You must read Christine Valters Paintner’s article, The Practice of Contemplation as Witness and Resistance which was published in The Way and also posted on her blog. Paintner argues that “spiritual practices are not just a path to personal piety, but an act of resistance, witness and liberation which ultimately facilitates the transformation, not just of the individual but of the wider community as well.” It’s an inspiring read so check it out!
A while back I did a solo silent retreat at Mille Lacs Cathio State Park, towards the end of winter, just after a huge storm. Spending time with nature, and letting it work on me for a couple days turned out to be an intimate experience as I rested. For some reason, it was at this time that I began to see trees as more than just trunks and leaves. They became companions, old sages, the magical creation of God providing a sanctuary, forming a natural cathedral of sorts. I especially remember skiing through the forest and being startled at how vocal the trees were! This time inspired the following poem:
The tall trees creak and speak
To each other
Of how things used to be
They moan and laugh
As I pass
And pause to share a story
I stop to listen carefully
As for grandpa long ago
The pines, they bend and wane
They bring me to my knees
The oaks, they sing and sigh
Tears well up my eyes
Old truth decants from old rings
Their wisdom ancient
Their strength rooted into depths
Of earth and soil and sun and rain
Seasons upon seasons of life
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
In my epic quest for blogs concerned with Christian Spirituality/Spiritual Formation/Mysticism, I’ve come across a few that I would highly recommend visiting. Here’s some of my new favorites:
Spirit on the Margins
Weekly Spiritual Reflections Weblog
Please continue to share blogs that fit this criteria!
Posted in blogs, spiritual formation
Tagged christian spirituality, Christianity, contemplative prayer, Emergent Church, Evangelicalism, God, Mysticism, Religion, spiritual formation, spirituality
For most of my life, I’ve been commuting to church. Sometime my family would drive up to 40 miles to worship on Sunday morning. Currently I drive about 15 miles from Minneapolis to the affluent suburb of Maple Grove. It’s amazing how much can change during a 20 minute drive. The stores go from local businesses to massive corporate chains. The homes go from boarded up and foreclosed to multilevel multimillion dollar. The people turn from black, white and asian to… white. The cars on the street begin as late 90’s and older and end up as last year’s biggest gas guzzler. The conversations change from “how am I going to pay my mortgage next month?” to “what am I going to do at the cabin next weekend?”. To say the least, the Sabbath can be a bit of a culture shock for me.
So last Sunday, just for fun, I decided to attend a service in my neighborhood and went to the United Methodist Church (UMC) which is just a few blocks away. To be honest the hymns were cheesy, the program was awful, the sermon was average, and I was the only person between the age of 15 and 35. But there was something incredibly attractive to me about the whole experience. I began to reflect on commuter verses neighborhood churches (“neighborhood church” defined as one that you could literally walk to). Most will agree that at a commuter church (most often mega churches), everyone has the privileged choice to be there (the ability to own a vehicle and afford the fuel expense alone requires privileged resources). In many cases, people consumeristically choose to go to a place where they fit in- the right theology, the right program, the right people. At the UMC, people either go there or they don’t attend at all.
In my view, attending church with your neighbors provides an essential formational dynamic for the individual as well as the body. People are forced to be in each other’s lives in a much more integrated way. Compartmentalizing work life, home life, and church life is much more difficult. Ignoring the needs of others is arduous (can you imagine hearing about how Jane is going to loose her home on Sunday morning and then actually seeing the eviction noticed posted on her front door?).
At the UMC service I noticed my neighbor John was attending. John lives at the end of my block and we exchange friendly waves and the annual cordial conversation on National Night Out. But John and I have a problem. He has two giant and very aggressive dogs (of the pit bull variety) patrolling his yard. I am very against the ownership of such animals and consider it to be a violent weapon (we’ve already lost one northside child to a pit bull attack this year). So what would it look like for me to approach John about this issue both as a block member and brother in Christ? What would other church members have to say as we sought to both watch over John’s property and protect our children? How might this change John and me in the process?
Obviously the issue of neighborhood and commuter-mega-churches is complex. I’m not going to stop my church commute any time soon, but I think what is lost in the absence of church neighbors must be acknowledged. Is it possible for the commuter-mega-church to circumvent this problem and experience Christlike character and spiritual formation in a similar manner?
Check out the Rain and the Rhinoceros blog for Ry Flyer’s insightful post, ‘Questing After God?’.
I’m having a hard time finding good blogs related to Spiritual Formation, Christian Spirituality and/or Christian Mysticism. If you know of any, please let me know!