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Mon, September 26, 2011

Reading With God

By Gard Jameson

In the prayer traditions of the West, there is an approach to prayer that echoes the scripture of the need to love God with all of "our heart, our mind, our body and our soul." This is the tradition of Lectio Divina, which means "divine reading," reading with God. Lectio Divina incorporates all four levels of the psyche, therefore four unique perspectives, revealing the four senses of a sacred text. The monks and nuns as well used this approach to their engagement with creation, itself! Each level opens up a new horizon of appreciation and presents a unique way of approaching the material. These four levels of appreciation are the literal, the thoughtful or reflective, the heartfelt or responsive, and the soulful or restful, resting in God's Presence. With literal, we are allowed to experience the facts of the story through the lens of the imagination. Through image we are able to "taste and see," to be present imaginally to the events described. When we engage in thoughtful reflection, the meaning of the story begins to reveal itself. We are asked to reflectively penetrate to the deeper and richer levels of understanding that the story reveals. As we move to the level of the heartfelt, a moral response to the story emerges. The story asks us the important question: now, that you've understood, what are you going to do to respond faithfully? The final level, the soulful or spiritual opens a well of infinite value that holds the power to heal and transform, to reveal soul. It is here that we consent to God's Presence and Action in our lives, infusing a new quality of wisdom and compassion. Only as we move into the story in all four dimensions (the literal, thoughtful, heartfelt, and spiritual) will we unveil the full measure of the gifts of the sacred text. In reality, our quest in reading sacred texts is a never-ending path to deeper and more profound perspectives. To remain on the surface of a literal interpretation of a sacred text is to miss the life-transforming meanings and values contained in sacred literature.

Lectio Divina is an ancient practice from the Christian Contemplative Heritage. Lectio Divina was a regular practice in monasteries by the time of St. Benedict in the 6th century. The classical practice of Lectio Divina can be divided into two forms: monastic and scholastic. The scholastic form was developed in the Middle Ages and divides the process of Lectio Divina into four consecutive steps: reading, reflecting, responding and resting. The monastic form of Lectio Divina is a more ancient method in which reading, reflecting, responding and resting are experienced as moments rather than steps in a process. In this form, the interaction among the moments is dynamic and the movement through the moments follows the spontaneous prompting of the Holy Spirit. So that, at one moment we may be reading and the next moment we may fall into the depths of intimate communion with God, resting in that Presence. To allow for this spontaneity, Lectio Divina was originally practiced in private.

The current resurgence of Lectio Divina owes much to the reformations of Vatican II and the revival of the contemplative dimension of Christianity. Today, Lectio Divina is practiced in monasteries and by laypeople around the world. New practices have also been inspired by the ancient practice of Lectio Divina, such as praying the scriptures in common, which uses the scholastic form of Lectio Divina for a group experience of praying the scriptures. I recommend Nan Merrill's Praying the Psalms, and Thelma Hall's Too Deep For Words in this regard. Though the method of Lectio Divina has taken slightly different forms throughout the centuries, the purpose has remained the same: to enter into relationship with God and cultivate the gifts of contemplation, God's unconditional love, Divine Joy and an Abiding Sense of Eternal Peace.

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Wed, June 08, 2011

Unconditional Love

By Gard Jameson

Every once in a while, we get a glimpse, if we are fortunate, of the Unconditional Love which God, our Heavenly Parent, has for each of us. For the past several months, I have experienced just how conditioned God's love is in the mind of many. Again, I reference the study done by Baylor University in which more than 75% of respondents think of God as Distant, Critical or Authoritative. Though the preacher may speak of God's love, the context of His wrath, His place of eternal damnation and His Judgemental Nature tend to dilute any sense of that love or any desire to be close to that God. Who would want to be close to an earthly parent who was was distant, critical and authoritative in character and behavior? And so, Jesus asks some very simple questions: if a child would ask for bread, would a loving parent give a stone? Absolutely not! Jesus remarks how much greater is God's care and love for each of His children than even our earthly parents!

It is a simple question: is God's love unconditional? If it is then there are no strings attached, right? No preconditions for God's saving love to be experienced, right? Well, the traditional doctrine of the atonement is clearly a condition of God's favor.

To quote a senior pastor: "the principle under-girding blood atonement was based on the idea of a life for a life." But wait, didn't Jesus say: "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' (Ex 21:24, Lev 24:20, Deut 19:21) But I tell you not to resist an evil person...I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. (Matt 5:38-44). Not only does Jesus reject the idea of "a life for a life," but he is also not a literalist, taking every jot and tittle of Scripture as God's revealed word.

The doctrine of the atonement represents a presentation of God's conditional love, pure and simple. There will be remission of sins only "if" there is shedding of blood. To quote the senior pastor: "remember the key idea of atonement is one life for another. Blood has to be shed, because the life of all living beings is within the blood (Lev 17:14)."

Contemplative Prayer liberates once and for all from such puerile ideas of God's nature and character. In contemplative prayer, we are granted an experience which forever displaces any notions of the conditions which God places upon our experience of His Personal Presence or upon the experience of Salvation. I invite you to such an experience, freeing you from the bondage of fear, prejudice and condemnation which such ideas as the atonement place upon the soul. May you forever live in the freedom of the experiential realization of God's Unconditional Love!

See below for the understanding of how Contemplative Prayer actually works. Blessings, Gard

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Tue, December 14, 2010

Divine Inheritance

By Gard Jameson

During the holiday season, it is a good time to reflect and meditate upon our divine inheritance. Moses, Jesus and Muhammad came from good family inheritance. If we were truly aware of our divine inheritance, we would never despair. During the month of December we celebrate the birth of Jesus in Christianity, the Festival of Lights in Judaism and the Islamic New Year. Though we see tension and conflict all around us, yet, we are told this is a time to celebrate!

And yes, we have every reason to celebrate when we contemplate the many ways that God comes to reveal the Divine Presence within our midst. If we could learn to open up to these gifts, all things would become new. Contemplative Prayer will open you up to these influences, if you would but make the Divine Appointment, at least twice a day, to consent to God's Presence and Action in our lives, to allow the wounds of a lifetime to be healed so that we might better reveal God's love, joy and peace to all around us.

If God were standing in front of you, right now, and asked for twenty minutes of your time to just be with the Holy Presence, I doubt you would refuse. In fact, I suspect you would jump into the Divine Embrace, to allow that loving affection to touch and transform your soul. How often do we deny God access? How about a rededication? This is what the Festival of Lights is about, a rededication of our temple to the will and wonder of God.

You have been graced, gifted with the presence of:

  1. The love-filled bestowal of God, the Thought Adjuster, the Indwelling Presence, the Light of Lights, the Eternal Mystery of God, small enough to indwell your heart, large enough to create a trillion galaxies.

  2. The Spirit Presence of the Eternal Son, the gravity circuit of spiritual energy which suffuses every cell of your body, every reflective thought and every spiritual impulse, which encircuits all the galaxies of time and space. It is this great spiritual current that emanates from Paradise and that draws us ever inward toward the Paradise Home of God in the Eternal Adventure.

  3. The Compassionate Presence of the Infinite Spirit, the universal mind circuit that creates an eternal circle of intelligent kinship, growth and opportunity.

  4. The spirit of the Father and the Son, the Pentecostal Spirit of Truth, the revelation of truth as an inward personal experience of the soul.

  5. The spirit of the Infinite Spirit and the Universe Mother Spirit, the Holy Spirit which provides a deep intuitive appreciation of Divine Guidance. Together with Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit hovers over our world, seeking to teach truth and to spiritually enlighten the minds of all people, to inspire the soul of every person to participate in the greatest of all adventures, the finding and doing of God's will, assenting to Paradise goal of divine destiny.

  6. The Seven Adjutant Mind Spirits which ever seek to provide direction and purpose to every mortal existence through the exercise of spiritual reflection and meaningful moral choices.

  7. The presence of countless, unseen spirits and beings who ever toil to make our existence upon this world one that is connected to spiritual influence, divine insight and moral integrity. There are Angels here, now, who wish to help us along the path, if we would but reach out in faith and ask for their assistance.

When you open up to these influences, which act as one, you realize that God, ever-respectful of your free will, has put every possible resource at your disposal to help you heal and be transformed in the spirit. The choice is ours to open these gifts and forever appreciate the gracious manner in which God has been here, ready to assist our journey, with power and grace.

So, in the Spirit of the New Year, will you rededicate your soul to the inward adventure of knowing the profound depth and breadth of God's love for you, will you ask, seek and knock, requesting the Divine Inheritance to be made manifest in your personal experience. If you do, you will be astonished!

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Fri, August 20, 2010

21st Century Consciousness

By Gard Jameson

21st Century Consciousness

It is time for a change in consciousness! As we examine the world political scene, we observe that something is seriously wrong. Political parties are seriously divided and unable to engage in sincere conversation. Nations are raging against one another, ready to go to war. In the days when we warred with sticks and stones, warring behavior did not inflict too much damage. Today, in the moment of nuclear warfare, one bomb would be absolutely devastating. And, yet, there are those who engage in such warfare! These issues are at the level of the human species and its interspecies relationships.

Now, consider what we are doing intraspecies, between species. A recent report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Switzerland suggests that over 17,000 species are now threatened by extinction. "More than one in five of all known mammals, over a quarter of reptiles and 70% of plants are under threat." The threat is primarily induced by the activity of the human species! There have been five great periods of extinction in the 3.8 billion years of earth life; this current period of extinction is the largest ever and primarily due to human behavior.

What is driving such damage? It is our attitude toward nature that is driven by our primitive animal instincts, instincts of fear, anger and greed. Fear, anger and greed have created a condition wherein nature is no longer regarded as sacred; rather, it is regarded as a source of inventory for consumption. This attitude is destroying our planet and will ultimately consume the human species.

All of this is said not to frighten and create additional fear. It is said to underscore the importance of the transformation of consciousness. Until fear is displaced by God's unconditional love, until anger is displaced by Shalom, Salaam, Peace, the peace that passes all understanding, until greed is replaced by a quality of joy that does not fabricate need, we will continue to devastate the planet. All one need do is to witness the quality of fear, anger and greed that led to the decisions that created the conditions for the blowout of BP's well. That disaster did not have to take place had there been a different quality of awareness on board. And, that is just a small sample of what is taking place on a global basis.

So, what is the solution? As we have suggested in this blog, at least twice a day consenting to the Presence and Action of the Divine Presence. Allowing consciousness to be shifted in its intimate relation with divinity. The connection to the Divine infuses a quality of compassion and wisdom which will one day help secure the welfare of not only the human species, but all species! The world is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects, awaiting consumption.

The greatest political act, believe it or not, is to engage in a process of mutual correspondence with the Divine Presence that indwells you, now. Such a correspondence will lead to mutually enhancing behaviors, recognizing the interdepedence of all creation.

Blessings upon you and your journey!

Gard

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Thu, June 17, 2010

Friendship With God

By Gard Jameson

Friendship with God

How do we cultivate any friendship? By spending time with the person that we wish to be friends with! It is a very simple formula.

Imagine someone who desires to be your friend, who happens to love you unconditionally, who always forgives your mistakes and, on top of that, wants to help you in every possible way to be a complete person, brimming with enthusiasm and joy, having purpose and direction.

Well, guess what? Such a person exists. God desires to be your best friend in this adventure called life. God desires to be in relationship with you. God is present Now and inviting you to get acquainted with His congenial, loveable Person.

Most people are confused about God. To get unconfused, try being God's friend. Ask God to bring blessing to your life, to reveal his character to you, to help you on your journey. That simple ask, if done in sincerity, will reveal your best friend in the universe, God.

There are stages of building your relationship with God, beginning with getting acquainted, which is a bit awkward, due to our preconceived notions, our lack of attentiveness to cultivating the relationship and our own insincerity. "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God."

The second step is friendliness. At this stage you now have a sense of God and His Presence in your life. You are developing a sense that God can be trusted, unlike many relationships. You are also gaining a faith assurance in the promises of God, that in time they will become real. This step can take some time depending again upon the quality of sincerity that we bring to the relationship. For most of us, deep wounds need to healed, which God will do, to bring us into Divine Relationship.

The third step is friendship. Now, you are clear. God is good; you can see that goodness in the acts of kindness of others and in your own choices to be good. God is sublimely beautiful; you can see that beauty in the creation, in the amazing intelligence which fills every nook and cranny of the creation. God is true; you can see that truth in how God's values actually do work to promote the welfare of all. God is love and, specifically, cares about your welfare. In this step we walk with God every day. We experience God's Presence at every moment and are delighted by that Presence.

The fourth step is union. In this moment you have consecrated your will to the doing of God's will. You have learned to trust God in every way. You have in your experience a sense of the Infinite Depth of God's Regard for his beloved children; and, you are manifesting that regard in your relations with people around you, whether friend or foe.

Contemplative prayer is a deepening of faith. It is the signal that you are willing to spend your most precious asset, your time, with the Beloved, God. For most people, prayer is quick and over; it is not a twenty minute visit; it is a twenty second recitation. If we truly desire relationship with God, we will set aside a signficant portion of our day, twenty minutes in the morning and twenty minutes in afternoon, at the very least, to spend time with the One who loves us most dearly. In this manner, you will cultivate your friendship with God. You will learn to delight in taking this time with the One who loves you unconditionally, who forgives you always and who serves you in exploring the enchanted pathway of the divine will.

I ask you to consider: why wouldn't you want to spend time with your best friend?

Blessings!

Gard

"You are my friends... I choose you." John 15:15

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Mon, February 22, 2010

The Divine Presence Within

By Gard Jameson

The Divine Presence Within

The greatest lesson in the spiritual life is the realization that the Glory of the Divine resides within each of us. Jesus put it this way: The Kingdom of God is Within You. This cosmic fact is a door leading to a quality of being that is sublimely joyous and liberating.

Like the Musk Deer we go seeking for the great aroma outside of ourselves, ceaselessly searching outside of ourselves for something that is within. One poet put it this way: When you are lonely or in darkness, I wish I could show you the astonishing light of your own being.

That astonishing light is a source of reassurance in difficult times; it is a source of inspiration in all times, leading our footsteps progressively deeper into the intimacy of divine love and transformation. Like anything worthwhile, the awareness of this inner realm of light and life, of love and joy, takes time. Why? Because it involves a relationship of trust. It is the development of our own capacity to trust in the reality of this inner source of inspiration and companionship, God. Developing our commitment to this relationship takes time.

The primary obstacle that keeps us from the experience of God's Indwelling Presence is the very thought that we are separated from God. We fail to realize that God indwells us; therefore, we fail to take the time to cultivate the most precious relationship in our lives. Who of us would think to fall in love with another person, believing that we did not have to spend any time cultivating the relationship? And, yet, this is exactly what we do with God. Even devout believers fail to take time on a daily basis to develop this relationship. At best, believers often mistakenly regard a minute or two of prayer each day as sufficient and adequate. Not so!

When we begin to take time, to make a Divine Appointment with God each and every day, we begin to experience the gradual development of intimacy with God. We sense his Presence more and more in our thoughts, in our words, in our activity. We begin to experience God's Presence in other people and in the world around us. Our hope in the future is enlivened; our willingness to serve others is inspired.

Our Divine Appointment is a time when we merely show up for twenty or thirty minutes, at least twice a day, to engage in communion with the One who loves us most dearly. In that time, we merely consent to be present to God's Presence and Action within us. This act is the centerpiece of a meaningful life. It is the central act without which any person's religion will always remain unfulfilled. This act is worship. Worship begins to suffuse every pore of our being with the awareness of Divine Presence.

Worship is the act of rising to a personal consciousness of the Real Presence of God which floods the soul and bathes the whole inward spirit with refreshing streams of inspiration and healing. As one great teacher put it: "never to have felt that, never to have opened the life to these incoming divine tides, never to have experienced the joys of personal fellowship with God, is surely to have missed the richest privilege and the highest beatitude of religion." Do you have time to make a Divine Appointment? Your invitation lies within your own heart.

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Mon, February 01, 2010

In the Image of God

By Gard Jameson

In the Image of God

To whom, then, will you compare God? What image will you compare him to? Is 40:18

We are often perplexed about what it means to be created in the image of God. (Genesis 1:26, 27) We are told that we are all created in his image. What is the image? Is it a Him or a Her or an It? Does the image have hands and legs and one head?

A recent study at Baylor University suggests that most respondents saw God as distant, angry and critical. Who would want to hang out with such an image of God? Such images are the legacy of the dawn of faith and in no manner reflect the truth of God's Presence in our very souls. These images also betray the reality of a God of Unconditional Love, a God who does not change his opinions of us, but, who loves us as infinitely valuable sons and daughters.

Contemplative Prayer answers the question of image by suggesting that we are looking more at qualities than we are at facial features. These qualities are divine qualities and reflected in the idea that we are indwelt by a fragment of God, a Thought Adjuster, a Mystery Monitor, the Presence of God. What a supernal realization: that God is present within! The great Stoic philosopher, the Roman slave Epictetus, put it this way: "You bear God about with you, poor wretch, and know it not... O, slow to understand your nature, and estranged from God!"

Contemplative Prayer brings about a new quality of being, a new way of being in the world, in which, as Paul suggests to the Colossians: there is "heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another." Imagine if everyone reflected this image toward everyone around them. It would be a new world!

This is why Contemplative Prayer is so very important in our daily experience. God yearns for our companionship. Will take the step? Only by spending time with God, do we become transformed into the image of God. It does not happen in any other way. The experience of Contemplative Prayer, communion or worship makes the worshiper increasingly like the Being who is worshiped.

And so, Contemplative Prayer invites us into an experience of depth in which we are privileged to commune with the very God who indwells our soul. Contemplative Prayer enriches our lives in unspeakable ways. You are invited to taste and see the reality of this experience, that God can be known and loved as the most benevolent and loving Friend that we shall ever be in relationship with.

"Of God, the Most Inescapable of all Presences, the Most Loving of all Friends, we have the Right to be the Most Certain of all Universe Experiences!" The Urantia Book

Guidelines for Contemplative Prayer:

1) Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God's Presence and Action within.

2) Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God's Presence and Action within.

3) When engaged with your thoughts (ideas, inspirations, sensations, feelings), return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.

4) At the end of the prayer period (twenty to thirty minutes), remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes. The sacred word can be any word that expresses your deepest intention to be present to God's Presence. (Father, Mother, Peace, Love, God, Glory, Abba) Bless You as Enter the Sacred Gate of the Infinite and Eternal God of Love!

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Fri, January 15, 2010

Contemplative Prayer Blog

By Gard Jameson

This blog is dedicated to the practice of contemplative prayer. We usually think of prayer as being a practice which incorporates thoughts and feelings expressed in words. This is only one expression of prayer. In the many religious traditions of the planet there is an expression of prayer which unites them; it is the expression of silence. As one of my teachers expresses it, silence is God's primary language!

Why might this be so? Why might silence be God's primary language?

One reason perhaps is that God's spiritual expression cannot be contained in words. Perhaps words that express a thought or a feeling limit God's word to each of us. As the Taoist sage, Lao Tzu, expresses this thought: "The Tao that can be expressed in words is not the Eternal Tao." Another reason is that silence, deep interior silence, requires a commitment to depth, the depths of our own being, beyond our private thoughts and feelings. As the Psalmist expresses this thought: "The deep calls unto the deep."

Now, you might ask, why should I care about learning God's language?

One of the great secrets of Contemplative Prayer is that it is the most practical exercise that one can ever engage in. Out of the experience of Contemplative Prayer emerges a new quality of being, a new and more profound way of being in relation to everyone around us, a renewed vitality and zest for life. And, there is no cost! Except the time that it takes and your intention.

The rumor is that Contemplative Prayer takes lots of time. Not true. However, like any relationship, it does take some time. We encourage you to take time at least twice a day to make a divine appointment with God, to set aside some time to just "be" with God in silence. During that time we set our intention on being in the Presence of the Divine who indwells each of us. Simply put, Contemplative Prayer is learning how to just "be" in God's loving and intimate Presence. I have provided four guidelines that have been developed by Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk, for this practice below.

These guidelines will remain a permanent fixture of this blog. The interaction on this blog will assist those who are interested in a deeper quality of relationship with the Divine Presence that now indwells you! Thank you for your attention. I pray that you join me as we learn to set our intention upon God's Presence. Blessings upon you, fellow adventurer!

The Guidelines for Contemplative Prayer

  1. Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God's Presence and Action within.
  2. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God's Presence and action within.
  3. When engaged with our thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.
  4. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.

The sacred word can be any word that expresses your deepest intention to be present to God's Presence. I wish you well.

Gard Jameson

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