What Do I Know of Holy?

Sometimes a song comes along that speaks to your soul on the first hearing, and even more the subsequent times you hear it. If you haven’t heard Addison Road’s “What Do I Know of Holy,” be sure to take this opportunity. The first link here takes you to YouTube to hear the song with a series of images. The words are printed on the screen a line at a time. If you’d rather just have the lyrics, try here.

“I tried to hear from Heaven but I talked the whole time” is a line from early on in the song and sets the tone of the message, which addresses the themes of the nature of God and the nature of our relationship with God. The song is a lesson in humility and awe that is best experienced firsthand.

           

Casting Your [Whole] Care

For a very long time, one of my favorite Bible passages has been I Peter 5:6–7. What has drawn me most is Verse 7 but since Verse 7 is a continuation of a sentence started in Verse 6, I take them as a whole. Here are the verses from the Amplified Bible:

Therefore humble yourselves [demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation] under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you, Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.

Those three points in Verse 7 never fail to calm any storm that arises in my heart. First, I like that amplification: “all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all.” Nothing negative or troubling can possibly be left out of that! It’s easy to add a visualization of bundling all that difficult, unhappy “stuff” into one large bale and handing off the whole thing to God.

Then there is a reason given for why we can do that: because He cares for us affectionately and (as if that were not enough) He cares about us watchfully. Now my visualization focuses on a source of protection that not only likes me enough to post my picture on His refrigerator but is diligently, vigilantly watching to guard me from harm.

This God who loves us is not only paying attention to all that concerns us, but willingly takes the load from us anytime we are ready to let go of it. That’s a Bible promise to live on!

 

           

Points of View

A writing friend and I went to hear an agent talk about elements of a manuscript that will cause an agent to turn down a novel for representation. These days so many people are submitting queries and manuscripts to agents that it’s a good idea to know what elements are cause for disqualification at the get-go.

One item on the list was having too many points of view in the story. The agent advised restricting the story to one or at most two, and spoke strongly against trying to present five or six POVs in a story. Now, we can all name successful books that break this rule. Perhaps the rules have changed in today’s publishing climate and those authors were already established with a reader base before agents and editors (and readers) became sensitive to this issue, or maybe those stories are so scintillating that the authors could afford to break accepted rules with abandon. Whatever the case, novelists today who want their manuscripts accepted will find an easier road by playing by this POV rule.

My tendency – a characteristic of my everyday spirituality – is to look for the blessing in what might otherwise seem a difficulty. The blessing I see with restricting my novels to one or two POV characters is that it gives me license to go deeper into the character, to mine their perspectives and personalities for the richness that would otherwise be glossed over if I were trying to tell the story from several different points of view.

Thus today I get to commence the adventure of reducing my 100,000-word novel, told in five points of view, to a richer, shorter one focused on just two people, the two who I already know bring the most to the story. This is a good thing!

           

Spiritual Direction

The spiritual directors community is mourning the passing of Sister Mary Ann Scofield, RSM, who was a founding member of Spiritual Directors International and served as the organization’s first executive coordinator. She was a tremendous believer in the value of spiritual direction in companioning individuals to greater spiritual awareness and strength. “I do believe there is a unique image of the Divine that is placed in each of us,” she said, “and all the activity of the Divine in us is to bring us to that true self.”

Spiritual direction has been a recognized spiritual practice for many centuries but has become more common among lay persons in recent decades. These days virtually every spiritual tradition has members who obtain training and make themselves available to companion others in their spiritual journeys.

Formal definitions abound to try to capture succinctly just what spiritual direction is. One definition I relate to is in Tilden Edwards’ Spiritual Director, Spiritual Companion: Guide to Tending the Soul. He writes: “The ministry of spiritual direction can be understood as the meeting of two or more people whose desire is to prayerfully listen for the movements of the Holy Spirit in all areas of a person’s life (not just in their formal prayer life). It is a three-way relationship: among the true director who is the Holy Spirit (which in Christian tradition is the Spirit of Christ present in and among us), and the human director (who listens for the directions of the Spirit with the directee), and the directee.”

For anyone who wants to look into this kind of spiritual companioning, locating a suitable spiritual director is much easier than it used to be. Spiritual Directors International offers an annual Seek and Find Guide – both a print version and an interactive online version – listing directors in all parts of the world. The Guide is part of the wonderful legacy of Sister Mary Ann Scofield.

           

Facing Storms

Sometimes a week comes along that would fray the nerves of a Trappist monk. How do you stay peaceful and continue living in everyday spirituality in such weeks?

A week like that calls for reliance on your full repertoire of spiritual practices. Don’t be talked out of your meditation time; increase the time you spend in prayer; try to walk a labyrinth or, if that’s not possible, seek some time in a quiet outdoor setting. Journal as much as you can – it’s some of the most effective therapy around. If you have scriptures that are especially meaningful, now’s the time to repeat them over and over until they are memorized and you can focus your mind with them whenever you need them. These are simple things but in the heat of a frenzied week, we can forget that they are available to us.

What may be most important – well before such a week arises – is to cultivate an ongoing, ever-closer relationship with the Divine so that you have at all times the refuge of resting in Spirit. If you will do that, then when the storm comes, you’ll be able to watch it go by while you remain sheltered, held safe and dry and at peace.