Daily Riches: Stability–Looking for God Where You Are (Paul Wilkes, Lynne Baab, and Amy Peterson)

“The first vow laid out in Benedict’s Rule is stability. To a monk or sister, it means being committed to stay in this particular monastic house with these particular people. It means being willing to look for God here in the constancy of this place in this rhythm of life, rather than seeking God in ever-changing places and varied routines. In Beyond the Walls: Monastic Wisdom for Everyday Life, Paul Wilkes calls stability a ‘sense of where you are,’ and he believes that our disjointed lives and fragmented society present ample evidence that we desperately need to embrace stability. ‘What was needed, Benedict taught, was maddeningly simple. It was a commitment to trust in God’s goodness–that he was indeed there, in that very place; and that holiness, happiness, and human fulfillment were to be found, not tomorrow or over the hill, but here–today. . . . Stability’s goal is that we might see the inner truth of who we are and [where] we are going. That we might be still long enough to be joined intimately to the God who dwells within . . . . It is difficult–no, it is impossible–to find and maintain that center if our waking hours are a blur of mindless activity, without the presence and practice of stability in our lives.’” Lynne Baab

“I begin to wonder if I, like the brothers at Taize and the desert monks, need to learn the discipline of stability. Do I need roots, when this earth is not my home? That third instruction from Saint Anthony sinks like a seed into the dark recesses of my heart and lies dormant for a long time: ‘In whatever place you live, do not easily leave it.’” Amy Peterson

“So Boaz said to Ruth, ‘My daughter, listen to me.
Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here.
Stay here with the women who work for me.'”
Ruth 2:8 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you tend to give up too easily on a place? . . . a call? . . . a relationship?
  • Will you determine to “wait for the right moment?” . . . to wait for God’s permission before you decide to “move on?”

Abba, slow me down when my instinct is to flee.

For More: Beyond the Walls by Paul Wilkes

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Peterson, Amy. “Wanderlust: A Personal History.” Essay in The Other Journal: Geography, No. 24.
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Wilkes, Paul. Beyond the Walls: Monastic Wisdom for Everyday Life. New York: Doubleday, 1999.

Daily Riches: Approval From the Father (Belden Lane)

“The death of the father had left within me a yawning, empty place, something no amount of approval ever seemed able to fill. My temptation was to seek out substitute fathers everywhere, trying to be the perfect son, the ideal student, the one so anxious to please–as if to guarantee that no one would ever abandon this child again. Yet the compulsive need to be nice, to avoid every possibility of rejection becomes itself dangerous and seductive. ‘Being nice’ as a way of acquiring love is often not very nice at all. The desperate need to be loved can keep one from love itself. True intimacy is only possible where emptiness is accepted as gift, where people don’t use one another to try to fill (and to fix) each other’s hollowness. Yet neither do they leave. Intimacy is participation in each other’s unalterable emptiness, the sharing of a vulnerability that grows even deeper in being shared. If the desert has taught me anything, it’s that love can only blossom in abandonment. Only now, as the father–and the mother–are irretrievably gone, as the son retraces the path of his long search for the blessing of the firstborn son, does he find it possible (because now also necessary) to release these anxious dependencies of the past. Without parents, without anyone left to mend him, he’s cast into this desert night, thrown on its darkened God as if nothing else were left. Maybe this desolate, desert God is the one he’s sought all along in the endless quest for a lost father.” Belden Lane

“But while he was still a long way off,
his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him;
he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
Luke 15:20 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Can you relate to the sense of a “yawning, empty place, something no amount of approval” seems ever to fill?
  • Have you tried to fill up that space with human approval? . . . even with a substitute father or mother? . . . by performing?
  • Sometimes only when we lose our last hope of being “mended” by others, do we cast ourselves upon God, the only father who never disappoints. Have you done that yet?

Abba, you’ve thrown your arms around me, and you’ll never let go. I’m so grateful.

For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane

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Daily Riches: Through Many Tribulations . . . (Scott Peck, Peter Scazzero, and Phillips Brooks)

“Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.” Phillips Brooks
 .
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth . . . because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult–once we truly understand and accept it–then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters. Most do not fully see this truth, that life is difficult. Instead they moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly, about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, and their difficulties as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy. They voice their belief, noisily or subtly, that their difficulties represent a unique kind of affliction that should not be . . . . I know about this moaning because I have done my share. . . . The process of confronting and solving problems is a painful one. Problems, depending upon their nature, evoke in us frustration of grief or sadness or loneliness or guilt or regret or anger or fear or anxiety or anguish or despair. These are uncomfortable feelings, often very uncomfortable, often as painful as any kind of physical pain, sometimes equaling the very worst kind of physical pain. Indeed, it is because of the pain that events or conflicts engender in us all that we can call them problems. . . . It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually. . . . It is through the pain of confronting and resolving that we learn. . . . Wise people learn not to dread but actually to welcome problems and actually to welcome the pain of problems.” Scott Peck
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“God sometimes wounds us in our journey’s with him in order to move us out of an unhealthy, ‘tip of the iceberg’ spirituality to one that truly transforms us from the inside out. When these wounds come, we can deny them, cover them, get angry with God, blame others, or like Jacob we can cling desperately to God.” Peter Scazzero
 .
“God disciplines us for our good,
in order that we may share in his holiness.”
Hebrews 12:10b NIV

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Are you waiting for life (or the “spiritual life”) to be easy/painless?
  • What’s wrong with hoping for easy/painless?
  • Is desperately clinging to God the starting point of your coping strategy?
  • What else would be part of your strategy?

Abba, thank you for forcing me to go deeper–however painful.

For more: The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck

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Thanks for reading, following and sharing these Daily Riches. Look for my upcoming book–Wisdom From the Margins: Daily Readings for more meditations like this.

Daily Riches: The Pain of Loneliness (Elizabeth Elliot)

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” C. S. Lewis
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I remember waking up very early one morning in a tiny reed-and leaf shelter on the banks of the Curaray River [in Ecuador]. My three-year-old and I had spent the night there with some Indians on our way home to a clearing about a day’s journey beyond. Rain was sweeping over the river and the sandy beach in great waving sheets, and with the rain a huge loneliness seemed about to drown me. I felt that I could not face a day like that in a dugout canoe, nor did I have the least desire to get back to that clearing. Civilization was what I wanted that moment, not adventure, but I had no choice. God met me there that morning, and strengthened me with an It is written, reminding me of His promises, I will never leave you nor forsake you. I am with you always. (Matthew 4:8) . . . The pain of loneliness is one way in which [God] wants to get our attention. We may be earnestly desiring to be obedient and holy. But we may be missing the fact that it is here, where we happen to be at this moment and not in another place or another time, that we may learn to love Him–here where it seems He is not at work, where His will seems obscure or frightening, where He is not doing what we expected Him to do, where He is most absent. Here and nowhere else is the appointed place. If faith does not go to work here, it will not go to work at all.” Elizabeth Elliot
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“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going,
so how can we know the way?'”
John 14:5 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you considered that your loneliness, in all its pain, could be “Jesus calling?”
  • God often works in ways we don’t see, understand, or even appreciate. How do you handle the confusion, frustration, fear, anger or disillusionment that comes with that?
  • Can you express your questions or complaints to God? Can your faith still “go to work?”

Abba, I don’t want to bury my complaints–or let them bury me. Help my unbelief.

For more: “God Shouts to Us in Our Pain” by Daniel Ritchie

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Daily Riches: Fruitful Spaciousness (Gerald May)

“When you think about it, it makes sense that space would be intimately associated with salvation. Space is freedom: freedom from confinement, from preoccupation, from oppression, from drivenness, and from all the other interior and exterior forces that bind and restrict our spirits. We need space in the first place to recognize how compelled and bound we are. Then we need space to allow the compulsions to ease and the bonds to loosen. . . . To the extent that space is permitted by grace and our own willingness, we discover expanding emptiness in which consecration can happen, room for love to make its home in us. . . . It seems to me that spaciousness comes to us in three primary ways. First, it appears as spaciousness of form: physical, geographical spaces like the wide openness of fields, water, and the sky and the welcoming simplicity of uncluttered rooms. Second, it comes as spaciousness of time: pauses in activity when we are freed from tasks, agendas, and other demands. Third, we encounter spacious of soul. This is inner emptiness, the room inside our hearts, the unfilled quality of our consciousness. Depending upon how we meet this soul-space, we may experience it as open possibility or void nothingness, as creative potential or dulling boredom, as quiet, peaceful serenity or as restless yearning for fulfillment. . . . Sometimes the waiting is beautiful in its spacious presence to what is, but more often it feels like a great struggle. It is a fierce and holy dignity to wait in the midst of things needing to be done and nothing but emptiness inside. It is even sometimes a kind of spiritual warfare, filled with temptations to do something, anything, to make a difference in the world outside and fill the void within.” Gerald May

“He has sent me to . . . to proclaim freedom for the captives . . . .”
Isaiah 61:1b NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Could you be hemmed in–”compelled and bound” more than you think?
  • Have you experienced spaciousness (geographical, temporal, internal) in a way that eased your compulsions or loosened your bonds?
  • Have you waited in that in-between space where you want to do anything but wait? . . . where you don’t know what is next? . . . where you’re “off kilter?”
  • What did God do for you or in you in that place?

Abba, you’ve made me for freedom. Help me to abide in it.

For more: The Awakened Heart by Gerald May

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Thanks for reading, following and sharing these Daily Riches. Look for my upcoming book– Wisdom From the Margins: Daily Readings for quotations, Scripture, questions, and prayers like these.

Sources:

May, Gerald, The Awakened Heart. New York: HarperCollins, 1991, pp. 93-92, 244.

Daily Riches: The Problem With Coping and Fixing (David Benner and Gerald May)

“It’s so hard for many of us to encounter things we can’t fix. That’s the trouble with living in a broken world. There is so much that we simply can’t fix–in ourselves, in others, in the world. The problems are simply too vast and our solutions are, at best, half-vast. Welcome to God’s world. But note how God seems to relate to these vast problems. God’s response seems to be to come along side those who are suffering and hold their pain, not eliminate it. Perhaps there’s a lesson in that for fixers. Perhaps it’s an invitation to stand with God in holding things that we can’t fix. But, this is where the real miracle enters this process–in that holding we become shaped in the image of Compassion. Maybe that’s the ultimate point of the encounter with unfixable realities.” David Benner

“I have come to hate that word, because to cope with something you have to separate yourself from it. You make it your antagonist, your enemy. Like management, coping is a taming word, sometimes even a warfare word. Wild, untamed emotions are full of life-spirit, vibrant with the energy of being. They don’t have to be acted out, but neither do they need to be tamed. They are part of our inner wilderness; they can be just what they are. God save me from coping. God help me join, not separate. Help me be with and in, not apart from. Show me the way to savoring, not controlling. Dear God, hear my prayer: make me forever copeless.” Gerald May

“Who is weak without my feeling that weakness?
Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?”
2 Corinthians 11:29

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Think for a moment about all you can’t fix in your world. What emotions arise?
  • Think about God as you understand God. In what sense is God a fixer or not a fixer?
  • What is the problem with “coping” and “fixing?”

Abba, may I not be deterred from loving well because I insist of fixing what can’t be, or shouldn’t be, fixed.

For More: The Wisdom of Wilderness by Gerald May

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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

Sources:

Benner, David. “Holding Rather Than Fixing.” His Facebook post from September 27, 2017.

May, Gerald G.. The Wisdom of Wilderness: Experiencing the Healing Power of Nature . HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

 

 

 

 

Daily Riches: In Praise Of Waiting (Richard Rohr and Wendell Berry)

“Prayer is largely just being silent: holding the tension instead of even talking it through, offering the moment instead of fixing it by words and ideas, loving reality as it is instead of understanding it fully. Prayer is commonly a willingness to say ‘I don’t know.’ We must not push the river, we must just trust that we are already in the river, and God is the certain flow and current. That may be impractical, but the way of faith is not the way of efficiency. So much of life is just a matter of listening and waiting, and enjoying the expansiveness that comes from such willingness to hold.” Richard Rohr

“When Christianity aligns itself with power (and the mindset of power, which is the need to be right and always in control) there’s simply very little room for the darkness of faith; that spacious place where God is actually able to form us. Good powerlessness … allows you to ‘fall into the hands of the living God’ (Hebrews 10:31). You stop holding yourself up, so you can be held. There, wonderfully, you are not in control and only God needs to be right. …Faith can only happen in this very special threshold space. You don’t really do faith, it happens to you when you give up control and all the steering of your ship. Frankly, we often do it when we have no other choice. Faith hardly ever happens when we rush to judgment or seek too-quick resolution of anything.” Rohr

“There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say ‘It is yet more difficult than you thought.’ This is the muse of form. …It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.” Wendell Barry

“For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear,
Nor has the eye seen a God besides You,
Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.”
Isaiah 64:4

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you automatically rush to sort things out and fix them?
  • Are you learning instead to listen and wait?
  • Are you desirous of “good powerlessness?”

Abba, I don’t know what to do or where to go. Teach me to wait.

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Thank you for following and sharing my blog! Bill

Daily Riches: Feel Your Feelings (Lynn Baab)

“When I’m stressed about something, my feelings get buried under my thoughts. Some of those thoughts center around questions about the future: “What if this happens? What if that happens?” Other thoughts are about the feelings: “You shouldn’t be feeling these negative feelings. You should be trusting God.”Some months ago [my therapist] suggested that I practice self-compassion as a way to cope with negative feelings, and I’ve had a wonderful year learning more about what self-compassion looks like and why God would desire it for me. The form of self-compassion that I have found helpful is summarized in the acronym RAIN:

1. Recognize [feelings]. It takes a bit of effort to figure out what I’m feeling because the thoughts swirling around my brain are so vivid and powerful. When I feel my negative thoughts careening out of control, I’m learning to stop and try to discern the feelings that lie behind the thoughts. Most often those feelings are fear or sadness, but I also sometimes feel anger, hopelessness and frustration.

2. Acknowledge [feelings]. After recognizing the emotion, I sit with it for several breaths. I focus on my breathing and let myself feel whatever it is.

3. Investigate [feelings]. I try to identify where the emotion is located in my body, because this helps identify emotions the next time they happen. I also try to figure out what the emotion wants. Sometimes it wants to dominate my life. Sometimes it just wants to be acknowledged.

4. Non-identify [with feelings]. When the feeling wants to dominate, it wants to be pervasive. It wants me to identify myself with that feeling. When I non-identify with the feeling, I might think about feelings as weather. They come and go. …Or I might focus on other feelings I’ve had that day–such as contentment, joy, happiness, or gratitude, no matter how fleeting–to demonstrate to my brain that this strong negative feeling is only a part of me, a part that needs to be acknowledged, but a part that does not define me.

…Why is feeling feelings a Christian spiritual practice? The Psalms demonstrate that all emotions can be brought into God’s presence. How can we do that if we don’t know what we’re feeling? God made us, knows us, and calls us to love and serve him. How can we do that with our whole beings if our feelings are driving us into counterproductive thoughts and behavior? My swirling negative thoughts truly are demonic, and I’m much better able to let them go if I acknowledge the feelings that lie behind them. This process of feeling the feelings, called self-compassion by some people, extends the same kind of compassion to myself that God asks me to extend to others. Why would God want me to show compassion for others but not for myself? Living under the burden of stress makes it harder for me to love and serve God. This gift of self-compassion through the RAIN process enables me to love and serve God more fully because I am not preoccupied with my swirling thoughts and feelings. Christian spiritual practices help us walk with Jesus and help us grow in faithfulness, and this process helps me do that.” Lynn Baab

“Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes
asked Jesus to leave them,
because they were overcome with fear.”
Luke 8:37

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you dominated by your emotions?
  • Do you see emotions as misleading?
  • What can you learn from your emotions?

Abba, teach me to listen for your voice in my emotions.

For More: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Pete Scazzero

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Thanks for following this blog. Longer this time. Too hard to abbreviate more, too important not to do.

Daily Riches: God’s Way Is Through The Desert (Belden Lane)

“Biblical religion, from ancient Israel to the early church, takes shape in a geographical context dominated by desert-mountain topography. Yahweh is a God who repeatedly leads the children of Israel into the desert, toward the mountain. Of the recurring traditions that undergo transformation in Israel’s life the wilderness motif is one of the most significant. At every subsequent period of testing–from Assyrian threat to Babylonian invasion and beyond–the Jews interpret the loss and possibilities of the present in light of their collective memory of the wilderness experience. Having once been taken to the edge, they view all succeeding passages into the wilds of unpredictability in light of that metaphorical paradigm. The god of Sinai is one who thrives on fierce landscapes, seemingly forcing God’s people into wild and wretched climes where trust must be absolute. In the Talmudic tradition of the rabbis, this geographical preference on God’s part came to be discussed in connection with a difficult text in Exodus 13:17. The text affirms, in its most usual English translation, that when Pharoah let the people of Israel go, Yahweh did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, although that would have been closer; they were not taken along the Mediterranean coast and into Palestine, by the easier, more direct route to the north. Instead, they were pointed toward a longer route, further south, more deeply into the desert, toward Mount Sinai. …God’s people are deliberately forced into the desert–taking the harder, more onerous and hazardous route–as an exacting exercise in radical faith. They are shoved down the difficult path so there will be no thought of ever turning back. They cover grueling miles of terrain so tortuous they will never be tempted to recross it in quest of the leeks and onions they remembered in Egypt. Perhaps others can go around the desert on the simpler route toward home, but the way of God’s people is always through it.” Belden Lane

“When Pharaoh finally let the people go,
God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory,
even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land.”
Exodus 13:17

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Has God led you into a long, onerous, desert place which you would never have chosen?
  • In  that “exacting exercise in radical faith” do you find yourself being shaped by God?
  • If you had it to do over, would you take the “simpler route?”

Abba, meet me in the desert place.

For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. I hope you’ll follow/share my blog. I appreciate your interest! Please leave a question or comment. – Bill

P.S. I’ve been working on a book that would be a collection of 365 daily readings–similar to and based on this blog. I’m looking for a publisher for this complicated project. If you have a contact or advice, please contact me.

Daily Riches: Crossing Boundaries to Where God Is Revealed (Belden Lane)

“The desert loves to strip bare.” Jerome

“Desert and mountain places, located on the margins of society, are locations of choice in luring God’s people to a deeper understanding of who they are. Yahweh frequently moves to the boundary in order to restore the center, calling a broken people back to justice and compassion. When Ahab brings the worship of Baal into the court of Israel, God sends fire on the mountain to refocus the direction of Israel’s praise (1 Kings 18). At the peripheral place, unsettling and ‘eccentric’ as it may be, the core of a people’s identity is reconceived. Scholars sensitive to the function of place in biblical narrative observe that Jesus, in a similar way, frequently presses the people closest to him into places they find threatening. Jesus is always redefining the nature of ‘center.’ He moves regularly beyond the safety and exclusiveness of the Jewish homeland in Galilee to include Gentiles in outlying regions where his disciples are reluctant to go. He functions repeatedly as a boundary crosser, pushing his disciples to edges they find exceedingly uncomfortable. In Mark 6:45, he uses the harsh language of a sailor in forcing them to cross the Sea of Galilee, raising sail for Gentile Bethsaida. ‘Just shut up and get in the boat,’ he seems to be saying. They don’t want to go, but Jesus insists. He knows that places on the edge, those considered God-forsaken by many, are where his identity as Messiah has to be revealed. Out in the wilds anything can happen. He pushes to the east coast of the Sea of Galilee, to the swine-herding country of the Geraenes to heal the demoniac (Luke 8:26-39). He goes north over the border into Tyre and Sidon to affirm the faith of the Syrophenician woman and cure her daughter (Matt. 15:21-28). He heals in Decapolis, on the far side of the Jordan. He feeds a multitude on the eastern or foreign side of the lake, even as he had done on the western or Jewish side (Mark 8:1-10). Ever dragging his disciples away from the familiarity of home, he declares present the power of the kingdom in the alien landscapes of another land.” Belden Lane

“Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples
get back into the boat and head across the lake to Bethsaida”
Mark 6:45

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is your Jesus a “boundary crosser?”
  • Has he been dragging you “away from the familiarity of home?”
  • If not, why not?

Abba, use me as I move out of my comfort zone.

For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. I hope you’ll follow/share my blog. I appreciate your interest! Please leave a question or comment. – Bill

P.S. I’ve been working on a book that would be a collection of 365 daily readings–similar to and based on this blog. I’m looking for a publisher for this complicated project. If you have a contact or advice, please contact me.

Daily Riches: The Painful Process of Spiritual Formation (Geri Scazzero, Parker Palmer and Belden Lane)

“Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel is one of history’s greatest artistic triumphs. From 1508 to 1512, the artist lay on his back and painted the creation, fall, and destruction of the human race by the flood. The images, however, started to fade almost immediately after he painted them. Within a hundred years no one remembered what the original colors really had looked like. In 1980, a scaffold was erected and plans made to clean the ceiling of Michelangelo’s priceless masterpiece. The director of the restoration project did a critical experiment using a special solution on one or two square inches at a time. For the next twelve years they cleaned the entire ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. No one expected the results to be so stunning! No one realized Michelangelo was such a master of color—of azure, green, rose, lavender. Beneath centuries of grime and dirt, passionate colors lay buried. For the first time in over 450 years, people could view the masterpiece as it was originally intended, in all its color and beauty. Stripping off the false layers and dirt that cover up your unique destiny and life is complex. Parker Palmer describes it like this, ‘Most of us arrive at a sense of self only through a long journey through alien lands. But this journey bears no resemblance to the trouble-free “travel packages” sold by the tourism industry. It is more akin to the ancient tradition of pilgrimage – “a transformative journey to a sacred center” full of hardship, darkness and peril.'” Geri Scazzero

“The way of purgation involves an entry into what is unnerving, even grotesque in our lives, into what quickly reveals our limits. It seems at first, like most beginnings in the spiritual life, a mistake, a false start, an imperfection in God’s planning, a regression in our own growth. Only through hindsight do we recognize it for the unexpected gift that it is.” Belden Lane

“And I saw the river over which every soul must pass to reach the kingdom of heaven
and the name of that river was suffering
and I saw the boat which carries souls across the river
and the name of that boat was love.”
John of the Cross

“Through many tribulations
we must enter the kingdom of God.”
Acts 14:22

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Are you aware of things in your life that need to be “stripped away?”
  • Are you willing to take that (often difficult) “transformative journey?”
  • Have you experienced a great loss, only to recognize it later as an “unexpected gift?”

Abba, strip away what keeps me from being the person you imagined and need.

For More: I Quit! by Gerri Scazzero

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. Thanks for sharing/following my blog! – Bill

P.S. I’ve been working on a book that would be a collection of 365 daily readings–similar to and based on this blog. I’m looking for a publisher for this complicated project. If you have a contact or advice, please contact me.

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: That Blessing That Isn’t (Susan Edmiston and Leonard Scheff)

“A landlord came to the Zen master in a state of distress. One of his stable hands had left the door to the barn open and his prize stallion had escaped. ‘What a disaster!’ the man cried. The master replied only, ‘I don’t know.’ The landlord left in disgust.

A few days later, the stallion returned to the barn followed by three wild mares. The landlord returned to the master and said, ‘It wasn’t a disaster. It was a blessing.’ The master replied, ‘I don’t know.’ The landlord left, doubting the wisdom of the master.

When the landlord’s son was breaking the mares, he was thrown and broke his leg. The landlord returned to the master and told him of the event and said the master was right that it was not a blessing. The master replied, ‘I don’t know.’

When the soldiers of the emperor came to recruit young men for an upcoming battle, they left the son behind because of his broken leg. The son said, ‘Father, what a blessing my broken leg is.’ The father said, ‘I don’t know.’”

Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.'” James 4:13-15

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you feel able to differentiate a “disaster” from a “blessing?” Is that even possible?
  • Christians often go around saying this or that thing was a real “blessing.” What does that say about them/us?
  • The Buddhist premise behind this story is that we try to attribute meaning where there is no inherent meaning in our world, and that in doing so we no longer see things as they are–but only as we’ve been conditioned to see them. What would be different for Christians? How could your “conditioning” be misleading you when it comes to “blessing?”

Abba, I may not understand what happens in my life or my world, or why, but I can look to you and submit to you to shape me in every circumstance. May it be.

For More: The Cow in the Parking Lot: A Zen Approach to Overcoming Anger by Susan Edmiston and Leonard Scheff

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. I hope you’ll follow/share my blog. 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/question. – Bill

Daily Riches: Listen to Your Insecurity (Alicia Britt Chole, Jeremy Taylor, Gerald May)

“[ A] religion without mystery must be a religion without God.” Jeremy Taylor

“Uncertainty is quite revealing. The unknown triggers different reactions in different hearts and exposes our souls’ defaults. Ambiguity reveals where we instinctively go to feel the illusion of security again. In response to a yet-unnamed but imminent storm, some hide, some run, some live in denial, some escape into fictional worlds, some feast, and some stake out their territory. The latter we see in John and James’s response to Jesus’ continued cross-talk. [Mark 10:32-40] All the uncertainty triggered something deep within the brothers. As they wrestled with the seemingly mixed messages of Jesus as Messiah and Jesus crucified, they reasoned it was time to take control. …To change our defaults we must first address our theology of uncertainty. And to address our theology of uncertainty, we must first befriend mystery. …Mystery is a given for relationship between the Infinite and the finite. As we follow Jesus into uncertainty, we are free, in the words of Gerald G. May, to ‘join the dance of life in fullness without having a clue about what the steps are.’ …Today, pay attention to avoidance mechanisms that surface when you face the unknown, unknowable, uncomfortable, or unavoidable. Do you eat more? Sleep more? Domineer more? Disappear more? Why? Ask God’s Holy Spirit to sensitize you today to the existence of avoidance defaults in your life. Prayerfully consider what beliefs might underlie any avoidance that emerges when you are facing uncertainty. Return to John the Baptist’s words, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:30 NASB), and consider what relevance John’s wisdom might have as a guide through the unknown.” Alicia Britt Chole

“Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here.
If you wish, I will put up three shelters—
one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’”
Matthew 17:4

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • How do you tend to respond to uncertainty? Do you somehow try to banish it? …to take control? …to otherwise distract yourself?
  • Do you crave certainty when it comes to your beliefs, your relationships? What does your answer reveal about you?
  • Imagine how life with Jesus forced his disciples to learn to “befriend mystery.” Is something like that happening with you?

Abba, make we aware of when I’m simply attempting to avoid uncertainty, and teach me to befriend mystery.

For More:  40 Days of Decrease: A Different Kind of Hunger. A Different Kind of Fast. by Alicia Britt Chole

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