B.C. Mennonite Church Allowing Contemplative Spirituality to be Taught

This fall Northview Church (a member of the BC Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches) is inviting women who attend their OASIS MORNINGS to take part in a Listening Prayer class:

Oasis Classes – September to December 2010
LISTENING PRAYER
– Cost $22 for Book Invited by Lorie Martin

Listening prayer is about communing with God, hearing the voice of the One who loves us, saved us and who desires to come alongside us and speak in to every aspect of our lives….

…Brad Jersak in his book Can you hear me says of this scripture (John 10:2-5, 14-15): The Lord is making a point here about his voice: He has one. He uses it. He speaks. His sheep – those who have ears to listen – hear it, know it and follow it.”
The Lord speaks to us in many ways – in quietness, in community, in nature, in scripture, a sermon, in worship, through a friend to name but a few. Whether you are new to listening prayer or a “seasoned listener” join us as we are invited and guided by Lorie Martin using her wonderful book of prayer exercises for solitude and community where we will learn together to hear the voice of the Lord and apply it to our lives.

What the Northview website does not explain is who Lorie Martin’s mentor/publisher Brad Jersak is, and that in his Can You Hear Me book he quotes mystics Agnes Sandford, Evelyn Underhill, and points his readers to an example of the astral projection of a nun named Mary of Agreda who “experienced visions, ecstasies, levitations, and finally, the extensive teleportations in which her paranormal powers became the spiritual gifts that aided her in her life as a missionary, spiritual leader, and, in the end, one of the most surprising mystics of all time” (page 112, Can You Hear Me).

Neither is an explanation or disclaimer given by Northview of what exactly Listening Prayer is, its dangers, and how it is based on ancient eastern mysticism.

Surely Northview church is aware, but not concerned, that Lorie Martin is one of the retreat facilitators who encourage silence and contemplative spiritual direction at the Mark Centre, a contemplative retreat centre that is affiliated with the MB Conference which was recently highlighted in the MB Herald.

See here:

MB Herald Promotes Contemplative Centre, Again
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/mb-herald-promotes-contemplative-centre-again/

Silently Retreating Mennonites
http://rollovermenno.wordpress.com/2007/12/19/silently-retreating-mennonites/

Martin also facilitated a contemplative retreat at a Catholic Retreat Center in Kelowna, B.C. last year, which was documented here:

Ancient Streams
http://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2009/07/31/ancient-streams/

Not only is Martin’s book published by Fresh Wind, she is also on staff with this ministry of Brad Jersak (who is also the editor of Stricken by God?: Nonviolent Indentification and the Victory of Christ, which some have called heretical as it contains essays by those who deny the penal atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross, the very foundation of Christianity). Jersak has also referred to mystics Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and Thomas Merton as examples of a contemplative approach to inner healing and listening prayer (source: The new prophets, canadianchristianity.com). It might also be noted that Jersak is on the leadership team of the Listening Prayer Community, and that many Bible believing Christians are very concerned with his teachings that incorporate visualization and imagination with prayer. For example, see these:

Some New Context to Brad Jersak and Listening Prayer…
http://mennoknight.wordpress.com/2010/09/13/some-new-context-to-brad-jersak-and-listening-prayer/

Something new about “Listening Prayer” and Brad Jersak…
http://mennoknight.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/something-new-about-listening-prayer-and-brad-jersak/

Evaluating Listening Prayer and Brad Jersak
http://mennoknight.wordpress.com/2010/08/10/168/

Brad Jersak’s Argument for Listening Prayer…
http://thearmchairtheologian.blogspot.com/2008/11/brad-jersaks-argument-for-listening.html

Those who are acquainted with the church and denomination mentioned above and have concerns regarding this invitation to Listening Prayer, Roman Catholic mysticism and contemplative spirituality should be bringing these issues first to the Lord in prayer, and then to those in leadership. To those who are offended, please remember that this blog is not about pointing fingers, judging, or criticism, but about faithfulness of the bride to Jesus Christ and His living Word.

Also see:
What is Contemplative Spirituality?
http://www.gotquestions.org/contemplative-spirituality.html

Be Still
by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Contemplative Spirituality
Contemplative, or Listening Prayer and Psalm 46:10.
http://guardinghisflock.com/2010/04/09/be-still/

CONTEMPLATIVE/CENTERING PRAYER
http://apprising.org/2009/12/30/contemplativecentering-prayer/

CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER: SEDUCING SPIRITS AND A DOCTRINE OF DEVILS
By Christine A. Narloch
http://earnestlycontend.com/CP.htm

*****IMPORTANT UPDATE: A question for Northview church:

Northview MB Church: Where are your men?
http://mennoknight.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/northview-mb-church-where-are-your-men/

MORE UPDATES:

Visualizing ourselves into the Throne Room of Heaven?
http://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/visualizing-ourselves-into-the-throne-room/

UCM’s Fall Retreat Speaker
http://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2011/06/12/ucms-retreat-speaker/

——————————————————

*** UPDATE – January 2012:

The following is on the website of Lorie Martin:

I just wanted to let you know of a blog that is starting on January 1st, called, 40 Days of Contemplative Ways. It is a collection of writings of myself along with over 10 people who have contributed postings of our favorite ways of adding contemplative ways into our lives. We hope you will join us in ‘tasting’ of our practices and finding one of your own. Please go to http://www.spiritual-direction.com and press blog on the top of the page to find more information and to follow the blog over the first 40 days of the new year. We hope you will be interactive on the site as you feel comfortable to do so, and that you will pass this on to others who may also enjoy beginning the Year 2012 in this way. We trust you will be blessed as you become a part of this with us!
Deep Peace, Great Joy, Much Grace,
http://loriemartin.com/Events.php

The following events are recommended by Lorie Martin on her website:

Invited–Half Day Retreats
at the 
MARK Centre, Abbotsford
A half-day retreat to be still. 9:30-noon at the MARK Centre Chalet
Facilitator: Lorie Martin http://www.loriemartin.com
Friday March 9th Invited to Listen
Experiencing God’s Voice for Intimacy and Guidance
Monday April 2nd Invited to Scripture
Entering Gospel Stories to Encounter Christ
Saturday May 26 Invited to Rest
Encountering God in Stillness
Friday August 24 Invited to Solitude
Enveloped in God’s Quiet Presence

Saturday October 20 Invited to Healing
Engaging with God in Pain and Loss
Friday December 7 Invited to Bethlehem
Enjoying our Advent Journey Together 


Upcoming Events at Stillpoint:
January 28-29, 2012 (Part I) AND February 4-5 (Part II) – Enneagram Workshop
February 18, 2012 – “Christ and the Cosmos” Retreat
Thursday evenings TBD, “Christ and the Cosmos” DVD/Discussion Series (see next newsletter for dates)
March 3, 2012 – “SoulCollage” Retreat
March 24, 2012 – “Stations of the Cross” Labyrinth Walk
April 14, 2012 – “Welcoming Prayer” Retreat
Date TBD – “Dying to Love” Retreat
CLICK HERE TO VISIT STILLPOINT
http://www.stillpointatbeckside.com/
Stillpoint at Beckside is located at 1625 Huntley Road, Bellingham, about 20 minutes from downtown Bellingham. This rural retreat center/home is on five acres with a spacious outdoor wooded area for walking and meditating and two labyrinths.

Selah Center
http://www.selahcenter.org
• SoulSpace – a contemplative group retreat. March 23-24 (Friday from 6 – 9 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

SoulStream
Interested in a contemplative community……You are warmly invited to a Chocolate Tasting Event with live jazz to introduce SoulStream Initiatives and ask for your support. Saturday, October 29, 2011 at 7:0 pm @ Highland Community Church 3130 McMillan Road, Abbotsford.
http://www.soulstream.org/chocolate

Jan 2012: Course: 
 
Encountering God through Spiritual Formation:
Exploring Spiritual Disciplines, including Biblical Meditation (along with the DVD series: “Sacred Rhythms”, by Ruth Haley Barton) – 12 weeks Course 

Contact: Nadine Frew: njoyfrew@gmail.com

November 11/12
Listen Up!!! Hearing God’s Voice with Brad Jersak.

Hosted by Fresh Wind Christian Fellowship I Abbotsford. Location to be determined. Friday evening/Saturday

Silent Retreat @ The Mark Centre
http://www.markcentre.org/Retreats/ComeAway.html
A great retreat coming up that can offer deep nourishment. The timing of this is right at the beginning of Advent. The retreat will help facilitate slowing down instead of speeding up – as we often tend to do at this time of year. There are spaces available, so call the Mark Centre if you are interested.

Also find the following on Lorie Martin’s Deeper In Blog:
http://loriemartin.com/DeeperInBLOG.php

1/8/2012 7:57:08 PM
Centering Prayer
The Best Gift to Give God
“But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door,
and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
(Matthew 6:6 NAB)
Practicing Centering Prayer has become one of my favourite times with God. It is an ancient Christian prayer exercise that, when I first heard of it, I thought would be really easy. At first it seemed so uneventful that I thought there must be something wrong. Was I doing it right? Was anything happening with me and God?
As I have continued practicing this method of contemplative prayer I have come to see some of the value of it and the good fruit in my life, and I now love meeting God in this way. It is the exercise I miss the most if I miss doing it. I often feel the Lord leading me to do it and it is one of the Spiritual Disciplines that I endeavour to practice daily.
Contemplative Prayer is opening our whole being, heart and mind, to God. There are times to use words in prayer and to interact with God; however, this contemplative prayer exercise takes us beyond thoughts, words, feelings, and actions. It is an invitation to open our awareness to God, who we know by faith, is within us (1 John 3:24). Centering Prayer helps us develop our faculties to receive communion with God rather than conversation with God.
I’ve heard it said that Centering Prayer familiarizes us with God’s first language, which is silence. I’ve also heard it said that God loves meeting us in this manner the most since we are so clearly invited, “Be still and know that I am God” and the Psalmist speaks of quieting himself at times instead of crying to God (Psalm 46:10; 131:2 KJV). I do like the fact that during this time in prayer I am not asking anything of God, nor am I am engaging to listen for anything for myself; this allows us simply to be together and that is beautiful and it is enough.

The principle fruits of the prayer are experienced in daily life and not during the prayer period. Centering Prayer is not limited to the “felt” presence of God but is rather a deepening of faith in God’s abiding presence. It is not reflective or spontaneous prayer, but simply resting in God.

Prayer Exercise Centering Prayer Suggested time: 20 min.

To Begin – We choose a sacred word as a symbol that expresses our intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
a.) The sacred word is chosen during a brief period of prayer asking the Holy Spirit to inspire us with one that is suitable for this time with Him.
Examples: God, Jesus, Peace, Trust, Abba, Yes, etc.
b.) The sacred word is said when we wander off in our thoughts, and helps us come back to an awareness of God’s presence with us. It is not to be used repetitively. It is to be spoken quietly within to gently turn us towards God.
c.) Instead of a sacred word, a simple glance toward the Divine Presence or focusing on one’s breathing may be more suitable for some people.
• Sit comfortably with backs straight so as not to encourage sleep during this time. We close our eyes as a symbol of letting go of what is going on around and within us. Legs and arms need to be set comfortably as straight as possible to rest for the full 20 minutes.
• We introduce the sacred word inwardly as gently as laying a feather on a piece of absorbent cotton.
a) Should we fall asleep, we continue with the prayer when we awake. When engaged with our thoughts, we return ever so gently to the sacred word.
Thoughts are inevitable, an integral and a normal part of Centering Prayer. Thoughts include body sensations, feelings, images, and reflections. They may be ordinary wanderings of the imagination or memories. Thoughts and feelings that come may bring feelings of attraction or aversion. Insights and psychological breakthroughs may come, as well as self reflections such as, “How am I doing?” or, “This peace is just great!” They all arise from the unloading of the unconscious mind. When you realize you may have become engaged with any of these thoughts return gently to your sacred word, leading you back to an awareness of God’s presence.
b) We avoid analyzing our experience, holding expectations, or aiming at any goal such as: having no thoughts, making the mind a blank, feeling peaceful, repeating the sacred word continuously, or achieving a spiritual experience.
c) We may notice slight pains, itches, or twitches in parts of our body, or a generalized restlessness. These are usually due to the untying of emotional knots in the body. We may notice heaviness or lightness in our extremities. This is usually due to a deep level of spiritual attentiveness. In all cases we pay no attention and gently return to the sacred word and to focus on God.
• This prayer normally lasts for 20 minutes.
a) It is recommended that we practice this exercise twice daily, first thing in the morning and in the afternoon or early evening. With practice the time may be extended to 30 minutes or longer. (Once a day works well, too.)
b) Using a quiet timer will help to tell us when the time is done. In a group setting it is nice to be brought back from the prayer time with someone leading in the Lord’s Prayer or another gentle form of re-entry.

4. Remain silent at the end of the prayer period for a couple of minutes. The additional 2 minutes enables us to bring the atmosphere of silence into everyday life.
I heard one of my favourite comments after leading a Centering Prayer time which my friend, Eric, was attending. I thought that fifteen minutes would be long enough for our first time doing this together. I wondered if some of the people attending the retreat might not be able to focus like this for very long or find it very uncomfortable. Being silent, especially in a room full of people, can feel like a long time, even though doing this together in a group is a very wonderful experience. I was concerned that this lively group would be grumbling when we finally moved from the prayer time. However, instead of any negative complaining, I heard Eric sigh and say, “No, I don’t want to stop this.” Thankfully it isn’t expensive, doesn’t need a lot of equipment, and can be taken with you into every day.
One day I saw some lovely fruit coming from my Centering Prayer times. A lot of busy activity was happening around me on this particular day, yet I was able to lightly let each thing go and stay in a deep peacefulness. It wasn’t until later that I realized that my heart had taken Centering Prayer with me into the day.
Andrea Kastner, a well-learned teacher and encouraging facilitator of Soulstream, had some brilliant insights into Centering Prayer that she graciously shared with me. She writes:
“Centering Prayer is very hard at first. Everyone who has practiced contemplative prayer/centering prayer over the ages says this same thing. It takes a LOT of practice. It gets easier, then it gets harder, then it gets easier…. In a large sense it is the practicing itself that holds the transformative power of the prayer. For one thing, staying with it, no matter what the immediate experience/‘effect’ shows us just how deeply addicted we are to our belief that we can improve ourselves spiritually by trying hard. Most of us expect there will be some reward, including the reward of feeling like we are ‘getting it’ or feeling peaceful. It is helpful to remember that all we are doing is making ourselves available, to the best of our human ability that day, to receive the love of God pouring around and through us. God is doing the transforming in us whether we feel it or not. Everything that happens is a gift from God: our ability to ‘show up’ in the first place when there are so many other demands from the world – even our desire to show up on the days when we avoid it or forget to show up, our noticing our frustration at not being able to pay attention for very long, and the more rare moments when we glimpse the face of God gazing at us with love. It’s all a gift. And God is so touched, so delighted when we make even the smallest of steps.

“The alertness or paying attention, the ‘being present with God,’ is important and not quite the same thing as the kind of cosy nestling up one might do in another kind of prayer such as the kind of rest we might experience in imaginative prayer where we might picture ourselves as a small child snuggled in God’s arms.
“I find it helps to think of this kind of rest as the kind that comes from stopping. Where I stop trying. Stop planning. Stop trying to figure things out. It is a giving up of all effort for 20 minutes. In time, stopping brings rest; rest is the result of stopping.
“It is a big challenge for us to enter into this prayer as a response to God, out of the place of our desire to be with God and enjoy God, rather than out of our more usual place: the habit of doing, or trying to achieve yet one more thing. Again and again we meet this mistaken impulse, this weakness in ourselves. Perhaps with a little light humour and the reminder that Jesus understands our human weakness, and without beating ourselves up when we notice we are back in our habit again, we can just gently return to our word, the sign of our desire, our intention.”
I’d like to invite you to ponder two great phrases that Andrea gave:
“Being present to God.” And “Rest is the result of stopping.”

CENTERING PRAYER
I came to know Lorie in person through a Listening Prayer weekend at her home. My spiritual life was challenged and enriched by Lorie’s teaching and she certainly practices what she teaches as I got to know the wonderful community that she draws towards herself. Her longings to deepen and enliven other’s relationship with God, resulted in her terrific book, Invited, Simple Prayer Exercises for Solitude and Community (Fresh Wind Press, 2010). It is a privilege to know her!
Getting to know Lorie:
“I live in Abbotsford with Dwight, my wonderful husband of 33 years. We have five children, now grown, one is married, one still in high school, 3 moved out of town and our first grandchild who thankfully is here in town near Grammy and Papa!!! I enjoy quiet time with God, meaningful times with my family, fun times with friends, divine moments with those I meet. I am a spiritual director, an ordained pastor on staff at Fresh Wind Christian Fellowship.”
“It is my desire to continue to join God in The Way of Love (the life of Jesus), Peace (personal and community), Healing (for the whole person), Grace (unearned redemption), Justice (co-suffering and restorative), Stillness (silence and solitude), and Intimacy with God (ever enlarging union and abiding with God in Christ). High values for me are living and working closely in community with mutual love and acceptance, serving people from all walks of life as led by the Spirit of God. My main hope for the future is to be present to God and the Kingdom of God and welcome Jesus whenever and however he may appear.”
Lorie graduated in 2007 from SoulStream which is a contemplative community that trains spiritual directors and has formed a disbursed contemplative community. Lorie has offered spiritual direction to many who come to retreats or are retreating guests at MARK Centre in Abbotsford. She has a private practice from her home where she meets clients regularly for the past 5 years. Click here to learn more about spiritual direction and read some of Lorie’s articles.
Visit Lorie’s new Website at http://www.loriemartin.com

Centering Prayer
by Lorie Martin of Abbotsford, B.C.

My favourite contemplative practice, far above all of my favourites, is Centering Prayer. In this quiet 20 minutes with God the purity and simplicity of being with the Divine Presence is most practical and mystical all at the same time. I’ll share the essence of it in this post; however, click here for more information and details for a full understanding.

Posture: Sitting straight in a chair with feet squarely beneath you and hands relaxed on your lap.
Begin: Ask the Holy Spirit to give you, or you choose a “sacred word” such as Father, Jesus, Abba, Holy One, Love ……. which will be used to bring you back to an awareness of God’s presence when you’ve wandered away in a thought that comes to mind in the quiet. Set a timer for 20 minutes so you can enter in without time being a distraction.
Continue: Sit quietly in God’s presence with an awareness of Divine Love being with you. Thoughts, pictures, prayers, etc. will come to your mind in the quiet, which they are supposed to in all thinking beings. Lightly as a feather you are invited to let the thoughts go for now and gently say the sacred word you’ve been given one time to bring you back to an awareness of God. The goal is Presence.
Some times in Centering Prayer will seem to go so very well, other times it may feel useless and unproductive. However, the joy is being with God without either needing any interaction (there are other times for conversation, intercession, healing, etc.) – this is about purely being together. A most beautiful gift to give God and to receive for yourself.
http://spiritual-direction.com/2012/01/centering-prayer/

—————————————————————-

For more on Centering/Contemplative Prayer see here:

Centering Prayer
http://carm.org/centering-prayer

CONTEMPLATING CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER: IS IT REALLY PRAYER?
http://christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_ContemplativePrayer1.html

The Danger of Centering Prayer
http://www.bibleguidance.co.za/Engarticles/Centering.htm

Do Christian Leaders Understand
The Contemplative Prayer Movement?

http://www.spiritual-research-network.com/christianleaderscontemplativeprayer.html

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4 thoughts on “B.C. Mennonite Church Allowing Contemplative Spirituality to be Taught

  1. Pingback: Northview MB Church: Where are your men? « Watch Your Life and Doctrine Closely…

  2. Pingback: The Mark Centre’s New Book « Menno-lite

  3. Pingback: Mennonites and Christ at the Checkpoint « Menno-lite

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