Archives for April 2006


Faith is a gift and not something that we have to think our way into! God is mystery, our attempts at understanding the Mystery can never lead us to a full and complete understanding – the more we know, the more we come to realize we can never know.

Spiritual Formation, of course, includes the intellectual knowledge of God but also has a strong emphasis on engaging the complete person – body, mind, emotions, and spirit. This holistic approach is focused towards providing one with tools and practices that will assist the individual in experiencing God and God’s love. The tools and practices help make us open and available to God. In this open state we are able to recognize and accept the gift of faith.

God acts – we receive.

    I hear my voice in the cry of the father who when asked by Jesus, “Do you believe?”, replies, “I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24, NRSV)

In the Garden!

    Inside me, my soul was drenched.
    Around me, even the desert grew green.
    —Kabir, Perfume of the Desert:
    Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom

I have spent most of my spare time in the last two weeks in the garden – clearing out and planting this year’s flowers. I am blessed to have an incredible canvas to work with in my backyard. In fact, the house sold itself when I walked into the back yard and saw beyond what already was to what would be!

    A two-tiered deck
    … lots of green ground cover
    … Trees, trees, trees
    … a little pond with a pump to create a small waterfall
    … a rose garden

Yes, the house certainly sold itself. The trees, decks, and pond provided a nice space to start with. The roses were beautiful, but there were no other flowers! Obviously, a space just waiting for my touch. A beautiful sea of green waiting to serve as the backdrop for flowers.

So, last year I planted on a small scale – watched the cycles of the sun and worked to learn the particulars of my space. This year I am more familiar with the space and am planting on a grander scale.

A feast for the senses.

What a space my garden is!

I walk out and immediately – my breathing slows. From my depths, an involuntary sigh arises releasing my tension.

    Calming me.

    Cleansing me.

    Grounding me.

    Refreshing my spirit.

My shoulders relax and my burdens fall to the ground.

Time stops. I am re-connected fully with the present moment and present place.


Oh most holy Father, I thank you most heartily for the gift of my garden and your abiding presence therein.


    Guidance of the life by the Light within is not exhausted as is too frequently supposed, in special leadings toward particular tasks. It begins first of all in a mass revision of our total reaction to the world… There is a total Instruction as well as specific instructions from the Light with. The dynamic illumination from the deeper level is shed upon the judgments of the surface level, and lo, the “former things are passed away, behold, they are become new.

    Paradoxically, this total Instruction proceeds in two opposing directions at once. We are torn loose from earthly attachments and ambitions – contemptus mundi. And we are quickened to a divine but painful concern for the world – amor mundi. He plucks the world out of our hearts, loosening the chains of attachment. And He hurls the world into our hearts, where we and He together carry it in infinitely tender love. — A Testament of Devotion, Thomas Kelly

What a wonderful paradox, while God is busy ‘plucking the world out of our hearts’, He is at the same time ‘hurling the world into our hearts’ in order to enable our ministry!

Mystical Hope, Cynthia Bourgeault

    But in the contemplative journey, as we swim down into those deeper waters toward the wellsprings of hope, we begin to experience and trust what it means to lay down self, to let go of ordinary awareness and surrender ourselves to the mercy of God. And as hope, the hidden spring of mercy deep within us, is released in that touch and flows out from the center, filling us with the fullness of God’s own purpose living itself into action, then we discover within ourselves the mysterious plenitude to live into action what our ordinary hearts and minds could not possibly sustain. —Mystical Hope, Cynthia Bourgeault


    …still today one of the basic strengths of congregations is to accompany, to be present physically, eye to eye. (pg. 23) — Gary Gunderson,Deeply Woven Roots: Improving the Quality of Life in Your Community

This is something that I have a passion for. It is vitally important to be physically present with others – nothing beats showing up!

The Nov/Dec 2003 Net Results has an article by Alexander M. Jacobs entitled “Loitering for the Lord”. It provides a wonderful example of accompanying. As a part of his campus ministry, Pastor Jacobs made a point regularly to just ‘show up’ at the local coffee shop – and just loiter; making himself available to whoever was around and wanted to visit. He found that putting himself out there, with no plan, other than to be available to those who might need him, became a powerful way to enhance his ministry and connection with the students he ministered to. Nothing beats showing up!

I work in technical sales. A big part of what I do is show up and listen (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). I ask questions in order to get clarification and work with my customers to help them identify problems and then examine possible solutions. I can sometimes handle some of the tasks via the phone, but nothing beats showing up! We can go out in the plant and actually look at equipment. What holds true in sales – holds true in ministry. Nothing beats showing up!

This past Sunday I was making visits to the nursing homes. One of the ladies (whom I don’t know well) had three phone calls while I was in her room. Each time she picked up the phone and immediately said, “I have company. I’ll call you back.” This encounter came immediately to mind as I was reflecting on the importance of accompanying. My presence mattered. I was bringing church to her and helping her stay connected to the community. She was hungry for this connection and because of this need was willing to postpone visiting with family and friends during our visit. Nothing beats showing up!

I have a great concern – mostly because I struggle with this issue so often – that in our fast-paced society we move at such a great speed that people get left out. David Whyte articulates the problem well:

    The great tragedy of speed as an answer to the complexities and responsibilities of existence is that very soon we cannot recognize anything or anyone who is not traveling at the same velocity as we are. We see only those moving in the same whirling orbit and only those moving with the same urgency. Soon we begin to suffer a form of amnesia, caused by the blurred vision of velocity itself, where those things germane to our humanity are dropped from our minds one by one. … On the personal side, as slaves to speed, we start to lose sight of family members, especially children, or those who are ill or infirm, who are not flying through the world as quickly and determinedly as we are. – David Whyte, Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity

David Whyte’s quote serves as a powerful reminder for us all. If we don’t modify our approach to time, people will be left out. Needs will be unnoticed and thus unmet. Concerns and cares will have no expression. Gunderson’s strength of accompanying is the antidote for this problem. It encourages us to slow our velocity and become available to and aware of those around us.


Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24, NRSV)

    First of all, let me say that I am so glad that faith is a gift and not something that I have to think my way into!

    I hear my voice in the cry of the father who when asked by Jesus, “Do you believe?”, replies, “I believe, help my unbelief!” Oh Yes, I see myself alright!

    It has taken me many years to reach the point that I am okay with this. God is mystery, my attempts at understanding the Mystery can never lead me to a full and complete understanding – the more I know, the more I realize I can never know. This realization is some of what led me to the study of spiritual formation. Spiritual Formation, of course, includes the intellectual knowledge of but also has a strong emphasis on engaging the complete person – body, mind, emotions, and spirit. This wholistic approach is more focused towards providing one with tools and practices that assist the individual to experience God and God’s love. The tools and practices help make me open and available to God. In this open state I am able to recognize and accept the gift of faith.

    God acts – I receive.

    Thanks be to God!


What is Spiritual Direction?

“The essence of spiritual guidance or direction can be seen whenever one person helps another to see and respond to spiritual truth. … When spiritual guidance occurs in a formal, one-to-one relationship with another individual, it can be called spiritual direction. In the classic form of spiritual direction there is a director and a directee, the one helping the other to discern the work of the Lord in his or her life and to distinguish among the various forces or “spirits” which seem to beckon in different directions.” –Gerald May, Care of Mind, Care of Spirit

“The ministry of spiritual direction can be understood as the meeting of two or more people whose desire is to prayerfully listen for the movements of the Holy Spirit in all areas of a person’s life (not just in their formal prayer life). It is a three-way relationship: among the true director who is the Holy Spirit, … and the human director (who listens for the directions of the Spirit with the directee), and the directee. … The director is a companion along the pilgrim’s way, wanting to be directly open along with the directee to the Spirit-undercurrents flowing through the happenings of the directee’s life.” – Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Director, Spiritual Companion

Spiritual direction is neither psychotherapy nor pastoral counseling.

“Spiritual direction gives people an opportunity to reflect on what they perceive as experiences with God.”

“The art of Spiritual Direction lies in our uncovering the obvious in our lives and in realizing that everyday events are the means by which God tries to reach us.” – Margaret Guenther, Holy Listening

“The Holy Spirit is the true director in this strange ministry called spiritual direction.” – Margaret Guenther, Holy Listening

“…the task of the external director is to put souls in touch with the Holy Spirit, their inward guide.” – Augustine Baker (17th Century)

What is Spiritual Formation?

O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63: 1, NRSV)

“Spiritual formation is a rather general term referring to all attempts, means, instructions, and disciplines intended towards deepening of faith and furtherance of spiritual growth. It includes educational endeavors as well as the more intimate and in-depth processes of spiritual direction.”

    –Gerald May, Care of Mind, Care of Spirit

The dynamics of shaping the human spirit toward maturity and consonance [sounding together]. Spiritual formation can refer to two closely related processes. The first is a basic fact of life: as creatures we are constantly being formed by the world around us; and as creatures with a spirit capable of transcending our world, we can be aware of and take part in that formation. … The second process is the more deliberate attempt to form ourselves or allow ourselves to be formed within a particular spiritual tradition. …

The process of spiritual formation can differ widely from person to person, due to personality, personal history, and the particular formation tradition(s) embraced. The only certainties are that our spirits will continue to be formed (or de-formed) throughout our lives and that God will continue to call us into deeper, more consonant relationships with God, our truest selves, and the people and world around us.

    The Upper Room Dictionary of Christian Spiritual Formation