Slow Reader Friday: Soul Feast

giving hands

It’s difficult for me to contain my enthusiasm for Soul Feast, since it opened up a whole new realm of discovery, study and blessing for my spiritual journey. But, I think restraint is warranted here, since others may have encountered this material before and thus, be less impressed than I.

Written in 1995, author Marjorie J. Thompson proposes that a major spiritual awakening is due for us earthlings any day now. History states that these events occur about every 500 years and the last one took place in the 16th century. Furthermore, there is increasing evidence that the 21st century version is already underway. People are restless and want something more.

Thompson contends that the something more they seek is to be found in practices first initiated by the “desert fathers and mothers.” These folks grew up in the era immediately following the deaths of the Apostles and felt that they were losing something important from the absence of Jesus Himself and these great teachers and writers.

In an effort to find that “something important” they went out into the desert as Jesus did before beginning His ministry and stayed there for long periods of time (usually 40 days, like Jesus) and then would return to town. Upon returning to their towns and villages, their neighbors and families noticed a marked difference in their personalities post-desert. They were quieter, calmer, less agitated, unhurried and more giving. In addition they seemed “wiser.”

Thus, their co-inhabitants began seeking their advice regularly. This occurred so often that these desert trekkers would exit town again and seek the asylum of their desert cave homes. Unfortunately, their wisdom-seekers followed them there! They actually had to barricade themselves into the caves to get any privacy whatsoever!

This is even more impressive when one realizes that prior to going into the desert, these desert mothers and fathers were simple, ordinary, every-day people like you and me. They had no special training in the Scriptures and were not clergy. And yet they eventually emerged as “experts.” What was the secret of the desert?

Silence and solitude.

Yep, that’s it. Nothing more. These people had an extended period of time in which there were no creature comforts to distract them. There were no chores to do. There were no family members or neighbors around. With all of that gone, they began to hear from God in the silence in a variety of ways. So much so that they began to crave more and more solitude with God. Somehow in the midst of this experience with God, they began to change internally and obviously for the better, based on the reactions of their fellow citizens.

As time went on, spiritual practices, or disciplines, developed to encourage more people to embark on a quiet, contemplative life with God. Unfortunately, some of our Christian traditions have not adequately offered or instructed us on these disciplines. I’m not blaming anyone–we’re human and often distracted by the latest and greatest way to learn about God, just as any other human being might be distracted. It’s just a shame, as far as I’m concerned.

Dare I say it? I think Soul Feast introduced me to experiencing God in new ways, ways that are addictive, honestly. Normally, prayer would be the last thing on my list of addictive practices. Watching TV, playing online games and eating junk were far more appealing! Sometimes, in my quest for solitude (and not easily finding it), I get testy and irritable. I cry, almost uncontrollably. I journal like I’m possessed. I crave longer and longer periods of silent prayer. No one’s more surprised by this than yours truly.

Am I good at all this new stuff? Nope. It takes practice. It takes time. It takes patience. Thus, I am often doing the wrong thing. In fact doing anything is probably the wrong thing, because this life is more about being with God, rather than doing something or anything.

Prior to reading Soul Feast I would have told you that fasting would be the last spiritual practice I undertook, thanks to migraines that can be triggered by a lack of food. And prior to reading to Soul Feast I would have told you that hospitality was a Christian duty and not a spiritual discipline. But, Thompson gives practical ways to work through this ignorance and presumption on my part.

I now juice fast once a week, usually on a Wednesday. I didn’t even know what a juice fast was. I tried it with much trepidation, didn’t get a migraine and didn’t miss food. In fact I liked not spending time preparing food, eating, and then doing dishes. Thompson points out that we assume fasts begin in the morning and end the next morning. The Hebrews started their fasts after dinner and ended them at the next evening’s meal. Trust me–this is much easier!

At the end of the book we are invited to choose disciplines that we think God is calling us to do. Oddly enough, fasting called to me. That and journaling, reading spiritually, and silent prayer. These practices are slowly turning into my “Rule of Life” which are the spiritual practices we personally choose to keep daily, weekly, monthly or annually.

I could almost state that my life has had two periods: pre-Soul Feast and post-Soul Feast! I feel like I’ve been sleepwalking through my pre-Soul Feast years! I’m rather irritated that I have “snow on my head” and never learned this stuff until now. Honestly? It probably wouldn’t have permeated my thick, snowy head until now.

Are you ready? Please join me “in the desert.” I consider you my next best spiritual teacher.

Monday’s Post: Ready to Word Nerd out?

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This entry was posted on Friday, February 19th, 2016 at 1:27 pm and is filed under God stuff, Slow Reader Friday. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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