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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Getting a Grip on Christian Spirituality

Earlier today, Molly shared some of Manny's Questions for the Soul, and then she reflected on how we benchmark our relationship with God. Making improvements is often not as easy as it seems; its very easy to devolve into legalism, to lean on our discipline and rigor as things which commend us to God. At the same time, its just as easy to be lax and lazy.

As I told Manny in class, I pretty much suck in all these categories - part of that is because my life is so busy right now; but at the same time, I'm not sure that if I suddenly reduced all the stressful demands that my spiritual devotion would actually improve at all. At the same time, I don't think the solution is simply to "try harder" either.

Say Molly: "It's so ironic/counterintuitive to me that a 'disciplined life' in many ways involves stepping back from everything that we 'do,' just to 'be.'"

Wise words. Several things struck me as I reflected on this further:

1. I'm not even sure I know what true "biblical spirituality" really looks like anymore. I used to think it meant spending an hour every day in prayer and study; but I'm not so sure now.

I would love to have someone to model these categories for me in the context of the urgent demands of work / school / family / life. I have a difficult time knowing who to emulate here. I have a difficult time visualizing what it actually looks like in practice.

2. What's going in the reformed circles in this regard? What are the movements, the contours? Who are the movers and the shakers?

I have a feeling that the traditional reformed answer has been to focus on "public worship and the preaching of the word." I dig that, but I also suspect there's something more. On the other end of the spectrum, we have community oriented approaches like the Jesus movement of the 70's. I'm not sure I want to live in a commune with others (and how many of you would really want to live in a commune with me?). The answer is probably somewhere there in middle.

3. Assuming we can actually get our hands around what kind of "biblical spirituality" we're actually aiming for, what would it look like for the body of Christ to pursue this intentionally? What would it look like for us to grow? To help each other grow? What would it take for all us to seriously pursue one-anothering in the faith?

I would love it if folks could help flesh out some of the contours that might shape our answers to these questions. Anyone have any thoughts or suggestions?


At 4:33 PM, April 12, 2005, Blogger Molly said...

I have two thoughts right off the top of my head.

First, Manny mentioned in class that one of his "other sources of spiritual nurture" is by reading biographies of Christians. Even if we don't have 'live' sources of information modeling Christian spirituality to us, I think that by reading biographies of great saints who have gone before us, we could glean a lot about how to emulate Christ.

Secondly, a friend just told me that he has felt significant spiritual renewal recently by trying to be intentional by inserting short "God moments" in his day. Before he begins studying, he pauses to reflect on who God is. Before he goes to class, he does the same. Driving, he talks to God rather than always turning music on. This could be a feasible alternative to feeling burdened to spend hours each day in prayer and study, and it places all that we do in the perspective of the cross.

At 5:19 PM, April 13, 2005, Blogger Mark Traphagen said...

Sure, Christian, we'll join you in a '70s style commune. You saw our wedding pictures today, so you know we're the type!

Seriously, I like the second paragraph of Random Mind above. Where did this whole "quiet time" idea come from? Is that really biblical? Yeah, yeah, I know "in the morning I will seek you" etc...but does that really mean what we mean by "quiet time" or "devotions"? I've been wondering this for some time now.

At 10:01 PM, April 13, 2005, Anonymous Oreamnos said...

Just a thought....
My big thing lately is to constantly ask "How does this glorify God?"
That is, not necessarily how I am glorifying God per se, but how is the particular situation glorifying God? I find it to easy to focus on little old me (I did this, I didn't do that, etc., etc.), and much harder to focus on everything else around.
So whether it is the willow tree budding (which means lots of leaves to rake up), my annoying neighbor's annoying kids, or my boss blaming me for the mistakes of others.....,
How is God using all of this to bring glory to His Name?
And no allagorizing!

P.S.- I yearn for the day when I see the trees clap their hands.

At 4:19 AM, April 14, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

Speaking of "trees clapping their hands" reminds me of the song Gospel Rain (.mp3) by Mitch McVicker & Rich Mullins:

Every leaf that falls is a kind of burning bush,
And I can hear your call when I stop to look,
And you tell me you're there whatever happens,
And I can hear the trees clapping their hands...

From out of nowhere from out of the blue,
These clouds like holy prophets groan and move,
On the winds of love and rage,
So come Lord and wash me clean in your Psalm,
Until it sinks deep down into my bones,
As I stand in the gentle fall, of your gospel rain..

This is flat out one of the best songs ever written (I can SO see Rich's influence in it).

At 7:47 PM, April 20, 2005, Anonymous Karyn said...


I looked at the title of this too fast and thought it said "Getting a Grip on Christian's Spirituality"... and I thought, "Now, that will be a good read." :)

Press on!


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