Monday, December 31, 2007

Google Docs Account

I've set up a google docs account for posting community related articles written by us. Feel free to upload to it. The email and password to log on are the same as for this blog. The url to the site it:

Nothing other than a "Welcome" note is posted yet, but I plan on uploading an article or two before too long.

-- Paul Corrigan

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Centering Prayer

Do not store up treasures in heaven where moths destroy and thieves steal. -- Jesus
Why do you spend your money on what's not bread and your labor on what doesn't satisfy? -- Isaiah
As Christians, it seems, we are all as perfect and holy as God in the empty center of our true selves. In the ground of our being, God is our apophatic reality. In the center, we are in God and God is in us. Our kataphatic lives, however, are the messes we see (or perhaps are blind to). The purpose of centering prayer--it seems to me--is to bring the inner and outer realities (the apophatic and kataphatic) into contact with each other. The true self cannot be corrupted by this, but the mess we live can be gradually drawn towards unification, defragmentation, and purity.

I'm not sure how the verses above tie into this reflection, but I think they do: something about priorities and the economy of time.

-- Paul Corrigan

Monday, December 17, 2007

Community Activities

Dear Community, I asked Paul for permission to post these paragraphs below from the email he sent out to us yesterday morning. They are a rich example of the kind of intiative and caring investment that I hope we will develop more of--Rickey Cotton

"A number of us have been discussing a few community events we could hold over winter break, so I thought that I would synthesize some of what's been said and email it to you all to see what the level of interest is and to see if we can set some things down on a calendar.

"Here are the two (related) ideas: (1) A week (or two week) discussion online. We would pick a topic (specific or broad) and make some "guidelines" for contributing. We could either do this through email using the "reply to all" button (which, by the way, is how you should respond to this email); or we could host the discussion on the blog (which is what it is for anyway). Please respond, suggest a topic, if you would like to, or dates for when to have the conversation. (The idea behind setting a beginning and an ending date is that it will facilitate more focused contribution than otherwise). Also, feel free to put out "guidelines" for suggestions. For example, I'll suggest one: Over the course of the week, we could each aim to contribute at least three comments about a paragraph in length.

"(2) A community meeting. Let's meet some time for communion, prayer, and dialogue. The online discussion above could either flow into or out of this event (or happen independently). According to what schedules I've synthesized so far of when people will be in Lakeland (assuming that is where we will hold the event), the window of opportunity is Dec 28 to Jan 3. Please send suggestions for dates. The event and discussion about it is and should be multi-authored (even though I'm sending this email). So please, hit the "reply to all" button (each person thereafter hitting the "reply to all" button on the latest email in the discussion) and let's talk about these ideas.

"God bless. Looking forward to some sweet prayer, discussion, and fellowship in the spirit."

Paul Corrigan

Friday, December 14, 2007

Keating & Freeman Conference

This past weekend ( 12.7.07--12.9.07)Rickey and I went to a conference in Sarasota. The theme was peace. Fr. Keating and Fr. Freeman spoke together. (Do you remember they are both Catholic priests, but they each have their own group with a specific approach to Christian mediation?) The whole event was deeply meaningful to me personally. I was encouraged and strengthened. It was significant to me that both men of God were received with honor and respect. It was unifying to share meditation periods together. (We prayed once Friday evening before the talks began. We prayed three times on Saturday and twice on Sunday.) Rickey returned to Lakeland on Saturday for SEU graduation and missed 2/3 of the day. He particularly missed the talk Fr. Freeman gave on education and contemplative spirituality. If you'll give me room, I'll try to say with honesty that Fr. Freeman described Rickey's philosophy and practice. (Our friends gently joked with him about what he had missed, but together they said he would have agreed.) It was meaningful to me for a whole room of contemplative folks to hear what is vitally important in education being articulated clearly from a respected voice. He pulled things together by saying a proper view and practice of education cuts across fear. If we can cease being fearful, we can cease being violent. (Be assured I am leaving out a significant amount of nuance.)

At lunch on Saturday, a stranger joined our group for conversation. She was particularly interested in how we shared the contemplative life. We all spoke articulately about the goals and specific teaching sessions we (as Representatives of Contemplative Outreach of Tampa Bay) made available to our larger church communities. We told about the importance of retreats and how difficult they were to finance. I briefly mentioned Rickey's investment in students at a Christian university. So when Rickey was introduced to her on Sunday, she had a whole set of questions ready for him. It turns out she is the director for a charitable trust that has funded both groups, CO--Contemplative Outreach and WCCM--World Community for Christian Meditation. It's interesting, but we don't know what it means.

Fr. Freeman spoke about us all being monks. "A monk," he said, "is one who seeks God." But we must realize deep spirituality is not about withdrawing. It is about integrating wisdom into every part of our lives. He closed with a quote from the beatitudes; "The pure of heart shall see God." Purity of heart is what we need to cultivate. Amen

Anna Cotton

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Freedom to Love

Paul tells the Galatian church to use the freedom they have in Christ to love each other as they would want to be loved, which fulfills the entire Law (vss. 13-14). Christ's freedom allows us to love each other across racial, gender, denominational boundaries and even to love our enemies. A few chapters back, Paul had told his readers that Christ destroyed all of these barriers, and there is “neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free,” etc. (Gal. 3:28-29).

It is so difficult at times to love each other because the flesh and the Spirit fight against each other, but if Christians are led by the Holy Spirit, we are free to truly love (vss. 17-18). It is very tempting to think that freedom means to be able to do whatever one wants, but Paul's idea of freedom is being free to love, to serve—freedom from the selfish illusions of one's own false self. God is love (1 John 4:8) so we can only love through Him, by the help of His Spirit. Love is not an emotion or a nice feeling, though emotions often go with it; one way I have come to speak of love is as an absolute and unconditional acceptance of the other, as shown in the complete and perfect unity within the Godhead. In our case, God accepts us into His kingdom in spite of our sin and shortcomings; let us find freedom to love others as He has loved us.

Practically, it seems to me that love starts with those who are closest to us. We can't love some vague idea of the Church or the poor or any other abstract category; we have to love the people of the Church that are sitting right beside us, our families and friends, the people we're arguing with and the ones that annoy us. I am reminded of my need for the Spirit to give me freedom to love in such a selfless way as Christ himself has done.

--John Orzechowski

Monday, November 26, 2007

Do Not Devour Each Other

I wrote this as a sermon for Homiletics, but I am trying to edit it a little bit for our purposes here. I will break it up into three (or so) segments.

"If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other." - Gal. 5:15

Galatians 5:13-18 acts as a crucial balancing statement to the previous exhortations in Galatians. The church there was divided—many believed that it was through following the Law that one might be saved and others (rightfully) condemned this belief. This misguided belief is what Paul has spent time correcting up to this point in the letter. Yet Paul warns the Galatians to move past their differences, telling them that if they keep “biting each other” they will “devour each other." Christians today are (obviously) just as fragmented and divisive as ever, with so many denominations, each composed by individuals with theological and practical differences. There is room in the Church for our differences—they are part of what make the body of Christ beautiful and colorful. But there is a danger that we hold onto these differences too tightly and alienate ourselves from our brothers and sisters and eventually devour each other with angry words.

I suppose there is always a danger to exclude, judge, look down on those brothers and sisters with different theological views, worship practices, etc. It is perhaps because of this tendency that so many people have been hurt by the Church—turned off by its hypocrisy or hurt by its misspent zeal. There is room for dialogue and opposing views on issues (my commitment to nonviolence, for instance.) I used to love listening to preachers just so I could discover how they had misquoted or misused a passage in Scripture. I suppose I'm trying to learn to let go of finding identity in being right or being part of the correct group of people or reading the right books. Otherwise, I will only continue this process of the Church “devouring” its own people. In the case of the Galatian church, it seemed to make little difference that the group who opposed the ones who wanted to follow the Law was really the “right” one; they too would devour and be devoured if they did not let go of their differences.

--John Orzechowski

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Journal of Christian Spirituality

I would like to bring attention to a young scholarly journal (first issue: 2001) that I think might be particularly relevant to our on-going community dialogue. It is called Spititus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality and is published by John Hopkins University Press. I am only beginning to explore the journal, but I am overwhelmingly impressed.

Here, as a sample, are the titles of an article and of a book review: "Raiding the Inarticulate: Mysticism, Poetics, and the Unlanguageable;" "Spirituality@work: 10 ways to balance your life on-the-job." There are also pieces on Thomas Merton, Flannery O'Conner, and Emily Dickinson. The classical mystics frequently come up as well. Poems are also published occasionally. I've found a number (at least 10) by Mary Oliver, one by Czeslaw Milosz (translated with Robert Hass), one by Scott Cairns, and one by Naomi Shihab Nye. There are some photo essays too.

The URL that I access it through is: However, I don't know if a subscription is necessary to use it.

The journal is the official publication of the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality. Their web page is:

Again, I have only begun to explore this resource, but what I have seen of it so far indicates that it might be a valuable and edifying resource for our community.

-Paul Corrigan

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Poetry, Spirituality, and Stress-Time

“Make sure that you don’t think too much about this” – a professor.

I should say rather, a concerned professor. The this (in the quote) refers to a poem that I showed a professor of mine. (I’ve appended it below.) He (oops, I mean, “he or she”) mentioned a few adjustments I might want to make: for example, use the word “cord” instead of "rope." And we chatted about the connotations that that would bring: umbilical cord, the monkey-line, the nooses in the news. (Maybe I’ll want to change the word, but to “line,” as in “tow the line,” which would go along with "towline.") The end of the conversation was the above comment. It startled me a little at the time, but I've thought more about it since, and I want to focus on the absurdity of the remark. And to emphasize his concern, consternation. He knew of my tremendous course workload—the insanity of the scientific process brought to literature. So he meant well . . . but HOW ON EARTH CAN YOU TELL SOMEONE TO NOT INVEST THEMSELVES INTO POETRY! Especially at the crux, when the hammers are falling, when the institutional structures are beating you down, sapping your vital energy, especially then, poetry, poetry.

APPENDIX: The poem is titled "Ishmael Knows This," by which I intend to insinuate a rewrite of Moby-Dick, as in "if Ishmael were honest with himself, he'd admit that 'Ahab' (whatever Ahab stands for) is alive." I'm not sure how this poem particularly relates to my entry above--other than the fact of it being a poem.

Ahab running loose—loose:
The pirates are chasing Ahab; the gods,
Ahab; the whale, Ahab;
Ahab, Ahab; but

I say—I say—I say unto you,
the rope, the rope: phantasmagoria:
the rope chasing Ahab—strung round
with a quick snap—the flying towline of the sea—
yea, yea—the rope is chasing Ahab, and

Ahab is loose—running loose.

PS: I am presupposing for this entry that the incarnational dynamic of poetry can directly relate to Jesus , redemption, and salvation; that the practice of poetry can be can be deeply spiritual and contemplative; and that therefore chatting about poetry is/can be relevant to discussing spirituality. I am open to reply-comments that you think might be relevant to spirituality, either about the entry or poem .

-Paul Corrigan

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Remaining in Christ: the Contemplative State

John 15:4: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

The “remaining” Jesus speaks of in this passage is translated in the King James version as “abiding.” I believe it refers to living in and from the Spirit of Jesus. Other ways of thinking of it are as “communing” with the Spirit or “resting” in the Spirit even in the midst of action. Mystics have described it as the contemplative state as opposed to contemplative prayer. The point is a permanent state of connection and responsiveness to Jesus. It requires a transformation of consciousness, a change in our awareness so that we are able to have a sense of God’s presence and move in step with him as reality develops and unfolds moment by moment. In this way we can be his witness and his instrument. Coming to this place is a long-term process, a journey. Humility and a tender spirit are essential. Developing this kind of relationship with the Lord is my prayer for us all.

-Rickey Cotton

Sunday, October 21, 2007

True Self/False Self

Colossians 3:8-11: But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Paul speaks in these verses of the old self and the new self. Some contemporary writers use the terms false self and true self to address this issue—which makes a good point. Ephesians 4:22 speaks of the old self having deceitful desires, so, yes, it is false, it is deceiving, it is misleading. But to the degree that we abide in Christ we are free of this old self, this false self, with its misleading desires and all the confusion and pain it brings. Achieving this freedom to be our new self, our true self, is not a quick process; it takes time and much spiritual experience to learn to live in communion with the Spirit, to be able to abide in Christ. But it is our calling—our promise—and as we persevere, we experience more and more the reality that truly “Christ is all, and is in all.”

-Rickey Cotton

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Spiritual Dialogue

Ephesians 4:2: Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Spiritual dialogue means dialogue that is radically open to God and to one another. It is dialogue in which we do not try to get things done but instead seek to be fully present to one another and to God in the present moment, to the unfolding of his life in our lives in the present moment. While we should desire to bring this kind of dynamic more and more into our everyday lives, we need to set aside special times with one another for this practice, recognizing that much of life does require being task oriented and getting things done. Spiritual dialogue involves intentional, skillful humility and vulnerability.

-Rickey Cotton

Saturday, October 6, 2007

That All May Be One

John 17:20-21: "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

This is a startling section of scripture. I wonder how often we think about what it really means and ask what the practical implications are. Sadly it often seems we already have our ideas about God and the Christian life, and that what the Bible actually says or the way God actually operates doesn’t alter our preconceptions.

It matters where we think God is and what our position in regard to him actually is. This scripture states as fact that we are to be in God as the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father and that we are to be one as they are. It’s what Jesus prayed for. If we love God and are serious about our love, we need to make it a reality in our lives, to actualize it. Not in our own strength or time, but by cooperating with God’s presence and action in our lives. It’s a process, I think, a journey. But God is serious about it. And if we are serious about it, it will make a dramatic difference in the way we relate to God and to one another. We will seek more and more to love like God and actually live in and live as expressions of him.

-Rickey Cotton

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Blessed Are The Peacemakers

Matthew 5:9: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Peacemakers are not much honored in contemporary American society. Americans too often honor assertiveness or even aggressiveness. But there is a tension, I think, between being an American and being a Christian, a certain paradox that we are called to live out. The words of Jesus have to matter to us. We need to struggle understanding and implementing them. It isn’t fully clear to me how to be a peacemaker in our time. These days it seems to me that we might say, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be shot at by both sides.” But this isn’t how Jesus saw it. He said, “…for they will be called children of God.” I want this—to be recognizable as a child of God. And I bet you do, too. So let’s try to help one another understand how Jesus wants us to be peacemakers in our time. And help one another find the strength and courage to do it, so that we too may be called children of God.

-Rickey Cotton

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A New Command

John 13:34—“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

The Golden Rule seems hard enough. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s a difficult challenge. In fact, early in his ministry Jesus said it was like the greatest command, the one about loving God with all our being. But in John 13, late in his ministry, Jesus gives a new command in regard to love. No longer are his followers to love their neighbors as themselves. Now they have to love like Jesus did. To love like God does. That is, to love others more than you love yourself, to love them even at the expense of your own life. Let us pray for ourselves and one another that we will develop the maturity and skill to love in this way, to love like Jesus. It’s our calling.

-Rickey Cotton

Monday, October 1, 2007

Pray Without Ceasing

"Pray without ceasing"
- 1 Thes. 5:17

"... And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the
conscious occupation
of the praying mind"
- T.S. Eliot

"To saints, their very slumber is a prayer."
- St. John of the Cross

Paul's admonition to "Pray without ceasing" is impossible if one considers prayer as merely talking to God--laying out needs or desires or praises for him--and maybe stopping to listen for his response every now and then. This was in fact how I viewed prayer for a long time, feeling the need to constantly strive for longer and more emotionally fervent prayer times with God; but at some point, the intensity dies down and one inevitably is forced to attend to the duties of life--like going to class or eating dinner.

But the definition of prayer can be expanded to include not only words but communion; it should be seen as a continuous, abiding awareness of the presence of God that transcends our own "conscious occupation." In human relationships, there is often an initial desire to keep talking and avoid "awkward silences." As the relationship deepens, however, there is no longer this striving to always speak and the silences themselves often express emotions deeper than words could. The same holds true for our relationship with God.

Jesus himself already lives within our inner being (Eph. 3:17) and is interceding for us (Rom. 8:34), and it is to this prayer that we turn; there are so many other voices vying for our attention, and for this reason we practice "devotions" and discipline ourselves. But we can also cultivate this deep awareness of God through silence, prayerfully engaging Scripture, and public worship, as well as the mental actions of praise, intercession, etc. that are normally thought of as prayer. Let us cultivate lives of this prayer that goes beyond our words, that our entire lives might be in union with God and we might "pray without ceasing."

-John Orzechowski

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Reflection on Rom. 8:4-9

Roman 8:4-9 Walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you….

This scripture speaks of our great calling to “live in the Spirit.” But to lean how to effectively live in the Spirit is a long-term process, a spiritual journey. We are given the Spirit in a moment, but to live in accordance with the Spirit must be learned. Our primary teacher is the Holy Spirit himself; for him to teach us we must spend regular time simply being in his presence. This requires the practice of silence and solitude, seeking the Giver and not his gifts. Over the course of church history this has often been called Contemplative Prayer or Contemplation. What these words really mean is to “rest in the Spirit” or to “be in the presence of the Spirit.” By simply being in the presence of the Lord we become more and more like him.

-Rickey Cotton

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Life as Pilgrimage

Psalm 84:2, 5

I long, yes, I faint with longing
to enter the courts of the Lord.
With my whole being, body and soul,
I will shout joyfully to the living God.

What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord,
who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

This Psalm tells of the blessings of communion with God and the joys of taking a pilgrimage to His temple in Jerusalem. We don't very often take pilgrimages as contemporary American Christians; we don't hear of people selling all they own to travel to Jerusalem or Rome or Canterbury (or Springfield). Perhaps we understand that God is not contained in certain places but is in all places and all things, but we should not give up on the concept of pilgrimage altogether.

To be in the world but not of it means to be alienated from the world in many ways--from its social structures and cultures and philosophies. Our true home has nothing to do with any nationalistic ties but instead with a hidden and downright subversive Kingdom of God. We are all pilgrims together on this long journey. I've never exactly felt at home here, no matter where I've been geographically; and perhaps I never want to. I don't suppose I'll ever be home here in that smug, satisfied sense. It's all too tempting to settle and build a house, get a few cars and a retirement plan and begin trusting in myself for security--my occupation or education, my family, my possessions. These things are important, but we must remember they are all fading away. We aren't to build mansions on earth but sleep under the stars as pilgrims--wandering around, together with other pilgrims, through the valleys and on the mountaintops, sometimes lost, but always trusting in the One who has called us in the first place. God offers "joy and strength" to those who take this journey. Even when we "walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs" (v. 6).

The journey is always beautiful, often difficult, but through it all we must keep our eyes on what awaits us at the end of it--God Himself. Unity with the divine. And our whole being will "shout joyfully to the living God" as we finally rest in His presence (v. 2).

-John Orzechowski

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Reflection on Ambiguities

John 9:24-25
So for the second time they called in the man who had been blind and told him, "God should get the glory for this,because we know this man Jesus is a sinner."
"I don't know whether he is a sinner," the man replied. "But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!"

"Jesus... undercuts the facile conviction that we know with certitude what moral good and evil actually are." - Thomas Keating

Sometimes I feel lost in the ambiguities of life and my own blind spots. There are often times when I don't even know the right action to take in a certain situation--never mind the times of willful sin. Perhaps we try to put life, morality, theology, relationships into boxes in which they were never meant to fit. Christians sometimes have some sort of fascination with their own grasp of Absolute truth--but it seems to me that more properly, the Absolute has a hold of us. How can we absolutely know anything, even ourselves? I'm not advocating some sort of relativism; we can, in fact, know God truly, through relationship, but never exhaustively.

For these ambiguities, I feel at home in this chapter. I'm struck by the abounding misconceptions of so many, which gives me some hope. Those who should be seeing are perhaps the most blind. It begins with the disciples asking the question of who has sinned in order to cause the man to be blind; having witnessed Jesus' previous healing, they assumed that sin was always the cause of sickness, but here it seems that this is not the case; life, here, did not fit their previously constructed formula. Later, the Pharisees believe Jesus to be a sinner, mostly for doing a good work; and it takes the blind man who they say was born "a total sinner" to offer them a lesson of who Christ is, standing not on rational argument, but his experience of being healed. Though he was blind, now he sees.

Finally, Jesus comes back to the man and reveals to him more fully His own identity as the Son of Man. The man believes and worships Him. The chapter ends with Jesus' indictment against the Pharisees, who claim to see and yet are blind. It would have been better for them to recognize their own blindness. Jesus may need to return to us often and reveal more of his identity: his love and his grace and his discipline--at times--in our lives. I try not to be like the Pharisees who felt that they knew all there was to know, and thus condemned themselves, but instead remain aware of my limitations. I recognize the truth of my relationship with Christ (indeed, it's the most important aspect of my life!), but long for continual communion and growing in this relationship, knowing that I will never absolutely comprehend Him.

-John Orzechowski

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Contemplation and Work

Soldiers don't get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. - 2 Tim 2:4-6

"...go to work for God, trusting that if we seek only to do His will, He will take care of our interior recollection, and make up for the distractions and failings that may creep into our activity." - Thomas Merton

The cares of everyday life cause me so often to lose sight of what is important. Papers and exams--all for a degree, a piece of paper that seems to have little to no eternal significance. But this is where we're called to be and doing these things can become an act of worship. God actually can be present in all of our daily activities, even outside of our conscious awareness. He is in everything and everywhere after all.

Alas, I'm not the good soldier who doesn't get tied up in the affairs of civilian life or a very good athlete for that matter. But Paul goes on to say that even "If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful" (v. 13). Merton says that if we seek to do His will, He will take care of the rest. At some point, we must realize that it was never about our own efforts to reach God anyway; He is already here, in us. Even the desire to be more spiritual (whatever that means) is often selfish. I try to lay aside the frustrations I have with myself when I desire to be more heavenly-minded and less distracted; for to violently fight against distraction and actively seek an awareness of God will do no good; this awareness is a gift, and God will give it whenever and to whomever He wishes. Instead, boast in our weaknesses and embrace our poverty, finish our work with gladness and never lose trust in God who always remains faithful.

-John Orzechowski

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Reflection on the True Self

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph 4:22-24)

"The false self is the cause of spiritual retardation; it conceals the fundamental experience of being created in the image and likeness of God." - Thomas Keating

As we continue on this journey that is the spiritual life, I am convinced that we begin to find our true selves. Finding oneself is not akin to finding a lost set of keys; in fact, it is a lifelong process, that can only truly be possible through a relationship with our Creator. We have been born into and spent our lives in sin, alienated even from ourselves and the image of God in which we were created, having built great fortresses of lies and unnatural dependencies that hinder us from seeing ourselves, others, and God clearly. We sometimes find our worth, our "selves," in our relationships with others, our jobs or callings, our money or possessions, or hosts of other places. But true identity and security can only be found in God.

God himself lives in us, and we begin to, by His grace, put on our new self, our true self, which is "like God." Christian experience is not merely negative; we pick up the cross not as an end in itself, but so that we might be resurrected with Christ. The end of Christianity is not death, but life. Let us not become merely spiritual masochists in our desires to "crucify the flesh." It seems egotistical or heretical to think of any good thing within oneself, but it is not ourselves, but God in us. And it would also seem selfish to want to find our true selves, yet as we find ourselves in God, we become not selfish but more humble and caring.

God creates nothing without purpose--no less for you and me--and this we must strive to find in Him. Allow the Light of God to penetrate the false selves we've spent our whole lives building and show them to be nothing more than misguided ideas and misplaced affections. Paradoxically, as we grow closer to God, we grow closer to ourselves; and one who has found her true self and trusts only in God for her identity has finally delighted in perfect and selfless worship of the Almighty.

-John Orzechowski

Monday, January 1, 2007

The Rule of Our Community: A Way for Living

Our community is a non-geographical Christian fellowship in which we seek to support one another in our individual families, churches, and daily work. It is not a church itself, but seeks to support the work of the church of Jesus Christ and the growth of God’s Kingdom. We seek to live as a “community without walls,” living among other believers and among unbelievers in such a way that the life of God in our lives can be seen and engaged.

We see our rule of life simply as a set of activities that facilitates spiritual development and practice. The Latin term is regula, which does not have some of the negative connotations of the English word rule. A rule “regulates” or orients your life the way you want to live. It should be something you yearn to do. It is a means of growth and meaningful expression, not a straitjacket.

The rule of our community is organized around three core spiritual practices: Contemplative Prayer, Praying the Scriptures, and Spiritual Dialogue. While numerous other spiritual disciplines—attendance at Worship, Bible Study, Christian Service, etc.—are valuable and necessary, and while we as individuals definitely practice other key spiritual disciplines, for us these three practices are core aspects of practicing our faith that identify us as a community. Through the regular practice of them we seek to develop a stable in-depth awareness of and responsiveness to God and others.

Contemplative Prayer: By Contemplative Prayer we mean a regular practice of silent, meditative prayer that is present and open to God beyond thoughts, words, emotions, and images. We believe this kind of prayer is an exercise in pure faith. It is practice in making God the center of our lives. It does not replace other kinds of prayer—praise, intercession, petition, etc.—but it helps to develop a depth of awareness and purity of heart for the practice of other kinds of prayer and for life. Examples of Contemplative Prayer practices include Centering, the Jesus Prayer, and Christian Meditation.

Praying the Scriptures: This approach to the Scriptures and prayer seeks to be fully open and present to the Scriptures, to the Spirit, and to one another. For small group practice we have adapted an approach from the ancient individual one of Lectio Divina. In our practice, a passage of Scripture or other spiritual writing is read aloud a total of four times. After the first three, we allow a minute of silence and then respond in a different way after each reading: (1) identifying a word or phrase that stands out to us, (2) sharing a brief personal reflection in response to the reading, and (3) giving expression to a simple prayer that arises in our hearts to the reading. Finally (4) we sit in silence for 3-5 minutes seeking to commune with the Spirit who speaks through the Scriptures. This practice involves intentional, skillful humility and vulnerability.

Spiritual Dialogue: By spiritual dialogue we mean dialogue that is radically open to God and to one another. It is dialogue that does not try to get things done but instead seeks to be fully present to one another and to God in the present moment, to the unfolding of his life in our lives in the present moment. While we desire to bring this kind of dynamic into our everyday lives, we set aside special times with one another for this practice, recognizing that much of life does require getting things done. This practice also involves intentional, skillful humility and vulnerability.

In regard to these three practices, we recognize that the daily dynamics of ordinary life are the proving place of their validity and value. The proof is our growth in manifesting the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) in everyday life. We seek to live a life that is grounded in the unfolding action of the Spirit and that is an expression of the Spirit’s action, a life that says yes to availability and vulnerability to God and to others.

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