Eps 70: Sexuality and Spiritual Formation, Guest Tara Owens

Eps 70: Sexuality and Spiritual Formation, Guest Tara Owens

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Today, my guest is anam cara (soul friend), Tara Owens, of Anam Cara Ministries.

Tara’s ministry exists to provide a place dedicated to the practice of soul friendship and coming alongside others in order to facilitate healing, wholeness, holiness and spiritual formation.

• We cover topics about embodiment, sexuality, sensuality,  body shame, body and brain disconnect, fear, technology, the vow of “staying with”, spiritual direction, holy listening and attending to others, and using an adult coloring book as a spiritual practice.

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MIN 2:00
Conversations Journal – Spiritual Formation


In direction you receive the full attention of someone.

Holy listening and focused fully loving attention and being entirely listened to.

A long loving look at the real together.


Do homework to find a director that has the training to truly attend during your sessions.

The holy ground of the soul. Sacred space.


Who are the typical people who come for direction?


Working with Millenials


Crisis points in faith and needing a director.

Sexuality and Spiritual Formation

Embracing the Body: Finding God in our Flesh and Bones

part I Fears around the Body (we are our body)

part II Theology about the Body

part III Integrating our Body (shalom and the body)

God speaks to us in and through our body

-[Mistakenly] We relate to ourselves as “brains on sticks” –Twitter

Our beliefs about God come to supersede our experiences of God


We can be taught that the body is the entry point of danger and sin. (Lisa) This is the opposite of true.

Male and Female bodies and brains.

“Shame disintegrates us.”Twitter

(we are separated from ourselves.)

“Our bodies can’t lie.” 

MIN 18

“Our bodies will tell us what we believe.”Twitter

MIN 20 The brain and body disconnect. The silos we create.

MIN 21:30

Genesis 12

Vision and a word.

The fully-sensual nature and wholeness of being human and spiritual.


A walk being spiritual.


The Emmaus Walk and Prayer Walk

and other practices

Practicing really breathing

Attending to the “ruach” of God (Hebrew for breath)

We usually breath with just 20% of our lungs.

Blessing their body.

MIN 28:00

Body shame and self-loathing

“Being willing to look at yourself with kind eyes”Twitter

we participate in a degradation of our bodies and seeing what is wrong.

We are conduits of God’s blessing.Twitter

Bernard of Clairvaux

We are not a canal but a reservoir – give out of overflow after we have received from God


The truth about Selfies

[Selfies are] not vanity but a mask and fear.Twitter


It is not good for humans to be alone.


Staying connected with people once it gets messy.


The tool of technology.

Skills for connection if you have gaps.

The vows of “staying with” and not leaving when it gets hard.

The discipline of stability.


The challenge of Embodiment.

Liturgy should involve: God, creation, and other people.

Communion is a tangible way to be physical and incarnate. (meals together)

No more tiny bits of Jesus.


Tara’s latest project:

At Play in God’s Creation:

Contemplative Prayer Coloring Book

96 pages!




Thanks for listening.
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Soul School –  Lesson 9 (Discernment Book)

Soul School – Lesson 9 (Discernment Book)

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.

Don’t be afraid to get started. Give it a try.

NOW AVAILABLE click here!


FORKED A Discernment Pocket Guide Amazon page allow you to take a peek inside too.

EPS 31: Life After Midday, A Conversation with former Moody Radio host Lori Neff

THIS IS A VERY SPECIAL “in-betweener”  episode!
Check out the other one released this week too.
• Rolf Potts here!

The Life After Midday Story…

This Autumn, when the giant Christian Broadcasting Network, Moody Radio, suddenly ended the award-winning and popular show for women called Midday Connection, fans were stunned and so were the four hosts of the program. The show ran strong for decades and dealt with tough topics with trustworthy and transformative authenticity, and now it was abruptly over.

In the weeks and months that followed the news (first conveyed confidentially to the hosts a few months earlier) host Lori Neff struggled to find her footing. What was her identity after losing her dream job , her 18-year career, and the interaction with her friends from her job? What should be the new path for her ministry and her life’s work?

In this beautiful episode, Lori conveys to us with her characteristic authenticity and her deep well of spiritual fortitude what was happening during that time, how she has processed the tumult of the upheaval in a way that has best connected with her values, and she reveals her exciting plans for the future (some of which include THIS show).  It is an inspiring and a useful model for any of us in a difficult transition or painful situation. Her message will hearten and delight you.


Scroll down to click on the button to listen and see the shownotes below for links to things mentioned in the show.

We had a LIVE online podcast after-party, scroll to the bottom to view the replay!

Thank you for finding Spark My Muse project and listening in. So much is in store. Wonderful guests, new partnerships, and upcoming ways to connect. (Also, check out the community we started HERE.)

• If you have enjoyed the program and want to be a part of helping it continue, you can help out HERE. Even $1 or 2 is wonderful, because as everyone helps a little–it helps a lot.

(Dead broke, but still generous? Share the show with a few friends now and visit this link to write a helpful review on iTunes HERE.)

Be sure to connect with Lori!

Find Lori at her website HERE.

Find her on Facebook HERE.

Connect with Lori on Twitter HERE


MIN 1:30

18 years of radio broadcasting for Lori came suddenly to an end?

Broadening the scope of the women’s program to talk about spiritual formation and tougher topics.


How Lori was introduced to and trained in spiritual direction (and what is it?)


Moving away from problem-solving.

Christos in MN, training program


Listening with the other person for…

God’s activity in their life. Enjoying the creativity that can go along with it.


A gentle, safe and warm ministry.


The shock of the Midday Connection ending.


Leaning into the things that bring you joy.


A podcast focused on prayer. (Everyday Prayer Podcast)


Using art for prayer and worship


Lori’s spiritual background and faith tradition


The trap of legalism that began in adolescence.


Janet Davis book, The Feminine Soul


Our devotion can make us strive for certainty.


Critical Journey Janet Hagberg


The format and date for her new podcast.


Pray as you go

Daily disconnect podcasts with daily prayer

Guided prayer practice. About 8 minutes long.

Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas


When prayer “stops working” and the seasons of prayer.


A prayer Lori goes back to is she’s discourage, sad, or busy:

Lynnette Martin

Practical Praying [READ it here]

We give a glance, a smile and say “hello”.


Basking in the presence and intimacy of God in an intentional way.


Asking, “Where is God in this?”

The chair was like a nest.


Relying on written prayers when you feel prayer.


Celtic prayers.

Morning, afternoon, and evening prayers that are holistic.


Lori doing women’s retreat with Melidna Schmidt.

Creative Faith.

Vision and value statements

5 Core value statements.

Mind Mapping – a tool for putting thoughts on paper in an organized way.

Beth and David Boorman

Sustainable Faith Indy


Discovering her dreams.


Authenticity and vulnerability and lack of fear to address hard topics is what she’ll miss the most.


Anything like Midday Connection on the horizon?


Anita Lustrous Faith Conversations podcast


Spark invitation


Finding Lori and what she’s up to. lorineff.com

“The end of Midday Connection” series on the blog


Losses take time to move through.

A lament like the psalms.

The journey of grief.


Is there something as “pure joy”?


Not pushing aside the tension of joy and sorrow.

Please let me know if you enjoyed the show. Don’t forget to subscribe and come back in a few days for another episode!



EPS 24: The Robust (Ignatian) Spirituality of Pope Francis

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.




Spirutal Director, Jeanine Breault, trained in Ignatian Spirituality
Spirutal Director, Jeanine Breault, formally trained in Jesuit Ignatian Spirituality

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

MIN: 1:00

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?


Ignatian Spirituality in contemplative in action.

Francis of Assisi and Saint Dominic are major influences on Ignatius.

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? Ignatius_Loyola_by_Francisco_Zurbaran

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

Anthony De Mello

Joyce Rupp

Learn more about Ignatius of Loyola here.

Esp 22: Why The Dark Night of the Soul is like Fight Club

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Doug Jackson, Returning Guest and All-Star, Explains the 3 Stages of Spiritual Development and Dispels the Biggest Myths.

Do you know St John of the Cross?

What you don’t know could hurt you…but good news, you are now in for a treat!

Listen and get a fascinating perspective of the darkest places on the spiritual journey with your guide Professor Doug Jackson. See the show notes below!



Historic context of 16th Century Catholic Revival-Era Spanish Mystic, St John of the Cross


3 stages of spiritual development 

How do we know if we are making progress and what can we expect?

St John (1542-1591) provides a roadmap for night travel.st-john-of-the-cross-zurbaran-detail-featured-w740x493

The Beginner Stage
(The beginner loves God for the self’s sake. The beginners thinks, “What’s good for me.”)

John H Coe

Doug explains the Dark Night of the Soul, the important next stage of spiritual development, in keen and helpful detail.


God starts at the first stage (in a place of joy and thrill in God) and allows us delight in spiritual things and feed on “mother’s milk” spiritually.

Next, God helps us get used to our baby teeth by moving us to love God for God’s sake.

John of the Cross takes the 7 deadly sins and show how they can happen to us in a spiritual sense.


God is weening us away from nursing and from spiritual milk. Like a baby, we may misunderstand and feel unloved or unnoticed, at first.


Commodified is the Dark Night of the Soul in Amercian Evangelicalism. The phrase itself is often used inexactly.

It’s not feeling sad or a string of bad things have happened for which we feel upset and confused.

BUT—It is that without cause we feel God has abandon us.

It is not a loss of faith, nor not depression, nor a felt distance because of sin.

It was also an analysis of depression 400 years before Freud! 


God withdraws sensible (sensory, felt) affects. The dark night of the senses. (first phase).


Maybe it feels like prayers are bouncing off the ceiling. Maybe it feels that songs or sermons that had made an affect no longer do. This sense of loss will be different for each person.


Essentially, the delight in God disappears.


Mistakenly, we often may try to shock people back into spiritual infancy with a method, tactic, or suggestion that seems like it might cause feeling once again. (like a book, a conference, a service, etc)


The spiritual advice from John is to not abandon your spiritual practices (like prayer, fellowship, meditation, service, etc) continue to obey God and carry on until you pass through the night. They won’t be fun, but you continue for God’s sake, not your own.

Then you can come out on the other side to the stage of the Proficient. (Though the stages are actually more porous.)


The 2nd stage is where John says most of us get and hardly proceed from.

2nd dark night, is rare, and is horrible and includes a bewilderment and even a loss of faith in God and one comes out with a much richer deeper faith and far more settled and fuller understanding of God.

John Coe using 1 John 2:12-14 explains the stages as well.


John of the Cross found this understanding through terrible suffering and imprisonment and he saw the spiritual connection.


In the Dark Night of the Soul, spiritual answers are obscured and things are hidden from view.

Walking by faith and not sight.


If you can’t find the answers it doesn’t mean that something went wrong, it’s just that you can see right now. There will be a lack of certainty.


Stick with the basics in the dark night.


In the dark night we aren’t doubting our Faith, or God, but but we are doubting our understanding of God and our Faith.

The call is to obey God and persist in our ways as before. Eventually a dawn will come.


In this stage, we jettison things that are not core, central and true and come to understand God in a better way.

BE WARNED: Others may feel anxious to get you back in to where you were.


Backsliding is not the same thing as a Dark Night experience. The Dark Night is progression.


Prophets in the OT go through the dark night times.


Using a different lens to see what is already there.



Elijah after Mt Carmel

Apostle Paul


Jesus (wilderness and Gethsemane)

Jesus “learned obedience” and the the will of God was not pleasant

We all go through these types of dark nights



John of the Cross’s work was (and is) written for [spiritual] guides (leaders) so they can recognize what is happening and to know what not to do.


Some mystical-style theologians have been hijacked and grafted into a different (sometimes New Age) model of how the reality is ( i.e. “divided self”.)


The Devil – So what about the Devil which is a prominent feature in the writings?


John takes the readers’ Christian theology for already granted. The basic Christian theology was assumed because that was the background and beliefs of his audience.


Doug answers…Devil with a Big “D” questions. How do we come to understand John and what he is saying, if it is different than our understanding of The Devil and the spiritual world?

Don’t rehabilitate [John], or superimpose our ideas on his work.

Don’t judge or put parts on trial for the embarrassing and difficult sections of St John of the Cross.


Approach the text thus: “Eat the meat of the fish not the bones”


If the language bothers you, then let it lie fallow and see what is going on in your own heart as you read.


We can learn from old text.


On intellectual honesty and intellectual humility


On why the devotional classics become that way.


On the reading of old books (C.S. Lewis) (click to read)

We have different blind spots now. Different mistakes in different times.


Our cultural and worldview will effect our beliefs.


How do we get through the Dark Night?

It is up to God as a Grace. Our only job is to remain faithful.

Father Francis Kelly Nemeck


The promise is (found in Scripture and from those who’ve gone ahead of us in the Faith) that we come out (into dawn) and see the value of what we went through.

God says to Job: I’m God and you are not.

Job says, “Now I have seen you. I spoke out of turn.”


A word of hope for those in the dark night.

1. Those in the dark night bless those around them and their pride does not effect this because of the Night itself. We are spiritual protected.


In the Dark Night we don’t get to be proud of our humility.

Be faithful know that God is using you and wait it out.


Modern example Mother Teresa. She lived most of her life with a sense of abandonment by God.

“If I ever become a Saint I will be a Saint of Darkness, facing the dark to guide souls to the light.”


People were drawn to her service and work for God even though she felt God’s silence.


On her critics who say she stopped believing in God.

Christopher Hitchens wrote slanderously about her and others in his book “The Missionary Position”. He said she did have the courage to admit publicly that she didn’t believe in God and never had.


Mother Teresa–her fruit shows otherwise (it’s sow belief and faithfulness).

Apostasy is a deliberate walking away from God which is a danger of misunderstanding the Dark Night. This is why trained and wise spiritual guides are essential.


C.S. Lewis character Screwtape urges: “Use the word “phase” to tell him he had it all wrong”

In a genuine Dark Night, we may think we have abandon God or want to and then find ourselves incapable of it.


Doubt in God is like holding a volleyball underwater with just one hand and senses all the force and then thinking there is no volleyball because it cannot be seen.

“We aren’t working without a net and we won’t fall out of the arms of God.”


If you are in the Dark Night…(it helps) remembering “it’s a thing, a documented thing”.


Walking in the footsteps of those who’ve gone before.


What to do if you are in the throes of it all. best advice.

Richard Foster’s advice in the Celebration of Discipline. The chapter on solitude.

Don’t try to explain this to people when you are in it.

(It’s like Fight Club) “The first rule of Fight Club is you don’t talk about fight club”

Most people will not get it. It can hurt our spiritual reputation. God is drawing us into obedience and faith in the absence of feeling. We carry on

Spiritual Director or guide is very important.

“The Dark Night of the Soul” (click to get it free)

“The Way of Spiritual Direction”

“The Spiritual Journey: Crucial Thinking and Stages of Adult Spiritual Genesis”

Henri Nouwen “The Way of the Heart”


Protestantism running thin in certain areas.

Psychology tainted some spiritual experience as pathology and than co-opted with modern Christianity.


Baptists were not systematic theologians early on because of the persecution from the Mother Church (in Rome).


Puritan writers like Jonathan Edwards take God as Physician of the Soul very seriously.


The one sermon that did in Jonathan Edwards in our time.

“The Religious Affections” To teach that the Great Awakening was just an emotional experience or demonic experience. He writes on how to understand what is of God.


On taking your time understanding the Dark Night. God is trying to bring us into greater maturity and Christ likeness.

Have you ever gone through a Dark Night of the Soul?
If you’ve reached the dawn, what was strengthen or changed in you?

Blessings in your night travels. If you aren’t in a Dark Night, it’s coming. Stay Calm and Carry on.

If you have any questions or you would like to drop me a line about what you are going through, please use the contact page. A helpful (worldwide) listing to find qualified guides is here.


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