Welcome to Season 1, Episode 4 of the Spiritual Directions podcast. In this episode, I take a look at the 23rd Psalm from a contemplative perspective.
When I was nine my family moved from the U.S. to Germany as missionaries. At the time, the Berlin wall was still up. Cold war tensions were still very real and the highways had what looked like speed limit signs for tanks on them. The extended family were praying for us. If World War III kicked off, we were going to be on the front lines.
Thankfully, history took a different course, but in moving overseas one opens oneself up to other kinds of risks, other transformations. After negotiating the initial culture shock, one of the changes that occurs is the ability to understand multiple perspectives. People you know well and respect might hold views that no one would express back home, at least not in the Christian subculture. I found myself having to defend America a lot from teachers and classmates.
The biggest charge, besides Empire building, was usually our hypocrisy. It was pretty much universally decried that this self-proclaimed global force for good had been the only ones to drop an atom bomb on another country, and worse, we pretended it had been unavoidable, when the war was clearly already over. That can throw your average patriotic 11-year-old for a bit of a loop. Whether you agreed or disagreed, you started to question some of your assumptions. You had to wrestle. Experiences like these allow for a heightened awareness of cultural conditioning, of unconscious assumptions, of where values come from.
Growing up, my mom was crazy for Christmas. We started the Christmas decorations right after Thanksgiving. We had three nativity scenes, one for the entry way, one for the living room, and one on the dining room window.
In December, she practically turned into Mrs. Claus. There were Christmas cookies, Christmas candy dishes. There were nutcrackers in every room, Johnny Mathis on the record player, a lit fire in the fireplace. We hung the tree together and ate a feast on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Each year we got one more ornament so when we were adults we’d be semi prepared to keep the flame alive. It was warm and generous and familial and festive.
But as I continue to grow in my understanding of the contemplative life, I do wonder about the role of Christmas in the development of a mature spiritual life.
Welcome to Season 1, Episode 3 of the Spiritual Directions podcast. In this episode, I sit down with former oncology nurse and spiritual direction student Barbett Wood to discuss her life as a caregiver and the value of independent thinking.
How do we maintain a sense of meaning and direction surrounded by death and dying? Barbett Wood shares her experiences that led to her understanding of a good death, the simplicity of belief, and the impact of Richard Rohr on her spiritual journey.
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At a family dinner some years ago, I made passing reference to Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation. My brother, a pragmatic businessman, quietly repeated the word “contemplation” to himself. Then he shook his head.
We usually use the term contemplation to mean taking an object or idea into consideration for an extended period of time. For pragmatic people, that can sound an awful lot like an intentional waste of time. But respected teachers like Richard Rohr and others seem to think it refers to something hugely important. If the practice of contemplation contains within it the potential for radical transformation, as some teachers claim, clearly the term is widely misunderstood.
So what is contemplation?
Welcome to Season 1, Episode 2 of the Spiritual Directions podcast. In this episode, I sit down with veteran Spiritual Director and former Youth For Christ VP Lynn Ziegenfuss to talk about lessons learned on her spiritual journey, abiding in God, and redefining success.
What happens when God doesn’t give us the life we want? In this episode, Lynn Ziegenfuss opens up about her disappointments, learning to embrace the struggle, and unexpected gifts.
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Since college, I‘ve been convinced of the value of contemplative practice, its capacity to help with awareness, with letting go, and with spiritual growth in general. But for years I had the same problem: I couldn’t stay consistent.
I would go through some difficulty: a break-up, a life change, conflict at work, whatever. The inner tension would mount and I’d pick up my contemplative practice again. 20 minutes of practice first thing in the morning, and again in the evening, and I’d feel a whole lot calmer.