Rethink Church

Powerful peace and contemplative prayer: Compass episode 78

Did you know that there are daily practices you can utilize to seemingly slow down the pace of life, center yourself and cause some Divine disruptions in your perception?

AJ helps us see that contemplative prayer is for everyone, no matter where you are in your spiritual journey. If you’re breathing, you’re capable of contemplative prayer.

Listen and subscribe: Apple Podcasts / Google / Spotify / Amazon

AJ Sherrill is the lead pastor at St. Peter’s Church in Mt Pleasant, South Carolina and has more than twenty years of experience as a pastor. He is an adjunct professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, where he teaches popular courses on transformational preaching and the Enneagram. AJ receives many speaking requests to lead Enneagram workshops across the country and is the author of The Enneagram for Spiritual Formation and Being with God–which is his most recent book and deals specifically with Contemplative Prayer.


 Transcript

Ryan Dunn:

This is the compass podcast where we disrupt the every day with experiences of the divine. Did you know that there are daily practices you can utilize to seemingly slow down the pace of life and center yourself and cause some divine disruptions in your perception, we're getting into some of those in this episode of compass with our guest, AJ, Sherrill I'm, Ryan Dunn, one of the hosts of Compass. Our other host Pierce Drake had to miss this episode, but AJ and I had a deep conversation about contemplative prayer--a type of prayer that is more about presence than it is about speaking and listening. That might sound confusing, but fortunately, AJ is a lot better at explaining it than I am. AJ helps us see that contemplative practice is for everyone, no matter where you are on your spiritual journey. If you're breathing, you're capable of contemplative prayer.

Ryan Dunn:

AJ Sherrill is the lead pastor of St. Peter's church in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, and has more than 20 years of experience as a pastor. He's an adjunct professor at Fuller theological seminary, where he teaches popular courses on transformational preaching and the ennegram. AJ receives many speaking requests to lead enneagram workshops across the country and is the author of the Enneagram for Spiritual Formation and Being with God, which is his most recent book and deals specifically with contemplative prayer. So take a few deep breaths, set your feet comfortably, and let's meet AJ Sherrill.

New Speaker:

It's a pleasure to talk to you. Man, how goes it with your soul today?

AJ Sherrill:

I'm doing pretty well sitting in Charleston, South Carolina, and the end of winter, beginning of spring. Yeah. Had the morning on my porch with the sermon on the Mount, a cup of coffee in a few meetings. And I can't imagine a better place to be a human right now. Now come July. The humidity's gonna pick up and my soul may change, but right now I'm feeling pretty good and really grateful to be on this conversation with you.

Ryan Dunn:

Yeah. Well, thanks for being here. You know, a buzzword lately is peace, especially today kind of where we're sitting, you know, as we're recording, like things are happening in the Ukraine and there are lots of prayers going up for that situation, but even in the midst of kind of our return to life in the fast lane, so to speak, a lot of people are back on a search for peace and peace gets wrapped up in ideas of still this, which relates to something that we're gonna talk deeply about today, contemplation and contemplative practice. So you've written a book about this, which is what we wanted to, to touch base on. Can you explain for us a little bit, like what is contemplative prayer and why you want or write about contemplative prayer now?

AJ Sherrill:

Wow. I mean, that's a big question. Let, let me, what you said about peace. I think let's start there. Cause that's a really great question. I think, you know, a lot of people when they survey peace globally, politically, and also all the way to the human soul of both like personally, but also like in our families, what is peace? I think a lot of people are short cutting the definition of peace to be like the absence of war. Yeah. So Lord have mercy. Yes. In Ukraine, may there be an absence of war in our family dinners and at Thanksgiving tables, may there be an absence of war? Yes. And at the same time, peace is also the invasion of Shalom. It's allowing the fullness of God's peace, God's sense of wholeness to totally inhabit the environments that we are in. And so peace comes through consent.

AJ Sherrill:

It comes through surrender. It comes through a sense of, of believing and trusting that the peace Jesus would say things like this, he would say I give you my peace. Not as the world gives because the world's vision of peace is the absence of war, which is, which is part way. But Jesus is saying things like I give you my peace, which is the presence of wholeness, the presence of identity, the presence of security, safety, and existential rest. And that's something very different that I don't think you can find on the market. And I think much of the things that today we are searching for hoping to find peace and rest are often consumer products or things that we're trying to add to our resumes or ways in which actually just contribute to the noise. And so most of us, myself included find ourselves often insecure. We find ourselves busy, we find ourselves exhausted and feeling like where is the piece that I long for? And so that has a lot to do with contemplative prayer. And so that's a really good sort of lead in question that you ask of what is contemplation, what does it be to pray this form of prayer and to seek this kind of peace, which may be actually really good for what we need today in our world?

Ryan Dunn:

Was it your own personal longing for peace that led you into contemplative practice?

AJ Sherrill:

Yeah. So I mean, contemplative practice, if you're new to that phrase, it's basically just the art and willingness to slow down, pay attention. And to notice that finding yourself and finding God, maybe it's not out there, maybe it's within, maybe it's closer than our breath is where God says that through the holy spirit I dwell in you. And so what does it mean to find God in the stillness and silence and solitude rather than in the noise and in the job and in the resume and in the next degree and in the next relationship, all that stuff, which aren't bad, they're just not necessarily what contemplation is. And so going back to reframe your question again, cuz I feel like we can build on it from there.

Ryan Dunn:

Yeah. Really. I'm wondering what inspired you to start writing about contemplative practice? Why was this the time to write the book that you've written?

AJ Sherrill:

Yeah, so, so this one stemmed back actually years ago and I, I rewrote it recently when Bakker books bought the rights to it because what happens in my life is what I often tell people is that no one like actively goes out and searches for contemplation and like solitude it in silence. That's not typically, especially in America or the west. Does that happen? Sure. But typically contemplation finds you rather than you going searching for it. Because what happens is I came into my journey of looking for a better rhythm in my spirituality through failure. I had that so much of my life was about productivity. So much of my life was about success achievement to use like a stock ticker term. That life was to be up and to the right. And so you imagine that graph that life is about increased profit margin and increased success and happiness and all that stuff.

AJ Sherrill:

And what we find is that that's the often how life works. And so we have these sort of like misunderstandings that the role of Jesus is to make me successful. And that includes ministry. Like I've been a pastor for 21 years and I sort of bought into the delusion that if I did all the right things, if I pulled the right levers, then my ministry life would just continue sail forward and it would be easy and fun and Instagramable. And what, what I found was like I had early on in ministry in my twenties, like tons of ministry success at 24, I was leading a community of like 1200 people and felt like, oh man, I figure this out. And what I'm gonna do now is go to a bigger and better sit. So I moved to LA and planted a church in Los Angeles and like everything was going really great for the first six months.

AJ Sherrill:

And then it all just failed. Like I had a number of things beyond my control around me that was like Murphy's law. And I went through a ton of roadblocks and I started to realize like, maybe Jesus is his role in my life. Isn't to just bring me success. Maybe I'm missing parts of character formation, what it means to become like Christ that I need to go retrieve. And maybe that's not through more noise, bigger conferences, bigger churches. Maybe it's actually the opposite direction of learning to operate with crosses in my life to participate with Christ in ways that aren't normal to American life. So that led me on a big search of what does it mean to leave the crowds, to leave the noise and to find God in the silence and in the solitude.

Ryan Dunn:

So was there someone you met or like a book that you read that led you into this kind of deeper dive into, I guess a more peaceful state of being?

AJ Sherrill:

Yeah, it's a great question. I would spend my Thursday afternoons, which was like my Sabbath going into Friday on Manhattan beach in LA county. And I would just like sit there and feel sorry for myself. Cause like the church wasn't growing, like I thought it was, and I felt betrayed by some people and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I realized in that moment it was almost like, like I felt like the spirit sort of whispering to my soul. Hey, you're really good at talking at God. And you're really good at speaking to God. And then you're sort of good at listening for God if God has like a word for you, but you don't know how to be with God. Mm. You don't know what it means to be in relationship your spirituality at this point. And your life is highly transactional. I interacted with people that way.

AJ Sherrill:

So it was sort of like I'm friends with you to the degree of which you can sort of advance my, my plot, my story. And I realized it was true for God as well. Like I pray to the extent of which God heard me and will satisfy the things that I think I want, which is sort of like genie, like, and it was sort of like in the humiliation of that moment of licking my own ego wounds of my ego, where I just felt this sense of like, you need to go on a journey of unlearning a lot of what, well, a lot of what you've learned on this side of the west in Christianity, and you need to learn a lot of Eastern Christian practices that have been forgotten in our sort of worldview. And in that time in God's kindness, like I had a couple people that randomly came into my life that started completing sentences that I had started, but I didn't have words for, and they started talking about this deep tradition that goes all the way back, not just to the desert fathers of like the fourth century, but even to Jesus himself who was constantly leaving the crowds and going up on mountain to be with the father in like the quietness of the night.

AJ Sherrill:

And so we see it in the wilderness, we're coming up upon lint anyway, that Jesus is constantly sort of going to the wilderness to be with the father. And then he would come out of the wilderness and would heal and he would teach. And he would say things like this. I do only what I see the father doing. And other words, Jesus had a kind of life with God, a kind of life with the father that resourced the rest of his ministerial life, the rest of his life in the world. And I think for pastors like me and for anybody that wants to actually make disciples and live in the way in the kingdom today, it's important that we actually start with being before doing that, our being and knowing who we are in Christ, knowing who we are in our identity has everything to do with how we show up in the world. And I think often we get it inverted. We try to do in order to be someone and the invitation of Jesus is constantly. I want to teach you to be, and then I'll equip you to do, and it's getting that pattern right. I think is really important today.

Ryan Dunn:

Hmm. So how did this awakening change your prayer life?

AJ Sherrill:

Let's think about it like, like a romantic relationship. Like imagine you show up for a date and all you do is talk. I'm sure people have been on dates before where they have nightmares of like going out with the person and you just sat there and listened to someone, talk at you all night. What I've wanted to do every single morning when I sit on my porch or wherever it is that I start my day is giving God space and time. And whether it's 20 seconds or 20 minutes, just to say, I've read the text, I prayed some prayers. And I just want to give you some space. If there's anything you wanna say to me, I'm open to that. But also if you just want to be with me in this space, that our presence is enough together. I, I just wanna make sure that I'm just sitting and being quiet in, in your presence.

AJ Sherrill:

And so that's been a big part of my own journey is learning to just quiet myself. What do I do with all the things swirling in my mind? Cuz inevitably when you start to quiet yourself today, your brain goes in all sorts of different directions. So what do we do about that? How do we quiet our minds? How do we quiet our souls? And there are actually things in the Christian tradition that can teach us to do that better because we live kind of in this frenzied state of moving from one thing to the next, there's this, I think she's a neurologist, but she has this great, great quote. She says that we basically live in what's called continuous partial attention. That because of technology, our schedules, all the busyness of life, we are continuously partially attentive to whatever we're doing. So our phone is on the table, we're in a conversation, but at any moment we're sort of leaving conversations to check our text messages, our emails, we're constantly being recruited in a thousand directions. And so it's hard to be attentive to be in one place at one time. And that's really hard in our prayer life.

Ryan Dunn:

Yeah. Your book. It hit me in a peculiar spot because I noticed one day I was having lunch. I had the TV on, I was eating, I was working a crossword puzzle at the same time. And when I went back to work, I thought, man, I just do not feel refreshed at all. Like I am not ready for the work ahead. And I dove into your book and everything that you're talking is is kind of a singular focus and that is convicting it. It's also really difficult to do. So can you share a little bit about some of the practices that you've utilized that help us kind of cut down on the three things that are competing in our mind space and just focusing on, on really the presence of being with God?

AJ Sherrill:

Yeah. I, I think for, for anyone beginning this journey of really attempting to quiet ourselves, first of all, this is what we're saying. The presence of God lives at the core of your being. And do you really take time to realize like the holy spirit is center, like in the old covenant, the presence was in tablets of stone that lived in the arc and it was all based around the temple, in the new covenant, in the scripture. What happens is Mary essentially when she carries the Christ child in her womb, if the temple in the old Testament was the word of God in stone, when Mary carries the Christ child, it means that the word of God lived in her, who is in flesh. And what happens in Jesus is he sends the spirit to the church or to the people of God who open themselves to God.

AJ Sherrill:

And what it means is that for us, the word of God is now in us in spirit. So let, let me close the, let me close the, the loop here in the beginning, the word came and dwelt in the arc in stone later, the word came and dwelt in Mary, in flesh. And today the word came in, dwells in us, in spirit. In other words, we have become the temple of God everywhere that we go. And I don't think we stop to think about the magnitude of that reality, that everywhere we go, the scripture tells us that we take God into that environment. And it's like, okay, let me just back up here and realize that God lives at the core of my being. I mean, don't get me wrong. God's everywhere. But God has chosen to hide God's self inside of who I am.

AJ Sherrill:

And so maybe my quest in life, isn't to sort of search for God out into the world, although God is available there, maybe it begins every day with me saying, I want to get in touch with the God who lives at the center of my being who has that. I will not abandon you and leaving forsake you. And so establishing a kind of relationship with a God who is relationship, who lives in our chest. That's really important. I think it's really central to all of this. And so what happens for me is when I begin to try to commune with the reality of God inside, as I've said before, you, you end up thinking about your grocery list, your emails, your conflicts, all the things come up very quickly. And the first thing you can do is befriend that and realize that's just normal. Like you're not weird.

AJ Sherrill:

And that's just part of life. Imagine every time you go to see the flowers of your soul, you're confronted by weeds. And so what we have to do is to gently pluck those weeds out slowly but surely. And how do we do the at well, your frontal lobe, which is the executive center of your brain is constantly on the move scanning life. So you have to give it something to do. What I do is I have a, a rhythmic prayer that I connect with my breathing and it goes like this, I'll inhale, Lord Jesus Christ. And then I'll exhale have mercy on me and then I'll do it again. Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me and I'll do that for, I don't know, 10 minutes, 20 minutes, however much time I have at, at the beginning of my day. And it just gives my brain something to do so that my mind can open up into other ways to be ministered to by the spirit.

AJ Sherrill:

And so I don't know that a lot happens in that time. Like I'm not looking for brilliance and magic and vision. And I mean, sometimes that stuff can happen, but it's really just, it slows my brain down long enough to know. Yeah, yeah, you'll get to that email. It's fine. It's waiting for you. But that shouldn't be the first thing you do in your day. You should give God the first word. And so I do just a prayer word. I connect it with breathing. Lord, Jesus Christ have mercy on me and I just allow my brain to do something so that it's not just running free association all over the place. I talk to a lot of people that are like, yeah, I tried that idea. That's really hard. I can't seem to get past that. I still struggle. I get it. What I would say if that's you find a nature trail because what's happening is you having to concentrate on your next step in nature, it gives your brain something to do.

AJ Sherrill:

And in the midst of that, it opens you up. Like if you've ever seen a prayer labyrinth where you walk that labyrinth, that maze, what you're doing is you're giving your brain something to do so that other parts of your being can open up to the holy spirit wanting to speak to you. So I would say if, if it's really hard to sit in a rocking chair and do that, then find a nature path and allow yourself to be immersed in nature, which is a symphony of, of God's voice all around us. That's constantly calling us to deep things and just see what the spirit does over time by slowing and by having solitude and silence.

Ryan Dunn:

Do you think part of that struggle then is our need to be productive? Like as we pray, oftentimes we get a sense that there's gonna be an outcome like, oh, I've beared my heart to God, that is a productive outcome. Or I've received a word from God that is a productive outcome. Have you had to let go of looking for such kind of outcomes as you've moved more into contemplative prayer?

AJ Sherrill:

Yes, tremendously. I mean, I think that's the nature of relationships. I mean, any human to human relationship where what you're really in for is the result. You lose the magic of the relational journey. And again, that puts you in a transactional frame where I demand I'm married to a woman in Meena. If I demand what she needs to do in order to satisfy our relationship, it takes the meaning out of surprise, out of what it means to walk together in this world. What I do is I show up and I'm intentional in our marriage. And when she does the same, we find ourselves surprisingly delighted with what happens and something happens, but I don't need to control that outcome. And that's the thing about prayer. And that's the thing about God is like, God is good. And when we can trust the character of God, then we can surrender the outcome.

AJ Sherrill:

I just got off the phone with a lady in our church who as running to get to the ER to surgery, cuz her husband is about to undergo heart surgery and she has an outcome that she's longing for. And she's wrestling with God to say, I, I really have this desire for my husband and I want to see him healed. Nevertheless, God, I trust your character in the midst of this, that you will go with me no matter what happens. And obviously we believe in healing and we believe God cares about life and restores and heals, but it doesn't always work out that way. And so what do we do? I, I find a lot of people leaving church. I find a lot of people leaving faith that are disappointed because they had sort of an expectation that if I do Z, then God is gonna do Q and I did my part, but God didn't do his part.

AJ Sherrill:

And so what does that mean? And I'm left with the wreckage of disappointment and I think that's real and I, I get that, but at the same time, a real relationship doesn't demand constraints on what things has to look like in order for the relationship to continue. And I, I don't think that we, at least for me, it's hard for me to really come to terms with that, that God is free and that I don't get to control God. I find that the core of my life, a lot of my mischief sort of revolves around three C's and it's compete, compare control. I'm constantly competing. I'm constantly comparing and I'm constantly controlling. And I find that that's true on a human to human reality. And it's often true on a human to God plane as well, where I need to control what God is doing.

AJ Sherrill:

And I need to control my life and my spirituality in order to feel satisfied. And that's fine until it's not, that's fine until life doesn't go the way you want. And then you're left with all sorts of disappointment. And so that's a little bit of what I wrestle with every day is just surrendering my need to control. And I think that's where peace flows in. It's not getting the outcome. That's not where peace is found. It's saying God, no matter what I try. Good. And I choose to believe that you are renewing all things in due time.

Ryan Dunn:

So talk to us a little bit then about how contemplative prayer plays into that as a practice of relinquishing control.

AJ Sherrill:

So for me, the first thing it does is it, it makes demands on that 10 minute minutes that I don't get to do what I want to do in the timeline. I want to do it. Cuz there's a lot of things I would prefer to be doing. Like I hate sitting still and I'll tell you like I get it. The presence of God is in me. God is good. God loves me. There is just something in me. I've done this for years. And it is such a chore just to sit in that chair and be still. And so what doing first of all is it's taking me out of my willfulness to do what I want to do when I want to do it. And it helps to me become not willful, but willing. It sort of frees my grip on my preferences and helps me to sit in that spot.

AJ Sherrill:

And what does, there's this great quote by rabbi Jonathan Sachs, who says, who talks about prayer as like water going over the rocks. He says, it's kind of like this, this notion that over the course of time, we cannot discern the difference of what the water makes on the rock in the short, but over time, the water, as it goes over, rocks, it slowly smooths and reshapes the rock. And in the long run, the rock is transformed and that's what prayer does. And it's not immediate things that we see. I find that what happens is if I can sit for 10 to 20 minutes and just be with God, it makes me more patient in the rest of my day. I would suggest to your listeners that what you do at 8:00 AM has everything to do with how you're gonna respond to your children at 8:00 PM.

AJ Sherrill:

What you do at 10:00 AM on your coffee break to just sit with the Lord for two minutes, has everything to do with how you're gonna respond to your spouse at 2:00 PM that our prayer life isn't detached from the rest of life. It actually begins to cultivate virtue in us, in my case, patience and self control. That helps me in the midst of feeling impatient, that of lashing out at my daughter when I'm frustrated or things aren't going as quickly as I want. I think that that prayer life, that, that time with the Lord is doing work on me and helping cultivate the virtue of patience. That helps me be a better dad. I'll say it like this. I, I remember years ago, do you remember when, so Lee Sullenberger landed the plane on the Hudson all those years ago. Yes. He glided it, right?

AJ Sherrill:

So the, the Canadian geese, they hit the engines, his plane's going down a reasonable pilot would have tried to get back to the airport at JFK or wherever they were in New York. Instead this guy says, no, no, no, I got this. I'm just gonna glide it onto the Hudson river. That's right in front of me now who says that? Hmm like, but in most pilots that would not be their muscle memory. They would think I've gotta get this bird back onto a runway as soon as possible. Well, the, the news article said the next day in the New York times, the headline was miracle on the Hudson and everyone's like, oh my goodness, what a miracle. And it was a miracle to, except to Sully. And the reason for that was because he practiced gliding in all of his free time. So in other words, what we're saying is that his habit of gliding day after day after day, when that crisis point came, whatever that looks like in your life for him, it was Canadian geese hitting an engine, which pretty big deal.

AJ Sherrill:

He didn't even have to think about it. There was already the virtue of knowing how to glide that was deeply instilled in him that he naturally glided unto the Hudson river. The rest of us looked at it as if it was a miracle. But I think for him, it was like, no, no, no, this is what I do. This is part of my practice. This is no problem for me. And I think it's the same with prayer when we can learn to be still at 8:00 AM. It helps me to be more patient before bed with my daughter to really have capacity, to put up with stuff that maybe not what I would've done or how I want to control the situation. So I think prayer bears the fruit of all sorts of things in our life of joy, of love of peace. But the question my life is, am I actually gonna be disciplined to do that? And when I am, I do notice that there are things that happen in my life where there's capacity to go slower, to be still and to not be so reactive in life.

Ryan Dunn:

You know, contemplative practice brings out a sense of mindfulness where we become a little bit more aware of the presence around us and some of the things going on within us, it can be a way of kind of channeling deep down within ourselves. But you point out that there's a difference between mindfulness and prayer. Can, you will list out a few of what those differences are.

AJ Sherrill:

I'll start by saying like the differences between mindfulness and contemplation. I'm really keen on mindfulness. I don't have like a bone to pick with mindfulness, right? I'm grateful that we're starting to see mindfulness in the corporate environment and things like that. I think that there is a difference and we should name them not as a way of rebuking, anything, but to say, you know, mindfulness, if we think about it in terms of like an athletic metaphor, mindfulness might in the Christian frame, it, it, it advances the ball halfway down the field, but there's another half of the field that I think contemplation can help us sort of cross the goal line. If you will, mindfulness what it does, is it aims to empty someone's mind, you know, cuz there's so much stuff, false narratives, law eyes, things that we're sort of tethered to, that we need to release, but contemplation aims to actually fill one's mind.

AJ Sherrill:

So once you empty your mind and mindfulness, we then have to refill it and we wanna refill it with the gospel that God is good, that God is love that you don't have to earn that grace is sufficient. And so when we fill ourselves with those sorts of truths, roots are identity mindfulness, also it centers on self focus and that's not a problem, but again, contemplation sort of advances and it moves you to centering on the spirit focus. In other words, it's not just about like getting in touch with yourself. It's about saying, how do I get in touch with the God that lives inside of me? And that's what contemplation does. Mindfulness helps participants get ID of desires for like harmful things contemplation. It recenters us to desire ultimate things. So like a lot of mindfulness is about desire lessness and that's fine to surrender those idols in our life where there's false desire.

AJ Sherrill:

But contemplation is to say, no, you should, you should find desire, but desire and things that are ultimate in eternal mindfulness is also primarily concerned about detachment of ego. Contemplation is about reattachment to Christ. So contemplation would say it's great to detach, but we also want to reattach and we wanna reattach to the Christ spirit that's living in side of us. Mindfulness is about releasing and contemplation is about abiding. And so again, like there's really good things in mindfulness, but I think contemplation for the follower of Jesus is a more holistic vision for what it means to pray in this way.

Ryan Dunn:

Well, we're joined by AJ shell who wrote the book, the book, sorry, being with God, which is an exploration of contemplative prayer. And it's a great resource, AJ. I really appreciate that with each chapter you give some practice for, for people to kind of play around with, are there some other resources that you've personally found helpful for exploring contemplative prayer?

AJ Sherrill:

Yeah, I would say, you know, what, what I wrote is a great primer. So if you're entering into the shallow end of the pool, it's a great thing to start with beyond that. There's a really great book. I loved a monk passed away in the last few years. His name was father Thomas kidding. And he wrote a book called open heart open mind. And that was a really lovely book for me to sort of advance sort of my own ideas and understanding about what we're talking about. And what does it mean to pray in this way? How do I know I'm doing that form of prayer and what does it mean to know that I'm doing this in a way that's helpful? And so that's a book I would highly recommend open heart, open mind by father Thomas Keating would be a great sort of book to after you read this one, if you want to go deeper into the pool of contemplative prayer.

Ryan Dunn:

And it sounds like as you've put this stuff in practice in your own life, you kind of have a rhythm to it. Can you explain for us a little bit like what your rhythm of contemplation looks like?

AJ Sherrill:

Yeah. So mine looks like this. It's super easy. There's this old Latin phrase call called Lexio Divina, which means divine reading. And what I try to do is I do this there's four different pivots I do in the morning. I read, I reflect, I write and I rest and it goes like this. So I'll have, let's say a given text this morning. I was in Matthew five. I'll read a few of those verses and I'll just read them. I'll read them out five minutes, I'll set a timer and just read them over and over. And I won't try to do anything with it. I'll just read it. And then what I'll do is I'll reflect on it. So like I'll try to find a word or a phrase is there's something in this text that I need to hear today. Something related to a relationship related to my job related to my past my future.

AJ Sherrill:

Just say like, Lord, I just, would you highlight something for me? And I'll try to locate a word or a phrase, so I've read it. And I've now reflected. And then I write on it for a few minutes, like getting that out of me, I'm processing it. I'm allowing myself to externalize that into a journal. And then once I do that, I rest and this is where contemplative prayer comes in. So I don't start my day by contemplative and resting. I start it by reading and then I reflect and I write, and then I get to a point where for five to 10 minutes, I can just rest. In other words, in my journal, I've already written out, what's coming up for me. So it's kind of like purging yourself. It's feasting on the text and then purging yourself about what's coming up so that it's almost like have cleared yourself. You've cleared your mind. You've expressed your heart and now you can just rest in the presence. And so I'll set a timer for five to 10 minutes and I'll just do my phrase, Lord Jesus Christ to have mercy on me. And so that's just like a simple pattern. It takes no more than 20 minutes total. And it's a great thing to do while sipping your French press. We're preparing for your day before you move out into whatever it is God has for you.

Ryan Dunn:

Hmm. So this will be our last question. It it's a personal one. What's a word that you've heard recently.

AJ Sherrill:

Oh worry, worry. I actually shared this in, in in my church at St. Peter's here a few weeks ago. I, I was working through the sermon of mountain and Jesus has this throwaway phrase, right? He says, therefore, do not worry about your life. And I'm just like you don't say I worry a lot about my life. As it turns out, I worry about provision. I worry about my daughter. I worry about the future. I about our economy. I worry about the future with technology. I worry about a lot of things. And when Jesus says, therefore, do not worry about your life. He wasn't just talking to middle Eastern Palestinians from 2000 years ago, he was talking directly to the soul of 21st century American life. And it's like, Lord, like, I need to trust you. I need to know your character's good. And I've just been reflecting on that a, a lot of how worry is a part of my everyday experience. And I want to grow in that.

Ryan Dunn:

Mm well, AJ, she thank you so much for sharing so much of your personal story with us and also for sharing so much of, into a glimpse of contemplative practice. This has been super informative and, and fun.

AJ Sherrill:

Yeah. Great to talk to you, Ryan grace and peace to

Ryan Dunn:

You and to you again, the book is being with God. I appreciated both AJ's recommended practices and his willingness to share from his own experience. If you'd like to learn more about AJ check out AJSherrill.org.

New Speaker:

You can learn more about Compass and check out other episodes at umc.org/compass. Some episodes you might appreciate include guide to contemplative action with Brandon Wrencher and spiritual practices of disruption with Tyler Sit. Both are great follow ups to this episode. So glad to have the time with you. My name is Ryan Dunn. Pierce Drake and I will be back with a new episode in two weeks in the meantime, thanks to United Methodist communications for resourcing this podcast. And thanks to Reed Gaines for editing. Talk soon. Peace.