Daily Riches: Unclenching Our Hearts (John Lewis, Maria Popova, James Baldwin, David Whyte, and Ann Lamott)

“We’ve got to be as clear-headed about human beings as possible, because we are still each other’s only hope.” James Baldwin

“To forgive is to assume a larger identity than the person who was first hurt.” David Whyte

“How few of us are capable of such largeness when contracted by hurt, when the clench of injustice has tightened our own fists. And yet in the conscious choice to unclench our hearts and our hands is not only the measure of our courage and our strength, not only the wellspring of compassion for others, but the wellspring of compassion for ourselves and the supreme triumph of personhood. ‘As we develop love, appreciation, and forgiveness for others over time,’ Anne Lamott wrote . . . ‘we may accidentally develop those things toward ourselves, too.’ . . . A century after Tolstoy wrote to Gandhi that ‘love is the only way to rescue humanity from all ills’ . . . [Congressman John] Lewis writes: ‘Lean toward the whispers of your own heart, discover the universal truth, and follow its dictates. Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won. Choose confrontation wisely, but when it is your time don’t be afraid to stand up, speak up, and speak out against injustice. And if you follow your truth down the road to peace and the affirmation of love, if you shine like a beacon for all to see, then the poetry of all the great dreamers and philosophers is yours to manifest in a nation, a world community, and a Beloved Community that is finally at peace with itself.’” Maria Popova

“If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load,
do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it.”
Ex. 23:5 NIV

Moving From Head to Heart

  • A “poetic” (beautiful) response to hate and violence may seem like an impossible dream–perhaps even undesirable. But how hard to argue with the beauty demonstrated by John Lewis–right?
  • Showing compassion to ourselves and others are intrinsically linked. Can you extend the same grace and understanding to others (who offend) that you extend to yourself?
  • John Lewis was a great example of a loving agitator. Should you love better, or speak up more?

God, help me to unclench my heart and my hands towards the world.

For More: Across the Bridge by John Lewis. New York: Hachette, 2012.

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Daily Riches: A God Familiar with Confinement, Torture, Disrespect, and Abuse (Willie James Jennings)

“We know too much to ever be fooled into believing that prisons are natural or normal.” Willie James Jennings

“Arrest, incarceration, and imprisonment have never been and never are neutral processes, functioning according to basic rules of justice and human utility. Incarceration is a process at the disposal of the rich and powerful . . . . The prison has never been about criminals but about societies. As this story of Paul and Silas [Acts 16:16-40] indicates, the prison is a tool for control and containment. The question we must continually ask is, Who desires to use this tool? This question turns a searchlight toward finding who, how, and why the prison gets used. . . . This is why we are told to visit those in prison as though we ourselves were imprisoned with them (Heb. 13:3). We must be present in the prison to destroy its anthropology and challenge its false morality and to witness to all those incarcerated a God familiar with confinement and torture, disrespect and abuse. Yet we must also be present in all the places where laws are made and modified to advantage some and disadvantage others, and to challenge social policies that align those already suffering under poverty on a pathway to prison by strangling off the resources and social services they need in order to build a flourishing life.” Willie James Jennings

“But Saul began to destroy the church.
Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women
and put them in prison.” Acts 8:3 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • When you think of prisoners, do you think not only of Alcatraz and Rikers Island but also of John Lewis, John Donne, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Richard Wurmbrand, Adoniram Judson, William Tyndale, John Knox, Martin Luther, John Hus, Joan of Arc, George Fox, John Bunyan, Daniel Defoe, William Penn, Meriam Ibrahim, the Apostle Paul, and Jesus himself? . . . Do you think of people you know? . . . family members?
  •  Do you think of prison as a necessary cure for the problem (as “inevitable”) or as contributing to the problem (“unjust” or “a tool for control/the “rich and powerful”)?
  • Does God care about prisons and love prisoners? Does our society? Do Christians? What are your “trigger” feelings when you think about it?

Abba, may I never forget that I worship “a God familiar with confinement and torture, disrespect and abuse.”

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

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Daily Riches: “American Idealism” (James Baldwin and Stacey Abrams)

“It comes as a great shock to discover the country which is your birthplace and to which you owe your life and your identity has not, in its whole system of reality, evolved any place for you.” James Baldwin

“I don’t know what most white people in this country feel but I can only conclude what they feel from the state of their institutions. I don’t know if white Christians hate Negroes or not, but I know we have a Christian church that is white and a Christian church that is black. I know, as Malcolm X once put it, the most segregated hour in American life is high noon on Sunday. That says a great deal for me about a Christian nation. It means I can’t afford to trust most white Christians, and I certainly cannot trust the Christian church. I don’t know whether the labor unions and their bosses really hate me—that doesn’t matter—but I know I’m not in their union. I don’t know whether the real estate lobby has anything against black people, but I know the real estate lobby is keeping me in the ghetto. I don’t know if the board of education hates black people, but I know the textbooks they give my children to read and the schools we have to go to. Now this is the evidence. You want me to make an act of faith, risking myself, my wife, my woman, my sister, my children on some idealism which you assure me exists in America, which I have never seen.” James Baldwin

“Because we live in a nation that has begun its path to democracy by putting stumbling blocks in our way, we’ve got to start moving those blocks.” Stacey Abrams

“Love one another deeply, from the heart.”
1 Peter 1:22b NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you offended by Baldwin’s critique of church and country?
  • Can you attempt to imagine living his experience? . . . feeling as he does?
  • Do you notice “stumbling blocks” meant for people of color where you live? Do you want them moved out of the way? Think about your answer.

Abba, teach me what it means to love deeply, from the heart. Truly.

For More: James Baldwin on Dick Cavett (1968)

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Embracing Mystery, Paradox–Even Unknowing (Richard Rohr)

“I call non-silence ‘dualistic thinking,’ where everything is separated into opposites, like good and bad, life and death. In the West, we even believe that is what it means to be educated—to be very good at dualistic thinking. Join the debate club! But both Jesus and Buddha would call that judgmental thinking (Matthew 7:1-5), and they strongly warn us against it. Dualistic thinking is operative almost all of the time now. It is when we choose or prefer one side and then call the other side of the equation false, wrong, heresy, or untrue. But what we judge as wrong is often something to which we have not yet been exposed or that somehow threatens our ego. The dualistic mind splits the moment and forbids the dark side, the mysterious, the paradoxical. This is the common level of conversation that we experience in much of religion and politics and even every day conversation. It lacks humility and patience—and is the opposite of contemplation. In contemplative practice, the Holy Spirit frees us from taking sides and allows us to remain content long enough to let it teach, broaden, and enrich us in the partial darkness of every situation. We need to practice for many years and make many mistakes in the meantime to learn how to do this. Paul rather beautifully describes this kind of thinking: ‘Pray with gratitude and the peace of Christ, which is beyond knowledge or understanding (what I would call “the making of distinctions”), will guard both your mind and your heart in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:6-7). Teachers of contemplation show us how to stand guard and not let our emotions and obsessive thoughts control us. When we’re thinking nondualistically, with this guarded mind and heart, we will feel powerless for a moment, stunned into an embarrassing and welcoming silence. Then we will discover what is ours to do.” Richard Rohr

“To answer before listening––that is folly and shame.”
Proverbs 18:13 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you have everything separated into black and white, right and wrong, us v. them? Is this helping?
  • Are you aware of your impatience, arrogance, or judgmentalism towards others? (Think about discussions of politics!) If that’s a regular thing, have you stopped to ask why?
  • Can you practice responding more slowly to others, and listening in the silence for where you might have misunderstood? . . . where you’re being defensive?

May I unlearn, O God, what has taken me a lifetime to learn (my arrogance, my impatience).

For More: Silent Compassion by Richard Rohr. Cincinnati: Franciscian Media, 2014.

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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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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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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): Conversations That Heal (David Richo, Heinz Kohut)

Psychologist Heinz Kohut, speaks of “’empathic immersion’ . . . the dedicated presence of the therapist with the client, or the friend with the friend, unhampered by judgment, plans to fix or change him or her, or personal projections. Mindful presence means that one person enters the interior garden of the other and walks through it without trampling any of the flowers, without blaming anyone for the presence of weeds, with great appreciation for all the time, pain, and growth it took to be the way it is. How can this be accomplished in our relationships? It takes an engaged focus that happens best in contemplation, the mindfully bare attention of an alert and caring witness. A contemplative presence involves listening, seeing, and attending without the diversionary mind-sets of fear, desire, control, judgment, or projection. . . . We automatically let the light through, since our ego is no longer in the way. . . . To stay with ourself [sic] or our friend or partner in this way requires that we be free of the need to clear things up or assume control. One person simply accepts the other’s truth no matter how unclear, broken, desperate, or fragmented it may be. In mindful and compassionate presence, it becomes quite acceptable for us or others to be adrift rather than on course, to miss the target, to feel longing without fulfillment. Every variety of human experience is granted hospitality . . . . Empathic presence means listening to someone’s pain with what I call the five A’s: attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and allowing. We pay attention without being distracted. We accept what is said without editing, adding, or blanking. We feel a genuine caring about what happened and what might happen to this person. We allow whatever feelings or silences or head trips the other employs in this moment without attempting to blame him, stop him, or criticize him.” David Richo

“To answer before listening —that is folly and shame.”
Proverbs 18:13 NIV

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Can you listen without trying to “fix”?. . . without judging or projecting your own fear or desire?
  • Do you have a friend who simply listens no matter how unclear, broken, desperate, or fragmented” you or your story may be?
  • Has anyone ever listened to you “with great appreciation for all the time, pain, and growth it took” for you to be the way you are? How did that feel?

Abba, help me reject everything but empathy when I listen.

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

Daily Riches: A Theology of Love and of Resistance (Thomas Merton and Martin Luther King, Jr.)

“A theology of love cannot afford to be sentimental. It cannot afford to preach edifying generalities about charity, while identifying ‘peace’ with mere established power and legalized violence against the oppressed. A theology of love cannot be allowed merely to serve the interests of the rich and powerful, justifying their wars, their violence, and their bombs, while exhorting the poor and underprivileged to practice patience, meekness, long-suffering and to solve their problems, if at all, nonviolently. The theology of love must seek to deal drastically with evil and injustice in the world, and not merely to compromise with them. …Theology does not exist merely to appease the already too untroubled conscience of the powerful and the established. A theology of love may also conceivably turn out to be a theology of revolution. In any case, it is a theology of resistance, a refusal of the evil that reduces a brother to homicidal desperation.” Thomas Merton

“In the terrible midnight of war men have knocked on the door of the church to ask for the bread of peace, but the church has often disappointed them. What more pathetically reveals the irrelevancy of the church in present-day world affairs than its witness regarding war? In a world gone mad with arms buildups, chauvinistic passions, and imperialistic exploitation, the church has either endorsed these activities or remained appallingly silent. … A weary world, pleading desperately for peace, has often found the church morally sanctioning war. … And those who have gone to the church to seek the bread of economic justice have been left in the frustrating midnight of economic deprivation. In many instances the church has so aligned itself with the privileged classes and so defended the status quo that it has been unwilling to answer the knock at midnight.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

“A person who seeks to honor the one who sent him
speaks truth, not lies.”
Jesus in John 7:18

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is your theology of love a “theology of resistance?”
  • Is your church “aligned with the privileged classes and the status quo?”
  • Where in our day, might the church be guilty of appeasing “the already too untroubled?”
  • Do you think these are valuable questions for Christians? . . . for pastors? If not, why not?

Abba, keep us from conforming to this world, or allowing others to do so in peace.

For More: Faith and Violence by Thomas Merton

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

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

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

Moving From the Head to the Heart

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

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

For More: The Course of Love by Alain du Botton

 

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

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

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

 

Moving From the Head to the Heart

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

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

For More: The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning

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

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Daily Riches: Religion and Established Privilege (Thomas Merton)

“Of course, it is true that religion on a superficial level, religion that is untrue to itself and to God, easily comes to serve as the ‘opium of the people.’ And this takes place whenever religion and prayer invoke the name of God for reasons and ends that have nothing to do with him. When religion becomes a mere artificial facade to justify a social or economic system–when religion hands over its rites and language completely to the political propagandists, and when prayer becomes the vehicle for a purely secular ideological program, then religion does tend to become an opiate. It deadens the spirit enough to permit the substitution of a superficial fiction and mythology for this truth of life. And this brings about the alienation of the believer, so that his religious zeal becomes political fanaticism. His faith in God, while preserving its traditional formulas, becomes in fact faith in his own nation, class or race. His ethic ceases to be the law of God and of love, and becomes the law that might-makes-right: established privilege justifies everything. God is the status quo.” Thomas Merton

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is –
his good, pleasing and perfect will. “
Romans 12:1, 2

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Does your religious experience “deaden the spirit” rather than invigorating it? Does it squelch individuality and produce conformity? Does it discourage imagination and curiosity?
  • Does it tend to prop up some unjust “social [or] economic system? Does it support the “status quo” as a way that is out of step with the Bible’s insistence upon justice?
  • Has your faith in God become “in fact faith in your own nation, class or race?”
  • Has your religious ethic somehow become something other than the “law . . . of love?”
  • Are you comfortable with your answers to these questions? If not, what can change?

Abba, help me to speak to the status quo instead of being shaped by it. Strengthen me to question established, unjust privilege and work to undo it. Work in me your earth-changing “law of love.”

For More: Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton

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

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

Daily Riches: A Theology of Love and of Resistance (Thomas Merton and Martin Luther King, Jr.)

“A theology of love cannot afford to be sentimental. It cannot afford to preach edifying generalities about charity, while identifying ‘peace’ with mere established power and legalized violence against the oppressed. A theology of love cannot be allowed merely to serve the interests of the rich and powerful, justifying their wars, their violence, and their bombs, while exhorting the poor and underprivileged to practice patience, meekness, long-suffering and to solve their problems, if at all, nonviolently. The theology of love must seek to deal drastically with evil and injustice in the world, and not merely to compromise with them. …Theology does not exist merely to appease the already too untroubled conscience of the powerful and the established. A theology of love may also conceivably turn out to be a theology of revolution. In any case, it is a theology of resistance, a refusal of the evil that reduces a brother to homicidal desperation.” Thomas Merton

“In the terrible midnight of war men have knocked on the door of the church to ask for the bread of peace, but the church has often disappointed them. What more pathetically reveals the irrelevancy of the church in present-day world affairs than its witness regarding war? In a world gone mad with arms buildups, chauvinistic passions, and imperialistic exploitation, the church has either endorsed these activities or remained appallingly silent. … A weary world, pleading desperately for peace, has often found the church morally sanctioning war. … And those who have gone to the church to seek the bread of economic justice have been left in the frustrating midnight of economic deprivation. In many instances the church has so aligned itself with the privileged classes and so defended the status quo that it has been unwilling to answer the knock at midnight.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

“A person who seeks to honor the one who sent him
speaks truth, not lies.”
Jesus in John 7:18

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is your theology of love a “theology of resistance?”
  • Is your church “aligned with the privileged classes and the status quo?”
  • Where in our day, might the church be guilty of appeasing “the already too untroubled?”
  • Do you think these are valuable questions for Christians? . . . for pastors? If not, why not?

Abba, keep us from conforming to this world, or allowing others to do so in peace.

For More: Faith and Violence by Thomas Merton

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

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

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