Friday, August 5, 2011

Relearning 12 Spiritual Disciplines Week 4: Meditation Part 4

This weeks reading was a selection Marguerite Porete, from her book "A Mirror Of Souls".  Reading the short her short bio read that she was a member of the Beguines (a movement within the church of women who lived and ministered outside of the social norms), and that many of them were mystics, and found myself thinking " o' no not another mystic".  I grew up in a primarily fundamentalist denomination, and went to a fundamentalist university, so I know that my view of mysticism is a little skewed, and yet I know that there is much to learn from the movement as there from all movements within Christianity.  From the two readings that in this book that I have been through it seems that mystics seem to be very experiential in there writings, and theology.  I will have to do some more study on the Mystic movement.  The only thing that history tells us  is that she was tried for heresy and burned at the stake.
In the reading this week Porete describes "the seven stages in the ascent of mountain from whose summit only God can be seen"
The first stage: Keeping the Commandments
Pretty self explanatory, a person is touched by God's grace, and does their best to keep His commandments.
The second stage:  Following the Counsel of Perfection
A person dies to his earthly desires, without remorse.  Following the example of Christ.
The third Stage:  The Death of Will
In this stage a person gives up their own will to serve only the will of others.  One again dies to them selves.
The fourth stage:  Labors give way to contemplation
In this stage a person is brought "by Love" into contemplation.  Contemplation becomes the focus of the soul
The fifth Stage:  The will abandoned to God
A person will see who God really is, and who they are in relationship to Him, producing Great humility and a willingness to give their will Completely to God.
The sixth stage:  Freedom in Enlightenment
This is the last stage that is attainable in this lifetime, and to be quite honest I don't really understand what Porete is saying here.  This is how she describes it:  "Pure and enlightened, it is no longer her seeing God in herself, but God seeing her, through her, showing her that there is nothing but God....  She sees that all is in the being of God, who is love and has paid all debts."
The seventh stage
"God reserves it to Himself, and will give it to us in everlasting glory."
I understand the first five stages, and the seventh, but I do not understand stage six.  I just don't understand what she is trying to convey.  Is it that in this stage all that we see is God, and nothing else.  But she says that God sees through her.  I just don't get it.  Maybe, some day if I ever reach this level of enlightenment I will understand but for now it is beyond my reach.
Every stage on the mountain is described in a very experiential, very pleasant ways.  I know that experiences and how we process them are gifts from God, but to rely on them in total is an error that a lot of Christians (including myself) have made and continue to make.  We need to process everything through the only infallible source that we have, and that is the word of God.  There is a lot of good material in this reading, some of it seemed redundant to me (that there seem to be different stages of dying to ones oneself).   I am also not sure that everything in this reading can be backed up biblicly.  I have been working on this for a week, and I am still having trouble lining up this writing with Biblical text, which is why I haven't put any into this blog.  If anyone who reads this blog has any knowledge of "A Mirror of Simple Souls"  by Marguerite Porete, your help would be much appreciated.
Next week I start the set of readings  on prayer.  Looking forward to it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Relearning 12 Spiritual Disciplines Week 3: Meditation Part 3

I am a week behind, but I had some issues this week, I'll get back on track.
Okay, I have my first major problem with this book.  "Do not be concerned, as you read the following selection on contemplation about arriving at precise definitions of "meditation" and "contemplation".  Recognize that different teachers and writers define these terms in different ways. Our concern here is not to study prayer, but to practice it."  P17  I understand that not all teachers agree on definitions, but this is a study on meditative prayer, and as an editor I feel that one single definition should be discussed, not just for continuity's sake but also to reduce confusion.
That being said the study itself was very helpful.  First off Thomas Merton, in this reading selection does a very good job as an apologist for mysticism, he brings contemplation down to earth (so to speak) and makes it very attainable.  Merton describes infused contemplation as a "deep and intimate knowledge of God by union of love". Merton  points out that contemplation is an act of the Holy Spirit working in our souls "through His gifts of Wisdom and Understanding"  Entering in to Infused Contemplation came at a price though it is the price of our worldly desires.  We must give up what we desire most in this world to truly enter into a deeper relationship wit Him.  Our hearts must belong to Him.
Merton says that everyone should desire and ask for gift.  I never really thought of asking for the gift of contemplation, communing with God.  I just thought it was something that you did, but it makes sense to me that one should seek for and desire a deeper relationship with God.
One is small point of contestation with Merton in his writing.  He says that the gifts of the spirit are given at baptism.  I believe from my study that the gifts are give at conversion.  Other than that, I believe that, Merton does a great job of explaining contemplation in a very simple way.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rough week!

It's been a long week and a half.  I woke up Friday morning and couldn't move my arm because it hurt so bad.  I iced it and took pain pill as much as possible, and stayed home from work.  Saturday I tried to go to work, made it about an hour and realized that there was no way that I was going to make it through the night.  I called someone in to help me and ran up to the ER.  They took some x-rays and said that my bones looked normal, put me in a sling, and sent to me to an orto. doctor.  Went to see the doctor and he daid that he thought that it wasn't anything major, and sent me to PT.  Went to PT and will be for at least two weeks.  I can only work for a couple hours at a time, and am on a 5 lb weight limit, but need to use my arm as much as possible.
Trying to figure out how being out of work because of an injury that has no reasonable explanation, for a family struggling to make it is even remotely part of God's plan.  I know His ways are not our way, and I will never be able to truly understand what He is doing, but I really don't get it.  I try to do everything right, I truly try to follow Him and these things that would be bad by them selves, but are really bad all together, just keep happening.  How do you understand Gods will, what he wants when you just don't get it?  I know that all the "answers"I know that I need to stay in His word, and focus in Him, it is just really hard.  It may sound like a cop out but it is really hard.
Just trying to figure this whole thing out.  We'll see where goes.  Should be interesting...has been so far.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Relearning 12 Spiritual Disciplines Week 2: Meditation Part 2

Last week I discussed the writing of Thomas More (which I read two weeks ago), A Godly Meditation, In which I said that meditation was setting one's mind on the divine.  Last weeks  the readings were by Joyce Huggett.  She says that meditation is being attentive to God, for the purpose of "seeing ourselves in the light of God's revealed word".  We meditate on Scripture so that it can become part of us, not just part of our knowledge base.  She also clearly defines what she sees as the difference between meditation, and contemplation.  She says that' "Contemplation goes further and deeper than meditation.  While the person meditating mutters and muses on God's word, the contemplative pays silent attention to Jesus, the living Word-the one who is central prayer."  So meditation is spending time in the Word, studying it, learning it, making it apart of who we are, and contemplation is entering into the presence of Christ.  She goes on to give three steps for contemplative prayer:  Step one, "we need to give ourselves time to relax in God's presence."  in other word we need to give up to God any distractions that would hinder our prayers. Step two, once we have relinquished everything to Him, we become aware of his presence. Step three is that "we open our hearts to His love."  She goes on to say that he is there in the quiet place waiting for us, and that while there our outlook changes to become His outlook.
It seems to me that while meditation and contemplation are two separate and distinct disciplines, the one is necessary  to do the other correctly.  One must meditate on God's word so that we can recognize the presence of God, and one must regularly be in the presence of God to truly understand the Word of God.
This week are readings by Thomas Merton,  on Contemplation.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"Correspondence with Nature"

Forgive me this is a long Quote:

"The light really began to dawn  on him as he (Mr. Howells) was reading an outstanding book of that time, Professor Henry Drummond's Natural Law in the Spiritual World.  Drummond was telling how he never thought it possible to give a definition of life. till he found one of the works of Hebert Spencer, who said that life is a "correspondence with nature."  A child is born with five senses and various bodily organs, and each corresponds with something in his environment:  the eye sees sights, the ear hears sounds, the lungs breath air, and so on.  "While I can correspond with my environment, I have life,"  said Spencer; "but if something happened which prevented me from corresponding with my environment then I should be dead; death is a failure of correspondence."
Drummond took the definition back to Adam.  The Lord told him that the day he disobeyed, he would surely die.  Did he die?  on Spencer's definition he died spiritually, for though he continued to have natural life, he lost his correspondence with God and could only come back to Him by way of sacrifice, the way of a victim is killed in his stead." --"Reese Howells Intercessor:  The Story Of A Life Lived For God" pp 29-20

First off I want to point out that Adam and Eve did die a physical death, as well as a spiritual death, though the physical death was not immediate.
Second I have never heard it described like this before, and it is probably the most accurate analogy that I have ever heard.  Jesus is the eternal sacrifice that satisfies, the requirement of a sacrifice to correspond with God.
Third, our relationship with God should be as natural as breathing, hearing, or seeing.  These are natural to us we just do them, unless of course there is some deformity, that would cause us not to.  In the same way we should naturally be in a relationship with God the Father through Christ and the Holy spirit.  We must believe and be born of  Him.  For even Satan and the demons believe and tremble.  I also know many people who believe that Christ is the Son of God but are unwilling to make him Lord of their life.  It should be as natural a relationship as the one we have with our parents.
For as much as I "know" about Christ and the relationship I should have with him this passage in Grubb's book really made me ponder if what I have is correspondence with Him.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The first three chapters

I just started reading a book the my mom recommended to me.  she told me that it had a profound influance on her life.  I would read pretty much any book that my mom recommends dealing with the spiritual realm, because she is the most Godly woman I know, she lives the phrase "pray without ceasing".  Sh is truly a woman of God.

"Reese Howells Intercessor; The Story of a Life Lived for God"  is about a man who was a missionary, born October 19, 1897.  I thought is was going to be a hard read for me considering it was published in 1952 and written by an Englishman, but it has been quite pleasant so far, with many insights into the mid of the author, the subject and most importantly the mind of God. Here are some things that have struck me so far:
- Speaking of his life before he was born again (the author and it seems Mr. Howells makes it clear that in his eyes there is a difference between being a "Christian" and being born again.); "I felt I could face God every night, because I lived such a clean, pure life,..."  This statement will become important in a later chapter.
-Mr Howells, was always a Church goer, he decided to move to America before he left he went to church and God spoke to him through the pastor. The author describe it this way, "It was God's overshadowing Hand again, putting an external restraint on His chosen vessel, until He revealed His Son to him..."
-Later on after he came to America, he is invited to go to a boxing match, something he enjoyed in his youth, and he refuses.  The author once again refers to the restraining hand.
-"Living and upright life like that, how could God bring him to the realization that he was born in sin and needed to be saved?"
-"...until there is conviction of need, there can be no desire for a change.  But God has His ways!"
-there is a five chapter discourse comparing the correspondence of the five sense to nature, to correspondence, which I am still in the process of digesting mentally.

There are some things in the book that are question marks for me, for instance the author and indeed HOwell's refers to "seeing Calvary" when talking about conversions experiences.     Not sure exactly how I feel about that.  So far I have seen theological elements of Calvanmism, and mild undertones of the Charismatic movement in the book.  Almost every paragraph makes you think, about what you are reading.  It is very deep spiritually, and I can't wait to "wade in" as it were.

Relearning 12 Spiritual Disciplines Week 1: Meditation

I started working on a new Bible study last week, "Spiritual Classics, Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups on the Twelve Spiritual DIsciplines", long title I know, but I have been in a place over the last couple of years where I haven't been very consistent in practicing any spiritual discipline.  The first discipline is Meditation, now os all the topics in the book meditation is the one that I could never quite wrap my head around.  I just don't really get how to do it.  I looked up the definition of meditation, Webster's define's is as the act of meditating.  This is their definition for meditate: to engage in contemplation or reflection; to focus ones thoughts on: reflect on, ponder over.    I understand the concept os meditation, I just have a really hard time doing it.  I thinks its because I'm dyslexic.  From the the time I was really young I have always used association to compensate.  I have learned to think in patterns, and associations.  In turn thinking about one thing has always been difficult, because when I am thinking about something I will automatically associate it with something else and move on to that.  With that in Mind I start my study on the discipline meditation, hoping to learn how to do it correctly and consistently.

The first reading in the book was by Thomas More.  It is just a meditation the he wrote down. The first couple lines are :
     Give me thy grace, good Lord,
     To set the world at naught,
     To set my mind fast upon thee.
That in essence is what spiritual meditation is, setting your mind on the divine things and not on the worldly.  Sounds simple right, but how do you do it?  That is what I intend to find out over the next three weeks.  This weeks reading is by Joyce Hugett, expounding on the importance of meditation ad how to meditate.