I recently spent the weekend with an old friend who was going through a series of losses on several fronts. His grandmother, his mother, and his dog had died within a year, and he separated from his wife and was undergoing divorce proceedings.
Meanwhile, there are two small children to take care of on a tight budget as he wraps up an advanced degree program. On the surface, the challenges seem overwhelming.
The Feast of Epiphany is a celebration of the Journey of the Magi or the three wise men, popularized in Christmas nativity scenes and a bigger part of Catholic and Eastern traditions than, say, most Protestant faith expressions.
It’s a natural time to reflect on the process or journey and the changes we undergo as we move through stages of faith. I’ve written about these stages in a previous post, and these are usually articulated from a fairly macro level. Bernard of Clairvaux, for example, writes about four stages: loving self for self, loving God for self, loving God for God, and finally, loving self for God. And Janet Hagberg’s The Critical Journey outlining six stages is common reading in spiritual formation programs. But in this post I wanted to address the stages of faith from a more personal angle.
Recently an old friend of mine suggested we get together for a silent retreat to catch up, rest, and spend time in silence and meditation. We usually struggle to find a time that works with both of our schedules, but we finally managed to make it happen. We picked a retreat center about halfway for both of us and made the reservation.
I’d never been to this location before and had no idea what to expect. What were the accommodations like? Was there heat in the rooms? What would the food be like? Who would be there? Would we be expected to participate? What would we be participating in exactly? It was all pretty vague, and I don’t particularly like vague.
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.
When I taught high school English in Los Angeles, one of our annual units was the holocaust through the lens of Elie Wiesel’s searing novella Night.
One of the follow up assignments was for students to research the Eight Stages of Genocide, the first of which is classification. It’s here the violence begins, in our minds, as we label other people.
In so doing, we limit our ability to perceive those around us accurately. We rob them of their particularity, of their humanity. This can become more and more automatic as we age, since we learn to navigate the world through our categories.
Sixteen years ago I took a world lit class taught by a professor who opened my eyes, not only to the relevance of myth and classical literature, but to contemplative spirituality as well.
Dr. Thorpe opened the class with a simple statement “We’re lost. We’re trying to get home. That’s the story at the heart of Western literature and it’s the story at the start of the spiritual journey.” With that framework in mind we read Homer, Dante, and Dostoevsky. We read the stories like maps of the soul’s journey home.
As a kid who had grown up overseas and suffered from reverse culture shock, it was like being handed a golden key. I might not have been home yet, but I had a way to get there. It felt like hope. (more…)
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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