Today while browsing the inter-webs for interesting articles and resources I stumbled upon one that just about knocked me over inside. I felt a bit side-swiped, and completely seen at the same time (maybe a little too seen, if I'm being honest).
Read the article here.
In it the author writes things like:
The irony of God's universe is that limitations actually set us free to be the people God created. If all my time and focus goes to becoming someone else I am essentially running on a treadmill rather than on the road. Because saying yes to who God has made you to be is scary -- what if I don't like who God's made me to be? What if it doesn't feel like enough? Gut-wrenchingly painful questions.
And in the light of those questions it is so easy to put your head down in the sand and just carry on. Maybe that's all you have the capacity to do. Maybe looking at those scary questions straight in the face feels like too much for today. God can work with that.
Jesus' invitation to you is to show up, empty hands or full hands, it doesn't matter. God can work with that. Because maybe the journey isn't becoming someone else you admire (or maybe are jealous of); maybe the journey is to eventually like who you actually are, because maybe who you are is bright and wonderful, funny and quirky, and great with couponing or making art or running her business' social media with passion and feistiness. And maybe, over time, you'll begin to see more of what Jesus was up to when he created you: a one-of-a-kind masterpiece.
And finally, remember God gave you the desires you have not to put them high up on a shelf so they don't break. Go break a few, grieve their loss or undesired outcome, then, when it's time, allow new desires to grow inside you because loss is not the end of the line with God -- God renews. Sitting there dusting off your shelved desires once a week is the only guaranteed way to make sure they don't come to pass.
Jesus, have mercy.
Raised in the evangelical tradition I was more familiar with Easter than this season called "Lent." I was comfortable with somber Good Friday services, and celebratory Easter Sundays. Then I learned about Lent, and how it is a time to reflect on our longings, our losses, in a way that leads us to confession at the feet of Jesus. Sometimes getting to his feet I found I needed a little help, a gentle push to move forward. I needed someone to remind me of the love of God amidst all this grief.
From these experiences, and through gathering materials I've found helpful, we're offering this half-day Lenten retreat guide. It's filled with prayer practices, journaling prompts, and reflective invitations. It can be used individually, or with your community group. It can used on a half-day away at a museum or over a weekend up on the mountain. It was created with flexibility in mind.
It was also created to remind you how much God loves you. Using Scripture, art, and thought provoking journaling experiences this PDF guide offers you the opportunity to open your heart to God through these practices and to prepare to celebrate the hope we have in Christ Easter Sunday morning.
If this idea excites you, or feels like the last thing you want to do but you feel invited by God to do it anyway, click below to learn a bit more and view a sample page. The PDF guide is designed to be flexible in use and time, so feel free to take a half-day to yourself or a weekend away with your community group.
If you have any questions about this retreat guide, or how to best use it, feel free to contact us anytime. We'd love to hear from you.
I first learned this prayer by Thomas Merron while in seminary. It flooded me with a sense of release, relief and gratitude. I love the humble admission found in it that Merton expresses in desiring to do God's will, but with the reality that he may be not perfectly doing so--and yet at the same time is reassured of God's continual grace and pleasure in him inspite of his fumbled attempts to please God.
Thomas Merton, from Thoughts on Solitude.
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
What word or phrase from this prayer captures your heart today?
and you held me and there were no words
and there was no time and you held me
and there was only wanting and
being held and being filled with wanting
and I was nothing but letting go
and being held
and there were no words and there
needed to be no words
and there was no terror only stillness
and I was wanting nothing and
it was fullness and it was like aching for God
and it was touch and warmth and
darkness and no time and no words and we flowed
and I flowed and I was not empty
and I was given up to the dark and
in the darkness I was not lost
and the wanting was like fullness and I could
hardly hold it and I was held and
you were dark and warm and without time and
without words and you held me
"And You Held Me," by Janet Morley
printed in All Desires Known
A new friend lent me Richard Rohr's book on the Enneagram this week after a conversation about our personality types. We laughed about how sadly "right" our types reflected our areas of struggle - as the Enneagram does so well. At times it feels as though it pierces though the center of you, laying nearly all bare.
Familiar with the Enneagram I didn't expect to learn too much more about the spiritual personality tool, but I was excited to read on it from a Christian perspective, since my introduction to it was largely of the Riso-Hudson variety. How surprised I was. Particularly in the introductory section on the three centers (head, heart, and gut), Rohr and his co-author Andreas Ebert provide a beautifully simple but clear explanation of how these categories for the nine personality types function in general.
As I read about my own center (the head, as I'm a 6...like it or not) I was struck by the words the authors share about how 5's, 6's, and 7's often access God through Jesus, "in whom God revealed himself and became visible" (39). They go on to say,
Concrete forms of meditation (e.g., looking at pictures), in which they can pick something up, also appeal to these people.
As it pertains to us and what we do (and myself as a 6, and in this category), I found it interesting how seeing God in Jesus, by handling and seeing God through our senses, is rich in Ignatian spirituality. Psalm 34:8 came to mind as I considered these things, that we all are called to "Taste and see that the Lord is good; [and] blessed is the one who takes refuge in him."
If you're interested in taking an short Enneagram assessment you can find one for free here.
How do you "taste and see" God's goodness?
Why we're glad you asked! Many Protestants or evangelicals are new to the practice of spiritual direction, so finding a director from your faith tradition may feel daunting. Although it's not necessary to see a director who shares your doctrinal values, it may be helpful for those entering spiritual direction for the first time.
The Evangelical Center for Spiritual Wisdom provides a list of trained and certified spiritual directors, which is searchable by U.S. location. In addition, they provide tips for choosing a spiritual director.
What has your experience be
If you're new to spiritual formation, or perhaps just looking for a really good teaching series on spiritual formation, Talbot School of Theology offers Dr. John Coe's (director of the Institute for Spiritual Formation) Spiritual Formation Lecture Series available as a free download. It's a really great resource. I hope you enjoy it. And feel free to pass it on and share the love. :)
The lectures cover:
If you've listened to the lecture series, what did you think? What surprised you? What brought relief? What caused anxiety or fear? Feel free to share in the comments section below.
Visio Divina came to me while studying at Talbot School of Theology's Institute for Spiritual Formation. One day while I was meeting with my spiritual director she brought in a paper copy of an icon. She had me gaze and reflect on what it meant to me, without telling me what it was supposed to mean or what the right reflection was. As an artist I was intrigued by how God's Spirit would speak to me in such a unstructured manner -- there was no text to exegete or commentary to reference to see if I got the answer right. It was God speaking to me personally through beauty and my senses. I later learned that St. Ignatius highly recommended visualizing Scripture -- using your imagination to observe yourself playing a part (observer, one of the key characters) in the text. He believed new and deeper understanding would emerge. Genius.
All that to say I found an interesting article by Patheos.com on "Praying with Art: Visio Divina" that I wanted to share.
How have you experienced God speaking to you through art, or beauty? How did that impact your relationship with God? I'd love to hear - please share in the comments.