Membership Moments


God Gives Us Memories

My mother died two weeks ago. I am in grief. Thank you for walking with me. Even though my father, three brothers, and I witnessed my mother’s frail body fading and were able to say our goodbyes, it was a shock.

A lot has gone on. My mind has not settled. My heart hurts. Yet I want to share with you some snippets of this experience that have been meaningful to me, in hopes of reminding all of us of the preciousness of life, particularly during this sacred season of gathering with family and friends.

In death, my mother continues to be a spiritual companion and teacher. It was my mother’s wish to include balloons at the service celebrating her life. As a woman of deep faith, she wanted us to know that she was okay, that her Christian faith meant that death is not to be feared. I think she wanted us to laugh, to share memories, and to practice letting go by releasing balloons. I was not prepared for the bittersweet beauty the balloons created against the winter sky. 

My mother was a sculptor. She was commissioned more than ten years ago to create a sculpture for the columbarium garden next to our family church. The sculpture is of a feminine figure, arm outstretched, with a palm gesturing upwards. My mother named it, Unto You I Commend My Spirit.

We stepped out of the church after the service, each of us receiving a colorful balloon. As we processed to the sculpture, the message of her sculpture and the sermon during the service were with me: Live.

This quote from Frederick Buechner was included in the sermon: “You are seeing everything for the last time,” he writes.

And everything you see is gilded with goodbyes: the child’s hand like a starfish on the pillow, your hand on the doorknob, the dachshund’s lurching off the forbidden couch when you come through the door. …

It is the first day, because it has never been before. And it is the last day, because it will never be again. Be alive, if you can, through today, this day of your life. Follow your feet, put on the coffee, start the orange juice, the bacon, the toast. Then go wake your children and think about your life, and [about] living, and [about] the work of your hands. …

My beloved mother lived those words. The work of her hands included sculpting, knitting prayer shawls, creating quilts for charity, and making Christmas tree ornaments that will make me laugh and cry this December as I hang them on our tree. She passed on her faith to us, and in turn I pass on her encouragement to come alive to this day.

My Godmother sent an e-mail from Tanzania letting me know that my mother offered her a quote when her father died, "God gave us memories so that we'd have roses in December."

May you be alive in December, creating joyful memories with your beloved family and friends. May you remember to keep a look out for strangers in grief who may appreciate your companionship this season.

Who are you remembering during this holiday season? What kind of legacy is your journey leaving for your loved ones? Share your thoughts on the SDI Blog.

Scroll down to read the articles associated with these headlines.

1. Upcoming Online Educational Opportunity
2. Three Exciting Institutes in Louisville, Kentucky
3. New! A Tribute to Reb Zalman
4. New! Participate in the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Appeal
5. Tributes in Memoriam
6. New Video! SDI Learns from … Fr. Matthew Linn, SJ, Dennis Linn, and Sheila Linn
7. Your Community Online
8. Share your thoughts about Presence
9. SDI Blog Highlights
10. December Poem by SDI Member Gene Bradbury
11. December Blessing from the Executive Director

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Practistry: Weaving Together Practice and Ministry

1. Upcoming Online Educational Opportunity

Are you curious why people from many spiritual traditions find significance in making a pilgrimage? What is the value of spiritual companionship during and after pilgrimage? Are you interested in making a pilgrimage, but don’t know how to start? Learn more and register for the upcoming SDI Webinar.

Pilgrimage Home: Stepping into Transformation, Celebrating the Journey

27 January, 1:00 p.m. EST; 5:00 p.m. GMT/UTC
27 January, 8:00 p.m. EST; 12:00 a.m. GMT/UTC (following morning, 28 January)

This webinar will be led by Valerie Brown, an author, Quaker, and mindfulness trainer. Her work and writing point toward powerful transformation through mindful awareness. Her passion includes creating greater trust among people.  

The webinar will last one hour. Offered twice to accommodate multiple time zones, SDI intends to make educational programs available for as many people around the world as possible. Calculate the time of each webinar in your local time zone. One CEU credit is available for participants.

Additional recorded webinars are available to view on demand.

2. Three Exciting Institutes in Louisville, Kentucky

Did you know that in addition to the conference, SDI has several pre-conference institutes? Offered as one-day intensives, the institutes provide the opportunity to discover new and emerging wisdom.

The Leadership Institute is designed for people who are currently on staff at a formation and training program or who plan to develop formation and training programs. Come wrestle with questions about teaching ethical spiritual direction and explore the vision of leading with integrity and compassion.

The Men’s Institute will provide a space for men to discuss spirituality, the distinct ways men grieve, and how to companion them through the pain and fear into healing.

The Spirituality and Health Care Institute is for people who are committed to integrating spirituality and health care. Everyone is welcome including nurses, chaplains, home health aides, psychologists, social workers, hospice workers, and more. Together, we will learn about spiritual assessment and discuss how connecting with vulnerability engages potential for healing and growth.

The early bird discount for registrations is January 15. Register now!

Register for a pre-conference institute today!

3. New! A Tribute to Reb Zalman

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, affectionately known as Reb Zalman, influenced countless lives around the world. To honor his memory, Spiritual Directors International has created a video with the audio of his last interview with Presence journal. SDI collaborated with the University of Colorado Boulder archives to produce the tribute. Enjoy the beautiful images while listening to his transformative voice and teachings.

Please enjoy this gift, leave a tribute of your own, and continue to hold his memory and loved ones in your hearts.

4. New! Participate in the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Appeal

Your faithful membership with SDI has made you an essential partner in spreading the ministry and service of spiritual direction around the world and across traditions.

In honor of our twenty-fifth anniversary, we ask that you give a gift of USD$25.00, or multiple therein. Donations directly effect programs and publications: lives are changed, scholarships and bursaries are awarded, community is developed, education is furthered, new wisdom is discovered, and seekers connect with spiritual companions. Your gift matters.

We have made it easy to contribute! You can make a donation through our secure, online store at any time.

Thank you for your commitment to the ministry and service of Spiritual Directors International.

5. Tributes in Memoriam

SDI is thankful for the many saints who have come before us. We especially hold the memory of long time SDI member and Presence journal editorial review panelist, Marcus Smucker, as he passed away on 30 October 2014.

As a tribute to those who laid the groundwork for this ministry and service, we devoted a section of the website to people who have passed. Kindly visit the Tributes in Memoriam page and read about lives dedicated to advancing spiritual direction, as well as leave your own special memory or tribute.

6. New Video! SDI Learns from … Fr. Matthew Linn, SJ, Dennis Linn, and Sheila Linn

Fr. Matthew Linn, SJ, Dennis Linn, and Sheila Linn converse about the emerging wisdom of near-death experiences for spiritual companioning.

Fr. Matthew Linn, SJ, Dennis Linn, and Sheila Linn have given retreats on healing in over sixty countries and have written twenty-two books. The three were presenters at the 2014 Spiritual Directors International Emerging Wisdom conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. Dennis and Sheila live in East Side, Colorado, USA, and Matthew lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.

7. Your Community Online

Need a break from the holiday hustle? SDI offers a contemplative corner online for spiritual guides and seekers to reflect, engage, and share thoughts on a new contemplative practice each week.

Enjoy social media and the gift of online community through the SDI Blog, Facebook page, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts.

8. Share your thoughts about Presence

Have you received the latest issue of Presence? What was your favorite article? What insight did it give you? Send your thoughts as a letter to the editor to Nick Wagner,

9. SDI Blog Highlights

Are you looking for contemplative inspiration from fellow SDI members? Check out the SDI blog! Each month, dynamic writers contribute their thoughts on spiritual direction, as well as reflective pieces on the contemplative practice of the week.

In November the blog featured articles on faith from Fr. River Damien Sims, insights from Christine Sine on finding beauty in brokenness, discovering gratefulness every day from Janice Lynne Lundy, and being thankful for the unexpected by The Rev. Lyn Brakeman.

Interested in writing for the SDI Blog? E-mail for details.

10. December Poem by Gene Bradbury [Washington, USA]

From the Still Night

From the still night
begins the day,
following a quiet path,

Walk in peace.
            Walk in silence.
                        Walk in stillness.

From the still day
begins the night,
recalling quiet paths,

Sleep in peace
            Sleep in silence
                        Sleep in stillness.

11. December Blessing

May your memories keep you warm as you reflect on the past year, and may you create new memories, each day, living fully into the person you are called to become. Move gently into the year’s end, intentionally cultivating stillness.

The staff and coordinating council of Spiritual Directors International wish you a blessed holiday season, filled with hope, re-connection with your family and friends, and deep abiding peace.

As a special thank you to the staff of Spiritual Directors International, the office will be closed December 24 through January 2 for the holidays. We will reopen Monday, January 5. May your holidays be filled with awe and wonder.

Peace be with you,

Liz Budd Ellmann, MDiv
Executive Director

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