Friday, January 30, 2015

Direction in a Directionally-Challenged World

Many people express feelings of being "directionally challenged" these days.  Geographically speaking, we have more and more ways than ever to keep us heading in the right direction - Google maps on our phones/ipads/laptops, GPS in our cars, etc.  No Google map or GPS system can tell us where our life is headed, though.  For most of us, anyway, God will not appear to us in a burning bush (like Moses) or in a vision (like Paul) to tell us where to go.  But, that does not mean that God is not with us, accompanying us on our journeys, speaking to us in a still, small voice.        
In a few weeks, we will begin the season of Lent.  Our Lenten practices and rituals do not get us closer to God, but help us to become more attuned to the presence of God, who is always with us.  During Lent, many congregations will explore some practices which can help us to sense the presence of God, and in the newly-established Spirituality Network in our Synod, some of us are becoming trained spiritual directors (people who help others pay attention to the presence of God in their life). (As I have written about previously, I am being trained in spiritual direction by Benedictines in Yankton, South Dakota:
However, there will still inevitably be times when we feel God's absence more than God's presence.  In those times, we can pray, and a prayer like this one is particularly appropriate when we are feeling a little (or a lot) directionally challenged in our life:
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” (Thomas Merton).  


  1. You're not writing anymore! I couldn't find a better place to post a message so here it will be! I've enjoyed reading your blog over the last year or so.

    I went to school at St John's in MN and have a deep and profound respect and admiration for the Benedictines. You really ought to make a retreat there if you haven't. As an aside, my wife is from northeast Iowa and I have yet to make a trip out to New Melleray and look forward to my chance.

    It kind of seems you have your foot dipped in the Catholic waters :) have you ever considered going further? I only ask out of sheer curiosity. And if you haven't what has held you back? Forgive me if you've addressed this before in your writings.

    My wife wasn't Catholic when we got married but she recently was accepted into the Church. We did a lot of exploring together at different churches of different faiths and we both found a noticeable lack of sanctity and reverence (with the exception of one ELCA church) at all the churches we attended. She still has qualms about Catholicism but we both agreed the Catholic Church devotes a lot more to the sanctity of worship. The reverence, sanctity, and peace found at St. John's, no doubt the fruits of the Benedictines that live at the Abbey, has made that place "not of this world" an easy favorite of my wife's, even though the Catholic faith is not always a shoe that fits her very well.

    How do you incorporate, if you're able at all, the Benedictine values and focus on spirituality into your practice as a Lutheran pastor with your congregation?

    I feel like I'm rambling so I apologize. I have so many things I could ask you though. I'm hoping you'll continue writing, if for no other reason than to satisfy my curiosity with what I talked about. I've thoroughly enjoyed your insight and perspective.

    God bless, and happy Easter!


    1. Hello Paul - thank you for your reply! As I noted in yesterday's post, I will hopefully begin blogging again regularly in a few weeks. I have not been to St. John's yet, although I would love to, since it isn't that far from where I live. (Sioux City, IA). I'd be glad to dialogue with you further about your thoughts and questions, but perhaps email or another venue would be more appropriate. Hope you have a Blessed Easter as well!