Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Blow your top

The privacy of the journal gives one time to reflect and react to experiences. Kelsey writes that, ‘When we live on top of an emotional volcano which is about to erupt, recording our feelings can help us move off it or even keep the explosion from occurring.’ [1]
He understands the value of the journal as a therapeutic tool. Not just by giving the opportunity to express negative emotion but positive ones also. Ira Progoff has developed ‘interactive journaling’ as a tool for honest expression. Experiment is currently underway, aimed at those recovering from alcohol or substance abuse, through which it is hoped that the discipline of journaling shared in a setting similar to that required of integrity therapy, will stimulate accountability and discipline for recovery. [2]

[1] Kelsey, ‘Adventure Inward,’ 25.

[2] See article by Frank D. Lemus, ‘Change is Good,’ ‘Paradigm,’ (Winter, 2006),


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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Know thyself with help

Some understand that spiritual direction has to come from within the individual seeking help, as in the case of Rogerian ‘person centred therapy’. This along with Jung’s emphasis on the ‘collective conscience’ and Laing’s stress on the ‘transpersonal’ aspect of human psychology [1] has given rise to a new development in spiritual direction these days, a syncretism between modern and post-modern psychotherapy techniques and biblical truth, generally termed as the Christian counselling movement. The internal drive towards actualization and self-realization is dynamic, evolving and reflective in these models of therapy. These are rooted in self- fulfilment rather than costly discipleship. Although these may appeal to Christians because of their making allowance for the ‘spiritual dimension’, what Jung terms the God-archetype in the unconscious, there should here be a note of caution against slipping into a Gnostic solipsism. Whilst the inward reflective journey may be necessary for our spiritual development as disciples of Christ in and of itself it is insufficient for forming the true self. It is only through submission to God, not self, that we begin the process of actualization, this is of grace [2] and it should result in a more meaningful end, that of loving God and our neighbour. ‘[spiritual] Direction is [therefore] an incarnational ministry, a social ministry, which occurs within the movement of the Kingdom of God.’ [3]

[1] Also known as spectrum psychology, influenced by cultural anthropology and philosophy and promoted by what is termed the New Age movement - which sees the spiritual dimension as critical to human development and well –being.
[2] Cf. 2Cor.3:18.
[3 ]Kenneth Leech, ‘Spirituality and Pastoral Care’, London, Sheldon Press, 1987, p.64.

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Friday, May 12, 2006

Choice Words

These days it seems that we are being faced with the need for change. It's almost change for change sake! At the heart of this secular message is the notion that humanity is basically good and has within it the potential to improve its lot. Simply by getting in touch with the real you, understanding the 'deeper truth' within as Gnostics and these days Scientologists believe, sets our potential free for the good of others as well as ourself.
I was recently emailed a poem which got me to thinking about this - how subtle the way Chrisitan's are lulled into embracing what in essence is error. It seems good, on the surface, but in truth it's the old sin of Adam and Eve revisited - independance from God - 'I can go it alone', or 'I'm OK!' The poem is called 'I Choose' by Robin Dear....

'I choose to accept myself just as I am
I choose to live in harmony with my fellow man
I choose to to be the person I wish to become
I choose to be happy rather than glum
I choose to give up my need to be right
I choose to fill my life with great delight
I choose to forgive others and set myself free
I choose to be at peace with just being me.' [1]

It flies in the face of another poem...

Make me a channel of your peace
Where there is hatred let me bring your love
Where there is injury, your pardon, Lord
And where there's doubt, true faith in you

Oh, Master, grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand
To be loved, as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace
Where there's despair in life let me bring hope;
Where the is darkness, only light;
And where there's sadness, ever joy

Make me a channel of your peace
It is pardoning that we are pardoned
In giving to all men that we receive;
And in dying that we're born to eternal life.

attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226)

The contrast is clear - one is centred in self the other in Christ.

[1] Flash persentation of Robin Dear's poem can be found here.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Dyadic Friendship

Modern psychotherapies of which there are around 260 [1] have certain common features which affect the outcome for care and in many ways parallels spiritual direction. Butman and Jones have identified the four main features. They are…

· Offering reassurance and support.
· Desensitizing the client to distress.
· Encouraging adaptive functioning
· Offering understanding and insight [2]

They describe the relationship between the counsellor and client as being dyadic, that it is a two way interaction which is collaborative, structured and private. The same holds true of those who seek another to guide and encourage them. It is, in essence, ‘friendship in Christ between two people by which one is enabled, through the personal encounter, to discern more clearly the will of God for one’s life, and to grow in discipleship and in the life of grace.’[3]
Butman and Jones’ description of this collaborative relationship is in essence a reflective process and has similarities with journaling where the counsellor or in Christian terms, ‘spiritual director’ is the page to write their reflections on.
The client comes to believe in and develop hope from what happens in therapy, in part because the therapist appears to have a theory for understanding and explaining the client’s distress as well as having intervention techniques for reducing it. In a supportive atmosphere with an empathetic and caring therapist, the client begins to disclose and re-evaluate feeling and behaviour patterns, to understand and accept previously rejected aspects of herself, to learn new methods of living with self and others and to gain new satisfactions from life. [4]

There is a sense here; it seems to me, that the counsellor or therapist can be understood as a confessor.
[1] Stanton L. Jones and Richard E. Butman, ‘Modern Psychotherapies’, Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, 1991, p.11.
[2] Stanton L. Jones and Richard E. Butman, ‘Modern Psychotherapies’, Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, 1991, p.12.
[3] Kenneth Leech, ‘Spirituality and Pastoral Care’, London, Sheldon Press, 1987, p.48.
[4] Stanton L. Jones and Richard E. Butman, ‘Modern Psychotherapies’, Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, 1991, p.12. They identify also here that there is evidence that these factors ‘are not all there is to effective psychotherapy’.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Back to the Future

The writing of particular individuals can be appealed to as models of spirituality also; hence the journal or blog can actually be used for guidance or the counselling of others. Sara Isaacson suggests that Jewish tradition, challenged by syncretism arising from having no land, dispersal and decentralized due to the destruction of the temple, found new ways of passing on the teaching.
The Rabbis who arose at the start of the first millennium…had two main tasks. One was to secure the link with God in the absence of God’s presence in the Temple. The other was to unify the people as a community in the face of the external influences, particularly the wildfire spread of the new religion which had Christ as its spiritual centre. [1]

She goes onto write that the Jewish sages gathered up the oral tradition into the Mishna which in turn was refined to become the Gemara and combined into the Talmud, from this spawned literature which arose from debate and reflection on its teaching. The result of this was that Judaism was no longer Cult ritual based but founded on teaching and the spiritual direction which came from the written record which itself came about through interpretation and reflection. The very same thing, to some degree, appears to be being paralleled in the emerging Church e.g. the Jerusalem council’s meeting recorded in Acts 15:6ff. where there is a clear appeal to the writing of earlier prophetic writing of Amos and Levitical law.

[1] Sara Isaacson, ‘Jewish Spirituality’, London, Thorsons, 1999, p.29.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Created Brother Lawrence Blogspot

Haven't posted anything on this site today because I spent the time creating a blog for the letters and brief biorgaphy of Brother Lawrence - click the link on side bar - his correspondence lent itself to the format of a blog - I don't know what happened to the order of things - I just posted them up one at a time, I had to correct the one that is out of sequence - the picture was too big.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Mining the gold

Morton Kelsey in his book, ‘Adventure within’ speaks intimately of the value of journaling as a reflective practice, speaking of it as a friend through whom many discoveries have been learned. Clapper understands that Wesley’s journal isn’t really an instrument of personal reflection per se but rather it would appear to be more a comment on the ‘doings of others.’ Wesley doesn’t appear to be ‘…a self-centred spiritual physician constantly taking his own spiritual pulse.’[1] Perhaps this is due to Wesley’s awareness of how he nearly came a cropper because of the influence upon him, at one time, of mystics and their encouragement to journey within. His well known comment that, “I think the rock on which I had the nearest made shipwreck of the faith was the writings of the Mystics,”[2] going on to add, “for they stab [Christian faith] in the vitals: and its most serious professors are most likely to fall by them. My I praise Him who hath snatched me out of this fire,” [3] and even saw this position as the “fairest of Satan’s devices,”[4] and snare to catch the unsuspecting.[5] Clearly, Wesley thought of the Christian life as life lived out and not in. Although he did say that Thomas à Kempis’ writing helped him to understanding that ‘true religion was seated in the heart and that God’s law extended to all our thoughts as well as words and actions.’[6] He later went on to write that if faith and relationship in God as taught by the mystics was based on the ‘inward journey’ the end result was a dangerous bondage.[7] It was to be the reason why he broke away from the Moravians also, condemning the idea of ‘being still.[8] R.C. Sproul echoes similar thought regarding true religion being of the heart when he wrote,
We know that the disposition of the heart toward Christ is of supreme importance. If our doctrine is correct, our intellectual understanding of theology impeccable, it is to no avail if our heart is ‘far from him.’ If the head is right and the heart is wrong, we perish. On the other hand, if the head is confused, the understanding muddled, and the doctrine fuzzy, there is still hope for us if our hearts beat with a passion for God. Better the empty head than the empty heart.[9]

Heitzenrater’s understanding is that Wesley’s journal is more a diary of action than a reflective journal with its emphasis being the ‘…intention of changing the religious situation by authenticating a particular kind of religious appeal, especially to that of Christian Perfection’.[10] Tuttle shows in his work that Wesley still held onto some of the mystics inward spiritual reflectiveness for spiritual direction even although he clearly rejects their synthesis of religion and man’s wisdom as ‘dross’ he still appreciates the ‘mystical gold’.[11]

[1] Clapper, Gregory S, ‘Wesley’s Other Publications’, London, The Scarecrow Press, 1989, p.131.
[2] John Wesley, The Letters of the Rev. John Wesley, A.M., ed. John Telford, 8 Vols, London, Epworth, 1931, 1:207.
[3] John Wesley, The Journal of the Rev. John Wesley, A.M., ed Nehemiah Curnock, 8 vols, London, Epworth, 1909, 1:420
[4] John Wesley, Wesley’s Standard Sermons, ed. E.H. Sudgen, 2 vols, London, Epworth,
1921, 1:378n.
[5] John Wesley, The Letters of the Rev. John Wesley, A.M., ed. John Telford, 8 Vols, London, Epworth, 1931, Journal 6:10.
[6] John Wesley, The Journal of the Rev. John Wesley, A.M., ed Nehemiah Curnock, 8 vols, London, Epworth, 1909, 1:466
[7] See his Journal entry for January 25th, 1738, This was prepared as a second memorandum on his spiritual condition, the manuscript for which is extant in Wesley College, Bristol. Here he considers the different views of Christianity as given by 1) The Scripture, 2) The Papists, 3) The Lutherans and Calvinists, 4) The English Divines, 5) The Essential Nonjurors and finally 6) The Mystics. Cf. Richard P. Heitzenrater, ‘The Works of John Wesley, Journal and Diaries, Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1988, p.212-213.
[8] Cf. John Wesley, The Journal of the Rev. John Wesley, A.M., ed Nehemiah Curnock, 8 vols, London, Epworth, 1909, 2:329-330.
[9] R.C. Sproul, ‘Burning Hearts are not Nourished by Empty Heads’, ‘Christianity Today’, September, 1982.
[10] Richard P. Heitzenrater, ‘The Works of John Wesley’, Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1988, p.29.
[11] See Robert G Tuttle Jr., ‘Mysticism in the Wesleyan Tradition’, Grand Rapids, Francis Asbury Press, 1989, 91-111, 143- 166. Wesley clearly appreciated Fènelon’s treatise ‘On Simplicity’ and continued to mine its gold.