Continued from a previous series of posts on the stages of spiritual growth . . . In Stage Five, you are now moved by the Spirit outward again in love, a love that compels you into an experience of abundance you've not know up to this point. In the past, it was mostly your head that directed you--"shoulds" and "oughts" kept you moving forward, caring for others, keeping your practices. But now, in Stage Five, your heart directs you, and your head serves your heart of love. There is, as Jesus promised, a "stream of living water welling up inside you" (John 7.38).

In this stage, spiritual guidance is necessary to help you discern what this Power within your is impelling you to be and do. You sense God's greater purpose for you, but what exactly that means may not be clear to you.

You will still suffer in this stage as much (or even more) that you did before. But now you draw strength from the unfathomable resources of the Spirit, and from your real experience of ongoing union with Christ. You may even sense an "unceasing prayer" (1 Thessalonians 5.17) beginning to form in your heart--an expression of communion with the Trinity that flows within you without your effort.

Lastly, you may find yourself struggling with a nagging frustration despite the presence of God's love in your heart. Your love for God and others, combined with your commitment to God's righteousness and justice, may lead you to do things that are perceived as odd, dangerous, and sometimes counter to the mainstream of the society around you. In addition, you may be disinterested in things that interest most other people, and your passions and interests will probably not be shared by most of those around you. This can lead to a sense of loneliness and isolation even in the midst of a strong community.

In this stage, you will need to seek out others who are emerging from Stage Four and the Wall, people who share your experiences and who can serve as companions as you journey deeper into the fullness of Christ.

To be continued . . .

Continued from a previous series of posts on the stages of spiritual growth . . . The fifth of the six stages that characterize our spiritual growth as Christians is marked by a new turn outward toward others and the creation. In this stage, your life expresses an integration of your growth so far, a deep rootedness in your intimacy with God through the Spirit.

In the previous stage, Stage Four, you turned inward after years of active and outward service and leadership (Stage Three). You were seeking more of God than you'd known before--a real experience of encounter with God that neither doctrine nor evangelical service could give you. Doctrine and service were vitally important for your journey, but there came a point when crisis or spiritual hunger made you deeply aware of an emptiness within that nothing but God could satisfy.

Your turn inward--toward more of Christ--was no easy path. Once determined to seek Christ above all things, you collided with "the Wall" of your sin and self will; you came face to face with a deep, inner resistance to God. But if you participated in this experience as a gift of God's severe mercy; if you deepened your spiritual practices of intimacy with God through prayer and meditation (or contemplation); and if you partnered with a spiritual director or guide who helped you face your sin, confront your demons, and who held you in Christ; then you emerged into a new dawning in your Christian experience. Stage Five is this dawning--it is your emergence into a morning bright with the light of Christ.

To be continued . . .

There's an awful lot of taming of this mystery we call the Incarnation. Here Parker Palmer explores the risk of the Incarnation. An apt way of putting things in a time when we're becoming more aware of the tremendous risk it is to be human.

Here's a needed counter-testimony to the often thin preachments of male preachers who can never put the Incarnation in these terms.  This is exceptionally good material for re-encountering Christmas, especially if you're a woman all to familiar with the ways we men have spun this Mystery. . . . And yet my body had taken over and all we could do, all I could do, was surrender to that moment fully. Every muscle in my body was focused, my entire world had narrowed to that very moment. And then there he was, born while I was leaning against our old truck, standing up, into my own hands, nearly 9 pounds of shrieking boy-child humanity, welcomed by my uncontrollable laughter and his father’s uncontrollable relief-tears. A few people applauded.

birthThere wasn’t anything very dignified about giving birth.

And yet it was the moment when I felt the line between the sacred and the secular of my life shatter once and for all. The sacred and holy moments of life are somehow the most raw, the most human moments, aren’t they?

But we keep it quiet, the mess of the Incarnation, because it’s just not church-y enough and men don’t quite understand and it’s personal, private, there aren’t words for this and it’s a bit too much. It’s too much pain, too much waiting, too much humanity, too much God, too much work, too much joy, too much love and far too messy. With far too little control. And sometimes it does not go the way we thought it was supposed to go and then we are also left with questions, with deep sadness, with longing . . .

For more click here.

You'll need at least three things to more forward through stage four. First, an awareness that there is a stage beyond Service and Leadership, because without it you'll think something's gone terribly wrong.

Second, patience and compassion with yourself because this stage can be extremely disorienting, even frightening.

And third, a spiritual friendship with someone who is unthreatened by your questions and your expressions of frustration, someone who won't try to fix you, but who understands God's mysterious ways enough to hold you in faith, helping you believe that God is meeting you in the midst of your experience.

A sure sign that you're moving through this stage is the presence of an expanding sense of love, for love is the only thing that can lead you along these later stages of spiritual growth.

To be continued . . .