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Mentoring

Paying Attention To God’s Voice – Discernment in Community (Leighton Ford)

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Spiritual mentoring is not a program, or a technique, or a profession.  It is a calling and an art:  a calling to be discerning together in community and the art of listening to and with others in the presence of God.  The central mark of the community will be a commitment to help each other to listen:  to God, to our own hearts, and to each other.

Following are five elements of discernment, along with Scripture references for each. These can be used for personal study and meditation, in small groups, and among a group of friends who are committed to helping one another grow towards and like Jesus.

Personal and Community Discernment – 5 elements

  1. Scripture
    • Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
    • “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. II Tim. 3:16-17
  2. Holy Spirit
    • “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” John 14: 16-17
    • “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.” John 14:26
  3. Stillness and Quiet
    • “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10
    • “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.” John 14: 27
  4. Submission and Trust
    • “I urge 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.” Romans 12: 1-2
    • “But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.” Psalm 52:8
    • “Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning, for in you I put my trust. Teach me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” Psalm 143:8
  5. Community Listening
    • “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.” Romans 12:3-5
    • “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Acts 2:42 (koinonia/close relationship and sharing)
    • “but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” I John 1:7

 

Leighton Ford

The Call To Mentoring – A Letter

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Bob Fryling’s name is well known to many of our readers from his long career as the publisher of InterVarsity Press and as a national staff leader with that organization. Here is a recent letter he sent to Leighton about the latest call in his life – a ministry of mentoring.

Leighton,

I wanted to give you an update on where I am since our time together ten weeks ago. I shared with you at that time that I was involved with a spiritual formation mentoring program with Fuller Seminary among some pastors in Texas. That has gone very well.

In this relationship I have also been doing the assignments given to the participants. One such assignment is to write (after a period of reflection and meditation) what is called a “Central Integration Question” which is defined as

“At this point in my Christian journey, how do I envision my call to God’s mission in the world?”

What I wrote in a summary statement of intent followed by a narrative statement is the following:

“to encourage and serve Christian leaders in their spiritual formation, their vocational calling and their cultural engagement for the sake of God’s Kingdom by being a non-anxious pastoral presence that faithfully bears God’s image in my life with wisdom, grace and truth.”

As I receive my retirement years I feel called to be less responsible and more responsive to both God and others – to be more in the presence of God so that I may be more of an attentive presence to others with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. I feel called to be part of a divine spiritual river that nurtures life, healing and fruitfulness wherever my life flows. (Ez. 47: 1-12)

You will note and may remember that this Ezekiel 47 passage was so important to me during my retreat time with you. So thank you again for your non-anxious presence in my life at that time.

Blessings to you and Jeannie and of course Buddy!

Gratefully,

Bob

What Is Spiritual Direction? (Thomas Merton)

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merton-photo

Spiritual direction does not consist in merely giving advice. The  (person) who has only an advisor does not really have a director in the fullest sense. Since the spiritual life does not consist in having and thinking, but in being and doing, a director who only gives ideas has not begun to form the one he directs.

He forms his by counsel and “precepts” by exercising him, by testing him, by giving him, when necessary, penances. The penitent is not formed by listening, but by complying, if possible, in his whole being, thought, desire, and actions…

In order for this to be fruitful, the director must be, as St. Benedict says, a ‘loving Father’, humble and discreet, aware of his own limitations, docile and respectful before the Holy Spirit.

A good director must have almost as much respect and veneration for the ones he directs as the penitent should have for the director.

Thomas Merton

From A Search For Solitude: The Journals of Thomas Merton, Volume 3: 1952-1960 (HarperCollins, 1996)

Maybe You Are God’s Foolishness! (Leighton Ford)

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I was with a group of young pastors, talking about our calls to ministry, our longings, doubts, desires, fears.
One of them, a fine handsome young man from the islands, spoke up with a kind of grimace on his face.
“Why would God choose me?” he wondered, “I am so changeable. So up. So down. So weak and sinful and inadquate. I me?”
I ventured a few thoughts, nothing very helpful.
Then suddenly i said (without any thought really) “Well, you are God’s foolishness.”
He looked stunned. Then he laughed. And I laughed. And we all laughed.
Because we are all the foolishness of God. That he uses people like you and me. And that his foolishness, as Paul wrote, is also his wisdom. The wisdom of the cross. The wisdom of God using our weaknesses and foolishnesses to work out his plan.
Whew. I knew more than I said, truly.
Leighton Ford

Mentoring, and an Elm in Autumn

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One Limb Remains

Reflections by Barry Whatley on mentoring at the foot of an Elm tree.

I am at a Jesuit retreat center on the Island of Montreal, standing in front of what fifteen years ago was a magnificent Elm. Only one of the major limbs remains and even its foliage is sparse. At first I thought it was the wrong tree, but I realize it is the very elm that so inspired me back in the 90s when I enjoyed semi-regular personal retreats here.

The magnificent grounds are marked by towering Maples, Weeping Willows, and a few Elms. This one was the most remarkable, its huge trunk riveted into the ground like a massive bolt, its five heavy limbs reaching far and wide. Anchored in life, it kept its foliage well into November when all the other trees were long barren. It often spoke to me of vitality, fruitfulness, strength, and stubborn resistance to the onslaught of Montreal winter.

Now it is a shock to see it so pared down and diminished, its one remaining limb barely hanging on. The other limbs have been severed over the years, to enable the remaining limbs to receive what was left of its waning vitality.

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I know that the Lord has a lesson for me this autumn day. I too will one day diminish. Some recent heart issues, high cholesterol, a close call with a chainsaw, are all reminders of my frailty. The limbs of my fruitful ministry will in time be lopped off. How can I carry all of my responsibilities forever?

So then comes the hard question: what should my “limb” be? The answer comes soon: my investment in younger leaders, my mentoring relationships—these are closest to my heart. If all else must eventually go I want these relationships and my impact in these younger lives to remain.

This came home to me with particular force a few short months ago as I gathered with a group of sixty other mentees for the 100th birthday of Evon Hedley, my mentor and theirs. Tears of joy and gratefulness flowed as one after another we celebrated his impact on our lives.

And so my prayer is to be like Evon, like that old Elm.

Lord, whatever else may be pared away, may my mentoring relationships remain.

Barry Whatley recently joined with MaryKate Morse as part of our LFM mentoring team training session with Indian leaders. He is an educator and mentor (coach) with Outreach Canada, an international ministry committed to providing resources to Christian leaders and churches. He lives with his wife Laurie in Hudson, Quebec, a community outside of Montreal.

What Are ‘Friends On The Journey’?

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Canada Island
Barry Whatley of Quebec was part of the team we sent to meet with senior Indian leaders about the value of mentoring communities.
I asked him what gifts God has blessed him with in working with leaders, and like how he responded:
I can offer
a listening ear
a timely word
an expansive imagination
What a concise and excellent way to describe what we do as friends on the journey!
Leighton Ford

Sandy – Fifty years ago today

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The first message I had this morning was from our Kevin on Facebook.

Happy 52nd birthday to my brother today. Sandy, we all still miss you.

Fifty two years ago he came …. quickly .. Jeanie was only in labor 45 minutes at the hospital before he emerged — as all through his life he didn’t waste time.

I was wondering tonight: if he had lived through that surgery – would he have married? by now have perhaps a son or daughter in university? be living fully in his calling?

And as I thought of him I wished each of you, who matter so much to me, could have known him, had a conversation with him, serious and humorous.

Then I realized: if he had not left us, I might never have met so many of you – because the trajectory of my/our own lives might have been so different, affected it was by his death.

Life – has its crazy turns and quirks. There is no knowing what might have been – only what has been.

Interesting that this morning Wendell Berry the Kentucky farmer-poet was interviewed on the Diane Rehm program on NPR.. I listened to his quiet, calm voice, as reedy as his Kentucky farmscape, reading this excerpt from his new novel A Place in Time, about a small town in Kentucky during another wartime, decades ago.

Wendell Berry: “Yes. This comes — this comes after the news has come in I think 1944 that Tom Coulters, who Burley helped to raise, has been killed in action. “He was a bulldozer operator in that advance up through Italy that was so difficult. What gets you is the knowledge and it sometimes can fall on you in a clap that the dead are gone absolutely from this world. As has been said around here over and over again, you’re not going to see them here anymore ever. Whatever was done or said before is done or said for good. Any questions you think of that you ought to have asked while you had a chance are never going to be answered. The dead know and you don’t.”

“And yet their absence puts them with you in a way they never were before. You even maybe know them better than you did before. They stay with you and in a way you go with them. They don’t live on in your heart but your heart knows them. As your heart gets bigger on the inside the world gets bigger on the outside. If the dead had been alive only in this world you would forget them, it looks like, as soon as they die. But you remember them because they always were living in the other bigger world while they lived in this little one. And this one and the other one are the same.”

Listening I breathed “Yes.” And was painfully grateful that we knew Sandy in this world, and that he lived, now and then also, in ‘the other bigger world.”

Yes Sandy, we do miss you – and walk with you still in God’s larger world.

Love, Dad

River Speak

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I walked this river many
times before,
but never quite so far
or quite so deep.

I’ve followed down its
darkened banks
this quiet, hidden, winding
ribbon
so close to tourist traffic
yet so far
removed.

But I had never listened for
the river’s voice.

Today, I heard the river speak.

I took along a m an,
a young, black man
to show the river to him
and the way.
But he showed me to see the way
and how to let
the river speak.

With him I went down
further
deeper
than I’d ever gone before.
A bridge was there I’d
never seen, or
never found, or
was not there
last year.
Across it was another
side, another
path that went down
where I’d never been
and showed me things
I’d never seen.

He showed me tenderness.
reached out an unselfconscious
youthful arm
that touched my shoulder
and my soul.
I wondered for a moment
what would a watcher
think who saw a
young man hug
an old man
in the woods?
It was a holy touch.

He showed me woundedness.
Pulling up a pant’s leg
he let me see on
one dark limb
the foot-long scarry flesh
where doctors poured
the poison to kill
a carcinoma, but left
him one bone short,
with tendons knitted by a stapled knot.
In his Jacob’s twisted beauty
I saw the healing
hand of God.

He showed me artfulness.
below cascades we
tried to frame a view
we’d like to paint.
“We’d want” I said, “the
rocks, the yellows and the
greens, the bridge, the falls.”
“If it were me,” he said,
“I’d let myself fall down
the bank, be bruised
a bit, and at the bottom
see what I would see.”

He showed me guidedness.
Siddhartha, so he said.
And this I did not know,
after many years
of plying his trade
as a boatsman learned
to listen to the river.

And so, at last, we found a ledge
beneath the bridge and
sat a while and listened
to the white noise
of falling sheets
to rushing hiss
on polished rocks
to liquid grunts like
bullfrogs in the hollows
as the river spoke.

And – this is what it said –
“God started me before you came
this way.
He’ll keep me going past your
longest day.
I’ll shape the earth yet deeper
to the falls.
I take my playful course
because He calls.”

Like that the river spoke.

I heard my call
To walk the river as He
makes it flow
to take along those hearts
Who want to go
and with them find paths
I long to know.

June, 1996

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