CONTEMPMPLATIVE ACTIONThere’s got to be more to relating to God than just going to worship, reading Scripture, and saying rote prayers. Have you ever felt like that? Do you want “something” more”? What feeds you spiritually right now? What’s one thing that makes you most passionate about God? Once you discover that maybe you will discover that there is a Christian practice that seems to fit.

I want to briefly list some classic spiritual practices to see if any of them might fit for you.
1. Opening Contemplative Space: identify times in your daily life that provide opportunities for centering in the reality of God. Try to be aware of God’s presence throughout the day.
2. Looking Within: Look inside yourself to see what makes you tick or fails to make you tick in order that you may love. God is not out there somewhere; God is right inside of you.
3. Confession: Confession and forgiveness can be vital parts of your spiritual journey. Tell God each day what you are sorry for and then wait for a sense of God’s forgiveness.
4. Spiritual Reading: Use the four steps of lectio divina which are reading, meditating, speaking and listening the next time you read a short passage of Scripture. Go slow. Go even slower.
5. Develop a “Rule of Life” – a formal list of ways to attend to the rhythms and facets of your spiritual and religious life and relationships. This list should cover all aspects of your life and may be daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually.
6. Visualization: Try visualizing new ways of responding to temptation, mentally rehearsing different choices in a difficult situation, or projecting yourself into a biblical story through imagination.
7. Serving Others: How can you act in the world with compassion each day?

I know this is just a list. Does anything seem to fit? What could you do to learn more about this classical Christian practice so it could actually become a practice in your life? Hint: you don’t have to perfectly understand the practice to begin giving it a try. It might be helpful if you found a spiritual friend or spiritual director who can walk with you as you develop spiritual practices that fit you and help you discover “something more”.

Praying for What We Want

Out Hearts are restless FBI’ve just been reading a book by Janet K. Ruffing entitled Spiritual Direction – Beyond Beginnings. Chapter 1 is all about sorting out our desires.

What do we really want? Human and divine desiring is a core feature of the spiritual life. Our desires energize the spiritual quest and lead us to God. Of even greater surprise is the possibility that God longs for us as much as we do for God. Page 9

Some in the Christian tradition warn us that our desires can get us into big trouble so we should control our desires with rational thoughts and disciplined actions. But is it not true that our desiring already originates in God’s desiring?  Quoting Ruffing again:

The mystics strongly assert that our desires, our wants, or longings, our outward and inward searching—when uncovered, expressed, and recognized—all lead to the Divine Beloved at the core. Page 11

In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius repeatedly encourages us to “ask God our Lord for what I want and desire”.  When we ask ourselves what do I want and desire it is important to get beyond our conditioned responses. Ruffing offers these questions for further reflection (page 30)

• How do I pray for what I want?
• What internal or external voices do I need to quiet in order to discover my own authentic desire?
• If you continued expressing your feelings, you might eventually arrive at your core desires.

What is Spiritual Direction

You are limited and broken but loved(1)Spiritual direction is a prayer process in which a person seeking help in cultivating a deeper personal relationship with God meets with another for prayer and conversation that is focused on increasing awareness of God in the midst of life experiences and facilitating surrender to God’s will.  – David G. Benner from his book “Sacred Companions:  The Gift of Spiritual Friendship & Direction”

#1 Spiritual Direction Is Like

You are limited and broken but loved(2)Unlike counseling or psychotherapy, the process of spiritual direction is focused not on technique and intervention by the director but rather on listening and discernment by both the director and directee.  Whereas a therapist might proceed according to a treatment plan, a spiritual director is likely to proceed deliberately without a plan, relying on the Higher Power, who many call God, as the “real director”.

What Spiritual Direction is Unlike #1

You are limited and broken but loved(1)Most people have no idea what spiritual direction is all about.  One way to understand what it is like is to understand what it is unlike.  Even though psychotherapy is a valuable tool, it is different from spiritual direction.  People in psychotherapy might benefit from spiritual direction and people in spiritual direction might benefit from psychotherapy.