Joann Nesser  - Resources for the Spiritual Journey
 Spiritual Direction – Workshops - Program Speaker 

Topics include spiritual formation, contemplative prayer practices, aging and spirituality.  

Today there is a lot of talk about spiritual formation in religious circles, this includes ways of contemplative prayer.  Unfortunately, when something becomes popular it often is offered as some kind of formula like ten steps to whatever rather than spiritual growth.  The focus becomes doing the spiritual practice rather than meeting the One whom we seek.  Writers of scripture tell us of their experience with an unknowable God.  For example, 1 Corinthians 2:9 "What no eye has seen nor human heart conceived what God has prepared for those who love him," and Ephesians 3:14-21 where Paul is said to have prayed that we would "know the loved of Christ which passes understanding that you might might be filled with all the fullness of God." 

Our spiritual journey is one of falling deeper in love as we open more and more to this amazing love.  A contemplative is one who is on a journey into deeper Love.  All our spiritual practices are simply means to help us be open.  A contemplative is one who is on this journey to love and uses whatever means God invites to help us on the way.  The contemplative is one who, as the Buddhist would say, has woken up and from that moment is on a quest or journey to know the incomprehensible God of love. This is not a journey where we can learn about God with our mind or intellect but a journey within where we find the indwelling Christ in the center of our soul.  This is a journey toward deeper awareness of this One within. As we seek deeper awareness we also experience a deeper awareness of our true self.  Teresa of Avila and many other ancient writers  tells us that to know God we must know ourselves.  In other words, self-knowledge is necessary to know God.  Then, the spiritual journey becomes one of discovery, the discovery of God and one's true self, not so much about performing certain practices.  And yet....the spiritual practices God invites help us peal back the layers of all what is hidden that has become a barrier to our fullest experience of God who is Love and a reflection of that Love to the world.  

      Deep within us all, underneath all the hurts and wounds of our past, all our misconceptions about ourselves, all the affects of the culture we live in, is someone we know to be our true Self, the Real Me.  Most of us have a glimpse of that person now and then but usually are unable for one reason or another to let that person come forth.  We have fears of rejection, of making a mistake or disappointing someone because that true Self is not what we think they expect us to be.  Often that true Self lies buried sometimes so deep we don't realize it ourselves unless something happens that knocks us out of our comfort zone and into an openness to explore.  It is like the apostle Paul being knocked off his horse and blinded before he was able to see.  He had to let go of his past beliefs of who he was to receive the invitation from God to become the person he was created to be.
     Do you remember a time when you knew God was real?  Do you remember feeling the Holy, the Sacred or the Mystery we call God very hear to you and you sensed a feeling of being loved, deep peace or joy?  It could have happened while walking to the mailbox, sitting by a lake or cradling a baby.  It could have happened while singing a favorite hymn at church or listening to a particular song on the radio.  It could happen while you are sitting in a fishing boat or taking a walk in a park.  Many people have told  me that it happened when they were on a retreat where they had a concentrated time to pay attention to their spiritual life.  Others have experienced an intimate closeness of God through the death of a loved one.  Do you remember times like these that led you to make a resolve to live differently and seek God's direction for the choices you make in life?  The Buddhist would call this waking up.  What happened?
     I want to say that all those experiences are invitations from God to come closer, to listen deeply and to discover a fuller more meaningful life. They are invitations to begin the journey to discover your true Self and the Spirit of God who is within you.   These are invitations to pray.  They are invitations to experience the unconditional love of God, to help us discover our best self and to make better choices for our lives. We have lost the meaning of prayer as the early Christians practiced it.  A word like communion would better express what prayer meant to them.  Another word might be relationship or intimacy to better express prayer as Jesus demonstrated it.  When one thinks of words like communion , relationship and intimacy one also thinks of love.  A good way to talk about prayer would be to say that it is the intimate communication one has in one's love relationship with God.
     God isn't waiting to condemn or punish but is like loving parent who longs to draw his or her child near and wipe away tears, bring joy and help that child have the best life possible.  Jesus said, "Come to me all who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest."  and the apostle Paul wrote, "What no eye has seen nor ear heard nor the human heart conceived what God has prepared for those who love God."


To live 
in the joy of Love
without assurance,
without reasoning,
without anything
that can hold me up.
I can only let go
and float
in this faith,
knowing nothing
and yet,
knowing everything.


Here I am 
at my age
wondering what 
to do with my life.
I want harmony
I don't want strife
maybe I need
a wake-up call
to realize
what has always been 
is not the All.
There is more beyond 
the beginning birth 
more than I can conceive 
with this mind of earth.
This time of life
I am still a blank slate
able to do something
that might not be great
but will be a unique creation
that can only come from me
when my mind takes a vacation,
to relax and be open
to, I know not what
a mystery that only
Mystery can wrought.


    God Beyond God
      God beyond God, Self beyond self
 The time comes
  when we are invited
to let go
     And enter the “cloud.”
The journey through
the interior castle
To the place
where Truth dwells
Is one of interior self-discovery
an interior confrontation
 with all our “stuff”
This is important and necessary
for we won’t know God
without knowing ourselves.
We read and go to classes
to discover who we are
through the MBPTI
and the Enneagram
but there comes a time
when God invites us
into that ‘cloud of forgetting”
when none of that matters.
You have come to
know yourself.
God’s love has entered
the interior places to heal and renew.
There comes a time
to let go into Nothing
to melt into God
who is beyond description,
beyond comprehension.
To discover in amazement
that so are you

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