September 26th, 2023 by Dave No comments »

Liminal Space 

Father Richard describes how both life and religion can invite us into liminal, sacred space as well as provide us opportunities to escape or ignore it:

We keep praying that our illusions will fall away. God erodes them from many sides, hoping they will fall. But we often remain trapped in what we call normalcy—“the way things are.” Life then revolves around problem-solving, fixing, explaining, and taking sides with winners and losers. It can be a pretty circular and even nonsensical existence.

To get out of this repetitive cycle, we have to allow ourselves to be drawn into sacred space, into liminality. All transformation takes place here. There alone is our old world left behind, though we’re not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin. We must get there often and stay as long as we can by whatever means possible. It’s the realm where God can best get at us because our false certitudes are finally out of the way. This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed. If we don’t encounter liminal space in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy. The threshold is God’s waiting room. Here we are taught openness and patience as we come to expect an appointment with the Divine Doctor. 

I believe that religion’s unique and necessary function is to lead us into liminal space. Instead, religion has largely become a confirmation of the status quo and business as usual. Religion should lead us into sacred space where deconstruction of the old “normal” can occur. Much of my criticism of religion comes about when I see it not only affirming the system of normalcy but teaching folks how to live there comfortably. [1] 

Culturally, we don’t want to embrace liminal space or recognize our natural egocentricity. In fact, we avoid trying to experience it at all. We shut away people who are ill and dying in hospitals and nursing homes, rather than allowing them to spend their final days at home, surrounded by loved ones who will learn and grow by dwelling together in the liminal space between life and death. We avoid other times of liminality in our lives through denial, escaping with the help of alcohol, sugar, and drugs to avoid truly experiencing the opportunities of liminal space. Yet the irony is that liminal space doesn’t have to be difficult. While it can be challenging, it can also be extremely rewarding. I discover there is another Center, and it’s not me! 

Liminal space relativizes our perspective. When we embrace liminality, we choose hope over sleepwalking, denial, or despair. The world around us becomes again an enchanted universe, something we intuitively understood when we were young and somehow lost touch with as we grew older. [2]

September 25th, 2023 by Dave No comments »

Sacred Space

In a 1994 retreat on the Hebrew prophets for CAC interns, Richard Rohr stressed that the prophets’ love for God and passion for justice came from a transforming experience of “sacred space”:

Comparative religion scholar Mircea Eliade (1907–1986) describes sacred space and profane space. He identifies sacred space with an inbreaking of divine reality, and thinks that modern people have uneasy and weak connections to sacred space. [1] Since the Enlightenment, we live almost entirely in profane space. If we picture a circle as sacred space, inside the circle, there is one reference point, and everything bounces off of that center point.
Most of us have been inside sacred space before. It’s whenever something jolts us into the absolute now. It could be when we’re frightened to death, or it could be like the moment we received the call that our mother or father had just died. That’s sacred space. Sometimes it lasts for days or weeks, and it’s where everything is experienced in terms of that one reference point. We can’t think of anything else. After I heard my mother died, I went down to the local store, and I really wanted to shout narcissistically to everybody, “Why are you just going ahead with your business, don’t you know my mother died?!” We’re that caught up in this differently shaped universe. I really couldn’t believe why anybody else would be buying and selling things, because don’t they know the world has been rearranged? Maybe we’ve only experienced it for a second, but this sacred space is anything that pulls us to experience the Total Now.
The secret of the Hebrew prophets is they had a transforming experience of sacred space. The calls of Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel each are a clear description of a transformative moment of sacred space. Their world is reconfigured, life is reconfigured, and afterwards they have to go back to what looks ordinary but now has become entirely extraordinary for them. They see reality with a different set of eyes. I think the reason that we need a place like the CAC or a school for prophets is because we’ve got to find a way to honor and send people on this serious search for God. That is primary, and it’s from this that we develop critical consciousness.
I don’t think this will ever be a grand agenda for a large amount of people, but I do think the prophetic gift can be educated, and I do believe the prophetic gift can be called forth. Once we start speaking about the prophets and naming the prophetic gift, a lot more people might recognize, “I might just have that gift now and then.” We don’t need to name ourselves as prophets, or for anyone else to call us prophets, but we can operate prophetically now and then. We can be radically committed to the big picture, the great tradition, while being free to critique it.

A Sense of Presence

Minister and author Howard Thurman (1899–1981) stressed the importance of coming face to face with God: 

The central fact in religious experience is the awareness of meeting God. The descriptive words are varied: sometimes it is called an encounter; sometimes, a confrontation; and sometimes, a sense of Presence. What is insisted upon, however, … [is that] the individual is seen as being exposed to direct knowledge of ultimate meaning … in which all that the individual is, becomes clear as immediate and often distinct revelation. He is face to face with something which is so much more, and so much more inclusive, than all of his awareness of himself that for him, in the moment, there are no questions. Without asking, somehow he knows.

The mind apprehends the whole—the experience is beyond or inclusive of the discursive…. The individual in the experience seems to come into possession of what he has known as being true all along. The thing that is new is the realization. And this is of profound importance. [1]

Spending time with Quakers provided Thurman with sacred space to experience his oneness with God and other people. It proved to be a doorway to both action and contemplation. Author Lerita Coleman Brown writes:  

For more than four hundred years, a vibrant Quaker commitment to the mystical practice of silence has persisted…. Staunch promoters of the “still small voice,” Quakers believe that everyone carries the divine light of God within them and that we are all equal regardless of title or socioeconomic status. They believe that God speaks ceaselessly to us and that quietness and stillness are prerequisites for hearing the soft, gentle, wordless communication of God. Yet for Quakers, being contemplative is not enough; they assume that actions emerging from the silence should facilitate the end of social injustices and the creation of a more benevolent world. As advocates of peace and equality, many Quakers participated in the Underground Railroad, assisting thousands in escaping slavery.

As part of his study of mysticism, Howard Thurman attended Quaker meetings and sat in the silence that characterizes unscripted forms of Quaker worship. In a 1951 sermon on the strength of silence in corporate worship … Thurman speaks of his personal experience of group silence during a traditional Quaker meeting:

Nobody said a word … just silence. Silence. Silence. And in that silence I felt as though all of them were on one side and I was on the other side, by myself, with my noise. And every time I would try to get across the barrier, nothing happened. I was just Howard Thurman. And then … I don’t know when it happened, how it happened, I wish I could tell you, but somewhere in that hour I passed over the invisible line, and I became one with all the seekers. I wasn’t Howard Thurman anymore; I was, I was a human spirit involved in a creative moment with human spirits, in the presence of God. [2]

With Compassion We Change Sides

September 22nd, 2023 by JDVaughn No comments »

A compassionate presence is one of the fruits of contemplation. Richard Rohr writes about the great compassion St. Francis of Assisi (1182–1226) had for others, which is inspired by the great compassion of Jesus. 

The most obvious change that results from the holding and allowing that we learn in the practice of contemplative prayer is that we will naturally become much more compassionate and patient toward just about everything. Compassion and patience are the absolutely unique characteristics of true spiritual authority, and without any doubt are the way both St. Francis and St. Clare led their communities. They led, not from above, and not even from below, but mostly from within, by walking with their brothers and sisters, or “smelling like the sheep,” as Pope Francis puts it. Only people at home in such a spacious place can take on the social illnesses of their time, and not be destroyed by cynicism or bitterness. 

Spiritual leaders who lack basic human compassion have almost no power to change other people, because people intuitively know they do not represent the Whole and Holy One. Such leaders need to rely upon roles, laws, costume, and enforcement powers to effect any change in others. Such change does not go deep, nor does it last. In fact, it is not really change at all. It is mere conformity. [1] 

We see this movement toward a shared compassion in all true saints. For example, St. Francis was able to rightly distinguish between institutional evil and the individual who is victimized by it. He still felt compassion for the individual soldiers fighting in the crusades, although he objected to the war itself. He realized the folly and yet the sincerity of their patriotism, which led them, however, to be un-patriotic to the much larger kingdom of God, where he placed his first and final loyalty. What Jesus calls “the Reign of God” we could call the Great Compassion. [2] 

Catholic author Judy Cannato (1949–2011), who worked to integrate the gospels with the new cosmology, believed this Great Compassion was Jesus’ primary objective. She writes: 

The realm of God that Jesus preached and died for was one that was known for its kindness and generosity, its compassion and healing. There was no one deemed outside the love of the Holy One whom Jesus called “Father.” No one was excluded from fellowship, not the rich or poor, male or female, slave or free. Jesus went beyond superficial divisions and called for a culture of compassion.  Compassion changes everything. Compassion heals. Compassion mends the broken and restores what has been lost. Compassion draws together those who have been estranged or never even dreamed they were connected. Compassion pulls us out of ourselves and into the heart of another, placing us on holy ground where we instinctively take off our shoes and walk in reverence. Compassion springs out of vulnerability and triumphs in unity.


Sarah Young

Be still in the Light of My Presence, while I communicate Love to you. There is no force in the universe as powerful as My Love. You are constantly aware of limitations: your own and others’. But there is no limit to My Love; it fills all of space, time, and eternity.

    Now you see through a glass, darkly, but someday you will see Me face to Face. Then you will be able to experience fully how wide and long and high and deep is My Love for you. If you were to experience that now, you would be overwhelmed to the point of feeling crushed. But you have an eternity ahead of you, absolutely guaranteed, during when you can enjoy My Presence in unrestricted ecstasy. For now, the knowledge of My loving Presence is sufficient to carry you through each day.


1st Corinthians 13:12 NLT

12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

Ephesians 3:16-19

16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Compassion Through Connection

September 21st, 2023 by JDVaughn No comments »

For Franciscan scholar Ilia Delio, compassion stems from knowing that we belong to one another:  

I think our greatest fear is our deepest desire: to love and to be loved. We long to be for another and to give ourselves nobly to another, but we fear the cost of love. Deep within we yearn for wholeness in love, but to become more whole in love we must accept our weaknesses and transcend our limits of separation in order to unite in love. We long for oneness of heart, mind and soul, but we fear the demands of unity. Sometimes I think we choose to be alone because it is safe. To be comfortable in our isolation is our greatest poverty.   

Compassion transcends isolation because the choice to be for another is the rejection of being alone. The compassionate person recognizes the other as part of oneself in a way that is mystical and ineffable. It is not a rational caring for another but a deep identification with the other as brother and sister. [1] 

Delio stresses that compassion nourishes our interconnectedness with each other and the earth: 

We must seek to unite—in all aspects of our lives—with one another and with the creatures of the earth. Such union calls us out of isolated existences into community. We must slow down, discover our essential relatedness, be patient and compassionate toward all living creatures, and realize that it is a shared planet with finite resources. We are called to see and love in solidarity with all creation. Only in this way can the earth enjoy justice and peace which means right, loving relations with the natural world of God’s good creation.   

Compassion requires a depth of soul, a connectedness of soul to earth, an earthiness of person to person, and a flow of love from heart to heart. [2]  

Recognizing our relatedness creates space within us that we wouldn’t otherwise find, and opens a deeper capacity to love: 

Compassion is realized when we know ourselves related to one another, a deep relatedness of our humanity despite our limitations. It goes beyond the differences that separate us and enters the shared space of created being. To enter this space is to have space within ourselves, to welcome into our lives the stranger, the outcast, and the poor. Love is stronger than death and the heart that no longer fears death is truly free. Compassion flourishes when we have nothing to protect and everything to share. It is the gravity of all living beings that binds together all that is weak and limited into a single ocean of love.   

We have the capacity to heal this earth of its divisions, its wars, its violence, and its hatreds. This capacity is the love within us to suffer with another and to love the other without reward. Love that transcends the ego is love that heals. When we lose ourselves for the sake of love, we shall find ourselves capable of real love. [3]   


Sarah Young

Receive My Peace. It is My continual gift to you. The best way to receive this gift is to sit quietly in My Presence, trusting Me in every area of your life. Quietness and trust accomplish far more than you can imagine not only in you, but also on earth and in heaven. When you trust Me in a given area, you release that problem or person into My care.
     Spending time alone with Me can be a difficult discipline, because it goes against the activity addiction of this age. You may appear to be doing nothing, but actually, you are participating in battles going on within spiritual realms. You are waging war – not with the weapons of this world, but with heavenly weapons, which have divine power to demolish strongholds. Living close to Me is a sure defense against evil.


John 14:27 (NLT)
27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

September 20th, 2023 by Dave No comments »

Sacred Self-Compassion

For psychologist and theologian Chanequa Walker-Barnes, offering ourselves self-compassion is connected to our ability to love others:  

There can be no self-care without self-compassion, which is compassion turned inward. It is the ability to connect to our feelings, to respond to our suffering with kindness, and to desire that our suffering be ameliorated. Self-compassion prompts us to treat ourselves in ways that alleviate, rather than cause or amplify, our pain and suffering. While many Christians understand compassion, mercy, and kindness to be essential in our interactions with others, we don’t always see these as core values for our relationship with ourselves. We neglect our self-care, directly and indirectly contributing to our pain and suffering. We judge ourselves for our own suffering, listening to the voice of our inner critic as it rehearses our shortcomings, our errors, and our deficiencies. As James teaches us, it doesn’t have to be this way (James 3:10).  

Implicit in Jesus’s commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves is the assumption that we are supposed to love ourselves. We are supposed to be kind and gentle, caring and nurturing, empowering and forgiving of ourselves. If we are unable to do this, ultimately we may be unable to do it for our neighbors. And if we cannot love our neighbors, whom we can see, we cannot love God, whom we cannot see (1 John 4:20). Self-compassion, then, is not indulgence; it is a necessity for true discipleship. [1]  

CAC friend and Love Period podcast host Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis emphasizes the importance of loving the particularities of ourselves:  

By self-love I mean a healthy delight in your true, imperfect, uniquely wonderful, particular self. I mean an unconditional appreciation for who you are, head to toe, inside and out: quirks, foibles, beauty, and blemishes—all of it. I mean seeing yourself truthfully and loving what you see.  

Honestly, the stories playing out in the world can make it difficult to love yourself, and therefore your neighbor. Messages from the culture that you don’t matter, not just because of your race, but because of your gender, sexuality, economic status, or religion, can thwart self-love. Though her skin gives her some privilege, a white child might grow up in a context of poverty or domestic violence that can cripple her self-love. A child traveling across deserts and rivers to emigrate with his parents might lose some of his self-love in the wilderness. Even if you’re born into circumstances that others consider ideal, messages in the culture can signal that you’re not good enough, light enough, thin enough, smart enough, feminine or masculine enough to measure up to some ideal. The space between those ideals and your realities can make it difficult to embrace your particularities and love them. Learning to love your particularities is not just an individual project; you need your communities—your posse—to see those pieces of you, to accept them, and to love all the parts of you, fiercely. [2]  

September 19th, 2023 by Dave No comments »

God’s Compassion and the Prophets

Sister of St. Joseph Catherine Nerney writes of God’s maternal love and compassion for the world:  

In Exodus 34:6, God proclaims that God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. These attributes of God need pondering.  

According to God’s own self-revelation, “God’s very being is determined by rechem, which is mercy, lovingkindness, compassion.” [1] Translations of the Hebrew most carefully connect rechem with the feminine for womb. God’s way of being poured out in the world is womb-love.… 

A womb provides a safe, holding place for life to grow. Let this space, which God provides for all, become in you a sacred spot, an expansive opening in your own heart, where God and you can indwell—you in God and God in you. As a child lives within her mother, and the mother gives over her very life blood for her child, so the God of life, Compassion itself, gives life to our world

The Hebrew prophets remind us of God’s boundless compassion: 

Some of the most poignant images of God’s untiring love and faithfulness are captured in the words of the prophets. In Hosea 11, the prophet has God speak to God’s unfaithful people, who insist on turning away. “How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel?… My heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender” [Hosea 11:8]. Instead of the people being cast aside for their evil ways, the subversion takes place in God’s own heart. God’s compassion flares up, and God decides not to execute [God’s] burning wrath. Mercy is victorious over justice in God. Mercy doesn’t trump justice; it transcends it. Mercy is the profound mystery of who God is. “For I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst and I will not come in wrath” (Hosea 11:9). The fundamental characteristic of God, elevating the divine above all humans, is God’s boundless mercy, God’s womb-like love. With gratitude and awe for such a God, the psalmist prays: “For you, O God, are good and forgiving, abounding in merciful love to all who call on you” (Psalm 86:5) and again in Psalm 103:1—“As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for all who fear Him.” And: “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in merciful love” (Psalm 103:8; 145:8)….  

God’s relentless care for those who are poor and suffering is the visible expression of our compassionate God, which moved the prophets from the praying stance of the psalms to courageous action on behalf of God’s children in need (Amos, Hosea, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Baruch, and Zechariah, to name just a few). That God’s very life imprints in us that same dynamic rhythm from prayer to action, from contemplation to lives of compassion, reveals the God in whose image we are made. 

September 18th, 2023 by Dave No comments »

Creating a Community of Compassion

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. —Matthew 14:14  

This week of meditations begins with a homily from Richard Rohr on Matthew 14:13–21. He describes how Jesus created a community of compassion:  

The gospel passage is quite good and delightful because it tells us very directly what God is about. Jesus is all about meeting immediate needs, right here and right now. There’s no mention of heaven at all. It seems we’ve missed the point of what the Christian religion should be about, but we see how the disciples themselves missed the point: “Tell them to go to the village and take care of themselves” (Matthew 14:15). But Jesus does not leave people on their own!  

Look at the setting. Jesus is tired. The gospel begins with him withdrawing to a deserted place to be by himself. Sure enough, the crowds follow after him, but he doesn’t get angry or send them away. He recognizes the situation and moves to deal with it. Then the passage goes further and states, “His heart was moved with pity” (Matthew 14:14). If Jesus is our image of God, then we know God has feelings for human pain, human need, and even basic human hunger. The gospel records that he cured the sick, so we know God is also about healing, what today we call healthcare. Sometimes, we don’t even believe everyone deserves that either! Jesus says, “There is no need for them to go away. We will feed them” (Matthew 14:16). 

The point in all the healing stories of the gospels is not simply that Jesus can work miracles. It is not for us to be astounded that Jesus can turn five loaves and two fish into enough for five thousand people, not counting women and children. That is pretty amazing, and I wish we could do it ourselves, but what Jesus does quite simply is feed people’s immediate needs. He doesn’t talk to them about spiritual things, heavenly things, or churchy things. He doesn’t give a sermon about going to church. He does not tell us what things we are supposed to be upset about today. He knows that we can’t talk about spiritual things until we take away people’s immediate physical hunger. When so much of the world is living at a mere survival level, how can we possibly talk about spiritual things?

The important thing that God seems to want to be doing in history is to create a community of compassion where people care about one another. It is not only the feeding that matters to us, it is also the caring for other people’s hunger and needs. Jesus never once talked about attending church services, but he talked constantly about healing the sick and feeding the hungry. That is what it seems to mean to be a follower of Jesus.  

Mirrored Suffering Leads to Compassion

Father Richard reflects on how sitting with our own suffering allows us to extend compassion to others:  

The outer poverty, injustice, and absurdity we see when we look around us mirrors our own inner poverty, injustice, and absurdity. The person who is poor outside is an invitation to the person who is poor inside. As we nurture compassion for the brokenness of things, and learn to move between action and contemplation, then we find compassion and sympathy for brokenness within ourselves. We, too, are full of pain and negativity, and sometimes there is little we can do about it.  

Each time I was recovering from cancer, I had to sit with my own broken absurdity as I’ve done with others at the jail or hospital or soup kitchen. The suffering person’s pain and poverty is visible and extroverted; mine is invisible and interior, yet just as real. The two sympathies and compassion connect and become one world. I think that’s why Jesus said we have to recognize Christ in the least of our brothers and sisters. It was for our redemption, our liberation, our healing—not merely to “help” others and put a check on our spiritual resume. Rather, when we see it over there, we’re freed in here, and become less judgmental. I can’t look down on a person receiving welfare when I realize I’m receiving God’s welfare. It all becomes one truth; the inner and the outer reflect one another.  

As compassion and sympathy flow from us to any person marginalized for whatever reason, wounds are bandaged—both theirs and ours. We’ll never bandage them all, nor do we need to, but we do need to get close to the wounds. That idea is imaged so well in the gospels with Thomas, the doubting apostle, who wanted to figure things out in his head. He had done too much inner work, too much analyzing. He always needed more data before making a move. Then Jesus told Thomas to put his finger inside the wounds in Jesus’ hands and side (John 20:27). Then and only then did Thomas begin to understand what faith is all about. [1]   

Jesus invites Thomas and all doubters into a tangible religion, one that makes touching human pain and suffering the way into both compassion and understanding. For most of us, the mere touching of another’s wound probably feels like an act of outward kindness; we don’t realize that its full intended effect is to change us as much as it might change them (there’s no indication that Jesus changed, only Thomas). Human sympathy is the best and easiest way to open heart space and to make us live inside our own bodies. God never intended most human beings to become philosophers or theologians, but God does want all humans to represent God’s own sympathy and empathy. And it’s okay if it takes a while to get there. [2]  

Edge Walking

September 15th, 2023 by JDVaughn No comments »

Cofounder of the Wild Church Network, Victoria Loorz introduces “edge walkers” who connect across faith traditions: 

My personal spirituality is rooted in the Christ tradition—a term I prefer over Christian, which is a label I find difficult to swallow these days. Rather, I see myself as an “edge walker,” wandering along the hemlines of the Christ tradition. I stand at the inside edge of a tradition that has brought many people, including me, deep pain and has also brought many people, including me, deep joy and meaning…. I’ve adopted this term, edge walker, from nature writer Terry Tempest Williams. [1] The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature describes her edge walking as traveling “the narrow space between the religious tradition she credits for having ‘forged her soul,’ and her direct and very personal experiences in nature that have revealed a truth of their own.” [2]  

Perhaps you are an edge walker too. Edge walkers occupy a thin space and are by definition a bit lonely. Most people inhabit the vast spaces on both sides of edges. But those of us called to the thresholds—the edges between—live in this thin space and recognize one another when we meet. The edges between biosystems are called ecotones. These thresholds usually contain the most biodiversity and therefore are the most resilient….  

The time is coming soon when the edges we inhabit will start to redefine the center. And we will need to lean on and learn from one another as we, together, engage in the work of that redefining. Each of us is characterized by our own unique gifts, communities of influence, and a particular bio-region. But we cannot behave as silos. The more diverse our relationships are, the more resiliently we can hold our own individual edges.  

Loorz reminds us that mystics stand at the edges:  

Every religion has an edge where the mystics live. I once attended a conference organized by Ed Bastian, a Buddhist mystic whose calling is defined by his deep respect for and encouragement of interfaith spirituality. He gathered spiritual leaders from diverse traditions to consider what we had most in common: living on the same planet….  

We talked about how our faith traditions could connect us with the actual soil and water and creatures of Earth. And how that connection could be a spiritual foundation for the environmental movement. What I remember most was a golden thread of mystical connection with divine presence that all of us expressed in our relationships with the natural world. Even in our diversity, we all felt that we had more in common with one another—edge walkers from other traditions—than we did with people more firmly planted in the center of our own faiths…. 

There have always been edge walkers: those who didn’t follow along with the status quo, who didn’t swallow the version of religion offered by those on top of the hierarchy as The Only Way. And at that edge, spirituality and nature are in unbroken relationship.  


Jesus Calling

 You are on the right path. Listen more to Me, and less to your doubts. I am leading you along the way I designed just for you. Therefore, it is a lonely way, humanly speaking. But I go before you as well as alongside you, so you are never alone. Do not expect anyone to understand fully My ways with you, any more than you can comprehend My dealings with others. I am revealing to you the path of Life day by day, and moment by moment. As I said to My disciple Peter, so I repeat to you: Follow Me. 


Psalm 119:105 NLT

105 Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.

John 21:22 NLT

22 Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.”

Letters From Outside The Camp

September 14th, 2023 by JDVaughn No comments »

In fall 2020, Richard began sending out occasional letters that he called “Letters from outside the Camp,” a reference to the many usages of “outside the camp” in the Hebrew Bible.  

“Outside the camp” is a prophetic position on the edge of the inside, which is described by the early Israelites as “the tent of meeting outside the camp” (Exodus 33:7). Even though this tent is foldable, moveable, and disposable, it is still a meeting place for “the holy,” which is always on the move and out in front of us. It inspires me to wonder how we might maintain that same sense of prophetic freedom outside the contemporary political and religious “encampments” of our day. For those of us who are sincerely and devotedly trying to camp elsewhere than in any political party or religious denomination, we know full well that we must now avoid the temptation to become our own defended camp. 

The prophets exercise their imagination from that place of freedom, as my favorite Scripture scholar Walter Brueggemann describes so well: “Because the totalism [that is, the system] wants to silence, banish, or eliminate every such unwelcome [prophetic] intrusion, the tricky work is to find standing ground outside the totalism from which to think the unthinkable, to imagine the unimaginable, and to utter the unutterable.”  [1] 

The free and graced position found in the tent of meeting is what allowed Jesus and all prophets in his lineage to speak from the privileged minority position. It is always less desirable, compared to the comfortable and enjoyable places at the center and the top; yet it is the Jesus stance, and the place where all Franciscans follow after him. 

The “tent of meeting” is the initial image and metaphor that eventually became our much later notion of “church.” The greatest prophet of the Jewish tradition, Moses, had the prescience and courage to move the place of hearing God outside and at a distance from the court of common religious and civic opinion—this was the original genius that inspired the entire Jewish prophetic tradition. It is quite different than mere liberal and conservative positions, and often even at odds with them. Prophecy and Gospel are rooted in a contemplative and non-dual way of knowing—a way of being in the world that is utterly free and grounded in the compassion of God. 

Somehow our occupation and vocation as believers in this time must be to first restore the Divine Center by holding it and fully occupying it ourselves. If contemplation means anything, it means that we can “safeguard that little piece of You, God, in ourselves” as Etty Hillesum describes it. [2] What other power do we have now? 


Sarah Young Jesus Calling

Stop judging and evaluating yourself, for this is not your role. Above all, stop comparing yourself with other people. This produces feelings of pride or inferiority; sometimes, a mixture of both. I lead each of My children along a path that is uniquely tailor-made for him or her. Comparing is not only wrong; it is also meaningless.
    Don’t look for affirmation in the wrong places: your own evaluations, or those of other people. The only source of real affirmation is My unconditional Love. Many believers perceive Me as an unpleasable Judge, angrily searching out their faults and failures. Nothing could be farther from the truth! I died for your sins, so that I might clothe you in My garments of salvation. This is how I see you: radiant in My robe of righteousness. When I discipline you, it is never in anger or disgust; it is to prepare you for face-to-Face fellowship with me throughout all eternity. Immerse yourself in My loving Presence. Be receptive to My affirmation, which flows continually from the throne of grace. 

Luke 6:37 NLT

Do Not Judge Others

37 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.

John 3:16-17 NLT

16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave[a] his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

September 13th, 2023 by Dave No comments »

New Life from the Edges

Father Richard explains how religious orders, positioned on the edge of the inside of the Catholic Church, have helped the church to survive: 

While the mainline Catholic Church organized itself around structural charity and almsgiving, it lost a deeper sense of solidarity, justice, simplicity, and basic understanding of the poor. Christians were no longer called to become poor like Christ but simply to help poor people through charity. It became acceptable to get rich personally, even for the clergy, with the idea of passing on that wealth to the poor. But as good as charity is, it largely became an avoidance of a basic concern for justice.  

This is certainly a step or two removed from what Jesus lived and invited us into. We are no longer the poor ones whom Jesus called blessed; from our position of comfort, we take care of poor “others.” This is good and necessary, but not exactly what he taught.  

Even though the Catholic Church didn’t remain a church of the poor, it sometimes became a church for the poor, usually through specialized groups called religious orders. About two-thirds of Catholic religious orders were founded by wonderful women and men who saw poor boys who were not being taught, poor girls who were not being protected, poor orphans who were not being taken care of. Then one heroic Irish woman would go off and take care of them, and soon we had the Sisters of Mercy, thousands of them.  

I’m convinced that one of the only reasons Roman Catholicism has lasted is because we have these satellites of freedom on the edge of the inside—religious communities of Benedictines, Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans, Sisters of Charity, Sisters of Mercy, and many more. Bishops have their questions of concern, and we have different questions, as do most of the laity. Structurally, the church survived because the religious orders and most of the laity just got on with trying to live the gospel.  

Father Richard reminds us that a practice of contemplation allows us to remain on the edge of the inside with love:  

The fruit of meditation is that we ask new questions, not in reaction, rebellion, or opposition to religion or the church. We don’t have time for that. It’s a waste of our life to bother with any oppositional or negative energy, because soon it becomes another form of righteousness, and that would be the death of our contemplative life.  

So now we hope to keep one foot in our historic denomination and tradition, grateful for all it gave us, and we put the other foot in prayer groups, service groups, support groups, and meditation groups. That is a rather creative, positive, and hopeful way of renewing the church: no longer seeking to be right, but getting down to the practical work of our own transformation and the transformation of our suffering world.