“Spiritual direction is a relationship initiated by a spiritual seeker who finds a mature person of faith willing to pray and respond with wisdom and understanding to his or her questions about how to live spiritually in a world of ambiguity and distraction.”
The purpose of spiritual direction observed by Thomas Merton, “is to penetrate beneath the surface of a man’s (or woman’s) life, to get behind the façade of conventional gestures and attitudes which he presents to the world, and to bring out his inner spiritual freedom, his inmost truth, which is what we call the likeness of Christ in his soul. This is entirely a supernatural thing.”
Every human being who has embraced the redemptive, reconciliatory, and restorative work of the Lord Jesus Christ is called by Him to become transformed (re-imaged) into His likeness (John 12:26, Romans 8:29, Eph. 4:13, 1 John 2:6). A spiritual director partners with the person seeking to mature in this transformational process and works alongside them in their journey toward Christ-like maturity and holiness.
In a spiritual direction relationship, we will meet regularly (typically every four weeks) for approximately an hour or so. Although spiritual direction is best if conducted face-to-face, we can facilitate our meetings via telephone, email, and video conferencing (Skype ®) when necessary. When meeting in person, I prefer to meet in a mutually agreed upon location as free of distractions as possible.
Spiritual direction is a primary part of my vocational calling; as such, I do charge for direction. My fees are quite reasonable and are negotiable where necessary. Most importantly, the cost of direction should not be a factor in whether you decide to enter into this type of relationship.
Qualifications and Style of Direction:
I am an Ordained Minister of the Free Methodist Church of North America
Studied at the School for Spiritual Direction in Pecos, NM at the Pecos Benedictine Monastery
I have received training and have studied extensively (and continue to study and train) in the ways of Spiritual Formation in a number of major Christian traditions:
- Benedictine Spirituality
- Carmelite Spirituality
- Ignatian Spirituality
- Spirituality in the Wesleyan-Holiness Tradition
- Spirituality in the Pentecostal-Charismatic Tradition
- Spiritual Direction in the Roman Catholic Tradition
- Spiritual Direction in the Social Justice Tradition
- Spiritual Direction in the Episcopal Tradition
- Generalized Pastoral Counseling
- Marriage and Family Counseling
Attended Bible College at the Jimmy Swaggart Bible College
Ministerial Credentialing through Ministerial and Educational Guidance of the Free Methodist Church
- I will pray for you always and strive to hear what the Spirit of God is speaking to you and through you for your life
- I will not judge you, nor will I tell you what to do. Our relationship is a “three-way” partnership between you, me, and the Holy Spirit. We will try to discern what God is speaking and how He is directing the steps in our lives. You will ultimately be in charge of how you proceed.
- Our conversations will be held in the strictest confidence. You are free to share what we discuss, but you can trust that our conversations will never venture outside the circle of “you, me, and God.”
- I listen a lot and ask quite a few questions to help me understand and hear where God is leading and what He is doing in your life. I expect feedback, but I will never pressure you for information. If you want to talk or not talk, that is your prerogative and I will always respect your choice. Remember, I will never judge you.
- Occasionally, I may ask you if I can take a few notes. If you are uncomfortable with this, it is okay to decline.
- I am authentic and I try to live as transparently as I am capable. If you have questions for me, I will do my best to answer them as candidly and honestly as possible where those questions and answers do not infringe upon someone else’s privacy.
- I believe that God wants you to be wholly restored to the person He originally conceived you to be. I believe through the indwelling Spirit of God and the empowerment of Jesus Christ, this restoration is completely available to us and entirely possible to achieve on this side of eternity. I will always cheer you on and I will never give up on you.
- I do not believe in duality of life. I believe that all of life is sacred and there is nothing profane or secular. I believe that God is always present and through the cultivation and maturity of our own spirituality we are capable of walking in unbroken relationship with Him. The daily life is where God is most actively and most powerfully at work.
I am very comfortable with all streams of Christian spirituality and consider myself highly ecumenical. As much as I might be able to partner with you and be a helper and coach, I believe there is much I can learn from you. I am a life-long learner and continue to expand and broaden my knowledge as opportunity provides.
If you are interested in exploring a spiritual direction relationship with me, feel free to contact me direct for additional information and/or setting up an appointment to talk more.
Publisher: Thomas Nelson; 256 pages – ISBN: 9780849918841
As it has often been the case, it is so again… I have fallen “head over heels” with the vision that is portrayed in this book, Becoming a True Spiritual Community. Over the past few years there has been something almost providential in the way books have come up on my “radar.” The timing of where my thoughts and passions are running and the intersection of the subject matter of the book when it falls into my hands has occurred on more occasions than I can attribute to sheer coincidence. It is the case again with this book by Larry Crabb.
For forty years I have had an on-again-off-again relationship with the Christian Church that exists in North America. My primary experience has been with Protestant Evangelicalism, but my knowledge of the Christian church has extended beyond the boundaries of that circle in the most recent decade. What I have experienced in my forty years of churchianity has not been what I would describe as good and that experience of “not good” resulted in seasons where I danced intimately with the church and other seasons where there was no relationship at all. I accept the responsibility that is mine where my heart and my attitude were incompatible with the Christian church, but I can’t help but think if the church were living up to the organism it is described in the Bible there may not have been the tension between us through the years… there may never have been a break in our relationship at all. I wonder…
So, what is it about this book, Becoming a True Spiritual Community: A Profound Vision of What the Church Can Be, that I find so wonderfully endearing? Before I answer that, let me point out that this is a republication of a book formerly published under the name of The Safest Place on Earth. As far as I have been able to discern, the books are the same. Now, back to the question, what is it about this book?
Becoming a True Spiritual Community ranks as one of the most honest assessments and characterizations of the American church that I have ever read. Saying this I must also clarify that there is no “church bashing” or vitriolic rhetoric that demeans the church. The words are honest and written from an attitude of love for the church, but they are candid, blunt, and revealing. As Crabb reveals some of the shallow façade supporting the contemporary church he does so with painfully honest self-examination that draws the reader into journeying inward to make similar examinations of their own spirituality… sometimes exposing our own shallowness, pride, ego, and selfish desires. This process of exposing and examination continues through part one and into part two of the book before the tide begins to turn and the hopeful beauty of the church and spiritual community that God desires for us is revealed. There are allusions to this hope in the first half of the book, but the crescendo builds to a gloriously hopeful ending beginning at the halfway mark around chapter nine.
The book is full of personal anecdotes and many metaphors gleaned from classic and contemporary literature from the disciplines of spiritual formation. There is also a very thorough discussion guide at the end of the book that would prove itself invaluable for a group study.
I cannot say enough good things about this book. I’m sure timing has much to do with my excitement, but I also know that my desire for spiritual community as described by Dr. Crabb has been my passion for at least twenty-five years. I am reinvigorated and encouraged by what was written in this book and will recommend it as one of the top reads concerning the study of ecclesiology (the Church). I look forward to sharing the thoughts contained in this book with others and being a part of the communities that will be formed out of those discussions.
Book Review – Nudge: Awakening Each Other to the God Who’s Already There by Leonard Sweet
Published by – David C. Cook ||| ISBN: 9781434764744
This is another one of those books for me (mentioned in an earlier post). “Those books” are books that I cannot read breezily through. This is (or means) good, in the highest order. The author, Leonard Sweet, proclaims the premise of Nudge is about evangelism …he’s the author; I can’t disagree with his premise. I think at a higher level, the book is about so much more than evangelization. I think it is about “rethinking” our entire perspective about how we recognize our relationship (heart, soul, mind, strength, and all our senses as well…according to Len Sweet) with the Living God. Naturally, when we reexamine and respond differently to this Living God according to previously unrecognized “signs” our methodology for evangelism is subject to (and likely to) change. So, yeah…while the book is about rethinking evangelism, I believe it has the potential to awaken us all to levels previously unrecognized.
If you’re not familiar with Len Sweet’s writing style, it may take some getting used to. Personally, I happen to love his writing style. He employs extensive use of metaphor and includes hundreds of quotes to reemphasize and support his metaphors, parables, and word pictures. I really enjoy this manner of writing and speaking, it helps me to understand the concept; true enough, but even more importantly…it helps me to take ownership of the teaching allowing it to really shape me for the better. This is not to say that I necessarily agree or disagree with every concept, but coming to a fuller understanding of the thought is important to being able to understand why I might agree or disagree. The conversation is important and when the reader does not have the luxury of physical dialogue with the author, many word pictures and metaphor help the conversation to develop in the mind of the reader sans author.
The first part of the book is about the multitude of “signs” where God is working. Sweet calls this semiotics; the art and science of paying attention. These, he writes, are God’s “nudges” showing us and calling our attention to the work that he has been and is doing in the redemption, reconciliation, and restoration of man. Extremely thought-provoking, intriguing, and inspiring stuff he writes in this portion of the book.
The second part of the book goes into sensory details of the tools we have to practice semiotic awareness of God’s redemptive work. These sensory tools are the receptor-transmitters for all evangelistic nudges being received in us and broadcast from us. Again, I found this incredibly inspiring. The chapter on hearing, Pause: Use Your Ears, still has me reeling. Sweet, the maestro of metaphor, goes on to write in bountiful detail the wonders of God’s presence made anew to all our senses in Presence: Taste, Picture: Eyes, Ponder: Touch, and Promise: Nose. So impressed was (am) I with these word pictures, I do not think a better job could have been presented in illustrating the ideas. The privilege to me is that each metaphor provides new thoughts and reflection and this is why I cannot “breeze” through this sweet writing style.
I was really taken with the last book release (see my full review here), So Divine, by Leonard Sweet. I thought it would be near impossible to improve on the work done in that piece. Nudge proves itself to be a most worthy companion to So Divine. In my opinion, they should be must reading for every Christian. I think each would provide fantastic discussion points for small groups.
My grade: 5-stars. I’ll be reading it and pondering it for a long time. My hope is that you’ll give it a try too.
As the year closes out I have started my reflection on the books I have read this past year and the ones that have impacted me most. It was tough to pick out a “top-ten” and all but impossible to order them one through ten in any relevance to importance or impact. So, without any more bantering, here’s my list of the Top Ten reads from 2009. As I have already made note, these are in no particular order. Each one has had a significantly huge impact in my thinking and my vision for this year, and I am sure, for years to come. Most of these I have provided a review for (some more detailed than others); you can find book reviews here. The full reading list of 2009 books can be found here.
If you’re looking for a list of prospective books for the upcoming year, these are my personal best recommendations:
|The Echo Within by Robert Benson
|Experiencing the Spirit by Henry and Melvin Blackaby
|So Beautiful by Len Sweet
|Clutter-Free Christianity by Robert Jeffress
|The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson
|Deep Church by Jim Belcher
|Forgotten God by Francis Chan
|Primal by Mark Batterson
|Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
|Christ Plays in 10,000 Places by Eugene Peterson
So Beautiful: Divine Design for Life and the Church -Day 6
Epilogue and Final Thoughts -continued
I finished up So Beautiful this morning. It stays in the book bag for a reread. I know I missed a lot of what this book is speaking to me, so I’ll continue to spend time with it. I’m sure my heart and mind will be challenged further. Speaking of challenging, the epilogue of So Beautiful is sub-titled “Mirror, Mirror…” and it provides a scorecard of sorts to help us measure our MRI index (the value of how effectively we live out the missional, relational, and incarnational life). I think this is to be (or can be) applied personally (as individuals) and corporately (as a local church body). It’s a tough ending to a challenging book. We don’t like to look at ourselves in the mirror; most of us anyway. I know I’m not “magazine cover” material, and when I look into a mirror I see a rapidly aging, balding, not-so-handsome guy. In light of that awareness, I’m prone to not look in the mirror or change the criteria of assessment so what I see in the mirror appeals more favorably to me. I think we do that for our personal ministry, church, and personal maturity as disciples of Jesus. Touche’
The epilogue doesn’t just present the challenge of evaluation, but it also offers suggestions on how to become a Beautiful Church. I think this is very valuable as it provides solid, and practical, action steps for the person and/or church to start walking in divine design for life.
I am a disciple of Jesus. It is my intent to follow Him in truth and spirit. It is also my desire to serve Him in the role He has destined for me. I am a pastor. I am a leader and teacher of people. My role comes with great responsibility and a high level of accountability. So Beautiful: Divine Design for Life and the Church challenges my definition for “disciple” as well as “pastor-leader.” So Beautiful also challenges my (personal) definition of “church” the local entity and “church” the global entity. In my opinion, I think Len Sweet has portrayed a more accurate Biblical representation of the church than what we in the West have created. It is difficult for us to admit our wrongs…most often we want to do so with qualifications for our actions or excuses. Change is tough; we don’t like discomfort or difficulty…we don’t like to deliberately make people upset and change invariably makes some people upset. If we are going to be the “beautiful Bride” that is the Church, change is going to be necessary. The scorecard (as Reggie McNeal and Len Sweet refer) must be changed. Our success cannot be measured in “brick and mortar,” “building funds,” or “VBS attendance.” Our success must be measured by “Sermon on the Mount” style discipleship and fruit for our God…fruit that will last for eternity.
I will be recommending this book for my church leadership (it will be on my recommended reading list for everyone), I will also be challenging our leadership team to use the measurements found in the epilogue as practical exercises to assess our effectiveness as a seed-sowing and fruit-bearing “tree of life” in the local garden that God has planted us. My prayer is that we will become the Beautiful Church that reflects our Beautiful Savior.
Thank you Len Sweet for a great challenge.
Part 3: The Incarnational Life: God’s “No” -continued
I picked up my reading from Part Three of So Beautiful with chapter twelve and it seemed it started in a “clap of thunder” and “full sprint.” The Incarnation is “to live in the world, but not of the world.” My reading began with a heart examination:
“Or here’s another Jesus Metaphor-Faith is the ‘saltness’ that brings every food to life and makes it pleasurable. How salty is your life? How salt-of-the-earth is your church? Or has your salt turned to basalt?
I especially appreciated the call to memory of the prophet Jeremiah’s words to the exiled peoples of Jerusalem as they were being carried away captive to Babylon; “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters.” In other words, become a part of that community. (p.180)
“Incarnants are cheerful pessimists: We see the world as it is, and as it could be, while enjoying the world as it is, and as it could be.” Len Sweet (p.183)
This chapter is extremely thought-provoking. Culmination of the MRI model (missional, relational, incarnational) is in this final part of the book, So Beautiful. It is a call to action and I have found it very difficult to stay focused on the words without my mind wandering…interacting, and considering how my routines and attitudes might change in order to be more malleable and useful in the advancing of God’s Kingdom. I want to be a builder and beautifier of the Bride that is Christ’s…His Church.
This Incarnational section borrows the structure of part two, rephrasing and representing the “idea” of incarnation over, and over, and over, and over, and over again…living in-not of; becoming part of culture, but not losing identity In Christ. Metaphors, analogies, and various other illustrations flood the pages appealing to the senses and learning style of almost any reader. The inclusion of so much diversity and description in mission stands as a clarion call to Be the Church; almost begging the rhetorical question “what else is there to do in life; or what is life really all about?” This is it: allowing permission to the Spirit of the Living God to live in and through us in order to redeem, reconcile and restore all of creation. This, to me, is incarnation.
A secondary and very critical point underscored time and time again is the “not a formula and no templates allowed” directive. We must be fluid… “liquid” -living water. What works as an embodiment of Christ to the world in which you have been planted may not (and probably will not work) in a different culture and context. As I was reading this part of the book, another book came to mind that I have been enjoying this year, Ancient Christian Devotional. An excerpt I read just a few days ago from that book illustrated in a very beautiful and thoughtful way this “liquidity” of person and mission. Hear the following words from Cyril of Jerusalem:
“One and the same rain comes down on all the world, yet it becomes white in the lily, red in the rose, purple in the violets and the hyacinths, different and many-colored in manifold species. Thus it is one in the palm tree and another in the vine, and all in all things, though it is uniform and does not vary in itself. For the rain does not change, coming down now as one thing and now as another, but it adapts itself to the thing receiving it and becomes what is suitable to each. Similarly the Holy Spirit, being One and of one nature and indivisible, imparts to each one his grace ‘according as he will.’ The dry tree when watered brings forth shoots. So too does the soul in sin, once made worthy through repentance of the grace of the Holy Spirit, flower into justice.” (Catachesis 14.12)
In the end, we are gardeners. Actually, in the beginning, along the way, and in the end…we are gardeners. Gardeners are what we are created to be. Isn’t it amazing how many parables and illustrations are used in the Bible and elsewhere to describe our relationship with our Creator? It amazes me and it makes me take notice. I will close this portion of my book discussion with a few final quotes and a plan to wrap up this review by the close of the weekend. Consider the divine gardener metaphors as you read these closing comments from So Beautiful…
“He who seeks the Bird of Paradise must put down a little seed.” -African saying.
“No matter who you encounter in life, Jesus has preceded you and prepared the way for whatever you are to accomplish. But the soil must receive the seed, or there will be no harvest. The seed must be planted into soil. You can’t get crops out of rocks. ‘Unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,’ Jesus said, ‘it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’ We must die to self to rise and bear ‘much fruit’ in the grace and love of God. And the smallest of seeds can become the greatest of shrubs and bear the greatest fruit: ‘The kingdom of God…is like a mustard seed.’” Len Sweet (p.211)
…i Crucified – yep.
So Beautiful: Divine Design for Life and the Church -Day 4
I finished part two (The Relational Life: God’s “Yes”) today and started part three (The Incarnational Life: God’s “No”). I really connected to the relational life; I also liked part one (The Missional Life: God’s “Go”), but my spirit soared all the while I was immersed in reading and absorbing the relational life chapters. Several aspects of Len Sweet’s so thorough explanation of the relational life connected with me. I realize this was intentional on his part because of the painstaking effort taken to express his points. In chapter seventeen of part two Sweet writes the following:
“In case you haven’t noticed, this entire section has been saying the same thing over and over again from every conceivable angle and position. This is necessary because of all the features of the divine design, this track seems to be the most difficult for us to grasp and travel. Why is relationality, this relational component of MRI, so hard for us? Ever since Descartes, we’ve been trained to think that the only real authority is reason itself, to which we all have equal access.”
This “relational” part of So Beautiful really fueled my thinking and for the last thirty-something hours I’ve been thinking of nothing but the interconnectivity of creation. Everything is interwoven and interdependent upon one another by God’s design down to and beyond the sub-atomic levels of our understanding. I realize how easy this thinking could swing over into Pantheism or Panentheism, but my thinking and (I believe) Len Sweet’s explanation of relationality is very different…extending into the understanding; “For in Him we live and move and have our being…” (Acts 17:28). Now, this being the case, how much more relational is the jewel of God’s creation, humanity? Or, better put, how much more relational should we be? We fall so short of God’s grand design…thank Him that He provides through Himself a means to restore our brokenness. Praise Jesus!
“Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” (A person is a person through persons) -Zulu proverb Read the rest of this entry »
So Beautiful – Relational Life
I started (and almost finished) part two of So Beautiful this morning. This part discusses the “R” of the MRI model that Sweet introduces in the beginning of the book. I know I haven’t mentioned this before, but in my excitement and zeal for this awesome book I sort of overlooked that piece. MRI stands for missional, relational, and incarnational. Yesterday, in part two, the discussion was on the missional aspect of our faith (missional God the Father, missional Jesus, missional Holy Spirit, missional Church, missional you, and missional me); great, great stuff in part one. Part two, as mentioned is about relational; that is the relational aspect of our faith (once again…relational God the Father, relational Jesus, relational Holy Spirit, relational Church, relational Creation, relational you, relational me, relational us…and relational…relational). Yeah. This story and explanation is so wonderfully assembled in So Beautiful. I am enjoying it so much that I can’t wait to start over and read it again. I don’t think I’ve said that about many books outside of the Bible. I am finding this study to be so affirming in what is already in my own heart, and in addition, I’m finding answers (connecting dots and filling in blanks) for things I didn’t have answers to. I’m being stimulated to study, encouraged to action, and clarified in my focus.
It is probably greatly attributed to my own learning style, but I love the enormous diversity of teaching, knowledge, and experiential thinking that Len Sweet draws upon to present his material. The story is so robust there doesn’t seem to be a dry or dull moment as he weaves the delightfully eloquent narrative of So Beautiful.
I leave my thoughts this morning with this comment on relational and a quote from Len Sweet and So Beautiful. It is God Himself that chose us to be conformed to His Son and His Image; “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:29) And, it was Jesus who prayed the following:
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one-as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” (John 17:20-23)
And finally, from Len Sweet…
“Gospel holiness is to so be in a relationship with Chris that your life channels the name and nature of God: love. I know this word channeling has the smell of new-age sewage. But sometimes no other word will do when something or someone else has gotten greasy from too much fingering. What else do you call it but channeling when the Jesus who is of one substance with the Father wants to be of one substance with every human being? It is more than our vocation as ‘channels’ of God’s peace, as Saint Francis is alleged to have put it. It is that we are channeling the very presence and power of the Prince of Peace.”
“O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.” Jesus (John 17:25-26)
I knocked down another 45 pages or so of this wonderful book this am. I have determined that I will need to continue reading and rereading this for the remainder of the year…and I’m serious when I say this. I also recognized that highlighting and underlining would be futile as it would just make my copy a jumble of lines, marks and technicolor (in other words – it would all be colored and marked). I’m saying this should be mandatory reading for anyone professing themselves as a follower of Christ. Here’s an excerpt from this morning:
“Honest disciples gulp rather than gargle at the fountain of knowledge. Life is filled with difficult questions. If disciples aren’t as wise as Solomon, they’re at least honest about not having all the answers. As Moses found out on the peaks of Mount Sinai. the closer he journeyed to God, the more he was enveloped in the mist and ‘unknowing.’ As Aaron discovered at the foot of Mount Sinai, the farther people journeyed from God, the more they became certain what God looks like and cast the golden calf.” (Len Sweet)
And this, Len Sweet quotes, from Eric Brown:
“To build a non-going church, you make sure that the bond with Jesus is weak, that every decision is tepid and triple-checked, and dissuade people from taking risks.”
And from Thomas Merton, he cites this quote:
“The mission of the church is to continue Christ’s ministry on earth.”
This sounds a lot like; “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you…” John 20:21
Man, Oh Man…
Just started this one this morning (for those who know me well, you’ll be saying “how many books you got going now, Borden?”). I have something like 6-7 books going all the time, not counting my devotional studies…but that’s the way my brain works. It takes me longer to get through a single book sometimes, but it works for me. Anyway, back to my point. I started So Beautiful this morning by Len Sweet. I got through the first 50 pages or so and my heart is beating so passionately in tune with what I’m reading, I probably won’t put this one down. Actually, what I’m doing is listening to the audio book (available from ChristianAudio.com) while doing my morning cardio-walk; however, there was so much going on in the audio I came home and skimmed through the quotes and highlighted the main points in my hardcopy. This book is going to be gold! I plan to recommend it for reading together with my fellow district pastors as well as introduce it to my fellow clergy in my local ministerium. I would love to quote some of the book as a teaser, but I don’t know that it would be fair at this point. In the introduction alone there are over 80 citations and quotes; Len Sweet is weaving and unpacking (a beautiful paradox) a remarkable story that is the organism of the church. I will be sharing my thoughts over the coming few days and end with a full review, but for now…, I’m so excited about this one I had to share. In the meantime, here’s a sample from the publisher, David C. Cook’s, site.