Honest Christianity – how would we define healthy spirituality?


Healthy spirituality is life-giving – I read this short definition in a book called Transforming Spirituality.

This is helpful I think. It should lift our spirits, soothe our heart pain. It should be good for our physical, mental and emotional health. It would seem many of us find similar activities life giving , being in and around nature , the presence of friends. This suggests that there are common spiritual needs such as being connected, meaning making, finding purpose.

But I wonder if this is sharp enough. Can something be life giving to me but oppressive to someone else? Is this ok? Agreed we do not need to find life in the same things, but my individual rights must be held in tension. My life giving spirituality cannot be 1ife sapping to others and be fully valid.

The authors were quoting a colleague in the short defintion but then went on to suggest that health conducive forms of spirituality are:
intentionally embodied
developmentally generative
relationally connected
justice enhancing
narratively coherent (Shults and Sandage 2006 p210).
This is something to think about further for my work and life.


Honest Christianity: Religion: positive or negative on our mental health?

Mental health 2

As we mentioned in our Friday blog, we opened a spiritual care room at our mental health unit on Thursday. In the beginning it was not even a dream to have such as a room. When we began to read the research of the potential positive nature of religious care on our mental health, we began to explore with staff how our chaplaincy team might be more involved. The allocation of the room for spiritual care partly reflects the changing views and perspective of how engaging the patients in their religious and spiritual needs can have a positive effect with a young person. I am amongst the first not to take this for granted. Some attitudes , teaching and treatment within Christianity have not always been the most helpful or supportive of those with mental illness. Sadly this still continues in some contexts.

Pray for us that we will be a part of the positive movement.

If you are interested in reading a little more on this here are a couple of things to look at:

Wondering Wednesdays – defining spirituality


Yesterday I got to facilitate a couple of sessions as part of a module on multidisciplinary spiritual care at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. I did a session on child spirituality and then one on spiritual literacy. I started with this definition:
Spirituality is the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose, and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred (American consensus conference definition).

One of the things which came out of the discussion was a realization for some that spirituality does not necessarily have religion inherent in it. Spirituality at its essence is about purpose, meaning and connectedness and we all need to explore those areas and make sense of life, uncover our purpose, find people and places where we have a sense of belonging. Hospital is sometimes a place where our purpose, meaning and connectedness can be challenged by what is happening to us and it is perhaps even more important to explore how we can help people engage with their spirituality so that they can process what is happening to them. Spiritual care is integral to good healthcare.

Cited in Puchalski, C., Ferrell, B. (2010). Making Health Care Whole. Templeton Press. p.25.

Wondering Wednesdays – nurturing or nullifying


I spent most of yesterday preparing a session on children’s spirituality for a module on multidisciplinary spiritual care later this month. I got to revisit books I had read long ago and was again inspired by how wonderful it is to spend time with children. The quotation that I am using which struck me most is this:

If the spiritual dimension of children’s lives is not listened to, and nurtured it can become suppressed and damaged by socially and historically constructed processes. This can lead children, as they grow older, to repress, neglect and even discard the spirituality first experienced in a significant way during their childhood. (Hyde 2008:59-60)

It is with sadness that I recognize the truth of this, the loss of wonder, excitement, the jadedness which can come at a comparatively early age. I most often use nature to get me back in touch with this wondering, monday morning it was a baby bird hopping around the garden from branch to branch, I was sorry I had not got round to replenishing the food!

Hyde. B. (2008). Children and Spirituality. London: Jessica Kingsley.

Wondering Wednesdays – longer lasting than the tweet

MYOne of the dangers for me of live tweeting from a conference is that I focus more on crafting the tweet than really hearing what was being said.  However, one of the benefits is that I can go back to my twitter feed and remind myself of those little gems you hear that you want to dwell in your heart and mind for a while.  On Saturday I heard Mark Yaconelli speak at the Diocese of Birmingham’s Transforming Youth Ministry Conference and on Monday Mark was speaking on sustaining your spirituality for the long haul at St John’s College Nottingham where the Midlands Institute for Children Youth and Mission (www.childrenyouthmission.org) that I lead is based.  So these are some of the thoughts I don’t want to lose:

It is a commandment to take a day off! Don’t forget that! Take a day to rest, receive, slow down, and remember…

Jesus needed to come home to who he was so he could go out and serve – take a Sabbath…

Part of your work and calling is to allow yourself to be loved, when you slow down you start to feel what is happening in your community…

Love yourself as you love others – many of us need to do it this way round not the way it says in the gospels…

Jesus has soft eyes – as youthworkers we need to let our young people know the are truly seen…

Sense of adventure and holy mischief is what we should model about Christian faith to young people…

Freedom we have in Jesus is like a snow day! Remember how exciting they are…

Listening to myself

DSCF2097I don’t know about you but sometimes I say wise things to other people which I really need to listen to myself!  I have been reflecting today on whether I still struggle with the notion that there is a hierarchy  of spiritual activities.

Each year as part of a research methods module that I teach I get students to do a corporate mini-research project on a topic of their own choosing.  A few years ago now they chose to do something around how they connected best with God.  What emerged from the research was the way they best connected with God was through nature.

This afternoon I spent time with six other clergy, we were walking and talking along tree lined paths and I was admiring the changing colours of autumn, it felt like a spiritual time being outside in changing weather in a changing season and I have come home feeling refreshed and renewed.  When I read that it sounds like a helpful supportive time and a good way to spend a Friday afternoon even if it means spending Friday evening catching up on my study.

However, when I add that we were playing golf there is a part of me that feels like that means we were on a jolly and it wasn’t a spiritual activity.  I still carry a bit of baggage about what are “spiritual” activities and what are not and somehow sport is not as spiritual as art or journaling or poetry.  However, I have been passionate about sport all my life and sometimes in playing sport I have this notion that Eric Liddle had “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. [not this bit!] And when I run I feel His pleasure”.  I feel God’s pleasure when I am out enjoying his creation even though I may also be hitting a little white ball along the way.  This is one of those things where I need to listen to myself when I talk about spirituality and say how important it is to find ways where you genuinely connect with God.  I connected with God this afternoon and that is a good thing, I believe that God is pleased when we connect and I should be too and not have a little bit of guilt diminishing the pleasure.  Hopefully writing this may mean that this is another little bit of baggage I can dump!

Wondering Wednesdays: I want to keep my soul fertile – lifelong learning Donald Miller style


I want to keep my soul fertile for the changes, so things keep getting born in me, so things keep dying when it is time for things to die. I want to keep walking away from the person I was a moment ago, because a mind was made to figure things out, not to read the same page recurrently.

Although I am completely committed to the concept, the term lifelong learning has always sounded a little dull.  It is the sort of term the teacher in me would like but one which may not always capture the imagination of those I work with.  That is why I like this quotation from Donald Miller’s book  Through Painted Deserts which is subtitled “Light, God and beauty on the open road”.

Concepts of birth and death resonate as I both reflect on the Christian year and the pattern of the seasons.   I know as I accumulate years that I am mindful not to stagnate but to keep on changing to allow more of the Sally God created to shine through.  The journey to find Donald Miller started while live tweeting at a conference and interacting with another delegate (@tallandrew).  Twitter can be fertile ground for my soul as I encounter links to blogs, articles, read quotations or thoughts or just share the ups and downs of everyday life with people I know or just follow.   Twitter can also be the equivalent of white bread to me – the easy option when I should be more focused on something which I am finding hard work – perseverance is vital if there is to be growth in some areas of my life.  I need to make time to figure things out and that means giving myself a bit of space like the long bath I had with  this book!  Our brains and our souls need nurturing spaces – what I might call a shelter.

I now have a new question to ask myself – what can I do today to keep my soul fertile?


Reference:  Donald Miller Through Painted Deserts Nashville: Thomas Nelson 2005 px.