Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Frank Laubach and Moment by Moment Submitting to the Will of God

Moment By Moment Submitting to the Will of God
An overview of Frank Laubach’s Letters by a Modern Mystic
Dallas Willard Dallas Willard on February 12, 2018 (orig. 1988)

A Pennsylvanian trained at Princeton, Union Theological Seminary, and Columbia University (Ph.D. in sociology, 1915), Laubach went to the Philippines under the American Board of Foreign Missions. After fourteen years of successful teaching, writing, and administration at Cagayn and Manila, he realized in 1929 his long-standing ambition of settling among the fierce Moros, an Islamic tribe on Mindanao. There, in the village of Lanao, he underwent a remarkable series of experiences of God, and simultaneously developed a technique for reducing the Moro language to writing, with symbols closely correlated to their spoken words. This not only made it possible to teach them to read in only a few hours, but permitted them immediately to teach others. The famous “Each One Teach One” program was born, and with the generalization of his linguistic methods the foundation was laid for his worldwide efforts to promote literacy, beginning with India in 1935. During his last thirty years Laubach was an international presence in literacy, religious, and governmental circles. His personal contacts with President Truman were thought to be partly responsible for “point four” in Truman’s inaugural address of 1949, sponsoring a “bold new program… for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas” of the world.

Two years prior to his transforming experiences of 1930, Laubach found himself profoundly dissatisfied in the realization that after fifteen years as a Christian minister he still was not living his days “in minute by minute effort to follow the will of God.” He then began trying to “line up” his actions with the will of God every few minutes. His confidants at the time told him he was seeking the impossible. But in 1929 he began to try living all his waking moments “in conscious listening to the inner voice, asking without ceasing, ‘What, Father, do you desire said? What, Father, do you desire done this minute?…’” In his view, this is exactly what Jesus did.

Laubach did not fall into the trap of merely trying to achieve his goal. Rather, he understood the necessity of learning how, of spiritual method. He was, in fact, a very subtle and realistic experimentalist, and regarded himself as fortunate to be living in a “day when psychological experimentation has given a fresh approach to our spiritual problems.” Thus he experimented for a few days by taking enough time from each hour to give intensive thought to God. Again, “disgusted with the pettiness and futility of my unled self,” he experimented with “feeling God in each movement by an act of will — willing that He shall direct these fingers that now strike this typewriter — willing that He shall pour through my steps as I walk.” Again, he wished to “compel his mind” to “open straight out to God.” But to attain this mental state often required a long time in the morning. Therefore he determined not to get out of bed “until that mind set, that concentration upon God, is settled.” He found that great determination was required to keep the mind on God. But he also found it quickly getting easier, and hoped that “after a while, perhaps, it will become a habit, and the sense of effort will grow less.”

In the most subtle passage in these letters — so far as the “mechanisms” of holding God before the mind are concerned — Laubach deals with the question of whether it is possible to have contact with God all the time. Can we think his thoughts all the time? Must there not be periods when other things push God out? Laubach’s response to this issue should be fully quoted, for it gives us the heart of his understanding of the constant conscious hold on God. Admitting that he once thought there must be periods when God is excluded, he continues:

… But I am changing my view. We can keep two things in mind at once. Indeed we cannot keep one thing in mind more than half a second. Mind is a flowing something. It oscillates. Concentration is merely the continuous return to the same problem from a million angles. We do not think of one thing. We always think of the relationship of at least two things, and more often of three or more things simultaneously. So my problem is this: Can I bring God back in my mind-flow every few seconds so that God shall always be in my mind as an after-image, shall always be one of the elements in every concept and percept? I choose to make the rest of my life an experiment in answering this question.

The tremendous results of this experiment are found in the narrative of these letters. They are elaborated more systematically and practically in the Game with Minutes (1961), where the method was reduced to calling God to mind for at least one second out of each minute. But the quotation given contains the psychological principles back of Laubach’s method for achieving active union with God, constantly abiding in the abundant life.

Within weeks of beginning his experiments he began to notice differences. By the end of January 1930, and with much still to learn about his method, he had gained a sense of being carried along by God through the hours, of cooperation with God in little things, which he had never felt before. “I need something, and turn around to find it waiting for me. I must work, … but there is God working along with me.” He discovered by March 9 that “This hour can be heaven. Any hour for any body can be rich with God. In a manner familiar to the mystics of all ages, we find him saying to God: “And God, I scarce see how one could live if his heart held more than mine has had from Thee this past two hours.” He experienced difficulties and failures in maintaining his consciousness of God, but in the week ending May 24 he began to experience a further dimension in his conversations with God. In a moment of immersion in natural beauty, “I let my tongue go loose and from it there flowed poetry far more beautiful than any I ever composed. It flowed without pausing and without ever a failing syllable for a half hour.” This brought him a deeper awareness of God in beauty and in love.

Reflecting upon the results of two months of strenuous effort to keep God in mind every minute, he exclaims: “This concentration upon God is strenuous, but everything else has ceased to be so!” … The inner transformation was substantial and with real outward effects. “God does work a change. The moment I turn to him it is like turning on an electric current which I feel through my whole being.” There is a “real presence” that affects other people directly, and that also makes intercessory prayer an exercise of substantial power in cooperation with God.

Because of Laubach’s immense involvement with worldwide social problems, he came to be generally known for his work, not for his inner life. Many of those who have written about him say little about his spiritual side, and obviously do not know what to make of it. But his own words and writings (he published more than fifty books) reveal that he remained primarily a spiritual man — fundamentally living from his moment-to-moment relation to God — to the end of his days. He knew this relation in a way that did not bear many of the external trappings conventionally associated with spirituality. But to observe his effect is to see that he was truly one of those born of the spirit, of the “wind” that invisibly produces visible results (John 3:8).
Read complete article on Originally published in Christian Spirituality, Edited By Frank Magill And Ian Mcgreal, (San Francisco: Harper And Row, 1988, Pp. 516- 520).

Monday, 11 December 2017

When the man comes around

Johnny Cash lyrics to one of his famous songs: When the man (Jesus) comes around.

"And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder
One of the four beasts saying,
'Come and see.' and I saw, and behold a white horse"

There's a man goin' 'round takin' names
And he decides who to free and who to blame
Everybody won't be treated all the same
There'll be a golden ladder reachin' down
When the man comes around
The hairs on your arm will stand up
At the terror in each sip and in each sup
Will you partake of that last offered cup
Or disappear into the potter's ground?
When the man comes around.

Hear the trumpets hear the pipers
One hundred million angels singin'
Multitudes are marchin' to the big kettledrum
Voices callin', voices cryin'
Some are born and some are dyin'
It's alpha and omega's kingdom come
And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree
The virgins are all trimming their wicks
The whirlwind is in the thorn tree
It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

Till armageddon no shalam, no shalom
Then the father hen will call his chickens home
The wise man will bow down before the throne
And at his feet they'll cast their golden crowns
When the man comes around.

Whoever is unjust let him be unjust still
Whoever is righteous let him be righteous still
Whoever is filthy let him be filthy still
Listen to the words long written down
When the man comes around.

Hear the trumpets hear the pipers
One hundred million angels singin'
Multitudes are marchin' to the big kettledrum
Voices callin', voices cryin'
Some are born and some are dyin'
It's alpha and omega's kingdom come
And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree
The virgins are all trimming their wicks
The whirlwind is in the thorn trees
It's hard for thee to kick against the prick
In measured hundredweight and penny pound
When the man comes around.

"And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts
And I looked, and behold a pale horse
And his name that sat on him was death, and hell followed with him"
Songwriters: Johnny Cash
The Man Comes Around lyrics © BMG Rights Management US, LLC

Back to the present - listen to the words

I know it is not Christmas yet, but....

One of my all-time favourite carols:

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Caesar and God

15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax[a] to Caesar or not?”

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
Matthew 22:15-22

‘Caesar’ here represents every other call on our obedience, love and devotion other than God. Therefore it is not just about government or political authority but anything that can take us away from God or conflicts with our call to love God with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength.

That to that extent ‘Caesar’ represents other conflicting demands on our lives that take us away from worshipping, honouring and obeying God.

And so ‘Caesar’ can be family, friends, entertainment, hobbies, anything that demands that God is relegated to second place in your life. This comes into the sharpest relief in two ways. Our daily and our weekly obligations as Christians.

Daily, it is the time spent with God. How many people say they don’t have time to spend in prayer? They lead such busy lives that they can’t event spare ten or twenty minutes for prayer. The question then needs to be asked, what is the ‘Caesar’ in their lives that takes such authority over them that they have to obey its demands and ignore that of the Lord? What things have such sway over their daily timetables that they feel they must give way to that over time with God?

Weekly, it is Sunday worship. Keeping the Sabbath Day holy, at the very least, means worship for an hour or so in the morning. And yet for some, that demand is set aside for the greater authority - the 'Caesar' - in their lives which comes in the form of other things, events or people.

Now that is not to say that sometimes urgent things do crop up over which we have little or no control. And our Christian forebears made the very Biblical exceptions for what they termed 'works of mercy' or need. But how often are these legitimate excuses for not rendering service to God?

And so to them, and us, Jesus says plainly and challengingly, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s (but) to God’ what is God’s.

Frank Laubach and Moment by Moment Submitting to the Will of God

Moment By Moment Submitting to the Will of God An overview of Frank Laubach’s Letters by a Modern Mystic Dallas Willard Dallas Willard o...