“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/

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“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

Simply Love

It seems so simple, so obvious; this life of faith we are called to live. But in light of the heinous actions we have seen in the media and in our world lately  – religious-based and justified hatred and bigotry, choosing nationalism over biblical mandates – that it appears to be far from simple.

What is so simple is this: God is Love; and if we love God then we must love AS God loves – unconditionally.

God is not white. God is not black. God is not a human, neither man nor woman. God is not Catholic or Protestant. In fact, I don’t even think God is religious, although God may be just a tad bit Zen.

The fact of the matter is, it really is plain and simple – this Love thing – it’s just not easy. And there is a huge difference between something being simple and being easy (just ask anyone who is a part of any 12 Step fellowship, they’ll explain it).

The apostle John, also known as John the Beloved, said it best when he spoke of two of the eternal truths about God – namely that “God is light” and “God is love.” The latter is the focus of this blog. This concept, this truth (Truth) is so simple, yet profound and almost unutterable. The truth of God’s being is so simple children get it and yet this truth – that God is love – is also so profoundly frightening that we adults are threatened by it so much so we create dogma, doctrines, denominations and diatribes to control the very essence and definition of God’s love. But God forever remains Love.  Any and all expressions of love, whether pure or perverted, have their origination in and from Divine Love; all loves are mere shadows and reflections of God’s Perfect Love.

And since God is love, we too are called to both BE love and DO Love. We can spend all sorts of time, money, and energy arguing about this Love or we can spend all of our time, energy, money and efforts Being and Doing Love – and leave the rest to God.

God will forever and infinitely BE love, it is we who are born, live and die. Love abides forever.

God’s love is so awe-inspiring and eternal that we are given free will to choice to do as we wish to this Love. We are free to qualify it; we are free to quantify it.  We are free to try and control it through restrictions, definitions, exegesis, rules, regulations, stipulation and the like. We are free to commodify God’s love. We are even free to try and mete out, control and block God’s love for that is how much God loves us – to allow us to do some pretty heinous and asinine things and still BE LOVED.

But it is still simple. Love. Jesus said it, preached it, lived and died it. Love. Love. Love. In truth, if you break down all that is required of us it is simply love: love God with all your being and love your neighbor (everyone!) as yourself.

But God’s love is unconditional, unlimited, unbridled…and that truth scares the bejesus out of us. We – I – do not know what to “do” with a Love like that, so I do what most people do to love – I end up killing it with rules, reg’s, and restrictions. I tame love. I make it safe for me, and you if you jump through the proper hoops and channels.

We humans are so afraid of the utter brilliance and intensity of divine Love that we have to limit God’s love in order to understand it; we have to control it in order to receive it. At the end of the day, we cannot truly believe God’s love is indeed unconditional, as in absolutely unconditional, that we need to establish temporal conditions to that which is Eternally Unconditional. Religious laws are/were constructed because people are not to be trusted with the unlimited, unfathomable, unchanging, unbearable, all inclusive and all embracing love of God.

What would happen though if we simplified it, really simplified it, down to what it is: LOVE? What would happen if all who love, seek, pine for and “speak for” God simply sought to give, be and do Love? What if all other dogma, doctrine and denomination burnt away as the dross that it is, and only God’s unconditional love reigned supreme in all of our hearts?

What would happen?

Would the walls drop away? Would all the excuses we have for separating ourselves into neat little, safe categories melt away? Would we stop being white, black, red, yellow, rich, poor, red state, blue state, pro-life, pro-choice, anti-gay, queer friendly? What would truly happen? My sense is the greatest revolution of our existence would happen: a revolution of the heart (to paraphrase Dorothy Day).

God’s Love is not a doctrine, or a sect, or a rule; God’s love is an ever Present Reality. Love is God’s very Being – the very essence of who God Is. When God said that his name was Yahweh (YHWH), what was being said was “I AM Who I Am and Who I AM is Love.”

The late Teilhard de Chardin, who was both a Jesuit priest and a Paleontologist, urged us onward and inward in order to discover the “energy of Love” – which he considered to be the energy of God’s Being. Teilhard told us:

Someday, after mastering winds, waves, tides and gravity, we shall harness the energy of love; and for the second time in the history of the world, [humanity] will have discovered fire.

Divine Love is just that, divine.  And no human language or doctrine or dogma should ever try and tame the perfect wildness, the wondrous Fire, that is the Love of God.

(Scripture references: see 1 John 3:11, 18; 1 John 4:7-21)

No More Decaf Faith

If most of us are honest, we would say we prefer having a decaffeinated faith: it tastes like the real thing, but it is guaranteed to not keep us awake.

I don’t want decaf faith.  I want a faith that wakes me up – fully human, fully alive – prepared to be Present to all of life, good, bad, ugly, beautiful, pain and joy.

I pine for a faith that is more “red eye” than decaf, an extra caffeinated faith that hinges on these two truths, that God is Alive and God is Love!  And therein lies my faith standard of measurement: does my faith in God wake me up and does it lead me to Love?

“Inexhaustible Life” (N. Gordon Cosby)

A Word from Niles: Gordon Cosby was one of my favorite teachers/preachers; he told earthy, soulful stories (much like the way I would think Jesus would tell them).  Gordon brought together the good news of God’s love with the needs and callings of the world and along with his wonderful wife Mary, they co-founded the Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC.  I was connected to the Church of the Saviour in DC for over 7 years.  What follows is a sermon of Gordon’s I was particularly smitten with.  EnJoy!

Jesus breathed on his disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:23). From that moment they were in the stream of inexhaustible life. One receives the Holy Spirit by surrendering the ego to Jesus, who is then discovered deep within. He who surrenders that narrow ego, who loses his life, is the one who will find it.

Creativity is a function of the inner imagination, not of the ego. The ego does not create out of itself, but gives form and expression to the creativity which comes from within. An ego out of touch with the inner world can never be creative, but only rigid, and can only mimic creativity. When the ego is willing to die (“Blessed are the poor in Spirit”), then we touch inner springs, we meet the inner Christ, and we connect with that torrent of life that we call the Holy Spirit. Jesus says, “Out of you–your inner life–will come streams of living water.”

Many people are angry–some way down deep, some not so deep. They spend a lot of energy and time trying to keep their anger within reasonable limits. Then once in a while it erupts, and often out of all proportion to the accompanying circumstances and with little reference to the poor souls that happen to be around at the moment. Of the many reasons for anger, one of the least understood and yet most important is this: the denial or blocking of creativity.

If you need to write a poem, better struggle to write it, even if you have to eat simply and live in a garret. If you need to write a book, you had better write it. If you need to create a piece of sculpture, you had better do it. If you need to build a beautiful friendship, you had better do it, even if you have to stop a lot of important things. If you need to be with your child and just love her, and let her know how important she is to you and to God–even if it keeps you from your promotion–you had better do it.

If you need to dig in a garden and plant a seed and watch a flower grow, better do it. If you need to build institutions which will create new neighborhoods where people may flourish as in a watered garden, let nothing stop you. If you need to sing a song, sing. If you need to dance, dance. Give yourself to whatever is the special area of your own creativity. And if people do not understand, then simply know that it is their problem and not yours. Know that you must do it, else you will be angry.

God is a creator. God’s being, God’s life is the source of all that is. God is constantly bringing into being that which was not, that which is new. Newness is constantly breaking forth in God, through God. The flow of energy in life continues. The flow is limitless–will never give out. Coming from the limitless depths of God’s being, the flow is infinite, inexhaustible. So you don’t have to husband your resources and dribble them out. You can be lavish and prodigal. You will be embarrassed by the new riches being poured into your life.

Don’t you know there is a limitless flow of life–a superabundance of love and caring? You simply cannot exhaust it. It may be tough learning how to touch that current, how to get into that stream, to feel the flow and power of it, to be carried by it, but one thing is sure: the stream is there. And it is limitless.

Gordon Cosby was the founding minister of The Church of the Saviour. He passed on into Ancestry on March 20, 2013. This is an excerpt from the written version of a sermon preached on November 2, 1986.

On Grace… (Gerald May)

“God does not flash into our lives to work a piece of magic upon us and then disappear. To do so would eradicate human dignity; it would prevent our participation.

Instead, God’s grace is always present intimately within us, inviting and empowering us toward more full, more free exercise of will and responsibility. The more open and spacious our will and responsibility become, the more God and person commune in creative splendor.”

– Gerald G. May, Addiction & Grace

“Grapes of God” (Inward Outward Reflection)

NOTE: This is a reflection from the Inward Outward emails I get.  It is written by one of the Missions of a church I was deeply involved with in Washington, DC for years and years called Church of the Saviour.  The title is a live link you can click on to learn more about it and subscribe to a variety of spiritual reflections. From N.C.

Grapes of God

John 15:1-8
(For Kayla)

Jesus is talking to his disciples around the last supper table. Moments before, he washed his friend’s feet, much to their bewilderment. The gospel writer lets us know how much Jesus has to say to them. Time was of the essence. There were a great deal of instructions. Maybe that’s why he washed their feet first. Getting them out of their heads. Honoring and blessing their bodies … those clay feet. The Word made flesh, said the most without speaking. Once more to draw even closer to their stubborn hearts … to knit them together. To weave them unto himself. “Make your home in me, as I have in you”, said the servant leader. And being at home in each other, is just about the most intimate thing we can do.

The son of the Farmer God, drawing upon this agrarian metaphor, coaxes us to allow this “greening” to happen. And like the Star Jasmine that unwaveringly wraps herself around my porch in the summer, so wrapped are we. A growing thing tells the story. An endless winding thread. It’s a claim on us, and a promise—A sacred daisy chain around our wrists, joining us one to the other.

As a grape on the vine, it’s not lost on me that I’m not the only one here. Grapes are tribal. What if my growing—this new born fruit—cannot happen without the growth around me? What if yours has everything to do with mine, and mine with yours? What if I lived my life with the heart knowledge that all of this fruit surrounding me is what makes me whole? There is no escaping our intrinsic connection, a thought both comforting and startling. Apart from you, how do I know who I am? What do we need from each other? These grapes of ours make the wine that Jesus blesses–the blood of his veins, he says–and invites us to drink. To become one with him, and each other, so that not even death can separate us.

Several Saturdays ago, we gathered at Wellspring, sang songs, told stories, and gave thanks for the life of our sister and friend, Kayla McClurg. We walked her ashes down to the lake of the saints, a place where many of our elders have been laid to rest. Each of us were invited to reach into the beautifully handcrafted urn, take her ashes, and scatter them into the water. I had never touched ashes before. I let Kayla go from my cold right hand, the thin grey lines of her remaining as I patted palms together, holding them in prayer. I felt such a deep connection to her, to those gathered, and to all living things, that my mind stoped it’s wandering and worrying for a moment, allowing only tears and soft groans of thanksgiving. And like each grape on the vine, every tear on every face tastes the same.

We can never untangle this beautifully twisting spiral of life in which we share our growing. Thank God for that.