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Spiritual Formation, Romance and Leadership

Posted on February 24th, 2009

I am acutely aware of God’s work in me in three areas – contemplation, romance with Geri and the exercising of godly leadership. Spiritual Formation – I have been reading slowly Thomas Merton’s The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation. I relate to his description of the Desert Fathers who “knew that before they could see His face, (knew) they would have to struggle, instead, with His adversary. They would have to cast out the devil subtly lodged in their exterior self…By their renunciation of passion and attachment, their crucifixion of the exterior self, they liberated the inner man, the new man “in Christ” (p.33). I have been pondering the phrase “subtly lodged” for the past few weeks as it relates to my active life outside the desert here pastoring in Queens, NYC, married with four daughters. Romance –It would be easier to move to the desert (I think) than learn to cook and romance Geri in new ways. So I dusted off my vegetarian cookbook last week and went at it. It was wonderful, time consuming and very much outside my comfort zone! Why has it taken 25 years to serve her in a way that would be very meaningful to her? What is “subtly lodged” in my exterior self that has resisted such a simple, non-demanding request for so long?” Painful question. Leadership –I am learning prudence on a new level (You can hear my recent sermon on it at I am learning do the best, right thing rather than the easy thing as it relates to leading New Life. After 12 years of doing genogram work on my family of origin, I am freshly aware of how the process of leaving negative patterns is never ending, especially as it relates to leadership. God is working deeply in me to have the difficult conversations with people that are needed for their own growth and the good of the larger community. One of the strange gifts of leading others is the uncanny way it reveals what is “subtly lodged” in the false self. I know. Paul Tillich once wrote: “Genuine courage is the courage to be, courage to be oneself.” It preaches well, but I suspect it is perhaps only understood through the continual crucifixion of the exterior, false self.   Why do you think it is so difficult to have a spirituality that is well-integrated and not compartmentalized, that blasts away (another Merton phrase) at the false self so that our true self in Christ is set free?

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