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Fostering Spiritual Formation

Spiritual Formation

By Rev. Randy Jessen, Senior Pastor at Parker UMC

Soul Feast: An invitation to the Christian spiritual life by Marjorie J. Thompson

Invitation to a Journey: A road map for spiritual formation by M. Robert Mulholland Jr.

The Attentive Life: Discerning God’s presence in all things by Leighton Ford

Following the Movements of the Spirit by Henri Nouwen with Michael Christensen and Rebecca Laird

Our discussion revolved around the thoughts of Henri Nouwen and his concept of movement in our spiritual life.  He sees movement much like the season of Lent where we set aside something so we can add something that will draw us closer to God.

The one movement we talked about extensively has to do with the shift from resentment to gratitude.  We recognized that in many pastoral journeys the are elements of relationship and conflict that often leave us disappointed in individuals or in the church.  Nouwen describes that experience as a mild form of anger that can sometimes burn white hot like iron that is ready to be forged.  However, if that white hot experience is not dealt with appropriately, it can soon cool.  Eventually, it solidifies and becomes hardened and cold like iron that will no longer bend.

The result is the development of attitudes of resentment that will hold us away from God, disrupt relationships, create difficulties in the church, and ultimately destroy our Christian witness.  The spiritual movement from resentment to gratitude is a step that only arrives when personal insight, experiential awareness, and the Spirit of God arrive to help us discover the gifts of forgiveness, grace and love.

Ultimately, the place we want to live is solidly on the side of gratitude where we can find new life, a joyful spirit, and effectiveness in ministry oriented relationships.  It is not an easy journey, but it is well worth the trip.  Check out Henri Nouwen’s Following  The Movements of The Spirit for insights into this and other spiritual movements that bring life to our journey of faith and service.