A difficult subject in the church today is the one of Spiritual abuse. I believe this falls into one of two categories: Intended abuse and unintended abuse. Intended abuse comes within the territory of cults and mega or television ministries where the leader is pragmatically sucking the sheep dry for his/her popular gain. Unintended abuse is much more common and is bred out of poor training and discipleship, business model leadership, misdirection (not focus on shepherding and flourishing but ‘stuff of earth’), and spiritual immaturity.
People get used, abandoned, thumped with rules and commands, ignored, and devalued.
The Great shepherd knew His sheep. He provides, PROTECTS, and desires for them to flourish. They are not just a supply of meat and wool.
To read more read this article:
Defining Spiritual Abuse
Consuming desire! Sitting in a teacher meeting yesterday and discussing the idea of graduating students that have been nurtured in an environment that emphasizes academics as the supreme benchmark. I was pleased that most the groups repelled this idea for a student that is more ‘well rounded’. Spiritual formation should be considered in the same light. It is to be a hunger to grow into a whole person, including but not exclusive, in creativity, rationality, morality, language, emotions, Biblical community, and our relationship with the culture.
The question for each of us who desire to walk as adherents of Jesus, are we intentional in our desire for wholeness in our formation in Christ-likeness? Do we want the whole thing or just a part?
C.S Lewis was 16 and picked up “phantastes” in a small second hand bookstore at a train station. Lewis said that MacDonald’s work ‘baptized’ his imagination. Lewis went on to create many amazing stories that have inspired millions.
In spiritual direction part of the work to be done is not just about one’s relationship with Christ in the past or in the present but what will it look like…creating a ‘way’ of Jesus in one’s own life. Asking the Father for glimpses of what a life in Him will look like…being formed into His character and patterns. A spiritual director can be helpful to ask questions and give directions for your conversations with the Father and help to listen to His spirit for direction.
Standing near a group of very eclectic people today I thought more of how they were different than what they had in common. Being made in God’s image, having a spirit in them that has been passed down for thousands of years, having a mind, will, and heart. It didn’t occur to me to ask one of them, ‘how is your soul’? Nor was I aware of the nature of my own soul.
Do we have enough of a vernacular to answer such a question? Have we spent time considering the cost of such a question? What darkness covers the apparent truth? So, how is my soul? What are my electrical synapses firing upon? Where is my will driving me? Is my heart lying to me again?
“How are things in your soul today?”
This morning I had an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) on my knee. The technician explained that it creates a picture of my tissue around my knee and can detect any defects, injury, gremlins, etc. It was not painful; I just laid there and focused on not moving for 30 minutes. I am looking forward to the results to hopefully move towards an answer to my pain and hopefully we can find a remedy.
The letter of Hebrews says the Living Word of God knows down to our tissue and all those things that connect us together so beautifully. But the Word also knows us and can make His way into the spirit and soul. I personally am I trichotomist (body, soul, and spirit) but I really can’t show you or prove it to you; it is just a theological view I hold. But, to believe that there is a God who knows my inner spiritual life and the true concoction of my soul and can penetrate it, well, is fascinating to me. I need it to be true. I need a God who can do a spiritual resonance imaging and figure things out or at least can get in there and straighten things out.
I am looking forward to the results of the Great Physician to move towards an answer to my pain and help find a remedy.
In lieu of any good comedies, my wife and I have been watching old Frazier episodes. The irony of the character is that on his radio show he says, “Hello Seattle, I’m listening”, but he actually doesn’t listen well at all and is usually fairly self-absorbed. And of course, that is what makes the show funny, Frazier’s attempt for recognition, acknowledgement, and affirmation.
The art of listening is a discipline we start developing or ignoring from preschool on through adulthood. You may think of a previous or current relationship or boss who never listened, who ignored you and your attempts and engaging in conversation. Or, do I dare say, you may have a difficulty putting aside your own agenda and giving artful, deliberate attention to another created soul.
Do you remember your sophomore health teacher who reminded us, ‘in order to have a friend, you must first be a friend’?
Listening, true listening is an art. It is purposeful, intentional, sacrificial, and satisfying.
The gentleman sat looking at me with what looked like a giant question mark on his face. It was one of the sessions where he and I were connecting the dots. This happened, that happened, I did, they did, I went, and now here I am. He asks, ‘so because of this and that, that is why I am here and feel this way?’ “I didn’t realize all this was connected with one another, I didn’t see it!”
Friendship, counseling, or spiritual mentoring is helpful for us to see those thoughts, ideas, and perceptions that we may not be able to see because, well, many reasons…denial, busyness, preoccupation, pain, or self absorption. The process of self awareness and growth is helped greatly by the submission of our life story to the hearing of trusted companions.
A great question that may be helpful which I learned this weekend is, “In what areas am I blind to the truth of my life situations?”.
I believe that question is best asked by fellow sojourners to one another. Consider who you could have coffee with and ask that question, that your journey may be lit in a new and wondrous light. That you may say, I was blind but now I see.
When the movie “Crash” came out in 2005, it generated a lot of conversation. It won best picture and cost around 6 million and made around 58 million. But it’s worth was seen more in the dialogue about race relations and the emotional tension created by the writer and director.
Unless you are a hermit, your life is filled with many crashes, emotional and frustrating episodes.
It represents to us many times about what we want things to be and then painfully reminded that things are not what we desired. Our pain is many times equal to the value we place on what our expectations were.
Internally, for those who walk in Christ, we face those crashes when the ‘old man’ comes in conflict with the ‘new man’. Another Crash is when our nature and will come into conflict with the Father. The old testament prophets are filled with those crashes. Jer. 4:20 “Crash follows hard on crash” God’s lament over His peoples continued disobedience.
Crashes require reconciliation. Daily reconciliation and adjustments to align one’s self with the character of Christ. Spiritual conversations with family, friends, community, counselor, or spiritual director help us to grow and maintain in our walk.
You can cut the spiritual, uh, theological, uh, philosophical tension with a knife. I found myself sitting in a meeting where the issue of present day physically manifested spiritual gifts came up in the conversation and it was in direct contradiction to another group of interested parties.
I love ‘whodunits’! I loved Encyclopedia Brown as a child. I almost didn’t want to know the answer to the mystery because of the tension and anticipation that came with the end of the story.
I do not want to enter the murky waters or tumultuous winds of the current debate and status of the third person of the Trinity. But to give you a hint of where I sit, I believe one of the sticky wickets of spiritual direction is the question of ‘whodunit’. Is it psychological analysis, emotional response, educated guesses or the act of an engaging God speaking to His children? Well, the answer over the years has been e) all the above.
I believe the act of direction is the desire to be mature and maturing. Direction is an act of discernment and a drawing upon spiritual capitol. It is the written and Living Word of God, and an ear for the Heavenly.
e) all the above
The New Year brings many new workout ideas and self promises. Exchanging one way of life for another. Each carry a burden- a burden of a current life and the disappointments we have with our present state of being. There is the burden of change, the constant re-affirming of the will that certain changes will bring about a significant change, a certain amount of personal affirmation.
In Spiritual direction, there enters a tension, the weight one has of their current life: expectations, desires, burdens, and loves. Spiritual direction encourages us to exchange that weight. Exchange the Glory of one self and to focus on the weight or Glory of God.
That is one significant difference between counseling and spiritual direction, the weight is under different consideration. Counseling considers the weight one bears and how to lighten our burdens or change them to something else more palatable. But in spiritual direction, we exchange the weight, the focus of our glory and change it to the focus on the weight, Glory, honor of God. To view ourselves compared to His Glory. Exchange our glory for His.
Spiritual directors help us to work through and navigate the exchange.