Category Archives: Practices with Christian elements

Exercise 24: Meeting with Jesus

Background:  Often, when we visualize an event, there is a desire to place it in an either/or category.

Harry Potter captures this well.  Near the climax of the entire series, events occur in another world, away from the action.  The things that occur there do not seem possible.  The title character asks, “Was this real?  Or is it happening in my head?”

The sage-like Albus Dumbledore answers “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

This is a helpful way to enter into visualizations.  Perhaps they are the place where our minds intersect with something bigger than us.  But even if it is only us…   This too, is real.

The more the senses are engaged in visualizations, the more powerful they tend to be.  When they leave the setting open to your own history, it can be wonderful to return to a setting that you have fond memories of, perhaps a place that you can not easily go back to.

In today’s exercise, you will be invited to meet with Jesus.  Perhaps you will substitute this appearance with someone else.  Maybe you don’t have a name for Spirit as Spirit shows up.

Lots can be reaped out of this experience if we resist the temptation to turn this into a historical quest.  Getting caught up on the details we don’t know can sour this experience.

Spiritual Exercise

  1.  Place your feet flat on the floor.  Breathe.
  2. Choose a setting you know well.  Preferably an outside environment.
  3. After you have recalled what this place looks like, furnish the sounds.  Feel the temperature of the air.  Consider the smells.
  4. See yourself walking along a path in this special place.
  5. Feel yourself approached by a figure.  This is Jesus.  Jesus will be walking with you, today.
  6. It might be a while before Jesus speaks.  Perhaps there won’t be any words at all.
  7. Continue the walk for as long as you would like.  Enjoy your time with him.

 

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Spiritual Exercise 22: Slowly Honing in Via Lectio

Background: Lectio Divina is a practice which invites us to hear the divine as we read a sacred text.  Ordinarily we pre-select a passage and read the whole thing several times, looking for a phrase that connects with us.

Sometimes this process of searching for that sacred phrase is the most difficult part.  Sometimes, that difficulty might be a good thing.  Today’s practice side-steps that difficulty, though.

The idea is to read a passage several times, but each time to re-read a progressively smaller portion, honing in something by cutting out aspect of the reading that are not speaking to you.

Spiritual Exercise

  1. Choose a passage to focus your reading on.  The total reading might be around 3 pages.  
  2. Sit with your back straight, and relax.  Breathe.
  3. When you are ready pick up your selection.  Read it, be aware of the feelings the reading stirs within you.  Be on the look out for the portion (approximately half) of the reading that connects most intimately with you.
  4. If you get to the end and are unclear about what portion you want to return to, then re-read the whole thing.
  5. When you have chosen a section of the reading (About half of the original) to re-read, take a few cleansing breaths.  Then re-read this chosen selection from your original reading.  Again, be on the look out for a section, of your reading that speaks most directly to you.  The selection you choose now might be somewhere between 1 page and 1/2 page.
  6. Be on the look out for the paragraph, within this selection, that speaks the most to you.  Choose that paragraph.
  7. Breathe, again.
  8. Now, find a sentence in that paragraph.
  9. If the sentence is too long to hold easily in your mind, consider shortening it.
  10. Transition away from your reading material, now.  Say the sacred phrase with each breath.  Consider assigning a portion to the exhale and a portion to the inhale.
  11. Continue this meditation on the single phrase for a while.
  12. When you are ready, release the phrase.  Enjoy a time of wordless communion.
  13. If you like, enjoy a conversation with God about your new understanding.

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Exercise #21: Listening to God Listen to Me

Background: Have you known — or even been –. So utterly in love that you would like to be on the phone with a person even if you had nothing to say?  There is something immature about that kind of giddiness, perhaps. But there is something wonderful, too. Consider it, just knowing that there is a line open between you and your love, even if you are not saying anything to them: sometimes this is enough.

I am not sure that Mother Theresa’s gravitas, saintliness, and devoted life often engenders comparisons to infatuated teenagers.  But I believe here, the comparison is valid.

Mother Theresa was once asked about her prayer life.  She explained that often, she listens to God. When asked what God is saying, she responded that God often said nothing: that she simply listens to God listening to her.

The Exercise

  1.  Speak to God for a while.  You might wish to use one of the prayer/spiritual journaling prompts.
  2. When you are done speaking, be still.  Listen for what God says in return.
  3. When God is done speaking (if God begins) be still.
  4. Experience yourself listening to God listen to you.  Allow yourself to grow closer.

Exercise 18: Who am I? Who are you?

Background: It is said that St. Francis past an entire night asking 2 simple questions: “Who am I, God?”  and “Who are you, God?”  It is not known what his method was; the correlation of the two questions to the two parts of breath is purely speculation on my part.

The Exercise

  1. Sit up as straight as you comfortably can.  Release your worries and obligations for the duration of your spiritual exercises today.
  2. As you inhale, ask the question, “Who are you God?”
  3. With your next inhale, ask the question, “Who am I God?”
  4. Continue this pattern.  When other thoughts or concerns arise, release them by returning to these questions and your breath.
  5. When your time is nearing completion, dismiss the questions.  Enjoy a time of wordless communion.
  6. When you are ready, explore your feelings about the questions and consider whether or not you have anything that looks like answers to these two important questions.

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You can help in turning The Faith-ing Project into a fully functioning community.  You can do this in several ways:

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Exercise 10: Centering Prayer

Father Thomas Keating has popularized a practice that is rooted in a centuries-old book called ‘The Cloud of Unknowing.’

It begins with the choice of a sacred word.  It should be noted that this sacred word might be an image, or even the breath itself.  The instructions below presume the practioner is going the word-route.

Some of the more popular words chosen include “Love”  “Loved”  “Spirit”  “God” and “Yahwew.”  Before you begin, it is wise to have chosen your sacred word.  You should stick with your sacred word at least through the duration of your practice.

Proponents of centered prayer advocate working up to 2-30 minute sessions each day.

Exercise

  1.  Place your feet flat on the floor and relax.
  2. Say your sacred word.  Recognize that this is your consent to the holy spirit to come and meet with you.
  3. As best you can, clear your mind.
  4. Know that thoughts and feelings are bound to arise.  Each time they do, dismiss them gently by saying your sacred word.
  5. Set a goal of continuing this practice for at least 20 minutes; half an hour is even better.

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You can help in turning The Faith-ing Project into a fully functioning community.  You can do this in several ways:

  • Share your thoughts, feelings, and criticism below in the comments.
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Exercise 7A & 7B: Lectio By Finding Ourselves in the Scene

Background: Many forms of Lectio Divina help the reader to place themselves in the scene.  This is not a time to got bogged down in getting the historical details just so; the important thing here is that we are bringing new life to the reading by considering how it might have happened.  Generally speaking, there are 2 elements to this.

The first is to use the imagination to identify ourselves with the people who appear in a story.  They do not need to be specifically named.  For example, if a crowd is mentioned, we might simply imagine ourselves as a member of this crowd.

The second is to engage the senses.  The easy and obvious are what it might have looked like and sounded like.  The more challenging is the tastes, smells, and textures of the place.  Investing head space into these more challenging senses can be incredibly powerful.

Invoking a sense of playfulness and seeing the text as a spring board can be helpful.  Part of the process is to trust that the Spirit is present, here.  And so if you find yourself having “walked away” from the scene as it unfolds, this can be a great thing.

Two exercises follow.  The first is a rather generic format that can be used for any text.  The second is a specific exploration of one passage in particular.

On the whole, narratives will be more fruitful for this practice than instructional, didactic texts.

Exercise

1)  Read through 1-2 pages of narrative.

2)  Read again.  This time searching for a passage between 1/4- 3/4 of a page that speaks to you.

3)  Read the passage identifying the characters that are either explicitly mentioned or implied.  Explore who you might be in this scene.

4) Imagine (perhaps by rereading) the scene from this characters perspective.

5)  Consider all of the senses: How did it sound there?  How does it look?  How does it smell?  What is the temperature?  Can you reach out and touch anything there?

6)  Can you imagine any additions to the scene not expressed by the text; perhaps what happens immediately before or after?

7) Re-read the whole selection.

8)  Spend some time with God, exploring why this perspective came to you and what God taught you through the experience.

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Exercise B:

1) Read the following passage:

The Death of Lazarus

11 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus,[a] “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus[b] was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10 But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 11 After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” 13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Thomas, who was called the Twin,[c] said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Jesus the Resurrection and the Life

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus[d] had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles[e]away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[f] Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah,[g] the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

Jesus Weeps

28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus Raises Lazarus to Life

38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

 

2) Having read that passage, you might focus on the following section:

Jesus the Resurrection and the Life

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus[d] had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles[e]away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[f] Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah,[g] the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

Jesus Weeps

28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

3) Make a mental list of the people implied or explicitly mentioned in the text.  This might include: Jesus, the Jews who came to offer support, Mary, Martha, and perhaps professionals involved in the funeral.

4) Choose who you are going to identify in this passage.  If you chose Martha, imagine her mourning from Lazurus.  Imagine her getting the news that Jesus is finally arriving.  Did she hear from a local?  From someone in advance of Jesus’ party?  Did she see them coming on the horizon?

5)  Are the words recorded the first ones she says to Jesus?  Does she run through his entourage?  Is she angry, sad, or mystified?  Does she yell or whisper?  What clothes are the people wearing?  What is the weather like?

6)  When Jesus says that he is the ressurection, are others watching and listening?  As Martha, what is happening in your heart and mind when you tell Jesus that you believe?

7)  As you, Martha, go back to find Mary, what are you thinking and feeling?  Is there a breeze that carries a scent?  What do you discover your sister doing?  What is her expression like?

8) Do you– Martha– stay in the house?  Or do you follow Mary and all the rest?  What is their mood?

9)  How do you feel as Jesus weeps?  Does he reach out and touch you?  A while before, you would have agreed with the people who are complaining.  How do you feel about them now?

10)  Re-read the whole passage that is listed above, the entire event with Lazurus.

11)  Consider what you learned through this experience of Lectio Divina.

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You can help in turning The Faith-ing Project into a fully functioning community.  You can do this in several ways:

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Exercise #2: Breathing with God

Background:  It is written that God breathed into the earth and made the first human.  This, perhaps, was how the image of God got into man in the first place: through that breath.

If we believe that God continues to be active in the world today, we might come to view that original act of creation as an ongoing event, not a one-time thing.  More to the point: perhaps God breathes into us still.

The Exercise

1.  Create a safe and quiet space for yourself.  Sit up as straight as you comfortably can.  Place your feet flat on the floor.

2.  Release your worries and responsibilities for the duration of your practice.  Don’t worry, they will still be there, waiting for you, when you are done.

3.  With your next inhale, experience this as God’s breath.  Your inhale is God breathing in to you.

4.  With your next exhale, experience this as a breathing in to God.  Your exhale is God’s inhale.

5.  Continue your practice in this manner.  Breathe with God.

6.  As your time nears its end, release this imagery of your breathing.  Enjoy a time of silent communion.

As you go about your day, pay attention to your breath.  Recognize that God breathes with you.

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You can help in turning The Faith-ing Project into a fully functioning community.  You can do this in several ways:

  • Share your thoughts, feelings, and criticism below in the comments.
  • email otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com to share something directly with the Project’s Director, or to ask to be placed on the mailing list.
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