Category Archives: Life Coaching

A Rainbow GPS (God Placement System)

I have the fabulous honor of attending a teleseminar series on transformational writing this week.  One of Christine Kloser’s top-notch guests is Lisa Nichols, author of No Matter What.    She took my breath away- such a spirited blend of glorious charisma and authentic humility.   Find out more at http://motivatingthemasses.com/.

One thing I continue to find on this “living well” journey… I am surrounded by amazing peers and mentors who support my desire for personal transformation and commitment to being excellent in my service of others.    Nichols introduced me to the phrase “God Placement System,” and I’ve really been taking that in.  I am aware that often in this life we find ourselves needing to trust that the GPS is working properly.  Sometimes our preconceived notions point us in other directions.  And sometimes others might challenge our GPS readings.

Most of my LGBT clients, students and readers across the country know what it is to doubt their GPS. And, to have others doubt their GPS.  One of the richest blessings of any faith journey is to have been tested by such doubt.  This refines us  and our ability to discern which voice is truly God’s, that voice which is truly life-giving.  We are a gift to Christ’s church precisely because we have challenged the idolatries of traditional norms and dared to trust that tradition is not God.

We can move through times of confusion and challenge with a graceful power if we depend on the unconditional love of the Holy Spirit to guide us.  As we move into the season of Pentecost and Pride this June, I will be meditating here especially on the scriptures and lessons which have nourished my journey as a lesbian Christian pastor and coach.

Are there theme or texts you would especially like to examine together?  Let me know, and we’ll grapple with that together.

 

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Maintaining A Spiritual Basis of Civility

At its core, civility isn’t an issue of choosing our words more carefully.  Civility is an issue of attitude.  Ultimately we will discover that every human exchange bears the promise of blessing instead of cursing each other.  The more we can admit that God is always at hand and loving each one of us as (equal) children, the more we’ll treat each other in ways guided by our common Father-Mother God.

— excerpt from The Christian Science Monitor’s devotional column on 3/5/12.

How might we be civil with those whose choices are causing pain?  With those whose short-sightedness or prejudice would distort or diminish the welfare of others? With those who use the name of God to perpetuate hatred or insular complicity in social ills?

This Lent, I pray for daily openness to transformation.  A transformation of heart and character, not just external matters and etiquette.  This piece on civility points to the heart of the matter: an equanimity of spirit about one another in our challenging relationships is the only way we can bear the fruit of blessing. Genuine blessing that empowers social change, just relationships, and thriving kinship.  Blessing is not cheap affirmation, but holding a vision of empowerment and generativity.

For me, striving to know and be a blessing means always striving to see the Higher Self in myself and others, even when  beliefs and actions are expressing limited current capacity for loving actions.  For my spiritual coaching clients, it often means creating some essential space to simultaneously nurture their own good and their practices of prayer for others.   We often have so many more choices than we perceive.  For all of us, it can sometimes be very very hard on the Ego, which really wants to name Good Guys and Bad Guys.  But its a kingdom pursuit that is every bit as worthy as the priceless pearl of Matthew 13:45-6

Did I say it was hard?

I will pray for you and I ask you to pray for me!

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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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You Cannot Change the Circumstances…

“You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.” — Jim Rohn

 

This is a wonderfully life-giving and empowering reminder to me.  I do not hear it as piety but as prophetically wise, not as quietism but responsibility-taking, not as escapism but as incredible rigor.  My clients and students who are working on sustainable activism, biblical self-care,  forgiveness or coming out as gay or lesbian Christians are thriving because they are learning what they REALLY have charge of — their “energy leadership.”

This approach – quite suitable for Lent —  yokes self-examination with the tasks of transformation of circumstances.  It makes the interior life the starting point.

I join others from time to time in the critique of Western individualism and the corrosive impact it has had when taken to the extreme.  But I will not settle for a faith and a justice-calling that does not take seriously — reverentially — that resilience that can be cultivated only when we remember the limits of what we have charge of…

It is, I would go so far to say, GOOD NEWS.

What do you think?

 

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Maybe the Greatest Struggle is Giving Up Struggle

For Lent today…

I am meditating  on Jesus’ baptism and soul-struggles in the wilderness temptation he faced.

At every turn, his Accuser challenged him to doubt his Divine blessing (“This is my Beloved Child, in whom I am well-pleased” is the message proclaimed at his baptism.)  This was the Gift given as he turned to his wilderness.

Trusting this — throughout his work and under increasingly escalated disappointment and attack  —  ultimately allowed Jesus to face his destiny, and it will allow us to face ours.  Along the way, we will be challenged to doubt and to test, to rely solely on material life, and to secure ourselves through Ego’s accomplishment.  That can mean falling prey to the ideas of Kingdom-building that rely on coercion and empire.  It can mean confusing others’ approval, ever limited by social prejudices, with God’s.  It can also mean falling prey to a belief that we are somehow more or differently blessed than any other child of God (and to the sins that such manifest destiny has often led us).

Lent is often cast as being about struggle.  Divinely ordained struggle.   We can endlessly struggle with ourselves, with others, with God.  Perhaps the greatest struggle-opportunity  of all is giving up struggle.

This might be a fresh way of seeing Jesus’ accomplishments in the wilderness.  Yes, it looks like victory born of struggle, but it might bear more fruit in us if we lift up a different vision.   He gives us the first larger-than-life signal that his victory would be nonviolent, and “gained” not by a win but by a surrender.  Not a surrender to temptation, but a surrender to the consequences of an Emptying proclaimed in a Philippians 2 hymn.  Jesus surrendered to the truth of his Divine oneness, and to the world’s ideas of loss and failure, even as he knew them to be false.

One of the great spiritual needs of our day is for LGBT Christians to give up the struggle for others’ approval, and to surrender into the delight of our Divine blessing.  We are part of the amazing diversity of style and love and family and  life which has always existed and has been ever-evolving.   In many past eras, same-sex love and intimacy have been accepted by some and rejected by others.

The tiny number of Christian scriptures which have become Accusers’ weapons do not speak for the God of the universe who continues to speak timeless truths of blessing.  They represent the struggles of the past, as our ancestors gave voice to their fear and ideals, their best attempts to protect themselves by condemning others and blaming others for the challenges of their day.  They need not sow enmity for today. Overturning their hold on today’s people of faith is a task which a table-turning Jesus relishes… but not for the sake of endless enmity and divisiveness about sexual diversity.  No.  For the sake, maybe, of forming a new people who know that abiding as the Temple of Spirit is God’s will for all of us.

I do not mean to advocate a political passivity in our wilderness, but to suggest that living in increased conditions of peace and prosperity will only come when are able to “love from the center of who we are.”  To work hard and witness – and even cause some trouble now and again — from that deep and unconditioned place.  And to join Jesus in disbelieving the Accuser’s lies and pictures of success that would verify or validate our Divine blessing.

May the testing of this life lead us always to reject the struggles which are false, alienating and divisive. May we, with Spirit’s blessing, recognize and live into our Divine birthright to know blessing and to bless, to know our royalty and servanthood all at the same time.

That could be the greatest “struggle” of all.

— Lent 2012

Rev. Jacki Belile, CEC, is a spiritual life coach and ordained Baptist minister.  She has supported LGBT people of faith and their allies on the journey of living out Christ’s radical welcome since 1996.

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I Don’t Need to Suffer to Be of Service

The following italicized excerpt is from Micheal Neill, one of the coaching mentors I most treasure, and taken from his February 13, 2012 newsletter.

I can see that life was unfolding before I was born and will continue to do so long after I’m gone. And that while I have a role to play, I’m not the star of this particular movie. Which is a huge and blessed relief, because it means I can just relax and enjoy my life as best I know how to do.

I don’t need to suffer to be of service – in fact, over time it’s the one thing sure to stop me. Suffer long enough and you begin to shield your eyes from the suffering of others. 

In fact, the simple but paradoxical rule of thumb seems to be this:

The more I enjoy my life, the more compassion I feel for the suffering of others.

Have fun, learn heaps, and be kind – to yourself and to everyone else!

Read more at Micheal Neill’s website.

The above letter provokes me into thought, prayer and conversation about a theme that I am working out “with fear and trembling” (that’s old-fashioned King James biblical language, not literal fear).  The crux of the complicated wrestling:

How can it be that so much of Christian thought and effort seems to be attached to suffering and sacrifice?

Where is this damaging preoccupation manifest today among conservative AND liberal notions of bearing the cross?

What does it look like to prosper in joyful growth, service and community with the humility of the Gospel (laid out in the Sermon on the Mount)?

My clients, students and I are working this out together.  Because the notion that enjoying this life is a betrayal of the Gospel or necessarily a block to the outpouring of compassion and justice has damaged countless precious lives and distorted the integrity of our worshipful offerings.  The cost, in terms of Biblical self-care, is that we risk false and prideful sacrifice rather than the “living sacrifice” which we see in Romans 12.  And, that we fail to make “every thought captive to Christ” by savoring the gifts of this world: loving relationships with self and others, nature, collaborations of all kinds, music and art and all sensory embodied experiences.  Being with others’ joy and pain in graced silence.  And so much more.  And, the time to truly know all these.

Thanks for being on this journey with me, and with provocative mentors and conversations like Michael.

Peace and love,

Jacki

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Forgiveness and the Heart of God

Jonah did not like that the people of Nineveh saw the “error of their ways.”  He was more attached to his role of self-righteous victim and ranting “prophet” than to the radical Divine option that those oppressing Powers That Be might actually experience grace and a second chance.

I’d like to reread, soon, Miguel de la Torre’s book Liberating Jonah: Toward a Biblical Ethics of Reconciliation.  I’ve always loved the story of Jonah, and began serious discipling study of it in 2005.  Miguel’s book offers some wonderful challenges about what it means to forgive injustice and to truly envision reconciliation. And there’s no sugar coating it.

That’s really important: no sugar coating.  As we embark together in coaching and classes this year as part of Living Well Ministries’ Forgive for Life programs, we will support one another in a forgiveness journey which holds truth of pain and radical compassion together.  No sugar coating.  No self-righteousness, either.

I hope that I can support, in these settings and others, the sustainable prophetic work of those called to transform  injustice in our world.  So very often I encounter those engaged in justice work I truly value and share in interactions which reveal such animosity, resentment, and demonizing toward “the Other” who they would blame for society’s ills.  No doubt, many structural injustices and systemic prejudices — such as racism, heterosexism, ageism, ableism and sexism — permeate our current reality and hold many in bondage through invisible systems of privilege and unequal power and opportunity.   In Buddhist terms, our attachments to blame and our aversions poison us all. The liberating and creating work of justice-making cannot thrive while we are stuck in that abyss.

As a Christian coach, I hold the vision of shalom for us all.  Peace, completeness and well-being might be modern aspects of this Hebrew concept.  In my personal life, public ministry and coaching/teaching work, I hold space for people to articulate the pain and damage they feel and see WHILE LETTING GO of Jonah’s temptation to make the human vessels of harm out to be evil incarnate.   I have slowly shed a view (now, to shed in daily experience!)  of God as one whose wrath would come down to punish my/our enemies.  Or, that I have the power and right to  dehumanize those whose beliefs and actions cause harm.

We have the opportunity to cultivate a Divine heart that, unlike Jonah’s, truly desires the well-being of all victims and all violators.   (That’s the approach to forgiveness I take, inspired by Marjorie Suchocki’s work).  Anticipating Lent is a good time to recall that a forgiveness that demands a punitive judgment is not Christ’s gospel.  Forgiveness looks like acceptance, bold truth-telling, and a welcome Home.

“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”   Romans 5:8

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Joining with God in Expressing Love for the World

The Holy One is with us in all of life. Our purpose for opening the door inward is to help us know and claim who we are so we can more completely join with God in expressing this love in every part of our external world.

— Joyce Rupp

Open the Door: A Journey to the True Self

 

“Love from the Center of Who You are” is how Paul puts it (via Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase) in Romans 12:9a.   My clients and students at Living Well Ministries are creating and recreating lives with a passion for such a life.  We look inward not in selfishness or escapism, but in order to truly feel and act from the grace which we profess to be God’s.  We boldly explore our present energy blocks, the ideas and habits which get in our way as we aspire to live generously and sustainably in this world.  We dare to look at lifestyle habits of greed, gluttony and compulsion in which we trade spaciousness and receptivity for endless tasks.  In the reality of experienced brokenness, we are learning how to rest in what Parker Palmer calls “a hidden wholeness.”

As I prepare to teach next month’s class on biblical self-care, I am reminded of Coach Cheryl Richardson’s wise challenge.  How can we be truly follow our God’s guidance if we do not make time and room to get to know and listen to our True Self?

Joyce Rupp shares this passion, and I am grateful for the privilege of sharing her work as an invitation for fellowship and discernment among a sacred group of sisters in ministry this year.  We call care so much about following our Lord in a calling to love the world. Really and materially.  It’s my hope that this is a year for all of us of deepening that “Living Well” from which we can do so with joy.

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The Friend Who Can Be Silent With Us…

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
― Henri J.M. NouwenI, The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey

 

Oh, how wise and wonderful are Nouwen’s words.  As a “recovering” extravert, I can confess that the capacity to hold such silence has been something I’ve been slow to learn.  But it holds so much reward, both for my friends and clients as well as for myself.  It’s truly a spiritual discipline to practice such stillness, and to be reminded over and over again how Present God is.  This God cannot be reduced to Expert, Fixer, Preacher, or even Knower.  Thanks, again, to Nouwen for giving us words for this grace.  It empowers my imagination about the truly HOLY interplay of silence and proclamation…

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Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life…

“Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.” … [My dark side says,] I am no good… I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”   ― Henri J.M. Nouwen

The highlighted portion above, in this amazing passage, almost made it into my sermon this morning at St. James.  It’s so awesome I couldn’t NOT proclaim it.  So, Facebook friends, I would welcome your thoughts about it.

It’s true, I believe, of individuals AND communities, and a vital piece to recognize for achieving the graced health which is our birthright and out of which we can truly do bold things for Jesus’ cause of justice.  I am pondering further today and tomorrow – in honor of Dr. King – the energy connections between the kind of self-rejection Nouwen describes and the weakness and timidity of the white moderates he so righteously critiques in Letter from a Birmingham Jail.  (We read portions of that today in worship.  Wow. It never ceases to feel like Jesus’ Gospel of Repentance in full force…)

In my coaching, I  serve folks who are beginning to wrestle with this great enemy of self-rejection.  I also support many who have already achieved much liberation, but whose energy is blocked in current areas of life and service. They’re  LGBT and straight, single and in relationships, old and young, lay and clergy.  Individuals and churches.   Together, we are embracing a path that is very very distinct from the religious paths on which many of us began.  Many of our earlier paths have shaped our habits of self-rejection, and can sadly thus be seen as creating obstacles to the REAL spiritual life.

In a lovely reminder from Romans 8… Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  No matter your faith background or desire for formal labels or affiliations today, drinking this in (from the Living Well!) will empower you to do great things for yourself and for this world so in need of your creative power.  Let’s explore, together, what that looks like for you.

Are you ready?   I will be thrilled to support you in any way I can.

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