Branching out–expanding your spiritual life

Jesus said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?”
          –Matthew 8: 26

Branching out--photo by Julie McCarty

As it was growing, how did this tree know when it was time for the trunk to become two major life lines to the rest of the branches?

I could answer, the DNA in the cells tell it how to grow–but then, how does the DNA know? 

Growth is a mysterious process, highly individualized. God calls us to keep growing in our spiritual lives, no matter what our chronological age.

Is there something in your life that God wants to expand? A new experiment with prayer? A different service to others? A fresh way of looking at life in general?

What stops you from “branching out” in this new way? Is it fear? Exhaustion? Laziness? Something else blocking your path?

Will you pray with me?

Come, Holy Spirit, help us to listen for your voice, leading us along the path of discipleship. Please give us the courage to put aside all fear and to bravely try whatever new things God may desire of us. Help us to grow strong in faith, like this tree that bravely stands through all kinds of weather. 

Until next time, Amen! 

Expanding Spiritual Direction Ministry

It is with gratefulness and joy that I make this announcement: The church I attend, Easter Lutheran Church in Eagan, Minnesota, is providing a space in which I can meet with people who desire spiritual direction.

Amish Quilt I have been a spiritual director for a few years, but one of the challenges has always been finding a quiet, confidential space in which to meet people. Spiritual direction is an ancient Christian practice, so what better place to meet than a church building?

Over the course of my life, spiritual direction has been such a huge benefit for my soul. In difficult times, a spiritual director was there to offer support and remind me of God’s love. When facing challenging decisions, my spiritual director helped me to listen carefully to whatever God wanted for me (discernment). For me, a spiritual director has been one of the ways I take care of my deeper self and grow in my relationship with God.

Because of the many blessings I have received in spiritual direction, it is only natural that I would want to serve others in the same way. In fact, it was a spiritual director who invited me to become a spiritual director (also known as “spiritual companion,” “soul friend,” “spiritual midwife,” or “spiritual counselor”).

Although I’m meeting with spiritual seekers at Easter Lutheran, you do not have to be Lutheran to come visit me for spiritual direction. Although I am a follower of Christ and a member at Easter Lutheran, my spiritual direction training was very broad, even including learning about spiritual direction in other religious traditions. Some people who want spiritual direction are “spiritual but not religious;” others are diehard Lutherans, Catholics, or Baptists; still others blend traditions, such as the Christian who also practices Buddhist meditation.

Click to enlarge--Open Butterfly--photo by Julie McCarty

Any of these people might benefit from spiritual direction, because spiritual direction is a highly individual, personal process. It focuses wherever you are at with God (or the divine as you perceive it). In spiritual direction, one person might want to learn a new way to pray; another might feel drawn into ministry but wants to explore this potential with a spiritual listener; yet another feels confused about where God is in the midst of suffering; or another may want to focus on their passion about social justice and finding God in the midst of serving others.

It is always important to recall that the real “director” is the Holy Spirit, the hidden God within and around us, who loves us deeply. As I see it, the spiritual director is an active listener, who listens both to what the seeker says and to what the Spirit within might be saying. The point is to GROW in your spiritual beliefs, your awareness of God, your ability to serve God and others with your gifts, and mostly to grow closer to that God who is already deep within your heart. Spiritual direction helps with this process. READ MORE 

If you are interested in spiritual direction, I encourage you to learn more about it and seek a spiritual director who will best meet your needs. Ask God to show you who to work with. Research the options on sites like “Spiritual Directors International” and ask around at retreat centers or your local church.

If you want to visit with me for spiritual direction, you can reach me by phone or e-mail to set up an appointment:

Violets image with info 2B

(The first letter of e-mail address is a “j” for Julie. Phone is in Central time zone.)

In all things, pray for God’s desire for your life–
and know that God loves you, immensely.

Until next time, Amen!

P.S. THANK YOU to my faith community at Easter Lutheran!
You give me hope and keep me growing in my faith and love for Christ.

Finding Your Calling, Living Your Vocation

Open water 3--photo by Julie McCarty

Someone very experienced in the spiritual  life recently gave me this quotation:

Each man has his own vocation.
The talent is the call.

There is one direction in which all space is open to him.
He has faculties silently inviting him thither to endless exertion.

He is like a ship in a river;
he runs against obstructions on every side but one;
on that side all obstruction is taken away,
and he sweeps serenely over a deepening channel into an infinite sea.       
              
–Ralph Waldo Emerson, in Spiritual Laws

As a woman, I have found that changing the pronouns for my personal journal makes me more aware that the words are intended for me. After all, Emerson intended the words to be for all people. So in my journal, I also wrote this version:

Each woman has her own vocation.
The talent is the call.

There is one direction in which all space is open to her.
She has faculties silently inviting her thither to endless exertion.

She is like a ship in a river;
she runs against obstructions on every side but one;
on that side all obstruction is taken away,
and she sweeps serenely over a deepening channel into an infinite sea.
              
–Ralph Waldo Emerson, in Spiritual Laws (adapted pronouns)

In our time and culture, one can experience multiple callings at once, or different callings over the course of a lifetime. One man may live out the callings of parent, spouse, construction worker, and part-time artist simultaneously. A woman might be head of a business, school board member, volunteer, and the caretaker of her aging parent.

Woman paddling on water--photo by Julie McCartyI think Emerson is talking about those gifts within us that light a fire in our lives. They are callings that become a driving passion for our existence. Many things may seem to obstruct these callings, and we may feel impatient. However, Emerson believes that eventually, we find a way for what is most important. I think of it this way: God opens the door for us when the time and place are right.

What are your gifts calling you to do at this point in your life?
What step might you take this week to test the waters?

Think about it–and I will, too.

Until next time, Amen!

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