welcome to the disparate musings of a Christian-existential-zen-wanderer on the fringes of everything in pursuit of God

an experiment with practical mysticism August 31, 2012

Filed under: Christian mysticism — GraceHabit @ 5:38 PM

Before even 8am rolled around on the clock – a heavy burden settled on my shoulders. Jesus says “cast your burdens on Me” – but with fall here today was packed! What to do??


Yes – the serenity of a hermit-ed mystic’s experience can seem enviable.


I’ll never know – that’s not my calling.


My calling is to lean as hard on God’s presence as I can – and live devoted to Him in the world and for the lost in the world. To even – be efficient in how I order my inner existence before the Lord – so He can prod me into action with no effort … to be a nuts-and-bolts mystic.


Today that meant getting to the business of casting that weighty care on His loving shoulders – not the fetid juices of fear and worry that threatened to rot it into an unwarranted dread steal hope. So – instead of trying to quickly still my soul before Him in this state – I grabbed my pooch and headed for the park. And jogged and jogged – while reciting the Jesus prayer – along a very familiar and very boring path. I’m not at all fit – but the effort burned off my anxiousness – and the sudden disappearance of the stress made it very easy for the Jesus prayer to transition into a trusting release of what I cannot control. By the time the burden was shifted from me to Him – I was shocked by how far we’d gone


for a more meditative prayer life …

Filed under: Christian mysticism — GraceHabit @ 9:53 AM

Not long ago I kept a pretty crazy schedule – loads of work hours, loads of hours on the road – and a whole second job to work when I returned home. In fact – the second job was the one I saw as my “real career”.


One of the greatest evils of that season as I look back on it now is the degree to which the frenetic pace wore away my resolve to meditate, to live in constant prayer and listening-communication with God. As a result of my diminished meditative times combined with a life-style that compelled constant action – there were – flash points – in relationships that I missed. Or if I didn’t miss them completely – I responded with the “wisdom” I had at hand (maybe with what James would call “earthly wisdom” – rather than waiting on the Lord for the wisdom He offers generously and without reproach. Had I done so – it’s possible that at least in some of those situations I could have responded in a way that was more loving, more life-giving and more supportive of the Kingdom of God on earth.


Now – in a very very different season of life – and facing a very wisdom-demanding situation tomorrow – I’m going to make a concerted effort to sit before the Lord in prayer today – so when I have the conversation tomorrow – I can bring less of me/my stuff and more of God’s wisdom, presence, and grace.


walking by faith is like walking by smell August 29, 2012

Filed under: faith — GraceHabit @ 2:12 PM
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Hang with me a second. Yesterday while walking my dog through the marsh – I was meditating on what it means to walk by faith. (2 Cor 5:7) But what does that look like? How do I walk less by sight and more by faith? What area of my life am I walking by faith instead of by sight – and it’s within my grasp to toggle that switch today?


Thinking along these lines was interrupted as my dog (part terrier) yanked as she enthusiastically bolted after some poor thing she aimed to make into a snack. In that moment – I thought “Phoebe walks by smell not faith!” An amusing picture initially – but then it hit me … my dog does walk by smell. Every step of every walk she 100% committed to discovering and exploring smells. Like many dogs – she’d rather smell than see – there’s just so much more information available through smells – so she lives for smells. She’s so oriented to capturing every aroma – she’ll awaken from a sound sleep – as soon as my neighbor lights his grill.


I love being outside for different reasons (let’s hope right!) For me it’s about the beauty, the wildlife – and I will bolt off the trail too – not altogether unlike my dog – to capture a view, a glimpse of wood ducks, or to find berries … While outside – I think it’s fair to say I walk by a passion for nature. Then God brought images to mind of times I’ve let my choices be dictated by fear, pride, bitterness, comfort – and it’s fair to say in those moments I walked by those things … by the sight of them as they appear to my carnal nature – rather than by the Truth (big T) of those things as God sees them. Can I orient myself so – by walking by faith instead of by sight – I’m aware of the greater abundance of information?


Clumsy metaphors might hinder you in your walking by faith – and I can be remarkably dull on very obvious points – but my dog’s commitment to walking by smell stirred up previously unthought ideas on walking by faith.


centering? … anchoring!

Filed under: Christian mysticism — GraceHabit @ 1:31 PM

Protestant prayer lingo hits now and again on the idea of centering prayer – a prayer, or way of praying that centers and/or re-centers our souls on the call and work of Christ in our lives. And by prayer or way of praying – I speak in a very general sense. Worship can do this. Study can too. Centering most often refers to prayer though.


But – what if it’s not just centering – but also anchoring. As in – fixing us to Christ and His heart – His trans-formative work in our lives? What if it’s even a bonding sort of experience? If I think about centering experiences in this way then it’s easier to imagine what a gift Christian mysticism imparted to Christianity over the centuries – and what spiritual poverty we face in a world where it’s so nearly forgotten.


While certainly all are not called to it – just like I know my church’s worship team will never ring my number looking for help (and they are right! trust me!!) – maybe for those whom God has gifted to relate and speak on this matter – it’s just as important for them to flex their spiritual muscles along these lines as it is to keep encouraging amazing worship, substantial exegesis, and accessible teaching. Maybe it’s time to create and encourage access to this pursuit of God.


could we ever have a church without worship?

Filed under: Christian mysticism — GraceHabit @ 1:01 PM

I’m not in any way suggesting this. May it never be! I’m just pondering could such a possibility exist? I’ve never walked in a church of any stripe that didn’t have worship in the form of music. I’ve worshiped in Stephansdom in Vienna with the beautifully played ancient pipe organ in the background – and I’ve worshiped in an African hut church of woven banana leaves using a one gallon gas can filled with a handful of dried beans and an old guitar with a semi-disassembled, re-purposed radio modified into a sort of amplifier. It seems our souls don’t just demand worship – we invariably recreate it everywhere believers regularly come together – and frequently when we just spontaneously meet. Worship is that integral to our connection to God.


The last 250 years has been a season of crisis for Christian mysticism. Is it possible this crisis arose in part because the work of mystics isn’t nearly as obvious to the body as that of worship, teaching, service … ? Is it possible that this crisis undermines the over all health of the whole – the same way an absence of communion, or prayer, Bible study would?


It’s interesting to me – that while it’s very difficult to imagine the Buddhists without their monks and monasteries, and difficult to imagine Hindus without their swamis and ashrams – it’s very easy – almost a foregone conclusion – to imagine Christianity without mystics.


Is this actually so much as imagining the body of Christ without a vital organ though?


how Christian mysticism can be relevant August 28, 2012

Filed under: Christian mysticism — GraceHabit @ 8:20 PM

Have you ever looked at how mystics lived? Lemme see – there were the ones who lived in miserable medieval convents and monasteries  – then there were the  “discalced” (aka: shoeless). And all of them had it pretty good compared to the ones who lived as hermits in the middle eastern desserts. Next time you’re at a retreat and struggling to enjoy it – just imagine how these people lived. There simply were no spa-mystics. [insert sound of gigantic internet vacuum as 90% of site visitors emphatically leave!] They didn’t do just so they could have white-bread times of contemplating God – but so they could consume their hearts and minds for years with meditation on the transfiguration, God’s love, or the Passion of Christ, or … I think you get it.


Is it any thing more than entertaining or slightly inspiring to read the musings of these life-long suffer-fest types? Aren’t they just holy-ed up masochists?


Probably not.


Ever hear of the Jesus prayer? Gregory of Nyssa, Athanasius of Alexandria and those who followed them in the East developed the Jesus prayer (Lord Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!) by the 6th century as a meditative and centering prayer. It’s enjoyed revival upon revival over the centuries and is considered by some to be first among the few authentic Christian mantras. That little factoid doesn’t have that much cache – unless you talk to someone who’s been powerfully impacted by that prayer. This is just one example of how mystics from centuries ago are still impacting the faith today.


Who can say if the self-denial fueled efforts of the great body of Christian mystics all over the globe served a larger purpose or how their sufferings fanned the flame of faith.  It seems unlikely to me that culture would propitiate utterly self-gratifying, self-absorbed navel gazing for any serious length of time. No – for such a tradition to exist so seamlessly with Christianity everywhere they must have given much.


But what would a Kingdom and civic serving revival of 21st century Christian mysticism look like? Never before has – for instance – a live global dialog and open call to prayer been possible. What if a global revival of those wired capable of not only fanning flames of faith but meditatively seeking the God’s infinite wisdom on all manner of global and local problems that sap our courage and leave people questioning if God even has answers to these burdens.


What if the tough answers we so desperately need can’t be found but through shared, global, contemplative, aescthetic, mystical, meditative and consuming prayer? It’s a vision of 21st century christian mysticism I can get behind though!


a better definition August 27, 2012

Filed under: Christian mysticism — GraceHabit @ 5:24 PM

“The story of the Christian mystics is one of an all-consuming, passionate love affair between human beings and God. It speaks of the yearning, a burning desire for the contemplation and presence of the divine … This yearning is a candle by the fire of divine love itself, which moves the mystics in their search and leads him, often on arduous journeys, to discover and proclaim the all-encompassing love of God for humankind.” Ursula King