by Ned Bellamy on July 30th, 2013

 
More ‘Valuable’ Relationships 
 
Most of us are very slow to change much about ourselves. Our ingrained habits are 
very difficult to overcome. We usually prefer to choose the easier, softer way, which
means continuing the status quo. I want to share a process that has helped me to change
some behaviors sooner and easier than I could before..
 
The process I’ll describe is actually applicable for all our adult relationships: friends, acquaintances, neighbors, and colleagues in the workplace, as well as all grown members of our extended families. I’ll illustrate this transformational tip with my primary relationship with my wife, Christina.
 
The governing, inspirational ideal for all our relationships is Jesus’ call to “Love our neighbors as ourselves.” Sounds simple enough, but as the writer, Eric Hoffer said, “It is easier to love humanity than to love your neighbor.” I know that I’ve been both at my best and my worst in the safe bosom of my family. Too often, I’d been over-stressed, irritable, and short-tempered both outside and within my marriage; and changing those unloving behaviors had been painfully slow and inconsistent. The question I had to answer was: “How to better love my partner as myself?”
                                               
*** 

Instead of continuing to minimize my negative emotions and actions that I so despised in
myself, I began a radically different approach. I sought to clarify a constellation
of spiritual values to which I was very attracted. They were aligned with my
understanding of Jesus’ overarching ideal of love. I chose them because they defined
what I wanted my role in my marriage to become.
 
 
For these spiritual values and principles to be relevant, useful, and inspiriting to me, they needed to be:
·      Personal. These were proposed solutions born of my very specific circumstances and problems. Some of my values therefore are bound to change and some will be different from yours.
·      Contemporary. I needed to access my own culture’s language, meanings, and current available knowledge. (The field of psychology, for example, is less than a century old, but is a rich source of my own spiritual values.)
·      Eclectic. I sought spiritual values to express Jesus’ ideal of love from sources
that were Christian, Buddhist, philosophical, historical, psychological, classical,
mythical, and poetic. Magnanimity, for example, is an Aristotelian idea. So, I did 
a great deal of reading and listening to friends, and attending workshops and
lectures.
 
These spiritual values can be variously described as principles and/or virtues. They
are re-decisions, choices, intentions, and commitments. They are either behaviors or
attitudes. And they can be thought of as action plans, solutions, goals, or even operating
systems.
 
***
 
                        SOME VALUES FOR IMPERFECT RELATIONSHIPS
                                                           
From Negotiation to Magnanimity (generosity or large-heartedness). The two of us are lousy negotiators. In Spirituality of Imperfection, the author writes, “To be related to any other human being is to be both healed and hurt, both wounded and made whole. Our choice is to which of those always present realities we shall attend.”
 
The conscious choice of healing and wholeness is not a negotiation. It is a unilateral decision to begin to heal a relationship by ourselves; and not necessarily even to talk (less than negotiate) about it.
 
From Withdrawal to Constancy. Withdrawal for me was pouting in the short run and imagining a contingent exit strategy in the long run, if “we just couldn’t make this thing work.” Constancy is the commitment to hang around long enough to be sure to work this thing out.
 
From Arguments to Conciliation. We never argued well or productively and always ended with a lose/lose result. We replaced the tedium,  pettiness, and unpleasantness of conflict with much briefer and more infrequent disagreements.
           
From Criticism to Empathy. The trick is to remind myself to try to appreciate the possible reasons for my friend’s action, in order to better understand  her point of view, her fears, or her anger.
 
From Withholding to Renewal. Renewal is the willingness to restore normalcy after a painful breach and offer to begin to heal the relationship. Sooner is  much easier than later.
 
From Taking our Relationship for Granted to Gratitude. I Reminded myself more often of her qualities I have always valued and her new ones as well.
 
From Disappointment to Acceptance. I lowered my expectations and accepted the likelihood that our marriage will never be perfect and that neither of us will be; oh yes, and that out partner never signed up to meet all our needs.
 
From Resentment to Forgiveness. Jesus’ call was for “seventy times seven.” Four hundred and ninety needs for forgiveness divided by 33 years of marriage is about one every three weeks. Sounds about right.
 
From Annoyance to Patience. I’m still working on this one. 

A few notes about my experience with these spiritual values.
 
These transformations in my primary relationship have not been quick or complete, but
they were not very difficult and were years ahead of my old rate of growth. I used the
new values at first to intercept  the old negative behaviors as they arose. Later, as they
became more habitual, they morphed into more of a guidance system.The result has been
a pretty steady improvement in our relationship. And as I slowly relinquished a lot of the
old patterns, so did Christina, all pretty much without either of us talking much about it.
 
I think personal and contemporary spiritual values ultimately work well because::
The old behaviors created a great deal of unhappiness. On the other hand, to love another well is tremendously satisfying.

I’ve grown to love these values, because we “love the good.” They inspire me.
I’m very invested in the continued expression of values I chose as my own. 
Unfortunately, these values simply do not exist until and unless we clarify them,
define what they mean to us, and why  and how we’ll use them in our daily lives. I’ve
adopted over fifty different spiritual values  to help govern my own  spiritual growth in
four other areas of my life that are most important to me: my parenting, the pursuit of
wisdom, the search for inner peace, and more compassionate service  to strangers. All of 
these can be viewed at www.spiritualvalues.net.
 
Ned Bellamy

by Mary Ann Holtz on July 8th, 2013

Action and Contemplation: Following Jesus through the Economic, Environmental, and Religious Crises

1) Connecting to the Source of Love; Creating Plan for Healthy Self-Care and Stress Protection

    a) Daily prayer, meditation, and spiritual reading and study

    b) Healthy Self-Care and Stress Protection Plan   

2) Get outdoors and open up to the revelation of Love through all of     creation.  Experience our physical connection to the Earth community.

3) Consume less (Reduce) and Share more

4) Recycle and Reuse

5) Food choices

6) Transportation

7) Household and work-place energy use

8)  Energy and Water-saving steps and products

9) Socially responsible investing

10) Join with others:

    a) to create local communities of mutual support           

     b)  to take action to influence government and corporations to make the urgent changes needed.

For complete worksheet, with detailed action ideas for each step, email maryannwalt@gmail.com 

or go to

http://paxchristiflorida.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/10actionstepsupdatedforearthday4-22-13.pdf

by Joe Esposito on July 1st, 2013

Richard Rohr sends out a daily readings I often find quite helpful.  

You can subscribe to these readings by visiting this link: https://cac.org/sign-up

Here is an excerpt from a recent one that I found particularly meaningful:

Hidden Social Agreements Remain Uncritiqued

In Paul it is clear that the second level of sin, “the flesh,” is individual sin, personal naughtiness, personal mistakes; and there is no denying that plenty of this evil exists in the world. When we point our finger at the second level of the spiral of violence, blaming individuals, punishing this person or that person, making people feel guilty because they are “bad,” we are mostly wasting our time unless we also critique the other two. History will never change by such a “one shot at a time” approach. The underlying “agreements” are still in place. There is no point in telling a teenage girl she should not be vain, or a young boy he should not be greedy, when we all admire and agree upon these very things as a culture, and when prelates and popes can be vain and greedy—but all for the welfare of the church.

Up to now there has been little attention paid to the social systems that we uncritically accept—and the evil things they do. One of the great favors John Paul II did was to introduce into Catholic theology the terms “structural evil,” “institutionalized sin,” and “corporate evil.” In that he was very prophetic, because that is the primary way that the Biblical prophets spoke. Over 90 percent of their condemnations were of “Israel” itself, of wars, alliances, corrupt business practices, and a greedy priesthood in the temple. They first named systemic evil, and then hoped the individual person could “repent,” and then “devil” would have little chance of taking over because hidden evil had been exposed. Evil must be nipped in the bud, or it is always too late.

Adapted from Spiral of Violence: The World, the Flesh, and the Devil
(CD, MP3)

by Mary Ann Holtz on June 18th, 2013

Joe's talk on June 16, 2013, summarized by Mary Ann Holtz

The series on a Rule of Life which Joe began a couple of weeks ago focuses on faithfulness to God, rather than culture. The biblical story which we are drawing upon comes from the Book of Daniel. Joe's talk on June 16, 2013 built on Daniel 3:4-18. This passage tells of the crisis for Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego. They knew they were only supposed to bow down to God; they couldn’t worship rival Gods. Ultimately they were going to have to decide where their true loyalties lay. We all know the story: the king throws them into the furnace and they are saved. Everyone then knew that God had no rival, that there is one true God.

Now in our day, in our time, I think one of God’s biggest rivals or idols is a culture of busy-ness and hurry. The tension is about whether we’re going to fill our time with a lot of other stuff that’s important to the culture…or are we going to organize our lives so that we’re available to God? The idol we’re asked to bow to is the idol of busy-ness & hurry, filling up our lives with stuff that doesn’t really matter.

So today we’re going to talk about REST and see what we can learn about this essential part of the Christian life.

Think about this statement: EVERYTHING WE DO SHAPES US.

The way we spend our time, the things we think about, pursue, and invest ourselves in, all of those things shape us.

That’s why Nebuchadnezzar wanted everybody to bow down 5 times a day to him – he knew that would shape them as people.

EVERYTHING WE DO SHAPES US: either it is building us up or tearing us down.

This idea is part of why I think the apostle Paul wrote: Eph. 5:15-17 “Be very careful how you live, not as unwise but as wise, redeeming the time for the days are evil. Therefore do not be senseless but learn to comprehend what is the will of the Lord.” I think for most of us, our days have a way of sucking us in and we get busied and frenzied and hurried and

I wonder if we are “redeeming the time”. Because the culture we live in sets a terrible example on this. It really asks us to bow down to an idol of “busy-ness”. The programming from the culture is “Busy = important; not busy = not important. (And so more sisters and brothers are marginalized by our culture, and sometimes by us!)

If everything we do shapes us, our busyness is forming our hearts. If everything we do shapes us, this is why we’re told REST is essential.

Psalm 127 is one of my favorite Psalms… it says: “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat – for God grants REST to those God loves.”

God says busy-ness, working all day is an exercise in vanity. REST, though, is somehow connected to a loving God, “for God grants REST to those God loves.”

In his chapter on REST, Robert Benson says, “Time and Attention are the currencies of our age. And most everything in our society – every organization, every institution… is somewhere right now plotting to get as much of both as they can get.”

You have control over 2 very powerful things: time & attention. Everybody wants them…they are like currency. Psalm 127 suggests we waste it on our vain busy-ness. It makes us think our lives are important, but it’s vanity.

And, the busy-ness of our lives is taking an incredible toll on us. Over time,we lose the ability to rest even when we get the chance, and then the very best we can hope for is diversion. Television is one of the most common diversions we turn to, and research shows that it induces a brain state that is highly suggestible and influenced by advertising.

Most people have built up such a “busy-ness debt” that even when they try to rest they can’t – they can only find a diversion. This affects our bodies, and our minds & especially our spirits. Robert Benson says, “We ignore Benedict’s call to silence and stillness at the peril of our spiritual lives.”

Until we learn to say “YES TO REST” on a daily basis, we’ll continue to do damage to our body, mind and spirit. What happens is we actually shape ourselves in ways that make us incompatible with God.

THIS IS THE QUESTION BENSON RECOMMENDS:

“Does my schedule look like that of a person who wants to hear God’s voice?”

You can't say YES TO REST without SAYING NO TO SOMETHING ELSE.

There is just not time to say yes to everything. To say YES to God is to say NO to the gods of our culture…this god of busy-ness & hurry.

Richard Rohr: “The only thing the mind cannot do is be present to the moment. The mind can only worry about the future & re-process the past, both of which Jesus specifically warns us against.” Rest is ceasing both of those things and instead resting in the presence of a loving God.

Rohr recounts learning from a Jewish rabbi, at a conference on the convergence of science and religion, how the consonants used to represent the sacred name of God, YHWH, when correctly pronounced are actually a breathing. They are an attempt to imitate and replicate inhalation and exhalation.

God has made Godself that accessible to all of us., that available, that breathable. Every moment the name of God is just moving in & out of us. If we will only stop and notice…that’s REST.

In John 20, the first time Jesus appears to the disciples after the resurrection what does he do? You remember…he breathes on them…what a weird thing! Jesus identified breathing with the presence of the Spirit. It’s available to us now, because of Christ, at every moment in the day. It’s totally practical… just breathe and you are breathing the most sacred name of God.

Your body knows who made it and what it was meant for. To find REST in the Lord is really about ceasing to make your body do stuff you want it to do & start letting it do stuff it was designed to do by God. Every breath you take calls out the name of its creator…isn’t that incredible?

Then Joe led us in this prayer. [To experience this prayer, you might watch the short videos: "The Yahweh Prayer I and II” by Richard Rohr]

here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNBKt87AWjA (Pt I)

and here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCsh_R5-HuA (Pt II)

What if you were to just plan points in your day where you just offer yourself to God with no agenda other than to just sit there and breath in and out…being conscious that with every breath that your body is repeating the name of God.

It would be really easy to connect this to Morning Prayer, Midday Prayer and Evening Prayer we talked about last week. Don’t sleep, don’t talk just REST in the presence of God. Don’t worry about the future, don’t reprocess the past. Simply be consciously in the presence of God and breath in and out the name of God. If you do this faithfully each day, it will change your life. And it brings us into the flow of the Spirit as we engage in mission.

Then we do well to build rest into our week through Sabbath practice, and into our year through a practice of taking a few days for a retreat.
 
I'm suggesting that if you live this way in our culture…when everyone around you is burning out; while everyone else succumbs to the malady of busy-ness… you will survive, you will thrive and when people look at you, they’ll see God.

by Mary Ann Holtz on June 11th, 2013

Faithfulness to God, not Culture—Seeking the Good Life

Our First Practice: Prayer

Summary by Mary Ann Holtz, June 10, 2013

At worship on June 2, 2013, Joe gave a talk inviting our Missio Dei community into a 5 week exploration of a Rule of Life as a path to living the Good Life. A Rule of Life is a set of very specific, concrete practices we might craft individually and as a community which will help us keep 4 things in focus and in balance: Prayer, Rest, Community, and Work.

Yesterday, June 9, 2013, Joe's talk explored what our experiences have been with prayer and how we might experiment with several prayer practices individually and as a way to connect with each other daily.

Below are a few of the key points from Joe's talk, including his call to us to join in 3 daily prayer practices, taking a total of 10 minutes of our day.

The heart of PRAYER is conscious fellowship with God.

Richard Rohr says it this way, “Prayer is being loved at a deep level”

Whether you know it or not – this is your deepest longing: To just be with your Father, creator, who loves you so much.

I’VE WANTED TO TRY SOMETHING FOR A LONG TIME AS A CHURCH:

We all organize our days around a lot of things: work, school, activities, family time, church, all kinds of things. And that’s fine…that’s unavoidable. Christians through the ages have practiced stopping when the bells ring to pray. We need to find a way to let the bells ring, and then we stop what we’re doing & pray.

I want us to try something very, very simple as a church.

I want us to synchronize…set our alarms for 12:00 noon every day.

When it goes off, stop what you are doing, pray the Lord’s prayer (Luke 11:2-4 which was the way Jesus taught the disciples to pray) and then consciously be in the presence of God for a few moments (Matthew 6:6-8).

And I want to invite you again to practice 2 other prayers daily:

2 minutes of solitude, 2 times a day.

In the Morning: find a window in your house

Set a timer for 2 minutes. Look outside (or go outside). All you do is be mindful of your breathing and be mindful of the presence of God in this moment.

Don’t think about the past, don’t worry about the future, just abide in the present.

Just stand there & breathe with God for 2 minutes.

Then go on about your day.

Then again in the evening: Find comfortable place to sit, in solitude.

Set you timer for 2 minutes. Place a chair in front of you.

Invite God to sit with you. Be mindful of your breathing, and mindful of the presence of God with you. Don’t think about the past, don’t worry about the future, sit in the presence of God for 2 minutes, and then get up & go on about your evening.

Just think with me for a moment…of the power of an entire church body, who in the midst of a crazy-busy, time-starved, push it to the limit culture…just stops what they are doing 3 times a day, they pause, say a quick prayer, they sit for a moment in the presence of a loving God.

This simple act of prayer could change us as a church.

You know why this is important? Cause it all comes down to this

-we are created to participate in God’s redemption of the world

-Our reason for living is not to get all we want out of life

-Our life isn’t about “I, me, mine.”

Our reason for living is to participate in God’s redemption of the world

-That’s who we are – that’s why we’re here.

-How will we ever do that if we aren’t transformed people?

-How will we be transformed if we don’t have a deep rich life of prayer?

-How will we participate in that mission if we don’t spend time with God?

The path to being transformed is through a deep meaningful relationship with God – like a child with a loving parent.

That’s why we say that at its heart:

-PRAYER is conscious fellowship with God.

-PRAYER is being loved at a deep level.


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