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Archive for the ‘Spiritual Formation’ Category

Creativity and the Care of the Soul

Posted on Thursday, April 30th, 2015 by Sanctuary staff

Shall We Dance?

By Caroline Timmins

In the film “Shall We Dance” (Miramax, 2004) Richard Gere plays John Clark, a middle aged man with a secure marriage and a profitable career. Yet beneath his outward stability brews an increasing internal discontent. The daily routines of work, parenting, and relational maintenance have become wearisome. One day while riding his commuter train home, his bored gaze falls upon a mysterious woman staring from the window of a dance studio. Although dance is completely outside the realm of his mundane existence, the woman’s face intrigues him and finally one day he stops off at the studio.

As the film continues, John finds himself secretly taking dance lessons, not because the woman is returning his flirtations, but because he actually discovers he enjoys the creative outlet. However his secrecy has aroused suspicion in his wife. When she uncovers his private passion, she turns up at a dance competition catching him completely off guard. A heated exchange ensues where she, understandably upset, demands an accounting. His answer is surprisingly simple, profound and revealing: “I was unhappy…and it’s not about you.”

I wonder how many times we feel similarly, but remain unskilled or too ashamed or fearful to articulate. I also wonder how many extramarital affairs begin not due to a quest for a new person, but rather out of a desperate search for renewed passion. In shortsightedness we attribute our deadened selves to spousal neglect…when really it is we who have neglected our own souls. Of course there are many times when the marriage has gone untended. Like a once beautiful garden after years of neglect, it becomes buried beneath the weeds and choked by vines. Communication has gone cold due to years of routine, but still I ponder, should not the starting point be the mirror?

I myself reached this conclusion through an involvement in a simple creative endeavor. It was at a time in my life when, due to the demands of marriage and parenting, I had unknowingly slipped into a fairly joyless existence. The dreams, spiritual connections and creative pursuits that once fueled my thirst for adventure, love, and beauty had fallen by the wayside. In short, and by my own neglect, my spirit had atrophied. I was unhappy but it had nothing to do with my spouse or children. During that time, I was asked by theatrical friends to play a part in a Christmas drama. It was not something I would ever have pursued on my own. In fact, I had a lot of apprehension as to my ability to act. But taking this risk in the artistic realm proved to be a catalyst for spiritual revival. While the experience did not transform me into an actress, it did teach me an invaluable lesson about the care of the soul, or rather, how careless can be the neglect of it. I needed creativity in my life to nurture my soul, to help me think and feel better, and to help me remember who I was and what I wanted.

In the book, What We Ache For, (Dreamer, 2005) the author appropriately attributes the following benefits to creativity: “creative work holds surprises, teaches us things we did not know before we began, changes us, helps us unfold and become who we are at the deepest level of our being.” For me this proved precisely true. My experience and characters like John Clark fuel my ponderings. How many men and women like him complete their daily commutes every day between the worlds of work and home stuck in a fuzzy malaise? Caught in the strong undercurrent of indefinable unhappiness and unaware of how creativity relates to the care of the soul, they turn down unhealthy secret back alleys to try and infuse a little excitement into their lives.

In my experience, creative endeavor can be the fresh wind that revives the dusty interiors of the human soul. My involvement in the Christmas drama was not so much about mastering the art of the stage as it was about reconnecting with the long ignored, creative voice within. Somehow by boldly acting out a role on stage, I gained the courage to cultivate the parts of my real life that were cowardly shrinking behind the curtain. The creative endeavor provided a wake-up call to my own soul. Sometimes, before we can begin to weed the marital garden, we need to tend our own little plot of soil.

Creative involvements can till the frozen ground of the soul providing softer more fertile space for unhampered growth. Creativity is always the door, never the destination. Like the wardrobe opening into Narnia, creative work can transport us to that magical place within where Aslan’s grand arrival marks the end of barren winter and the beginning of fecundate spring. Through creative pursuits we care for our souls and at the same time, gain the confidence and energy we need to invite our spouses to join us in the dance.

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Allow me to introduce you to Jonathan DeWaal

Posted on Wednesday, August 10th, 2011 by Sanctuary staff

I am delighted that Jon is a member of our staff here at Sanctuary.  Once in awhile I catch a glimpse of someone entering or leaving his office, and I love seeing the hope in their posture and peace on their face that comes from their time with him.

Jon is a spiritual director, and his specialty is working with people who are at a crossroads in life or who want to take their career in a new direction, a moment in life he calls Liminal Space.  I promise, you know someone who needs to meet with Jon!  What’s exciting about his work is that he gets to our deep-heart need to live a life that’s meaningful.  God has knitted particular passion and gifts into each one of us, and when Jon walks alongside someone who feels stuck or uncertain, they find themselves able to live into stronger alignment with who God made them to be.

He’s created a powerful curriculum that he customizes for each client – he calls it the Liminal Journey .  Jon is gifted in asking that penetrating question that sheds new light
and opens the path to forward movement.  He’s respectful of each person he works with and full of compassion for the struggles of finding our way.  But he’s also humbly willing to press into indecision and stagnation and is faithful to keep pursuing the truth until things get clear.

I’m thrilled to work alongside Jon for many reasons.  First, he’s a good man, and I personally benefit from how he calls out the best in me.  Second, I see him do good Christian work, engaging in the places where people can’t see and are bound and bringing them sight and freedom.  This alleviation of suffering and imparting of hope is precious, and if it never went farther, his work would be of eternal value.  But my third reason for gratitude is that Jon’s work does go beyond his office.  When he helps someone move into their true vocation, their gifts are unleashed!  The ripple effects of this transformation are more than my mind can comprehend.  But I know it’s good, and I know I want to spread the word.  I hope you’ll keep Jon in mind as a resource when someone you care about is in a crossroads and looking for direction!

For more information about Jon and the work he does, please visit his bio, his Liminal Space website, or call him at 425-774-8049.

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We need to have a little talk… about Satan.

Posted on Saturday, April 30th, 2011 by Sanctuary staff

Could it be... Satan?I know, Satan is an awkward topic for most folks these days. We’re enlightened, educated, modern thinkers – we don’t believe in a nasty guy with a pitchfork and a red suit, right? You might remember Dana Carvey’s Church Lady character from Saturday Night Live. This is the kind of person I imagine likes to talk about Satan.

But the truth is, we need to acknowledge Satan’s existence. When we don’t , we are unable to keep our sanity about the destructive things that happen in our lives and the world around us. I was recently reading a great book titled I Believe in Satan’s Downfall (Green, 1981) (an excellent primer on how we as Christians are to understand Satan, by the way). An observant nine year-old friend of mine saw the book in my hand and out of his mouth came a profound truth: “There has to be Satan. Otherwise all the sin and bad stuff is God’s fault.” As Green puts it, “If there were no Satan, it would be hard to resist the conclusion that God is a fiend both because of what he does, in nature, and what he allows, in human wickedness” (p. 19).

I so often talk with folks who are struggling because it does seem to them that the suffering in their life is God’s fault and God’s desire for them. When our worldview is missing an acknowledgement of Satan and his evil work, we’re hopelessly vulnerable to misunderstanding God. Allow me to share some basic truths about Satan, and then we’ll quickly move on to the reality of Christ’s victory.

Who is Satan? “One of God’s creatures – a spirit of great ability, who became consumed by pride, rebelled, lost his position, and set up in opposition and in implacable hatred against God, the source of his existence” (Green, 1981, p. 34). Satan is part of the supernatural realm of created beings that includes the angels who do God’s bidding. He is violent, powerful, highly intelligent, a liar, and persistent. Much of the difficulty and pain we experience in life is devised and implemented by him. But he is also bound, nothing more than a usurper with no rightful authority over us, and cowardly, afraid of anyone who stands up to him in the name of Jesus Christ.

Satan would prefer that we are blind to his existence and work; our denial of his presence adds greatly to his power. I see this all too often when believing Christians are alienated from God by the assumption that the darkness in their life is God’s desire and doing. C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters is a valuable read for helping restore to us a healthy recognition of the work of Satan. Let’s listen in on this dialog between Screwtape and Wormwood: “My dear Wormwood, I wonder you should ask me whether it is essential to keep the patient in ignorance of your own existence. That question, at least for the present phase of the struggle, has been answered for us by the High Command. Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves. Of course this has not always been so. We are really faced with a cruel dilemma. When the humans disbelieve in our existence we lose all the pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and skeptics… I do not think you will have much difficulty in keeping the patient in the dark. The fact that ‘devils’ are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade him that since he cannot believe in that (it is an old textbook method of confusing them) he therefore cannot believe in you” (Lewis, 2001, p. 7).

My main goal in this short article is to remind you, or tell you if you’ve never heard it before, that we mustn’t deny, forget about, or ignore Satan. Let me close, however, with the very good, wonderful, hopeful, and life-giving news: Jesus has defeated him! Satan has no rightful authority in your life. You can have confidence in the cross of Jesus, in the presence of the Holy Spirit with you, and in the living word of God. I can’t encourage you enough to seek God’s presence in prayer, to engage in deep relationship with other believers, and to seek Godly counsel and support for whatever battle is underway in your life – one excellent guide in this process is Restoring the Christian Soul Through Healing Prayer (Payne, 1991).

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic! Do you find it awkward to think or talk about Satan? Have you been hurt by the ways others have talked to you about evil, or punishment, or Satan? Have you found ways of paying attention to this dimension of reality that help you?

Recommended reading:
Green, M. (1981). I Believe in Satan’s Downfall. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Lewis, C. S. (2001). The Screwtape Letters. New York: HarperCollins.
Payne, L. (1991). Restoring the Christian Soul Through Healing Prayer. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.

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