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Spiritual direction is two people figuring out and entering into what God wants through the direction of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ and the scriptures are our building blocks for direction ad knowledge of God and intimacy with God.
I love the emphasis on the Holy Spirit and the promptings of God in our lives. Our God-given individuality is important and not subsumed by God, but we still rely on God and the Holy Spirit to be revealed in our lives. I also love the emphasis on Jesus and the Scriptures, God’s revelation to help us realize what is best for us and what our authentic selves are. Sometimes Jesus and the Bible are seen as merely ornaments, whereas they are at the heart of this book.
Part One: An Introduction to Spiritual Direction
Chapter One: What is Spiritual Direction?
Spiritual direction is a kind of discernment about discernment. We explore what has seemed more and less important to us and how we are making choices and acting on our observations. (18)
In spiritual direction…the Holy Spirit continues to function and be perceived as both the teacher and the source of grace and power. We remain dependent on grace, seek to cooperate with the Spirit, and resist any illusions about our ability to be our true selves without God’s help…the essence of spiritual direction, then, is this deepening loge and communion with God. Great and small transformations do flow out of this Divine/human connection, but they are not the main event. Our desire to be and become God’s friend, follower, love, and faithful one is foremost. (35)
Different from counseling or pastoral care in that it is two people getting to the heart of spiritual matters, to the heart of the life of the directee and the directees decisions and relationship with God. So it’s not about “wellness” or as focused on the church/etc. as pastoral care is.
Chapter Two: The Heart of Spiritual Direction
Listening to the Holy Spirit, “patient waiting” rather “than active striving to hear God” (39). This is an emphasis throughout the book: patiently waiting for the Holy Spirits answers, not forcing it, not forcing ourselves into the equation, but instead letting God guide us to find our true and best selves. Spiritual direction is the director and directee discovering the agenda of the Holy Spirit together, whether that takes many or few words. Silence shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing. Forcing it is worse.
Open-ended, openness to God.
3: Who comes to Spiritual Direction?
Spiritual direction involves the truest love any human being can experience – the love of God. We are invited to discover our true heart and desires, our authentic selves, from within the context of sacred love. (46)
People who come to spiritual direction usually want to tell their story with God as straightforwardly as possible. They hope to describe what the core of their life communicates about God’s grace and love and the person God has created ad called them to be. (57)
Types of people looking for spiritual direction: those “experiencing a faith transition,” loss, “changes in self-perception,” “the flow of life,” and “a yearning for God.”
4: Spiritual Direction and Trust
Trusting God is not only about trusting Divine intentions through life’s challenges and circumstances, it also includes trusting God to teach us about God. As we grow, God shows us more about Divine love, care, and perspectives. (62)
When we are preoccupied with managing ourselves, it is easy to feel responsible, competent, and independent, at least for awhile. It is important to know ourselves and to be good stewards of the life God has given us, but independence from God is not God’s intention for us. We were created to be God’s companions. (64)
Jesus shows us in his obedience, even unto death, what exactly this trust means (see 65ff).
We also need to trust ourselves, knowing that God desires us to grow and that we can trust the Holy Spirit will help us move forward in knowledge. So we don’t need to constantly question ourselves and the conclusions we come to. We should instead focus on moving forward well and intelligently and trusting that God gives us the ability to progress (see 70 ff). God trusts and entrusts us (see 77ff) which is also powerful.
We also need to trust in others, obviously, because the Spirit moves through them, and we’re depending on the Holy Spirit to move through our directors.
5: Preparing for Spiritual Direction
Have realistic expectations. It’s okay to be nervous and somewhat fearful. Be aware of yourself, the working of the Spirit, and the promptings of your director. Be willing to be challenged. Know your concept of yourself and what that brings to the table. Be aware of sexual feelings and bring them to the Holy Spirit, not necessarily disregarding them or acting on them.
6: Selecting a Spiritual Director
The Holy Spirit is the one who brings people together for spiritual direction. Our task is to discern when we should take part in direction and with whom. Prayer is the primary pathway for our search. (95)
Be aware of what will be compatible with who you are while also appreciating what a differing view might bring. Consider theological similarities and differences and gender.
We are all spiritual directors to a degree, as the Holy Spirit works in all of us. But some have a special gift of the Spirit to direct others.
We can find spiritual directors in our peer group, at our church, by looking into a directory, or in other ways. Be open to where the Holy Spirit leads you. Prepare for your first meeting by planning what you’ll discuss and pray and mediate on whether it seems like a right fit after.
7: Shaping the Spiritual Direction Relationship
There are many different lengths of commitment depending on what the directee needs. The frequency is also decided by the director and directee depending on this. The setting should be “a kind of holy ground” (118) in which you can get in tune with the promptings of the Holy Spirit. A director doesn’t “become” a director during sessions, but is also the director throughout the person’s life, helping them along God’s path (124).
8: Spiritual Direction Conversations
There should always be an openness on both sides, each listening attentively to God’s promptings. Directees choose the topics, usually dealing with their lives and their relationship with God. The flow of conversations is guided by the Holy Spirit, sometimes with much interaction, sometimes with much silence. The directee should be open and willing to hear God’s voice and what God is saying through the director. The director is a “prayer-listener,” taking in what the directee says and, by the prompting of the Holy Spirit and the gifts the Holy Spirit has given them, to give them direction about whatever comes up, whether that is by advice, silence, or more questions.
9: Group Spiritual Direction
Group SD is a lot like one on one: those involved desire to hear the voice of God, to see God in their lives, and for others to help them see God’s direction in their lives. You get more perspectives in group spiritual direction, but I feel like that could easily make things muddled, or become more “advice” oriented than Holy Spirit oriented. There are many ways to do group SD, in regards to facilitating, organization, and structure. It’s a fairly malleable form of SD.
Part 2: Subjects Frequently Considered in Spiritual Direction
10: Experiencing God
Intellectual analysis is important but so are other aspects. We experience and relate to God as whole persons involving all our faculties: intellect, will, imagination, emotions, memory, and bodily responses. (152)
God chose to identify more fully with humankind at a specific point in time by being born as a human, Jesus of Nazareth. The possibility of our being fully connected with God ensues from being in relationship with Christ. Our ability to recognize God’s desire to be involved with us and the gift of grace that enables us to respond to God come from the Holy Spirit. (155)
Our participation in God’s love is also costly for us. Our connection with God’s love is accomplished through the death and resurrection of Christ and our willingness to turn to God. The Spirit of God invites us to cast our lot fully with God. It feels as if we are risking everything when we invite God to be our all in all – to give God every aspect of ourselves. We are free to decide whether to release ourselves into God’s love and care. (163)
Authentic experiences of and with God are congruent with what is revealed about the nature of God in Scripture. A spiritual encounter might feel loving and peaceful, but if what takes place is not compatible with Scripture, we must prayerfully, carefully explore the source and intention of the experience. Christians need to be discerning and not depend solely on their own feelings and opinions. Shared discernment is one of the important tasks of spiritual direction conversations. (171)
Our interpretation of God is colored by our experiences in life and with God through scripture, church, family, and other biographical factors. Scripture, God’s revelation to us, and Jesus, the fullness of revelation, draw us into experiencing God.
There are many ways to experience God. Some people’s foundations include: beginning with Jesus, beginning with the creator, and beginning with the Holy Spirit (158ff).
God gives us his love freely, and we are called to respond to this love with our entire selves, as God gave his entire self for us (see 162ff).
There are many ways to experience God. Our God-given individuality is important and shapes how we experience God.
The director’s primary role, however, is not to correct or critique a directee’s way of interpreting Scripture. The director’s role is to listen to the Spirit of God with the directee. As directors prayerfully listen to directees, they may sense that a discussion of methods of scriptural interpretation is not what God is most interested in at the time. When such a discussion is not God’s idea, it is a diversion from what the Holy Spirit is inviting. The way that a directee is praying with or about a passage of Scripture or making life choices based on scriptural texts may be what is central at a particular time. The director and directee try to hear what God is inviting in their approaches to Scripture and its application. (176)
Jesus is the ultimate spiritual director because of his intimacy with God, his Abba. Jesus listened and responded to others out of his attentiveness to the Father, out of his participation in the Jewish covenant community, and out of his knowledge of Scripture and Jewish law. (178)
There are many names for God that can assist a director and directee. Directors can use specific episodes and ideas from scripture to help the directee with issues they are facing and questions they have.
Jesus as spiritual director, p 179-80 (important).
All the while, we desire to remember that our primary intention is to be God’s and to love, follow, and serve God. When prayer enables us to more fully realize God’s love for us, whether or not we receive the particular healing we thought we were praying for, we experience grace. (209)
Prayer is a key proponent of SD. In SD we are tapping in to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and we facilitate our relationship with God and better understand God through the intimacy of prayer. Prayers from the Church and the Bible are helpful as well as spontaneous prayer. Meditative prayer like lectio divina and contemplative prayer help us focus on what God is saying to us and gives room for the Spirit to speak to us.
Is this what the Spirit of God is saying to me? Or is it something else? How do I decide? Finding answers to questions about God’s presence, desires, and intentions is often called discernment. Discernment involves discriminating among numerous ideas and feelings and identifying what is from God. To do so we need to be awake to the Holy Spirit and aware of what is happening, to perceive great and subtle differences between God’s initiatives and our responses. (212)
From Scripture we know that Jesus understood that this was his destiny, that this is what he was meant to do. His relationship with his Abba and his pattern of seeking to do only what his Father desired was the foundation of his life…Jesus had a profound trust and willingness related to his heavenly Father that transcended any formulas or rules about discernment. (226)
When we discern God’s initiatives, we look for 1. Congruence with Christlike attitudes and behaviors, 2. Alignment with scriptural teaching and values, 3. Congruence with our personal history and present relationship with god, 4. The fruit of the Spirit evidenced in us through varied relationships and circumstances, 5. The way being open for what we believe God invites, and 6. A sense of core stability that is peaceful. (229)
Elements of discernment include: “intentionally inviting the Spirit of God to speak to us, asking for the grace to recognize an accurately interpret the Spirit’s intentions…continuing to pray…testing the resolution.” See the full list on 218.
Factors that influence discernment include willingness to trust in God’s goodness and generosity, follow God’s way no matter what the cost, be authentic, notice our own sense of well-being, notice and pray about our preferences, not rely on any one method of discernment, be open to information regardless of the source, be active or passive, to confront, to accept an answer and waiting, to take whatever time is required for us to be clear about a course of action, for scripture to be the authority, to continue to pray, and to understand the process that will be used in group discernment. See 219ff.
We learn how to discern and to trust God from the example of Jesus Christ (see 226ff).
14: Christian Disciplines
Christian disciplines include both individual and corporate pursuits such as the familiar practices of worship, Bible study, and prayer. But Christians also participate in practices such as fasting, service, living simply, and appreciating God in the beauties of the created world, to name a few. (231)
Disciplines are for the “whole person,” including the body, intellect, emotions, will, imagination, and memories (see 232ff).
Ways to facilitate the practice of Christian Disciplines include setting a rule/listening for a way, setting aside a place, keeping a spiritual journal, and participating in spiritual direction (see 238ff).
Spiritual direction is a Christian discipline because it helps us become settled and focused on God, open ourselves to God, experience an increasing awareness of God, experience an increasing willingness to be limited human beings in relationship with Divine completeness, surrender to God, believe in God’s love for us, be renewed by God, become free to hear God, and continue to move along. See 242ff.