Contemplating Contemplative Spirituality (Part 1)

Do you like flowers?

So every spring I like to move some of the flowers in my yard around and redesign things. Let’s get it out of the way right now: my yard will never be on the cover of Lawn & Garden. Maybe Junkyard, but, never L&G. I don’t have a lot of fancy landscaping – quite simple really. The weeds add variety and new shades of green, if you’re into variety. But one thing I’ve learned since owning a home is that when I dig up different plants their roots look different. Daylily and Daffodil roots seem to be small, hard, and bulb shaped, whereas Hosta roots are a clumpy, stringy, tangled mess. So, in digging around my yard before the flowers and plants come up, I usually can tell what it is before it blooms just by knowing the roots I’m looking at.

Roots determine what will grow.

And, if you want to be able to identify what you have in your yard, you can look at the roots. (The opposite is true too: you can also know what roots look like underground by the flower you’re looking at).

“So what?” you’re asking.

Well, we have something that is growing quickly in the Church today. It is “blossoming” all over our Christian “yard”. (1) What is it? It is called Contemplative Spirituality. What is Contemplative Spirituality? Well, I’m not sure there is an official definition, but, after studying it a little I will try to fling one into the hat:

It is the belief that certain spiritual “techniques” can bring you into a closer connection with God and gain a deeper Christian spirituality (2)

Through these techniques, you can hear the voice of God and receive direction and guidance for your life (3). As you study Contemplatives you frequently come across the proposed benefits of these techniques. They lead to experiences which are said to be the answer to all sorts of problems in people’s lives. Are you spiritually dry or disconnected? Are you just not getting enough out of Bible study and prayer? In other words, are you bored? Maybe you’re hurting? Maybe you’re in need of healing of the body and/or soul? Does your relationship with God just seem to be missing something? The answer, it is claimed, is that you need to discover Contemplative Spirituality. These kinds of problems can be resolved through the techniques being re-discovered from the “early” Church days (4).

So our questions here then are these: What are these techniques in Contemplative Spirituality? Where does Contemplative Spirituality come from? In other words, where do these “techniques” have their roots? In the Bible? Or, somewhere else? And, once we dig up the roots, can we then know what the fruit will be? We’ll try to unearth all this as we go forward. Next time we will describe our starting convictions, then the techniques involved with Contemplative Spirituality.

References (only samples of numerous examples to back the points above):

(1) a) “Christians of all sorts now know about the need for spiritual formation [contemplative spirituality], and look to saints Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant for guidance.” (Richard Foster, Interview in Christianity Today, “A Life Formed in the Spirit”, 9/17/2008). b) http://americamagazine.org/issue/379/article/centering-prayer. c) My own personal experience of so many people’s involvement has confirmed this as well.

(2) “ It is a powerful and essential discipline. Only silence will allow us life-transforming concentration upon God.” (Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, pg. 164) Silence is achieved by applying the techniques (spiritual disciplines) he outlines in his book, including centering prayer. Beth Moore spoke of the same thing in the DVD, “Be Still” when she says, “[I}f we are not still before Him [God], we will never truly know to the depths of the marrow of our bones that He is God. There’s got to be a stillness.”

(3) http://americamagazine.org/issue/379/article/centering-prayer, (underneath heading: The Fruits of Centering Prayer) (4) “My husband and I wanted to find a way to introduce others in the modern church to this beautiful early church practice.”—Amy Reinhold, Producer and Director of the DVD, “Be Still

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