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.