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everyday. practice.

Tonight we talked about the practice of an everyday faith.  The word of Brother Lawrence are a guide . . .

 

“You need not cry very loud: He is nearer to us than we think.”

“That there needed neither art nor science for going to GOD, but only a heart resolutely determined to apply itself to nothing but Him, or for His sake, and to love Him only.” 

“By rising after my falls, and by frequently renewed acts of faith and love, I am come to a state wherein it would be as difficult for me not to think of God as it was at first to accustom myself to it.”

 

I find the final quote one that I long for.  That “thinking of God first” is a matter of practice and process–it doesn’t just happen.

A practice like the following, is one that just might place us on the path of mindfulness.  It is a prayer modeled after the Daily Examen.

 

EVERYDAY EXAMINE • a practice in Awake-Full-Ness

Return to the beginning of your week/day.
Ask to have eyes open to the nearness of God.

Filter through your moments.
Take note of interactions, settings, feelings, times together & in solitude.

Note what shimmers.
What moment stands out or stays with you.  

Consider this as nearness.
Rather than second guessing—consider that which stands out as meaningful.  What about it matters?  What speaks “nearness” about the moment?  Is this a reoccurring theme?  Is it a unique encounter?

Thank God.
Ask that you might be AWAKE enough to sense God in the moment.

 

 

COMMUNION

We ended the night considering one final quote of Brother Lawrence as we shared in communion.

“The King, full of mercy and goodness, very far from chastising me, embraces me with love, makes me eat at His table, serves me with His own hands, gives me the key of His treasures; He converses and delights Himself with me incessantly, in a thousand and a thousand ways, and treats me in all respects as His favorite. It is thus I consider myself from time to time in His holy presence.” – Brother Lawrence

 

Christ body broken for all.
Christ blood poured out for forgiveness for all.
His embrace, in this moment and in all.

 

 

I still AM

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The past Sunday, we reflected on the following poem – and engaged in a contemplative practice around our breath.  It was such a great conversation, I wanted to make the poem available–from The Work of the People:

 

 

 

 

 

I AM HERE:

 

 

How does the following poem resonate with you?

 

Be confident, beloved, rest assured
for I Am among the givers and takers;
afflicters and afflicted;
the self-less, and the selfish.

I know by name
the run-and-hiders and surrenderers,
masked avengers and offenders—
I am with you as you prioritize Me, and when you put your way first—

I AM here. I still Am. 

I met Moses on the mountaintop, and sought Aaron at its base
and I will be with you in your highs and lows.
No one is missed! No one can hide!
Christ is My sight, My viewpoint;
the lens for My vision of Fatherhood.

My presence is always now,
and now is what matters.
I am with you now.

(and now.)

So, trust Me when you can.
I cover you, even when you can’t.
I continue to pursue you,
to love and free you
and welcome you into My now
where I AM, always.

 

BREATHING PRACTICE 

  • Be silent.
  • Be prayerful.  Speak the words that come from the poem.
  • Breathe in the“I Am-ness” even the “I still Am-ness” of God; breathe out any sense of abandonment, self-sufficiency, forgottenness, and unworthiness, etc. — exhaling them from your innermost life.

 

CONVERSATION

The conversation took a different turn as we considered the different reactions may have to such an inclusive poem.  Maybe it’s a simplistic look – but I think several of these categories have been ones I’ve seen our group move through (as individuals and as a community).  This may be especially true for those who have grown up in the Bible-Belt and been pretty familiar with western-evangelical-christianity.

The first reaction: We might like to view ourselves as the faithful ones – the giver, the self-less, etc.  And, we may bristle at such a picture of God.  God is too open, too inclusive, and if I’m honest–maybe this rubs at my need to be “special” and be treated as a “victor” of salvation.  What if God’s view is a stark contrast to our love for competition, getting ahead, and being #1.  The doors are wide for everyone . . . we are offended by God’s openness.

The next reaction: More than likely, if we’ve seen our first reaction as flawed–what comes with that realization is also the owning of our both/and-ness.  We are givers AND takers, afflicters AND afflicted, etc.  At my best and at my worst, I am all of these.  I am humbled at God’s willingness to show grace to ME.

The last place, and the place I hope I am moving toward: Wow.  God is more open and beautiful than I can ever express.  This is beauty I can hope to reflect.  This is beauty everyone has access to.  We start thinking of the openness of God much more broadly than my own experience–we start thinking of our world.  

I think this is a progressive journey–a process–to move through.  Convergence hopes to continually express this openness of God.

THANK GOD – no matter what our reaction . . .

 

 

I STILL AM.

walking the labyrinth

Reads that have shaped our Contemplative Way

librarycouchSince starting Convergence – we have championed the voices in our vast Christian heritage of contemplative prayer.  Why?  Because I believe that the emphasis of LISTENING – SENSING – FEELING – REFLECTING are all vital to the shaping of our lives.  We can do projects, we can learn facts, we can perform rituals, we can tell stories, and we can even be together – but without the values of that which makes up the Contemplative Tradition – I really doubt that our lives are deeply shaped by our faith.  Yes, it is the Spirit of God that shapes us – but I believe the awareness of God is enhanced by the quieting of the contemplative life.

If you are interested in some contemplative voices that have resonated most over the years–please consider checking out the book list below.

 

COMMUNITY WRITING & PRACTICE RESOURCES

Over the years, we’ve crafted community experiences, retreats, focuses during our observation of the Christian Calendar.  We have also compiled many resources and practices for our community.  Check out these PDF resources, here.

 

BOOKS

INTRODUCTIONS
A kind of introduction into the Contemplative Tradition can be found in the following books.  Laird writes with familiar church language and includes many references to Scripture as he describes the importance of silence within our life of faith.  One of my earliest encounters with contemplative practices was through Tony Jones book, The Sacred Way.  Each chapter focuses on an ancient prayer practices–and it includes Jones’ own experience with the practice, the history of the practice, and a description of the practice.  Everything Richard Rohr writes is valuable—I’m a big fan!  The Naked Now is probably my favorite book—while less focused on practices (although there is a great appendix of prayers) he does a wonderful job speaking to the importance of being present—a value of the contemplative way.

Pick up any of these books — and you’ll not only know more about contemplative prayer, but you’ll be compelled to enter into these prayers.

 

INTO THE SILENT LAND by Martina Laird (kindle)

 

THE SACRED WAY by Tony Jones (kindle)

 

THE NAKED NOW by Richard Rohr (paperback)

 

 

 

 

PRACTICES
The next few books are very focused on practices.  They are written as a reference guide for different ways of praying.  You will have your understanding of prayer expanded for sure.  Our community has benefited from many of the prayers explained in these two books.  Edwards language is a little more accessible to a Western Christian mind – but they are each valuable.

 

SADHANA: A WAY TO GOD by Anthony De Mello (kindle)

 

LIVING IN THE PRESENCE by Tilden Edwards (paperback)

 

 

SCRIPTURE AS PRAYER PRACTICE
When valuing LISTENING and AWARENESS it seems to shape your approach to the Bible.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of using Scripture has storehouse of facts and doctrines we must be RIGHT about — over letting the Scripture be a gateway to encounter God.  These books on Scripture are infinitely challenging—if you’ve spent much time in an evangelical world.  Blue writes with freshness that her experience of Scripture is one that inspires my own reading of the Bible.  Martoia is a very thoughtful voice today–that can easily break down heady concepts to make them quite accessible.  Again, with his influence and writing – I can no longer read Scripture with the same eyes.  Jones expounds on one practice from The Sacred Way, Divine Intervention.  He writes entirely about Lectio Divina (a prayerful reading of Scripture—literally, “divine reading”).  We have used Lectio Divina often within Convergence—so I highly recommend becoming more familiar with the practice.  M. Basil Pennington and Christine Vaulters Paintner have written great books on the practice as well.

 

FROM STONE TO LIVING WORD by Debbie Blue (kindle)

 

DIVINE INTERVENTION: Encountering God through the Ancient Practice of Lectio Divina by Tony Jones (kindle)

 

THE BIBLE AS IMPROV by Ron Martoia

 

 

LIMINALITY (transitional times of darkness and crisis)
I’m not sure why I’m so drawn to thinking, discussing, and processing what it means to be in a season of struggle, doubt, and questions.  But, the more I speak about this–the more I’m assured that it’s a common experience to go through moments where we have no idea what we are doing, believing, or if we can make it much longer.  I believe a faith community must be a place where we aren’t so concerned with answers–but living with and among the questions–the unresolved moments–the unfolding, not the conclusion.  The following books continued to expand my value of these liminal spaces that we encounter.  Winner’s openness is a treasure–but painful to “walk with” as you read her memoir style book.  And May’s book shaped our LENTEN SEASON over a year ago—helping us, as a community, give voice to the story of our dark nights.

 

STILL: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren F. Winner (kindle)

THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL by Gerald May (paperback)

 

 

 

GOING FURTHER
Bourgeault illuminates the value of the contemplative way.  It was her writing that has helped fuel our community’s emphasis on silence.  While I’d say she probably shouldn’t be your introductory read for a contemplative understanding—she will certainly take you further down the road.

 

THE WISDOM WAY OF KNOWING by Cynthia Bourgeault (kindle)

 

CENTERING PRAYER AND INNER AWAKENING by Cynthia Bourgeault (kindle)

 

I have a hard time editing my writing—and, I have a hard time editing my book recommendations as well.  I know I’ll wish I included other books—but these are some top reads—in my experience.

WHAT WOULD YOU ADD TO THE LIST?
Please consider sharing your favorite CONTEMPLATIVE authors and books in the comments.

Summer Break Practices

Convergence is taking a 2 week break from our Sunday Night Gathering (no gathering June 30 / July 7th).  We are encouraging you to further consider the conversation we engaged in this past Sunday.  Details below AND available with this PDF download.

 

DEEP LISTENING
Last Sunday night we covered a lot of ground in our conversation around FOLLOWING CHRIST IN TIME AND SPACE THROUGH HOSPITALITY.  Our focus on the ancient practice of Hospitality was shaped by the words of Christine Vaulters Paintner on Inner Hospitality.  Practicing hospitality within is about making room for the stranger–listening and welcoming to the areas in our life we often resist or ignore.  I don’t know about you, but I often find myself in a “rut” — responding, thinking, and reacting to situations and others in similar ways.  Maybe I even live a bit on autopilot—if I’m honest.  The hope in practicing hospitality within—is to forge a new way of being, one that responds with more compasion, more love, more generosity and openness.

The first step toward Inward Hospitality is learning to listen.

VIEW & CONSIDER

DEEP LISTENING @ theworkofthepeople.com

 

PRAYER OF WELCOME
by Christine Vaulters Paintner

Holy Presence of God, you shimmer across time and space and through each person and creature.
Create in me a welcoming space to usher in the grace that newness offers.
May my heart be spacious and my spirit free.
May your infinite compassion grow in me like sunlight across a field, luminous and radiant.

 

 

WHO IS AT YOUR TABLE?
Now that we are thinking about listening–about making room within for the “stranger” we rarely take note of.   But to hear what is missing at the table—it’s easier to begin with who/what is there.  Consider, ‘What most often guides your tendencies to react/respond?’

“We are each made up of multiple inner characters and voices.  Some of them are invited to our inner table, while others are standing outside, waiting to be let in, to share their wisdom with us . . . Each of us contains a self-the true heart of who we are and the calm and non-anxious core we all possess…(it’s at this core) that we can be fully present without anxiety and can offer radical hospitality to whomever knocks at our inner door.” – Christine Vaulters Paintner

Rather than obsessing over the good or bad aspects of the voices at the table—listen more deeply to why they are there—and what might be the more healthy side of their “presence” in your life.

“Coming to know our ‘passions’ (even those that result in anger, jealousy, and lust, etc.) and how they were formed and what they desire is a healing experience.  We begin to reclaim all the parts of ourselves–what we might consider– ‘good’ or ‘bad’ — and in the process we become more whole by accepting the fullness of who we are.” – Christine Vaulters Paintner

Scripture tells us to “take every thought captive” – consider what is going on within!

We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity. – Paul, 1 Corinithians 10

 

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  • Consider those that are first easy to identify at your table.
  • Over more time, consider the full range of emotions, perspectives, and positions that sit and direct your thoughts?
  • With further reflection, picture what the mystics speak of as the “infinite compassion of God” which burns in our hearts.  Do you find Christ and the infinite compassion, grace, and love at the center?
  • Consider even writing a “dialogue” (or short fiction story) that you have experienced processing these emotions, thoughts, and positions before you reacted to a certain situation.

Keating wrote a WELCOMING PRAYER that sets my mind toward making room for ALL those present “at the table” within…

 

PRAYER OF WELCOME:

Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me todaybecause I know it’s for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,approval and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation,condition, person or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and God’s action within.
Amen.

 

 

 

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