Easy Prayer

I used to think that prayer was a spiritual exercise—
something that needed to be worked at, like running or vaulting.
But I was never any good at sports, and perhaps I would never be any good at prayer either.
After years of feeling useless and guilty,
I began to realize the truth of a comment made by one of the early Fathers of the church,
Clement of Alexandria.
He said that “prayer is keeping company with God.”
This began to give me a new focus on prayer.
I began to see prayer more as a friendship than a rigorous discipline.
It started to become more of a relationship and less of a performance.

James Houston, The Transforming Power of Prayer

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Little Bits of Good

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Desmond Tutu’s Forgiveness Challenge

Love this… worth the minute to watch…

http://forgivenesschallenge.com/your-invitation/

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Snow Geese

Once again, Mary Oliver captures the art of being present and alive in the moment…

Snow Geese
A poem by Mary Oliver

Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last!
What a task
to ask

of anything, or anyone,

yet it is ours,
and not by the century or the year, but by the hours.

One fall day I heard
above me, and above the sting of the wind, a sound
I did not know, and my look shot upward; it was

a flock of snow geese, winging it
faster than the ones we usually see,
and, being the color of snow, catching the sun

so they were, in part at least, golden. I

held my breath
as we do
sometimes
to stop time
when something wonderful
has touched us

as with a match,
which is lit, and bright,
but does not hurt
in the common way,
but delightfully,
as if delight
were the most serious thing
you ever felt.

The geese
flew on,
I have never seen them again.

Maybe I will, someday, somewhere.
Maybe I won’t.
It doesn’t matter.
What matters
is that, when I saw them,
I saw them
as through the veil, secretly, joyfully, clearly.

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Nouwen and The Savior of Zvenigorod

This powerful painting of Christ is called The Savior of Zvenigorod. It was originally painted by Andrei Rublev in Russia at the beginning of the 15th Century.
Rublev’s work is a miracle in and of itself. It survived. Many of Rublev’s greatest works were destroyed by invaders and soldiers. In 1918, this precious painting was found under a barn floor near the Cathedral of the Assumption, which is why it looks so damaged. Henri Nouwen, in his meditation on the painting, suggests the damage was meaningful: “When I first saw the icon, I had the distinct sense that the face of Christ appears in the midst of great chaos. A sad but beautiful face looks at us through the ruins of the world. To me, this holy face expresses the depth of God’s immense compassion in the midst of our increasingly violent world. Through centuries of destruction and war, the face of the incarnate word has spoken of God’s mercy, reminded us of the image in which we were created, and called us to conversion. Indeed, it is the face of the Peacemaker.”
It is worth taking a few minutes to gaze at the painting and see what feelings/insights emerge.

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A Prayer at Night

Love this prayer from the New Zealand Prayer Book. Perfect for ending a day.

Lord it is night.

The night is for stillness.
Let us be still in the presence of God.

It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done; what has not been done has not been done.

Let it be.

The night is dark.
Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives rest in you.

The night is quiet.
Let the quietness of your peace enfold us, all dear to us, and all who have no peace.

The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities.

In your name we pray.

Amen

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Aquarium Christianity

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I recently learned that that one of the most valued and sought after saltwater aquarium fish are baby sharks. This is because if you place a baby shark in a small (100 gallon) aquarium it will stay small, usually less than a foot long. The same shark in the ocean may be 12 feet long! The sharks growth is literally defined by the limitations of its environment. The same is true for us spiritually. We were designed for the wide open space of the ocean yet many of us are living in aquarium Christianity! In Christ, we have the wide open space to become our true, full selves. Let us not assume we have a handle on God or this whole gospel thing figured out. In the words of St. Augustine, “si comprehendis non est Deus” (if you understand it, it is not God). Leap out of the aquarium and into the infinite ocean of the gospel of grace!

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The Liminal Space of Lent

It is the beginning of Lent. If you’re new to this liturgical season, Lent is an old English word that simply means spring. It’s the season we prepare our hearts as we approach the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The season of Lent began on Ash Wednesday, and lasts 40 days (excluding Sundays). These 40 days represent the time Jesus spent fasting and praying in the wilderness.

Now I have to be honest, historically Lent has been one of my least favorite seasons in the liturgical calendar. Easter and Christmas… those are seasons. Parties, celebrations, fun get togethers. But Lent… Lent was always… “So what are you giving up?” “What thing in your life that you really enjoy are you going to sacrifice to God?” And so many of the Lenten prayers and sermons I heard growing up seemed to emphasize a worm theology… you know… we are to grovel like unworthy worms before God. It all seemed so harsh and medieval.

But my perspective on Lent has shifted over the years. I now see the brilliance of the church mothers and fathers who organized the liturgical calendar. They understood that it is a good and wonderful thing to have seasons of abundance and celebration. They also understood that if we truly want to experience the transformational love of God, we need seasons of fasting and letting go. The season of Lent is an invitation to join Jesus in the wilderness so that we can experience divine love… so that our head knowledge about the love of God can make that 18 inch journey down into our hearts.

In the book of Matthew, chapter for starts with the words, “After Jesus was baptized, he was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” I don’t know how that strikes you but that line is a little jarring. The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil? That sounds harmful. That sounds dangerous. Why would the Spirit do that? At this season of my life, I hold on to very few absolute truths, but I do believe with my being that the Spirit of God would never lead us to harm. I believe every gentle movement of the Spirit is pure invitation into freedom, joy, and discovering our belovedness. So if that’s true, what is going on here?

We learn that Jesus enters the wilderness directly on the heels of his baptism. Earlier in the Gospel of Matthew, we read that when Jesus was baptized, the Spirit descended on him like a dove and God the Father declared from heaven, “This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life” (Mat 3:17). It was on the heels of this incredible mountain-top experience of the Spirit pouring into him and the voice of God declaring his belovedness that the Spirit leads him into the wilderness.

To understand what’s happening here, we need a Biblical perspective of the wilderness. In both the Old Testament and the New, the wilderness is portrayed as chaotic and raw and where the wild things are. It’s a place where people wrestle with themselves and the devil. But in the same breath it is the place where people meet God and walk out forever changed. Remember in the Old Testament, the Israelites traveled through the wilderness for 40 years after escaping Egypt. The wilderness was a ‘liminal’ space between slavery in Egypt and freedom in the Promised Land. It was the place where they realized they were not slaves… but God’s chosen people… the beloved sons and daughters of God. The wilderness was the place of struggle where they discovered their true identity. And that is what I mean by “liminal space.” The term comes from the Latin word “limen” which literally means “threshold.” It is the space that exists on the threshold between two different planes. City planners use it to describe the transitional space between rural and urban development. Anthropologists use the term to describe the rites of passage surrounding the transition from childhood to adulthood. And, spiritually speaking, wilderness is the liminal space between head knowledge and transformational experience of divine love.

Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness so that the declaration of God’s love could soak deep into his heart. Jesus fasted and prayed and endured loneliness, weakness, and temptation. The result? The truths of God were rooted deeply within him. At the end of our Gospel reading (Matthew 4:1-11), the devil has fled, the angels are ministering to Jesus, and he’s utterly aware of his identity as God’s beloved.

Why it takes the wilderness to bring truths home, I don’t know. I wish we could learn these things while sitting on the beach sipping an umbrella drink but it doesn’t usually work that way.

Over the years, I have become convinced that the road to connection and intimacy with God and one another is through the liminal space of the wilderness. It reminds me of when my wife Beth and I were seniors in college. We were engaged and planning our wedding for the weekend after graduation. I liked Beth’s father Joe and really, really wanted his approval. He intimidated me, like a lot of fathers-in- law I suppose, and when we were together I tried hard to impress him. I would try to wow him with my stories or make him laugh with slightly off color jokes… but I was trying too hard. You know when you’re around someone trying too hard? I always felt like a puffer fish… trying to be bigger and more together than I was. And while he was nice to me, there was distance between us. I knew I was supposed to just be myself but that’s easier said than done.

On one visit to their home in Raleigh, he invited me down to his garage to show me his latest purchase… a brand new Harley Davidson motorcycle. It was beautiful… straight from the factory. He told me that he had not ridden it yet… was waiting till he got his license. Now, I had ridden some dirt bikes when I was younger and realized… this is it! I’ll ride this Harley and prove my awesomeness on a whole new level. He seemed a bit nervous but after my reassuring him that I was a motorcycling guru, he walked his bike out to the end of the driveway and told me to take a spin around the neighborhood. With a nod of the head, I got on the bike and started it up. It is difficult to overstate my level of coolness at that moment. I was dripping with confidence as that loud Harley engine rumbled. I looked both ways, revved it up, and let out the clutch. Now, I must have let the clutch out too fast because the bike and I take off like a bullet, right across the street and into a ditch. Now, at this point, things started going in slow motion as I flew over the handle bars. I thought, I can’t believe this is happening, Joe is going to kill me. And when I landed, I wanted to die… “Just take me home Jesus!” I laid there, face down in the ditch taking inventory realizing I was fine… just a couple scratches. I turned around and looked at Joe. He stood there with a totally blank expression on his face. I picked up the bike and it was scratched all the way down the side. The blinker had snapped off and was dangling pitifully by a wire. I pushed it back across the street, walking slowly past Joe, down the driveway and into the garage.

I felt awful and utterly embarrassed. Joe walked up and asked if I was alright. I told him I was and he said, “Greg, it’s OK… you’re not going to ride my Harley again until you get a license but it’s OK.” I went upstairs to hide out but a few hours later, Joe found me and invited me to sit out on the porch for a couple beers. We started retelling the story and soon enough we were laughing about it. Joe had tears in his eyes laughing about my flight over the handle bars… finding my arrogance particularly funny. For the first time I didn’t feel like there was any space to puff up… only room to be my authentic self with him. At the end of the night, still laughing, he gave me a giant bear hug… it was a quantum leap forward in our friendship. The connection and intimacy did not happen because I was so together, but precisely because I wasn’t. It was in my weakness that love broke through. It was through exposure that I let go of puffing up and was simply myself. The Harley wreck was the liminal space between puffery and authenticity.

And that is what the Lenten invitation into the wilderness is all about. To create the liminal space where the truths of God can land, transformationally, in our lives. Where all that good stuff in our heads can make real life impact. It is important to remember that we have no ability to change our hearts. In fact, we can’t change ourselves one whit. We have no more ability to make ourselves grow spiritually than a farmer can force a seed to grow. But, we do have the ability to till the soil… to create a rich environment where the seed can grow. We do have the ability to step into the wilderness where God can meets us in whatever wild way he chooses. And that is what Lenten practices are… they are like a mini-wilderness in the middle of our busy lives… little thresholds and liminal spaces where the Spirit can prepare our hearts and bring the truths of God home. And they don’t have to be big and dramatic like fasting for 40 days wilderness. Even small practices create space for God to do amazing things.

There are countless practices you can adopt. Perhaps the most common is fasting or giving something up. Fasting creates a mini-wilderness by adding a pause of disruption to our normal patterns of operation. Let’s say you decide to fast and skip a meal. Instead of automatically grabbing some food when you’re hungry… when the hunger pang hits… you pause… your normal pattern disrupted. Space is created where you are invited to reflect on the reality that God is your true sustenance. Or as Jesus said, “man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

There are lots of ways to create this liminal space this season of Lent. You could choose not to turn on the car radio and offer that silence to God. You could crate space by going through your clothes and donating items to Goodwill. You could choose to be financially generous… or even simply go buy a bunch of $5 fast food gift cards and hand them out to homeless people. Maybe you have been holding a grudge and can create space forgive someone. Perhaps think about an internet diet… Where you take a break from social media. Or even sit in silence a few minutes a day, giving that time of stillness to God.

All of these simple practices disrupt our normal patterns of operation and create wilderness space for the Spirit of God to flow in and through us. Most of our spiritual growth occurs in these small ways and over time we look back and see the amazing transformation in our lives. And even though our transformation is slow, it should never be under-appreciated or underestimated… because God is radically committed to nothing less than our total healing and experience of infinite love.

I will close with this story from the World War II concentration camp survivor Corey Ten Boom. She had endured the evil of Ravensbruck prison camp and even watched her sister die there. But despite all of that, amazingly, she kept her heart open. She wrote about her belief, that in the wilderness, the power and healing of God could flow. She said practices might even feel wooden and awkward but God could do incredible work in and through us if we make the space. She wrote about one particular night that she was speaking at a church when she noticed a man, sitting in the back pew and her heart froze. She recognized him as one of the cruel and brutal concentration camp guards. At the end of her talk, he walked down the aisle and straight up to Corey.

He said, “You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk. I was a guard there. But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein,’ he said holding out his hand, ‘will you forgive me?’ And I stood there and could not. My sister had died in that place; could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking? It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do. For I had to do it- I knew that but still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘Jesus, help me!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’ And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’ For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.”

She chose to walk into the wilderness. In the confusion and mix of emotions, she held out her hand and created space for God to move and a miracle happened.

So let us have the courage to follow the Spirit into the wilderness… who knows what wonderful things God will do in and through us.

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The Five Mountains of Spiritual Growth

St. Paul begins his first letter to the house churches of Corinth with a bang. Apparently there was significant tension, infighting, and conflict between church members. Paul, in his typical blunt style, tells them they are acting like babies… spiritual babies that need to grow up. He says, “Brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready.

The implications of Paul’s words are significant. This may seem obvious, but Paul is saying you can be a physically grown adult and still be spiritual young. Outwardly we may be physically strong and attractive, our achievements enviable, and our bank accounts full… but still remain spiritually young. But Paul is writing them to encourage them to grow and tend to this unseen part of life.

This is the inner journey that drives all the other parts of our lives. If we tend to this unseen part of our lives, we can experience deep inner peace, transformational intimacy with God, and become powerful conduits of divine love in the world.
So if this inner spiritual journey is so critical, how do we grow? This is a question that church mothers and fathers have been wrestling with and exploring for thousands of years. In the early 7th century, John Climacus, wrote The Ladder of Divine Ascent where he described the 30 stages of spiritual growth. He says a person’s journey culminates into a life of love. We don’t have quite enough time to review John’s 30 stages today but fortunately there are other more streamlined systems. In the 16th century St. John of the Cross described 4 distinct stages of growth. Modern authors M. Scott Peck and Brian McLaren also present 4 stage schemas. Franciscan Friar Richard Rohr wrote a wonderful 9 stage map of spiritual growth.

I like the metaphor of a spiritual map to describe growth. A ladder seems so linear but a map opens us up to all sorts of possibilities. When I prepare to lead a wilderness retreat, the first thing I do is get out detailed maps of the mountain range. I lay them out on the table and explore all the potential routes. I can see the rivers and all the mountain peaks, the places to shelter and the places to find water. Maps can help us know where to go and they open our eyes to all that’s out there. When I look at those maps, I don’t see paper and ink, I see adventures and lots of new possibilities.

Spiritual growth maps do the same thing. Without these maps, we can begin to think that what we’re experiencing now is all there is for us. We limit ourselves.

I recently learned that that one of the most valued and sought after saltwater aquarium fish are baby sharks. This is because if you place a baby shark in a small (100 gallon) aquarium it will stay small, usually less than a foot long. The same shark in the ocean may be 12 feet long! The shark’s growth is literally defined by the limitations of its environment. The same is true for us spiritually. Spiritual maps help us see how big the world really is. They call us out of the aquarium and into the ocean. We were designed for the wide open space of the ocean yet many of us are living in aquarium Christianity! In Christ, we have the wide open space to become our true, full selves. And spiritual maps show us how big the world is. So let’s break out the map, put it out on the table to explore the possibilities. Because every one of us, whether 9 or 90, is called further out on the trail and into a deeper, transformational experience of God.

I synthesized the spiritual journey into 5 stages leaning heavily on the works of Franciscan Friar Richard Rohr, Brian McLaren, and John of the Cross. Each stage is like a mountain on the map for us to explore. The five stages are Simplicity, Insight, Shadow, Surrender, and Unity.

The danger in talking about stages is that the ego wants to view the stages as a hierarchy. We want to first rank ourselves and then rank the person sitting next to us. But this is not a race. It is an organic process where God leads us each deeper into his love. Each stage is necessary and valuable and we revisit them again and again throughout our lives.

The stages are also cumulative. It’s like the rings of a tree; each stage builds on the previous one. At the same time, the journey is not linear where we simply grow in a clean straight line. It is fluid and much more like an ascending spiral where we revisit the earlier stages again and again but each time with greater depth.

The first stage/mountain is Simplicity.
In this stage, your identity is your body and your outward behavior. The focus is being right and the major belief is that all truth is knowable and there are easy answers to every question. They like pastors, politicians, and other leaders who are confident, uncompromising, and know all the answers. They tend to dislike unsure people who say, “I don’t know.”

Folks in this stage are binary and dualistic in thinking… “It is us versus them.” The strengths are that people at this stage are highly committed and willing to sacrifice for the cause. Weaknesses include being judgmental, intolerant, and arrogant. The folks Paul was writing to in Corinth are at this stage.
So how do people grow from one stage to another? Disruption and doubt. St. Paul recognizes they are stuck in this limited thinking and so writes them a disruptive letter. He wants to disrupt their existing world-views and create the space for them to open up to a new way of thinking. You begin to doubt that things are as simple and clear as you assumed. The transition from one stage to another is usually scary. It’s like swinging on a trapeze. You are there, grabbing onto the trapeze, swinging comfortably when all of a sudden, a new trapeze swings towards you out of the blue. If you are disrupted enough, you are willing to take the risk. You let go of your old bar and reach towards the new. You experience that terrifying moment of inbetweeness where you no longer believe your old way of thinking but things are unclear and your new system is not defined. But finally, your hands close around the next trapeze and you discover the next mountain.

The second stage/mountain is Insight.
At this stage, the easy answers no longer work. Your eyes are opened to the reality that things are far more complex than they used to believe. You begin to dislike people who are too dogmatic. You now identify yourself as your thoughts and their feelings. You quote authors, like learning, and have become quite introspective.

Richard Rohr believes most of educated America and Europe are stalled at this stage. He says folks at this stage “are good people; they are easy to make friends with. They are dialogical and conversational. But do not ask them to go very far beyond their own comfort zone or their own egocentricity.” The blind spot is the belief that knowledge equals change. At this point, education is often a substitute for actual transformation.

I now have teenagers but when Beth and I first had kids, those were some particularly tough years. I was working in a church full time, in seminary, and figuring out this whole parenting thing. We were both exhausted all the time and had little energy or grace for each other. I would get home after a long day of ministry and study and into the chaos of a home with multiple kids under five. Honestly, most of our interactions were full of tension and argument. Some good friends recommended that we go and talk to a counselor. I was reluctant but finally agreed to go. I genuinely believed I had a good handle on my issues. I spent the first couple of counseling sessions doing an excellent job of diagnosing myself. I wanted to make it clear to everyone that I was smarter than the counselor and tried to stay one step ahead of every question she would ask… beating her to the punch on any issue she asked me about. After the third session, she interrupted me and said, “Greg, you do an excellent job of diagnosing your issues but you don’t do anything about it. You have a lot of knowledge but I see no real transformation or change in your life.” And it pierced me. It was absolutely true. I could write dissertations on childhood issues and the love of God but it made no real impact in my life. There was a disconnect between my head and my heart.

The counselor’s words were the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. Her words, along with the stress in my marriage, the chaos of parenting, and the pressures of ministry and studies propelled me to make a change. To stop living in my head and take an honest look at myself.

And that is what it takes to move from stage two to stage three. It takes great love and great suffering. Unless there is humiliation and struggle that strips us of our facades and our head-based identity, we won’t move on to the next stage.

The third stage/mountain is Shadow.
The focus in this stage is to see through your illusions to reality. In this stage you ask hard questions and try to be ruthlessly honest. The major belief is that nothing is certain anymore… everything seems up in the air. People in the shadow stage tend to dislike people in Stage 1 and 2 viewing them as shallow and superficial. Richard Rohr says of this stage that “Here you meet yourself in your raw, unvarnished, uncivilized state, and you start dealing very realistically with your own shadow self, phoniness, mixed motives, and actual unlovingness.”

The work of Stage three can go on for quite a long time and it can be lonely and painful. It is easy in this stage to fall into cynicism and elitism. This is the dark night of the soul. You either drift away from faith in cynicism or bring your unvarnished angst and honest doubt to God… like Jacob wrestling the angel and refusing to let go.

It is often a time where the deepest questions of our hearts surface… “God you tell me to trust you but how can I trust a God that allows such evil and suffering in the world? How can I trust a God that would allow that to happen to my friend or allow this to happen to me when I was young?”
If you do not bring your honest struggles to God and have someone believing in you and loving you, you will stall in this stage and even regress.

As painful as this stage is, it tills up the soil of the heart to receive the unconditional love of God in powerful and transformational ways. The dark night of the soul is the only doorway to deep freedom. For those that remain open, they discover the next spiritual mountain.

The fourth stage/mountain is Surrender.
After the technicolor struggle of stage three, you embrace the reality that you are empty and powerless. There is a surrender of self into God’s hands at this stage that was impossible before. You have learned your powerlessness and realize all you can do is wait and ask and trust.

It is in this “waiting room” that you learn real grace and compassion. You learn patience and what it means to forgive yourself and so, for the first time, truly forgive others. You learn what it means to be gentle with yourself the way God is gentle with you. This is why John of the Cross described this stage as “luminous darkness.”

If you are willing to keep your hands open, and grow comfortable with the constant feeling of uncomfortableness, you will move on to stage five.

The fifth mountain/stage is Unity.
As you experience your powerlessness and reach a place of deep surrender, you discover the presence of God all around and within. You experience that you are intimately and inseparably in union with God. This is what St. Paul meant when he said: “I live no longer, not I, but I live in Christ, and Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

This is your true self emerging, like a butterfly from a chrysalis. Joy and contentment flows from this inner connection with God and are available no matter the circumstances of life. You realize this is what you were made for and heaven is now. I personally don’t know anyone who functions in this stage every minute of the day but we grow more and more in simply abiding here.

In this stage, the major belief is that there are a few basic absolute truths and much mystery. Pastors and leaders are viewed as regular folks just doing their best. You live each day as a conduit of divine love with everyone you meet. You see the value in all the stages of growth and have compassion on folks in each stage.

Brian McLaren writes, “That this stage is the last stage doesn’t suggest that one lives happily ever after! At this stage of integration, one now faces all the weaknesses of the previous stages. Whenever one enters a new context, a new career, a new religion, a new social network, he or she may well recapitulate the stages repeatedly. After all, humility, like maturity, is obviously not a destination, but rather a journey in itself.”

So those are the five stages of spiritual growth or 5 mountains on the map. Simplicity, Insight, Shadow, Surrender, and Unity. God is with us, right now, as guide and teacher and loving healer, inviting us to a life of adventure on the trapeze… to always keep our hearts open to the next trapeze. I want to close with a quote from author and minister Mike Yaconelli that brought me to tears. He who wrote these words just a few months before he passed away in a car accident.

“So here I stand, looking at the ground, smelling the faint fragrance of God. Never once did it occur to me that when I found God’s trail again, it would ruin my life forever – for once you feel the breath of God on your skin, you can never turn back, you can never settle for what was, you can only move on recklessly, with abandon, your heart filled with fear, your ears ringing with the constant whisper, ‘Fear not.’ Once you find where the trail is, you are faced with a sobering truth – in order to go on, you must let go of what brought you here. You cannot go on without turning your back on what brought you to this place. It is like swinging on the trapeze. Once you have gained the courage to swing, you never want to let go… and then, without warning, you look up and see another trapeze swinging towards you, and you realize you are being asked to let go and grab the other trapeze. You have to release your grip. You have to reach out. You have to experience the glorious terror of inbetweeness as you disconnect from one and reach for the other. I haven’t reached the other bar yet. I am somewhere in between, but I can tell you this: my heart is filled with exhilaration, an anxious anticipation that just as I get to the other bar, I will not grasp it, but instead be grasped by the hand of Jesus. I can hardly wait.”

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Life of the Beloved Retreat

Life of the Beloved Retreat
Discovering our True Selves
A Weekend Retreat at St. Francis Springs Prayer Center
Friday – Sunday, March 28-30

Facilitated by:
Greg Farrand and Beth Farrand, Selah Spiritual Formation
Marilyn Wolf, Full Circle Counseling, Consulting, and Spiritual Direction

“To be a saint means to be myself.”
Thomas Merton

As we claim our identity as God’s Beloved, we draw closer and closer to our true self, to the self we were created to be, the self which is one with God.

Using the work of Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault and other spiritual teachers as our inspiration, together we will explore what it means to live life as God’s Beloved and thus to see ourselves, others and the world through the eyes of our true self.

Our retreat will include guided group sharing, prayer, silence, and opportunities for simple creative expression. We will begin with a gathering at 5:00 on Friday afternoon, followed by dinner at 6:00 and an evening session. We will conclude at 2:00 on Sunday after lunch.

Cost:
Residential: Double Rooms – $260 per person / Single Rooms – $300
Commuter: $175 (includes dinner on Fri. & Sat. and lunch on Sat. & Sun.)

To Register:
Email Marilyn Wolf at mwolf1124@aol.com.
She will mail or email you a registration form which you can mail or email back to her.
Be sure to put “Beloved Retreat” in the subject line. You may also call Marilyn at 336-288-0588.

Our Setting:
St. Francis Springs Prayer Center, Stoneville NC – http://www.stfrancissprings.com

From the moment we claim the truth of being the Beloved,
we are faced with the call to become who we are.”

Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved

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