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Practicing Gratitude

Filed under: God's movement,quotes,The Practice — 7:09 am

A couple weeks ago, I got to share with The Practice why GRATITUDE may be the center of the center of following Christ.  In honor of Thanksgiving, here are those thoughts…

To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us.
And He has given us everything.  
Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.  Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God.  For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience.  And that is what makes all the difference.”  (Thomas Merton)

Jesus Christ is inviting every one of us into life to the full.  And Gratitude is the very center
of this kind of life.  Why?  Because God’s Love and Goodness is at the very center of Reality,
and Gratitude helps align us to what is most true.

N.T. Wright says “A sense of astonished gratitude is very near the heart of authentic Christian experience.”
Fr Ronald Rolheiser writes ”Sanctity has to do with gratitude. To be a saint is to be fueled by gratitude,
nothing more and nothing less.”

Meister Eckhart famously taught “If the only prayer you say in your whole life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”

Gratitude aligns us with what is most true in the universe:  the Love and Abundance of God.


And together, we watched this devastatingly beautiful short film about Ed’s Story.  May it encourage and inspire you today.  Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

Ed’s Story, Gratitude from Baas Creative on Vimeo.


God Our Mother (part 1)

Filed under: God's movement,quotes — 8:46 am

“Sara Ruddick in her book Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace speaks of the attentive love of a mother.  In summary, Ruddick says mothers are characterized by attentive love.  They have to keep watching this new life; they have to keep listening and adjusting to the needs of the child.  It is necessary to recognize a new agenda with the growth of the child.  If the mother cannot transform herself into attentive love, she quite simply cannot be a mother.  She has to learn early on that life is about change, not about theological absolutes.  All growth is about changing and adjusting to what is needed at this moment by this child.  The mother cannot run to abstract truths.  She has to deal with this child, these tears, and this present moment with this child.

The feminine face of God is helping us see God as Mother God.  Then we will be able to love and trust God in the maternal AND masculine forms.  Who would not love back such an attentively loving God?”

Fr Richard Rohr,  On Transformation: Collected Talks, Volume 1



Finding out who we really are

Filed under: God's movement,quotes — 1:17 pm

“When all of our idols are taken away, all our securities and defense mechanisms,
we find out who we really are. We’re so little, so poor, so empty…and a shock to ourselves. But the Biblical God takes away our shame,
and we are eventually able to present ourselves in an honest and humble form.
Then we find out who we really are and who God is for us…and it is more than enough. That is how an enslaved people became God’s people, Israel.”

Father Richard Rohr, Adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditation


Seth Godin: awareness rather than journalism

Filed under: creativity,quotes — 11:34 am

Blaine Hogan – one of my good friends and favorite artistic collaborators – did a fascinating and insightful interview with Seth Godin.  If you haven’t seen Part One or Part Two, I highly recommend them.

Today, Blaine posted Part Three of the interview, which included a quote that really hit me.  Blaine asked “Seth, how do you capture ideas as they hit you throughout the day?”  And Seth replied,

“I don’t. Instead of writing things down, I immerse myself in what I notice…. I would rather develop a sort of soft-tissue of awareness, rather than a journalist constantly writing things down for future blog posts.”

How great is that?!?  What would it look like, in my life, to develop a soft-tissue of awareness?  What could it look like in yours?  Rather than furiously trying to clutch and capture every moment, what if we learned to simple be in that moment?  This is not easy for me, but it sure sounds compelling.

Part three of the interview…


Love as the frame

Filed under: quotes — 8:56 am

“If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.”

– Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark


Loving and seeing

Filed under: God's movement,quotes — 7:35 pm

“If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.”

(Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark)


words that stretch me today

Filed under: God's movement,quotes — 10:29 am

Being a “four” on the Enneagram, which is called an “individualist”, I tend to be quite independent and focused on uniqueness.  At my best, I dig into who God has made me to be and try to authentically offer that to make the world better.  At my worst, I am a self-absorbed jerk.  But in either case, Fr Rohr’s words today really challenge me…

The West has made an art form of the individual person; it is one of our gifts to civilization, but we have paid a big price for this gift. Because of our over-identification with the self, we overemphasize our separateness and uniqueness, remaining trapped and alone. (Even Christians usually seek an entirely private notion of salvation instead of their communion with everybody else—which would be “heaven” itself).

What mature religion does is give us an experience of what Owen Barfield calls “full and final participation” in the mystery of God and creation. This means that before you identify with your separateness,you identify with your union and participation in something larger than yourself. This no longer comes naturally to us; instead we crawl back to our primal union with great difficulty.

The private self we are overly conscious of, the self we are absorbed in, is the one that mystics say does not even exist as separate—at all!  Jesus calls this “the self that must die”—and is going to die anyway in its illusion of separateness. So Jesus would say, “Go ahead and let it die now and then you will be free!”

(Subscribe to Fr Richard Rohr’s daily thoughts HERE.)


Words that really help me during the darkness of Lent

Filed under: God's movement,quotes — 11:33 am

My friend Ian once mentioned “Do you know how to discover your real pain?  Quit your addictions.”  Which, in my experience, is a great way to talk about Lent.  During this holy season, we are invited to give up some of our usual tricks that distract and medicate us from the deepest parts of ourselves, and invite God into this terrifyingly honest space.  I don’t know about you, but I am highly skilled at avoiding my actual self, and so this season of Lent has been particularly intense and difficult for me.

Thankfully, spiritual teachers like Father Rohr have walked these paths ahead of us and are willing to share some of their humble experience.  I can’t tell you how much I needed to read these words this weekend…

“Face the shadow side of yourself, but do not identify with it. It represents only part of who you are. Totally identifying with the shadow leads to much evil in the world. If you live there, you will be driven and motivated by fear, guilt, shame, and even malice. So there is a difference between relating to the denied parts of yourself (bringing light to them), and totally “acting them out” (which is to leave them in their unconscious and dark state). This is why it is so foundational to know yourself, and to learn to be honest about your real motivations.

When we meet our shadow self, our response should not be anger or surprise as much as sadness. I am sure this is what so many of our saints meant by “weeping over their sins,” which to most of us seemed a bit dramatic—or impossible. We can experience days of deep sorrow after encountering what we’ve denied in ourselves for a long time. We get a glimpse of how broken and needy we are. It is a huge humiliation to the ego, and so most people just refuse to do much shadowboxing.

The hero in us wants to attack, fix, or deny the existence of our dark side. We can
also be tempted to share dramatically everything about it as a way to control it (sometimes called ventilating or dumping).  The saint merely weeps over the
shadow and forgives it—and by God’s grace forgives herself for being a mere human.  She opens her arms to that which has been in exile and welcomes it home for the friend that it often is.”

Fr Richard Rohr


We all want to change the world…

Filed under: God's movement,quotes — 5:05 pm

We all want to change the world.  Right?  But in spite of the many different movements and individuals and institutions that are fighting for justice and peace on this planet, things seem to get worse and worse.  Why is that?  Some want to blame it on “bad people” who “hate the light and want to live in darkness”, but I don’t think that is it at all.  Check out what Ronald Rolheiser writes about our movement toward justice:

“…to change the world in such a way that people want justice and are willingly willing to live in a way that makes justice possible requires an appeal to the heart that is so deep, so universal, and so moral that no person of good conscience can walk away from it.  No human ideology, no private crusade, and no cause that takes its origins in guilt or anger can ever provide that.  And so many people walk away from these great causes in good conscience.  Why?  Because despite the movement’s obvious merit in terms of the truth of the justice they promote, too often the energy driving their quest is not as morally compelling.  In simple terms, the truth is right, but the energy often is not.”

The Holy Longing, Ronald Rolheiser (page 173-174)

The school-yard bully pushes kids around to try and make friends.  It doesn’t work.  Some countries drop bombs to try to bring peace.  It doesn’t work.  And many of us resort to ugly tactics in the name of creating something beautiful and right.  It can never work.  Rhetoric is quickly forgotten.  Actions only rearrange the surface.  But deep change comes from a deep place that’s been changed.

This is so challenging to me.  I don’t want to be a person who does some good things;  I want to be a good person.  I am fully capable of hiding and justifying my brokenness behind the occasional good that comes out of it.  But I don’t want to any more.  I don’t want to be one of those shiny people who gets uglier the more you get to know them.  It’s easy to fool crowds.  Oh God, please redeem every part of me, inside and out.  And help me to, as Ghandi said, “BE the change that I hope to see in the world.”

Who have you seen that most embodies their beautiful ideas with beautiful energy?
Who have you seen live the good they talk about?


From activist to peacemaker

Filed under: God's movement,Palestine / Israel,quotes — 7:09 pm

As many of you know, my mother-in-law Lynne is a passionate, brave advocate for the poor and oppressed around the world.  I’ve learned a ton from her – particularly about the complex conflict in the Middle East – and continue to follow her lead in many ways.  She recently commented that she is…

“…in the process of moving from being an activist (angry about injustice and determined to fight it) to wanting to be an authentic peacemaker (responding with compassion and wisdom to victims on both sides of the conflict).  It’s a lot easier to be an activist than a peacemaker.”

I found this to be both inspiring and deeply challenging.  It’s so easily to rage against what is wrong (and there is a time for that, I suppose), but only peacemakers change the world.  (Tomorrow, I’m going to post a new blog post called “We all Want to Change the World”)

If you’re interested in learning more about making peace in the middle east, Lynne just posted a fantastic Middle East resource list on her blog.  It’s really worth checking out and digging into.  As Americans, we are all a part of this conflict (huge amounts of our tax dollars go to Israel and Palestine, and our political positions play a huge role in peace or strife), so let’s learn as much as we can…and be peacemakers in the widest possible sense!

a painting I saw on the wall in Bethlehem: Lady Liberty weeping over Handala (forgotten Palestinian Refugees)


a venture into reality…

Filed under: quotes,worship — 7:09 am

“To worship God, on the other hand, is a venture into reality, a disciplined exit from the delusional fields created around our idols, a constant pull toward the margins of what we know. The worship of God is about awareness, about mindfulness, about reverence for the gift of life, about regaining perspective, beyond self-expression, beyond our beloved religions.  By worshiping God, we turn our sights farther, rescued from a preoccupation with ourselves and with our own life.”

Samir Selmanovic


A quote I need today…

Filed under: books,quotes — 12:36 pm

“Do we cry with each other and support each other in the
frustration of our incompleteness or do we give each other the
impression that there is something wrong with us because our lives
are inconsummate and our symphonies are incomplete?

“Do we still take our longings and emptiness to God in prayer or do we
demand that life gives us, here and now, the full symphony?

“Do we lovingly and gratefully receive the spirit of our own lives,
despite the tensions, or do we live in angry jealousy?

“Are we loving against an infinite horizon or is our eros directed
only towards the concrete sweetening of life?”


Forgotten Among the Lilies, Ronald Rolheiser


The Place Where We Are Right

Filed under: life,quotes — 6:32 pm

“From the place where we are right flowers will never grow in the spring.
The place where we are right is hard and trampled like a yard.
But doubts and loves dig up the world like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place where the ruined house once stood.”

Yehuda Amichai (one of the greatest Israeli poets)


the line between good and evil

Filed under: God's movement,Palestine / Israel,quotes — 3:30 pm


For some reason, I’ve had a handful of conversations in the last 24 hours that have brought to mind a famous quote by Solzhenitsyn.  One was about creationism/evolution (which I believe is a really unhelpful either/or debate), one was about Israel/Palestine, and one was actually a blog about atheism by Ricky Gervais.  In each situation, both sides were claiming to be “the good guys”, and they built their case by making the other side “the bad guys”.  In order to be 100% right, I need to prove that you’re 100% wrong.  Right?

This polarizing, either-or, good vs. bad thinking is the source of so much conflict on earth – whether between nations or religions or friends or spouses.  And I hate to admit how often I slip into it.  But here’s a freight train of a quote from Alexander Solzhenitsyn:

“It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. Even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil.

“…If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

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