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Sep 012016
 

Quotes from Richard's Book

Apr 162016
 

Quotes from Richard's Book

Apr 022016
 

Quotes From Richard's Book

Feb 242016
 

This post is part of a series entitled The Work of The Spiritual Journey. In this series we go into detail on what I have come to call “The Practice”— the prayer practices that have changed my life.  Click here to see other posts in this series.  This post is repurposed from a previous post Titled: Why Do We Pray? | Reflection I: Introduction: What Is Prayer Anyway? (Part 1) View...


 

 The Work of the Spiritual Journey | The Practice

Reflection: I

Prayer
Examining Our Vision
(Part 3)

Questions for Reflection

  1. What have you been taught about prayer by your faith tradition? Is your understanding of prayer from your faith tradition enough for the realities of your life? In what ways is it not enough?
  2. Reach beyond the specific teaching of your faith tradition. What is prayer all about for you personally? Why do you pray, why do you not pray, or why do you sense a call to pray or to deepen your experience of prayer?
  3. What deeper questions do you have about prayer? What “answers” have you been taught that leave you unsatisfied and longing for something deeper?
  4. What is your prayer life like today? In what specific ways do you feel called to deepen your prayer life?
  5. How does your current prayer life affect the way you experience and live your daily active life
  6. Where is your prayer life disconnected from your active life? What do you need to do about that.
  7. In what ways does your prayer life call you to change and grow in your active life? In what ways does your active life call you to change and grow in your prayer life?

Richard’s Answer to Question #4

4. What is your prayer life like today? In what specific ways do you feel called to deepen your prayer life?

When one becomes an expert in some field, and especially when one presumes to write a book on a particular topic to help others in that area, there goes with that at least some expectation that one will have that part of their own life in some semblance of order. That expectation becomes even stronger when one dares to write or teach about the spiritual life in general and about prayer in specific. At least it seems so to me.

Yet I have often said that if I could live even a tenth of what I know about the spiritual life, I would be a saint. I am not a saint! I am not any kind of a saint. I am closer than I was twenty-five or thirty years ago. I am even closer than I was last week. But I am not a saint. In the end I can’t really live anywhere near what I know about spiritual formation and prayer. Truth is some days I am not at all sure that I know that much about these complex topics anyway. Yet I still feel a strong call to share what what I have learned.

I am retired, and in that sense I am mostly free to set up my prayer life however I want. In response to that freedom I have told myself that I could take my time apart pretty much whenever I wanted. I have convinced myself that I could go into my room and close the door and pray any time I felt called. What I find is that this theory has put me in a kind of maintenance mode. In this maintenance mode I often do not feel “called” on any regular basis and when I do feel called it is mostly when I feel stressed or upset for some reason. In this mode the times when I do “take my time” the process is abbreviated. I often go in my room, sit down, and go straight to contemplation, skipping things like centering, reading, meditation, and prayer. I often sit for twenty minutes and just get up and go back to work. This is good, but it is not near enough. It mostly keeps me on even keel, but it does not always lead to that growth and transformation and conversion of heart that is so central to what I know to be real spiritual formation—real prayer.

What is worse is that for some time now I have been having trouble sleeping. I tend to wake up at four or five o’clock in the morning. I tend to blame that problem on getting older, and keep trying to go back to sleep, often with little success. Sometimes I play games on my mobile phone. Might this not be that still small voice calling me to take some serious time apart? Might it be coming-out of the monastic call that has been so important on my journey? Whatever else it might be it is clearly an opportunity for me to take that time. I know that I should take that opportunity. I am reminded of this reflection by Henri Nouwen:

In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there.” [Mark 1:35] In the middle of sentences loaded with action — healing suffering people, casting out devils, responding to impatient disciples, traveling from town to town and preaching from synagogue to synagogue — we find these quiet words: “In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there”. In the center of breathless activities we hear a restful breathing. Surrounded by hours of moving we find a moment of quiet stillness. In the heart of much involvement there are words of withdrawal. In the midst of action there is contemplation. And after much togetherness there is solitude. The more I read this nearly silent sentence locked in between the loud words of action, the more I have the sense that the secret of Jesus’ ministry is hidden in that lonely place where he went to pray, early in the morning, long before dawn.*

Henri J. M. Houwen

I know that the secret of my own spiritual life is “hidden in that lonely place” where I go to pray. I know that I need to get out of maintenance mode. I need to get up “long before dawn” and go to my lonely place and pray there. And I know that I need to take the time to formally center myself. I know that I need to read and study. I even know what I need to read and study. The Rule of Saint Benedict was central to my practice for years, and I need to make it a part of my time apart again. I know that I need to take time to reflect yet again on those readings, and then ask that Mysterious Other I call God to guide me and to give me the strength and courage to take this into my active life. And yes, I need to sit silently and listen for that still small voice within. I know all of that. I teach and write about all of that, but I do not do it regularly. Why do I hesitate? What do I fear? For me, Marianne Williamson answers the question well.:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.**

Marianne Williamson

“Lord God, come to my assistance. Make haste oh my God to help me”.***

____________

** Nouwen, Henri J. M. Nouwen, Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life, (Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 1974), p. 13-14.
** Williamson, Marianne, A Return To Love:  Reflections of the Principles of A Course In Miracles, (Harper Collins, 1992. From Chapter 7, Section 3 (Pg. 190-191).  Quoted at http://skdesigns.com/internet/articles/quotes/williamson/our_deepest_fear/
*
** 
From Psalm 70:1 (NIV)


I encourage you to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below so we can all benefit from your insights as well..

Feb 172016
 

This post is part of a series entitled The Work of The Spiritual Journey. In this series we go into detail on what I have come to call “The Practice”— the prayer practices that have changed my life.  Click here to see other posts in this series.  This post is repurposed from a previous post Titled: Why Do We Pray? | Reflection I: Introduction: What Is Prayer Anyway? (Part 1) View…


The Work of the Spiritual Journey | The Practice

Reflection: I

Prayer
Examining Our Vision
Part 2

If we really ponder the question of why we pray in any depth all kinds of questions arise, and those questions make us uncomfortable.  Who is this Mysterious Other we call God that we pray to?  What do we expect from God when we pray?  What does God expect from us when we pray? Will our prayers be answered?  How will they be answered?  Do we even take time to listen for an answer? Do we even realize that listening in prayer is at least as important as speaking? Could we ourselves be responsible for some of the things we ask of God? Does prayer really work? What does “work” really mean when we speak of prayer? What does any of that even mean in the reality of our lives?

But beyond even those questions is the question we most want to avoid: will prayer change us?  Is prayer supposed to change us? On the other hand, is prayer, as it often appears to me, all about changing God? How will it change us? Will it require something of us that will be more than we bargained for? Michael Quoist’s poem pretty clearly points to the fact that it will. I know from personal experience that if we take spiritual practice really seriously—if we take prayer really seriously, it will change us in ways we cannot even imagine, and in ways that we may not even think we want.  At the beginning of a class on spiritual practice I made the statement, “Be careful, this class might just change your life”.  One man responded, “Am I going to have to leave my home, become a missionary, and move to Africa?”  But were it that simple. His question was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it points to a deep, but often preconscious, concern many of us have about prayer.  If we take prayer seriously will it change us?  Will it call us to “go where we dare not go”?  A few of us may actually be called to leave our home to become missionaries, but a sustained and serious life of prayer will call all of us to a lifetime of change, personal growth, transformation, and conversion of heart. It will call us to change the way we actually experience and live our active lives. It will call us to be present in the events of our lives differently. This is the question that often keeps us from going deeper.  Deep inside of us we know, again often at a preconscious level, that if we really take prayer seriously it will in fact call us to change and to grow, and in profound ways.  To even begin it will require that we change our busy schedule to make the space for our time apart.  Prayer is at the same time our deepest desire  and our greatest fear.  We often fear the very growth and change we desire. Whatever else serious prayer is about it is about listening to that Mysterious Other we call God—listening to that sacred inner voice inside, and paying attention to where that sacred inner voice leads us. Taken really seriously prayer calls us to live our daily lives in response to that leading.

But even more basic than that is the question, what is prayer anyway? The dictionary defines prayer as:

a spiritual communion with God or an object of worship, as in supplication, thanksgiving, adoration, or confession.*

I suppose that captures the very basics of prayer, but it is unsatisfying. Intuitively we know there is more to prayer than that—much more. We know that dictionary definition is not enough.  The truth is that the definition of prayer varies from one religious tradition to another, from one denomination to another, from one culture to another and even from one sub-culture to another. More importantly our own interpretation and understanding of prayer is unique for each of us.  We each have our own understanding of prayer, even if we haven’t thought about it all that much.  That definition is there in our subconscious, and it drives our approach to prayer or our avoidance of it. Ultimately it drives how we approach our lives.  If we are really serious about the spiritual life we need to take that definition out and look at it carefully. We need to be honest and clear within ourselves about what prayer really is and what it means for us.  As we work through the reflections in this book we will reflect on the many different reasons we come to prayer, and hopefully, in the process discover and deepen what prayer is for each of us personally.

For many of us, all of the sermons we have heard, all of the Sunday School lessons we have participated in, and all of the bible study and reading we have done, is not enough. It falls far short of giving us a real deep understanding of what prayer is, why we pray, or how we are to pray.

My friend and past pastor, Drexel Rayford tells this story in the forward to my earlier book

As I go about my pastoral ministry, I often see the spiritual equivalent of my attempt to run a 10k race without training. Not long ago, I visited a woman facing her last days. She has struggled with a cruel disease since she was a little girl and now that she has grown older, complications from that disease will end her life. A profound feeling of injustice permeates her reflections, and as we discussed how to come to terms with her situation she said, “My Sunday School faith is unequal to this spiritual challenge.” She finds herself required to “run a race” for which she professes she has had little training.**  

Drexel Rayford

In the face of a life threatening crisis she realizes that she has outgrown her Sunday School faith. As we reflect on the many different answers to the question “Why do we pray?” we will discover many varied aspects of what prayer is.  We will see clearly that prayer is not magic, and we will discover that true prayer always calls the person praying to growth, transformation, and conversion of heart.  Yes, at times prayer can change situations and at times even other people.  Yes, prayer can affect the outcome of events in our lives and the lives of others.  But almost always it calls us to grow and change, if of course, we are open to that possibility, if we are listening, and if we have the courage to respond to what we hear.

Prayer is more than something we do from time to time. In its most powerful form it is a way of approaching our lives. The call to ”pray without ceasing”*** conjures up a vision of a monk walking along saying the “Jesus Prayer” (“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!”)**** all day long. As good a practice as this may be from time to time for some, this book does not envision that type of practice. The call to pray without ceasing calls us to take our daily time apart for prayer and reflection. In that time apart it calls us to listen carefully to that still small voice within where that Mysterious Other we call God guides us and gives us strength and courage. In that listening it calls us to discover who we are, who we are called to be, and ultimately how we are called to live our day-to-day lives. The call to pray without ceasing calls us to incarnate those discoveries into the way we actually experience and live our lives—without ceasing. It calls us to live that sacred rhythm of discovery and incarnation in every event in our lives. In this way our entire life increasingly becomes prayer. This “pray[ing] without ceasing”***—this sacred rhythm of withdrawal into prayer and engagement in our active lives—is ultimately a lifelong journey of growth and transformation and conversion of heart. That is ultimately what prayer is all about. In its most basic sense this is what prayer is. This is ultimately at the very heart of why we pray.
Henri Nouwen points out that:

A prayer in church, at table or in school is only a witness to what we want to make of our entire lives. Such a prayer only recalls to mind that praying is living and it invites you to make this an ever-greater reality. Thus there are as many ways to pray as there are moments in life. Sometimes you seek out a quiet spot and you want to be alone, sometimes you look for a friend and you want to be together. Sometimes you’d like a book or some music. Sometimes you want to sing out with hundreds, sometimes only to whisper with a few. Sometimes you want to say it with words, sometimes with a deep silence.*****  

Henri J. M. Nouwen

In all these moments, you gradually make your life more a prayer and you open your hands to be led by God even to where you would rather not go.

Prayer often calls us to go “even to where [we] would rather not go”. Yet as Quoist put it, “Where shall I hide? I meet you everywhere. Is it then impossible to escape you?” If our image of God is big enough the answer to that question has to be a resounding “Yes, it is impossible to escape you!”, but then why would we want to escape?

____________

*  Apple Dictionary, iOS Software version 7.0.4., © 1983-2013, Apple, Inc. All rights reserved.
** Rayford, Drexel, in Southworth, Richard N., Choosing Authenticity:  Religion Is Not Enough, (Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, 2011), p.  xvi
*** 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (KJV)
**** Unknown Author, The Way of A Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way, (New York: Doubleday, 1992). p. 21,
***** Nouwen, Henri J. M., With Open Hands.  (Notre Dame, Indiana, Ave Maria Press, 1972), p. 158.


I encourage you to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below so we can all benefit from your insights as well..

Part 3 of this reflection will include questions for reflection related to this post and my answer to one of those questions.

Jul 122015
 
Look for your own.  Do not do what someone else could do as well as you.  Do not say or write what someone else could say or write as well as you.  Care for nothing in yourself but what you feel exists nowhere else, and out of yourself create impatiently, or patiently the most irreplacable of beings.*
Andre Gide

A number of years ago my daughter gave me a framed copy of this quote for my birthday.  It hangs on the wall next to the closet in my bedroom where I can see it every day when I am dressing, at least when I am paying attention.  It speaks to something very deep in me.  I long to become that irreplaceable of beings, or at least to be able to see myself growing in that direction.  I ponder that sometimes, especially when I write. Recently as I was reading Thomas Moore’s A Religion of One’s Own,** I realized that the Gide quote should apply to my religion as well.  To “create impatiently or patiently the most irreplaceable of beings”, required that my religion should be just as personal and should exist “nowhere else”.  Just following traditional beliefs and practices is not enough.  The truth is that I cannot follow that traditional approach authentically anyway.  This calling to become an “irreplaceable of beings” and to develop a religion of one’s own ultimately applies to each one of us, and it applies to each of our approach to our religion.

My relationship with organized religion has been a classic approach avoidance conflict.  On one hand I have always had a very strong sense of calling to religion and to spirituality.  I somehow believed this calling could only be answered through traditional religion–in my case through traditional Christianity–and specifically through a church.  Yet what I found in the many churches I attended never really connected with that calling or the way I experienced and lived my life. It never seemed to relate to my personal spiritual journey in any meaningful way.  I know that it works for some people, but try as I might I could not accept the current version of Christianity as I found it in the churches I attended.  It simply was never near enough, It always left me cold and feeling like an outsider, so eventually I would leave.  I could not see any other option, and yet the calling kept me searching.***

ReflectingOnLife

Photo by Brian Hill Sensai at Rivercity Aikido

The spiritual journey is often a very deliberate and a very slow process.  Sometimes real spiritual growth can only be seen in retrospect, by looking back, sometimes over many years.  But, sometimes that seemingly plodding journey is interrupted by what some have called “waking up”.  Some event in our life causes us to see our life radically differently and to “turn around” and head in a new direction.   For me, reading Thomas Moore’s book was just such a life changing event.  This book will definitely go on my short list of the most important books I have read on this journey.  Other books have been important, and I know that they helped bring me to where I am.    Like the few other books on my list of favorites this book is changing my whole approach to my spiritual journey in general and to my relationship to organized religion in specific.  As Moore put it:  “I was born with the themes of this book buried like seeds in my heart.” ****

Maybe the greatest insight is the realization that I am not somehow required by that Mysterious Other I call God to accept what I have found in any of the churches I attended, or in any particular tradition for the matter.  I think I knew that in a deep place inside of me, but I simply could not let myself live it or even acknowledge it.  This book gave me permission to let go of the demand that I conform to the beliefs and practices of contemporary Christianity and actually develop “A Religion of My Own”. It allowed me to “wake up” and head in a new direction.

I cannot tell you how important this realization is for me.  In many ways I already had a religion of my own, but admitting this to others—being open about it—is a kind of “coming out” for me.  It requires me to rethink just about everything I know and believe.  It will require me to be clear about what I really do know and believe, and about a spiritual practice of my own, without the baggage of trying to conform to some religious tradition, or maybe even more importantly, without always just reacting negatively to the more traditional approach.  There is a freedom in that which goes deeper than I have ever experienced before.  I can really listen to that still small voice inside of me and move toward becoming the person I am called to be.

There needs to be a caution here.  Two of my best friends, one a Baptist minister and one a Catholic priest, have separately cautioned me about going it alone.  Moore speaks to that in his book as well.  I understand their concerns.  The examples of people who have gone it alone on the spiritual journey and gone astray are legion.  Staying grounded is even more critical when developing “a religion of one’s own”.  Yet it is also crucial not to just follow the herd.  I plan to take that balance very seriously as I follow this call.  More about this in future posts.

I want to emphasize here that it is not necessary for us to leave or reject our current tradition in order to develop a religion of one’s own.  It is too much a part of us to do that.  The critical thing is for us to reflect seriously on our religious beliefs and practices and be clear in ourselves what we believe personally and what practices actually work for us.  We need to be true to that still small voice within where God speaks to us and gives us guidance and strength and courage.  More about this in future posts.

In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection,***** Brené Brown makes an important distinction between being yourself and fitting in. She points out that our efforts to fit in—to be accepted by others—all too often prevents us from really living an authentic life—from really being the person we are called to be, and in the end, from really connecting with others.  I know without a doubt that this has been a major issue in my relationship with the churches I have attended and the people in those churches.

Maybe the hardest part of this journey will be owning up to this new “Religion of My Own”.  It begins right here with this blog post.  The real test will be whether I can own up to it without being defensive the next time I show up at church gathering.  All of that said, developing this “religion of my own” is also exciting and challenging.  I look forward to this new stage in my journey.

Question for Reflection
Join the conversation.  Share your thoughts and experiences

  1. Are you consciously making your own choices about your religion or are you accepting blindly the beliefs and practices of your religious tradition?
  2. Are you rejecting those beliefs and practices just as blindly?
  3. Have you developed “a religion of one’s own” within or outside of your religious tradition?
  4. Do you feel called to develop a religion of your own?
____________
** Moore, Thomas, A Religion of One’s Own:  A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular World, (New York: Penguin Group, 2014), Title

*** For a more detailed account of my journey see the Introduction to my book, Choosing Authenticity:  Religion Is Not Enough.  For more information about the book visit my website at http://www.choosingauthenticity.com

**** Moore, Thomas, A Religion of One’s Own:  A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular World, (New York: Penguin Group, 2014), Preface, Line 1.

***** Brown, Brené, Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, (Hazelden Publishing, 2010), Title

____________

Recommended Books:

Jun 132014
 

Reflection III:  Opening To The Divine Mystery

Discerning Our Attitude Toward God
Part 2

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You are encouraged to read Part One before proceeding.

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Questions for Reflection

  1. Is there a God?  How do I know?
  2. What is God for me?  How do I know?
  3. Who is God for me?  How do I know?
  4. What is my image of God?  What is the origin of that image?
  5. What are my attitudes toward God?  What is the origin of those attitudes?
  6. Do I have my own answers for each of these important questions?  Where did they come from?
  7. How comfortable am I with my answers?
  8. How comfortable am I with the questions themselves?
  9. How comfortable am I with the mystery that still surrounds my answers?
  10. How open am I to growth and transformation of my understanding of God?

Richard’s Answer to Question 2:

2. What is God for me?  How do I know?

My spiritual Director once asked me “Who is God for you?”  I responded that “God is a Mysterious Other that permeates the universe, including me.”  She then asked me, “Is that enough?” I responded, “It is the only thing that is enough!”  That is still my answer today, and it is still enough.  I have some ideas beyond that, but in the end this is all I really know, and best I can tell, it is all that is possible to know.

First let me say that I do not believe that God is a person or anything like a person.  For me it just makes no sense to think of God as a person.  It raises too many other questions for me.  If you try to see God as a person you are immediately faced with the question of where this “person” resides.  If we try to answer that by saying that God is in “heaven” we essentially beg the question.  Where is “heaven”?  And how does this “person” interact with each of us individually as we claim?  How is that possible?  Many of us blow those kinds of questions off with an answer similar to “because ‘he’ is God”.  For me that again begs the question, “Is God a person?” and prevents us from looking at that question in a deeper more open way.  It also leads us to start assigning various human attitudes to God which in the end leads us to all kinds of problems.  For me it is much more honest to “just say no”, God is not a person.  At least then we can be open to the possibility of a deepening understanding of God.

In the end I believe that God is to be found somehow woven into the fabric of creation itself, into consciousness itself, and into “the force” that creates, animates, and guides the entire universe including us.  I believe that through spiritual practice and specifically through prayer we can connect with that Mysterious Presence and receive guidance, strength, and courage from that “force”.  I believe that our job, if we choose to accept it, is ultimately to connect with that force and to live our lives in response to that force.  Said another way, we are called to listen to our own sacred inner voice, discover, how we are called to live our lives, and to incarnate those discoveries into the way we actually experience and live our our lives.  As the monastics put it, we are called to divine union.  Ultimately this is why we pray.

I want to be clear here.  I realize that this explanation, much like the God is a person explanation, raises more questions than it answers, but for me it seems a more honest approach.  I remain open to deepening my understanding, and even to changing it completely.

Yet, beyond all of this reasoning and all of this speculation about what God is or isn’t my understanding is ultimately based on personal experience.  Jacob Needleman starts his book, What Is God? with this story:

Out of the corner of my eye I saw that my father was still looking up. And so I kept my gaze upward, noticing the stars, some of which formed into constellations whose names I knew. Imitating my father, I kept my gaze upward, just looking.
And suddenly, incomprehensibly, all at once, despite the heavy summer air that always absorbs most of the starlight–suddenly, as if by magic, the black sky was instantly strewn with millions of stars. Millions of points of light. Millions of worlds. Never, before or since, have I seen such a night sky, not even in remote mountains on clear nights. It was not simply that my eyes had become normally adjusted to the darkness; it was as though an entirely new instrument of seeing had all at once been switched on within me. Or, as it also seemed, as though the whole universe itself suddenly opened its arms to me, saying to me: “Yes, I am here. See, this is what I really am! Do you like my beautiful garment?” …
My eyes stayed riveted on the millions of stars, the millions of tiny stars with hardly a black space between them.
I wondered about my father, but I didn’t dare turn my head to look at him, afraid that these millions of worlds might somehow not be there when I turned back to them.
I don’t know how long we both continued to sit there, silently. But finally, speaking in a voice that I had never heard from him before, he said:
“That’s God.” 1

In a very real sense that is my God too.  It reaches past all of the science, all of the reason, all of the culture, and all of the religion to personal experience.  In these and other similar experiences (See Page ???), in times of silence and solitude, and yes, in times of prayer, the Mysterious Other I call God is just there, present in a way that transcends all of the questions.  In the end God is simply a presence I experience in those special times.

For me God is that mysterious presence.  I find that mystery absolutely fascinating and exploring that mystery excites me and gives my life meaning.  That mystery is much more fascinating and exciting than all of the more traditional answers.  Precisely because the “God question” is such a profound mystery I am open to all of the awesome insights provided by science, by reason, by the all of the cultures of the world, and all of the religions of the world.  I am open to all of the fascinating “answers” provided by all of those sources.  Because I can see so many wondrous possibilities I look forward with anticipation to new discoveries, new insights, and to an ever deepening sense of that Mysterious Presence in my life and in this awesome universe.

In the meantime I am still very comfortable with the answer I gave my spiritual director years ago.  “God is a Mysterious Other that permeates the universe, including me.”  and “It is the only thing that is enough!”

____________
1 Needleman, Jacob: What Is God?, (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2009) p. 5-6.

May 232014
 

Reflection II:  Because We Must

The Call To Prayer
Part 2

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You are encouraged to read Part One before proceeding.

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Questions for Reflection

  1. In what ways do I sense that my life is or is not authentic?  In what ways do I sense that I am “denied the right of legitimate self-expression”?  In what ways do I feel called to grow and change?  
  2. Do I currently pray?  Why?  Why not?  Describe my current prayer practice.
  3. Am I aware of an inner voice that calls me to pray or to deepen my prayer life?  When I pray do I listen for or expect a response?  What would that response be like?
  4. Have I had an experience of awe and wonder?  Describe that experience in detail.  What was my reaction?  What questions arose in me as a result of that experience?  What was my response?
  5. Have I had an experience of suffering or loss?  Describe that experience in detail.  What was my reaction.  What questions arose in me as a result of that experience?  What was my response?
  6. Have I had deep questions about the Mysterious Other I call God, about the universe, about life, and/or about my own life and calling rise up in me?  Describe the experience.  Describe the Questions.  Describe my response.  
  7. What negative compulsive thoughts, emotions, and impulses tend to drive my day-to-day life?  What destructive habits prevent me from living my life fully and authentically?  Consider such things as anger, addictions, and violent behavior.  Describe these issues in detail.  What are the roots of that behavior?

Richard’s Answer to Question IV:

4. Have I had an experience of awe and wonder?  Describe that experience in detail.  What was my reaction?  What questions arose in me as a result of that experience?  What was my response?

My first experience of real prayer clearly began with experiences of awe and wonder on evening walks on a golf course near our home.  As I have written elsewhere:

… we lived in a subdivision bordering on a golf course.  Several times a week I would take long walks on the golf course at night.  I would often stand on a knoll looking over the golf course and the many lights and buildings beyond.  I would see the lights from houses and wonder what the people were like and what they were doing.  I would also listen to the sounds of the traffic in the distance and wonder where people were going in such a frenzy.  Periodically I would hear sirens and air horns from emergency vehicles and wonder what the emergency might be, who was in trouble, sick, or hurt.  More than any of that though, I would look up into the night sky at the moon and the stars and the clouds and contemplate the awesomeness of this vast universe and my small place in it.  It was here that I was absolutely certain of the presence of a Mysterious Other I called God in this universe.  It was also here that I was just as certain of my own relationship, however tenuous it seemed at times, with this Mysterious Other.  It was here that I knew without a doubt that I must continue on this quest.

Clearly true prayer was born for me on these walks.  It would not be a stretch to say that my conscious spiritual journey really began there, standing quietly on a knoll looking out at the world and the universe.  At the time I could not have recognized that fact, but it was in those quiet walks that I really began to seek answers to the profound questions that call us to prayer.  It has taken years of reading, study, and practice to develop, but it clearly began on that knoll in the quiet of the evening as I stared out at the wonder and awesomeness of this life, this world, this universe—and yes, of this Mysterious Other I call God.

Dec 062013
 

My last post entitled Turning Around | About This Endeavor (8), is the last section of About This Endeavor, at least for now.  There is likely to be a couple of additions after the book is finished.

This completes what is called the “Front Matter”.  The next post will come from the actual introduction to the book and is tentatively titled Introduction: Why Do We Pray?  Now the real work of writing this book begins.

At the same time I hope that the material will be much more interesting and challenging.  For those of you who have been following this project, I hope that you will continue as I get into the heart of what this book is all about.  If you are new to this work, I am blogging the new book I am writing.  The working title is Turning Around: The Work of the Spiritual Journey.  You can read the previous posts on my blog at http://www.turningaround.net/?cat=49.  You can follow this work by signing up for email notifications.  Click on the black “Follow” button in the bottom right of the screen and enter your email address, and you will be notified by email whenever I post something new.  I also hope that you will join the conversation by adding your comments and suggestions to each post.  I take your comments really seriously, and I edit the content when appropriate.  By adding your thoughts, concerns, and suggestions you can become a real part of my writing process.

So that you have some idea of where we are headed with the Introduction, what follows is a tentative outline of the nine sections of the chapter.  For me, and I think most writers, a list like this is always tentative, and could very well change as the writing process proceeds.  As I read somewhere, “How can I know what I want to say until I have seen what I have written”.

Opening Comments
Why Do We Pray

Opening To the Divine Mystery
Discovering who God Is for Us — Really!

Relationship
Praise, Adoration, Communion, Conversation, Petition, Penance, and Forgiveness

Solitude
Quieting Our Inner Turmoil

 Listening
Seeking Guidance, Strength, and Courage

 Discovery
Discovering Who We Are And Who We Are Called To Be

 Incarnation
Becoming Authentic and Spiritually Mature

 Divine Union
Praying Without Ceasing

 Conclusion
Transmitting the Teaching by the Way We Live Our Lives

Dec 062013
 

About This Endeavor

Laying the Groundwork

Second In A Series

Looking Back and Looking Forward

This book is the second in a series entitled No BS Spirituality:  The Journey Toward Spiritual Maturity,

Volume One in this series is Choosing Authenticity:  Religion Is Not Enough which was published in March of 2011.  To learn more about this book go to http://www.choosingauthenticity.com.

Who knows where that sacred inner voice will lead in the future.  I have long ago given up believing that I can know that in advance.

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