Category Archives: About Jacki

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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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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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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To Love Our Neighbors as Ourselves

Here’s a real golden nugget, I think, from Emanuel Swedenborg’True Christianity:

We read that we are to love the Lord God above all things, and our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:27).  To love our neighbor as ourselves means not despising our neighbors in comparison with ourselves.  It means treating them justly and not judging them wrongfully.  The law of goodwill pronounced and given by the Lord himself is this:  

“Whatever you want people to do for you, do likewise for them.  This is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31,32)

This is how people who love heaven love their neighbor.  People who love the world, however, love their neighbor on a worldly basis for a worldly benefit.  People who love themselves love their neighbor in a selfish way for a selfish benefit.

Wow!  Think about the entrenched ugliness of our unresolved pain and violence in this world.  Is it not much about comparing and competing, treating folks unjustly or allowing injustice, and judging wrongfully?

I am really savoring this collection of Emanuel Swedenborg’s writings, including the parts of it that are a bit strange metaphysically.  I love to learn about innovative ideas and experiences others have had (or thought they had), and to ponder what it might reveal about God’s reality.  One does not have to be hopelessly relativist to be committed to appreciating at face value the potential gift that others are bringing.  To listen and to understand does not mean to give over all discriminating faculties!  (Unfortunately, the sort of fundamentalism and evangelicalism that formed my early life would indeed have us fearfully separate ourselves from such encounters, rather than seek in them the practice of neighborly love and intellectual humility).

I especially love to read things outside the mainstream of acceptance (or, shall I say invisible histories/herstories and even “heresy”).  It is a spiritual practice — studying the breadth and spirit of experience, testimony and communal ethics that have been born amid human grappling with the presence and expectations of God.  And, striving to encounter these things with the heart, not just the endlessly dissecting intellectual impulse.  Swedenborg called these  “sense-oriented” and I associate them with negative Ego grasping which other traditions name as our snare.

My coaching clients and students see this loving neighbors and self thing is the heart of the matter.  So, in fact did Jesus.  Swedenborg has some truly innovative ways of picturing and teaching this.  Tomorrow’s post will be especially interesting for those working on the spiritual projects of forgiveness and biblical self-care.

Maybe a Lenten practice that would be good Christian contribution to public discourse this election season:

To not despise our neighbor in comparison with ourselves.

To treat others justly.

To not judge wrongfully.

To do unto others as we’d like done unto us…

“The Law of Goodwill.”

 

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Behold the Sun at Midnight

WINTER SOLSTICE

Behold the Sun

at midnight.

Build with stones

On lifeless ground.

Find in decline,

In death’s night,

Creation’s new beginning,

Morning’s youthful night.

The heights reveal

The gods’ eternal word.

The depths guard

 The peaceful treasure.

Living in darkness,

Create a Sun.

Weaving in matter,

Know Spirit’s delight.

— Rudolf Steiner

A tattered poem on Winter Solstice tumbles out of my wallet this morning. It is a few weeks away, but I am in the mood nevertheless. 

This Word has spoken to me often from its secure little nest, on the days I pull it out for mantra and on the days it just travels alongside of me.  I have carried it for seven years, this Word. On days and nights that seemed long, that seemed without light or path for others, it steadied me with an ancient, creation imperative. The Sun was present and I knew it. It brought delight and rebirth.

I wonder now if I am done with it.

The wondering passes. I am not.  I need this Word. People and places I love need this Word. 

This brings the resolve of Rest. It is not a resolve of tirelessly plodding on, like a sturdy oak, mindless of fatigue or surroundings. It’s Presence Possible only in the bearings of that Sun. It’s a body-mind-spirit delight found when I sense the right place, the right time, the right work.

 It’s faith.

I am grateful,

and not alone.

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Jesus and Living Well

I believe that Jesus lived well on this earth, and that he lives today so that we might live well.  He enjoyed the wonder of trust in God’s care, and encourages us to a faith that does likewise.  He shared his life freely… anchored in Divine love and for the sake of healing and justice.  He calls us to choose, likewise, to face down the fears which would tempt us to settle for less – including false securities, habits of judgment, and complacencies about this world’s suffering and oppression.  I believe that forgiveness is the way of such salvation.

 Christ’s life — then and now — calls us to intention, discernment and generous, sacrificial love.  For trust, wisdom and strength to do so, we may always draw deeper from the springs of the Living Well – God’s unconditional love.  As we draw from this eternal source, our lives are freed from fear and shame and we are transformed into agents of grace, creativity and fearless truth-telling.  Nourished by this source, we come to celebrate and care for our whole lives.  We come to dwell in our bodies, minds, spirits, relationships, and world with an awareness of the beautiful presence of the Holy.

 Following Christ calls me to a radically open life.  As Christ’s disciple, I follow the Way of Truth and Life that embraces the dignity and potential of all people. Christ’s disciples carry the mandate to be agents of reconciliation in the world, and are enabled to transform personal sin and social suffering with radical grace and forgiveness.

I follow the path his followers have set before me, which calls us to create and nourish experiences of empowering love and reconciliation wherever two or three are gathered. I study the Scriptures which he did, as well all the stories of faith revealed through his power since Pentecost.  I learn from people of other faiths about the great capacity of God to draw others to lives of grace and wisdom.

 I take up Christ’s energy, an energy which enables truth and love to embrace.  When these embrace, we can create enduring justice.  When we set our intentions for such lives, we are empowered by his Spirit for freedom, bold action and abundant life for one and all.  We know, too, the gifts of rest, surrender and trust in the One who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we can ask or think.

 The Power of Belief

 All beliefs influence our feelings and our actions, and the range of choices we feel we have in this life.  Beliefs that foster shame, judgment, limitation, victimhood and conflict literally block our life energy, our spirit.  Jesus announced is that there need not be such condemnation, and that repentance is Good News.  We can release these burdens, trust in the Gospel, and live out our full potential for peaceful, creative, and abundant lives. The Good News is that when we stop protecting our own egos, we are radically available for the sincere service of others.  By losing our lives, we find them.

 What is the effect of your beliefs on your present?  On your future?  Are they limiting or nourishing your capacity for living well?

I’d be honored to support you on this sacred journey!

 

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Retreat Leadership – My Past Experience

I hope this will give you a sense of the ways spiritual retreats have shaped me over the past 20 years.

TOPICAL RETREATS (2000-present)
Gatherings as individuals — either unaffiliated or from one or more church — to explore a common theme

A Few Examples of Topics I’ve Led (vs. attended) for eleven faith communities since 2000:

  • A Flourishing Life: Living the Serenity Prayer
  • Finding Our Wisdom: A Retreat for Older Adults
  • Savoring Spring: A Church Visioning Retreat
  • Befriending the Bible: A Retreat for LGBT Christians Seeking Peace w/ God
  • Forgiveness: Freedom for a Flourishing Life
  • Prayerful Living: Beyond Stress Management
  • The Spiritual Power of Simplicity
  • Prayerful Living: The Freedom in Spiritual Disciplines
  • God’s Dream: Cultivating Christian Community
  • A New Way for a New Day: Excellence vs. Perfectionism
  • Our Story Too: LGBT Christians Reclaim the Bible
  • The Gift of YOU: A New Approach to Spiritual Gifts
  • Faith Beyond Resentment (worship leadership @ retreat based on this book)

PERSONAL RENEWAL RETREATS (2000-present)
Regular unstructured, individual retreat time (beginning in my first pastorate, where I retreated 3-4 times/year for approximately a week)

LOCAL CHURCH RETREATS (1990-2006)
A tradition of annual Grace Baptist Church retreats, attended as an active lay member and then pastor

RETREATS WITH COLLEAGUES (1990 – present)
Sacred time set aside to rest, play and study with fellow seminarians, fellow ministers, parish nurse colleagues, and interfaith dialogue advocates

ORIENTATION RETREATS (1986, 1996)
Sacred time set aside to get students off to an intentional and well-supported start to their new lives

DISCIPLESHIP COORDINATORS’ RETREATS (1988-9)
Refreshing time away from college classes for intense Bible study and training as a Discipleship Coordinators (a network of small groups for prayer, fellowship and Bible study at Taylor University)

The habit of retreat-taking is central to my Christian life. They renew, restore and reorient me for the sake of Gospel (repentance for the sake of abundant life).

I’d be honored to serve you on your own journey of Living Well in an upcoming retreat experience, whether it is inspired by the above topics or something else you imagine. Contact me at 773.655.4357 or send me an email for more info on my previous experience. Watch for more information about LWM’s upcoming retreat schedule, including one-day Bible Study retreats.

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