Unaware of their own value as children of God, they don't expect God to be interested in their concerns and so they don't recognize God's activity. (p. 40)
As spiritual directors, we listen and watch for this sort of divine weaving of listening and response in the experience of those we companion, alert for anything that hints at a movement of the Spirit in the life of the individual.
- Reflect on a significant time of listening and responding to God in your own life. Consider the extent to which you recognised that God was at work.(p.41)
"To listen to another's soul into a condition of disclosure and discovery may be almost the greatest service that any human being ever performs for another . . . One can listen someone into existence." (p. 41, quoting Douglas Steere in Weavings, IX (3): The Upper Room, p. 25)
We do not give to our directees our answers to life's difficult questions; we do not impose upon them our ways of praying or imply that our way of seeing or understanding God is the only way. What we want to be able to give, to model, are:
- Our confidence that the God of grace will meet and touch people who want to find their spiritual direction.
- Our sense of being on solid ground based on our experience of encounter with the reality of God in our own lives.
- Our learnings about the territory that directees may discover as they leave familiar road maps of faith, not so we can tell them the way - that is the work of the Holy Spirit - but so that we can fearlessly companion them when they enter desert or darkness on their journey with and towards God.
- Our capacity to 'listen to directee's soul into fuller existence'. (p.41-42)
- Divide a page into segments to represent your life or example 0-10, 11-20, 21-30 etc. In each segment, write or draw a symbol to indicate what your primary image of God was during each period. How has your image of God changed, and what factors have promoted this change?
- What name/s do you currently use to address God when you pray? Which member of the Trinity do you relate to most easily? Least comfortably?
- listening is central to the development of any lasting relationship. Listening to God helps build bonds of love between ourselves and God, and helps us receive God's love deep within our spirits;
- God tells us to: 'This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!' (Matthew 17.5b). We are called to imitate Christ, who listened to the Father, withdrawing regularly into solitude so he could be still and silent enough to hear clearly;
- by listening to God we acknowledge our creature-hood; God sees the bigger picture whereas we see only a part. We don't always know the answers or what is best for us, but God does;
- listening helps us to co-operate with God in furthering the work of the kingdom; as we listen, options for service are explored; relationships are healed; choices are discerned; ways forward for wise us of resources and time are found;
- other people receive the help they need as we attend to the promptings of the Holy Spirit;
- listening to God can help keep us out of trouble, for example Joseph's warning dream to take Jesus to safety in Egypt (Matthew 2.13-15)
- listening to God helps us learn about ourselves: we are encouraged, in the safety of God's acceptance and love, to face our frailty and to develop our potential; gradually the fruit of the Spirit grows in our lives. The more we listen and respond, the deeper the cycle of disclosure and intimacy between ourselves and God and the deeper the level of truth. (p. 53)
God comes to us precisely in and through our thoughts, perceptions and experiences, and can approach our conscious life only through them, for they are substance of our lives. We are, therefore, to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12.2). God's gracious incursion in our sol can make our thoughts his thoughts. He will help us learn to distinguish when the though is ours alone and when it is also his. (Quote from Hearing God, p. 93 - My personal favorite book on hearing God's voice - Willard is my hero)(p.60)Dreams and visions
Hymn and song lyrics
Other elements of instinctual church life
An unexpected invitation or opportunity or financial provision
Directly through the senses
The creative arts - God can reach us through literature, film, music, drama, dance, painting, sculpture, etc. and through architecture such as cathedrals, bridges, building and the interplay of space and light.
Silence - doing deep work in our spirit without words or analysis. We may not be able to name what is happening, but something is rearranged in our psyche and we are moved towards wholeness as we set aside our words and open ourselves as fully as we can to God. (p.60-61)
One way of 'testing' religious experience is by looking at its fruit. (p. 65)
Starting in the 1960s, British marine biologist Sir Alister Hardy began testing the hypothesis that people had an inbuilt religious potential or awareness, asking people a single question: 'Have you ever had a religious experience or felt a presence or power, whether you call it God or not, which is different from your everyday life?'. . . The eight categories of religious experience originally drawn up by Hardy are:
- Synchronicity and the patterning of events
- The presence of God
- A sense of prayers being answered
- A presence not called God
- A sacred presence in nature
- Experiencing that 'all things are one'
- The presence of the dead - …rather being aware of a person who has died, often in an unexpected brief moment of farewell or encouragement. Occasionally this will include an uninvited and unwelcome presence in a building or place.
- The presence of evil
There is a great deal of difference between approaching discernment fearfully, trying hard to 'get it right,' and approaching discernment from a position of confident expectation that God wants our highest good. (p. 79)listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and the pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness, touch, taste, and smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace. (Beuchner, Listening to Your Life, p. 2) (p. 72)
'But, I believe the desire to please you does in fact please you.' (Merton, Thoughts on Solitude, p. 53) (p. 80)
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” Rainer Maria Hilke