Archive for December, 2007

Personal Patterns pt 3…Axiom #2

Posted in personal development on December 26, 2007 by velocityvortx

I continue here with my pervious postings on personal patterns. The second axiom I mentioned I repeat here.

Axiom #2
In an external world of increasing noise creating an internal world of increasing quiet may be one of the premium patterns we need to learn.

Quiet is a rare commodity. You can’t buy it, borrow it, or use someone else’s, you have to cultivate it. I have asked pastor after pastor and spiritual formation specialists on church staffs but I have yet to find a satisfactory answer to this question, “What does it mean to “be still and know that I am God?” How do we actually do the “be still” thing?

Most people I ask have honestly raise their hands in surrender, shrugged their shoulders in frustration or quickly admitted they weren’t really sure. Upon following up with further conversation what seems obvious to me and them is we have not done a very good job understanding stillness and quiet, how valuable it is, and how to cultivate it in our lives.

For most of my 20 years of pastoral ministry I knew very very little about cultivating a quiet center. It wasn’t until the last 5 years or so that I have really come to a place of consistent practice in cultivating interior silence. The overflow of this practice impacts everything in my life…and that isn’t hyperbole, I mean everything.

The mentor that has done the most for me in this is Father Frank Stroud, a Jesuit Priest at Fordham University in New York. My time with him the last several years both at Fordham and off the continent have deeply shaped my current practice. His resourcing me with Anthony DeMello’s work has literally changed my entire spiritual formation practice. (Stroud is responsible for taking up Anthony’s mantel. Tony died unexpectedly at Fordham when we was visiting from India. Father Stroud took it upon himself to publish posthumously notes, lectures and seminars Tony had been doing all over the world.)

Father Thomas Keating is another, who through his Centering Prayer teaching over the last 70 years has made an enormous contribution to balancing our cognitive-heavy textual Father Thomas Keatingaddiction with a strong emphasis on quiet non verbal centering. His invitation and emphasis has been to encourage us to enter into the places Jesus did when he went away to the desert or the mountains. Those quiet places provided the horsepower Jesus drew on that enabled him to say he would only do that which he saw the Father doing.

For many of us who are deeply shaped by Western Protestant spirituality to tap other strands of teaching in our rich and variegated Christian tradition seems a bit threatening. And I understand those feelings because I too have had them. But allow me to remind you, Western Protestantism is the new kid on the block. That is neither indictment nor celebration merely the statement of a chronological fact. It is that fact which should enable us to realize brothers and sisters in other strands of our very own tradition can provide us with potential patterns and practices that are deeply transformative and ministry altering.  

I understand the resistance to exploring the new. But I also realize the freedom and joy that comes from living and breathing a sort of Psalm 46.10 kind of living.


Personal Patterns pt 2….Axiom #1

Posted in personal development on December 14, 2007 by velocityvortx

Personal Patterns pt 2….Axiom #1

In a previous post on personal patterns I began to talk about some guiding principles for me. I thought it might be helpful to engage each of these axioms in more detail and then wrap up down the road with my personal rhythm. Here was the first thing I noted.

Axiom #1
The more you progress through stages of faith development (I am thinking Fowler’s stages here, but Scott Peck or Ken Wilber’s Altitudes apply equally well) the more important a changing menu of patterns and practices.

My sense is that as I have grown, and as I have watched other people grow and develop, I realize that what was helpful early in my growth maybe isn’t as important or doesn’t pay the same dividends later in the growth process. That doesn’t mean they don’t have value any longer or won’t have huge value again later. One of the things we learn from stages of faith work is there is a definite movement from certainty and formal answers to an embrace of mystery and an expanding view of God. For me I have recognized there are things I do now that help me sit within the mystery of God’s workings that I hadn’t even have thoughts about 10 years ago.

What this highlights is something the ancients called the regula fidei. Translated to English this is the phrase “rule of faith.” The rule of faith was the current cadre of patterns and practices engaged at any given time to continue the formation of the soul. “Current cadre,” and “given time” are the operative phrases. The idea is that based on the circumstances of life, maturity level and the context, different patterns this month might be better for my formation than other practices.

So for me early in my journey, while I was still in my early 20’s and in seminary, heading down to inner city Chicago with Alan to visit homeless friends became a very seminal experience for me. Having grown up with little need, pain or understanding of the world of homelessness you can see how this became an important and formative pattern for me. Today my sensitivity to those around me is altered because of that. My nearly weekly conversations with one particular homeless guy in my community probably wouldn’t be happening if it wasn’t for those early experiences that were part of a regula fidei for about a year.

The first step in understanding how this works for you is the recognition that any and all patterns and practices you engage should help you develop. Anything you are engaging that isn’t helping that endgame is simply wasted time. So step one, cut yourself free from guilt that says you must do “X” every day. If you are like the average person there is an awful lot of guilt motivating spiritual patterns and practices which almost every time will void it of any transforming power.

Second, start thinking out side the box for what might be a molding and shaping pattern. Visiting homeless people isn’t listed in Matthew 6 or Galatians 5 but it was a spiritual discipline. I have a close friend who lives a in a warm climate (read Bahamas) and one year committed to watching the sunset every night for a year and talking to God during that time. He said it was one of the most healing and important things he has ever done. It was so transformative to him he just spoke about it at a national conference. In short keep a growing list of patterns that you can draw on and use whenever you need them.

Third, craft a rhythm that will work for you right now in this season and station of life. Different life stages and different growth seasons require different patterns and different practices. I used to get up very early for study and meditation because it was the best time for me in the office of a large church and staff to get that quiet stuff done. I now do sitting meditation mid morning, except when I am on the road then I do it every evening. It is all above daily rhythm and not being legalistic about it all.

Personal Patterns pt. 1

Posted in Uncategorized on December 7, 2007 by velocityvortx

Lately I have been asked a lot about my personal rhythms, as in what kinds of reading, blogs, books, meditation, and spiritual patterns do I engage. With that question usually comes the personal balance question as well.

Since I haven’t written much about this lately I thought I would log a few thoughts for your consumption, critique or blatant disregard.

A few axioms to start the conversation. This will serve as installment number 1 and we will follow it shortly with a 2nd.

Axiom #1
The more you progress through stages of faith development (I am thinking Fowler’s stages here, but Scott Peck or Ken Wilber’s Altitudes apply equally well) the more important a changing menu of patterns and practices.

I have become increasingly convinced a locked in or set pattern is the quickest way to stagnation. I say be wary of the phrase “but you always have to do _________ don’t you?”

Stages of faith. Are you familiar with the concept? You need to be and you need to understand how a regula fidei changes as we move through various stages.

Axiom #2
In an external world of increasing noise creating an internal world of increasing quiet may be one of the premium patterns we need to learn.

I am quiet certain most of us in Western Christianity have little understanding of this and for us quiet means we pray silently, telling God what we need, how he needs to act on our behalf, and how to basically run the affairs of the world. But actually creating a quiet center and then sitting in it? That seems to be relatively rare in my experience.

Question. Can you sit for 20 or 30 minutes without daydreaming? Without your thoughts wandering? Without being distracted? Can you sit in utter interior silence? The great mystics say this is the beginning of insight and connection with the God.  And it can create a healing space, a sense of unshakable stability and even a crazy confidence.

Axiom # 3
Life long learning is a non negotiable for development and creativity.

I am discouraged by the patterns I see guys and gals in ministry engage when it comes to really stretching their learning. Many haven’t read a challenging theology or philosophy piece in years. Many haven’t done any cultural analysis in years. Very few have book lists with books that really force new thinking. Part of this though is we allow writers to write simplistic ruminations because we buy the stuff.

What is on your reading list? Oh….reading list? Let’s ask that questions first. Do you have a reading list? What on it is really going to intellectually stretch you, what on it is simply fluff?

Axiom #4
You have to have creative outlets for fresh insights to dawn.

I love to cook, paint, do digital art, and read architecture books. The one to one correspondence to these outlets and creativity isn’t visible but I am convinced it is present.

What are you creative outlets? When was the last time you had a real creative ah-ha or hit a creative zone that was off the chart? What things catalyzed it? What surrounded the experience? Can you reproduce the zone?