Friday, November 21, 2008

Retreat Results and Fallout

Well, I'm getting even slower at this blog posting stuff. It is only when I am writing my monthly prayer letter (also getting slower), that I take time to post to the blog, too. I have written these posts on my personal experience with contemplative prayer to emphasize how it is creeping into many Christian arenas (even on the mission field) and that most people (Christians!! Believers!! Good people!!) are oblivious to the error/danger and are antagonistic when it is pointed out. How sad for God's servants, who believe they are being true to Him and His Word when, in fact, they are being totally and fully deceived.
"The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons." 1Timothy 4:1

UPDATE: Speaking of the retreat, here is the latest. It happened. Was it as bad as I had hoped it would NOT be? Yes, and worse. And even though the retreat is now over, the fallout is not. The two ladies from America came, the committee met them over lunch and all seemed to be united and friendly. Those of us who had reviewed the outline from the "guest" speaker (as opposed to the "invited" speaker) were very careful not to re-raise any of our concerns. We had been reassured that the "guest" would only present an OPTIONAL seminar on Saturday afternoon. We could choose to not attend.

DURING SESSIONS: But that is not what happened. Beginning with Friday night, our "invited" speaker gave her presentation and then invited the "guest" to the stage to close the evening. The "guest" then proceeded to do an exercise with us that was not fully contemplative prayer, but more of a combination of psychological introspection, centering and then applying this introspection to a Scripture verse. Unfortunately, from my perspective, the Scripture was taken completely out of context and the application was focused on the individual and not on God. I was so disappointed. My friend Marianna felt "ambushed". Each time the "invited" speaker came to the stage (4 times in the course of the weekend) she would invite the "guest" to close the session. Each time an exercise was suggested using these same techniques. On Sunday, communion was offered to close our retreat. But by that time, I was feeling so angry about what was being forced upon everyone who was in attendance that I knew I could not, in good conscience before God, take communion. So, I left the room.

DURING WORKSHOP: I also attended the OPTIONAL workshop, because I wanted first hand information of what would take place. And, again, I was sorely disappointed. The "guest" speaker began with her own personal testimony about the emotional and physical difficulties that had beset she, her husband and her children and that finally led her to a "silent" retreat with the "invited" speaker and 4 other friends. This is where she learned how to "sit in silence" before God and what she wanted us, in turn, to learn from her. She also ended this workshop with an exercise to teach us how to do it. It was exactly what I had feared it would be.

EVALUATIONS: That was still not the end of it. One of the things our retreat committee always does is ask each woman to complete an evaluation of the facilities, schedule, food, speaker and workshops for the purpose of improving the retreat for future years. Out of almost 100 attendees, 80 handed in an evaluation. Of those 80, 20 had negative comments about the "guest" speaker and/or "invited" speaker. Some of them were signed, including one by my friend Marianna. Her daughter complied a summary of all 80 evaluations and sent it out to the entire committee within a day or so after the retreat ended. We believed that if the committee had this "controversial" information in advance of our debrief meeting, which would take place in a week or so, that they would be more prepared to have an open discussion. We did not believe that they would necessarily change their minds and agree with us regarding the content of the teaching, but we, at least, hoped for some honest dialogue.

DEBRIEFING: Not to be. At the debrief meeting, 10 days later, everything about location, food, logistics, music, etc. were discussed for 2 1/2 hours. But when we got to the speaker, the workshops and the evaluations, the leader of our committee said, "Well, that's in the past, it is done!" End of discussion!! End of meeting!! We were dumbfounded. One of our fellow dissenters tried in a very non-confrontational way to say that she thought further discussion was needed. No one, including those of us who were dumbfounded, said anything. I felt that it was already late and that if I said anything to take it further, I would be immediately shut down. It was very clear that the rest of the committee who had said "just trust us" was now unwilling to revisit any of the controversy. To be as fair as possible, one member of the committee who was unable to attend the debriefing, did approach Marianna at the retreat to express her regrets as to what had taken place in the teaching and to voice her thoughts that maybe Marianna's position on this topic was correct. She, at least, said she was willing to look at the issue and ask God about it.

BLOGGING: As a result of our dumbfounding, my friend Marianna wrote in her blog the next day that she felt ambushed by what had happened at the retreat, then completely ignored and unheard at the debriefing. Again, she stated that she does not feel that people should agree with her position about the teaching, but that she has a real issue with 1) how the promise of JUST an OPTIONAL workshop was not followed, and 2) how her EVALUATION COMMENTS (and everyone elses) were so completely and obviously SWEPT UNDER THE CARPET. This is not the way a Christian group should process conflict, from hers and my perspective. Now, she is receiving fallout from several different members of that committee because of what she wrote. So, the retreat ended, but the controversy did not. Marianna's experience confirms how I have felt (dismissed as a disgruntled disunifier with dillusions of detrimental doctrine) and that this topic generates incredibly strong antagonism. I am truly dumbfounded. But, God is Good and His Word Stands FIRM and I must also stand firm with Him as my Defender.
"As for God, His way is perfect; the Word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all to take refuge in HIM." Psalm 18:30
Thanks to those of you have commented on my blog or sent email telling me you have read it. It helps to hear positive feedback especially when I, and those who have chosen to "be Bereans" with me, feel so attacked and maligned. GOD is our witness and our Defense in Time of Trouble. Praise HIM!!!
"For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him." 2 Chronicles 28:9
"The Lord looks down from Heaven on the sons of man to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God." Psalm 14;2

Sunday, October 12, 2008

RETREAT and Contemplative Prayer

Well, I’m not doing very well with my updates, am I? The last post was a month ago. Oh, well, I’m still not sure anyone is reading them (only one comment has been left since I started, and that is the only measure I have). 11/21/08 I have taken out references to particular people and organizations in this post in order not to offend or slander anyone.

What happened with the RETREAT?
So, now I have enticed you even further by suggesting that the Women’s Club retreat has been affected by what I have been researching.

Here is the story. In May, while I was still in the States, the retreat committee met for the first time. Several people had been putting out feelers to possible retreat speakers to come from the States for our event in late October. And, one of them, an author of Christian women's books, agreed. She is a personal friend of one of our committee members, so the invitation came through that individual. After that meeting, the "invited" speaker sent an email to the committee suggesting that she bring a friend with her and further suggesting that her friend teach our ladies on CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER and SPIRITUAL FORMATION. I did not see this email since I was not on the distribution for it.

However, in late August, after several conversations with my friend Marianna and her husband regarding my research and findings on the Emerging Church (this will soon be a new post, I hope) and Contemplative Prayer (CP), Marianna found this months’ old email and showed it to me. Naturally, I was aghast and told her I wanted to talk with the person who had invited our speaker and her friend. Marianna and Jim were leaving on that Sunday and on Monday we were scheduled to have a regular Women's Club meeting in their apartment.

So, the committee member called me on Saturday. I explained on the phone what my concerns were. The member tried to tell me that she did not think her friend was teaching this type of prayer but suggested that I call her and ask some questions. I, of course, already knew just how controversial this topic was just from the various articles I had read where this exact scenario was being played out. I explained that often people are so deceived by what they have been taught and truly do not think that what they are teaching is un-Biblical or similar to Eastern meditation. But, she insisted that I should make the call because she did not know what questions to ask. So, I reluctantly agreed to do so.

But, I was not comfortable. So, I did not make the call. I felt it was not my responsibility to challenge this speaker if I did not have the support of the rest of the committee. And, since this was not the speaker we had actually invited, it was even more difficult. When we met the following Monday for our regular club meeting, the member challenged me as to where I was getting my information. I did not want to argue with her any more than I wanted to argue with the prospective speaker. I explained that I did not feel it was my responsibility to convince someone that they were wrong and I was right. I just felt compelled by God to raise the issue for discussion and then decide a path forward. This committee member did not want to do that with me, so it was left that she would call me before I left town for Mariupol the following Sunday. I did not hear from her.

Our committee met on the Monday night that I returned. Marianna had been in conversation with this member and had asked for the "guest" speaker to send us an outline of what she planned to teach so our committee could have something to review. The "guest" speaker was unable to do that. The member had been in touch with several people in America including another committee member who interviewed the "guest" speaker over the phone and an email had been sent to the entire committee sharing about my concerns and why they were now allayed because of the glowing reports that others had given. I felt pretty blind-sided, but I was not angry. I prayed for God to give me wisdom and grace in facing this challenge. This was not about me but about being faithful to God’s Word.

In the meeting I explained precisely why I did not make the phone call to the prospective speaker and exactly why I was concerned about

1) it is un-Biblical
2) it is dangerous
3) it leads to an experience rather than a relationship with God.

I believed that the committee needed to decide if this topic should be taught. There was much discussion, on both sides of the issue, but I said very little. Several people became angry and raised an issue of “trust” for the member who had invited the "invited" speaker and "guest" speaker. Marianna was particularly clear that we still did not know what exactly was to be taught and that we could not even make a decision until we knew something definite.

The following Monday, the outline finally came. The four of us who were the “dissenters” reviewed this document. We tried very hard to be fair and to look at what had been provided from an objective perspective. Marianna asked me specifically why I felt it was “dangerous”. I read to her the quote from Richard Foster’s book Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home. This quote gives a warning and a precaution that CP is not for the novice and is dangerous because unfriendly spirits can influence the person who practices this method of meditation. The outline did not dispel our concerns. It was vague in many areas and left questions in our minds as to what was actually going to be taught. After our meeting concluded, we sent a joint email to the entire committee and the two speakers thanking this particular "guest" speaker for the outline but not indicating approval for this material. But, we all agreed to drop our objections to the person coming and to the OPTIONAL teaching. It was now a non-issue. Or at least that is what we thought.

Several days later, Marianna sent out an email to the committee including the particular Richard Foster quote that I had given to Marianna. She wanted to gently and graciously point out that our concerns had a real basis, not just our opinions. She also mentioned in this note that she was still planning on the two speakers staying in her apartment while they would be in Kiev. It was kind, generous and well written. Not offensive. Peacemaking.

But, as of today, the issue is still not resolved. I don’t yet know what the results of a meeting planned for this evening will be.

I have written all of this detail regarding this incident to demonstrate just how intense the Spiritual War over CP is. I have asked myself again and again, would I raise the issue again if a similar occasion arose? Yes, I would. I cannot tell God that I will NOT be true to what He says because of the cost. If someone could show the Scriptural basis for CP, I would certainly listen. But the enemy has so blinded those who are teaching and are being taught this un-Biblical method of prayer, the only response they seem to give is anger and lashing out at the person who is raising the question. May God give me, and my friends, courage to continue to “fight the good fight.”

For those who would like more information on CP, please see my post from September 11, 2008.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Eastern Meditation and Contemplative Prayer

As promised, this posting will give you more information about Contemplative Spirituality/Prayer and also begin to show some of the parallels with Eastern Meditation that is popularly practiced by those in the New Age movement. I will also provide some early Christian history about how Eastern meditation began appearing in Christianity. You will note that those who promote contemplative also promote the idea that individuals have a divine spark within and all religions are the same. This ecumenism or interspirituality is a topic for a later posting.
(I have all of the definitions in a separate blog, so now, hopefully, the unlined words will take you there. Today’s additions are mostly quotes that define these terms rather than Wikipedia definitions)

Marcia Montenegro, a former professional astrologer, writes this about the similarities:
"The influence of Buddhism and Hinduism on Contemplative Prayer is apparent. Words such as 'detachment,' 'transformation,' 'emptiness,' 'enlightenment,' and 'awakening' swim in and out of the waters of these books. The use of such terms certainly mandates a closer inspection of what is being taught, even though Contemplative Prayer is pre­sented as Christian practice."
Winter 2005 MCOI Journal

What is Eastern Meditation?

Meditation is a practice that is found in many Eastern religions including Hinduism, Buddism, Taoism, Islam, Sikism, Janism and Baha’i Faith. It is also found in the mystical expressions of Christianity and Judaism. In meditation, the meditator sits comfortably and silently, centering attention by focusing awareness on an object or process (either the breath, a sound: a mantra, koan or riddle evoking questions; a visualisation, or an exercise). The goal in meditation is to quiet the mind so that one can reach some higher level of being or divine power within. Often, the meditator will reach an altered state of awareness, or alpha brain wave state during the process.

“Meditation involves four steps: find a quiet place; close your eyes; pick any word; and say it again and again. This word is called a 'mantra'. The aim is to transcend thoughts and feelings, to enter an altered level of consciousness, and to move into pure consciousness, which is the intuition of your true Self, and thus find the god-centre or god-energy.”

“In Christian spiritual training, meditation means thinking with concentration about some topic. In the Eastern sense, meditation may be viewed as the opposite of thinking about a topic. Here the objective is to become detached from thoughts and images and opening up silent gaps between them. The result is a quieting of our mind and is sometimes called relaxation response. In Christian mystical practice, this practice is called 'contemplation'.”

The idea of stillness and silence is important to Eastern meditation just as it is to Contemplative Prayer. The objective is to become detached from thoughts and to find the true Self, the god-center, or the divine within. Eastern meditation techniques (adopted by the New Age Movement) have been adapted and increasingly practiced in Western culture and now, once again, in the Christian church.

What is the history of meditation/centering prayer in Christianity?

In 1 John 4:1, the apostle warned the believers about “false prophets that have gone out into the world.” He was speaking to them about several heresies that had already sprung up uniting Platonic thought and Christianity. One of these heresies, Gnosticism, taught that only the intellectually enlightened could enjoy the benefits of religion. These heretical teachings did not go away and were incorporated into the practices of some of the early monks beginning in the 3rd century and continuing through the 18th century. These monks, nuns and mystics and their writings and practices were denounced by the Roman Catholic church and many of these “desert fathers” were imprisoned or otherwise persecuted for their anti-Biblical beliefs. Some believe that they were influenced by Eastern religion and meditation since the Middle East was the center of religious thought.

But if we were in doubt as to the Eastern religious influence in the lives of the “desert fathers”, we have no doubt about the influence in modern day Catholic monks.

The current practice of centering prayer can be traced to the mid-1970’s, St. Joseph Abbey in Spencer, Mass., and three monks, Abbot Thomas Keating, William Meninger and Basil Pennington. Their work was a response to the exhortations of the Second Vatican Council to become more knowledgeable about other religious faiths through dialogue with believers from these traditions and to revitalize the path of contemplative prayer in order to help Catholics, especially those who had left the church, to find such experiences in their own faith tradition. In the Protestant church, Richard Foster, a Quaker, also began writing about spiritual disciplines and contemplative prayer in his book, Celebration of Discipline, 1978.

“Fathers Keating, Meninger and Pennington entered into intense, sustained dialogue with leaders from other traditions who lived near the abbey. They invited to the abbey ecumenically oriented Catholic theologians, an Eastern Zen master, Joshu Roshi Sasaki, who offered weeklong retreats on Buddhist meditation, and a former Trappist, Paul Marechal, who taught transcendental meditation. The interaction between these Christian monks and practitioners of Eastern meditation helped distill the practice of Christian contemplative prayer into a form that could be easily practiced by a diverse array of "non-monastic" believers: priests, nuns, brothers and lay men and women.”

Why did the Roman Catholic Church encourage the revival of these practices since they were seen as heresy and apostasy in early church history? Because the Catholic Church has an agenda to maintain a position among the world’s religions. I will write more about this in upcoming posts. Since the 1970’s centering or contemplative prayer has been taught and promoted in Catholic churches as well as Protestant and Evangelical churches, seminaries, universities and colleges.

Lest we think that these three monks were the only ones to actively bring Eastern religions into the Catholic faith, let me give a few more examples. Thomas Merton, also a Trappist monk and influential writer, was strongly influenced by Buddhist meditation, particularly as found in Zen – he was a lifetime friend of Buddhist meditation master and Vietnamese monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh and was also an acquaintance of the current Dalai Lama. He had a great influence the general public regarding contemplative prayer. And Richard Foster was, in turn, influenced by Thomas Merton.

Thomas Keating in The Transformation of Suffering says:
"This understanding of the unity of the human family is central to Christianity. Our spiritual journey, especially contemplative prayer, together with its practices for daily life, are processes of becoming aware of just how profound that unity is with God, ourselves, other people, other living beings, the earth, and all creation."

Ray Yungen, a researcher of contemplative spirituality/prayers for over 10 years, writes in A Time of Departing about Merton:

"What Martin Luther King was to the civil rights movement and what Henry Ford was to the automobile, Thomas Merton is to contemplative prayer. Although this prayer movement existed centuries before he came along, Merton took it out of its monastic setting and made it available to and popular with the masses. It is interesting to me that many people still think celebrity star Shirley MacLaine was the greatest influence in the New Age. But for me, hands down, Thomas Merton has influenced New Age thinking more than any person of recent decades. Merton penned one of the most classic descriptions of New Age spirituality I have ever come across.” A Time of Departing, p. 58

The following quotes are from Merton himself:

"Contemplative consciousness is a trans-cultural, trans-religious, trans-formed consciousness … it can shine through this or that system, religious or irreligious" Thoughts on the East, p.34

"I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity ... I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can." (David Steindl-Rast, "Recollection of Thomas Merton's Last Days in the West" (Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969)

"It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, ... now I realize what we all are .... If only they [people] could all see themselves as they really are ...I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other ... At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusions, a point of pure truth ... This little point the pure glory of God in us. It is in everybody." Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (1989 edition, pp. 157-158)

"When one enters the deeper layers of contemplative prayer one sooner or later experiences the void, the emptiness, the nothingness ... the profound mystical silence ... an absence of thought." —Thomas Merton biographer, William Johnston (A Time Of Departing, p.33)

"I'm deeply impregnated with Sufism.” The Springs of Contemplation, p. 266

And from Richard Foster:

"[W]e must be willing to go down into the recreating silences, into the inner world of contemplation. In their writings, all of the masters of meditation strive to awaken us to the fact that the universe is much larger than we know." Celebration of Disciplines, p. 13

"We now come to the ultimate stage of Christian experience. Divine Union.... Contemplatives sometimes speak of their union with God by the analogy of a log in a fire: the glowing log is so united with the fire that it is fire ..." Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home, p. 159

And then this quote which shows the impact of the Merton/Foster connection:
“Merton’s writings are quoted by today’s advocates of his contemplative prayer methodology that he derived from dark sources as already documented. Look in the notes of any modern book on prayer, and see if you find Merton quotes. This leaven of doctrines of devils has found its way into such popular "Evangelical" books as Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline and Brennan Manning’s, Ragamuffin Gospel, books that grace the shelves of many church bookstores.”

Why am I so concerned about meditation/contemplative prayer that is being practiced by the evangelical church, especially our youth, today?
Here is a quote from Steve Muse, a former occultist, who personally experienced the dangers of contemplative prayer encouraged by both Catholic and Protestant and, today, Evangelical leaders.

“More than thirty years ago, as an occultist, I was deeply involved in mysticism and the practice of contemplative prayer. I learned this meditation technique from studying Catholic mystics who said then, and even teach now, that one does not have to believe in Jesus Christ to enter into the contemplative experience but that all roads would take us to the same destination. I went even further by becoming a disciple of Transcendental Meditation, which was identical to the Catholic contemplative prayer techniques I had already learned. Those I walked with into this journey of mysticism experienced a much deeper spiritual realm leading many into relationships with seducing spirits rather than with God. These same techniques are encouraged by today’s new mystics and especially New Age advocates—such advocates feel encouraged to see Christians moving into this type of prayer experience.”

"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world." 1 John 4:1

Thursday, August 7, 2008

It Has a Name: Mystical Deception Project.

Yes, I chose a name (although I found another website by this same name today,sigh ! :( Already a correction needed. Apparently I left the word Trails out of the LighthouseTrailsResearch link (to the left). I hope that no one was confused if they found lighthouses instead of info on Contemplative Spirituality (thanks Carol).

Ok, time to “get to it”!!

The Mystical Deception that concerns me begins with some practices that have gradually been creeping into the Christian church over the last decade or so. Some of these practices you might be familiar with, others not. Spiritual formation, contemplative or centering prayer and solitude/silence are the topics I will define today. I will also define Christian meditation and show how it differs from contemplative prayer. There are some other terms included in this post that will be defined in the next one (New Age, mantra, altered state of consciousness, false-self, breathing exercises, visualization, as well as more terms, lectio divina, breath prayer, Jesus prayer)
Negotiating the blog (the links within the post are not working, so I have disabled them. The definitions above are at the end of the post)
((Any word or phrase that is underlined and a different color of text is (hopefully, if I’ve done it right) a hyperlink. When you point your mouse and click on that word, the link will take you first to the short definitions I have included in the post/blog, or to a much longer description in a different location on the web, eg. Wikipedia. And in some cases, it will take you to an article in someone else’s blog or website. My goal is to give proper references to any information that is quoted or extracted from books or articles.))

How big is the problem?
These practices are found in many secular and Christian settings. They are not unChristian in and of themselves. In fact, many of these definitions seem just fine on the surface.
However, if an unsuspecting or undiscerning young Christian, new believer, or even someone seeking a deeper relationship with God, comes upon these teachings, they can be misled into dangerous places. I believe, along with a growing number of Christians, that contemplative meditation is dangerous, and I want to warn others of its similarity to mysticism
and New Age practices:

“Mystical practices are now widely embraced and taught in secular and professed Christian seminaries, colleges, universities, organizations, ministries and seminars, etc. throughout the United States. Academic promoters have introduced these practices into the fields of medicine, business and law while countless secular and Christian books, magazines, seminars, and retreats are teaching lay people how to incorporate them into their daily lives. Promoters promise physical, mental and spiritual benefits desiring to bring about positive social change.”

“Many people would be quite surprised to find that meditation has made its way into both Catholic and Protestant churches on a large scale. Although some would argue that it is not New Age meditation but rather a form of prayer, I would beg to differ. Upon close examination, the methods used (mantra, breathing) are identical to New Age techniques. Only the connotation is changed.”

“Many people assume centering prayer is compatible with Catholic tradition, but in fact the techniques of centering prayer are neither Christian nor prayer. They are at the level of human faculties and as such are an operation of man, not of God. The deception and dangers can be grave."

CP is Dangerous!

As you can see, these writers who oppose Contemplative Prayer (CP) believe that it is dangerous, mystical, like New Age, and not of God. What do they see that is wrong? To begin with, the definitions don’t tell the whole story. (Although even these definitions from Wikipedia are suspect since they imply unBiblical concepts).
One writer believes it is NOT prayer but mystical meditation producing bodily sensations:

“Contemplative Prayer is not Biblical prayer at all, rather it is a type of mystical meditation leading the mind into an altered state of consciousness. It goes beyond thought, providing an experiential union with so-called God or with nature producing body sensations, feelings, images, and reflections.
It is based on “experiences” rather than sound doctrine.

There is even a warning!!!
One of the proponents, Richard Foster, warns that this practice is not for the novice and that one should pray a prayer of protection before attempting it because, “there is such a thing as supernatural guidance that is not divine guidance. Some spiritual beings are not in cooperation with God and His way.” Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home (NY: Harper Collins, 1992), 156-157

So, CP has some features or practices that are mystical in nature, focus on “experiences” and lead the mind into an altered state of consciousness (this will be defined the next time). There are things happening with CP that are dangerous and not for the novice, yet it is being taught to people of all ages, including youth and young children. What are some of the other things included in CP?

“Themes that one finds echoed in the CP movement include the notions that true prayer is silent, is beyond words, is beyond thought, does away with the “false self,” triggers transformation of consciousness, and is an awakening. Suggested techniques of­ten include breathing exercises, visualization, repetition of a word or phrase, and detachment from thinking.”

So what is CP exactly?

One of the best known proponents of the centering prayer technique, has delineated the guidelines for centering prayer:
1. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed, relax, and quiet yourself. Be in love and faith to God.
2. Choose a sacred word that best supports your sincere intention to be in the Lord's presence and open to His divine action within you (i.e. "Jesus", "Lord," "God," "Savior," "Abba," "Divine," "Shalom," "Spirit," "Love," etc.).
3. Let that word be gently present as your symbol of your sincere intention to be in the Lord's presence and open to His divine action within you.
4. Whenever you become aware of anything (thoughts, feelings, perceptions, images, associations, etc.), simply return to your sacred word, your anchor.
Ideally, the prayer will reach the point where the person is not engaged in their thoughts as they arrive on their stream of consciousness. This is the "unknowing" referenced in the 14th century book.
M. Basil Pennington (1986), "Centering Prayer: Refining the Rules," "Review for Religious," 46:3, 386-393.

The Biblical arguments against CP: + a WARNING!!

1. No where in the Bible is silence equated with prayer.
“we can get deep insights when we are quiet. But simply trying to be quiet is not prayer, and there is no biblical basis for the belief that real prayer is wordless. After all, God has given us a written revelation, and God's laws and words are acclaimed throughout the Bible, such as Psalm 119, which extols God's word as a treasure and lamp. In Is. 40:8, we learn, "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever," and Jesus declares to the Father in Jn. 17:17, "Your word is truth."

2. No where in the Bible does it say that prayer should be without thinking.
“Yet in the Bible, meditation on God or on the words of God is never presented as an exercise without thinking. Many of the words translated as "meditation" in the Bible are words meaning to muse, ponder, utter, or make a sound. Most of these words are in Psalms where the psalmist is praising the precepts and words of God and affirming that these are what we should learn, obey, and think upon. This is definitely not leaving ordinary thinking for another level of consciousness”

3. No where in the Bible are we instructed to repeat a word or phrase. (in fact Matt 6:7-8 says the opposite!!)
“Centering prayer is essentially a form of self-hypnosis. It makes use of a "mantra," a word repeated over and over to focus the mind while striving by one's will to go deep within oneself. The effects are a hypnotic-like state: concentration upon one thing, disengagement from other stimuli, a high degree of openness to suggestion, a psychological and physiological condition that externally resembles sleep but in which consciousness is interiorized and the mind subject to suggestion.”

4. No where in the Bible is prayer an “experience”, rather it is a “relationship” and “talking to God”
“Centering prayer differs from Christian prayer in that the intent of the technique is to bring the practitioner to the center of his own being. There he is, supposedly, to experience the presence of the God who indwells him. Christian prayer, on the contrary, centers upon God in a relational way, as someone apart from oneself. The Christian knows a God who is personal, yet who, as Creator, infinitely transcends his creature.”

5. How do we know when we reach the place of “unknowing” that it is God who meets us there?

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” 2 Timothy 4:3,4

Contemplating Contemplative Prayer: Is It Really Prayer?
By Marcia Montenegro

The Danger of Centering Prayer
By Rev. John D.Dreher

Contemplative Prayer: Seducing Spirits and a Doctrine of Devils
By Christine A. Narloch

Monday, August 4, 2008

New, as yet Nameless, Project

New Project, New Format-- This format is new for me so it may take some getting used to. I guess I need to say a little bit more about this new project and then why I feel so compelled to jump into it.

First, a few Scriptures-- What does the Word say about this? I encourage you to check out just a few of these verses to see what has motivated me. 1 John 4:1 tell us to test the spirits to see whether they are from God. Rev 2:2 Jesus commends the church for testing those who claimed to be speaking for Him. Titus 1:9 says that we are to hold to the true message, encourage sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. 1 Thess 5:21 we are to test everything and hold on to the good. Is 5:20 warns those who call evil good and good evil. Acts 17:11 teaches to examine the Scriptures to see if what is being taught is true. Rev 2:17 says that he who has an ear to hear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Project-- Needs a Name. Suggestions welcome!! The subject matter is so BROAD!!! Contemplative Spirituality (don't worry, I will define and explain all words/terms as I add new posts), Ancient Future Worship, Emerging Church, Postmodernism, New Gospel, New Jesus, Spiritual Formation, Centering Prayer, Yoga, New Age, and more and more!!! The project involves researching all the people, organizations, events, books, concepts, and practices that are part of a new anti-Biblical movement that looks and smells very, very Christian. But it is quite heretical in nature. In fact, some of you may be shocked and surprised over what I am going to be reporting in this blog. I will be referring you to websites and other blogs as my resources for this research, so you can check it out for yourself (see on the left and below all posts)

Purpose-- Simply to educate and inform. I do not wish to try to convince anyone that I am right and that they must read/accept what I report. In fact, I welcome questions and even criticisms and will respond as best I can. Blogs allow this kind of feedback and I encourage you to use it. I feel so very compelled by God to do this that I just cannot not (strong double negative!!) do it. In fact, my rational person would rather NOT do this. It is controversial, involves many well-respected Christian men and women and organizations and is receiving lots of criticism and negative responses in the blogs and websites where it is being exposed. Why would I want to contribute one more?

Brief testimony-- As some of you know, before I became a born-again Christian, I was a New Ager. I had been born into a Christian family, attended church, even was confirmed in the Lutheran Church when I was a young teen. However, I did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and so rejected the truth when I took a class in anthropology at age 19. That led me into a 20+ year journey away from Christ and into the New Age Christ. Totally different people!!! Because I was so deceived and misled, I have a deep conviction to not see others deceived and misled in the same way. Thus, my interest in contributing one more voice.

What's already available?-- Although there is a great deal of information available in this area of research (see on the left and below for websites to visit. I will be adding to this list) in books, DVDs, MP3s, podcasts, journals, magazine articles, newspaper articles, websites, blogs, etc., it is not organized in one single place and is not easily retrievable depending on what you want to do with it. Therefore, I am feeling compelled to develop a personal data base that is organized by individuals, the books that they have written and endorsed, the organizations and events they are participating in and what they are specifically saying about a large variety of subject matter. An enormous and intimidating task that one should really count the cost of before taking on. But, if God wants this to happen, He can make it so (Phil 4:13). I pray daily for guidance and direction and covet your prayers in this as well.

How will I use this database?-- I am praying for opportunity, and have already had one chance, to present this heresy here in Ukraine. I want to warn the Family of God about something that is silently creeping (and has been for the last 10 years) into the Christian church. Because God has given me "ears to hear", I can not sit idly by and watch this aposty happen. May He give me the courage and strength I need!

My next post will begin to "get into it"!!!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Georgia's Prayer letter - July 2008

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23

Praises: For safe, easy travel and good family and friends. Prayer:For my new project and for the orphans and mentors.
Beautiful Lake Tahoe
CHANGES!--What happened to my prayer letter??? I have some new issues to deal with that are going to change my prayer letter once again. The first has to do with technology. In order to save a little money, I cancelled my ATT account when I was in the States. I checked with them to make sure my Yahoo account would continue to function even if I did not pay for internet access through ATT. What I failed to ask is whether all the "extras" would also still function. As a result, I have lost the storage space for my HTML prayer letters and also the ability to download my email into Outlook. Such is life. Of course, I can still pay for these features, but I am looking for alternatives and have a few to consider. In the meantime, my prayer letter is going to be boring and plain.

MORE CHANGES!-- I have been praying for what God would have me do now that I believe He has said I am not to move to Mariupol. I need to have ministry in Kiev and I need to be involved with a church. So, it seems as though He has done both. I mentioned in my brief note last month that my friend Carol from San Diego was going to return with me to Kiev so that we could work on a project together. She was here for a month and we did a lot of work together. This project involves some new beliefs and practices that have already infiltrated many mainline denominational and evangelical churches in America. It is my belief that this apostasy is coming to Ukraine as well. Before Carol left, God provided an opportunity to present this information to Pastor Alosya of the Kiev Calvary Chapel. And there have been many informal opportunities to talk with other missionary friends and some young Ukrainian friends. The Ukrainians confirmed that they had been reading some of the books and authors that I mentioned. But, this is very controversial area. There are many well-respected and well-read pastors and other Christian teachers who have shifted their beliefs away from the true gospel. So, I have prayerfully decided that rather than send you something that confuses or even offends you, I will provide my updates on this subject via a blog. I have resisted entering into the world of blogging (it can be addictive, you know), even though I know many who do. But now it seems like this is the time. If you are interested in reading about my new project, you can go to (you must be here!!!)

What's Up in Mariupol?-- The babyshka who wants to sell us the apartment still believes that she can make that happen. I told Misha that I would believe it when I saw it!! She feels that she has negotiated a deal with the other two owners (ex-wife and son) of the flat and that she just needs to get the final paperwork completed. Well that was almost two weeks ago and we have heard nothing. So, we continue to rent it and at least we will know if she tries to sell it someone else!! In early spring, Yuri, our young YA who is living in that apartment. told Toma that he would like to join our YAODM program fully, with a mentor in all areas of life. This means that he will drop out of day school and enroll in correspondence school so that he can work full time. This is really good news (even though it means more cost to the ministry because the government was previously paying for Yuri's education and now we will), because Yuri now sees that he must take more responsibility for his life and he wants us to help him in doing that. He has a job and is planning to enroll in the correspondence method (only attending school to take exams) in August. Nellya will receive tutoring this year in order to prepare for taking entrance exams next March. Please pray for both of them to be able to make these adjustments.

Health-- I usually have lots to do when I take my annual trip to the States, but this time was busier than usual. I had my medical checkup and, praises to the Lord, my health is good. I am actually taking a German version of Synthroid (for low thyroid) that my doctor in America has approved. I can buy it here for less cost and don't have to worry about taking enough with me or having it get lost in the mail (this has happened twice in the last 5 years). I also purchased, over the internet, a small hearing aid. Technology has really changed these devices in the last 10 years. Mine is not expensive and does not have all the capabilities of the more expensive ones, but it is WORKING for me. I can hear much better, especially when I am outside or in a large room. It does take getting used to, though.

Family-- Being with Family was good too. I was able to take each of my grandkids for our once-a-year "date" and enjoyed every minute of that. I was able to see almost all of them participating in their most current pastimes and sports (acting, lacrosse and baseball/softball). All the boys, except Trevor, are playing lacrosse these days. It is a new game for me and I had to watch closely to even see the ball. It is fast and physical, but they love it. And they are good at it. Trevor swims, plays water polo and is part of a Christian Youth Theater group for kids between 8 and 18. He was in High School Musical while I was there. It was amazing to me how professionally these young kids act, sing and dance. Cassidy is playing softball and learning how to be a pitcher. Ethan may have played his last year of little league. Even though he is an excellent player and can play many positions, he likes lots of action and he says the game is just too slow for him. So he will play lacrosse in the fall also. Taylor is driving!!! Holden and Tristan are enjoying lacrosse, playing music, and just being boys. All 4 oldest boys will be teenagers by this fall. Yikes!!!

Friends-- Great spending time with many of you in San Diego, Sacramento and Concord. And I sincerely apologize for not being able to see all of you. I also had opportunities to visit friends in Florida who formerly lived in Kiev. Eric and Cindy and their three boys now live in Orlando, and my friend Roxanne, who now lives in North Carolina, was visiting in Florida when I was there. (Nice how God arranges things sometimes!) In Concord I stayed with Scott and Becky whose pastor, Terry, gave me a chance to present my mission ministry to their church. I spent 5 days at beautiful Lake Tahoe with my friends Sharon and Larry. They have a wonderful, cozy home there and spend the whole summer with many guests coming and going.
Had dinner with Rick and Susie and my Sacramento family in their newly remodeled back yard!! Very beautiful. My thanks to everyone for your hospitality, lunches, dinners, prayers, support and fellowship. I always put on weight when I make that visit! To get the rest of my news, you will have to read my new blog.

I will also be posting this regular prayer letter here, along with pictures.
Please do not feel obliged to do so and I will not be offended if you don't. God is still at work in Ukraine and all over the world. Each of us has a part to do while we wait anxiously for His glorious return.

Taking up my cross Daily,