Life Skills #15 – Cultvating Joy

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.

Life Skills #15 – Cultivating Joy

WFTM, May 12, 17, July 1

“Joyful is the person who finds wisdom,
the one who gains understanding.”
Proverbs 3:13

(1) Priming the Pump on Cultivating Joy
*Pick something from below that touches you, and talk about why that is.

“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“The beating heart of the universe is holy joy.” Martin Buber

“The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.” Julian of Norwich

“Joy is the perception of beauty, unlike happiness, which is because of something. Joy is singing of the heart, a feeling of praise.” Dick Only

“I think the main reason we have so little joy is that we take ourselves too seriously.” Thomas Merton

“I’m old enough to know that the world can delight me, so my expectation is not of the world but of myself: Delight in the gift of life and be grateful.” Parker Palmer

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy.
I awoke and saw that life was service.
I acted and behold, service was joy.”
Rabindranath Tagore

“From the deep well of silence, joy is constantly bubbling up and flowing out.Practice reveals that we are immersed in that joy.Practice also reveals what is blocking the flow.”
Gunilla Norris

(2) Digging Into Implications Around Cultivating Joy

*As a group, take these statements one at time. What is the point of each? What are the implications for the way you live?

“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’” Psalm 126:2


“Joy is what makes life worth living, but for many joy seems hard to find. They complain that their lives are sorrowful and depressing. What then brings the joy we so much desire? Are some people just lucky, while others have run out of luck? Strange as it may sound, we can choose joy. Two people can be part of the same event, but one may choose to live it quite differently than the other. One may choose to trust that what happened, painful as it may be, holds a promise. The other may choose despair and be destroyed by it. What makes us human is precisely this freedom of choice.” Henri Nouwen

“The world is increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more? How do you sell an anti-aging moisturizer? You make someone worry about aging. How do you get people to vote for a political party? You make them worry about immigration. How do you get them to buy insurance? By making them worry about everything. How do you get them to have plastic surgery? By highlighting their physical flaws. How do you get them to watch a TV show? By making them worry about missing out. How do you get them to buy a new smartphone? By making them feel like they are being left behind. To be calm becomes a kind of revolutionary act. To be happy with your own non-upgraded existence. To be comfortable with our messy, human selves, would not be good for business.” Matt Haig

“Enlightenment is not an escape from reality. There are joys and sorrows. When we cling to them, we suffer. We want the joys to always be there, and to avoid the sorrows altogether. But there will be both. Feel them, accept them, and let them go. Don’t get too attached to what has shown up in the present moment, remembering that there’s a new moment awaiting. Be happy. Be sad. It’s the nature of life and our feelings to cycle through many joys and sorrows. Press through them deeper still, and know that all is well in a way that never changes and is never diminished. At last, peace.” Jim Palmer

“One of the ways I’ve learned and am learning to press back comparison and enter into the joy God has for me and my house, is to lean into the gift he has given instead of the gift he hasn’t. He has given us time, space, and resources. That is the gift we have in the lack of the gift of children. It is not a better gift or a worse gift or a more sanctifying gift or a more difficult gift. It’s just another and different gift. And I want to receive it with joy. I don’t always. But I want to. These practices help me. Maybe they’ll help you, too.” Lore Ferguson Wilbert

“The only solution that God has to offer to all our problems is himself, is the fact that he is, that he is the kind of God that he is, a God who has a Word to utter, which he utters in an ecstasy of joy, an ecstasy of giving, which we call the Holy Spirit…. God has only the one thing to say, which is himself, he has only the one thing to give, which is himself. And he invites us to hear that Word, to treasure it in our hearts and find in it the source of all our bliss.” Simon Tugwell

Closing Prayers

“Grant us, we pray you, a heart wide open to all this joy and beauty, and save our souls from being so steeped in care or so darkened by passion that we pass heedless and unseeing when even the thornbush by the wayside is aflame with the glory of God.” Walter Rauschenbusch


“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the
presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior,

through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority,

before all time and now and forever. Amen.” Jude :24-25

For Further Consideration (before our after our discussion)

“FEEL YOUR FEELINGS”

  1. Recognize. It takes a bit of effort to figure out what I’m feeling because the thoughts swirling around my brain are so vivid and powerful. When I feel my negative thoughts careening out of control, I’m learning to stop and try to discern the feelings that lie behind the thoughts. Most often those feelings are fear or sadness, but I also sometimes feel anger, hopelessness and frustration.
  2. Acknowledge. After recognizing the emotion, I sit with it for several breaths. I focus on my breathing and let myself feel whatever it is.
  3. Investigate. I try to identify where the emotion is located in my body, because this helps identify emotions the next time they happen. I also try to figure out what the emotion wants. Sometimes it wants to dominate my life. Sometimes it just wants to be acknowledged.
  4. Non-identify. When the feeling wants to dominate, it wants to be pervasive. It wants me to identify myself with that feeling. When I non-identify with the feeling, I might think about feelings as weather. They come and go. . . . Or I might focus on other feelings I’ve had that day – such as contentment, joy, happiness, or gratitude, no matter how fleeting – to demonstrate to my brain that this strong negative feeling is only a part of me, a part that needs to be acknowledged, but a part that does not define me.

If our ordinary, self-centered viewpoint is dominant, rocks and tree roots are undesirable. But if we change our point of view, then the very fact that there are rocks and tree roots makes the valley stream more beautiful and the sight of waves breaking upon them beyond description. When we perceive joy, anger, happiness and sorrow as enriching our lives, just as rocks and tree roots and water spray embellish nature, then we are able to accept whatever happens and live like flowing water, without clinging to anything.” Shundo Aoyama

Life Skills #12 – Transformational Suffering (Discussion Notes)

.WFTM – Jan 14, 21, 22, March 18, May 3, June 5, 24

(1) Beginning to Talk About Suffering

*Read over these quotes. What seems new, even perhaps confusing? What sounds familiar, but something you need to remember? What emotions are you feeling?

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


“In the middle of the pain there is some hidden gift. I, more and more in my life, have discovered that other gifts of life are often hidden in the places that hurt most.” Henri Nouwen


“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching . . . . I have been bent and broken, but–I hope–into a better shape.” Charles Dickens


“I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the rock of ages.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon


“We never know the wine we are becoming while we are being crushed like grapes.” Henri Nouwen


“Just as bread needs to be broken in order to be given, so, too, do our lives.” Henri Nouwen


“Pain is knowledge rushing in to fill a gap.” Jerry Seinfeld


“Spirituality is about what we do with our pain.” Richard Rohr

(2) Longer Quotes with Wisdom to Hear

*Can you talk about what you’re hearing in these words?


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

*How do these quotes reinforce, or add to, what we’ve seen in the first one? If you talk about that, talk about it in terms of your own experience, not just thoughts or beliefs.

“We are faced here with a phenomenon which has been widely attested by countless Christians who have lived out their Christian and human existence without looking for any cheap consolation. Countless incurably sick who discovered through their sickness a new awareness of themselves. Countless individuals for whom a new dimension in their life was opened up through their own misfortune, through the loss or even the treachery of someone they had loved. Countless people who, through all disappointments, separations, mis-hits, failures, humiliations, setbacks and disregard, transformed their lives and acquired a new personal quality; through suffering becoming more mature, more experienced, more modest, more genuinely humble, more open for others–in a word, more human.” Hans Küng


“By trying to handle all suffering through willpower denial, medication, or even therapy, we have forgotten something that should be obvious: we do not handle suffering; suffering handles us–in deep and mysterious ways that become the very matrix of life and especially new life. Only suffering and certain kinds of awe lead us into genuinely new experiences.all the rest is merely the confirmation of old experience.” Richard Rohr

For Further Consideration (either before or after our conversation)


“For in grief nothing ‘stays put.’ One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. round and round. Everything repeats. . . . How often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say,‘I never realized my loss till this moment’? The same leg is cut off time after time.” C. S. Lewis


*To what kind of loss do you think Lewis’ words might apply? Have you ever experienced that kind of loss? What was it like? How were you changed?

Closing Prayer
“And I saw the river over which every soul must pass to reach the kingdom of heaven and the name of that river was suffering–and I saw the boat which carries souls across the river and the name of the boat was love.” [Abba, thank you for the boat of your love that carries me across the river of suffering.] Saint John of the Cross

Life Skill #11: “Being the Beloved”

.WFTM**, 2-23, 3-13, 3-26, 4-9

(1) The Experience of Being the Beloved

Take each passage below separately. If you can, mark phrases you want to talk about–words that touch you or amaze you. Do the first passage then the second.

“You are . . . God’s special possession . . . .” 1 Peter 2:9

“What we need is a knowing that is deeper than belief. It must be based on experience. Only knowing love is sufficiently strong to cast out fear. Only knowing love is sufficiently strong to resist doubt. The reason that [Gerald] May calls such knowing ‘contemplative’ is that it results from meeting God in a contemplative state. It comes from sitting at the feet of Jesus, gazing into his face and listening to his assurances of love for me. It comes from letting God’s love wash over me, not simply trying to believe it. It comes from soaking in the scriptural assurances of such love, not simply reading them and trying to remember them or believe them. It comes from spending time with God, observing how [God] looks at me. It comes from watching [God’s] watchfulness over me and listening to [God’s] protestations of love for me. . . . Contemplative or existential knowing may be supported by belief, but it is never reducible to it. It is based in experience, the direct personal encounter with divine love. The goal is, as stated by Paul, that we might know the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, and so be filled with the utter fullness of God (Ephesians 3:16-19).” David Benner

“Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). He comes to you from within, where you may encounter the mystery of Christ’s presence in and through your own thoughts, feelings, hopes, imagination, dreams, and love—as well as your shame, your secrets, your rage and jealousy, and all the many ways you resist love. Because God is love, Christ in you represents the coming of love into the totality of your being, but this is not a sentimental, ‘feel-good’ love. The love of Christ is a force for healing, an agent of transformation, and a challenge to metanoia . . . .” Carl McColman

*Talk about something from above that encouraged you when you think about being God’s beloved. Share from the heart.

(2) Hindrances to Being (Feeling like) the Beloved

What are some hindrances to you actually feeling that you are God’s beloved? See if any of them show up below. Note thought you want to talk about.

“Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one–for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one–for God himself has given us right standing with himself.” Romans 8:33f.

“God is asking me, the unworthy, to forget my unworthiness and that of my brothers, and dare to advance in the love which has redeemed and renewed us all in God’s likeness. And to laugh, after all at the preposterous idea of ‘worthi-ness’.” Thomas Merton

“Faith is the courage to accept acceptance, to accept that God loves me as I am and not as should be, because I’m never going to be as I should be.” Paul Tillich

“If I make anything out of the fact that I am Thomas Merton, I am dead. And if you make anything out of the fact that you are in charge of the pig barn, you are dead. Quit keeping score altogether and surrender yourself with all your sinfulness to God who sees neither the score nor the scorekeeper but only his child redeemed by Christ.” Thomas Merton

“To please God . . . to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness . . . to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son–it seems impossible . . . but so it is.” C. S. Lewis

(3) More Possible Hindrances

Each writer below is trying to make a point. Do you need to hear any of these specific messages? Discuss these one at a time.

“I get so tired of beholding my brokenness. But the deeper I go into the depths of it, the deeper I experience my belovedness too.” Jonathan Martin

Oh, night that guided me,

Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,

Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,

Lover Transformed in the Beloved!

John of the Cross

“I focus on doing more for God

when I should focus more on being with God.

I open my hands to receive from God

when I ought to open my hands to release what blocks God.

I seek to find God, for God to bless me

when I ought to consider how God

has already found me

has already blessed me

how near God is

how real, how true

how fully, ever present.

What wonder is this then, that

in every moment,

in every circumstance,

in every gift or loss,

when God is at work

I am more likely thinking about

my next meal

my next deadline

that driver who cut me off?”

William Britton

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For Further Consideration (before or after our next meeting/maybe during)

*These are additional warnings of “hindrances.” Is there anything here you need to watch out for?

“As long as I keep running about asking: ‘Do you love me? Do you really love me?’ I give all power to the voices of the world and put myself in bondage because the world is filled with ‘ifs.’” Henri Nouwen

“Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life, because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’ Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.” Henri Nouwen

“The sequence of events is quite predictable. The farther I run away from the place where God dwells, the less I am able to hear the voice that calls me the Beloved, and the less I hear that voice, the more entangled I become in the manipulations and power games of the world.” Henri Nouwen

“All of these mental games reveal to me the fragility of my faith that I am the Beloved One on whom God’s favor rests. I am so afraid of being disliked, blamed, put aside, passed over, ignored, persecuted, and killed, that I am constantly developing strategies to defend myself and thereby assure myself of the love I think I need and deserve. And in so doing I move far away from my father’s home and choose to dwell in a ‘distant country.’” Henri Nouwen

Further Questions to Ask of Yourself

*Is it true that in this life you’re “never going to be as you should be?” Do you hate yourself for that? Should you? Does God hate you for that?

*Do you think that fear of judgment will keep you in line better than unconditional love? Can you trace that idea to its source and critique it?

*Can you quit keeping score? Do you laugh at the preposterous idea of ‘worthiness’?

Closing Prayers

“Thinking about Jesus is not the same as being with Jesus.

God help us all to be with Him.”

Geri Scazzero

“Beloved silence: Thank you for listening to my confessions and failures.

Under the shadow of your light, my darkness is no more.”

Peter Traben Hass

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**Wisdom From the Margins (the book we’re using)

Class Notes for Life Skills #4 – Waiting

Quotations to Prime the Pump

“I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” Psalm 130:5 NLT
“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.” Psalm 62:5, 6 NLT


“Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life.” Simone Weil


“A waiting person is a patient person. The word ‘patience’ implies the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us. Patient living means to live actively in the present and wait there. Impatient people expect the real thing to happen somewhere else, and therefore they want to get away from the present situation and go elsewhere. For them the moment is empty. But patient people dare to stay where they are.” Henri Nouwen


“We don’t like the way reality is now and therefore wish it would go away fast. But what we find . . . is that nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. Even if we run a hundred miles an hour to the other side of the continent, we find the very same problem awaiting us when we arrive. it keeps returning with new names, forms, and manifestations until we learn whatever it has to teach us: Where are we separating ourselves from reality? How are we pulling back instead of opening up? How are we closing down instead of allowing ourselves to experience fully whatever we encounter?” Pema Chödrön


“We dare not get rid of the pain before we have learned what it has to teach us. . . . Fixing something doesn’t usually transform us. We try to change events in order to avoid changing ourselves. We avoid God, who works in the darkness–where we are not in control! Maybe that is the secret: relinquishing control. We must learn to stay with the pain of life, without answers, without conclusions, and some days without meaning.” Richard Rohr


“Waiting for clarity of call, waiting until God shows us the next right step, waiting for the Spirit to go ahead of us to light the way. When it’s not clear to us what is invited, we wait, watch and pray. And we trust that sometimes the Spirit is working just fine without us, as much as we’d like to help. There’s an art to the waiting, I’ve learned. Wait expectantly without expectations. Watch for what wants to unfold now, not for what I want to unfold. Pray that I may see what is being invited without imposing what I think would be the best solution. Waiting is not passive and disinterested. Waiting is not turning away. Waiting is an active, prayerful stance, a time of alert openness, a space of listening from mind-in-heart. . . . ” Leah Rampy


“Another will is greater, wiser and more intelligent than my own. So I wait. Waiting means that there is another whom I trust and from whom I receive. My will, important and essential as it is, finds a Will that is more important, more essential. . . . in prayer we are aware that God is in action and that when the circumstances are ready, when others are in the right place and when my heart is prepared, I will be called into action. Waiting in prayer is a disciplined refusal to act before God acts.” Eugene Peterson

Questions for Discussion

  1. Which quote really affected you (convicted, provoked, challenged, etc.)? Talk about that.
  2. Do you “hate to wait?” Why is that?
  3. How do you know when you’ve waited long enough?

  • 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 “waiting” as a new skill?
  2. How does the practice of waiting, as you understand it, make you more able to be a person who loves well (who practices compassion and justice)?

The quotes from this week come from Wisdom From the Margins*: 2-25, 3-4, 4-7, 4-14, 6-3, & 6-14 *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, or the ones here in italics).


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

Three possible ways to go deeper:

(1) Set aside at least 10 minutes, find a quiet place, settle yourself 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.)

“Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some states of instability–and that it may take a very long time. And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually–let them grow, let them shape themselves without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow. Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you. And accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


(2) If you’re looking for a specific way to practice waiting, this is something you could start to work on–waiting for the other person to continue talking instead of jumping in to take your turn! Oy! FOTFL.


“When a pro interviewer feels a subject is holding something back on a particular topic, they’ll often use the power of silence at the end of the answer to draw out more information. Here’s how journalist Jim Lehrer describes it: ‘If you resist the temptation to respond too quickly to the answer, you’ll discover something almost magical. The other person will either expand on what he’s already said or he’ll go in a different direction.’ try counting to three–or five if you can stand it–after your subject answers a tough or thoughtful question. This method can seem agonizing at first, but–used with empathy–it works wonders to develop a deeper rapport between two people. . . . of course we’d all like to think of ourselves as attentive, curious students of the world, but one little thing gets in the way: our own egos. it’s not our fault–we’re hardwired that way. After all, talking about ourselves feels as good to our brains as money or sex. That’s why ego suspension is so essential to cultivating the kind of curiosity that lets you connect with others. Robin Dreeke . . . explains: ‘Most times, when two individuals engage in a conversation, each patiently waits for the other person to be done with whatever story he or she is telling. Then, the other person tells his or her own story, usually on a related topic and often times in an attempt to have a better and more interesting story. Individuals practicing good ego suspension would continue to encourage the other individual to talk about his or her story, neglecting their own need to share what they think is a great story.” Courtney Siete


(3) If these prayers resonate, try praying either or both of them through the week:

Abba, help me walk rather than race, receive rather than grasp, and relax rather than strive. Help me step into the flow of your divine life rather than living a frenzied version of my very human life. Help me focus on being with you and leave the results to you.

Abba, keep me from moving on before what you’re doing manifests itself. Cure me of impatience (my hurried self), impulsivity (my thoughtless self), and anxiety (my fearful self).


If this discussion sounds like something you might be interested in, please contact me for more details. (Bill @ 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. (If you know of someone for this, please let me know.)

Daily Riches: The Wine We Are Becoming (Henri Nouwen, Avery Dulles, Hellen Keller and St. John of the Cross

“We never know the wine we are becoming while we are being crushed like grapes.” Henri Nouwen

“The good life does not have to be an easy one, as our blessed Lord and the saints have taught us. …Suffering and diminishment are not the greatest of evils, but are normal ingredients in life, especially in old age. They are to be accepted as elements of a full human existence. Well into my 90th year I have been able to work productively. As I become increasingly paralyzed and unable to speak, I can identify with the many paralytics and mute persons in the Gospels, grateful for the loving and skillful care I receive and for the hope of everlasting life in Christ. If the Lord now calls me to a period of weakness, I know well that his power can be made perfect in infirmity. ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord!’”  Avery Dulles

“Contradictions, sickness, scruples, spiritual aridity, and all the inner and outward torments are the chisel with which God carves his statues for paradise.”  Alphonsus Liguori

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” Helen Keller

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

“it was fitting for Him
for whom are all things,
and through whom are all things,
in bringing many sons to glory,
to perfect the author of their salvation
through sufferings.”
Hebrews 2:10

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Think of people you know and all the reasons that people suffer. Do you think you can somehow escape suffering?
  • Jesus suffered in order to be perfected. Some things can only be accomplished by suffering. Can you embrace suffering in your life as not only inescapable, but necessary, even good?
  • “The good life does not have to be an easy one”, in fact, it can’t be. How are you making your life a good life “while you are being crushed like grapes?”

Abba, thank you for the boat that carries me across the river of suffering.

For More: St. John of the Cross: Selected Writings

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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.”

Daily Riches: The Encounter with Jesus (Madeleine L’Engle, Pope Francis, Henri Nouwen, Heidi Baker, and Teresa of Avila)

“We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.” Madeleine L’Engle

“Giving them the beauty of the Gospel, the amazement of the encounter with Jesus … and leaving it to the Holy Spirit to do the rest. It is the Lord, says the Gospel, who makes the seed spring and bear fruit.” Pope Francis (on evangelism) “The witness of a Christian life is the first and irreplaceable form of mission.” Pope John Paul II

“If we want to be witnesses like Jesus, our only concern should be to be as alive with the love of God as Jesus was.” Henri Nouwen

“Ministry is simply about loving the person in front of you. It’s about stopping for the one and being the very fragrance of Jesus to a lost and dying world.” Heidi Baker

“Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
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.”
Teresa of Avila

“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.” Acts 2:32

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Proofs and arguments are no substitute for an “encounter with Jesus”, and such an encounter, will often be through you. What are the implications of this as you think about sharing your faith?
  • There are many ways to unintentionally skew the divine intention for another person to encounter Jesus. How do you get in the way? What can you do to facilitate such an encounter?
  • Our need to be “the very fragrance of Jesus” to the one before us, means that the most critical part of evangelism occurs before any meeting or conversation takes place – in our preparation to give “the witness of a Christian life” and be “alive with the love of God.” What can you do to be “alive with the love of God?”

Abba, by your grace, when others encounter me, may they also encounter Jesus and his love – and be changed.

For More: Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle

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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.”

Daily Riches: The Wine We Are Becoming (Henri Nouwen, Avery Dulles, Hellen Keller and St. John of the Cross)

“We never know the wine we are becoming while we are being crushed like grapes.” Henri Nouwen

“The good life does not have to be an easy one, as our blessed Lord and the saints have taught us. … Suffering and diminishment are not the greatest of evils, but are normal ingredients in life, especially in old age. They are to be accepted as elements of a full human existence. Well into my 90th year I have been able to work productively. As I become increasingly paralyzed and unable to speak, I can identify with the many paralytics and mute persons in the Gospels, grateful for the loving and skillful care I receive and for the hope of everlasting life in Christ. If the Lord now calls me to a period of weakness, I know well that his power can be made perfect in infirmity. ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord!'”  Avery Dulles

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“Contradictions, sickness, scruples, spiritual aridity, and all the inner and outward torments are the chisel with which God carves his statues for paradise.”  Alphonsus Liguori

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” Helen Keller

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

“it was fitting for Him
for whom are all things,
and through whom are all things,
in bringing many sons to glory,
to perfect the author of their salvation
through sufferings.”
Hebrews 2:10

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Think of people you know and all the reasons that people suffer. Do you think you can somehow escape suffering?
  • Jesus suffered in order to be perfected. Some things can only be accomplished by suffering. Can you embrace suffering in your life as not only inescapable, but necessary, even good?
  • “The good life does not have to be an easy one”, in fact, it can’t be. How are you making your life a good life “while you are being crushed like grapes?”

Abba, thank you for the boat that carries me across the river of suffering.

For More: St. John of the Cross: Selected Writings

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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.”

Daily Riches: Mysticism (Richard Rohr, Daniel Clendenin, Thomas Merton)

“The Franciscan priest Richard Rohr has written some thirty books, many of which are variations on the same theme. Not long into this book [Eager to Love] he says as much in a footnote. The idea that ‘our deepest identity is hidden from us,’ and that the purpose of authentic religion is to help us recover our true identity in God, is ‘the core message of this entire book, and really my only message in all of my books’ (pp. 66, 276).  In this version of that theme, Rohr returns to his Franciscan roots to help us recapture the ‘experiential heart of the gospel,’ … which stands in stark contrast to spirituality that’s little more than theological concepts, religious ritual, and institutional conformity. Authentic spirituality [requires] …  ‘mysticism’ … – experiential knowledge of spiritual things, as opposed to book knowledge, secondhand knowledge, or even church knowledge.’” Daniel Clendenin

“If they [Christians] are to live as true members of Christ and radiate the divine influence among the men with whom they are in contact, they will be obliged to develop rich interior lives of union with God…. To be a Christian then, is to be committed to a deeply mystical life. … By faith one not only consents to propositions revealed by God, one not only attains to truth in a way that intelligence and reason alone cannot do, but one assents to God Himself. One receives God. One says ‘yes’ not merely to a statement about God, but to the Invisible, Infinite God Himself….” Thomas Merton

“And all of us, with our unveiled faces like mirrors
reflecting the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed into the image that we reflect
in brighter and brighter glory;
this is the working of the Lord who is the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 3:18

Moving From the Head to the Heart

It’s possible master knowledge about God (“book knowledge”) and still not have “experiential knowledge” of God. If we’re not careful, we can be “experts” on God who have no radical relationship with him – no transforming “assent” to his Invisible, Infinite person.

  • Do you talk more about God than with him?
  • Is your experience of God “secondhand?”
  • What are you doing to “develop a rich interior life of union with God?”

Abba, protect me, and all of us who love you, from settling for less than you have for us.

For More: New Seeds 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.”

Daily Riches: The Restless Self Loves Its Illusions (Henri Nouwen)

“While teaching, lecturing, and writing about the importance of solitude, inner freedom, and peace of mind, I kept stumbling over my own compulsions and illusions. What was driving me from one book to another, one place to another, one project to another? …What was turning my vocation to be a witness to God’s love into a tiring job? These questions kept intruding themselves into my few unfilled moments and challenging me to face my restless self. Maybe I spoke more about God than with him. Maybe my writing about prayer kept me from a prayerful life. Maybe I was more concerned about the praise of men and women than the love of God. Maybe I was slowly becoming a prisoner of people’s expectations instead of a man liberated by divine promises. …I had succeeded in surrounding myself with so many classes to prepare, lectures to give, articles to finish, people to meet, phone calls to make, and letters to answer, that I had come quite close to believing that I was indispensable. …While complaining about too many demands, I felt uneasy when none were made. While speaking about the burden of letter writing, an empty mailbox made me sad. While fretting about tiring lecture tours, I felt disappointed when there were no invitations. While speaking nostalgically about an empty desk, I feared the day on which that would come true. In short: while desiring to be alone, I was frightened of being left alone. The more I became aware of these paradoxes, the more I started to see how much I had indeed fallen in love with my own compulsions and illusions, and how much I needed to step back and wonder, ‘Is there a quiet stream underneath the fluctuating affirmations and rejections of my little world?’” Henri Nouwen

“[Jesus] appointed twelve
that they might be with him….”
Mark 3:14

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Has being a Christian or a minister become a “tiring job” for you?
  • Is your doing for God anchored in your being with God?
  • What were some of Nouwen’s illusions? his motivations? What are some of yours?
  • Is there a still point that anchors your life? What is that?

Abba, may I be a person liberated by divine promises, then useful to you and others.

For More:  The Genesee Diary by Henri Nouwen
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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.”

 

Daily Riches: Love Begins With Not Judging Others (Henri Nouwen, Ram Dass, Thomas Merton and Jean Vanier) *

“When you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight ….And you look at the tree and you allow it. …You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree. The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying ‘You’re too this, or I’m too this.’ That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.” Ram Dass20131018_164446

“We spend an enormous amount of energy making up our minds about other people. Not a day goes by without somebody doing or saying something that evokes in us the need to form an opinion about him or her. We hear a lot, see a lot, and know a lot. The feeling that we have to sort it all out in our minds and make judgments about it can be quite oppressive. The desert fathers said that judging others is a heavy burden, while being judged by others is a light one. Once we can let go of our need to judge others, we will experience an immense inner freedom. Once we are free from judging, we will be also free for mercy.” Henri Nouwen

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image.” Thomas Merton

“To love someone is … to reveal to them their beauty and value, to say, ‘You’re beautiful. You’re important.'” Jean Vanier

“Or how can you say to your brother, Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’
when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye?” – Jesus

Moving From Head to Heart

  • God’s job is to judge, and ours is to love. Can you leave the judging to God? could that free you to love? free you “for mercy?”
  • Can you start by letting others be “perfectly themselves?” If not, why not?
  • How effective are you at revealing to others that they’re “beautiful … important?”

Abba, help me love well by appreciating instead of evaluating.

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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.”

 

Daily Riches: Are You Disillusioned with Your Church? (Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Henri Nouwen)

“A great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves, is bound to overwhelm us as surely as God desires to lead us to an understanding of genuine Christian community. By sheer grace God will not permit us to live in a dream world even for a few weeks and to abandon ourselves to those blissful experiences and exalted moods that sweep over us like a wave of rapture. …Only that community which enters into the experience of this great disillusionment with all its unpleasant and evil appearances begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this moment of disillusionment comes over the individual and the community, the better for both. …Every human idealized image that is brought into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be broken up so that genuine community can survive. Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
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“Community is the place where the person you least want to live with always lives.” Henri Nouwen
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But we have this treasure in clay pots so [it is clear] that the awesome power … doesn’t come from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Has your church entered into “the experience of great disillusionment with all its unpleasant and evil appearances?” How do you feel about that?
  • Is God at work to break you and others of your illusions about the church (i.e., to dis-illusion you)? Why would he do that?
  • Do you have idealized expectations for your church that make you a danger to “genuine community” even though you’re “honest and earnest” in your support of it?
  • What is “the promise given” that God wants you to “grasp” when it comes to the Christian community?

  For More: Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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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.”

Daily Riches: The Perils of Success (Paul Pearsall, Henri Nouwen, Mark Nepo, John de Graaf) *

“Everyone said I was doing really well, but something inside me was telling me my success was putting my soul in danger.” Henri Nouwen

“Sweet success is being able to pay full and undivided attention to what matters most in life… experienced as a fulfilled and calm spirit that doesn’t compare itself to the happiness and success of others. It is characterized by an unhurried daily life led without the burden of the drive for victory over others or to get more status and ‘stuff.’ It is being able to regularly share with those we love a persistent sense of glee in the simple pleasures that derive from being alive and well at this moment in time. …Put simply, toxic success is constant distraction caused by pressure to do and have more; sweet success is attending fully to the now with the confident contentment that enough is finally enough. Overcoming toxic success syndrome is not a matter of giving up the good life, it is a matter of getting it back by freeing ourselves from the short-term illusion that so many of us now call ‘success.’ It is recovering from the social virus author John de Graaf calls ‘affluenza … a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.'” Paul Pearsall

“… care for your soul as if it were the whole world.” Mark Nepo

“This is what the Lord says:
‘Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”
Jeremiah 6:16

Moving From The Head to The Heart

  •  Reread the first half of Pearsall’s definition of “sweet success.” What Pearsall as a psychoneuroimmunologist recommends, Jesus lived. This is the kind of life Jesus wants for you.
  • Do you feel like your soul could be “in danger?” Are you walking “where the good way is?”
  • Are you caring for your soul “as if it were the whole world?” How, specifically?

Abba, deliver me from the illusions and pathologies of my day. Help me to find rest for my soul as I walk in the ancient paths.

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For More: Toxic Success by Paul Pearsall

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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)

Daily Riches: Learning From the Poor (Dallas Willard, Henri Nouwen and Bernard of Clairvaux) *

“The mystery of ministry is that the Lord is to be found where we minister. That is what Jesus tells us when he says: ‘Insofar as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me’ (Matthew 25:40). Our care for people thus becomes the way to meet the Lord. The more we give, support, guide, counsel and visit, the more we receive, not just similar gifts, but the Lord himself. To go to the poor is to go to the Lord.” Henri Nouwen

“… shopping, banking, even living in the poorer districts of our area will do much to lend substance to our grasp of how the economically deprived experience their world—and ours. This will add a great substance to our understanding, prayers, and caring that can never be gained by an occasional ‘charity run’ or by sending money to organizations that work with the poor. Remember, Jesus did not send help. He came among us.” Dallas Willard

“Only charity can convert the soul, freeing it from unworthy motives.” Bernard of Clairvaux

“…be willing to associate with people of low position.”  Romans 12:16

Moving From the Head to the Heart

Everyone is at a different place when it comes to ministry to the poor. Some of us make “charity runs”, some “send money” to international or local aid organizations, some have yet to do much of anything. Nouwen even discusses whether it’s possible to truly share the life of the poor by living among them (Gracias!, 115). It’s not always easy to help, but we try.

  • Do you see loving the poor as something that defines what it means for you to love Jesus?
  • Do you regularly do anything that helps you to grasp how the poor “experience their world—and ours?”
  • Can you set aside some quiet time before God in the next week where you ask him to show you about his love for the poor and what that might mean for you?

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For More: The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard

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

Daily Riches: Suffering’s Unwelcomed Gift (David Benner, Richard Rohr and Henri Nouwen) *

“Suffering can be a path to awakening when we engage it with receptivity to the gifts it holds rather than simply attempt to endure it. One of those gifts is that suffering has unique capacity to help us soften and release attachments and move toward a life of non-attachment. Simone Weil said that suffering that does not detach us is wasted suffering. Don’t waste suffering. It’s always a shame to have to repeat lessons because we don’t get their point but suffering is a particularly bad lesson to be slow to get.” David Benner

“Real holiness doesn’t feel like holiness; it just feels like you’re dying. It feels like you’re losing it. And you are! Every time you love someone, you have agreed for a part of you to die. You will soon be asked to let go of some part of your false self, which you foolishly thought was permanent, important, and essential! You know God is doing this in you and with you when you can somehow smile and trust that what you lost was something you did not need anyway. In fact, it got in the way of what was real.”  Richard Rohr

“… in the middle of the pain there is some hidden gift. I, more and more in my life, have discovered that the gifts of life are often hidden in the places that hurt most.” Henri Nouwen

“Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” Hebrews 5:8

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Can you imagine embracing suffering that comes your way as a giver of “gifts?” Can you remember to look for such a gift when you’re in those “places that hurt most?”
  • Has suffering in your life caused you to loosen your grip on things? Has it changed your perspective about what is “permanent, important, and essential?”
  • When it “feels like you’re dying” or “losing it”, can you trust God to be at work for your good in the very thing that is “killing” you?

Abba, your Son suffered that he might know me. Help me to embrace the gifts of suffering that I might know him. I know I’m going to want to run from it like the disciples ran from the garden.  Strengthen me.

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For More: Spirituality and the Awakening Self by David G. Benner

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These “Daily Riches” from RicherByFar are for your encouragement. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it with others. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: The Primary Work of the Christian Leader (Gordon MacDonald, Henri Nouwen and Parker Palmer) *

“The forming of the soul that it might be a dwelling place for God is the primary work of the Christian leader. This is not an add-on, an option, or a third-level priority. Without this core activity, one almost guarantees that he/she will not last in leadership for a life-time or that what work is accomplished will become less and less reflective of God’s honor and God’s purposes.” Gordon MacDonald

“Before we can conquer the world we must conquer the self.” Oswald Sanders

“Self care is never a selfish act. It is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have – the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.” Parker Palmer

“The goal of education and formation for the ministry is continually to recognize the Lord’s voice, his face, and his touch in every person we meet.” Henri Nouwen

“How lovely is your dwelling place,
  Almighty Yahweh!
My soul yearns, even faints,
 for the courts of Yahweh;
my heart and my flesh cry out
 for the living God.”
Psalm 84:1-2

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Christian leader, do you consider “the forming of your soul that it might be a dwelling place for God” to be your “primary work?” Have you established routines and prioritized practices accordingly?
  • When you think about whether you are successful, how often do you turn to consider how you’re doing at this “core activity?” If not this, what do you think about instead? Are other responsibilities, real or imagined, deterring you from this non-optional, first-level activity?
  • Gordon MacDonald is a wise guide here. Can you accept his warning that if you fail at this point you probably “will not last in leadership for a life-time … [or your work will] become less and less reflective of God’s honor” over time?  Can you take the time to be this kind of leader in spite of the expectations and pressures others place on you – even perhaps with little encouragement from anyone else?

Abba, I pray that the Christian leaders I know would live a life of deep intimacy with you. Call them to yearn for you like the psalmist does, and to seek your empowering presence. And Lord, help those of us under their care to prayerfully support them and diligently protect them when they attempt this greatest of all work.

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For More: Cultivating the Soul by Gordon MacDonald

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)