Confession Not Cancellation

July 19th, 2024 by JDVaughn No comments »

Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
—Step 5 of the Twelve Steps 

Richard Rohr names accountability and confession as vital in the healing process: 

Early Christians were encouraged to participate in the healing power of communal confession: “So confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, and this will cure you” (James 5:16). Step 5 of the Twelve Steps says the same thing. Clearly, some notion of peer accountability and personal responsibility for our mistakes and failures is essential to heal or restore actual human relationships.  

When we human beings honestly and humbly “admit” to one another “the exact nature of our wrongs,” we invariably have a human and humanizing encounter that deeply enriches both sides, and even changes lives—often forever! It’s no longer an exercise to achieve moral purity or regain God’s love, but in fact a direct encounter with God’s love. It’s not about punishing one side, but liberating both sides. God resists our evil and conquers it with good, or how could God ask the same of us?! God shocks and stuns us into love. Only love effects true, healthy inner transformation. Duress, guilt, shunning, or social pressure cannot do this.  

Nothing new happens without apology and forgiveness. These are the divine technologies that regenerate every age and every situation. The “unbound” ones are best prepared to unbind the rest of the world. [1]  

Writer and activist adrienne maree brown normalizes making mistakes and working towards accountability instead of “canceling” others:  

We will tell each other we hurt people, and who. We will tell each other why, and who hurt us and how. We will tell each other what we will do to heal ourselves, and heal the wounds in our wake. We will be accountable, rigorous in our accountability, all of us unlearning, all of us crawling towards dignity. We will learn to set and hold boundaries, communicate without manipulation, give and receive consent, ask for help, love our shadows without letting them rule our relationships, and remember we are of earth, of miracle, of a whole, of a massive river—love, life, life, love.  

We all have work to do. Our work is in the light. We have no perfect moral ground to stand on, shaped as we are by this toxic complex time. We may not have time, or emotional capacity, to walk each path together. We are all flailing in the unknown at the moment, terrified, stretched beyond ourselves, ashamed, realizing the future is in our hands. We must all do our work. Be accountable and go heal, simultaneously, continuously. It’s never too late. 

We will not cancel us. If we give up this strategy [of canceling], we will learn together the other strategies that will ultimately help us break these cycles, liberate future generations from the burden of our shared and private pain, leaving nothing unspeakable in our bones, no shame in our dirt.  

Each of us is precious. We, together, must break every cycle that makes us forget this. [2] 

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5 for Friday John Chaffee

1.
“There are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried.”

  • Oscar Romero, Bishop of El Salvador and Martyr
     
    Over the years I have slowly learned how to experience sadness within myself.  Sadness was an emotion I remember feeling when I was younger but there was a good number of years when I did my best to put them away.  I did this not so much because I believed sadness to be wrong, but because on some level I was afraid of how strongly I knew I could feel it.  Little did I understand that such repression magnifies those emotions and causes them to “leak” out in uncontrolled ways.

Then, as I have grown and become hopefully a little more integrated, I came to understand the gift that sadness has to offer.

Learning to experience my own emotions has helped me to notice things in the world that previously I failed to see.  To never be sad, I ended up blocking out topics, themes, news, people, etc that made me sad.  However, learning to experience sadness rather opened my world up and helped me to experience more of it.

So when I came across this quote from Romero, I knew its wisdom on a deep level.  Just had to share it with all of you.

2.
“Human beings are not our enemy. Our enemy is not the other person.
 
Our enemy is the violence, ignorance, and injustice in us and in the other person. When we are armed with compassion and understanding, we fight not against other people, but against the tendency to invade, to dominate, and to exploit.”

  • Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist Monk
     
    Thich Nhat Hanh is someone I have only read a few books from, but there is so much wisdom that I have gleaned from him that sounds as though it is coming from the same source as contemplative Christianity.

In a world that seeks to shame, blame, exclude, and scapegoat, there simply has to be another way.

For me, the Way of Jesus continues to challenge me and invite me to be better.  It tells me that “we battle not against flesh and blood.”  It tells me that we all have the propensity to be “possessed” by the diabolical spirits of violence, ignorance, and injustice.  The deep wisdom of God comes forth to us through whatever it wants (“the wind goes where it wills”), and I believe that for those who do not find Christianity that compelling these days, to learn from Thich Nhat Hanh, who was good friends with Thomas Merton.

3.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’  But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.  And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.  If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.  Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

  • Matthew 5:38-41
     
    This past week I confess that I have been indulging in the news cycle.  A fair amount of my conscious waking time was consumed with thinking about American politics, the need for spiritual maturity and sober thinking, and what (if anything) I have to offer to that situation.

The only thing that came to mind was that I have probably heard the names of Biden and Trump more often than the name of Jesus.  On top of that, I probably have heard from more sources what the presidential candidates had to say than what the Nazarene Carpenter has said.

So, here is a quote from the itinerant rabbi, Jesus.  I feel as though now is a great time for us to dive into the Sermon on the Mount with some renewed fervor.

4.
“Now the body of Christ, as I often have said, is the whole of humanity.”

  • Gregory of Nyssa, Early Church Father
     
    Mystics see things in relational wholes.  It is extremists who see things as disconnected parts.

This may seem like an exaggeration, but I believe this is true, the fate of humanity and the world is wrapped up in our ability to see the whole and how we all belong to, with, and for one another.

5.
“Now let us begin. Now let us re-dedicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world.”

  • Martin Luther King, Jr., Baptist Pastor and Civil Rights Activist
     
    When the world feels so crazy, it is a human impulse to react and retaliate.  However, it is also a human ability to rise above that way of living and respond by recommitting to the virtues we say we uphold.

Hold fast.

Keep to the virtues.

The world may be in a dizzying spin, but I believe it will never truly tire of those who are truly holy.

Light By Which We See

July 18th, 2024 by JDVaughn No comments »

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
—Step 4 of the Twelve Steps  

Father Richard helps us understand that a moral inventory or “shadow work” is a necessary part of the spiritual life: 

I am convinced that some people are driven to addictions to quiet their constant inner critic, but it only gives them another thing to hate about themselves. What a vicious cycle! Moral scrutiny is not to discover how good or bad we are and regain some moral high ground, but to begin some honest “shadowboxing” which is at the heart of all spiritual awakening. Yes, “the truth will set you free” as Jesus says (John 8:32), but first it tends to make us miserable.  

People only come to deeper consciousness by intentional struggles with contradictions, conflicts, inconsistencies, inner confusions, and what the biblical tradition calls “sin” or moral failure. The goal is actually not the perfect avoidance of all sin, which isn’t possible anyway (see 1 John 1:8–9; Romans 5:12), but the struggle itself, and the encounter and wisdom that come from it. Law and failure create the foil, which creates the conflict, which leads to a very different kind of victory than any of us expected. Not perfect moral victory, not moral superiority, but luminosity of awareness and compassion for the world. After thirty years in “perfect” recovery, alcoholics are still imperfect and still alcoholic, and they know it, which makes all the difference. 

So shadowboxing, a “searching and fearless moral inventory,” is for the sake of truth, humility, and generosity of spirit, not vengeance on the self or some kind of complete victory. And while seeing and naming our actual faults allows us to grow and change, it may be experienced as an even greater gift by those around us.  

Our shadow self is not our evil self. It is just that part of us that we do not want to see, our unacceptable self by reason of nature, nurture, and choice. That bit of denial is what allows us to do evil and cruel things—without recognizing them as evil or cruel. Ongoing shadowboxing is absolutely necessary because we all have a well-denied shadow self. We all have that which we cannot see, will not see, dare not see. It would destroy our public and personal self-image.  

Jesus says, “Take the log out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). Step 4 is about dealing with our own log first, so we can stop blaming, accusing, and denying, and thus displacing the problem. It’s about seeing truthfully and fully. Note that Jesus does not just praise good moral behavior or criticize immoral behavior, as we might expect. Instead, he talks about something caught in the eye. He knows that if we see rightly, the actions and behavior will eventually take care of themselves. 

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Sarah Young Jesus Calling

I am nearer than you think, richly present in all your moments. You are connected to Me by Love-bonds that nothing can sever. However, you may sometimes feel alone, because your union with Me is invisible. Ask Me to open your eyes, so that you can find Me everywhere. The more aware you are of My Presence, the safer you feel. This is not some sort of escape from reality; it is turning into ultimate reality. I am far more real than the world you can see, hear, and touch. Faith is the confirmation of things we do not see and the conviction of their reality, perceiving as real fact what is not rewarded to the senses.

RELATED BIBLE VERSES:

Acts 17:27-28 (NLT)

27 “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28 For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

Additional insight regarding Acts 17:27,28: God is in his creation and close to every one of us. But he is not trapped in his creation – he is transcendent. God is the Creator, not the creation. This means that God is sovereign and in control, while at the same time, he is close and personal. Let the Creator of the universe rule your life. 

Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

Great Examples of Faith

11 Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.

Additional insight regarding Hebrews 11:1: Do you remember how you felt when you were very young and your birthday approached? You were excited and anxious. You knew you would certainly receive gifts and other special treats. But some things would be a surprise. Birthdays combine assurance and anticipation, and so does faith! Faith is the confidence based on past experience that God’s new and fresh surprises will surely be ours. 

Surrender and Acceptance

July 17th, 2024 by Dave No comments »

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to God as we understood [God]
Step 3 of the Twelve Steps 

For Father Richard, surrendering our lives to God is the very essence of a spiritual life:  

Surrender will always feel like dying, and yet it’s the necessary path to liberation. It takes each of us a long time to just accept—to accept what is; to accept ourselves, others, the past, our own mistakes, and the imperfection and idiosyncrasies of almost everything. Our lack of acceptance reveals our basic resistance to life. Acceptance isn’t our mode nearly as much as aggression, resistance, fight, or flight. None of these responses achieve the deep, lasting results of true acceptance and peaceful surrender. Acceptance becomes the strangest and strongest kind of power. Surrender isn’t giving up, as we often think; it’s a giving to the moment, the event, the person, and the situation. 

Our inner blockage to turning over our will is only overcome by a decision. It will not usually happen with a feeling, a mere idea, or a verse from religious Scripture. It is the will itself, our stubborn and self-defeating willfulness, that must first be converted and handed over. It doesn’t surrender easily, and usually only when it’s demanded of us by partners, parents, children, health, or circumstances. From the time we were young and according to our ability, we have all taken control and tried to engineer our own lives in every way possible. In fact, our culture doesn’t respect people who do not “take control.” [1]  

Author Nadia Bolz-Weber describes her path to sobriety as less about following her own will than God’s:  

When I stopped drinking, when I stopped going to bars every night and instead went to church basements, it felt like it was not a matter of will. It was against my will, actually, and I was furious about it. I seethed about having had booze taken away from me when it was the one thing I could rely on to even slightly loosen those muscles in my chest that knot up from the fear and pressure of just being human….

Getting sober never felt like I had pulled myself up by my own spiritual bootstraps. It felt instead like I was on one path toward self-destruction and God pulled me off of it by the scruff of my collar, me hopelessly kicking and flailing and [cursing]. God looked at tiny, little red-faced me and said, “that’s adorable,” and then plunked me down on an entirely different path. [2] 

Richard continues: 

Bill W. was wise enough to make surrender a clear Step 3 in the program. Jesus made it step one: “If any want to follow me, let them renounce themselves” (Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23; Matthew 16:24). I’m pretty sure that Jesus meant exactly what Bill W. meant: a radical surrendering of our will to Another, whom we trust more than ourselves. [3] 

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Focus on the Father
Click Here for AudioThe climax of Jesus’ parable occurs when the father finally speaks to his older son. This is the first and only time in the story the father speaks to one of his children directly—and it’s what Jesus’ audience would have been waiting for. “When are we going to find out why this Jewish father acted so strangely,” they must have wondered.The older son had just delivered his angry defense. His argument was that he’d always obeyed his father and served him faithfully and therefore deserved a party far more than his immoral younger brother. The older son believed he’d been cheated.

We read the son’s diatribe as an expression of his anger, but Jesus’ audience would have seen something more shocking. The older son was indicting the father on the charge of being dishonorable—the worst possible accusation in a shame-based culture like ancient Judea.Surprisingly, the father never addresses this accusation. He did not defend himself or give any validation to the charge of being dishonorable. Nor did he affirm his older son’s years of faithful obedience.

By ignoring these culturally important aspects of the story, Jesus was implicitly saying to his audience that their focus, like the older son’s, on honor, obedience, and rewards was misplaced.Instead, Jesus cuts past these lesser cultural values to reveal what is central to the heart of God. “Son,” the father said, “you are always with me.” By focusing on his relationship with the older son the father was saying, Have I not been enough for you? Were you just working to receive a party or to earn your inheritance? Have you found no joy in being with me all of these years? 

What brought the father delight was not the older son’s service, but simply his presence. More important than obedience, or honor, or wealth was having his son near him.Like the older son, we get distracted by a great many things, and we seek our fulfillment in lesser joys.

We want honor and acknowledgment, and sometimes we seek this by sacrificially working for Christ and his kingdom. In our striving, we forget that our Heavenly Father desires us, not our sacrifices. He is focused on his children and longs for us to discover the joy that is found in a life with him not merely a life for him.

DAILY SCRIPTURE

LUKE 15:11-32
ROMANS 8:31-39


WEEKLY PRAYER. By Thomas Dekker (1570 – 1623)

O God, the true and only life, in whom and from whom and by whom are all good things that are good indeed;
from whom to be turned is to fall, to whom to turn is to rise again;
in whom to abide is to dwell for ever, from whom to depart is to die;
to whom to come again is to revive, and in whom to lodge is to live:
take away from me whatever you will, so that you give me only yourself.
Amen.

Trusting Enough to Open Up

July 16th, 2024 by Dave No comments »

Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
—Step 2 of the Twelve Steps 

Father Richard considers how the gift of Step 2 can only be received through a full, embodied acceptance of God’s grace:  

Step 2 is the necessary longing, delaying, and backsliding that invariably precedes the full-blown leap of faith. It’s wise to use an active verb to describe this step: “came to believe.”  The surrender of faith doesn’t happen in one moment; it is an extended journey, a gradual letting go, unlearning, and handing over. No one does it on the first or even second try. Desire and longing must be significantly deepened and broadened.  

To finally surrender ourselves to healing, we need to have three spaces opened within us—and all at the same time: our opinionated head, our closed-down heart, and our defensive and defended body. That is the work of spirituality—and it is work. Yes, it is finally the work of “a Power greater than ourselves,” and it will lead to great luminosity and depth of insight. 

When all three inner spaces are open and listening together, we can always be present. To be present is to know what we need to know in the moment. To be present to something is to allow the moment, the person, the idea, or the situation to change us.  

To keep the mind space open, we need some form of contemplative or meditation practice. One could say that authentic spirituality is invariably a matter of emptying the mind and filling the heart at the same time. 

To keep the heart space open, we almost all need some healing in regard to the hurts we’ve carried from the past. We also need to be in right and honest relationship with people, so that others can love us and touch us at deeper levels, and so we can love and touch them. Nothing else opens the heart space in such a positive and ongoing way. 

To keep our bodies less defended is also the work of healing past hurts and the many memories that seem to store themselves in the body. The body seems to never stop offering its messages. Fortunately, the body never lies, even though the mind will deceive us constantly. It’s very telling that Jesus usually physically touched people when he healed them. He knew where memory and hurt were lodged: in the body itself. 

If we are to come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity, then we will come to that belief by developing the capacity for a simple, clear, and uncluttered presence. Those who can be present with head, heart, and body at the same time will always encounter the Presence, whether they call it God or use another word. For the most part, those skills are learned by letting life come at us on its own terms, without resisting the wonderful, underlying Mystery that is everywhere, all the time, and offered.

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The Shadow Side of Service
Click Here for AudioTrue to his character, when the father discovered that his eldest son was not home he went out to find him. There the father begged the older son to come to the party, but the young man was furious. “Look, all these years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!” (Luke 15:29-30)

.Many people sympathize with the older son. His anger seems justified. Why should the disobedient son get a party while the obedient son gets nothing? But we must look more closely. Notice where the older son roots his significance: “All these years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command.” The older son obeyed, and for his obedience, he expected a reward. In this way, he really is not that different from the younger son. Neither son was particularly interested in a relationship with their father. Instead, both were focused on what they might get from their father.

The younger son simply took what he desired while the older son, being a more patient and self-disciplined person, worked for it. Their methods were night and day, but both sons desired the same thing, and in neither case was it their father. In other words, both sons were self-centered. One just happened to be selfish in a more socially acceptable way.

Jesus told this story at a gathering of very devoted religious people who drew a great deal of significance from their obedience to God; men who would have identified with the older son and his righteous indignation. Was Jesus saying there is something wrong with serving God? Of course not. The problem comes when we find our significance and worth in it.In the parable, Jesus was not diminishing the older son’s service, just as he was not endorsing the younger son’s sin. Instead, he was showing that both sin and service can distract us from what really matters—a relationship with God.

DAILY SCRIPTURE

LUKE 15:11-32
MATTHEW 9:11-13
JOHN 5:39-40


WEEKLY PRAYER. By Thomas Dekker (1570 – 1623)
O God, the true and only life, in whom and from whom and by whom are all good things that are good indeed;
from whom to be turned is to fall, to whom to turn is to rise again;
in whom to abide is to dwell for ever, from whom to depart is to die;
to whom to come again is to revive, and in whom to lodge is to live:
take away from me whatever you will, so that you give me only yourself.
Amen.

A Counterintuitive Wisdom

July 15th, 2024 by Dave No comments »

Father Richard Rohr connects lessons from the Gospels and the Twelve Steps as life-changing and healing messages that we can all benefit from. 

I am convinced that, on a practical level, the gospel message of Jesus and the Twelve Step message of Bill Wilson are largely the same message. The Twelve Step Program parallels, mirrors, and makes practical the same messages that Jesus gave us, but without as much danger of spiritualizing the message and pushing its effects into a future world.  

Here are four assumptions that I am making about addiction: 

We are all addicts. Human beings are addictive by nature. Addiction is a modern name and honest description for what the biblical tradition called “sin” and medieval Christians called “passions” or “attachments.” They both recognized that serious measures or practices were needed to break us out of these illusions and entrapments.  

“Stinking thinking” is the universal addiction. Substance addictions like alcohol and drugs are merely the most visible forms of addiction, but actually we are all addicted to our own habitual ways of doing anything, our own defenses, and most especially, our patterned way of thinking and processing reality. These attachments are at first hidden to us; by definition, we can never see or handle what we are addicted to, but we cannot heal what we do not first acknowledge. 

All societies are addicted to themselves and create deep codependency. There are shared and agreed-upon addictions in every culture and every institution. These are often the hardest to heal because they do not look like addictions. We have all agreed to be compulsive about the same things and unaware of the same problems. The gospel exposes those lies in every culture.  

Some form of alternative consciousness is the only freedom from the addicted self and from cultural lies. If the universal addiction is to our own pattern of thinking, which is invariably dualistic, the primary spiritual path must be some form of contemplative practice or prayer to break down this unhelpful binary system of either-or thinking and superiority thinking. Prayer is a form of non-dual resting in “what is.” Eventually, this contemplative practice changes our whole operating system!  

Let me sum up, then. These are the foundational ways that I believe Jesus and the Twelve Steps of AA are saying the same thing but with different vocabulary:  

We suffer to get well.  
We surrender to win.  
We die to live.  
We give it away to keep it
.  

This counterintuitive wisdom will forever be resisted, denied, and avoided, until it’s forced upon us by some reality over which we are powerless—and, if we’re honest, we are all powerless in the presence of full Reality.  

We are all spiritually powerless, not just those who are physically addicted to a substance. Alcoholics simply have their powerlessness visible for all to see. The rest of us disguise it in different ways, and overcompensate for our more hidden and subtle addictions and attachments. 

The Grace of Powerlessness

I cannot understand my own behavior. I fail to carry out the very things I want to do and find myself doing the very things I hate … for although the will to do what is good is in me, the power to do it is not. —Romans 7:15, 18 

Admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
—Step 1 of the Twelve Steps 

Father Richard affirms the essential and difficult task of admitting our own powerlessness: 

As many teachers of the Twelve Steps have said, the first Step is probably the hardest, most denied, and most avoided. Letting go isn’t in anybody’s program for happiness, and yet all mature spirituality is about letting go and unlearning.  

Jesus used the metaphors of a “grain of wheat” (John 12:24) or a “branch cut off from the vine” (John 15:2) to describe the arrogant ego. Paul used the unfortunate word “flesh,” which made most people think he was talking about the body. Yet both Jesus and Paul were pointing to the isolated and protected small self, and both said it has to go. Its concerns are too small and too selfish. An ego response is always an inadequate or even wrong response to the moment. It will not deepen or broaden life, love, or inner peace. Since it has no inner substance, our ego self is always attached to mere externals. The ego defines itself by its attachments and revulsions. The soul does not attach, nor does it hate; it desires and loves and lets go.  

What the ego hates more than anything else is to change—even when the present situation isn’t working or is horrible. Instead, we do more and more of what does not work. The reason we do anything one more time is because the last time did not really satisfy us deeply. As English poet W. H. Auden wrote, “We would rather be ruined than changed, / We would rather die in our dread / Than climb the cross of the moment / And let our illusions die.” [1]  

Rabbi Rami Shapiro names the paradox of powerlessness and surrender to God: 

The fundamental and paradoxical premise of Twelve Step recovery as I experience it is this: The more clearly you realize your lack of control, the more powerless you discover yourself to be… [and] the more natural it is for you to be surrendered to God. The more surrendered to God you become, the less you struggle against the natural flow of life. The less you struggle against the flow of life, the freer you become. Radical powerlessness is radical freedom, liberating you from the need to control the ocean of life and freeing you to learn how best to navigate it.…  

We are all addicted to control, and it is to this greater addiction that I wish to speak. The deepest truth of Step 1 requires us to admit that we are powerless over our lives, and that life itself is unmanageable.

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God Does Not Play Chicken
Click Here for Audio
The game of chicken is one of nerve, courage, and idiocy. Two racers speed toward each other on a collision course. The first person to turn away, and thereby save both from calamity, loses and is labeled a “chicken.” Some of us played this game as children on our bicycles, and most of us outgrew it—at least the physical version of the game.

Sadly, some adults still engage in games of emotional chicken. Two people set themselves on a relational collision course, each refusing to change direction or give in to the other. The first one to flinch in the standoff relinquishes his power in the relationship. It’s incredibly childish and self-defeating, but some still believe that refusing to surrender or compromise is a mark of resolve and strength. They think their happiness requires the other person’s misery.

This is the game the older son was playing in Jesus’ parable. He refused to enter the house and join the party celebrating the return of his younger brother. Instead, he had a pity party for himself out in the field waiting for his father to notice his absence. By standing his ground, the older son tried to show the father the intensity of his anger. For the son it was a standoff; a battle of wills.

But the father didn’t play his game. He did not test his resolve. Rather, Jesus says, “The father came out to speak with him.” Despite being the elder, and despite being right, the father humbled himself and made the first move toward his arrogant son. This behavior shouldn’t surprise us. After all, the father acted similarly toward his younger son when he ran out to meet and embrace him. For the father, preserving his reputation was not nearly as important as reaching his children.If the gospels tell us anything it’s that our Lord is not afraid to appear weak. He is not preoccupied with what others think, with being taken seriously, or with being perceived as weak. In fact, it is precisely Christ’s strength that allowed him to endure the shame heaped upon him by the world.

Like him, we are not to be stubborn when wronged or expect the other person to change before we engage. Instead, we are called to copy God and make the first move; to find the other person and seek reconciliation. The world says the “chicken” is the person who bends and the strong person is the one who stands his ground. In God’s kingdom, it is precisely the opposite.

DAILY SCRIPTURE

LUKE 15:11-32
MATTHEW 5:23-24
ROMANS 12:16-19


WEEKLY PRAYER
By Thomas Dekker (1570 – 1623)
O God, the true and only life, in whom and from whom and by whom are all good things that are good indeed;
from whom to be turned is to fall, to whom to turn is to rise again;
in whom to abide is to dwell forever, from whom to depart is to die;
to whom to come again is to revive, and in whom to lodge is to live:
take away from me whatever you will, so that you give me only yourself.
Amen.

The Point is to Grow

July 12th, 2024 by JDVaughn No comments »

The point appears to be not just to stay the same your whole life but to grow, to really grow and open, grow in seeing, grow in awareness.
—Paula D’Arcy 

Retreat leader Paula D’Arcy recounts how she was transformed by the deep grief of losing her husband and daughter to a drunk driver:  

My call to this work came slowly because it didn’t come out of the light, it came out of an experience of darkness. During that period of time, I had an overwhelming sense that everything I had ever believed was too small—not necessarily wrong but needing to grow or expand. One of the things I confronted was my idea that the proof of a loving God was when things in your life were favorable. But in the face of my loss and all that had happened, something in me could not deny that God was nevertheless loving and with me. A considerable shift in my awareness was beginning to take place.  

I also had a growing sense that the darkness I felt was not a darkness without hope. The dark was luminous. It wasn’t something I could name at the time, I simply felt it to be from a realm greater than my human experience, and that it wanted to help me if I would turn toward it.   

I guess I would call it a force of love, and when I encountered it, my aliveness was heightened, right in the midst of the grief. All the things I used to worry about and focus on no longer mattered. As I focused on this love, my perspective grew. I understood for the first time that I wasn’t controlling anything. Life was happening on its own, and my eyes began to open to the whole world and all its suffering. I was hardly the first person to lose a husband or a child, but in my former comfortable life, before it happened to me, I hadn’t given this a lot of thought. But now that suffering was a lived experience, I realized there was so much I needed to change about how I understood life. I had to move beyond my old conclusions.  

The way I prayed changed during this time. Prior to my loss, my prayers had been petitions for things I hoped to have or intercessions for others. Now my one prayer was, “Show me. Show me,” or, “Teach me how to see.” A guidance from within began transforming me through that prayer. I felt a sincere desire to help others realize what I had begun to realize—that in the times for which there are no easy answers and when your suffering is great, something from within is able to help you, and wants to help you. It called me forward, and once I gave it my full attention, even though my circumstances were unchanged, I was changing. As my heart continued to open, I saw everything through new eyes.   

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5 For Friday John Chaffee

1.
“The monk is separated from all things, and united with all things.”

  • Evagrios the Solitary, 4th Century Desert Monk
     
    Binary oppositional thinking is something that religious thinking tends to subvert.

For instance, you might expect a spiritual master such as Evagrios to say that a Christ follower is separated from all things OR united from all things.  They are to be unique/set apart/distant from/detached from all things OR they are to be united/one with/in solidarity with/attached to all things.

But to hold the two truths next to each other in a way that is not exclusive?  That is paradoxical and exceeds what logic can allow.

Even still, I have been mulling over this quote.  There seems to be so much packed into this one, single sentence.

2.
“You will know your vocation by the joy it brings you.”

  • Dorothy Day, Founder of Catholic Worker
     
    I don’t know if I am living into my vocation yet, but I admit there are parts of my life that bring me quite a bit of joy and purpose.

Perhaps then the task is to chase after the joy (which is not the same thing as happiness).

3.
“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)… There are just some kind of men who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results..”

  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
     
    To Kill a Mockingbird is something I first read around 8th grade, and this quote leads me to think that it is past time to read it again.

When I hear of Christian folks who do not believe in social justice, or who believe that it is not a high priority for the Christian, I am so very confused.  My reading and understanding of the prophetic tradition of the Old Testament is that the Divine is very much concerned with whether or not our social structures and the organizing of our neighborhoods are conducive to human flourishing.

However, for Harper Lee to contrast the alcoholic and the Bible-thumper in such a way that the Bible-thumper seems to do more passive harm to the world by neglecting it is a bold task.  Rather, it drives the point that one can be “too heavenly minded they are no earthly good.”

In fact…

Here is a link to a Johnny Cash song called “No Earthly Good.”

4.
“No writing on the solitary, meditative dimensions of life can say anything that has not already been said better by the wind in the pine trees…or the silence and peace that is “heard” when the rain wanders freely among the hills and forests.
 
But what can the wind say where there is no hearer?”

  • Thomas Merton, Trappist Monk
     
    Take a walk in the woods.

They have holy mysteries to share with you if you can be silent among them.

5.
“Losing makes you grow.  Who wants to grow with me?”

  • Good News First by Listener
     
    Over the past 15 years I have probably seen Listener play live 5-6 times.  They are a spoken word/slam poetry over music group.  The lead singer, Dan Smith, used to be in a rap group but felt too constrained by rap as a genre.  He is one of the best lyricists if you ask me.

This line comes from early on in the song and it reappears several times throughout.

If I remember correctly, this line happened to me somewhere around 2013 when I felt as though I was losing everything around me and I was myself feeling like a bit of a loser.  Suffice it to say, it reframed “losing” for me.  If losing helps us grow, and growing helps us win, then we can be courageous and hold our chin up as we walk straight into losing/failure knowing that it will help us to grow in the end.

I even love the fact that the line is not, “Who wants to go with me?”  That is a clever pun.  Do you see what I mean that Dan Smith is a great lyricist?

Who else wants to grow with me?.

Right Here, Right Now

July 11th, 2024 by JDVaughn No comments »
I Am Yours and You Are Mine…..

Father Richard describes how contemplation sustains our transformation: 

We can experience the Absolute in a transformative moment that relativizes everything and invites us into the world of love and grace. We can allow our opinions on politics, economics, race, and gender to gradually be changed. But these things are just sort of badges of how enlightened we are unless we find a way to go deep with them. Unless we are led to some kind of contemplative practices that continually reveal our dualistic, argumentative, and biased ways of thinking, we won’t move into a new stage of life. We’ll just have opinions. What we really need is a sustained practice that rewires and transforms our hearts and minds.  

The sustained practice of contemplation involves letting go of all the things that we use to define our so-called separate selves. It helps us access our True Self, the part of us that is always connected to God. Contemplation teaches us how to live in this open place where we watch reality come and go. We learn from it and let it change us. [1] 

Brian McLaren suggests a contemplative practice focused on being “here” with God:  

Here is the simple word by which we show up, respond to the one calling our name. Here is the way we name where we are—pleasant or unpleasant, desired or not—and declare ourselves present to God’s presence…. 

The simple word here … subverts the assumption that we have God named, figured out, and properly “targeted.” Instead, it places us out in the woods, so to speak, calling out so that we can be found by the one seeking us: “Here I am, in the presence of a mystery. Here I am, in the presence of a Presence who transcends, surpasses, overflows, and exceeds every attempt at definition, description, and even conception. Here you are, whoever you are…. May the real I and the real you become present to one another here and now.”  

Whether I feel I’m seeking God, calling out, “Is anybody here?” or whether I feel God is calling out to me and I respond, “Here I am!” I think the simple word here can do something amazingly comprehensive. Through it, I show up. I come out of hiding. I let myself be found…. This acknowledgement of mutual here-ness becomes the prelude to mutual nearness.…  

This kind of awakening begins the transformation of a religious … life into a spiritual life, a life with God—not later and elsewhere, but here and now. How much higher and wider and deeper and richer our lives become when we awaken to the presence of the real, wild, mysterious, living God…. We can respond with presentation [of ourselves], saying “Here I am, Lord. I present myself to you, presenting yourself to me.” We begin to live with a perpetual Here I am, and here you are, in our hearts, inviting constant, vital connection, unbroken communion, lifelong friendship—starting right here, starting right now. [2] 

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Sarah Young Jesus Calling

Stay calmly conscious of Me today, no matter what. Remember that I go before you as well as with you into the day. Nothing takes Me by surprise. I will not allow circumstances to overwhelm you, so long as you look to Me. I will help you cope with whatever the moment presents. Collaborating with Me brings blessings that far outweigh all your troubles. Awareness of My Presence contains Joy that can endure all eventualities.

RELATED SCRIPTURE:

Psalm 23:1-4 (NLT)
A psalm of David.
1 The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
2 He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3     He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.
4 Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.
Additional insight regarding Psalm 23:1: In describing the Lord as a shepherd, David wrote out of his own experience because he had spent his early years caring for sheep (1st Samuel 16:11,11). Sheep are completely dependent on the shepherd for provision, guidance, and protection. The New Testament calls Jesus the good shepherd (John 10:11), the great Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20), and the Great Shepherd (1st Peter 5:4). As the Lord is the good shepherd, so we are his sheep – not frightened, passive animals, but obedient followers, wise enough to follow one who will lead us in the right places and in the right ways. This psalm does not focus on the animal-like qualities of sheep but on the discipleship qualities of those who follow. When you recognize the good shepherd, follow him!

Additional insight regarding Psalm 23:2-3: When we allow God, our shepherd, to guide us, we have contentment. When we choose to sin and go on our own way, however, we cannot blame God for the environment we create for ourselves. Our shepherd knows the “green meadows” and “peaceful streams” that will restore us. We will reach these places only by following him obediently. Rebelling against the shepherd’s leading is actually rebelling against our own best interests. We must remember this the next time we are tempted to go our own way rather than the shepherd’s way.

2nd Corinthians 4:16-17 (NLT)
16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!

Additional insight regarding 2nd Corinthians 4:16: It is easy to lose heart and quit. We all have faced problems in our relationships or in our work that has caused us to think about giving up. Rather than quitting when persecution wore him down, Paul concentrated on the inner strength that came from the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:16). Don’t let fatigue, pain, or criticism force you off the job. Renew your commitment to serving Christ. Don’t forsake your eternal reward because of the intensity of today’s pain. Your very weakness allows the resurrection power of Christ to strengthen you moment by moment.

Growing Up, Waking Up, and Cleaning Up

July 9th, 2024 by Dave No comments »

Drawing on the work of American thinker Ken Wilber, Father Richard describes three stages of transformation: Growing Up, Waking Up, and Cleaning Up. 

Growing Up refers to the process of psychological and emotional maturity that persons commonly undergo, both personally and culturally. We all grow up, even though inside our own bubbles. The social structures that surround us highly color, strengthen, and also limit how much we can grow up and how much of our own shadow self we will be able to face and integrate. But any full growing up has to be a growing outward and not just upward; in other words, we can be aware without being caring—which is not to be very aware!  

By Waking Up we are speaking of any spiritual experience which overcomes our experience of the self as separate from Being in general. This is variously referred to as enlightenment, awakening, or unitive consciousness, and it should be the full Christian meaning of salvation. Unfortunately, we pushed all waking up into something that would hopefully happen later, in heaven or after death, or as a reward for good behavior in this world. This was a major loss and defeat for Christianity and a disastrous misplacement of attention. We became a religion of religious transactions more than spiritual transformation.  

Waking up should be the goal of all spiritual work, sacraments, and Bible study, but, at least in the West, this has not been the case. Because we were not practice-based for the most part, and had a bias against inner experience, it seemed very presumptuous to actually believe—or believe possible—the conclusion of every significant mystic: Jesus’ “I and the Father are one” (see John 10:30), Augustine’s “God is closer to me than I am to myself,” [1] or Catherine of Genoa’s “My deepest me is God.” [2] Organized Christianity largely described waking up in terms of growing up, and that growing up was almost entirely interpreted in highly moralistic terms—and even that morality was largely culturally defined!  

We ministers talked, wrote, and preached about Cleaning Up the most, but actually did this very poorly. We happily reminded people of their moral failings with regular shaming and reminders of their sins, particularly the “hot” ones. This led to religion being identified almost exclusively with morality, rather than any deep transformation of consciousness. Hear me, please. We do indeed need to clean up, but this largely involves putting boundaries to our natural egocentricity, which does have the potential to wake us up to the illusion of our separateness over time. The goal in waking up is not personal or private perfection, but surrender, love, and union with God. Any preoccupation with my private moral perfection keeps my eyes on myself and not on God or grace or love. Cleaning up is largely about the need for early impulse control and creating necessary ego boundaries so we can actually show up in the real and much bigger world.  

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Saved From vs. Saved For
When the younger son finally returned and was embraced by his father, it meant he’d successfully escaped poverty, starvation, and death in a distant country. This perspective, however, only looks back at what the son was saved from, it does not look ahead to what he was saved for.There is a detail in Jesus’ parable we must not overlook. The son begins apologizing to his father for his rebellion, but the father never responds or even acknowledges his remarks.

Instead, the father said to his servants, “Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.” These adornments—particularly the ring—are symbols of the son’s identity and status. The son only hoped to become a servant in the father’s house, but instead, he was given back his full dignity as an heir with all of the authority the role includes. He will again rule with his father over the estate.

Within too many Christian communities we fixate on what we are saved from— sin, death, and damnation—but we lack any vision of what we have been saved for. In the beginning, God created humanity to rule over creation on his behalf; we are to be God’s image-bearers on the earth who labor with him to bring all things into full, glorious flourishing.

Like the younger son, however, our calling was interrupted when we rebelled against our heavenly Father.Through Christ, our full status and dignity as God’s children are restored. We aren’t merely saved from death and sin, we are also saved to reign with God and join him in the restoration of his creation.

Many of us, like the younger son, come to our heavenly Father seeking to be rescued from the past and pulled out of the pit of sin we have fallen into. He certainly does that, but we then fail to celebrate the exalted status to which we have been lifted which is far above that of a servant, slave, or even restored sinner. He has made us a daughter or son with the full privileges, rights, and authority to rule alongside our heavenly Father.

DAILY SCRIPTURE

LUKE 15:11-24
GALATIANS 4:1-7
2 TIMOTHY 2:11-13


WEEKLY PRAYERFrom John of Damascus (676 – 749)Master and Lord, Jesus Christ our God, you alone have authority to forgive my sins, whether committed knowingly or in ignorance, and make me worthy to receive without condemnation your divine, glorious, pure and life-giving mysteries, not for my punishment, but for my purification and sanctification, now and in your future kingdom.
For you, Christ our God, are compassionate and love humanity, and to you we give glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit now and forever and ever.
Amen.

Evolving Faithfully

July 8th, 2024 by Dave No comments »

Jesus said, “I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already blazing.” —Luke 12:49 

Richard Rohr’s faith is strengthened by acknowledging that everything changes: 

The inner process of change and growth is fundamental to everything, even our bodies. Having undergone several surgeries, cancer, and a heart attack, I’ve been consoled by the way my body takes care of itself over time. In religion, however, many people prefer magical, external, one-time transactions instead of this universal pattern of growth and healing—which always includes loss and renewal. This is the way that life perpetuates itself in ever-new forms: through various changes that can feel like death. This pattern disappoints and scares most of us, even many clergy who think death and resurrection is just a doctrinal statement about Jesus.  

Religions tend to idealize and protect the status quo or the supposedly wonderful past, yet what we now recognize is how they often focus on protecting their own power and privilege. God does not need our protecting. We often worship old things as substitutes for eternal things. Jesus strongly rejects this love of the past and one’s private perfection, and he cleverly quotes Isaiah (29:13) to do it: “In vain do they worship me, teaching merely human precepts as if they were doctrines” (Matthew 15:9). Some Christians seem to think that God really is “back there,” in the good ol’ days of old-time religion when God was really God, and everybody was happy and pure. As if that time ever existed! This leaves the present moment empty and hopeless—not to speak of the future.  

God keeps creating things from the inside out, so they are forever yearning, developing, growing, and changing for the good. This is the fire God has cast upon the Earth, the generative force implanted in all living things, which grow both from within—because they are programmed for it—and from without—by taking in sun, food, and water. Picture YHWH breathing into the soil that became Adam (Genesis 2:7). That is the eternal pattern. God is still breathing into soil every moment! [1]  

There is not a single discipline studied today that does not recognize change, development, growth, and some kind of evolving phenomenon: psychology, cultural anthropology, history, physical sciences, philosophy, social studies, art, drama, music, on and on. But in theology’s search for the Real Absolute, it made one fatal mistake. It imagined a static “unmoved mover,” as Aristotelian philosophy called it, a solid substance sitting above somewhere.  

To fight transformative and evolutionary thinking is, for me, to fight the very core concept of faith. I have no certain knowledge of where this life might be fully or finally heading, but I can see what has already been revealed with great clarity—that life and knowledge always build on themselves, are cumulative, and are always moving outward toward ever-greater connection and discovery. There is no stopping this and no returning to a static notion of reality. [2]   

Authentic Experience and Transformation 

Father Richard names transformation as the fruit of an authentic spiritual path:  

For much of my life, I’ve been trying to facilitate transformation—conversion, change of consciousness, change of mind. The transformed mind lets us see how we process reality. It allows us to step back from our own personal processor so we can be more honest about what is really happening. Transformation isn’t merely a change of morals, group affiliation, or belief system—although it might lead to that—but a change at the very heart of the way we receive and pass on each moment. Do we use the moment to strengthen our own ego position, or do we use the moment to enter into a much broader seeing and connecting?  

Authentic God experience always leads toward service, toward the depths, the margins, toward people suffering or considered outsiders. Little by little we allow our politics, economics, classism, sexism, racism, homophobia, and all superiority games to lose their former rationale. Our motivation foundationally changes from security, status, and control to generosity, humility, and cooperation. [1] 

Activist Jonathon Wilson-Hartgrove tells how his transformed Christian faith led him to work for racial justice:  

Twenty years ago, Jesus interrupted my racial blindness….   

I was both born into an economy built on race-based slavery and baptized in a church that broke fellowship with sisters and brothers who said God was opposed to slavery. White supremacy isn’t something I chose, but I have to own it. It is my inheritance. In this, I am not alone.…  

By God’s grace, I was invited into a [Black] church that offers a real alternative to the patterns and practices of this death-dealing system. My life in that beloved community has ushered me into a moral movement that not only offers the possibility of a better politic but also connects me to beloved community beyond my own faith tradition—a confluence of streams that make up that great river Revelation [22:1–2] images as the chief corridor in the polis[city] that is to come, right here on earth as it is in heaven…. 

The only gospel that can be good news to me is the one that has the power to touch me down on the inside and heal the hidden wound that rends my soul. Reconstructing the gospel can never only be about the individual. This is why so many noble efforts at reconciliation fail. They pretend that broken people with the best of motives can simply opt out of hundreds of years of history through individual choices and relationships. Such relationships are necessarily dishonest, both because they ignore the real material conditions that weigh on people’s lives and because they offer a false sense of relief from white guilt, which keeps people like me from facing the hidden wound of our whiteness.…  

For white people who have learned to think of themselves as naturally in control, the rare experience of vulnerability introduces the possibility of the essential soul work that might lead to conversion. [2] 

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A Long Way Off
The most shocking part of Jesus’ parable, at least for his original audience, was undoubtedly the father’s reaction when he saw his son. “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” Given the magnitude of the son’s disrespect and disregard for his father, most would have expected a very different response. In fact, it would have been acceptable and even required, for the son to be stoned to death for dishonoring his father.

This is when we must recall why Jesus told the story to begin with. Jesus used this parable to explain why he welcomed and embraced sinners. The story is meant to reveal the heart of God, therefore the father in the parable does not act as one would expect a first-century Jewish patriarch to behave. Instead, Jesus used the father in the story to illustrate the character of our heavenly Father.To understand the link between the father in the story and God we must remember two things.

First, the father in the story allowed his rebellious younger son to have his inheritance, leave his home, and squander it on sinful self-indulgence. No respectable man in Jesus’ audience would have permitted that, but God is not bound by our cultural expectations. He gives us the freedom to choose our path—even if it leads to self-destruction. Likewise, Jesus invited many to follow him, but he also allowed many to walk away.

Second, no respectable Jewish man would publicly embarrass himself by running to embrace a rebellious child. The father’s love in Jesus’ story, however, far outweighed his anger or even his honor. This is what so many of us, like Jesus’ original audience, fail to recognize about God. We think he is driven by anger, or holiness, or the need to magnify his own reputation. While there is some truth in each of these, Jesus wants us to see that overwhelming and filling all of these aspects of God’s character is his love.

While you were still a long way off, it was not God’s anger that led him to embrace you. While you were still a long way off, it was not Jesus’ desire for honor that led him to accept a humiliating death for your sins. Above all else, it was his love. And if you are still a long way off, remember that it is God’s love, not his anger, that you will receive when you return.

DAILY SCRIPTURE

LUKE 15:11-24
EPHESIANS 2:17-21
ROMANS 5:10-11


WEEKLY PRAYER From John of Damascus (676 – 749)

Master and Lord, Jesus Christ our God, you alone have authority to forgive my sins, whether committed knowingly or in ignorance, and make me worthy to receive without condemnation your divine, glorious, pure and life-giving mysteries, not for my punishment, but for my purification and sanctification, now and in your future kingdom.
For you, Christ our God, are compassionate and love humanity, and to you we give glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit now and forever and ever.
Amen.

Balancing Heart and Action

July 5th, 2024 by JDVaughn No comments »

Father Richard describes how practicing contemplation moves us beyond dualistic thinking:  

I used to think most of us begin with contemplation and a unitive encounter with God and are then led through that experience to awareness of and solidarity with the suffering in the world by some form of action. I do think that’s true for many people, yet as I read the biblical prophets and observe Jesus’ life, I think the reverse also happens: first action, and then needed contemplation.  

No life is immune from suffering. When we’re in solidarity with people facing pain, injustice, war, oppression, colonization—the list goes on and on—we face immense pressure to despair, to become angry or dismissive. When reality is split dualistically between good and bad, right and wrong, we too are torn apart. Yet when we’re broken, we are most open to contemplation, or nondual thinking. We’re desperate to resolve our own terror, anger, and disillusionment, and so we allow ourselves to be led into the silence that holds everything together in wholeness.  

The contemplative, nondual mind is not saying, “Everything is beautiful,” even when it’s not. However, we may come to “Everything is still beautiful” by contemplatively facing the conflict between how reality is and how we wish it could be. We must face dualistic problems, name good and evil, and differentiate between right and wrong. We can’t be naive about evil, but if we stay focused on this duality, we’ll become unlovable, judgmental, dismissive people. I’ve witnessed this pattern in myself. We must eventually find a bigger field, a wider frame, which we call nondual thinking.  

Jesus doesn’t hesitate to name good and evil and to show evil as a serious matter. Jesus often speaks in dualistic images; for example, “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). He draws a stark line between the sheep and the goats, the good and the wicked (Matthew 25:31–46). Yet Jesus overcomes these dualisms by what we would call the contemplative mind. We must be honest about what the goats fail to do, but we can’t become hateful, nor do we need to punish them. We keep going deeper until we can also love them, as Jesus did. 

Beginning with necessary, dualistic action and moving toward contemplation seems to be the more common path these days. We see this pattern in Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr., and many others. Such people enter into the pain of society and have to go to God to find rest for their soul, because their souls are so torn by the broken, split nature of almost everything, including themselves.  

The most important word in our Center’s name is not Action, nor is it Contemplation, but the word and. We need both action and contemplation to have a whole spiritual journey. It doesn’t matter which comes first; action may lead us to contemplation and contemplation may lead us to action. But finally, they need and feed each other.  

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Five for Friday Skye Jatheni

1.”I often wonder if religion is the enemy of God. It’s almost like religion is what happens when the Spirit has left the building.”- Bono, Lead Singer of U2I have shared this quote before, but Bono touches on a perennial topic here. Of course, everything depends on how you understand religion. Religion is a bit like a cup that carries coffee to me.  The cup needs the coffee and the coffee needs the cup. A cup without coffee is pointless and deserves to be moved on from, yet some people cling to it because it once had a good experience of coffee in it. Coffee without a cup is a mess, it spills everywhere and burns us, and it becomes a desperate experience to hold the coffee in our own hands. All said, I agree with Bono.  I just would take the metaphor in a different direction.  Religion needs Spirit or else it is like an empty coffee cup, and Spirit needs Religion because it paradoxically needs a finite little cup for us to experience it.

2.”There is no part of the world, no matter how lost, no matter how godless, that has not been accepted by God in Jesus Christ and reconciled to God.”- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Lutheran PastorBonhoeffer was the first pastor and theologian I ever heard who gave a full treatment to the New Testament idea of the “reconciliation of all things.” It is a topic that I believe is avoided and not fully taught in Western Christianity because it completely challenges the entire framework.  Western Christianity seems to be beholden to the idea that some things or people are saved and others are damned, some are reconciled because of what they have done or prayed while others are choosing their own perdition. In full honesty, when I did church work, I was reprimanded and told not talk about it or teach it. Anyways, here is what Paul says in Colossians 1:15-20…
“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

I swear, it feels as though the reconciliation of all things in Christ is a taboo secret that should never have become such a taboo secret.

3.“The Christian of the future will be a mystic or they will not exist at all.”- Karl Rahner, German Jesuit TheologianNot an Evangelical, not a Pastor, not a Theologian, not a Catholic, not a Baptist, not an Eastern Orthodox, not a Methodist, not a Lutheran, not an Activist, not a Politician, not a Biblical Scholar, not anything like those things. If the Christian of the future is not encouraged to experience or taught how to experience God in all things and all things in God, if they are not romanced by the mystery of the Presence in everything, then they will not exist at all. Rahner writes about this topic in The Mystical Way in Everyday Life.

4.”When the intellect attains prayer that is pure and free from passion, the demons attack no longer with sinister thoughts but with thoughts of what is good.  For they suggest to it an illusion of God’s glory in a form pleasing to the senses, so as to make it think that it has realized the final aim of prayer.”- Evagrios the Solitary, Desert Hermit from the 4th CenturyThis one stopped me in my tracks this week. The idea that the demons would stop attacking a person with evil thoughts, and begin attacking them with seemingly good ones is so insightful. A few weeks ago I remember reading about some other mega-church pastor who was found to have sexually abused a minor decades earlier.  During his tenure, he was known to often say, “God told me he wanted me to be famous to make Him famous.”  If that doesn’t scream narcissism within a “pastor” then I don’t know what else does. What I enjoy about the early Church desert monasticism is that it was something like the opposite of celebrity culture today, which has unfortunately also infected the church world.  The early Church seemed to be aware of the temptations of riches, reputation, adoration, etc. and warned people deeply against wanting those things. The further I dive into the desert monastics, the more I think that their wisdom is desperately needed today for the sake of our generation’s spiritual formation. I guess, if I think about it, this whole 5 on Friday newsletter began as a result of my thinking that the ancient, deep, and wide wisdom of the Christian tradition was being overlooked.  In a way, this weekly newsletter is very much about sharing the underappreciated wisdom of the Christian tradition.

5.”Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.”- Paulo Friere in Pedagogy of the OppressedI believe Moses and Jesus would agree.