Membership Moments


Surprised by Love


During October 2013, my father-in-law died. You need to know a little bit about the family in order for my story to make sense. We called him Norb; his full name is Norbert, not a common name today. He proudly served as a weatherman in World War II.

Norb died in southern California in the home that he bought with my mother-in-law Mary almost sixty years ago. Norb enjoyed tending his roses in their backyard, and Mary continues to grow pretty pink and purple flowers behind their bungalow despite the severe drought that has plagued California. During our weekly telephone chats with Mary, we often hear updates about the drought and the conditions of the flowerbeds.

6 September would have been Norb’s ninety-seventh birthday. It was the first birthday since he died, and we didn’t want Mary to be alone on this important day. True to form, and proving he is well, Norb orchestrated things perfectly. He held his birthday on a Saturday so Marc, Susie, and the grandkids could visit Mary. Norb arranged for Marc’s favorite football team, Notre Dame, to win that day. But most impressively, Norb, the weatherman, whipped up a hurricane off the coast of Mexico (yes, Hurricane Norbert, landed on his birthday) causing big waves on Saturday, and then lots of rain to water all the flowers throughout southern California that week.

As usual, Norb left us all laughing and telling stories about how things don’t always appear to be what they seem on the surface. Here we were, missing him terribly and worried about Mary and her potential heartache on Norb’s birthday, yet the overriding experience was one of awe and wonder at how love dances across the border between life and death. Our God is awesome!

In the Jewish tradition, October holds Days of Awe as the Jewish New Year begins. The rituals include community-building processes and spiritual practices that are familiar in spiritual direction. Millions of Jews are encouraged during this time of year to pause, to reflect, to seek forgiveness, to fast, to offer alms, and to realign their relationship with God and one another. 

In solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters, October is a beautiful month to reassess our relationship with the divine, with awe, and with one another. Here are some questions to ponder during the month.

How you are in relationship with love and with awe? When was the last time you were surprised by the divine? What’s one step that you might take to release a barrier to God’s loving presence in your life? Share your thoughts on the SDI Blog.

Scroll down to read the articles associated with these headlines.

1. New! Online Educational Opportunities
2. Emerging Wisdom Educational Events: Registration is Open!
3. New Contemplatives Initiative Deadline Approaching
4. New! New Secure Online Store
5. New! Guidelines of Ethical Conduct Available in Korean
6. New Video! SDI Learns from … Marilyn Lacey, RSM, and Susan Rakoczy, IHM
7. Help us get to 4,000 Likes!
8. How Helpful are the Resources Advertised in Presence?
9. SDI Blog Highlights
10. October Poem by Sarah Rehfeldt
11. October Blessing from the Executive Director

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1. New! Online Educational Opportunities

Did you know that SDI offers online educational opportunities with CEU credit? Are you looking to explore and learn about new topics from the comfort of your own home or office? Register now for two upcoming SDI Webinars.

The Enneagram and the Beatitudes: Understanding the Blessings of Who You Are, led by Joseph Byrd, OLF, DMin, from Michigan, USA.

28 October, 1:00 p.m. EDT; 5:00 p.m. GMT/UTC
28 October, 8:00 p.m. EDT; 12:00 a.m. GMT/UTC (following morning, 29 October)

The Case for Spiritual Direction in the Technology Age led by Christianne Squires, MA, MS, from Florida, USA.

19 November, 1:00 p.m. EST; 5:00 p.m. GMT/UTC
19 November, 8:00 p.m. EST; 1:00 a.m. GMT/UTC (following morning, 20 November)

SDI webinars are offered twice to accommodate multiple time zones. SDI aims to make programing available for as many people as possible.

Additional recorded webinars are available for purchase and view on demand.

2. Emerging Wisdom Educational Events: Registration Now Open!

Registration is now open for the Emerging Wisdom educational events, and you won’t want to miss a moment of it! Your presence, engagement, and insights are what will make our time together enriching and memorable.

Together we will celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of SDI, learn from the wisdom of Thomas Merton, and engage with the community about the importance of the ministry and service of spiritual direction.

We expect participants from six continents—make sure to register now for your first choice of workshops! Space is limited in the pilgrimage, contemplative retreat, and field trips.

3. New Contemplatives Initiative Deadline Approaching

Are you an emerging contemplative under the age of forty? Do you know someone else who is? The New Contemplative Initiative Scholarship and Bursary Award is your opportunity to engage with the global learning community of Spiritual Directors International during the 2015 Emerging Wisdom conference.

The application deadline is 28 November 2014.

Please forward this information to your friends and colleagues under the age of forty to apply. If you know someone you would like to nominate, simply fill out a short form to nominate him or her! SDI will follow-up with an e-mail and invitation to apply.

4.New! New Secure Online Store

Have you checked out the refreshed SDI secure online store? SDI moved the store to provide you with an improved experience. Bigger type and bolder images make it easier than ever to renew your membership, donate, register for educational events, order resources, and more in the SDI secure store.

To protect your financial information, the secure store is separate from the SDI member database. Even if you had an account with the previous online store, you will need to create a new store account first before placing an order or renewal. This is an added step in ensuring your information is secure.

5. New! Guidelines of Ethical Conduct Available in Korean

Spiritual Directors International is an inclusive, global learning community that offers educational programming and materials around the world and across traditions. In order to serve our international community, we now have the Guidelines for Ethical Conduct available in Korean as a free download from the SDI website

Thank you to Jung Eun Sophia Park, SNJM, Eun Richards, and the Guidelines for Ethical Conduct task force who helped make this resource accessible.

6. New Video! SDI Learns from … Marilyn Lacey, RSM, and Susan Rakoczy, IHM

Marilyn Lacey, RSM, and Susan Rakoczy, IHM, share about spiritual care in vulnerable contexts and the value of compassion in the face of suffering.

Marilyn Lacey, RSM, is executive director of Mercy Beyond Borders, author of This Flowing Toward Me, and was a lifelong friend of SDI founding member Sr. Mary Ann Scofield, RSM. Lacey was personally honored by the Dalai Lama as an "Unsung Hero of Compassion" and holds a master in social work and three honorary doctorates. She lives in Menlo Park, California, USA, and works in South Sudan and Haiti.

Susan Rakoczy, IHM, is professor of Christian spirituality and systematic theology at St. Joseph’s Theological Institute and the School of Religion, Philosophy, and Ethics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. She has led courses in spiritual direction for many years and has a special research focus on spiritual direction and HIV/AIDS. Rakoczy has written widely in the areas of cross-cultural spiritual direction, spirituality and social justice, feminist theology, and eco-feminism, and is writing a book on feminist interpretations of discernment.

7. Help us get to 4,000 Likes!

Did you know that Spiritual Directors International publishes a contemplative practice of the week, quotes, and beautiful images every week on Facebook? We currently are appreciated by 3,938 contemplatives and would love to hit 4,000 by the end of the year.

Head over to Facebook now and like the SDI page! By liking the SDI page, you will see articles, quotes, event announcements, photos, and our contemplative practice of the week in your news feed. Dozens of Facebook friends of SDI share the contemplative practice of the week with their communities as a way of raising awareness of the value of spiritual direction. You, too, can help spread the ministry and service of spiritual direction around the world and across traditions.

8. How Helpful are the Resources Advertised in Presence?

Have you found a book, a product, or service among the Presence advertisers that has been helpful to you in the past year? Please share your experience. Send your comments to

9. SDI Blog Highlights

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

In September, Janice Lynne Lundy discussed the importance of rest, Scott Hicks described a meaningful encounter at the 2014 Emerging Wisdom educational events, and Helen Kwon shared her thoughts on the environment and justice.

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

10. October Poem by Sarah Rehfeldt [Washington, USA]


it is as if the forest lasts forever—

everything that needs to be lifted
gradually descends here,
through the woods hangs silent—

the shape of branch it fell from,

ground accepting,

keeping soft and green
a small resting place beneath
so what used to be survives.

11. October Blessing

May the divine surprise you with love in October. May what you dread most turn out to be another lesson in learning new ways of seeing. May your heart and soul’s attention return to God’s light, and may your shadows learn to dance.

Peace be with you,

Liz Budd Ellmann, MDiv
Executive Director

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