Category Archives: Listenings

Listenings: Not an Esoteric Journey

The journey into a “heart spirituality” is not reserved for those who have the luxury of unhurried leisure or  unceasing quietness.  In another of his books, Nouwen wrote that if we cannot find God in the center of our lives, … Continue reading

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Listenings: Eyes of the Heart

I like Nouwen’s image of the “seeing” heart.  If we combine it with Jesus’ reminder that if our eye is singular, our lives will be full of light, we have come near to one of the classic definitions spiritual formation:  … Continue reading

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Listenings: Formation of the Heart

In order to live into a spiritual formation that represents “the way of the heart,” we must understand what we mean by heart. For Nouwen, the heart is defined biblically as “the place where body, soul, and spirit come together … Continue reading

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Listenings: The Way of the Heart

The editors have wisely given us the overview of Nouwen’s understanding of spiritual formation before they take us into the particulars.  And they have done this with one of Henri’s favorite concepts—and one that’s rooted in classical Christianity—“the way of … Continue reading

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Listenings: The Movements of the Spirit

Nouwen’s choice to use the metaphor of movements to describe the spiritual life (pp. viii-ix) instead of steps or stages is more in keeping with both the biblical and psychological understanding of human formation as a journey “from” something “to” … Continue reading

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Listenings: The Way of the Heart

The richness of Nouwen’s book for me lies in part in the difficulty of getting beyond the Preface and into the actual chapters.  I hope you’ll bear with me, because I think there are things here that are very important. … Continue reading

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Listenings: A Simple Way

Our exploration of Spiritual Formation through the pages of Henri Nouwen’s Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit is under way.  I’m glad you’re on the journey.  There’s still time to invite others to join us. Ours is an … Continue reading

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Listenings: Following the Movements of the Spirit

The day after Easter seems an appropriate day to launch a new study of Spiritual Formation.  And the sub-title to this book of Nouwen’s thoughts on the subject seems an appropriate way to begin the journey. The primal activity of … Continue reading

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Listenings: “Time Out”

Just a reminder that we are moving to explore Henri Nouwen’s Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit (HarperOne, 2010) edited by Michael Christensen and Rebecca Laird. I want to give you time to get this book if you … Continue reading

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Listenings: Transition

We have come to the end of Evelyn Underhill’s The Spiritual Life.  Our Monday posts will continue to focus on what we’ve been calling “a mini school of Spiritual Formation.” We will turn next to Henri Nouwen’s Spiritual Formation: Following … Continue reading

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Listenings: God and Politics

Underhill ends her classic book responding to a sixth question: what is the relationship between the spiritual life to public life and politics? Her comments are not only important but timely: “It must mean, for all who take it seriously, … Continue reading

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Listenings: Spiritual Life in the Whirlwind

Evelyn Underhill’s fifth question and response deals with how to have an authentic spiritual life in the midst of unceasing activity, busyness, etc.  So many were saying that they found no opportunities to cultivate their relationship with God.  We can … Continue reading

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Listenings: Spirituality and Psychology

Evelyn Underhill’s fourth question and response revolved around the relationship between spirituality and psychology, particularly in relation to psychology’s call for full self-expression and spirituality’s call for absolute self-surrender. Like the other questions she deals with at the end of … Continue reading

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Listenings: The Will of God

The third question Underhill responds to is this: How are we to know, or find out what the will of God is?” Once she has asserted that we discover the will of God in relation to the great truths and … Continue reading

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Listenings: What’s Going On?

The second questions which Evelyn Underhill responds to is this: When we consider the evil, injustice, and misery existing in the world, how can we claim that the ultimate Reality at the heart of the universe is a Spirit of … Continue reading

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Listenings: Synonyms for God

We have completed our study of the main text of Evelyn Underhill’s, The Spiritual Life.  But she actually ends the book by addressing six questions that people asked her about the book and about the spiritual life.  We’ll spend the … Continue reading

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Listenings: Gathering Everything Together

With today’s post, we come to the end of the substance of Evelyn Underhill’s book, The Spiritual Life.  She has a final section of questions and answers that we will explore, but the essence of our examination of the spiritual … Continue reading

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Listenings: Evidence of a Serving Heart (3)

We conclude our examination of the three evidences of a serving heart (tranquility, gentleness, and strength) by considering strength. Underhill defines “strength” in a way different from the idea of power.  The “strength” that a serving heart exhibits is the … Continue reading

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Listenings: Evidence of a Serving Heart (2)

We are considering the three evidences of a serving heart, as described by St. John of the Cross:  tranquility, gentleness, and strength.  Today, we look at gentleness. Again, Underhill notes that when we work with “fuss” and “intensity,” it is … Continue reading

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Listenings: Evidence of a Serving Heart (1)

Last week we considered the grand purpose of the church and our part in that purpose as God’s servants. Underhill turns to ask, “How can we know that we are serving in a way that honors and glorifies God?”  She … Continue reading

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Listenings: The Grand Purpose

Evelyn Underhill brings us to another pivotal point in spiritual formation…. The Church is in the world to save the world.  It is a tool of God for that purpose; not a comfortable religious club established in fine historical premises.  … Continue reading

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Listenings: Surprise!

Last week we considered the amazing variety of ways we can serve God, pointing out that God normally uses us in relation to the way we are made.  Our aptitudes, interests, and the gifts of the Spirit all combine to … Continue reading

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Listenings: Variety!

The actions which mark our advancement in the spiritual life are many and varied.  Evelyn Underhill puts it this way…. The action may be almost anything; from the ceaseless self-offering of the enclosed nun, to the creation of beauty, to … Continue reading

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Listenings: Advancement

I want to make one more post in relation to this quotation… The very essence of the spiritual life is gathered and presented in a point: first the vision of the Perfect, and the sense of imperfection and unworthiness over … Continue reading

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Listenings: Attachment

We continue looking at Underhill’s quotation which I printed last week.  We turn this week to the idea of “attachment.”  You can go back and re-read it, if you need to. When we are awakened to God’s vision, Underhill is … Continue reading

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Listenings: Awakening

I want to stay with the quotation from Underhill that I posted last week.  It is a valuable summary of the Christian spiritual life.  I’ll reprint it here, and we will spend the next three weeks exploring it… The very … Continue reading

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Listenings: God Is Not Silent

We may create spiritualities which are “silent” before the reality of evil and suffering, but God is not silent. God speaks.  And as Underhill points out, God speaks in the form of a question, “Who will go for us” (p. … Continue reading

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Listenings: Things Have Gone Badly Wrong

When we accept the world as  our sphere of service, it doesn’t take long to realize the truth of what Evelyn Underhill wrote,  “something has gone wrong, and badly wrong” (p. 91). One of the most amazing things about some … Continue reading

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Listenings: Everyday Spirituality

Evelyn Underhill’s words suffice for today’s meditation…. So now we come back to this ordinary mixed life of every day, in which we find ourselves–the life of house and work, tube and tram, newspaper and cinema, with its tangle of … Continue reading

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Listenings: Our Small Place

Years ago, I read a report from The National Transportation Safety Board, making its conclusion as to why an airplane had crashed.  To the best of their ability, the investigation team found that the plane came down because a critical … Continue reading

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Listenings: Getting in the Game

Becoming co-creators with God in the world is not an option; it is a necessity.  Evelyn Underhill describes it in these words: “We are agents of the Creative Spirit in the world.  Real advance in the spiritual life, then, means … Continue reading

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Listenings: Answering Your Own Prayers

To be willing to co-operate with God means we are willing to be the answer to our own prayers.  Commenting on the petition in the Lord’s Prayer that the Kingdom come and God’s will be done, Underhill writes: “It’s useless … Continue reading

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Listenings: Made To Be Used

Our co-operation with God is rooted in our creation.  Evelyn Underhill puts it this way: “He made us in order to use us, and use us in the most profitable way; for His purpose, not ours.  To live a spiritual … Continue reading

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Listenings: Co-operation With God

This is a good point to remind ourselves that the “Listenings” post is envisioned to be a mini-school of Christian formation.  We have based nearly all of our previous meditations in this section on Evelyn Underhill’s The Spiritual Life.  We … Continue reading

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Listenings: Adherence

Communion with God is the first major category of the spiritual life for Evelyn Underhill.  We have looked at it from a variety of vantage points in these weekly postings. As Underhill brings this section of her book to a … Continue reading

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Listenings: Adoration

Our whole-life communion with God will show itself, Underhill says, in two ways: adoration and adherence.  Today, we look at adoration. Underhill calls adoration “the upward and outward look of humble and joyful admiration.” (p. 67) The fact that it … Continue reading

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Listenings: A Convergence Of Two Worlds

In our consideration of the spiritual life as a “whole-life” endeavor (what has also been called a “God alone” perspective), we must not come to think of it as becoming so heavenly-minded that we are no earthly good. There is … Continue reading

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Listenings: Incurable God-Sickness

Karl Barth once referred to the spiritual life as our “incurable God-sickness.”  That’s what Evelyn Underhill is dealing with in this section of her book, The Spiritual Life. In our day, Donald Miller has captured the same idea in his … Continue reading

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Listenings: Prayer

We’re looking at Evelyn Underhill’s counsel that mortification and prayer are the two key practices in discovering the Real. As she put it, “Mortification kills the root of self-love”  (p. 59)—which means the clearing out of all the false realities … Continue reading

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Listenings: Entering the Mystery (2)

I want to use another post to further reflect upon mortification.  Last week, we followed Underhill in identifying it as an essential element in entering the Mystery.  But we did not say much about “how” we actually go about de-throning … Continue reading

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Listenings: Entering Into the Mystery (1)

The Mystery about which we are speaking could be impenetrable.  Either by its complexity, or even by God’s design.   The Mystery could lie on the other side of a high wall with a sign on it: “No Trespassing.” But … Continue reading

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Listenings: The Inevitable Mystery

While on vacation, I spent a morning at the Abbey of Gethsemani near Bardstown, Kentucky.  It’s the Mother House for Cistercians in The United States, founded in 1848.  It’s the place where Thomas Merton lived and ministered from 1941 until … Continue reading

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Listenings: Our Intense Longing

Lest the spiritual life be viewed as essentially metaphysical or philosophical, Evelyn Underhill turns to the fact that the centrality of God in our lives creates an intense longing for God.  Using St. Francis as her example, she says that … Continue reading

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Listenings: The Ruling Fact of Existence

People live by an integrated value system, even if they are not consciously aware of it a lot of the time.  In historic philosophy and theology the dominant value systems have been described as money, sex, and power—or more currently, … Continue reading

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Listenings: The Transforming Moment

The moment we awaken to the reality of God and engage ourselves to live in congruence with this Reality, we begin the transforming process we are calling “the spiritual life.” Evelyn Underhill looked at her time and place and was … Continue reading

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Listenings: Wide-Angle Spirituality

Failing to give sufficient attention to our souls reduces and restricts our ability to live as God intended.  Evelyn Underhill wrote, “Our field of attention is not wide enough for that; our spiritual senses are not sufficiently alert….But when, for … Continue reading

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Listenings: Underdeveloped Souls

Evelyn Underhill identifies an ongoing deficiency in contemporary living: “Most people work so hard developing their correspondence with the visible world, that their correspondence with the invisible is left in a rudimentary state.” (p. 48) We would be hard pressed … Continue reading

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Listenings: Full and Real Life

Following her introduction to the spiritual life, Evelyn Underhill explores the two primary aspects of it:  communion with God and co-operation with God—what we refer to in the Wesleyan tradition as personal and social holiness.  Today, we begin our exploration … Continue reading

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Listenings: Formative Pathways

Underhill brings her first section of The Spiritual Life to a close by saying that there really is no “one size fits all” formula or pattern.  Some seem to move forward with God in one way; others in other ways. … Continue reading

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Listenings: Spirituality Without Strain

Perhaps it is because The United States was founded upon a set of values that included “the Protestant work ethic,” or maybe it’s because the world of high-speed technology demands freneticism—but whatever it is, we are a people living under … Continue reading

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