Soul Sandwich

Deli_sandwiches_(1)

Sunday was the kids’ at Previous Church’s “Super Bowl Subs” fundraiser. Here’s a post that I guess could be in their honour. They know about sandwiches.

At some point last autumn, it dawned on me that I was really busy. I mean really busy. It was different than having a lot of stuff going on in my head and my spirit, which is what mostly made up the “soul garden” I talked to the Spiritual Director about at the beginning of that season. I was overwhelmed, and I just wasn’t sure how to get my arms around everything I was supposed to be doing.

But it was time to see the Spiritual Director again, and so I told him about it. I’m training as a chaplain, I said. And I’m training as a spiritual director myself. And I’m newly appointed to begin The Pilgrimage. And I have to read books for all these trainings–which I like to do, but takes me forever. And I will be working with college students. And I have to start support-raising, which was really kind of easy when I did it before moving to London in 1997, but seemed like it might be more work this time around. And I have this one freelance tutoring job. And we just joined a new church that we’re trying to get involved in…

I had gone round and round in my head trying to figure out which pieces to take out of this crazy life-puzzle, but every time I did that, something like what happened with the $500 would happen again, and I would realize the two-or-however-many things I had just decided to give up were two things I was really supposed to be doing. And actually, I liked all of these things, but I just wasn’t sure how to make them all happen at once.

The Spiritual Director listened. He threw out a couple of possible images and biblical parallels to see if they might help me get a handle on everything I was trying to do, but I couldn’t quite seem to grab onto any of them. “What it sounds like you really need,” he suggested, “is some way to break everything down into manageable pieces.”

“Sandwiches,” I said, suddenly realizing.

“What?” he asked.

“Sandwiches,” I said. “I don’t like sandwiches. I was just telling my CPE group this today. I like all the ingredients of sandwiches–usually, because I eat almost anything. But I don’t like eating them all together. I don’t like biting into the whole thing and having it all get stuck in my teeth, and not being able to taste the individual things.” I’ve been told before that I’m un-American for this quirk, and maybe that’s true. I will eat sandwiches. I just don’t prefer them.

“How would you prefer to eat a sandwich if you could?” asked my Spiritual Director.

I thought for a minute. “With a fork,” I said at last. Which is weird, because I will happily eat curry with my fingers, but whatever.

“So,” said the Spiritual Director, “your life is a sandwich, and you need to figure out how to take it apart so you can get to the ingredients one at a time, instead of all at once.” He wasn’t even laughing at me. Nor did he insist I find a Bible verse to bolster this unusual spiritual analogy, although he blessed me with one, later.

Now it’s February, and a whole new year, and guess what? I’m still engaged in exactly all of those same activities which were overwhelming me in the autumn … and I’m actually engaging them. I think one reason is that I’ve taken them apart like a sandwich and am addressing them one at a time. Maybe with a fork.

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Soul Garden

Last Thursday I went to see my Spiritual Director. After a few moments of silence, which I requested but during which I discovered my brain was very very noisy, he asked me, as he always does, “What do you want to talk about today?”

So, as frequently happens when I think I want to blog, I suddenly thought of so many things to “talk about today” that I couldn’t say anything. So I looked out the window instead, and noticed it was raining. I thought about how good it was that it was raining because, in spite of record-breaking snows last winter, it’s been a pretty dry summer and the garden needs the rain. Then I thought about the garden.

Then I said, “So, we have this garden. Paul’s been working on it for months–really hard–and it is going crazy. I mean, it is super-fruitful. There were a couple things that didn’t come out so well–the corn and the pole beans–but everything grew–and there is a ton of it all. The heirloom tomatoes are huge, and the zucchinis are still growing, we had a bunch of cucumbers, and there are a million spaghetti squashes coming in. But,” I went on, “it’s a mess. Everything has been growing so well and so madly that all the plants are all tangled up together. You can’t tell where one plant ends or another begins. Sometimes it looks like the tomatoes are bearing peppers, and the morning glories are growing tomatoes, and  … You can’t even walk around in there without hacking down some vines to get through and pick stuff.

My Spiritual Director sat there waiting for me to come to the point, but he probably already knew what it was, because he’s pretty good at being a spiritual director.

“I guess,” I said, “I feel like the garden is a picture of my life right now. This has been a really rough year, but the whole time Jesus has felt very present, and like He’s doing a lot of work on me–and I think stuff is happening. Like, maybe there’s some ultimately useless stuff going on, like the beans and the corn, but also lots and lots of produce. I’m just not totally sure how to get in there and figure out what’s all in there, because it’s so productive and so crazy, everything’s all tangled up.”

The more we talked about it, the more apt we felt this analogy was–and the more I still do. But since I can’t take pictures of my soul, you can look at the garden (and the produce) of a few weeks ago, instead.

Pathological Cling

You’ve met Oscar before. He’s that cute little guy sitting there with me in my current Gravatar.

That's a Jenn Story

Here–just in case I change it again at some point and you read this long after I’ve written it.

He’s a sweet, gentle, quiet boy, and I guess he didn’t have the greatest of beginnings, because when I got him as a rescue six years ago, he had some pretty severe anxiety issues. He hasn’t ever really lost them, but being loved by people and socialised by Shemp helped a lot to make him internally relaxed and a little more “opened up.” Quirky for sure, but he’s my dog, so that’s probably a foregone conclusion, and basically he’s a good dog.

On the other hand, although there are people he likes, and other dogs he’s been friends with, in another sense he’s only ever deeply bonded with me and Shemp. We were pretty worried about how he was going to adjust (or not) to Shemp’s passing, but although he was clearly quite depressed for a while afterwards, with a few minor episodes he really behaved very well. Thing is, he doesn’t do well with changes in routine to begin with, and his canine support who enabled him to navigate them is no longer around.

Normally, Oscar doesn't snuggle, but you can see how much he loves Shemp by how relaxed he is here.

Normally, Oscar doesn’t snuggle, but you can see how much he loves Shemp by how relaxed he is here.

When I stopped bringing him to work at my former church, Shemp was still around and he adjusted just fine. And by the time Shemp was gone, I had transitioned to my internship and he was used to me leaving at roughly the same time every morning and coming home at the same time every evening. Then we all (including Oscar) went on vacation, and then I worked as a short-term nanny to the small son of one of my Starbucks friends, on a similar schedule.

But last weekend, I went away for four days, for my first Spiritual Direction training retreat. Although he was clearly happy to see me when I returned, Oscar seemed his normal self, but the problem is, this week has been a continuation of “different.” My Paul’s workload has ballooned, and I am suddenly fully unemployed, waiting for my next internship to begin, and trying to find part-time work for income at the same time. (Or working on getting ready to launch my Nonprofit–which is legitimately in process.) This means that I’m home at weird hours, and because Paul is working late a lot, our usual evening routine (frequently involving a ride on the boat) hasn’t been happening either.

All of a sudden yesterday it was as if Oscar had mental break, and he has been incapable of letting me out of his sight. He follows me to the bathroom and lies down outside it against the door. He follows me up the stairs, where he isn’t allowed. He leans against my legs when I’m doing my hair or make-up in the morning. (Today I pointed the running hairdryer at him to see what he would do and he just sat there. He hates loud noises.) He gloms onto my hip when I’m sitting on the couch. It’s weird, and annoying, and a little concerning, because although it’s clear a metaphorical (metaphysical?) switch flipped inside him, I’m not sure how to flip it back.

Usually there's not even this much separation

This week, usually there’s not even this much separation between us.

Paul made the valid point that Shemp went away and never came back, and I just went away for a significant stretch, and so Oscar’s probably fearful that all his pack are deserting him. Honestly, I was just crying about Shemp again the other day myself, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Oscar’s still sustaining some significant grief himself. Our dramatic change in household routine has, I suspect, cemented that idea of potential loss of or abandonment by me in his little nervous doggie skull. So I’m giving him lots of hugs while still maintaining the house rules with him, but so far he does not seem convinced that all is well, and I’m not sure how to help him besides, frankly, to pray for him. Do you have any ideas?

Love, Oscar

Help, please. Love, Oscar

The Safe House

When I was visiting the BroFam the other week, TheBro and I went to see The Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Avengers.

We were, as were so many, disappointed. Still, one detail in the movie, to tell you about which will not constitute a spoiler, kind of stuck with me as a “thinking point” as soon as it appeared: At one point, the Avengers retreat to what they call a “safe house.” They need to regroup. They are battle-weary and conflict-ridden and they need a place to be, well, safe, and work these things out.

While they were retreating, I thought, “I want to host a safe house.”

Then I thought, “Except that in the shows, the safe houses are always compromised, so maybe that’s asking for trouble.” My Paul and I watch a lot of movies and television shows with people fighting for causes (whether worthy or believable or not) where their lives are at risk. At least once in the storyline of probably the majority of these shows, some character or group of characters flees to a safe house … and then their cover is blown and bad things happen but still, ever since I heard of it, I’ve been drawn to the concept.

I realise this is pretty similar to the way-station idea I blogged about before, but I think there’s a subtle difference. A way-station is maybe a broader term that could encompass safe houses, but it seems to me to imply a place to take a load off your feet as you go along life’s journey. A safe house–well, that’s for people who are going through the wars. And there are a lot of people I know who are, on some metaphorical level, going through the wars. And surely even more people I don’t know. I wouldn’t want to turn anyone away who thought I could be genuinely spiritually helpful to them, but, as safe houses in the movies generally serve one branch of a mission or one side of a battle, there is one segment of the population I’m particularly keen to serve.

The group of people about which I am increasingly fascinated–and learning–is what one notable blogger calls “The Dones.” These are (at least some of) the people the recent Pew Research Study was about. Contrary to popular belief, the Dones aren’t relinquishing their Christian faith. They also aren’t “nominal” Christians (Christians in name only) or people who never got involved in their church ministries, or even, really, people who got mad at the church and walked out. They have been burned by the church before, but that’s not why they’re leaving. They just feel, apparently, that the church as traditionally envisioned is not allowing them to follow the callings God has put on their lives, and so they’re moving out so they can follow God better.

I am not Done with the traditional church model, but if recent research I heard about on a podcast is to be believed, I fit pretty squarely–descriptively at least–into the demographic that makes up this movement. What’s more, I suddenly have  a significant number of friends who, like me, are starting to ask the questions and are teetering right on the edge. So, The Readership, I think I know what I want my Nebulous Nonprofit to be about now. I want it to be a “safe house” (in an ideal world, it will one day become a physical place for people to come and retreat, but I think it can be a virtual one, too, at least for a while) for people who have–or had–a Christian faith that is under fire. I want it to be a refuge for people whose faith isn’t working the way they thought it was supposed to and they need a place to be safely honest about that, and to figure out what needs to happen to their faith for them to go on. I want to host a haven for those having a difficult time with their church or who might be discovering that maybe church isn’t what they thought, and they want to figure out what it is instead.

I don’t really think we need more churches, and I wouldn’t make this a condition of The Safe House, but I hope the upshot of all this maybe virtual but also communal soul-care would be to equip each other to go back into the fray, not for the purpose of “fraying,” but because life is a battle sometimes, whether we like it or not, and maybe, strengthened together, we can each move back into a local manifestation of church, better able to sustain each other regardless of what we find there, and better able to support and defend that crazy institution which has been called both Christ’s Bride and His own Body.

Learning the Part

About a week before Confirmation I met with the kids individually to talk about their statements of faith. Most of them genuinely wanted to get confirmed, but almost all of them also had some concerns about making the commitment for the long haul–what if they believed differently when they grew up? One of the teens in particular was more than a little bit hung up on this, so I tried helping her envision Confirmation as the first step on the journey with God. The journey metaphor is, as we have already implied, kind of standard for talking about spiritual growth and development. I thought maybe it would make sense to her because, you know, on a journey, you don’t stay in the same place. But something did not compute, and although she reiterated that she wanted to get confirmed, something still felt a little uncertain.

We were at a coffee shop, and so eventually the conversation turned more casual and she started talking about a play that she had been in earlier that year. She talked about what it was like being in her drama group at school and about all the practices and about how sometimes even when you practice for most of a semester, one show might go fantastically and in another, you might forget your lines or something. I had already been mulling over NT Wright’s article for a few weeks, and so I guess I was already thinking of plays as another spiritual metaphor, and suddenly, even though it wasn’t exactly the same metaphor Wright had drawn, the spotlight clicked on or something.

“Hey!” I said, “What if you thought about Confirmation as a commitment to be in the play?”

“What?” asked my teen-aged friend.

“Like, when you commit to being in a play, you probably have an idea about the basic plotline, but you don’t necessarily know which character you’re going to be, or how the play develops, or any of your lines. But you try out for it and get chosen and then you commit to learning it. And you do it over and over and over, and sometimes you still don’t get it right, but you stick with it because you’ve committed to the play. What if you thought about Confirmation and the beginning of the Christian life like that?”

“Oh!” she said. “Yeah, that makes a lot more sense.”

The more I think about it, the more it makes sense to me, too. Maybe the Holy Spirit is the Director of the play, but it seems that the life of faith is a lot about practice, a lot about discipline, and that through that discipline and practice, we become more and more a part of the Story, and the Story becomes more and more a part of us. The more we allow the Holy Spirit to direct us, the more we move into our individual parts in the play–in concert with each other–and in that way, the freer we are to become ourselves.

Cruikshank_Pierce_Egans_Real_Life_-_Drury_Lane_Theatre_1821

Confirming the Vision

I started reading a book for the spiritual direction training course I’m hoping to start this autumn, after I finish the chaplaincy training (CPE for those of you in the biz) I’m starting in May. The book is called Holy Listening, by Margaret Guenther, and I already love it. It doesn’t hurt that it’s short and she doesn’t use complicated words. But she also does a great job of describing how hard it is to describe what spiritual direction even is. Then she describes it (at least in chapter one) as hospitality.

I kept thinking, Hey! That’s like what I was talking about in my last blogpost! Then I felt sheepish about the fact that that last blogpost was kind of a while ago, and in it I claimed I had other imagery besides a Spiritually Hospitable Place for my still Nebulous NonProfit. Thing is, after I said that, I started having trouble describing, even to myself, what that “other imagery” actually was, and then life got complicated, and then, as I frequently do with blogs when life gets complicated, I gave up.

But today when I was reading, I was so excited to discover that I am on the right track, both about how hard spiritual direction is to describe, and also about its being a form of hospitality, that I just had to share it with you. And I guess I’ll share you a few quotes from the book, too, just to show you what I mean.

First she describes the human condition:

Since the expulsion from Eden, we have been a people on the move, despite attempts at self-delusion that we have somehow arrived. We follow in the footsteps of our peripatetic Lord, always on the way, our faces turned resolutely or reluctantly toward Jerusalem (p. 9).

Then she begins to describe what we need spiritual directors for:

… travelers cannot survive in comfort without hospitality … Even the most self-sufficient cannot escape this need … (p. 9).

The spiritual director is a host who gives to her guests … in the truest and deepest sense, reflecting the abundant hospitality shown by the host at the heavenly banquet (p. 10).

I’m not sure that’s me, but I would really like it to be someday. In preparation for I-Want-To-Be-THAT-When-I-Grow-Up, I can certainly recognise the need for some serious housecleaning–and housekeeping.

The first task is one of housecleaning, of creating our own inner order … Literal housecleaning is tiresome but straightforward work … [with] results that we can see and admire. Spiritual housecleaning is more subtle and cannot be done alone (p 11).

That’s for sure. I seem to be going through a phase of inner housecleaning at the moment. I keep thinking I’ll be done soon, but you know how when you pick up the pile of papers you left on the table you might find a half-eaten sandwich under there, and then when you pick that up there are ants? Maybe we never are done soul-cleaning, when we get serious about being a hospitable person–for other people, and especially for Jesus. In light of this, I went to see my spiritual director this week. I spent probably half of the session sobbing, but somehow, with very few words, he helped me open up, not so much to him, but to Jesus there in the room with us. When that happened, Jesus and I together were able to uncover some metaphorical laundry I had shoved down into some hampers in the corner of my soul, and begin some cleaning up. The discovery and the results were almost startling, although it seems like laundry, either literal or metaphorical, had best not be startling.

Hospitality is an occasion for storytelling with both laughter and tears, and then the guest moves on, perhaps with some extra provisions or a roadmap for the next stage of the journey (p 14).

Or some clean laundry. Which, let’s face it, is a pretty big deal when you’re on the road.

That's a Jenn Story

On the Search for Home

I am having a little trouble landing on a name, a theme, a focal point for this as yet nebulous nonprofit idea we’ve been discussing here the last few weeks. There needs to be one, clearly, for reasons like the previous sentence. Trouble is, even though (thanks in part to some of you) I now have a better idea of what I want to do with this aforementioned nebulous nonprofit idea (NNI), I’m still having a hard time narrowing it down in such a way that I can name it, and furthermore, pitch it.

So, since it turns out The Readership makes a helpful sounding board, I am going to pitch some of my thoughts at you, and maybe you can help me figure out how to wrap the thing up nicely for easier conversation. (Also to help my lawyer friend with the whole pursuit-of-nonprofit-status thing. It turns out government entities like to know what your company is doing when you hope not to have to pay taxes on it.)

Let’s start with the Displacement idea. I guess this is still a pretty major factor in my thinking, and if I sat and thought about it long enough, I could probably say that almost everything of significance I’ve ever done in my life has had at least a kernel of the impulse to help people (including myself) face and make meaning and even transformation out of whatever was going on in our lives that left us feeling displaced. In my experience, most humans have a sense of disconnect, of not quite being Home. I guess I think that’s because we’re not, and I hope that the NNI (yep–I guess that’s what we’re calling it until it has another name by which to “smell more sweet”) will be a safe place for people who are conscious enough of feeling displaced to want to do something about it. I don’t expect (nor want) the NNI to be Home–I think Home is Jesus, to be honest–but I guess I would like it to be a safe way station for those on quest to stop and refresh themselves, to get to know other travelers, to come back to from time to time, or to stay as long as they like. I imagine something like Elrond’s home in The Hobbit–the Last Homely House. (If my Paul and I ever do start up a retreat centre of our own, I call dibs on that name, okay? But I’m not sure that’s the right name for a ministry that doesn’t have a fixed physical location. Or is it? What do you think?)

Rivendell, as painted by its creator, JRR Tolkien

Rivendell, as painted by its creator, JRR Tolkien

I don’t see the NNI as the goal of the quest or the restoration of Home, and I certainly hope it doesn’t turn into yet another “comfort zone” for people to get stuck in. But life is tough and I know I’ve needed–at various points in mine–places to take a breather, or regain my bearings, or touch base with other travelers to know I wasn’t alone, or even to stock up on tools, supplies, resources to go the next few steps. Maybe other people could use that, too. And maybe, even though I’m not at the end of my pilgrimage either, at this point along it, I have some things to offer, by and in the grace of God.

Such is the first image I associate with this gradually forming plan. But it isn’t the only one. I’ll tell you about the others in the next few posts.

Thoughts in Threes

Jeff posted one more thought about my projected on- and offline spiritual venture on Friday night, and it went like this:

Thought number 3 (perhaps the final one for now): Is your bliss around building a new community, or does the idea of equipping and empowering existent communities fire you up? On the ground, creating a new community would look like building up a church; empowering existent communities might look like partnering with churches that are out there, and serving as a consultant who either as a one time thing facilitates discipleship, small group ministries, etc…. or on an ongoing basis, provides these ministries with the possibilities of retreats, ongoing communication, etc.

Of all three thoughts, I think this is my favourite. It’s also the one I have the hardest time figuring out how to talk about, but it’s super-important. It might be easier to write about if I had already written a post about what I believe the significance and cosmic importance of the Church is, even though I have never been part of a church that has been easy to be a part of (in spite of all of them having wonderful aspects, too) and quite often I have toyed with the idea of giving up on church altogether. I mean, plenty of other people do.

But I do believe the church is cosmically significant, and what’s more, it is beloved by Jesus the Beloved (though He alone knows why, frankly). So, whether this sounds counterintuitive after that claim or not, I do NOT want to create a new or another church. I would love to consult with existing churches (and actually had not really thought of that angle, but it’s a really good one). I would also, however, like to provide a “landing space” or safe haven for three types of people. First, for people who are not currently in a church but are intrigued by Jesus. I mean those who consider themselves “Spiritual But Not Religious” and are Jesus-friendly. Second, for people who who used to be active participants in the life of a church and still love Jesus but are just totally over the whole church thing. (In some circles these two groups are called the “Nones”–those with no religious affiliation–and the “Dones”–those who have been there and done that and have no intention of going back.) I would finally like to serve people who are persisting with membership and participation in a specific church but feel like they need support to hang in there (I’ve been there!), and/or who don’t quite feel like they fit in either the liberal or conservative church mold (I’ve been there, too!). A few weeks ago, I was trying to figure out “my demographic” and it dawned on me that I’m not just compelled to write stories about displacement and hope-of-home, but to live that story myself, and enter other peoples’. It dawned on me that I need to revisit this theme of displacement and bring it into my current pending project.

Displaced baby albatross ... So much literary and spiritual significance it isn't funny. But it IS really intriguing.

Displaced baby albatross … So much literary and spiritual significance it isn’t funny. But it IS really intriguing.

I don’t really want to sneakily create Alternative Church with my little project, but I do want to create a space for people in these categories (no matter why they’re in them) to pursue Jesus and be pursued by Him without the presuppositions (either theirs or a church’s) so inextricably linked to the term and the institution of Church. I imagine that at some point according to the individual’s context, I would encourage them to become involved, again or for the first time, in a community looking more traditionally like church, but my hope and even prayer would be that by that time, our interactions with God together would have equipped us all to interact with Church in a more mutually beneficial way–such that we could benefit, and also bring greater health and strength and God’s love to whatever church we enter.

It’s a big goal–and did I tell you I don’t really know how to describe it very well? I know I can’t do any of this myself–without the assistance of other people, but especially without the direction and supernatural aid of God. Nevertheless, this is really where my heart is: 1) to help foster and deepen the relationship between the spiritually disenfranchised and the Triune God, and 2) to help build up the Church and individual churches up with spiritually grounded and growing and transforming people who have found Home in the God who gives meaning both to us and to the Church.

Some Deep Thoughts – Part 1

My friend Jeff, of Jeff’s Deep Thoughts, commented in the Online Spiritual Fitness group where I first posted yesterday’s questions, and boy, did he ever comment. Which I guess could be expected from someone with Deep Thoughts. Anyway, his questions/thoughts were really good ones, and since, in the Facebook format where they were posted, I can’t nest comments under them, I decided I’d try to initially process them here, and get more people (that means you) involved in the dialogue if you want.

Here’s his first Thought:

It seems like there are theological repercussions to how you proceed … Not only around how God works in general but also how you are finding the Holy Spirit working through you at this stage in your life. I am, for example, kind of community-minded at the moment, and I am not really drawn to the 1:1 coaching kind of model, at this moment, for example. But where I am is much less relevant than where you are.

I guess I am drawn to both the community and the coaching aspect. Maybe I need to pick one in order to streamline things and be more effective, but I really believe both things are vital. I have a Spiritual Director and some individual mentors these days myself, and I also have greatly valued having different Christian communities outside my job at various points in time. (I learned that trick in London–that if you work for a church and you want to maintain spiritual health, you have to find another group of Christians who are not connected to “work” in order to keep yourself balanced.) At one time, that group was a Bible study and fellowship group in which Jeff himself and his wife participated. More recently, it’s been my friends in Seminary. I definitely benefit from both the individual and the group input, and can’t really imagine doing life very well (especially entering this phase of Trying New Things) without either one.

Venturing into the New

Trying New Things

On the other hand, I get that different people, in different places on their journey, might have a greater need for one or the other. Which, I guess, is why I would love to figure out how to create a service which offers both community support and individual accountability, with the option to participate in both, or just one or the other.

If you consider yourself to be on a spiritual journey, where do you see yourself as far as the involvement of other people on that journey? Are you more drawn to one-to-one input, or to the more multifaceted feedback of a group?

Something to Think About

Things continue to be not-boring in the life of Jennwith2ns. The most recent development is that, after almost seven years at Now Church, I have resigned. (This is raising all sorts of questions about what I’ll call it if I ever blog about it after the resignation effective date, and what I’ll call the new church I’ll be attending.) I’ll be graduating soon and I guess maybe I have ants in my pants or something. Probably no matter where you are, there’s a sense that the grass is greener somewhere else, and while I’m not entirely convinced I’ll find that greener grass, I am getting a more distinct impression than ever before that now is one of those times that I could settle in and do the same thing for the rest of my life, or I could “step out of the boat” as it were, and at least make a stab at doing some of those things that “I’ve always wanted to do” for at least the last three years or so.

Let's acknowledge that even metaphorical stepping out of the boat elicits a much greater sympathy for Peter--both his desire to try it, and his terror once he got out--than one might have upon simply a routine reading of the story.

Let’s acknowledge that even metaphorical stepping out of the boat elicits a much greater sympathy for Peter–both his desire to try it, and his terror once he got out–than one might have upon simply a routine reading of the story.

One of the things I’ve “recently always” been wanting to do is start a spiritual direction based online and retreat ministry, expanding on what was, until about a month ago, being done in the “Online Spiritual Fitness” groups I was facilitating on Facebook. So over the weekend I began to introduce the idea to these two groups. I guess I’ll introduce it here, too, to see if you have any feedback as well, and I’ll continue to mull over aspects of it here and there, because I’m pretty sure any number of you might have some good ideas, and I’m a firm believer in brainstorm sessions and sometimes allow myself to be a idealist about the democratic process . . .

Here’s the initial question:

By now most of you have probably heard the news that I have resigned from Now Church, effective June 7th. This is happening in conjunction with my graduation from seminary and my desire to get some training in CPE (chaplaincy certification) and Spiritual Direction. I am applying to jobs related to these two (overlapping) fields, but I’m also in the process of discerning the possibility of starting up a spiritual direction nonprofit, incorporating [online] groups like these. 

The point of creating a nonprofit around these would be to provide myself with some financial, theological, and personal accountability. I’m aware that this type of format makes scams and cults (or simply a “Jenn-thing” instead of a God thing) an easy “slide.” I want this to be what God is directing, and a place where people can deepen their relationship to Him and the way that plays out in their lives, via community like this as well as one-to-one accountability with me. I don’t want this to be an ego-fueled endeavour on my part. I just believe God has given me some spiritual coaching skills that hopefully He will use in people’s lives to a greater extent in the near future.

At the same time, I will need this company to be something with an income that can pay me. Up to this point, Now Church has been my “funding organisation.” Apart from Now Church, this nonprofit will have to be my source of income for this type of ministry. I would expect that mutual online support communities like these existing ones would continue to be offered free of charge. But I’m curious to know what additional resources you think I could add that you (or people like you) might be willing to pay for. More teaching? Classes? Scheduled one-to-one appointments (google or skype or in person)? Retreats? Thanks for the feedback! I’m all ears!