Spiritual Practice: Intentional Growth

Spiritual growth is organic; in some ways it just happens. God is good, and as we spend time in God’s presence, we grow. True. And there are things we can do to help ourselves grow spiritually.

Take my happy plants for an analogy. They all started from one plant. They were all the same size. They were given different sized pots but the same soil. Some were alone, some were put together. Now look at them, each so very different than the others. We are like that. We need room to grow, we need time, space, good soil, water, sunlight and each of us grows in our own way.

So, how do we create the best conditions for intentional growth?

When I was a teenager and I decided to be a Christ follower, that was my first question, “What do I do now?” A wise person said, read the Bible, Pray, and go to church. Those were helpful instructions for a new follower and stood the test of time for decades.

But something happened as I got older; the old ways weren’t working for me anymore. My Happy Clappy Christianity felt shallow to me. Life was hard and I needed something deeper, a place to lament, and think, and breathe. The masculine language of the Bible became a stumbling block for me; I needed other spiritual food. Prayer became less about words and lists and more about silence and listening. I needed contemplative spiritual practices to grow spiritually.

This blog is about easy on-ramp spiritual practices and I’d like to highlight the ones that have stood the test of time for me. These still feed me and help me grow. We are each different and maybe the foundational big three of prayer, Bible reading and church continue to serve you well. Perhaps, like me, you need something more. So, here are my fave five.

Spiritual Direction Meeting monthly for an hour with a spiritual director has been a part of my life for the last twelve years. I’ve had two directors in that time. Spiritual Directors usually become certified through a two or three-year training program. The name is a bit of a misnomer. They are not “directing” you but are companioning you on your spiritual journey. I often don’t even know what I’m going to talk about with my director. It’s not therapy, it’s sitting with someone who listens well in the presence of the Holy and asks good questions. She/he may make an observation or share a spiritual practice to try. If you want more information on Spiritual Direction, click here.

Silence and Solitude If you scoop up a glass of river water and let it sit for a while, the sediment settles to the bottom of the jar. Then you can see more clearly through the water.

Spending time alone and unplugged does that for me. It allows my mind and spirit to settle and things become clearer. Nothing fills my cup like being alone for an extended period. For more information on Silence and Solitude, click here.

Reading Spiritual Books Words are important to me and I especially need words for my experiences when I’m going through something new. When I’m growing spiritually, I need words for what is happening to me. If you’re like that, finding mentors through books can be extremely helpful. This can happen through podcasts and YouTube as well, and now there are many online options to hear from mentors. I like books because I can take my time with them, I can savor them like a good meal. Authors like John Philip Newell, Phyllis Tickle, Richard Rohr, and Sue Monk Kidd have been valuable resources in helping me find words for my spiritual experience. If you’d like more information on Reading Spiritual Books, click here.

Lectio Divina I used to read the Bible inductively in 3 steps — asking What does it say? What does it mean? What does it mean to me? This is a very helpful way to read with practical application. Now I like to read contemplatively. Lectio Divina means divine reading. It helps you slow down and put yourself in the story. It allows time for the words to sink in and change you. You can use Lectio with any spiritual writing or with poems or songs. If you’re interested in more information on Lectio Divina, click here.

Listening to Nature In the Celtic Christianity I’ve come to love, the natural world is equal to scripture in its ability to speak to us about God. This has become a beautiful way for me to listen. Nothing beats time in the woods or at the ocean or just observing any living thing. It fills my soul with joy, wonder, and a great desire to cherish and protect the earth. If you’d like more information on Listening to Nature, click here.

I hope this gives you some good ideas of where to start or how to move forward in your spiritual journey. If not, this blog has years of ideas for you. Click around and see what might spark your interest! To me, a spiritual practice is anything done with intention. Walking, journaling, yoga, singing, creating, the list is endless.

I’d love to hear what has helped you grow spiritually. What have you tried, especially when the old ways become stale or are no longer working for you?

Spiritual Practice – Embracing the Divine Feminine

I hope my male readers don’t skip this one, because we females have been embracing the male divine for millennia! We don’t want to replace the divine masculine; we just want to explore what life would look like with a balanced view of God’s self as male and female — as each of us has characteristics of both.

And, the consensus among mystics seems to be that the world is in desperate need for the divine feminine right now. We are in a global pandemic, everything has been shaken, the earth is dying, and our national sin of racism is front and center, to name a few of the unprecedented challenges we are facing. HELP! We have been cracked open and many feel the divine feminine energy is what we need to bring us back into balance, healing, and unity.

Growing up in the evangelical world I had no concept of even where to start seeing God’s feminine side. There was pretty much only one nod given to the divine feminine in the churches I attended. Genesis 1:27 says,

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

This verse implies that God is both male and female (yet note the pronouns)! It was the only verse mentioned in most of the churches I attended about the female side of God. When women read the Bible, we read all about a male God, with male pronouns, and very few feminine images. Scriptural references to God, which are gender neutral, are often translated as He. Our churches are full of male images, patriarchal structures, and worship music that only speak of God as He. How do we even begin to press into the female side of God?

For me this journey usually begins with reading. Sue Monk Kidd wrote a book over twenty years ago that followed her journey from her years as a Baptist who began to deconstruct her patriarchal view of God. This book covers years of unlearning and relearning and exploring. She finds female names for God, female images for God, and ultimately a balanced view of God. That book is called The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from Tradition to the Sacred Feminine.

In this book I learned many things. For instance, did you know that in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, the word for the Holy Spirit is a feminine word? In Greek the Wisdom of God is referred to as Sophia and represented as female. Even the personal name of God, Yahweh, is a remarkable combination of both female and male. The first part of God’s name in Hebrew, “Yah,” is feminine, and the last part, “weh,” is masculine.

After reading Kidd’s book I watched a discussion she had with Elizabeth Lesser. Lesser recently wrote, Cassandra Speaks: When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes. In it she tells the Greek Myth of Cassandra who was so beautiful all the men wanted her. She was a mystic. Apollo wanted her and promised her the gift of prophesy which she greatly desired. She didn’t know his gift came with a catch, that he wanted sex in return. He gave her the gift but she refused the sex. So, he spit a curse into her mouth that she would have the gift, to know the future and tell it, but no one would believe her. If this hasn’t been the curse of women for all time, I don’t know what it has. Lesser tells the stories of women from their perspective and suggests it’s time for women’s voices to be unstoppered. We must speak our truth; the world needs our wisdom.

Last week I attended the Shift Network’s Mystic Summit. The host was Mirabai Starr, is a gracious and loving woman. She wrote Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics.

That book is now on my list to-read as well. The summit had many speakers who brought up the need for the divine feminine to arise and heal our land, our nation, and our communities.

This movement of the Spirit is becoming too important to ignore. The need for feminine wisdom is bubbling up in the zeitgeist; the very air we breathe is calling out for the female side of God to be recognized, heard, and heeded.

What do you know of the feminine side of God? Do you have images of the divine feminine that work for you? Names you use? I’d love to hear your opinion on why this is happening in our world right now.

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