The Magi by Malcolm Guite

It might have been just someone else’s story,
Some chosen people get a special king.
We leave them to their own peculiar glory,
We don’t belong, it doesn’t mean a thing.
But when these three arrive they bring us with them,
Gentiles like us, their wisdom might be ours;
A steady step that finds an inner rhythm,
A  pilgrim’s eye that sees beyond the stars.
They did not know his name but still they sought him,
They came from otherwhere but still they found;
In temples they found those who sold and bought him,
But in the filthy stable, hallowed ground.
Their courage gives our questing hearts a voice
To seek, to find, to worship, to rejoice.

-Malcolm Guite

Dislodged or Detached?

By Brandon Booth –

For millennia, wise guides have encouraged “detachment” from the world as a sure method of spiritual development. The idea has such a long pedigree that there must be some extraordinary merit to the term. But I confess that the word bothers me. It conjures up images of scraggly, starving men sitting on top of columns in the desert, or of self-flagellating monks in dingy cells. 

“Detachment” makes me feel that my spiritual life should be one of “less” and “less” until it’s so rarified that I’m not even a spirit playing a harp on a cloud but the cloud itself. Hardly the spiritual path I want, or indeed, what I think most of the ancient sages intended.

Instead, I think they were seeking a path to something more, not less. Detachment is not the goal, but a means. 

I think of Abram being called by God to “leave” his land and his family and “to go” to a land that God promised to show him. We might say that God asked Abram to “detach” from the world he knew, but I think there is a better word. Abram was called to “dislodge.” 

“Dislodge” comes from an old French word that means to “dis-encamp.” It has the sense that one is already on a journey and has made a temporary camp. Sooner or later we need to “dis-lodge” and strike out on the next stage of our adventure. Why? Because there is more to explore!

So, I can find the strength to detach because I’m not leaving my home, only a temporary lodging place. My true home lies ahead of me, not behind. To cling desperately to this particular lodging is the truer loss. It prevents me from experiencing the more that God has for me. To be sure, letting go of anything is a loss, and all losses need to be honored and grieved, but I need to let go of whatever I’m clutching right now in order to open my arms and embrace what is new and more. 

Life: a reflection

You never start out thinking it will be like this
You imagine something cleaner; something easy
You think, “we might have some hard times”
But overall, you assume that life will be simple.

And then it isn’t. Not clean or simple or easy.
You think, “we might not survive this.”
You wonder why it’s this way.
You scream at heaven, but get no response.

This is your life, not clean or simple or easy
But it’s yours, nobody else’s
They couldn’t endure it, much less find the joy in it.
They will never understand the sorrow or the heartache

They will never know the beauty or the grace either.
But you will, you do, it’s all yours; all of it
Yours to have, yours to hold, yours to bear
This life, this sorrow, this gift.

-J. Hunter Frye

Burning Candles

Once you’ve heard a child cry out to heaven for help,
and go unanswered,
nothing’s ever the same again.
Even God changes.

But there is a healing hand at work
that cannot be deflected from its purpose.
I just can’t make sense of it, other than to cry.
Those tears are part of what it is to be a monk.

Out there, in the world, it can be very cold.
It seems to be about luck, good and bad,
and the distribution is absurd.

We have to be candles, burning between hope and despair,
faith and doubt, life and death,
all the opposites.

– William Brodrick


Taken from Celtic Daily Prayer Book Two Farther Up and Farther In p.888 ©2015 The Northumbria Community Trust

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Is Your Spiritual Director Certified? Probably Not.

As I write this in the early days of 2022, the tragedy and tangle of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shape our world in ways both seen and unseen. Homelife and safety, public life and how we form it, mental health and our care for one another, schooling and teaching—all have undergone radical shifts for ill and for good. Counselors, therapists, social workers, all find their schedules full with those seeking care. The same is true of spiritual directors.

One of the gifts of this time comes from the shift in accessibility that we’ve seen across the globe. Forced to move online, caregivers now have more secure, effective, and safe ways to meet with clients regardless of their location. This has opened up the practice of spiritual direction to so many who simply did not have access to it before, which is a huge grace and a stunning gift.

Alongside that gift comes responsibility, and one of the ways that spiritual directors are charged with caring for their directees and the larger community is by the accurate representation of their training and credentials. As training in spiritual direction has proliferated, and spiritual direction becomes more and more known as a healing modality, I’ve begun to hear a certain kind of slippage in the language used to describe a spiritual director’s training and credentials. This is, I am completely sure, good-hearted, as most of our understanding of caring professions gets modeled after licensed professional therapy or social work. But it’s dangerous, unnecessary, and unkind to borrow language from one profession in order to bolster the distinctiveness of spiritual direction.

Spiritual directors, when presenting themselves to the public, preserve the integrity of spiritual direction by being in right relation with persons and organizations representing qualifications and affiliations accurately. —Spiritual Director’s International Guidelines for Ethical Conduct

In 2016, ESDA (Christ-Centered Spiritual Directors) published an article explaining to their members why representing themselves as a “certified spiritual director” is a problematic practice. In it author Monica Romig Green explains:

Generally, when someone uses the term “certified,” it communicates to the hearer that the person has been given a certification as opposed to just a certificate. It usually means that they possess an official designation from a qualifying professional organization that affirms they meet and uphold specific standards of their profession.

To become “certified,” one must show evidence to a certifying organization that they meet or exceed continuing professional standards. Additionally, as a professional designation, certification is usually something that can expire over time and must be renewed occasionally in order to affirm that someone is still practicing their work at a competent or high level of quality.

Contrastingly, receiving a certificate or diploma from a training program usually means that you have successfully completed your specific program’s educational requirements. It does not mean that you have met the practicing standards of a particular profession.

Regarding spiritual direction, there is, in fact, no specific and official standard for training/formation. That means that one person’s certificate of training could mean something completely different than someone else’s. For instance, I know of a program that gives a certificate after someone has spent 2 weeks studying spiritual direction, while other programs require that their students spend two to three years studying and complete hundreds of direction hours before they receive their certificate. With such variation in training, it’s easy to see why our training certificates would not automatically indicate meeting some kind of general standard.

If you’re a spiritual director or even someone exploring the practice of spiritual direction, the whole article is worth reading. As Green argues, and I concur, it isn’t just a splitting of hairs to insist that “completed a certificate in spiritual direction” is a more accurate and ethical way of representing training in spiritual direction than using the term “certified” (or, in several somewhat upsetting instances, I’ve heard spiritual directors refer to themselves as “licensed” which is both inaccurate and manipulative, as it creates a false sense of accountability and safety for the directee when the director has no such body of oversight).

As someone who also respects and honors the work that my colleagues in therapeutic and social work settings have done, I don’t want to water down the incredible amount of work and continuing education they have and continue to do, even if it appears to up my credibility.

There’s also an important tension to hold here, as there is a certifying body in spiritual direction and the supervision of spiritual directors (CCPC Global), through which I hold both certifications. This is an open organization, to which anyone globally can apply who meets the requirements of certification over and above having completed a certificate in spiritual direction. At the same time, the larger community of spiritual direction continues to hold a diversity of opinion about whether or not certification is necessary, beneficial, or an accurate measure of expertise in a field that holds so much Mystery. Spiritual Director’s International (SDI), for example, discourages the use of these credentials, while the professional spiritual direction associations of countries like Ireland or Australia have created even more rigorous standards and accountability structures for the practice within their borders.

As our push online since the emergence of COVID-19 has shown us, there is also great good to de-institutionalization of education. Seminary-level education is now available to those who would never be able to relocate in order to have access to educators of this quality. Systemic barriers historically operating in education because of sexism, ableism, or racism have been seriously (and thankfully) damaged by our ability to seek wisdom not just from “professionals” but from those with expertise and lived experience. Those whose voices have previously been silenced in these spaces and conversations have had the opportunity to create new and dynamic spaces for experience and education.

In the face of this wild, generative proliferation, it is nonetheless important to care for those seeking spiritual direction with an accurate and clear portrayal of education, experience, and expertise. As a practitioner, I’ve continued to sit in the “both/and” of the questions around the professionalization of spiritual direction. In churches and spiritual communities around the world, there are wisdom figures and those who listen on the margins who would never go to graduate school or seek the title of “spiritual director”—and I believe these faithful men and women are still doing the good work of spiritual direction in the world. I also believe that it is important for me and those I train in spiritual direction to continue to do the work of skills building, growth, and learning within the field and that when it is within the purview and possibility of a particular director, to seek to meet any professional standards that are helpful to their practice and serve their directees well.

The chances are that your spiritual director isn’t “certified.” How and whether that matters to a directee is in the hands of those seeking spiritual accompaniment. However, for ethical practice, spiritual directors need to represent their training, associations, and professional development in a clear, straightforward and well-thought-through manner.

Introducing Jo

Jo Newell is a mom of 6 adult daughters (and one son who she can’t wait to see in heaven), a grandma to 9 grandkids, a widow (after almost 42 years of marriage), a cancer survivor, and a lover of many animals, including her 21-year-old cat, Sophie! She works in staff care with The Navigators. She lives in TX, but a big part of her heart is in Colorado, her home state. She is a graduate of the Potters Inn Soul Care Institute and a current Anam Cara apprentice. Among her favorite activities are reading, hiking and camping, gardening, and eating New Mexican cuisine. Her heart’s desire as she meets with others in spiritual direction is that they would be able to hear God’s voice calling them the Beloved and learn to live out of that love.

Introducing Kate

Kate Davelaar Guthrie has worked in large churches, tiny churches, para-church ministry, and academic institutions. A couple of questions she has found herself asking (and being asked) in all these settings are: what does it look like to truly ground one’s identity in their Belovedness? And, what does it look like to love our neighbors near and far, especially the least, the last, and the left out? Kate plans to be asking these questions her entire life. She is passionate about the intersection of anti-racism and spiritual formation and believes that our inner work is not merely for our own liberation, but for the liberation of all of God’s good creation.

Sabbath and Gift Economy

I am part of a very giving community. We share meals, vehicles, tools, financial resources, our homes, our skills. We watch each other’s kids, pick each other up and drop each other off at the airport, and share whatever else we might have to offer. Some have helped others pay a few months’ mortgage when finances got tight. I’m so aware of how rare and beautiful a thing this is.. Just recently, one of our friends spontaneously picked up a chicken coop and brought it to our house because we have a large yard and they knew we’ve been wanting to start keeping chickens. It’s a joint venture, we are providing the yard and the care, our friends are providing the chickens and the feed, and we get to split the profits (read: fresh eggs every morning!) I am often reminded of the book of Acts when I think about this beautiful community.

And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. 

  • Acts 4:34

But why live this way?

That’s my question and honestly the question of most people who look at me like I’m part of a commune when I talk about my neighborhood. What causes a community to be formed in this way? We are by no means the only group of people living this way, but it does seem rare.  We don’t look like the wider culture. And, believe me, it isn’t perfect—but it is beautiful.

Why would a group of people move beyond the transactional economy that the world says is the only one that works, and into a gift economy that reflects something that looks more like the kingdom? Is it “grace powerfully at work”? To be sure. Is it the genuine love that the group has for one another? Definitely. But I think there’s something else. I think perhaps that part of the reason a community forms in this way is because it practices resting together.

I was recently reflecting on a prayer written by Walter Brueggemann entitled: Giver of all Good Gifts, that caused me to consider the correlation between truly living a gift economy and Sabbath.

The prayer begins:

You are the God who feeds and nourishes.

       You are the God who assures that we have more than enough,

           and we do not doubt that

           you satisfy the desire of every living thing.

I was struck by this stanza. Not because it is so blazingly profound, but simply because it isn’t.  It is something that we, the people of God, as Brueggemann writes, do not doubt the truth of. And yet, how often do we (how often do I) live as if this isn’t true?  The prayer continues with these words:

Even in such an assurance, however,

           we scramble for more food.

           After we have filled all our baskets

                   with manna,

           we seek a surplus—

               enough education to plan ahead,

               enough power to protect our supply,

               enough oil to assure that protection.

If the first stanza struck me, this second one wrecked me. This is our story isn’t it? Collectively as a society, we are hoarders. The majority of us have way more than enough and yet we still want more. We must “plan for a rainy day” or “hedge our bets” or “prepare for the worst case scenario.” The reality is that most of the time, we say that we believe it is God who provides, but we live as if our provision rests squarely and solely on our shoulders. So we acquire more. We are guilty of collecting lifetimes of manna, more manna than we could ever consume, when the promise of God is enough for today. (Exodus 16:4, Matt. 6:11)

This is where the Sabbath comes in. Sabbath is stopping (the word shabbat literally means to stop). It is a ceasing of the incessant acquisition of goods, the continuous consumption of resources. In that stopping, we are given a gift; the reminder that we are not our own source and supply. The reminder that we are deeply known and deeply loved by the God of the universe.  Sabbath is not an excuse not to work but a command not to work; so that we might be reminded that we are more than our work and that our provision is from God and not from our labour alone.

Until we really believe that the first stanza of Brueggemann’s prayer is true, we will continue to live the second stanza.  Sabbath is an invitation to believe the truth of the first stanza so that we can then live into the rest of the prayer:

And in the midst of that

       comes your word,

       that we share bread and feed the hungry,

       even to the least and so to you.

    We mostly keep our bread for ourselves,

                     our neighbors,

                     and our friends.

    It does not occur to us often,

       to feed our enemies,

       to share your bounty with

           those who threaten us.

    We do not often remember to break vicious cycles

       of hostility

           by free bread,

           by free water,

           by free wine,

           by free milk,

    Until we remember that you are the giver of all good gifts,

                       ours to enjoy,

                       ours to share.

    Stir us by your spirit beyond fearful accumulation

       toward outrageous generosity,

        that giving bread to others

           makes for peace,

        that giving drink to others

           makes for justice,

        that giving and sharing opens the world

            and assures abundance for all.1

I believe that among many other things, Sabbath is a weekly reminder that, as the people of God, we live in a gift economy: an economy not driven by buying and selling or demanding and taking, but by freely giving to and receiving from one another without expectation of reciprocation or payback. It is a weekly reminder that God is indeed the giver of all good gifts and that we need not live as though that were not true. I also believe that this peace afforded to us by observing the Sabbath is meant to be shared with the world; it’s not ours to hoard.

Where do we begin? As a wise rabbi has often said, “It all starts with stopping.” The invitation of the Sabbath is to stop and remember that it was God who rescued the people of Israel from Egypt; to stop and remember that it was God who promised to provide enough manna for each day; to stop and remember that transactional economy and “looking out for number one” is not only fundamentally flawed, it is unnecessary when we recognize that in each moment of each day we are being cared for by a God who loves us beyond words.

Entering into a Sabbath rhythm is, at its core, an invitation to trust that the God who loves us will indeed care for us as promised. It is an invitation to step into a different way of being; a way that is marked by rest and freedom rather than bondage to acquisition and consumption. It is an invitation to live generously because we are reminded each week of how generous God is toward us.

If we learn to live from this place of rest and freedom, perhaps one day, sharing things like cars and homes and chickens will not be seen as exceptional but normal. In fact, we may even discover that when there is no need for competition for resources and power to maintain those resources, enemies will become friends, strangers will become family, opponents will become team members. Perhaps one day we will find ourselves living in a gift economy, not because we worked harder to make it happen but because we Sabbathed our way into it. I think that’s what’s happening in my community, as weird and imperfect as it is, and I want to share it.

– j

1“Giver of All Good Gifts” from Prayers for a Privileged People by Walter Brueggemann, 2008 Abingdon Press

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash


While we are on the topic of soul care this month, check out this post titled “Beginnings” by Kaylene Derksen, new president of the Soul Care Institute. We are delighted that one of Kaylene’s new beginnings is as an apprentice with Anam Cara. You can find her original post here.


By: Kaylene Derksen

About a year ago a mentor friend of mine encouraged me to spend time with John O’Donohue’s blessing For a New Beginning.

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming,

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,

Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,

Noticing how you willed yourself on,

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety

And the gray promises that sameness whispered,

Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,

And out you stepped onto new ground,

Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear

You can trust the promise of this opening;

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning

That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

John O’Donohue

Little did I know the power of this blessing would mirror the actual course of my life since then. I spent a good deal of time sitting at the start of the blessing poem. There I was being exposed. It was true. In all of the out-of-the-way places in my heart I was feeling an increasing emptiness. Not the kind of emptiness that we think of when a person is living without purpose. It was more like, the purpose for which I was created had outgrown my situation.

It was a vocational emptiness. The kind that stirs you to an understanding that you are no longer fitting where you are and you are compelled to set out on a mission to find where it is you will have space again. Space to grow, to be who you really are and who you are becoming.

This is a risky thing.

My then reality was powerfully working on many levels to keep me where I was. It’s not that it was terrible. I was working for the mission organization that I grew up in. This place and these people had formed me! I love them still and am proud of the work they do!

It was so seductive to stay where I was. Safe, cared for, loved. Cocooned inside what I knew well.

It reminded me of my first time flying outside of the country on my very first mission trip. I was headed to Central America with a drama team of 6 others energetic thespians and I was scared. I knew I was to go, but all I could think about was going home and waking up in the bedroom I had growing up, knowing my mom was cooking pancakes for breakfast and dad would pray over the food and over us. I wanted to crawl backwards in time. I called my mother, crying, “Don’t you want me to stay?” I gave her every opportunity to call me back. Being very wise, she countered, “You go. This is what is next for you. It’s time.”

And so I went.

It was a harbinger of how my life was to be. I have been developing my stepping onto new ground muscles ever since. It never feels easy, but I am recognizing the energy with which God stirs me is such a compelling force! It is delightful to enter into this space, knowing that I can trust the promise of the opening before me.

Today, on this first day of being the President of the Soul Care Institute, I am reminded to unfurl myself into the grace of beginning. What an exciting picture! Like a butterfly, daring to shed its cocoon, just barely hanging on, and then… unfurling those beautiful wet wings. Trusting they will dry. Trusting they will support her as she flys. These wings are not made by her. These are creator-fashioned wings. Therefore they are good and strong. She only needs to use them and she will see.

And so, this is the beginning, the unfurling, the trusting.

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.



Introducing Kaylene

Kaylene Derksen grew up a farm girl in northern Wisconsin to parents who loved God and loved people. One of eight siblings, she spent long hours being read to from scripture around the breakfast table and at night in family devotions. It was instilled in her from a very young age that everyone has value and should be treated with the dignity befitting God’s creation.

After college, she felt a call to spend her life in mission work. This call has taken her to Central America, the southern United States, the Netherlands, and Germany. She has a deep love for other cultures and languages and speaks both English and German fluently.

While in the midst of her productive life she became aware of a deep longing for a more sustainable rhythm. Her hunger for God led her to delight in Sabbath, which subsequently opened the door to her enjoying other spiritual practices. Going further on the journey inward, Kaylene became a student of the Soul Care Institute. This altered the course of her life by awakening a desire to live the Jesus way as a wholehearted and integrated person. She and her husband, Jimm, are both Soul Care Providers now leading the Institute.

She lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania where she enjoys long walks, cooking dinner for friends, singing, and birdwatching with her husband. She and Jimm have one adult daughter, Helena, who is married to James, their son-in-law. Kaylene can be reached by email.