Processing Life 

Hi friends, 

My silence and inability to podcast or post blogs these last several weeks has been unavoidable. I apologize. 

My husband and I are yet again in another work/life transition. It’s my hope and prayer that we will get settled into our new life quickly so I can get back on my writing schedule. I appreciate all your prayers and patience as I continue to try to grow this budding ministry. 

Blessings Tamara

Living Life Lessons


IN THE LIVING LIFE LESSONS COLUMN EACH MONTH I’M SHARING VARIOUS LESSONS GOD HAS TAUGHT ME. This story tells how i learned that god uses all my life experience for my good and for the good of others…

 

 

It was late in March 2006 — Houston, Texas. I had been in addiction recovery a little over a year and was soaking up God’s Word every chance I could. I listened to Joyce Meyer daily and had recently purchased an Amplified Bible to read along with her lessons.


On this particular day, I needed to take my mother, who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, for a routine doctor appointment to update her prescriptions. 

I remember momma sitting on the exam table with her feet swinging, waiting for the doctor like a little kid. The diseases had her in a child like state, this was no longer my mother but a young girl in an old woman’s body. 

The elderly doctor made his way into the exam room. Having performed a brief examination of momma, he began making notes in her file. 
During these early recovery days I never left home without a Bible. So while I was waiting with mother, I opened up my new Amplified Bible to 2 Corinthians chapter 4. I was so taken by these verses, which I had never read before, that I had to read them aloud to momma. The doctor also paused and listened intently. 

(Please read the verses below aloud, slowly before you proceed.)

For all [these] things are [taking place] for your sake, so that the more grace (divine favor and spiritual blessing) extends to more and more people and multiplies through the many, the more thanksgiving may increase [and redound] to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not become discouraged (utterly spiritless, exhausted, and wearied out through fear). Though our outer man is [progressively] decaying and wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day after day.

For our light, momentary affliction (this slight distress of the passing hour) is ever more and more abundantly preparing and producing and achieving for us an everlasting weight of glory [beyond all measure, excessively surpassing all comparisons and all calculations, a vast and transcendent glory and blessedness never to cease!],

Since we consider and look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are visible are temporal (brief and fleeting), but the things that are invisible are deathless and everlasting. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:15-18 (Amplified Bible)

Now think about where I was…

I had just come through what was probably the most difficult time of my life. I was in the early stages of recovery from multiple addictions, my family was scattered and dismembered, I had recently experienced jail time, and was pressing desperately into God for healing. You can read my life story here.  

Here with me this day were two elderly people, my mother and the doctor, who, no doubt, had each been through various turmoils in their long lives. 

After I finished reading the verses aloud, both momma and the doctor smiled and chuckled with a sense of satisfaction. It was a moment I will never forget.

This section of Scripture quickly became my Life Verse. Time and again I have drawn on it for strength. I am there yet again. God is taking me to a deeper level of holiness, but not without pain. Struggling through new areas of sobriety, He is peeling off more layers of the flesh that must be removed so I can live unencumbered by worldly desires and bondages. 

Paul’s words give me hope that these momentary trials are fleeting in the big scheme of eternity. If I will keep my eyes focused where they should be…

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:15-18 (NIV) 

JOIN THE CONVERSATION:: What are your momentary troubles today?

 
If you can’t see a screen below CLICK HERE for a beautiful Hillsong worship video.


Photo credit: gatordawg / 123RF Stock Photo

07.17.13

The 12 Steps of Humility :: LISTEN MORE THAN TALK

IN THE 12 STEPS OF HUMILITY WE ARE CLIMBING SAINT BENEDICT’S LADDER OF HUMILITY.  WITH EACH RUNG WE COME CLOSER TO THE PERFECT LOVE OF GOD.

 

The ladder is our life on earth, if we humble our heart God will raise it to heaven. ~ St. Benedict 
 

THE NINTH STEP OF HUMILITY: A monk restrains [her] speech, not speaking until an answer is required.

Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut. ~ Proverbs 10-19 (MSG)

 






In a culture big on watching most of us don’t really know how to listen. Do you find yourself listening to friends or loved ones with virtually no eye contact or verbal responses while surfing email or social media on your smartphone? 

Turn listening into a living response rather than a cerebral activity. That means we may have to listen when we don’t want to. If we pick and choose we may miss an important message God is trying to bring us. Besides that, it all comes back to honoring Christ in the other. It’s basic Golden Rule behavior really.

To listen closely, with every fibre of our being, at every moment of the day, is one of the most difficult things in the world, and yet it is essential if we mean to find the God whom we are seeking.*


Benedictine spirituality calls us to listen to four things:

  • The Gospels.
  • The Rule.
  • Each other.
  • Life around us.


We won’t hear God through any of these unless we stop talking, typing or texting!

If we want to grow in grace, we must learn to talk less and listen more.** 

 
RESOURCES:
Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today by Joan Chittister
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan Chittister
A Guide to Living in the Truth: Saint Benedict’s Teaching on Humility by Michael Casey
Saint Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine
The Rule of Saint Benedict edited by Timothy Fry

Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants by Dennis Okholm**

Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict by Esther de Waal*
 

Image credit: tuk69tuk / 123RF Stock Photo

09.03.14

RHW Podcast Episode 19

Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode 19 of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. My name is Tamara and I will be your host. Today we are talking about: The Relational Practices of Contemplative Spirituality: Connecting to God by Being Present with Others.

The Christian church body as a whole depends on relationships to maintain and grow in a healthy way. We lift each other up in times of worship and prayer, and learn together in times of study. But often we go about these activities almost on autopilot, so to speak.

What we are learning about in Contemplative spiritual practices is to be intentional about putting God at the center, before, and during our particular activities.

The Contemplative Relational Practices:

  • Worship
  • Holy Communion
  • Visiting sick or elderly
  • Volunteering
  • Listening

My work schedule right now doesn’t allow room for visitation or volunteering. So my favorite Contemplative Relational practices are worship and Holy Communion.

During Holy Communion, in the Catholic and Anglican traditions, the congregation comes to the front of the church and either stands or kneels around the altar as the priests or deacons distribute the Sacraments of the Lord’s Supper.

I love watching the procession of people coming forward and kneeling before the Lord’s table, gathering as a family to be nourished spiritually. It is such a sweet, reverential time of worship.

The subtitle today: Connecting with God by Being Present with Others is important to emphasize here. And the key word is Present. Again, our main focus in contemplative spirituality is keeping God at the center of our practices or activities. So when we are in community with the Body of Christ, fellowshipping with other believers, we honor Christ in them by being present to them while in their presence.

I encourage you the next time you engage in any of the Contemplative Relational practices: Holy Communion; Worship; Visitation; Volunteering; or simply Listening, make a special point to be more present to the Christ in others who are in your presence.

Thanks so much for joining me today on the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. I hope you have enjoyed our brief discussion of the Relational Practices of Contemplative Spirituality: Connecting to God by Being Present with Others. Please take a few minutes and check out the other columns and resources at ReachingHurtingWomen.com. I look forward to hearing from you. You can leave comments or questions below the show notes. Until next time may the grace and peace of God be yours.

Consequences

 

Death’s station is at the entrance of pleasure. ~ The Rule of Benedict

It may sound radical to say that pleasures lead to death. But think about it. What are your favorite guilty pleasures? Food? Sex? Alcohol? Sleeping? Shopping?

Is it possible, that if you continued in your pleasurable habit unrestrained, that a death could be a result? Remember, the death we are talking about here isn’t always a physical death. But it could be.

In the quote above, Saint Benedict reminds us that all pleasure has consequences. Some are emotional, some are physical, some are spiritual and most are a combination of all three. We would do well to look ahead and consider the potential consequences of this particular pleasure we are about to indulge ourselves in. Sin is fun for a season but when the season ends there will be a bill to pay. What will you be paying with? Health problems, high debt, relationship issues… Is the cost worth it?

There is a way that appears to be right,
    but in the end it leads to death. ~ Proverbs 14:12

 

Image credit: dizanna / 123RF Stock Photo

RHW Podcast Episode 18

Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode 18 of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. My name is Tamara and I will be your host. Today we are talking about: The Learning Practices of Contemplative Spirituality: Connecting to God through Discovery and Intellectual Exploration.

 

The Learning Practices of Contemplative Spirituality include but aren’t limited to:

  • Reading the Bible
  • Studying Church History and Christian Doctrine
  • Having Inspirational/Theological Conversations
  • Reading Inspirational Books, Articles, Blogs
  • Reading the Writings of Saints, Church Fathers/Mothers

There is no shortage of resources available to us today when it comes to learning the things of God. The plethora of books, blogs and Bibles can almost be overwhelming. Over the years I’ve found myself consumed with collecting all kinds, types and categories of books, Bibles and blog articles.

More recently, I have become more intentional about the material I consume. While there are so many incredible books available to me, not all of them speak to the specific message I am focused on learning and teaching.

So I have decided that at this time, I am not reading anything that doesn’t help me toward my specific goals. The books, blogs, articles, podcasts, etc… must fit into the categories and themes on which I am focused:

Benedictine Spirituality; Humility; Addiction Recovery; Contemplative Spirituality; Monastic Spirituality.

Now I’m not suggesting that you stick to these categories for yourself. But you might want to take some time to evaluate what you are spending your valuable time on.

Are the books you’re reading beneficial to the season of life that you are in?

Are they helping prepare you for the upcoming season of life?

Life is short and our time flies by faster and faster each day. I for one have a lot I want to accomplish and I don’t need unnecessary information bogging me down. I want the words I am reading to be clearly aligned with the purpose that God has put on my heart.

Another benefit of being more topically focused is that it helps keep my space less cluttered. In the last couple of years I have given away at least 25 boxes of books. They were all wonderful books, but as I sorted them out in preparation for a move, I went through them based on the criteria I stated above. If a book wasn’t something I was sure I’d read again, or if it didn’t support my life/ministry focus, I needed to pass it on for someone else to enjoy and learn from. This has been a huge boost and relief for me! As a result, I waste less time browsing books/blogs/articles, I purchase fewer books and I don’t feel as overwhelmed. Now when I do read, I am able to be more present to God and the message He is trying to convey to my mind, heart and spirit. Which is exactly what we want in Contemplative Spiritual Practices: to be more present with God and His message for us in the midst of our learning practices.

When beginning your contemplative learning practice, start by setting your intentions. Take a moment to get your heart, mind and spirit centered on God. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to be with you in and through your learning practice.

We must make a point to stop before we start. Often times I am so excited about a new book that I just fly into it without giving thought to what God has for me in it. When we put God first in all our endeavors we are certain to be more fruitful.

Briefly, let’s talk about one of the Contemplative Learning Practices. I love reading Scripture and I’m fascinated with church history, and I engage in most of the practices on the list above, but my favorite right now is reading ancient and classic works of the church mothers and fathers. There is so much we can learn from those who have gone before us.

I find much of today’s contemporary Christian books, though they may be theologically and doctrinally sound, they are often written for commercial success rather than depth of learning. Richard Foster once recommended that we keeping our reading balanced, not just in topic, but in by the age of the as well. In other words, don’t just read older books or younger books. Balance your reading list with contemporary and classic books. I’ve been doing this for a while and it has been very helpful.

Take some time to evaluate your library and how you are spending your valuable time. Make sure that you are reading things that will help you pursue the dream that God has put on your heart. Prayerfully set your intentions before beginning your learning practice. I think you will find your experience will be much more enjoyable. 

Thanks so much for joining me today on the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. I hope you have enjoyed our discussion on the Learning Practices of Contemplative Spirituality: Connecting to God through Discovery and Intellectual Exploration. Please take a few minutes and check out the other columns and resources at ReachingHurtingWomen.com. I look forward to hearing from you. You can leave comments or questions below the show notes. Until next time may the grace and peace of God be yours.

RHW Podcast Episode 17

Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode 17 of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. My name is Tamara and I will be your host. Today we are talking about: Creative Practices. 

With the Christmas season upon us, creativity is in the air. Whether you are simply dressing up your home and a tree or going all out making gifts for family and friends.

Although I don’t do much crafting these days, there were many years when the Christmas season rolled around all the craft supplies came out. When my children were young we made homemade decorations, baked and even made many gifts.

The wonderfully thing about the Contemplative Creative Practices is they are in season no matter what time of the year it is.

Here’s a list of practices you might want to consider:

  • Gardening
  • Calligraphy
  • Painting/Drawing/ Coloring
  • Cooking
  • Photography
  • Bible Journaling
  • Singing/Chanting

For many years gardening has been something I’ve enjoyed when I’ve had a yard to work in. It was always good therapy during stressful times. But in a contemplative mindset we can be closer to God using our hands with the caring of his creations.

Many years ago I used a Calligraphy pen when signing Christmas cards. This type of calligraphy while beautifully artistic isn’t the calligraphy I’m talking about here is done with a large brush stroking black paint on a blank canvas. I am fascinated with this contemplative practice and am anxious to learn it.

Painting, drawing and coloring have been close to my heart for a long time. Although I haven’t always made time for these art mediums in my schedule, when I do I’m happier for it. These days rather than painting, I’m drawing and coloring in my prayer journal during my devotional time. I’ve found this a wonderfully contemplative practice that gets me centered on the things/people I’m praying for while calming my own spirit.

For most of my adult life when I was cooking I would always have on the television for background noise. Thankfully, today I am TV free! I’ve recently learned I can enjoy my time in the kitchen without the need to be distracted.

One Contemplative Creative Practice that I really want to learn how to do better is photography. Sure I have my Smartphone camera that takes nice pictures. But I want to have a real camera and take some beautiful nature photos: birds, flowers, plants and animals. There is so much of God’s creation that we can appreciate in a finer way through the magnified lens of a camera.

A few years ago scrapbooking was the most popular crafting kick. Today Bible journaling is all the rage! I haven’t had a chance to get in on this craze but when I can get a space set up with supplies and get my journaling Bible, I’ll be diving in! This is another one of those crafting ideas that you can take seriously or lightly. Either way, it’s a great way to spend time in God’s Word and enjoy some creative time together with the Lord.

My favorite contemplative creative practice right now is chanting the Psalms. I’m a very early riser, waking long before daylight, somewhere between 3-4am. Still in my PJ’s, I tiptoe across the hall to my office, light my prayer altar candle and turn on my chanting songs. In these dark wee hours of the morning there is something very special about chanting the Psalms by candlelight. This is a recent practice, only about 4 months, but it’s one that I plan to continue for many years.

Remember, our goal in Contemplative Spirituality is to keep God at the center of our practice. So that during our activities whatever we are doing: painting, singing, cooking, or gardening, we are in prayer or meditation. Being intentional in this way will do wonders for our personal spiritual growth and for our relationship with God.

Thanks so much for joining me today on the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. I hope you have enjoyed our discussion on the Creative Practices of Contemplative Spirituality. As always I look forward to hearing from you. You can leave comments or questions below the show notes. Please take a few minutes and check out the other columns and resources at ReachingHurtingWomen.com. Until next time, may the grace and peace of God be yours.

 

RHW Podcast Episode 16

Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode 16 of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. My name is Tamara and I will be your host. Today we are talking about: Movement Practices.

The Contemplative Movement Practices include but aren’t limited to:

  • Labyrinth Walking
  • Pilgrimages
  • Tai Chi
  • Sports
  • Dancing
  • Yoga

We will touch a bit on all these Movement Practices but today I want to focus primarily on Yoga.

This first in this series of Movement Practices is walking a Labyrinth. While I haven’t tried the Labyrinth I think it would be an interesting way to practice walking meditation and prayer. A church in the city where we live has created one on their campus. I hope to check it out one day in the near future. Click here to learn more about walking a Labyrinth.

Another of the Movement Practices is taking a Pilgrimage. There are several pilgrimages one can take in different countries around the world. But I think the most famous is the Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of Saint James. I have a friend who walked it this past summer. She said it was a life changing experience for her.

Tai Chi is another movement practice I haven’t had a chance to try but I find it especially fascinating. When I do finally get to try it, I hope to experience it outdoors, maybe on a quiet beach or in a peaceful wooded park.

You may be wondering how sports made it to a list of contemplative movement practices. My initial reaction was questioning as well until I thought more about the sports I would consider contemplative. The first sport that came to mind was golf. Though I’m not a golfer, I can imagine that golfing could be quite peaceful. After all, you’re in a beautiful park, with birds and water all around. Sounds pretty contemplative to me. Other contemplative sports could be fishing, sailing and swimming. These water activities could be very relaxing and give you opportunities for reflection, meditation and prayer.

Many churches today during special times of the year have a dance worship team. The women are usually dressed in loose fitting but flowing dresses much like what women might have worn in the times of Jesus. They move about the stage or sanctuary to a beautiful worship song. I was introduced to this type of dance when doing a webinar class a few years ago. The instructor, Betsey Beckman encouraged those in the class to let go and lean in to God as we listened to the music. Starting with slow simple movements, I gradually learned not to worry about how silly I might look but to use it as a time of praise and worship to God.

My favorite of the Movement Practices is yoga. I’ve been practicing yoga on a fairly regular basis for almost 20 years. My day doesn’t start right unless it starts face on the floor in meditation and prayerful yoga. I’ve learned several basic poses and memorized portions of Scripture that go along with those poses so that when I’m in a pose, I meditate on that verse. For instance…

For Tree Pose: I meditate on Psalm 1:1-3, which reads:

Blessed is the one

    who does not walk in step with the wicked

or stand in the way that sinners take

    or sit in the company of mockers,

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,

    and who meditates on his law day and night. 

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,

    which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither—

    whatever they do prospers.

For Mountain Pose I meditate on Psalm 125:1

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,

    which cannot be shaken but endures forever.

For Chair Pose I meditate on Ephesians 2:6

I am seated with Christ in heavenly places

 

These are just a few examples of how to blend Scripture meditation with your yoga practices. And of course there are many opportunities to simply sit in silence, pray and ponder the things of God, listening for His still quiet voice to direct your day.

Thanks so much for joining me today on the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. I hope you have enjoyed our discussion on the Movement Practices of Contemplative Spirituality. As always I look forward to hearing from you. You can leave comments or questions below the show notes. Please take a few minutes and check out the other columns and resources at ReachingHurtingWomen.com. Until next time, may the grace and peace of God be yours.

Celebrate Discipline

The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people. ~ Richard Foster

 

SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES:  activities that make us capable of receiving more of God’s life and power; exercises unto godliness.

The Spiritual Disciplines call us to move from surface living to deep inner transformation. But to change our inner most being requires dedication, an intentional commitment to new actions, and new habits.

MEDITATION: a long, steady look at God, His creation and His Word; stopping to give God our undivided attention.

Meditation is an inward discipline, one that leads to intimacy with God, a deepening of our life, making more room for God.

Many Christians are turned off by the word Meditation. Christian Meditation is unlike traditional Eastern Meditation where the goal is total emptying of the self. What we are talking about here is meditation upon God, His goodness, and His Word… sitting in stillness and listening for His Voice to speak to your spirit; a filling of our spirit with God’s Spirit.

Let’s consider a few practical questions regarding Meditation: 

  • WHAT TIME OF DAY SHOULD I MEDITATE?
Personally, I prefer my meditation time be in the morning when I first wake. But with work schedules that vary around the clock, not everyone is waking in the morning or sleeping at night. The important thing is that you find a time that fits your schedule and dedicate it to meditation. Start small with just five or ten minutes. As you get more and more comfortable with meditation you will find yourself forgetting about time as you soak in God’s Presence.

If I’m sleepless at midnight I spend the hours in grateful reflection. ~ Ps 63:6

  • DOES MY POSTURE DURING MEDITATION MATTER?

We should find a comfortable position, but not so comfortable that you get drowsy. It’s often best to begin with sitting in a straight back chair. If you lay down you may end of falling to sleep. Not that that’s a bad thing, but save this relaxation technique for bedtime. I practice Yoga each morning and find this a wonderful time for meditation on various Scriptures. Surprisingly, a long hot bath is where I have my best meditation time.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. ~ Psalm 19:14

  • WHAT AM I GOING TO GET OUT OF MY MEDITATION TIME? 
There are many benefits to meditation the least of which is a closer walk with God. With a foundation of silence and solitude in meditation we will find ourselves less stressed, daily life comes with more ease. We will have greater appreciation for the things of God: His Word, His Creation and most importantly His Presence in our life.

I’ll ponder all the things you’ve accomplished and give a long, loving look at your acts. ~ Ps. 77:12

Here are some suggested meditation activities:

  1. Take a nature walk, meditate on the wonder of God’s Creation around you. Enjoy the plants, trees, birds, squirrels, clouds, the breeze… This world is full of beauty that we miss everyday!
  2. Select a section of Scripture (Ps 139, Ps 86, Ps 42) read through it slowly. When a verse pops out, ponder it. What is God saying to you? Write down feelings and questions that surface.
  3. When in a public place, take time to meditate on people, see them as God sees them, hurting, loving, joyful. Delight in them as He does. Take some time to pray for them.
  4. Without getting too bogged down, meditate on current events. Look at the world through God’s eyes. Is He prompting you to pray in a new way?
These are just a few ideas to help you get started in your meditation time. The main goal of Meditation is to gaze deeply on God, His work and His Words. Anytime you can do that it will be wonderful!

What are your favorite things to use for meditation?

You may be in a place of reflection on past transgressions and needed desire to change. One of my favorite things is to meditate with choral music, specifically Gregorian. Here is one of the most beautiful of all: Miserere Mei Deus written in the 1600’s by Gregorio Allegri. I suggest reading Psalm 51, on which this song is based, before meditating on this exquisite music. You will be transformed! https://youtu.be/3s45XOnYOIw 


Resources:
Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun
Devotional Classics by Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith

01.09.13

RHW Podcast Episode 15

Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode 15 of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. My name is Tamara and I will be your host. Today we are talking about: Stillness Practices.

Last week on Episode 14 I gave you an overview of our eight categories of Contemplative Spiritual Practices. I’ll review those briefly just as a reminder. They are:

  1. Stillness Practices
  2. Movement Practices
  3. Creative Practices
  4. Learning Practices
  5. Influencing Practices
  6. Relational Practices
  7. Serving Practices
  8. Ritual Practices

For the remainder of this year we will be focusing each week on a different Contemplative Practice category. Since there are only 7 weeks left in the year, so I will combine Influencing and Serving together. Today we are talking about the Stillness Practices category. It includes:

  • Silence
  • Centering Prayer
  • Breath Prayer
  • Lectio Divina
  • The Daily Examen
  • Journaling

In previous podcast episodes we have talked about Silence, Lectio-Divina, and The Daily Examen. Today I want to focus on the Breath Prayer.

Breath prayer is an ancient Christian practice dating as far back as the 6th century. It is usually associated with the Eastern Church, specifically the Russian and Greek Orthodox churches. The Breath prayer is also known as the “Jesus Prayer” or “Prayer of the Heart.” Early practitioners of the prayer would recite, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” to the rhythm of their breath. Over the years, the prayer was shortened to, “Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy.”

Some people sing or chant the prayer but most usually say it silently within. There are some monastic traditions that use this as a prayer mantra to recite throughout their day. They will quietly whisper it under their breath as they go about their daily activities. I sometimes use the breath prayer during times of stress, or sleeplessness. But usually I use it at evening prayer time with a recorded song by John Michael Talbot called Kyrie, which I will include in today’s show notes on ReachingHurtingWomen.com

Here are a few steps to help you get started with your own breath prayer.

  1. Set aside about 5 minutes where you can be uninterrupted.
  2. Ask God to help you form your breath prayer.
  3. Ponder your favorite name for God: Father, Holy Spirit, Jesus. Choose what resonates with you.
  4. Contemplate on what you want to express in your prayer, what it is that you need. Make it short enough that you can say it in one breath.

Here are some examples:

Lord, show me your way.

God give me peace.

Lord Hear my prayer.

Once you have settled on your breath prayer write it down, sit with it, then recite it quietly to yourself. Let the words flow with your breath. Saying the first part when you inhale and the second part as you exhale.

This is a wonderful way to meditate on scripture. It’s very powerful way to calm your self down in times of stress, or when having trouble sleeping. Even throughout the day when stuck in traffic, whenever you need a dose of peace, remember your breath prayer.

Today we have talked about The Breath or Jesus Prayer a Stillness Practices in Contemplative Spirituality. I hope you will take some time to try out these Stillness Practices during one of your devotional times in the coming days. 

Thanks so much for joining me today on the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. I hope you have enjoyed our discussion on the Stillness Practices of Contemplative Spirituality. As always I look forward to hearing from you. You can leave comments or questions below the show notes. Please take a few minutes and check out the other columns and resources at ReachingHurtingWomen.com. Until next time, may the grace and peace of God be yours.

Book Review

 

New Seeds of Contemplation

by

Thomas Merton

 

A 20th Century Christian mystic, Thomas Merton is far and away one of my favorite authors. Although I haven’t read all his books yet, New Seeds of Contemplation is in my mind his greatest work. Without a doubt a modern spiritual classic.

The depth of Merton’s spiritual understanding is difficult to grasp. His words are soothing as a pool of cool water. I want to swim in them for hours.

“Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul. For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men. Most of these unnumbered seeds perish and are lost, because men are not prepared to receive them: for such seeds as these cannot spring up anywhere except in the soil of freedom, spontaneity and love.” ~ Thomas Merton

In New Seeds of Contemplation Merton takes us to deeper levels in our spiritual walk, teaching us about faith and humility, thoughtfully helping us to find our true identity in Christ. If you are on a serious spiritual growth path, seeking a clearer understanding of your relationship to God, this is the book for you. 

My feeble words fail when trying to describe the magnificence of Thomas Merton’s writing. Poetic, transcending, life-changing, mesmerizing, core-cutting, astounding, incredibly perfect, a true gift from God. It leaves me almost breathless… Always wanting more. 

The highest of recommendations from my bookshelf. READ THIS BOOK!

 

09.24.14

RHW Podcast Episode 14

Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode 14 of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. My name is Tamara and I will be your host. Today we are talking about: Contemplative Practices

As I stated in the introduction here at Reaching Hurting Women we are taking a Contemplative Path to Recovery. By that I mean we are using contemplative spiritual practices to help us cope with the challenges of not only addiction recovery but also the challenges that come with every day life in general. 

What are contemplative spiritual practices? Well they are ways where we can be intentional and deliberate about matters of the soul. They are tools that help us become more aware of God’s presence in our normal life; they inject the sacred into activities that might otherwise be ordinary. By applying contemplative spirituality we can take anything we might be doing: like cleaning house or gardening for instance, and turn them into a sacred spiritual experience.

Contemplative prayer is at the heart of the spiritual practices where we open ourselves to the mystery of Jesus Christ. What we are talking about is taking the essence of contemplative prayer and applying it to other activities so that we are keeping God’s presence at the center of whatever we are doing.

Now let’s talk about the different categories of contemplative practices and the various activities included in them. I have Eight Categories of Contemplative Practices and the different activities in each of the categories. I’m not going to go into detail about most of them, because we will be learning more about many of them in the months to come. But this will give you a nice overview of contemplative practices. As I list them off, be thinking about how you can apply these activities and practices to help you cope with your daily struggles. Let’s get started…

  1. Stillness Practices: Connecting with God in quiet reflection.
  1. Movement Practices: Connecting with God through your body in motion.
  • Walking Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Dance
  • Sports
  • Labyrinth walking
  • Pilgrimage
  1. Creative Practices: Connecting with God through creative expression.
  • Painting
  • Writing
  • Gardening
  • Sewing/Knitting
  • Sculpting
  • Music/Singing/Chanting
  • Cooking
  • Calligraphy
  1. Relational Practices: Connecting with God by being present with others.
  • Worship
  • Visiting
  • Listening
  • Communion
  • Conversations
  • Telling Stories
  • Volunteering
  1. Learning Practices: Connecting with God through intellectual exploration and discovery.
  • Reading the Bible
  • Studying Christian Doctrine
  • Studying Christian Church History
  • Reading inspiring books
  • Having Theological Conversation
  1. Influencing Practices: Connecting with God as an agent for change.
  • Voting
  • Attending a protest
  • Coaching
  • Teaching
  • Leading a team
  • Writing a letter
  1. Serving Practices: Connecting with God by sharing your gifts and resources.
  • Feeding the hungry
  • Giving blood
  • Serving your neighbor
  • Giving / Pledging Money
  1. Ritual Practices: Connecting with God through ceremonial, cultural, religious traditions.
  • Sabbath
  • Sabbatical
  • Retreats
  • Liturgy of the Hours
  • Creating a Sacred space
  • Building an altar
  • Pilgrimage

This list is designed to help you get started with your own contemplative practices. Remember, our goals are to connect with God in the midst of our activities. That means anything we do can become a contemplative practice if we have God at the center.

Quickly, let’s talk about some of the benefits of contemplative practices.

  1. We will begin to experience inner peace.
  2. Our life will be better balanced.
  3. We will find more purpose and meaning in life.
  4. We will have a healthier perspective on life.
  5. Our recovery will take on deeper meaning.

When we are walking a healthier spiritual path not only will our life be better, those in our circle of influence will be better too.

Thanks so much for joining me today on the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. I hope you have enjoyed our discussion on the Contemplative Practices. We will be diving more in these topics over the next few weeks and months. I look forward to hearing from you. You can leave comments or questions below the show notes. Please take a few minutes and check out the other columns and resources at ReachingHurtingWomen.com. Until next time may the grace and peace of God be yours.

 

Resources

Trinity Luthern

The Big Book of Christian Mysticism by Carl McColman