Saturday, September 22, 2007

Spiritual Disciplines: Walking The Path

All I asked for was a book that would help me grow as a Christian and develop my spiritual maturity. Usually people recommend books lacking any substantive or practical advice on trusting Jesus or whatever. In this case I got more than I asked for when someone told me about book on the active practice of various disciplines that are meant to strengthen our walk with God through fasting, Bible Study, meditation, etc. Making these practices a part of your life are challenging. I read the book twice and only made a handful of half-hearted attempts. How many times have any of us promised to fast only to gobble down an entire bag of chips? What I am hoping to do is to post whenever I actually attempt one of the disciplines to share my experiences both successes and failures. Though I do think these disciplines are important to our spiritual growth they aren’t meant to be taken lightly and if you have any doubts about them speak to your pastor or someone you trust. I have done that myself as I attempt to practice each of these disciplines to know the proper way (if any) that they are meant to be practiced.

I am starting off with a prayer labyrinth which is an odd choice since it was a tool more closely associated with Greek pagan culture than with Christian practice. Whenever a church adds a prayer labyrinth extreme heat follows. I didn’t take walking the prayer labyrinth lightly as I asked my buddy Ken, who walked it before, the pro’s and con’s of walking the maze. As for the labyrinth itself it isn’t like mazes we played with during school rainy days which have a single path through the maze with many turns and dead ends to lead you away from the main path. The prayer labyrinth is only a single path leading to the center which you have to retrace to get out again. If you do choose to try it there are two things you need to do before hand to prepare yourself for this experience. First, pray for guidance. Many well meaning Christians lose their way in the pursuit of spiritual disciplines. For instance, One-ness Pentecostalism was born when a man having an all night vigil had a “revelation: about the true nature of God. Second, you need to have a tentative plan of what you are going to think, pray, or meditate on while you are walking the path. Third, be aware of your steps. If you aren’t paying attention you will cross over a line breaking the path. I hate to admit it happened to me twice. My mistake was I went having no set plans and both times got lost in my own imagination making my mind jump around on matters of faith and whether I should have chicken for dinner. This time I had the plan to concentrate on a portion of 1 Peter chapter 1, chewing on the words, and seeking God’s guidance. Walking the labyrinth forced me to be strict confines being very conscientious of my steps. I couldn’t rush, my steps became well paced, stopping every now and again to look at the scripture to remind myself of the important words of God. Sometimes placing a strict confine on your actions can be helpful in opening yourself up to the work of God in your heart. If I were to rush through is to miss the beauty of walking with God. Looking back I could have just as easily had the same result walking through the park lost in God’s grace around me. And in the middle of my walk the bells of the local church started to ring… Gravy!

Recommended further reading: I kept this part until the end so you could decide for yourselves what you thought about the matter. Though I'd say my experience was positive I still am a bit wary considering the maze's past. Here are some readings on it both pro and con.

I don't know who these people are that wrote these articles, but they are very critical of prayer labyrinths. I mean very critical and they make some valid points.

Of course the Wikipedia entry. It speaks for itself.

I am suprised to find this article in the Christian Standard. Aren't they a staunch right wing magazine? Or am I wrong? here is the pro side.

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posted by Out Of Jersey | 1:23 PM


Blogger dorsey said...

I think I might have the Willard book, but I don't think I ever got around to reading it. Dallas Willard and Richard Foster are good friends and have been instrumental in what is referred to as the Spiritual Formation movement (if you can really call it a movement). I have read Foster's classic, "Celebration of Discipline." While it didn't propel me down a path of monastic observance, it was enormously enlightening, and certainly affected my worldview and practice (I really wanted to use the word praxis there, but that's just become so... y'know).

The biggest thing I took from the Foster book is his understanding of the narrow path. I was raised to fear the narrow path as some fundamentalist perfection from which I must not deviate. However, Foster describes it like this. The spiritual disciplines are like a narrow ridge with a sheer drop-off on either side: there is the abyss of trust in works on one side and the abyss of faith without deeds on the other. That single idea changed my life.

If you don't have it, I'm sure I have an extra copy somewhere. I'd love to hand it to you over a beer.

6:17 AM  
Blogger RC said...

thanks for the book recommendation. my wife's reading a willard book right now, but i've never read one. you've peaked my curiousity.

10:18 PM  
Blogger Art said...

Interesting about the labyrinths. I knew little about them... funny the negative articles really picqued my interest! But fasting has always been a compelling idea to me. And it is mainly an idea for me because the times I've tried it, well, let's just say it didn't last very long...

7:31 AM  
Blogger The Cubicle Reverend said...

I'd definitely be down for that. Thanks for your insight. The spiritual practices are an interesting phenomena. I am not sure I totally grasp what they'll do for me or my life, but am very curious to see where they take me.

It is a worthwhile read. I haven't read any of his other books, but probably will one of these days.

I hear ya bud. I usually make it til about dinner time. One of my future posts will be on fasting.

7:15 PM  
Blogger Todd Vick said...

I heartily recommend Foster's book over Willard's. Nothing personal to Dr. Willard, but Foster is less legalistic, and to me, made the "disciplines" more fun for me. Anything that brings me closer to Christ is worth using.

6:06 AM  
Blogger Too_Lively said...

This is good stuff. I will be interested in reading about your other experiences of this sort, if you choose to share.

6:59 AM  
Blogger The Cubicle Reverend said...

I'll have to check out Foster's book. I plan on talking about a few others in the future that touch on the same subject.

I hope to in the near future.

6:54 PM  

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