Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My Spiritual Journey (Matt)

I guess I am still fairly young in my spiritual walk. However, I am finding this group and our dialogue and prayer together to be the thing I was missing.
I grew up in a charismatic Assemblies of God church and always felt a little out of place. I have come to appreciate the many rich blessings that come from that tradition but I have been unable to consign myself to all of their views. I came to Southeastern University a very cynical and bitter young man with a very narrow mind for the things that God was doing. Through different relationships and largely in part to this group I have been able to Let God mold and shape me into a person of deeper faith. I have been able to see that our rational attempts to find God must be subject to our mystical encounters with him. I have been attending an Episcopal Church for a number of years now and I am seeking ordination through them. I hope to start seminary in the fall of 09.  I have been able to share an extremely important time in my life with most of you and for that I am thankful. Thank you all so much. I want to share this quote from Thomas Merton that is helping me to give voice to my minds thoughts.

"Too often our notion of faith is falsified by our emphasis on the statements about God which faith believes, and by our forgetfulness of the fact that faith is a communion with God's own light and truth... Faith terminates not in a statement, not in a formula of words, but in God."

Matt Addis

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Spiritual Story (Erica)

I joined this community because I needed a freer, quieter, humbler way to be with God and desired to have relationships with people who want that too--a safe place to become rooted in God's love. It's not that I'm crazy about centering prayer--honestly, I sometimes sit through the better part of a centering session staring at everyone's shoes. But sitting in silence, opening myself to Love in a community of people who are doing that too is good for me. And sharing with and listening to people on the same mysterious journey I'm on seems to be the best way to keep myself going.

My spiritual journey has been a strange one. I didn't grow up in a Christian home; in fact, my brother and I are still the only Christians in my family. My only exposure to the message of Christianity as a child were a few years in the Mormon Church (in which I was baptized) and a step-grandfather who sat in an armchair reading a big black Bible for much of the day. Still, (thanks to my New Age mom and God's grace) I had an early love for God and a desire for goodness which left me very open to spirituality. At fourteen I started attending a charismatic church and entered a deeply personal (and emotional) relationship with God. Mostly I stayed in church because of the community I found there; I developed long-lasting, meaningful relationships with my spiritual mentors who took me in like a little lost sheep and loved and encouraged me and provided me with the safe, spiritually nourishing environment I had always desired as a child. Even when I became disillusioned with that particular expression of Christianity and much too cynical to be a good evangelical I did not lose my faith in Christian community.

About two years ago I started reading Merton and talking about his writings with John, which was a very positive turning point for me. I went to England for a semester at Oxford, where I sometimes attended Anglican services--and I felt amazingly at home, strangely moved by the thoughtfulness and tradition I found there. I took a lot of walks, talked to John a lot, and got very quiet before God. Away from what had been a frustrating spiritual environment for me and free to explore spirituality for myself, I discovered the immenseness of God's grace. My spiritual sustenance consisted mostly of poetry, liturgy, the parks, writing, and waiting--and that's mostly how it is now, too.

When I returned to Lakeland I discovered the wonder that is lectio divina and the small community that gathered to pray and share the spiritual journey together. I found a community that was both intellectual and spiritual, peppered with many personalities and people. For me, it was about being part of something real and deep and beautiful, which is what our community is, even though many of us are now spread out across the country. About seeing others, listening to one another, caring, learning from each other and from God. Through my reading, college experiences, and this community I have come to see spirituality as a process and a journey, rather than a race or a destination. A journey into love.


a brief anecdote about how I am living the spiritual life bit by bit as a process

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.

I’m reading a commentary by Joan Chittister on the Rule of Benedict. At one point, she quotes from the Tao Te Ching, the Chinese Book of the Way: “Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.” I’m stressed and depressed for several reasons. Some of it has to do with work at the beginning of the semester, but I won’t get into details. I took Elea to sit by the red canoe on the bank of the lake today for our rock prayers. No miracles happened. But I’m breathing more calmly.

--Paul Corrigan

Sunday, August 24, 2008

My Spiritual Journey (Anna)

Monday, August 18, was my birthday, and at 56-years-old I've been wondering how to shorten the story of a long spiritual journey. I'll begin by saying I was raised in a devout Catholic family. My family was unusual because my dad had studied to be a priest. Although he obviously decided not to join the priesthood, he was deeply in love with God. He modeled a life of prayer. He was almost always the first one up in the morning. He would fix coffee, and then he would sit in silence reading and praying. Dad taught at the Catholic school I attended along with all four of my siblings. That intense Catholic experience lasted until I was 13 when our family moved to rural Northwest Florida where the nearest Catholic school was miles away.

In retrospect, I realize I had a rich heritage of liturgy and ritual which I enjoyed. But when I married Rickey he was able to show me the meaningfulness of a personal, affectionate relationship with God. Together we joined a local expression of the Charismatic Movement with all the emotionality you might imagine and, unfortunately, with too much emphasis on exactly how to be spiritual. A controlling spiritual environment was a difficult place to have life struggles, but we survived still in love with each other and God.

When God gave us Catherine, and we discovered she was severely autistic, emotional spiritual experiences were woefully inadequate in helping us cope. We managed by going deep into God.

And, as is often the case in our life, there were books to read. One important discovery was the book Jesus, The Teacher Within, by Fr. Laurence Freeman. When we discovered Freeman was going to be visiting locally, we took advantage of the opportunity to hear him speak. He gave voice to the call of silent prayer, and my spirit said yes! Shortly after that, our local newspaper listed a workshop on centering prayer, and Rickey and I made a point of attending. Not much later, Rickey and then I started going on retreats. My initial retreat experience was the boost I needed to establish me in the regular practice of centering prayer. It is an immense help and an incredible gift to be able to share this prayer with Rickey.

If there is one thing I've learned in my 56 years, it is that there is no perfect place, and there are no perfect people. But there is perfect grace. And right now in this present moment I believe I am experiencing the mystery of that grace by being a member of this non-geographic community where we share God's embrace in the silence.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

My Spiritual Journey (RC)

Sarah Price’s request (in her 7-17-08 blog post on our site) that we share our spiritual stories isn’t an easy or short assignment, especially not when you’re an older adult, as I am. But I want to try. I will focus a few decisive elements of my story. I am a third generation Assemblies of God Christian. As a teenager and young adult in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s I rebelled against the Lord. My re-conversion to Christianity in my early 20’s came about primarily through my reading of the Christian mystics, especially Thomas Merton, and through the impressive spirituality (i.e., powerful “witness”) of my then to-be wife Anna and her father.

After I returned to the Lord, Anna and I both became involved in the pentecostal-charismatic movement of the 1970’s. It seemed to us to fulfill many of the longings of the Christian mystics: a strong sense of the Lord’s presence, fervent love for him, and passionate desire to be conformed to and united with him in a deep way. The movement was young, and so were we. We didn’t know then how easily the movement could become shallow, routinized, and manipulated or how painful and difficult the challenges of life could be. We laid aside the mystics and contemplative spirituality and gave ourselves fully to the pentecostal-charismatic movement, with Anna joining me in my return to the Assemblies of God of my youth.

I now think that ongoing growth in the Lord requires 5-6 spiritual-emotional “deaths” and “born again” experiences at least. The conclusive “death” and “rebirth” experiences that forced Anna and me into the “contemplative depths” of God were first the severe autism of our adopted daughter Catherine and second a group of bright students at Southeastern in the mid-1990s that we loved “too much” (without mature and wise detachment) and who broke our hearts with their spiritual and moral failures.

I now believe that a “full gospel” spirituality must include silence and solitude as well as vibrant community worship. Although it’s been a long and often painful spiritual journey thus far, I rejoice to have been brought to this place in God and in our community. I believe we are experiencing true spiritual community with this kind of sharing and mutual support. I am excited and grateful for my sense of the Lord’s unfolding presence in our midst and for the quality of our spiritual friendship and spiritual dialogue.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

My Spiritual Journey (The Blog Version)

Sarah requested to learn a little about the members of our community in regards to their spiritual journeys. My journey began long before I can remember. Ever since I was an infant, I've been in church. My parents raised me as a Pentecostal Holiness. I spent many hours on the pews of First PH in Greeneville, TN. Some were sleeping, some were studying school work, and some were even actually listening to sermons! Every time the church doors were open (day or late night), I was there. After graduating high school in 1988, I started college at Tennessee Tech with aspirations of becoming a chemical engineer. After my first year of studies there, I began to discern a calling into ministry which led me to Lakeland Florida in 1989. I graduated from Southeastern in ‘93 with a severely deconstructed theology. I was so distraught that I abandoned my calling and became a computer entrepreneur. I worked in computers, and I church hopped looking for a place to "fit in" after leaving Florida. Several years later, I found that place in the United Methodist Church. I grew to love Methodism, and in 2000 I became a part-time local pastor. For the past 8 years, I have served the Methodist Church.

But all was not bliss. In 2004 I hit a wall in my spiritual journey and noticed that I had been gradually slipping back into a fundamentalist mindset. I became distraught and encountered my second Dark Night. I am grateful to RC for giving me wonderful spiritual direction during this crisis. I flew to Florida in January 2005, and attended a workshop in Niceville that he was conducting on Centering Prayer. Reading St. John of the Cross and beginning the practice of Centering Prayer was the catalyst for the revival of my spiritual journey. My ministry began to find new life, and I began to embrace the Mystery I had for so long sought to define. I will be starting my Master of Divinity at Vanderbilt in two weeks, and I am so eager to get back into the scholastic environment with a new spiritual outlook. I'm not going to school now to learn answers this go around. I'm going to learn new questions.

RC, my spiritual friend and mentor, has been one of the greatest blessings God has sent my way. Without his spiritual friendship, I literally don't know where I would be today. I am also glad we have this forum to meet and engage with likeminded spiritual sojourners.

Let the journey continue...


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