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Spiritual direction: advice from a soul friend

Concepts from Eugene Peterson’s Under the Unpredictable Plant. The Celtic term anmchara means “soul friend.” Spiritual direction is the act of paying attention to God, being attentive to God in a person or circumstances. A prerequisite is standing back, doing nothing. It notic…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Concepts from Eugene Peterson’s Under the Unpredictable Plant.

The Celtic term

means “soul friend.”

Spiritual direction is
the act of paying attention to God, being attentive to God in a person or circumstances.

A prerequisite is standing back, doing

It notices the Invisibilities
in and beneath and around the Visibilities.

Spiritual direction is not an opportunity for instruction or

It is likely to be quiet and gentle.

Sometimes we need a teacher, but mostly we need to become
what we already know.

Sometimes we need a helper, but mostly we need to enter the
reality that is already God in me.

To learn more about
anmcharas check out this blogger.

Comments (5)

  • Hi Seth,

    Me and a friend of mine are planning to step back for a day or two in October. We are planning a day of silence before the Lord; a day of listening. If God brings it to your memory, please pray for our protection during this time. We are looking for spiritual directionnot because we are lost; rather because we are purposefully looking.

    Blessings brother.

  • Emily, I’ll pray if you’ll pray for my wife, karen, who is taking 3 days by herself in the mountains in a tent, beginning tonight.

  • Incidentally, it’s come to my attention over three years after writing this that critics have cited this post as evidence that I endorse aspects of Celtic Christianity that I do not. They’ve used my quote of Peterson as a kind of “guilt by association.”

    Let me be clear: I do not follow Celtic Christianity or endorse it. I find some of its teachings heretical. But then if you look hard enough, you’ll find grounds for charging heresy (around issues that are often not central to the faith) in anybody who claims to follow Christ. We’re all flawed. That’s why Jesus said that we should assess one another based on fruit rather than words. When I look at Peterson’s fruit, I find it to be extraordinary.

    If you want to look at my fruit, I’d be happy to introduce you to any of those who I’ve discipled. I teach them to follow Jesus Christ as revealed in a Bible that I believe is inerrant in its original form. I teach them that there are many gifts, but that love is the greatest. I train them to win others to a relationship in Jesus through a life centered in grace. I teach them that unity between followers of Christ is essential.

    That is one reason I choose not to air differences over the web. I can’t really know who I’m talking to most of the time and what their context is and what nuance may exist. I believe that if my critics knew me and had a chance to examine my fruit and life, they might not change their views, but they’d probably see that we share more common ground than they realized and might even feel some remorse for both the substance of their critiques and the way in which they were advanced.

    My critics have chosen to remain anonymous, so we can’t assess their fruit.

  • I’m not trying to ‘blast’ anyone and I hope you leave this comment on here because many people really need to be reminded occasionally. Myself especially.

    On the subject of ‘Fruit’:
    Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 12:33-37
    “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”
    Matthew 7:15-20:
    “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”
    Luke 6:43-45:
    “For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.”

    Jesus is effectively saying that ‘fruit’ can be see in the words spoken by someone. So all you really need is to hear or read, and you can get an idea of what fruit anyone including the ‘anonymous’ soul produces. Remember, what is spoken in secret will come to light. There is no hiding place for sin except under the Blood of Jesus.

    Furthermore, James tells us something that cut to my soul (as the Word usually does), and reminded me to watch my words and motives. Read the whole chapter and note the following:

    James 3

    But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. 11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.

    13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. 18 And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

    I was reminded by my daughter that a fountain cannot produce both salt and fresh water. My obscene language is not pleasing to God.

    Nevertheless, keeping in context with ‘fruit’, there are seeds that produce fruit that looks edible, and there are seeds that produce fruit that is edible. Satan is a master of deception, and can fool even the elect of God’s people. Satan can produce some very tempting fruit and market it as ‘Christianity’ and many take the bait and digest it.

    Any seed not from God’s Word will no doubt produce ‘Anti-Christ’ fruit.
    Go back to Matthew 12:30:
    “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.

    Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. “Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.”

    We are dealing with people’s eternal souls. It would be wise to err on the side of caution and avoid anything not founded in God’s Holy Word. Paul said we will receive the greater condemnation for misleading the flock.

    I hope this comment remains and that it will encourage, enlighten and strengthen someone or many.

    Great job Seth. I’m sure we will meet soon. We are looking into joining one of the missions.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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