To start off the new year of 2019, and in recognition that I need this so badly right now, I’ve worked on a simple novena with the Holy Spirit. I welcome anyone who would like to join me for the next nine days and I’d love to hear about your experience!
What is a Novena? The short answer is that a novena is a nine day stretch of special prayer emphasis. This is an ancient Christian practice which is connected to many things including a traditional count of nine days between Christ’s Ascension and the day of Pentecost in the lives of the Apostles, and even a pre-Christian period of mourning and prayer in Roman culture. There’s nothing magical about a novena, or the number nine, and it surely cannot put any obligation on God. It is prayer, and as such God hears us and loves us. Prayer changes us by helping us stay focused and in tune with God, and this novena practice is simply a method of prayer.
With this novena we’ll look into some scriptures, a new passage each day, but we aren’t doing scholarly theological work. We’ll look into these holy words for inspiration and encouragement. We’ll see how these scriptures illuminate the work of God’s Spirit to bind us together into a whole, with one another and with the Divine.
Here’s the plan, in two easy pieces, 1) Morning & 2) The Rest of the Day:
MORNING: (or morning’ish if you get busy) Begin each day by reading its passage and the very short reflection, and then use the following prayer, changing it to reflect your own faith and experiences if you’d like, to begin a time of prayer. The whole morning exercise might be ten minutes long.
“Holy Spirit, here I am. I would draw nearer to you,
nearer to my God and nearer to my Savior Christ.
I would be more fully present with my family, friends and neighbors.
Help me be the person you would make of me.
Through Christ. Amen.”
DAY-NIGHT: Throughout the rest of the day, let the passage and your prayers go with you. Reflect on them when you can. If anything comes to your mind or heart, you can journal those notes to keep them. If you’d like, feel free to read the passage again and pray as often as you like. As you go to bed, give a few minutes of prayer to reconnect with God in gratitude for the day and hope for tomorrow.
Easy peazy, right? I’ll be doing this for the next nine days, January 1-9, and I invite you along for the ride. Again, I’d love to hear about your experience with this novena practice. Be well, beloved, and Happy New Year!
Spirit of Life – Galatians 5:22-26 “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.”
We begin with this beautiful metaphor of the way that opening ourselves up to the Spirit of God can change us. The best things are grown from our hearts and minds when we allow the Spirit to change our hearts and minds. Can I imagine God transforming me to show and to share more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in an often hurting world?
Spirit of Community – Ephesians 2:13-22 “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.”
In Christ our racial and national divisions are made inconsequential. God’s Spirit would grow us together, removing barriers and binding us to one another. Am I open to less hostility in my life, open to more peace between myself and all my neighbors, and open to being together with people not like me?
Spirit of Service – Romans 12:1-8 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.”
Has the Spirit called me to ministry? To service? Have I felt at times that I have a gift? This is all for the building up of our community of faith. Have I worked to move my ego aside and desired to be put to service for others around me?
Spirit of Diversity & Unity – 1 Corinthians 12:4-12 “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”
The Spirit seems to be a powerful player among us, enabling us for ministry and communal service. We aren’t all made to be alike, but in diversity we are made to be one whole. Have I appreciated all the people around me who are not gifted as I am or talented in the things I enjoy and have pursued? Have I told them?
Spirit of Hope – John 14:25-27 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
Jesus spoke these words to the apostles about the coming of The Spirit. Have I sought The Spirit’s presence for wisdom, truth and peace? Am I more focused these days on things which blind my wisdom, hide the truth and steal my peace?
Spirit of Strength – Romans 8:24-27 “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
Does it help to know that The Spirit is praying with us, even when we can’t hear those prayers? Does it help to know that our weakness is not a sign of or cause of God’s absence, but our weakness is actually an open door for God’s Spirit and presence in our lives and struggles?
Spirit of Renewal – Titus 3:3-5 “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”
I have to admit that I often feel like I am still quite stuck in life dominated by thoughts and habits very foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating… So, can I pray with an extra depth, “O Spirit of God, renew me!”
Spirit of Freedom – 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.”
In a time when organized religion is not always associated with freedom, but sometimes with oppression and captivity, can I revel in the freedom of the Spirit? Can I gift that freedom to others around me, loving them and serving them with a whole heart?
Spirit of Presence – Acts 2:1-4 & 14-18 “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability… But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.”
Have I had any dreams or visions in this novena time? Have I heard God? Have I felt the Spirit? Have I grown in my desire to know God’s Spirit? It’s not always like we think it should be, and the apostles were even considered drunk when the Spirit was poured out on the world and they spoke in all those languages. Maybe I’m expecting one thing and God is doing something else?
After the Novena:
Is there an insight you want to carry forward? Write it down, pray over it and share it with others in your faith community. And I’d love to hear about your experience! All to God’s glory and the benefit of the earth. Amen.
With a new year just around the corner many of us are thinking about the intentions we would carry forward, the regrets we’d leave behind and the treasures we would maintain. Of course the date doesn’t matter that much, but it’s always a welcome gift to be in a liminal moment, a place of change and even renewal, when our hearts and minds are bent naturally to reflect and to dream.
One year closes and another opens. What will my new year bring? What will I bring to the new year? As people of faith we believe that God goes with us, and that God knows what awaits us… but we also know all too well that our faith is not in what we see but in what we hope. As much as God might know, we do not. This is the essence of hope. This is why we take such tight hold on these times to reflect and to dream. Hope is this intersection of what is not known and what is known. We recognize that the coming year has so much we cannot yet see, but also that God walks beside us, going before us, and coming after. Days of lightness and days of darkness are the same, rain and shine both speak of God’s presence, for in Christ all matter has been sung the song of love.
Still, to stand and look across the divide from one year to the next is exciting. I look back and see that I have too often neglected prayer. I have too often neglected to study. I have too often neglected to love. I see also that God has both ministered to me through the many and various people in my life, and God has ministered to them through me. God’s will is done regardless of my prayer, but I would have eyes wide open and be awake to see as much as I can. So I look out at the coming year and I pray: Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Perhaps the deepest blessing of a past year in which I did not see myself doing all that I should have done is seeing all that was done in spite of me, and in spite of any of my failing, and just beyond it to see God’s smile. To be reminded that almost there is sometimes exactly the place where I was going to be regardless of my effort or my intention. Almost there was the place I needed to be. Almost there was there all along. This is the root of hope for a new year, and all the intentions I may place within it. I do not hope for a better year, but for the year that is needed, for me, for those I love, for all in this hurting world of conflict and hatred.
I intend so much for this new year. No doubt in twelve months I will look back with some regrets. No worries. As long as God is there, the rain and shine, the darkness and light, the ups and downs of my year will be just fine. Deus in adjutorium meum intende.
With 2015 just around the corner I want to throw out as much encouragement as I can for you to make and attain some goals in the new year and to grow with God. I want to be a sacred companion for your new year.
This was a title we heard Fr. Richard Rohr use in his email I quoted in my last blog post… a sacred companion is a spiritual friend and/or a director who walks along with you. We walk with God, and a sacred companion is one who recognizes this and lives into that shared journey with you.
I personally come at this from two angles: 1) as a pastor and spiritual director, and 2) as a life coach. Let’s talk about the way each of these two roles can function for us in 2015.
As a spiritual friend directing you in prayer and spiritual growth I will be supplying you with a reading list of passages and questions for reflection. I’ll be supplying you with beginning places (intentions) and methods (different exercises) for prayer. You’ll journal and record the things you experience and discover in the practice of prayer and we’ll be in conversation about those experiences.
What does this spiritual relationship entail and require from you? You need to commit to several things: 1) At least a two month period of direction, 2) at least 30 minutes a day in prayer and reading, and 3) at least 30 minutes a week in conversation with me.
What does this spiritual relationship entail and require from me? I will be committing to several things as well: 1) praying for you daily, 2) reading the same passages you are reading, 3) at least 30 minutes a week in conversation with you, and 4) keeping in contact between our conversations.
Life coaching is a bit different from spiritual direction. In the life coaching relationship I still a companion, but I’m not directing the journey. I’m not providing you with readings and answers, but instead I’m asking questions and digging deep with you into the questions and goals you have about about your life. Life coaching is about managing change, setting goals, and achieving goals.
What does life coaching entail and require from you? Like a spiritual direction relationship, coaching will take some time and commitment… but the payoff can be more than worth it! You will be asked to: 1) be completely honest with me and yourself, 2) set some clear and measurable goals, 3) commit to yourself to pursue the changes and goals you identify as needed in your life, 4) meet with me for 45 minutes once a week, and 5) commit to at least four months of a coaching relationship.
What does life coaching entail and require from me? I also have a lot to do and accomplish with you coaching journey. I will be committed to: 1) being prepared for each meeting each week, 2) spending at least 45 minutes with you each week, 3) holding all our conversations in complete confidence, 4) being completely honest with you at all times, and 5) keeping in contact between our conversations.
A couple of my past posts on life coaching:
One Reason I Love Life Coaching: Healthy Dependence, and
I Will Listen
These are two ways I offer myself to you, in a committed journey of life. Have questions? Let’s chat. Have concerns? Let’s chat. Both spiritual direction and life coaching can happen, and happen well, either face to face, video chatting or over the phone. I actually do prefer Skype. Of course, I’m always happy to have some good conversations with you, but these kind of committed journeys achieve the most for both of us.
Can we mix them up and do both? I think I’ve learned that we cannot in fact mix them up. We can do both over the same period of months, but our times together in conversation need to be kept strictly within the realm of spiritual direction or life coaching. We can do both over the same period of time, or one after the other, but not in a hybrid form of both at once.
Sound like something you could use? Let’s do this! 2015 waits!
It just feels natural to look at the coming new calendar year and begin to dream. It’s a new year, but also the same old me. What will I dream for the coming combo of old me and new days? Am I ready to grow and seek, find and fail? Am I ready to move with a sense of purpose and love? Am I dreaming wide awake?
I was richly blessed by the daily email today from Fr. Richard Rohr. If you don’t get his emails I’ll link that email entitled In Our End Is Our Beginning as well as quoting a bit from it. He’s always laying some beauty and wisdom on us, a deep quiet for our busy and hectic days.
He lays out some important ideas for moving into the new year, new and old practices that help us engage life and growth. Here is how he labels and describes them:
Contemplative practice: Contemplation is a “laboratory” in which you learn to die and to be reborn. The rest of your life becomes the field in which you live out this way of surrender and participation in Love. Commit to a daily practice of some kind–silent meditation, yoga, chanting, or maybe one of the “Rest” practices introduced in the Saturday meditations.
Sabbath: Set aside regular, longer periods of quiet or retreat, simply to rest in awareness of God’s presence. Find a rhythm of rest and work that allows for renewal so that you enter your active life from contemplative grounding.
Service: Allow the natural welling-up of love to flow outward in acts of justice, healing, and compassion. Life is not about you; you are about life!
Shadow work: The task of searching out and embracing shadow–the parts of yourself that you hide or ignore–is ongoing, the work of a lifetime. Let the people and circumstances that “push your buttons” be your teachers. Look for yourself with a loving gaze in the mirror of both your enemies and those who enthrall you.
Spiritual direction: If you do not have someone to guide you, to hold onto you during the times of not knowing, you will normally stay at your present level of growth. Seek out a sacred companion you can trust to be honest and present to your journey, who can reflect back to you God’s presence in your life and the world.
These are beautiful movements of life and growth. How do we make them a reality in our daily hustle and bustle? What of these might you engage in 2015? What other dreams and goals will you set for these coming new days? You can call them goals, dreams or new year’s resolutions, but let’s talk about making some plans for 2015…
First, keep your dreams simple and attainable. Want to engage that contemplative practice? Then be realistic. You won’t begin by chanting an hour every day at 4am. Neither will I. Think about your schedule and where and when you might take a regular break. Is it the commute to work? Mornings are great times to center on God and God’s grace. Is it at lunch when you need to re-energize for the rest of the day? Keep your goals fairly simple and within reach: not too easy, but attainable. Then you can really celebrate the victory of that dream and move on with bigger ones! But doesn’t faith mean that I must dream bigger than I can imagine or attain? Nope. God does bigger than we can imagine, and we are not called to usurp God’s role in moving past our own abilities and imaginations (Ephesians 3:14-21). You can keep it simple and faithful. God will always surprise us.
Sharing is Nice.
Second, share your goals and dreams and have them visible. Let some others know what you are dreaming. They might become partners with that dream! You might inspire them to dreams of their own! But most of all, you are speaking that dream aloud and giving it even greater life. Write down your dreams and plans and keep them visible, prominent in a journal or on a wall at home. This helps you to be reminded of your goals as well as tracking progress and measuring your journey toward a dream. Life, as well as dreams, are best when shared. We need each other.
Plan for Success & Failure.
Third, make some plans for the times when you will succeed and when you will fail. We don’t like to admit that we may not meet a goal or always live according to our dreams for doing life, but it’s a reality that we are frail, fickle and forgetful at times. Be ready to celebrate the successes and to forgive yourself for the failings. How will you celebrate a dream realized? How will you “lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord”? (Psalm 116) How will you forgive yourself, learn whatever should be learned from the failure, and faithfully move on? Both successes and failures will follow our best planning and dreaming. Plan on it.
And finally, I offer myself as a sacred companion. I like that description which Fr. Rohr uses for a spiritual friend who travels along with you. I will be that for you and will ask you to be the same for me. Whether your dreams are more spiritual in nature, seeking growth with God, or more daily life in nature, looking for a new job or car, I will walk that road with you. Let’s talk more about it.
“Let no one ever come to you
without leaving better and happier.
Be the living expression of God’s kindness:
kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes,
kindness in your smile.”
Mother Teresa of Calcutta