Let Us Give Thanks (A Poem for Thanksgiving)

The Fall puts me in the mood, always, to both rejoice in abundance and also vulnerably declare the deaths and failures of my and our collective Life.  This poem made smile in wonder at the glorious diversity of friends along the way, and remember our humanity as we stumble along the journey together.  

 

For children who are our second planting, and, though they grow like weeds and the wind too soon blows them away, may they forgive us our cultivation and fondly remember where their roots are.

Let us give thanks:

For generous friends…with hearts as big as hubbards and smiles as bright as their blossoms;

For feisty friends as tart as apples;

For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us we had them;

For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;

For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn — and the others — as plain as potatoes, and so good for you.

For funny friends, who are as silly as brussels sprouts and as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes, and serious friends as complex as cauliflowers and as intricate as onions;

For friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini, and who — like parsnips — can be counted on to see you through the long winter;

For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time, and young friends coming on as fast as radishes;

For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils, and hold us despite our blights, wilts, and witherings;

And finally, for those friends now gone, like gardens past, that have been harvested — but who fed us in their times that we might have life thereafter;

For all these we give thanks.

Source: the late Rev. Max Coots, who was Minister Emeritus of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Canton, New York. His passion for gardening yielded this beloved and much used meditation.

I AM SO GRATEFUL for friend Margaret Shaklee’s reading of the poem at last night’s interfaith Harvest Fest event here in Chicago.   I found it today at this blog: http://www.shockinglydelicious.com/let-us-give-thanks-a-poem-for-thanksgiving/.  This poem reminded me of the delicious diversity of people in my life. As I serve my clients through spiritual life coaching, spiritual practices like gratitude exercises are extremely important, as is the carving out of TIME to spend with our friends and time to forge new friendships.  When we place our attention on possibility, we never lack for what we need.

 

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Guide My Steps: A Prayer for Heart

I’m passing on this prayer from a dear sister-pastor Rev. Alison J. Buttrick Patton because it really moves me, gives me some extra voice and vision and might do so for you too. Let us not forsake praying in these challenging times! -Jacki
Dear God:

Today I am not feeling very gracious about my fellow citizens on the ‘other side of the aisle.’ I listen to the speeches, and they sound full of arrogance and lies. I know I am supposed to take the log out of my own eye, love my neighbor and all, but it’s hard to love in the face of what feels like a whole lot of self-interested and intentionally misleading talk.

We are so far from your beloved community. When a participant in the convention throws peanuts at an African-American reporter and says, ‘This is how we feed the animals…’ I want to throw up. God, I give thanks that that person was thrown out of the convention hall. Thank you for that.

As for the rest: I’m turning it over to you. You are Judge; you know the intentions of all our hearts. Teach me how to worry less about the perceived misbehavior of others and more about my own labors. Give me the strength and compassion to work for a world that really does tend to – and learn from – ‘the least of these.’

And God: I also want the voice to speak out against racism and economic injustice. I can do that, right? It’s O.K. to call out bad behavior when I see it? To point a finger in the face of hurtful words and destructive actions? ‘Cause I really want to do that… And I think that’s what Jesus did. Guide my steps, God, and my words.

Amen.

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You Can Cultivate Freedom

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist.

 

 PRACTICING THIS FREEDOM IS TRULY LIVING WELL!

 

My life as a disciple, partner, coach and minister has been changed by the principles of Energy Leadership.  At the heart of it is the reality that how we think about ourselves and the world (our consciousness) can be fueled by relatively more catabolic or anabolic thoughts.  These seven levels of energy lead to varying understandable emotional response, and can thus create a smaller or larger range of experiences in this world.  By exploring and removing our energy blocks, we make room for the natural inflow of MORE energy (spirit, I would say).  Thus, we experience and shape more peace, joy, productivity, objectivity, and compassionate connection.

As a minister and life coach I am dedicated to supporting the most grounding PRACTICES for my clients and students.  Helping with the daily practice of cultivating freedom in relationship to their thoughts and emotions is a wonderful, wonderful privilege.   I think that this is related to what some evangelical churches do well, and many mainline churches do poorly.  The mainline social gospel tradition has a much wiser grasp on the societal obstacles to justice and opportunity that we have created (“systemic ills”).  And, my heart is sometimes heavy that we lack a compelling vision of the intersection of individual freedom and responsibility with the social transformation we seek.  This model is a very promising tool for holding these two truths together for the sake of lasting change.

Created by Dr. Bruce D. Schneider, this is undergirding of the coaching philosophy of The Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC).  After my previous pastorate at Grace Baptist Church, I completed this coaching program when  I launched Living Well Ministries in 2008.  I count it as one of the most nourishing and challenging blessings of my life, and am proud to serve with thousands of peers across the world who share this “toolbox” for the good of others and fulfill their own callings.

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Work and Meditation… Not Opposite?

I have been challenged and nourished by Osho’s teaching for nearly a decade.  I have especially appreciated his books Intelligence and Creativity.  I find this excerpt below about a false dichotomy between work and rest challenging to my life experience and the kinds of support I offer clients and students.  So many laborers of love long for a restoration of rhythm in their life.  And, yes, I do find it helpful to encourage distinctions between work and rest in our efforts to craft sustainable lives.  That said, I do find this teaching of Osho’s below compelling.  I will be meditating on it further this Fall as I prepare for the next Biblical “self” care class called “A Living Sacrifice” (Tuesdays in October).

What are your thoughts?

Click the pictures below to visit Osho’s website.

Pune, India     Osho Meditation Resort


 

“People need to change the attitude that exists about work, particularly in the Western mind. Meditation should be part of the work, not separate from it.

“Work and relaxation are not contradictory. In fact, the more you put yourself into work the deeper you can go into relaxation. So both are important. The harder you work the deeper you can relax. Work is valuable. It will bring humbleness and silence. People should feel that their work is something very special, and that whatever work they do is respectable.”

“The emphasis should be on full-time work. 6 hours a day is perfectly okay. Work is part of the whole program – when you work, work as if it were a group therapy. Call it “work meditation”. If you really want to meditate and get into yourself, at least 6 hours work is a necessity – is part of the whole change in your energy. It is scientific. For 6 hours you should forget everything else – forget the whole world, forget your problems – whatever work it is, be total in it. Then something is possible.”

On another occasion Osho explains his radical approach:

“It is a very western idea of having a separation between the work and enjoyment; it is a very Christian idea – that God worked for 6 days and on the seventh he rested. But my vision is totally against this whole idea from the past. I am giving you a totally new vision, a totally new man who is not split into work and rest. For me relaxation and work are not opposite. I am not at all in favor of people feeling they work too hard and they need a rest or a break to relax and that they have to go somewhere away, away from the work. My vision is that you enjoy totally whatever you are doing, I am not against swimming or against fresh air, or against lakes. It is the split that I am against, the separation that this is work and this is enjoyment, the idea that I need to go to the lake for a break, to relax, to get away from the work.”

Source:  http://www.osho.com

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What is Scripture Inspiring in You?

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.  – 2 Tim. 3:16-17

I stand with this ancient letter penned by Paul or a devoted follower.    (Let us note that in the author’s day, our final collection of the canon — what’s in and what’s out — HAD NOT BEEN DETERMINED YET. It is very likely his use of the term Scripture refers widely to the writings of the faithful he knew, perhaps including “scriptures” lost to us or later rejected.)  Big topic. Different post.

As a Christian, it is with the heart and eyes of Jesus Christ that I seek to understand and be inspired by the lessons of Scripture.  And, I count in that the wise teachings of the ages and the contributions of many of God’s seeking children beyond the Jewish and Christian traditions.

All Scripture is inspired and USEFUL… for the ultimate goal of being proficient and equipped for every good work.  This seems a richer, deeper commitment to make than to a simplistic literalistic obedience.  In fact, the authors of Scripture certainly did NOT have in mind the approach to literal dispensational reading that many American Protestants have been steeped in, as it actually did not exist as a package until the 1800s.  If the Divine goal is shaping us for good works in the tradition of Jesus, then I must be as willing to  wrestle, grieve and argue with the “inspired” texts of the ages as I am willing to submit to their wisdom.  And then there are questions of transmission and translation. Big topics. Different post.

We are not called to a robotic faith or to pass along the prejudices and partial understandings of past.  We are called to wrestle, to pray, and to discern what really represents the HEART of the Creator today. It is clear that the Holy Spirit has worked within and outside of tradition to enlarge our perspective on true holiness and justice.  On gender equality, abolition of slavery, rejection of genocide, creation of civil pluralistic societies we have had to say “No” to some historical belief or circumstance pictured in Scripture, for the sake of living out more consistently a deeper principle of God’s will.

Today, many of the loudest voices professing Christian biblical principles are those whose image of God and God’s will is consistent with the violence, enmity and cultural superiority depicted in the Scriptures.   Others side with the voices of the prophets of justice, inclusion and an expanding sense of peoplehood because we find in those texts the same wisdom which animated Jesus.

The Holy Spirit which advances his work in and through us is at ever at work revealing our thoughts, our prejudices, and our idolatries.  One way to receive the full inspiration of Scripture is to simply acknowledge and confess it for what it is: a partial collection of the glorious activities of God and God’s people, and an honest representation of the sins, hopes and evolution of various ways of human relating to God.  It IS inspired and certainly profitable for our spiritual development to understand it and evaluate it through the lens of Good News.

If we are to grow up into a mature faith, we must remember that Jesus calls us friends, not servants.  With him, we must fulfill our destinies in this hour, and like him we must work out the core of our faith and obligations in the face of tradition’s shortcomings.

“By their fruit, ye shall know them” says Jesus.  (This has been an absolutely central principle in my faith journey and my support of LGBT people of faith through spiritual coaching and classes.)  Perhaps we could say that inspiration is REALLY happening when our lives look like his, and that Scriptural attachments which do NOT produce such an ever-maturing fruit are not inspired by God.

What is Scripture inspiring in you?

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Daily Tasks & Divine Intention

Do you ever feel like you’re swimming upstream in the course of your day, your lists and your chaotic mind?

Me too!  Drowning, actually, would describe how I used to feel A LOT.  Just occasionally now.

Thanks to much practice and support for my own Living Well, I know what a different space feels like.  This space is far from perfection, but it does have more of a center and sense of discipline and power in the face of huge commitments.  In the upcoming Biblical “self” care class (Tuesdays in October), we’ll go into this in a little more depth.

Here is a hand-out I’ve designed to share with my students.  I’m glad to pass on this copy to you in hopes that it might provoke some of your own resonance and/or creative ideas.  In a nutshell, these are ways I’ve learned to GROUND myself and keep moving forward in days that could be overwhelming.  They are methods for remembering the Sacred in my day.  I pray a blessing on your own journeys to do likewise!

MOMENT MARKING:

PRACTICES FOR REORIENTING FOCUS AND FEELINGS

Lighting Candles: before or after an experience that needs blessing or boundaries… when I need to focus on a stressful assignment;  before I write out today’s ‘to do” list; when I’m turning to a task that’s late – perhaps with some guilt; before an important and vulnerable conversation; when I don’t know how to offer an intercessory prayer…

Lighting Incense:  before or after an experience that needs blessing or boundaries… all of the above apply

Playing a Favorite Song:  before/during breakfast, to start the day out right; before/during meditation; before bedtime

Rearranging Piles of Papers:   to demonstrate “enough done” for today… “I’m done” or “I’m leaving” or “this can wait” etc.  It helps to let a long slow breathe out!

Making and spending time at an “altar” space:   pausing before a display of special photos, quotes, keepsakes that embody my loyalties, blessings and intentions

Meal Blessings:  to claim not only the gratitude we associate with these, but also a boundary around conversation, for instance dedicating the time to fellowship and re-connection, rather than  problem-solving or task management.

Coffee Cup Blessings:  Intentionally not multi-tasking with the divinely-favored beverage of  choice; using the enjoyment of it to mark a “non-task” moment before I dig in to first project.

Devotional Readings:  Returning to a favorite passage or setting time aside for brief reading of a new one; naming this time (3 minutes, 5 or more) as a threshold moment that is wrapping up or beginning a new task or experience

Pausing to REALLY LOOK at Sun, Lake, Birds, etc. : Building in the time to pause on walk to el or somewhere else, sometimes the same place on the established walk; allowing this visual banquet to encourage and strengthen me with God’s providence  and wisdom.

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It is a Choice (for Love)

The next time you find yourself thinking or wondering about “choice” involved in sexual and family diversity, I invite you to shift the lens of your question a bit. Choices ARE made. Think about the choices that your LGBT family members, friends and neighbors make, and the courageous souls that make them.

 

Across the globe, we face death, imprisonment, family abandonment, religious excommunication, bullying, teen homelessness, job or housing loss, and the current realities of vastly inequitable social benefits. Across the U.S. we face cruel campaigns to end or preempt public discussions about marital rights, such as in the upcoming constitutional amendment in Minnesota.

Yet, we LGBT citizens  choose to be and to talk and to share and to work for our common good. In Uganda and elsewhere, our brothers and sisters choose to face — potentially — the death penalty.

Yes, we make choices.

What lure to life and goodness, to authenticity and necessary human dignity would call us to endure such dangers? What convictions of personal need and promise of Divine blessing could be so worthy that we are willing to take up the cross of forging public space and enduring such shaming scrutiny in today’s world?

Of course there  are choices being made!  Christian Scripture calls this moral force “counting the cost.”

We do choose greater integration of soul and body when we build loving relationships with those whom we celebrate sexually.

We do choose greater honesty amid our communities by coming out, and by so doing we advance a more godly and objective understanding of creation’s diversity.

Those of us from conservative religious upbringings often come to a faith crisis in which we choose to place a greater trust in the God who transcends human bias than in the views of the day (even those passed on for some time).  For me, it was choosing to trust Christ’s grace and the clear fruits of the Spirit known in my loving partnership.

And most of us choose to show up at work, at church, in volunteer responsibilities or to family obligations choosing to share our gifts and talents.  If we’re somewhat out, that could mean discrimination or danger; if we’re not, we can accrue the burdens of hidden truths and divided lives.

Yet, the choice for love is always worth it.  Discerned choices for honesty with loved ones and fellow citizens alike flow from love.  It is good for us.  We see the momentum of advancing social freedoms today in the U.S.  There is an oxygen-like nature to such honesty. Perhaps this is what is so contagious that fearful opponents continue in panic to  condemn.   We are being honest about Creation’s vast diversity, the greatness of a God whose love takes many forms, and the liberation of releasing age-old sinful fears of self and other.  What gifts for the well-being of all!  What a privilege to choose these things.

LOVE stirs within us as we forge our lives in relationship to God, uphold and shape tradition, engage in meaningful milestone rituals, serve our nation, nurture and bless children and tirelessly engage in community service.  LOVE stirs within us as we refuse to give up our dreams of a life fully lived in holy self-determination (Baptists call it soul liberty) and family obligations and blessings.

The courageous people pictured above deserve our respect and solidarity.  Organizations like Other Sheep and The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission might be a good start for research and support.

You may not live in such a physically dangerous climate for LGBT people.  You may not know through personal, first-hand experience what it is like to face such hostility from those who hate your very existence or are scandalized by your CHOICE to be honest and present to your Life.  You may not know how fragile our gains seem to be, and that perhaps LGBT people in your life never feel completely safe and respected even here in the U.S.  You can choose to listen and learn about this.  You can choose to be our advocate  in the public square even if you personally do not agree with our choices.

Perhaps in your current moral convictions, you feel same-sex relationships are inferior. Or, horrible.  Or, dangerous.  Given the weight of tradition handed down in many quarters, that is understandable.  But you, too, have a choice.

Will you pass on prejudices unexamined in the light of testimony and grace?  Or will you choose to allow your mind to be renewed?

Will you stand by silently as your loved ones, co-workers and neighbors battle against second-class citizenship (and its slippery slope)?  Or will you choose to “love your neighbor as yourself”?

It is a choice.

For love.

 

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Forgiveness Changes Reality

“As I strove to forgive everyone involved, I could see the evidence of the injury receding.” –Sarah G. Hyatt in “The Science of Seeing the Real You” (Christian Science Sentinel, May 5, 2008)

What could this possibly mean?

It reminds me of the teachings in The Course in Miracles about forgiveness REALLY and ACTUALLY reversing the cause and effect scripts in our mind.

What could this possibly mean?

Sensitive stuff, and I don’t want to overstate it. If it’s a new concept to you, I really want to share the GIFT in the insight.  So if it’s challenging language, let’s take it slowly.

Basically, in my very very ACIM layperson’s terms:

Forgiveness is what enables us to live in the PRESENT.  As we proceed on the forgiving spiritual path, we grow in our ability to resist attributing our present well-being chiefly to the PAST choices we’ve made or others have made (a decade or a minute ago).

It’s in this way, that we mean that evidence of injury can recede.  I do NOT mean that we are not changed and shaped by the nexus of choices and experiences that we and others make.  Like Jacob limping away from a Divine battle or Jesus, after the resurrection, showing his scars… we may be very aware of the ways today that our thoughts and  habits reflect past experiences.  Indeed, we are embedded and interconnected with one another.  That’s the beauty of being this amazing complex and wabi sabi world of which we are a part.  Our unique present constitution is what helps us have experiences of being distinct and in process!

So, it’s not that we are not influenced but it IS about experiencing healing —  a sense of release of the ego’s lies about cause and effect.  “The evidence of injury that recedes” is simply that script about being the injured one, the victim, if that script clings mercilessly to blame and judgement about the causes and causers.  It is not the scars that go away, but our fixation on them.

Attendees of the upcoming Forgive for Life Institute (Winter 2013) will go more deeply into the Course’s teachings about forgiveness.  My current clients and students are developing more and more life-giving Energy Leadership skills.  We uncover new joys every day as we work with each other on discovering true healing and true power.  And, we are changing the “realities” of selfish scarcity, excuses, blame, and deferment which keep so many of us from our passion and our present.

Interested in more for your life?  Check out upcoming events or coaching at Living Well Ministries.  I serve people around the country who are ready to leave behind the beliefs and habits which keep them from living well in the present.  Together, we discover the Living Well that nourishes us as we “love from the Center of who we are” (Romans 12:9a).

 

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A Testimony on Lesbian “Lifestyle” and My Faith

From a Facebook Correspondent:

I just read a note about Diversity, Equality, and trusting God. 

Your bio indicates, ” In 1999, she became the first “out” member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to be approved for ordination in the American Baptist Churches – USA.”

How does your lifestyle choice affect your faith?

Thanks for the time to read this…

My answer:

Hi, brother.

Well, that’s a LONG answer:) In short, I’d say that the process of coming to peace and acceptance of my sexual identity required much wrestling, praying, studying and trusting. In the face of tradition’s teachings and the prejudices of our day, it is only the GRACE of God which can nurture and guide this stage of faith development for the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person.

As I began to take God’s grace and priorities recorded in the Bible more seriously, I began to see and trust the patterns of Scripture. Over and over again, the people of Israel (especially the prophets), Jesus, and the early church heard God’s call to greater inclusion, bigger hearts, and challenging of the “external” forms of holiness and purity. Paul’s teachings on legalism, especially, remind us of the human temptation so alive in the early church — to judge by the form of things (often a source of national or religious pride) rather than the fruits of the Spirit.

So, to sum it up: It took a great leap of faith to trust that my experience of myself and my loving partnership was a part of the natural diversity of this world (not changeable or necessary to change). It took much study and prayer to see the deeper insights of Scripture. I accept that judgment of homosexuality is an example of a social prejudice handed down over time (as evidenced in the small number of Scripture texts about it) but that this is not the timeless truth of God. I trust that the moral force of Scripture is on the side of a God who chooses, calls and blesses whoever God wills. I trust that God evaluates same-sex AND heterosexual relationships today based on their virtues, not on the genitals or gender of those involved.

… hope this is a helpful view into my journey.

Blessings,
Jacki

 

This BRIEF answer is only a glimpse into a the graced and empowering journey that I and so many other LGBT and allies of faith have taken.  Learn more at Befriending the Bible: Reading Condemnation with CARE” in Chicago on September 8.

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Living Well on the Rainbow Journey

In preparing for the blessed opportunity to be with PFLAG-Chicago on July 15, I was so mindful of the long journey I’ve taken.   It feels more like concentric rings on a tree than a journey through strangely disparate lands, though.

A fundamentalist Baptist childhood

a graced evangelical college chapter (laced with the pain of the closet)

the finding of sanctuary and healing as a young adult lesbian in an intimate LGBT-welcoming church (Grace Baptist Church)

the journey of ministry call and the fires of social justice awakening at Chicago Theological Seminary

a season of pastoral leadership that brought new rhythms of wellness and passion for personal and community health

(including spiritual paths and places!)

new paradigm shifts that make peace and prosperity a reality, and call me to build yet more bridges.

 

What is the impact of all of this?

More than ever, I know that my part to play in justice-making is more of a healing and bridge-building role than an activist’s battle strategy.

I look around at the volatility of our times and the fervent opponents to diversity and solidarity.  What I see and feel is the brokenness we all share in the web of the Ego: fear, insecurity, anger, aversion, enmity.  No prejudice which would withhold safety or equality from other groups is VALID, and must be challenged and overturned.  But I trust more than ever this Knowing:  ALL EMOTIONS ARE VALID.  (By valid, I simply mean that people are having whatever experience they are choosing to have, and it is not my place to judge these difficult feelings.)  While we do the necessary work to persuade, and to “lobby” and to convince minds and to gain votes for the sake of more just laws, we can either hold a transcendent and redemptive hope for all (New Creation) or simply replay the unsustainable script Winner Takes All with its short-term gains.

The social and political opponents  of LGBT diversity, or transracial solidarity, are caught in the grips of age-old fears of difference and projections of blame and anger that the New Testament might call “the flesh.”  But I am letting go of the battle mindset that “spirit” opposes “flesh.  The Rainbow Journey has taught me that this idea does great internal damage to our personal spirituality and integrity.  And, how often do we make our group out to be the ones who need to battle those “Others!”

Time and time again, when I’ve set a different course and nurtured a different energy, I’ve found that hearts and minds of opponents open up to new encounters and relationships.  People long for a little respect and dignity; our brothers and sisters who are most afraid and angry, who are most caught up in emotional and social barriers or violence, need the healing presence of bridge-builders who genuinely care for their pain and can honor their authentic desires for Good.  It is only then that ideas about the Good, or how to live out the Good, can be reexamined and let go where they are found to be  limiting our God.

I most certainly have not “arrived” in my own struggles to occupy such a place.  But I am a product of these multiple communities and hold them all, somehow, inside me.  I have made peace with that. And I am more convinced than ever that spiritually speaking this is the KEY to “living well.”  In my living, coaching and teaching I am focusing on personal transformation and healing.  As LGBT folks and allies work on forgiveness, coming our, self-care or faith transitions, they find that the more self-compassion and acceptance we experience the less enmeshed in enmity we need to feel.  It is only from this place of spiritual freedom and equanimity that we can truly be the creative change agents that our world so desperately needs.

 

 

 

 

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