Lent is time for self-examination and penitence. It is to prepare us for the observance of Good Friday and celebration of Easter. Some people give something up for Lent and some people add a spiritual practice or reading in order to add something for spiritual growth during the time of Lent. All is meant so that they can observe Good Friday and Easter with sincere participation.
Lent is preparation for observance of Good Friday with all its agony. The relationship between us and God has been broken. Our sin, wanting to go our own way, instead of following God’s, stands in the way. The relationship of love is severed. We need to return to the love of God, loving God and allowing God’s love to enfold us. For some it is fasting that gets them to this place. For others it is accepting some increased participation in a spiritual discipline. In the last analysis it is by the grace of God that we reach that point. One of the great hymns for Lent is Charles Wesley’s “Jesus, Lover of My Soul” a verse of which contains:
Plenteous grace with thee is found,
grace to cover all my sin:
let the healing streams abound;
make and keep me pure within.
And Lent is the time for preparation for Easter. Easter is the great celebration of the resurrection. The resurrection of Christ means that his death is the not end. Christ died for us, to restore the relationship between us and God, he rose again from the dead in order to restore us to a loving relationship with God and other human beings. It means resurrection for us. Rising from death to life, giving to us eternal life. The same hymn, Charles Wesley’s “Jesus, Lover of My Soul,” contains this verse:
Thou of life the fountain art;
freely let me take of thee;
spring thou up within my heart,
rise to all eternity.
Two books are written by J. David Muyskens and published by Upper Room Books on Centering Prayer. One is for beginners. Forty Days to a Closer Walk with God introduces Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina. The second book is intended for those you want to continue contemplative prayer. It is called Sacred Breath: Forty Days of Centering Prayer. Both have a formate of about two pages of reading for each day for forty days and suggestions for prayer and meditation with scripture. They can be ordered through Contemplative Outreach (contemplativeoutreach.org) or Upper Room Books (www.upperroom.org). Both are available in digital format. Upper Room Books is converting them to ebook platforms making them available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble (Nook), iBooks and Google Books.
It is the Holy Spirit who enlivens and guides us. Not our own power. Perhaps if you are one of the 100 most influential persons in the world, as the Time magazine had it you may have some power. But it is small in comparison. Really, you can do nothing in your own power. To have any power or influence you must be working for the Holy Spirit. It is by the Spirit’s power that anything is accomplished.
The first disciples of Jesus felt empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In that power they turned the world upside down. There is still a lot to be corrected in our world. That will be done by the Holy Spirit. We can trust in that power, we can cooperate with it, we can pray and follow as the Lord leads. But that is all that we can do.
Easter is a time for rejoicing. Our Savior is risen, he was dead but is now alive! Christ is able to be a companion to each of us. Recently I had an experience: the emotion that accompanies love for God was given to me. I had not distrusted God before but was not feeling love for my Maker. I knew that the Lord of all was Creator. I felt like he was judge over all, and constantly judge over my life. I had to behave myself in order to deserve God’s favor.
But in prayer one day, it was actually a moment of Centering Prayer. I used the word “love” as my prayer word. And instantaneously I was given the feelings of love for God and Jesus, who represented the divine. Suddenly I was given the emotions that go with loving God. Mostly my story is one of gradual growth in devotion. But this was sudden and life-transforming. It was a gift, God’s grace at work. I cannot explain it except to say it was pure gift.
Since that time I have an assurance that God really is at work in our world. I am a recipient of God’s love for me and feel great love for God. I hope that love overwhelms you. I do not say that your experience should be the same as mine. I just pray you may be given the reality of God’s being in your life. Christ is with you. He is risen indeed!
Spiritually there is a great hunger today for contemplative and more satisfying experiences with God. Puritanism might seem to be an unlikely source for this, yet few groups in the history of Christian spirituality have written more extensively or wisely on the subject. Isaac Ambrose (1604–64), a relatively forgotten English Puritan, developed a theological foundation for the spiritual life based upon the Christian’s intimate union with Christ, which the Puritans often called “spiritual marriage.”
Schwanda demonstrates that this vibrant relationship of union and communion with Jesus, inspired by the Holy Spirit, was manifested in a deep contemplative piety of gazing lovingly and gratefully upon God. At the same time, Ambrose did not neglect loving his neighbors. This study reveals how heavenly meditation was one of the signiﬁcant practices engaged by Ambrose to cultivate spiritual intimacy and enjoyment of God. Further, his experiential reading of Scripture, in particular the Song of Songs, provided him with a language of ravishment and delight in God. This book provides a distinctively Protestant foundation for recovering the contemplative life while recognizing the signiﬁcant contributions of the Western Catholic tradition.
SOUL RECREATION: The Contemplative Mystical Piety of Puritanism by Tom Schwanda
Available from Pickwick Publications, 199 West 8th Avenue, Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401
Tel. (541) 344-1528 • Fax (541) 344-1506
An imprint of WIPF and STOCK Publishers
ISBN: 978-1-61097-455-4 / $35 / 314 pp. / paper SOUL RECREATION: The Contemplative Mystical Piety of Puritanism
Welcome to the Web site of the Reformed Spirituality Network. We try to connect people who are interested in the Reformed tradition of Christianity and the practices that encourage spiritual growth.
The Reformed Spirituality Network is especially dedicated to encouraging the private and home practices that enrich our relationship with God through the week. We advocate traditional Reformed practices as well as disciplines that can bring growth to our spiritual lives in our time. The World Communion of Reformed Churches meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2010 approved a statement on "Worshiping the Triune God." This important document is available for discussion in our churches. Included in the document is a statement about "Daily Worship." It says, "Wise is the community that nourishes faith by encouraging daily worship for all believers, with emphasis on reading and meditation on God's Word, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit, offering prayers of praise and petition, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, listening for God in 'sheer silence,' (I Kings 19:12) and living every moment before the face of God."
We want to encourage dialogue: Please let us know your reactions and questions regarding anything in the resources section of this web site. We would like to establish a conversation with you. You can address your comments to the author of an article or any of the officers of organization.
At the present moment we are considering becoming a membership organization. We may ask for annual dues such at $50 for a regular annual membership and lesser amounts for categories such as student membership. Your suggestions about this way of raising money for the network and ideas for categories will be welcomed.