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Occasionally a sequence of events reminds you that God loves to be 'up to things' in our lives. This happened to me lately.
At an 8-day Ignatian retreat that I attended in August (I write about it in the post below), God reached some hidden, tender spots in my heart as I spent long hours in the gospels. The story of Bartimaeus came to life to me in a totally new way. That in itself isn't so unusual, for God has a habit of rewarding time set aside with him by reaching into deep, hidden places and performing heart surgery with gentle, skilled hands.
But what was unusual is that a message sort of dropped out of heaven. I knew in an instant what I needed to speak on in my 'Blessed are the merciful' sermon of last Sunday. Bartimaeus was mindful of his own need for mercy and he shows us, in an unusual way, how we can grow in becoming merciful people.
Then with the story of Bartimaeus resonating in my heart, I experience a real-life opportunity to live out the beatitude: blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy. I tell the story in my sermon.
Crossroads now has a podcast over at iTunes. If you'd like to listen, scroll to the 10/27/12 Kingdom Experiment for a free download.
October's theme at the Conversations Journal has been stories of saints who have influence our lives. Here's my contribution ...
I checked in at an eight-day silent retreat with resistance resonating in my soul. What will this experience be like? Have I discerned Gods leading in coming to this place? I pulled my suitcase down a long hall, noticing that each room was named after a great saint of the faith. I reached the room that would offer me refuge in the days to come. It was the Teresa of Avila room. I smiled and breathed a sigh of relief. Teresa of Avila, my earliest classic spiritual mentor, has imparted much to me. Well Teresa, Im sure there will be many times this week when Ill be strengthened by your example. I opened the door and felt Gods smile, assured of his hand in this small detail as I entered this strange and wonderful journey into silence.Teresa of Avila stands as a pillar in the world of prayer. Her mystical experiences prompted the assignment that would preserve her wisdom: she was required to explain herself in writing and before the leaders of the Inquisition. The boldness and bravery Teresa showed in the face of this task are nothing short of impressive. I read her books with intrigue ... continue reading on the Conversations blog
I love the work that I do! This week, as we prayed to close our time together, one of the people whom I accompany expressed the essence of this somewhat difficult-to-explain work of spiritual direction. She agreed to try to capture for you, my reader, what she has experienced as we've met together this year. Here is what she wrote:
During this hour with Elizabeth and the Lord, something happens. Elizabeth is not only listening to me, but she is listening to the Lord at the same time. She is not giving me an answer or any advice, but she asks questions. And somewhere between the question and my search for an answer I am finding the answer deep within myself. Where my spirit is in touch with God's Spirit. As if Elizabeth is a mere 'spectator' in my conversation with God at that very moment. Somehow during this time I find a way of quieting the outside voices and the voice in my head and I hear the still small voice of God deep within me. continue reading...
The moments I love the most are when the person sitting in the chair opposite me makes a discovery that is God-breathed, Spirit speaking to spirit deep within. It's at moments like these that my heart simply sings.
On the shady side of our back garden we've put in a little pond surrounded by a rock garden. The lack of sun makes it a perfect place for shade-loving plants. Lately a fungus has discovered that it can flourish there too.
Fungus is nasty. It's hardy and aggressive. It creeps along the top of the soil almost unnoticed, eating away at the roots of the plants. I'm not enough of a gardener to know if there's something I can do to the soil to inhibit its growth. But I do know that if I don't ruthlessly pull it out it will destroy what I've planted.
So today I tackled the job. One handful at a time, I pulled the fungus from the soil, releasing from its grip the strands of green it was in the process of destroying, Then I carefully replanted them in the cleaned surface of the soil.
As I worked, I prayed for a little friend of mine, eleven year old Mackenzie. In her very courageous battle with leukemia, she underwent a bone marrow transplant this summer. In the absence of an immune system, her body was pretty susceptible to all sorts of things. A fungal infection settled into her lungs, which provided a damp, undefended place for it to flourish, not unlike the shady part of my garden.
My thoughts then turned to my own life. I wondered what unwanted, destructive things might be growing in the damp and undefended places of my heart. What sort of damage might my 'soul fungi' do as they creep along, undetected, in the recesses of my soul? "Lord, purify my heart. With your skillful gardener's hands, do the painstaking work of rooting out whatever does not belong in a heart devoted to you."
I'm happy to announce that I've earned a new certification. I've been certified in my field since 2009 when I was granted the title of Certified Spiritual Director (CSD) by the Canadian Council of Professional Certification. That was a valuable accomplishment but one which isn't known in Holland where I live, so I've looked around for another avenue.
The Gcoach certification is extended by ACC, Academie van Counselling en Coaching where I'm listed in their database of professionals. They require 1000 hours of face-to-face work within two years which ensures that their certified professionals are significantly active and experienced.
One of the benefits of the certification is that I am now 'qualified' to work with ACC students in fulfilling their required counselling or coaching hours.
There's been a need to switch the date of our next Getaway/Stilteweekend until the first weekend of November. One of the benefits is that there is still plenty of time to register. It'll now take place 2-4 November at Klein Sion in Leuvenheim, Gelderland. We'll try out a new location this time which is more central in the country.
We're all looking forward to the arrival of summer. Will summer hold some opportunities for real rest and reflection for you? Have you considered planning in a personal retreat in the autumn? Seeking God intentionally as a new season begins might just serve you well. Yes it's not quite summer yet ... but autumn will be here before we know it.
I've also just booked a couple more future retreats and the new dates are also up at the above links.
My contribution to May's theme of how C.S. Lewis has shaped us is up over at the Conversations blog. Here's the link to Screwtape's Tactics.
God sure was present and active during our second Getaway with God, 4-6 May. What a privilege it is to evidence rich encounters with God happening. To see the smiles on the faces as the participants try to put into words what they have experienced.
This weekend Ank and I will lead our second Getaway with God and the preparation is filling much of my week. In Dutch we call it a 'stilteweekend' or 'silent weekend' and therefore lots of people have suggested that there must not be much for me to do. I just smile in return. We're not completely silent for the weekend, though we do promote silence in order to connect deeply with God.
My main task this week is to create a welcoming, engaging environment which will encourage rich encounters with God. What an honour is that! Interested? Check out the Getaway with God or Stilteweekend pages.
April's theme at the Conversations blog is 'Welcoming the Stranger'. An important theme to the field of spiritual direction, it has prompted some fabulous articles and discussions. When I first considered what I might write about, one of my clients came to mind. I tried to dismiss the idea for her story, I reasoned, is hers to tell, not mine. But the words seemed to be given to me, poetic words of a life profoundly changed by the loving grace of Jesus. She extended permission to me to publish it. I'm grateful, for the writing made clear how much I've been changed too by knowing her... brought into focus the beautiful call of extending hospitality to those who are in need. Read A Stranger No More over at Conversations.
The Emmaus Road story (recorded in Luke 24) is rich with possibilities for contemplation. Three aspects jump off the page at me. Each one speaks into a real possibility for experiencing Jesus' presence in the here and now of our lives. Maybe you'd like to choose one of the following to reflect upon today.
#1 The two disciples were in conversation about the here and now things of their lives. The events of Easter weekend were keeping them busy, and Jesus jumped right in there with them as he joined them on the road. He listened to them, intently and very patiently, as he let them voice it all before he had his say.Application:
#2 Jesus taught them from the Scriptures, unfolding the mystery of all that Moses and the Prophets had said about himself (v 27). Wouldn't you have loved to have been in on that conversation? Continue reading...
Have you landed upon a Leaders' Nook page yet here at Deeper Devotion? It's a growing resource for Christian leaders focussed specifically on the inner life.
I've just posted Part 2 of an interview with Troy Cady. He shares the story behind his Twitter feed, A Simple Prayer. But more than that, he speaks about his need to stay connected with the grace of God. And you just don't get more relevant to Christian leadership than that. So head on over...and perhaps you'd like to leave a prayer of your own behind.
Today I feel compelled to express how much I love my work. It is simply an incredible honour to walk alongside fellow seekers on their spiritual journey.
Each person with whom I work is remarkably unique. As we sit together, usually face-to-face but also often via cyberspace, I am entrusted with stories which make me cry and stories which make me sing for joy. We walk together through the mire of thoughts and emotions, discovering the thread that untangles them. We talk about deep things, things that really matter, and listen for God's voice in them. We struggle with injustices and heartaches, and bring them to Jesus and the Father where their pain is assuaged as grace is poured out and strength and hope are bestowed.
A few months ago I did some further restructuring work on this site and created the Leaders' Nook. As a new entity on the NavBar, it provides a place to focus in on inner life needs of Christian leaders. Perhaps the Nook will become a place of dialogue. (I'm curious if that side of it will develop over time.) Maybe it will be a source of inspiration more than anything, or of encouragement, for when the going gets tough.
Anyway, there are already a number of articles and interviews posted over at the Nook. Last night I posted a new interview with one of my favourite former colleagues ever, Troy Cady. There are lots of reasons that I appreciate Troy. He makes me laugh and he makes me think, and it's not often that humour and depth are both wonderfully at home in one human being. He's also authentic and humble, willing to admit his mistakes, and adept at turning foibles into learning experiences. Maybe it's there where his depth comes from. He's also really adept at communicating, whether that's training leaders or performing a dramatic monologue or expressing what he's learned about conflict transformation or pressing into God's grace.
Has that snagged your interest? Head on over to Part 1 of my interview with Troy. When you've read it, have a good think about what he's shared and see about how you can give it a place in your life. And if sometime you'd like to share about how that went, the Leaders' Nook might just be a place to express it. Thanks for reading!
It might seem rather presumptuous to call a Getaway with God a 'great success'. Is it possible to measure what God does in the hidden recesses of the human heart? Yet from the experiences that were shared and the joy that filled my heart as I listened, I can safely say that our first Getaway with God/Stilteweekend was quite glorious.
Ank and I arrived early Friday afternoon and arranged the conference room into an inviting grand room. A wall of windows treated us to a landscape of rolling hills which provided a living canvas for the ever-changing shadows of the low winter sun. Within a couple of hours worship stations hugged the walls while groupings of chairs and tables offered spaces to pray or reflect, to draw or chat, while music enhanced the contemplative atmosphere. The convent's bright and spotless rooms, the sisters' warm hospitality and the crisp air of the countryside were about to provide an ideal setting for the Getaway.
Our top goal was to facilitate genuine encounters with God. We did some teaching but guided experiences were central to the weekend. These provided jumping off (or jumping in) points for the participants' own times of prayer and reflection while we remained available to encourage, pray with and guide as we were invited to do so.
As I opened the weekend, I encouraged an attitude of expectancy that we would hear from God, for the God with whom we'd come to meet was delighted that we were there. On Saturday evening, and again on Sunday afternoon, the stories shared were wonderful. So much had been accomplished within in such a short time. Desires met, stirred up, shaped and affirmed. Goals re-directed toward fertile ground. Wounds tended. Hope bestowed. Truth claimed. Discoveries made. Light and hope kindled again.
Leading this weekend was a dream-come-true. A new season of ministry has begun, and I look forward to future weekends, each one which promises to be unique.