Richard Rohr, Carl Jung & Campus Ministry

Sitting under my favorite Sycamore beside the monastery.

Each year about this time I spend a couple of days at a monastery (the Abbey of Gethsemani) and “do” what I call my annual prayer retreat. Typically, I take a few books along for the quiet time in my “cell.” The first one I got to this year was a re-read of Falling Upward by Richie Rohr (that’s what his close friends call him. ha!)

So the gist of Rohr’s book is talking about how to navigate the transition from the first part of life to the second. Often, this transition is instigated by some sort of “falling” down in life. He seems to imply that most people go through this transition (if at all) between the ages of 35-55. So at the ripe old age of 48, I’m right on track since I would suggest that my “falling up” began about 5 or 6 years ago.

The basic premise is that you spend the first half of life establishing identity and building a certain “container” for life. Then for whatever reason, the container cracks…life takes an unexpected turn…some sort of crisis unfolds…etc. In the second half of life, ideally, you go a little bit deeper into some soul-full territory. You realize the limitations of superficial structures and either-or (dualistic) thinking. Rohr loves the language of unitive consciousness…moving from either/or thinking to both/and or “yes” thinking.

I’m finding a parallel journey in campus ministry from the first half to the second half, although in this case it’s the first and second halves of a school year.

In the first half of a year with students, I’m establishing identity and connection…building a sort of container for our relationship. Now in the second half (spring semester) it’s time to go a little deeper. I want to use the foundation of relationship which we’ve established in the first part of the year as a platform for launching towards something more.

So my hope in the 2nd semester of each school year is to see these relationships go a little deeper in several directions. I will challenge students to plunge a little deeper into the God-waters…moving out of “kiddie pool” spirituality into the depths of trust and exploration. I will also challenge them to deepen their relationships with others. Perhaps it’s time to be a little more vulnerable, or to care a little more for those closest to them. It could be in a small group, in a class, with a roommate, or any significant relationship they have developed.
And of course, I want to deepen my relationship with the student if that’s what is most beneficial for the student. Although in some cases, I will encourage a deeper mentoring connection with someone else if I’m not necessarily the best person to fill that role in their lives.

The goal is always transformation and growth. The second half of this school year is about to begin. Here’s to seeing a few students go from spiritual immaturity to maturity over the next few months!

Ironically, as I was reading Falling Upward at the monastery and enjoying some Pneuma Coffee in a cool Star Wars mug I had just gotten for Christmas from my daughter, this happened…

Coincidence??

The Discipleship Journey with College Students

Recently, I sat down with a college student who wanted to “dive in” to the spiritual waters of discipleship in a deeper way. This is a student I’ve been alongside of as a spiritual mentor for a couple of years now and it’s always encouraging to know that a college student wants to put some emphasis on developing their faith as well as their academic and vocational life.

What can be a bit frustrating at times in college ministry is that a student you’ve spent time with demonstrates a lack of understanding when it comes to basic spiritual disciplines of the Christian life. With this particular student, biblical intimidation seems to be the main obstacle. Some have a fear of reading the Bible for themselves because they don’t believe they have the tools for interpreting the Bible or the ability to “get anything out it.”

So I took this student through a simple exercise of reading a brief passage (James 1:1-8) and demonstrating some simple ways of asking questions about the passage, journaling, asking practical questions, and then writing out a prayer in response to the passage…inviting God to bring wisdom as they try to apply biblical principles to their lives. In about 15-20 minutes, we had a great experience together in God’s word and the student walked away encouraged about the simplicity of the process.

This “discipleship conversation” was a great reminder to me of the benefits of sitting down with a student and simply reading the Bible together. As I reflect on that conversation, I thought it might be good to outline the process here which may help others:

Step #1

Pick an appropriate passage. There are parts of the Bible that lend themselves to easy understanding and simple application. I have found the short letter of James in the New Testament to be a great place to start.

Step #2

Read through the passage and make notes of key words or topics. Try to put the author’s intention in your own words. Before we get to “what this passage means to me” we need to have a good idea of the author’s intention.

Step #3

Ask questions of the text. Who is the author speaking to? What do you think the historical context of the original audience was? What is the main principle or teaching in the passage that might apply to our own lives? Is there something going on in your own life that the Holy Spirit might be calling your attention to? What would it look like to incorporate this biblical principle in your own life?

Step #4
Pray. Sometimes it’s good to write out a simple prayer. From this passage in James, a prayer might look like this: Lord, help me to see the trials in my life as opportunities to grow and mature in my faith and not just opportunities to complain or stress out.

Step #5

Take Action. What is one simple thing I can do this week to apply this teaching to my life? When a trial or difficult circumstance pops up, I want to immediately respond with a simple prayer: Lord, help me see my life and this obstacle as an opportunity to grow closer to You.

In the same way that physical exercise and good nutrition can lead to physical health and growth, spiritual exercises need to be a consistent part of our lives if we want to be spiritually healthy and fit.

The Jubilee Conference

This will be my 10th year attending the Jubilee Conference with college students. It is sponsored by the CCO (ccojubilee.org), a campus ministry organization I was on staff with full-time for my first 7-8 years of campus ministry in Cincinnati. Even though I’m no longer a full-time CCO staffer, I still believe in this conference and what it accomplishes in the lives of college students.

If you’re a college student, check out this short promo video.

What I love most about the Jubilee Conference is that it has the potential to open a students’ eyes to the ways in which the Gospel (i.e. the Christian faith) integrates fully with their lives, their studies, their social context, and their vocation.

So if you’re a college or university student in the Cincinnati area and would like to know more, leave a comment or email me at cbean71[at]gmail[dot]com.

If you’re someone who shares our vision for seeing college students transformed, think about giving to our Jubilee fund so that no student misses out based on financial need. Here’s a link to our team’s fundraising page. Thank You!

A Simple Guide for Daily Scripture Reading, Meditation, Prayer, & Journaling

A couple of days ago, one of the students in my campus ministry in Cincinnati said that he wanted to start his day with meditation and prayer. As I was looking online for some kind of resource to send to him, I realized it might be just as easy to describe an approach that I often use.

When you want to start the day with 5-10 minutes of meditation and prayer, here’s an idea…

Begin with a verse like Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” In my opinion, key verses in the Psalms are great for this type of reading, but one could also select key verses (Google encouraging bible verses etc) from anywhere in Scripture.

Read over the verse 2-3 times…slowly…even reading out loud if possible. (A more in-depth approach like this is called lectio divina)

Then ask God a question: What do you want me to learn from this verse? What do I need to hear today? Or what’s the most important word in this verse for me today?

Create your own daily prayer that goes something like this: “Lord, I invite you to lead my life today. Help me listen for your voice. Help me to love you and love others well. Guide me with your Spirit towards the decisions that honor you today. Amen.” 🙏

Then take a few moments to write in a journal.

Perhaps write out the verse on which you were meditating. Then write down some thoughts or words that came to mind during the prayer/meditation time.

Try to include some kind of daily “action” plan, for example… “Today, when I feel like I’m in trouble emotionally, financially, relationally or in any way…I want to think about God being my main source of help.”

And viola…you just started your day with 5-10 minutes of scripture-based meditation and prayer. 😎