BLESSED STILLNESS 08-25-2016

The writer Kathleen Norris tried to get some kids in a classroom to sit in silence. When asked to sit silently a second time one fifth grader retorted, “I don’t want to!” He continued “It’s like we’re waiting for something, it’s scary.”[1] Silent prayer is not only scary. It’s exceedingly difficult. On the surface, it seems simple, yet anyone who’s tried it will attest to its difficulty. It’s perhaps the hardest thing I’ve ever undertaken. Yet, it’s also the most rewarding.

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The nature of the untrained mind is like a wild monkey, jumping from branch to branch. The mind’s always clinging to one thing or another. Rarely, will it let go of the numerous stimuli and settle into silence. Because of its distracted nature, the mind has to be trained to focus. This training takes time. A challenge is that training the mind is less tangible than training for a marathon or practicing a musical instrument. Training the mind is more primal and less concrete than other kinds of training.

Because training the mind seems insubstantial and doesn’t produce any immediate measurable results, the Western mind usually dismisses it as “navel gazing” or “self hypnosis.” “Don’t you have something better to do?” Yet, the mind is the root of our existence and our experience. Our state of mind is everything. So changing habits of the mind is powerful! At times it may seem insignificant—as if anything else is a better use of time. Yet, mystics the world over tell us this kind of training is the key for dismantling hidden addictions and the key to freedom.

The Desert Fathers and Mothers retreated from all worldly affairs. They sojourned into the desert to behold blessed stillness. And Quakers through the ages have written that deep listening to God requires stillness and silence. We can’t pray unless we pause and listen for the “still small voice of the Lord” (1 Kings 19:12b, NKJV).

[1] Norris, Amazing Grace, p.17.

David Frenette’s book The Path of Centering Prayer reenergized the Centering Prayer tradition with its fresh insights and teachings.  Centering Prayer Meditations: Effortless Contemplation to Deepen Your Experience of God is a wonderful companion audio program  created to be equally rewarding as a stand-alone guide – gives listeners an immersive resource to learn contemplative prayer, step by step and in the moment. With clarity and compassionate presence, Frenette explains the essential principles of this contemplative practice for both new and seasoned practitioners, and then guides us experientially through core prayers and meditations.

How do we know that Jesus was actually raised from the dead in bodily form? This course with Prof. N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, examines the extraordinary claim that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead in a bodily fashion to appear in person to people after his cruel death, crucifixion, and entombment.

Check out Simply Good News by New Testament scholar and author N. T. Wright.  It is based upon his book Simply Good News.  You will instantly get into the heart of the idea of ‘good news’ as it was understood by the 1st Century writers of the New Testament.  It works well for group studies.   

Prepare to be immersed in the 1st Century A.D. context of the life, work, teachings, and actions of Jesus.  Check out Simply Jesus by N. T. Wright. Enjoy an article Rich wrote about one of the lectures on the Beatitudes.

Check out Rich’s review of Christian Prayer Methods by Dr. Philip St. Romain.