Tag Archives: Christian Living

Spiritual Direction and Healing the Soul

(Note: This is a reblog of an article by Lou Kavar. I thought it to be very informative and worth sharing. I will share some thoughts of my own on “Healing of the Soul” soon)

Spiritual Direction. It’s an odd term. It refers to a practice in which one person tends to another as a companion for the spiritual journey. The “direction” aspect of “spiritual direction” is what makes the term awkward. A wise spiritual director doesn’t direct anything. At best, an experienced spiritual director may make some observations about what form life is taking for the other. But someone shouldn’t be giving directions or advice.

Some people have tried using other words for “spiritual direction.” There’s spiritual friend, spiritual companion, spiritual coach or advisor, spiritual teacher …. all of which have their own problems. Conveying the dynamic of this process seems to elude all of these terms. It’s similar to trying to define spirituality itself: as soon as it’s defined, it becomes obvious that something is missing.

I don’t know when the English term “spiritual direction” was first used. In all my study, I’ve not been able to find a reference for that. But the actual process is found in every great religious tradition.

My understanding of the practice of spiritual direction is rooted in the Eastern Christian tradition. In the Eastern Christian tradition, spiritual direction traces its origin to the third century of the Common Era. At that time, the fathers and mothers of the Christian contemplative tradition sought refuge and quiet in the Sinai desert. From them emerged an understanding of what we today call spiritual director. The person regarded as a father or mother, abba or imma, was a person known for living a well integrated spiritual life. Others would seek out the wisdom of the father or mother. More often in small groups, but sometimes individually, the father or mother would offer perspective about the path of the spiritual journey. This process was understood to be one of healing.

Unlike many other approaches to spiritual direction common today, spiritual direction in Eastern Christianity is primarily known as the healing of the soul. Affirming that each person is at heart the image and likeness of the Divine, soul healing is meant to remove all obstacles that prevent the person from living fully in consonance with the Divine spark that animates each of us. From this perspective, spiritual direction isn’t just about prayer and spiritual practices or a set of exercises. Spiritual practices and disciplines do have merit in that they enable us to live into the truth of the inner light we carry. But the process of healing, of returning to wholeness, is the focus of spiritual direction. Healing and wholeness are the result of turning toward and reorienting ourselves to (Greek: metanoia) the Divine presence in us. In this process, every aspect of life is refocused to enable us to manifest the Divine light, to be transfigured into the image of God we were created to be. Healing is a movement toward integration from all the ways we each lead lives that are imbalanced or off-target (Greek: hamartia). This healing doesn’t come in an instant but is a process of growing into greater balance and harmony throughout all of life.

When I meet with others as a spiritual director, either in my study or by way of Skype, any aspect of life may be part of the conversation. For example, some people explore how the spiritual direction of life can be better integrated with work and career while others explore living compassionately in our complex world. In these conversations, my role is not that of a counselor or psychologist who identifies problems and establishes goals to solve those problems. Instead, my role is to be a reminder to return to the simple perspective of how the spiritual dimension of a person’s life gives form and shape to the other aspects of life. While only the person seeking spiritual direction can come to that kind of integration, it’s often helpful to have another ask questions or share perspectives on the process of integration. That’s what the fathers and mothers in the Sinai did when people sought their counsel.

While the spiritual dimension of my own life is rooted in the contemplative tradition of Christianity, many of those with whom I work in spiritual direction don’t share that same background. While some are Christian, some are Buddhist, and others describe themselves as spiritual but not religious or humanist. The metaphors for the integration of the spiritual dimension of life with the other aspects of life may differ because of our beliefs and practices. Yet, the essential process of healing the soul, of journeying with another along the process of wholeness, is very much the same.

Today, there’s a wide variety of perspectives on spiritual direction. Some follow a particular approach to prayer and spiritual practice, like the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, and others use psycho-spiritual tools, like the Enneagram. My approach is one of integration and is rooted in the tradition that understands spiritual growth and development as a process of healing and wholeness for all of life.

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Did You Find the Divine?

The only trouble is that in the spiritual life there are no tricks and no shortcuts. Those who imagine that they can discover spiritual gimmicks and put them to work for themselves usually ignore God’s will and his grace.

 

We must approach our meditation realizing that ‘grace,’ ‘mercy,’ and ‘faith’ are not permanent inalienable possessions which we gain by our efforts and retain as though by right, provided that we behave ourselves. They are CONSTANTLY RENEWED GIFTS. The life of grace in our hearts is renewed from moment to moment, directly and personally by God in his love for us.

 

True contemplation is not a psychological trick but a theological grace. It can come to us ONLY as a gift, and not as a result of our own clever use of spiritual techniques

 

 

++++ Thoughts from Thomas Merton


 

There are some fascinating words of Jesus in John 17: 23&24, “The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” Have you ever pondered on this passage? What does it mean to be one with God? Further, why are we one with Him?

The contemplative monk Thomas Merton had this to say about the passage. “The seeds of this perfect life are planted in every Christian soul at Baptism. But seeds must grow and develop before you reap the harvest. There are thousands of Christians walking about the face of the earth bearing in their bodies the infinite God of whom they know practically nothing.”

Life would be so different if only we recognized and nourished these precious seeds we bear in our souls. God has given each of us a small part of himself. After all, we are created in the “image and likeness” of God. The pilgrimage of a lifetime is to discover and nurture that precious gift God has given us. We discover this gift as we spend time with Him-fully open to His presence. We can pray, fast, meditate, worship and engage in sacred reading, all with the objective of allowing our master to complete this process. It is so very sad that so many people never allow for the development of the divine within themselves.


 

Prayer

Lord, help me to find you. Guide me to look in the right places with the right motive. Keep me away from selfish and vain journeys that I might say are a search for the divine.

Amen

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It Begins With You

“Pray for me.” The old man said to him, “I will have no mercy upon you, nor will God have any, if you yourself do not make an effort and if you do not pray to God.” St. Anthony meant that we should not rely on the prayers of others without having our own prayers and spiritual struggle. Regarding resisting the evil thoughts, St. Anthony advises us saying, “Tire yourself in reading the holy books, as they save you from the evil thoughts”… “Tire yourself in reading the books, and following the commandments, so that the mercy of God comes upon you speedily.”

—– Anthony of Egypt

All of us want the prayers of others as we go about the challenges in our lives however, we often forget that our own prayers are the most important of all. The Monk said plainly, perhaps bluntly, to the inquirer that he cannot have mercy on his soul unless he had first turned it over to God. The one who requested the Monk’s prayer was apparently one who did not pray for himself. In a sense, he was asking for a parole to enter rest. In immigration law, a parole visa is issued to someone when they cannot enter the country on their own but are paroled in under special circumstance. We cannot be paroled into spiritual unity with God but must be worthy on our own. How can this happen?growth 1

Develop a personal relationship with God.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with soliciting the prayers of others. The problem is when we see their prayers as a magic formula for us to get what we desire. There is no such thing as special holy men or prayer formulas that allow us to get the desired results. In reality, climbing a holy mountain does not make us holy. Personal holiness comes with a personal relationship with the Holy One. That relationship is built by prayer and study.

Develop a practice of prayer.

Prayer_an-invitation-to-prayerCommunication is always the starting point of getting to know anyone. Interaction is the key to understanding and relationship. For anything to be of quality there must be consistency. That is why I use the word “practice,” because a practice of prayer means discipline and planning. For our prayer life to truly be genuine, it must be thought out and become a part of us. It matters little how and when you pray as long as you know how and when you will pray. There is no prayer practice that is superior to the other, but each person must develop a way of prayer.

Develop a discipline of study.

The study of the divine revelation of God to man is a must for any follower of Jesus. Anthony says, “Tire yourself in reading the holy books” to keep on the path of holiness. The study of God’s word is a key component in building a strong and healthy relationship with God. Each time you open the Bible something new will emerge even though you have read it many times. That’s what makes it a living word. Just as the scriptural writers were guided by the Holy Spirit, so will it be for you as you develop a discipline of study.

I share these thoughts today with the hope that they can be of some help. Always keep in mind the advice of the Monk to begin inside of yourself as you seek spiritual peace and deliverance. Make the time to pray and study and God will bless you beyond measure.


Prayer

Lord, I know my need and cry out to you to hear me. Guide me as I develop my life in a way that will lead me to be closer to you. Keep my hands steady as I develop better spiritual disciplines. Allow these efforts to be productive for me and all I touch.

Amen

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This Life We Shape

St. Anthony said, “Whoever hammers a lump of iron, first decides what he is going to make of it, a scythe, a sword, or an ax. Even so, we ought to make up our minds what kind of virtue we want to forge, or we labor in vain.”

—-Sayings of the Desert

There are three possible components to shaping our lives.

Shaping-2

Change –

Anthony says “Whoever hammers a lump of iron.” What is the implication of that statement? Quite simply it means that the lump of iron must change its shape to become useful. Our lives are very much the same. We are raw and unprepared to live the virtuous life. The scripture tells us, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” With that message, it is clear that change will be a part of our lives as we move toward God.

Change doesn’t come easily. Anthony speaks of the hammer as the instrument of change. We all know that the blows of the hammer to the stubborn lump changes its shape. The iron will not change without the violent blows of the hammer. The same is true with us. We change when we are struck with the imperative to do so.

Vision –

The next element in shaping our lives is vision. Without vision, we continue to be shapeless. In speaking of the iron worker, the Monk asserts that first he must decide what he will make out of the lump raw iron. Blow after blow can be stuck,Shaping3 but without vision the effort is worthless.

Our lives are exactly the same. Blow after blow can come and we can still lack shape and form. Suffering and hard times are not the key to shaping our lives but only the tools by which we are shaped. The key is vision. What should we be? How do we get there? In Proverbs the writer asserts,” Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Vision is the first consideration when we begin our Christian formation.

Focus –

Have you ever been to a “visioning” workshop and come away confused because the visions were so diverse and so many? Anthony was aware of this problem over a thousand years ago. Make up your minds on what virtue you are seeking or your labor will be in vain. Without vision we perish, but without a focus we perish as well.

Therein lies the key to shaping and forming our lives for Christ. We must discover our gifts and work to develop them. God has given to each of us the possibility of greatness and all too often we go around hammering ourselves without a clear vision. Yes, we are suffering servants but we suffer in vain. Earnestly, sincerely and deeply seek the vision of God for your life. When it is discovered God will give you all the grace you need to suffer the blows and become the person that God created.

Shaping-1Change, vision and focus are three powerful concepts as we seek to shape our lives for the Christian journey. These are essentials that we must master to move forward. Open your lives to the change that God has in mind and capture the vision and place He has for you. Mother Teresa said, “Become the change you want to see in the world That statement means that we must commit to visionary targeted change in our lives.


Prayer

Lord, as we seek form and shape to our lives help to have clarity of vision. Assist me to ascertain and apply virtue and purity to my life so that I may go forward in a path that is good for me and pleasing to you.

Amen

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Meditation

Meditation-1Meditation is the latest of a series of spiritual practices that have surged in the past few year. Practices of meditation have been around for thousands of tears. These practices were usually limited to monasteries and groups that specialized in the practice.Wikipedia tells us that meditation can be defined as a practice where an individual uses a technique, such as focusing their mind on a particular object, thought or activity, to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state. Meditation is practiced by all world religions and by agnostics and atheists. Why?

  • Meditations relieves stress
  • Meditation get us in touch with our inner selves
  • Meditation demands for us to slow down
  • Meditation forces us to live without noise
  • Meditation is a way to get in touch with God
  • Meditation improves our focus
  • Meditation can make us healthier

Let’s take a look at what a few well known thinkers has said about meditation.

The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large. – Confucius

We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship. – C.S. Lewis

Divinely bent to meditation;
And in no worldly suits would he be mov’d,
To draw him from his holy exercise.
– William Shakespeare, Richard III Act 3, Scene 7

God’s first language is Silence. Everything else is a translation. — Thomas Keating

meditation-2We can only learn to know ourselves and do what we can, namely, surrender our will and fulfill God’s will in us. – St. Teresa of Avila

In the inner stillness where meditation leads, the Spirit secretly anoints the soul and heals our deepest wounds. – St. John of the Cross

Through the study of books one seeks God; by meditation one finds him –Padre Pio

The more we can give in our silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life. – Mother Teresa

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer. —-Psalm 19:14

Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; As for me, I shall be glad in the LORD. Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God, You are very great; You are clothed with splendor and majesty, Covering Yourself with light as with a cloak, Stretching out heaven like a tent curtain—–Psalm 104:1-34

My eyes anticipate the night watches, That I may meditate on Your word. May the arrogant be ashamed, for they subvert me with a lie; But I shall meditate on Your precepts. May those who fear You turn to me, Even those who know Your testimonies. —- Psalm 119:78-148


Prayer

Lord, help me to find the time to dwell upon you everyday. May I be guided to a special place that is quiet enough to hear even a whisper from you.

Amen

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Dark Silence

The Seven Storey Mountain

The Seven Storey Mountain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”

—T.S. Eliot

For language to have meaning, there must be intervals of silence somewhere, to divide word from word and utterance from utterance. He who retires into silence does not necessarily hate language. Perhaps it is love and respect for language which imposes silence upon him. For the mercy of God is not heard in words unless it is heard, both before and after the words are spoken, in silence.

—Thomas Merton

TS Eliot and Thomas Merton were both writers who spent a lot of their lives and writings searching for the ultimate meaning of life. They chose different paths. Merton was born in France and made his way to the US and became a citizen. Eliot, on the other hand, was born in St. Louis MO and immigrated to England where he became a subject of the Queen. Eliot married twice and dedicated his life to his wives and poetry. Merton joined the Abbey of Gethsemane and became the most famous writing Monk of our time. These great writers left us with a treasure trove of great literature. They were different but the same. The above quotes inform us that they had a commonality of thought about silence and meditation.

Their joint cry is that we hear and see the most when we cut ourselves off from the language and light that surround us. That cutting off is called by different names, silence, contemplation, meditation but it always has the same end desire, to communicate with something, someone outside of ourselves. We all have an inbuilt desire to discover our true selves that God created. We are bogged down, stitched up with the learning and cares of the world, and we all know there must be something more. That more only exists when we move beyond.

Eliot stresses the need to allow ourselves to be swallowed in the darkness so that the light might manifest itself. He aptly states that if we create our own hope it will be a prejudicial hope that is wrapped in our own desires. Only when we allow love that is not purely self-love enter, can we see light rise from darkness.

Merton reminds us that we are noise machines who seek to fill in every void with more noise. For our language (noise) to have any meaning there must be times of silence that allow us to digest what we have taken into our souls. That silence is the time when we experience divine translation of human noise. In the brightness of the light of God sometimes our utterly meaningless sound becomes the voice of God.

Some years ago I spent a few days at days at St. Joseph Abbey in Covington, Louisiana. I chose to stay in the guest rooms of the Monastery itself rather than the retreat house. By doing so I experienced the complete rhythm of Monastic life. Prayer, work, sharing meals and recreation time. I sat at the Abbot’s table in the refectory for meals and that is where I really got a message in the silence of meal time. There was a young monk reading some “Vatican News.” He was an otherwise engaging and intelligent young man, but his reading skills for this kind of stuff were horrible. Therefore I chose to tune him out but there was another sound that captivated my brain. It was the clanging of the dishes as the monks ate their food. That clanging became all that I heard. Mysteriously, God gave me a message in that absence of my noise. I have never again taken a single meal for granted. The noise of the dishes reminds me of the abundance that God has provided for me and the desire I must have to share it with the world. My silence allowed God to break into my life and speak to me. Merton reminds us, “For the mercy of God is not heard in words unless it is heard, both before and after the words are spoken, in silence.”

Seek the dark silence today so that you might experience the light.


Prayer

Lord, lead me to a time of silence and holy darkness that will allow me to get a glimpse of your light. It is the light that illuminates beyond my imagination. Allow me to silently bask in that light so that I may see you more clearly.

Amen.

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Grace Rules

 


Child psychologists tell us that children not only need, but want rules. “They require set limits to ensure them of the security and sense of control needed for proper development.”

Adolescents balk at rules. They seem to go all out to prove the old saying that, “Rules are meant to be broken.” They, too, are desperately groping for a boundary of comfort and safety, however.

Adults are generally regarded as “rule setters.” We use our wisdom and life experience to make those rules we feel are important for our children’s well-being.

I don’t know about you, but when I am exhausted by life’s demands or find myself out of resources to deal with a difficult situation, I long for a set of rules for the game of life. I would enjoy giving up the gut-wrenching decisions and judgment calls of life, for a set of rules that would free me of the awesome responsibility of the moment.

If you have ever wanted someone to tell you what to do and relieve you of your burden of responsibility – GREAT NEWS! Romans 12:9-21 gives us ten rules for a successful life:

  • Love sincerely.
  • Hate evil.
  • Honor others.
  • Have joy, hope, and patience.
  • Pray.
  • Share.
  • Be good to your enemies.
  • Get along.
  • Don’t be conceited.
  • Don’t get back.

Paul wrote these words to a group of beleaguered and persecuted Christians in the huge pagan city of Rome almost 2,000 years ago. The payoff for following the rules for those first century Christians is exactly the same for us today and is found in verse 21. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Be assured of this promise – good overcomes evil – always!

—-Monica Boudreaux


 


PRAYER

Lord – Help me to always seek to overcome evil with good in my life. Help me rely on your rules for mercy and grace to make all my decisions.

Amen

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Lent Day 36

 

 

March 27

 

Light for the Nations

 

Isaiah 49:1-6

 

Listen to me, O coastlands,
pay attention, you peoples from far away!
The Lord called me before I was born,
while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.
He made my mouth like a sharp sword,
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me a polished arrow,
in his quiver he hid me away.
And he said to me, ‘You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’
But I said, ‘I have labored in vain,
I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
yet surely my cause is with the Lord,
and my reward with my God.’

 

And now the Lord says,
who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
and that Israel might be gathered to him,
for I am honoured in the sight of the Lord,
and my God has become my strength—
he says,
‘It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’

 


 

Prayer Thought

 

Lord, make us aware of the work that you have designed us to do. Allow us to discover the gift that was built into each one of us.

 


 

“I have never known more thanfifteen minutes of anxiety or fear. Whenever I feel fearful emotions overtaking me, Ijust close my eyes and thank God that He is still on the throne reigning over everything and I take comfort in His control over the affairs of my life.”

 

——-John Wesley

 

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Lent Day 31

March 21

Freedom in the Son

John 8:31-42

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ They answered him, ‘We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, “You will be made free”?’

Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there for ever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.’

They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are indeed doing what your father does.’ They said to him, ‘We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me.


Prayer Thought

Lord, the freedom that you offer is a true. Give us the insight to seek your freedom.


Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be

Life-size statue of John Wesley on the campus ...

Life-size statue of John Wesley on the campus of Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, KY, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

clergymen or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon Earth.”

— John Wesley

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Lent Day 29

March 19

The Faith of Abraham

Romans 4:13,16-18,22

13For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 16For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us,

17as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”) —in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” 22

Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.”


Prayer Thought

Lord, strong faith is our goal. Let us look to people like Abraham to strengthen us.


English: Stephen Covey at the FMI Show, Palest...

English: Stephen Covey at the FMI Show, Palestrante on June 22, 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“To achieve goals you’ve never achieved before, you need to start doing things you’ve never done before.” ~ Stephen Covey

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