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Sunday, March 23, 2008

What is Spiritual Direction in the 21st Century? Part 1

While the question sounds simple, there are many possible answers. For a Christian, all forms of spiritual direction have developed out of the day-in, day-out, relationship that Jesus shared with His twelve disciples.

With nothing more than three years of constant exposure to His life, works, and words, the twelve (actually just eleven) soon became known as those who turned the then-known world upside-down.

Today, spiritual direction can happen via iPhone, text chat, email, mp3, video or audio, ebooks, web sites, books on paper, magazine articles, lectures or sermons, seminars and conferences, retreats and many other ways too numerous to list. But while we can take advantage of technological breakthroughs and online tools for virtually instant communication, there is still no substitute for the life-on-life, face-to-face, heart-to-heart in-person conversations first modeled by Jesus.

Christ’s followers in the 21st century, meeting over coffee, breakfast or lunch, sharing a park bench, or taking a walk or a cross-country trip together, can still plant seeds that will have world-changing results.

These men and women share a common purpose (promoting spiritual growth that encourages the formation of Christ in us—the lifelong goal of becoming more like Him in all of our attitudes, words, relationships, works and actions).

We will pray together and for one another. We will read, study, reflect and share the results of what we learn through our personal discoveries in and by our personal applications of the Word of God. We will encourage one another. We will learn together and grow together. We will do this person-to-person. We will give and receive spiritual direction as peers, mentors, disciplemakers, pastors, teachers, trainers and friends in Christ.

We will often do this one-on-one (men discipling men; women discipling women), sometimes three individuals will meet together in this way, and a small group of 5 to 7 can also provide the accountability and discipline and growth towards a more Christ-centered common life that our world needs to see practiced by Christ’s followers.

If you give direction, encouragement, or counsel, to brothers or sisters in Christ, be sure to do it in reliance upon the Spirit of Christ in you:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

“The Counselor, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26).

What is Spiritual Direction in the 21st Century? Part 2

According to Evelyn Underhill “It is the guidance of one soul by and through another soul. It is the individual and intensive side of pastoral work. God comes to and affects individuals very largely through other individuals . . . Direction work can, of course, be done only and all the time in absolute interior dependence on God; and all the most valuable part of it will be done silently, by the influence of your prayer on the souls that you are called upon to guide.”

Underhill reminds her readers that each person’s spiritual personality is unique: “the spiritual personality you are helping to form is probably quite different from your own; and perhaps even different from your own secret ideal for it . . . It needs a great deal of self-abandonment to do all this with simplicity—it means learning from those who come to you as well as trying to teach—and that is the purifying part of personal religious work.

“Moreover those who do this work are commonly themselves growing and changing; they have not arrived, but are traveling and exploring as they go. It is generally a case of one more or less dusty pilgrim helping another . . .

“This is where a strict personal training in mental prayer and spiritual reading abundantly justifies itself. You may not yourself be called to the mountains; but you will be more able to advise and understand prospective mountaineers if you have at least put on heavy boots and tried a little hill-climbing, than if you have merely spent all your time on the level growing nice little patches of devotional mustard and cress.

“It is imperative that those called to guide the souls of others, should themselves be humble pupils in the school of interior prayer.”

(Quotations from Concerning The Inner Life, Oneworld Publications, Oxford, England, 1999, pages 84-85, 90-92)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Remembering Gutenberg's Artistry

Last month we journeyed to Southern California to attend the 41st version of the California International Antiquarian Book Fair in Los Angeles over the weekend of February 15—17th.

Nearly 200 dealers from the United States, Canada, Great Britain, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Argentina, and Australia display samples of every kind of book imaginable. “Overwhelming” best describes the impact of spending a few hours wandering and browsing among these treasures. The next day we added an impromptu visit to the nearby Huntington Library.

This unique Library displays one of 12 copies of the 42-line Gutenberg Bible (regarded as the first book printed with moveable type by Johann Gutenberg around 1452 to 1455).

Truly amazing to see a book made over 500 years ago. Here’s a kind of contemporary tribute to Gutenberg’s pioneering accomplishments from some 20th Century artisans: