UNFLASHY, UNSPECTACULAR, GOOD
In this session, you’ll be encouraged to bring before God all of your observations, assessments and questions about what to keep and what to shed, as it relates to your current endeavors, obligations, and pursuits – and to do so boldly, courageously with open hands, and an open heart.
“Part of being an adult is taking responsibility for resting your body and soul. And part of being an adult is learning to meet your own needs, because when it comes down to it, with a few exceptions, no one else is going to do it for you”. Shauna.
Questions for discussion:
- The five disciplines that have most helped Shauna during this four year period of remaking her life from the inside-out appear below, along with a brief definition of each. Which of the five feel most relevant or personally compelling to you during this season of your life, and why? Check the ones that apply, and explain your decision to your group.
à Silence/solitude [The state of being contentedly alone]
à Contemplative/centering prayer [Focusing intently on and silently celebrating a singular attribute of God’s, such as His graciousness, holiness, or all sufficiency, while in a mind set and heart posture of prayer]
à Rest/Sabbath [Ceasing from all labours for a day, according to God’s original commandment]
à Lectio divinia [literally “divine reading”; the practice of reading and meditating on a passage of Scripture in order to deepen one’s intimacy with God and enrich one’s knowledge of his word]
à Spiritual direction/counselling [Communicating with another person (or people) as a means for furthering one’s spiritual growth]
- Read 2 Corinthians 7:1. What fears, obligations, obstacles or other constraints present in your life today threaten to keep you from making “a clean break with everything that defiles or distracts” you, as the verse suggests?
- Blanket the earth, you tell the snow
Soak the countryside you instruct the rain
And, make your mark, you tell me, you tell us all.
Not a self made mark, mind you.
But a God-made one.
The God who thunders wondrously,
Who acts so mightily that our minds are blown,
This God is the one who wants to work in us, through us, around us,
Leaving our mark – leaving His mark – on this world.
What mark does God hope to leave on the world through you – and through us all?
- Are there any other spiritual disciplines that you have learnt that help you on your Christian journey?
- Seven solid spiritually directed questions to ask yourself and discuss. Maybe choose a couple.
- What important decisions are you weighing these days? How would your choices differ if you made them based on fear versus faith?
- How would you assess your current spiritual growth? How would your spouse/parents/closest friends/ministry partners/etc assess where you are spiritually?
- What is a single word that best describes your present emotional state? How does speaking out that word make you feel?
- What self care measures have you been taking lately, and how are those practices fueling you and fulfilling you?
- How would you describe your prayer practices this week/month/year? Does your vision for prayer life match your present reality, or does a gap exist?
- When did you last celebrate a spiritual victory of some sort? What progress had you made?
- What is bringing you peace these days?
For all the energized thrills of undisciplined living – the adventures! The risk taking! The spontaneity! The rush! – progress always has discipline to thank. For example, take weight regulation, both those who are overweight and those who are underweight don’t take off or put on kilos without disciplining themselves when it comes to exercise and food. It’s true for friendships, financial progress, psychological progress, rehabilitative progress, and spiritual progress. We grow toward God when we move toward Him, one small step at a time.
- Select a 20 minute slot, calendar it.
- Find a quiet place, detach from people and your phone; sit down in a comfortable position; take a few deep breaths, sink into the quiet surroundings, coming down and calming down each moment that passes.
- Record your thoughts
- Whatever you choose to think on – a word, an attribute, an icon or a name (some following) – commit to sit for 20 minutes and allow God to prompt you toward wholeness and holiness.
- Record your experiences on centering prayer
- A day for rest, a day for play. A gift.
- Clear your schedule for one day this week, and let that calendar entry stay totally blank. We are not how hard we work.
- After the day, reflect on the experience of the Sabbath.
- Lectio divina dates back to the third century and was established as a monastic practice in the 6th century by St Benedict.
- The four parts include reading, meditating, prayer, and contemplation.
- Carve out 20 minutes, take a journal and a pen and a secluded place (toilet!?). Select a passage (some below), chew away!
LIVING THE LOVE
We’ve made it at last – through the pain and through the dissection of the roles that cause the pain, and through the tangle of yeses and nos that reinforce the role that cause the pain, and through the discovery of the disciplines that guide us into a new space, a new reality, a life marked not be other people’s expectations of who we are and what we should do, but rather of prizing God’s opinion – and His opinion alone. Now we’ve reached the fifth and final session of the series, to a session that is all about love. Truly anything healthy and strong, anything laudable and excellent has at its centre a core of love. And regardless of the nuances that define the life you desire, surely it includes at least some of those descriptors – whole, not fragments; holy, not profane; healthy, not diseased; strong instead of brittle; excellent, not tacky or cheap. In session 5, we will explore the love that is available to you, the love that can remake you, the love that ironically has been there all along.
Questions for discussion:
- Describe a time when you felt deeply loved. What were the circumstances, who was involved, and why was the experience so impactful to you?
- Reflect on these thoughts together. “Without a soul, we are machines. Without a soul, we are robots. We can perform duties, but we can’t feel and create and express and connect”. During this season of life, what does soul care look like for you? Does your self assessment land you more on the end of the spectrum that considers soul care as optional, or on the end where it is valued as a fundamental part of loving a connected life?
- What attitudes, expectations, neuroses, habits, responsibilities, obligations, commitments, or relationships do you think you would have to upend in order to care more faithfully and purposefully for your soul? How willing would you be to upend them, if holiness and beauty were guaranteed by-products of your hard work? What, if anything, stands in your way?
- How do you respond to Shauna’s assertion that God’s love – the diamond necklace that we’ve frantically been searching for – has been here before us, around us inside of us, all along? What does the decision to embrace that love have to do with the health and wholeness of our soul?
- For Shauna’s son Henry, what he wanted more of was “this”, which in the moment meant more quality family time at home, just hanging out, playing with lego. What is the “more this” you find yourself longing for? That thing that might just right-size your life and lighten it to the point where you could comfortably carry it for once?
The chasm only gets bridged by love, God’ love. God’s great love for us. It’s the only way to get from here to there. The chasm doesn’t get bridged by buffers, or by striving, or by really hard work. No, this bridge is steadied by hand-holding and song-singing, by whispered encouragement and long boat rides, by slow cooked meals and conversation that isn’t rushed. This is the love. This is where the soul feels its worth, here in the hands of God.
For Shauna, the journey toward love involved not a complete rebuilding of her life, but rather a return to the life she once knew. It involved reclaiming vital things she’d left behind – whimsy, yes, but also self-forgiveness, relational fortitude, deep faith.
For you, what would such a reclamation project involve? Maybe you were totally alive in your faith in high school; or you were selfless and compassionate and serving in missions. You might look back on early childhood and remember all the Scripture verse you committed to memory? Or else you could be one who was generally laid back, never pushing, never rushing, never uptight… and yet across these last ten years or so, where did that free spirit go?
On the path below, note the dates (or general time frames) of key seasons of your life and descriptions that fit you at that time.