Category Archives: Learn

Keep Vigilant Watch…

Keep vigilant watch over your heart;

    that’s where life starts.

~Proverbs 4:23

Day by day, I have been praying this proverb. If you walked into my house, you would eventually notice all the hearts and surmise correctly I was initially drawn to the word heart in this verse. In their own way, these decorative reminders help me pay attention to the stirrings of my heart. However, by the middle of the month I found myself pondering the phrase “keep vigilant watch.”

How do we keep vigilant watch over our hearts on a consistent basis? When I realized how many times a day I glance at my Apple watch, I decided to replace the message app with the heart monitor app. Now the little heart icon on the face of my watch keeps me more attentive to my feelings than to the number of text messages I have.

When I made this switch it never dawned on me I might really need the heart monitor. But just last week before the start of a meeting, I thought I was getting a phone call. However, the vibration on my wrist was so intense I immediately looked down to see my heart rate was 130 beats per minute. My anticipation of what might transpire was affecting my heart, mind and body more than I knew. I was so relieved when the words of this old familiar hymn came to mind:

Be Thou my vision / O Lord of my heart / Naught be all else to me / Save that Thou art / Thou my best thought / By day or by night / Waking or sleeping / Thy presence my light*

The health of our physical bodies, the quality of our emotional lives and the spiritual state of our souls begin and end with how well we pay attention to the beats and stirrings of our hearts. 

All spiritual practices start with being keenly aware of how God is at work in our lives. This awareness equips and enables us to live authentically and lovingly with God, ourselves and others. It takes courage to keep vigilant watch over our hearts. Madeleine L’Engle writes the following:

We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are, to see through plastic sham to living, breathing reality, and to break down our defenses of self-protection in order to be free to receive and give love.**

To that end, may the Lord of our hearts help us to always keep vigilant watch over our hearts. 

If you are a spiritual director, how are you keeping watch over your heart so that you can help others do so also?

If you have spiritual direction practice, what are you keenly aware of that you can bring to your director to process?

*Mary Elizabeth Byrne, translator. Be Thou My Vision. (Public Domain, 1905)

** Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith & Art (New York: Convergent Books, 2016), 58.

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Wholehearted Trust

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

and do not rely on your own insight.

In all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make straight your paths.

~Proverbs 3:5-6 

I began February reflecting on these seemingly straightforward verses from the book of Proverbs. However, my times of reflection soon began to feel like a wrestling match. As March begins, I will continue to wonder what wholehearted trust in the Lord really looks and feels like. For now, I am grateful that I can share a few things I have learned.

Wrestling with God offers the space to authentically assess the fullness of our trust in the Lord. How much of “all your heart” is really trusting in the Lord…a quarter…a third…a half? With greater self-awareness, trust untangles our seemingly good intentions and insights so that the Lord’s straight path is recognizable.

Trust invites us to acknowledge that wrestling is part of our everyday life with God. And within that trust there is faith that at just the right moments, the Lord will lovingly come and lift us up off the proverbial mat of doubt and discouragement.

Love…always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres. ~1Corinthians 13:7

Finally, trusting in the Lord’s deep and abiding love is an each-new-day endeavor that offers us renewed hope to share with others.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~Romans 15:13

If you are a spiritual director, how is your trust in the Lord helping you listen lovingly and hopefully to others. 

If you are in spiritual direction, how can your practice of spiritual direction help you trust in the Lord’s love for you?

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Fresh Relational Wisdom and an Article

These are the wise sayings of Solomon,

    David’s son, Israel’s king—

Written down so we’ll know how to live well and right,

    to understand what life means and where it’s going;

A manual for living,

    for learning what’s right and just and fair;

To teach the inexperienced the ropes

    and give our young people a grasp on reality.

There’s something here also for seasoned men and women,

    still a thing or two for the experienced to learn—

Fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate,

    the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women.

Proverbs 1:1-6 (MSG)

At the end of last year, I was asked to write an article about how to heal broken relationships. This request led me to consider the health of my own relationships, past and present, and to wonder if I had any wisdom to share.

These first verses of Proverbs were a reminder that we all have experiences with God that move us beyond our own knowledge and understanding to living wisely with a firmer grasp on reality. Moreover, I recognized that to write this article I needed fresh relational wisdom to probe and penetrate the rhymes and reasons of my heart and soul. 

Every generation from the time of the Exodus has needed God’s fresh wisdom to resolve the conflicts before them. Irv Cross, a professional football player who went on to be the first black sport analyst on national television, wrote in his biography, There hasn’t been one problem I’ve ever had that wasn’t addressed in the Bible. To me, to solve any issue, you turn to Jesus Christ1

So I turned to the scriptures and the experiences with God that I and others have had to write the following article. It was and is my hope that it offers you relational insight and inspiration. 

1 Irv Cross with Clifton Brown, Bearing the Cross: My Inspiring Journey from Poverty to the NFL and Sports Television (New York: Sports Publishing, 2017), 45, Kindle. 

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Easter-people

Through the years, I have heard pastors describe believers as “Easter-People.” I have read devotions in which I am described as an “Easter-person.” But what exactly does that mean? In terms of the Church calendar Easter is not just a day; Eastertide is the fifty days between Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday. So am I now an Easter-person who will become Pentecost-person soon? Labels can be tricky.

Today as I was reading in the Psalms, I stopped when I came these words: “The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior!” These are Easter words! King David wasn’t an “Easter-person” as we are. He lived before the time of Christ…before Easter! But Easter words were part of his prayer life and I would guess part of his vocabulary.

Being labeled an “Easter-person” isn’t a bad thing; I know I am in good company. But more than anything I want to be a person who uses Easter words regularly and prayerfully. No matter when they lived or will live, Easter-people believe in their hearts and proclaim with the mouths as King David did:

“The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior!”
~Psalm 18:4

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A Praying Life

The best prayer is to rest in the goodness of God,
knowing that that goodness can reach down to our lowest depths of need.
~Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love

These words convict me to never stop coming to the Lord to find rest for my soul in the goodness of God. Moreover, I am inspired to learn from the Lord how to live a praying life!

One day he was praying in a certain place.
When he finished, one of his disciples said,
“Master, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”
So he said, “When you pray, say,
Father,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.”
~Luke 11:1-4, the Message

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Difficulties

Do not try to break difficulties;
Bend them
with gentleness and time.
~St. Francis De Sales

I have multiple copies of this quote waiting to be found.
Today I happened upon two of them just when I needed to be reminded:
No matter what difficulties I am confronted with, God is gentle!

Lord, continue to teach me what it means to take Your yoke upon myself. Amen and amen!

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