I am excited to share my interview with my friend and author Amos Smith.
Amos is a family man, hiker, seasoned Centering Prayer practitioner, retreat leader, Contemplative Christian writer, amateur musician, dish washer, desert dweller, and ordained United Church of Christ (UCC) pastor.
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Amos holds a Doctor of Ministry from Chicago Theological Seminary. He teaches a class titled “Contemporary Christian Mysticism” at the Redemptorist Renewal Center in Tucson and has been invited to participate in forums at the University of Arizona. His writing has been published in various newspapers and magazines including The Billings Gazette, The Spokesman Review, Friends Journal: Quaker Thought and Life Today, and Chicago Seminary Press.
Amos published his first book, Healing The Divide: Recovering Christianity’s Mystic Roots with Wipf & Stock Publishers in 2013. The book has been well received and reviewed and is part of the curriculum for the Living School of The Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC | Richard Rohr).
Amos’ next book, Primordial Freedom: Meditations on Silence, Stillness, and Mysticism in Scripture, will be published in February or March of 2018. Amos is also working on a book co-authored with Rich Lewis titled Centering Prayer Journey: Discovering and Mirroring the Dynamic Christ and the Human Jesus scheduled to come out in 2018.
Learn more about Amos at Recover Christianity’s Mystic Roots.
In Healing the Divide you mention the Jesus Paradox. What is the Jesus Paradox? Why is it important?
The Jesus Paradox is the root theology of the Oriental Orthodox Church and its roughly 85 million members worldwide. The word the Oriental Orthodox Church uses is Miaphysite, which I have coined The Jesus Paradox. The reason The Jesus Paradox is important is because it is the root theology of Christian Mysticism.
The Jesus Paradox does not give in to reductionist either/or binaries – that Jesus is a human wisdom teacher on the one hand or God on the other hand. The Jesus Paradox always holds the creative tension between the two, never succumbing to static finality. This gives Christian Theology depth and width.
What does Jesus have to say about prayer?
What is more significant than what Jesus says about prayer, in my estimation is how he models prayer. Of course there is Matthew 6:6, which is the scripture that Centering Prayer and other silent prayer forms are based on in Christian Tradition.
And in that scripture the “room” does not reference a physical room, because there were no private rooms in 1st century Palestinian houses. Houses had one or two large family rooms that were always bustling with activity. So, “room” in Matthew 6:6 is a metaphor for an inner room where we close the door to the senses.
Back to Jesus’ example. Jesus let the crowds constantly press in on him, but then he would go to solitary places to prayer (Luke 5:16). This is the pattern of the Gospels and should be our pattern. That pattern is new monasticism.
Your book is titled, Healing the Divide. What divide do you wish to heal?
The divide can only be healed within one’s self through silent prayer. So, I can’t heal others. They will have to heal themselves through the practice of centering prayer and the like. The mind is dualistic and this is a source of suffering. The rational mind habitually splits everything into binaries of good and bad, left and right, human and divine, et cetera.
Habitual silence slowly cures us of the divisive reasoning mind and introduces us to a new mind, a contemplative mind, that is about beholding mystery, experiencing awe, and healing the nervous system (the nervous system suffers along with our minds, when all we know is the gridlock of dualistic thinking.
For those not familiar with this form of prayer, how do you define contemplative prayer?
I think this is your area of expertise. A good introduction to Centering Prayer is Rich’s ebook on the subject available here:Rich’s Notes on Centering Prayer.
What prayer methods do you practice on a daily basis?
I do centering prayer 2 to 4 times per day for at least half an hour a day, usually more. I also do yearly centering prayer retreats,
How has your prayer life evolved over the years?
I have released lots of tension in my mind and body. This hasn’t been easy. Huge and challenging stuff has come up for me as a result of going deeper into centering prayer over the last fifteen years. Yet, centering prayer is the practice that carries my days, weeks, and months. It is the constant and I wouldn’t miss it. It is such a healing time now – a great source of refuge from any and all storms.
How can prayer help people?
It can heal their nervous systems, revitalize their minds and bodies, make God in Christ experiential, instead of academic.
What advice do you have for beginners to prayer?
Start doing it. Build up to at least ten minutes twice a day (20 minutes total). Then after a month do at least twenty minutes twice a day. Don’t miss the second sit! It will greatly increase your progress in prayer.
Why should we study the mystics?
They are an important anecdote to the analytical problem solving mind. The tight fist of the West needs to learn the open hand of the East for balance.
What one or two mystics have had a huge impact on you and why?
My three tops are Thomas Merton, George Fox, and Teresa of Avila.
Can you tell us a little bit about your next book?
I am excited about my next book, titled Primordial Freedom: Meditations on Silence, Stillness, and Mysticism in Scripture because it counters the bunk that Mysticism is not rooted in the Bible. It is everywhere in the Bible. That what this book is about.
Thank you for taking the time to let me interview you Amos.
I encourage you to check out Amos’ book, Healing the Divide: Recovering Christianity’s Mystic Roots. Keep an eye out for his next book, Primordial Freedom: Meditations on Silence, Stillness, and Mysticism in Scripture.
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I just finished Sacred Compass by J. Brent Bill and Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God by James Finley. I am currently reading The Soul of a Pilgrim: Eight Practices for the Journey Within by Christine Valters Paintner.
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I use a Prayer Rope after each Centering Prayer Sit.
Centering Prayer is a silent prayer practice that can move you toward a profound relationship with the Spirit of God within. It is a way of praying that opens the door to the Divine Indwelling—the ground of our being. With Centering Prayer, Father Thomas Keating and his colleagues Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler and Father Carl Arico present the first online course in this method for deepening your intimacy with God and ultimately consenting to the presence and action of the Divine in all aspects of your life.
The early Christians, teaches the Reverend Cynthia Bourgeault, were afire with the spirit of Jesus, inspired fully by his teaching of a total transformation of consciousness. How do we reclaim that fire today? On Encountering the Wisdom Jesus, this brilliant author and dynamic Episcopalian priest presents her first full-length audio course about rediscovering the Master of Wisdom. Twelve immersive sessions cover: the parables as wisdom tools; Jesus’s teachings about kenosis (or self-emptying: a path as radical today as it was 2,000 years ago); Jesus as tantric master; Centering Prayer, an approach to meditation as Jesus lived it, and much more. (Based upon her book, The Wisdom Jesus.)
Since the time of the Desert Fathers in the third century, Finley begins, Christian mystics have practiced meditation as a way of opening to the direct presence of God in daily life. Legendary seekers such as Saint John of the Cross, Saint Teresa of Avila, and Meister Eckhart explored how meditation can lead us beyond the closed horizon of the ego, to an interior and holy refuge that is always available to us. On Christian Meditation, James Finley offers a gentle introduction to this all-transforming way of life, and the ever-deepening realization of oneness with Christ it leads us to. (Based upon his book, Christian Meditation.)
Check out my review of Christian Prayer Methods by Dr. Philip St. Romain.
Prepare to be immersed in the 1st Century A.D. context of the life, work, teachings, and actions of Jesus. Check out Simply Jesus by N. T. Wright. Enjoy an article I wrote about one of the lectures on the Beatitudes.
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