There is a moment, just before waking, when the unconscious mind convulses, hoping to break free of its confinement. Perhaps when Jesus says, “I am sent to bring sight to the blind, set captives free.” Perhaps he was suggesting the reintegration of the self – the waking and dreaming selves brought back together – the waking self cannot see with the eyes open, and the dreaming self cannot see with eyes closed. Integrating the two will enable both to see, and thus the captive unconscious will be set free, limitation will be consumed by life.
Nouwen, Henri J.M. Anything, but in particular…
- The Way of the Heart: Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry. Harper One, 1981. A brief introduction to the witness of the Desert Fathers and Mothers. The keys to authentic spirituality: Solitude, Silence and Unceasing Prayer.
- Creative Ministry. Image Doubleday, 1991. Nouwen considers five primary tasks of the minister: teaching, preaching, counseling, organizing and celebrating.
- The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society. Image Doubleday, 2010. Nouwen works from his own life to show how our journey into our own woundedness becomes the path toward healing for us and ministry with others
- Reaching Out: the Three Movements of the Spiritual Life. Image Doubleday, 1986. From Loneliness to Solitude; From Hostility to Hospitality: and From Illusion to Prayer.
Merton, Thomas. Anything, but in particular…
- Contemplative Prayer. Image Doubleday, 1996. A brief introduction to contemplative prayer.
- New Seeds of Contemplation. Abbey of Gesthemane, 1961. Teaching us to receive each moment of life as an invitation into deeper prayer and communion with God.
- The Seven Story Mountain. Harcourt Brace, 1976. Merton’s Biography.
The Monks of New Skete. In the Spirit of Happiness. 1999. Begins by relating a brief visit by an elderly monk who was convinced that life is, “necessarily a bed of suffering and pain, happiness is out of the question.”(ix) In contrast, the Monks of New Skete, “understand happiness as a deep and lasting interior peace….one that comes only with the struggle to search out and accept the will of God in our lives, one that demands of us a faith, hope and love upon which and through which we strive to elevate the quality of all human life.”(xi)
The Way of a Pilgrim, and The Pilgrim Continues His Way. New Sarov Press, 1997. This classic of Russian Orthodox spirituality presents the story of a pilgrim in search of the meaning of Paul’s words from 1 Thessalonians 5:17 – “Pray without ceasing.” What he received, in his journey, were words that moved from his lips to his mind and took up residence in his heart, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” the Jesus prayer.
Foster, Richard. Foster and others formed a resource ministry called Renovare’ which is a great source for texts supporting spiritual formation and renewal.
- Celebration of Discipline: The path to spiritual growth. Harper, 1988. The Inward Disciplines: Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, Study; The Outward Disciplines: Simplicity, Solitude, Submission, Service; The Corporate Disciplines: Confession, Worship, Guidance, Celebration.
- Spiritual Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups on the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines. Harper, 2000. Four readings per discipline from classic texts of the Christian spiritual tradition, together with a brief discussion and come exercises and questions for reflection.
And for me, the work of the Jesuits.
- Hearts on Fire: Praying with the Jesuits. Loyola Press, 2005. A small volume of prayers and poems.
- Ignatius Loyola: Spiritual Exercises. Crossroads Publishing, 1992. A guidebook for spiritual directors and those who guide others in the spiritual life. This book by Ignatius provides helpful insight into maturity in Christ, but is best received in conversation with others who have made the journey – not for beginners. Multiple other translations with commentary are also available. Tetlow resides in Dallas at Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House.
- Making Choices in Christ: The Foundations of Ignatian Spirituality. Loyola Press, 2008. One key emphasis of the Spiritual Exercises is the process of discernment, or what Ignatius calls making an election – an important choice about one’s activity or direction in life and relationships. This book explores how the Exercises guide us in centering our prayerful decision making in Christ.
- Stone, Howard W. and James O. Duke. How to Think Theologically. Fortress, 2006. A primer for leaders and groups on the art of the practice of theological reflection, which can and should be learned by any who seek a deeper encounter with God and a more impactful life bringing hope, peace and love into the world, bringing light into dark places. Also available is a groups study guide: http://store.fortresspress.com/media/downloads/0800638182_studyguide.doc.
- Killen, Patricia O’Connell and John deBeer. The Art of Theological Reflection. Crossroad Pub, 2004. A handbook that includes tools and techniques for individual and group theological reflection.
- Kinast, Robert L. Let the Ministry Teach: A Guide to Theological Reflection. Liturgical Press, 1996. Reflecting specifically on the practice of ministry as a context and a primary source for theological reflection, and the necessity of this practice for vital ministry.
- — What Are They Saying About Theological Reflection? Paulist Press, 2000. An overview of new perspectives through 5 ‘styles’: Ministerial, Spiritual Wisdom, Feminist, Inculturation, Practical.
PERSONAL GROWTH – EMOTIONAL AND RELATIONAL
For me, in addition to the insights available through scripture, prayer and theological reflection, the schools of Systems Thinking and Family Systems Theory provide a wealth of resources. Systems theory, as originated by Murray Bowen and later articulated primarily by Roberta Gilbert and Edwin Friedman, offers a way of thinking about our lives that is not immediately obvious or intuitive, yet once we hear it, we think perhaps we have known it all along. I do not work from Bowen’s texts, but rather from those of Gilbert and Friedman.
- Gilbert, Roberta M, M.D. The Eight Concepts of Bowen Theory: A New Way of Thinking About the Individual and the Group. Center for the Study of Human Systems, 2006.
- Gilbert, Roberta M, M.D. Extraordinary Leadership: Thinking Systems, Making A Difference. Center for the Study of Human Systems, 1992.
- Gilbert, Roberta M, M.D. Extraordinary Relationships: A New Way of Thinking about Human Relationships. Center for the Study of Human Systems, 2006.
- Friedman, Edwin H. Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue. Guilford Press, 1985. Friedman applies the work of Bowen, a secular theorist in psychology, to congregational life systems and their leadership through the lens of the Judeo-Christian Traditions.
FORMATION AND REFORMATION OF THE PASTORAL SELF
- Richardson, Ronald W. Becoming a Healthier Pastor: Family Systems Theory and the Pastor’s Own Family. Augsburg Fortress, 2005.
- Richardson, Ronald W. Creating a Healthier Church: Family Systems Theory, Leadership, and Congregational Life. Augsburg Fortress, 1996.
- Herrington, Jim, R. Robert Creech, Trisha Taylor. The Leader’s Journey: Accepting the Call to Personal and Congregational Transformation. Leadership Network, 2003. This text is a guidebook for personal transformation through honestly facing our limitations and embracing who God has created, called and is recreating us to be. A compassionate companion and guide for the journey. Herrington et.al. have several other resources that are similarly valuable.
- Wuellner, Flora Slosson. Feed My Shepherds: Spiritual Healing and Renewal for Those in Christian Leadership. The Upper Room, 1998. A resource for those in lay or clerical ministry who are down and discouraged, defeated and desolate, or anywhere in between.
COACHING AND MENTORING
- Miller, Linda J. and Chad W. Hall. Coaching for Christian Leaders: A practical guide. Chalice Press, 2007.
- Williams, Brian A. The Potter’s Rib: Mentoring for Pastoral Formation. Regent College Pub, 2005.
- Crane, Thomas G. The Heart of Coaching: Using Transformational Coaching to Create a High-Performance Coaching Culture. FTA Press, 2010.
- Moots, Paul. Becoming Barnabas: The Ministry of Encouragement. Alban Inst, 2004.
- Cresswell, Jane. Christ-Centered Coaching: 7 Benefits for Ministry Leaders. Chalice Press, 2006.
“You cannot lead people a place you have not already been.
You cannot accompany people to a place where you are not going.”
What is the value of mentoring? A mentoring relationship is established by mutual recognition and consent, with both parties agreeing to enter into the learning experience together. This may be done informally, or may include a formal mentoring covenant that outlines the commitments and expectations. Rarely do we encounter an untraveled road. Even Robert Frost states, “I took the one less traveled by…” suggesting that it had, nonetheless, been traveled by some. (“The Road Not Taken”, Robert Frost, 1920.) Among other things, Frost’s poem is a wistful reflection that we can not take every road, but rather must make some choices which then eliminate others. The title refers to the road that the narrator did not take, the one, “left for another day.” Mentoring puts us in conversation with others along the roads of life, giving us the opportunity for companionship and insight that they may offer from their experiences. As a Mentor, Frost could come along side another and talk about why he made the choices he did, thus illuminating the path ahead. Frost does not say, but it is likely that he had mentors as well, those who helped him gain the wisdom needed at such moments of decision.
The difference between mentoring and coaching: A mentor leads someone in her/his own journey, by virtue of the mentor’s insights gained from personal experience in a similar journey. A coach, by contrast, does not need to have walked that path before, but rather brings more general insights and principles to bear on the journey of the individual being coached.
How to find a mentor: Typically your mentor will be someone you respect, whose company you think you will enjoy, who has demonstrated abilities and approaches to work or life from which you wish to learn. It will also be someone who is willing to give energy and time to the relationship. Look around in your circles if relationship for such a person. If you do not find one, then ask others who they might recommend. When you approach the prospective mentor, ask for a brief conversation to gain wisdom or insight into a particular situation about which the prospect might have something to say. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time, and you don’t want to ask for a big commitment up front. A series of brief conversations to establish the relationship will be of benefit, and will answer many of your questions regarding whether this person would be a good fit as your mentor.
How to be “mentorable”: Be teachable. Listen to your interactions with others. How often do you respond to someone with an observation that contradicts what has been said? Are you able to receive challenging information without anxiously needing to figure it out immediately or sweep it away? Be dependable. Do what you say you will and more. You are asking this person to donate their time toward your personal and professional growth – respect that time by doing your homework. Come to each conversation prepared with meaningful goals.
How to be a mentor: Be teachable. Remember that we can learn from anyone and any situation. Listen for the wisdom of the novice. Be dependable. Give thought to what you have to offer and how best to offer it. Be clear when a request or topic is outside your purview so no one’s time is wasted. Look for opportunities and relationships to recommend for the mentee – help them build their network and be self-directed learners. Do not take responsibility for the Mentee’s learning. Gently but clearly help them be accountable to self for their growth.
See: “A Bibliography of Spiritual Mentoring and Coaching” for an introductory list of resources.
A Mentoring Process:
1) Establish meeting parameters. How frequently and for how long will you meet? Is it a regular weekly or monthly meeting, or something less formal? Think about locations that are most helpful. Keep in mind issues of cross-gender relationships – avoid uncomfortable or potentially compromising situations, or even their appearance. Once a working relationship is established with clear expectations and boundaries, then…
2) Establish Goals. Mentoring grows from a basic question – What do you want to achieve? It assumes some growth goals with which the mentor helps the mentee. If these are not clear, then that is the first work in the relationship – to determine the goals. In what ways does the Mentee wish to grow? See the example of a “quarterly goal worksheet”. You may not use something this formal, but the more specific you can be, the more successful you will likely be.
3) Consider who sets the agenda. Does the Mentee say, “Today I would like to learn/explore ____,” or will the Mentor have a series of topics and experiences to lead through? Or a combination of both perhaps. Either is fine, just be clear so that everyone knows what to expect and is prepared.
4) Focus on experience. Something happened. How did it come about? What did you feel, think, say and do? What was the result? What might be learned from this? These questions apply whether the Mentor or Mentee is sharing. See the example of a Verbatim as one tool for this exploration. It can be used formally, or as a general guide for reflection.
5) Focus on meaning. What is this situation about? What is at stake? What is of worth or value to each person involved? What is being gained or lost? Where are the opportunities for confusion or clarity? What other experiences or relationships might be impacting this encounter?
6) Focus on identity. Who are you in this situation? Who do you want to be? What might be done to bridge the gap, if any, between these? What kind of leader? What kind of friend or spouse or child or parent? What kind of employer, supervisor, employee?
7) Focus on God. Where is God in this situation? Who and where is God calling you to be? How is God present to you in the situation and the people you encounter? How is God present to them through you? What biblical/theological ideas surface? Are there competing claims to truth – i.e. how do you balance mercy and justice?
8) Return to experience. Reflect on how the insights gained will be put to use in future encounters. What encouragement or help is needed to remember and act on them? What can you do now to prepare for future success in these efforts?
P.S. Jesus as Mentor: We can read the New Testament and see aspects of mentoring in Jesus’ relationship with the apostles, Peter’s relationship with John Mark and Paul’s with Timothy and Luke. In each instance, we see strength and wisdom being offered. We also see vulnerability and brokenness. Christian Mentoring means also sharing our sufferings and failures, and allowing the mentee to serve the mentor. We look not only to the successful, but also to the fragile and weak. To the hungry we say, “Teach me to be satisfied.” To the sick we say, “Teach me the meaning of health.” To the poor we say, “Teach me the meaning of riches.” To the captive we say, “Teach me the meaning of freedom.” To the dying we say, “Teach me the meaning of life.” To the Son of Man we say, “Teach me of God.”
John 1:43-51; CTW: Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
SERMON NOTES: Where to look for the good stuff…
“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Think for a minute about “GOOD” and “BAD.”
Make a mental list, or even write one down now – two columns of opposites labeled Good and Bad. What do you put in each column?
Now think about where Jesus went. Born in Bethlehem, lived in Nazareth of Galilee, chose fishermen, tax collectors, religious revolutionaries, as his friends, companions and disciples. Welcomed “prostitutes and sinners”, lepers and cripples. Because of the company he kept he was called a drunk and a glutton.
Think about what he taught: “Blessed are the poor, grieving, meek, seekers of righteousness, merciful, humble, persecuted, peacemakers…”
Matthew 5: 2 and he began to teach them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Luke 6: 20 Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.
It’s interesting to contrast the two passages –
In Matthew Jesus is speaking in the third person – “Blessed are the…”
In Luke he is speaking to them in the second person – “Blessed are you…”
In Matthew he is identifying emotional and spiritual states: humble, meek, merciful
In Luke Jesus lists physical situations: poverty, hunger, grief
Let’s think back to how God had functioned in Israel’s history before Jesus…
- God called Abram and Sarai, an older couple unable to have children – and thus scorned by their community.
- God worked through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and Joseph, all of whom were sneaky and deceitful, at times arrogant, and lacking in courage – yet they were trusted to God.
- God chose Moses, who had been beaten down from his position as prince through 40 years of shepherding, till he lacked any self-confidence.
- God chose David – the youngest and frailest of Jesse’s sons – to be king of Israel.
- David’s great grandmother was Ruth – a widowed foreigner.
- David’s wife was Bathsheba, whom David stole by killing her husband.
Throughout Israel’s history God often chose those who were less desirable and worked the divine plan of salvation blessings through them.
Paul summarizes God’s work in this way…
1 Corinthians 1: 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.
And we are to follow God’s wisdom, not earthly wisdom. Earthly wisdom looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart, looks inward, looks at the potential hidden inside.
Jesus tells us quite clearly how and where to encounter him –
Mark 9: 33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
Matthew 25: (31-46) 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.‘
There are at least three messages for us to take from this:
1) If we want to know where God is at work, and what God might want to do, we should look not to the powerful, but to the weak, not to the wise, but to the simple, not to the rich, but to the poor, not to the healthy, but to the sick
2) If we want to know Jesus, we must place ourselves in relationship with these same people, for Jesus has said repeatedly not that he is among them, but that they are him.
3) If we want to be like Jesus, we must become like them.
This is difficult for us, because our culture and its wisdom tells us to look to those who are successful, yet God consistently chooses those who were failures in societies eyes.
We begin hosting Family Promise again this evening.
There are many good reasons for doing this.
- Jesus tells us to care for the poor because God cares for the poor.
- Jesus teaches us to have compassion, because God has compassion
- Jesus teaches us to show love, because God is love.
- Jesus leads us to life through his cross – the crucified one is the victor.
I think the most important reason is not because of what we can learn, or even because of obedience, though these are both vital.
Rather, the most important reason is because in them we meet God.
What needs to change for us to view our life this way – that in the broken, frail and rejected of society is where we meet the God of life?
Who do we need to be? How do we need to change?
Think about some simple prayer language. Now, I don’t suggest you go around saying this to other people, because you’ll really scare some of them.
- When you see, talk to, or touch a child, say in your heart, “God, I greet you. Teach me.”
- When you meet someone who is poor and struggling, say in your heart, “God, I greet you. Meet my need.”
- When you meet someone who is sick, crippled or dying, say in your heart, “God I greet you. Heal me.”
Each time you greet someone who appears to have nothing to offer you but rather needs things from you, realize that this is the very person who has the very thing that you need. And only after you have received from them God’s blessing can you be in a position where you have anything to offer them.
For me, the very thought is both terrifying and life giving.
How will we live differently as a result? As we do this, let us share our experiences with one another to learn from and encourage one another.
John Tracy Wilson is a talented singer/songwriter, and as I approached his first book with this in mind I found it to be an enjoyable and at times inspiring listen. And much like a CD, it is a collection of compositions, some of which stand out more than others, and within which are some true gems – some lyrics and hooks that stayed with me and which I felt the need to share with others.
One can appreciate the book without any foreknowledge of John’s music, and in fact he introduces his lyrics throughout. But you really should introduce yourself, so follow the link to his website (www.johntracywilson.com) and you can listen to excerpts of his songs in the store. These songs tell the honest stories of a man working his life out in hope and faith. He embraces mystery, and places abiding trust in the God he knows behind that mystery.
The book held a few surprises for me. I was not expecting those wonderful poetic turns of phrase:
“…as we take in and breathe out the elements that form the atmosphere of relationship.”
“…humility has a wingspan with far reaching power and distance when compared to the limited stretch of prideful self-assurance.”
They seem inspired by or the background for a song. They fill the room with an expanding vision. Which is what music is supposed to do, I think.
The other surprise, for me, what John’s vulnerability regarding his pain-filled relationship with his father. I did not know that about John, and wasn’t expecting that to be such a large part of this story. It is sad to hear that he still struggles so deeply and daily. Yet that admission is likely to be a help and encouragement to others who have stories of lingering pain and brokenness. For John’s real story is his faith in the God who works in and through all of that to redeem it, to bring healing and hope to John, and through him to others, by the song and the story he shares.
He has insights to share regarding parenting in particular. They are things many of us know but may need to be reminded and encouraged to live. I think I’ll be a more reflective and patient parent for having read John’s story and getting to see into his life. The book seems to share both the back and future stories of his songs, where they were born, and where he thinks they may be headed when they grow up. Creative works of poetry, prose or music are like children – we pour ourselves into them, but we are not in control of what they become in the world – though we hope and pray that it is blessing.
I am grateful to John for his courage and humility. I am grateful for this book, which will reach people in need of a word of hope. If that is you, take and read. If it is someone near you, then gift it to them. As John might say, “Things may not go the way you expect, or even the way you want, but trust that God is present with you through it all and seeks to bring it and you to a place of blessing.”