Soul School Lesson 9 includes selected excerpts of my new book on Discernment.
From December 9th-December 15th 2015, the Kindle book will be on special, starting at just 99¢ and increasing daily back to the original price. Snap up a few copies now and hand them out for the holidays or whenever you notice someone at a crossroads in their life.
Everyone gets forked in life…That point where your path comes to a split and you have to choose carefully which way to go.
Watch the new book trailer and get a taste of what it’s about!
Navigating the territory of crossroad or difficult decisions is also called, in many faith traditions, discernment.
My new book works like a practical pocket guide based on time-tested spiritual exercises that have helped people for over 400 years (The Spiritual Exercises by Ignatius of Loyola, originally written to help men make a wise decision about vocational priesthood).
FORKED: A Discernment Pocket Guide is a guidebook and an integrated process approach that includes all aspects of you: body, mind, and spirit in a prayerful way.
When we find a fork in our road we tend to dis-integrate from our whole and leave out key parts of us when we decide things. Keys things like the intuition, the imagination, the nature talents we have, or the godly passions of the heart that have been germination and waiting to sprout in fertile ground.
Seven key exercises in the book guide you through introspective questions that help you understand yourself and your situation better in a way you’ve never encountered.
There is no one way to accomplish the process. That means, you can progress through all of the the exercises, or pick the ones that make the best fit for you and your situation. Just grab a notebook and pen and begin.
Right now, one of the most powerful and influential men in the world is undoubtably Pope Francis.
Pope Francis is the first Jesuit Pope, but too few people know the specific qualities of his Order (The Society of Jesus-Ignatian spirituality). His spirituality and training powerfully and uniquely guide his worldview, philosophy of vocation and work, and themes of his prominent, worldwide administration especially when compared with his predecessors.
Through his decisions, he influences Roman Catholics internationally (a staggering 1.1 billion people) and his ideas influence and inspire many of the 2.2 billion people who consider themselves Christian (specifically: a follower of the way of Jesus), including me.
What is most influential to Pope Francis?
His training in the Society of Jesus (the Catholic Order founded by Ignatius of Loyola 400 years ago). This is what guides how he see the world and makes all his important decisions that direct the Catholic Church and influence others worldwide.
Today, we will learn more about these teachings that often come out-of-sync with the ways and structures of established institutions of religion, politics, and power.
Today, you will hear from my spiritual director, Jeanine Breault, a Roman Catholic who is formally trained in the Ignatian tradition. We converse about some of the salient characteristics of the Ignatian spiritual teachings and traditions.
Thus, you will find out the manner in which Pope Francis is directed spiritually by his own spiritual director within this 400 year old spiritual tradition; learn how Ignatian spiritual directors (and the current Pope) see the world and how God works in it, and more.
SHOWNOTES: EPS 24: The (Ignatian) Spirituality of Pope Francis
Answering: What is Ignatian Spirituality?
Finding God in all things. We are invited to notice how God is at work. More than head knowledge but an experiential knowledge.
God is always at work for the good in my life and in my world and growing in that awareness. How can I respond to God’s call?
3:30 An Intimate relationship with God SO THAT I can labor with God.
Now that there is a Pope who is a Jesuit (the first in history) how does that shift the role and the the way he see the world as the head of the church.
On Pope Francis’s new letter “The Joy of the Gospel” and the Jesuit flavorings contained within and the influence on his life.
On the massive changes at the Vatican.
Who was Ignatius of Loyola?
The story of the man who founded the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits)
Born in 1491 and his message continues to changes peoples lives.
His war injury and what changed his life.
The mystical experience he had.
He work in the discernment of spirits (his work called the Spiritual Exercises) and how these forces work in our lives.
Discerning and choosing between two goods.
The rules for discernment that can be applied to anyone at anytime.
The basic of the rules of discernment.
When a person is oriented to God and desires to please God, then God confirms that and gives graces of peace, joy, and comfort. The opposite feelings do not come from God (fear, anxiety, discouragement, despair, etc).
Through the Ignatian spiritual exercises, one can figure out what is of God and what is not.
People coming to direction for the first time are really grappling with a sense of God’s love for them (and not really believing it.)
Coming to a spirit-led decision and grace is involved.
Overcoming the obstacle of unworthiness.
Working at cultivating people’s awareness. Asking questions that create space for inquiry, discovery and discernment.
We forget that God loves at at some level and it’s a continual process of remembering.
Her experience with guilt in prayer because of a lack of focus. Apologizing to God about being preoccupied. And the amazing thing God seemed to say in response.
The part of affirming the goodness of God and what God is doing in that person’s life is the job of the director.
The answer won’t expect to my question: “What do you say or do when people can’t see or sense God, or they have a blindness and are unaware?” (Maybe an “image of God problem”)
The “director” is not a good word. The Spirit of God is the actual director and it’s God’s business.
The parallel with gardening and patience for growth.
“God loves that person more than you do.”
On not “fixing” things and solving problems.
Compassionate listening and getting out of the way for God to work better.
What supervision of a spiritual director looks like so that good listening can keep happening for those directed.
Finding a director that is properly prepared to direct others is crucial.
Asking Jeanine, “What happens in your mind and heart when you find yourself wanting to solve problems and rescue someone?”
Remembering the kind of ministry direction is. A prevailing ope that God is at work and in control ultimately. It’s sacred time and time to stay focused. Setting aside things when they come up.
Do people expect you to be their counselor? And what happens when that happens during direction?
Helping people know what to expect from direction and how to find someone who is properly trained.
The international listing of trained directors. sdiworld.org
Director will work with people from any tradition.
The connection of Buddhism and Christian Mysticism in practice. Seeing the goodness in other traditions.
John O’Donohue and his comments of what Buddhism can brings to Christianity and vice versa.
Noticing the “now”.
Coming to a vibrant faith where (you realize) God is working in this very moment.
Relationships are the ways we become tuned to God and working out our salvation in real life and ordinary experiences.
Resources to continue on this path.
Ronald Rollhieser The Holy Longing and Prayer: Our Deepest Longing
Carmelite nun Ruth Borrows. Guidelines for Mystic Prayer
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Shownotes: PART II
A conversation with Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality, author Tom Reynolds
Tom joined the Emmanuel College (part of the University of Toronto) faculty in 2007. He is committed to an interdisciplinary, practical, and relational vision of theology, and his teaching and research address a range of topics related to constructive theology (particularly the doctrine of God and theological anthropology), theological method, intercultural and interfaith engagements, contextual theologies and globalization, philosophical theology, disability studies, and the thought and influence of Friedrich Schleiermacher.
Who sinned? (disciples of Jesus thinking of blindness as a curse)
So the glory of God can be revealed. (What might that mean that we haven’t understood yet. [Lisa])
The story is less about curing the disabled and more about reveal Jesus’ power and legitimacy as the Messiah.
NT Wright author of Evil and the Justice of God
(on the Problem of Evil)
• God as the Incarnation steps into human suffering as a means to assuage it and also, in that, provides us a model for how to encounter it in the world ourselves, practically speaking.
The answers to suffering can become “incarnational”, not cerebral and (held) at a distance.
The why questions signal a (good) unsettledness which can be productive…
1. God is bigger than our questions and we should feel free to engage in dialogue with God and each other about God.
2. And because it calls us to live into the world and the lives of people will engage who ask, “Where are you?” and we can be there in presence and not (just) with answers.
(The heart of Incarnational living.)
In many cases God’s own presence is us to each other.
“Care isn’t so much “doing for” but “being with”.”
1 in 5 families regularly encounters a serious disability of some kind.
We (as a family) chose to continue to come to church even though it was sometimes messy so he (and everyone) could figure out how to make it work. (Lisa)
How can people in Christian Communities or leaders in Christian communities do better when it comes to being truly hospitable and caring well for people with disabilities.
Training ministers to come along side is important.
In his mission and intro to Theology class, what is framed is practical wisdom lived out in relationships of caring regard with other people. (not in the academic halls or in isolation).
On developing the perception to see/understand differently and to see places where people have been harmed by certain ways of seeing these…like the healing narratives…illness as curses from God, or metaphors of seeing and hearing language and attitudes (able-ism) for example.
How to show consideration:
Asking before you assist someone. Or asking how you can best help and not presuming that you know (or know better).
Listen first, then do.
Ministry doesn’t have to be deficit-focused to the “needy”…but rather possibility focused.
As all people of resources and gifts [are] welcome among the community…this turns things upside-down.
Think of people as sites of wisdom that help a community of belonging.
Shownotes: PART I
A conversation (in 2 parts) with
the author of Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality, by practical theologian Tom Reynolds
Tom joined the Emmanuel College (part of the University of Toronto) faculty in 2007. He is committed to an interdisciplinary, practical, and relational vision of theology, his teaching and research address a range of topics related to constructive theology (particularly the doctrine of God and theological anthropology), theological method, intercultural and interfaith engagements, contextual theologies and globalization, philosophical theology, disability studies, and the thought and influence of Friedrich Schleiermacher.
Incorporating the theology of disability into his work training pastors at Emmanuel Seminary, because theology is personal, and not disconnected from the real world concerns of the church and people living their lives.
About his son Chris sparking his interest and work in the theology of disability.
5:30 Learning that disability isn’t a problem to figure out, but rather it’s about a person who I love and live with, and care with and for, which radically reoriented my perspective on theology.
Disability and God’s Providence
(Questioning does God “cause” disability as a curse or opportunity for healing…or a kind of moral lesson…)
His son exploded the theological categories (and assumptions) pertain to Providence…making everything confusing and needing to be re-thought.
What is abnormal? What is “faulty” humanity?
Amos Yong, Hans Reinders, John Swinton writing on the topic too.
Tom details the new book on the Theology of Care which builds on the first book.
Some churches stress Cure over Care in terms of disability.
(Lisa) My visit to a church where the leadership was interested in healing my son from his non normative experience of the world.
The range of responses churches have when encountering people with disabilities.
The church’s “urge to cure” is better than outright exclusion, which plenty of families have encountered.
It comes from the the idea of remaking and fixing someone in a way that is more comfortable for non disable people and normalcy (what they consider normal). Not helpful or Christian.
About the church that didn’t want his son as a disruption and a church that did receive them.
“How can we help you?” was water for his parched soul. How the church accepted and welcomed the uniqueness of his son.
Hospitality vs. a narrow view of what is preferred.
The messiness of various kinds of people, in general, means we have to expand our view of grace.
Who gets to be a full-fledge member of the church community?
and the “mascot syndrome” for those with disabilities.
16:30 – 17:50
Levels and types of responses:
• Tolerate disabled, but they do not get to be a true part of the church.
• “Inclusion” sometimes means means the the “outsiders” get invites to the inside group based on the good graces of the in group, but are still treated as problems to be solved, or people that are to receive the gestures of charity from others (people for whom things are “done for (them”)”. Doing for instead of “being with”.
What is access? In is not just accommodations (i.e. ramps and special bathrooms) and alterations but ongoing…
Faith communities may be not expecting and not ready to receive those with disabilities.
It’s not an issue about outsiders, because disability extend to a broad range of issues, both visible and not visible, including mental health challenges that are already there.
Thinking of the word “BELONGING”
as in “to be longed for when you aren’t there in the fullest sense.”
John Swinton and belonging
Jean Vanier “In giving and receiving do we really thrive as people”
Unconscious bias that includes “fear of the stranger” and “fear of the stranger within”.
We fear weakness and vulnerability.
Before “mainstream”…the stigma of “retard”…and fearing and disposing weakness.
Nathan means gift. (Lisa) I learned that I had to recognize weaknesses (shortcomings) in myself the I saw reflected in my son…and communities can do the same type of thing unconsciously.
“The encounter with disability punctures the illusions of what we think of as our own strengths.”
The journey with a child with disabilities is isolating.
Societal epidemic that fears being vulnerable or perceived as weak or unable to perform in ways that are considered valuable by society.
We have to see what are myths about autonomy, independence, and productivity where are assume we are self-reliant and these qualities are prized so highly. “Able-ism” (The idea that being able in body and mind is normal and most vital which serves as the lens by which we see and judge the world and others outside those parameters as faulty.)
Tom’s latest work called “A spirituality of attentiveness”. Christianity: St Paul’s strength in weakness serves as a prophetic witness against a society that prizes the strong as the main thing of value. 1 Corinthinians pretense of strength undercuts our ideas of grace)
We are all only temporarily-abled. (Lisa).
On hearing “You must be so blessed to have a disabled person as a teacher.” Is this sometimes a reframing of the situation that spins the situation to be more palatable? A glossing with spiritual truths and making it about spiritual growth.
Instead, Chris’s life seeks its own flourishes, and he may at times function as a teacher.
Thoughts on intellectual ability (or inability) and belief in terms of Salvation.
God’s works God’s own path in different ways and in different capacities with people. This undercuts my arrogance (as a theologian), so I don’t think I can so easily map it out definitively and universal for all people in all places.
His son’s atheism (who is the God he doesn’t believe in)…and how that challenges our presuppositions about God.
“It is in the kind of relationships of mutual belonging that the full image of God is borne out.”
(Lisa) To my son I said, “when you see someone who is loving you, you are seeing God.”
(Lisa) On how I changed from thinking “right belief” as the way to understand God was central. Our intellectualizing what God has done is not salvific.
Martin Luther’s theology of the Cross:
The pretense that we know exactly where God is and how God works. Where God is most hidden is where God is most vividly revealed in saving ways.
“Who I am to declare that God’s grace only works in some ways? and the God’s capacity and God’s own mystery is limited to what I would deem and my community would deem adequate.”
What the practical theology of disability tells us about Grace with God and relationships with others.
“The longer I live and work as a theologian the more I realize the limitations of theology and the true infinite mysteries of God.”
Jesus was disruptive to religious pretense and suppositions. “You say this..but I say this…”
Theodicy – The question of why does God allow suffering and how should we think about suffering.
How Tom, as a theologian, answers the question,
“Why would a sovereign God allow a person to be born disable and encounter such suffering?” (This is great!)
The best is yet to come! Come back for part II next week.
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