Soul School – Lesson 21: A Test of Your Faith

Soul School – Lesson 21: A Test of Your Faith

Is this a time of testing in your life? That’s what the topic is about in this lesson today.

Welcome to Soul School, a weekly Wednesday installment for you. AND this time spread the word! The VIDEO class and worksheet, normally for Varsity Club members ONLY (people who sponsor the show on a monthly basis), is free and available to anyone, this week! Whooot.

SO-after you listen to the podcast, check it out: the video lesson that follows is here. Enjoy and share it if you know someone who’s going through a tough time of testing.


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

Here’s a resource for you that is sure to give you a boost.
AND Your purchase will help me continue the show.

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Shownotes
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!

DougJackson

3:00

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

4:30

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.

7:00

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.

8:10

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

9:00

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! 

11:00

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

12:30

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.

13:30

Essentially, the delight in God disappears.

13:00

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)

14:10

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.)

15:00

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.

18:00

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

19:30

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

Walking by faith and not sight.

22:00

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.

22:30

Stick with the basics in the dark night.

23:30

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.

23:00

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.

24:00

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

24:30

Prophets in the OT go through the dark night times.

25:00

Using a different lens to see what is already there.

26:00

Examples:

Elijah after Mt Carmel

Apostle Paul

Job

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

 

28:00

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.

30:00

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”.)

30:30

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

A CAUTION:

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.

32:00

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.

34:30

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

35:00

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

35:30

We can learn from old text.

36:00

On intellectual honesty and intellectual humility

37:00

On why the devotional classics become that way.

37:30

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

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

38:30

Our cultural and worldview will effect our beliefs.

39:00

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

41:00

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.”

42:00

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.

43:00

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.

43:30

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.”

44:00

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

45:00

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.

46:00

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.

47:00

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.

48:00

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.”

49:00

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

49:30

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

51:00

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”

55:00

Protestantism running thin in certain areas.

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

57:00

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

58:00

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

59:00

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.


60:02

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.

 

Finding Your Purpose: Using the WISP method (part II)

Here we are at PART II.

If you didn’t read the first post in the series,
it’s the important first step.

You don’t want the ISP method. That would be weird. :)


 

Read about the “W” by clicking HERE.


journal

As I’ve studied transformation and purpose I’ve noticed there seems to be something slippery about it. Sometimes we can feel derailed or question our purpose. It’s rather ordinary, in fact.

The famous people in the Bible went though times of doubt and I’m glad those ancient accounts are included because it helps to know that the human condition is rife with slumps, bumps, murky waters, aimless wilderness periods, and questions about what we should be doing on this “Big Blue Marble”.

 

We tend to see these periods of purposelessness or doubt as problems instead of as part of the journey.

The WISP technique is something I came up with to keep me on track.

I find that keeping a notebook of the process makes it much simpler.


 

Did you do your homework?
Make sure you do it before you encounter the next step, okay?


 

STEP 2

“I”

Inquiry

 

General inquiry is not what the “I” in WISP is about.

This step of the process helps to loosen our firm grip on seeing and directing our lives as usual.

This type of inquiry:

  • is one of faith
  • leaves some open-end questions up in the air, for now
  • digs down deeper into underlying blocks and fears
  • taps into a greater understanding of human purpose and how to get there

For this step, you get your handy-dandy notebook out and start by making a list of all the questions you have on your mind right now. What’s bothering you?

Write. It. Down.

There may be many questions. Just get started. Write as much as you can for about 10 minutes.

As you write them out you will find that categories or patterns emerge. If you don’t, let the questions sit and add more in a day or so. Then, look again. If you still don’t see patterns, ask for help from someone you trust.


Examples of possible inquiry/question patterns:

  • What can I do that I love that will provide enough money right now?
  • What have I enjoyed doing the most and what happened during those times?
  • What will it take to get prepared for the next leg and how will I pay for it?
  • What caused my last failure and how could I have prepared better?
  • What is bothering me about Mr [So & so]’s success?

 

Do you see the pattern that started to emerge here?

It’s Money.
Fear of failure and jealousy are cropping up too. All good to see.

When we put down our burning questions our fears will be revealed.

 

Our fears cloud the way to finding our purpose, but…

“The remarkable thing is that our fears themselves are not the obstacles but the vehicles that lead to finding and fulfilling our purpose.” -LD

Example:

Josie finds it hard to find her purpose. She’s been unhappy at her job and wants to make a bigger difference in the world. 

Through inquiry she locates the root of her fears, and realizes that her compassion for the intellectually disabled is because of her own story.

She always felt stupid in school. A learning disability made it hard for her to read in first grade. Eventually, she did well in school, but the fear of not being smart enough still distracts her and clouds the pursuits of her greater purpose.

Josie’s purpose lies in working closely with this population.

Upon realizing this, Josie sets out with new verve to get experience and the additional skills needed to find other more meaningful work and accomplish her greater purpose. She creates goals to get there.

Goals are measurable. Wishes are not.

During a period of inquiry we may inquire of God and others we trust, too, but we have to do our hard work ourselves, and not cop out.

If we ask questions of them, we have to be prepared to both listen without judgment and superimposing our wishes and agenda (for the time being), but also we need remove the weeds from all that we are hearing get to the best and most useful parts for the next step. No ACTION is required, just honest inquiry, awareness, and digging around.

In this stage, answering all the questions isn’t as important as having the guts to ask them honestly.

The next step is “S”.

(scroll down)


 

Sometimes just doing the first two steps will create a breakthrough. You may have found your purpose already. If that happened, I encourage you to see the whole method through regardless. If you find yourself closer to understanding your purpose right now, that’s great, but you’ll be surprised by the next two Steps, and you shouldn’t miss out on them.


 

HOMEWORK:

Make your inquiry list.

You don’t have to answers the questions yet, just put them out there.

Let them percolate for a few days and then return to them. 

Note what patterns emerge. Add new questions.

See what new perspective you come up with.


Click for the next post here.

 

Prayer of Communal Lament: For Franklin Regional HS

FR

 

My small hometown–Murrysville, PA–is undergoing a time of shock and pain because of the Alex Hribal’s attack. Two steak knives and a blood bath. Many heroes were made, but the event was and is traumatic–rocking the community to its core.

My young niece (the daughter of my brother’s who is a Franklin Regional Alumnus from the 1990s) was not allowed to attend her classes at the elementary building at Franklin Regional and her street shut down as FBI, State Police, and legions of first responders, media, and others have swarmed the scene. 

My family’s church, the church were I was married, mourns as an entire community and feels trauma and pain deeply because several from their youth group teen were wounded. Some of them have undergone surgery.

All are expected to survive. Praise be to God for that grace.

It would be easy to say this youth of 16 years old is a monster, but students attest that he was very nice. Answers for why it all happened are left unanswered at this time.

 

In these times, the community of faith raises its voice in communal lament. We are comforted by each other and by a good God who is with us in our pain.

Sadly, violence has become a normal occurrence in school settings… and it may be your hometown that suffers next. But, parish the thought!

If not that, than surely you and your community will encounter pain and loss.

 

For that, here are some thoughts on Communal Lament.

 

1. About 1/3 of the Psalms are songs of lament. They are meant to be sung as prayers. They can be read with that in mind.

2. God invites us to cry out in our pain, not to suppress it, or put on a “happy face”. That kind of honesty dignifies our feelings and helps us feel our emotions fully,  so we can move toward healing.

3. Communal laments are always meant to be expressed in the context of ongoing faith and trust in God. 

4. Our laments (communal and individual) are a normal response to the pain and loss of life and living; they help us experience greater bonds of community and healing from God.

5. Laments of the psalms are unvarnished. That is an important quality to understand. They depict the anguish, desperation, pain, and messy feelings that often smack of ill-intension toward enemies and abusers, in parts. They may seem to condone retaliatory violence. But, that’s not the end of the story (song)…

6. If the reader or hearer pays close attention, she or he will notice each song ends in hope and trust in the Lord. This is key to the communal lament. All is left in God’s hands. 

(In this way, our burdens lift and our faith grows.)

7. Communal laments are a cry from a whole group for Justice (things to be put to rights) and this ultimately necessitates the elements of…

• Mercy

• Forgiveness

• Reconciliation

• Restoration

• Redemption

 

Here is a resource on the types and categories of Psalms. May they be of comfort to you.

 

Join with your community and raise your voices in lament when your hearts are heavy with sadness, pain, and grief.

 

For your reflection:

Psalm 63

A psalm of David, regarding a time when David was in the wilderness of Judah.

1 O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in your sanctuary
and gazed upon your power and glory.
3 Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.

6 I lie awake thinking of you,
meditating on you through the night.
7 Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely.

9 But those plotting to destroy me will come to ruin.
They will go down into the depths of the earth.
10 They will die by the sword
and become the food of jackals.
11 But the king will rejoice in God.
All who trust in him will praise him,
while liars will be silenced.

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