Daily Riches: Church Gone Wrong (Brian Zhand)

“Framing Christianity within a dualistic ‘us versus them’ paradigm can be a successful way of achieving numerical growth. The nefarious ‘them’ serve as a foil to assert our own rightness. Sunday after Sunday we are made to feel good about belonging to those who are on the right side of all things religious and political. This is the problem we have when churches are led by religious entrepreneurs instead of contemplative pastors. . . . [when] the institution is fully committed to a reactive kind of Christianity. If we are stuck in a reactive form of Christianity, any move toward a contemplative form of Christianity is viewed as a kind of betrayal. It’s often condemned as ‘falling away from the faith.’ But that’s not what it is. It’s leaving behind childish things and growing up into the fullness of Christ. . . . . As long as our churches are led by those who view being a Christian primarily as a kind of conferred status instead of a lifelong journey, and view faith as a form of static certitude instead of an ongoing orientation of the soul toward God, I see little hope that we can build the kind of churches that can produce mature believers in any significant numbers. The American entrepreneurial model of church growth has created a situation where the pastoral vocation has been rendered nearly impossible. On one hand the pastor must satisfy the demands of a consumer-oriented constituency (which is more properly the work of a politician or businessman), while on the other hand seeking to produce real spiritual formation in the lives of the congregation. These two objectives—satisfying a contingency and spiritual formation—work against one another most of the time. It seems impossible.” Brian Zhand

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves,
‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones
God can raise up children for Abraham.”
Luke 3:8

Moving From Head to Heart


*For you does being a Christian mean you have arrived, or that you have embarked on some kind of lifetime journey? Why does it matter?
*If a journey, is it one of constant repentance–where you’re always becoming someone new–new thinking, beliefs, perspectives; motivations, and practices?
*Does your church experience cause you to judge other faiths, castes, races, sexual orientations, ethnicities, etc., or does it give you interest in the welfare of these “others?” Which seems more “Biblical” to you and why?


O God, I thirst, not for comfortable certitude, or feelings of superiority towards others, but a life of constant repentance where my soul is oriented toward you.


For More: Water To Wine by Brian Zhand

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Thanks for reading my blog! Please extend my reach by reposting on your social media platforms. If you like these topics and this approach, you’ll like my book Wisdom From the Margins.

Life Skills #14 – Enlightened Loving

.Life Skills – Overview

The Welcome
“Welcome to our group! We’re meeting together in order to learn practices that will inform and form our lives. (“Life Skills”) Our group intention is to cultivate an atmosphere of safety, compassion, and respect for each individual’s unique experience and contribution.”

The Prayer
“We know you are already present to us, O God, so we ask you to enable us to be equally present to you, to each other–and to ourselves. We consent to your work in us. As we learn new practices, may we be delivered from the ‘pace, power, and priorities’ (Villodas) of our world.” (60 seconds of silence)

Managing Expectations
This is not a Bible study or a counseling session. Our time together is as much about “unlearning” as about learning, more about members sharing their experience than a leader giving insights or principles. In being heard we are helped. We change, and others are usually helped too. (This model is tested and proven in 12 step groups. The approach may be unfamiliar at first, so give it some time. It works!)

Expectations regarding other Group Members
Members of the group will come from different regions, ethnicities, ages, and religious backgrounds. Additionally, everyone is on their own timetable and journey. Don’t assume everyone shares your faith or perspective or that you can speak for them.

Suggested Guidelines
*Come to the group with an expectation of learning something new and helpful.
*Keep your sharing at the “I” level–make it personal (what you think or feel), not preachy (what you think others should think or feel). 
*Please keep the focus on your own experience.
*Resolve to practice patience and exquisite tenderness toward others.
*If you feel judgmental or defensive when someone else shares, “turn to wonder.” For instance, “I wonder what she is feeling.”, “I wonder what my reaction teaches me about myself.”
*Stick to the topic. Avoid controversial comments.
*Refrain from commenting on, correcting, advising, or offering solutions to the person who is sharing. No ‘fixing.”, no “cross talk.” (Not even compliments.)
*Trust Silence. Treat silence as a member of the group. Times of silence slow down the group and give people time to reflect.
*Be sensitive to how many times you share, and for how long. We may have a large group at times. Let others have their turn.
*Hold what you hear in confidence. Help us keep this a safe space for everyone.
Specific to on-line meetings:
–Mute your microphone when you’re not sharing, even if you’re home alone!
–Please don’t make video or audio recordings of our meetings.
–Keep your background as non-distracting as possible.

Skills #14 – Enlightened Love

WFTM 3-22, 4-11

The Difficult Context for Enlightened Love

*Do you live in a time and place (a context) that makes it difficult for you to love in an enlightened way? What hindering factors below resonate with you?

“The first to plead his case seems right,
Until another comes and examines him.”
Prov. 18:17

“If you don’t read the newspapers you are uninformed. If you do read them, you are misinformed.” Mark Twain
“Two percent of the people think; three percent of the people think they think; and ninety-five percent of the people would rather die than think.” George Bernard Shaw
“Americans are the best entertained and the least informed people in the world.” Neil Postman
“If you’re explaining, you’re losing.” Ronald Reagan
“The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming . . . but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.” Carl Sagan
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’” Isaac Asimov (1980)
“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.” Frédéric Bastiat


(2) Warnings for Those Who Would Practice Enlightened Love
*Each writer below is issuing a warning. Which one(s) seems relevant to your situation–to your life? Are you confused or offended by any of these statements?


“Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’”
John 18:38

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” Mark Twain
“Questions you cannot answer are usually far better for you than answers you cannot question.” Yuval Noah Harari

“All this was inspired by the principle – which is quite true in itself – that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility . . . and thus in the primitive simplicity of [the people’s] minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” Adolf Hitler

“Why of course the people don’t want war. . . . But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. . . . Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought along to do the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” Hermann Goering

“Patriotism in its simplest, clearest, and most indubitable meaning is nothing but an instrument for the attainment of the government’s ambitious and mercenary aims, and a renunciation of human dignity, common sense, and conscience by the governed, and a slavish submission to those who hold power. That is what is really preached wherever patriotism is championed.” Leo Tolstoy

(3) What Love Looks Like

*With so much to hinder you, what can you do to succeed in practicing enlightened love? What do the following quotes suggest?

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye,
but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
Or how can you say to your brother,
‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’
and look, the log is in your own eye?
You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye,
and then you will see clearly to take the speck
out of your brother’s eye!”
Jesus, in Mt. 7:3-5

“Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.” George Bernard Shaw

“The temptation is powerful to close our eyes and wait for the worst to pass, but history tells us that for freedom to survive, it must be defended and that if lies are to stop, they must be exposed.” Madeleine K. Albright
“Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted, when we tolerate what we know to be wrong, when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy or too frightened, when we fail to speak up and speak out, we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice.” Robert F. Kennedy
“A mark of an open mind is being more committed to your curiosity than to your convictions. The goal of learning is not to shield old views against new facts. It’s to revise old views to incorporate new facts. Ideas are possibilities to explore, not certainties to defend.” Adam Grant

“Challenging boundaries is not simply social rebellion. It is the catalyst of social evolution. When systems go unchallenged, they grow complacent and corrupt. Raising generation after generation of rule followers and conformists may be more convenient for society, but it inevitably leads to tyranny and, ultimately, revolution. Raising independent thinkers, conscious objectors, and peaceful activists creates a social balance that can endure. Peaceful parenting, then, by its very nature, is socially responsible because it creates the catalysts of social evolution that protect our society from the complacency and corruption that lead to tyranny and revolution.” L.R. Knost

“Social justice is LOVE applied to systems, policies and cultures.” Bernice King

(4) The Hope of Love

“The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!”
Lamentations 3:19-24

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fail. . . . always.” Mahatma Gandhi

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” Howard Zinn
“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.” L.R. Knost

A Closing Prayer

“It is Jesus you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise.” [John Paul II] Jesus, meet us in our thirst, satisfy our weary souls, keep us from settling–from compromising.


For Further Consideration (before or after our discussion)

Read these words thoughtfully. If you were leading the discussion, what would you want to talk about after reading these statements?

“We always require an outside point to stand on, in order to apply the lever of criticism. This is especially so in psychology, where by the nature of the material we are much more subjectively involved than in any other science. How, for example, can we become conscious of national peculiarities if we have never had the opportunity to regard our own nation from outside? Regarding it from outside means regarding it from the standpoint of another nation. To do so, we must acquire sufficient knowledge of the foreign collective psyche, and in the course of this process of assimilation we encounter all those incompatibilities which constitute the national bias and the national peculiarity. Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. I understand England only when I see where I, as a Swiss, do not fit in. I understand Europe, our greatest problem, only when I see where I as a European do not fit into the world. Through my acquaintance with many Americans, and my trips to and in America, I have obtained an enormous amount of insight into the European character; it has always seemed to me that there can be nothing more useful for a European than some time or another to look out at Europe from the top of a skyscraper. When I contemplated for the first time the European spectacle from the Sahara, surrounded by a civilization which has more or less the same relationship to ours as Roman antiquity has to modem times, I became aware of how completely, even in America, I was still caught up and imprisoned in the cultural consciousness of the white man.” Carl Jung

“The contemplative life should liberate and purify the imagination which passively absorbs all kinds of things without our realizing it; liberate and purify it from the violence done by the influence of social images. There is a kind of contagion that affects the imagination unconsciously much more than we realize. It emanates from things like advertisements and from all the spurious fantasies that are thrown at us by our commercial society. These fantasies are deliberately intended to exercise a powerful effect on our conscious and subconscious minds. They are directed right at our instincts and appetites and there is no question but that they exercise a real transforming power on our whole psychic structures. The contemplative life should liberate us from that kind of pressure, which is really a form of tyranny.” Thomas Merton

WFTM (Wisdom From the Margins) is the book that we’re using for these discussions. Much of the material this week is not from the book.

Daily Riches: Nothing Is Excluded Except Excluding (Gregory Boyle)

“The Benedictine renewal, the Franciscan movement, the Brethren of the Common Life, the Protestant Reformation, the Anabaptist community, the Methodist and evangelical revival, the Great Awakening, the Oxford movement, the Pentecostal revival. . . . Such [movements] are part of the long historical process of renewing faith. How would any religious tradition stay alive over hundreds or thousands of years if not for the questions of discontent and the creativity brought forth by longing?” Diana Butler Bass

“My friend Mary Rakow says, ‘The Church is always trying to come to us from the future.’ So, we need to allow it. Jesus lived, breathed, and embodied a boundary-subverting inclusion. If it’s inclusive, and wildly so, then you know you’re warm. You are close to it. Nothing is excluded except excluding. . . . The gospel always wants to dislodge itself from the places where it gets stuck and embedded in the narrow, cultural structure. So, we all take steps to free it, find our way, again and again, to an expansive tolerance and a high reverence for paradox. We need to allow the Church to become a movement again. Jesus says if you’re not gathering, you’re scattering [see Matthew 12:30]. We either pull people in or push people out. We attract in the same way Jesus did. . . . The disciples aren’t sent out to create an institution fortified by uniformity, just another tribe highly defended against all outside forces. Certainly, Western Christianity goofed some things up: it fostered separateness; it bet all its money on the “sin” horse; and it relied so heavily on external religious exercises. Clearly, we are being propelled into the world to cultivate a movement whose ventilating force is an extravagant tenderness. The disciples didn’t leave Jesus’ side with a fully memorized set of beliefs. Rather, theirs was a loving way of life that had become the air they breathed, anchored in contemplation and fully dedicated to kinship as its goal.” Gregory Boyle

“He who was seated on the throne said,
‘I am making everything new!’”
Revelation 21:5a NIV

Moving From Head to Heart

*Have you been assuming that reformation and renewal–like has happened in the past–will never again be needed in the church? Have you grown comfortable with, or addicted to, the status quo?
*Look around. Where does the gospel seem “stuck” these days? What’s getting in its way?
*How are you yourself doing when it comes to practicing expansive tolerance, reverence for paradox, and exquisite or extravagant tenderness?


Lord, as your people, lead us out of our “stuckness” into the looming newness you have for us.

For More: The Whole Language by Gregory Boyle

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Thanks for reading my blog! Please extend my reach by reposting on your social media platforms. If you like these topics and this approach, you’ll like my book Wisdom From the Margins.


Life Skills: Walking

Solvitur ambulando
(“It is solved by walking.”)
St. Augustine

One nineteenth-century observer quipped that the average New Yorker “. . . always walks as if he had a good dinner before him, and a bailiff behind him.”


Walking and Nature
“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” Friedrich Nietzche


“I come to my solitary woodland walk as the homesick go home. . . . It is as if I always met in those places some grand, serene, immortal, infinitely encouraging, though invisible, companion, and walked with him.” Henry David Thoreau

Walking and Science

“The physical movement of walking activates the subcortical region of the brain, including the limbic system with its sensitivity to emotional states. Clearly, something far deeper and older than culture goes with me into wilderness.” Belden Lane


“The American psychologist William James knew this from his own experience of depression. He learned that in choosing to walk (as if he were alert and alive), he could generate the very intentionality he lacked. Going through the outward motions, even in a cold-blooded way, made possible the inner disposition.” Belden Lane

“Build pockets of stillness into your life. Meditate. God 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 last around our unconscious mind in order to click into new combinations. Without this essential state of unconscious processing, the entire flow of the creative process is broken.” Maria Popova

Walking and Mindfulness

“We are men who live in tension, we are also contradictory and inconsistent men, sinners all. But men who want to walk under the gaze of Jesus.” Pope Francis

“Learning to walk slowly with conscious awareness is a first step toward mindfulness.” Belden Lane

“I walk as though my feet were kissing the earth.”

“Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us. We need hours of aimless wandering or spates of time sitting on park benches, observing the mysterious world of ants and the canopy of treetops.” Maya Angelou

“You either walk toward love or away from it with every breath you take.” Brian Doyle

“At its heart, the journey of each life is a pilgrimage, through unforeseen sacred places that enlarge and enrich the soul.” John O’Donohue


“I reach out my hand to God that [God] may carry me along as a feather is borne weightlessly by the wind.” Hildegard of Bingen

*Does one of these quotes especially appeal to you? Can you say why?

Extended Quotations to Discuss

(1) On “Walking Well”

“Walking well is a mental state as much as a physical one. How to walk? . . . To walk out of your front door as if you’ve just arrived from a foreign country; to discover the world in which you already live; to begin the day as if you’ve just gotten off the boat from Singapore and have never seen your own doormat or the people on the landing . . . it is this that reveals the humanity before you, unknown until now.” Walter Benjamin quoted by Tom Hodgkinson


(2) “Eyes and No-Eyes”

The old story of “Eyes” and “No-Eyes” is really the story of the mystical and unmystical types. “No-Eyes” has fixed his attention on the fact that he is obliged to take a walk. For him the chief factor of existence is his own movement along the road; a movement which he intends to accomplish as efficiently and comfortably as he can. He asks not to know what may be on either side of the hedges. He ignores the caress of the wind until it threatens to remove his hat. He trudges along, steadily, diligently; avoiding the muddy pools, but oblivious of the light which they reflect. “Eyes” takes the walk too: and for him it is a perpetual revelation of beauty and wonder. The sunlight inebriates him, the winds delight him, the very effort of the journey is a joy. Magic presences throng the roadside, or cry salutations to him from the hidden fields. The rich world through which he moves lies in the fore-ground of his consciousness; and it gives up new secrets to him at every step. “No-Eyes,” when told of his adventures, usually refuses to believe that both have gone by the same road. He fancies that his companion has been floating about in the air, or beset by agreeable hallucinations.”


*What effect do these quotations have on you (insight, conviction, excitement, encouragement, shame, regret, etc.)?


(3) Bonhoeffer in Barcelona

“At the same time, the year in Barcelona inevitably broadened his social awareness. Covetous of finery though he may have remained, he judged himself ‘ever more sensitive to the plight of those who really are in need and cannot be adequately supported.’ It angered him to see Olbricht speak gruffly to an indigent who’d stopped by the church asking for help. Beyond the comfortable sphere of the German colony, in neighborhoods to the south and directly east, on his daily walks or in the cafés or in the course of some pastoral effort, Bonhoeffer discovered a different cast of characters. He would describe them vividly and with tenderness of heart, these men and women with whom, at one time, he likely would have never ‘exchanged even a single word.’ In this way he met ‘vagabonds and vagrants, escaped convicts and foreign legionnaires.’ He met ‘German dancers from the musical revues,’ ‘lion tamers,’ and ‘other animal trainers who have run off from the Krone Circus during its Spanish tour.’ There were ‘German-speaking misfits,’ among them ‘contract killers wanted by the police. All of them had heard of the sympathetic Berliner and sought him out for counsel. Bonhoeffer grew to enjoy their company, too: the ‘criminal types,’ the ‘little people with modest goals and modest drives, who committed petty crimes,’ and those driven by wild, wayward passions—the ‘real people’! And the stories they told, vivid and honest ‘to the last detail,’ gripped him with a blunt force, as of the gospel’s concern for the least of these his brethren. These people labored ‘more under grace than under wrath,’ Bonhoeffer was sure; and they were ‘a lot more interesting than the average church member.’ In a letter to Helmut Rößler, a former classmate in Berlin, Bonhoeffer described himself as learning to accept people ‘the way they are, far from the masquerade of the ‘Christian world.’ ” Charles Marsh


*Do you think this quotation is relevant to our discussion? If so, how? Have you ever had this kind of experience? Is there a lesson here for you?


(4) Cultural Ideas about Leisure


“More and more, work enlists all good conscience on its side; the desire for joy already calls itself a ‘need to recuperate’ and is beginning to be ashamed of itself. ‘One owes it to one’s health’— that is what people say when they are caught on an excursion into the country. Soon we may well reach the point where people can no longer give into the desire for a vita contemplativa (that is, taking a walk with ideas and friends) without self-contempt and a bad conscience. Well, formerly, it was the other way around, it was work that was afflicted with the bad conscience. A person of good family used to conceal the fact that he was working if need compelled him to work. Slaves used to work, oppressed by the feeling that they were doing something contemptible. ‘Nobility and honour are attached solely to otium and bellum [war],’ that was the ancient prejudice. Nietzsche’s point is: if we managed to remove our collective guilt about enjoying ourselves, then the culture of only taking time off when we are allowed by some outside force or by some inner self-controller might be damaged. The word leisure, incidentally, comes from the Latin licere, meaning ‘to be permitted.’ We have given responsibility for our free time to others, and we only have ourselves to blame.” Tom Hodgkinson

“In Buddhism the beggar, the tramp, the vagabond is not a subject for reform or liberal hand-wringing, but, on the contrary, he represents an ideal of living, of pure living in the moment, of wandering without destination, of freedom from worldly care. In Hindu culture, too, we find the figure of the Sadhu, a middle-aged man who, having performed his worldly responsibilities in the form of service to employer and family, decides that he will wander off with a begging bowl. He abandons all possessions (‘Imagine!’) and takes to the road. He is a holy figure, admired.” Tom Hodgkinson


“This [very negative] attitude to vagabondage was enthusiastically taken up by Nazi Germany in the mid 1930s. A list of ‘anti-social elements,’ issued by the Bavarian Political Police in August 1936, included beggars, vagabonds, gypsies and vagrants. Such freedom-seekers could, if necessary, be taken into ‘protective custody’ (i.e. concentration camps) where they would be forcibly taught the values of hard work and discipline. “Arbeit Macht Frei” ran the legend above the gates of Auschwitz, ‘Work Makes Us Free.'” Tom Hodgkinson


*Do you think these quotations are relevant to our discussion? If so, how? Do you wrestle with the idea of “leisure?”


(5) St. Teresa’s Famous Poem
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes with which he looks with
compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
with compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

*How would you restate Teresa’s words in just one sentence–relating it to our topic of walking well?


CLOSING PRAYER

“Heavenly Father, you do not lead us all by the same path. Here in your presence, take our yearning to speak with you and what words we have, and make of them a prayer worthy of your love for us. Lord you’ve heard the cry of our hearts and seen our deepest needs. Before we leave this gathering, we want to ask you . . . to commit each person here into your loving hands. If you have us . . . if we have you, God, we will want for nothing. You alone suffice.”


Supplementary Readings (for before or after the group time)

Set aside at least 5-10 minutes of quiet, take some deep breaths, and ask God to touch what needs to be touched in you by one of these readings.

From Mary Oliver “When I Am Among the Trees”

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
   but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, 'It’s simple,' they say,
and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled."

Thomas Merton’s famous prayer

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.

               Nor do I really know myself, 
               and the fact that I think that I am following
               your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. 

               But I believe that the desire to please you does in
                fact please you.

               And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. 
               I hope that I will never do anything apart from that
               desire. 

              And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the
              right road though I may know nothing about it.

              Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem
              to be lost and in the shadow of death." 

              I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will
              never leave me to face my perils alone."

Each week’s quotes usually come from Wisdom From the Margins. This is the book we will use for this discussion. If you can, try to read one reading daily in the book (perhaps the reading for that calendar day).


If this discussion sounds like something you might be interested in, please contact me for more details. (Bill at wm_britton@mac.com) Also, if you’re in a completely different time zone and you’re interested, also please let me know, since a second gathering time, designed for people in the Eastern hemisphere may be possible.

Life Skills: The Practice of Sabbath

Introduction (Keeping the Focus)
“Has anyone already started working on a practice? If you have, can you share what that is, and specifically, how you practice it?” (one or two people)

Quotations to Prime the Pump

“The burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:30b NLT


“Truly my soul finds rest in God . . . .” Psalm 62:1a NIV


“Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’ He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.” Mark 6:31 NLT


Sabbath “. . . invites us to rest. It asks us to notice that while we rest, the world continues without our help.” Wendell Berry

“Sabbath is about withdrawal from the anxiety system of Pharaoh, the refusal to let one’s life be defined by production.” Walter Brueggemann

“Resting in the presence of God, without work or speech . . . one becomes more aware of the companionship, grace, and love of God than one has been of the companionship, demands, and duties associated with other people. . . . Contemplative practices . . . are exercised more or less in solitude, making the first cluster [solitude, Sabbath, and silence] in many ways the key to the rest.” Brian McLaren

“And now we’re all tired. We dream of that day when our work will be done, when we can finally wash the dust of it from our skin, but that day never comes. We look in vain for the day of our work’s completion. But it is mythical, like unicorns and dragons. So we dream . . . . [But] God, out of the bounty of his own nature, held this day apart and stepped fully into it, then turned and said, ‘Come, all you who are weary and heavy-laden. Come, and I will give you rest. Come, join me here.’” Mark Buchanan

“As long as we are working hard, using our gifts to serve others, experiencing joy in our work along with the toil, we are always in danger of believing that our actions trigger God’s love for us. Only in stopping, really stopping, do we teach our hearts and souls that we are loved apart from what we do. During a day of rest, we have the chance to take a deep breath and look at our lives. God is at work every minute of our days, yet we seldom notice. Noticing requires intentional stopping, and the Sabbath provides that opportunity. On the Sabbath we can take a moment to see the beauty of a maple leaf, created with great care by our loving Creator. . . . Without time to stop, we cannot notice God’s hand in our lives, practice thankfulness, step outside our culture’s values or explore our deepest longings. Without time to rest, we will seriously undermine our ability to experience God’s unconditional love and acceptance. The Sabbath is a gift whose blessings cannot be found anywhere else.” Lynne Baab

Questions for Discussion

  1. Which quote really affected you (convicted, provoked, challenged, etc.)? Talk about that.
  1. How does the inclusion of the Egyptian exile image in quote #2 strike you regarding your Sabbath-keeping?
  2. “Solitude, Sabbath and silence” – which is most difficult for you to practice? Quote #3
  3. How do you “join God” on the Sabbath so that it is a valuable exercise? Quote #4

REMEMBERING APPLICATION:
Moving From Head to Heart,
Moving From Words to Deeds,
Moving from Self-love to Love of God and Others

  1. After this discussion, is there something specific, measurable, and realistic that you are going to practice in order to develop sabbath keeping as a new skill?
  2. How does the practice, as you understand it, make you more able to be a person who loves well (who practices compassion and justice)?

CLOSING PRAYER
“Heavenly Father, you do not lead us all by the same path. Here in your presence, take our yearning to speak with you and what words we have, and make of them a prayer worthy of your love for us. Lord you’ve heard the cry of our hearts and seen our deepest needs. Before we leave this gathering, we want to ask you . . . to commit each person here into your loving hands. If you have us . . . if we have you, God, we will want for nothing. You alone suffice.”

The quotes from this week come from Wisdom From the Margins. This is the book we will use for this discussion. If you can, try to read one reading daily in the book (perhaps the reading for that calendar day).


For further consideration (to do before or after the session)

Set aside at least 10 minutes, find a quiet place, settle yourself when with some deep breathing, and read through these words slowly, phrase by phrase, asking God to make clear to you what you need to hear most. (Maybe write that down on a 3.5 card.)

“Sabbath-keeping is the primary discipline that helps us to live within the limits of our humanity and to honor God as our Creator. it is the kingpin of a life lived in sync–with the rhythms that God himself built into our world–and yet it is the discipline that seems hardest for us to practice. Sabbath-keeping honors the body’s need for rest, the spirit’s need for replenishment, and the soul’s need to delight itself in God for God’s own sake. It begins with the willingness to acknowledge the limits of our humanness and then taking steps to live more graciously within the order of things. . . . I am not God. God is the only one who can be all things to all people. God is the only one who can be two places at once. God is the one who never sleeps. I am not. This is pretty basic stuff but many of us live as though we don’t know it. . . . There is something about being gracious and accepting and gentle with ourselves at least once a week that enables us to be gracious and accepting and gentle with others. There is a freedom that comes from being who we are in God and resting into God that eventually enables us to bring something truer to the world than all of our doing. Sabbath-keeping helps us to live within our limits because on the Sabbath, in so many different ways, we allow ourselves to be the creature in the presence of our Creator. We touch something more real in ourselves and others than what we are all able to produce. We touch our very being in God. Surely that is what the people around us need most.” Ruth Haley Barton


If this discussion sounds like something you might be interested in, please contact me for more details. (Bill at wm_britton@mac.com) Also, if you’re in a completely different time zone and you’re interested, also please let me know, since a second gathering time, designed for people in the Eastern hemisphere may be possible.

Daily Riches: The Lens Through Which We View the World (Thomas Moore and Chris Hedges)

“If we could all feel the suffering of humanity we would become the persons we are destined to be. But we typically protect ourselves from this transformative knowledge. We pretend to be children in a nursery kept at a distance from the real world.” Thomas Moore

“Those who fail to exhibit positive attitudes, no matter the external reality, are seen as maladjusted and in need of assistance. [We’re told that] Their attitudes need correction. Once we adopt an upbeat vision of reality, positive things will happen. This belief encourages us to flee from reality when reality does not elicit positive feelings. . . . It argues that we attract those things in life, whether it is money, relationships or employment, which we focus on. Suddenly, abused and battered wives or children, the unemployed, the depressed and mentally ill, the illiterate, the lonely, those grieving for lost loved ones, those crushed by poverty, the terminally ill, those fighting with addictions, those suffering from trauma, those trapped in menial and poorly paid jobs, those whose homes are in foreclosure or who are filing for bankruptcy because they cannot pay their medical bills, are to blame for their negativity. The ideology justifies the cruelty of unfettered capitalism, shifting the blame from the power elite to those they oppress. And many of us have internalized this pernicious message, which in times of difficulty leads to personal despair, passivity and disillusionment. . . . This is the twisted ideological lens through which we view the world. ” Chris Hedges

“But if your eyes are unhealthy,
your whole body will be full of darkness.
If then the light within you is darkness,
how great is that darkness!”
Jesus in Mt. 6:23 NIV

Moving From The Head to The Heart

  • Does Hodges’ strident language and biting critique turn you away? . . . prevent you from hearing the argument? If so, what does that say about you?
  • Do you tend to blame people for their problems (homelessness, poverty, addiction, bankruptcy, divorce, abuse, unemployment, foreclosure, etc.)? Could that be subtle “cruelty” on your part that lets powerful oppressors off the hook?
  • Might it also let you off the hook–absolving you from the need to care, to help, to intervene?

Abba, help me to see through the hype, the spin, the propaganda, the disinformation, the misleading reporting–the lies–and past the verdict of “It is what it is.”

For More: Happiness Consultants Won’t Stop a Depression” by Chris Hedges

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Daily Riches: That Busy, Deadly Work for God (Willie James Jennings and William Britton)

“The scene Luke paints in verses 6-12 [of Acts 25] is horrifying. Paul is surrounded by his hateful accusers shouting charges against him. As horrifying as this is, we must never lose sight of the humanity of his enemies because they believe they are doing a good and righteousness thing. They by any means necessary (by lying and bearing false witness) are seeking to bring about the death of a heretic, one who they believe is a direct threat to diaspora faith and life.” Willie James Jennings

We might blanch at the suggestion not to lose sight of the humanity of Paul’s enemies, but we’ve forgiven Saul, now Paul, for the same hateful behavior. Here’s how he describes his (pre-conversion) “busy work for God” (:12) “I thought I was under obligation to do many things against the name of Jesus of Nazareth, and that is what I did in Jerusalem. I received authority from the chief priests to shut up many of God’s people in prison, and when they were condemned to death I cast my vote against them. I punished them many times in all the synagogues and forced many of them to blaspheme. I became more and more furious against them, and even pursued them to cities in other lands.” Acts 26:4-11 (Trans. by N. T. Wright)

Moving From Head to Heart

The Apostle Paul “thought he was under obligation” to fight again Jesus and his followers. He helped imprison them and voted for their deaths. We don’t even want to imagine what he did to force them to blaspheme. After his conversion, the religious establishment would turn on him, hoping to exterminate him–thinking “they were doing a good and righteous thing.”

  • Have you seen zealous believers turn in hate on those who differ from them in doctrine or practice? . . . who seem like a threat? . . . like heretics? (And not in the past only, but now?)
  • From inside it looks like faithfulness and zealousness (even though it involves perjured testimony, and conspiracy to commit murder)–right?
  • It’s hard though, like “kicking against the goads” (:14)–since, for example in Saul’s case–you have to forget what you believe, e.g., that all people are made in God’s image, that all people (not just they but we) are sinners, that all people are loved by Yahweh–and perhaps also, some first century version of “The ends don’t justify the means.” And yet he persisted. Perhaps in his “zeal” he was too blinded and “busy” (:12) for such considerations. Is your zealousness ever that kind of haste and blindness?
  • Paul was “busy on this work.” Wow. Imagine all those today, whether from the right or the left, who are “busy” that same way–justifying lies, scheming, disloyal to their own core beliefs–in the cause of their truth, party, faith.

Abba, may my zeal be that which “discerns every operation that places creaturely life on this path [of destruction] and presses against it with all the means at [my] disposal as a citizen.” (Jennings)

For More: Acts: A Theological Commentary on the Bible by Willie James Jennings

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Thanks for reading my blog. Please extend my reach by reposting on your social media platforms. If you like these topics and this approach, you’ll like my book Wisdom From the Margins.

Daily Riches: “. . . What Money Does For the Rich” (César Chávez)

“As your industry has experienced, our strikers here in Delano and those who represent us throughout the world are well trained for this struggle. They have been under the gun, they have been kicked and beaten and herded by dogs, they have been cursed and ridiculed, they have been stripped and chained and jailed, they have been sprayed with the poisons used in the vineyards; but they have been taught not to lie down and die nor to flee in shame, but to resist with every ounce of human endurance and spirit. To resist not with retaliation in kind but to overcome with love and compassion, with ingenuity and creativity, with hard work and longer hours, with stamina and patient tenacity, with truth and public appeal, with friends and allies, with mobility and discipline, with politics and law, and with prayer and fasting. They were not trained in a month or even a year; after all, this new harvest season will mark our fourth full year of strike and even now we continue to plan and prepare for the years to come. Time accomplishes for the poor what money does for the rich. . . . This letter does not express all that is in my heart, Mr. Barr. But if it says nothing else, it says that we do not hate you or rejoice to see your industry destroyed; we hate the agribusiness system that seeks to keep us enslaved, and we shall overcome and change it not by retaliation or bloodshed but by a determined nonviolent struggle carried on by those masses of farm workers who intend to be free and human.” César Chávez

‘Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan,
I will now arise,’ says the Lord.”
Ps. 12:5a NIV

Moving From The Head to The Heart

  • Imagine workers treated like this simply because they demanded better wages and freedom from exposure to toxic poisons in vineyards.
  • Chávez’s training teaches them to “overcome with love” and through prayer and fasting. Is this what you would expect of striking migrant workers? Is that how you would respond if you were exploited?
  • What does it mean, “Time accomplishes for the poor what money does for the rich.”? Why do essential workers have to fight so hard for safe working conditions and reasonable wages?

Abba, help me to notice the exploited workers around me–to see, to care, to help.

For More: Protest Nation, ed. by Timothy Patrick. New York: New Press, 2010.

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Thanks for reading my blog. Please extend my reach by reposting on your social media platforms. If you like these topics and this approach, you’ll like my book Wisdom From the Margins.

Daily Riches: “The Unfamiliar Jesus” (David Brooks, Romano Guardini)

“My background is Jewish. So I see Jesus through a Jerusalem lens. To see him in that lens is to see him embedded in the Jewish world of 2,000 years ago. That world is nothing like the peacefulness of an American church pew. It’s nothing like the quiet domesticity of a modern Bible study. It was a world of strife, combat and fractious intensity. The Holy land then, and it is now, was a spiritual and a literal battleground. The primary factor was foreign occupation. Jews and Jewish homeland had been oppressed and occupied for centuries. The Babylonians, the Syrians, the Romans–certain questions would have been electric in the air: Why are we oppressed? Who amongst our people is betraying us and collaborating? How do we survive as a people under the crushing burden of their power? Everything was fraught, semi-hysterical and tension-filled. Desperate gangs roamed the land. Minor league revolutionaries were perpetually rising up. N. T. Wright lists seven separate revolts between the years 26 and 36, about the time of Jesus’s ministry. . . . When you see Jesus in this context, you see how completely bold and aggressive he was. He lived in a crowded, angry world yet took on all comers. . . . Jesus walked into a complex network of negotiated and renegotiated power settlements between various factions. And he . . . pierced through them and went right to the core. At a moment of elite polarization, he was bringing access to the kingdom directly to the poor. He was offering triumph directly to the downtrodden. [He taught] . . . another way, another path, a higher serenity. [The Beatitudes] were an inversion of values. They were beauty in the storm. Romano Guardini put it beautifully–in the Beatitudes, something of the celestial grandeur breaks through. There are no mere formulas for superior ethics, but tidings of sacred and supreme realities entering into the world. Jesus was love and beauty in the midst of muck and violence and the most difficult circumstances imaginable. You don’t have to be Christian. You can be atheist, Jewish, Muslim–whatever, and you can be astounded by this man and astounded by the faith he inspired. . . . [and] these are the acts that have the power to shock . . . a revolution in our culture and in our consciousness.” David Brooks

“Behold, the Man!”
John 19:5 NIV

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Was the Jesus you know an “agitator”–challenging and offending the political and religious leaders of his day? –often rocking the boat?
  • Have we somehow pared Jesus down to make him more acceptable–more manageable–less demanding?
  • Have you turned to his story lately (as an adult)?

Abba, guide me into “good trouble” (John Lewis), and truth seeking just like Jesus.

For More: David Brooks at the National Cathedral in Washington

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Thanks for reading my blog. Please extend my reach by reposting on your social media platforms. If you like these topics and this approach, you’ll like my book Wisdom From the Margins.

Borrowing the Eyes of God (Dorothee Soelle, Kerry Walters, and Robin Jarrell)

“Society’s conventional image of a mystic is that of a person who withdraws from the world in order to journey inward. . . . The mystic is stereotyped as a guru sitting in splendid isolation on a mountaintop, utterly unconcerned with the world’s affairs. But theologian Dorothee Soelle, herself something of a mystic, argued that . . . the mystic is uniquely motivated and qualified to respond to social and economic injustices. Genuine mystics . . . says Soelle . . . have been liberated from the three powers that typically hold humans in bondage: ego, possession, and violence. . . . The genuine mystic understands that his or her connection with the divine is likewise a connection to all other humans and, indeed, to all of creation—a relationship, as Soelle said, that ‘borrows the eyes of God.’ Patterns of opposition and resistance bred by the division of I and not-I [therefore] collapse to be replaced by ones of mutuality and community. . . . [Soelle] grew up under the Nazi regime and, like many Germans of her generation, never got over the shame of belonging to a nation that willingly collaborated with mass murderers. She was especially worried by the acquiescence of so many people who claimed to be Christian, and eventually concluded that part of the explanation was that they had compartmentalized their faith, transforming it into a private and ‘otherworldly’ thing. Convinced that such privatization is a perversion of faith, Soelle worked as a theologian to demonstrate the social responsibility of religion and as an activist to put her theology into practice. She became one of the Cold War’s leading anti-nuclear voices, a dedicated opponent of both [U.S.] involvement in [the] Vietnam War and Soviet-style communism, and a proponent of liberation theology. The spiritual fuel of these activities was her conviction that the mystical worldview is revolutionary enough to resist ‘powerful but petrified institutions’ that trade in oppression and violence.” Kerry Walters and Robin Jarrell

” . . . a person is considered righteous
by what they do and not by faith alone.”
James 2:24 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Does your version of Christianity address the powers of ego, possession, and violence?
  • What powerful, petrified institutions trade in oppression and violence where you live?
  • Imagine living with the guilt of “belonging to a nation that willingly collaborated with mass murderers.” Do you honestly face up to the shadow side of your country’s history?

Father, may I be a mystic who makes a difference in this world of people loved by you.

For More: The Silent Cry. Dorothee Soelle. Trans. Barbara and Martin Rumscheldt. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2001.

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“Indiscriminate Hospitality” (Dorothy Day and Robert Ellsberg)

For Dorothy Day . . . “spirituality and her social witness were equally rooted in the radical implications of the Incarnation. In Christ God assumed our humanity. And we could not worship God without honoring God’s image in our fellow human beings. We should feed them when they were hungry; shelter them when they were homeless. We should not torture them; we should not kill them. In the 1950s Day and the Catholic Worker took on a more activist profile. She was repeatedly jailed for refusing to take shelter during compulsory civil defense drills in New York City. In the 1960s her activities reflected the turbulence of the times—protesting the Vietnam War, fasting in Rome during the Second Vatican Council to advance the cause of peace. She was last arrested while picketing with the United Farm Workers in 1973 at the age of seventy-five. By this time she was widely honored as the radical conscience of the American Catholic church. But her life was not primarily occupied by activism or protest. She was a woman of prayer, beginning each day with meditation on scripture, attending daily Mass, and reciting the breviary [daily psalms, scripture readings, and prayers]. By and large, her life was spent in very ordinary ways, her sanctity expressed not just in heroic deeds but in the mundane duties of everyday life. Her ‘spirituality’ was rooted in a constant effort to be more charitable toward those closest at hand.” Robert Ellsberg

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement
give you the same attitude of mind toward each other
that Christ Jesus had . . . .” Rom. 15:5 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Imagine the cognitive dissonance required to claim faith in God, while at the same time torturing or killing creatures made by God, loved by God, precious to God.
  • The simple daily life of Dorothy Day was both “ordinary” and “heroic” because she practiced something “ordinary” (hospitality) in a “heroic” manner (indiscriminately). Can you be indiscriminate when it comes to hospitality?
  • Is there a quiet, prayerful side of your life that enables you to rise to the mundane duties of everyday life in a simple, and perhaps even sometimes, heroic way?

God, help me to honor those you love without any preconditions.

For More: Modern Spiritual Masters: Writings on Contemplation and Compassion. Ed. Robert Ellsberg. New York: Maryknoll: 2008.

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Richer by Far: The Death of Jesus as a Cautionary Tale (Eugene Debs, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, John Howard Yoder)

“To do evil, a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“When great changes occur in history, when great principles are involved, as a rule the majority are wrong. The minority are right. In every age there have been a few heroic souls who have been in advance of their time, who have been misunderstood, maligned, persecuted, sometimes put to death. Long after their martyrdom monuments were erected to them and garlands were woven for their graves. . . . Twenty centuries ago one appeared upon earth whom we know as the Prince of Peace. He issued a command in which I believe. He said, ‘Love one another.’ . . . He espoused the cause of the suffering poor . . . . It was not long before he aroused the ill-will and the hatred of the usurers, the money-changers, the profiteers, the high priests, the lawyers, the judges, the merchants, the bankers—in a word, the ruling class. They said of him just what the ruling class says of the Socialist today. ‘He is preaching dangerous doctrine. He is inciting the common rabble. He is a menace to peace and order.’ And they had him arraigned, tried, convicted, condemned, and they had his quivering body spiked to the gates of Jerusalem. This has been the tragic history of the race. . . . The men and women who have been in advance, who have had new ideas, new ideals, who have had the courage to attack the established order of things, have all had to pay the same penalty.” Eugene Debs

“Jesus’ cross was the price to pay for being the kind of person he was in the kind of world he was in; the cross that he chose was the price of his representing a new way of life in a world that did not want a new way of life. That is what he called his followers to do.” John Howard Yoder

“The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin
were looking for false evidence against Jesus
so that they could put him to death.”
Mt. 26:59 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Can you imagine doing evil and thinking it good? (I’m asking you to wonder about yourself, not those who oppose you.)
  • Have you ever read the gospel accounts of the murder of Jesus as a cautionary tale about what happens to those who won’t conform?
  • Does state sponsored violence or deadly religiously motivated hate seem to you like a calibrated response to dissent?

Abba, grant me the courage to live like Jesus in a world that scorns him and his way.

For More: “Address to the Jury” by Eugene Debs

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Thanks for reading my blog. Please extend my reach by reposting on your social media platforms. If you like these topics and this approach, you’ll like my book Wisdom From the Margins.

Richer by Far: The Men in the Vat (Upton Sinclair)

“Inanimate objects are classified scientifically into three major categories: those that don’t work, those that break down and those that get lost.” Russel Baker

“Some worked at the stamping machines, and it was very seldom that one could work long there at the pace that was set, and not give out and forget himself and have a part of his hand chopped off. There were the ‘hoisters,’ as they were called, whose task it was to press the lever which lifted the dead cattle off the floor. They ran along upon a rafter, peering down through the damp and the steam; and as old Durham’s architects had not built the killing room for the convenience of the hoisters, at every few feet they would have to stoop under a beam, say four feet above the one they ran on; which got them into the habit of stooping, so that in a few years they would be walking like chimpanzees. Worst of any, however, were the fertilizer men, and those who served in the cooking rooms. These people could not be shown to the visitor,–for the odor of a fertilizer man would scare any ordinary visitor at a hundred yards, and as for the other men, who worked in tank rooms full of steam, and in some of which there were open vats near the level of the floor, their peculiar trouble was that they fell into the vats; and when they were fished out, there was never enough of them left to be worth exhibiting,–sometimes they would be overlooked for days, till all but the bones of them had gone out to the world as Durham’s Pure Leaf Lard!” Upton Sinclair

“Do you see someone skilled in their work?
They will serve before kings;
they will not serve before officials of low rank.”
Prov. 2:29 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • It’s so unpleasant even to read these things. Imagine going to work at Durham’s each day.
  • Who do you know that has their safety or health endangered by their work?
  • Why are the men at Durham’s treated like “inanimate objects?”
  • No matter how skilled, these workers will never “serve before kings.” Why is that?

Abba, as a consumer, make me aware of how I contribute to the exploitation of others.

For More: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. New York: Doubleday, 1906.

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Thanks for reading my blog. Please extend my reach by reposting on your social media platforms. If you like these topics and this approach, you’ll like my book Wisdom From the Margins.

Daily Riches: Challenging Those in Power (T.P. McCarthy and John McMillian)

” . . . to refer to someone or something as ‘radical’ is to risk offense. To self-identify as such is almost certainly to ensure one’s marginalization, to court caricature. Despite the fact that ‘radical’ can reasonably be defined as ‘going to the root of things,’ it is more commonly interpreted as ‘drastic’ or ‘extreme.’ Radicals are those who decry the status quo, who demand fundamental change, who seek transformation. These kinds of people almost always make others nervous, especially those in power. Without them, however, real social change is much harder to achieve. . . . it is worth remembering that many of the things we now take for granted have radical roots. [For instance] . . . the American Revolution, the abolition of slavery, public education, universal suffrage, public parks, integration, co-education, freedom of speech and assembly, the eight-hour workday, food and drug regulations, the minimum wage, child and prison labor laws, health and safety standards, reproductive choice, same sex partner benefits, marriage equality, blues, jazz, rock and roll, hip hop, unemployment insurance, HIV/AIDS research, the right to a fair trial, public health clinics, Head Start programs, immigrant rights, collective bargaining, affirmative action, wildlife reserves, clean air and water, African-American studies, and the living wage. It’s an impressive, albeit incomplete, list, and it underscores the point that America would be a far less decent and less democratic place were it not for the work of activists who have struggled to make real America’s founding promises of freedom and equality.” Timothy Patrick McCarthy and John McMillian

“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will.” Frederick Douglass

“You have heard that it was said . . . but I tell you . . . .”
Jesus, in Mt. 5:21,22

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Would you want to live in a world without radicals?
  • Have the struggles of radicals benefited you?
  • Do you think of the Bible as a radical book? . . . of the life of Jesus as a radical life?

God in heaven, open my eyes to the truth, and my heart to the needs of others.

For More: Protest Nation. New York: The New Press, 2010.

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Daily Riches (CV Era): A Wilderness With No Visible Sign of Relief (David Richo, John of the Cross)

“I entered I knew not where,
and there I stood not knowing:
nothing left to know.”
John of the Cross

“Nature is a metaphor of our inner life. Thus in our psyches we can expect a tormenting desertlike time in which nothing seems to be moving or growing in us. Such a torturous void is the unlit era in life when exuberance is gone, when nothing seems to succeed in reviving or renewing us, when things do not improve no matter how much effort we expend, when our spiritual practices become flat and uncomforting. This is the ruthless shadow side of our psychic world, a wilderness with no visible horizon of relief. . . . It must be legitimate and even useful to be fully clear and happy at times and at other times to be unhappy and in the dark. . . . We are nourished by light and dark. The spiritual style is to find a way to say yes mindfully to both. Distressing voids are thus challenges to stay with ourselves. . . . Mindfulness is a practice of attending and staying. Mindful presence in the void happens when (1) we pay attention to what is with no attempt to understand it and (2) when we stay in it with no attempt to end it. If we simply stay with the experience of the void, something eventually opens in it and us. What is born from our yes to the void is not emptiness but spaciousness . . . (3) We say yes to the silent dark and it reveals itself as a necessary—even kindly—oasis in our inner landscape. (4) We no longer seek things or people to rescue us. Eventually the space becomes as significant and as supportive as the things or persons who were supposed to fill it.” David Richo **

“May the day of my birth perish,
and the night that said, ‘A boy is conceived!’
That day—may it turn to darkness;
may God above not care about it;
may no light shine on it.
May gloom and utter darkness claim it once more;
may a cloud settle over it;
may blackness overwhelm it.
That night—may thick darkness seize it;
may it not be included among the days of the year
nor be entered in any of the months.
May that night be barren;
may no shout of joy be heard in it.”
Job 3:3-7 NIV

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Do you have a spiritual technology for desperately dark times between a past “normal” and some painfully elusive “new normal”?
  • Will you insist on having understanding and exerting control in that space?
  • Can you imagine simply “accepting the things you cannot change” – and trusting that the confusing darkness and disorientation can be a “necessary–even kindly”, unexpected path to a better place? . . . even as a nation?

Help Yahweh! In the unbearable Pain! In the Distress! The Confusion! The Despair!

For more: The Five Things We Cannot Change . . . by David Richo

** Numbers in the text [e.g. (1) ] are my glosses.

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