Eugene Peterson’s third and final angle in Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity is spiritual direction—the preacher fulfilling his role as a spiritual director, giving spiritual direction to the people God brings to him every day. Peterson describes it as “teaching people to pray, helping them discern the presence of grace in events and feelings, affirming the presence of God at the very heart of life, sharing a search for light through a dark passage in the pilgrimage, guiding the formation of a self-understanding that is biblically spiritual instead of merely psychological or sociological.”
We preachers probably do it much more than we realize because we don’t really give this part of our ministries a name. But we’d probably do even more of it if we weren’t so tightly scheduled or so intently involved in completing the current project. We would do it more consistently and more skillfully if we realized how much more important it is than anyone ever tells us.
Spiritual direction means “taking seriously, with a disciplined attention and imagination, what others take casually.” Like “pray for me” is usually a fairly casual remark. But a preacher who takes his role as spiritual director seriously gives that remark his full attention. It’s paying serious attention to every single person and every single situation and seeing it all as eternal, not ephemeral. The perspective is that everything that happens is essential, not accidental. Our natural tendency, I think, is to pay very special attention to the big things, the “things that matter.” I’ll spend an entire week working on the sermons and the worship services. Those things, done in front of a thousand people every Sunday, dominate my daily thoughts. I’ll practice it. I’ll pray about it. I’ll study it and worry over it. I’ll give it my full attention. But being a spiritual director means giving that same attention and concentration and intensity to EVERYTHING and EVERYBODY.
Again, Peterson says if we can cultivate an attitude of awe and go into every encounter with every person prepared to marvel at what God is doing in that person’s life, this becomes a very natural thing.
“This face before me, its loveliness scored with stress, is in the image of God. This fidgety and slouching body that I’m looking at is a temple of the Holy Ghost. This awkward, slightly asymmetrical assemblage of legs and arms, ears and mouth, is part of the body of Christ. Am I ready to be amazed at what God hath wrought, or am I industriously absorbed in pigeon-holing my observations? Why is it that the minute a person sits down in front of me…I so quickly abandon my basic orientation and the texts that I have pondered and preached and taught for all these years and take up with half-digested slogans and formulae that I pick out of the air of contemporania?”
I’m trying so hard to see God and God’s work in every single person I meet and in every conversation I have. As I’m visiting with people, I try to focus on the fact that God has been working in this person’s life since he or she was born. And the circumstances this person finds himself in now is, again, God at work. God has plans for this person. God is bringing some purpose long in process to fulfillment right now.
My tendency, when anyone steps into my study, is to try to fill that person’s head with all the stuff in my head. But as a spiritual director, I have to understand that it’s not heads involved here, it’s hearts. It’s lives. My focus should be, “What has God been doing with this person before he or she showed up in my study?” God has been at work with this person since birth. Everything that has taken place in this life has in some way or another taken place in the context of creation and salvation. Everything. All of it. And I have to apply that same urgency and intensity to every situation.
If baseball has to award home field advantage in the World Series in some contrived, trumped up publicity stunt, do it with the in-season interleague games, not the All-Star Game. The All-Star Game has very little, if anything, to do with the way a regular season game or a playoff game is managed or played. Very little. How in the world is it that Rangers shortstop Michael Young didn’t even make an appearance in last night’s classic? Has the reigning All-Star Game MVP ever been forced to watch the entire game, all nine innings, from the dugout rail? How does that happen? Evan Grant’s game re-cap in the Star Telegram contains a beautiful line: “if that wasn’t enough, Young had to stand next to — and act like he was listening to — Alex Rodriguez in the game’s final innings. Talk about punishment.”
Ever since Bud Selig began using the outcome of the All Star Game to determine home field advantage in the World Series, it’s been Texas Rangers who’ve played dramatic and critical roles in giving it to the AL. Hank Blalock that first year, Soriano, and Young. But last night, Mike didn’t even get a chance. Still, former Rangers pitchers Chris Young and Francisco Cordero, both on the NL squad, did give up homers to AL hitters last night. So that Rangers streak of All-Star irony continues.
50 days until football season. And like yesterday’s #51, today’s #50 in the countdown is a hands-down no-brainer. Just like yesterday’s, today’s player is a middle-linebacker for the Chicago Bears. But unlike yesterday’s, today’s is a Texan all the way through. Mike Singletary was born in Houston, played his college football at Baylor (where he wore #63), and then spent his 12 year NFL career with the Bears. What an amazing defense those Bears (Da Bears!) had in the ’80s! And Singletary quarterbacked it.
He was the number one or number two top tackler on the Bears every season he played. He went to ten straight Pro Bowls and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice (’85 & ’88). And you have to remember those eyes!
Intense. Wide open. Scanning the entire field and taking in every nuance of the offensive formation, the shifts, the motion, the signals, everything in a matter of three or four seconds. The Bears had the great Walter Payton in those days. But it was the defense that shut down opponents and took them to the franchise’s only Super Bowl victory in 1985. They beat the Cowboys that year 44-0. And Dallas won their division that season.
Camryn Pope invited Carley last night to Cinderella at the Bass Concert Hall in downtown Ft. Worth. They had a ball! And Carley was home before midnight.