A few months into my marriage I wrote my wife a letter of complaint. This wasn’t what I had signed up for. Nothing I had been able to express in person seemed to be getting through, and I thought it a letter at least worth a shot. This way I could shape the message before the conversation became emotionally charged.
Welcome to Season 1, Episode 6 of the Spiritual Directions podcast. In this episode, I sit down with wanderer, father, and now seminary student to discuss his spiritual journey, finding God in unexpected places, the importance of focusing on men’s spirituality, and the simple but powerful motto that helps him stay oriented.
How do we deal with the questions in our lives when our responsibilities don’t take a time out? For John Brand, the spiritual journey that began so many years ago has led him to pursue these deeper questions by going to seminary. John shares his journey from growing up in a Naval officer’s home, to the inspiration that led to a life changing journey, what helps him stay focused on what matters, and the gifts he brings to men’s spirituality.
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Toward the end of Seminary, I experienced a deep anxiety. One reason for entering seminary in the first place had been for discernment. What vocation to pursue. Academia? Ministry? Missions? Music? Here it was three years later and I was no closer to the goal, and still directionless.
Home sick from my job working for the Special Education department in the local school system, I borrowed a set of DVDs from a friend and looked forward to the day of rest and binge watching. It was Season 2 of Alan Ball’s Six Feet Under. In the show, each episode begins with a death. Some tragic, some comical, some accidental, some natural. Its power, though, lay in its treatment of the complexity and nuance of our psychological responses to the deaths we experience.
Many years ago I was asked to speak at a retreat for college students on worship. I wasn’t ready. I had recently finished my Masters in Theology and the Arts, had a couple of years of teaching under my belt and had some thoughts on the topic of the retreat.
But deep down, I was terrified. I was afraid I’d be exposed as a fraud. I was far from a good place internally. I was angry. I was bitter and resentful about my life situation at the time. The poor kids on the retreat were treated to an extremely self-conscious speaker who didn’t exactly deliver.
Soon after I started dating my future wife (we met in Seminary), I explained some of the ways in which my faith had been stretched, and she had a pointed question, “but you still love Jesus, right?” Having grown up overseas, I was wary of the question.
Americans in general and Evangelical subculture in particular seemed to have an addiction to sentimentality.
The agape of the Gospels, this moment to moment love-in-action springing out of rootedness in the divine so often seemed instead to refer to an intense emotional attachment.
We hear the language all the time, but what in fact did it mean to “love Christ?” What did it mean to “follow Christ?”