Posted in Authentic Freedom, church, Spiritual Formation

A Far Reaching Vision

Are you looking for meaning, purpose or connectedness in your life?  Are you desiring to know yourself, to discover your unique gifts and your contribution in the world?  Do you seek to know your Source, your Origin, where you came from, who made you, how you got here and why?  This blogs for you!

Churches Are Dying

It is unanimous.  Churches….even the mega-non-denominational-evangelical churches are now recognizing it.  (see this article from InternetMonk) Churches are dying.  Of course everyone has their theories as to why this is true.  And this is mine:  Because most churches are not meeting the deepest longing of the human heart which is to:

  • Know ourselves
  • Know God
  • Know our gifts and how we are called to share them in the world.

In other words…..we want meaning and purpose in our lives.  We want connection.  And most importantly…..we want to know LOVE.  And…..in my personal experience, we do not get any of this through things that come from outside of us such as doctrine, dogma, the Catechism, Canon law, Papal infallibility statements, etc.  The only place we can find ourselves, God and our gifts is INSIDE of us.  While we might recognize the Presence and Action of God in the external circumstances of our lives……and while we might give honor to the God that we know through worship and ritual, we don’t really know God until we experience God in our hearts.  And that only comes from going within.

The Inner Journey

This process of going within, this process that leads us to the answers to the questions of the heart is called Spiritual Formation.  Unlike Religious Formation which teaches doctrine, dogma, laws, morals, rules, history, attempts to define God and to define God’s mind, etc; Spiritual Formation goes straight to our hearts.  Spiritual Formation provides us with the tools through which we are able to come to know ourselves, come to have our own personal experience of God, helps us to identify our gifts and to find healing from the fears and unhealed wounds that would otherwise prevent us from nurturing and sharing our gifts in the world.  Spiritual Formation is healing, empowering, motivating, supportive, honoring, liberating and expansive.  Unlike Religious Formation which is unique to each belief system,  Spiritual Formation is universal.  It doesn’t matter what faith you believe in….or if you even have a faith, every single human being on this planet experiences at some time in their lives, the longing to find meaning, purpose and connectedness.  Spiritual Formation provides the tools for that discovery.

Help for Those Still Searching

The Authentic Freedom process for Spiritual Formation provides a tool that can be accessible to ANYONE and brings people together instead of causing more separation.  As churches are dying and people are wandering around in search of that which will fulfill the longing of their hearts…..Authentic Freedom provides an answer…..or at least a way to get there because ultimately, the answer is within us….just waiting to be made known.  Authentic Freedom provides the tools that help us open to those answers.

The Vision

The vision is this:  Trained Authentic Freedom Facilitators in places all around the world, sharing, facilitating, empowering people with these tools.  I currently have eleven men and women who are standing at the gate ready to start their facilitator’s training.  Once their training is complete and upon our mutual agreement, these facilitators will be empowered to go out into their own communities and share this curriculum with others.  The best thing about all of this is that is fulfills my NUMBER ONE goal as a spiritual teacher and the mantra I have repeated over and over and over in my almost twenty years in ministry:

“I am not here to make more students.  I am here make teachers.”

My Invitation to You

Here is my invitation to you.  If any of the above resonates with you. If you read this and are getting a little flutter in your heart.  If your ears perk up when you contemplate this blog,  consider becoming an Authentic Freedom Facilitator.  For more information on the process and how you might become involved, click HERE.    And……if as you read this your mind is filled with doubts: I don’t know enough.  I don’t have enough background or knowledge in scripture or energy medicine.  I don’t know how to teach.  I am not worthy.  I couldn’t possibly do this.  THEN CALL ME……because chances are if you are having these doubts…..you really ARE BEING CALLED to consider this opportunity.  🙂

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in Authentic Freedom, Spiritual Formation

Why Does Spiritual Formation Matter?

Why Spiritual Formation is not the same as Religious Formation and why this distinction matters!

Spiritual Formation vs. Religious Formation

One of the most important lessons I learned during 10 years of ministering within the Catholic Church is the distinction between Spiritual Formation and Faith Formation.  My mentor and friend, Sr. Judy Miller was the first one to articulate what I had already observed in my own ministry formation and in the work I performed as a minister in the Church:

“Religious formation is coming to know about God.  Spiritual formation is coming to know God.” 

In other words, Religious formation is learning somebody else’s ideas about God.  Spiritual Formation is coming to know God within your own heart.  Religious formation is limited by the specific tenents of denomination.  Spiritual Formation is universal and limitless.  The United States Catholic Bishops have also come to this understanding.   In the Bishop’s document on Stewardship, they say (I’m paraphrasing here) that discipleship only comes about through mature disciples and that mature disciples are formed through sound spiritual formation which seeks to answer three questions:

Who am I?

Whose am I?  (what is my relationship with the God of my understanding)

What are my gifts and how am I being called to use them?

The Bishops seem to know this, but in my experience, Spiritual Formation is rarely accomplished.  Most people in the Catholic Church (and most churches for that matter) receive a ton of religious formation – doctrine, beliefs, practices, rules, regulations, moral guidelines, etc. etc. etc.  but rarely are they given the tools through which they can come to know God personally and intimately.  Also rarely given are tools for sound discernment, instructions on how to develop a personal and intimate relationship with God and how to determine our gifts and how we are called to use them in the world.

The Seventy Percent

For eight years while ministering at the Newman Center Catholic Campus Ministry in Oshkosh, I facilitated the RCIA process.  The RCIA is a formal program through which adults come into the Catholic faith.  In most cases, the RCIA is a nine month process of inquiry, catechesis (learning) and mystagogia (asking how we are to live our faith out in the world).  The culmination of the RCIA is in the reception of the sacraments – baptism, confirmation and eucharist.  I recently learned an interesting statistic regarding the RCIA.  Nationally, only 30% of RCIA participants are still active in the Church 1 year after the reception of the sacrament.  That is an abysmal figure and I was shocked to hear that figure because at the Newman Center, our retention rate was at least 70%.  What was the difference?  I did not even have to ask that question, however, because I already knew the answer:  SPIRITUAL FORMATION  In the eight years that I facilitated the RCIA, Spiritual Formation was the foundation (cultivating the participant’s personal relationship with God through contemplative prayer practices ), doctrine a subtext.  My experience with the RCIA proved to me that Spiritual Formation is really what people are looking for AND IT WORKS!  The people that went through our RCIA program developed a deep and passionate love of God, came to know Jesus as a compassionate and loving teacher and sought to share that love through participation in the community and in service to the world.

Spiritual Formation is Universal

While that model worked for me within the context of church ministry, I have also found that my theories work in the secular world as well – perhaps even more so.  As people grow more and more disenchanted with organized religion, or at the very least are searching for more, the universal questions of Who am I?  Whose am I? What are my gifts? prove to be even more pressing.  EVERYONE longs to know themselves, to understand the mystery of our origin, and seeks to have a fulfilling life through their own unique gifts.  Spiritual Formation is the vehicle through which these questions are answered.

The Authentic Freedom Curriculum

The way that I have responded to these questions, the deepest longing of the human heart is to develop a curriculum for Adult Spiritual Formation.  The Authentic Freedom Curriculum consists of three (and sometimes four or five) 9-12 week classes of sound spiritual formation.  Using scripture, contemplative prayer practices, learning and discussion within the format of group-spiritual direction, participants are empowered to find the answer to those questions:  Who am I?  Whose am I?  etc.  In the eight years that I have shared this curriculum with a mostly secular audience in the Oshkosh area, I have seen astonishing results.  People are transformed, enthused, empowered and even more importantly, they come to know the God within their own heart and go on to share this God with others (in a non-dogmatic way).  (Read my testimonial’s page for participants’ comments)  I am humbled and grateful for all those who have participated in these classes and who continue to share love and joy in the world because of what they discovered about themselves in these courses.

Authentic Freedom Going Global

And now I find that it is time to bring the Authentic Freedom curriculum to a global market.  Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, I will be offering these courses on-line via Skype conferencing.  (an intimidating task for a techno-illiterate person such as myself!)   Watch this site for details, dates, times, etc.   and if you think you might be interested, email me at lauri@yourspiritualtruth.com

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in Agape Project, church, Mary Magdalene, Raised Catholic

Resurrecting the church of the Magdalene Part VII

Today’s blog explores the gifts of both the Institutional/orthodox Church and the mystical, contemplative, interior church that I refer to as “the church of the Magdalene.” 

Continuing Yesterday’s Discussion

Apparently yesterday’s blog stirred the ire of some readers.  I will say it again, I am sorry if any readers took yesterday’s blog personally or thought I was shaking the finger of judgment at them.  As a Perfectionist/Reformer (on the Enneagram), I am predisposed to see the world through the lens of “How can this be better?” and in my professional life, the common target of this question is the Institution of the Roman Catholic Church.  Not because I hate it, mind you, but because I love it!  I want my church to be a place where all people feel welcome, accepted, loved and honored for who they are.  I am saddened when the very human Institution falls short of this hope.

Room for Orthodoxy

The Catholic Church as an Institution has stood strong and proud for 2000 some years and serves a very important role in the spiritual and religious experiences and beliefs of its members.  The Church as an Institution creates form, structure, predictability, unity of belief and practice.  You can go anywhere in the world, attend a Catholic mass and be able to participate.  There is great gift in this form and structure as it can create a sense of security and safety in an often unpredictable world.  We know where the Church stands on matters of morality, politics, and matters of social justice.  We also know the chain of command and our role within that chain.  The Institution of the Church creates order and for many people, this is important and necessary.  The Institution also provides sound instruction in what members are expected to believe and how they are expected to act.  Again, very important resources for many people.  The Church also provides a sense of belonging.  For those who qualify as “Catholic in good standing,” you know that you are accepted, you belong, you have a home and a community that you can turn to for comfort, support, guidance.  These are all good things that feed and nurture many.

The Mystical Church

Here is where it gets messy…..especially for some.  The Mystical/Contemplative church is pretty much the complete opposite from what is listed above.  Instead of creating order, it stirs up chaos.  Instead of offering rules, doctrine, strict guidelines, it invites us into our own personal discernement were we are called to discover God’s truth for us on our own (or with the help of a Spiritual Director).  The black and white rules of orthodoxy are replaced with the grey matter of relativity….the only absolute truth being God….or whatever we want to call that.  Instead of offering strict rubrics for worship and ritual, the Mystical church invites us to create our own.  Rote repetitive prayer is expanded to include imagination, dreams, writing, inviting us into a deeply personal and intimate dialogue with God.  In the Mystical church, instead of following the chain of command,  we are invited to take it “straight to the top”, by-passing the human element and going directly to God.  The final authority in the Mystical church is God, rather than the pope, cardinals and bishops.  The Mystical church belongs to all of humanity and there is no separation by religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.  All paths lead to God and all paths are honored as sacred.  In the Mystical church, decisions are made through prayer, careful discernment, collaboration and concensus.  Leadership looks more like a circle than a straight line.  Can you see how this might not be for some…..even many?

The Church in a Perfect World (as defined by Lauri Lumby)

In a perfect world (at least according to me) there would be room for both expressions of the Christian experience.  The Orthodox and Mystical churches would co-exist side by side in peaceful harmony and collaboration.  Leaders and members would be formed and educated through both sound spiritual formation (Who am I?  Whose am I?  What are my gifts and how am I being called to use them?) as well as religious formation (rites and rituals, dogma and doctrine, theology, scriptural exegesis, church history, the study of church documents, canon law, etc.). Spiritual formation would inform religious formation and visa versa.  Men, women, lay and ordained would all be included in this formation and leadership would be determined by the individuals’ specific charisms, not their gender.  Ordination might be more broad…..perhaps all would be ordained to their specific call in the world and in the Church.  Contemplation would be honored along side traditional forms of prayer.   Religious dogma would be tested against discernment and the call to compassion.  Primacy of Conscience would be valued in areas of morality with the final authority resting with God.  Worship would include some wiggle room….room for interpretation of worship to expand beyond the strict rubrics of the Roman liturgy.  I know, crazy, right?

Not in my lifetime

I realize that this vision of “the perfect Church”  will most likely NOT be made manifest in my lifetime…if ever.  And I have stopped beating my head against the wall of the Institution hoping they will hear the call to be open to the Mystical expression.  And perhaps I am just a voice calling out in the wilderness….but I know there are people who resonate more clearly with the Mystical expression and hunger for its nourishment.  So, here I am, offering it to those who would have it.    In the spirit of this offering, I just wanted to remind you of the March 15th launch of the Agape’ Project – a subscription based newsletter that will give those who want it, tools for sound spiritual formation through scripture, meditation and contemplation exercises and educational materials that help us to grow in our understanding of what the scripture writers might have been trying to say.  The newsletter is the culmination of my own 20 years of devoted prayer and contemplation, study and practice and I am humbled and honored to offer these tools in the hopes of helping others know the depth of love that arises out of the use of these kinds of tools.  Going back to the mission of Authentic Freedom Ministries, to help you:  Remember the Love That You Are!

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

 

Posted in church, Mary Magdalene, Spiritual Formation

Resurrecting the church of the Magdalene Part V

Today’s blog is a repeat of one posted on October 14, 2011.  This blog explores the topic of sound spiritual formation.  I believe that the church of the Magdalene was centered on sound spiritual formation in contrast to the religious formation that drives orthodoxy.  Part of resurrecting the inner, interior, intuitive church is reclaiming spiritual formation as a right for all.

 

Religion as I knew it

Once upon a time there was a good little Catholic girl who grew up going to mass on Sundays (and actually liked it), went to CCD (aka Sunday School) and learned the catechism (teachings) of her faith, participated in the sacraments and rituals of her Church, learned how to pray the rosary, do the stations of the cross, etc.  She enjoyed her Catholic faith, but in the end, something was still missing.  She longed for “that which she could not name”.  She thought Jesus was cool, looked to the saints as models of “Christian virtue” (kinda like they were Superheros), and tried to live a good life…but something was still missing. Sound familiar?  If so, then you are in the majority.  Many people move through the experience of the religions of their youth, doing what they are told and either loving, are neutral or hate it…..but for most, regardless of their personal like or dislike, something still seems to be missing.  This was me…..UNTIL I had an opportunity to learn something different.

Religious Formation

The experience of the “Good little Catholic girl” (aka Lauri) describes what would technically be known as Religious Formation.  Religious formation is the process through which we learn and practice the traditions and beliefs of a particular faith (Catholic, Lutheran, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Methodist, etc.).  Religious formation is a process of the mind…we learn, we obey (or not), we do.  Religious formation is how we learn to go along with the other participants/members of that particular tradition.  It is how we learn to comply, to fit in, to be obedient to the outside perceived authority chosen by that particular faith.  Religious formation has its place within the context of a chosen faith community, but if this is all that is offered to the community, there will always be a sense of something missing.

What the Heck is Spiritual Formation?

Spiritual Formation is the missing link is the vast majority of institutional religions today.  Spiritual Formation is the heart-piece that is missing in religious formation alone.  Through spiritual formation, we are given the tools to SEEK, discover and come to KNOW the Divine in a very deeply personal and intimate way.  Through spiritual formation we are given permission to ask the tough questions, to seek God until we experience the Divine in the very center of our being…in our hearts where God truly lives.  Through spiritual formation we don’t just know ABOUT God (as defined by our religious institutions), we KNOW God in our very heart.  And…in coming to know God in this way, we come to know ourselves and are then given tools through which we can discover our own unique giftedness and be open to how God might be calling us to use those gifts in the service of love in the world, thereby making the world a more peaceful, harmonious and loving place.  COOL!

The Problem

Spiritual formation, in my opinion, is what is missing in most expressions of institutional religion.  I discovered this in my own journey when I had an opportunity to learn and practice the rich tradition of sound spiritual formation of the Catholic Christian tradition.  The PROBLEM is that these tools, are locked away in monasteries and are reserved for the exclusive use of men and women in religious communities (monks and nuns).  Us lowly lay people, rarely, if EVER get a chance to learn or practice these tools.  What is interesting to me is that it is only through sound spiritual formation that we can ever become “true disciples” that which most religions claim they want their members to become.  HA!  The problem is that in sound spiritual formation…..we have to be able to ask the tough questions, challenge our faith traditions, confront hypocrisy, challenge the tension between the God that reveals itself to us in our hearts and the Divine that is contained within the constructs of our religious institutions.  And….most institutions can’t handle the questions, the rebellion, the confrontation of uppity lay people who might discover a God that is slightly different than what they want them to believe in. So, sound spiritual formation is ignored or flat out denied and the participants of institutional religions are left to “pray, pay and obey,”  never knowing the richness of the intimate personal experience of God, self and service.  (except in the rare exceptions where God breaks in and reveals God’s self to the individual, in spite of the lack of spiritual formation…just saying…God is bigger than even the limitations of religious institutions.)

Where have you felt that something was missing in your experiences of religious institutions?

How are you being called to not just know ABOUT God, but to KNOW God in a very deeply intimate and personal way?

Posted in church, Empowerment, Spiritual Formation

The Proof in the Pudding

I have been of the contention that it is only through sound spiritual formation (not to be confused with religious formation) that people can be empowered to become spiritually mature and through which we can bear witness to the effortlessness of authentic discipleship.  Now I have proof that it works.

 

Discipleship by Accident (but not really)

My first “official” role at the Newman Center (Catholic Campus Ministry) and my first “official” foray into lay ministry was as the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) Coordinator.  My job was to provide the process through which interested adults could become formal members of the Catholic Church.  From the beginning….I accomplished this task in a non-traditional way (go figure!).  Instead of providing a program grounded in religious formation (doctrine, dogma, catechism), I provided a program firmly rooted in spiritual formation.  My reasoning was that if you didn’t know God and you didn’t know yourself, what good was a bunch of knowledge about rules?  As such, the focus of this process was the rich tradition of spiritual practices that were part of the Christian tradition – Lectio Divina, Imagination/Contemplation, Mantra prayer, etc. etc. etc.  What we ended up with at the end of the 9 month process was a group of empowered individuals, excited and enthusiastically ready to use their gifts in service to God and to the world.   They had come to know God intimately and personally, in coming to know God they had come to know themselves, and in doing so, had come to identify their own unique gifts and how they were being called to share them in the world.  In a process that nationally has an abysmal retention rate of only 30%, the Newman Center’s 70% retention rate showed me that the approach we had chosen worked.  Today I thank my experience with the RCIA (and Fr. Jeff VandenHeuvel for assigning me to this ministry) for being the foundation upon which I have established my post-Institutional ministry work, and I am continually awed by the results.

The Ministry Team has Already been Formed

So, as I stand on the brink of accepting more fully my call to be “priest/ess” and to acknowledging that what I have been doing (since leaving professional employment in the Catholic Church) is and always has been “church” and wondering exactly what that might mean and what that might look like, I find that the “ministry team” has already been formed.  Standing ready and right in front of my eyes is a group of men and women who have courageously followed the path of sound spiritual formation, and who are apparently chomping at the bit to put their formation to work.  (who knew?!)  When I first dared to share this discernment in the world, my email inbox was full of inquiries, “How can I help?  You will need children’s programs and that is my gift.  We would like to offer relationship classes. Can I help with presiding?”   YIKES!  I hadn’t even mentioned the word “church” and I have a mob of people who have been fully formed ( in my opinion) and are ready to step into their own unique giftedness to help others find the peaceful contentment, joy, compassion and personal empowerment that they have all found through a 3-4 year process of sound spiritual formation.  Ha…..I knew it….this stuff works!

What tools have you discovered to help you know God, to know yourself and to empower you to share your gifts in service to love for the betterman of humankind?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Practices

What Religion is Missing

Today’s blog explores what I have learned (in my humble opinion) is missing is most expressions of institutional religion.  Where are we given tools through which we can have a personal encounter with the Divine, come to know the Divine in our hearts, discover who we are, what our gifts are and how we are called to use them?

 

Religion as I knew it

Once upon a time there was a good little Catholic girl who grew up going to mass on Sundays (and actually liked it), went to CCD (aka Sunday School) and learned the catechism (teachings) of her faith, participated in the sacraments and rituals of her Church, learned how to pray the rosary, do the stations of the cross, etc.  She enjoyed her Catholic faith, but in the end, something was still missing.  She longed for “that which she could not name”.  She thought Jesus was cool, looked to the saints as models of “Christian virtue” (kinda like they were Superheros), and tried to live a good life…but something was still missing.  Sound familiar?  If so, then you are in the majority.  Many people move through the experience of the religions of their youth, doing what they are told and either loving, are neutral or hate it…..but for most, regardless of their personal like or dislike, something still seems to be missing.  This was me…..UNTIL I had an opportunity to learn something different.

Religious Formation

The experience of the “Good little Catholic girl” (aka Lauri) describes what would technically be known as Religious Formation.  Religious formation is the process through which we learn and practice the traditions and beliefs of a particular faith (Catholic, Lutheran, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Methodist, etc.).  Religious formation is a process of the mind…we learn, we obey (or not), we do.  Religious formation is how we learn to go along with the other participants/members of that particular tradition.  It is how we learn to comply, to fit in, to be obedient to the outside perceived authority chosen by that particular faith.  Religious formation has its place within the context of a chosen faith community, but if this is all that is offered to the community, there will always be a sense of something missing.

What the Heck is Spiritual Formation?

Spiritual Formation is the missing link is the vast majority of institutional religions today.  Spiritual Formation is the heart-piece that is missing in religious formation alone.  Through spiritual formation, we are given the tools to SEEK, discover and come to KNOW the Divine in a very deeply personal and intimate way.  Through spiritual formation we are given permission to ask the tough questions, to seek God until we experience the Divine in the very center of our being…in our hearts where God truly lives.  Through spiritual formation we don’t just know ABOUT God (as defined by our religious institutions), we KNOW God in our very heart.  And…in coming to know God in this way, we come to know ourselves and are then given tools through which we can discover our own unique giftedness and be open to how God might be calling us to use those gifts in the service of love in the world, thereby making the world a more peaceful, harmonious and loving place.  COOL!

The Problem

Spiritual formation, in my opinion, is what is missing in most expressions of institutional religion.  I discovered this in my own journey when I had an opportunity to learn and practice the rich tradition of sound spiritual formation of the Catholic Christian tradition.  The PROBLEM is that these tools, are locked away in monasteries and are reserved for the exclusive use of men and women in religious communities (monks and nuns).  Us lowly lay people, rarely, if EVER get a chance to learn or practice these tools.  What is interesting to me is that it is only through sound spiritual formation that we can ever become “true disciples” that which most religions claim they want their members to become.  HA!  The problem is that in sound spiritual formation…..we have to be able to ask the tough questions, challenge our faith traditions, confront hypocrisy, challenge the tension between the God that reveals itself to us in our hearts and the Divine that is contained within the constructs of our religious institutions.  And….most institutions can’t handle the questions, the rebellion, the confrontation of uppity lay people who might discover a God that is slightly different than what they want them to believe in. So, sound spiritual formation is ignored or flat out denied and the participants of institutional religions are left to “pray, pay and obey,”  never knowing the richness of the intimate personal experience of God, self and service.  (except in the rare exceptions where God breaks in and reveals God’s self to the individual, in spite of the lack of spiritual formation…just saying…God is bigger than even the limitations of religious institutions.)

Where have you felt that something was missing in your experiences of religious institutions?

How are you being called to not just know ABOUT God, but to KNOW God in a very deeply intimate and personal way?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com