“Mysticism” (Frederick Buechner)

MYSTICISM IS WHERE RELIGIONS START. Moses with his flocks in Midian, Buddha under the Bo tree, Jesus up to his knees in the waters of Jordan—each of them is responding to Something of which words like Shalom, Nirvana, God even, are only pallid souvenirs. Religion as ethics, institution, dogma, ritual, Scripture, social action—all of this comes later and in the long run maybe counts for less. Religions start, as Frost said poems do, with a lump in the throat—to put it mildly—or with a bush going up in flames, a rain of flowers, a dove coming down out of the sky. “I have seen things,” Aquinas told a friend, “that make all my writings seem like straw.

“Most people have also seen such things. Through some moment of beauty or pain, some sudden turning of their lives, most of them have caught glimmers at least of what the saints are blinded by. Only then, unlike the saints, they tend to go on as though nothing has happened.

We are all more mystics than we choose to let on, even to ourselves. Life is complicated enough as it is.

-Originally published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words

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“Vulnerability, Shame, and Courage – The Path to Gratitude and Generosity” (Rev. Roy Howard)

Everyone knows that there are many ways a conversation about money can go wrong. That’s especially true when talking about faith and money.

The most common way a conversation about money goes wrong is when people hear guilt and shame rather than grace and gratitude. Although shame is not a helpful emotion, like weeds in Spring, it usually emerges when talking about money, whether a person has significant wealth or a person has very little. More often than not, the consequence of shame is silence. This is why conversations about money are the most difficult of all conversations at home, in the workplace, and in faith communities.

Conventional wisdom suggests that sex is the most intimate of all conversations. Research indicates that, in fact, money is the most intimate. Why? Because when we talk about money it makes us vulnerable. (Again, this is true whether one is wealthy, poor, or of modest income.) The vulnerability exposes our money stories that often raise painful family histories, mismanagement, fear, and even survival. Shame is the emotion that seeks to stop the conversation and shut down vulnerability.

The antidote to shame is courage. Vulnerability is the pathway to courage, and courage is the pathway to a whole-hearted joyful life, filled with gratitude and generosity, that goes far beyond money [emphasis added].  This is what I have learned from renowned author, speaker and University of Houston Research Professor Dr. Brené Brown. Building capacity for courage is absolutely crucial to have honest and healthy conversations about money. I have learned this from work with congregations around the country and in my work as a pastor with a local congregation. As I become vulnerable to sharing my “money story” with congregations, it helps create a safe space for others to be open
about their struggles. This spiritual practice of open story-telling reduces shame and increases the capacity for courage in communities of faith.

I take a cue from Saint Paul when speaking about money. The apostle tells us that everything that is good in our lives springs from the well of grace–God’s undeserved and unmerited favor–and the only appropriate response to this grace is gratitude.

Begging to Give

Saint Paul is emphatic about God’s goodness toward us. Encouraging the churches in Corinth to give generously, Paul says, “God has given grace to the churches of Macedonia.” As a result of this grace, the churches were compelled to overflow with generosity toward others. Even though they were suffering what Paul described as “extreme poverty,” they were begging to give to others. Their generosity came from a deep well of joy. What is most remarkable is the utter absence of talk about how much money is available to give. That was beside the point. It’s beside the point for us, too. Paul is talking about a desire to give that comes from joy. Increase the joy of the Lord, and people beg to give. Joy is the opposite of shame.

Can you imagine people begging to give?

A poor Haitian farmer told me this proverb, “The one who never eats alone, will never go hungry.” It was his way of saying when you share what little you have, you will always have enough for yourself. Saint Paul is saying the same: when our hearts are rooted in God, trusting in God’s faithfulness, you will always have enough to share. And notice what happens when we share: everyone has enough; no one suffers (II Corinthians 8:15).

When you and I share what we have with others, it creates a groundswell of gratitude in the hearts of many, who in turn share what they have with others. Our sharing becomes part of a much larger work of God among people in the world.

Don’t you want to be part of such a movement of God? There is no shame in sharing. It’s not about the amount you have, it’s about the joy of giving.

-Rev. Roy Howard, Faith and Money Network 

______________
Rev. Roy Howard’s workshop on September 11, 2018, will enter the difficult conversation of money through the work of Dr. Brené Brown, Researcher, and Professor at the University of Houston, who has written extensively about vulnerability, shame and courage. Building capacity for courage to be vulnerable is what reduces shame and fear in discussions of money. This courage is absolutely crucial to have honest and healthy conversations. We will discuss how Brené Brown’s work applies to money, share our own money stories, and develop strategies for deepening the courage to be vulnerable. The purpose is to grow in gratitude and generosity in all areas of our lives and in particular the financial area.

 

Workshop Event: Vulnerability, Shame, and Courage – The Practice of Stewardship
September 11, 6:00-8:00 pm
Potter’s House in Washington, D.C.
Workshop Leader: Rev. Roy Howard

 

Holy Desires, Sacred Wants

I am half a century old (yikes) and in my five decades of being on this planet, few things truly are firm anymore in my life; doubt is often more prevalent than faith, foolishness more than wisdom, and uncertainty over certainty.  But one thing that is becoming clearer and clearer to me is that I am coming to trust that the secret of life is written on (and in) our heart’s desires. These desires – the ones that are all-consuming, have a life of their own, connect you with the pain and joy of the world and with God – are sacred.

The time has come to return and re-ignite the inward journey that leads us to these divine desires. Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, we can pick up the trail right here and right now. God is timeless and therefore God is ever-present in every moment and in this moment we can dive deeply into our hearts and find God and those burning desires that are divine.

Our desires are the map that we have been given to find the only life worth living!

Don’t just ask yourself what the world needs. It is vital (life-giving) that we also ask ourselves what makes us come alive, and go do that! Because what the world needs now are people who have come alive and are awake.  There are enough ‘sleeping giants’ and deer in the headlights kind of people.  We need people burning with Life, fire, passion, and love – seeking to fulfill the desires planted in their hearts.

In some ways, I believe that God has in fact “rigged” the world so that life only “works” when we embrace risk as the theme of our lives when we live by faith.

All our attempts to find a safer life, to live by the expectations of others, just kill the soul in the end. That’s not how we find Life. And if there is any wisdom in these words, in the 47 years of living I have under my belt, I would say this: don’t ask yourself how or why you would follow your heart’s desire; for that question will cut your dreams off at the knees.

The “how” is never the right question to ask. And the “why” questions just leads to chasing an elusive dream, like a hamster on a spinning wheel going nowhere fast.

The most powerful question to ask is “WHAT”…

What would you dream for yourself? What does your heart truly long for? What do you feel God is calling you to be and do? What makes your Soul sing?  I believe the deep desires of our hearts’ were placed there by God – to lead us deeper into him and deeper into ourselves and this beautiful world.

In my estimation, I see our “job” as the place of asking What we would do and as for the question of HOW, well that’s God’s job.

 

 

Musings on the Wounded Healer – from Henri Nouwen

“Experience tells us that we can only love because we are born out of love, that we can only give because our life is a gift, and that we can only make others free because we are set free by [God] whose heart is greater than ours.

When we have found the anchor places for our lives in our own center, we can be free to let others enter into the space created for them and allow them to dance their own dance, sing their own song and speak their own language without fear.”

-Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Wounded Healer

“Communities of Belonging” (Rev. Killian Noe)

Killian Noe is someone I used to work with at Samaritan Inns in Washington, DC and also we went to the same faith community (Jubilee Church) that was one of the members of the larger Church of the Saviour.  Her sermons then always moved and challenged me, challenged me to live my faith, to let it be real, to let it be connected to the broken and the hurting. She always spoke of connecting our personal pain with the pain of others and the larger world, to find our common humanity and humanness in that space.

She now works with and started the Recovery Cafe, out in the other Washington, Seattle to be exact.  Check out her writings below and check out Recovery Cafe

Enjoy Killian’s words, may they comfort and disturb you….

For much of my adult life depression has stalked me, occasionally catching up to me and robbing me of perspective. Depression is not only a thief, but a skilled liar. At its worst, it tells you that those you love and the causes you care about would be better off without you.

Last month our nation was saddened by the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. With suicide rates soaring in the US—45,000 in 2016—up nearly 30% since 1999, and more people dying of overdose than died of AIDS at the height of that epidemic, (over 60,000 in 2017, Center for Disease Control), it is past time to adequately fund prevention, treatment and longer-term healing communities for individuals suffering from addiction and other mental health challenges. It is estimated that more than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder (Dr. Richard Friedman, June 11, NY Times). Prevention, treatment and longer-term healing communities are three legs of the same stool. I’d like to focus on the need for communities of belonging needed to sustain recovery for all of us, especially those marginalized by homelessness.

We need communities where we are deeply known and loved.
Being a member of the Recovery Café community in Seattle includes participating in a weekly, loving, accountability group called a recovery circle. In a circle of 7 to 10 peers, members share honestly their struggles, joys, short-term goals and long-term dreams. Sharing deeply week after week results in being known and loved, breaking the isolation so many experience in our larger culture.

One newcomer to the community shared in her circle, “Every morning at 9:00 a.m. for the past fifteen years I have met my drug dealer.” Without skipping a beat, an older member responded, “Tomorrow morning you will meet me at 9:00 a.m.”

We need communities that make authentic connection possible.
We live in an age of isolation and loneliness–our attempts to form authentic connection through social media do not fill our deepest longing for connection. There is scientific research pointing to the role of loneliness in addiction and other mental health challenges and the power of authentic connection to change our brain chemistry.

Whether we are recovering from addiction to substances or another mental health challenge—like depression—or from a need for control, power, security, approval, compulsive working, compulsive eating, compulsive spending; authentic connection is an antidote. And, we need authentic connections that cross racial, socio-economic, religious, and other barriers because authentic connections are what change us and ultimately change our world.

We need communities in which everyone is a valued contributor.
Although many first arrive at Recovery Café traumatized and simply seeking survival, they quickly realize that this is a community that recognizes the gifts every single person brings. Everyone is expected to contribute to the running of the Café as well as to the healing of others who make up the Café community.

Whenever someone relapses or suffers a mental health crisis they are invited to tell the rest of us what they experienced so we can learn from them. It touches me deeply to witness even someone’s suffering being valued as a gift they can contribute.

Finally, to sustain long-term recovery from addiction and other mental health challenges we need these kinds of communities for the long haul; not just for the amount of time some insurance companies currently are willing to pay for treatment.

Like early AIDS activists, we must fight for funding for all three legs of the stool like our lives and the lives of hundreds of thousands of our family members depend on it. Because they do.

-Killian Noe, Recovery Café in Seattle, Washington

http://inwardoutward.org/communities-of-belonging/

“Fear” (Geoffrey Tristam)

When God calls us on to larger life, we rarely see much beyond the next step. When Isaiah was called by God, his first response was to say, “Woe is me! I’m lost!” When Moses was called, he hid his face in his terror. When poor Jeremiah was called, he was scared and pleaded, I am just a boy and I’m not good at speaking. But to each one of them, God spoke these gentle and gracious words. “Don’t be afraid. I will be with you.

Bro. Geoffrey Tristram, Anglican monk