Daily Riches: The Problem With Noble Pursuits (Mark Thomas Shaw)

“The radical moment in many a contemplative’s journey is when they enter the cave. Often there’s some crisis that precipitates it. For Francis of Assisi, it was being disowned by his father and choosing to sever ties with his community. For a friend of mine, it was a divorce. For another, a death in the family. The world as we know it, or rather, the story we’ve been living, somehow shatters. In the cave, we move into a deeply interior space, examining everything: our belief systems, our conditioning, our very identity, even the very notion of a self. If this is accompanied by a contemplative practice, eventually there is a buoyancy and lightness, a spaciousness surrounding these heavy questions. The problem with noble pursuits or living a better story isn’t the pursuit itself, but the self and the baggage it almost always takes with it. We can embark on a journey with the best of intentions, but the untransformed self will bring its addictions, insecurities, and immature programs for happiness along with it, still convinced it is living a noble path. First we need to be stripped of the implicit notion that we are the hero to see with the clear sight of love, to understand what has to change within us, and which has nothing to do with egoic self-deception. . . . If the ego is untransformed the new noble pursuit just becomes the ego’s new stomping ground. There’s a purification needed, a death, an acknowledgement of the false self at work, it takes the ongoing daily work of making space to become channels of divine love, without attachment to outcomes. Contemplation provides a means of not only becoming aware of the story, but taking time every day to slough it off altogether, and rest in the divine presence, which is before, behind, and beyond all story.” Mark Thomas Shaw

“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.’”
Jeremiah 6:18 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you picking up the pieces of the story you’ve been living? . . . reinventing yourself? . . . beginning a new challenge?
  • Are you simply bringing along your “untransformed self”–with all its same addictions, insecurities and “programs for happiness” that you depended on before?
  • A purified you might simply “rest in the divine presence” in a new way–without “attachment to outcomes.” What would that mean for you?

Abba, I want to live without unhealthy attachments.

For More: “Contemplative Light” by Mark Thomas Shaw

Shaw, Mark Thomas. “What Story Are You Living In?” https://us15.campaign-archive.com/?e=ae076a4940&u=14c1793e7a220272e67633fd9&id=d29991cf24

Daily Riches: Approval From the Father (Belden Lane)

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

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

Moving From the Head to the Heart

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

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

For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane

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

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

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

Moving From the Head to the Heart

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

Abba, meet me in the desert place.

For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane

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

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

Daily Riches: Beyond Life on the Edge (Belden Lane and Teilhard de Chardin)

“Do not forget that the value and interest of life is not so much to do conspicuous things … as to do ordinary things with the perception of their enormous value.” Teilhard de Chardin

“…I continued to participate in my mother’s painfully slow process of dying. Having survived the initial shock of her battle with cancer, I learned quickly that life (and death) goes on. We adjust to traumatic experiences more readily than we might expect. Crisis brings its own rush of energy. …There’s a strange comfort about the extraordinary, even the extraordinarily bad. We’re convinced that it simply cannot last. But sometimes it does. There are times when life fails to deliver that long-awaited, glorious moment of conclusion and release. Sometimes the height of drama drags into tedious repetition. Such was the case with my mother’s illness. …Difficult as it was, at first, to discern grace in the grotesque, it became even more difficult to discover grace in the prolonged redundancy of ordinariness. How could I adjust to life’s untheatrical regularity when I’d been prepared for grand opera and dark tragedy? I could handle bad news. I’d worked at it all of my life. Crisis is the only invariable constant for people schooled in codependency. But how would I deal with the uneventful and commonplace? It was the disconsolation of the ordinary that I found most difficult to accept. I need a book about When Ordinary Things Happen to Average People. I need a spirituality of the uneventful, of the low places in one’s life that are neither deep nor exhilaratingly high. …The temptation of dramatize death–to imagine ourselves defeating its claim in the triumph of violence–is rife in our culture. Never content with ordinariness, unable to address our fears, we pump up the volume on every dramatic (and violent) possibility. We live from one moment of fear-stifling exhilaration to the next. Only in this way to we feel engaged with life. In our best-selling novels, current films, and the tensions of urban life and foreign policy …[we are reminded] that if we’ve survived the terrors of death, we must be alive. Supervivo, ergo sum. But when the drama fails, when we grow weary of the intense pressure of life on the edge, we’re forced to reconsider the myths by which we live. War is not the principle metaphor of human existence. Death is not always an enemy. Life is more than a matter of breathless contention, triumphing over obstacles, denying the monsters of our own feelings. The dragons of the ordinary invite us back to simplicity and a quiet acceptance of life’s rhythms.” Belden Lane

“Consider the lilies.”
Luke 12:27

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Why is tragedy sometimes easier to take than tedium?
  • Are you living by some unchallenged “myths?”
  • Can you learn to see the “enormous value” in ordinary things?

Abba, content me with simplicity.

For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane

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Thanks for reading/sharing my blog! – Bill

Daily Riches: Lent–The Grand Reduction (Alicia Britt Chole)

“The sabbatical started more suddenly and violently than anticipated. A high fever, a few scans, multiple masses, possibly a lethal abscess . . . the specialists convened, conferred, counseled me to cancel all engagements, and began cutting. The reduction had begun. Waking from surgery, my first memory was seeing a dear friend place a hand over her mouth. Later she told me, ‘I’d never seen anyone that color, alive.’ The masses, thankfully, were all benign. But my body did not respond well to the invasion. The area’s organs went into hibernation and for the first time in my life, I became familiar with breathtaking pain. The experience redefined that word for me. It hurt to be awake. It hurt to see my children’s fear. It hurt to hear, ‘We don’t know why.’ In time, it would even hurt to hope. Reductions, it seems, have blurry release dates. Days stacked upon one another in vain like whisper-thin blankets with no warmth to offer. Though technology blinked, beeped, and buzzed noisily around me, the organs slept on. This healing simply would not be hurried. The wound was evidently too great to risk haste. After eight days in the hospital, the doctors sent me home. ‘At this point, I give you a fifty-fifty chance that the organs will come back online,’ the specialist offered. With those words, my entire recovery-time ‘to do’ list vaporized in the desert heat of pain. All I could do was sit and be loved—a need that my family filled extravagantly. Little did I know that the pain was under assignment: it was making room in my life for another operation well beyond the reach of any surgeon’s scalpel. I would not trade that desert of pain for the world. Deserts unclutter the soul. The hot desert sun vaporizes all manner of luxuries. Then the cold, shelterless nights expose the essential guts of life. I needed to eat, to sleep, to be protected, and to not be alone. Lent had come half a year early. God asked me to fast mental and physical strength. He invited me into holy weakness. I found Jesus there. We often think of Jesus’ fast beginning when He stepped into the Judean wilderness. But the fast actually began three decades earlier when the Glory of heaven was wrapped in plain paper and given as a gift to mankind. The Grand Reduction had begun. Jesus fasted omnipresence and clothed Himself with flesh. He fasted being worshiped by angels and accepted the disregard of man. He fasted the Voice that birthed planets and submitted to the silence of thirty hidden years: How must it have felt—knowing he had the power to heal—to have to walk past children suffering with leprosy? What would it have been like—knowing that his conception was miraculous—to be unable to defend his mother when others whispered about her past? And how agonizing would it be—when his Word could one day raise the dead to life again—to stand by while those he loved (perhaps even Joseph his father) died? We are duly thankful, challenged, and inspired by Jesus’ forty-day fast from food in the Judean wilderness. Perhaps we should likewise be grateful, awed, and humbled by His thirty-year fast from praise, power, and potential in Nazareth. It takes a great deal of strength to choose weakness. Jesus chose voluntarily. I did not possess the courage or wisdom to volunteer. So God, for the sake of my soul, took me there involuntarily. His drafts are merciful indeed. When He calls us to fast strength—when He drafts us into decrease—God’s purposes are clear: Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8: 2– 3) To humble us, to test us, to know what is in our hearts . . . such is the sifting power of helplessness. In our daily lives, we may prefer self-reliance. But perhaps utter dependence is the truer friend of our souls.” Alicia Britt Chole

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you ever considered meeting Jesus in the midst of your “breathtaking pain?” … your “utter dependence?”
  • Are you perhaps waiting for a healing that you shouldn’t rush–that will not be hurried?
  • Is God inviting you into a decluttering “holy weakness?” Have you followed? Have you found Jesus there?

Abba, unclutter my soul. Use my decrease for increase.

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

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Thanks for reading and sharing my blog! (Sorry, longer than usual, but too awesome to clip.) – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: What Does It Mean that God Is In Control? (John Sanders, Paul Helm)

“In Romans Paul give … reasons why we should maintain our confidence in God amid trials. First, God can use the difficult times in our lives to produce christlikeness in us. Paul says that tribulations can produce patience and build character. Seeing tangible evidence of the Spirit’s work in our lives, we should expect even more growth (Rom 5:3-5). Second, ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’ (Rom 8:28 NIV). Paul does not say that all things do in fact ‘work together for good’ (contra NRSV and NASB) but that God is working to accomplish good in all things. …Sometimes even people of faith are worn down by trials. Tribulations do not always strengthen people’s trust in God. Just because God is at work in our lives does not assure his victory. …The purposes of God meet with resistance, and even God does not always get what he desires. Furthermore, the verse does not say that God specifically sent the trouble into our lives. Rather, God makes use of the sin, evil and tribulations–which he has not ordained to come about–attempting to bring good out of evil.” John Sanders

[One view is that] “God exercises exhaustive control over each situation, which means that only what God purposes to happen in that particular time and place to that specific creature will happen. God …micromanages every detail. According to this model of providence, there is a specific divine reason for ordaining each and every particular occurrence of evil and suffering. According to Paul Helm, since ‘God works everything for good’ (Rom. 8:28), there are no such things as accidents and there are no real tragedies in life.” Sanders

“Oh, how often they rebelled against him in the wilderness
and grieved his heart in that dry wasteland.”
Psalm 78:40

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • What exactly do you mean when (if) you say “God is in charge?” or “Jesus is still on the throne?” Do you mean that whatever occurs is God’s will? …that there are no accidents? …no real tragedies?
  • Why do we pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done” if all that is done is God’s will?
  • If God always gets his way, in what sense is Satan the “god of this world?” (2 Cor. 4:4)
  • Has God ordained our various sins? When we sin are we actually doing what God ultimately wants?
  • Why would the Bible say that God’s heart sometimes “grieves” if God’s will is always achieved?

Abba, forgive me for all the times I’ve grieved you by my action, inaction–even by my thoughts about you.

For more: The God Who Risks by John Sanders

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Thanks for reading/sharing my blog! Please leave a comment or question. – Bill

 

Daily Riches: When the Darkness Descends (Barbara Brown Taylor and Gerald May)

“John’s answer [John of the Cross] is not simple, but in the simplest possible terms, he says that the dark night is God’s best gift to you, intended for your liberation. It is about freeing you from your ideas about God, your fears about God, your attachment to all the benefits you have been promised for believing in God, your devotion to the spiritual practices that are supposed to make you feel closer to God, your dedication to doing and believing all the right things about God, your positive and negative evaluations of yourself as a believer in God, your tactics for manipulating God, and your sure cures for doubting God. All of these are substitutes for God, John says. They all get in God’s way. The late Gerald May, who wrote his own book about John, called them addictions. In many cases, he said, we should give thanks for them, because it is our addiction to some God substitute or another that finally brings us to our knees, by helping us to realize how far we have strayed from our heart’s true desire.  …Those who have come through dark nights of their own, not just once but over and over again, often cannot find the words to say why they would not trade those nights for anything. ‘Yes, they were nights of great loss. Yes, the soul suffered from fearful subtraction. Yes, a great emptiness opened up where I had stored all my spiritual treasures, and yet.’ And yet what? ‘And yet what remained when everything else was gone was more real than anything I could have imagined. I was no longer apart from what I sought; I was part of it, or in it. I’m sorry I can’t say it any better than that, There was no place else I wanted to be.’” Barbara Brown Taylor

“Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God
shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator
in doing what is right.”
1 Peter 4:19

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Do you see pain, loss and confusion as experiences God uses to make you more mature, loving, wise?
  • Is it possible that in your life, your family, your nation–God is taking away idols, false assumptions, the sense of control–so that some profound “emptiness” can open up for you and others?
  • The Biblical idea that one must go down to go up (downward mobility) is commonplace. As you read these words, do you feel like you’re “going down” (perhaps “for the count”)? Can you trust God in that now, even though you’re hurting and confused?

Abba, meet me in my pain. Shape me. Better me.

For more: Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

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Thanks for reading/sharing my blog! – Bill

Daily Riches: Wilderness Times (Barbara Brown Taylor, Terry Tempest Williams, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Richard Rohr and Ben Johnson)

“He knows not his own strength that hath not met adversity. Heaven prepares good men with crosses.” Ben Johnson

“Popular religion focuses so hard on spiritual success that most of us do not know the first thing about the spiritual fruits of failure. When we fall ill, lose our jobs, wreck our marriages, or alienate our children, most of us are left alone to pick up the pieces. Even those of us who are ministered to by brave friends can find it hard to shake the shame of getting lost in our lives. And yet if someone asked us to pinpoint the times in our lives that changed us for the better, a lot of those times would be wilderness times.” Barbara Brown Taylor

“If the desert is holy, it is because it is a forgotten place that allows us to remember the sacred. Perhaps that is why every pilgrimage to the desert is a pilgrimage to the self. There is no place to hide and so we are found.” Terry Tempest Williams

“No water tastes so sweet as that which springs amid the desert sand. And no faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs through adversity. Tested faith brings experience. You would never have believed your own weakness had you not needed to pass through trials. And you would never have known God’s strength had His strength not been needed to carry you through.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“The path of descent is the path of transformation. Darkness, failure, relapse, death, and woundedness are our primary teachers, rather than ideas or doctrines.” Richard Rohr

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have the events of your life ever led you into a “wilderness?” …into a kind of “descent?”
  • Did you make discoveries there? …about yourself? …about your God? Was it transformative? If not, why not?
  • Are you so willing for God to change you and shape you that you can be thankful for wilderness times?

Abba, thank you for meeting me in the wilderness.

For More: An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor

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

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

 

Daily Riches: We Are Made By What Would Break Us (Krista Tippett)

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

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

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you experienced being made by “what would break” you?
  • In what ways have terrible difficulties in your life become “an opening to more of yourself?” How would you describe that new self?
  • Have difficulties or tragedies helped to shape your “gift to the world?” What do you understand as your gift to the world?
  • If you haven’t been shaped or made more valuable by great difficulties in your life, why is that?

Abba, make me a good student of the mystery and art of living.

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

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

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

Daily Riches: The Human Chaos in Which We Are Stuck (Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Edwin Robertson)

“Such a moment is strange to none of us, certainly not to any who have seriously sought to live with God. When we are disturbed by the chaos in our own personal life, when we are not ready to face it, when again and again every security fails us and there is no firm ground under our feet, when our life hangs between good intentions and shame, when it becomes inevitably clear that we are weak, when some unmanageable fate comes over us, a great sorrow or a great passion and we are horrified at the inevitable working out of this fate, when we can see only how faithless and hopeless we are caught in our errors or when friendships are finally broken, when with the best will in the world we cannot find reconciliation with the other, in short, when we take seriously the whole human chaos in which we are stuck–then it all comes over us and we say to God: Lord, I can bear no more. I can’t take any more. No, I don’t want any more. I am too deep in the mire. God, don’t speak any more to me, for I will not hear you. God, we have nothing more to do with each other. And then it happens that we want to hear something new and at that moment, we hear afresh: ‘Peace, courage.’ Courage, which God gives is like a mother taking hold of her child who is out of control with so many faults and failures, who is now very unhappy and begins to cry. She takes his hand and gives him a new chance: ‘Now, let’s try that once more.’ Courage, courage–so God speaks to us when we are disgusted with ourselves.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“‘How can someone like me, your servant, talk to you, my lord?
My strength is gone, and I can hardly breathe.’
Then the one who looked like a man touched me again, and I felt my strength returning.
‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said, ‘for you are very precious to God.
Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!’”
Daniel 10:15-19
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Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Dare you admit to yourself or others the “human chaos in which we are stuck?” If not, why not?
  • When you’re “deep in the mire” and angry with God, do you feel safe being as honest with God as Bonhoeffer is here?
  • When you’re acting like a child and God wants to parent you, can you let God do that?

Abba, grant me courage when I’m overwhelmed and in despair. Take my hand. Hold me tight.

For More: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Christmas Sermons edited by Edwin Robertson

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Thanks for your interest. When you feel I “got it right”, please share it in your network! – Bill

Daily Riches: A Blue Christmas: Grief, Pain, Fear and Struggle (Peter Smith)

“Congregants heard no triumphant organ fanfares, no joyous Christmas carols, only quiet readings and prayers in a sanctuary lit with votives amid the dusk of late afternoon. The music was a soft guitar strumming, accompanying a humming solo of the hymn, In the Bleak Midwinter. The event was a Longest Night service at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church [in Louisville, Kentucky] — one of a growing number of congregations across the country trying to reach those who feel little comfort and joy amid the celebratory season. ‘It’s a chance to say, “My life is not totally fabulous,” and to hear God is there,’ said the Rev. Martha Holland, children’s minister at St. Andrew. Some congregations call it a Blue Christmas service, reflecting the sadness of the song popularized by Elvis Presley. Others call it the Longest Night because it occurs on or near the winter solstice, with the year’s least amount of daylight. …Some people may be grieving for a loved one with whom they shared Christmases past, Holland said. For others, who may have experienced divorce, abuse or other family trauma, the last thing they want to hear about is coming home for the holidays. Still others simply may be stressed because of holiday expectations. …Blue Christmas services have become more and more common in the past two decades with denominations and other groups even adapting traditional December liturgies for the purpose. At St. Andrew on Wednesday, participants lit four candles on the Advent wreath in honor of grief, pain, fear and struggle, a contrast to their usual representation of love, joy, peace and hope. Such services help revive the historic meanings of the season of Advent, said the Rev. Chip Hardwick…. Throughout history, the season, consisting of the four Sundays before Christmas, was a stark, penitential period focused on a longing for the coming of the kingdom of God — something inaugurated by Jesus’ birth but that awaits a future fulfillment, Hardwick said. But a cultural message that ‘everything is shiny and happy for Christmas’ has overwhelmed the season’s original meaning, he said. … ‘Advent is the time when we wait for the world to be what we want it to be.’ …Some may need the service in a given year while others come annually with some ‘ongoing pain,’ Holland said. The church began the service after a hit-and-run driver in 2008 killed two children who regularly attended. ‘It’s a comfort to a lot of people. A very upbeat, celebratory Christmas is like salt in the wounds.’  …The Rev. Ben Maas, pastor of St. Andrew, said the goal of the service there was not to provide neat answers for why suffering occurs but to assure parishioners of what is ultimately the message of Christmas: ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it, no matter how much it seems like the darkness is winning,’ he said.” Peter Smith

“The light shines in the darkness”
John 1:5

Moving From Head to Heart

  • If your Christmas is “shiny and happy” are you making room for those for whom it is otherwise?
  • Is your congregation joining with the church around the world in waiting “for the world to be what we want it to be?”
  • Can you practice waiting in hope, including when there are no “neat answers?”

God of compassion, sit with us in our pain.

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Thanks for reading and sharing this blog! – Bill

 

Daily Riches: The Crack in Everything (Leonard Cohen, Richard Rohr, Bill Wilson)

“Forget your perfect offering,

There is a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in.”
Leonard Cohen (“Anthem”)

“Bill Wilson [the founder of AA] …understood that the only way to give everyone equal and universal access to God is to base salvation/enlightenment on woundedness instead of self-created trophies. If we are honest, this utterly levels the playing field. Julian of Norwich, my favorite English mystic, understood the great turn around and said proudly: ‘Our wounds are our very trophies!’ They are the ‘holes in the soul’ where the Light and the Life can break through. …The way of the Twelve Steps is remarkably similar to Jesus’ Way of the Cross, St. Francis’ Way of Poverty, and St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s Little Way. These and many other saints and mystics teach the power of powerlessness either directly or indirectly. …Until you bottom out and come to the limits of your own fuel supply, there is no reason for you to switch to a higher octane of fuel. Why would you? You will not learn to actively draw upon a Larger Source until your usual resources are depleted and revealed as inadequate to the task. In fact, you will not even know there is a Larger Source until your own sources and resources utterly fail you. None of us go to the place of powerlessness on our own accord. We have to be taken there. Sad to say it, but it is largely sin, humiliation, failure, and various forms of addiction that do the job. Sometimes, having ruined your marriage, your children, your job, or your sterling self-image, you have to say, ‘My way isn’t working.’ Maybe there is another way, maybe I really do need to change. That is very often when you are finally ready to begin a sincere spiritual journey. At that point your religion morphs into a living spirituality.” Richard Rohr

‘Those who are well do not need a physician,
but the sick do.
I did not come to call the righteous
but sinners.”
Jesus in Mark 2:17

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you experienced enough bone-crushing pain that you’ve begun “a sincere spiritual journey?”
  • Do you have “cracks” where the lights get’s in – and from which it shines?
  • Have you discovered the value of “cracks” and powerlessness? Do you give thanks for these things?

Abba, unleash the power in my brokenness for the healing of others.

For More: Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps by Richard Rohr

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

Daily Riches: The Most Crippling Belief of All (Don Miller, Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Larry Crabb, Emma Herman, and Richard Rohr)

“The most crippling belief a person can have is ‘life was supposed to be EASY.'” Don Miller

“If you cannot refuse to fall down,
refuse to stay down.
If you cannot refuse to stay down
lift your heart toward heaven
and like a hungry beggar,
ask that it be filled,
and it will be filled.
You may be pushed down.
You may be kept from rising.
But no one can keep you
from lifting your heart
toward heaven —
only you.
It is in the midst of misery
that so much becomes clear.
The one who says nothing good
came of this,
is not yet listening.”

Clarissa Pinkola Estés

.

“Comforting thoughts about God’s faithfulness can keep us living on the surface of life, safely removed from a level of pain and confusion that seems overwhelming. But God is most fully known in the midst of confusing reality. To avoid asking the tough questions and asking the hard issues is to miss a transforming encounter with God. …One thing that seems clear is that movement toward pain is suicide. But exactly the opposite is true! The fact that the path to life often feels like the path to death, and that the path to death can feel like the path to life, is a tragic commentary on how far we have gotten off track. The process of becoming aware of our thirst is terrible. It hurts. It feels like the path to death. …But to explore and embrace our deepest hurts puts us in a small company of thirsty people who, because they feel their thirst, know what it means to come to Christ in deep and quiet trust.” Larry Crabb

.

“The true meaning of words is only learned in the school of affliction.” Emma Herman

“The path of descent is the path of transformation. Darkness, failure, relapse, death, and woundedness are our primary teachers, rather than ideas or doctrines.” Richard Rohr

“I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.”
Isaiah 48:10

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Were you expecting life to be easy?
  • Has “so much become clear” for you in the midst of misery? …in the midst of “confusing reality?” …in the “school of affliction?”
  • Are you seeking transformation primarily through “ideas or doctrines?”

Lord, I will not fail to lift my heart to heaven. I will turn to you in deep and quiet trust.

For More: Inside Out by Larry Crabb

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks 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

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

Daily Riches: The Ever-Present God in Your Ever-Present Loss (Frank Bianco)

“Had the truck come one minute sooner or later … had the drivers stopped for coffee … or skipped a break … the accident might never have happened. …As I began walking toward [the church], Tom called softly … ‘I’m sorry, old buddy. … Give God a chance. Listen. I think that’s what’s most important now. Just listen.’ God did not kill my son, I thought as I sat in the church. Then if there is a God, I asked, where did he fit in all of this? Something told me, ‘love.’ That was God’s most dominant characteristic, an all-encompassing, unqualified love….  If that was true, then God had to ‘feel’ the love I had for Michael. It had to be part of his experience. And he had to know my pain. … If he did, he had to feel as badly as any friend. At least that much. He had been as much a part of Michael’s creation as had Marie and I. He knew the joy that had been Michael. The pain had to cut him deeply. As deeply as it did me. He had to be grieving my – our – loss, sorrowing as Christ’s own mother must have sorrowed. All this was … pulling and then sweeping me along. The God I had reviled and rejected had been waiting to mourn with me, burdened with sorrow he would share with me. I felt so ashamed. I had been so wrong, for so long. Yet God had never given up on me. …Then, without warning, the experience of Michael’s death began to replay in my mind … surging up inside me, a mass of agony and pain, and I wanted to get up and run. But … I heard the words, ‘I know. I know. As you did, as you still do, I love him too. I know.’ I stayed put, weeping, as the pain poured out. But not alone. Not unconsoled. This time I wept in the arms of my God, whom I finally allowed to hold me….” Frank Bianco

“we know how dearly God loves us”
Romans 5:5

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you sense God grieving with you in your losses?
  • Can you “give him a chance” and let him show himself to you?
  • Can you let him just hold you?

Abba, why should I run from you when you’re only waiting to love me?

For More: Voices of Silence by Frank Bianco

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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: Summer Vacation Break

Hi everyone. I will be on vacation this week, so I won’t be sending out any Daily Riches from richerbyfar.com. As always, I really appreciate your interest in and support of the blog. Thanks for reading and sharing, and for your prayers!

While I’m away, don’t forget there are about 450 daily posts from the last 18 months. I’m sure there is something there you haven’t seen and that may encourage you as you seek after God and God seeks after you. (see below)

Bill

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