First, let’s lay a little groundwork.
Contemplation is a way of savoring life in the state of wholeness.
It includes the linear distinction of particulars, but it does not dwell there. Contemplation causes us to dwell within the wholeness of wisdom. And the fruit of contemplation is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; which is the fruit of the Spirit.
Contemplation is the inner working of the spirit that causes us to dwell with God. Our perspective is an eternal perspective expressing itself within our time-space continuum.
So we have the language for our interior life, such as in no other time or culture in history. As a friend of mine held up his Bible while preaching one Sunday, “I love this book, but if this is all that God has to tell us, He doesn’t have much to say.” My friend wasn’t discounting Scripture, but he was pointing to the fact that every discipline we develop reveals more and more of the impossible depth and glory of God, like the slowly unfolding of a rose.
So with this in mind, let’s take a look at the contemplative concept of: ‘abiding in the vine,’ through the lens of our three states of consciousness. Like the unfolding of a rose, we are looking at a process, not doctrine.
Jesus tells us to abide in him
- From the first level of consciousness, we see ‘dwelling with Jesus’ as what saves us from Hell, and prepares us for Heaven. So we work for Christ.
- From the second level of consciousness, we see ‘dwelling with Jesus’ as what we can do, learn, and develop in a life of doing Jesus. So we imitate Christ.
- From the third level of consciousness, we see ‘dwelling with Jesus’ as a state of being, of mutual spirit, of Presence, ‘that which we live out of’. So we incarnate Christ.
The first level of consciousness sees only itself and ignores everything else.
The second level of consciousness includes the first level, is baffled, and dismisses the third.
The third level of consciousness includes all three levels in a synthesis of application which is Wisdom herself.
Yes, this is a gross simplification of very complex things. Life is fluid and is impossible to pin down. So I mean it as the beginning of a conversation of things I’ve noticed, that we need to talk about.
- Those who live mostly in the first level of consciousness tend to emphasize Jesus.
- While those who live mostly in the second level of consciousness tend to emphasize the Holy Spirit.
- And finally, those who live mostly in the third level of consciousness tend to emphasize God.
* The Trinity is an icon created by a Russian painter Andrei Rublev in the 15th century.
Our heart is the fulcrum point of our lives.
Our heart is the doorway to our spirit. It is the garden of our soul. From our heart flow the springs of life. God puts a new heart and a new spirit within us.
We were in Italy this past year, where I was captured by a statue of Mother Mary with swords piercing her heart. I though, ‘How superstitious.’ But as I pondered the meaning of it, I’ve come to realize it’s the wounding of life that breaks our hearts open to God. We are designed this way. Whatever breaks open our hard heart, it’s so that God can give us a new one. I also see the Catholic images of the Sacred Heart and the Heart burning with holy fire. They hold layers of meaning but one thing is clear,
Our heart determines where we dwell.
It’s the focus of our heart that determines what we see. It’s why Paul prays that God would open the eyes of our heart.
All the input, all the voices of our soul and spirit, and body resolve in our heart. Our heart determines where we dwell.
So What About Our Soul?
Most Spiritual teachers tend to lump our soul and our spirit together. The distinction, however, is critical to our nurturing the unfolding revelation of God in our lives. Again, the distinction is critical less we ask our soul to do what only our spirit can do. If we ask our soul to be spiritual, it will break into a labyrinth of a thousand voices trying to be spiritual. As God is Spirit, only our spirit can have fellowship with God. Our soul may sing, but our spirit communes.
Our soul works out what our spirit experiences.
Our soul deepens what our spirit experiences. It magnifies, nurtures, and puts flesh on it. Our soul is a wonderful servant but a terrible taskmaster. Our soul is designed to follow our spirit’s lead. As such, it searches and works to implement what our spirit sees. As our spirit leads, we are drawn into living an abundant life, but where our soul leads we are driven into a life of scarcity. Our soul tends to choose between things, while our spirit synergies wholeness. So what we focus on, or the director is our heart. Our heart is the fulcrum point that determines our focus.
So whether it’s input or output,
Everything Resolves In Our Heart
Restoration is the growth process of learning to live out of our spirit and integrating this transformation body, soul, and spirit. Our body becomes more and more of the temple of God, we grow more and more with the mind of Christ, and the character of God, as we dwell in Jesus, we become his presence, his hands to heal, his eyes to see, his ears to hear, his tongue to speak, all the while integrating into the one body of Christ, in the oneness of the eternal love of God made manifest and drawing all people into the arms of God’s love and healing forgiveness, to love, belonging and home.
Our heart leads us home.
We are a trinity created in the image and likeness of God.
Patterns of three are all around us…the fingerprints of the Eternal.
But because of our fallenness, we normally dwell and see things from the perspective of our soul in a binary or dualistic frame of reference.
As most spiritual leaders and spiritual writings lump our soul and spirit together, the distinction between our soul and spirit is critical to the unfolding revelation of the Eternal in our lives. A good experiential understanding of our spirit tends to break our linear gridlock. We begin to see and function from a wholistic perspective. But we don’t suddenly become blind to what we’ve known.
To enter the wholeness of the spirit, we include the duality of our analytical mind and our body wisdom…we include and transcend them…there to live out of our spirit, in the broad spacious place of oneness with God our Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
This said, everything resolves in our heart.
Everything resolves in our heart.
Our heart is the fulcrum point of our lives. It’s the doorway into our spirit. It’s the garden of our soul. From our heart flow the springs of life. G-d has put a new heart and a new spirit within us.
So what of our soul?
Our soul deepens what our spirit experiences. It magnifies, nurtures, and puts flesh on it. Our soul is a wonderful servant and a terrible taskmaster. Our soul is like our very own Google search engine. It gets things done. But when our soul leads, we are driven, while our spirit leads us in eternal relationships.
So what is contemplation about?
Simply put, Contemplation is all about moving into our spirit encountering the eternal. Integration is the work of our heart through our soul.
“We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live our way into new ways of thinking.” ~ Richard Rohr
Let me say it as clearly and as I can, God is calling you and me up, to live out of our spirit. The conundrum is that we don’t know the difference between our soul and our spirit.
All spiritual growth is inside out. We live it before we understand it.
God is so far out of our realm of comprehension, it’s the only way we’ll ever get it. We’ve got to grow into it.
As gifts are given, fruit is grown and so is the mind of Christ within us. Jesus always had the eternal perspective on everything. Jesus was dwelling in eternity as he walked this earth. Jesus was God in the flesh, fully human and fully God. “Before Abraham was, I am“. The mind of Christ is dwelling with Jesus, fully awake and aware of what God is saying and doing as we’re living our life. Again, we grow the character and the mind of Christ as we ‘abide in the vine’.
But we still make our lists of religious rules and practices and think (think is the operative word here) that will get us there. We say, “Listen, I’ve been ‘Born-Again,’ I’ve been ‘Filled with the Holy Ghost,'” and we’re off to the races, trying to make it so.
We ignore things like Be holy, as we make our never ending lists of spiritual improvement. So we run around in the labyrinth of our soul with its thousand voices, trying to do what only our spirit can do…Be spiritual. So we end up with spiritual dysfunction, broken-hearted in a big mess…especially if you’re Holiness, Charismatic or Catholic. Yes, I know there are exceptions. We call them Saints. But this should not be.
All because we don’t know, discern, or are taught the difference between our soul and our spirit. So we are rule-bound to our systems, be they emotional or intellectual systems that create dependent, dysfunctional Christians by the score.
Our imperial top-down leadership systems were developed by our ‘souls’ way to stay in charge. ie our spiritual pride rules. Too far out? Think about it.
Look at Jesus. Look at how he led. Jesus always put people ahead of systems. In God’s economy, systems are meant to be under us to serve, not over us to rule, to maintain, and to propagate. Jesus leadership turns the world on its head.
Look at Adam, the human being, a living soul, who was born to rule, and blew it wide open.
Now, look at Jesus, the LAST Adam, a life-giving spirit, who was born to serve.
We’ve used fallen Adam as our model to Rule and subverted risen Jesus who is our model to Serve.
Soul-rule is top down, where things and people are managed.
Spirit-life works inside out, where things and people are transformed. In Jesus, we are life givers.
In our souls, we are managers, and in our spirits we are life-givers.
As life-givers, we plant the explosive seeds of God’s life, Jesus life, into the hearts of those who are ready or not.
Our systems are under our feet, to be used, not over our heads to rule our lives. This distinction is how the Kingdom of Heaven works…bottom up to win our hearts, and inside out to transform us.
The Spirituality of Grace
We all have those moments…those Aha’s when we’re startled, finding ourselves suddenly wide awake, in the spiritual flow. The energy, vibration, and resolution of focus is crystal clear. We see and understand things we never knew before. We are experiencing life on a whole other level. It’s electric.
Athletes feel the flow. It clarifies everything. In flow, an athlete’s awareness shifts from their body into their spirit by means of their breath.
In every state of flow our awareness is in our spirit.
And every discipline of passion opens us up to flow.
Monks, mystics, and sages have moments where the flow of the spirit sweeps them into the presence of God…in a shock of awareness, a spirituality of grace.
Flow is a state of being where we are connected to our spirit. Our spirit takes the lead in our normally soul-centered life.
Flow is a state we shift, into and our of, but we can also develop this state into a stage where we dwell. (ie states and stages of awareness). Jesus is always calling us up into this stage of abundant life. It’s the eternal life-flow of God, where spiritual life flows through us as we abide in the Vine.
Think about it. It’s that life-flow of God that grows the character of God within us…the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Where gifts are given through grace, fruit is grown through our intentionally abiding in this ‘flow,’ dwelling with our being in Jesus. This grows the eternal fruit of God. It’s mind blowing, but Jesus says, ‘apart from me you can do nothing.’
It’s only as we dwell in this eternal life-flow of God’s Spirit, that we are able to live an abundant life.
The Spirituality of Ebb and Flow
There is a danger among novices, where we want to stay in the flow, no matter what. It can be addictive. But in God’s design, there is an ebb and flow to spirituality.
There’s a rhythm to spirituality, an ebb and flow, an embracing and releasing as we yield to God’s choreography. This is where we ‘work out what God has worked within us’ during the flow. It’s like an ebb of the tides where the flow is withdrawn, so we can test and prove it in our lives. We integrate the transformation we’ve received. This is where we grow the character of God. It’s tested and proven true.
We also see the shambles of our brokenness, as if for the first time. It humbles us, solidifying our highs with a foundation in our lows. We grow in compassion.
So as we stand in the shambles of our brokenness, as if for the first time, the light of God’s love shines through the shards of our brokenness in a glorious display of splintered light.
God’s compassion breaks through us as we receive the healing that flows through us, and the flow draws our hearts into the presence of God in gratitude. So ebb reveals us as servants of God’s mercy and grace. We become the heart and soul, the hands and feet of Jesus to the world.
We give what we have been given: grace, mercy and forgiveness, and above all, the truth of God’s love, Jesus.
All Spirituality Works Inside Out
As a child who fingerpaints isn’t expected to be an artist, neither can we. We can’t expect to flow into the dance of God perfectly. Yet as we work out what God works within us, we grow and heal, bit by bit…love, joy, and peace become more apparent as who we really are.
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