What Spiritual Direction Means to Me — Janet Ackerman, OP

From time to time, I will have guests post here on the subject of “what spiritual direction means to me.” Today’s post is from Sr. Janet Ackerman, OP of Henderson, NV. Ackerman is a Racine Dominican who serves as retreat facilitator and spiritual director.  Spiritual Direction over the years has been my lifeline, my help for character-building, my growth-producer and my path to the Divine.  In the process of spiritual direction, I have come to know that I don’t walk alone…. Read more

Sexual Misconduct in Spiritual Direction

Sexual misconduct isn’t limited to the entertainment or news businesses. All of that messy, improper behavior can happen in a spiritual guidance relationship. And when it does, it causes great harm to the person seeking guidance. It can leave them with a seriously damaged view of God, religion and spirituality. #ChurchToo As the #MeToo campaign gathered steam this month, a lot of voices came forward in a similar #ChurchToo campaign, sharing stories of how they had been abused by people… Read more

Giving “Thoughts and Prayers” a Break

When tragedy occurs we naturally want to reach out with words of comfort. Lately, so many tragedies—some human created and others of nature—have been met with well-meaning online messages sending “thoughts and prayers” to the victims and their loved ones. When these condolences come from elected officials who could create laws to curb violence or provide adequate help to clean up after storms, a number of us rise up in righteous indignation. We say: Don’t just tweet your “thoughts and… Read more

Learning from our Reactions Along the Spiritual Path

There seems to be a universal pattern to life, including the spiritual path. Action →      Reaction →      Learning You can find this in biblical stories about Jesus’ healings. He heals a person, religious authorities have a fit over when he does it (Sabbath), and then Jesus has the opportunity to teach about the law of love being superior to rigid expectations. Hebrew scripture scholar Walter Brueggemann found such cycles abounding in Hebrew scripture, especially in the… Read more

Losing Your Religion: How Spiritual Direction Can Help

Losing the religion you grew up with can be a heart-wrenching experience, and it’s one that draws many people into spiritual direction. The deep listening, unconditional acceptance and contemplative pace of the practice is a lifeline for many in spiritual transition. My own experience is an example. Leaving conservative Christianity as a young adult was fraught with anxiety, guilt and confusion. I had trouble finding people to help me work through my questions without pushing me into their own path…. Read more

Discernment in a Fake News World

To practice spiritual discernment—the process of making faithful choices—you must have as many facts as you can gather. But, how do you do that if you don’t trust the facts you are given? As I write this, the U.S. Senate is considering healthcare legislation not yet analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office, and if you go online to figure out what is actually in that bill you hear a lot of “facts” that are contradictory. If I were a Senator doing… Read more

Spiritual Direction and a Rejection of the Nashville Statement

Evangelical Christian leaders who refuse to accept LBGTQIA+ persons as they are recently released their treatise on sexuality and gender, called The Nashville Statement (and did so during the worst hurricane in the nation’s history for who-knows-what reason). I’m not linking to this hurtful document—if you want to read it you can google it—and I have a few points to make about why I believe spiritual direction should always be a place of radical welcome to gender and sexual minorities… Read more

Praying for Peace in a Frightening World

If the threats of nuclear war are getting to you and you need a new way to pray about the world’s frightening situation, you are not alone. It’s been hard to pray lately. The God I believe in calls peacemakers the children of God. So, when I hear people who claim to be Christians telling the President that God wants him to use force against another country, I get scared, mad and end up feeling powerless. But there are ways… Read more

Why You Don’t Need a Spiritual Director to “Call You on Your Stuff”

When seeking a spiritual director, people sometimes say they want one who will “call them on their bad behavior.” What they mean is they have destructive habits or believe that they are deceiving themselves and want someone to challenge them around those issues. Spiritual directors rarely do anything of that nature. At least most of us don’t. Why is that? If you ask for it, why won’t we provide it? We Are Not Your Mother And you are not a… Read more

Holding Feet to the Fire: The Role of Accountability in Spiritual Direction

Occasionally I hear someone say they want a spiritual director who will “hold their feet to the fire,” meaning one who will challenge them, push them or hold them accountable to some self-determined standard. While the metaphor of “feet to fire” seems a little harsh (I prefer non-violent metaphors), I do understand that the covenant relationship between spiritual director and client involves personal responsibility – a whole lot on the part of the director but also some on the part… Read more

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