Friday, July 11, 2014

Defining the Contemplative Tradition: Quotes by Richard J. Foster

Dear Friend,

I've been listening to Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of the Christian Faith by Richard J. Foster. If you've followed my blog for any length of time, it won't surprise you that I am drawn to the "Contemplative Stream." The following quotes are Foster's descriptions of what life for the contemplative person is like:

Defining of the Contemplative Tradition
Love. Though time and experience we sense a delicate but deepening love for  God that feels more like a gift than an achievement. In the beginning this love is so quiet and unobtrusive that it is hardly perceptible. John of the Cross calls it a "secret and peaceful and loving inflow of God. This is a great encouragement to us, for early in our prayer life -- try as we might -- we are unable to truly love God. This love comes little by little, and at first we feel a great of fluctuation in its intensity. High and low, hot and cold. In time, however, our love grows deeper, stronger, more steady.
Peace. At the same time, in slips a peace that cannot be analyzed or dissected -- "a peace that passes understanding," as Paul puts it. (Phil.4:7) This quiet rest, this firmness of life orientation, is not due to the absence of conflict or worry. In fact, it is not an absence at all, but rather a Presence. This peace is interrupted often by a multitude of distractions, especially in the beginning. But no matter -- it is still there, and it is still real. And in time its quiet way wins over the chatter and clatter of our noisy hearts.
Delight. Another movement we begin to experience is delight. A very wise woman -- one who had been through great hardship in her life -- captured the essence of this quality for me when on one occasion she declared, "Fun ahead, saith the Lord!" There is pleasure, friendship, joy -- deep joy. And playfulness. God laughs into our soul and our soul laughs back into God. John of the Cross calls it "the sweet and delightful life of love with God . . . that delightful and wondrous vision." But it is not uninterrupted delight. We experience an ebb and flow, an exquisite delight mingled with a painful yearning.
Emptiness. Which brings us to an opposing, almost contradictory movement in the contemplative life: emptiness. At the very moment we are entering a loving delight, we are also pulled into intense longing, yearning, searching -- searching and not finding. Well, there is a finding of sorts, but not a complete finding. Perhaps we could call it a dissatisfied satisfaction. John of the Cross calls it "a living thirst . . . [the] urgent longing of love."

Often the emptiness is a darkness as well. We experience Deus Absonditus, the God who is hidden from us. dryness too -- a Sahara of the heart. Throughout these experiences solitude is our welcome companion, for we are learning to be alone with the Alone. Please understand this emptiness, this darkness, this dryness is itself a prayer. It is a heavenly communion of an ascetic sort. While delight is a feasting, emptiness is a fasting, and both are needed for the growth of the soul.
Fire. Still another reality we experience as we grow in the contemplative life is fire. Not literal fire, of course, but real fire nonetheless -- in some ways more real than literal fire. The initial movement of love now intensifies, becoming a steady, flaming passion. Anything that causes distance or separation from God -- disobedience or perhaps mere neglect -- is painful in the extreme. So we feel, and even welcome, the purifying fire of God's love burning out the dross: all stubbornness, all hate, all grasping need for self-promotion. And as the self-sins are burned away, the seeds of universal love blossom and flower.

Wisdom. This leads to a still deeper movement of the Spirit: Wisdom. No sterile intellectualism or impersonal awareness, this is a knowing and inflowing of God himself. We are filled with "the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Hab 2:14). We know as we are known. We enter that eternal life which is to "know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (John 17:3b). Prayer turns into the deepening self communication of the Trinity, a self-communication we are privileged to listen in on and even participate in.
Transformation. Though it all, God gradually and slowly "captures the inner faculties: first the heart and the will, then the mind, the imagination, and the passions. The result is the transformation of the entire personality into the likeness of Christ. More and more and more we take on his habits, feelings, hopes, faith, and love.

Hope you've been as blessed and challenged by these quotes as I have felt lately. I tend to experience the first three parts with some degree of regularity: love, peace, delight, emptiness. I long to move forward into the realms of fire, wisdom, and transformation. Pray for me!

Peace & Joy,


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Quest Notes: What I'm Into Link-Up

Dear Friend,

I'm late to the party! Every time I notice a blogger taking part in Leigh Kramer's "What I'm Into" link-up, I think, I should do that!

So here I am. Better late than never, right?

I've listed a bunch of random things I'm into now. ("Random" is my 10yr old daughter's new favorite word.)

1. My green picnic table
My four year old son picked out the color. I couldn't be happier with it! Our entire family has spent a good deal of time around it lately.

2. Fabric mosaics
I've long been into colorful mosaics, quilts, and decoupage -- so when I discovered a way to pull all three crafts together, I was very pleased. I found inspiration for this project here and from my great-grandmother's quilts which I wrote about here.

my latest project: fabric on canvas

a quilt my great-grandmother made in the early 1950s

3. Just Between Us: A No-Stress, No Rules Journal for Girls and Their Moms by Meredith and Sophie Jacobs.

My daughter wrote an entry for me before she left for a week long camping adventure with friends in the Adirondacks. She left it on my bed. I read it several times while she was away. I made an entry for her to read when she got home. This journal is a perfect tool for strengthening the bond between moms and their tween daughters.

4. I found Salad Days: Salads for Dinner at the grocery store and bought it on a whim. Lot's of brilliant images. All the salads in this look scrumptious. The first recipe is for a "Classic Melon Salad." I've made a large batch of it twice in the last few weeks. Addictive!

5. Classic Melon Salad
(Adapted from Salad Days) --

Slice watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew into thin pieces. (You could make it without the cantaloupe or honeydew, but you must have the watermelon.)

Toss together with fresh basil.

Combine 1 part light olive oil, 1 part red wine vinegar in a small jar with a lid. Shake well and drizzle over salad. 

Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Eat right away or chill and serve the next day. 

Optional Ingredients: shaved pecorino, sliced prosciutto 

6. Protecting my skin from too much sun exposure.
I bought this inexpensive hat at my local supermarket. Most days, I also wear 30 SPF on my arms.

7. Red Curry Lentils. They're tasty, nutritious, and cooking them fills my kitchen with the scent of savory spices. Nice over rice.

8. Streams of Living Water by Richard J. Foster

"In this book I have tried to name these great Traditions -- streams of spiritual life if you will -- and to note significant figures in each . . . The Contemplative Tradition, or the prayer-filled life; the Holiness Tradition, or the virtuous life; The Charismatic Tradition, or the Spirit-empowered life; The Social Justice Tradition, or the compassionate life; The Evangelical Tradition, or the Word-centered life; The Incarnational Tradition, or the sacramental life."

(Related Post: "Sacred Pathways and Celebrity Diets")

9. What Makes Olga Run?The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives  by Bruce Grierson

"They say she is like Grandma Moses in the sense that she found her calling very late in life. But while Grandma Moses took up painting out of desperation, to make ends meet, Olga took up track, at age 77, for fun. A dozen years retired from her career as an elementary school teacher, she still had lightning in her that needed grounding."

10. The Little Oratory: A Beginner's Guide to Praying in the Home by David Clayton & Leila Marie Lawler (LML's blog, Like Mother Like Daughter, is a favorite -- "Because it's important to maintain the collective memory.") Written with a Catholic readership in mind, but could be adapted to suit most faith traditions. Lots of emphasis on the home as a school of beauty. Makes me want to tidy up and spend some time in deep prayer!
"This book is about making a little oratory -- a little sacred space -- in your home and praying there . . . Really, it is just an outward manifestation of the simple truth that God wants to be with us. He is Emmanuel, God with us."

11. Emma by Jane Austen  (audio version) The more I read Austen, the more I'm hooked. I was not familiar with the plot for this one, so it was very amusing, indeed!

12. Our new German Shorthaired puppy, Heidi.

If you're visiting Classical Quest for the first time, I'd be delighted if you would introduce yourself in the comment box. You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Bloglovin, and Pinterest. 

Peace & Joy!