75,000 Hits! Amazing!

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We’ve been sharing our writings via our As I See It blog since January of 2010, and just this week, our website topped the 75,000 hit mark! Wow! We are both honored and humbled by this wonderful response of our blog readers. In celebration of our 75,000 hits, we decided to re-post our most popular blog over the last year. This post, Let It Be. Fiat Mihi, comes from Our Ignatian Prayer Adventure Series blog series, Days of Preparation: Week Four/Session One where the theme is: God’s Invitation to Greater Freedom.

Enjoy!

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Our scripture reading for today: Luke 1: 26-38.

(Mary) was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call His name Jesus…And Mary said, “Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.” (Luke 1: 29-31, 38a MsgB)

The Fiat Mihi.

No, I’m not talking about an Italian sports car.

The Fiat Mihi is the Latin term used in the Catholic Church to describe the amazing response of Mary to the angel Gabriel, upon being told that she had been chosen to carry the Son of God in her womb. “Fiat mihi” when translated from Latin to English is “Be it done in me” or, as Eugene Peterson translates it in The Message Bible, “Let it be with me.”

Sadly, they don’t teach Latin in schools now-a-days. It’s called a dead language. But interestingly, in church history, those who understand Latin can often gain a bit of insight, just as those who study the original Greek and Hebrew of the Scriptures. The Latin word “fiat” is a form of the word “to make” or “to do” and in the Vulgate Bible (long used in the Catholic church) the Latin in Luke 1: 38 reads this way…

“ecce ancilla Domini fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum”

Which rendered in English reads as: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to Thy word.”

Now watch this. If we turn to Genesis 1, we find this phrase in Latin:

“dixitque Deus fiat lux et facta est lux”

Which rendered in English means: “And God said: Be light made. And light was made.” (Genesis 1:3) This form of words using “fiat” as the action word is repeated in the other accounts of the acts of creation (see Genesis 1:6 & 14).

So indeed, God’s “fiat” was His act of creation, while Mary’s “fiat” was her consent to the Incarnation. Fiat. Let it be.

As I was pondering this phrase, my musical mind wandered back to the 1970’s and the popular tune written by Paul McCartney and recorded by The Beatles.

When I find myself in times of trouble,
Mother Mary comes to me.
Speaking words of wisdom, “Let it be.”

And in my hour of darkness,
She is standing right in front of me.
Speaking words of wisdom, “Let it be.”

Let it be, let it be,
Let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom,
“Let it be.”

According to McCartney, who was asked years later how his classic song, “Let It Be”, came to be, said that his mother, named Mary, who died in the 1950’s, long before The Beatles became world icons, came to him in a dream just during the time The Beatles were breaking up as a band. McCartney was quite troubled during this season of his life and apparently this vivid dream, where his mum came to him speaking words of comfort, eventually evolved into a song that most listeners around the world assumed was speaking of Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

As I see it, “Let It Be” or “Fiat Mihi” is a pretty powerful phrase, especially when it is used by a follower of Jesus as a heart-response to the voice of the Lord. Nothing milk-toasty here! Let It Be is not a fatalistic resignation. It’s not…“whatever will be, will be.” Nor is it…“Don’t worry, be happy” or “Hakuna matata.”

Let It Be, when spoken by those responding to God, is no casual statement. Let It Be is a line in the sand; a strong stance of “come hell or high water, I’m committed to what God has planned for me.” Let It Be is saying “Yes” to God’s invitation to fully participate with Him, despite the personal cost or the pain involved.

Could be that Paul McCartney was more right than he ever imagined! Let It Be just might be the wisest words any human being can speak when being asked by our Creator to join with Him in His redemption and re-creation of this broken and battered world in which we live.

My prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God. Fiat Mihi. May it be done with me just as You say! For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: So where is God looking for my Fiat Mihi today? What God-invitation is being extended to me and what obstacles are standing in my way, blocking me from saying the strong words Mary spoke, “Fiat Mihi…may Your will be done in me just as You say?”

If you like what you’re reading here at thecontemplativeactivist.com, might we suggest you share this blog with others!

Why Are You Looking For Life In A Cemetery?

Easter 2017. Resurrection Sunday. He is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed!

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At the crack of dawn on Sunday, the women came to the tomb carrying the burial spices they had prepared. They found the entrance stone rolled back from the tomb, so they walked in. But once inside, they couldn’t find the body of the Master Jesus. They were puzzled, wondering what to make of this. Then, out of nowhere it seemed, two men, light cascading over them, stood there. The women were awestruck and bowed down in worship. The men said, “Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery? He is not here, but raised up. Remember how He told you when you were still back in Galilee that He had to be handed over to sinners, be killed on a cross, and in three days rise up?” Then they remembered Jesus’ words. (Luke 24: 1-8 MsgB)

I appreciate the fact that apparently in heaven, sarcastic humor is considered a spiritual gift.

Here in the midst of the greatest story ever told, our two angel friends just can’t help throwing a bit of sarcastic humor into the mix.

Somehow I think in heaven, the word has spread on how goofy and unreliable the human existence actually is when given the straight facts. These angels, for example, know full well that every word that comes out of the mouth of God is true. Totally reliable. A done deal.

So when Jesus, the Son of that same reliable and trustworthy God, says He will have to go to Jerusalem, die on a cross, and then after three days will rise again; if you’re an angel, apparently you know full well that you can take those words to the bank.

Thus the little wise crack here that pokes a bit of fun at these poor, confused human beings who are searching in a cemetery for any signs of life!

“Why in the world are you here looking for life? Doesn’t anybody down here know better than to look for someone living in a cemetery! Oy vey!

I can almost detect a bit of Jewish accent in these angels as they talk, winking an eye to one another, wondering to themselves when these thick-headed human beings on the planet will finally get a clue.

Hey, guess what gang? When Jesus speaks something, He really means it!

And so it goes.

For thousands of years now, we humans have our unique ways of living life outside of our ability to trust whatever God says.

Jesus, for example, in the gospels tells us with certainty that He has come to bring us life, and life to the full. In other places in God’s Word, we find that any life lived outside of the magnificent presence of God is much less than full life, and in most cases, death, itself.

Yet we humans so easily ignore these powerful words of promise and spend so much of our valuable time here on earth searching for life in cemeteries and looking for love in all the wrong places!

No wonder these two angels seem a bit sarcastic when they find these close friends of Jesus turning over moldy gravestones in a cemetery, looking for the Living Christ.

You know, now that I think about it, it does look a bit foolish doesn’t it? I guess I can see why these angelic beings are just a bit amused at how backward thinking we humans can be sometimes. Maybe if we’d just listen to God a bit more carefully and actually believe and act on what He says, we’d spend much less time in cemeteries and much more time in God’s presence, where real life is found.

Makes me wonder if I might want to re-evaluate all of what Jesus says and take it just a bit more seriously, don’t you think?

My prayer: Lord, I’m struck at the sad truth these angels speak to us human beings as we are found wandering aimlessly in cemeteries looking for life. Holy Spirit, empower me to be stronger in my belief and ability to believe that if God speaks, I can trust it to be true. I believe, Jesus, but help me in my unbelief. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: How am I like these friends of Jesus, wandering hopelessly and aimlessly in a cemetery looking for the Living One? Where have I allowed grief, worries or unbelief to cause me to forget the promises found in Jesus’ words? How can I step out of life’s cemeteries and begin looking for life in God’s presence instead?

So, what is the Spirit of God whispering to you on this Resurrection Sunday?

My Sustainable Faith Story

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Hi! I’m Marty Boller.

It was only a few short years ago, I found myself sitting in the living room of a very nice lady who was hosting Dave Nixon and a Sustainable Faith Year One training cohort in Spiritual Direction. At the time, my life was in crisis. I’d been laboring long and hard at pastoring a small church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa for nearly 15 years and was at a point of total burn out. My church was struggling at the time and though I’d successfully maneuvered through difficult times such as this before, I’d never reached a point of crisis like this. Sandy, who has graciously walked alongside me over my 30 years in pastoral ministry, was burned out as well, but was thinking clearly enough to encourage me to join her in this one year of hands-on training in Spiritual Direction.

My pastoral coach had suggested to me that I needed to slow down and begin to listen for the voice of the Lord once again, but as many of you who serve in busy churches know, it’s much easier to talk about soul care then it is to actually practice it. But with the encouragement of both my coach and my wife, here I was sitting in a lovely home in Minneapolis, MN, meeting for the first time a wonderfully kind and compassionate man named Dave Nixon.

Over the next nine months, Jesus began an open-heart surgery on this old pastor-heart of mine. Slowly yet surely, the Master dismantled the safety nets that I’d carefully constructed for myself and plunged me deep into the heart of God where I discovered once again (yet it seems like the first time) the amazing grace of Christ’s agape love. By the time we’d reached the end of the Sustainable Faith course-work, I was hooked! Totally addicted to God’s unyielding mercy, I was convinced that I’d never be able to go back to doing ministry the way I’d been doing it for the last 30 years.

You can read more about my radical transition on my website (www.pastorboller.com), but suffice to say that today, through the work of the Spirit that was brought through the capable hands of Dave Nixon and the ministries of Sustainable Faith, my life and work are now, once again, on track with Jesus. Our church in Cedar Rapids has survived my personal crisis and has now re-created itself into a church where the care and cure of souls has once again been restored front and center.

So today, without any hesitancy at all, I invite you to come alongside Sustainable Faith as we together take the ministry tools of Christ-centered Spiritual Direction and offer them to even more folks out there who are waiting for a fresh drink of water for their dry and thirsty souls.

Sustainable Faith is now growing at a phenomenal rate! What was once a small ministry geared at raising up a few church leaders in spiritual direction has now become a multi-dimensional, cross-denominational ministry that is touching thousands of people across North America and even Europe! One recent report has deemed us “the largest spiritual direction training group in North America!”

My goal here today with this blog is to tell you a bit of my story and invite you to prayerfully consider helping us with a financial contribution to this ministry. Your generous gift toward Sustainable Faith is tax-deductible and will go toward helping us continue our mission of training and equipping men and women in the ancient traditions of Christ-centered spiritual direction. Watch this informational video for more details…

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And click here to find out more how to become a Sustaining Member of Sustainable Faith!

Becoming a Sustaining Partner of Sustainable Faith

 

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As many of you know, Sandy & I are trainers in the ancient art of spiritual direction, working with the Schools of Sustainable Faith. We just completed our first full year of training, graduating 27 students from our three 2015-16 Year One classes. Right now, we’re developing a new set of Year One training classes here in the Heartland for the 2016-17 school year and it looks as though at least 75% of our graduating students from Year One plan to continue their training into Year Two as well!

Sustainable Faith has been offering training courses in spiritual direction since 2008, and as of today, there are nearly 1,000 graduates around North America, and in Europe as well! The ministries of Sustainable Faith continue to grow, and today, we are now the largest spiritual direction training group in North America!

Sandy & I are convinced that God is working through this wonderful organization, and we’d like to share this opportunity for you to be a part of all SF is doing around the world. There are two ways you can help. Here’s an informational letter from Dave Nixon, Founding Director of Sustainable Faith, informing you about an immediate way you can respond…

GIVING OPTION 1

It’s not often that an opportunity like the following comes our way. Two long-time supporters of Sustainable Faith have created a $20K challenge gift for us. They will give their gift $20K when we’ve raised $20K in matching gifts! I’m happy to report we’ve already raised $8K of the $20K needed. Only $12K to go!

Would you consider helping us meet this goal and take advantage of this great opportunity?

Sustainable Faith continues to experience great growth, and because we: 1) plant training groups wherever invitations exist; 2) work out of homes; and 3) train people on the ground to carry it forward, today we’ve become the largest spiritual direction training group in North America. With that kind of growth comes the need for some un-sexy but very necessary infrastructure: admin support, bookkeeping / accounting, and growing our employee base among other things.

Your gift helps us achieve our mission and reach big goals:

  • spread a culture of discipleship to Jesus
  • grow a powerful community of listeners
  • widen the net of pastoral care
  • create a scholarship fund for students
  • underwrite the development of new teachers
  • generously compensate our existing teachers
  • sow into Europe and other countries
  • bring on 1 additional employee
  • set aside 3% of payroll toward a retirement plan
  • retain professional bookkeepers

With a small act of kindness, you could help us right now reach some very big goals. You can give according to your means towards this matching gift plan via this link.

GIVING OPTION 2

A second way you can support the work of Sustainable Faith is by becoming a Sustaining Member of SF in the amount of $10 or more via a monthly gift to Sustainable Faith.  Through your monthly, on-going donation, the cumulative for our nonprofit impact is seismic. And here’s why …

Almost 1,000 students have now gone through at least Year 1 of our formation program. It’s a number that boggles my mind. If the majority of our current and former students contributed at this basic sustaining membership level, we could meet the needs for infrastructure and for mission.

As a Sustaining Member, your monthly gift enables us, among other things, to:

  • spread a culture of discipleship to Jesus
  • grow the net of pastoral care
  • have for the very first time a dedicated scholarship fund for students
  • underwrite the development of new teachers, increasing our capacity
  • continue our generous arrangement with our teachers (we’ve given back 80% of the revenues!)
  • sow into Europe and other countries
  • pay an interim director
  • set aside 3% of payroll toward a retirement plan
  • retain professional bookkeepers

We’re a frugal and generous organization. On the frugal side, we have no offices, only 1 full-time employee, and accomplish much of our mission through the hospitality of others. On the generous side, 80% of our revenues have gone right back to our teachers in order to bless them, incentivize them, and spread this ministry. Additionally, we’ve made about a $20K investment in launching indigenous schools in Europe, starting with the Netherlands.

We’re grateful for what God has done and is doing among us; we’re hopeful and expectant for what lies ahead; and we’d love for you to be a part of what unfolds. You can start easily right here.

You can give according to your means and desire via this link.

Much love,

DaveNixon

God’s peace to you and yours, Dave Nixon,
Director, Sustainable Faith

Inquiring Minds Want To Know…

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So…if it’s proven scientifically that slowing down our bodies; practicing relaxation exercises which include meditation, can actually produce positive results in our body’s DNA, (watch this fascinating Fox News segment on the medical values being associated with the practice of yoga); then why would it not be of even greater value to us Christ-followers to take some of these same practices, re-work them into Christ-centered, Scripture-focused and Spirit-empowered tools and reap the great benefit of 20 minutes per day slowing down with Jesus?

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In truth, many Christians are truly afraid of the exercises associated with yoga because of their origins in eastern religion. I like to kid folks at times and remind them that the Christianity we read about in our Bibles can easily be pegged as an “eastern religion” as well, because the last time I looked at a world map, Israel sure looks a lot further east than New York City, Los Angeles or Chicago! (But, we’ll save that thought for later posts!)

In all seriousness, however, I did find this very informative article in Christianity Today which addresses some of these legitimate fears that Christians have. Take a peek at the article, Yes to Yoga: Can a Christian Breathe Air that has been Offered to Idols? by Agnieszka Tennant.

So…here’s a thought to ponder. What if more and more of us fast-paced Christians began slowing down a bit, taking more time daily to re-focus our lives, giving our bodies, our minds, and our souls a bit of a rest? I wonder what benefits we might see in our lives over the years ahead? Science apparently tells us that even our DNA might change for the better! Looking for a way to start? Try these ten practical steps to slowing down your life, for the glory of God…

Here’s a good way to start slowing down. (via a blog post written by Leo Babauta)

1. Do less. It’s hard to slow down when you are trying to do a million things. Instead, make the conscious choice to do less. Focus on what’s really important, what really needs to be done, and let go of the rest. Put space between tasks and appointments, so you can move through your days at a more leisurely pace.

2. Be present. It’s not enough to just slow down — you need to actually be mindful of whatever you’re doing at the moment. That means, when you find yourself thinking about something you need to do, or something that’s already happened, or something that might happen … gently bring yourself back to the present moment. Focus on what’s going on right now. On your actions, on your environment, on others around you. This takes practice but is essential.

3. Disconnect. Don’t always be connected. If you carry around an iPhone or Blackberry or other mobile device, shut it off. Better yet, learn to leave it behind when possible. If you work on a computer most of the day, have times when you disconnect so you can focus on other things. Being connected all the time means we’re subject to interruptions, we’re constantly stressed about information coming in, we are at the mercy of the demands of others. It’s hard to slow down when you’re always checking new messages coming in.

4. Focus on people. Too often we spend time with friends and family, or meet with colleagues, and we’re not really there with them. We talk to them but are distracted by devices. We are there, but our minds are on things we need to do. We listen, but we’re really thinking about ourselves and what we want to say. None of us are immune to this, but with conscious effort you can shut off the outside world and just be present with the person you’re with. This means that just a little time spent with your family and friends can go a long way — a much more effective use of your time, by the way. It means we really connect with people rather than just meeting with them.

5. Appreciate nature. Many of us are shut in our homes and offices and cars and trains most of the time, and rarely do we get the chance to go outside. And often even when people are outside, they’re talking on their cell phones. Instead, take the time to go outside and really observe nature, take a deep breath of fresh air, enjoy the serenity of water and greenery. Exercise outdoors when you can, or find other outdoor activities to enjoy such as nature walks, hiking, swimming, etc. Feel the sensations of water and wind and earth against your skin. Try to do this daily — by yourself or with loved ones.

6. Eat slower. Instead of cramming food down our throats as quickly as possible — leading to overeating and a lack of enjoyment of our food — learn to eat slowly. Be mindful of each bite. Appreciate the flavors and textures. Eating slowly has the double benefit of making you fuller on less food and making the food taste better. I suggest learning to eat more real food as well, with some great spices (instead of fat and salt and sugar and frying for flavor).

7. Drive slower. Speedy driving is a pretty prevalent habit in our fast-paced world, but it’s also responsible for a lot of traffic accidents, stress, and wasted fuel. Instead, make it a habit to slow down when you drive. Appreciate your surroundings. Make it a peaceful time to contemplate your life, and the things you’re passing. Driving will be more enjoyable, and much safer. You’ll use less fuel too.

8. Find pleasure in anything. This is related to being present, but taking it a step farther. Whatever you’re doing, be fully present … and also appreciate every aspect of it, and find the enjoyable aspects. For example, when washing dishes, instead of rushing through it as a boring chore to be finished quickly, really feel the sensations of the water, the suds, the dishes. It can really be an enjoyable task if you learn to see it that way. The same applies to other chores — washing the car, sweeping, dusting, laundry — and anything you do, actually. Life can be so much more enjoyable if you learn this simple habit.

9. Single-task. The opposite of multi-tasking. Focus on one thing at a time. When you feel the urge to switch to other tasks, pause, breathe, and pull yourself back.

10. Breathe. When you find yourself speeding up and stressing out, pause, and take a deep breath. Take a couple more. Really feel the air coming into your body, and feel the stress going out. By fully focusing on each breath, you bring yourself back to the present, and slow yourself down. It’s also nice to take a deep breath or two — do it now and see what I mean.

If you looking for more encouragement on becoming what we call Christ-centered contemplative activists…subscribe to our free website (www.thecontemplativeactivist.com). We’d love to have you join us in the journey!

marty  Marty Boller

Step Out Of The 3-B Traffic!

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My good friends Dave Booram and Beth McLaughlin Booram, who oversee the Sustainable Faith-Indy Retreat Center, wrote recently on Facebook this encouraging (and strong) word for pastors/leaders who are feeling the tension in their lives between “doing church as usual” or “following Jesus where He leads.” I see these words here as an encouragement to step out of the 3-B world of church management, where (B)uildings, (B)ucks, & (B)utts in the seats are the measuring sticks of success! Take these words to heart, my dear pastoral shepherds, and step out of the 3-B traffic!   MB

Awhile back I (Dave) was meeting with a pastor from out-of-town who was telling me about a conflict he was having with his board over a building project. As he described it, he was tense and worn out. I’ve known this man long enough to know this was not a priority that reflected either his sweet spot or his true calling. As I gave voice to how he seemed to have lost his way, I said “You don’t really give a shit about this new education wing, so stop acting like you do. I know you well enough to know that what you really care about is shepherding these people. So be about that, whether the board makes a good decision or a bad one. Start caring about what you really care about, and stop trying to act like you care about what doesn’t really matter to you and your calling.” I could tell the words hit their mark and there was freedom that began to seep into his wearied soul and the corners of his mouth.

This morning as I anticipated going to my own church, I thought about this again, and the pastors that are on staff and the challenges to care and shepherd their people. And I thought about what a good shepherd really does. And who they really are (or should be). So here’s my list, relevant to all of us whether we’re paid or unpaid to shepherd others. A good shepherd…

– teaches others to pray
– listens and asks helpful questions
– nourishes others
– offers presence and “withness”
– affirms and draws attention to the Spirit’s movement
– serves others
– welcomes and offers hospitality
– has a warm heart for God and a soft heart for the world and people
– is not the boss
– does not pose or pretend to be other than what they are
– is remarkable in their unremarkableness
– is a deep well of wisdom and insight as to how things work
– is loyal to what matters, and indifferent to what doesn’t
– can experience and move freely between joy and sorrow, hope and darkness
– will advocate for the weak, broken and abused
– is a non-anxious presence
– brings peace

Thanks Dave & Beth. I encourage you, my dear reader, to become a regular subscriber (it’s free!) to www.thecontemplativeactivist.com for more encouragement. There are many out there to stand with you as you transition from being a 3-B pastor/leader to becoming a contemplative activist!

Why We Need Spiritual Direction—More Than Ever!

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By Beth Booram, Spiritual Director with Sustainable Faith.

A good part of my work week is spent sitting in a chair, turned toward another, prayerfully listening to this person convey what he or she believes are the most significant movements in his or her relationship with God. It’s quiet work; reflective work. Almost always, at some point in this hour or so of offering spiritual direction, I will feel overwhelmed with gratefulness at the gift of participating in such a holy exchange.

(My husband, David Booram) has compared the fit of this work with slipping on a glove. For him, discovering and offering spiritual direction is like getting all five fingers in a glove, unlike in past roles where only a few fingers fit and the others were left dangling. I feel similarly. I find this gentle work of listening and helping a directee attune to God so gratifying and enlivening. And I firmly believe that anyone seeking to deepen her or his spiritual life needs spiritual direction—more than ever!

Why? What is it about the particular demands of our lives that make spiritual direction such a vital and restorative ministry? Let me share a few reasons sifted from my own practice of receiving and offering spiritual direction.


Four Reasons Why We All Need a Spiritual Director

1. Spiritual direction helps us integrate our splintered lives.

Life today is incredibly complicated and trying to keep up is impossible. The speed of life and continual innovation of technology spewing a magnitude of information and options at us causes us to splinter. Our attention is diffused as though being pitched a hundred fast balls in a split second and trying to decide which one to catch and which ones to duck so that we don’t get smashed in the face. Entering spiritual direction, especially over a length of time, helps us SLOW DOWN and pay attention to the recurring themes, threads and patterns that help integrate the disparate parts of our lives. Most importantly, we begin to see God in the fractals.

2. Spiritual direction pulls us toward the center of our being as life draws us away.

We know what it is like to feel the pull of centrifugal force as we go about our days. The draw of work, relationships, technology, social media, going, doing, traveling and play tug at us to move out and expand more and more. Yet, little in life has the same force of power to draw us in toward the center of our being. Spiritual direction focuses our attention on the interior life; on our moods and the movement of God within our desires. We pay attention to emotions as important messengers of the truth that we possess and the potential lies that possess us. Spiritual direction offers the counter-balancing centripetal force, grounding us in our true identity as people completely known and completely loved by God.

3. Spiritual direction awakens us to God’s presence and activity in the midst of suffering.

For as many cures discovered and advances made in our day, an unprecedented number of people are suffering from the most obscure, evasive, un-diagnosable maladies. Mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and PTSD, as well as physical issues stemming from allergies to food and/or the environment are disheartening those who have them and the experts who are looking for causes and cures. These elusive and perplexing conditions often contribute to an unwelcomed spiritual fog and the perceived absence of God. While spiritual direction doesn’t promise a cure or assure the return of distinguishing God’s presence, it does provide loving and supportive companionship. Meeting with a spiritual director, someone who is trained to be a compassionate listener and keep confidence, is a balm to those who need a safe place to suffer honestly and not alone.

4. Spiritual direction acquaints us with the mysterious and often surprising means of God’s formation in our lives.

It’s true that many who begin looking for a spiritual director do so in the second half of life. And it’s also true that many enter into this relationship because the construct of faith they once espoused no longer works for them. Whether toppled by unexplainable adversity or fueled by questions their old paradigm no longer answers, mid-lifers look for someone with whom to process the confusing dynamics of life on a spiritual journey. What their quest for a spiritual director suggests is the fact that we are often too close to what’s happening in us and to us that we need someone with objectivity to help us sort it all through. Through meeting for spiritual direction, many are able to recover their faith as they discover God in the midst of the rubble of their deconstruction and begin to see the mysterious and surprising means by which God forms them into their true-selves-in Christ.


What About You?

If any of these situations describe you and your present spiritual life and longings, I’d recommend that you consider seeking out a spiritual director to help you attune to the movement of God in your life. Spiritual directors actually don’t tell you where to go; they help you discover the Spirit’s direction and leading within you. If you would like to find a spiritual director in your area, let me recommend contacting Spiritual Directors International (http://www.sdiworld.org/find-a-spiritual-director) or the Evangelical Spiritual Directors Association (http://graftedlife.org/esda/search/) or Sustainable Faith (http://www.sustainablefaith.com/spiritualdirectors) for a list of trained spiritual directors you can interview.

And if you find yourself curious about being trained to offer the ministry of spiritual direction, let me encourage you to find out more about the Sustainable Faith School of Spiritual Direction, offered all around North America and Europe (http://www.sustainablefaith.com), as well as here at Sustainable Faith Indy (http://www.sustainablefaithindy.com). For those who’ve graduated from our program, the most common response we hear is that participants have come to listen differently to everyone in their lives!

Also…check out Sustainable Faith-Heartland for more info.

 

Contemplative Activism in Chicago!

 Overflow Coffee Bar has built a loyal clientele over the last five years.

SOUTH LOOP, CHICAGO, IL — Brew it, and they will come.

Overflow Coffee Bar, which started out as the lone independent coffee shop in the then-burgeoning South Loop, celebrates its fifth anniversary this month. Working from the motto that it’s “changing the world one cup at a time,” it’s finding that it just might be changing the neighborhood as well.

Taking a “think globally, act locally” concept that might have been more stereotypical of a coffee shop in Wicker Park or Rogers Park, Amanda and Brandon Neely instead located in the South Loop at 1550 S. State St.

“I fell in love with this neighborhood,” said Amanda, a University of Chicago alumna who found herself traveling what she now calls the “college corridor” from Hyde Park to the Illinois Institute of Technology in Bronzeville to Columbia College and the DePaul campus and others in the Loop and South Loop.

In 2007, the South Loop seemed on the verge of exploding with business opportunities. “But there weren’t a lot of businesses following suit, and there was no independent coffee shop in this area,” she added. “We saw the potential that we could anchor ourselves here and further that development.”

They eventually found space in the Daystar Center, a like-minded collective committed to “building community through culture and the arts in the South Loop,” for which Amanda now serves as director.

 Overflow co-owner Brandon Neely (c.) works behind the counter.

“This location was kind of serendipitous,” Brandon said, in that the disparate array of tenants actually wound up functioning like “roommates,” lending support to one another.

The Neelys sought to pitch what they called “ethical economics” in each cup of coffee.

Overflow gets its coffee from a Bucktown roaster who deals directly with growers.

“We get it the next day after it’s roasted and use it within two weeks,” Amanda said. Where they say the average Starbucks or even a so-called Fair Trade coffee shop uses a handful of middlemen in the process, for the Neelys the coffee goes directly from farmer to roaster to shop to customer. The farmer gets a better deal, and the customer gets a better cup of coffee.

“We didn’t focus on the profits or the money side,” Brandon said. “We just wanted to make a difference.”

Amanda said she and her husband are “activists first and business people second.

“We need to grow the business side of ourselves,” she said. “It’s not just about making a quick buck or promoting our cause. It’s about learning and growing together.”

That learning and growing came in ways not even they imagined at first, although consistent with their prevailing method of learning things for themselves and then passing it on to others.

After years of planning and then one last snag in the form of the “Snowpocalypse” blizzard, Overflow opened on March 18, 2011.

“The day after St. Patrick’s Day, the best day to open a coffee shop,” Amanda said. “It worked out well for us.”

Almost five years later, the couple has proved their staying power, even as South Loop growth has been a process of fits and starts.

“We thought we were really on the cusp of something huge. But it hasn’t happened yet,” Amanda said. The South Loop has seen “a little bit of growth, then some places still close.”

Even though population has grown, residents still tend to be tied to their cars, she added, not producing the foot traffic that helps small businesses survive in other neighborhoods.

Yet with the upcoming addition of several new glitzy high-rises, as well as the DePaul arena at McCormick Place, “maybe we’re finally on the cusp,” Amanda said. “There’s a lot of potential. It’s just how are we going to maximize it?”

The answer, they decided, was to create a South Loop chamber of commerce — in marked contrast with the existing South Loop Chamber of Commerce, which actually serves Bridgeport with offices near 35th and Halsted streets. Similarly, neighborhood groups like the Greater South Loop Association and the Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance have tended to serve residents, not merchants.

So the couple launched what they’re calling the South Loop Alliance in September, with more than 40 members signed up so far. Just as Amanda learned the coffee trade with what they term a “mentorship” at the Common Cup in Rogers Park, they’ve looked to groups like the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce on how to organize merchants within the neighborhood.

 Overflow Coffee Bar owners Brandon and Amanda Neely say their success is more than just running a coffee shop, not that that isn't hard enough.

“We didn’t think we’d actually be starting a chamber of commerce at all,” Brandon said.

Amanda added that they’re advocating an “inclusive approach,” not benefiting businesses alone.

“We don’t want just the businesses to win,” she said. “We want the whole neighborhood to win.”

Key to that will be the South Loop defining itself, much as Andersonville is already defined as a historically Swedish area with a concentration of businesses going back to the ’20s.

The South Loop is more of a blank slate, with what Amanda called “a hodgepodge of different things,” which creates difficulties but also presents opportunities in trying to construct an image that encourages visitors from the nearby Museum Campus and Soldier Field, as well as welcoming the students in the area and, of course, the residents.

Amanda pointed to how, with so much new construction in the neighborhood, it’s actually a city leader in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design buildings.

“What if we became the most environmentally friendly neighborhood?” Amanda said. “Would people buy into that vision? Probably. Maybe.”

The goal, however, is to make it “sustainable,” she added, “so this neighborhood thrives for generations to come.”

Again, the process is to take what they’ve learned and pass it on, just as they’ve taught others about the benefits of being an L3C, a low-profit, limited-liability company, one step up the capitalist ladder from a nonprofit. Overflow was among the first firms in the state to become a licensed L3C, and since then the Neelys have told others how to go about it and what’s to be gained.

That collective approach even extends to the shop’s fifth anniversary, as the Neelys are planning a five-year party April 2.

They’re actually charging for it, $25 in advance and $35 at the door, but that will include the Neelys and others speaking on the challenges of running a responsible business, along with free chair massages and other treats. They’re shooting for a turnout of 250 people, all of them prepared to think globally and act locally where the South Loop is concerned.

Pastor Burnout: Who Helps the Helpers?

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Cedar Rapids Gazette  Sat. Feb 14, 2015

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Local couple plans to counsel struggling pastors.
Worshippers aren’t the only ones leaving the church.

The pulpits too are experiencing an exodus as pastors — burned out and depressed from being overworked and undertrained — are leaving the vocation.

A 2013 study from the Schaeffer Institute reports that 1,700 pastors leave the ministry each month, citing depression, burnout, or being overworked as the primary reasons.

According to the study, 90 percent of pastors report working 55 to 70 hours a week, and 50 percent of them feel unable to meet the demands of the job.

As the American church struggles with transition — more people leaving the church or not finding their way to it in the first place — American pastors are finding themselves under an increasing amount of stress.

Not only are pastors the caretakers of the congregation and the deliverer of God’s word, oftentimes they also are the building managers, business leaders, and accountability officials for their individual churches.

Pastors often could use a helping hand, an ear to bend or a shoulder to lean on. Rarely, though, do they ask for it.

“Pastors in a lot of American churches are struggling with those realities and having a hard time dealing with them,” says the Rev. Marty Boller, 63, of Cedar Rapids. “Pastors are quitting like crazy because they’re just getting burned out.”

Boller and his wife, the Rev. Sandy Boller, have seen first-hand what burnout can lead to. Both pastors in the Vineyard churches, they’ve worked with many colleagues trying to get through the depression and burnout that comes with too much stress.

“We do a lot of coaching, we’re coaching them through these transitions,” Marty Boller says. “There’s coaching going on in any profession, it’s just going alongside someone and asking the questions: ‘How’s it going? How are you doing?’ For pastors, we’re always ‘telling and selling,’ but we’re seldom asking.”

That’s why the Bollers, too, are in transition. They are leaving behind 30 years at the pulpit to to be the ear and the shoulder these struggling pastors need.

“Very rarely do pastors take care of their own soul, make sure they’re OK,” Marty Boller says.

According to the same 2013 study from the Schaeffer Institute, 70 percent of pastors suffer from depression, and 50 percent say they would leave the ministry but have no other way of making a living.

“We’re trying to help people through coaching and spiritual direction,” Sandy Boller says. “The art of spiritual direction is sitting with people and allowing them to get quiet themselves so they can hear from God. We just need to help get them out of the traffic of life.”

Marty Boller says it’s easy to see how pastors can fall into a “rut” and begin to spiral. Most denominations, he says, aren’t set up for caring for the caretakers.

“There are conferences for denominational health, for congregational health, on how to maintain the church, but we find we aren’t caring for the pastors, for the leaders of those churches,” Marty Boller says.

Some 90 percent of pastors surveyed by the Schaeffer Institute say they felt they weren’t adequately trained for the demands of the job, and another 90 percent say the reality of ministry wasn’t as it was described.

“Pastors are a crazy animal. We believe we are an instrument of God, we share God’s word, we’re the ones people come to with questions or when they’re in crisis, so we have to stay strong,” he says. “We have this illusion that if we don’t stay strong, people are looking at us as weak. So it’s really a catch-22 situation for pastors – they need to be able to reach out and ask for help, but they need to be strong for their congregations. Getting pastors to come to a point where they admit they need help is really difficult.”

The goal, Sandy Boller says, is to reach out to pastors before it’s too late, to help them before they leave the ministry for good.

“With spiritual direction, we give them a place to be ‘real,’ ” she says. “It’s a safe place to be who they are and get the help they need.”

By Molly Rossiter, CR Gazatte correspondent