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 Skills: Contemplation

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.”
Isaiah 30:15 NIV

(1) The “Why” of Contemplation

“In all the historic formulations of the Perennial Philosophy it is axiomatic that the end of human life is contemplation . . . that a society is good to the extent that it renders contemplation possible for its members; and that the existence of at least a minority of contemplatives is necessary for the well-being of any society.” Aldous Huxley


“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 comes 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 practice is to learn what we need so as to live truthfully and honestly and lovingly. It is a deeply revolutionary matter.” Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury


“Action without contemplation leads to hyperactive, frantic and frayed lives disconnected from their inner source that promotes peace, creativity and healing. A life of contemplative activism embraces rhythms and practices that affirm and nurture love of God, self and neighbor in a way that leads to enduring peace and social change.” Red Letter Christians blog

“Contemplation carves the posture of surrender into the fabric of our being, making us most receptive to the transformation that we cannot obtain for ourselves.” Phileena Heuertz

*Is practicing contemplation something you heard encouraged in church?
*At this early point in our discussion, what would you say is the need for, or “the promise” of contemplation?

(2) The “Way” of Contemplation

“Therefore, banish from your heart the distractions of earth. Turn your eyes to spiritual joys so that you may learn at last to rest in the light of the contemplation of God. Indeed, the soul’s true life and repose are to abide in God, held fast by love and refreshed by divine consolations. . . . little by little as you abandon baser things to rest in the one true and unchangeable Good, you will dwell there, held fast by the bonds of love.” Albert the Great


“Contemplation is simply the mind’s loving, unmixed, permanent attention to the things of God.” Francis de Sales (“Attentiveness is the heart’s stillness, unbroken by any thought.” St. Hesychios)

[contemplative prayer as the experience of being] “quiet enough to feel held, to feel the embrace of the divine, to realize that I am a part of something vaster than vast; and to feel that, to recognize that, to feel thankful for it, and to hope that by opening myself to that awareness, that I am allowing some of that to come through me.” Marilyn Nelson

“Contemplation . . . not only brings us face to face with God. It brings us, as well, face to face with the world, face to face with the self. And then, of course, something must be done. Nothing stays the same once we have found the God within. We carry the world in our hearts: the oppression of all peoples, the suffering of our friends, the burdens of our enemies, the raping of the Earth, the hunger of the starving, the joy of every laughing child.” Joan Chittister

“This combination of observation along with love—without resistance, judgment, analysis, or labeling—is probably the best description of contemplation I can give. You simply participate in ‘a long, loving look at the Real.'” Richard Rohr

“Bring yourself back to the point quite gently. And even if you do nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your heart back a thousand times, though it went away every time you brought it back, your hour would be very well employed.” Francis de Sales

*What is your emotional response to these ideas?

*What is a behavioral response you would aspire to in response to these ideas?

(3) The “End” of Contemplation

“Contemplation, at its highest intensity, becomes a reservoir of spiritual vitality that pours itself out in the most telling social action.” Thomas Merton

“There are two doors in the next life, someone once suggested–one is labeled ‘heaven’ and the other ‘lecture on heaven.’ Everyone from the West is lined up outside the second door.” Belden Lane

*What is your emotional response to these ideas?

*What is a behavioral response you would aspire to in response to these ideas?

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For further consideration (before or after our discussion):

(4) The “How Am I Doing?” of Contemplation

“The opposite of contemplation is not action, it is reaction. We must wait for pure action, which always proceeds from a contemplative silence.” Richard Rohr

“Our practice of contemplation is not the avoiding of distractions,’ as was foolishly taught, but instead we use them ‘to look over their shoulder’ for God! This was the brilliant insight of the author of the fourteenth-century book, The Cloud of Unknowing. . . . The persistence of the distraction can actually have the effect of steadying your gaze, deepening your decision, increasing your freedom, your choice, and your desire for God and for grace—over this or that passing phenomenon. The same can be true with any persistent temptation. The ‘shoulders’ of the distraction almost become your necessary vantage point, and they create the crosshairs of your seeing. Who would have thought? It is an ideal example of how God uses everything to bring us to God. I wasted years on trying to deny, repress, or avoid distractions and ‘dirty’ thoughts—which never worked very well. Many gave up on prayer and the spiritual life because of it.” Thomas Merton

“It is unwise to judge a prayer period on the basis of your psychological experience. Sometimes you may be bombarded with thought all during the time of prayer; yet it could be a very useful period of prayer. Your attention might have been much deeper than it seemed. In any case, you cannot make a valid judgment about how things are going on the basis of a single period of prayer. Instead, you must look for the fruit in your ordinary daily life, after a month or two. If you are becoming more patient with others, more at ease with yourself, if you shout less often or less loudly at the children, feel less hurt if the family complains about your cooking–all these are signs that another set of values is beginning to operate in you.” Thomas Keating

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Each week’s quotes usually come from Wisdom From the Margins. This is the book we will use for this discussion. If you can, try to read one reading daily in the book (perhaps the reading for that calendar day). Alternatively, this week you could read January 9, March 1, and/or March 20.)


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

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.)

Embracing Mystery, Paradox–Even Unknowing (Richard Rohr)

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

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

Moving From the Head to the Heart

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

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

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

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

Daily Riches (CV Era): Finding Refuge in Silence (William Alexander, Henry David Thoreau, Michael J. Fox, Elizabeth Kubla-Ross, Richard Rohr, Ralph Waldo Emerson)

“Silence is the universal refuge.” Henry David Thoreau

“I began to practice creating as much external silence as I could. The television was unplugged, and a large Japanese screen placed in front of it . . . . Television is not an enemy, at least not to me. . . . I just need to let go of that part of me that’s addicted to noise and movement of any kind. Bill and television together create a frightful synergy of torpor and listlessness. I stopped listening to the radio in my car, and I only play music in my home when I’m actually listening to it, doing nothing else. I was amazed to find that I, great fan of the blues, didn’t know the lyrics to half the songs I had in my library. The music had been, well, background noise. As the days turned to weeks and months, and then, a year or two had gone by, something happened. I began to seek silence, more and more. Noise hurt.” William Alexander

“There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. You will find that deep place of silence right in your room, your garden, or even in your bathtub.” Elizabeth Kubla-Ross

“The Desert Fathers and Mothers focused on these primary practices in their search for God: 1) leaving, to some extent, the systems of the world; 2) a degree of solitude to break from the maddening crowd; 3) times of silence to break from the maddening mind; and 4) ‘technologies’ for controlling the compulsivity of mind and the emotions. All of this was for the sake of growing a person capable of love and community.”  Richard Rohr

“Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of God.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If only you would be altogether silent!”
Job 13:5 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • “Social distancing” has created an epidemic of loneliness. I want to hear the voice of someone–anyone. At the same time I need times of silence “to break from the maddening mind.” Could you use such a break?
  • I love the idea of sitting in the tub, alone in the dark–quiet, warm water, bubbles. I remember reading about Michael J. Fox doing that for hours after his Parkinson’s diagnosis–because it was all he could do–and to sort things out. As Thoreau says, silence can be a refuge. Can you come up with a way to experiment with silence as a “technology” for controlling the maddening mind? . . . to experience that “universal refuge?” . . . as a way of hearing “the whispers of God” now, when maybe you need them the most?

Abba, let me often disappear into the silence–to quiet myself, to experience peace, to hear your whisper.

For More: Lucky Man by Michael J. Fox

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Riches (CV Era): When You’re “Disappearing” (David Whyte, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Flannery O’Connor)

” . . . I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.” Flannery O’Connor

“It might be liberating for us to think of our onward life being informed as much by our losses and disappearances as by our gifted and virtuoso appearances and our marvelous arrivals. As if the foundational invitation being made to us at the core of our continual living and dying is an invitation to participate in the full seasonality of existence. Not just to feel fully here and fully justified in those haloed times when we are growing and becoming, and seen to be becoming, but also, to be just as present and to feel just as much here when we are in the difficult act of disappearing, often against our wills, making way often, for something we cannot as yet comprehend. The great and ancient art form and its daily practice; of living the full seasonal round of life; and a touchstone perhaps, of the ultimate form of human generosity: continually giving ourselves away to see how and in what form we are given back.” David Whyte

“Everything helps me to God.” Jean-Pierre de Caussade

“If you cling to your life, you will lose it,
and if you let your life go, you will save it.”
Jesus in Luke 17:33

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Taking everything as a blessing definitely requires some “squinting.” As you witness the horrors of these days, can you also “squint”–struggling to see what less obvious good might accompany the losses?
  • I love Whyte’s humor referring to our “virtuoso appearances” and “marvelous arrivals.” It’s then, when I’m advancing and being applauded that I’m satisfied–and gratified. Whyte challenges me to participate in the “full seasonality of existence”–where I’m unnoticed (“invisible”) and frustratingly unproductive/unsuccessful. Can you do that?
  • Are losses and limits teaching you to accept what you didn’t chose? . . . to nevertheless look for good in a situation you hate, and can’t “comprehend?”

Jesus, you made the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, the blind to see, and the dead to live again. Do something strong in me in this time that seems so stagnant and unpromising.

For More: Falling Upward by Richard Rohr

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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

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“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

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“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 Mob of Men as a ‘Mob of Kings’ (G. K. Chesterton, Frederick Buechner and Richard Rohr)

“You shall love your crooked neighbour, with your crooked heart.” W. H. Auden

Saint Francis “… honored all men; that is, he not only loved but respected them all. What gave him extraordinary personal power was this: that from the Pope to the beggar, from the sultan of Syria in his pavilion to the ragged robbers crawling out of the wood, there was never a man who looked into those brown burning eyes without being certain Francis Bernardone was really interested in him, in his own inner individual life from cradle to grave; that he himself was being valued and taken seriously… He treated the whole mob of men as a mob of kings.” G. K. Chesterton

“If we are to love our neighbors,
before doing anything else
we must see our neighbors.
With our imagination as well as our eyes,
that is to say like artists,
we must see not just their faces
but the life behind and within their faces.
Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.”
Frederick Buechner

“The first gaze is seldom compassionate. It is too busy weighing and feeling itself: ‘How will this affect me?’  …This leads us to an implosion, a self-preoccupation that cannot enter into communion with the other or the moment. In other words, we first feel our feelings before we can relate to the situation and emotion of the other. Only after God has taught us how to live ‘undefended’, can we immediately stand with and for the other, and in the present moment. It takes a lot of practice.” Richard Rohr

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd [a mob of men],
he had compassion on them,
because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”
Mark 6:34

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Does the fact of your “own crooked heart” inform your loving?
  • Who is “the other” for you?  neighbor? spouse? family member? stranger? competitor? anyone who is not you?
  • Are you aware of the problem of “feeling your feelings” before you relate to the situation of the Other?
  • How can you practice a “first gaze” where “love is the frame” in which you see anyone who is the Other?

Abba, help me learn a compassionate first gaze so that I honor, love and respect others. Disarm me, undefend me, unpreoccupy me with myself.

For More: Saint Francis of Assisi by G. K. Chesterton

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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: Orthopraxy Over Orthodoxy (Richard Rohr)

“What we see in many of the Eastern religions is not an emphasis upon verbal orthodoxy, but instead an emphasis upon practices and lifestyles that, if you do them (not think about them, but do them), your consciousness will gradually change.  …Here at the [Center for Action and Contemplation] we want to emphasize the importance of praxis over theory, of orthopraxy over orthodoxy. We are not saying that theory and orthodoxy are not important; like Saint Francis, we feel that what is ours to do has more to do with our practical engagements, and the way we live our daily lives than making verbal assent to this or that idea. …In the last fifty years, education theory has come to recognize that listening to lectures and reading are among the least effective forms of learning. They are highly passive, individualistic, do not necessarily integrate head with heart or body, but leave both the ego (and the shadow self) in their well-defended positions, virtually untouched. As long as our ego self is in the driver’s seat, nothing really new or challenging is going to happen. Remember our ego is committed to not changing, and is highly defensive by its very nature. And our shadow self entirely relies upon delusion and denial. Only the world of practical relationships exposes both of these. The form of education which most changes people in lasting ways has to touch them at a broader level than the thinking, reading mind can do. …Somehow we need to engage in hands-on experience, emotional risk-taking, moving outside of our comfort zones, with different people than our usual flattering friends. We need some expanded level of spiritual seeing or nothing really changes at a cellular or emotional level. Within minutes or hours of entertaining a new idea, we quickly return to our old friends, our assured roles, our familiar neural grooves, our ego patterns of response, and we are back to business as usual.” Richard Rohr

 Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you experienced the limits of “orthodoxy” as something that “changes people in lasting ways?”
  • When people serve in a food kitchen or visit people in hospice care they learn to love in a way they never could from a sermon. Have you experienced this “living into a new way of thinking.” (Rohr)
  • Have you thought about the relative merits of orthodoxy and orthopraxis? …about which the Bible emphasizes more?

Abba, renew my mind, but don’t stop there.

For More: Orthopraxy” by Richard Rohr

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

 

Daily Riches: The Meanest, Weakest Man on Earth (Francis of Assisi, Brigid Hermann and Richard Rohr)

“This must be why the Lord has blessed my efforts. He looked down from heaven and must have said, ‘Where can I find the weakest, the smallest, the meanest man on the face of the earth?’ Then he saw me and said, ‘Now I have found him. I will work through him, for he will not be proud of it nor take my honor away from myself. He will realize that I am using him because of his littleness and insignificance.’” Francis of Assisi

When we turn to the inner circle of the spiritual masters—the men and women, not necessarily gifted or distinguished, to whom God was a ‘living, bright reality’ which supernaturalized their everyday life and transmuted their homeliest actions into sublime worship—we find that their roots struck deep into the soil of spiritual silence. Living in the world and rejoicing in human relationships, they yet kept a little cell in their hearts whither they might run to be alone with God.” Bridgid E. Herman

It’s not addition that makes one holy, but subtraction: stripping the illusions, letting go of the pretense, exposing the false self, breaking open the heart and the understanding…. Conversion is more about unlearning than learning. In a certain sense we are on the utterly wrong track. We are climbing while Jesus is descending, and in that we reflect the pride and the arrogance of Western civilization, always trying to accomplish, perform, and achieve. …The ego is still in charge.” Richard Rohr

 “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise;
God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—
and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are,  
so that no one may boast before him.”
1 Corinthians 1:27-29

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you “little” or “lowly” enough for God to use you? Why or why not?
  • Are you “climbing while Jesus is descending?” …always trying to “accomplish, perform, and achieve?” If so, why?
  • Do you protect a “little cell” in your heart where you can “run to be alone with God?” How else will you undergo the “subtraction” that Rohr mentions?

Abba, I qualify to be your servant: foolish, weak, lowly and despised. Work through me.

For More:  Creative Prayer by Bridgid Herman

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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 Constant Purification of Motives (Richard Rohr) *

“Jesus tells us to give alms, and fast, and pray secretly…. These are the three religious disciplines honored by most historical religions. Whenever you perform a religious action publicly, it enhances your image as a good, moral person and has a strong social payoff. Jesus’ constant emphasis is on interior religiosity, on purifying motivation and intention. He tells us to clean the inside of the dish instead of being so preoccupied with cleaning the outside, with looking good (Matthew 23:25-26). The purifying of our intention and motivation is the basic way that we unite our inner and our outer worlds. (Please read that twice!) All through the spiritual journey, we should be asking ourselves, ‘Why am I doing this? Am I really doing this for God, for truth, or for others? Or am I doing it for hidden reasons?’ The spiritual journey could be seen as a constant purification of motive until I can finally say, ‘I have no other reason to do anything except love of God and love of neighbor. And I don’t even need people to know this.'” Richard Rohr

” … and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:18

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Are you “preoccupied with looking good” at church? If so, why? Are you as good as you look? Do you feel free to be transparent?
  • Do you ask, “Why am I doing this?” Are you aware of your ego’s need for a “strong social payoff?” of your “hidden reasons?” Becoming aware is the first step to uniting your inner and outer worlds.
  • Sometimes I think, “I hope someone will share this about me at my funeral.” I don’t mind if it’s a secret until then – after all, I want to be (and be known!) as a modest person. I don’t feel the need to advertise what few things might make me look good … but, I do want credit, even if I’m dead! Is it just me, or can you relate?

Abba, I admit I want credit. I admit I want to be admired. I admit that, even though your approval should be everything, I seem to need more. Help me to focus less on what others think of me and more on what others need from me.

__________

For More: Francis: Subverting the Honor/Shame System [CD] by Richard Rohr

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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: Who’s Right? Who’s Wrong? (Pema Chödrön and Richard Rohr) *

“Could our minds and our hearts be big enough just to hang out in that space where we’re not entirely certain about who’s right and who’s wrong? Could we have no agenda when we walk into a room with another person, not know what to say, not make that person wrong or right? Could we see, hear, feel other people as they really are? It is powerful to practice this way, because we’ll find ourselves continually rushing around to try to feel secure again—to make ourselves or them either right or wrong. But true communication can happen only in that open space.” Pema Chödrön

“The dualistic mind is essentially binary. It is either/or thinking. It knows by comparison, by opposition, by differentiation. It uses descriptive words like good/evil, pretty/ugly, intelligent/stupid, not realizing there may be 55 or 155 degrees between the two ends of each spectrum. It works well for the sake of simplification and conversation, but not for the sake of truth or even honest experience. Actually, you need your dualistic mind to function in everyday life: to do your job as a teacher, a doctor, or an engineer. It is great stuff as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough. The dualistic mind cannot process things like infinity, mystery, God, grace, suffering, death, or love. When it comes to unconditional love, the dualistic mind can’t even begin to understand it.” Richard Rohr

 “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.
1 Peter 5:5

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Can you identify examples of dualistic thinking in your world? in yourself?
  • Is your desire to love well strong enough to exist “in that space where you’re not entirely certain about who’s right and who’s wrong?”
  • A person who loves well will be a humble person. Is there a practice you can adopt to grow in humility, particularly when it comes to dualistic thinking?

Abba, grant me a heart that cares more about loving people than showing them they’re wrong.

__________

For More: Dualistic Thinking... by Richard Rohr

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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: Don’t Try Harder (John Ortberg and Richard Rohr)

“When you stretch, you don’t make it happen simply by trying harder. You must let go and let gravity do its work. You give permission, opening yourself to another, greater force. This is not just true when it comes to stretching. As a general rule, the harder you work to control things, the more you lose control. The harder you try to hit a fast serve in tennis, the more your muscles tense up. The harder you try to impress someone on a date or while making a sale, the more you force the conversation and come across as pushy. The harder you cling to people, the more apt they are to push you away. … for deeper change, I need a greater power than simply ‘trying harder’ can provide. Imagine someone advising you, ‘Try harder to relax. Try harder to go to sleep. Try harder to be graceful. Try harder to not worry. Try harder to be joyful.’ There are limits on what trying harder can accomplish. Often the people in the Gospels who got into the most trouble with Jesus were the ones who thought they were working hardest on their spiritual life. They were trying so hard to be good that they could not stop thinking about how hard they were trying. That got in the way of their loving other people. …here is an alternative: Try softer. Try better. Try different. A river of living water is now available, but the river is the Spirit. It is not you. … Don’t push the river.” John Ortberg

“Faith does not need to push the river because faith is able to trust that there is a river. The river is flowing. We are in it.” Richard Rohr

“… rivers of living water will flow from within them.”  John 7:38

    __________

       Moving From Head to Heart

  • Is “trying harder” your default mode – are you constantly “pushing the river?” Is that working?
  • What exactly would it look like for you to “try softer?”
  • What might you discover by trying softer?

Abba, help me stop pushing and striving and trust the river to do it’s work.

For More: The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg

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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: 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.

__________

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 Constant Purification of Motive (Richard Rohr and Thomas Keating) *

“Whenever you perform a religious action publicly, it enhances your image as a good, moral person and has a strong social payoff. Jesus’ constant emphasis is on interior religiosity, on purifying motivation and intention. He tells us to clean the inside of the dish instead of being so preoccupied with cleaning the outside, with looking good (Matthew 23:25-26). The purifying of our intention and motivation is the basic way that we unite our inner and our outer worlds. (Please read that twice!) All through the spiritual journey, we should be asking ourselves, “Why am I doing this? Am I really doing this for God, for truth, or for others? Or am I doing it for hidden reasons?” The spiritual journey could be seen as a constant purification of motive until I can finally say, “I have no other reason to do anything except love of God and love of neighbor.” Richard Rohr

“In the Near East, centuries ago successive cultures built new cities on top of the last ones. … The ruins of these ancient cities built one on top of the other are called “tells.” The spiritual journey is like an archaeological dig through the various stages of our lives, from where we are now back through the midlife crisis, adult life, adolescence, puberty, early childhood, infancy. What happens if we allow that archaeological dig to continue? We feel that we are getting worse. But we are really not getting worse; we are just finding out how bad off we always were. That is an enormous grace. … What happens when we get to the bottom of the pile of our emotional debris? We are in divine union. There is no other obstacle.” Thomas Keating

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness
in front of others
to be seen by them.”
Jesus in Matthew 6:6

Moving From Head to Heart

  • “Am I really doing this for God, for truth, or for others? Or am I doing it for hidden reasons?” Do you regularly ask yourself these questions?
  • Have you experienced the “enormous grace” or sifting through your “pile of emotional debris?”
  • What practice can you adopt to help you focus on “interior” religion?

Abba, may all that I do be only for love.

__________

For More: The Human Condition by Thomas Keating

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In these “Daily Riches”  my goal is to give you something of uncommon value each day in 400 words or less. Thanks for your interest. When you find it useful, please share!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

 

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