I'm wrapping up a 13-month course I have been part of at Fordham focusing on the supervision of spiritual directors. There are five students in our cohort, and each has been presenting on a topic that they feel is critical to the supervision of spiritual directors.
This week one of my colleagues presented on stages of faith development and it got me thinking about transitions. Why transitions? Because it is often when there is an external circumstance in our world that leads to internal reflection and revaluation that we grow in faith.
Thinking back on my own life some of the largest shifts in faith have happened when I went to college, transferred schools, lost a loved one, and started ministry. But that's just in my life.
What has caused growth along your spiritual journey and how do you bear witness to it?
I will be the first to admit that patience is not my strong suit. If I say that I'm going to do something, I try to get it done quickly.
So needless to say, the fact that I have been waiting for a closet to be cleaned out for worship supplies for over a year is not a recipe for me to be happy. There are a lot of factors going into this uncleaned closet, but most of it boils down to the statement that "we will get around to it."
Too many of us have that same approach to our spiritual lives - we will "get around to it" - when we have more time, or attention, or.... fill in the blank.
But what would it look like to actually have a sense of attention to our spiritual lives? What if we so highly valued them that we made our souls a priority? What would the shape of our lives be then?
This week my air conditioner decided it had enough. It quit.
Or really, this week my air conditioner gave out because it hadn't been attended to. There was no maintenance that had been done that the trustees could remember and when the filters were removed they were caked in years worth of build up.
It got me thinking about our spiritual lives as well. While we want the wind, breath, movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we sometimes aren't the best to checking in and actually being attentive to our life in the Spirit.
That is one of the reasons spiritual direction is so important to me. Because I know every month I am going to be asked "how is it with your soul?"
What are your practices to being attentive to the Spirit in your life?
Often times when someone is a good listener, they are also someone who asks good questions.
What do I mean by that?
Good questions aren't just about getting facts and aren't opinions disguised with a question mark at the end. Instead, they are engaging. Inviting discovery and going deeper into what has been stated.
Good questions don't steer the conversation where the listener desires to go, but instead tracks with the person who is speaking.
The problem is that we may not have many examples in our lives of people who ask good questions. Questions that are for our sake.
Who are the people in your life who are good at asking you questions and how do those people make you feel?
I'll let you in on a secret - some pastors listen to other pastors preach. One of my favorite ways to listen is through Podcasts and there are some services I listen to every week. One of those is Providence Church, where Jacob Armstrong is the primary teaching pastor.
This past week Jacob's message hit my heart in just the right place. He talked about how when the Israelites were preparing to flee Egypt, Miriam (Moses's sister) in the midst of gathering folks together for the journey took time to pack her tambourine. Why? Pastor Armstrong said because she was trusting that there would be a time to praise God that was coming (https://prov.church/messages/).
One of the beautiful things I get to do as a spiritual director is bear witness. To be the one celebrating with people when God moves in their lives in ways great and small. I may not play a physical tambourine but I have one going in my heart!
Who are the people who praise God with you and trust that a reason to celebrate is coming?
We are now in season 2 of the podcast. This season we are going to focus on the supervision of spiritual directors - which may lead to some questions such as "What is that?" and "Why is supervision needed?" and "Who should be supervised?"
This week I submitted my graduation application for a certificate program on supervising spiritual directors, but my interest and passion trace back much farther than these thirteen months. It goes the whole way back to when I started practicing in 2013 and my deep desire to find someone to accompany me in this calling.
Only the road to finding that companionship and compassionate formation and listening didn't easily come.
I wonder, on the brink of this new season coming out - what do you think of when you hear the word "supervision?" and who helps form you along the journey?
I am knee-deep in my capstone paper for the advanced certificate in the supervision of spiritual directors program I am in. The topic - grief.
Yet, intellectually talking about how to accompany those in grief and those walking with those in grief touches us in a different way when we are in our own season of loss.
A week ago, I was at the beach. For Christmas this year, I surprised my family with a brick on the new walkway through the town we usually stay with in honor of my grandpa. This beach was a special place for Pap because of the memories he had there with us. Seeing my family stand around his brick was both healing and had grief washing over me anew.
While we were away we also received word that one of the giants of faith in my life passed away. My uncle was a man who taught me about loving Jesus and community. Another wave of grief.
Perhaps more than any other time in our lives, we need faithful companions when we are navigating the long-hull of grief. Who are those people for you and what makes them your companion on the journey?
Do you have places in your life where you can listen? Truly listen? Maybe places where you don't just hear, but you feel freedom to respond?
For me, one of those places of holy listening is in my car. When I'm not distracted by checking email or lots of folks trying to have conversations with me at once, all of a sudden I have space to truly hear. Deeply hear. Do that type of hearing that comes from a places outside of myself.
Maybe for you it isn't the car. Maybe it's someplace else entirely. But I wonder, where are those places and what are those experience of holy listening like for you?
One of my favorite days in the Church calendar is Pentecost. We celebrate the birth of the Church through the Holy Spirit. It's a day filled with the color red and words about the Holy Spirit being like a tongue of fire and rushing wind.
The problem is that we don't dwell on this day. We don't dwell on what it means to abide in the Spirit of power and truth, conviction and calling, justice and mercy in our lives.
I was recently talking with some colleagues who lamented that the red of Pentecost comes down so quickly. While there is the season of Christmas and the season of Easter, we call what starts the very next day the "season after Pentecost".
What would it look like to live into a season of Pentecost with the Spirit in your life? What might you be invited to during this time?
As part of the practicum that I am currently in with the Center for Courage and Renewal, we get to meet in peer learning groups two times before a closing retreat. In these groups we are held by simply being listened to as we share what is on our heart, what goal we have related to our sharing, and the best way(s) for the group to respond to us.
What a transformative space!
As I was reflecting upon what makes it so, I realized that it is being listened to and having people who are willing to respond in the ways that I need the most at that moment.
All too often, people are quick to jump in with personal stories or advice and in this group, I was able to say that what I needed most were questions to ask myself and sit with.
Where are your spaces that you are truly listened to and people are willing to respond with what you deeply need?
Michelle is a Spiritual Director and End of Life Doula. She is the founder of Abide in the Spirit.
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