“The church itself is a spiritual director. It tries to connect your story with God’s story. Just to be a true part of this community means you are being directed, you are being guided, you are being asked to make connection. The Bible is a spiritual director. People must read Scripture as a word for themselves personally, and ask where God speaks to them. Finally, individual Christians are also spiritual directors. A spiritual director is a Christian man or woman who practices the disciplines of the church and of the Bible and to whom you are willing to be accountable for your life in God.”
“I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” Psalm 32:8
Well, the Fanning the Flame team has been formed, and we’ve been given our first task — meditation and prayer about the 10 strategies that will help us become a healthier, more vibrant church. We’ve been provided with some excellent material on the discipline of meditation from Celebration of Discipline: The Pathway to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster, to help us get started.
Every member is to spend time each day meditating and asking God to tell us “the way we should go.” We’re to carry notecards with us, and every time an image, idea or Scripture comes into our mind that gives us a picture of how our congregation should look in 3-5 years, we are to write it down. These ideas are to be specific, not vague. We’re not to go back to “edit” our thoughts and we’re not to speak with one another about them (yet).
At the next meeting with our coach, all the ideas will be examined. We’ll see the desires that God has given us for our community. Hopefully there will be duplications, or themes that send us in the right direction.
I’m finding this an exciting exercise. It’s encouraging me to put my heart, mind and soul into my prayer life. I can’t wait to see what happens next! Keep us in your prayers, readers, as we continue this journey in faith.
Lutherans aren’t too familiar with the Stations of the Cross. It’s usually a series of images, accompanied by prayers, intended to lead us on a pilgrimage through the sufferings of Christ during passion week. I found this Protestant version that I really like because it includes Scripture passages on which to meditate (remember for Lutherans it’s all about the Bible). Maybe you’ll find it helpful as well. You can also visit the link below.
|1. The Last Supper||Matthew 26:26-30|
|2. The Garden of Gethsemane||Matthew 26:36-41; Luke 22:40-46|
|3. Jesus before Pilate||Mark 15:1-5, 15; John 19:4-16|
|4. The Scourging and the crowning with thorns||John 19:1-3; Mark 15:15-20|
|5. The Receiving of the cross||John 19:6, 15-17|
|6. The Fall|
|7. Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus||Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26|
|8. The Women of Jerusalem||Luke 23:27-31|
|9. The Stripping of his Garments||John 19:23-24|
|10. The Good Thief||Luke 23:39-43|
|11. Mary and John Below the cross||John 19:25-27|
|12. The Death of Jesus||Luke 23:44-46; Mark 15:33-39; John 19:30|
|13. The laying in the tomb||Matthew 27:57-61; Luke 23:53-54|
|14. The Resurrection||Matthew 28:1-7|
Henri Nouwen was a Catholic priest, author and teacher. Offering spiritual direction was a regular part of his life. In this posthumous book, two of his students use notes from his course in spiritual direction as well as some of his unpublished writing to outline Nouwen’s thoughts on the spiritual life. At the end of each chapter, you will find questions and exercises for journaling and reflection.
Spiritual direction is full of questions:
- Where do I begin?
- Where have I been and where am I going?
- What is prayer?
- Who is God for me?
According to Nouwen, we must develop “ears to hear” God. This is difficult because it requires leaving empty spaces in our lives so that God can come in. That can be frightening and unsettling to most of us who are accustomed to filling every moment up with something “useful.” Nouwen goes on to say:
“But even stronger than our fear of the empty space is our fear of actually hearing the voice of God! We know that our God is a jealous God who knows there is no other cure for our restlessness and deafness but finding our home in God. We know that God’s mercy is a severe mercy that does not coddle or spoil but cuts to the heart of where truth resides. And although we are unsatisfied and unfulfilled, we are not so sure that we want to go in the direction God might call us to go…”
This book is a wonderful introduction to the idea of spiritual direction, and the exercises, suggestions and questions it offers are a good starting point for anyone interested in going deeper.
PS. You can purchase a Kindle edition from Amazon for only 1.99!
“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Luke 9:51
Right now we Lutherans are in the midst of Lent, a time when we remember Christ’s journey to the cross. It’s apparent that Jesus knew exactly where his trip to Jerusalem would take him, because in the same chapter he tells his disciples:
“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Luke 9:22
Yet, He was determined. Why? He knew it was His Father’s will, and He knew His sacrifice was necessary to save us from our sins, once and for all. The suffering, the rejection, the pain was insignificant in light of the benefit to the world. It’s embarrassing to think of how I often I am annoyed at the prospect of sacrificing for somebody else, even when all I am sacrificing is my own convenience or time! This is not Christ-like, and not what is expected of us as true followers:
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
Lent is a time to ponder the way of the cross. The way Christ took and the way we’re called to walk as well.
I’ve always liked this hymn, often used on Palm Sunday, which encourages all Christians to follow Christ’s way, in the direction of the cross.
On a Via de Cristo weekend, one of the talks is called Piety. I didn’t think very much of this word when I first heard it because, probably like you, I thought of a Bible thumping, scripture quoting person that gets on your nerves really fast. You really don’t want to be around this person who always has a scripture answer to every question that you ask. You might just shake your head and wonder what is wrong with this person because they always seem angry. Then there is the opposite of that person, you know, the one that just smiles, goes to church a lot and doesn’t interact with the world around them. They should have a permanent halo over their heads. For both of these “types” you think, “They’re so Heavenly minded they’re no earthly good”. And so you should.
True, or Authentic Piety, is neither of these things. Authentic Piety is an intimate, revitalizing, deepening relationship with God. If you’re not actively working on your relationship with God, to deepen it, make it better, then you are not “Pious”. The examples that I give above are examples of False Piety. False Piety is a superficial, inaccurate or deceptive practice that appears to be Christian. It’s all on the outside, nothing on the inside.
We’ve all done the false piety thing, even in little stuff. Acting a different way in church than you do at home or just going to church because that’s what you’ve always done because that’s the way you were raised. Just going to church doesn’t make you a Christian.
With true Piety, you want to get closer to God and start to do things in your life to make that happen. Going to church regularly is a good start, but when you sing that hymn or praise song, listen to the words. If you go to a traditional church like me, when you go through the Liturgy, really mean the words when you say them. Pay attention to the sermon or even take notes!!
Start small with that and then build to reading the Bible, going to a Bible study or prayer group. Listen to Christian Music on the radio. Build small actions around you that grow your knowledge. As your knowledge of God increases, so will your true piety.
Do I have this this Piety thing down? I don’t. But everyday I try a little harder; try to do a bit more. I’m working on my piety everyday. This is a journey, not something that just comes to you and you have it. Working on getting closer with God does give me a direction in my life. By reading Scripture I hear the voice of the Lord, directing me everyday and that gives me peace.
“If your Christian conversion did not reverse the direction of your life, if it did not transform it, then you are not converted at all, you are simply a victim of the “accept Jesus” heresy.
A. W. Tozer
After I returned from my Via de Cristo weekend, I met with my Pastor for a number of years for individual spiritual direction. This was a time which started with prayer, a time when I could talk about anything that was going on in my walk with God. For me, it was a holy time, time set apart to focus on God. I would often bring my journal, so that I could look back over the past month and see where my prayers, thoughts, dreams and study had been leading me. It was always amazing to me to see how God brought the right combination of people, scripture, and opportunity into my life at the same time. My Pastor would give me his insights on my life, ask me questions to guide me in the right direction, and sometimes suggest readings or other spiritual disciplines. He was the person who suggested I take a course in spiritual direction myself. There I learned more about all sorts of prayer (contemplation, praying with icons, praying with Scripture, etc..) I read many of the Christian classics dealing with spiritual growth, as well as modern writers addressing the same topics. I met Christians from other denominations and saw that though we might disagree on many theological matters, we could come together in prayer and listen to one another when it came to growing closer to God.
Since my husband became a Pastor and we moved, I have not found a personal director. I content myself with mutual direction with friends, and group direction in my accountability (reunion) group. However, I am always on the look out for someone who may serve in that capacity in my life again. As the seasons of our lives change, we move on to different ways to grow spiritually. All are valuable.
Are there others out there with experience in individual spiritual direction? I’d be interested in hearing from you.
This poem was written by Kathy Galloway, an ordained Church of Scotland minister, who is also a poet and hymn writer.
Our brother Jesus, you set our feet upon the way and sometimes where you lead we do not like or understand.
Bless us with courage where the way is fraught with dread or danger;
Bless us with graceful meetings where the way is lonely;
Bless us with good companions where the way demands a common cause;
Bless us with night vision where we travel in the dark, keen hearing where we have not sight, to hear the reassuring sounds of fellow travellers;
Bless us with humor– we cannot travel lightly weighted down with gravity;
Bless us with humility to learn from those around us;
Bless us with decisiveness where we must move with speed;
Bless us with lazy moments, to stretch and rest and savour;
Bless us with love, given and received;
And bless us with your presence, even when we know it in your absence.
Lead us into exile, until we find that on the road is where you are, and where you are going is home.
Bless us, lead us, love us, bring us home bearing the gospel of life.