How the Course “Communion With God” Has Changed My Life by Lyle Thomas

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Lyle and Di ThomasTaking the course Communion with God has been one of the most transformational experiences of my entire Christian walk.

My hunger to know God personally, powerfully, intimately had been a quest of mine for about ten years. Having come in contact with a wide variety of Christians through a citywide ministry I led, I saw that there was a depth of relationship with God that was much more than the conservative church background I had come from, and I wanted it. The problem was that try as I might, a real encounter with God, a real experience of His love, a real sense of His voice leading me never quite came. God used that time to help me grow in countless ways in understanding HIm, His ways, and in increasing my dependence on Him and in pursuing Him despite the tangible rewards, but the sought-for goal seemed ever elusive.

I actually found out about the book "Communion with God" in around 2002, got it, and eagerly began a self-study in it. The results were quick and dramatic. I began to write powerfully and to sense that God was really speaking through my journaling. Someone I trusted even confirmed that it was God.

Then I went away on vacation that summer, eager to use that time to hear from God. One journaling entry while there was an incredible vision statement for my family that I treasure to this day. Then I started getting a couple of entries that were strange and incoherent. I started to question my ability to hear, and I got discouraged. I never gave up in principle, but I have no idea why (in retrospect) I did not seek to get unstuck as soon as possible.

It's clear that what was missing was a spiritual mentor who could come along side me to help me steer my way out of my hole. I think Virkler must have talked about this in that first version of the book, but probably not with the same force that the most recent version has. I knew that I needed help to continue, but I didn't know where to get it from. So I quit, not having completed half of the book. Every once in a while, I would journal again, and it was mostly very good stuff, but I always said that I would put off the course until one day when the moment would be right.

When I learned that Christian Leadership University had been founded, and that the entire curriculum was based on this one course, I knew that I had to somehow some time take the class "right." But with our family on the way to Russia, that seemed like bad timing.

When we finally moved to Russia in 2007, I had it in my heart to teach the class even before I took it, but now I was being mentored by a man from a spiritual order that emphasized listening prayer, Ignatian exercises, and other such approaches from the Catholic tradition. I was tremendously motivated by it all, and I worked very hard to master the process, but the further I went, the more difficult it got for me to seem to be able to pray well at all. My imagination and ability to hear God through the exercises seemed to get worse.

Finally in June of 2011, I contacted Mark Virkler about getting the course into Russian, and I decided it was time to try it again for myself, seeing that what I had was not working for me. This time I knew I needed a mentor, so I signed up to have one of their "Personal Spiritual Trainers". Although in retrospect I wish I had done it earlier, the timing was great. I was headed for a month vacation, so I could devote myself to it and start to form new habits without the distractions of life and ministry.

Early journaling was slow, brief, and sometimes weird again, but this time I had the benefit of someone I completely trusted who could both encourage me, tell me I was hearing from God, explain the weirdness, put my stumblings into the context of my overall growth, and help me make course corrections to get better. This input helped my confidence tremendously, and within that month he was already amazed himself at the power of what I was writing, as well as how much longer my entries were getting.

In week four I began to realize that this course was a lot more than just hearing God. It is really a new lifestyle of living communion with God, of processing life, information, and of how you approach learning in general. I started to learn how to meditate on Scriptures and started to recognize when I was merely thinking and analyzing with my usual left-brained habits without inviting the Holy Spirit into the process to lead my learning. Just as Virkler promised, I started having Scripture come alive for me as I meditated and journaled on it. God was making it come alive to me!

Resting and sensing God's presence is a big part of the mainstream spiritual formation tradition, but I never could until I could let God teach me directly through the combination of stillness and journaling. I have since grown in being able to recognize God's presence, to breathe it in, and now being able to actually start to sense my spirit and the joy within that is already there. This is a breakthrough of such huge proportions that it is hard to express its worth. I have struggled for all of my adult life with the awareness that my "joy quotient" is severely lacking. Not that I was depressed, but that my emotional vocabulary was stunted. Now through learning to sense God, His presence, and recognizing my own spirit (and even the fact that it exists apart from my soul), has awakened a part of me that allows me to live more out of who Jesus actually made me to be.

Learning stillness has been more than merely quieting myself, removing distractions, and focusing on God. All these I did in my previous efforts. Now I see that there are a host of "right-brain" activities that can foster a greater receptivity to the movements of the Spirit. Keeping Jesus in the center of my imagination is very important much of the time (though sometimes I sense the flow without it). But also I use music, merely smiling, and tongues.

Beginning to speak in tongues is another fruit of this course, as it is also something I was open to for many years, and many had prayed for it for me, but nothing ever happened. The key for me was a recognition of the weakness of left-brainers (at least modern ones) in this regard, and in my deepening understanding of Virkler's theology of flow. No one had ever explained the movement and gifts of the Spirit in such simple, yet biblically compelling terms to me before. Although Virkler's own book that he had recommended to me when he saw the need, "How to Receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit" was helpful, it really only merely amplified what I was already coming to understand by my own experience of allowing flow to operate through me in journaling. Once I recognize that journaling is me writing and allowing God to speak, there is no essential difference in seeing that speaking in tongues is me flapping my tongue and allowing God to speak. All this after years of God breaking down my theological resistance to the idea, which was significant.

Two of my recent journal entries follow

It is a good tasting meal that I have prepared for you, to drink of the wine of my love, to taste of the feast set before you that I have prepared in the presence of your and mine enemies. You will taste and see that I am indeed good. I am loving, and I am full of good things for those who love me and are called according to my purposes. I have only good purposes for you, and the willingness to grow in seeing me with your spiritual eyes is a necessary part of going to those places where I want to take you to feast. Keep looking. It is a good and yet not simple task for you to work on - simple for a child, but you still have to learn how to undo some of your habits. Teach your children what you learn quickly thereafter, for they can learn it faster and go well beyond you in the spirit. They are blessings to the world that I am raising up for a special purpose, and your investment in them will not be wasted.

Dance with me. Dance with your wife, Diana. Make your life one of a rhythm of dance, love, favor towards her, and compassion. She is a dear sweet child of mine, and I want to give her to good hands. Take care of her. Cherish her. Hold her up and lift her to me. I love her and her ways, because she is my daughter. Be a home, a refuge for her. Be a cherished loved one. Dance with her and find other ways of having fun, carrying her in your arms of flow, security, and protection. Help her move to my rhythm by moving with her in concert with my voice. Move gracefully with her, and graciously. Your movements around her should be graceful, gentlemanly, and deferential. Hold your hand out to her. Hold your heart out to her. Give her access to your heart, your vulnerable places. Show her that she can minister to you. Love her with a constant love, stepping out of her way when needed with gladness, grace, and cheer. Your joyful spirit will lift her out of her place of introspection and loneliness. You are my greatest representative on earth to her of me. Grace. She is your precious one. Handle with care.

Already Teaching Others: I have been leading the Communion With God course already this fall to a group of students who have been walking with me for the past year, and the results are already amazing. Only one person is not having success in journaling, though she does hear God spontaneously in her daily life. The others are seeing a dramatic impact on their walk with the Lord, and they are excited about what is happening. That makes me excited.