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, Be Still and Listen: Experience the Presence of God in Your Life, will be published in June 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 2019.
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:
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 Be Still and Listen: Experience the Presence of God in Your Life, 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, Be Still and Listen: Experience the Presence of God in Your Life.
Enjoy a recent Richard Rohr meditation based upon Amos Smith’s Healing the Divide: Recovering Christianity’s Mystic Roots.
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.
A Journey of Discernment with the teachings of Mary Margaret Funk and other contemplative voices by Contemplative Outreach, Mary Margaret Funk: This e-course explores the contemplative approach to discerning the small and large decisions in life, which comes from cultivating a life practice of unceasing prayer (whatever types of prayer that may encompass for you). Discernment means sorting our thoughts and following the impulse of grace given by the Holy Spirit. As Sr. Meg writes, “Since we are not our thoughts, we can observe them rising and follow the ones that are from God.” This is a way of coming more awake and discovering the spark of divinity burning in our hearts.
Poetry and Prayer from the Celtic Tradition by Carl McColman: The traditional Celtic people of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales wove prayers, blessings, poems, and songs into every aspect of their daily lives — using the power of language to blend a rich spirituality of presence and wisdom into the very fabric of their being. Many of these poetic invocations and charming poems were collected by folklorist Alexander Carmichael over 100 years ago and preserved in the book Carmina Gadelica — the “Charms of the Gaels.”
Celtic Spirituality At the Edge of Mystery by Carl McColman: Consider it a pilgrimage into one of the best examples of everyday spirituality. Celtic wisdom and poetry encourages us to recognize the holy all around us, honors and protects the sacred earth, gives inspiration to free our creative voice, and presents a holistic path that links the quest for holiness with an embodied sense of Divine love.
Sounds True has titles by teachers and authors such as Thomas Keating, Cynthia Bourgeault, James Finley, Richard Rohr, David Frenette, Parker Palmer , Eckhart Tolle , Michael Singer , Jon Kabat-Zinn , Marianne Williamson to name a few.
Contemplative Light offers courses on contemplative practices (Christian Meditation, Centering Prayer, The Examen, Lectio Divina, The Jesus Prayer), the Christian mystics (ancient and current) and spiritual writing. Peruse their wonderful offerings.
Prayer-Bracelet: Authentic Orthodox prayer ropes and bracelets are handmade by monks in the Orthodox monastaries reciting a prayer for every knot they tie. Peruse their prayer ropes and bracelets that are all handmade, provided by several orthodox churches around the globe.
How might your life change if you were steeped more deeply in the wisdom of the Christian Mystics? Drawing on the best available writing on the topic of Christian Mysticism both ancient and modern, Contemplative Light is offering a special course on the Christian Mystics Sacred Lives: An Introduction To The Christian Mystics.
The Divine Transformation: Essentials of Christian Mysticism – Welcome to a comprehensive introductory through intermediate level course on both practice and perspectives of these timeless teachings from the Christian Mystical and Contemplative traditions! Whether you are a long-time practitioner looking to solidify your understanding and framework for practice or a beginner interested in immersing yourself in this teaching, this course can serve as a rich resource.
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.
Drawing from the wisdom of monastic life, modern psychology and best practices in personal productivity, the Monk Manual provides a daily system that will help you find clarity, purpose, wisdom, and peace in the moments that make up your life.