Make Room for the Unexpected

How do I begin to tell you about these last few days? I confess I'm a bit at a loss.

I've been in Santa Fe, New Mexico, this week, participating in the annual international gathering of spiritual directors — 600 of us from six continents, all working in the vein of tending the holy in the world and the individual soul. 

The richest delight, for me and for many, was the chance to learn from Fr. Richard Rohr, who was one of the keynote speakers. He spoke on the roots of spiritual companionship in the Christian tradition and how the gift of spiritual companionship is relevant today. 

I mentioned in last week's letter that I was invited to engage in a one-on-one dialogue with Fr. Richard as part of my conference experience. The dialogue was recorded on video and will be edited and made available on YouTube for viewing. (I will be sure to share the video link once it is published!)

I'm still amazed at the gift of that opportunity.

I was quite nervous at the prospect of sharing this conversation with him, as I'm sure you can imagine. The organizers had shared with us in advance some starting points for the dialogue, but all I kept thinking was, "Why am I being given this opportunity? What do I have to contribute to such a conversation with such a man?" I had no idea what it would be like to hold up my end of the bargain. 

But once he entered the room, the nerves evaporated. If there's one word I could use to describe Fr. Richard, it's joy. He radiates. He is also immensely kind. 

And so as we sat in those two chairs, talking back and forth, the conversation just flowed. We talked about that relevancy of spiritual companionship today, how we have so many more tools for understanding the inner life now than in previous centuries and how this makes for an exciting time. We talked about the first and second half of life and what causes someone to make the transition from one to the other and what inhibits this from happening for some. We talked about Pope Francis and Barbara Brown Taylor. We talked, of course, about the Enneagram.

Before I knew it, the time was up!

Then the next day, just before his first keynote address at the conference, I was so surprised to hear my name being called from the stage with the invitation to introduce him to the gathering. What an unexpected gift! As I made my way to the stage, my mind raced with what to say, ultimately landing on a few personal anecdotes that expressed his impact on my life and demonstrated one picture of how his work has blessed so many. (Kirk was able to capture a portion of the introduction on video on the fly, which I have shared here.)

It was one more gift in my already overflowing cup.

Then I turned my attention to the workshop I'd been invited to lead on Saturday on the topic "Spiritual Formation in a Google-ized World." My preparation time included several last-minute change-ups that eventually resulted in a decision to scrap the Keynote slides I'd prepared and to completely reconfigure the room from what I'd originally planned. 

Rather than sitting in rows looking at slides, we sat in a large circle and shared a contemplative dialogue. We reflected on the Internet — the good and the bad of it — and what science and history and the various spiritual traditions have to teach us about using these new tools well in this new age. (Want the CliffsNotes version? All of them point in the exact same direction: to the need for intentionality and stillness.)  

Here on the other side of presenting that workshop twice to two different groups, I continue to be surprised by that last-minute decision to scrap the slides and foster a dialogue held in circle instead. That new context is what I liked the most about the workshop experience. And I was reminded of what I've been learning this last year: that I love fostering conditions for reflection and space-filled dialogue to happen. That's what the discernment sessions and the Look at Jesus course are meant to do. It's what I hope these weekly letters offer you as well.  

So, much happened this week that surprised me. It was a picture of the gifts and new life and energy that are given the chance to emerge when we're open to change and taking chances and saying yes. 

Is the unexpected showing up in your life in any particular way right now? What are you noticing about your response to it?        


Much love,