Daily Riches: The Sabbath is For Listening (Joe Liebermamn, Jonathan Sacks, and Frederick W. Faber)

“There are few things more consoling to men than the mere finding that others have felt as they feel.” Frederick W. Faber

“The Hebrew word shema is translated as ‘hear’ in most Jewish prayer books and in the Bible . . . . But in the translation of the Koren Siddur (Prayer Book) I have used–which is by Britain’s chief rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks–shema is rendered ‘listen.’ His explanation for this choice is instructive: ‘I have translated it here as “Listen” rather than the traditional “Hear” because listening is active, hearing is passive. The Shema is a call to an act of mind and soul, to meditate on, internalize, and affirm the oneness of God. Most civilizations have been cultures of the eye. Judaism, with its belief in the invisible God who transcends the universe, is supremely a civilization of the ear.’ The words of the Shema also remind us of the risks involved in being distracted or corrupted by visual images. As it say in the last section: ‘Remember all of the Lord’s commandments and keep them, not straying after your heart and after your eyes, following your own sinful desires’ (Numbers 15:39). There’s an important Sabbath lesson here, because the Sabbath is a day when we have the opportunity to listen to people in a way we don’t during the rest of the week. Our modern secular culture is very visual, often in unhealthy ways. Our eyes are constantly on televisions, video games, computers, email, websites, and all the rest. Many modern workers spend entire days interacting with a video screen. It separates us from the company of other people and from civil interaction and social conversations. The Sabbath forces us to pull our eyes away from the digital  flow and rejoin the natural world, where communication is accomplished mainly through human voices speaking and human ears listening. The genius of the Sabbath lies in the way it restricts us from certain activities and, thereby, frees us to experience others including conversations–big ones with God and less grand ones with our family and friends.” Joe Lieberman

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me
from among you, from your fellow Israelites.
You must listen to him.”
Deuteronomy 18:15 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you mostly active when speaking and passive when listening? Does it matter?
  • How often do you have a day that gives you space to really listen?
  • Is listening for God’s voice making you a better listener with others?

Abba, may others know they are heard by me.

For More: The Gift of Rest by Joe Lieberman

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Daily Riches: The Approachability of Jesus (Shannon Jung)

“People were bringing even infants, presumably those so young that they needed to be carried, and other children to Jesus ‘that he might touch them.’ Perhaps they had heard of Jesus’ miraculous healing powers and wanted to gain some of that for their children. However, that is partly to impose our more caring view of children onto first-century people. The literature on how children were viewed then suggests that people then did not value children very highly. Children were, in one interpretation, seen to be on the same social level as slaves: with few rights, open to abuse, and lacking protection under Jewish law. Other, more moderate views are that children were merely treated with indifference. . . . Clearly there is more than a metaphor here; there is an emotional image for us who would be disciples to imitate. There is something about Jesus that is a blessing, a hospitality, an approachability, a charisma that draws others into him. Luke the author wants us to get that image. . . . No one can merit or achieve the kingdom; it must be received without merit, as a child receives everything. . . . We, like the disciples, are to welcome as Jesus welcomed. We are to follow the example of Jesus, who called the marginal and the despised to himself. What we can do out of gratitude is to call the socially rejected to physical and spiritual life in Christ. Like the early church, we are to transform society by not just accepting but seeking out the outcasts and the marginalized. We are to treat them as Jesus did the children. . . . Ministry to, with, and for those who are on the margins is our response to God’s welcome of us. . . . What is the quality that commends children? Precisely their dependency. Their dependence on adults mirrors our dependence of God; that is one of the marks of the kingdom, which belongs to them (v. 16b). Here is exemplified the equal unworthiness, marginality and dependence of us all before God.” Shannon Jung

“Whoever does not receive
the kingdom of God as a little child
will never enter it.”
Luke 18:17 NLT

Moving From Head to Heart

  • What would a church look like that called the “socially rejected to physical and spiritual life in Christ?”
  • How would that impact it’s philosophy of ministry? . . . congregational demographics?
  • Have you ever been an outsider? Are there many socially rejected people in your congregation? . . . in your list of friends?

Abba, thank you for our approachable Jesus.

For More: Feasting on the Gospels, Vol. 2 by Cynthia Jarvis and E. Elizabeth Johnson, eds.

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Daily Riches: Skipping the Appointed Hour of Prayer (Abraham Heschel)

“Of all the sacred acts, first comes prayer.” Abraham Heschel

“About a hundred years ago Rabbi Isaac Meir Alter of Ger pondered over the question of what a certain shoemaker of his acquaintance should do about his morning prayer. His customers were poor men who owned only one pair of shoes. The shoemaker used to pick up their shoes at a late evening hour, work on them all night and part of the morning, in order to deliver them before their owners had to go to work. When should the shoemaker say his morning prayer? Should he pray quickly the first thing in the morning, and then go back to work? Or should he let the appointed hour of prayer go by and, every once in a while, raising his hammer from the shoes, utter a sigh: ‘Woe unto me, I haven’t prayed yet!’? Perhaps that sign is worth more than prayer itself. We, too, face this dilemma of wholehearted regret or perfunctory prayer, waiting for an urge that is complete, sudden, and unexampled. But the unexampled is scarce, and perpetual refraining can easily grow into a habit. We may even come to forget what to regret, what to miss.” Heschel

“Of all things we do prayer is the least expedient, the least worldly, the least practical. This is why prayer is an act of self-purification. This is why prayer is an ontological necessity.” Heschel

“To avoid prayer constantly is to force a gap between man and God which can widen into an abyss.” Heschel

“One day Peter and John were going up to the temple
at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon.”
Acts 3:1

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • The practice of daily prayer at fixed times has long been part of the practice of Christians, Jews, and Muslims. If it’s not your practice, have you ever considered its merits? . . . how might it benefit you?
  • Scheduled prayer can become “perfunctory.” Why be involved in something like that? What does Heschel say?
  • Practical pressures easily make prayer seem “the least expedient . . . the least practical” thing to do. In what way might stopping to pray at scheduled times be an “an act of self-purification” for you? Is prayer the “first” of all your sacred acts?

Abba, bring me back to you over and over throughout the day. I’m ever drifting.

For More: Man’s Quest For God by Abraham Heschel

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Daily Riches: Jesus Calls Us To the Chutes, Not the Ladders (Mark Ralls and D. L. Moody) *

“We may easily be too big for God to use, but never too small.” D. L. Moody

“There is a game for children that has been around for generations, and I expect almost every reader has played it at one time or another. . . . The game is Chutes and Ladders; since it is a game for little ones, the rules are about as simple and straightforward as you can get. Spin the wheel and move around the board. As you go, you wish for ladders and hope to avoid the chutes or slides. Land at the base of a ladder—All Right!—you get to climb all the way to the top, advancing beyond where even the highest spin can take you. Land at the top of a chute—Oh No!—you must slide all the way to the bottom, back toward the square where you started. Chutes and Ladders gives us some insight into the culture in which Jesus lived. Scholars tell us that first-century Mediterranean culture operated under the binaries of shame and honor. This basically means that people’s behavior was shaped by two things: the threat of being publicly shamed and the promise of being publicly honored. It is difficult to grasp the emotional power of one’s reputation in the ancient world. Our individualistic culture has muted its force. To be shamed was a terrible setback. To be honored moved you forward in the eyes of everyone who mattered most to you. It was akin to Chutes and Ladders. One evening Jesus tells two parables while he is a guest at a dinner party that includes the most honorable folks in town. Sitting there, Jesus cannot help but grin as he observes that this dinner party has all the social subtlety of a junior high cafeteria. Everyone is jockeying for a seat at the cool table. . . . So what does Jesus do? He stands up and tells all those guests a little story . . . . ‘Here is a little tip,’ Jesus says. ‘The next time you are invited to a wedding, do not take the best seat in the house. What is going to happen if someone more distinguished than you shows up? Hard to imagine, I know, but it could happen. When it does, you will find yourself at the top of the chute, and you will have to slide from the seat of honor all the way down to the seat of shame. Oh, what a long, lonely walk it is, from the first table to that one in the back, right beside the swinging door of the kitchen!’ To sharpen his point and to make sure we do not confine his advice to dinner parties, Jesus adds this: Those who make their own honor the goal of their lives will be ashamed of themselves in the end, and those who are humble, repeatedly putting others first, will experience the true, deep, and lasting honor of the kingdom of God. . . . these parables go much deeper than practical advice. They speak to the general arc of our lives. What if the point of our lives is not about climbing all the right ladders of achievement and prestige and power? What if our true purpose is to slide down as many chutes as possible to offer compassion and service and love to all those on the rungs below? While our culture may operate under different rules than honor and shame, we still live in the land of Chutes and Ladders. We fool ourselves into thinking that contentment lies on the rung just above us. So we reach for ever-new heights and climb as fast as we can. The rest is simple math. The more time and energy we dedicate to this all-consuming endeavor, the less we notice those who reside on the rungs below. We forget those we have passed along the way. It is just as true that we will most likely miss Christ himself. Born in the back room of a barn, spending his days bending his back to touch the hands of lepers, to caress the cheeks of widows, to place children on his knee, this humble Savior rode a donkey through the gates of Jerusalem and then knelt before his disciples to wash their feet. The only time he chose to ascend was up a hill called Calvary, where he bore our sins and carried our sorrows on his bent and holy back. On Easter morning, we discovered that his humility is what God truly honors. Climbing up, we are likely to pass right by the Son of God, who is intent on coming down. According to Jesus, we have completely misunderstood the point of the game. We are out there looking for ladders, when Jesus is calling us toward the chutes. We are climbing up, when he is calling to come down. If we dare to follow, he promises that in the end we will find deep blessing and true honor.” Mark Ralls

“When he had finished washing their feet,
he put on his clothes and returned to his place.
‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them.”
John 13:12 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you listening to Jesus about the Chutes?
  • Are you climbing up, whereas he was always bending down?
  • Jesus’ humility (his “downward mobility”) was for the purpose of showing compassion to those at the bottom of the Chutes. Isn’t he a beautiful person? Is this the person you’re making known with your life?

Abba, keep me off the Ladders . . . for the sake of compassion.

For More: The Selfless Way of Christ by Henri Nouwen

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Cynthia A. Jarvis & E. Elizabeth Johnson. Feasting on the Gospels–Luke, Volume 2: A Feasting on the Word Commentary. Westminster John Knox Press. Louisville, 2014.

Nouwen, Henri. The Selfless Way of Christ: Downward Mobility and the Spiritual Life. Maryknoll: Orbis, 2007.

*One of the great things about making the rules, is that you can break them when you want. I thought that what Mark Ralls wrote was worth breaking my rule to limit posts to 400 words.

 

Daily Riches: God Has the Last Laugh (Donald McCullough, William Bausch)

“If God can succumb to the limitation–death–and transform it . . . into the world’s salvation . . . then we can move beyond optimism into an assured hope that our own death will become a doorway into life, a translation into an order of being that we cannot now comprehend. This being the case, we have good reason to believe that all the other limitations, while difficult and often painful, will also become, in the hands of God, instruments of healing and growth that will finally make possible the fulfillment of joy. God has the last laugh, in other words. There is an ancient Russian Orthodox tradition that devotes the day after Easter to sitting around a table and telling jokes. Why? According to William J. Bausch,

They were imitating that cosmic joke that God pulled on Satan in the resurrection. Satan thought he had won, and was smug in his victory, smiling to himself, having had the last word. So he thought. Then God raised Jesus from the dead, and life and salvation become the last words. And the whole world laughed at the devil’s discomfort. This attitude passed into the medieval concept of hilaritas, which did not mean mindless giggling, but that even at the moment of disaster one may wink because he or she knows there is a God.

The limitations of life, by themselves, are no joke. There is nothing funny about bodies wearing out, relationships coming to grief, achievements falling short, money running out, time slipping away, or any of the others. But when we view these things in the light of Easter, we must wink, if not laugh. We know that the story is not yet finished; if it now seems like a tragedy, it will, by an astonishing turn of events, become a comedy.” Donald McCullough

“May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.”
Matthew 6:10 NLT

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • It’s hard to face the tragedy in our world. Can you periodically “go there?”
  • Are you praying daily for the soon coming of God’s kingdom? If not, why not?
  • Can you move “beyond optimism?” Can you laugh no matter how dark the times?

Jesus, may you find me neither in denial, numb or overwhelmed by the tragedy everywhere in my world. In our darkness shine your light.

For More: The Consolations of Imperfection by Donald McCullough

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Daily Riches: The Rhythm of Happiness (Thomas Merton and Richard Bandler)

“There is no such thing as failure, only feedback that what you’re doing is not working.” Richard Bandler

“We cannot be happy if we expect to live all the time at the highest peak of intensity. Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony. Music is pleasing not only because of the sound but because of the silence that is in it: without the alternation of sound and silence there would be no rhythm. If we strive to be happy by filling all the silences of life with sound, productive by turning all life’s leisure into work, and real by turning all our being into doing, we will only succeed in producing a hell on earth. If we have no silence, God is not heard in our music. If we have no rest, God does not bless our work. If we twist our lives out of shape in order to fill every corner of them with action and experience, God will seem silently to withdraw from our hearts and leave us empty. Let us, therefore, learn to pass from one imperfect activity to another without worrying too much about what we are missing. It is true that we make many mistakes. But the biggest of them all is to be surprised at them: as if we had some hope of never making any. Mistakes are part of our life, and not the least important part. It is by making mistakes that we gain experience, not only for ourselves but for others. And though our experience prevents neither ourselves nor others from making the same mistake many times, the repeated experience still has a positive value.” Thomas Merton

“We all stumble in many ways.”
James 3:2 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you trying to eliminate every silence in your life? . . . to refuse “less” and “slow” in order to experience more?
  • Is that working for you? Does it make sense? Does it seem like the path to happiness?
  • Are you surprised by your many mistakes? Can you forgive yourself for them? If not, what does that say about you?

Abba, help me relax about my projects and befriend my mistakes. Help me focus on joining the human race rather than winning the rat race.

For more: No Man Is An Island by Thomas Merton

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Sources: Merton, Thomas. No Man Is an Island. New York: Fall River, 2003.

 

Special Edition of Daily Riches: No One Leaves Home . . . (Warsan Shire)

Home, by Warsan Shire (British-Somali poet)

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark.

you only run for the border
when you see the whole city
running as well.

your neighbours running faster
than you, the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind
the old tin factory is
holding a gun bigger than his body,
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one would leave home unless home
chased you, fire under feet,
hot blood in your belly.

it’s not something you ever thought about
doing, and so when you did –
you carried the anthem under your breath,
waiting until the airport toilet
to tear up the passport and swallow,
each mouthful of paper making it clear that
you would not be going back.

you have to understand,
no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land.

who would choose to spend days
and nights in the stomach of a truck
unless the miles travelled
meant something more than journey.

no one would choose to crawl under fences,
be beaten until your shadow leaves you,
raped, then drowned, forced to the bottom of
the boat because you are darker, be sold,
starved, shot at the border like a sick animal,
be pitied, lose your name, lose your family,
make a refugee camp a home for a year or two or ten,
stripped and searched, find prison everywhere
and if you survive and you are greeted on the other side
with go home blacks, refugees
dirty immigrants, asylum seekers
sucking our country dry of milk,
dark, with their hands out
smell strange, savage –
look what they’ve done to their own countries,
what will they do to ours?

the dirty looks in the street
softer than a limb torn off,
the indignity of everyday life
more tender than fourteen men who
look like your father, between
your legs, insults easier to swallow
than rubble, than your child’s body
in pieces – for now, forget about pride
your survival is more important.

i want to go home, but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home tells you to
leave what you could not behind,
even if it was human.

no one leaves home until home
is a damp voice in your ear saying
leave, run now, i don’t know what
i’ve become.

 

Daily Riches: . . . And Nothing Changes (David Benner)

“The conversion of the heart that lies at the core of Christian spiritual transformation begins at the cross. It involves meeting God’s love in the cross, not simply encountering some judicial solution for the problem of human sin. It must also involve surrender to that love, not simply being warmed by it as a comforting spiritual truth.” David Benner

“Love is the acid test of Christian spirituality. . . . If we are not becoming more loving, something is seriously wrong. But how do we become more loving and what has gone wrong if we are on the Christian spiritual journey but our heart is not more and more the heart of the Father? How do we move beyond self-interest as our number one priority? How do we get from envy, criticalness or competitiveness to compassion? . . . When I am confronted with my frequent failure in love, my first instinct has always been to try harder. I recognize the poverty of my love. . . . I feel regret and discouragement. I pray for help in being more loving. I try harder. And nothing changes. . . . My own struggles to become more loving have been the most discouraging aspect of my Christian spiritual journey. But as I have begun to learn to come back through the cross to the extravagant love of God for me, slowly my hard heart is beginning to thaw. Ever so slowly my heart is becoming God’s heart–larger and more tender than anything I could have ever expected or experienced as a result of my most persistent effort. . . . Allowing myself to deeply experience his love–taking time to soak in it and allow it to infuse me–has begun to effect changes that I had given up hope of ever experiencing. Coming back to God in my failure at love, throwing myself into his arms and asking him to remind me of how much he loves me as I am–here I begin to experience new levels of love to give to others.” Benner

“If you love your neighbor,
you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.”
Romans 13:8b NLT

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you ever feel like “nothing changes?”
  • In those moments, is your solution “try harder?”
  • Is God’s love for sinners something you actually experience?

Abba, let me soak in, and be infused with, your love for me–and be motivated and empowered to love others.

For More: Surrender to Love by David Benner

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Sources:

Benner, David G. Surrender to Love: Discovering the Heart of Christian Spirituality. Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity, 2003.

Daily Riches: If You Lose Your Mind (Janice Hicks)

“Early Christian theologians generally attributed the image of God ( imago dei) in humans to the mind/spirit or soul, which was ranked higher than the body. Basil said that ‘the rational part is the human being.’ Augustine believed the mind has two parts: ‘The higher part contemplates eternal truths and makes judgments’ and God communicates with us through it. French philosopher René Descartes further emphasized the supremacy of rationality with his dictum ‘I think, therefore I am.’ Many of us today still fall into the Cartesian idea that the rational part, thinking, defines ‘who I am.’ Rationality is important, but rationality as a determinant of the status of personhood is greatly problematic. . . . Seeing a person as ‘less than’ promotes an attitude of stigma . . . . Contemporary theologians have developed a more balanced view of what makes us human. In Eccentric Existence, theologian David Kelsey proposes that the basis for the value and relationship of the human being lies in God, that is, outside the human beings themselves. Kelsey says that personhood is ‘a status before God’ dependent on God’s relating to who I am . . . . ‘Personhood is not even a function of how we relate to God,’ Kelsey writes. Our ‘personhood is entirely a function of how God relates to us in creating us . . . and hardly at all from anything else.’ God’s relating to us is surely not lost in dementia [for instance] or any illness. According to Kelsey, other qualities beyond rationality make us human, including emotion, love, spirituality, awareness, and courage. These traits have been observed in people with dementia . . . . When a person develops dementia, are they less of a person? Do they lose their connection to God? Indeed, we value infants, and infants are not rational. We are all dependent at times. We are all limited. . . . Perhaps those with dementia remind us of our limitations and that makes us uncomfortable.” Janice Hicks in Sojourners

“We turned our backs on him
and looked the other way.”
Isaiah 53:3c NLT

Moving From Head to Heart

  • In truth, do you see (or treat) stigmatized people as “less than?”
  • Imagine if “our personhood is entirely a function of how God relates to us” rather than of how we relate to God. Imagine what that means.
  • Do you hope others will still treat you with dignity if you live long enough to lose your memory? Can you give such dignity to others now?

Abba, may I look with compassion on those less “able” than me.

For More: Redeeming Dementia by Dorothy Linthicum and Janice Hicks

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Sources:

Linthicum, Dorothy and Janice Hicks. Redeeming Dementia: Spirituality, Theology, and Science. Church: 2018.

Also helpful:

Dettloff, Dean. “After Deadly Van Attack . . . .” America. May 28, 2018.

Keenan, James F. “The Francis Effect On Health Care.” America. May 28, 2018.

 

Daily Riches: God Often Keeps Us Waiting (J. I. Packer, Annie Dillard, Henri Nouwen, Søren Kierkegaard, and Jeanie and David Gushee)

“. . . ‘Wait on the Lord’ is a constant refrain in the Psalms, and it is a necessary word, for God often keeps us waiting. He is not in such a hurry as we are, and it is not his way to give more light on the future than we need for action in the present, or to guide us more than one step at a time. When in doubt, do nothing, but continue to wait on God. When action is needed, light will come.” J. I. Packer

“The death of the self of which the great writers speak is no violent act. It is merely the joining of the great rock heart of the earth in its roll. It is merely the slow cessation of the will’s sprints and the intellect’s chatter: it is waiting like a hollow bell with stilled tongue. Fuge, tace, quiesce. The waiting itself is the thing.” Annie Dillard

“The word patience comes from the Latin verb patior which means ‘to suffer.’ Waiting patiently is suffering through the present moment, tasting it to the full, and letting the seeds that are sown in the ground on which we stand grow into strong plants. Waiting patiently always means paying attention to what is happening right before our eyes and seeing there the first rays of God’s glorious coming.” Henri Nouwen

“As my prayer became more attentive and inward
I had less and less to say.
I finally became completely silent.
I started to listen–
which is even further removed from speaking.
I first thought that praying entailed speaking.
I then learnt that praying is hearing,
not merely being silent.
This is how it is.
To prayer does not mean to listen to oneself speaking,
Prayer involves becoming silent,
And being silent,
And waiting until God is heard.”
Søren Kierkegaard

“Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived, no eye has seen
any God besides you, who acts
on behalf of those who wait for him.”
Isaiah 64:4

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you in a hurry?
  • Can you adjust yourself to a God who is “not in such a hurry?”
  • Do you pay attention to “what is happening right before [your] eyes?

“Some wait in confident expectation–others wait in quiet desperation. This night I close my eyes in darkness and yearn for Your Light, brighter than a thousand suns.” (Jeanie and David Gushee)

For More: Knowing God by J. I. Packer

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Daily Riches: The Hardest World to Leave (Belden Lane, Francis of Assisi and Donald Demaray)

“Who enjoys tranquility? The one who doesn’t take seriously either praise or lack of it from people.” Thomas ‘a Kempis

“In the desert, one inescapably confronted the threat of nothingness, the loss of all one’s activities, distractions, evasions . . . . There in the desert they knew the very scaffolding of their lives to be wholly dismantled. Games were called for what they were. Utter honesty was demanded by unrelenting spiritual directors, hard as the rock beyond the cloister where they prayed. The unbending John Climacus, for example, insisted on laying bare the pretenses of people in the religious life. He spoke of those who bless silence but cannot stop talking about it; those who fast without drawing attention to themselves but then take pride in such remarkable modesty; those who weep over death and then, with tears still in their eyes, rush off to dinner. Amma Syncletica refused to let anyone deceive herself by imagining that retreat to a desert monastery meant the guarantee of freedom from the world. The hardest world to leave, she knew, is the one within the heart. In the desert Christian’s understanding of renunciation, dying to oneself also meant a dying to one’s neighbor. They knew how easy it was to invest oneself in what other people think, measuring oneself by the accomplishments of others, remaining enmeshed in a hopeless pattern of jealousy, subservience, manipulation, and resentment. ‘To die to one’s neighbor is this,’ said Abba Moses the Black, ‘to bear your own faults and not to pay attention to anyone else wondering whether they are good or bad.’ Comparing oneself to others, being concerned about their approval or disapproval, was entirely foreign to the desert way. Watching the sweep of wind over desert sand inevitably gave one practice in studied indifference.” Belden Lane

“Dear friends, I warn you as ‘temporary residents and foreigners’
to keep away from worldly desires
that wage war against your very souls.”
1 Peter 2:11 NLT

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • When you think of “worldliness”, do you think about your heart? . . . how entrenched the world is there? . . . how “hard” it is to war against that?
  • Would it be hard to quit pretending about your spiritual life?
  • Would it be hard to become “indifferent” to the approval of others?

Abba, help me to be real before you and others–no posturing, no pretending.

For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane

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Daily Riches: Worn Of My Falsehoods And Saved By Love (Mark Nepo and Fred Rogers)

“Let me say plainly that gratitude and humility swell when thinking of those who’ve held me up, who’ve helped me endure the many ways I’ve been reduced and worn of my falsehoods through the years. I smile deeply when thinking of those who’ve opened me to the joy of simply being here. I would be less without these friendships. I love you all. I keep telling strangers: to be in the presence of those who can both share pain and celebrate just waking up, this is the answer to loneliness. Such friendship makes sharing pizza in a noisy pub and standing in silence as the old oak creaks all one could ask for. In truth, this process, of being worn to only what is raw and essential, never ends. It’s as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly. Thank you for holding me up to the elements, and for freeing yourselves, and for the joy of these unexpected moments together.” Mark Nepo

“I believe that appreciation is a holy thing–that when we look for what’s best in a person we happen to be with at the moment, we’re doing what God does all the time. So in loving and appreciating our neighbor, we’re participating in something sacred.” Fred Rogers

“Use your freedom
to serve one another in love.”
Galatians 5:13b

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you understand the never-ending process of “. . . being worn to only what is raw and essential?” Have you embraced it as a something good? . . .  as God’s loving care?
  • Friends who share our pain and celebrate our “waking up” can sustain and save us. Do you have some friends like that? Can you really do without such loving friends?
  • Presenting your “sculpted” self to God to love others is “something sacred” you can do. Are you available?

Abba, your strong love has freed me to fly. May I love others that way myself.

For more: Reduced to Joy by Mark Nepo.

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Sources:

Nepo, Mark. Reduced to Joy. Berkeley: Viva, 2013.

Rogers, Fred. “Commencement Address at Middlebury College May, 2001.”

Daily Riches: The Sabbath as “Sacred Stasis” (Michael Fishbane and Walter Brueggemann)

“The Sabbath, along with the other practices [Michael Fishbane] exposits, concerns the maintenance of a distinct faith identity in the midst of a culture that is inhospitable to all distinct identities in its impatient reduction of all human life to the requirements of the market. . . . [He argues that] Sabbath is a sphere of inaction.” Walter Brueggemann

”One enters the sphere of inaction through divestment, and this release affects all the elements of the workaday sphere. Business activity and exchange of money are forbidden, and one is urged not just to desist from commerce but to develop more interior spheres of settling the mind from this type of agitation. . . . Slowly, under these multiple conditions, a sense of inaction takes over, and the day does not merely mark the stoppage of work or celebrate the completion of creation, but enforces the value that the earth as a gift of divine creativity, given to humankind in sacred trust. On the Sabbath, the practical benefits of technology are laid aside, and one tries to stand in the cycle of natural time, without manipulation or interference. To the degree possible, one must attempt to bring the qualities of inaction and rest into the heart and mind. . . . The Sabbath is thus a period of sacred stasis, a duration of sanctity through the cultivation of inaction in body and spirit. . . . The heartbeat of repose may thus suffuse the mind and limbs of one’s being, and generate an inner balance poised on quietude and a settled spirit.” Michael Fishbane

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God.”
Exodus 20:8-10b NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Imagine joining your Jewish friends for several months as they practice “the heartbeat of repose” the way Fishbane describes it. How would that feel?
  • Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could experience more “quietude and a settled spirit” in our lives? . . . our homes? . . . our churches?
  • Brueggemann points out the profound external, societal implications for God’s people. Sabbath is a major way we resist our inhospitable culture. Are you resisting a culture that wants to shape you?

Abba, may we regularly enter into inaction of body and soul–into quietude and a settled spirit.

For more: Sabbath As Resistance by Walter Brueggemann

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Sources:

Brueggemann, Walter. Sabbath As Resistance: Saying NO to the CULTURE OF NOW. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2014.

Fishbane, Michael. Sacred Attunement: A Jewish Theology. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2008.

 

Daily Riches: Make Peace with the “Groan Zone” (Gregory of Nazianzus)

“Make peace with the groan zone. The groan zone is the place where the conversation is most difficult and may feel overwhelming or hopeless. Too many people walk away at this point. But use the mediator’s secret here–sticking it out through the groan zone is often the way to crack a difficult conversation’s tough nut. Whenever you notice yourself experiencing a ‘get me outta here!’ moment, pause and remind yourself this is where the greatest opportunities lie. Instinctively we abhor nondefensiveness and when we feel attacked or even confronted, we lash out immediately in hurt and anger. Most of us are either too reactive to stay calm or too reactive to stay present. Some, hoping to avoid the discomfort of confrontation are so unreactive they are never really present. It is over-reactivity that dooms many arguments between loving couples. Uncovering the real issue happens when people feel safe enough to be vulnerable. How do you do it? It’s actually very easy. Take a deep breath and just validate. Repeat back what you’re hearing. Be a mirror. If it’s easy, why don’t we all do it all the time? Because there’s a hard part too: Managing your own discomfort. Can you be OK with the feelings of others? Can you listen without judging? Can you listen even though you might feel threatened?”

“Everyone must be quick to hear,
slow to speak
and slow to anger . . . .”
James 1:19 NASB

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you too reactive to stay calm? . . . or present? . . . to love well? . . . not to jump to conclusions or judge? . . . or try to fix?
  • Does emotionally laden conflict feel like death to you? (Join the club.)
  • Are you safe enough in God to allow yourself to be vulnerable? . . .  not to run?
  • Can you allow God to love you in your failed, good intentions–and try again the next time?

“O Word of Truth! in devious paths
My wayward feet have trod;
I have not kept the day serene
I gave at morn to God.

“And now ’tis night, and night within;
O God, the light hath fled!
I have not kept the vow I made
When morn its glories shed.

“For clouds of gloom from nether world
Obscured my upward way;
O Christ the Light, Thy light bestow
And turn my night to day!”

Gregory of Nazianzus

For More: Before the Door of God, Jay Hopler and Kimberly Johnson, eds.

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Sources:

Hopler, Jay and Kimberly Johnson, eds. Before the Door of God: An Anthology of Devotional Poetry. New Haven: Yale, 2013.

[I’m no longer able to find the source of the “Groan Zone” quotation.]

Daily Riches: Staying At Marriage (Wendell Berry)

“The meaning of marriage begins in the giving of words. We cannot join ourselves to one another without giving our word. And this must be an unconditional giving, for in joining ourselves to one another we join ourselves to the unknown. We can join one another only by joining the unknown. We must not be misled by the procedures of experimental thought: in life, in the world, we are never given two known results to choose between, but only one result that we choose without knowing what it is. . . . Because the condition of marriage is worldly and its meaning communal, no one party to it can be solely in charge. What you alone think it ought to be, it is not going to be. Where you alone think you want it to go, it is not going to go. It is going where the two of you—and marriage, time, life, history, and the world—will take it. You do not know the road; you have committed your life to a way. . . . The Zen student, the poet, the husband, the wife—none knows with certainty what he or she is staying for, but all know the likelihood that they will be staying ‘a while’: to find out what they are staying for. And it is the faith of all of these disciplines that they will not stay to find that they should not have stayed. As the traditional marriage ceremony insists, not everything that we stay to find out will make us happy. The faith, rather, is that by staying, and only by staying, we will learn something of the truth, that the truth is good to know, and that it is always both different and larger than we thought.” Wendell Berry

“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven,
Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”
Luke 9:51 NLT

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Did you enter marriage thinking you knew what to expect? Don’t most of us marry with illusions?
  • In staying at marriage we may learn something “different and larger than we thought.” If you’re married, what has that meant for you?
  • Think about Jesus’ life from the point of view of “staying.” What does his example show?

Abba, what do you want me to discover as I stay?

For More: Standing by Words: Essays by Wendell Berry

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