Tag Archives: Spiritual Transformation

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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Like Plants Seeking the Sun

I am enjoying reading a collection of Emanuel Swedenborg’s writing, and contemplating deeply the Lord of Love and Wisdom.

My former pastor, Rev. Ann-Louise Haak, gave me a great image of Lent a few years back. Like plants who turn toward the sun for greater light, warmth and thriving we are called in seasons like Lent to make those intentional turns — those course corrections — that have been depriving us of Love, Light, and Lasting Nourishment.  Any sacrifice or penance that is of God is for this.

On the way to the cross with Jesus, He enlivens my solidarity to care with increasing purity of affection about how the vessel which is my life serves Christ’s purposes of Love and Wisdom.  Like a plant seeking Sun, this is what I long for.

May all who claim his name and his calling, look deeply within our hearts and minds this Lent.

Does the form and the content of our Christian life bless this creation through Love and Wisdom?  Does our claim to the power of his life, death and resurrection make us more like him?  Or, does our “faith” rationalize a separation from the needs of this world, a judgment even of the frailties and sins of this life?  If truly enlivened by Christ, we long for the expansions of our hearts and minds and to be used fully by Wisdom and for Love.  We grow in our capacity to serve others, to see people with God’s eyes, and to acknowledge the humanity of all (to name them neighbors, even, capable of God’s good no less than we are).  That is the uncontestable victorious world-resurrecting power of his life.

Swedenborg writes in Divine Love and Wisdom about the self-love which manifests in behavior that is controlling, and how this is the furthest thing from Divine Love.  In every season, confession about such self-love is redemptive.  The self-love sins of the Church in this arena have been great, and are blemishes on its testimony to Christ.  This is most manifestly reflected today in the lustful and scapegoating opposition to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender persons.  A frenzy of lies and distortions keep many well-intentioned conservatives in a place of fear and fear’s temptation to control.  When we stop trying to control others, we may be given the grace to truly see them as they are with all their frailties, shortcomings and gifts.  We are given the privileged and Good News opportunity to repent, for so often when we think we are loving the Lord we are really loving ourselves.

As I look around at the religious voices aiming for more control (so different from liberty!) in the public square, I lament at the collective sin of so much of Christ’s church.  As a lesbian Baptist minister and life coach, it is easy to name my horrors about the Religious Right and the pain these brothers and sisters cause.  But conservative and liberals in different ways fail the test of love and wisdom.  Where are the humble hearts who seek only to love the Lord (not so much our social idolatries)?  What could we create if we could acknowledge Others’ fears, understand them with Divine perspective, and bless one another even as we stand against injustice and violence?

May we be granted the grace to repent — each in the measure of our own need — and animated by faith to turn ourselves like plants to the great Creator of True Love and True Wisdom.

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God’s Kindness Leads Us to Repentance…

Romans 2:1-8   Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2You say,* ‘We know that God’s judgement on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.’ 3Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgement of God? 4Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed. 6For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: 7to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.

 

This text follows a famously mis-used text which implies judgment on any and all same-sex loving expression.  I encourage, this  Lent, a fresh reading of  Romans 1 and 2, chapters in which an apostle in progress (Paul) passionately reaches out to new Christ-followers in the “belly of the beast” (Rome), where new Gentile and Jewish friends found themselves called together in Christ’s new community.   With a powerful and provocative set-up, Paul calls to mind his recipients’ prejudices and images of corruption, violence, and all kinds of attempts on the part of Rome’s lustful empire to be God or limit God or make God in their own image.

One chief way to try to be God is to JUDGE, it turns out.  (And, he delivers this 1-2 punch to those who might go along with all his ramp-up about the perverse Romans.) But when any of our judging, hard hearts remain untouched by the free gift of God’s grace, then we “store up wrath” in and for ourselves…

The Christian gospel (Good News) is  that God’s kindness leads to repentance (not the other way around), and that we can all be delivered from the manifold death-dealing passions of idolatry in which we objectify and judge others (or self) as if we were God.  That is what it means to be self-seeking after the law of sin and death.

If Lent means, for you, preparing to head with Christ for Jerusalem… then let us look for the Truth of his gospel in his actual life and actual heart and actual walk.   There we will find free grace, lavish kindness, and unconditional calling to Oneness with him.  Lenten lives are lives that would turn away from all the traps and baggage — including Religion’s Judgments – that we would exchange for the real deal.

That is a God in whom Jesus announces:  There is now NO condemnation…

Yes, we store up wrath in and for ourselves and in so doing sin and fall short of God’s glory.

There is now NO condemnation…

May this Lenten season be for you a season of rediscovery of God’s kindness.

 

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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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God Comes To Us Disguised As Our Life

 Richard Rohr, an incredible spiritual leader for today’s seekers, has said “God comes to us disguised as our life.”

I am mindful that the Christian season of Advent is filled with rich reminders of this sort of expectancy.

Perhaps you’ll hear in it these echoes ancient and new…

 A context of occupation and tension and lives claimed by the Empire’s false peace.

A world of encounter amid diversity and transformation amid conflict.

A community of communities wrestling for blessing and name.

A people — some in despair, some with resilience, and a few with star-fixed hope.

A temptation toward triumphalism, and a truth born in a manger.

Then and now, God comes to us disguised as our life.  Ever at work in all of Life, and always greater than all our designs,  Emmanuel is announced again at Advent.  And when the Divine in our life  is looked upon with welcome and praise, we give birth again to redemption and hope. 

Wherever you walk, however you name yourself, I pray that Jesus’ birth brings good news this year.  That his church brings blessing, not burden, to you.  That a New Year awaits you with the graces needed to discover this:

God comes to you disguised as your life.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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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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Surrender and Transform

“When we stop opposing reality, action becomes simple, fluid, kind, and fearless.” — Byron Katie

I’m a social gospel Christian with a commitment to shaping the healing and justice of this world.  What’s to value in a statement that urges us to stop “opposing reality”?  Byron Katie’s signature book has a dreadfully powerful title:  Loving What Is.

On my journey of recent years (as a person… as a partner… as a pastor… as a spiritual life coach) I am learning more intensely than ever the paradoxical liberation of surrender.  Far from giving up power, it releases in us the Truest power.  In other places, Byron talks about ceasing to “argue with reality.”  To me, this has come to mean the discipline required to not judge the NOW and to cultivate the self-knowing required to deeply understand what is causing so much discomfort about the current reality.  This —  not reflexive impulses of overwhelm or retaliation — is the doorway to wise power.

Here’s one justice example…

I cannot spiritually engage racism if I do not accept it’s reality.  That seems straightforward enough.  But what about the next step?  I am limited in my efforts to spiritually engage racism if I do not accept – without judging and ill will — those people who see their world through its limiting and cruel lens?  I am limited in my efforts to spiritually engage racism if I do not accept and appreciate that our starting point is a grand and delicious illusion that obscures the workings of systems of racism. I am limited in my efforts to spiritually engage racism if I cannot accept the ways that systemic racism lives in and benefits me.

I am called to my part in the webs of transformation, and I pray for the grace to be simple, fluid, kind and fearless.   When I stop making reality my enemy, I can truly step in as an actor seeking the Divine Big Picture.  And, I might actually make a difference.

Check out more info about Byron at her website: http://www.thework.com/

Learn more about Energy Leadership principles undergirding my coaching work with activists and clergy at http://livingwellministries.net/coaching/spiritual-life-coaching/.

 

 

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