Contemplating Moments and Briercrest

Wish me luck. I’ve been asked, by my Dr.-brother Sam Berg, to take an hour this Monday to bring my slant on God Awareness and Benedictine Spirituality to a Spiritual Formation class at Briercrest College and Seminary.

I’ve done this before and I’m never comfortable. And, admittedly, I’m even less comfortable now. Added life experience has left me with fewer answers and some embrassement over past pronouncements.

But, at least the timing is interesting. Because recently a friend wrote to me explaining that her "faith-system" has crumbled.

journeyI’m thinking that she has had what Thomas Merton calls "a contemplative moment." That is, an experience or set of experiences that has exposed a disconnection between what she has, for years, theologically assented to, and her everyday life.

In other words, she is living through a kind of faith-vertigo that has showed up all kinds of spiritual clichés. Once comforting and seemingly solid, now quite hollow. And now comes the readying to recline in and with something else, something real. What that is, how that will come, is yet to be determined.

I remember having the prerequisites of Christian life down, and I did a good job carrying them out. But, as poet David Whyte has said somewhere, it was like, "part of me was imitating myself." This is a description of a heart unconvinced of real engagement and so it’s a heart on a collision course with the truth of life.

But the "contemplative moment," or moments, are not quasi-mystical-intellectual experiences. They come in and through the emotional mess of life. They are "rags of light," experienced on "broken hills."

And these "moments" reveal that life cannot be sustained by propositions, specifically Christian propositions. That propositions are lies if they lead. That propositions are only true as by-products of story, of narrative, and connect with truth only through ongoing existential verification.

It’s like Barbara Brown Taylor in her book Leaving Church says,

"Narrative is not a choice I make when it comes time to tell the truth; it is the way that truth comes to me–not in crisp propositions but in messy tales of encounters between people and people, between people and creation, between people and the Divine."

As a Christian, when Jesus becomes more artefact than present-story it’s time to stop.

When I can no longer locate my story among the "street people, hookers and bums," or more urgently and at least as profoundly, read my narrative as part of the lynch mob, corrupt corporate execs, scaly operatives, and suicide bombers, it’s time to stop.

Time to rekindle, if possible, a desire for connecting moments. This is apparently an answer, but really a non-answer.

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  1. Life’s journey is indeed sequenced with questions.
    Questions that seek answers and questions that question other questions.
    Perhaps there are answers at the destination.
    Still, how dull would life be without questions, comtemplation and wonder?

  2. What Steve needed was not luck, but rather more time than I gave him! I’m profoundly moved by the whole presentation, in particular, the story of the dream – where Jesus catches the eye… Thanks so much, Steve. Also thanks to Deb for her informative and engaging presentation on the Enneagram.

  3. your posts contain 99.9% less bull spit than the average sermon

    “Added life experience has left me with fewer answers and some embrassement over past pronouncements.”

    the path of wisdom

    Good judgement keeps us from making egregious errors. Good judgement is gained by having engaged in those very things we seek now to avoid.

    the farm boy who has stepped in a cow pie soon learns to avoid the bullshi…


  4. Now, Len. 99.9% less? Your clearly unchurched and faulty detector suggests that Steve is near perfect – a stumbling block for him, for sure. And God forbid! What if his Starbucksian, Romanesque, New Age, do-gooder blend catches on? It’s already creeping into Briercrest of all places – college and careers folk beware. Instead of offering our praise, shouldn’t we rather gently guide Steve back to the only way – the foundational truths, the faithful witnesses, the four spiritual laws. Steve, if you’d like, I can lend you that Jimmy Swaggart “Answers your questions” book that you sent me. I’ve found it to meet Len’s purity standards; I suggest you would too.

  5. I needed a good laugh today Jeff!! Unfortunately I have to wear the hat of “hatchet lady” again…:(

    Steve, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to your presentation it helped “bring me back” somehow – maybe that thing called being centered again?

  6. Hi Jeff
    Loved your comment
    I take it as deep humour tinged with irony

    Jimmy Swaggart “Answers your questions”

    where can I get this tome of wisdom?

  7. Hey Len,

    Yes, deep humour – so deep in fact that you could almost miss it. But sorry, can’t let this rare, insightful volume go. But I can offer you this pearl of wisdom that I hope will provide you with some spiritual uplift this long weekend.

    Q “Is dancing sinful?”
    A. “Yes, I belleve all dancing , by whatever name it may be called, is sinful and harmful. Even ballroom dancing – where men hold women in their arms with their bodies touching (even lightly) and they glide along cheek to cheek – is definitely harmful.”

    You can almost hear the sin as Jimmy so eloquently describes these dens of disgusting dancers. So, Len, let there be no dancing this weekend. I trust you have been edified and encouraged.

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