of inner space grows, the feeling of boredom will begin to diminish in intensity and significance. So even boredom can teach you who you are and who you are not.
You discover that a “bored person” is not who you are. Boredom is simply a conditioned energy movement within you. Neither are you an angry, sad, or fearful person. Boredom, anger, sadness, or fear are not “yours,” not personal. They are conditions of the human mind. They come and go.
Nothing that comes and goes is you.
“I am bored.” Who knows this?
“I am angry, sad, afraid.” Who knows this?
You are the knowing, not the condition that is known.
Someone said to Abba Arsenius, ‘My thoughts trouble me, saying, “You can neither fast nor work; at least go and visit the sick, for that is also charity.”‘ But the old man, recognizing the suggestions of the demons, said to him, ‘Go, eat, drink, sleep, do no work, only do not leave your cell.’ For he knew that steadfastness in the cell keeps a monk in the right way.
—sayings of the Desert Fathers
A great “demon” of all people is restlessness. This feeling can cause us to stray away from our purpose in life. We have a tendency to fill our days with meaningless activities that accomplish nothing. The greatest tool of the evil one is distraction from purpose. Most believers get up every morning with the intention to “do no evil,” but the demands of the world can sidetrack the best among us. Keeping our focus on our “cells” of life will keep us on track. We pray, we care, we are other focused, and this is the calling of all Christ followers.
I was directed to these 6 tips on Contemplative prayer by a fellow blogger. They were written by Carol Crumley who is Senior Program Director for Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation. St. Benedict, a sixth century spiritual leader, advised his monks to “listen with the ear of the heart,” that is, to listen deeply, noticing the many ways God spoke to them in their daily activities as well as through scripture and worship. I share these tips with you.
6 Tips on Contemplative Prayer
- Establish a daily set-aside time when you can honor your desire to open to God. We recommend 20 minutes of silent prayer time daily. For some that might seem like a long time. For others, it may be way too short. The exact number of minutes is not that important. Start with what is right for you. The important thing is doing it daily.
- Create a set-aside place, a space that honors your intent, where you can sit comfortably and uninterrupted for your prayer time. This might be a prayer corner or even a prayer chair. If a chair, just make sure it is different from the one you sit in to watch television, work on your computer or take a nap. A different chair will help you be more alert and attentive in your prayerful listening. You might also place a candle or flower or image in your prayer space, something that helps draw your focus to God’s presence.
- Begin with stretching and releasing any physical tensions. We carry the tensions of the day or night in our bodies. Notice the places in your body that are tight or constricted. Stretch into those places, hold for a moment or two, and then relax the tension. Sometimes a gentle body-stretching practice is all that is needed to quiet the mind and prepare the body for opening in prayer.
- Notice your breath. Your breath is a spiritual tool that you always have with you. It is your most intimate connection with God. Sense your breath as a living instrument of God’s spirit, ever cleansing and inspiring. At any time or place, you can notice your breath. Is it rapid or slow? Shallow or deep? Just noticing and slowing your breath can quiet the mind and draw you deeper into the heart of God. It is the most fundamental practice in the spiritual life.
- Open to God’s living presence, keeping your desire for your own and the world’s fullness in God before you in prayer. No words are needed. Simple, quiet openness and availability are enough. Trust that God’s healing, transforming power is at work whether you know it, you believe it, or not.
- Find support for your spiritual life. Support can come in many forms. Listen to music that stirs your soul. Go to a museum and feast your eyes on great art. Walk in nature. Read some of the great classics by contemplative authors. Study the lives of the saints. Find a spiritual director who listens with you to the movement of the Spirit in your life. Attend worship services that nourish your spiritual heart. Seek out others who share a similar desire and join with them for dedicated times of prayer.
We live in a noisy, busy world. Quiet, silent prayer is counter to our culture and yet it offers the missing spiritual resource our souls need. Contemplative prayer is not just for ourselves alone. Eckhart Tolle reminds us that, “To meet everything and everyone through stillness instead of mental noise is the greatest gift you can offer to the universe.”
Contemplative Prayer is a way of being rather than something that we do, a way of being open to God all the time. As you return to your busy day, remember, there are no right ways or wrong ways to pray. You can trust whatever is simplest and feels most natural for you.
- Way of the Monk – Creating A Rule of Life (shpcdialogue.wordpress.com)
John Wesley was a high church Anglican, when it came to the sacrament of Holy Communion. He very much believed in constant communion. He writes in a sermon of the same name.
I say constantly receiving; for as to the phrase of frequent communion, it is absurd to the last degree. If it means anything less than constant, it means more than can be proved to be the duty of any man. For if we are not obliged to communicate constantly, by what argument can it be proved that we are obliged to communicate frequently? Yea, more than once a year, or once in seven years, or once before we die? Every argument brought for this, either proves that we ought to do it constantly, or proves nothing at all. Therefore, that indeterminate, unmeaning way of speaking ought to be laid aside by all men of understanding.
Wesley received communion several times a week. He believed that it was commanded by Christ, and that the benefits (forgiveness, grace, assurance) of receiving communion should motivate one to commune constantly.
Wesley asserted that a Christian should study the passages in the Gospels and in 1 Corinthians 11 to come to a better understanding of the sacrament. He did not believe that Paul’s reference to “eating and drinking unworthily” referred to a lack of understanding of the meaning of the sacrament, but rather referred to celebrating in an unworthy manner in selfishness, and in a divisive ecclesial spirit. Infrequent communion also constituted eating and drinking unworthily.
Wesley never addressed the issue of whether an unbaptized person could receive communion, but given his context, he probably assumed that baptism was a prerequisite for coming to the Lord’s Table. He did, however, state that someone who is “earnestly seeking” may come to the table and find the grace they need. On occasion, Wesley did exclude some from receiving the Eucharist for various reasons. His understanding of open table was not a blanket invitation to everyone. Sinners must be earnestly seeking the grace of God, and in most cases one must be a member of a Methodist society. Soul-searching and prayer were important prerequisites, although Wesley did not exclude someone if daily events did not give time for such preparation. It was Wesley’s ecclesiological-oriented understanding of the sacrament that led him in this direction. It was the influence of the private religion in America on Methodism in the nineteenth century that led to open table as one of general invitation to all no matter what (J. Fitzgerald, in the Wesleyan Theological Journal, pp. 141-142, Spring 2007).
Wesley rejected with strong words the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, but as in baptism, he understood the sacrament as an actual means of the grace of God.
- “A Holy Mystery Indeed…” (mysaviorspeaks.com)
St Cyprian’s treatise on the Lord’s Prayer
We must not pray in words only, but with deeds.
Why should we be surprised, beloved brethren, that this is the nature of the prayer that God taught, seeing that he condensed all our prayer into one saving sentence of his teaching? This had already been foretold by the prophet Isaiah, who, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke of the majesty and loving kindness of God: completing and shortening his word in righteousness, because God will make a shortened word in the whole earth. For when the word of God, that is, our Lord Jesus Christ, came to all of us, bringing together the learned and the unlearned, and gave the precepts of salvation to those of every age and sex, he made a compendium of his precepts, so that his pupils’ memories should not be burdened by the heavenly teaching but might quickly learn what was necessary for a simple faith.
Thus, when he taught what eternal life was, he wrapped up the sacrament of life in an all-embracing and divine brevity, saying: This is eternal life, to know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. And also, when he had to gather from the law and the prophets the first and greatest commandments, he said: Hear, O Israel: the Lord your God is one God, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment; and the second is like it: you shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and all the prophets. And again: Whatever good you wish men to do to you, do it to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
It was not only in words that God taught us to pray, but in actions as well, for he himself prayed frequently and imploringly, showing us his example so that we should follow it, as it is written: But he himself went off to a solitary place and prayed; or, He went out onto the mountain to pray, and continued all night praying to God.
The Lord prayed and beseeched not for himself – for what reason has the guiltless one to pray for himself? – but for our sins, as he made clear when he said to Peter, See, Satan wants to sift you as if you were wheat: but I have prayed for you so that your faith should not fail. Later, too, he beseeches the Father for all people, saying: I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their words: may they all be one. As you, Father, are in me, and I in you, so may they also be one in us. God’s mercy and desire for our salvation are so great that he is not content to redeem us with his blood, but also prays for us over and over again. And now you should see what it was he was praying for: that just as the Father and the Son are one, so too we should be part of that same unity.
The Jesuit theologian and mystic Anthony de Mello tells us: “These things will destroy the human race: politics without principle, progress without compassion, wealth without work, learning without silence, religion without fearlessness, and worship without awareness.” Let’s unpack those words for a minute.
Politics without principle–In a recent poll it was found that only ad men and salespeople were less respected than politicians. Sadly our world is losing confidence in our elected leaders. There have been far too many stories of graft and corruption. The art of political leadership has been replaced by a hoard of unprincipled power brokers. What ever happened to principles?
Progress without compassion- The official death toll of the Rana Plaza collapse in Sri Lanka is 1,129, with 301 bodies still unidentified. This is without a doubt, the worst example of progress without compassion I have ever seen. Sri Lanka is a very poor country that cries out for economic and social progress, and in a way the high-dollar clothing companies who pay their workers very low wages have brought some progress to the country. This progress is without any form of compassion or care for the working conditions of the employees. Thus, the horrific results.
Wealth without work– In my city of New Orleans there is an alarmingly high murder rate, and by all indications it is largely connected to the drug trade. Drug dealers are able to make large sums of money with very little work. Consequently, the destructive results.
Learning without silence– The wisest and most learned people on earth know that all knowledge must be processed and analyzed. In our time of 24/7 “breaking news” much hurtful and unnecessary information is distributed without any thought or care. What has become of careful weighing of knowledge?
Religion without fearlessness– The Bible tells us, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us fearful, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Today’s religious people spend far too much of their time fearing everything from change to stability, and forget that we have a powerful spirit that is on our side. Learn to be bold in your faith.
Worship without awareness- Worship is the presence of God. Too many people leave God out. Worship is not about being motivated but about finding the presence of the creator. When He is found we become more alive, more aware, and through that sense of His presence we truly are transformed. Challenge yourself to be keenly aware of God when you worship.
This is worth reading.