Free & Fit NYC - Personal Experiences of Spiritual Direction

Free & Fit NYC - Personal Experiences of Spiritual Direction 

As a Spiritual Director or Directee the most common method of communication I use to speak to God is through prayer. Before, during and after Spiritual Direction sessions I am able to centre, focus and become expectant for the Holy Spirit to come into our conversation through prayer. However, as noted by Henri Nouwen Prayer is not something that always comes naturally or easily (Nouwen, 2004). Despite the obvious difficulties of prayer I still insist on it during times of struggle. Whilst in despair I often find myself crying out in anguish to God seeking to receive a fresh revelation of the Holy Spirit. Through direct dialogue with God I often expect an open doorway in response to my prayers that I can just walk through. However, God does not always answer our prayers this way. Sometimes its yes, sometimes is maybe and sometimes it’s nothing it all. The founder of 24-7 Prayer Pete Grieg, wrote a book about “God on Mute”, at a time during in his life when he experienced severe personal loss, near fatal illness to his wife and a real crises in his faith. Grieg states that he ran out into his back garden one day and yelled out to God like David in the Psalms in anguish, despair and without hope. Yet Grieg states that despite his lack of faith he still insisted on doing it. Crying out to God. Seeking for him to take all the pain away. Even when we have sinned, fallen short or we are far away from God we come back to him in our darkest moments seeking him for comfort, reconciliation and answers. Fundamentally our prayers are not just dialogue, but they represent our questions, petitions and requests. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 teaches us that we are to pray without ceasing.We need to pray at all times, even when we are busy, when we are down or when we are up. Prayer restores us, sustains us and maintains our faith. Henri Nouwen states that one way to seek after the presence of God is through meditation using the Jesus prayer. Based on Luke 18 when Jesus tells the story about the Pharisee and the tax collector’s prayer he says “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.” This is practiced in the Eastern Orthodox Church as the “Jesus Prayer (Nouwen, 2004).” Nouwen suggests praying this prayer in contemplation in any location, seeking to speak to God. Whilst praying specifically to Jesus, reciting these words “Lord have mercy on me a sinner: and seeking a response even in his presence, in his absence, in his questions and in his answers. This can be done before sleeping, eating, walking, driving or like when I pray to whilst running (Nouwen, 2004). The link between Jesus, Prayer and Sport is a large part of how Sports athletes contemplate their faith. For me, sport and prayer is a portal or a gateway which is more accessible when I play sports. Through the sweat, endorphins and perspiration I am able to access God more easily whilst I am working out. The distinction between earth and heaven, humanity and divinity and sinner and saint are more accessible for me when I am running. It’s a battle, but when I pray, run and declare “Lord Jesus, have mercy” I soon become at ease, run faster and gain a more joyful healthier mental and spiritual state. 1 Corinthians 9:24-29 (Amplified) states “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run [their very best to win], but only one receives the prize? Run [your race] in such a way that you may seize the prize and make it yours! Now every athlete who [goes into training and] competes in the games is disciplined and exercises self-control in all things. They do it to win a crown that withers, but we [do it to receive] an imperishable [crown that cannot wither]. Therefore I do not run without a definite goal; I do not flail around like one beating the air [just shadow boxing]. But [like a boxer] I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached [the gospel] to others, I myself will not somehow be disqualified [as unfit for service]. Derek de la Pena relates to these verses and the struggles students face when at University. After graduating from the University of Florida in 2001 he wanted to write a book to encourage student Christian Athletes. So then in 2004, he published the book entitled “Scripture and Sport Psychology.” De la Pena states that he wanted to place Scripture first, similar to theologians Hooker and Wesley before him, with Sport Psychology second. Pena states that the importance of placing a life of prayer, following Jesus Christ and living out your faith day to day is of paramount importance. Pena says that without Jesus in your life, sports do not really matter. In fact, Pena states that someday you may have to leave Sport behind, but Jesus will never leave you (Pena, 2004. P1-2). The practice of prayer during, before and after sports competition is a practice which I apply to my own life. This need for spiritual discipline is noted by Anne Silver in her book “Trustworthy Connections.” Silver places prayer as an essential part of the role of a Spiritual Director (Silver, 2004). It is important not only in our everyday lives, but also in the build up to decision making, discerning Gods will and developing a pattern of consistency in dialogue with God. Prayer helps to build a safe practice of consistent dialogue with God and strong Spiritual Discipline for when he remains silent. Saint Ignatius of Loyola has left us with the many blessings of his Ignatius prayer and Spiritual Exercises. Puhl (1950) states that there are five main methods of general examination when pursuing the consciousness of oneself. Essentially using Ignatius Spiritual Exercise of Examination of Consciousness to establish sins in our lives, to clear away any subconscious distractions and help to pursue God’s will. Puhl translates these directly from the Spanish language of St Ignatius into English for us. The first point Ignatius tells us to examine is that we are called to give thanks to the Lord for the favors we have received. The second point is to ask for grace to know our sins and rid ourselves of them. The third point is that we need to fully examine our thoughts, then our words and finally our deeds in the same order, thoughts, words and deeds as recited in confessional prayer. Ignatius Fourth point is to ask for pardon from God our Lord for all our faults and the fifth, and final point, is to resolve and to amend ourselves to the grace of God. Ignatius then closes with the Lord ’s Prayer (Puhl, 1950). Practically speaking the examination of consciousness can be used in a practice of Sport through working out and following five clearly defined set exercise routines. For example, during a warm up, during three exercise routines and a warm down the five methods of examination of consciousness can be practiced at resting intervals. As part of the Free and Fit curriculum these Spiritual practices can also be applied with scripture and sport ( The practices of Ignatius Spiritual exercises can also go far deeper, over a longer period of time. For example, through a 40 day Lenten devotional or Advent Christmas devotion. However, the need for daily conversation with God is also applicable and it is here where the Practices of Spiritual Exercises meet Sporting Exercises. Father Timothy Gallagher states that a form of discerning Gods will for your life can be accessed through Ignatius Spiritual Exercises. The key to enable a practice of Sport and Spirituality is through Ignatius prayer, meditation, working out and during resting intervals resting with practical Biblical examples to help reflect, catch your breath between sporting exercises whilst practicing Spiritual exercises. (Gallagher, 2017). Outside of Sport and Spirituality Gallagher describes three experiences, through Ignatius Spiritual Exercises, of how to help Spiritual Directors and Directees more specifically how to discern God’s will. Firstly, Gallagher shares an experience where Ignatius was resisting meat due to a desire to abstain from it. Then knowingly, one morning when he was shown meat, consciously thinking with intent, he ate meat and went against his original thought. Only after he ate the meat did Ignatius realize what he had experienced. He soon realized that what he had done was not a temptation or necessarily bad, but simply that the meat was good. Ignatius then realized, through conversation with his confessor, that whilst fasting meat he was shown a fresh revelation of Gods will and in his decision making he followed the Lords will to eat meat and that it was good (Gallagher 2017).. Gallagher also describes two other examples of St Paul (Acts 9:1-9) and St Matthew (Matt 9:9) where both experience being shown a path to following Jesus and correct their former way of thinking and pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ. In both examples, similar to Ignatius himself, Saint Paul and Saint Matthew saw something, following Jesus, and saw that it was good. Eating meat may not always be the best option, but God can correct our thinking through showing us something (“the devout soul follows something which is shown to it”), the devout will is drawn to what is God's will (“God our Lord so moves and attracts the will”) and the person in response cannot doubt what is shown and how they are drawn to it (without doubting or being able to doubt.) (Gallagher, 2019). In conclusion, all of these practices help us to find peace, to discern Gods will be more aware of our subconscious. My own favorite spiritual practice is praying and running. I am able to let go of all the noise in my head, sing aloud to the Lord a new song and when necessary shout out cries of anguish and despair. This continues to be the case for me and I have a need to do this every day. I constantly exercise and courageously rejoin open dialogue with God through prayer, meditation and participation in sport. This helps me to build a spiritual relationship with my ultimate spiritual Director; The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This summer I am going to be exploring Lincoln Harvey’s a Brief Theology of Sport and Sam Sing’s Spirituality of Sport on two UK and US retreats. Through an online book study, two intentional deeper studies and discussions I am hoping to build a space and opportunity to explore different people’s experiences and perspectives of how Sport and Spirituality can help them build a stronger relationship with God. Bibliography Directors Engaging in Holy Mystery”, Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing. Edwards, Denis. “Discernment of the Holy Spirit.” (Presence) (December 2007), Journal 21-29. International Spiritual Direction Journal. Derek de la Pena, (2004), Scripture and Sport Psychology – Mental-Game Techniques for the Christian Athlete, iUniverse Inc. New York, London, Shanghai. Gallagher, Timothy M. (2017) “A Handbook for Spiritual Directors an Ignatius Guide for Accompanying Discernment of God’s Will.” Crossroad Publishing Company. Nouwen, Henri J. M., with Michael J. Christensen and Rebecca J. Laird. Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith. HarperOne, 2006 Nouwen, Henri J. M., with Michael J. Christensen and Rebecca J. Laird. (2006) Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith. HarperOne. Parry, Jim. Robinson, Simon. Watson, Nick J. Nesti, Mark. (2007) “Sport and Spirituality an Introduction.” Routledge. Puhl. J. Louis (1952), the “Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius” Louis J. Puhl. Loyola. Silver, Anne Winchell. (2004) “Trustworthy Connections”: Interpersonal Issues in Spiritual Direction. Cowley Publications 

Love and Blessings F& F Team. Join Tim at Free and Fit events by signing up to our events online here at our website About the Free & Fit Challenge The Free and Fit course has been created to build strong social skills, charge healthy physical bodies and to instil a well balanced and sound mind. Participants who complete the full course over 12 sessions will learn how to work effectively with their team members to build strong values of power, love, and self discipline. Free & Fit Mission To reduce loneliness through Sports, the Arts, Social Justice and Service. Free & Fit Vision The vision of free and fit course is to engage, motivate, improve and hence find freedom in a physical and spiritual state. As such the freedom that leads to a peaceful heart; leads to a healthy body. The course is built upon the core value of learning together to be disciplined and motivated in our faith as well as our fitness. Free & Fit Website: Youtube: Facebook: Twitter&Instagram: @freeandfitnyc Email: Freedom // Fitness // Fellowship Free & Fit Challenge © Copyright 2019 Free & Fit NYC/NJ © Copyright 2019 Free & Fit London © Copyright 2019 

Free & Fit NYC - Personal Experiences of Spiritual Direction 

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