Category Archives: Spiritual Practices

Like a Trap

You will find three invitations in this post,

1. A spiritual practice for the new year.
2. The new issue (Autumn 2018) of Holy Ground: Like a Trap. (Yes I know it is winter and now 2019. I have had a very hectic fall with my move to Iowa. Things are finally settling into new routines. Thanks for your patience!)
3. Update with our Annual Letter
A Spiritual Practice 
for a New Beginning  
       A new year with its promise and possibility of new opportunities  stretches out before us.
       Take a few moments to ask for and to listen for the Word from God to you for 2019. Will you discover a word of  challenge or encouragement? Perhaps you hear a word of correction or hope or purpose. Pay attention to what attracts or repels you. Pay attention to your inner life, images, music that come to mind. Look at your dreams and your heart’s deep yearnings. What might God be asking of you in relation to your work for the Realm of God?
       When the Word comes  – silently in a dream, or knocking you on the head like walking into a tree – take time to explore your word or words. Look up the words in a dictionary. If they come from the Bible, track down their origin. Draw or paint them. Write a poem or song. Find an object to symbolize the word of God to you. Build or bake something. Take your word for a walk, as you  repeat it softly to yourself.  Chew over and live into the word, allow it to take flesh in you.
           Take action in relation to your word. Set an intention regarding your word. Write down some goals. Make some phone calls or appointments. Share your word with a friend and pray together about your call from God.
       It need not be a gigantic task. It may be quite simple and seem very small. One year I heard “rest.” “In returning and rest you shall be saved. In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30: 15-17 Your gift is important. It may be something you and you alone can give. You are on this earth at this point in time for a purpose. Trust the angel who whispers through your life. Say yes.

New Issue of Holy Ground: Like a Trap

       “I opened the door on apocalypse. I let it in and then kept draping throws and bright afghans on it. It brought news of my demise, my slow decomposition. I was weighed down with distraction and worry. It was like a trap.  . . .”
       “The universe is saturated and dripping with the power of Holy Love, oozing like sap from every crack and cranny of being. I trust the tenacity and persistence of life pushing through the cracks, pouring over the dam, carving out canyons, and pulsing in our veins, drawing us to ever fuller expression of being. The Word – the creating energy of being – inhabits all that is, unfurling itself in kaleidoscopic formations and scintillating complexity. . . .”
 
 

The clamoring demands of a paralyzed present

       Living in a time of apocalypse and reckoning brings both chaos and opportunity. We face great changes and challenges. We also bring particular gifts for this time, not the least of which is our faith. We look forward to the coming Realm of God manifesting more and more throughout the world.  It is important to deepen our roots into the bedrock of our faith. May these words from L. Daniel Hawk encourage us all “to look to the restorative end toward which the Lord is moving . . . rather than the clamoring demands of a paralyzed present.”

       “The vision of a future beyond the contemporary horizon, therefore, calls the people of God to look beyond the present moment, with its violence, disintegration, and failed leadership, to the restorative end toward which the Lord is moving, and so to orient faith and decision making within the context of God’s ultimate power and purposes, rather than clamoring demands of a paralyzed present.
       The parable of the fig tree and Jesus’ admonition to pay attention to the signs of his coming remind readers that God is not absent or inactive in the interim but, to the contrary, powerfully at work in every present moment to bring about the redemptive end foreseen by the prophets.”
-L. Daniel Hawk, Connections – A Lectionary Commentary for Preaching and Worship p. 3
“The Sanctuary heals me. It has brought peace and serenity to me in the chaos of the Twenty-First Century by regularly reminding me of the serenity that comes through the stability of…following the teachings and life of Jesus in good times and difficult times.” Ron  -Sanctuary Annual Letter
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Advent Manna 2: On Mute

Advent Manna – Short Takes on the Themes of Advent

Being Silent

The most beautiful thing a person can say about God would be for that person to remain silent from the wisdom of an inner wealth. So, be silent and quit flapping your gums about God.  – Meister Eckhart (1260-1329) translation by Matthew Fox.

 

You have to get past the miraculous son of Zechariah to get inside. The tall, gaunt figure looks down on you from his hollow eyes as you enter  St. John’s Abbey Church in Collegeville, Mn. Lean, muscular, and Spirit-haunted, the Baptizer brandishes a cross and is scary as all get out. He gestures with a gnarled hand toward the Baptismal Font.

John Baptist 4

If you think you are coming in here, wash up first. Repent!
Go under the flood. Die before you die.

The old priest, John’s father, did not believe the angel who showed up when Zechariah entered the Holy of Holies to burn the incense. The lot had fallen to him to step into the place so sacred that one might easily be consumed by the Furnace of Love. Gabriel’s wings fanned the smoke. His voice penetrated the old man’s mind, that rickety cupboard, where he kept jars of truth, possibility, impossibility,  reason, and a near empty cruse of hope.

“How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”

His barren, wizened, Elizabeth have a child? The priest quibbled, doubted, split hairs, as those trained as religious professionals often do.

So Gabriel tied his tongue to the floor of his mouth and sewed his lips shut. This fellow could not be trusted with the truth of God. Hard to say how he might mess up the whole plan of salvation.

Messengers from God often do this to the people they visit. They press the mute button and enforce silence for a while.

Six months after Elizabeth conceives, Gabriel makes an announcement even more incredible to Mary. She asks one question, then tells Gabriel okay, whatever you say. I am God’s servant. Pondering the angel’s words, she holds her tongue, and departs to speak with her old cousin, Elizabeth. Joseph is left to get the news on his own through a dream. Mary remains with her cousin for three months in the hill country of Judah.

Advent invites us to withdraw and close the door on distractions and doubts. Will you allow yourself to be bound by silence? This ability to tie up all the strife, hunger, gossip, and turbulence, and keep one’s mouth shut is required of servants of God. One needs to allow ideas, projects, and seeds of new growth incubate and ripen. Talk may dissipate the necessary accumulation of energy and unconscious incubation to bring actions to maturity and achieve God’s fullest purpose and intent for our lives and work.

One must be discerning about to whom and when to speak of the visions we see, the words we hear, and what grows within us in order to protect both ourselves and the promise within us from exposure to threats to its development.

Do you have a bright idea or a promise developing within you?
Don’t prematurely tweet your transformation.

There will be plenty of time to raise a ruckus after the truth gets out, as old Zechariah soon found, when the Holy Spirit opened his mouth and he burst into song for his son:

… and you, child, will be called the prophet
of the Most High;
for you go before the Lord to prepare his way
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
through the tender mercy of our God,
when the day shall dawn upon us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet in the way of peace. Luke 1: 67-7

John Baptist 5

 

 

 

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Advent Manna are short pieces taken from my writing over the years on the themes of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. This essay about Zechariah and John the Baptist was previously posted in 2015.

It has been a while since I have written here. I have been busy moving from Kansas, where I have lived for 37 years to Iowa City, Iowa. It has been a time of challenge and transformation for me. I will continue to  do the Sanctuary ministry from my new location. I  am offering spiritual guidance, teaching, leading retreats, and will continue to publish Holy Ground – Quarterly Reflection on the Contemplative Life. See the summer issue below.

Summer 2018 Holy Ground x

Subscribe to Holy Ground here. And it it makes a great Christmas gift for a friend!

 

Living in the Presence

St._Jude_Thaddaeus_Bicci_di_Lorenzo_OPA_FlorenceWhen he is here, I see holiness. I tell you something different goes on between him and the Lord God. Sometimes I get to thinking that if the light was right, I might get a glimpse of God right beside him. They is that close, that familiar.  
                                                    Thaddaeus, Is It I, Lord?, Loretta F. Ross
Living in conscious awareness of the presence of God dramatically changes us and how we see and respond to the world around us. This issue of Holy Ground explores the experience of God’s presence.
There is a profound difference between our words, concepts, theologies about God and our experience of God. For some people our language about God and our denominational theological systems and beliefs create barriers to their experience and encounter with the Holy One.
God is an event of communion. Richard Rohr

Help Us Tell Our Story 

Do you have a story about how  The Sanctuary has made a difference in your life? Maybe you are a long time subscriber of Holy Ground, or came for spiritual guidance. You might have participated in a retreat or workshop. Did you read some of our publications or blog? Perhaps, you join us on Friday mornings for silence. The Sanctuary has been tending souls for nearly thirty years and we have crossed paths with many people.
Would you send us three or four sentences about why you support this ministry with your prayers, your gifts, or your presence? We would like to share your experience of The Sanctuary with others. You may also include any suggestions you have or what you would like to see us offer.
If you prefer that your name not be used, just let us know and we will leave it off anything we publish. Comment below, or  Email  us  
or  info@fromholyground.org
And thanks for making your story part of our story!
_______________________________________
The contemplative who can stand back from a situation and see it for what it is, is more threatening to an unjust social system than the frenzied  activist who is so involved in the situation that he cannot see clearly at all.  –  Karl Barth
“The Sanctuary reaches out to help people stand back and see the immensity, depth, and richness of faith.”                                                                  
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Contemporary Spirituality of Kansas City Upcoming Events
Wisdom Teachings for Spiritual Seekers
  May 5, 2018
 
Rethinking
Communion and Community
9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Country Club Christian Church

 6101 Ward Parkway,  

Kansas City, MO 64113


July 20-21, 2018
 
Christianity as Planetary Faith: 
Engaging Teilhard’s Vision
 
Friday, July 20, 2018 – Saturday, July 21, 2018
7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. & 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (lunch included)
Bishop Miege High School
5041 Reinhardt Drive
Roeland Park, KS 66205
To register and learn more: Eventbrite
or contact: Mike Matteuzzi at 913-253-2510  

Feast

don’t wander down the dim halls of memory
lost in a musty maze of dead
ends

don’t launch out into the future
on the treacherous sea of pulp
fiction

trust this pulsing moment
tawdry, tattered, or bright
let things come to you

in the marriage
of your yes
and the outstretched hand of now

sit down at the feast
of what is so
savor swallow

eat it all

steaming-bowl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

it is in the being of the days a thing makes sense
the clear, confusing, giddy, dull, and tearful passing of the time

 

 

Poets, Prayer, and Paradigms

Poets

I lived with two poets all summer. They accompanied  me to both coasts, places in between,  and came along on a silent retreat.  Amy Fleury and Brian Doyle are both accomplished and acclaimed writers. I met them first through Fleury’s Sympathetic Magic and Doyle’s How the Light Gets In and Other Headlong Epiphanies.

sympathetic-magicThe corners of both books are bent down, exclamation points and asterisks dance in the margins. When I finished each book, I promptly started over at the beginning again.

Fleury and Doyle’s  poems sound truth in me like a struck gong. They take me into still places, new insights, and sheer delight at their artistry.

Eventually the books will find a home on my bedroom shelf of books-to-be-buried-with. These are the sort of books I want to take with me to the grave,  in case I wake up in the shadowy corridors of the Bardos, a dank, musty Sheol, or at Purgatory’s laundramat, waiting for a load of my dirty laundry. The poets carry me out of this world like a sturdy rope hanging over a wide river. If you get a good running start and grab hold tightly, you just might swing yourself right over into the generous faith of their imaginations.

I do not know if these two poets know each other.  If they do not, I hope they meet sometime for coffee. And invite me.

There is a gladness in the green-gold tides
of wheat, in the openhandedness of oaks,
and in the river’s verdegris creep over
moss-sueded stones, and fishes beneath.
                               – Amy Fleury, Green Temple

how-the-light-gets-in

Amy, a consummate artist,  dazzles me with images and words strung on a page like bright jewels. Brian ambles into the room, leans amiably against the door jamb and begins to tell me a story of what happened on his way home, or when he was teaching a class of high school kids, or talking to his father. Then turning, tosses over his shoulder the punch line with such effortless grace and spot on truth, I grin for the rest of the day.

. . . Why do
We ever bother to argue about religion? All religions are the same glorious
Wine, susceptible to going bad but capable of quiet joyous gentle elevation.
. . . Yet here I am, on Sunday morning, in the wedding reception tent, agog;
Not so much at the earnest idiot of a minister, but at everyone, sweetly, else.
– Brian Doyle, Poem After Sunday Morning Church Service in a Tent

Prayer

john-luc-seashore

PAUSE FOR PEACE
Are you looking for a group to practice and learn more about contemplation?
I am offering a four week class on contemplation and mindfulness practices here in Topeka, Ks on each of the Friday mornings in October from 7:30-8:30 am. Oct. 7, 14, 21, 28. Space is limited. We only have room for two more people. Please register at the link below or contact me by commenting here, or through my website, www.fromholyground.org

More Info and Register Here

Paradigms

What is called for is a paradigm shift, a new wineskin, a new mental construct to hold one’s life, and relationships with God, self, and neighbor. A shift in a way of understanding or a world view occurs when the current world view has reached too many anomalies or inconsistences. I can no longer cram myself, my understanding of God and others into a belief system that cannot accommodate some previously unnoticed or known, but now undeniable, realities in my own experience.

The Summer issue of Holy Ground takes a look at how we get stuck in a mental construct or paradigm which we may have outgrown. God is always calling us beyond ourselves and our current conceptions and attitudes.

Is your God too small? Mine was.

READ MORE holy-ground-summer-2016

summer-2016-holy-ground

 

 

 

Justice and the Buoyant

rushing water

A River Named Justice

thunders down canyons
pounds cliffs
crashes rock
collapses sham
shatters monuments
scatters compassion
seeps past storm doors
up dusty floor vents
splashes into bath water
cradles the buoyant
in mercy’s
harboring
stream

As I listened to the debate, it was clear that each side held deeply sincere beliefs. The speakers were from the same country and spoke the same language. But a great chasm yawned between their contrasting understandings.

I saw how a word and its meaning had taken root in the soil of each person’s life. A myriad of associations, memories, and feelings of comfort and assurance were attached to those words like a vast network of tough vines woven together. How dense and impenetrable is the garment, which clothes the assembly of still lines and curves we call letters.

“So sad,” my friend texted with her nimble fingers. “So sad,” said my other friend, as I hugged her when it was over.

When will the reality of our person-hood,
whole and holy, a trembling blossom,
carry more worth
than the brittle ideologies pacing stiffly
up and down mind’s dusty corridors?

God, make me buoyant.

_____________________

Holy Ground issue
New Issue of Holy Ground !

Put Down Your Weapons

I felt diminished, hurt and defensive. His voice grew in intensity,
as he argued to prove his point.

The latest issue of Holy Ground takes a look at  how we respond to those we disagree with. In a world of adversaries, enemies, and extreme views is there any way we can see each other as persons? How does our prayer enter into the deep divides and extreme polarities of our day?

READ IT:  Holy Ground Vol 25, No 4 Winter 2015

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Contemplative prayer
with Fr. William Meninger

Fr Meninger2

REtreat

9:00 – 3:00
Saturday, June 13, 2015
$25.00 registration includes box lunch

Christ the King Catholic Church
Topeka, Kansas

Learn More Here
Register at Eventbrite Here

Slamming Doors, Punching Walls

slamdoor2

We don’t teach meditation to the young monks.
They are not ready until they stop slamming doors.

– Thich Nhat Hanh to Thomas Merton in 1966.

The Anglican priest across the table  thought for a moment before he responded to my question. I was trying out my idea of a life and ministry focused on prayer. This man and his wife had formed contemplative communities in India and Hong Kong. “What suggestions do you have for me, a Presbyterian minister, about how I could do this?” I had asked, not even sure what I meant by a life of prayer.

“Holiness takes time,” Fr. Murray Rogers began. “You can’t hurry holiness.”

From birth to death  faith development moves us toward  deeper maturity. Followers of Jesus build strong, resilient, resourceful, creative lives through periods of doubt, struggle, disillusionment, and loss. Our life in God teaches us how to take responsibility for our inner lives – the anger, resentment, bitterness, sorrow, envy, and greed – whatever may be blocking the flow of grace in and through us. To take responsibility for our own attitudes, emotional states, opinions, and behaviors is to stop slamming doors or punching holes in one another. Mature souls require time to ripen and the ability to tolerate the slow pace and periods when it seems nothing positive is happening at all.

Such maturing requires us to look inside, to notice what is there, and to be present to what is so in our hearts moment by moment. In this process of looking we wake up to what is true and real, beyond our drama, blaming, projecting, judging, and attacking. We begin to love ourselves, God, and others more  fully and freely.

This looking inward with awareness and compassion is called contemplation in the Christian tradition. Here we discover that the realm of God is within us, as Jesus told his friends. The practice of contemplative prayer or meditation grounds and fuels our awakened compassion and love, as we carry the fruit of our practice into the world with acts of justice, mercy, creativity, beauty, and courage.

prayerstool

Little seems more important to me than this work of opening our eyes to what is true and real. Our awareness is nurtured by noticing and appreciating the myriad miracles, which surround us each day. A few minutes of silent communion with the Giver of these gifts heals, soothes, brings insight, and draws us into Love’s embrace.

Instead of our conflicts, trials, suffering, and confusion overcoming us, they become the curriculum in the school for our soul. Our teacher is the Spirit in our times of attentive listening and contemplation. As we keep showing up for class, little by little, we are freed and transformed in Christ.

Love in Small Doses for the Sin Sick Soul – Part II

This lent I will be continuing and adding to a series, Love in Small Doses, which I first posted in 2013. These are short  poetic takes on the themes and scriptures of lent. Each post will invite you to savor, slow down, or be still for a moment.

A teacher who has deeply influenced me is Carmelite author and nun, Constance Fitzgerald. Read her sweeping understanding of the significance of practicing contemplation in our time:

Teachers need to know how to educate for contemplation and transformation, if the earth is to be nurtured, if people are to be delivered from the scapegoating oppression of all kinds of violence, and if humanity is to fill its role in ushering in the next era of life on earth.

This may be the most basic challenge of religion today: not sexual mores, nor bioethics, nor commitment to justice, not dogmatic orthodoxy, not even option for the poor and oppressed nor solidarity with women, but education for a transformative contemplation, which would radically affect human motivation, consciousness, desire, and, ultimately, every other area of human life and endeavor.

All great change begins with a shift in perspective
within an individual soul and consciousness –

a truth told
a veil lifted
a sorrow rising
a cry piercing
a heart ravished 

I look forward to our lenten journey together and the changes we discover along the way.

BTW: You can do this.
I am an old monk and still slam doors from time to time.

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Topeka Area Readers Please Note !

Want to learn to MEDITATE or approach scripture from a PROGRESSIVE PROSPECTIVE?  Here are two FREE options to deepen in the SPIRIT this year during Lent.

Central Academy Lent 2015
1248 SW Buchanan
Each Wednesday from Feb 25 to March 25
5:30 Gather for Soup
6:00 – 7:30 Class
Two class offerings this year

Sign up and RSVP for classes!
Contact Central Congregational Church
(785) 235-2376; centralucc@yahoo.com

I will be teaching the five week class on contemplation, Prayer of the Yearning Heart. Rev. Joshua Longbottom will be leading a study of the gospel of Mark from a theologically progressive perspective.

It is a great help to practice contemplation in a group. I hope to see some of you there!

If silence is not your thing, dig into Joshua’s class on Mark. I promise that it won’t be dull. You will definitely see things from a new perspective!