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I’ve been greatly impressed with the work of Pete and Geri Scazzaro over recent years. They lead a church in Queens, New York City called New Life Church (link here). Here is a recent blog post from Pete which I am delighted to share here:
“Nothing in Western culture supports the practice of silence – especially for leaders. Our very sense of identity is based on accomplishments and what others think.
“Silence before God simply appears so unproductive.
“Silence forces us to face our “inner monsters,” confronting us with our addiction to being in control, and bringing us face to face with demonic powers and principalities. Why? They rage to prevent us from the deep knowing of God that comes out of being still before Him, or relaxing as one OT scholar translates it (Ps. 46:10).
“Few spiritual practices are more transformative and important. For this reason, it is core to The EHS Course our discipleship course that’s changing churches around the world.
“Set your timer each day for 5 to 10 minutes over the next week. And consider the following guidelines that have served me so well over the last 13 years. (And that I continue to use here at New Life).
[Guidelines they use at New Life (I’m sure based on the Centering Prayer Guidelines):]
“1. Sit down, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths to help you settle into silence.
“2. Choose a very simple prayer to express your openness and desire for God. (e.g. Abba, Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Here I am, Come Lord Jesus, Lord Jesus have mercy on me)
“3. Offer this prayer to allow Jesus and His will full access in your life in a posture of openness and surrender.
“4. When you become distracted, offer again your simple prayer back to God.
“Is this difficult? Absolutely, especially in the beginning. But like learning an instrument or foreign language, it gradually becomes second nature. You will wonder how you ever lived without it.
“The practice of silence is very simple. The problem is you can’t just talk about it. You must do it. So don’t worry about whether you are doing it “correctly.” This is about relationship and God rejoices at your intent and desire to be with Him.
“And may you increasingly experience these words as a living reality in your leadership:
“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today…The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Ex. 14:14
“PS Go to this page on our website for brief answers to the Top Ten FAQs about Practicing Silence, Pete Scazzaro“
Throughout Christendom, the practice of silence and solitude has been one of the core disciplines of spiritual formation. The contemporary contemplative movement seeks to recover these disciplines within the busyness of our 21st century western world. This quiet day is an invitation to explore how we interpret these disciplines for ourselves.
It’s only three weeks now until we meet at Highfield Church, Southampton…Saturday, 1 November 2014. If you would like to come, download this brochure here: Silence & Solitude and respond.
I think many will find these two links a useful resource, either for personal pondering or group discussion. They cover most of the frequently asked questions that relate to the practice of Centering Prayer.
There is often a perception that to seek after God, or experience God involves looking for God externally – somewhere out beyond ourselves. We might pursue God by going to spiritual meetings, or in special places such as the countryside, or in the face of the poor, etc – well of course our God is in all those places, but often we forget He is even closer than that. He dwells inside each of us.
My tag line on the Insight Timer group I’m apart of sums this up for me perfectly “the treasure was deep inside all along”. It represents the deep revelation that I experienced some time ago that, when I first surrendered to Him, the Divine really did take up full residence inside. Those amazing scriptures I’d read: “…Christ in you, the hope of glory…” (Col 1:27), “…it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me…” (Gal 2:20), “…[my] life is hidden with Christ in God…” (Col 3:3), became living words of reality. This realisation has been embedded in me through my daily meditation practice of Centering Prayer. I thoroughly recommend this as way of loosing your life and finding it in Christ. As Fr. Thomas Keating writes:
“We must gradually recover the conviction, not just the feeling, of the Divine Indwelling, the realization that God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is living in us. This is the heart of the spiritual journey, to which Centering Prayer is totally in service.” – Thomas Keating, “A Contemplative Vision for Our Times,” Intimacy with God
I don’t know if I’m inventing a new word – I’ve always had a habit of doing that, as close friends will know! However three or four years ago I spoke out the word/idea of being ‘heartful’ – and the idea of ‘heartfulness’ was birthed in me – ie. coming from the heart in all things, listening to the wisdom of the heart, allowing my heart to ‘speak’ rather than my mind. This seed has had time to incubate and grow inside my heart. It is now emerging as a beautiful strong tree to shade my life’s values.
I believe that dropping from the head into the heart (which has been such an intuitive thing for me to do in my meditation practice) provides a moment to tap into our emotional intelligence – some are now even calling it heart intelligence. I like the idea of heart intelligence. Listening out for that intelligence and acting upon it, I believe will takes us all to the next level of our personal growth.
And I’m sure we are all going to be hearing a lot more about ‘heartfulness’ in the coming years. It’s what being naturally human is all about.
is what pure love feels like…
On the way out of a Julian meeting here in Southampton recently, I was told of a wonderful speech that the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams made to the Synod of Bishops in Rome last October. I don’t know what you think of the man, but he is someone I have met and hugely respect for his knowledge, theology, and poems. This in fact was the first time any Archbishop of Canterbury had ever addressed the Catholic Bishops. I wondered what his speech would be about; what significant thing would be bring on such an auspicious occasion. Well, you can read the text in full here.
Here are the headlines using some of the words from the website:
…it was all about the profound connection between contemplation and the task of evangelism; that it must be rooted in a profound confidence that we have a distinctive human destiny to show and share with the world; that a contemplative approach to life is what helps us grow and become fully human by allowing us to open our hearts to God’s wishes…here is a little quote:
“… contemplation is very far from being just one kind of thing that Christians do: it is the key to prayer, liturgy, art and ethics, the key to the essence of a renewed humanity that is capable of seeing the world and other subjects in the world with freedom – freedom from self-oriented, acquisitive habits and the distorted understanding that comes from them. To put it boldly, contemplation is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world that our financial systems and our advertising culture and our chaotic and unexamined emotions encourage us to inhabit. To learn contemplative practice is to learn what we need so as to live truthfully and honestly and lovingly. It is a deeply revolutionary matter.”
Wow, how exciting, and very encouraging as we journey into the new year on this incredibly exciting path of contemplation. Let God come to us afresh this Christmas and break into our interior worlds through his Son Jesus Christ. Let go, and let him in to every place within.
“…Christmas is the time when the UK will spend £20bn with most of that in new consumer debt. About £1.6bn of this will be spent on food and drink alone. We will cook over 10m turkeys, at an estimated cost of £400m. We will also put up 7.5m Christmas trees, costing £245m. Hard to get our heads around those numbers, but that is people in the UK spending 4 times the money needed to rebuild all the countries affected by the Asian Tsunami.” Jason Clark see. Maybe we have become slightly detached from our inner selves. Spend a few minutes in silence every day and reconnect.
It is with great pleasure that I blog on this special day, the 15 December 2012 to celebrate our family’s second daughter, and third child, Nikola, who was born this day 35 years ago. Sadly she was to die 50 days later, but her special days on this planet will be remembered by many people.
The number ‘fifty’ in Hebrew culture is special too. God commanded Israel to celebrate every 50th year as a year of jubilee. During this year (of jubilee) all Israelites who had sold themselves into slavery were set free, and all land that had been sold reverted to its original owners. This meant that no Israelite could ever be in permanent slavery; nor could any Israelite permanently lose their inheritance. What an amazing culture; just think of the implications. So each year we celebrate Nikola’s birth I now remember it symbolically as a time to be released from slavery, and a time to claim back my inheritance. Thank you Nikola. xxx
We are changing the weekly evening teaching/practice meeting for Gold In The City. This will now take place every Thursday evening at 7.30pm prompt. This will then coincide with the Julian Meetings which take place every second Thursday at the Church of the Ascension, Bitterne. Those meetings start at 7.45pm. For further details visit the Gold In The City website.