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Seeking God Together: An Introduction to Group Spiritual Direction by Alice Fryling

by davesandel on September 1st, 2012

Seeking God Together, by Alice Fryling, 2009

152 pages

Read, 8-2012

Outline and Quotes from Seeking God Together:

           

1.    A First Look at Spiritual Direction      
  A little personal history    
  A little general history    
    Lots of silence, lots of listening in these groups.  We listen to each other and to God and to ourselves.  
2.   Companions on the Journey      
  Loneliness is the first thing God called “not good” – John Milton    
  What is soul?  “Inner essence, spirit, core of my will and desires.    
  Soul is rooted in unconscious, so we don’t always pay attention or even know what it needs    
    My soul friend helps me listen to my soul.  God is the director, and my spiritual “director” walks with me.  
    My soul hides, sometimes shy, sometimes afraid, sometimes frustrated with difficult issues.  
  Director is “listening in on an ongoing conversation between the directee and God.”    
  Spiritual director is a midwife/doctor … helping the birthing/healing process along; not doing it for the directee.    
  What does a spiritual director do?    
    Listens, comes back to the question, “Where is God in this?”  
    Welcomes the directee into God’s presence, reminds directee that God is already present.  
    We deal with “the present moment, the present set of circumstances, the present relationships in our lives – this is where God lives.” It is a safe place, and also a “real” place.  Not what should be happening, but what is happening
3.   Group Spiritual Direction What happens? “transformational” dialogue, not just information passing Start with a time of silence or a short meditation

 

      Invite one person to talk for 5-10 minutes about whatever they’d like
      Another time of prayerful silence
      Group questions, responses to directee
      A closing time of prayerful silence
  Purpose: Not counseling or therapy, not pastiming, not self-absorbed monologues or conversations Intentional formational awareness of God in our lives, for the sake of others, leading to an “awakening of the soul”
      Grow in faith, love others more fully and participate in the mission of the church more effectively.
  Leadership: Trained spiritual directors (many good two-year training programs) Or someone committed to the process who is also comfortable with group leadership and group dynamics
  Essentials: Absolute Confidentiality, regular attendance, brief periodic  times of evaluation  
  Models: Church groups, a group of friends, groups led by a paid spiritual director Can be a two-person group (maybe even a married couple)
  Fruit: Life-giving.  May start as a “luxury” but quickly becomes a necessity, an ongoing process of being born again and sharing in the birthing within others.  
4.   The Power of Listening Job’s friends did some things right:  they were intentional, they showed up, and they sat with Job in silence for seven days and seven nights.  But …  Mistakes made by Job’s friends: “Here is what I think.” Eliphaz …  Speak too quickly from personal experience and observations “as I have seen … now a word came to me … I have seen … as for me, I would”  (Job 4:8-5:8)
    “What did you do to deserve this?” Bildad … In the midst of deep suffering it’s almost impossible to believe this is a “means of grace” in my life, until I talk about it for awhile with people who listen. We can’t explain suffering.  Listen with compassion, not judgment.  Support people “as they seek to believe that maybe their suffering will be a means of grace in their lives.  (2 Cor 12:9)
    “Cheer up!  I can tell you what God wants.”  Zophar … Tempted to “know” God’s plan.  Point isn’t whether we’re right; the point is “that it is God’s job, not ours, to speak inner truth to our friends.”  We support them while they wait for God to speak that truth within them.
  Job wanted them to just listen. Not to get answers.  Not even to get “help.” (Job 21:1)  
  It helps to “remember that we are listening in on a conversation someone else is having with God.” Usually we just listen, maybe ask a question or two, occasionally speak other words.  How do we speak? Begin with a contemplative attitude (pay continuing attention, not distracted, not preoccupied, not interrupting.
    “Intense listening is indistinguishable from love, and love heals.” Have an open spirit.  Be “second-in-command.”  Let the directee have the floor.  They are allowed to be “the experts on their own pain.”  Say “tell me more.”
      Have a humble perspective.  Let go of preconceived opinions, of the need to be right, wise, good or spiritual-appearing.  Let go of ourselves to be present with the other.  “Quiet down and wait with …”
  How to speak (a few ideas) Repeat exactly what the other has said Ask for more information
    Paraphrase what the other has said, using different words Describe what you’re hearing and then as if it’s correct
    Don’t say anything.  Maintain eye contact.  Wait. Offer some connections from several parts of the conversation.
      If appropriate ask if the person is sensing any direction from God.
5.  Asking Life-Giving Questions The goal “is not to answer life’s questions.  The goal is to draw closer to God in the midst of the questions.” We don’t necessarily solve problems or answer questions.  We VALIDATE the questions. One of the greatest gifts is to ask a meaningful question of the directee, to invite further exploration into whatever they are presenting.
Margaret Guenther: “There are no right answers, only clearer visions of ever deeper questions.” Jesus asked Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?”  We can ask, “What is it you would like Jesus to do for you?” Questions are the “backbone of the group spiritual direction process?” “Can you give me an example of that … What was that like for you … How do you feel about that situation?”  And of course, “Where is God in that?”
Spiritual direction questions often focus on our inner responses to our daily lives. What NOT to do: be manipulative or superficial.  Don’t ask a question loaded with a suggested answer. Avoid (usually) asking “why.”  Avoid asking questions that can be answered yes or no.  Avoiding asking too many questions, or asking another before the first is addressed. Old adage: Only speak when it improves upon silence.

 

Questions for noticing God in daily life:

  1. In the last twenty-four hours, what gave you joy?  Sorrow?
  2. Who in your life (past or present) has given you a taste of God’s love?
  3. What activities in your life seem to draw you to God?  Seem to pull you away from God?
  4. When or where are you most likely to be aware of God’s presence?  Least likely, least aware?
  5. In the last day or two, when or where were you most aware of the presence of God in your life?

Questions about the spiritual journey:

  1. How would you describe your relationship with God today?
  2. What is prayer like for you?  What kind of prayer is most appealing to you?
  3. When do you remember first thinking about God?
  4. How do you experience temptation in your life?
  5. What do you do really well?  What do you think you are gifted to do?
  6. What is your soul longing for today?
  7. How is it for you when you read Scripture?
  8. When are you bored with your spiritual journey?

Questions to go deeper:

  1. How is your view of God changing because of this experience?
  2. What person in your own life acts (or acted) the way you perceive God to be acting in your life right now?
  3. How would you like God to help you in this?
  4. What do you think the Spirit of Jesus might be whispering to your spirit in this situation?
  5. What do you want Jesus to do for you?
  6. How are you being changed by this relationship or set of circumstances?
  7. How would you most like God to touch your soul, your inner being, at this time in your life?
  8. Is there any question you would like us to ask?  How do you sense we could be helpful now?

Questions for closing/closure:

  1. How would you like to experience God in the next two weeks?
  2. Do you sense any invitation from God in this?
  3. What would you like God’s invitation to be?
  4. How do you hope your relationship with God will change as a result of this time together?
  5. What do you see as the first step on this next phase of your spiritual journey?

Questions that extend a welcome for feelings (from chapter 6):

  1. Can you say more about the _________________ (anger, fear, confusion, etc.)?
  2. How does your body respond to that feeling?
  3. When in this relationship or situation are you most likely to have that feeling?
  4. As you think about the issue you are processing, what feelings rise up within you?
  5. When in your life before have you had the feeling you’re describing now?
  6. Would you say you’re feeling glad, mad, sad, confused or angry about this situation or relationship?
  7. What adjective describes how you feel about the person or event you’re talking about?
  8. Would you like us just to sit with you for a few minutes in silence to let you feel that feeling?
  9. I hear _____________ (anger, fear, sadness, etc.) in your voice.  Is that what you’re feeling?

Questions about prayer (from chapter 9):

  1. What is it like for you when you pray about this situation you’re presenting?
  2. How has prayer been helpful to you in the past?
  3. What are some new ways you might like to experience God in prayer?

Questions to provide pointers to the MBTI categories (from chapter 10):

  1. In what setting do you feel closest to God: when you’re alone or when you’re with other people?
  2. Are you more likely to find your heart turning to God when you’re in conversation with others or when you’re by yourself?
  3. What do you like best about your relationship with God: what you’ve already experienced or the potential of what could come?
  4. Do you like to think and talk about what you know to be true about the spiritual life or about the mysteries of the spiritual life?
  5. If you have an important decision to make, do you focus on the most logical conclusion or the one most helpful to the people involved?
  6. What do you enjoy more: analyzing a situation or considering the needs of the people affected by the situation?
  7. Are you more likely to be excited about finishing a project or about exploring all the possible options in the project?
  8. Do you enjoy living your day with a schedule or without a schedule?

Questions to evaluate the progress and success of a group (from chapter 12):

  1. How do you think we’re doing in our experience of group direction?
  2. Are we meeting the needs you hoped would be met when you joined?
  3. How is this like what you expected?  How is it different?
  4. How do you think the group is doing in supporting the leadership of our group?
  5. How are we doing with our listening and our questions?  Are there changes we should make?
  6. Are we talking too much?  Too little?
  7. Are we trying to fix one another’s problems in an inappropriate way?
  8. Is there anything about our group that you would like to see changed?

 

6. Exploring Thoughts and Feelings Bible meaning of heart is “intellect, memory, desires and will” Moving from head to heart means to move from believing a truth to living a truth. Speaking from the heart isn’t “feelings;” it is to speak from the depths of our being.
  “Feelings are the spontaneous response we give to our interpretation of an event.” Thus our feelings give us information about what we really think about events and relationships.

 

As we notice previously unconscious interpretations, we can ask is this feeling a response to truth or falsehood?
  Sometimes just describing my feelings helps loosen their grip on me. Sometimes “in moments of silence, in the presence of my spiritual director, God touches my heart and heals a wounded spot.” Strong feelings often mean I am “treasuring” something.  In spiritual direction I can look at any consuming area of life and listen to God’s perspective about whatever it is I treasure.
  Treasuring “ being available to meet the needs of others… “Alice, that’s my job,” God says. Thinking mind tries to tell me how to feel.  “I should/shouldn’t feel this way.”
  We hide when God comes looking, and spend enormous amounts of energy hiding feelings from others, from God, from ourselves. These feelings I think I need to hide (or hide from) can be positive or negative.  
  DON’T SAY: “I know just how you’re feeling.”  “Don’t worry – it will get better.”  “Trust God.  God always knows best.”  “At least you don’t have cancer like so and so?” We cannot think our way into God’s peace; it’s beyond understanding. (Phil 4:7) Sometimes the route to this peace-beyond-knowledge is through our feelings.
7. Meditating on Scripture together Informational Bible study – looks at facts, interprets the facts, memorizes verses, applies information to our lives. “We seek to master the text, to grasp it, to bring it under our control.” As a young believer I need all the information I can get.  But as my journey continues, this is not the same as deepening my relationship with God.
  Formational reading allows the “text to master you.” LECTIO DIVINA (“Divine reading” in Latin) USING IMAGINATION (per St. Ignatius and the Ignatian Exercises)
  Lectio is a “right-brain” activity; we grasp the content in a circular manner.  Read and advance, go back and read again.

Lectio not only enlightens the mind, it also massages the will.

Use it in individual spiritual direction … ask if there is an invitation from God.  Usually the directee focuses on a different word or phrase than the director.  We are each so unique.

In a group, it can be used ahead of time or to structure quiet at start.

A Scripture-based guided meditation is another way to begin.

Read a few verses very slowly, several times:

1. Start with silence.

2. Read the verses aloud, and read them again.  Be still again.

3. Notice what word or phrase stands out to you.  Think about what that means.

4. Read the passage again.  Dialogue with God, tell God how you respond and listen for an invitation from God.

5. Read the passage again and rest with it for awhile.

6. Conclude your time by noticing anything you can do to respond to the Word in your daily life.

Picture myself in the setting of a Scripture passage.  Participate in the plot of the story, using my imagination.  Notice what catches my attention, notice any sounds, smells, sights, tastes or touch.  What questions might I ask, how might I respond to what is happening.

Augustine in his preaching and teaching put himself into the Bible story.

Jesus used his imagination and called on that of his listeners with word pictures and parables.

8. Sin, Conviction and Confession A common misunderstanding of spiritual direction is that the director points out the sins of the directee. I do all I can to create an environment where the directee can hear from God, whether it be about sin or something else. The same is true in group spiritual direction.
  But if it is tool for deepening communion with God, we cannot ignore sin. This takes a burden off the listener, director, helper.  We are not responsible for point out mistakes, inaccurate perspectives or sinful behavior. We listen in, and for, truth and grace.  God is not out to get us.
  Sin is not primarily premeditated; it is rooted in an attitude behind actions. It is the attitude which causes us to think we are in charge. Rooted in conscious or unconscious dis-belief in God’s sovereign love.
  Lies of Satan undermine our faith. Lies are based on half-truths and asking false questions: “Did God really say?” God loves me, but then I believe this lie: “He would love me even more if I … prayed better, read the bible more, were a better person. Lies are harder to believe if we are talking with another person, if the person responds with God’s love and acceptance rather than judgment and condemnation.
  We reach beyond our limits, forgetting that we even have limits. We especially try to determine the difference between good and evil, to be wise and understand everything, to believe our destiny is in our own hands. Not chastising one another but lovingly support as we try to resist these temptations.  Let believe in God’s love, mercy and provision “become a daily experience.”
  We are tempted to hide when we feel spiritually naked. Spiritual direction is scary and wonderful, to be naked and come out of the bushes. “Where are you today in your spiritual life?”
Confession: This means to acknowledge truth about something. I acknowledge the truth that I have believed lies, twisted truth and gone beyond the “truth” of the limitations God has given me. For example, sometimes I don’t believe God’s love, am jealous, too much of a fixer, disappointed with my gifts and appearance.
9.   Sharing the Journey of Prayer As I talk about how I pray, my prayer life can become more real and more alive for me.  I am no longer alone in my prayer. Prayer is more than what I do or say.  I’m not in charge of my prayer.  Augustine: “Prayer is nothing but love.”  I allow myself to be loved by God and reflect that love. Prayer is a gift we receive from God and that we give away to others to ourselves.
  Prayer and Scripture: Offer verses tentatively.  
  Prayer of Examen: From Ignatian Exercises.  Can be used as a way to structure the silence at beginning of group spiritual direction. Not a time to think and pray about all our sins.  Is a time to reflect on our day, in dialogue with God, noticing times when we felt closest and furthest from God. God is in our boat. So we can let go of desires for control, affection and security.
  Silent prayer. Centering prayer.  Use no words, dwell on no thoughts, do not follow the wandering of my mind. It is like taking a vacation from myself.
  If your group prays aloud, Bring your friend’s needs to God Don’t pray about what he or she needs to do.  Don’t preach.
10.   Tempera-ment and How We Communicate MBTI gives me 16 boxes.  I don’t like putting people in boxes, but without those 16, I’d put most of them in just 1.  My box. Myers-Briggs Type Inventory describes four categories of preferences: 1) how we are energized E-I, 2) how we perceive the world around us S-N 3) how we make decisions (T-F) and 4) how we live out these preferences (J-P).
  Embracing our differences is one way to praise God for divine creativity and infinite possibilities. MBTI gives us the gift of self-knowledge. MBTI helps us listen, alert to the speaker’s preferences.
  Take the test or a similar test online: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp OR http://www.famoustype.com/test.htm    
11.   Discern-ment Among Friends Why spiritual direction?  Longing for deeper sense of God’s love, for my activities to be more life-giving than burdensome, questions about what I believe, struggles with feelings of disconnection, fear, anger, or facing important decision or transition. These reasons have to do with discernment – how do we perceive God in our lives?  How do we know what God wants of us? How do we make good choices?
  Discernment is not just about “finding God’s will for my life.” Discernment is the capacity to distinguish between paths “leading to fullness of life in the love of God and leading to what is ultimately dehumanizing and destructive.” Discernment helps me realize “God’s reign not just as a dream but as a daily reality.”  
In groups, we can remember three things: 1. God relates to us as adults, as adult “children.”  He does not impose his will on us.  He wants us to grow up, and therefore allows us freedom and choice in the context of order, coherence and unity.  When these needs are met, the soul feels at home in the world. Thomas Green: God is “not a watchmaker, nor a puppeteer but a father of adult children.” This is the foundation of all Christian discernment.  “Doing God’s will” is not separate from my own self/thinking/dynamics.
  2. God’s desires for us mesh with the hopes and desires of our true selves. God’s will is “pleasant” (Psalm 16:6) Benner/Ignatius: “Sin is ultimately a refusal to believe that what God wants is my happiness and fulfillment.”  So I take my life into my own hands.
  3. We can approach each other and God with an open, waiting, welcoming spirit.  We can help each other WAIT to see God’s love. My perspective is NOT someone else’s perspective. My wants and should are not someone else’s wants and shoulds.
  Like Mary, open and surrendered.  Waiting for opportunity, for direction, but not usually for certainty.  That comes with hindsight.    
  Discernment between true self and false self. Conflicting voices from ego and from transformed self.  

 

 


False Self

All about the ego

Needs to impress others

Needs approval

Needs to be needed

I think I’m in control of my life and world

I think I’m entitled to have all my needs and desires met

I long for recognition

I am often lonely

I don’t accept my limitations

I want independence and autonomy

I want to know everything, and be sure that I am right

True Self

I know I am created by God in God’s image and yet am utterly unique

I know I am created to experience and express love

I am free, limited only by God’s love

I live in truth rather than illusions of the false self

I know I am not in charge of life

I am God-centered rather than ego-centered

I manifest fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control

I live as though life is all about God and not about me.  I can resist false-self affirmation of success and image even when it comes from family, job or church

 

 

 

 

12.   Troubleshooting Problems in Group Direction Attendance – don’t ignore it, maybe meet bi-weekly, allow people to drop out after discussing it with them. Leadership – knowledge of spiritual direction and group dynamics is necessary.  Leader can be both comfortable and non-apologetic, keeping track of time and redirecting conversations when necessary, making sure everyone has time to share, comfortable with silence. Inappropriate group participation – too many suggestions, Bible quotes, ideas of books to read, talking between one or two rather than whole group, too much fix-it talk
  One person might dominate the group. Requires leader’s assertiveness. One person assumes role of solving problems and giving answers.  Leader can ask directee if they agree with the “helper.”  Or ask how they feel about the idea. Some want to dissolve group, others want to continue.  Try to agree beforehand on a fixed length of time.
13.    Getting Started Survey the people you know who live on the growing edge of their own faith. Read a book like this together … commit to meeting as many times as there are people in the group.  

 

 

 

Suggested Format for Group Spiritual Direction (Appendix 1)

 

The following schedule is based on a one-hour meeting with five participants.

Gathering of participants -5 minutes

Opening time of quiet -15 minutes

Possibilities for this time include

  • silence
  • quiet music
  • guided meditation, Scripture reading or spiritual reading (see examples below)

Brief check-in time – 10 minutes.  Each member shares for about 2 minutes from their own lives.

Group spiritual direction for one directee – 30 minutes total

Directee presents – 10 minutes

Time of silence – 2 minutes

Group responds and interacts with directee – 15 minutes

Time of silent prayer for directee – 2 minutes

Time for directee to debrief about how the experience felt – 1 minute

If the group is meeting for two hours, a second directee can pres­ent. Or the group may decide to have a longer response time for one directee.

 

Ideas for the Opening Time of Quiet (Appendix 2)

A time of silence is one option, but for people who are inexperienced in being silent, this might be too much to ask. There­fore, in this appendix I suggest four different ways to begin the time of group direction: with music, lectio divina, the daily examen or guided meditation. All of these experiences include silence but also give gentle direction during the silence. Each suggestion is intended to give the individuals in the group an opportunity to reflect on their own lives and their relationship with God. This time will help them enter into the communal experience of seeking God with one an­other and, hopefully, will allow each person to release the demands of their personal lives in order to prepare for the time of focusing on God’s interaction with one person in the group.

Quiet, reflective music is a good way to help people transition into the group spiritual direction experience. There are many recorded pieces to choose from.

Lectio divina starts with a time of silence, then several readings of a short passage of Scripture, separated by several minutes of silence (see chapter seven).  There are, of course, many passages of Scripture which could be used for the experience. Here are three that would work well.

Psalm 1:3: “They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.”

Lamentations 3:22-24: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.'”

Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

There are many ways to close this time of lectio. A brief sponta­neous prayer from the facilitator works well, and so does reading a written prayer.

Allowing time for participants to practice the daily examen (chapter nine) is another good way to use the opening minutes of group spiritual direction. Again, the facilitator begins this experience with a minute or two of silence. Then the facilitator may ask the following questions, al­lowing participants to reflect on each question for about two minutes.

  1. When today did you feel the most joy, the most freedom or the most loved? In other words, at what time (or times) today were you most aware of the presence of God?
  2. When today were you least aware of the presence of God, or when did you feel the least loved, the least free or the most discouraged?
  3. As you reflect on these moments in your day, what prayer rises up in your heart?

Then the facilitator may lead into the time of group direction with a prayer. This prayer from the psalmist lends itself well to this set­ting: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

Both lectio divina and the daily examen could be followed by a time of very brief feedback from those participants who would like to verbalize their reflections with the group. This should be lim­ited to one or two sentences from anyone who wants to speak.

Guided meditations work well as a way to begin group spiritual direction, especially when most people are comfortable with the Bible and have some familiarity with applying the truths of Scripture to their own lives. The meditations are not Bible study, however, nor are the questions discussed as we go along.  Pause about a minute between each question to give time for personal reflection.  Journaling is always good, although there isn’t much time for writing if this is done with a group.  Here are five guided meditations to start with:

 

Meditation 1 James 1:5                Generous Wisdom

  1. As you settle down into the quiet of this meditation, think of an area in your life where you have a special longing for wisdom.. Be quiet for a few minutes, letting go of the cares of your day, and turning your attention to God. (Note to leader: Be sure to give ample time for this. We have a tendency to want to fill silence, but this time of quiet is important.)
  2. Listen to the Word of the Lord:  If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you (James 1:5).
  3. Tell God in prayer about the area of your life where you would like wisdom. What’s happening in that situation or relationship? In what ways do you feel you need wisdom?

God gives gener­ously. Think of a time when someone shared generously with you. How did you feel?

How do you experience God’s generosity?

God also gives “ungrudgingly.” Think of a time when you experienced someone giving grudgingly. How did you feel?

When might you worry that God is responding to your prayers in a grudging or ungenerous way?

Another Bible translation says that God gives wisdom “without finding fault” (niv). Spend some time reflecting on the fact that God does not find fault with you in your request for wisdom.

What word or idea from this verse do you want to take with you into your week?

 

 

Meditation 2 Luke 2:25-32, 36-38                      Waiting with Simeon and Anna

  1. Take a minute or two to get settled. Breathe deeply. Reflect briefly on your day and then exhale one more time, releasing the cares and burdens you are carrying with you. Turn your attention to the love God is extending to you.
  2. Listen to the account of Simeon and Anna that takes place when Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple according to the law of the Lord:  Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Sim­eon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:25-32).

Luke also tells us about Anna:  There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:36-38).

  1. Take a few minutes to respond to Simeon’s and Anna’s experi­ences of waiting. Put yourself in one of their places and think about what the waiting might have felt like.

What is some­thing you’ve been waiting for for a long, long time?

What are some of your thoughts and feelings as you’re waiting?

If you had to wait for decades, as Simeon and Anna did, how would you feel about that?

Luke said that the Holy Spirit “rested” upon Simeon. Take a minute or two to reflect on the Holy Spirit being with you in your waiting. What difference does that make for you?

The Holy Spirit revealed truth to Simeon and Anna. How do you experience the Holy Spirit’s comfort and truth in your own life?

Take another minute or two to pay attention to any way the Spirit is at work in you as you’re waiting right now.

 

Meditation 3 Exodus 5:7-9                       Bricks Without Straw

  1. As you turn your attention toward God, you might want to sit qui­etly with your hands open and turned downward. Take a minute or two and use your hands as a symbol of letting go of your de­sires for control, affirmation and security. Now turn your hands upward as a symbol of your desire to receive whatever God wants to give you during this time. Sit quietly, waiting to hear the Word of the Lord.
  2. 2.     The Old Testament account of the Israelites’ slavery in Egypt in­cludes a very gripping story of the time Moses asked Pharaoh for permission to spend three days of worship in the wilderness. Instead of granting the request, Pharaoh accused the Israelites of being lazy and said to their supervisors: You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as before; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But you shall require of them the same quantity of bricks as they have made previously; do not diminish it, for they are lazy; that is why they cry, “Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.” Let heavier work be laid on them; then they will labor at it and pay no attention to deceptive words (Exodus 5:7-9)
  3. Picture yourself as an Israelite slave in these circumstances. You’re tired and weary and now this additional work has been put on you.

How do you feel?

Consider the circumstances and rela­tionships of your life at this time and see if there are places where
you’re asked to do more than you think you can do. In what ways is your situation similar to or different from what the Israelites experienced?

Does someone else think you’re lazy? Do you accuse yourself of being lazy?

How do you feel about not being able to do all that you think you should do in this situation or relationship?

Who acts like Pharaoh in your own life? God? Yourself? Someone else?

Paul wrote to the Christians in Galatia, “You are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God” (Galatians 4:7). Remembering your own situation, in what ways do you feel like a slave and in what ways do you feel like a child-heir?

Notice any quiet comfort or guidance God wants to communicate to you. Be still with that invitation.

 

Meditation 4 Luke 19:1-10                       Jesus and Zacchaeus

  1. Sit comfortably and quietly for a minute or two. Breathe deeply. Try to let go of the anxieties of your day. Focus your attention on the Spirit of God living within you.
  2. 2.     Now listen to the account of Jesus and Zacchaeus: (Jesus) entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zac­chaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of any­thing, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost” (Luke 19:1-10).
  3. Spend a few minutes reflecting on how you might have experi­enced a similar encounter with Jesus. In your imagination picture a place you go to often (your home, your office, your neighbor­hood, any spot that you frequent). Imagine yourself looking in on whatever is happening there, as Zacchaeus looked down from the tree in Jericho.

Who do you see in your picture? What are they doing or talking about?

Picture Jesus entering the scene. What does Jesus do or say?

Now gently enter the room or place you’re picturing in your imagination. How do you feel about being there?

Is there anything you want to ask Jesus about what’s going on?

What does Jesus say to you?

How do the people around you respond to your conversa­tion with Jesus? Do they grumble about it as Zacchaeus’s friends did or do they encourage you?

If Jesus said he wanted to engage in your life today (as he did with Zacchaeus), how might you expect to encounter him?

 

Meditation 5 1 Kings 19:11-13                Listening for God

  1. Be still and prepare to listen to God. Acknowledge your desire to listen. As much as you can, let go of the distractions of the day that might interfere with listening. Breathe deeply and welcome the Holy Spirit into your inner being.
  2. 2.     Listen to the account of Elijah, God’s prophet, who was running from Jezebel and longing to hear God speak to him: (An angel) said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13)
  3. Spend some time in quiet reflection on how God communi­cates with you.

In your own life, what circumstances, rela­tionships or ideas seem like great winds or earthquakes?

Which parts of your life make the most noise?

Which parts of your life consume you, as a fire consumes anything in its path?

Spend a few minutes reflecting on the “sound of sheer silence.” What would that be like for you?

Other Bible translations say Elijah heard the gentle whisper of God (NIV). What would it be like to hear God’s gentle whisper?

If God said to you, “What are you doing here?” how would you answer?

Spend some time listening to the “sheer silence” or the “gentle whisper” of God. If you’d like, try to put what­ever you hear in words. Or you may prefer to sit in silence in the presence of God.

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