So What About This "God Stuff"?
I do not think you can understand life (or even stand life, for that matter!) without some acknowledgement of--and appreciation for--the Divine.
Why, for instance, live an ethical life if there is no God? Why not just live by the old credo whoever dies with the most toys wins? Why take care of the poor, why live out of a service ethic, why give away your goods and your life if there is no God of love to whom we are responding?
Nope, I cannot understand life or myself without a belief in some immanent/transcendent Other. I believe--as Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote--that "The world is charged with the Grandeur of God."
Carl Jung was asked late in his life if he believed in God. He responded, "I don't believe in God. I know there is a God." I join Jung in this view. I cannot say for sure what shape God holds--different traditions offer many different answers to this question--but I know there is a God.
I do believe that--in God's essence--God is love. It may be the gentle love of a parent for an infant. It may be the fierce love--the refiner's fire--that we read about in scripture. But, in the end, God is pure love. And the love of God impels us to wholeness.
This belief is the most important thing you can know about me. Thanks for taking time to read it. Please click through to explore more about me and my work for (and with) the God of all creation. And pay attention to God--look for hints of the loving Creator in the world around you. They are all around if only we have eyes to
Laura & Frank McNair
I know of no time in my life before God. My whole life has been a dance with God--sometimes slow and intimate, sometimes fast and frantic. There are times when my partner has been miles away from me and times (a very few times) when we have been fused so tightly that it was hard to tell which of us was which. I have oft-times been mad at God--for stepping on my toes perhaps. But I have rarely quit the dance...
I was formed in the loving environment of a small-town church--a church that my parents and my paternal grandparents both worshiped in and served. The church offered all the usual things: Sunday School and Vacation Bible School and Youth Group and Choir. At one time or another, I did most of them.
This God-stuff was serious to me (folks in my family sometimes say I "think too much") and I took it seriously.
After college and graduate school I began my work life and my formal duties in the church. I was elected a leader in the church, taught Sunday School, and tried to serve as best I could while chugging along through life.
After a decade or so in the work world, I left corporate life to begin a new life as a trainer and consultant. I also began a new chapter in my spiritual life. I volunteered to serve fulltime--with no salary--running a capital campaign for a faith-based non-profit. This time in my life was like a monastic novitiate, and it changed my life.
I entered spiritual direction and--after some years of discernment--began to train as a spiritual director myself. I attended seminary and completed a certificate program in spiritual direction. I fell in love with liturgy and embraced liturgical worship and the life of sacraments.
All this is details, though. What counts is the dance.
I still dance with the One who made me, knows me, loves me and wills only good for my life. Sometimes I dance far, sometimes I dance near. And always I yearn to be subsumed into God or, as Saint Aelred said, into "that--beyond which--there is no other."
I long for the day when I can dance into the arms of God forever--and into the presence of One who loves me wholly and Holy, always and in all ways.
A Long and Winding Road
A Time Apart to Reflect
Photo: Library at Columbia Theological Seminary
Photo Credit: CTS Staff
The notion of retreat doesn't hold much appeal in popular culture. We fill our lives with such frantic to-ing and fro-ing that the notion of stopping all the activity is terrifying. Sad...
Whatever the spiritual tradition, retreat has a long and storied history in human faith-formation. Retreats provide us with a time to get out of the fray, to reflect on where we have been and where we are heading. A chance to pause and take stock--to see if we are spending our lives in a way that truly reflects what we value most in life.
Retreat leadership is both a gift and a burden. People give to you, to themselves, and to God one of their scarcest resources--time. And the burden is to open up a space where they can use the time to be most-present to God and to themselves, a space where the inconsequential falls away and they can focus on the fundamental.
I have shaped and led retreats for a variety of groups in a number of formats. A few are listed below; contact me to talk about your specific needs.
Blacknall Memorial Presbyterian Church--men's retreat
King Moravian Church--congregational retreat
Grace Moravian Church--congregational retreat
Oak Ridge Presbyterian Church--congregational retreat
Saint Paul's Episcopal Church--vestry retreat
Southern Province of the Moravian Church--clergy retreat--"a Benedictine experience"
Photo: Side Altar at Iona Abbey
Photo Credit: Martin Guppy
What Is Spiritual Direction?
"Spiritual Direction" is much simpler than it sounds. It is simply two people sitting together -- a listener and a seeker -- to attend to the prayer life of the seeker. The dialogue in the room is between the listener and the seeker, but the dialogue is about the seeker's relationship with God.
The listener is not an “expert,” and not a "director" in any directive sense of the word. Rather, the listener is a companion and confidante, a fellow-traveler through a world that can seem -- and sometimes is -- dark and lonely and full of sadness.
The director helps -- if s/he helps at all -- only through the grace of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And the help is often in the form of reflecting back what he or she hears as the seeker talks about the life of prayer.
Sometimes -- in our prayer lives as in the balance of our lives -- it is useful to have a third party listen to our story. That is the role of the director -- to listen carefully for recurring themes, for underlying patterns, for the movement of God across the waters of the seeker's life. It is a role some seekers have been generous enough to offer me in their lives. And one I accept with great humility.