I am excited to share my review of Is Your God Big Enough Close Enough You Enough?: Jesus and the Three Faces of God by Paul R. Smith.
(I received this book for free to review and it may contain affiliate links)
Paul is an author, mystic, pastor, and teacher. During his nearly half-century of leadership at Broadway Church in Kansas City, the church evolved from a traditional church to the progressive, radically inclusive congregation and integral model described in this book. Smith is author of Is It Okay to Call God Mother? and Integral Christianity: The Spirit’s Call to Evolve. You can learn more about Paul at The Jesus Path to Awakening.
Let me share five key points from this powerful book.
Infinite God: God-Beyond-Us
God is the source of all that is. God is life itself. God is pure existence or being itself. God declared to Moses “I Am.” God cannot be contained within any image, thought or concept. God is beyond us: transcendent God beyond our ability to see. Meister Eckhart stated, “I pray God to rid me of God.” Thomas Keating mentions that, “God loves to be everywhere all at once.” “Karen Armstrong reminds us, “When we’re talking about God, we’re talking about a different mode of reality.” “Being Itself is that which creates life, love, and consciousness because it holds these qualities in unmanifest form within its formlessness. Being is greater than life itself. It is the Creator and Container of life. We can rest in God’s being.”
Intimate God: God-Beside-Us
“The Intimate Face of God is our heart to heart devotional connection God. You know your God is close enough if God is like a loving mother and father to you.” We can have a personal relationship with God. We can talk to God whenever we wish. God is our mother, father, friend, personal companion and life long partner: an ever present and loving presence. St. Augustine exclaimed, “To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him, the greatest human achievement.” John Eldredge says, “Falling in love with God is the most important thing a person can do.” Jesus referred to God as “Abba”, someone with whom he had an intimate relationship with, a tender and compassionate parent. I sit with Jesus during silent prayer (centering prayer) so I can walk with him in life!
Inner God: God-Being-Us
“So this God beyond us and beside us also has a face that acts and speaks within us as us. This real “us” is one with God like Jesus was one with God.” I am not saying we are God. I simply say that we have divine DNA within us. Divine DNA is within all of matter. We are divinity in human form. We are both divine with a little d and human. Our humanity is an expression of our inner divinity. We are the voice, heart, hands and feet of God in the world today. I sit in silence to reconnect with the Divine within. I take silence pauses throughout the day, quietly utter the word Jesus so I can reconnect to my Inner Source. My outer world is an expression of my Inner World!
Paul makes some interesting points about divinization. What does it mean? How does it impact our actions? What does it motivate us to share?
” One of the earliest Christian beliefs was called deification, divinization, or theosis. It meant participating in God’s divinity by coming into the union with God that Jesus demonstrated. This results in our being one with God. It means knowing God like Jesus knew God. He knew that God was not only beyond him, and close to him, but that in some way God was him. He claimed to be acting and speaking on behalf of God. Like Jesus, we are also one with God. We are God’s mind, heart, hands, and feet here on earth today. Like Jesus, we are fully human and fully divine. We are God’s children, acting as full participants in our Father-Mother’s divinity by overcoming our mistaken identity that we are separate from God. This Oneness consciousness moves us to act as divine agents in healing the Earth, overcoming poverty, eliminating hunger, stopping oppression, and ending war. It motivates us to share the Good News that we all belong to God and one another.”
Just because we participate in God’s divinity does not mean we are God. We will never be God. We can however know God like Jesus knew God. I believe that my silent prayer practice, centering prayer, is my time to sit with Jesus. I enter silent union with God. I let go of me and open my whole being, my mind, heart and body to God who is beyond my thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. I empty myself so that God has the best opportunity to pray in me. I am both fully human and fully divine with a little “d”. I call it little “d” because I am not God but I participate in God’s divinity when God prays in me. I think the idea of God being within scares some people. God is not a distant God looking down at us. God loves us and is the breath within our very breath.
I arise from my silent sit ready to act on God’s Inner nudges. These Inner nudges are uniquely designed just for me. They are the actions God wishes me to take in the world just for that very day. Here are some examples that I have noticed from my silent sits: wisdom for daily tasks at work or at home, friends or relatives that I should reconnect with for breakfast, lunch or dinner, a spontaneous outing with my wife and children after work or on the weekend, a nudge to volunteer at the local soup kitchen or discover who my employer assists in the community so I can join this effort, a sit with my wife to talk or enjoy a good movie while we drink a cup of our favorite French press coffee.
Silent prayer unites me with God. Silent prayer spurs Inner actions that I make visible in my outer world. Silent prayer teaches me that God is always present: ahead of me waiting to meet me, walking beside me and resting within me. These presences of God stay with me as I arise from my silent sit and move through my daily tasks and duties. At any moment during the day, when I feel discouraged, tired, burned out, or frustrated, a silent pause will reconnect me with the beyond me, beside me and inner presences of God.
I agree with Smith. It is Good News! We belong to God. We belong to and with others. We are all one connected community: family, friends, neighbors, city/town, work environment, country, world. We are not alone. We have each other and God!
“What happens if we just stop with “I am,” rather than finishing that statement with something we think we are or would like to be? When we just stay with the simple, “I am,” gradually or sometimes suddenly we move into something more profound. We fall into big mind, the infinite reality beyond things.”
I am more than my body, more than my thoughts, more than my experiences. I am alive. I am. That is it. God said I am who I am. Jesus said I am.
Why can’t I be just I am? I am a human being. I express my humanity when I love God, myself and others. I express my humanity when I be all that I can be and live my life to the full.
Why can’t I just enjoy being a human BEING. I don’t need to define myself as my body or my thoughts or my experiences. I just am I am and I am going to enjoy and relish this existence of BEING that God has given me.
Jesus said we need to lose ourselves to find ourselves. I choose to lose all of these other identities and just be I am.
I encourage you to check out Paul’s new book. It will expand and challenge how you think about God. God is much, much bigger than we realize, as close to us as an intimate, life, long partner and difficult for many to believe but actually within us at all times.
Integral Christianity: The Spirit’s Call to Evolve by Paul R Smith
Orthodox Crafts: Making the perfect Orthodox gift, or a personal aid in your spiritual struggle, our prayer bracelets are beautifully crafted to be kept for a lifetime. Strengthen your relationship with God by wearing these bracelets and praying at any time and place during the day. Enjoy my post, How I Use My Prayer Bracelet.
I am currently taking on clients for Centering Prayer One on One Coaching sessions. I am happy to setup weekly, bi-weekly or monthly sessions with you over the phone or skype to help you go deeper into your centering prayer practice and integrate it into your daily life. Contact me for more information. The rate is $50 – $75 per hour. The first session is 1/2 off.
Feel free to peruse my Resource Page. I frequently update it with new information.
I am currently reading Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks by Diana Butler Bass.
The Power of the Jesus Prayer: Learn a method practiced by Christian mystics for centuries to consent to the action and presence of God within.
Contemplative Practices: 5 Ways of Consenting to the Divine: Learn methods practiced by Christian mystics for centuries to consent to the action and presence of God within, including Centering Prayer, The Examen, Lectio Divina, Christian Meditation, and the Jesus Prayer.
Contemplative Perspectives: Frameworks for the Divine: For anyone who craves to deepen their contemplative process and more fully embody and integrate the the higher stages of the mystical path, Contemplative Perspectives offers an opportunity to travel through the various states of awakening and understand the territory. With the historic practice of The Jesus Prayer as a jumping off point, we explore the experiential aspects of the Purgation/Illumination/Union path of Christian Mysticism.
The Divine Transformation: Essentials of Christian Mysticism: This is a combined course of both Contemplative Practices and Contempative Perspectives.
Christian Prayer Methods: Prayer is a core Christian practice, but for many, this means “saying prayers” or asking God for various favors. In this course, we will review a variety of methods of prayer that have been used for centuries in Christianity. Whether you’re a beginner who is just learning how to pray, or a more mature Christian who has been at it awhile, this course will offer specific guidance, encouragement and support for practicing several time-tested methods of prayer.
The Way of the Wisdom Jesus: Going Beyond the Mind to the Heart of His Teaching – If you put aside what you think you know about Jesus and approach the Gospels as though for the first time, something remarkable happens: Jesus emerges as a teacher of the transformation of consciousness. In this online course, Episcopal priest, teacher, and retreat and conference leader Cynthia Bourgeault serves as a masterful guide to Jesus’s vision and to the traditional contemplative practices you can use to experience the heart of his teaching for yourself. It is based upon her book, The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind – a New Perspective on Christ and His Message .
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. It is based on his book Simply Jesus. Enjoy an article I wrote about one of the lectures on the Beatitudes.
This course is a short course based on Prof. N.T. Wright’s latest book, Simply Good News. Tom Wright will guide you through the chapters of his book through videos that suggest what some of the main points are. You will instantly get into the heart of the idea of ‘good news’ as it was understood by the 1st Century writers of the New Testament. You will be brought into their world in order to make more sense of what ‘good news’ means in our world.
Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks – This is a great way to listen to books with your cell phone while you drive, walk or relax at home. I frequently listen in my car during my commute to and from work. I’m a proud affiliate.
David Frenette’s book The Path of Centering Prayer reenergized the Centering Prayer tradition with its fresh insights and teachings. Centering Prayer Meditations: Effortless Contemplation to Deepen Your Experience of God is a wonderful companion audio program created to be equally rewarding as a stand-alone guide – gives listeners an immersive resource to learn contemplative prayer, step by step and in the moment. With clarity and compassionate presence, Frenette explains the essential principles of this contemplative practice for both new and seasoned practitioners.
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.
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.)