Tag Archives: spiritual formation

A sense of connection.

A few months ago, I was part of a workshop on spiritual health. We suggested at the outset, As a working definition, let’s talk about our spirit as that part of us that desires connection to something greater than ourselves.

We’re not sure exactly what it is, this pull, this awareness, this sense of connection. But we are aware of it. Sometimes it feels like connection to someone. Or to some others. Or to nature or creation.

IMG_1057.JPGAnd it is often connected to what we know as religious structures and experiences. But it is not the same as religion.

In talking to lots of people about this sense of connection, which is what chaplains do, we start to see that: Different people experience that awareness differently.

  • Some of us can feel it as a pull when we are in nature.
  • Others can feel it as a sense of making a difference when we are fighting for justice.
  • Many in healthcare can feel it as a sense of doing something that helps people.
  • There are some people who are artists, who are creatives, who are aware of a deep connection with something when they are locked in their creative process.
  • Or even, when they are working deep in their cabinet making.
  • Or in moments of complete stillness, the three in the morning feeling.

A writer named Gary Thomas talks about spiritual temperaments, much like we could talk about personalities or body types. And he identifies nine. But rather than explaining each of them, I’d like you to think through the following sentence completions in order.

I’m more aware of something outside me when…

  • I can experience wind, rain, sun, trees, and sky (Naturalist)
  • My senses are engaged – incense, orchestra, architecture, art (Sensate)
  • Ritual and structure guide my heart and thoughts (Traditionalist)
  • I am alone, surrounded by calm simplicity (Ascetic)
  • I’m engaged in a battle for something that matters (Activists)
  • I’m pouring myself into helping others (Caregivers)
  • I’m lost in celebration and mystery (Enthusiast)
  • I’m deeply in love with Love (Contemplative)
  • I’m engaged with understanding ideas that matter (Intellectual)

If you are like most people, one or two of those made you nod. And several weren’t interesting at all.

I’ll let you reflect on that list and give you an applied example tomorrow.


Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas laid the framework for thinking about temperaments. And What’s Your God Language by Myra Perrine includes exercises to explore each of the nine temperaments.


Getting started with spiritual growth

FormationLast week, I talked about defining spiritual formation. I suggested that we could say Spiritual formation happens when a community holds beliefs about what it means to be spiritually healthy that they use to develop and implement a process intended to foster those beliefs and that spiritual health in others.

A friend wanted some help thinking about this. I invited him to join me in an experiment. And I invite you to do the same.

Answer one or both of these questions:

  • For me, for us in our church, a spiritually healthy person is someone who…..
  • For me, for us in our church, being spiritually healthy means…

Let me unpack that a bit more with some questions, all around the core question of “What result do you want to create from the process of discipleship/formation?”

  • As you think about how people interact, how do you want them to treat one another?
  • How do you want them (and you) to respond to difficulty?
  • When you think of your flock or your family or your friends or your community, what passage of scripture does God bring to mind?
  • How would you love to see them (and you) love God with all their hearts and minds and souls and strength? How could that be evident?
  • How would you love to see them love neighbors? What are the evidences of that love?

You don’t have to answer all those for me. But I think that it’s helpful to look ahead and see what results you want to see. It will help you think through the structures and practices you may want to use to get there. But if we start with the process without some glimpse of what we want to see happen, what result we want to create, we may miss opportunities.


I’ll talk more about this again. But if you are interested in playing along at home, let me know. Email me at formation [at] socialmediachaplain.com. And send me the answers to the questions.

Practical steps.

“How did you know about running at a conversational pace?” Tim said.

Paul smiled. “And happy Wednesday to you, too. Are your legs feeling okay after our run on Monday?”

“They are,” Tim said. “And that’s why I’m curious about how you knew about running at a slower pace than I usually run. After we were done talking, or after you ran away, I realized that I had run further than I usually run and that I hurt less. It was great advice. So, did you make it up?”

Paul shook his head. “I read about it several years ago.  From a number of running writers. So I tried it. I did most of my running a little slower than my capacity. And I discovered that it helped my last longer.”

“How do you stay slow?” Tim asked. “And why is your conversational pace faster than my gasping pace? And how did you know to follow that advice?”

Paul ran for a bit. Tim could tell that he was thinking.

“I think there are several issues you are raising,” Paul finally said.  “Let me see if I understand them and then I can answer them in order. First, you are looking for practical advice about how training works. Second, you are wondering how to compare experience with youthful energy. And third, you are wondering about how to determine whose teaching to trust? Does that seem accurate?”

Tim nodded. “I have a lot more questions, but those will do to begin.”

Paul laughed. “I know. When they get over their shyness, new runners are full of questions. You are going to need to help me remember my answer to your third question. Ezra. Remind me to tell you about Ezra. He’s my favorite person for talking about what kinds of people and advice to trust. But I want to take care of the short answers first.”

Tim started typing on his phone. “I’ll remind both of us.”

“Let’s start with your second question,” Paul said. “Never fall into the trap of comparing someone else’s middle with your beginning. In running, in writing, in understanding stuff about God. Use someone else’s apparent expertise as an opportunity to learn from them rather than as a way to criticize yourself.”

Tim nodded. “I’ve just started improving at that skill. Just in the last week or so.”

Paul ignored the compliment. “On your first question, I quit listening to music and started listening to podcasts. Because they are conversational, I can keep my pace better. (And it’s challenging to listen to Joel Runyon talking about doing impossible things at 37.) Look for really simple practical acts. It’s why I pray every morning and every evening. If I see the sun coming up, it reminds me to talk to God.”

Paul started to speed up, slowly, like he always did. Tim did his best to keep up. “What do you talk about?”

Paul smiled. “Lately, I’ve been talking about you. See you Friday.”

Conversational speed.

“Can we run together for a little longer today?” Tim asked. “When you come running up at the end of my run, say few things and speed off, I’m a little frustrated.”

Tim was running his new route at the park.  A guy he met last week caught up with him.

“I can do that,” Paul said. “I wanted to find out whether you were interested in talking. You seemed pretty hesitant last week.”

“It wasn’t about you, exactly,” Tim said.  “It’s pretty scary to run in public, to have everyone watching and judging. And then, when someone older passes you, that’s pretty intimidating. No offense intended.”

Paul smiled. “None taken. But what makes you think that people are judging? Are you?”

Tim shrugged. “No, not really. But everyone is better or faster or cooler than I am. I want to stay in the shadows.”

“I’ll go back to my first question from last week,” Paul said. “What are you training for? Before you argue, let me explain a bit.

“When you have a clear sense of why you are running, what you are training for, it changes your relationship to everything: to running itself, to other people, to your life. You worry less about what other people think of you and more about how people might help you.”

Tim ran silently for a bit. “I’m not sure I understand.”

“Let me be really practical for a minute,” Paul said. “How fast are you running right now? Faster or slower than usual.”

Tim looked at his watch. “I have no idea,” he said finally.

“I can tell you. You are running a little slower. You can tell by the way we are able to talk. At your usual pace, you would be gasping. I’ve slowed you down a bit because good training happens at conversational pace.

“Too many people try too hard on their own when they start running. They run fast, then burn out. Because you wanted to talk to me, you adjusted your pace to mine. And my pace is a perfect speed for you to build stamina.”

Tim laughed. “I knew I was matching you, but I thought I was speeding up. But you are right. I wanted to know what you knew so I stopped worrying about what you thought of me.”

Paul smiled. “You will speed up, eventually. If we run together enough and you follow my lead. But the secret is learning to live at conversational speed.”

“That sounds like it’s about more than running,” Tim said.

Paul smiled. “That’s enough slowness for me. See you Wednesday.”

Training for.

Tim looked at his watch. He was running the same trail he had taken Wednesday, at the same time. He was hoping that the old guy he chatted with would show up again.

He’d been thinking about the old guy’s question: “What are you training for?” Because Tim wasn’t training for anything. He was just running because it would help him lose some weight and because it was exercise and because he liked having done it.

“So, do you have an answer?” The old guy startled him.

“I thought you weren’t going to show up,” Tim said. “I was just about to quit for the day.”

“Why quit? How did you know you were done?”

Tim shook his head.  “I run til I feel like stopping. Today I kept going a little longer because you said something about seeing me.”

day 15 #rwrunstreakThe old man smiled. “If I quit each time I felt like stopping, I’d only run a half mile at a time. That first part of the run is always awkward. I can’t find my stride for a couple miles.”

Tim laughed. “That’s my problem. I never run more than a couple miles.”

“So let’s go back to my question,” the man said. “What are you training for?”

“Why does that matter so much to you?” Tim asked.

“It’s the only thing that keeps me moving past my feelings. When I remember that I’m training and then remember why I’m training, I can keep running on any given day, and even every given day.”

“So how is that related to being godly?” Tim asked. “You tossed that out as you ran away the other day.”

“I regretted that statement as soon as I said it.” The old man smiled apologetically. “I should have said that running was part of becoming godly.”

“What’s the difference?” Tim said.

“Being godly suggests a condition you have. Becoming godly suggests that there is a process, that you can learn or train for it.” The old man paused. “And that’s why I’m running with you. I want to help you learn about training. In running and godliness.”

The old man started to speed up.

“What’s your name?” Tim gasped, struggling to catch up. “I’m Tim.”

The man slowed. “And you can call me Paul,” he said. “See you Monday.”