I'm sure I'm about to stir up my critics but I think one of the biggest problems with North American Christianity, especially the Protestant tradition, is the lack of mystics.
What is a Christian Mysticism? I'm surely not referring to sensationalistic forms of contemporary practice that focus on knowing eschatological details and future events. This type of mysticism has been around since the beginning of the church but has always been distinguished from Orthodox Christian mysticism.
Here is a working definition of Christian Mysticism -Christian mysticism is the pursuit of communion with, identity with, or conscious awareness
of the Christian God through direct experience, intuition, instinct or
insight. Christian mysticism usually centers on a practice or practices
intended to nurture those experiences or awareness, such as deep prayer (ie. meditation, contemplation) involving the person of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
This approach and lifestyle is distinguished from other forms of
Christian practice by its aim of achieving unity with the divine. In
the words of Oswald Chambers, "We receive His blessings and know His Word, but do we know Him?"
In North America we have focused almost exclusively on an epistemology of propositional knowledge. But with Christianity we cannot dismiss belief, faith, a knowing of the heart, mind and gut. In Roy Clouser's book Knowing with the Heart: Religious Experience and Belief in God (IVP) the author argues for self-evidency, that belief in God is rooted in religious experience, and that "some religious experience is self evident."
Ephesians 3:17-19 states, "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."
The love of Christ surpasses knowledge. A Christian Mysticism that comes out of deeply rooted Christian practices established in love may result in a grasp or glimpse of the wideness, length, height and depth of Christ's love and reveal beauty and fullness of God.
This is desperately needed in the Body of Christ within North American Christianity.
I was speaking of this with my friend Jim Hancock and he said something that I believe is quite profound and gets to the importance of the role of a Christian Mystic;
"The Mystics and Desert Fathers never dominated the Church,
they informed the Church."
The Church should not be governed by power structures and politics but by love and devotion.
Yes, the Church needs to recover its soul of deep spirituality and cruciform living that results in a rich blessing which permeates our culture as the sweet fragrance of the in-breaking Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ.
Snowflakes Out of the bosom of the Air, Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken, Over the woodlands brown and bare, Over the harvest-fields forsaken, Silent, and soft, and slow Descends the snow.
Even as our cloudy fancies take Suddenly shape in some divine expression, Even as the troubled heart doth make In the white countenance confession, The troubled sky reveals The grief it feels.
This is the poem of the air, Slowly in silent syllables recorded; This is the secret of despair, Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded, Now whispered and revealed To wood and field.
The Plaza is truly one of my favorite locations in the world and I've done enough traveling (55 plus countries) to add credibility to my statement. Here in Kansas City we had the biggest Christmas snow storm since 1895. Absolutely beautiful. We finally decided to get out late Christmas Eve with Micah, Anne and Jessica. Here are some of my iPhone pics.
Thinking about the end of another year
always leads to a time of reflection.As I was contemplating the wonderful year of youth ministry at Youthfront my heart
was filled with gratitude.I can
honestly declare that 2009 has been one of the best years I’ve experienced in
my 34 years at Youthfront.
There is so much to celebrate and
be thankful for.And then it came
to me.Right in the middle of my reflection I received an e-mail from a youth worker from Texas who
I have been dialoguing with over the content in my book Presence Centered Youth Ministry.Youthfront is involved in training their staff on the
Christian Formation of adolescents.This youth pastor is bringing a large group of young people to
Youthfront Camp this summer.He
works with many teenagers who are orphans and those who are facing difficult
problems in life.One 15-year-old
girl named Lizzy wrote this…
I want to go to Youthfront Camp so I can learn to be loved.
I want to go to Youthfront because I want to know what it feels like without this great empty space in my heart.
I want to be told how beautiful I am, I want to be held and I am tired of looking for that in the wrong places.
I am tired of putting my hope and trust into the hands of one boy after another and being let down each and every time.
I want to learn how to look in the mirror and not find something wrong with myself.
I want to learn how to stop comparing myself to those I think are better than me.
I want to learn how to be confident, I want to learn how to stop saying if only, I want to learn how to stop saying I am not good enough, I want to learn how to stop wishing I was anybody else but me.
I want to learn how to smile from the inside.
I want to learn how to stop hating myself.
I want to go to Youthfront Camp because I want to learn how to see myself through my Creator's eyes.
is it.This is why we exist.This is what we are about, to
bring youth into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.We bear witness to the Great Good News
of Jesus who came two thousand years ago, was born in a manger and lived a
sinless amazing life.We bear
witness to Lizzy and all the other thousands of young people we minister to –
that our triune God through Jesus Christ entered into the pain, brokenness and
despair of life and bore the full weight of it on the cross to bring redemption.We bear witness to the reality that
Jesus Christ has risen from the dead as the first fruits of resurrection for us
and eternal life through the ages to come.Youthfront is about transformation from
a narrative of death and hopelessness to a narrative of “Life to the Full”
through Christ Jesus.
I just got off the phone with Lars Rood, a youth worker friend. This last year we have worked together on a Lilly Funded Youth Ministry Project with CYMT and we have done three NYWC's together. We were talking about some collaborative things we are planning for the year ahead. Lars shared with me a little about their youth service last Sunday which they taped and posted on YouTube. After I hung up from our call I watched the video. 9,000 hits and growing. It is a takeoff of one of the most popular YouTube videos of the year - the dancing wedding party. This video is called The Dancing Nativity and I like the celebratory feel of it. Check it out.