Posts Tagged ‘ spiritual direction ’

what is spiritual direction

“How seldom is it that the soul keeps itself 
silent enough for God to speak.”
— William Buckhouse & James Janson

Spiritual Direction is a process through which we become more deeply attuned to our relationship with the Divine.  Through conversation with a spiritual director in an atmosphere of trust, a person comes to a deeper awareness of the presence and movement of God in everyday life.  As we share our dreams, struggles, triumphs and fears, we open to our deepest and wisest source of freedom and joy.  A spiritual director helps a person notice, savor, and respond to the movement of the Divine in the spiritual practice of ordinary life.  The Director is a listening and supportive person who creates an envi ron ment where one can look honestly at his or her relationship with the Sacred.

The primary relationship is between the directee and God, with the director acting as a focusing lens on the primary relationship. Meetings therefore typically occur once every 3-4 weeks although they may occur more frequently in crisis periods. Because an objective of spiritual direction is to facilitate awakening of the directee to conscious relationship with God, development of ongoing spiritual practice is very much part of the process. The ways in which this happens are a discernment issue since God meets each individual uniquely and includes “listening for/watching for” the movement of the Spirit and counter movements of resistance in the deepening relationship.

The full range of human experience, historical as well as present, is the province of God and therefore of direction.  A core assumption of the process is that God lives at the deepest levels of human experience, so there is no need to focus on explicitly “religious” topics as if spirituality was a separate compartment of our being. The stance in relation to the material that presents itself is what makes spiritual direction distinctive: the posture of the director and the directee together is to listen contemplatively for the “God moment” or “God seed” present in the experience that the individual might receive it consciously and savor it.  If there’s a real sensitivity to the holy the director doesn’t have to ask, “Where’s God in all this?” but can simply be with the person as a midwife to the felt reality of God emerging into consciousness. The person names it his/herself as s/he is able.

Spiritual direction is not the same as therapy or counseling.  While at first glance counseling and spiritual direction may seem similar, It is important to recognize some of the distinctions.

1.  Spiritual Direction assumes relative emotional and psychological health whereas therapy assumes issues to be worked through.

2.  Spiritual Directors will share from their own life experience and sojourn whereas Counselors guard against such disclose.

3.  In Spiritual Direction the goal is to  learn to dance with God, hearing God’s voice and seeing God’s activity in the directee’s life whereas the goal of therapy is to regain health so as to function productively as a member of society.

4.  Most Spiritual Directors are not not licensed and trained counselors, nor do they claim to be therapists.  Though at times, I will work with a person who is seeing a counselor while they are seeking spiritual direction.

One of the goals of spiritual direction is the “surrender” of the self, while fostering a growing awareness of one’s definitions of success, purpose, and fulfillment.  As with seeds in a garden, death leads to new plant life, so the ultimate goal is to grow up into a self in Christ, and this is a life-long journey. The path while ch ron icled is also very individual in style and timing.  Beginning to see a good and active God in one’s life and then to see oneself through “God eyes” – eyes of love and grace – are the essential beginning steps that can help make the journey into one’s “death” one day possible.

“God moves mountains of rivers of tears.”
— James Hisey II

 

peace, dwight



is spiritual direction for me?

“To listen a soul into disclosure and discovery

is the greatest service one human being can do for another.”

Quaker Saying

 

The Celts called it anam cara or soul friend and is most commonly referred to as Spiritual Direction.

·         If you find yourself longing for a greater sense of God in your life;

·         Recovering from a legalistic/fundamentalist experience of God or religion;

·         Desirous of making spirituality a deeply life-giving part of your experience — a sustained source of meaning; or

·         Wanting your spirituality to be both joyful and compassionate, community-oriented and deeply liberating, mystical and intellectually honest, mentally stimulating and body-positive, creative and respectful of tradition;

Then you may find meaning and purpose by exploring Spiritual Direction.

 

Peace, dwight

 



beginning in spiritual direction


“The imagination plays a great role in the 
spiritual development of the soul.”

St. John of the Cross

Do you wish to form an intentional relationship with a person who could provide mentoring, support, and challenge for you as you nurture a life of dependence on Christ? If so, you may wish to find a spiritual director, or a soul friend.

Spiritual direction is a gift from God.  Both lay people and clergy can make excellent soul friends. Keeping an open mind about your director is wise. You may be surprised at the kind of person who makes the “best” soul friend for you.

To find a spiritual director:

1. Pray about it. Seek Divine guidance. Trust that God will lead you to the person who is right for you.

2. Ask close friends you trust or maybe your pastor.  A strong referral from a trusted friend goes a long way.  Sometimes friends and clergy will know about persons who are gifted in the art of sharing the life of Christ-dependence.

NOTE: The life of serious, intentional dependence on Christ is intimate. For this reason, use discretion when talking about spirituality, especially with casual friends. Many people find the topic of prayer unsettling or embarrassing — so, out of respect for such persons, be wise when discussing your prayer life, especially in casual conversation.

3. Email ( Direction@DwightFriesen.com ) or call ( 206.276.3992 ) me and we can discuss Spiritual Direction on a more personal level.  And see if we might be a fit for this time in your life.

* * * * * * *

While being accountable to spiritual director greatly benefits a disciplined prayer life, that relationship alone cannot accomplish everything. In addition to a spiritual director, the person who is serious about the life of prayer needs to formulate a rule. This may be done in consultation with a director, or by oneself.

“A true artist always puts something of his time in his art, and also his soul.”
— Auguste Rodin

 



rule of life in contemplative spirituality

One temptation concerning spirituality involves separating it from the “rest” of your life, relegating it only to religious, or mystical experiences.

 

Christian spiritual direction takes a much humbler stance regarding the life of faith. To be in a relationship with God is not necessarily about extraordinary states of consciousness or miraculous events — although, quite frankly, any person who opens up to the life of the Spirit may expect some interesting or unusual experiences, since spirituality invites us out of our ordinary ways of thinking and perceiving. But the spiritual life is much more likely to transform us in small, undramatic (if that is a word) ways over time, than to clobber us with mystical experiences of Cecil B. DeMille proportions.

 

Another common misperception of spirituality is to view it as a form of therapy. Spirituality equals mastery, according to this line of thought — to be spiritual is to move toward having all one’s financial, romantic, sexual, and health-related woes vanquished under the power of psychic attainment. Once again, while the spiritual life does promise us the fulfillment of our heart’s deepest desire, it does not promise mastery, or attainment, or any other form of self-aggrandizement or self-indulgence.

 

What does spirituality entail? 

 

Quite simply, it entails fostering an on-going relationship with God. Spirituality may never lead you to see a vision of heaven or to practice extraordinary psychic powers, but it does offer you an on-going, deeply loving relationship with the Creator of all things. That, in my opinion, is the better choice!

 

If spirituality involves relationship, then like any other relationship — marriage, business partnership, membership in a community — boundaries and ground rules are necessary to support the relationship’s smooth functioning. Every relationship needs to be established on agreements between the parties involved, and spirituality is no exception. In the Bible, God is said to create covenants with God’s people. These covenants are the basic agreements that form the foundation of the relationship. By the time of the New Testament, the basic covenant between God and humanity ran basically along these lines: 

 

·         God created us and loves us unconditionally.

·         God gives us the freedom to choose.

·         God does not “rescue” us — if we choose poorly, we face the consequences.

·         When we realize we have chosen poorly, and are willing to choose better, God lovingly forgives us and helps us in our efforts to grow.

·         The sign of this covenant, Christ’s death and resurrection, expresses that God loves us dearly enough to die for us, and that death, carries with it the promise of resurrection and new life.

 

A covenant exists between God and God’s community, but what kind of agreements define a relationship between God and individuals? This is where the rule of life plays an important role. The idea of a rule developed in the monastic communities of Christianity — and indeed, monasteries and convents today still function under a rule. The most famous rule was written by St. Benedict in the early years of monasticism. Many other rules have been written over the centuries, often as adaptations of earlier rules.

 

The monastic rule still governs the life of a community, but it provides the model for an individual rule. Basically, an individual rule consists of a set of established agreements made by the individual as promises to God regarding spiritual practice. A person can adopt an existing rule (many monastic communities have rules written for individual use by persons living in “the world”), or one can write his or her own rule, especially with the cooperation of a spiritual director.

 

Since a rule defines one’s relationship with God, and since God is interested in every aspect of our lives, a spiritual rule might include promises made regarding any area of one’s life. Here are some examples of promises that can be useful in a rule:

 

·         A commitment to a block-time of prayer each day.

·         A commitment to give away a percentage of one’s income for spiritual or charitable purposes.

·         A commitment to exercise, eat properly, and get appropriate rest.

·         A commitment to rest and worship.

·         A commitment to be loving and attentive to members of one’s family.

·         A commitment to work for peace and social justice.

·         A commitment to active involvement in a faith community.

·         A commitment to sitting under Sacred/theological/mystical texts.

 

A rule is meant to be a spur to growth. Think of the rule as being similar to a stake used to hold up a tomato plant. By providing structure and support to the plant, it enables the plant to grow quickly and healthily. In a similar way, a rule of life provides structure and support not only to our prayer life, but indeed to every aspect of life, enabling us to grow into the persons God wants us to be. Because of this, a rule works best when it is a moderate challenge to us. A rule that we always keep flawlessly is not effective — it’s like a fifth grader solving third grade problems. On the other hand, a rule that is so demanding that we have difficulty even meeting it’s minimum standards is likely to discourage us, and therefore defeats its own purpose. The rule is not a tool to make us feel good or feel bad — it’s a tool to help an individual grow in spiritual maturity.

 

If you would like to adopt a rule of life to provide structure to your own spiritual journey, a good first step to take is to find a soul friend or spiritual director who can help you create a realistic rule for yourself. Remember, the main purpose of a rule is to form a “partnership” with God — to open our minds and hearts to the inrushing love of the uncreated source of life!

 

peace, dwight



how can I be sure God loves me?

“Nobody sees a flower – really – 

it is so small – and to see takes time 

like having a friend takes time.”

— Georgia O’Keefe

Many contradictory images of the Sacred exist in our culture, presenting many possible faces of God to the world.  Some, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, stand silently holding up their Watchtower magazines in the hope that you’ll be interested. Others carry signs or wear placards, filled with homespun theology in hand lettering. And then there are the screamers. Sometimes with an open Bible in their hands, at other times with nothing more than an accusing finger pointed at the passersby, the screaming evangelists holler at the people on the sidewalk about hell and damnation and the certainty of the wrath of God. And even though no one seems to notice, I always wonder what kind of subconscious imprinting we are all getting about the idea that God is wrathful and enraged.

It’s not just the sidewalk preachers. Televangelists, authors, pastors, revival leaders, and many other figures in our world seem to emphasize God’s fury and anger. Especially in the south where the combination of poverty and conservative evangelicalism has created a grim world here and a more grim world to come, the possibility of God as unloving seems all too real.

Of course, the wrathful God is by no means the only image of God we have. Jesus spoke lovingly of God as ‘daddy,’ the adoring parent who yearns to give good things to his children. Julian of Norwich rounded out that image by proclaiming the motherhood of the Sacred in a book filled with poetic insights into the nature of Divine love. The New Testament author who wrote the Letters of John said it most simply: “God is Love.” (First John 4).

I am convinced that we can choose which image of God, and which theology — in other words, which way of talking about God — seems the most true and right to us. To choose the wrathful and angry God is to choose a world where obedience and placating are the supreme virtues, where the job of human beings is to be docile and submissive. Unfortunately, such a choice not only is psychologically crippling to individuals, but it also creates the kind of world where the abuse of power can take place, whether the abuser is a despotic political leader, a money-hungry pastor, or a controlling parent. I find it hard to believe that a good God would want to relate to us in such a life-diminishing way.

The other choice is to believe in the love of God, despite the haranguings of conservative religion and despite the fears and anxieties that sometimes overwhelm life. To choose belief in a loving God is to choose a world where intimacy and celebration are the supreme virtues, where the purpose of human life is to live fully, creatively, and compassionately. This choice is psychologically liberating, for a loving God is a God who celebrates our ability to make wise choices (even if God does not “let us off the hook” when we make poor choices — another sign of love, incidentally!). Furthermore, if God loves me and you, then God loves all people, which means that a loving God is a God who takes a radical stand for peacemaking, nonviolence, social and economic justice, and dignity for all persons, regardless of race, gender, creed, or sexual orientation.

So how can I be sure God loves me? Choose to encounter the Divine Love, and you will soon be overwhelmed by the evidence of Him in your life. You’ll see the love of God in the sunrise and the sunset, in the eyes of babies and old people and homeless people and loved ones, in the playfulness of children and pets and the seriousness of people everywhere trying to make a better world. Say “I believe in the love of God” today, and every day, and soon the day will come when you wonder how you ever could have doubted!

Last of all… the surest way to find the love of God is to choose to love God. Give your heart to the source of love and light at the center of all things. Give your ability to love to the silent presence who watches you and accepts you no matter how “good” or “bad” you are. Open yourself up to the mystery of existence that extends before birth and beyond death. Relationships, after all, are mutual matters, and to the extent I open myself up to love God, to that same extent I open myself to receive Divine love. As Meister Eckhart said, “The eye with which I see God is the eye with which God sees me.”  What goes for the eye goes for the heart.

The heart with which I love God is the heart with which God loves me.

peace, dwight



is spiritual direction only for followers of Christ?

“The church, like Peter, is both a stumbling block and a cornerstone.  

It is the latter only when it is consciously contrite 

for being, and having been, the former.”

— Gil Baile

I can only provide a personal answer to this question.  

I am devoted to Christian spiritual direction, however, it is my conviction that:

  1. To enter the spiritual life, a person needs to deeply plumb the depths of his or her chosen path, with integrity and fidelity and healthy/appropriate response,
  2. The spiritual life requires good-will, dialogue, and a spirit of learning and appreciation between members/adherents of different traditions.

This plays out very specifically in my life. I am a Christian — a Post-Protestant Post-Evangelical, active in Quest, a Christ-commons in metro-Seattle. I am also committed to interfaith dialogue, and regularly participate in the practices of other traditions. I am especially indebted to Buddhism and Neo-paganism an Celtic faith as helpful guides in my own journey.

I know for some people this may raise deep and disturbing theological questions. I do not try to reconcile all the theological and philosophical differences between the different faiths I explore.  Rather, I seek learn from the strengths of each with the understanding that all truth is ultimately God’s truth.  I make it my goal to trust God to lead me to recognize spiritually valuable lessons and practices wherever I may find them.

I see no contradiction between loving Christ and learning from other traditions, as long as those traditions do not ask me to renounce my allegiance to Christ or to participate in any unjust or unloving behavior.

I believe that my sincere willingness to engage in dialogue differing traditions has strengthened my love for Christ and has deepened my Christian faith, making my faith more alive, more vibrant with a sense of God’s love and awe for Him.

So back to the question at hand. May people who do not define themselves as Christians explore the process of Spiritual Direction? The answer is yes. Spiritual Direction is for anyone who wishes to enter into a deepening, love-centered relationship with the Holy. So I’ve written these pages as a gift to all people, Christian and others alike. For Christians, it will have the familiarity of their home path. For those of other traditions, I hope these pages will speak to Divine love in a way that is useful and applicable to spirituality in a universal and inclusive way — and I hope “non-Christians” will appreciate learning about a beautiful aspect of Christianity.

I offer this introduction to Spiritual Direction with no attempt to “water it down” or to make it less Christian. It’s a Christian process, arising out of the beauty of two thousand years of mystical and contemplative tradition. Many people have been wounded by Christianity, and those persons may find the Christ-language in this web-site threatening. I am sorry, and I wish healing for all who have been abused by unloving Christians. Watering down this introduction to Spiritual Direction would not necessarily help persons wounded by Christianity find what they really need, which is a way to connect to Divine healing that works for them — whether that connection is Christian or not.

I know that Christ is the God of Love, and I offer this specifically Christian process to all who are able to discern the love within — whether their home path is Christianity, or some other tradition devoted to the heart of Divine Love.

All are welcome here!

peace, dwight



how many sessions would I plan for?

“The real voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new lands 

but in seeing with new eyes.”

— Marcel Proust

One session every three to four weeks is normal with, and a duration of six months to a year or longer is not uncommon.

Some directees have chosen to set meetings on an “as needed” basis.  The question is what do you sense you need at this time?

peace, dwight



etiquette for spiritual direction

  • Do NOT waste a spiritual director’s time unless you are serious about praying daily and meeting regularly (say, once a month) with the director. If you resist such a discipline, a few meetings with a gifted director may help clarify your resistance. Your discipline does not have to be perfect, but your intention must be mature, before spiritual direction will be useful to you.
  • Do NOT use a spiritual director as a therapist. The spiritual director is trained in the life of prayer, and may or may not have training in areas of counseling and psychology. An effective spiritual director will refer you to a therapist if your concerns are more psychological than theological. A good rule of thumb: therapy seeks greater personal satisfaction and effectiveness in life; spiritual direction seeks greater union with God — an objective which carries no guarantee of “satisfaction” or “effectiveness.”
  • Do NOT seek spiritual direction from a spouse, family member, or close friend. Most often a person is too close to persons in these categories for meaningful direction.
  • DO state your expectations and concerns about spirituality up f
    ront. Strive to be honest with the director. Remember, your relationship is with God; the director is simply there as a resource person.
  • DO make sure you and the director communicate clearly about frequency and duration of meetings, length of time until you evaluate the relationship (I recommend evaluating the spiritual direction relationship every six months), and payment issues. Many directors give this ministry freely, while others charge a fee per visit. Clarify this point.
  • DO change directors when appropriate (as a courtesy, direction relationships should only end at agreed-upon times, such as the end of six months). Trust your inner wisdom when a director does not seem to work for you.

peace, dwight



SD – what is the cost?

“He who has eyes sees something in everything.”

— Roy Lightenberg

My typical rate for spiritual direction is $50.00 per hour.  Though he can provide a sliding scale if the cost is an issue.

peace, dwight



we’re all searching for something

Maybe you’ve been searching for a friend, meaning, belonging, truth, a sense of being a part of something bigger than you, or maybe just a good cup of coffee or the perfect micro brew. We all search.
 
When you climb off your mountain bike to sit down by a mountain stream and think. What do you ponder? “Is this it?” “Will my new _______ really satisfy me to the core of my being?” “Is there a God?” “If so, so what or who?”
 
If you’ve had thoughts like that from time to time, than there may be spiritual component to your searching. To be a seeker in the spiritual realm is to seriously consider – or reconsider – what God means to you.
 
As a searching person you’re open to the possibility that God might be real and able to make a definite difference.
 
Things in your life don’t have to suck to spawn seeking – you don’t have to be desperate. But you do have to be looking for something more. You’ve stopped pretending you have it all together. You’ve laid down the mask that you’ve used, on occasion to hide behind. You know you don’t know – but you want to. You’re open-minded and you’re willing to think, discuss, research, be challenged and to act – when the time is right.
 
Considerations in your search for God
 “Ask and it will be given to you: seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be open.” Jesus (Matthew chapter 7: verses 7-8)
 
Why do you want to know God – what do you hope to get from God?
 
People search for God for various reasons. Some think their search will lead to a more fulfilling life or a greater sense of purpose. Others are looking for relief from pain. Still others are curious and just want to find out what’s true. What’s your reason?
 
Perhaps you’re searching because you want to find greater happiness. What if you find God, but your life circumstances lead to less happiness? Will you feel cheated? People who follow Jesus sometimes share stories of God giving meaning, purpose, joy, and hope, but nearly every honest “Christ follower” will also admit to experiencing difficulty.
 
So this might be a helpful question for you: What am I looking for? And, conversely, what does God offer me? As a pastor, my encouragement to you is to make it your goal to find answers to questions like these.
 
Are you placing limitations on what God can ask from you?
 Do you realize that God wants to be a powerful presence in your life, not just an idea in your head? Following him means following God’s leadership. So let’s be honest – accepting that leadership will affect your lifestyle.
 
What do you think about Jesus?

Oxford professor, writer and thinker C. S. Lewis once said that there can be only three options when considering Jesus Christ.
 
Jesus is a liar. He was making it all up. But why would he die for a hoax? Why would his friends continue to follow him long after his death, and ultimately die for their beliefs?
 
Jesus is a lunatic. Just nuts. But why is there so much truth in his words? How would a “crazy” person become the most influential person to have ever walked the earth? Why would the religious leaders of the day feel so threatened by someone who was a few bricks short of a load?
 
Jesus Christ is Lord. He is who he says he is. And if that is true then we may need to take a close look at his life and words.
 
Don’t be distracted by what you’ve heard about Jesus. Read his words for yourself!
 
How could you respond to Jesus?
The teachings of Jesus are certainly interesting and profound. But Jesus never settled for people simply agreeing intellectually with what he said. In reading the Bible, you will see that Jesus called for an all-out commitment to following him.
 
He asks those who seek him to make a decision to follow him. To decide to tell the truth about yourself, to ask him to forgive you and to lead you. Jesus himself is a seeker, he seeks to know you. The Bible says Jesus came to seek and to save the lost.
 
Jesus is throwing out life-preservers all over the place, but its up to you. Will you admit you’re drowning without land in sight, or will you take him up on his offer?
 

Some Recommendations:

·         Ask God to reveal Godself to you, if you’re not sure God’s there.

·         Find a community of people who can interact with.

·         Read the God’s Story – the Bible (look in the index, find “John” and begin there. Then read “Mark” and “1 John.”)

·         Talk with someone who displays a genuine relationship with God. Ask them to describe their spiritual journey.

·         Start attending a church (like Quest!) on a regular basis.

·         Spend time in nature, observing and experiencing God’s creation.

·         Question things most people take for granted – be a lover of truth.

·         Write down your thoughts and questions.

·         Expect ongoing questions and some doubts along the way.

·         Reflect on your presuppositions (the things you already believe). Try as much as possible not to allow those things to interfere with your pursuit – strive to be objective and rational as you seek to encounter the mystery of God.

·         Remember you don’t have to know everything to know something. 

·         Act.

 

 

peace, dwight