Posts Tagged ‘Spirituality’

Exploring difficult moments as our path to freedom. A talk by Lyndon at Cenla Meditation Group on 6/11/13.

Exploring how our energy is depleted and can be restored through our practice and an introduction to chakra meditation. A talk by Lyndon at Cenla Meditation Group on 6/4/13.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all! I know the holiday carries a different significance for everyone or none at all. The day is important to me not for the legends of “chasing the snakes out of Ireland” or the privilege of pinching random people without prosecution. St. Patrick’s Day reminds me of the man himself and all the reasons why Celtic Christianity has kept me from abandoning the faith altogether.

I’ve written many posts about my affinity for Celtic Christianity, one such overall post is A Generous View of Life. I respect most that St. Patrick himself did not return to Ireland to enforce his way upon others. He did not banish all of the local traditions and split the people into groups of insiders/outsiders. He actually adapted many of the local customs, even pagan customs, to use them as an means of teaching Christian values. More so, he did not teach a dogmatic absolute theology. Rather he chose to live and model those values as an example before others. He focused more on being incarnational and missional rather than dogmatic and confrontational. By living your faith and modeling it before others, sermonizing becomes unnecessary.

I also appreciate that Celtic Christians were “people driven by ideas.” They were open rather than closed. They left themselves open to others. They left their faith open to mystery. Both principles are often pandered to but hard to find.

In case you’re still wondering, there were no snakes in Ireland to start with. Consider yourself pinched.

I’m in love with words and dusty books,
the taste of deep red wine and salty ocean air,
drunk on a lonely tune and a sunset sky.

You might say that I am a romantic, in the classical sense. I go weak in the knees for ideas. I love nuance, symbolism, and possibilities. This makes me especially vulnerable to the seductive language of scripture.

Perhaps you’ve heard the expression “in love with the idea of being in love.” Dorothy Boyd’s description of her feelings for Jerry McGuire describe my affair with Christianity well, “I love him! I love him for the man he wants to be. And I love him for the man he almost is.” One of my favorite bloggers Real Live Preacher expressed this idea succinctly in a recent post:

Christianity has already shrunk in my lifetime from being the shining center of all truth and purpose to something less than that. Even looking at things from the inside, even willing to give the benefit of every doubt, Christianity seems like a bumbling, prosaic movement which is, as often as not, violent, anti-intellectual, and xenophobic.

But I love Christianity so much. Or at least I love what it could be. I want to hug it. I want to throw my arms around the beautiful language of salvation and redemption. I want to curl up in the warmth of my faith community, the people I love so deeply in this world. Truly they are like family to me. I feel I could get drunk on our ancient symbols, myths and stories, the ones that speak in luscious tones vibrating through a million voices across the centuries.

With time and disappointment love can change and devotion can wane, but for all that I have learned and all that I question about my faith I just cannot bring myself to walk away completely. In The Painted Veil Mother Superior said:

“I fell in love when I was 17… with God. A foolish girl with romantic notions about the life of a religious, but my love was passionate. Over the years my feelings have changed. He’s disappointed me. Ignored me. We’ve settled into a life of peaceful indifference. The old husband and wife who sit side by side on the sofa, but rarely speak. He knows I’ll never leave Him. This is my duty. But when love and duty are one, then grace is within you.”

I don’t stay from a sense of obligation or from fear of divine retribution. I think I stay because it’s familiar. These words I’ve heard so many times bring comfort when few others have. For all that I know there is more that I don’t know. I no longer look at the Bible as a rubik’s cube waiting to be solved. It has become more like a painting to me. One that requires long gazes from an open mind to appreciate. Every time I return I see something new in something old. Faith is not having all the right answers to spiritual questions. Faith is loving the idea of what could be, and the test of faith is in making small choices that bring those possibilities to life.

Without a doubt one of the movies with the most spiritual impact that I’ve seen in a while has to be Levity, starring Morgan Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, and Kirsten Dunst. I warn you, it’s gritty. The characters aren’t just flawed, they’re seriously messed up. Three lives intersect, each needing their own measure of grace in hopes of finding redemption. I’ll leave you with a few quotes in hopes that you will see it for yourself:

Miles Evans (Morgan Freeman): You think God talks to me? We argue maybe, but He don’t participate. It’s all right. I’ll see Him one day. When I do, I’m gonna whip His holy ass.

***********************************

Miles Evans: You know, you could get lucky. God might decide to grade you on the curve.
Manuel Jordan (Billy Bob Thornton): It wouldn’t matter either way.
Miles Evans: You don’t know what the hell you talking about, do you? Why be afraid of a God that you don’t believe in? Oh, I know, it seems like people are making up shit so they can feel good about all the pain, all the cruelty, loss, violence, suffering, death. Famine, bigotry, small-mindedness, repression, depression, oppression. Want me to keep talking? ‘Cause I can go on forever with this shit.
Manuel Jordan: No, I get the point.
Miles Evans: The point is: I believe in the lie. Never underestimate its power. Now, as for me, well, I’m lying through my teeth. I’ll see you soon.

The New Year has been a great opportunity to go deeper in my faith. It has had a tremendous psychological benefit to start fresh with new practices to strengthen my faith. My friends and I have been discussing the three major emphases of the emerging church, as I understand them: Inward Journey (spiritual formation), Corporate Journey (community formation), and Outward Journey (missional action). While we have committed to meet weekly in a small group environment to further our pursuit of Biblical community, we are also trying to hold each other accountable for the Inward Journey. All of us may be utilizing different devotional practices, but we are all united in making time with God a priority in our daily lives.

For a couple months I have been enjoying the online daily prayer site, Sacred Space, provided by the Irish Jesuits. My only reservation is that it is very short. I have felt compelled to join the tradition of so many other Christ followers in Morning and Evening prayer. There is something about the rhythm of devotion that is very meaningful to me. This led me to research Celtic Spirituality more, hoping to find something akin to the Book of Common Prayer used by our Anglican and Episcopal brethren. I discovered Celtic Daily Prayer which is prayer and readings from the Northumbria Community.

The Northumbria Community is actually a dispersed community with Companions all over the United Kingdom as well as internationally. They describe their community as “a conscious attempt to find a practical modern expression of a new monasticism, which preserves an uncompromising allegiance to the imperatives of the Sermon on the Mount.” They are united by three fundamental commitments. The first common commitment is taking vows of “availability and vulnerability” both to God and others. The second commitment is to their “Rule, ‘A Way for Living,’ which embraces a dogged fidelity to the Sermon on the Mount as an expression of Christian discipleship.” The third commitment is to pray the Daily Office.

The Daily Office is primarily marked by Morning and Evening Prayers, but they also include Midday Prayer and the Compline (bedtime) which are optional. I would spare you my inadequate description of the Daily Office and urge you to pray it for yourself for a day, a week, or a season, as a fresh approach to your own spiritual formation.

You may be wondering like myself, how a former Southern Baptist pastor came to a structured repetitious prayer life. For me my prayer life has never been disciplined. It has often been taken hostage by my feelings and the circumstances of the day. While my conversation with God has always been ongoing in whispers throughout the day, I have been craving a deeper walk with Him. These devotional practices predate our modern program Christianity by hundreds of years. Though I have been guilty of being dogmatic in my beliefs in the past, I am not so arrogant as to believe we all have it right and the saints of the ages had it all wrong. There is a measure of comfort and strength in walking down a well trodden path, when you know it leads to the garden.

I am not promoting anything to anyone, just sharing where I am in my own personal journey. Today is the first day since I received my copy of Celtic Daily Prayer that I have actually prayed the Daily Office completely from Morning to Midday to Evening to Compline. I want to encourage you to find whatever works for you. Whatever time using whatever tool that helps you to prioritize and realize your time spent with God. I share this old Celtic blessing as a prayer for you:

O God, make clear to us each road.
O God, make safe to us each step;
when we stumble, hold us;
when we fall, lift us up.
When we are hard-pressed with evil,
deliver us;
and bring us at last to Your glory.