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Diversity, Equality and Trusting God

This is a reprint of an article I wrote last summer which seems particularly timely with this week’s Supreme Court rulings. 

We are so blessed to live in a country founded on the principles of freedom of religion and conscience.  Our founders were living in the time period when some new lessons were really fresh for the church, including the ideas that forcing people to profess Christ in your certain way —  or to live in the manner that you think they ought to live — is NOT the way God works in our lives.  Instead, they were coming to believe that we could live together as a people who differ greatly on religious and moral matters AND YET STILL WORK TO CREATE  A FAIR AND EQUAL society.  In Divine guidance, they even dared to trust that our Creator has given us all “inalienable rights” to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  

The American experiment is the working out of this: Do we really believe the above, and how on earth can we create a vibrant, stable society amid increasingly divergent views on these inalienable rights?  Far from being a weak statement on morals, or a slippery slope, this is a way to trust God (and trust our neighbors’ fate to God)! From the beginning, though, we have had to work this out and apply it to new situations because we as a people have been growing and new situations have presented themselves.  Some evolving situations: Increased religious and cultural diversity.  Equal rights for women.  Repentance of slavery and our Native American genocide. The challenge to racist laws. (All of this work is so clearly not yet done…)

And, today:  The emergence of a visible, organized gay community devoted to being citizens (with contractual obligations to work and family, patriotic desire to serve in the military, and to nurture future generations).  Yes, this is challenging to many who do not understand or approve of our lives.  It is clearly so challenging that many who hold religious-based judgement of our lives do not wish even to TREAT US LIKE FELLOW CITIZENS.  That is, our opponents think that based on religious or moral disagreements, we do not deserve the same basic privileges of citizenship that they do.

We do not seek agreement, or approval, or to convert anyone to anything beyond what their own conscience dictates. We seek the integrity of lives not lived in shame and hiding.  We seek to live our lives in safety and peace, to serve our churches and country, and to utilize the same services, opportunities and infrastructure as our fellow citizens.  If there is a slippery slope to fear, it is the danger that discriminatory acts in the name of serving God will actually be found to be idolatrous attempts at being God.  The American ideals I treasure are the ideals of an experiment that says there is a better way:  Learn to live together in a respectful accord of equal rights and wrestle together in a free marketplace of ideas.  Savor the gifts of true faith and holiness, which are neither coerced nor produced by punishments.

The outcome?  

“By their fruits you shall know them.”

 

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A Living Sacrifice: Biblical Principles for “Self” Care

Are you ready to feel grounded and abundant…
To shift out of daily survival mode?

Do you want to embrace the joy of service and generosity…
To set aside chronic scarcity and anxiety?

Do you seek the skill to draw loving boundaries…
To feel the power of saying “Yes”
rather than the guilt of saying “No”?
Here’s a NEW WORD…
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:1-2
This class  explores the positive spiritual foundation made possible by a life of “self” care. Inspired by the biblical vision in Romans 12, we’ll explore strategies for living sustained lives of generosity, transformation and discernment. Far from being selfish or counter-productive, a lifestyle of “self” care can cultivate capacity for right relations, humility and excellence. Class partners will take away new insights, affirmation and empowerment to make the shifts in thought and action that will sustain them in their Life’s work.
“Time management becomes an expression of peace, wisdom and trust when we dare to place our schedules in service to our discerned and blessed values,” says facilitator Rev. Jacki Belile.Jacki is a certified empowerment coach and American Baptist minister. She has been teaching and coaching about wellness topics like balance, forgiveness, faith transitions, sustainable activism and empowered living since 1994. A certified Energy Leadership coach, she supports lay and clergy leaders called to live sustainable lives of excellence, peace and joy. Jacki’s vision of a “Spirituality of Self-Care” is a concept designed to be widely welcoming and relevant to people of any formal religious affiliation or none. Our texts will include our own stories, as well as themes from Jewish and Christian scriptures.

Registration fee of $85.00 includes one 30-minute coaching session.   Watch for sessions in Chicago in July and August, as well as teleclass offerings.

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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.  I fumble for it each year around this time, and savor it every day.  I could live into it all year, frankly.  This is what I wrote last year:

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 many 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.

Emmanuel.  God with Us!

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A Heart for History

Reading stuff like this each Advent helps me connect with the heart of Jesus' people and time."

 

 

My heart is broken open – with lament and love – as I contemplate again the pain of Jesus’ day and ours, and of each day in between.  During Advent, I try to ground myself in historical tools which open up reminders of the time and place into which he was born.  Far from being a heady exercise, this practice invites me into a deeper heart connection with his fellow Jews and the sorts of longings that THEY BROUGHT into their discoveries and debates with him.  His birth has changed the world in many ways through his promised Spirit and the 2000+years of a living Body of believers who claim his name.  At the same time, deepening my sense of the human story – and the church story within the human story — requires the confession that we have not “arrived” yet!  It’s startling to discover so many of the same themes in his day as the ones with which we grapple: corruption of religious and civil authority, distrust, enmity, scapegoating, discrimination, inequity etc.  Far from diminishing my faith in Christ’s impact, this reality beckons me into a clearer picture of the kingdom he established and establishes in us today.  Maybe it’s just the institutions of human greed and coercion which long for a more ultimate victory, while the Gospel murmurs in breakthrough moments about peace, stillness, reconciliation…

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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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Please All and You Will Please None

The Man, The Boy, and the Donkey

Spiritual Story by Unknown

A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?”

So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”

And thus the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”

Well, the Man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yoursu and your hulking son?”

The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned. “That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them:

If you try to please everyone, you will probably lose your &(*(! (ass, everything, etc.)
Or:

“Please all, and you will please none.”

 

************************************

I’ve used this story in a number of sermons and workshops, varying the punch line dependent on my audience.  Thanks to http://www.Spiritual-Short-Stories.com  for this and many other riches.

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Forgiveness… A Practice of Discernment

Forgiveness is a process. 

A path of intention and of practice. 

One element is discernment, the kind of discernment we do when we decide if, when and how we spend time with others when  relationships are tender and compromised.

As we live into another multi-holiday season, we will often be making choices about how to be together (or not)”celebrating” in times of fracture and pain.   As I support my clients in this season, I am reminded that the best framework for defining forgiveness INCLUDES — at the heart of its definition — the ongoing work of discernment.   It does not serve us well, I think, to define forgiveness as some kind of stand-alone transaction, that happens or occurs with a finality that then makes discernment about next steps possible.

Instead, practicing discernment about how and with whom we spend our time in this season can be viewed instead as part of forgiveness practice.*

Making choices

to spend time or not

to validate solitude or not

to draw certain boundaries or not

to set intentions or not

It’s all about practice–

holding truth and love,

honor of self and others,

past and present unfolding,

now and not yet.

A forgiveness practice could be just the right holiday practice…

 

* In my coaching and teaching, I prioritize Marjorie Suchocki’s definition of forgiveness, paraphrased here: “Taking into account the full extent of the harm done AND choosing to will the wellbeing of all the victims and all of the violators.”

 

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Supporting Lives of Faith, Intention and Service (a Word of Welcome)

supporting lives of faith, intention and service

Rev. Jacki Belile
6554 N. Rockwell Street
Chicago, IL 60645
773.655.4357
livingwellministries.net

Living Well Ministries (LWM) is dedicated to supporting lives of faith, intention and service through education, retreats and short-term spiritual coaching. Rev. Jacki Belile, an ordained American Baptist minister, is also available for ceremonies (wedding or funeral) and consulting with your local church or organization.

Founded in October 2007, LWM is inspired by the intersecting work of two movements which have shaped Jacki’s life and ministry:

The Faith and Health Movement…

  • reconnecting the work of faith communities and the whole-person health of church and society

The Welcoming and Affirming Churches’ Movement…

  • advancing the full inclusion of LGBT people in church and society

A Word of Welcome…LWM educational events and coaching experiences are greatly blessed by the participation of people of diverse life experiences. People of all sexual orientations, gender identities, ages, religious affiliations, physical and mental abilities, races and economic statuses are welcomed to LWM events with respect and hospitality. Attendees are expected to offer these same commitments to others.

Note: When early registration deadlines are met, the need for wheel-chair accessible space will result in the likely relocation of the event.

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My Heart for Individuals and Churches Living Well

To:  American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago
Date: February 6, 2008

(partially reproduced in ewind newsletter)

Rev. Jacki Belile has started Living Well Ministries (LWM), a new parachurch ministry “supporting lives of faith, intention and service.”

LWM will offer retreats, seminars, weekly classes, 1-1 spiritual coaching and consulting. Jacki describes LWM’s focus in this way: “I am called to steward recurring related questions and themes related to living well. My heart goes out especially to those inside and outside of our churches who don’t they feel they can authentically explore issues of faith identity, spiritual practice, balanced living, and sustainable activism.” I also care deeply about our churches facing discouragement and obstacles to growth in the face of false notions of vitality.”

Broadly outlined, LWM’s offerings for individuals and congregations will fall into these categories:

a) Spirituality and Health
b) Befriending the Bible/Tradition
c) Living Well for Justice

“My prayer is that LWM will provide discipleship support for individuals and congregations,” says Jacki. “An independent ministry at this time, I seek grounding for LWM in the many communities that nourish wisdom, creativity and justice.” Current affiliations include:

The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists
The Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America
The Chicago Coalition of Welcoming Churches
The Center for Progressive Christianity
The Network of Spiritual Progressives.

In addition to events at its West Rogers Park location, LWM will co-sponsor related events with partners in the surrounding area. Jacki will continue her ecumenical work as guest leader for churches’ retreats, adult education, pulpit supply and organizational discernment.

For more information about events or consulting opportunities, contact Jacki at:

Living Well Ministries
6554 N. Rockwell Street
Chicago, IL 60645
www.livingwellministries.net
jacki@livingwellministries.net
773.655.4357

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Past Pulpit, Retreat, Education Supply or Consulting

A hearty thanks to each of these communities for my opportunity to serve in some way — “big” or “small” — since 1995. Each of these encounters have shaped me and the trajectory of this current ministry.

  • Phoenix Community Church (Kalamazoo, MI)
  • Grace Baptist Church (Chicago)
  • Community Church of Wilmette (IL)
  • Chicago Theological Seminary
  • Community Church of Barrington (IL)
  • Companis (Seattle, WA)
  • Ebenezer Lutheran Church (Chicago)
  • Epiphany United Church of Christ (Chicago)
  • The Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists
  • Irving Park Baptist Church (Chicago)
  • Concordia Lutheran Church (Chicago)
  • Lake Street Church (Evanston, IL)
  • St. Benedict Catholic Church (Chicago)
  • Lakeview Presbyterian Church (Chicago)
  • Immanuel Lutheran Church (Chicago)
  • Elmhurst College (Elmhurst, IL)
  • North Park Theological Seminary (Chicago)
  • Light of Christ Lutheran Church (Chicago)
  • Uptown Ministries (Chicago)
  • The Leaven Center (Lyons, MI)
  • The South Church (Mt. Prospect, IL)
  • Community Baptist Church (Warrenville, IL)
  • St. James Presbyterian Church (Chicago)
  • Ravenswood United Church of Christ (Chicago)
  • Parish Nurses Program, Advocate Health Care (IL)
  • Morgan Park Baptist Church (Chicago)
  • Church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler (Chicago
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