Training Up a Child

Alan Creech has a post on his blog in which he talks about parent’s’ responsibility to raise and train his or her children in the faith.  I couldn’t agree with him more.  He writes, and I quote:

I’m thinking of how I have taught them over the years, what I’ve taught them, and it actually is my primary responsibility to teach them and raise them in the Faith. It’s no one else’s responsibility. It’s mine. It’s Liz’s. If you’re a parent, it’s YOUR responsibility.

You see where I’m going with this. And of course I’ll say that there is a sense in which it takes a… community. It does take the Church, of which we are a part, to fully complete the formation of any person. I’m not just talking about the institutional/official classes and staff members. They may play their part but only as organically real members of Christ’s Body, working in Him and by His Grace and the power of the Holy Spirit to help in the formation of our children into the Image of Christ. If we’re talking front-lines here, though, we’re talking about ME as a parent. If you’re a Catholic, you should know that the Church teaches you exactly what I’m saying. It’s not the Parish council’s job, not the Priest’s job, not the good Sisters at the school, not their job, or the Youth Minister’s job, primarily, to transfer the deposit of Faith into your children. That’s supposed to happen in what is called “the domestic church” – your family. Again, all those things and people will and can play their parts but they cannot, and should not, take the place of YOU, the parent.
My point is that if you abdicate this responsibility to “the Church,” you are doing just that, abdicating a real responsibility that has been given to YOU as a member of “the Church.”

I realize that some parents believe they are busier nowadays than parents in the past.  Many two-parent families have both the dad and mom working full-time jobs.  Further, when they get home, they find themselves carting their children around to their various activities.  And when we consider the plight of single parents, the argument that there is little time for faith formation in the home would seem to be airtight.

But the fact of the matter is, that in the days gone by, life was much more difficult than it is now.  We have so many time-saving appliances (microwaves, washers, dryers, cars, etc. . . ), and not many people I know today make their own clothes or grow their own food.  What we have is not a lack of time, but an unwillingness to make “training up a child” a priority.  It is too easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and let this most important task slide. But parents let it slide to their children’s detriment.  After all, they may receive all kinds of good stuff from worship in church, from youth groups and even Sunday School (though I doubt it), but unless a child sees that faith is important to her or his parent(s), then all the encouragement they may receive from other people and organizations will be diluted, perhaps to the point of being all but worthless.

Anyway, that’s my take on this issue.  What’s yours?  If you have the time, and why wouldn’t you, go on over to Alan’s blog and read more of what he has to say here:  train up a child, which was originally posted on Thursday, 26 July 2007.

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Spiritual Direction

One of my ministries is Spiritual Direction.  Below is some information about it.  You can read more at my website:  Fishdance Waves:  Spiritual Direction for Ordinary People.  You can contact me to schedule an appointment using the contact form on this blog or on Fishdance Waves.

What Is Spiritual Direction?

Spiritual direction is, in reality, nothing more than a way of leading us to see and obey the real Director — the Holy Spirit hidden in the depths of our soul. (Thomas Merton, Trappist monk, USA)

Spiritual direction, an ancient ministry of the church, is a relationship in which one person assists another, or others, in attending to God’s presence and call. Spiritual direction has been, and remains, particularly strong within Roman Catholic and Orthodox religious orders, and over the past twenty years Anglican and Protestant traditions have begun to recover it more fully. There is also growing interest in spiritual direction among other faith traditions, such as Judaism and Buddhism. Throughout Christian history, spiritual direction has traditionally been practiced by ordained clergy alone. In recent years, however, this practice has widened to embrace the spiritual gifts of non-ordained persons as well. Today, spiritual direction is regarded as a ministry open to all, not an order or office reserved for the few. (Presbyterian Church, USA)

Spiritual direction is essentially companioning someone in his or her spiritual life. Other ways of describing spiritual direction include holy listening, spiritual friendship, sacred journeying. (Janna Larson, Roman Catholic, USA)

As I understand it, spiritual direction is best seen as the “gathering together” of two (or more) people in the name of Jesus, who desire to listen prayerfully for the movement and presence of God’s Spirit. Spiritual direction fosters a relationship between a spiritual director and a directee, in orderto help the directee develop a closer relationship with God and to better discern how the Holy Spirit is leading in their daily and ordinary life.

Eugene Peterson, a Presbyterian pastor and writer, describes spiritual guidance this way, “It is teaching people to pray, to discern the presence of grace in events and feelings, affirming the presence of God at the heart of life, sharing a search for light through a dark passage, guiding the formation of a self-understanding that is biblically spiritual instead of merely psychological or sociological.”  He goes to add that spiritual direction is a “space to explore the everyday ordinariness for the presence of God and workings of grace,’ precisely at those times when ‘nothing seems to be happening.”

Spiritual direction is “help given by one Christian to another which enables that person to pay attention to God’s personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with this God, and to live out the consequences of the relationship.” from William A. Barry and William J. Connolly’s The Practice of Spiritual Direction

Angela Jones, the author of Quest for Spiritual Community, says that “spiritual direction offers a way to attend to God’s presence in one’s life in the context of a trusted relationship. [It] “is not about what we do, but about who we are.”

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Spiritual direction is the practice of being with people as they attempt to deepen their relationship with the divine, or to learn and grow in their own personal spirituality. The person seeking direction shares stories of his or her encounters of the divine, or how he or she is experiencing spiritual issues. The director listens and asks questions to assist the directee in his or her process of reflection and spiritual growth. Spiritual direction develops a deeper relationship with the spiritual aspect of being human. It is not psychotherapy, counseling, or financial planning.

Within Christianity, spiritual direction has its roots in the Early Christianity. The gospels describe Jesus serving as a mentor to his disciples. Additionally, Acts of the Apostles Chapter 9 describes Ananias helping Paul of Tarsus to grow in his newfound experience of Christianity. Likewise, several of the Pauline epistles describe Paul mentoring both Timothy and Titus among others. Tradition tells that John the Evangelist tutored Polycarp, the second-century bishop of Smyrna.

What Spiritual Direction Is Not

As mentioned about, spiritual direction is not counseling or therapy. The focus of spiritual direction is to pay attention to and nurture a relationship with God. Those with complex emotional problems or dilemmas may need the assistance of others, such as a therapist or twelve-step group.

Neither does spiritual direction offer quick solutions. A spiritual director cannot answer or solve all spiritual dilemmas, quandaries, and questions. No one can do another’s spiritual “work.” The director is just as much a seeker as the directee.  He or she is definitely not someone who has “arrived.”

The Benefits of Spiritual Direction

Spiritual direction is a two-way street between the director and directee, and as such, it can benefit both by helping them:

  • Mature in their faith, intimacy, and obedience to God.
  • Gain experiences that nurture trust in God’s loving and on-going activity in their lives.
  • Discover the richness of one’s own spiritual tradition, as well as the gifts and blessings of other traditions.
  • Learn about and engage in spiritual practices and disciplines revealing God’s grace.
  • Develop ways of being with God and others in discernment that is informed by scripture, tradition, reason, and personal experience.

Will a Spiritual Director Tell Me What to Do?

In a word:  no. This is where the title of “Spiritual Director” can be misleading.  It may be better to refer to one who offers spiritual direction as a guide or friend or fellow sojourner.  A director’s job is not to control or to tell another what to do or how to be spiritual. Rather, he or she walks alongside you in your own  journey of faith. aids you discerning the presence and movement of God’s Spirit in your life, and assists you in following that movement.

What Happens in a Session?

Normally, each session is a 45-minute face-to-face meeting or phone call. In preparation for each session, I may ask that you take time to reflect on your experiences and feelings since our last time together.  You may want to write some of these reflections in a journal or even send me an email of your observations.  Our sessions will begin with a time of quiet centring, followed by a time for you to share whatever seems important to you. There will be conversation with and perhaps some questions from me as I seek to more understand or clarify what you sharing. Our time together will end with prayer.

How Often Are Sessions Scheduled?

That depends upon you and your needs.  Biweekly or monthly meetings are common patterns, although more frequent meetings can scheduled when needed.

What Is the Cost?

I use a sliding scale for fees, which can range from $20 to $50 a session.  However, I will not turn away someone who is seeking spiritual direction due to a lack of funds. We will speak before our first meeting to determine an appropriate fee.

The Rich Young Ruler Revisited

You might just want to go read his blog instead of mine, but Mike Todd of Waving or Drowning has a an excellent and funny paraphrase of the story of the Rich Young Ruler. He calls his “translation” The Massage: Because It’s All About Me. I hope Mike doesn’t mind my posting it here, but again I refer you to his blog well.

Mark 10:17-22, From The Massage-Because it’s All About Me
(A Paraphrase of the Bible by Mike Todd)

As he went out into the street, a man came running up, greeted him with great reverence, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?”

Jesus said, “Why are you calling me good? No one is good, only God. You know the commandments: Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat, honor your father and mother.”

He said, “Teacher, I have-from my youth-kept them all!”

Jesus looked him hard in the eye-and loved him! He said, “There’s one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me.”

The man’s face clouded over, as this was the last thing he expected to hear. Suddenly, he had an idea.

“But Teacher, what if we try this: I’ll stay here with the way things are, I’ll keep all my stuff, and I’ll tell people it’s a blessing from you! It’s a win-win for both of us-I get to maintain my lifestyle, and you end up looking good! What do you think?”

Jesus pondered this and said, “Well, I hadn’t thought of that. Give me a second.” After a few moment’s reflection he turned to the man and smiled.

“Deal!” Jesus exclaimed.

And the man went away rejoicing and praising God, as he was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go.

With apologies to Eugene Peterson and thanks to Derek Webb.