Tag Archives: spirituality

Silence

Silence is not so much a rule to be observed by refraining from speech,
but… an opportunity for growing in the sense of the Divine Presence.
It is only by learning to live in that Glorious Presence,
and by reflecting on the depth of our own silent listening
that we can come to
know the difference between activity and compassion,
and it is compassion that makes us
open up our silence to others.

Gurus, Ashrams, and Christians – Vandana

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Mark Scandrette on priorities of Jesus followers

From Soul Graffiti

We often spend so much time reacting to religious traditions or a religious culture that we have little energy left to cultivate a proactive spiritual path. Even among “believing” people, there is often more critique and conversation about “the church” or parochial issues than honest engagement with the ways of the master – how Jesus lived and what he taught. Perhaps we have been too easily pleased by our overeducated ability to analyze and deconstruct. Rather than being skeptical, why couldn’t our collective sense of unrest about religion and spiritual community motivate us to be more curious and engaged?

Spiritual leadership in our culture today

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything that is my own. This is primarily due, I think, to the vast amount of processing I’ve been doing myself. Personal journaling and lots of thinking. One thing that has been on my mind lately is the extent that spiritual leadership goes to here in the west.

Ultimately, what I long to be is a spiritual leader, a guide… a shepherd. When I think of spiritual leadership and how it has taken shape in much of our world, especially in the East, I see leaders who have earned their leadership by “walking through the fire.” They have done the work… they have proved themselves to have wisdom, insight, and an ear for the spirit. Some of them end up blind, crippled… far from the flashy appearance we see from many of our leaders here in the West. They have sacrificed greatly for what they now have. People choose to follow them because their lives are changed.

My understanding of spiritual leadership comes mostly from within the Christian tradition, so I will focus there. When I look of the evangelical side of things, I see a strong passion for theology and “heady” stuff. It seems to me that as long as a pastor has had the seminary training, as long as he knows his Greek and his Hebrew, as long as he can give an extensive interpretation for the “right” way to read the Bible… he is ok in his church’s eyes. It comes down to education, seminary, and the ability to give complicated answers. He is the “professional” truth-teller.

Within the mainline tradition, there is less an emphasis on right doctrine and much more of a passion for polity, or “how we do stuff.” The structure is much more important than making sure that we all agree on the right theology. It seems that often a minister|leader in a mainline church just has to be a good upholder of the practices. If he/she can hold a good Sunday morning service, everyone is happy. As long as a minister sticks within the traditional structure no one will get upset. Even better if there is a good measure of energy within the structure of the church.

Holding both of these sides together is the authority that is given via titles, education, degrees, and higher authorities. As long as you earn it by going through the system, you may be deemed as one who has authority. Doctorate, Masters of Divinity, PhD, ordained… with a score card that has one (or all) of these, who can question the authority of the person in charge?

There must be something more than this. The question remains as to what it looks like and who, of those looking for some kind of leadership, desire something more? Is there a place in our individualized western world, that loves success and title, for a different kind of leader? I hope so… I really do.

Life at the edge of a cliff… faith

Here’s something I wrote back in February, 2006 (Gosh… almost two years ago!). Original post here.

These are my own words, now, confirmed by the spirit and affirmed by our discussion in my class on Kierkegaard regarding the knight of resignation and his movement into the knight of faith (Fear and Trembling). The conversation in class left me literally breathless, and having to close the class early when so many questions were left unanswered was absolute torture. Stacy this is part of our ongoing interactions with our strengths.

cliff To me, the decision to truly be overwhelmed and taken up by the infinite, to truly be released into his power, is like standing on the edge of a cliff. God has promised me that I can fly. I… can… fly!! There is only one problem and that is that there is this huge cliff, where I can barely even see the bottom. But I could be flying!! Faith, then, is jumping off this cliff. Now many people want faith, many people want to fly. The only problem is that they don’t want to leave the solid ground. Or… they keep wanting to come back. They may stick their toe out, or hang over the edge, but this is a cop-out and not faith. The act of will to actually jump is too much for them, for it requires all the strength in their being. They may ask, “Which comes first faith or the resignation of will? Don’t I have to have some assurance that I am going to fly before I can jump? Can’t I hold on to anything?” The answer is that faith only comes, and Kierkegaard agrees, after the jump. The flying only happens after a complete release of solid ground. “But that is absurd,” one might say. “There is no flying for humans. We are meant to walk. I want to fly, but I can’t think of how it is possible.” That, I say, is the point! We cannot fly on our own. That is why we must jump.

I am a strong believer in spiritual disciplines. These I believe are the acts of resigning the will. They are what get us closer to the edge of that cliff. Initially, I don’t know that they are made in absolute surrender, but God has given them to us, and laid them on our hearts, to make that jump a little easier. Once, and if ever, the flying begins, these disciplines become the release. They are the acts of will that make it possible for us to continue flying.

But what are we supposed to give up, a rich young ruler may ask. Jesus told him to give up his best. The thing that is closest to his heart. “Okay,” another might think. “What is my best then? How do I decide what to give up and release? Which area of this cliff should I jump off of that would make the best jump?” Do you see where this is going? If you jump, you jump. There is no best thing to give, only everything. Thinking about it too hard is only going to keep you on land.

Another will ask, “But is the giving up a general or specific thing? Do I make the decision to release everything at once, or do I give up one thing at a time?” Well, when you jump, do you first stick your foot out? Do you sit down and try to fall off? Do you hang by your hand off the edge, or grasp onto whatever is close by? Or do you take a running jump? Once again… thinking too hard. It is a jump. It is an absolute and “infinite resignation” as Kierkegaard puts it. We cannot hold on to some things and let go of others. A cliff is a cliff.

The thing that always gets me though, is what happens after the jump. All my strength has gone into making the jump. My flying is completely absurd and impossible and only abled by the infinite under, over, and around me. But what about those times when I am reminded of solid ground? For some reason there are times when I try to go back there and control or find my value in the finite. I think this is my nature and it hits me quickly. What do I do with that? Do I go back to the cliff? I sure hope not.

God, we’re Depressed…

Last night, I visited one of the Oasis home groups after the invitation from Kevin and some descriptive directions from Dave (“look for the house with the dog,” he said… no dog anywhere…). We spent most of the time talking about areas of unhealth in our lives. There wasn’t any advice giving, just listening and relating to each other. After listening and sharing, though, I felt like there was a distinct theme.

So many of us (and I think this is a greater issue among people, Christian or not…) get into this negative self-talk. Some of us are very synical and wish that we didn’t think so hard about things. Why can’t we just be positive like some people? (To quote the writer of Ecclesiates, “With more wisdom comes more sorrow; the more knowledge the more [depression]”… the more we know, the more we realize we don’t know, or we don’t like what we know) Some of us feel unbalanced. We feel guilty about enjoying the things we enjoy. We wish we could do more of this or more of that. And the solution often comes down to… “I need to get this area under control. I need to get a handle on this. I can control this. I can force this to happen.”

I am speaking from my own experience here. I wanted to offer some sort of insight but felt the need to avoid advice giving. I still want to avoid that now and so I would say it like this. I want to believe that finding more balance, being more disciplined,  stopping the negative self talk is not just about me making up my mind to do it. There is some of that involved, yes… but I have tried it. It doesn’t work. I simply cannot say, “Nate, stop being depressed.” And I wouldn’t dream of saying that to someone else. I want to believe that if I really pay attention to God’s presence in all things, in the questions, in the reassurances, in the loneliness, in the birds or the sunshine, that it is the Spirit that will give life to my life. I really want to believe that God in his love will play a great part in my organizing my life and becoming a whole person. I get this sense from the Bible that this is within his character. I get this sense that instead of trying to control and force my own will on things that if I pay attention and fall back into where he is taking me, that things will begin to move in line.