Daily Riches (CV era): Woke by Faith (Thomas Merton)

“The Hassidic Rabbi, Baal-Shem-Tov, once told the following story. ‘Two men were traveling through a forest. One was drunk, the other was sober. As they went, they were attacked by robbers, beaten, robbed of all they had, even their clothing. When they emerged, people asked them if they got through the wood without trouble. The drunken man said: “Everything was fine; nothing went wrong; we had no trouble at all!” They said: “How does it happen that you are naked and covered with blood?” He did not have an answer. The sober man said: “Do not believe him: he is drunk. It was a disaster. Robbers beat us without mercy and took everything we had. Be warned by what happened to us, and look out for yourselves.’ . . . For some faithful . . . ‘faith’ seems to be a kind of drunkenness, an anesthetic, that keeps you from realizing and believing that anything can ever go wrong. Such faith can be immersed in a world of violence and make no objection . . . . The drunkenness of this kind of faith–whether in a religious message or merely in a political ideology—enables us to go through life without seeing that our own violence is a disaster and that the overwhelming force by which we seek to assert ourselves and our own self-interest may well be our ruin. Is faith a narcotic dream in a world of heavily-armed robbers, or is it an awakening? Is faith a convenient nightmare in which we are attacked and obliged to destroy our attackers? What if we awaken to discover that we are the robbers, and our destruction comes from the root of hate in ourselves?” Thomas Merton

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.”
Proverbs 31:8 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Imagine the violence being done during this pandemic towards first responders and other essential workers. As much as you’re able, do you advocate for them? If not, is your silence a form of consent?
  • Are you aware of violence done in your name? Does your faith challenge you to consider such things?
  • Is your brand of faith a “narcotic”–an opiate, that keeps you from seeing or admitting there is a problem? . . .  that stifles your empathy?

Abba, may my faith always make me more desirous to live in reality–and more useful, more compassionate.

For More: Faith and Violence by Thomas Merton

Daily Riches (CV Era): Finding Refuge in Silence (William Alexander, Henry David Thoreau, Michael J. Fox, Elizabeth Kubla-Ross, Richard Rohr, Ralph Waldo Emerson)

“Silence is the universal refuge.” Henry David Thoreau

“I began to practice creating as much external silence as I could. The television was unplugged, and a large Japanese screen placed in front of it . . . . Television is not an enemy, at least not to me. . . . I just need to let go of that part of me that’s addicted to noise and movement of any kind. Bill and television together create a frightful synergy of torpor and listlessness. I stopped listening to the radio in my car, and I only play music in my home when I’m actually listening to it, doing nothing else. I was amazed to find that I, great fan of the blues, didn’t know the lyrics to half the songs I had in my library. The music had been, well, background noise. As the days turned to weeks and months, and then, a year or two had gone by, something happened. I began to seek silence, more and more. Noise hurt.” William Alexander

“There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. You will find that deep place of silence right in your room, your garden, or even in your bathtub.” Elizabeth Kubla-Ross

“The Desert Fathers and Mothers focused on these primary practices in their search for God: 1) leaving, to some extent, the systems of the world; 2) a degree of solitude to break from the maddening crowd; 3) times of silence to break from the maddening mind; and 4) ‘technologies’ for controlling the compulsivity of mind and the emotions. All of this was for the sake of growing a person capable of love and community.”  Richard Rohr

“Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of God.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If only you would be altogether silent!”
Job 13:5 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • “Social distancing” has created an epidemic of loneliness. I want to hear the voice of someone–anyone. At the same time I need times of silence “to break from the maddening mind.” Could you use such a break?
  • I love the idea of sitting in the tub, alone in the dark–quiet, warm water, bubbles. I remember reading about Michael J. Fox doing that for hours after his Parkinson’s diagnosis–because it was all he could do–and to sort things out. As Thoreau says, silence can be a refuge. Can you come up with a way to experiment with silence as a “technology” for controlling the maddening mind? . . . to experience that “universal refuge?” . . . as a way of hearing “the whispers of God” now, when maybe you need them the most?

Abba, let me often disappear into the silence–to quiet myself, to experience peace, to hear your whisper.

For More: Lucky Man by Michael J. Fox

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Riches (CV era): You and Your Partner–Sheltering in Place (Alain de Botton and Krista Tippett)

“One of the first important truths is, you’re crazy. Not you, as it were; all of us, that all of us are deeply damaged people. The great enemy of love, good relationships, good friendships, is self-righteousness. If we start by accepting that of course we’re only just holding it together, and in many ways, really quite challenging people . . . . I think if somebody thinks that they’re easy to live with, they’re by definition going to be pretty hard [to live with] and don’t have much of an understanding of themselves. I think there’s a certain wisdom that begins by knowing that of course you, like everyone else, are pretty difficult. And this knowledge is very shielded from us. Our parents don’t tell us, our ex-lovers—they knew it, but they couldn’t be bothered to tell us. They sacked us without . . . [Krista: by the time they tell us, we’re dismissing what they say anyway.] That’s right. And our friends don’t tell us because they just want a pleasant evening with us. So we’re left with a bubble of ignorance about our own natures. And often, you can be way into your 40s before you’re starting to get a sense of, ‘Well, maybe some of the problem is in me.’ Because of course, it’s so intuitive to think that of course it’s the other person. So to begin with that sense of, ‘I’m quite tricky and in these ways.’ That’s a very important starting point for being good at love. So often we blame our lovers; we don’t blame our view of love. So we keep sacking our lovers and blowing up relationships all in pursuit of this idea of love which actually has no basis in reality. [Krista: This right person, this creature does not exist.] And [this idea of love] is, in fact, the enemy of good enough relationships.” Alain de Botton in a conversation with Krista Tippett

“Cast all your anxiety on [God]
because [God] cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you just “holding it together in many ways?” Does your partner know that you know this?
  • Do you assume that “sheltering in place” would be easy if not for your difficult partner?
  • Can you take a deep breath and consider how difficult you can be? . . . how complicated your partner may be (how needy, broken, well intentioned)? . . . how skewed both of your ideas of love may be?

Abba, help me to understand, and remember, how tricky it is to live with me–and love me.

For More: The Course of Love by Alain du Botton

 

Daily Riches (CV Era): Managing Anxiety (Gregory Hills, Kathleen Deignan, Thomas Merton)

“Because of Covid-19, many of us are living, in a way, like monks, enclosed and isolated in our homes. But unlike the monks, we did not ask for or want this situation, nor it is one for which many of us were spiritually prepared. [Even so] we can use this moment to live into and be freed by the realization that there is much we cannot control. So much of our anxiety revolves around wanting to control the uncontrollable, and the pandemic can teach us the futility of this. . . . we need to be attentive to the present moment and so focus on that which we can control: ‘If I can concentrate on being in control of that very small circle of reality that is entrusted to me and in some sense depends on me—how I use my time, how I take care of myself, how I care for my family and friends, how I daily and hourly turn my concerns over to God—then my anxiety diminishes.’ This is ‘a great opportunity to yield control of our lives, to let ourselves truly trust in the goodness and providence of God amidst all that is happening.’ Whether we are aware of it or not, ‘we are living in the presence of a living, caring and loving God,’ . . . and we can use this time of quarantine to develop, alone or with those with whom we live, a sense of this divine presence.” Gregory Hills, quoting several monks he interviewed

“Merton sought refuge in the Trappist monastery . . . ‘in revolt against the meaningless confusion of a life in which there was so much activity, so much movement, so much useless talk, so much superficial and needless stimulation’ that he could not remember who he was. For the next half of his life he learned a new way of being . . . and [made the] discovery of a new self, his true self, drawn up like a jewel from seas of confusion, restlessness, and banality.” Kathleen Deignan, quoting Thomas Merton

“Cast all your anxiety on him
because he cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Was your pre-covid life characterized by too much activity, useless talk, superficial stimulation?
  • Have you quit trying to control the uncontrollable? Can you focus instead on what has been “entrusted” to you?
  • Might God be calling to you in this time of pain–inviting you to be drawn up “like a jewel from seas of confusion, restlessness, and banality?”

Abba, may my seemingly unmanageable anxiety force me to cast myself upon you.

For More: Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours by Kathleen Deignan

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Riches (CV era): Our New Uncluttered View of Life (Steven Paulikas)

“The images of empty public spaces around the world are shocking outward signs that reflect the interior emptiness so many feel right now. Millions are being deprived of the chance to work, socialize and support one another in person. . . .Yet the void created by this crisis may be an unexpected gift. This emptiness presents to us a mystical and uncluttered view of life as we have been living it until a few weeks ago. . . . Each day, it becomes more apparent that this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to consider a fundamental question about the spirit and morality of our way of living: Having emptied ourselves, what do we really want to fill our world with once it is time to rebuild?

It is notable that the most dangerous places in America right now are the ones filled with people we are refusing the right of empty space. . . . the virus is endangering prisoners and prison workers. The 34,000 people held in ICE detention centers are ‘sitting ducks’ for infection . . . workers in dozens of Amazon warehouses rushing to fulfill the orders of millions of quarantined Americans have tested positive for the virus, yet the company has given them no viable option to stay at home. . . . What does it say about our economy that it depends on the labor of people whose lives we are willing to sacrifice? Do we want to continue participating in an exhausting economic system that crumbles the instant it is taken out of perpetual motion? And what is the virtue of a desire for constant accumulation of wealth and goods, especially when they come at the cost of collective welfare and equality? These are . . . spiritual concerns that come into view with sharp clarity in the emptiness around them.

If there is anything the collective spiritual insight of millenniums can teach us right now, it is that in addition to the horrors of this current state of emptiness, there is also life to be discovered in this moment. . . . This is a powerful moment in human history in which we can examine, individually and collectively, the unnecessary decadence and cruelty of our contemporary society that we have accepted without sufficient scrutiny. . . . Sitting with these questions now will determine what we are willing to accept once this crisis is over. Having tasted a simpler life, perhaps we will shift our values and patterns. Having seen the importance of community, maybe we will invest more in the well-being of the collective and not just the individual. Having seen the suffering of others anew, we may find it impossible to ignore it in the future. . . . Once the world opens back up, we can choose to fill it with the wisdom and insight gained from these weeks—or allow it to be filled with horrors that are even worse than what we had before. The choice will be ours.” Steven Paulikas

” . . . life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
Jesus in Luke 12:15b NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Has your life become “uncluttered”–perhaps through much painful loss?
  • Can you think of yourself as in a time between two “normals”–pre-pandemic and post-pandemic? . . . a time for scrutiny of self and society?
  • Can you “sit with” some of the questions the author raises? Can you imagine a much better new normal? . . . pray for that? . . . determine to contribute to that? What might that mean?

Abba, the losses are profound. May all this painful loss not be in vain.

For More: The Lessons of St. Francis: How to Bring Simplicity and Spirituality Into Your Daily Life by John Michael Talbot

 

 

Daily Riches (CV Era): When You’re “Disappearing” (David Whyte, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Flannery O’Connor)

” . . . I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.” Flannery O’Connor

“It might be liberating for us to think of our onward life being informed as much by our losses and disappearances as by our gifted and virtuoso appearances and our marvelous arrivals. As if the foundational invitation being made to us at the core of our continual living and dying is an invitation to participate in the full seasonality of existence. Not just to feel fully here and fully justified in those haloed times when we are growing and becoming, and seen to be becoming, but also, to be just as present and to feel just as much here when we are in the difficult act of disappearing, often against our wills, making way often, for something we cannot as yet comprehend. The great and ancient art form and its daily practice; of living the full seasonal round of life; and a touchstone perhaps, of the ultimate form of human generosity: continually giving ourselves away to see how and in what form we are given back.” David Whyte

“Everything helps me to God.” Jean-Pierre de Caussade

“If you cling to your life, you will lose it,
and if you let your life go, you will save it.”
Jesus in Luke 17:33

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Taking everything as a blessing definitely requires some “squinting.” As you witness the horrors of these days, can you also “squint”–struggling to see what less obvious good might accompany the losses?
  • I love Whyte’s humor referring to our “virtuoso appearances” and “marvelous arrivals.” It’s then, when I’m advancing and being applauded that I’m satisfied–and gratified. Whyte challenges me to participate in the “full seasonality of existence”–where I’m unnoticed (“invisible”) and frustratingly unproductive/unsuccessful. Can you do that?
  • Are losses and limits teaching you to accept what you didn’t chose? . . . to nevertheless look for good in a situation you hate, and can’t “comprehend?”

Jesus, you made the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, the blind to see, and the dead to live again. Do something strong in me in this time that seems so stagnant and unpromising.

For More: Falling Upward by Richard Rohr

_________________________________________________

 

Daily Riches (CV Era): Seeing Solitude as a Gift (Jennifer Stitt, Hannah Arendt, Pythagoras, and Frederich Nietzsche)

“In the morning–solitude; . . . that nature may speak to the imagination,
as she does never in company.” Pythagoras

“In the 20th century, the idea of solitude formed the centre of Hannah Arendt’s thought. A German-Jewish émigré who fled Nazism and found refuge in the United States, Arendt spent much of her life studying the relationship between the individual and the polis. . . . She understood that freedom entailed more than the human capacity to act spontaneously and creatively in public. It also entailed the capacity to think and to judge in private, where solitude empowers the individual to contemplate her actions and develop her conscience, to escape the cacophony of the crowd—to finally hear herself think. . . . In our hyper-connected world, a world in which we can communicate constantly and instantly over the internet, we rarely remember to carve out spaces for solitary contemplation. We check our email hundreds of times per day; we shoot off thousands of text messages per month; we obsessively thumb through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, aching to connect at all hours with close and casual acquaintances alike.  . . . We crave constant companionship. But, Arendt reminds us, if we lose our capacity for solitude, our ability to be alone with ourselves, then we lose our very ability to think. We risk getting caught up in the crowd. We risk being ‘swept away,’ as she put it, ‘by what everybody else does and believes in’—no longer able, in the cage of thoughtless conformity, to distinguish ‘right from wrong, beautiful from ugly.’ Solitude is not only a state of mind essential to the development of an individual’s consciousness—and conscience—but also a practice that prepares one for participation in social and political life. Before we can keep company with others, we must learn to keep company with ourselves.” Jennifer Stitt

“Flee, my friend, into your solitude! I see you dazed by the noise of men . . . .” Frederich Nietzsche

“A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home.
You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.”
Jesus, in John 16:32 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Many of us are confined at home with others. If that’s you, how can you make a plan “to escape the cacophony of the crowd?”
  • Others are home by ourselves but with lots of distractions. Instead of constantly seeking connection, can you try to learn from Jesus, to be “not alone” even when friends are unavailable?
  • Some important things never happen “in company.” Can you imagine some important changes in your life that could happen simply because of enforced solitude?  . . . values rediscovered? . . . “normalcy” redefined? . . . new intimacy with the God who is present in the stillness?

Abba, I choose the solitude that is forced upon me, and want to welcome it’s priceless gifts.

For More: Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton

_________________________________________________

Daily Riches (CV era): Our Same Fears and Sorrows (Ernest Kurtz, Katherine Ketcham, Jay Feld, and James Baldwin)

“A major hindrance to the experience of community is our difficulty in talking about our pain. We feel afraid; we feel ashamed; we want to maintain a certain image of ourselves, first for ourselves and then for public consumption. It is perfectly understandable–and yet it keeps us isolated and lonely.” Jay Feld

“Human beings connect with each other most healingly, most healthily, not on the basis of common strengths, but in the very reality of their shared weaknesses. . . .  Shared weakness: the shared honesty of mutual vulnerability openly acknowledged. That’s where we connect. At the most fundamental level of our very human-ness, it is our weakness that makes us alike; it is our strengths that make us different. Acknowledging shared weakness thus creates a rooted connectedness, a sense of common beginnings. . . . Spirituality begins with this first insight: We are all imperfect. Such a vision not only invites but requires Tolerance: active appreciation of the richness and variety of human beings on this earth, along with the understanding that we all struggle with the same demons, we all share the same fears and sorrows, we all do the best we can with what we have.” Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, and then you read.” James Baldwin

“I have cried until the tears no longer come;
 my heart is broken.”
Lamentations 2:11 NLT
 

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • If you really tried, could you find a safe relationship to talk about your pain?
  • Do you think your pain is “unprecedented?” . . . that no-one would understand? . . . that your experience is unique?
  • Most of us want two things: to really connect with someone (which requires vulnerability), and to be admired (which requires image management and being guarded). Which instinct wins out in your experience?
  • Shared strength builds walls. Shared weakness builds bridges. Are you building walls or bridges?

Abba, give me the courage to reach out to others in all that I am as a fellow human being: succeeding and failing, admirable and disappointing, believing and fearful.

For More: The Spirituality of Imperfection, by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham

_________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Riches (CV Era): That Filth on the Street – Brennan Manning

“Ironically it was April Fool’s Day, 1975, 6:30 a.m., and I woke up in a doorway on Commercial Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I was thick in an alcoholic fog, sniffing vomit all over my sweater, staring down at my bare feet. I didn’t know a wino would steal my shoes during the night to buy a bottle of Thunderbird, but one did. I had been out on the street for a year and a half, drunk every day, sleeping on the beach until the cops chased me away. You could find me in doorways or under the bridge, always clutching my precious little bottle of Tequila. And it wasn’t just that this good Franciscan priest drank too much. I broke every one of the Ten Commandments six times Tuesday: adultery, countless acts of fornication, violence to support my addiction, character assassination to anybody who dared to criticize me or remonstrate with me. The morning I woke up in the alcoholic boozy fog, I looked down the street to see a woman coming toward me, maybe twenty-five years old, blonde, and attractive. She had her son in hand, maybe four years old. The boy broke loose from his mother’s grip, ran to the doorway, and stared down at me. His mother rushed in behind him, tucked her hand over his eyes, and said, ‘Don’t look at that filth. That’s nothing but pure filth.’ Then I felt her shoe. She broke two of my ribs with that kick. That filth was Brennan Manning, thirty-two years ago.” Brennan Manning

“’For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you invited me in,
I needed clothes and you clothed me,
I was sick and you looked after me,
I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you something to drink?
When did we see you a stranger and invite you in,
or needing clothes and clothe you?
When did we see you sick or in prison
and go to visit you?’
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you,
whatever you did
for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine,
you did for me.’”
Jesus, in Matthew 25:35-40 NIV

 

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Notice how the woman saw the man as a “that.” Do you assume, like she does, that you see things just as they are?
  • Do you assume, like she did, that you know just what to do? . . . who needs to be punished?
  • In Matthew 25 Jesus identifies with those like the man who was kicked. Imagine, breaking the ribs of Jesus with your kick.
  • Many people are going to have it very rough during the coronavirus era. Can you see them without judging? . . . and have compassion? . . . perhaps help in some way?

Abba, teach my eyes to see the precious person behind the distressing disguise.

For More: The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning

Song for the Day: The Prayer – Celine Dion & Andrea Bocelli

_________________________________________________

Daily Riches (CV Era) – We’re Never Really In Control (Krista Tippett)

“I’m not surprised by the fact that inexplicable and terrible things happen in a cosmos as complicated as ours, with sentient beings like us running the show. But I am emboldened by the fact that surprise is the only constant. We are never really running the show, never really in control, and nothing will go quite as we imagined it. Our highest ambitions will be off, but so will our worst prognostications. I am emboldened by the puzzling, redemptive truth to which each and every one of my conversations has added nuance, that we are made by what would break us. Birth itself is a triumph through a bloody, treacherous process. We only learn to walk when we risk falling down, and this equation holds—with commensurately more complex dynamics—our whole lives long. I have heard endless variations on this theme—the battle with illness that saves the life that follows; the childhood pain that leads to vocation; the disability that opens into wholeness and a presence to the hidden wholeness of others. You have your own stories, the dramatic and more ordinary moments where what has gone wrong becomes an opening to more of yourself and part of your gift to the world. This is the beginning of wisdom.” Krista Tippett

“For sure, I tell you, unless a seed falls into the ground and dies,
it will only be a seed. If it dies, it will give much grain.” Jesus (John 12:24 NLB)

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • How are you affected by seemingly new chaos almost every day?
  • Has what has gone wrong in the past made you a better you?
  • Can you respond to the coronavirus crisis to allow for that to happen again? . . . so that you become a needed gift to your world?
  • We’re not automatically made better by difficulties and tragedy. What can you do to become stronger and more useful, rather than more fearful or embittered?

Abba, when it comes to the chaos all around me, all I can really control is me. Help me do that today.

For More: Becoming Wise: An Inquiry Into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett

Song for the Day: Be Still My Soul by Abigail Zsiga

_________________________________________________

Richer By Far (CV Era) – Loneliness As a Navigational Aid To God

“If [as the Burt Bacharach song says] Loneliness Remembers (what happiness forgets) then the emptiness of loneliness reminds me of what happiness does not remind me of. That God is more, is greater, fuller – limitless, even. When I am spent He is still full and longing for me to turn, in my vulnerability and scatteredness, to His vast heart of loving provision for my soul. When I feel forsaken and alone – in those moments – I am gifted with an innate holy prodding to submit to no other substitute for satisfaction or comfort. So as great as happiness is in its moment, loneliness by contrast, is not a dead end. It is a navigational aid.”  Jennifer @ blogspot

“Paradoxically, I have found peace because I have always been dissatisfied. My moments of depression and despair turn out to be renewals, new beginnings. If I were once to settle down and be satisfied with the surface of life, with its divisions and its clichés, it would be time to call in the undertaker…. So, then, this dissatisfaction which sometimes used to worry me and has certainly, I know, worried others, has helped me in fact to move freely and even gaily with the stream of life.”  … “Only the man who has had to face despair is really convinced that he needs mercy. Those who do not want mercy never seek it. It is better to find God on the threshold of despair than to risk our lives in a complacency that has never felt the need of forgiveness. A life that is without problems may literally be more hopeless than one that always verges on despair.”  Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

If only one person would show some pity;
if only one would turn and comfort me.”
Psalm 69:20

  • Many people run from problems like loneliness, depression, and despair. Can you imagine these unwanted feelings as a kind of unexpected or disguised gift?
  • Have you ever allowed loneliness, depression or despair to be a “navigational aid” to lead you to God? What exactly would that look like for you?
  • Can you see “downward mobility” in all of this – that what seems painful and frustrating might actually be beneficial? …that “downward mobility” might be far superior to “upward mobility?”

Abba, remind me when this happens to me.

For More: No Man Is an Island by Thomas Merton

Song for the day: It Is Well With My Soul

%d bloggers like this: