Daily Riches: Giving Love a Rest (Richard Beck)

“In 2016, a man boarded a subway in Vancouver, Canada. He became aggressive, shouting and cursing at the other passengers. He jerked around erratically. The man was either mentally ill or under the influence of drugs. Everyone on the train backed away. And then, suddenly, a seventy-year-old woman seated nearby reached out and held the hand of the shouting, cursing man. The gesture calmed him. The man quieted and then slumped to the ground, tears filling his eyes. The woman kept holding his hand. When he reached his stop, the man stood up and said, ‘Thanks, grandma.’ He exited and walked away. Ehab Taha was on that train, and he took a picture of the old woman and the crazed man holding hands. He posted the picture to social media, and it quickly went viral. ‘It was quite incredible how much he calmed down in a split moment,’ Taha later said. ‘It was the most touching thing I’ve ever seen.’ . . .

“I think it’s time for Christians to give the word love a rest. . . . Imagine what it would be like if Christians gave up trying to love the world for an entire year and instead committed ourselves to practicing kindness—kinder on social media, kinder with our coworkers, kinder with our family, kinder with our friends . . . . Kindness isn’t a spiritual ideal or aspiration; kindness is a behavior that causes you to lean in while others are leaning away. It’s a behavior like taking the hand of a scary man on a subway, or eating lunch with someone who is sitting alone, or welcoming a woman in a hijab to your playgroup. Kindness is what attracts us so much to Jesus. It’s Jesus’s kindness for those who have been treated meanly, cruelly, or dismissively. [These stories] . . . remind us of Jesus. We see that seventy-year-old woman take the hand of a screaming crazy man, and we think of Jesus’s kindness to those possessed by devils. We see the football player eating lunch with an autistic boy, and we think of Jesus touching lepers. We read these stories of kindness on social media, and our hearts leap in a flash of recognition: That is exactly the sort of thing Jesus would have done.” Richard Beck

“Jesus wept.” John 11:35

Moving From Head to Heart

*Who would you have been–the cursing man, the one who backed away, the man who took the photo, the “grandma”?

*If you began practicing kindness, what would that look like?

*Can you ditch the safe, noble, spiritual ideal for the sometimes difficult but more measurable, powerful, behavioral practice? Will you do what Jesus did?

Stranger God, teach me to lean in.

For More: Stranger God by Richard Beck

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

Solitude (class notes, week 2)

Readings for Exploration

“Retirement is the laboratory of the spirit; interior solitude and silence are its two wings. All great works were prepared in the desert, including the redemption of the world. The precursors, the followers, the Master Himself, all obeyed or have to obey one and the same law. Prophets, apostles, preachers, martyrs, pioneers of knowledge, inspired artists in every art, ordinary men and the Man-God, all pay tribute to loneliness, to the life of silence, to the night.” A. Gilbert Sertillanges

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16

“Without great solitude no serious work is possible.” Pablo Picasso

“We seldom read of God’s appearing by Himself or His angels or to any of His prophets or saints in a throng but frequently when they are alone.” Richard Baxter

Susan Cane’s book Quiet “ . . . focuses on introverts, making the case that they have a kind of intellectual advantage. And their edge stems largely from greater amounts of solitude, from the degree to which they’ve swapped motion for stillness, chatter for calm. They’ve carved out space for reflection that’s sustained and deep. This isn’t necessarily a matter of being unplugged, of ditching the hyper-connectedness of our digital lives. It’s a matter of ditching and silencing the crowd.”

“Fellowship with Christ is a table only for two–set in the wilderness. Inwardness is not a gaudy party, but the meeting of lovers in the lonely desert of the human heart. There, where all life and fellowship can hold no more than two, we sit together and he speaks as much as we, and even when both of us say nothing there is our welded oneness. And suddenly we see we cannot be complete until his perfect presence joins with ours.” Calvin Miller (writing about Psalm 23)

Questions to Explore

*Are you comfortable with solitude? Share from you life to illustrate your answer.

*Are you interested in increasing the solitude in your life? What could be some benefits of doing that?

*What hindrances hinder you from finding time alone?

*What might practicing solitude look life for you if you chose this discipline?

For Further Consideration

Maybe you’re a mom, and you can’t even get time to yourself in the bathroom. Maybe you’re surrounded by people fifty or more hours a week. Maybe solitude isn’t the best practice for you to choose during this phase of your life. If that’s the case, what can you learn from tonight’s conversation?

Maybe you can’t bear to be alone. What might that say about you? What small step(s) could you begin to take to change that?

Wisdom From the Margins: Daily Readings (background for this conversation)
January 8, 11, 17, 31; February 13; March 27

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If you’re interested in participating in this discussion, which as of now is on Tuesday at 7:30pm EST, please contact me @ wm_britton@mac.com.

Daily Riches: Expanding Your Bandwidth of Kindness (Richard Beck, Misoslav Volf)


“The strangeness of strangers makes hospitality hard. As we’ve watched cable news and our social-media feeds, we’ve all witnessed our failures in extending hospitality to strangers, our unwillingness to welcome people into our nation, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, churches, homes, and hearts. The refugee family stopped at our borders. The homeless person sleeping on our streets. . . . And far too often, Christians have been the worst offenders, the very first to greet strangers with Keep Out signs. . . . Like the goats in Matthew 25, we refuse to welcome Jesus in disguise. . . . But hearts aren’t easily changed. You can’t change hearts with pep talks, protests, podcasts, Facebook rants, tweets, or a really good sermon. Hearts require spiritual formation through habits and practices that directly address the social and psychological dynamics at work . . . . Hospitality  demands  more  than  good  will and  good  intentions.  Emotions,  including  social emotions, are not easily changed. You can’t fix depression by telling someone, “Cheer up!” You can’t get someone to become less angry just by admonishing, “Calm down” or less anxious by saying, “Don’t worry, be happy!” . . . If you find some people irritating, annoying, or revolting, a demand that you should feel differently isn’t practical. . . . There are two big missing pieces in our efforts to welcome the stranger God. The first missing piece is that hospitality, before it can be anything else, begins as the emotional battle to widen the circle of our affections. Theologian Miroslav Volf calls this “the will to embrace.” [And a] second missing piece: that hospitality begins as a spiritual discipline, as a habit-forming practice aimed at expanding the bandwidth of our kindness and compassion. . . . When we think of ‘spiritual disciplines,’ we think of practices like prayer, silence, solitude, Bible reading, Sabbath, and fasting. . . . Through spiritual disciplines, we seek a deeper intimacy with God, . . . an encounter with the sacred and divine. While these spiritual disciplines move us toward God, they routinely fail to move us toward each other. This is the genius of the Little Way, lost spiritual discipline [of Thérèse of Lisieux,] a habit-forming practice that moves us  toward  each  other  so  that  our  affections for each other expand and widen. The Little Way is a spiritual  discipline  of  hospitality  and  welcome. . . . a habit-forming discipline that enables us to en-counter the God who comes to us in disguise . . . in coworkers, neighbors, refugees, the homeless, and the people in the line with us at the grocery store.” Richard Beck


Moving From Head to Heart


*How often are you frightened, annoyed, or repulsed by strange people?
*Have others sometimes judged you for seeming strange?
*What new habit could you begin to practice that could begin to break down your aversion to those who seem strange? . . . to train you in kindness and compassion?


Abba, expand my bandwidth for kindness when it’s hard.


For More: Stranger God: Meeting Jesus in Disguise by Richard Beck

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

Life Skills (week one)**


Typical Weekly Session

*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. The approach may be unfamiliar at first, so give it some time. It works!

*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.
–Stick to the topic, and avoid controversial comments.
–Refrain from commenting on, correcting, advising, or offering solutions to the person who is sharing (No “fixing.”)
–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 so as not to distract others.
–Please don’t make video or audio recordings of our meetings.
–Keep your background as non-distracting as possible.
–Mute your microphone when you’re not sharing (even if you’re home alone). 

A Spiritual Exercise for this Topic (Colliers)

This will be something different each time (most weeks).

Week One: orientation and introduction to “skills/practices”

“. . . everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” Jesus in Mt. 7:24, 26

[oftentimes] ” . . . Buddhism presents itself as a way of life, and Christianity presents itself as a system of belief.” Brian McClaren

“That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but that our power to do is increased.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Training means arranging life around those activities that enable us to do what we cannot do now, even by extreme effort. Significant human transformation always involves training, not just trying.” Dallas Willard

“You do not have to do these things–unless you want to know God. They work on you, not [God]. You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require it nor demand it.” Annie Dillard

For discussion:

*Do any of these quotations affect you (encourage, surprise, confuse, challenge, disturb)? Can you explain your response?
*Can you pick a quote that is important to you, and attempt to explain its main message to the group?
*What would you say about a life of faith and spiritual “practices” after this discussion?

To consider for later:

If you had to explain to someone what a Christian is, what would you say?
Did your answer mostly emphasize ideas and beliefs, or behaviors?
Is your experience of the life of faith more about “trying” or “training?” Does what you’re doing seem to be working?

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**These are notes for a Life Skills discussion that starts in the evening on Tuesday, February 1, 2022. If you think you may in interested in joining this weekly discussion, please contact me at wm_britton@mac.com, and I’ll send you a link. (The discussion will be based on the book Wisdom From the Margins.)

Daily Riches (CV era): Our New Uncluttered View of Life (Steven Paulikas)

“The images of empty public spaces around the world are shocking outward signs that reflect the interior emptiness so many feel right now. Millions are being deprived of the chance to work, socialize and support one another in person. . . .Yet the void created by this crisis may be an unexpected gift. This emptiness presents to us a mystical and uncluttered view of life as we have been living it until a few weeks ago. . . . Each day, it becomes more apparent that this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to consider a fundamental question about the spirit and morality of our way of living: Having emptied ourselves, what do we really want to fill our world with once it is time to rebuild?

It is notable that the most dangerous places in America right now are the ones filled with people we are refusing the right of empty space. . . . the virus is endangering prisoners and prison workers. The 34,000 people held in ICE detention centers are ‘sitting ducks’ for infection . . . workers in dozens of Amazon warehouses rushing to fulfill the orders of millions of quarantined Americans have tested positive for the virus, yet the company has given them no viable option to stay at home. . . . What does it say about our economy that it depends on the labor of people whose lives we are willing to sacrifice? Do we want to continue participating in an exhausting economic system that crumbles the instant it is taken out of perpetual motion? And what is the virtue of a desire for constant accumulation of wealth and goods, especially when they come at the cost of collective welfare and equality? These are . . . spiritual concerns that come into view with sharp clarity in the emptiness around them.

If there is anything the collective spiritual insight of millenniums can teach us right now, it is that in addition to the horrors of this current state of emptiness, there is also life to be discovered in this moment. . . . This is a powerful moment in human history in which we can examine, individually and collectively, the unnecessary decadence and cruelty of our contemporary society that we have accepted without sufficient scrutiny. . . . Sitting with these questions now will determine what we are willing to accept once this crisis is over. Having tasted a simpler life, perhaps we will shift our values and patterns. Having seen the importance of community, maybe we will invest more in the well-being of the collective and not just the individual. Having seen the suffering of others anew, we may find it impossible to ignore it in the future. . . . Once the world opens back up, we can choose to fill it with the wisdom and insight gained from these weeks—or allow it to be filled with horrors that are even worse than what we had before. The choice will be ours.” Steven Paulikas

” . . . life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
Jesus in Luke 12:15b NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Has your life become “uncluttered”–perhaps through much painful loss?
  • Can you think of yourself as in a time between two “normals”–pre-pandemic and post-pandemic? . . . a time for scrutiny of self and society?
  • Can you “sit with” some of the questions the author raises? Can you imagine a much better new normal? . . . pray for that? . . . determine to contribute to that? What might that mean?

Abba, the losses are profound. May all this painful loss not be in vain.

For More: The Lessons of St. Francis: How to Bring Simplicity and Spirituality Into Your Daily Life by John Michael Talbot

 

 

Daily Riches: The First Rule of Prayer (Ronald Rolheiser)

“What eventually makes us stop praying, John of the Cross says, is simple boredom, tiredness, lack of energy. It’s hard, very hard, existentially impossible, to crank-up the energy, day in and day out, to pray with real affectivity, real feeling, and real heart. . . . We’re human beings, limited in our energies, and chronically too-tired, dissipated, and torn in various directions to sustain prayer on the basis of feelings. . . . Monks have secrets worth knowing and anyone who has ever been to a monastery knows that monks (who pray often and a lot) sustain themselves in prayer not through feeling, variety, or creativity, but through ritual, rhythm, and routine. . . . Too commonly, we accept the following set of axioms as wise: Creativity and variety are always good. . . . Longer is better than shorter. Either you should pray with feeling or you shouldn’t pray at all. Ritual is meaningless unless we are emotionally invested in it.[1] Each of these axioms is over-romantic, ill thought-out, anthropologically naive, and not helpful in sustaining a life a prayer. Prayer is a relationship, a long-term one, and lives by those rules. Relating to anyone long-term has its ups and downs. Nobody can be interesting all the time, sustain high energy all the time, or fully invest himself or herself all the time. Never travel with anyone who expects you to be interesting, lively, and emotionally-invested all the time. Real life doesn’t work that way. Neither does prayer. What sustains a relationship long-term is . . . a regular rhythm that incarnates the commitment. . . . . the great spiritual writers have always said that there is only one, non-negotiable, rule for prayer: ‘Show up! Show up regularly!’ The ups and downs of our minds and hearts are of secondary importance.” Ronald Rolheiser

 “Devote yourselves to prayer.”
Colossians 4:2 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you sometimes just too tired, too overwhelmed–or honestly simply too unmotivated to pray? Welcome, fellow pilgrim.
  • Are you trying to be someone who prays regularly without having a “routine” or “rhythm” or “practice?” Is that working?
  • Why not make a specific plan for daily prayer (be realistic)–and then just begin “showing up?” See what happens.

Abba, I refuse to leave my communion with you to chance. I know you’re waiting. I’m going to show up.

For more: Prayer: Our Deepest Longing by Ronald Rolheiser.

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Thanks for reading, following and sharing these “Daily Riches!” Look for my upcoming book –Wisdom From the Margins: Daily Readings for more of these provocative quotes, questions, and prayers.

[1] my emphasis

Sources:

Rolheiser, Ronald. “The Value of Ritual in Sustaining Prayer.” http://ronrolheiser.com/the-value-of-ritual-in-sustaining-prayer/#.WuDLHMgh2Rs.

Daily Riches: Becoming A New Person In Jesus Christ (Rowan Williams and Augustine)

“… contemplation is very far from being just one kind of thing that Christians do: it is the key to prayer, liturgy, art and ethics, the key to the essence of a renewed humanity that is capable of seeing the world and other subjects in the world with freedom—freedom from self-oriented, acquisitive habits and the distorted understanding that come from them. To put it boldly, contemplation is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world that our financial systems and our advertising culture and our chaotic and unexamined emotions encourage us to inhabit. To learn contemplative prayer is to learn what we need so as to live truthfully and honestly and lovingly. It is a deeply revolutionary matter. …To be converted to the faith does not mean simply acquiring a new set of beliefs, but becoming a new person, a person in communion with God and others through Jesus Christ. Contemplation is an intrinsic element in this transforming process. To learn to look to God without regard to my own instant satisfaction, to learn to scrutinize and to relativise the cravings and fantasies that arise in me—this is to allow God to be God, and thus to allow the prayer of Christ, God’s own relation to God, to come alive in me. Invoking the Holy Spirit is a matter of asking the third person of the Trinity to enter my spirit and bring the clarity I need to see where I am in slavery to cravings and fantasies and to give me patience and stillness as God’s light and love penetrate my inner life. …And as this process unfolds, I become more free—to borrow a phrase of St. Augustine—to ‘love human beings in a human way,’ to love them not for what they may promise me, to love them not as if they were there to provide me with lasting safety and comfort, but as fragile fellow-creatures held in the love of God. I discover … how to see other persons and things for what they are in relation to God, not to me. And it is here that true justice as well as true love has its roots.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love …”
Ephesians 3:17

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • If you can, please read this again. Can you see why contemplation is so important and powerful?
  • Do you regularly practice contemplation?
  • If not, do you have another practice that promises the same results?

Abba, let me be rooted and held in your love for me.

For More: The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Address…” by Rowan Williams

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Thank you for following and sharing my blog. I really appreciate it! Please leave a question or comment. – Bill

Daily Riches: The Practice Of Waiting (William Britton)

“Simone Weil considered patient waiting to be ‘the foundation of the spiritual life.’ And John Ortberg condemns hurry, which is the rejection of patient waiting, as ‘the great enemy of the spiritual life.’ Obviously, for me to flourish spiritually will require that I learn to wait, and like with anything else, that will require practice. I can practice waiting as I refuse to take matters into my own hands (being controlling or vengeful)–and instead wait on God to do as God see’s fit. I can practice waiting as I refuse to indulge in despair or cynicism–instead looking for evidence of God’s coming yet present Kingdom. I can practice waiting as I refuse to forge ahead when I don’t know what to do–admitting my limitations and need for help. (From the outside my waiting may look like doing nothing–but really it’s creating a space for God to do what only God can do.) I can practice waiting as I refuse to give in to temptation–refusing to insist on what I want, or feel I need–trusting the one who knows better than me what I need. I can practice waiting as I refuse to complain bitterly (or worse) curse angrily–reminding myself that things aren’t necessarily supposed to go as I planned. I can ‘sit tight’ in anticipation of something transcendent–something that transcends my oh-so-important strategy. I can practice waiting as I refuse to make happiness my primary motivation for the day. God invariably has something better than happiness in mind for me–and it’s not about me anyway. Finally, I can practice waiting as I refuse to worry. I can remind myself that God is always at work for good, that my worrying won’t add anything to that, that my rushing ahead will only make a mess and create a lot of needless anxiety.” William Britton

“I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.”
Psalm 40:1

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Think of all the things that seem “foundational” to you in your Christian life. Is waiting well one of them?
  • How can you practice waiting? Can you think of some ways to make this personal for you?
  • Are your convictions about the need to wait strong enough to cause you to wait the next time you feel like “forging ahead?”

Abba, I want to live at a the pace of god-fearer, and in a calmness that comes from taking my cues from you. Help me to make this my way in the world.

For More: Godspeed

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. My goal is to regularly give you something brief and of unique value. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. Thanks! – Bill

Daily Riches: Stop Trying to Love and Start Pursuing Love (Dallas Willard)

“Paul understood the fallacy of those who say ‘I just can’t love so and so,’ and there they stop and give up on love. He knew that they were working at the wrong level. They should not try to love that person but try to become the kind of person who would love them. Only so can the ideal of love pass into a real possibility and practice. Our aim under love is not to be loving to this or that person, or in this or that kind of situation, but to be a person possessed by love as an overall character of life…. I do not come to my enemy and then try to love them, I come to them as a loving person. Love is not a faucet to be turned on or off at will. God himself doesn’t just love me or you, he is love. He is creative will for all that is good. That is his identity, and explains why he loves individuals, even when he is not pleased with them. …[It is] from the depths of the self from which actions come. If we take care of the sources of action, action will take care of itself. …We do not achieve the disposition of agape love by direct effort, but by attending to and putting into place the conditions out of which it arises. …If, now, we want to do the things the scriptures say, we must change the sources of action in the human self. …in [1 Cor. 13:4-8] Paul is not saying that we are to be patient, kind, humble and so forth, but that love itself is patient, kind, humble, etc. …So we ‘pursue love’ and the rest takes care of itself.” Dallas Willard

“Be imitators of God …
and walk in love”
Ephesians 5:1

Moving From the Head to the Heart
  • God expects us to love difficult people. Is your response to “try hard?”
  • What if instead, God wants to change you in “the depths of the self”–to make you the kind of person who loves?
  • There are “conditions out of which [love] arises”–conditions which address heart change more than behavior. No doubt Willard is thinking of formative practices. Can you think of some practices that could help you learn to be a more loving person? If not, perhaps start here.

Abba, make me the kind of person who loves my enemies as easily as my friends.

For More: Getting Love Right by Dallas Willard

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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)

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