Daily Riches: The Downward Path To Freedom (Richard Rohr)

“Jesus himself taught and exemplified the path of descent, which Christians have often called ‘the way of the cross.’ The path downward is much more trustworthy than any path upward, which tends to feed the ego. Like few other Christians, it was Francis of Assisi who profoundly understood that. Authentic spirituality is always on some level or in some way about letting go. Jesus said, ‘the truth will set you free’ (John 8:32). Once we see truly what traps us and keeps us from freedom we should see the need to let it go. But in a consumer society most of us have had no training in that direction. Rather, more is usually considered better. True liberation is letting go of our small self, letting go of our cultural biases, and letting go of our fear of loss and death. Freedom is letting go of wanting more and better things, and it is letting go of our need to control and manipulate God and others. It is even letting go of our need to know and our need to be right—which we only discover with maturity. We become free as we let go of our three primary energy centers: our need for power and control, our need for safety and security, and our need for affection and esteem. Francis sought freedom in all three parts of life. My good friend Fr. John Dear puts it very well: ‘Francis embodies the Gospel journey from violence to non-violence, wealth to poverty, power to powerlessness, selfishness to selfless service, pride to humility, indifference to love, cruelty to compassion, vengeance to forgiveness, revenge to reconciliation, war to peace, killing enemies to loving enemies. More than any other Christian, he epitomizes discipleship to Jesus. . . .'” Richard Rohr

“the truth will set you free”
Jesus in John 8:32

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • We often think of spiritual formation as mostly an “adding on” of virtues–for instance patience or love. Have you even thought of approaching spiritual formation by subtracting behaviors–like hurry–a practice that prevents love and contradicts patience?
  • To say “we have no training” in this is an understatement. Everything in our society teaches us the opposite. Are you seeking out other voices to teach you these kinds of truths and reinforce them in your heart and mind?
  • What can you do to more effectively “epitomize discipleship to Jesus?”

Abba, help me to join Jesus and Francis on the path of descent.

For More: You Will Be My Witnesses by John Dear

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. My goal is to regularly give you something of unique value in 400 words or less. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. Thanks for your interest! – Bill

Daily Riches: The Most Despised, and Important, Word of Our Time (Helmut Gollwitzer)

“The word ‘repentance’ turns the door into the narrow gate, the most despised, and yet the most important word of our time. It is a time when no one wants to repent, and yet is is precisely in this unwillingness to repent that we find the secret to the misery of our time. Because ours is a time that cannot tolerate this word, the most vital thing linking people to each other lies broken and shattered: the ability of a person to give another his rights, the ability to admit one’s own error and one’s own guilt; the ability to find the guilt in himself rather than in the other, to be gentle with the other but strict with oneself.  …Who cannot admit his guilt before God can no longer do so before men. Then begins the insanity, the insanity of persecution that must make the other person into the devil himself in order to make himself into a god. Where repentance stops, inhumanity begins…. Repentance wipes away everything we think important, it sweeps away ruthlessly our interests and considerations, and it dries up everything that we hoped to mention in our favor. This contradiction is not without reason; whoever repents denies his own life, whoever allowed himself to be baptized here in the Jordan by John, said in effect: I am a man or a woman who must be drowned. Here all noteworthy conduct is for naught: ‘My wounds stink for my sins reach above my head; like a heavy burden they have become too much for me’ (Ps. 38:6,7,5). Repentance is the terrible discovery that I live under a death sentence, and even worse, that I must say yes to this condemnation to death. I am convicted not only outwardly by the sentence itself but inwardly by my own guilt. This is what happens with repentance: my life is annihilated and destroyed not only outwardly but also inwardly. All my defensive weapons–both those pointing externally toward others and those pointing inwardly toward myself–have been lost.” Helmut Gollwitzer

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”
Jesus in Matthew 3:8

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you convinced of your need for repentance as a way of life?
  • Has admitting the need for repentance made you easier on others? …on yourself?
  • This is holocaust-era preaching. Serious. Today seems less so, right? What about that?

Abba, let me be serious about repentance.

For More: Preaching in the Third Reich by Dean Stroud (ed.)

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. My goal is to regularly give you something of unique value in 400 words or less. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. Thanks for your interest! Please leave a question or comment. – Bill

Daily Riches: In Praise of Uncertaintly and Doubt (Maria Popova and Wislawa Szymborska)

“Doctors, teachers, gardeners—and I could list a hundred more professions. Their work becomes one continuous adventure as long as they manage to keep discovering new challenges in it. Difficulties and setbacks never quell their curiosity. A swarm of new questions emerges from every problem they solve. Whatever inspiration is, it’s born from a continuous ‘I don’t know.’ In a sentiment of chilling prescience today, as we witness tyrants drunk on certainty drain the world of its essential inspiration, Szymborska considers the destructive counterpoint to this generative not-knowing:

All sorts of torturers, dictators, fanatics, and demagogues struggling for power by way of a few loudly shouted slogans also enjoy their jobs, and they too perform their duties with inventive fervor. Well, yes, but they ‘know.’ They know, and whatever they know is enough for them once and for all. They don’t want to find out about anything else, since that might diminish their arguments’ force. And any knowledge that doesn’t lead to new questions quickly dies out: it fails to maintain the temperature required for sustaining life. In the most extreme cases, cases well known from ancient and modern history, it even poses a lethal threat to society.”

This is why I value that little phrase ‘I don’t know’ so highly. It’s small, but it flies on mighty wings. It expands our lives to include the spaces within us as well as those outer expanses in which our tiny Earth hangs suspended. If Isaac Newton had never said to himself ‘I don’t know,’ the apples in his little orchard might have dropped to the ground like hailstones and at best he would have stooped to pick them up and gobble them with gusto. Had my compatriot Marie Sklodowska-Curie never said to herself ‘I don’t know’, she probably would have wound up teaching chemistry at some private high school for young ladies from good families, and would have ended her days performing this otherwise perfectly respectable job. But she kept on saying ‘I don’t know,’ and these words led her, not just once but twice, to Stockholm, where restless, questing spirits are occasionally rewarded with the Nobel Prize. Such surrender to not-knowing, Szymborska argues as she steps out into the cosmic perspective, is the seedbed of our capacity for astonishment, which in turn gives meaning to our existence…. Granted, in daily speech, where we don’t stop to consider every word, we all use phrases like ‘the ordinary world,’ ‘ordinary life,’ ‘the ordinary course of events’ … But in the language of poetry, where every word is weighed, nothing is usual or normal. Not a single stone and not a single cloud above it. Not a single day and not a single night after it. And above all, not a single existence, not anyone’s existence in this world.” Maria Popova

“I have said things that I did not understand,
things too great for me, which I did not know.”
Job 42:3

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Are you ever “drunk on certainty?”
  • Can you gladly embrace “not knowing?” …doubt?
  • What do your answers say about you?

Abba, help me see past the “ordinary.”

For More: Map by Wislawa Szymborska

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Thanks for following my blog! – Bill

Daily Riches: The Renunciation That Is Passivity (Eugene Peterson and Emily Dickinson)

“Sabbath is the time set aside to do nothing so that we can receive everything, to set aside our anxious attempts to make ourselves useful, to set aside our tense restlessness, to set aside our media-saturated boredom. Sabbath is the time to receive silence and let it deepen into gratitude, to receive quiet into which forgotten faces and voices unobtrusively make themselves present, to receive the days of the just completed week and absorb the wonder and miracle still reverberating from each one, to receive our Lord’s amazing grace. ….waiting provides the time and space for others to get in on salvation. Waiting calls a time-out, puts us on the sidelines for a while so that we don’t interfere with essential kingdom-of-God operations that we don’t even know are going on. Not-doing involves a means of detaching my ego, my still immature understanding of the way God works comprehensively but without forcing his way, without coercion. The restraint of passivity allows for the quiet, mostly invisible complexities and intricacies that are characteristic of the Holy Spirit as he does his work in us, in the church and in the world for whom Christ died. ‘Renunciation–the piercing virtue’ is Emily Dickinson’s phrase for it. It couldn’t have been easy for the father to not go out looking for his son the way the shepherd looked for his sheep and the woman looked for her coin.” Eugene Peterson

“The Sabbath was made for man….”
Jesus in Mark 2:27

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you tried setting aside time “to do nothing”–with the purpose of receiving “everything” from God? Have you made it a regular practice?
  • We stop, rest, and quiet ourselves in order to open ourselves to receive–from others, from our day, from God–what doesn’t come otherwise. Is the constant motion of your life secretly impoverishing you?
  • Renunciation is hard work. The father didn’t go out to look for his son. Think about that. What is God’s word for you in today’s reading?

Abba, help me renounce my grasping, striving, rushing–my need for noise and company–and help me receive what you are always so graciously giving.

For More:  Tell It Slant by Eugene Peterson

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to regularly share something of unique value with you in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest! Please leave a comment or question. – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: Reflections On Keeping a Solid Center (Maria Popova)

Three great insights from Maria Popova:

  • “Build pockets of stillness into your life. Meditate. Go for walks. Ride your bike going nowhere in particular. There is a creative purpose to daydreaming, even to boredom. The best ideas come to us when we stop actively trying to coax the muse into manifesting and let the fragments of experience float around our unconscious mind in order to click into new combinations. Without this essential stage of unconscious processing, the entire flow of the creative process is broken. Most important, sleep. Besides being the greatest creative aphrodisiac, sleep also affects our every waking moment, dictates our social rhythm, and even mediates our negative moods. Be as religious and disciplined about your sleep as you are about your work. We tend to wear our ability to get by on little sleep as some sort of badge of honor that validates our work ethic. But what it really is is a profound failure of self-respect and of priorities. What could possibly be more important than your health and your sanity, from which all else springs?
  • “Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time. …it’s hard to better capture something so fundamental yet so impatiently overlooked in our culture of immediacy. The myth of the overnight success is just that—a myth—as well as a reminder that our present definition of success needs serious retuning. As I’ve reflected elsewhere, the flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst and yet, as a culture, we’re disinterested in the tedium of the blossoming. But that’s where all the real magic unfolds in the making of one’s character and destiny.
  • “Don’t just resist cynicism—fight it actively. Fight it in yourself, for this ungainly beast lays dormant in each of us, and counter it in those you love and engage with, by modeling its opposite. Cynicism often masquerades as nobler faculties and dispositions, but is categorically inferior. Unlike that great Rilkean life-expanding doubt, it is a contracting force. Unlike critical thinking, that pillar of reason and necessary counterpart to hope, it is inherently uncreative, unconstructive, and spiritually corrosive. Life, like the universe itself, tolerates no stasis—in the absence of growth, decay usurps the order. Like all forms of destruction, cynicism is infinitely easier and lazier than construction. There is nothing more difficult yet more gratifying in our society than living with sincerity and acting from a place of largehearted, constructive, rational faith in the human spirit, continually bending toward growth and betterment. This remains the most potent antidote to cynicism. Today, especially, it is an act of courage and resistance.” Maria Popova

“Wisdom shouts in the streets.
She cries out in the public square.”
Proverbs 1:20

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Where is God nudging you in what you just read?
  • Where have you forgotten the obvious?
  • Where do you need to practice “courage and resistance?”
  • Can you receive this “wisdom from the street” even though it doesn’t come with chapter and verse?

Abba, lead me into a largehearted, constructive life, continually bending toward growth and betterment.

For More: “Brain Pickings” by Maria Popova

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Thanks for reading/sharing my (atypically long) blog! Please leave a comment or question. – Bill

 

Daily Riches: Speech Shaped by Silence (Ruth Haley Barton, Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

“In the multitude of words there is much transgression,’ the Scriptures say. This is a truth that could drive us ministry folks to despair given the incessant flow of words from our mouths, pens, and computers. Those of us who deal in words are at great risk of misusing words and even sinning with our words due to the sheer volume of them! I don’t know about you but sometimes I can literally feel it—deep in my bones—that if I do not shut my mouth for a while I will get myself in trouble because my words will be completely disconnected from the reality of God in my own life. Silence is the only cure for this desperate situation. ‘Right speech comes out of silence ….’ wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In silence our speech patterns are refined because silence fosters a self-awareness that enables us to choose more truly the words that we say. Rather than speech that issues from subconscious needs to impress, to put others in their place, to compete, to control, to manipulate, and put a good spin on things, we are able to notice our inner dynamics and make choices that are more grounded in love, trust, and God-given wisdom. …The Psalmist says, ‘When you are disturbed, do not sin; ponder it on your bed and be silent. Offer right sacrifices (in other words, stay faithful to your spiritual practices) and put your trust in the Lord.’ There are times when the most heroic thing a leader can do is to remain in that private place with God for as long as it takes to keep from sinning. In this place we consciously trust ourselves to God rather than everything else we could be doing in the moment. …The more I am called upon to use words, the more distressing things are, the more active leadership that is required of me, the more silence I need.” Ruth Haley Barton

“May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
Psalm 19:4

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is the practice of silence a meaningful part of your life?
  • Do your words increasingly flow from a previous silence that has shaped them?
  • As you become more active, are you more inclined to sequester yourself more in silence?

Abba, keep a guard over my lips.

For More: Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. I appreciate your interest! Please feel free to leave a comment or question. – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

 

Daily Riches: Spirituality as Balance (Lynn Baab)

“Esther de Waal, in her book Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality, uses the language of paradox and contradiction to describe Benedict’s genius as he interprets the Gospel of Jesus Christ into everyday life. We are called to find God in this place and to seek the peace and discipline of stability, yet we are also called to grow and change and be willing to move. We are called to welcome strangers and accept them for who they are, yet we are not called to change our own priorities as we welcome them. Many, including de Waal, use the word ‘balance’ to describe the life patterns laid out by Benedict. We are called to prayer, work, study, and rest in fairly equal proportions. Each is important, but to overemphasize any one of them would be unhealthy. Benedict invites us to embrace the balance between community, where we live and work, and time alone for prayer and reflection. Benedict encourages us to engage in self-reflection without self-absorption and to strive for sincere repentance without dwelling excessively on our shortcomings. Benedict calls us to a radical obedience that sees all of life as a response to God’s voice and God’s initiative, yet we are not encouraged to strain for that kind of obedience. In fact, Benedict encourages us to accept that we will fail as often as we succeed. We are called to believe that we have enough today, in this moment, while we also acknowledge that we are looking to heaven for our ultimate fulfillment. The grace of God overflows in every moment, in every place, and in every human life, and Benedict’s balance is firmly rooted in God’s character and God’s presence with us.” Lynne Baab

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Baab mentions many areas. Where do you still need to work on balance?
  • How are you doing in terms of a balanced life when it comes to “prayer, work, study, and rest?” What does your answer say about you?
  • Do you practice “self-reflection?” Can you do that without “self-absorption?”
  • Can you seek to practice “radical obedience” but not “strive”, even for that? What would that mean?

Abba, help me as I recalibrate daily, in my balancing act with you and my world.

For More: Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality by Esther de Waal

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. I appreciate your interest! Please leave a comment or question. –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: Your Rested Self … Your Best Self (David Whyte)

“Rest is the conversation between what we love to do and how we love to be. Rest is the essence of giving and receiving; an act of remembering, imaginatively and intellectually but also physiologically and physically. To rest is to give up on the already exhausted will as the prime motivator of endeavor, with its endless outward need to reward itself through established goals. To rest is to give up on worrying and fretting and the sense that there is something wrong with the world unless we are there to put it right; to rest is to fall back literally or figuratively from outer targets and shift the goal …To rest is not self indulgent, to rest is to prepare to give the best of ourselves, and to perhaps, most importantly, arrive at a place where we are able to understand what we have already been given. In the first state of rest is the sense of stopping, of giving up on what we have been doing or how we have been being. In the second, is the sense of slowly coming home, the physical journey into the body’s un-coerced and un-bullied self, as if trying to remember the way or even the destination itself. In the third state is a sense of healing and self-forgiveness and of arrival. In the fourth state [is] …the blessing and the being blessed and the ability to delight in both. The fifth stage is a sense of absolute readiness and presence, a delight in and an anticipation of the world and all its forms…. Rested, we are ready for the world but not held hostage by it, rested we care again for the right things and the right people in the right way. In rest we reestablish the goals that make us more generous, more courageous, more of an invitation, someone we want to remember, and someone others would want to remember too.” David Whyte

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.”
Psalm 23:1,2

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Does God prioritize rest more than you do?
  • Is God counting on you to lovingly control everyone in your orbit?
  • Are you rested enough to bring “the best of yourself” to your relationships and tasks?

Abba, help me remember the way into my uncoerced self.

For More: Consolations by David Whyte

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. I appreciate your interest! Please leave a comment or question. –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: When You Run Out of Words (Barbara Brown Taylor, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton and Melodia)

“Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure.” Henri Nouwen

“Silence has become God’s final defense against our idolatry. By limiting our speech, God gets some relief from our descriptive assaults. By hiding inside a veil of glory, God deflects our attempts at control by withdrawing into silence, knowing that nothing gets to us like the failure of our speech. When we run out of words, then and perhaps only then can God be God. When we have eaten our own words until we are sick of them, when nothing we can tell ourselves makes a dent in our hunger, when we are prepared to surrender the very Word that brought us into being in hopes of hearing it spoken again–then, at last, we are ready to worship God.” Barbara Brown Taylor

“With silence, problems appear in a less somber light, in their real dimensions, and seem wholly tractable. Daily worries lose their force, until they appear banal. Hurrying makes no sense. To where am I running, you ask yourself, and why am I running so? Anguish does not exist here any more. All is in its place and will be faced calmly, in good time.” Melodia

“Positive silence pulls us together and makes us realize who we are, who we might be, and the distance between these two.” Thomas Merton

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.”
Psalm 19:1-4

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you ever “run out of words?” What does your answer say about you?
  • Can you imagine words sometimes hindering your relationship with God? …with others?
  • Have you tried practicing silence to see if it lives up to its powerful reputation?

Abba, teach me a new way of living–a quiet way, with fewer words.

These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest! Please leave a comment or question. –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: Face Everything And Recover (David Benner)

“Shame lies at the core of our resistance to knowing and embracing our brokenness. It arises in response to a profound sense of vulnerability. It is being caught in God’s garden with your pants down and a half-eaten forbidden fruit in your hands just at the moment when you hear God calling your name and walking toward you. That’s naked vulnerability–something that is so intolerable and unstable that it quickly resolves into shame. What the Genesis story of the Fall tells us is that our fundamental problem lies in the fact that we want to be a god, not human. We hate the vulnerability that comes from being human. And when we experience it, we grasp anything available to try and cover our nakedness rather than embrace it. Shame and vulnerability make us want to run and hide. …The vulnerability I am speaking of is intentional, never circumstantial. It is a choice, a willing allowing of ourselves to remain undefended at a point of acute rawness and fragility. It is choosing not to run and hide from our nakedness. This is why it is a spiritual posture, not a personality trait…. It is choosing openness and trust. It’s a vote for our true self and is always, therefore, at the expense of our false ways of being in the world. …This [relates to] Henri Nouwen’s notion of the wounded healer–our capacity to help others not despite our own brokenness but precisely because of it. Wholeness doesn’t come from eliminating brokenness but trusting openness to life in the midst of it. In the same way, we don’t come to God by eliminating our sin but by receiving the joyful news of our acceptance by God in the midst of it. Paradoxically, our sin is a gift because it makes us aware of our need for God’s grace. In the same way, our wounds are a gift because they make us aware of our lack of wholeness and can be a threshold to healing and further wholeness. …paradoxically, we have to embrace our brokenness if we are to avoid being stuck in it. That embrace is not an embrace of resignation. It is an embrace of acceptance.” David Benner

They sewed fig leaves together
and made coverings for themselves.”
Genesis 3:7

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is your goal to be vulnerable before God–”to remain undefended at a point of acute rawness and fragility” rather than hiding or blaming?
  • Are you learning to be “undefended” in other relationships as well?
  • Could accepting or embracing your brokenness be the next step to God’s healing you?

Abba, I renounce my disguises and excuses. Work your healing work in me.

For More: Surrender to Love by David Benner

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Thanks for reading/sharing my blog! Bill

Daily Riches: The Only Thing That Matters (Brennan Manning)

“The apostle Paul may have understood the mind of Jesus better than anyone who ever lived. He sums up his whole understanding of the message of Jesus in Galatians 5:6 when he writes, “the only thing that matters is the faith that expresses itself in love.” According to Paul’s criterion … the person who is the most Christlike, closest to the heart of Abba, is not the one who spends the most time in prayer. It’s not the one who has the most PhDs. It’s not the one who has the most responsibility entrusted to his care. It’s not the pastor of the biggest megachurch. No, it’s the one who loves the most. That’s not my opinion. Those are the words in Galatians 5 that will judge us. According to that mysterious substitution of Christ for the Christian, what we do to one another, we do to Jesus.  …Jesus expected the most of every man and woman, and behind their grumpier poses, their most puzzling defense mechanisms, their coarseness, their arrogance, their dignified airs, their silence, and their sneers and curses, Jesus sees a little child who wasn’t loved enough–a least of these who had ceased growing because someone had ceased believing in them. How have we gotten it so screwed up?” I was speaking to the Navigators not long ago and they asked, ‘Do you have a word for us?’ I said, ‘Yes, I do. Instead of being  identified as a community that memorizes Scripture why not be a community of professional lovers that causes people to say, ‘How they love one another!’ Why do we judge Jesus’ criterion for authentic discipleship irrelevant? Jesus said the world is going to recognize you as His by only one sign: the way you are with one another on the street every day. You are going to leave people feeling a little better or a little worse. You’re going to affirm or deprive them, but there’ll be no neutral exchange. …We’re denying to the world the one witness Jesus asked for:

“Love one another as I’ve loved you.” Jesus, in John 15:12

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Are lots of people in your church working really hard to become “professional lovers?” Is your pastor regularly calling for that?
  • Your church is probably great (as are the Navigators), but have you settled for something other than loving the least?
  • What would this look like in a church? How would you have to change?

Abba, let me be known for love.

For More: The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

 

Daily Riches: Religion, Violence … and Hope (Dan Clendenin and Jonathan Sacks)

“Human beings cannot live without a group identity, and religion might be the most powerful of them all.  By definition, groups require an Us and a Them. …’You’re either for us or against us.’ There’s no middle ground, no subtlety or nuance, only black and white, in and out. By nature, we extend altruism toward my In group, and hostility toward my Out group. Here again the Hebrew revelation subverts our natural inclinations by commending a radical role reversal. Do not oppress the stranger, the people outside your group. Why? Because you know what it’s like to be oppressed as a stranger in a strange land (Exodus 22.21). The Hebrew word ger (alien, immigrant) occurs 92 times in the Jewish Scriptures, along with similar words like toshav (migrant), zar (stranger or outsider), and nocri (foreigner). Don’t oppress the stranger, have mercy on them, remember that you too were once aliens. ‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people,’ says Leviticus 19:18, ‘but love your neighbor as yourself.’ Protect the weak, care for widows and orphans, help the poor, speak up for those who have no voice. Do justice, love kindness. Don’t long for power, for you can’t impose faith or truth by force. Religion … is an anti-politics that lives without power. Instead, it persuades by example. Demographers tell us that people of religion will increase in the coming decades, whereas secular populations will decrease. Problems of religiously motivated violence are here to stay, at least in some form. We must reclaim our common humanity that takes precedence over our religious differences. …Ironically, whereas the roots of human violence are found in religion, so too is its subversion, for the original Abrahamic promise was that ‘through you all the families of the earth will be blessed.’  To bless the Other, not to curse him, is the sign and spirit of true faith.” Dan Clendenin

 “In that day Egypt and Assyria … will move freely between their lands, and they will both worship God. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth. For the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will say, ‘Blessed be Egypt, my people. Blessed be Assyria, the land I have made. Blessed be Israel, my special possession!’” Isaiah 19:23-25

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you think in terms of “us” and “them?”
  • Does your political or religious group encourage hate for outsiders?
  • Isaiah reminds us God loves and will bless not only Israelis, but Egyptians and Assyrians. Are you determined to love without borders?

Abba, make my faith subversive to the kingdom of violence.

For More: Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence by Jonathan Sacks

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Thanks for following and sharing my blog. – Bill

Daily Riches: The “Benedictine Century” (Joan Chittister)

“The Rule of Benedict was a spiritual document written for males raised in Imperial Rome. But to Roman men in the patriarchal culture who were trained that domination and status and power were their birthright and their purpose in life, the Rule insisted on new ideals: humility, listening, community, equality, and service. …Benedictine spirituality, then, is first and foremost a practical way to live the good news of the gospel today. This society is a complex, consumer society; we can be simple. We can reverence creation. We can refuse to have one thing more than we need. …We can refuse to keep anything we are not using. We can give one thing away for every one thing we receive. …This society exploits. It breaks the back of sugar workers; it destroys farm workers; it wipes out the working person; it discards the middle-aged and forgets the elderly. We can minister to the world by calling for justice. This society dominates and is selfish and has it’s own goals as the inner force of its life. We can be community. We can say by our lives that there are times when it is important for us to step back in life so that others can gain. This society depends on power. We can practice the power of the powerless who show us all how little it really takes to live, how rich life is without riches, how strong are those who cannot be owned…. We can be the voice of those who are not heard and the hands of those who have no bread and the family of those who are alone and the strength of those who are weak. We can be the sign of human community. Finally, this society is anxious and angry and noisy. We can be contemplative. In the midst of chaos, if the Scripture is in our hearts, if we are faithful to lectio, if we build the Jesus-life in our own souls, we can see God where God is. Everywhere. Those are the elements of Benedictine vision that saved the Western world over the centuries again and again and again. Then they can save us from ourselves once more.” Joan Chittister

“even more blessed
are all who hear the word of God
and put it into practice.”
Jesus in Luke 11:28

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Was God speaking to you at some point in this reading?
  • Do you long to be part of such a community of faith?
  • Have you adopted a “rule of life” which guides your practice of these ideals of Jesus?

Abba, change me as I rediscover and embrace these ancient ideals.

For More: Wisdom Distilled From the Daily by John Chittister

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Thanks for reading and sharing this blog! – Bill

Daily Riches: How Good a Christian Are You? (Gregory Boyd)

“John [the apostle] sums up the matter bluntly. ‘Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars’ (1 John 4:20). To truly love God includes loving others with the same love God has for us and the same love God has for them. This is part of what it means to be a participant in the divine nature. It is, in fact, what it means to be Christian (Christ-like). ‘Whoever does not love,’ John wrote, ‘does not know God, for God is love’ (1 John 4:8). Our capacity to love—to fulfill the greatest two commandments—is the definitive evidence that we are in fact abiding in Christ and participating in the perfect love of the triune God. Christians sometimes try to assess how they or others are doing on the basis of such things as how successfully they conquer a particular sin, how much prayer and Bible study they do, how regularly they attend and give to church, and so forth. But rarely do we honestly ask the question that Scripture places at the center of everything: Are we growing in our capacity to love all people? Do we have an increasing love for our sisters and brothers in Christ as well as for those for whom Christ died who are yet outside the church? Are we increasing in our capacity to ascribe unsurpassable worth to people whom society judges to have no worth? If there is any distinguishing mark of the true disciple from a biblical perspective, this is it!” Gregory Boyd

“If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers,
it proves that we have passed from death to life.
But a person who has no love is still dead.”
1 John 3:14
 .
Moving From the Head to the Heart
  • With what criteria do you measure how you’re doing as a Christian?
  • Do you focus on your beliefs? …the opinions of others? …abstaining from big sins? …approval by your church? …practicing spiritual disciplines? …tireless service to Christ?
  • What would change if you mostly asked yourself, “Am I growing in my capacity to love all people?”

Abba, I’m not too bad at loving those that love me (except when I’m not), but loving others that dislike, disregard or disrespect me–that’s where I need to love like you do. Help me learn that Lord. May that be my “practice.”

For More: Repenting of Religion by Gregory Boyd

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest! – Bill

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

 

Daily Riches: The Unquenchable Yearning for Even More (Ian Morgan Cron, Gerard Straub, Evelyn Underhill, John Michael Talbot)

“There’s probably no dimension of Francis’s life that makes people more uncomfortable than his contempt for money, consumerism, and materialism and his love affair with Lady Poverty. In the century where the middle-class and conspicuous consumption were born, Francis questioned the absurdity of relying on material possessions to provide happiness. Although he didn’t set out to indict the opulence of the church or his fellow Christians, his manner of life served as a much-needed correction to their unthinking participation in the materialism of the Middle Ages. Many consumerism-weary aristocrats found his message inspiring, gave all they had to the poor and followed him. Some believe that twenty-first-century Christians have lost credibility in the West because they have failed to make countercultural choices when it comes to their personal economics. We proclaim that faith in God is the route to authentic happiness, but our hyper-acquisitive lifestyles contradict that assertion. When it comes to money, we don’t believe the words of our Founder. Rather, we are ‘behavioral atheists.'” Ian Morgan Cron

“Francis believed the Church’s languishing spirituality could be directly attributed to her vast wealth and rise to great political power, and that the Church need to be reminded of and strongly exhorted to follow–the example of absolute and voluntary poverty, along with the resulting detachment of worldliness, as exemplified by Christ and the apostles.” Gerard Straub

“Mystics know that possessions dissipate the energy which they need for other and more real things; that they must give up ownership, the verb “to have,’ if they are to attain the freedom which they seek….” Evelyn Underhill

“Like the branches of an unpruned tree, our attachment to possessions and wealth often chokes our lives, enslaves our souls, and hinders both human community and union with God. Francis prescribed simplicity as an antidote to our often unquenchable yearning for more and ever more.” John Michael Talbot

“The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word,
but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life,
the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things,
and so no fruit is produced.” Jesus in Mark 4:18, 19

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Can you sense the danger to your soul that the “lure of wealth, and the desire for other things” creates?
  • Are your possessions dissipating “the energy [you] need for other and more real things?”
  • Are you willing to embrace “simplicity as an antidote to … unquenchable yearning?”

Abba, lead me into practices, like radical generosity, that will loosen the hold things have on me.

For More: Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and God seeks after you. Thanks for your interest! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)