Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Category: Book Review

Book Review – Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber

accidentalsaintsI love this book Accidental Saints by Nadia-Bolz Weber! The thing that I like about this book is the vulnerability and honesty that is very apparent in the stories and struggles of this author. She expects to find God in all the wrong people who go unnoticed and are marginalized. But there is profound wisdom in the forgotten people of our world.

This book will wake you up to a new paradigm of acceptance, where judgment is replaced with love and truth is not separated from honesty. Nadia-Bolz Weber likes to tell it like it is even if she looks bad in the process. I particularly loved her take on comparing what happened to both Peter and Judas at the end of Jesus’ life. She poses the question that maybe we aren’t so different from either of them.

The book is best summed up by her imagining what Beatitudes Jesus might say to us today in the twenty-first century world of ours. I love the compassion, empathy, and love expressed by these words. I find this a beautiful way to end the book!

“Blessed are the agnostics. Blessed are they who doubt. Those who aren’t sure, who can still be surprised. Blessed are they who are spiritually impoverished and therefore not so certain about everything that they no longer take in new information. Blessed are they who have nothing to offer… Blessed are the poor in spirt… Blessed are they for whom death is not an abstraction. Blessed are they who have buried their loved ones, for whom tears could fill an ocean. Blessed are they who have loved enough to know what loss feels like… Blessed are they who don’t have the luxury of taking things for granted anymore. Blessed are they who can’t fall apart because they have to keep it together for everyone else. Blessed are the motherless, the alone, the ones from whom so much has been taken. Blessed are those who “still aren’t over it yet.” Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are those who no one else notices. The kids who sit alone at middle-school lunch tables. The laundry guys at the hospital. The sex workers and the night-shift street sweepers. Blessed are the losers and the babies and the parts of ourselves that are so small, the parts of ourselves that don’t want to make eye contact with a world that loves only the winners. Blessed are the forgotten. Blessed are the closeted. Blessed are the unemployed, the unimpressive, the underrepresented… Blessed are the wrongly accused, the ones who never catch a break, the ones for whom life is hard, for Jesus chose to surround himself with people like them. Blessed are those without documentation. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are they who know there has to be more than this. Because they are right. Blessed are those who make terrible business decisions for the sake of people. Blessed are the burned-out social workers and the overworked teachers and the pro bono case takers… Blessed are they who hear that they are forgiven. Blessed is everyone who has forgiven me when I didn’t deserve it. Blessed are the merciful, for they totally get it.”  

  • The last shall be first, and the first shall be last

“But when Jesus again and again says things like the last shall be first, and the first shall be last, and the poor are blessed, and the rich are cursed, and that prostitutes make great dinner guests, it makes me wonder if our need for pure black-and-white categories is not true religion but maybe actually sin…”

  • Through the things we don’t expect

“That’s how God works sometimes. Not through the things we are prepared for but through the things we don’t expect.”

  • The ordinary things right in front of us

“…the holy things we need for healing and sustenance are almost always the same as the ordinary things right in front of us.”

  • Wherever we go

“…there really is nowhere you can hide from human bullshit, since we just bring it with us wherever we go.”

  • Trying not to need others

“After years of therapy and twelve-step work, I’ve finally realized that trying not to need others isn’t about strength and independence; it’s about fear. To allow myself to need someone else is to put myself in a position to be betrayed or made to look weak…”

  • Love and suffering

“God is always present in love and suffering…”

  • A fear of really being known

“I often think that the effort we put into trying to pretend something about us is true – that we are less than we are or more than we are or that one aspect of ourselves is the whole story – is based in a fear of being really known, of being truly seen, as we actually are. Perhaps we each have a wound, a vulnerable place that we have to protect in order to survive. And yet sometimes we overcompensate so much for the things we are trying to hide that no one ever suspects the truth… and then we are left in the true aloneness of never really being known.”

  • Risking an openness

“Sometimes I wonder if that is what faith is: risking an openness to something bigger than ourselves…”

  • We get to believe in each other

“And this is it. This is the life we get here on earth. We get to give away what we receive. We get to believe in each other. We get to forgive and be forgiven. We get to love imperfectly. And we never know what effect it will have for years to come. And all of it… all of it is completely worth it.”

  • The best shitty feeling in the world

“And receiving grace is basically the best shitty feeling in the world. I don’t want to need it. Preferably I could just do it all and be it all and never mess up. That may be what I would prefer, but it is never what I need. I need to be broken apart and put back into a different shape by that merging of things human and divine, which is really screwing up and receiving grace and love and forgiveness rather than receiving what I really deserve. I need the very thing that I will do everything I can to avoid needing.”

What quote do you like the best? Have you read Accidental Saints?

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Book Review – Rising Strong by Brene Brown

51ro+ZeWodL._SX431_BO1,204,203,200_I love this book by Brene Brown!  It is definitely one of my favorites of the year!  One of the things I like about her is the focus on vulnerability in her writing.  This seems to be such a difficult subject to talk about in North American culture.

Vulnerability is often times approached as a bad thing because it does not make us look strong, successful or extremely competent.  But Brene Brown disagrees and says it is the basis of our greatest measure of strength.  In this book, she guides us through a process of rising strong: the reckoning (getting curious about our emotions), the rumble (getting honest about the stories we make up), and the revolution (integrating our experiences).  This is a beautiful path of living into our vulnerability for the good of our world.

Showing up and being seen is a clear focus of the writing.  I highly agree that this is so important in our lives as it is easy to self-protect and become defensive instead of vulnerable.  But it seems that all vulnerability is the very essence of love.  Without vulnerability, we cannot connect to the deepest ground of our being which is love.

Curiosity about our emotions is the starting point.  Sometimes I am disconnected from what is going on with me emotionally.  As a male, becoming emotionally literate is not looked upon highly a lot of the time.  But just as nonviolent communication (NVC) teaches, becoming literate of our emotions is so important to taking responsibility and ownership for them.  Then we can get curious about what they are communicating to us.  This is a frightening process that most of us have a hard time with.

Brene Brown shares how we make up stories that we tell ourselves in order to disown what is really going on and the emotions that go along with it all.  This is not helpful and causes us to be unaware of the truth about our story in life.  When this happen, it makes it almost impossible to embrace vulnerability and shame will set in.

We are called to integrate our experiences with the reckoning and the rumble of our own stories and come out with new learnings of deeper wisdom because of it.  The integration of our experiences with our curiosity and ownership of our stories is the way to get up after we fall into an unhealthy place of despair and shame.  Vulnerability is the path to our own relational healing where reconciliation, love, and compassion become truer for us than ever before.

I highly recommend Brene Brown’s book!  It is one of courage, truth, and leading us to greater honesty.  This is so crucial when there is so much relational dysfunction in our everyday lives.  Vulnerability could bring a lot of reconciliation to our lives together.

“I believe that vulnerability – the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome – is the only path to more love, belonging, and joy…”

“Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage…”

“…vulnerability is the only path out of the shame storm and back to each other…”

“If integration means ‘to make whole,’ then the opposite is to fracture, disown, disjoin, detach, unravel, or separate.  I think many of us move through the world feeling this way.  The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable, but our wholeness – even our wholeheartedness – actually depends on the integration of all of our experiences, including the falls.”

“What gets in the way of reckoning with emotion is exactly what gets in the way of engaging in courageous behaviors: fear.  We don’t like how difficult emotions feel and we’re worried about what people might think.  We don’t know what to do with the discomfort and vulnerability.  Emotion can feel terrible, even physically overwhelming.  We can feel exposed, at risk, and uncertain in the midst of emotion.  Our instinct is to run from pain.  In fact, most of us were never taught how to hold discomfort, sit with it, or communicate it, only how to discharge or dump it, or to pretend that it’s not happening.  If you combine that with the instinctual avoidance of pain, it’s easy to understand why off-loading becomes a habit…”

“The rumble begins with turning up our curiosity level and becoming aware of the story we’re telling ourselves about our hurt, anger, frustration, and pain.  The minute we find ourselves facedown on the arena floor, our minds go to work trying to make sense of what’s happening. This story is driven by emotion and the immediate need is to self-protect, which means it’s most likely not accurate, well thought out, or even civil…” 

“I know we don’t judge people when we feel good about ourselves…”

“…we all experience different kinds of heartbreak over the course of our lives, but the heartbreak associated with addiction and mental, behavioral, and physical health struggles is not something we talk about enough.  We need to have more conversations about the protracted heartbreak that stems from feeling helpless as we watch someone we love suffer, even as the suffering pulls us down.  Last, our silence about grief serves no one.  We can’t heal if we can’t grieve; we can’t forgive if we can’t grieve.  We run from grief because loss scares us, yet our hearts reach toward grief because the broken parts want to mend…”

“…so many of us are good at giving help, but not at receiving it.  Giving help can occasionally feel vulnerable; asking for help always means risking vulnerability.  This is critical to understand…”

“Another one of shame’s sidekicks is comparison…  Believe me, comparison sucks the creativity and joy right out of life.”

“I’m slowly learning how to straddle the tension that comes with understanding that I am tough and tender, brave and afraid, strong and struggling – all of these, all of the time.  I’m working on letting go of having to be one or the other and embracing the wholeness of wholeheartedness.”

“Can we lean in to the vulnerability of emotion and stand in our truth?  Are we willing to lean into the initial discomfort of curiosity and creativity so we can be braver with our lives?  Do we have the courage to rumble with our story?…”

Have you read Rising Strong?  Does it seem to resonate with you at all?

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Book Review – Starting Something New: Spiritual Direction For Your God-Given Dream by Beth A. Booram

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Living our dreams is so important for us to be fully human.  When a dream dies, part of us dies in the process.  It is so important to cultivate a dream through intentional rhythms that will help us to nurture and cultivate it throughout life.  Bringing something new to life within us can be challenging and messy work.

When a lot of society just lives into the status quo, this makes it hard to discover what is within us.  What is within us may be a dream that others can’t quite see or experience.  So we need to have the courage to let this dream take its shape and create a life in the world.

Beth A. Booram’s book is a guide in the process of discovering a dream within us and finding a way to bring it to life.  She offers guidance to us through discerning, shaping and birthing a God-given dream within us.  The book goes through 14 aspects of spiritual direction: conceiving, brooding, welcoming, discerning, naming, shaping, sorting, changing, waiting, dying, resurrecting, birthing, living and sustaining.  There are also interviews that go along with each chapter to demonstrate a story of how a particular person is living this out in their own life.

She makes it clear that birthing a dream is messy work that takes intentionality on our part.  Booram encourages us to see our dream as significant even if it seems to be small.  It is our unique expression of life so it does not have to drastically move the world in some way.  We will be okay just to bring it to life in small, simple ways that make us more human in the process.

One of the things that really stood out to me was the wisdom provided when everything seems to be falling apart and dying.  She encourages us to take heart in these seasons of life because they call us to pause and rest.  And this is so essential in the formation process.  While it is happening it feels like the death of our dream, but we are not to give up.

Giving up would be the worst thing to do.  So this death causes us to persevere, to wait patiently.  Our dream is taking shape in some mysterious way we cannot know.

I love this book!  I highly recommend reading it because we need more of our dreams being lived out in the world in which we find ourselves.  A dream usually inspires our imagination to new creativity, authenticity and embodiment.  And we discover our true selves in the formation of our dreams within us.

  • God-given dreams are significant

“So God-given dreams are ones that have significance.  But don’t mistake that to mean that they have to have dramatic impact on the entire world to be important to pay attention to.  They may not affect huge numbers of people or solve the world’s most looming problems.  What makes a Spirit-inspired dream so important is that it is deposited in you!  You are the unique receptacle, and you are the only person who can give birth to it – it’s your baby!…”

  • Hard and messy work

“If you have been involved in any creative process… you know that it’s hard and messy work.  You start with the raw materials and your own creative instincts, and then together things just start happening.  And sometimes the outcome takes on a life of its own.  That’s fairly descriptive of what it’s like to make initial sense of a dream.”

  • Only when we are real people

“…only when we are real people do we have something to offer the world.”

  • Beauty is everywhere

“…beauty is everywhere if you have eyes to see it!”

  • A vast assortment of inspirations and imaginings

“Most creative processes are messy and by nature generate a vast assortment of inspirations and imaginings…”

  • We may zigzag back and forth, again and again

“So, as we are involved in the creative work of realizing a dream, we will need to change some of our ideas; we may zigzag back and forth, again and again…”

  • Begin to wonder if death is imminent

“For some, there are times during the gestation of a dream when you begin to wonder if death is imminent.  Your plans are on hold.  You’ve come to an impasse.  The resources you need do not exist.  All your energy’s been spent.  You realize that there is nothing you can do, nothing at all, to move things along or make happen what needs to happen to keep your vision alive…”

  • In order for new potential to be released

“…what of our dream must die in order for new potential to be released?  When our dream goes through a period of dormancy or an actual dying process, it’s possible that there are things about it that need to falter, to change and be sloughed off…”

  • A chance to pause, to rest

“Death, as hard as it is, is a chance to pause, to rest, to put activity on hold and pay attention to the inner work of God…  So, rather than see death as an end or a failure, something to work feverishly to avoid, it can be a time of sloughing off what isn’t you in order for the Christ in you to emerge.”

  • Don’t give up

“If you have been moving through the gestational process of bringing a dream to life, and that dream has appeared to die or at least be in ‘sleep savor’ mode, it can be hard to keep hope alive.  I believe that many who have given birth to a dream would like to say to you, in unison, ‘Don’t give up!’  Just because at this moment in time your dream appears to be lifeless, don’t assume that what you have desired and pursued will not, at some future moment, be revived.  Keep your eyes open for the unfolding evidence of resurrection.”

  • It can be a slow dawning, one that feels tenuous and shaky

“For those of us whose dreams appear to have died, there will be signs of life that signal and convince us of resurrection – but it can be a slow dawning, one that feels tenuous and shaky.  It’s important to be attentive to the signs of life…”

  • Being stretched toward your growing edge

“So as you live into your dream it will be important for you to pay attention to the ways you’re being stretched by your new normal – stretched toward your growing edge…”

  • Developing intentional rhythms

“…it’s important early on to begin to define some important rhythms that protect us from burning out or overextending, from allowing this dream to consume the whole plate of our lives to the point that there’s no space left on the plate for anything else.  Or the portions we give to other important relationships and needs have become much too small.  It’s certain that embracing a God-given dream will affect the whole of our lives: spiritual, relational, vocational, physical and recreational.  And so, from time to time, we need to review and realign ourselves with the priorities that enable us to live a sustainable life as a dream builder.  Developing intentional rhythms and a rule of life is one practice that will help us do that.”  

Do you have a dream that you are wanting to live out?  What is it?

http://www.amazon.com/Starting-Something-New-Spiritual-Direction/dp/0830835970/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1429717568&sr=8-1&keywords=starting+something+new

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1429717347&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

Book Review – Vulnerable Faith: Missional Living in the Radical Way of St. Patrick by Jamie Arpin-Ricci

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Vulnerability is often times one of the most difficult things to practice in an individualistic culture that celebrates pride, violence, arrogance and power.  But I have found Jamie Arpin Ricci’s book Vulnerable Faith so encouraging to me as I have longed to embody a vulnerability within myself in everyday life as I share life together with others.  Oftentimes we do not have much of an imagination for vulnerability.  So we see a lot of the church live in its arrogance, wealth, consumerism, mobility and apathy toward all that is rooted in being an expression of love.

Jamie shares in this insightful book about the story of St. Patrick’s life.  How he was enslaved and came back to the land of his slavery after his escape to be an expression of compassion, humility and love.  St. Patrick lived out of his vulnerability and because of it influenced many people throughout history.  The story of St. Patrick’s life is used by Arpin Ricci as an example of courage, vulnerability and perseverance in the midst of the struggles of life.

He also couples this with the wisdom from Alcoholics Anonymous.  Creating a culture of vulnerability, honesty and humility that AA promotes is very helpful when it comes to how we live in community with one another.  Community is best lived through vulnerability.  In fact, I have learned that St. Francis of Assisi thought that complete vulnerability was the central message of the gospel.

I really love this book and am so grateful that Jamie has written it at such a time as this.  When the church is struggling to find its way in our postmodern culture and institutional religion is decaying rapidly, we need a new imagination for what is truly authentic for us.  Jamie has called us to a communal imagination that is embedded in vulnerability through the stories of Little Flowers Community, St. Patrick’s life and the principles of AA.

When we do not desire vulnerability, we will struggle to love others.  We will struggle to love ourselves and our actions will be attached to guilt, shame and fear.  But what freedom we could experience through an open embrace of vulnerability.

In vulnerability, we will learn that the essence of God is vulnerability.  Vulnerability actually makes us strong, courageous and wise.  When many men in our culture think that vulnerability is the ultimate weakness, I am learning that this is a fabrication of our false self.  Men often times are afraid of the authenticity of vulnerability.

But it is in vulnerability that we find our true selves in the midst of everyday life.  I have found that a contemplative way of life where we practice awareness, listening and silence is almost impossible without vulnerability.  Vulnerability always leads us to a sense of creative compassion.  Vulnerability leads us to a way of life that is rooted in truth and life.

I highly recommend Jamie Arin Ricci’s book!  It is one of the best books on vulnerability and its essential role in creating community among us that I have read in a long time!  This is essential reading for anyone interested in authenticity in the twenty-first century.  He also wrote a fantastic book called The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis and Life in the Kingdom back in 2011.

  • Presenting a false face to others

“All of us are prone to this instinct toward pretense.  It is ingrained in us as a way of thinking and acting that we are rarely aware of how often we present a false face to others…”

  • Hope in honest brokenness

“There is more hope in honest brokenness than in the pretense of false wholeness.”

  • Retreating back to some form of pretense

“When our pretense is exposed, whether by circumstances or by choice, what lies beneath is all the fear, shame, and uncertainty that we have worked so hard to deny, ignore, and conceal…  It can produce in us a deep sense of panic, a loss of control, spurring us on to attempt to restore order and stability, usually by retreating back into some form of pretense or another.  After all, the appearance of stability feels much more preferable than acknowledging the chaos that lies beneath the surface.”

  • The so-called freedoms we enjoy

“…too many of the so-called freedoms we enjoy are mere illusions, pretenses covering over the truth that we are, in fact, enslaved to fear…”

  • Learning the disciplines of peace

“…we are well served in learning the disciplines of peace, both internal and relational.  Practices such as meditation and reflection are so important…”

  • Community is the inevitable and essential result of faithfulness

“Community is the inevitable and essential result of faithfulness, inseparably linked to the work of God in our hearts and in the world…”

  • Seek to restore relationships at any cost

“In truth, the most compelling witness to our faith can be a willingness to humbly accept responsibility for our failings and seek to restore relationships at any cost.”

  • Community is a grace

“Community is a grace because of how it serves us in the very process of transformation…”

  • Can we trust each other enough to be that vulnerable?

“Such community, by nature and necessity, reflects relationships of deep intimacy and vulnerability.  This raises the inevitable question: can we trust each other enough to be that vulnerable?”

  • Building and sustaining community

“The practices and disciplines of building and sustaining community could fill volumes (and has).  From mystics to anthropologists, we learn how critical that quality of a community is to the health and well-being of people.  Yet, community remains one of the most elusive goals to so many… in our individualistic Western societies.”

  • Openness and vulnerability are what we are called to

“In fact, vulnerable faith produces in us a grace and patience for the same failings in others that we have admitted in ourselves.  We are no longer motivated to judge others to bolster our own sense of righteousness or protect our own moral purity, but are drawn to those who need grace and hope.  I have to keep reminding myself that openness and vulnerability is what I am called to…”

  • Faithfully embracing love right where we are

“…faithfully embracing love right where we are at can turn the course of empires…”

  • The centrality of love

“Above all is the centrality of love at the heart of vulnerable faith.  Vulnerability will thrive only where love abounds – a love that is generous, gracious, patient, compassionate, humble, curious, joyful, and full of hope…”

What comes to mind when you think of vulnerability?

http://www.amazon.com/Vulnerable-Faith-Missional-Radical-Patrick/dp/1612615910/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1428776370&sr=8-2-fkmr0&keywords=jami+arpin+ricci

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1428776675&sr=1-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination+finding+a+way+to+share+life+together

Book Review – Lessons in Belonging: From a Church-Going Commitment Phobe by Erin S. Lane (Celebrating my 300th blog post)

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This is a great book by Erin S. Lane!  Highly recommended.  The book just came out a couple of months ago and I was excited to read it.

If you read this book you will get a sense that many of the younger generation feel disillusioned and a sense of fear about going to traditional churches today.  As Erin is in her late twenties, she speaks for a generation that is looking for belonging within the context of healthy community.  Often times churches do not provide this kind of community or belonging.

There is a strong theme that disillusionment is not easy, but may be a good thing.  It allows us to experience heartbreak over the state of the church.  If we become broken open we will live with more compassion, love, imagination, grace and risk.  This could be just what the church in the twenty-first century needs as things are changing in our culture a lot.

I was so impressed by Erin S. Lane’s longing to search for lessons in belonging in this book.  She poses questions to us such as: Do we really believe that we each have gifts worth offering one another?  Do we really believe that vulnerability is a risk we’re called to take?  Do we agree that there’s value in inviting strangers into our midst?  Do we really agree that we should treat one another charitably?  Do we really agree that earnestness is more important than rightness?

Belonging is a lifetime work that is both a gift we receive and a pilgrimage we make.  This paradox of belonging that is both a gift we receive and a pilgrimage we make is so incredibly intertwined in the text.  This could liberate our imaginations tremendously.  This is the foundation of all healthy community in everyday life.

Meaning, purpose and identity all flow from a context of community where we experience belonging.  This is what has helped me to be my true self in my own experience of living into community, purpose and belonging.  I love how she communicates lessons in belonging in such a clear manner.  Everyone who is thinking about living more interdependently should read this wonderful book!

Alienation and separation are the illusions we let lead our lives often times.  But Erin is calling us to a life of belonging, unity, collaboration and vulnerability all in the context of community.  I love her stories of confusion, frustration, failure, disillusionment and authenticity.  She helps us to understand why belonging is so crucial to our everyday lives without losing a sense of ourselves.

I like the idea that in healthy community we shed the facade of pride, privilege and protectiveness and find our true selves.  We become more authentic when we find who we really are as created in the image of God.  Pride, protectiveness and privilege have run the game of life in me for too long and I want to find a way that has deeper resonation.

I am so glad that I read Erin S. Lane’s book!  It has enriched my life with wisdom around belonging and community.  A must read for everyone tired of old paradigms and boring religion.

  •  Disillusionment may be good, but it’s never easy

“Disillusionment may be good, but it’s never easy.  Many of us have grown comfortable with our illusions.  The loss of their familiar silhouette can be scary, like a night-light gone dark…”

  • Learning to belong is lifetime work

“To ‘get’ to be ourselves means that belonging is both a gift we receive and a pilgrimage we make.  To be our authentic selves requires some getting to, some working out, some travelling toward as we discern the ‘me’ we get to be.  Learning to belong is lifetime work.”

  • Discerning ourselves in the context of community

“Belonging is about discerning ourselves in the context of community, a web of relationships… that gives us meaning and purpose and identity…”

  • Trapped between freedom and fear

“We are a generation trapped between the twin terrors of freedom and fear…”

  • Wonder and cynicism

“Wonder is a powerful anecdote to cynicism…”

  • The gift of belonging is already ours

“The gift of belonging is already ours…  The question is not, Can we belong?  The question is, Will we belong?”

  • Strangers wake us up to our need

“Strangers who are poor, sick and lame wake us up to our need…  They challenge our culturally shaped rhythms and subvert our socially accepted excuses…  Besides, I need some strangers to remain strangers this side of life so I don’t get too satisfied with my puffed-up version of reality, my small-minded way of doing things, the rituals that have become the right way because they’re the only way I’ve known…”

  • Vulnerability is a gift to ourselves and others

“Vulnerability is a gift to ourselves and others when it’s a choice we make and not a right exploited…”

  • To welcome the vulnerable

“To welcome the vulnerable means to welcome suffering…”

  • In healthy community one becomes more themselves

“I’ve always thought that in healthy community one becomes more themselves, not less – more aware of their gifts, not less; more true to the image of God, not less…  Community should refine us, not consume us…”

  • In the stillness of community

“In the stillness of community, reality reveals itself to us.  What does this mean?  Stillness not only brings the absence of activity but also the awareness of the reality around us.  So too does stillness offer the rare gift of quietude needed to discern the reality within us.  How is it with our souls?  What lies do we need to weed out?  What truths do we need to plant?”

  • The facade of pride, privilege and protectiveness

“…a healthy community should help us shed the false selves we’ve constructed – the facade of pride, privilege and protectiveness that keep us alienated from one another – and uncover the person we are by God’s design.  Losing one’s life should not mean losing all sense of one’s self.  Instead, in real community we come to find out who it is that we really are, what is it that we can offer and how it is that we belong…”

  • The exchange of gifts

“The exchange of gifts breeds life.”

  • We each have gifts worth offering one another

“Do we really believe that we each have gifts worth offering one another?”

  • Vulnerability is a risk we’re called to take

“Do we really believe that vulnerability is a risk we’re called to take?”

  • Inviting strangers into our midst

“Do we agree that there’s value in inviting strangers into our midst?”

  • We should treat one another charitably

“Do we really agree that we should treat one another charitably?”

  • Earnestness is more important than rightness

“Do we really agree that earnestness is more important than rightness?”

  • Crafts the very illusions it should be unmasking

“What makes the church toxic then is not its ability to leave us feeling disillusioned…  What makes the church toxic is when it crafts the very illusions it should be unmasking…”

  • Treating belonging as a privilege earned rather than a gift offered

“When we believe the illusion of alienation, we’re prone to treating belonging as a privilege earned rather than a gift offered.”

  • It takes time

“It takes time, lots of time, to not just live like we belong but feel like we belong to one another…”

  • How belonging happens

“This is how belonging happens.  Not by waiting for permission or holding out for perfect conditions.  Not by cherry-picking people just like us or nitpicking people who don’t get us.  Belonging happens when we choose to give ourselves away, saying, ‘Take.  Eat.  If you’ll have me, I belong to you.’”

  • The offering of our true selves

“Belonging to God compels us to share our offering in community…  The offering is our true selves.  It’s as if God says, ‘There’s no use trying to play someone else.  Your part is worthy.  Now go, offer your portion faithfully.’”

  • Having it all wrong

“I’d had it wrong all along.  Belonging didn’t chiefly depend on whether a community accepted me but whether I was able to offer myself to them…”

  • It’s in the offering that we accept belonging for ourselves

“There’s nothing to say someone will accept our gifts, handle them with care or help them come alive.  But it’s our choice to offer them.  It’s in the offering that we accept belonging for ourselves.”

  • Rethink old realities and risk living into ones yet seen

“Questions of belonging – how it’s fostered and how it’s discerned – are questions that will only grow in importance as we rethink old realities and risk living into ones yet seen.”

  • Responding to our heartbreak

“Each of us has a choice in how we will respond to our heartbreak.  We can either let it take us out of the action in favor of a simpler life where we belong without question or question without belonging, or we can let it lead us into a more vibrant life in which the contradictions of our faith open us to the death of illusions, the suffering of community and the resurrection of our real selves…”

  • Choosing the life in front of me

“There’s a new kind of freedom I’m learning that comes not from keeping my options open but from choosing the life in front of me…”

Do you believe belonging is important to healthy community?

http://www.amazon.com/Lessons-Belonging-Church-Going-Commitment-Phobe/dp/0830843175/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425855861&sr=8-1&keywords=erin+lane

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425855968&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

Book Review – Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi by Richard Rohr

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I absolutely love this book from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi.  It is filled with wisdom that you won’t hear inside the structural boxes of Christianity in North America.  It is essential reading for anyone who wants to embrace finding a way to live life in our twenty-first century world.

This book covers territory about our dualistic thinking, embracing simplicity, awareness of our connectedness, seeing the sacredness of all of life, trusting our own souls within, the inner authority of suffering (letting go of control), the integration of the masculine and feminine, mysticism and contemplation.

I like how letting go of control is a primary theme in the writing.  He says that letting go of control is the way we experience suffering in our lives.  And suffering leads us to an inner authority we will find in no other way.  Those who suffer and love have the deepest wisdom that nobody can understand completely.

Richard Rohr makes mysticism something that is accessible to us all by stating it as an experiential knowledge of our spirituality.  I constantly long for an experiential spirituality that is not based on abstract theology or ideas about God, but is based on something authentic in everyday life.  Exploring a mysticism where we are all ordinary mystics who live out our experiential spirituality in community together with others is what I want to embody.  This is hopeful to me like nothing else.

This book has inspired my imagination beyond the status quo life of mortgages and luxuries to find God in the ordinary.  Rohr has led me to embrace a simplicity where I find solidarity with the marginalized, where they are no longer a threat to me and I stop objectifying others for my own gain.  This seems like freedom from the empire I find myself in.

I love how the book talks about how St. Francis brought the feminine back into our spirituality.  He integrated the masculine and the feminine together.  When we lose the feminine side of spirituality we do things like the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition and all others forms of colonial violence because masculine spirituality tends to be about being right and competition.  The feminine side tends to be more relational and about the embodiment of love through collaboration and partnership.

Rohr says that we are taught to mistrust our souls.  I am coming to see that we can trust what is deepest within us, our true self, the authentic longing that lives within.  We are created in the image of God and are beloved.  We need to honor this true self within ourselves and allow it to live more fully as the Spirit of love lives within us.

Subverting a dominant narrative of the sacred/secular divide to see all of life as sacred is essential to the book.  All sorts of distortions happen to us when we live in our dualistic thinking of separating life into little compartments of our own making.  When we do this all of life cannot be embraced as sacred and we live in dualities.  This is not healthy and will lead us to believe in a narrative of separation from ourselves, God and one another.

  • Mysticism is experiential knowledge

“The most unfortunate thing about the concept of mysticism is that the word itself has become mystified – and regulated to a ‘misty’ and distant realm that implies it is only available to a very few.  For me, the word simply means experiential knowledge of spiritual things, as opposed to book knowledge, secondhand knowledge or even church knowledge.”

  • Taught to mistrust our own souls

“We were taught to mistrust our own souls – and thus the Holy Spirit!”

  • Everything is a revelation of the divine

“The Christ Mystery refuses to be vague and abstract, and is always concrete and specific.  When we stay with these daily apparitions, we see that everything is a revelation of the divine…  There are henceforth no blind spots in the divine disclosure, in our own eyes, or in our rearview mirrors.  Our only blindness is our own lack of fascination, humility, curiosity, awe, and willingness to be allured forward.”

  • All of the world is sacred

“In Franciscan mysticism, there is no distinction between sacred and profane.  All of the world is sacred…”

  • Refound on a new level

“What the crucified has revealed to the world is that the real authority that ‘authors’ people and changes the world is an inner authority that comes from people who have lost, let go, and are refound on a new level…”

  • Some form of suffering is absolutely necessary

“If suffering is ‘whenever we are not in control’ (which is my definition), then you see why some form of suffering is absolutely necessary to teach us how to live beyond the illusion of control and give that control back to God.  Then we become usable instruments, because we share our power with God’s power…”

  • A kind of crucifixion

“…to accept full reality will always be a kind of crucifixion both for God and for ourselves.  For us, it is a sure death to our easy opinions, our forced certitudes, any futile attempts at perfect control, our preplanned life, any intellectual or moral superiority, and eventually any belief in our separateness from God.”

  • Our mortgages, luxuries, and chosen lifestyles control our whole future

“Today most of us try to find personal and individual freedom even as we remain inside of structural boxes and an entire system of consumption that we are then unable or unwilling to critique.  Our mortgages, luxuries, and chosen lifestyles control our whole future.  Whoever is paying our bills, and giving us security and status, determines what we can and cannot think.  You cannot remove the plank that you are standing on.  Self-serving institutions that give us our security, status, or identity are almost always considered ‘too big to fail’ and are invariably beyond an honest critique for the vast majority of people.  And thus corruption grows.  The way of radical Christianity is simply to stay outside of such systems to begin with, so they cannot control your breath of thinking, feeling, loving, and living out universal justice.”

  • When you agree to live simply

“When you agree to live simply, you do not consider the immigrant, the refuge, the homeless person, or the foreigner as a threat to you or see them as being in competition with you.  You have chosen their marginal state for yourself…”

  • People cease to be possessions

“When you agree to live simply, people cease to be possessions and objects for your consumption or use.  Your lust for relationships or for others to serve you, your need for other people’s admiration, your desire to use other people as a kind of commodity for your personal pleasure, or any need to control and manipulate other people, slowly – yes, very slowly – falls away.”

  • Fragile and vulnerable

“The true Gospel always leaves us both fragile and vulnerable…”

  • An inner capacity to live with paradoxes and contradictions

“…contemplation gives us an inner capacity to live with paradoxes and contradictions.  It is a quantum leap forward in our tolerance for ambiguity, mystery, and paradox.  More than anything else, this new way of processing the moment is what moves us from mere intelligence, or correct information, to what we normally mean by wisdom or non-dual thinking.”

  • The beginning of training in non-dual thinking

“Paradox held and overcome is the beginning of training in non-dual thinking or contemplation, as opposed to paradox denied, which forces us to choose only one part of any mysterious truth.  Such a choice will be false because we usually choose the one that serves our small purposes…”

  • Live into new ways of thinking

“…humans tend to live themselves into new ways of thinking more than think themselves into new ways of living…”

  • Honest self-knowledge

“Honest self-knowledge, shadow work, therapy, and tools like the Enneagram are dismissed with such hostility by many fervent believers that you know they are hiding something or afraid of something.  They disdain this work as ‘mere psychology’…”

  • Overcompensate with external window dressing

“When you have not had any internal experience of God and grace, you almost always overcompensate with external window dressing.  The ‘window dressings’ are not wrong in themselves, but do tend to make nonessentials into the essentials that we obsess about and divide over.  When you have done this for half your life, it is very hard to let go of it…”

  • Patriarchy frames life as essentially competition

“By patriarchy (‘the rule of the fathers’), I mean when any group or individual operates in such a way that others must concede so that the dominant group is always first, in control, and right.  Patriarchy frames life as essentially competition and ‘the survival of the fittest,’ and there must be clear winners and losers.  This is an obvious case of the dualistic mind at work…”

  • In the male world, humility looks like weakness

“In the male world, humility commonly looks like weakness, lack of exposure to the ‘real world,’ or even low self-esteem; but it is not an admirable virtue or any kind of needed strength…”

  • Love is the nature of being

“The divine pattern is first and itself love, as opposed to thinking that God can be rationally understood, and this God then orders us to love.  Love is then a mandate instead of the nature of being itself…”

  • No such thing as failure

“If your only goal is to love there is no such thing as failure…”

  • Incarnation is actually our ordinary life

“…there is shock involved when we suddenly see that incarnation is actually our ordinary life, now, everywhere.  At first, it is a disappointment.  But once we become practiced at a contemplative worldview, a ‘thisness’ way of seeing, there is nothing trivial anymore and all is grace.  But those who have chosen a split world of sacred or profane don’t know how to live in a world where everything is sacred…”

  • Life is about being connected

“Life is never about being correct, but only and always about being connected.  Just stay connected!  At all costs stay connected.  Our only holiness is by participation and surrender to the Body of Love, and not by any private performance.  This is the joining of hands from generation to generation that can still change the world – and will.  Because Love is One, and this Love is either shared and passed on or it is not the Great Love at all.  The One Love is always eager, and, in fact, such eagerness is precisely the giveaway that we are dealing with something divine and eternal.”

Have you read Eager to Love?  What would you give the book from 1 to 10?

http://www.amazon.com/Eager-Love-Alternative-Francis-Assisi/dp/1616367016/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425163618&sr=8-1&keywords=eager+to+love

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425163712&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

Book Review – Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self by Richard Rohr

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I love this book by Richard Rohr!  As I have longed for what is authentic in life, Immortal Diamond has been a companion to help me search for my True Self.  At the core of it, the True Self is the place where I can center my life in love.  I can live in the present moment and embrace all of life as sacred.

Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish what is the True Self and what is the False Self in life.  But in reading Immortal Diamond, it has given me a sense of awareness and discernment.  The False Self it seems is promoted by a lot of the church.  The church creates so many dualities, spaces where it is not safe to be honest, a fabrication of certainty and little tolerance for what is beyond the status quo.

Does the body of Christ really desire to discover the immortal diamond within itself?  The True Self is that part of ourselves that has always been there and no one can take it away from us.  It is given by God.  For many of us, we have never gotten in touch with it.

My False Self is not who I am, it is who the culture has made me to be.  It is a fabrication or an illusion of my own making.  It is taught to me by the media, my family, my schooling and many religious systems that are unhealthy in our world.  The embracing of my True Self and my longing for God are one and the same desire.

My desire for the True Self is comforting to me.  It is there.  I believe everyone has it.  Our True Selves are all very particular to who we are, and everyone has a True Self that is waiting to be discovered.  There is meaning when we are connected to the True Self within us.

The True Self is usually marginalized by mainstream religious culture.  We can’t discover our True Self when we have created a very tiny American Jesus in our own image.  It is ridiculous, but that’s what many of us do.

That is what is comfortable and safe.  It keeps us from being vulnerable, honest and authentic.  This is the North American way of narcissism that so many follow.  And we wonder why people do not like the church and find Christians anything but graceful and compassionate sometimes?

It is sad to me that many people experience the judgment of the False Self and not the love of the True Self.  Our world needs more expressions of love, not judgment.  We need to be extremists for love, nonconformists to the status quo and practitioners of empathetic listening.

I like how the book talks about when we get attached to our “successful” roles in society that is when we give up the search for the True Self and get stuck in the False Self.  It seems our True Self is within us and the False Self is always defined outside of us.  These “successful” roles we play in life have trapped our imaginations inside the dominant narrative of the market and empire.   We put in so much energy and effort into building the False Self that we do not even know there is an alternative to it.

Rohr talks about how it is not wise to fear, attack, or hate the False Self because God uses the stages we find ourselves in for our own transformation which help us to discover the True Self that is more expansive, authentic and compassionate.  If our pain is not transformed it will be transmitted to others.  So the True Self finds healing within that transforms our pain into a deeper way of being broken open to love.  I like the analogy of the immortal diamond that no one can give to you or take away from you because it is grounded in the core of love which is our True Self that everyone has within.

I highly recommend this book!  It will take you on a search for your True Self, bring to you more self-awareness and connect you to what is authentic within.  One of the best books I have read on the True Self.  Make sure you read it this year!

  • Your True Self

“Your True Self is that part of you that knows who you are and whose you are, although largely unconsciously.  Your False Self is just who you think you are – but thinking doesn’t make it so.”

  • A threat to the world as we have constructed it

“Somehow resurrection – which I am going to equate with the revelation of our True Selves – is actually a risk and a threat to the world as we have constructed it.  After any ‘raising up’ of our True Selves, we will no longer fit into many groups, even much of religious society, which is often obsessed with and yet indulgent of the False Self , because that is all it knows.”

  • Always live in the backwaters

“Perhaps the True Self – and the full mystery (not the same as organized religion) – will always live in the backwaters of any empire and the deep mines of any religion.”

  • A very tiny American Jesus

“I can no longer wait for, or give false comfort to, the many Christians who are forever ‘deepening their personal relationship’ with a very tiny American Jesus – who looks an awful lot like them…”

  • Stuck in the False Self

“Many people have lost all interest in our grand spiritual talk and our Scriptures because they too often have been used by people who are themselves still small (who are stuck in their False Self).  It does not help to deny that we are stuck, and yet it does not help to stand arrogantly above it all either…”

  • Little emphasis on spiritual practices

“Since the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, there has been little emphasis on spiritual practices…”

  • Utterly within you and utterly beyond you at the very same time

“…in finding your True Self, you will have found an absolute reference point that is both utterly within you and utterly beyond you at the very same time…”

  • The alternative to your False Self

“I promise you that the discovery of your True Self will feel like a thousand pounds of weight have fallen from your back.  You will no longer have to build, protect, or promote any idealized self image.  Living in the True Self is quite simply a much happier existence, even though we never live there a full twenty-four hours a day.  But you henceforth have it as a place to go back to.  You have finally discovered the alternative to your False Self…”

  • Settle into any “successful” role

“Our ongoing curiosity about our True Self seems to lesson if we settle into any ‘successful’ role.  We have then allowed others to define us from the outside, although we do not realize it.  Or perhaps we dress ourselves up on the outside and never get back inside…”

  • The name we have always had

“Life is not a matter of creating a special name for ourselves, but of uncovering the name we have always had…”

  • To see what is – as it is

“The soul has no agenda whatsoever except to see what is – as it is – and let it teach you…”

  • What makes you, you

“Your True Self is what makes you, you…”

  • We cannot imagine this False Self not being true

“Most of humanity is so enchanted with its False (concocted) Self that it has largely doubted and rejected – or never known – its True Self.  And so it lives in anxiety and insecurity.  We have put so much time into creating it that we cannot imagine this False Self not being true or not being ‘me’…”

  • It will feel like freedom and liberation

“When you are able to move beyond your False Self – at the right time and in the right way – it will feel precisely as if you lost nothing.  In fact, it will feel like freedom and liberation.  When you are connected to the Whole, you no longer need to protect or defend the mere part.  You are now connected to something inexhaustible.”

  • Our False Self does not let go easily

“Our False Self does not let go easily.  But that doesn’t mean the False Self should be attacked or eliminated.  In time, it will reveal itself for the false wizard that it is.  If you go after it directly, it will only disguise itself further, while you in the meantime get to feel quite virtuous…”

  • The separate self is the False Self

“The separate self is the False Self, and the False Self thus needs to overdefine itself as unique, special, superior, and adequate…”

  • The True Self sees everything in wholes

“The True Self sees everything in wholes and therefore in contrast to the way the world sees things, which now appears upside down to them.  The False Self sees everything in parts and hierarchies and in reference to itself, which is not to see very well at all.”

  • A largely mental and cultural construct

“Your False Self is not bad or wrong; it is just mortal.  It is relative and not absolute.  It is passing and not substantial, a largely mental and cultural construct.  It will die when you die…”

  • Without meaning

“Without meaning we are surely less than human and deeply discontented…”

  • The home for our greatest hopes

“Our hurts now become the home for our greatest hopes.  Without such implanted hope, it is very hard not to be cynical, bitter, and tired by the second half of life.”

  • The good, the true, and the beautiful

“The good, the true, and the beautiful are always their own best argument for themselves – by themselves – and in themselves.  Such beauty, or inner coherence, is a deep inner knowing that both evokes the soul and pulls the soul into its oneness.  Incarnation is beauty, and beauty always needs to be incarnate.  Anything downright ‘good,’ anything that shakes you with its ‘trueness,’ and anything that sucks you into its beauty does not just educate you; it transforms you.”

  • The same longing

“Longing for God and longing for our True Self are the same longing…”

  • Our True Self remains untouched

“Our True Self remains untouched for most of us…”

  • Various forms of immediate gratification

“The False Self has no substance, no permanence, no vitality, only various forms of immediate gratification…”

  • Do not fear, attack, or hate the False Self

“Remember, please remember, you do not (you must not!) fear, attack, or hate the False Self.  That would only continue a negative and arrogant death energy, and it is delusional and counterproductive anyway…  In the great economy of grace, all is used and transformed, and nothing is wasted.  God uses your various False Selves to lead you beyond them.”

  • No hatred or violence in God

“There is no hatred or violence in God…”

  • The True Self is a shared and sharable self

“The True Self is a shared and sharable self, or it is not the True Self…”

  • Pain transformed is no longer pain transmitted

“Remember that resurrection is not woundedness denied, forgotten, or even totally healed.  It is always woundedness transformed.  You still carry your scars forever, as both message and trophy.  They still ‘hurt’ in a way, which keeps you mindful and humble, but they no longer allow you to hurt other people.  Pain transformed is no longer pain transmitted.” 

  • People who risk intimacy

“…people who risk intimacy are invariably happier and much more real people…”

  • Your True Self is who are, and always have been

“Your True Self is who you are, and always have been in God, and at its core, it is love itself.  Love is both who you are and who you are becoming, like a sunflower seed that becomes its own sunflower…”

  • The very failures and radical insufficiency of our lives

“…the very failures and radical insufficiency of our lives are what lead us into larger life and love…”

  • This strong diamond of love

“For the True Self, there is nothing to hate, reject, deny, or judge as unworthy or unnecessary…  The detours of the False Self were all just delaying tactics, bumps in the road, pressure points that created something new in the long run, as pressure does to carbon deep beneath the earth.  God uses everything to construct this hard and immortal diamond, our core of love.  And diamonds, they say, are the hardest substance on this earth.  It is this strong diamond of love that will always be stronger than death.”

Do you feel like you have experienced living in your True Self lately?

http://www.amazon.com/Immortal-Diamond-Search-True-Self/dp/1118303598/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424231122&sr=8-1&keywords=immortal+diamond

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424231414&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination+finding+a+way+to+share+life+together

Book Review – Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire

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If you haven’t read Pedagogy of the Oppressed you should make it a top priority on your reading list.  This book defies the status quo oppression of North American culture and presents us with entering into dialogue with those we might oppress.  This is revolutionary stuff as we, North Americans,  have dominated the world for quite some time through our military and economy without any thought of reconciliation with the rest of the world.

The dominant narrative of individualism, consumerism and upward mobility have cause us to oppress those in our own country who are the poor of the land.  We do not want to listen to them in dialogue.  We do not want to hear their voices, feel their cries and empathize with their pain.  How sad that we live in such a cruel country in the United States.

We have dehumanized people for the sake of power and manipulation.  As an American white man, I am very privileged and often wrestle with my social position in the wealthiest nation in the world.  I do not want to get caught up in dehumanizing anyone become they have less money than me or are of a different race.  Pedagogy of the Oppressed is a great book to help me struggle through how I act in the world I live in.

I am coming to see that humanity is beautiful when we give humans the right to be fully alive and fully human.  Any oppression of this is an injustice and needs to stop in our lifetime.  Sometimes I want to give up hope for a humanized world, but I know we can all work for this in the twenty-first century.

I can work toward this through courageous acts of love with true, authentic generosity to oppose the violence of lovelessness.  The banking form of education where we deposit information into people without listening or dialogue is destructive and manipulative.  This is not how to move forward in our time.  True revolution happens when we liberate the oppressed to have voice, dignity, unity and courage.  The oppressed live inside of a duality where they have life, but their voice is cut off and not acknowledge, respected or wanted.

It all comes down to the oppressors’ idolatry of power, manipulation and control.  The oppressed must struggle for their own liberation and freedom.  Any attempts to keep others semihuman is both exploitive and a form of slavery.  Let’s end the slavery of the oppressed and give them some dignity, some humanity, some sense of freedom and the opportunity to live fully without hindrance.

This would be a miracle indeed in a world that pushes us to oppress others if we have the power to do so.  When will we be conscious enough to use our power to liberate and give life instead?  Do our families, educational systems and churches teach us to oppress the poor?  It seems that it is more common than I would like to admit.

Paulo Freire’s book is an essential read if you are a person of privilege because we need to make sure we are working toward the liberation of those with no power in the world.  They are the vulnerable.  They are the easily exploited ones.  They are the ones God cares so deeply about.

  • Become restorers of humanity

“Because it is a distortion of being more fully human, sooner or later being less human leads the oppressed to struggle against those who made them so.  In order for this struggle to have meaning, the oppressed must not, in seeking to regain their humanity (which is a way to create it), become in turn oppressors of the oppressors, but rather restorers of the humanity of both.”

  • An act of love opposing the lovelessness of the oppressors’ violence

“This lesson and this apprenticeship must come, however, from the oppressed themselves and from those who are truly in solidarity with them.  As individuals and as peoples, by fighting for the restoration of their humanity they will be attempting the restoration of true generosity.  Who are better prepared than the oppressed to understand the terrible significance of an oppressive society?  Who suffer the effects of oppression more than the oppressed?  Who can better understand the necessity of liberation?  They will not gain this liberation by chance but through the praxis of their quest for it, through their recognition of the necessity to fight for it.  And this fight, because of the purpose given it by the oppressed, will actually constitute an act of love opposing the lovelessness which lies at the heart of the oppressors’ violence, lovelessness even when clothed in false generosity.” 

  • Suffer from the duality which has established itself in their innermost being

“The oppressed suffer from the duality which has established itself in their innermost being.  They discover that without freedom they cannot exist authentically.  Yet, although they desire authentic existence, they fear it.  They are at one and the same time themselves and the oppressor whose consciousness they have internalized.  The conflict lies in the choice between being wholly themselves or being divided; between ejecting the oppressor within or not ejecting them; between human solidarity or alienation; between following prescriptions or having choices; between being spectators or actors; between acting or having the illusion of acting through the action of the oppressors; between speaking out or being silent, castrated in their power to create and re-create, in their power to transform the world.  This is the tragic dilemma of the oppressed which their education must take into account.”

  • The motivating force for liberating action

“This solution cannot be achieved in idealistic terms.  In order for the oppressed to be able to wage the struggle for their liberation, they must perceive the reality of the oppression not as a closed world from which there is no exit, but as a limiting situation which they can transform.  This perception is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for liberation; it must become the motivating force for liberating action.  Nor does the discovery by the oppressed that they exist in dialectical relationship to the oppressor, as his antithesis – that without them the oppressor could not exit – in itself constitute liberation.  The oppressed can overcome the contradiction in which they are caught only when this perception enlists them in the struggle to free themselves.”  

  • Interfering with the individual’s ontological and historical vocation to be more fully human

“Any situation in which ‘A’ objectively exploits ‘B’ or hinders his and her pursuit of self-affirmation as a responsible person is one of oppression.  Such a situation in itself constitutes violence, even when sweetened by false generosity, because it interferes with the individual’s ontological and historical vocation to be more fully human.  With the establishment of a relationship of oppression, violence has already begun.  Never in history has violence been initiated by the oppressed.  How could they be the initiators, if they themselves are the result of violence?  How could they be the sponsors of something whose objective inauguration called forth their existence as oppressed?  There would be no oppressed had there been no prior situation of violence to establish their subjugation.”

  • Treating people as semihuman dehumanizes

“Any attempt to treat people as semihumans only dehumanizes them…”

  • Adapting to the world as it is

“It is not surprising that the banking concept of education regards men as adaptable, manageable beings.  The more students work at storing the deposits entrusted to them, the less they develop the critical consciousness which would result from their intervention in the world as transformers of that world.  The more completely they accept the passive role imposed on them, the more they tend simply to adapt to the world as it is and to the fragmented view of reality deposited in them.”

  • The emergence of consciousness

“Whereas banking education anesthetizes and inhibits creative power, problem-posing education involves a constant unveiling of reality.  The former attempts to maintain the submersion of consciousness; the latter strives for the emergence of consciousness and critical intervention in reality.”

  • Love is an act of courage, not of fear

“Because love is an act of courage, not of fear, love is commitment to others.  No matter where the oppressed are found, the act of love is commitment to their cause – the cause of liberation.  And this commitment, because it is loving, is dialogical.  As an act of bravery, love cannot be sentimental; as an act of freedom, it must not serve as a pretext for manipulation.  It must generate other acts of freedom; otherwise, it is not love.  Only by abolishing the situation of oppression is it possible to restore the love which that situation made impossible.  If I do not love life – if I do not love people – I cannot enter into dialogue.” 

  • A true revolution must initiate a courageous dialogue with the people

“Sooner or later, a true revolution must initiate a courageous dialogue with the people.  Its very legitimacy lies in that dialogue.  It cannot fear the people, their expression, their effective participation in power.  It must be accountable to them, must speak frankly to them of its achievements, its mistakes, its miscalculations, and its difficulties.”

  • Unity, organization, and struggle are labeled as dangerous

“Concepts such as unity, organization, and struggle are immediately labeled as dangerous.  In fact, of course, these concepts are dangerous – to the oppressor – for their realization is necessary to actions of liberation.”

  • Re-create the world and make it more human

“Every move by the oppressed towards unity points towards other actions; it means that sooner or later the oppressed will perceive their state of depersonalization and discover that as long as they are divided they will always be easy prey for manipulation and domination.  Unity and organization can enable them to change their weaknesses into a transforming force with which they can re-create the world and make it more human.  The more human world to which they justly aspire, however, is the antithesis of the ‘human world’ of the oppressors – a world which is the exclusive possession of the oppressors, who preach an impossible harmony between themselves (who dehumanize) and the oppressed (who are dehumanized).  Since oppressors and the oppressed are antithetical, what serves the interests of one group disserves the interests of others.”

  • Inoculate individuals with the bourgeois appetite for personal success

“One of the methods of manipulation is to inoculate individuals with the bourgeois appetite for personal success…”

  • Every authentic revolution is a cultural revolution

“Cultural synthesis is thus a mode of action for confronting culture itself, as the preserver of the very structures by which it was formed.  Cultural action, as historical action, is an instrument for superseding the dominant alienated and alienating culture.  In this sense, every authentic revolution is a cultural revolution.”  

What are your thoughts about Pedagogy of the Oppressed?

http://www.amazon.com/Pedagogy-Oppressed-Anniversary-Paulo-Freire/dp/0826412769/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1423175674&sr=1-1&keywords=pedagogy+of+the+oppressed

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1423175801&sr=1-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination+finding+a+way+to+sha

Book Review – The Careless Society: Community and Its Counterfeits by John McKnight

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This is a wonderfully written book of deep insight and revolutionary ideas.  John McKnight emphasizes how social service systems have co-opted genuine care in society and have left us with almost no community in everyday life in our neighborhoods.  People are put into a forest of services where they are segregated from the everyday life of communities.  Clustered together and dependent on service systems leaves others “clients” rather than “citizens” in the place they live.

We need to move toward a more interdependent society where dependency is not masked by service.  John McKnight emphasizes how professionalism and service providers have taken away a vital component of inclusivity, diversity and human dignity within our world.  Community has become a forgotten value as a result.  This is sad and needs to be reevaluated in our time.

Many people think that services are good.  But what we don’t understand is they leave others dependent.  And this is the kindest way to destroy someone.  Services can become a trap of dependency leaving others as stigmatized, segregated and pushed to the forgotten edges of society.

A Careless Society talks about several different systems we have created in our world that do not show hospitality: professionalism, medicine, human service systems and the criminal justice system.  John McKnight goes on to show how these systems break down the possibility of creating interdependent associations that create community.  It is the breakdown of community in our society that has led to all kinds of loneliness, misery and violence.

This book has influenced me a lot.  I love the work of John McKnight!  He is a true revolutionary voice in our twenty-first century world where community is a strange way of life for many North Americans.  Highly recommended reading for anyone who cares about our future as a society!

  • People who are defined as the problem

“Revolutions begin when people who are defined as problems achieve the power to redefine the problem.”

  • There is a clear need for public servants

“There is a clear need for public servants – not public servicers – and to engage in a new struggle to reinvent America.  The incrementalism that we have depended upon just isn’t working anymore.  We cannot delude ourselves.  We must be true to ourselves and those we represent.”

  • Dependency masked by service

“The enemy is a set of interests that need dependency masked by service.”

  • To create, invent, produce, and care

“We are in a struggle against clienthood, against servicing the poor.  We must reallocate the power, authority, and legitimacy that have been stolen by the great institutions of our society.  We must oppose those interests of governmental, corporate, professional, and managerial America that thrive on the dependency of the American people.  We must commit ourselves to reallocation of power to the people we serve so that we no longer will need to serve.  Only then will we have a chance to realize the American dream: the right to be a citizen and to create, invent, produce, and care.”

  • Deficiency-orientated service systems

“For those whose ‘emptiness’ cannot be filled by human services, the most obvious ‘need’ is the opportunity to express and share their gifts, skills, capacities, and abilities with friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens in the community.  As deficiency-orientated service systems obscure this fact, they inevitably harm their clients and the community by preempting the relationship between them.”

  • Tools of citizenship, association, and community rust

“As the power of profession and service system ascends, the legitimacy, authority, and capacity of citizens and community descend.  The citizen retreats.  The client advances.  The power of community actions weakens.  The authority of the service system strengthens.  And as human service tools prevail, the tools of citizenship, association, and community rust.  Their uses are even forgotten.  Many local people come to believe that the service tool is the only tool, and that their task as good citizens is to support taxes and charities for more services.”

  • Disabled citizenry and impotent community associations

“The result of this professional pedagogy is a disabled citizenry and impotent community associations, unable to remember or understand how labeled people were or can be included in community life.”

  • Living in a forest of services

“By way of analogy, each individual service program is like a tree.  But when enough service programs surround people, they come to live in a forest of services.  The environment is different from the neighborhood or community.  And people who have to live in the service forest will act differently than those people whose lives are principally defined by neighborhood relationships.”

  • Residents are “clients” rather than “citizens”

“There are also low-income neighborhoods where so many people live lives surrounded by services that the neighborhood itself becomes a forest.  People who live in this neighborhood forest are now called the ‘underclass.’  This is an obvious misnomer.  Instead, we should say that the neighborhood is a place where citizens act as anyone else would if their lives were similarly surrounded and controlled by paid service professionals.  A more accurate label than ‘underclass’ would be ‘dependent on human service systems.’  A more accurate differentiation of status would be to say the residents are ‘clients’ rather than ‘citizens.’”

  • The result of a noncommunity environment

“When services grow dense enough around people’s lives, a circular process develops.  A different environment is created for these individuals.  The result of a noncommunity environment is that those who experience it necessarily act in unusual and deviant ways.  These new ways, called inappropriate behavior, are then cited by service professionals as proof of the need for separation in a forest of services and for more services.”

  • Disabled by segregation from community life

“…many vulnerable people are primarily disabled by their segregation from community life in institutions, ‘special’ programs, or service ghettos.  Paradoxically, their lives often improve significantly when they leave service systems and become effectively incorporated in community life…”

  • Working together on a face-to-face basis

“A community is more than just a place.  It comprises various groups of people who work together on a face-to-face basis in public life, not just in private.”

  • Community is about the common life

“Community is about the common life that is lived in such a way that the unique creativity of each person is a contribution to the other.  The crisis we have created in the lives of the excluded people is that they are disassociated from their fellow citizens.  We cannot undo that terrible exclusion by a thoughtless attempt to create illusory independence.  Nor can we undo it by creating a friendship with a person who lives in exclusion.”

  • Joining in association to create an inclusive world

“Our goal should be clear.  We are seeking nothing less than a life surrounded by the richness and diversity of community.  A collective life.  An everyday life.  A powerful life that gains its joy from the creativity and connectedness that comes when we join in association to create an inclusive world.”

  • The economic and community stepping-stones to a viable society

“We cannot invest in growing human services and correctional systems while increasing investments in economy and community.  Indeed, should we invest ever more in failed service and correctional systems, the economic and community stepping-stones to a viable society will vanish under the rising tide of the waters of hopelessness.”

  • The associations in community are interdependent

“The associations in community are interdependent.  To weaken one is to weaken all…  The interdependence of associations and the dependency of community upon their work is the vital center of an effective society.”

  • Vehicles that give voice to diversity

“…community structures tend to proliferate until they create a place for everyone, no matter how fallible.  They provide vehicles that give voice to diversity and assume that consensual contribution is the primary value.”

  • Shared responsibility that requires many talents

“It is obvious that the essence of community is people working together.  One of the characteristics of this community work is shared responsibility that requires many talents.  Thus, a person who has been labeled deficient can find a ‘hammock’ of support in the collective capacities of a community that can shape itself to the unique character of each person.  This collective process contrasts with the individualistic approach of the therapeutic professional and the rigidity of institutions that demand that people shape themselves to the needs of the system.”

  • It is only in community that we can find care

“We all know that community must be the center of our lives because it is only in community that we can be citizens.  It is only in community that we can find care…”

Do the words community and care resonate with you?

http://www.amazon.com/Careless-Society-Community-Its-Counterfeits/dp/0465091261/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1422631717&sr=1-1&keywords=the+careless+society

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1422631900&sr=1-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

Book Review – A Sacred Voice is Calling: Personal Vocation and Social Conscience by John Neafsey

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This is definitely a must read book!  John Neafsey looks at the calling to find meaning in life through our authenticity and social conscience in the world.  So much of our work in the world is meaningless and all about getting the most profit we can.  We are being called to a consciousness of compassion, empathy, love and opting for the poor.

Wisdom is on every page of this book as it addresses us both individually and collectively.  Listening to the voice of love within us is so important to be true to ourselves.  John Neafsey goes through 8 different aspects of discovering personal vocation and social conscience: listening, discernment, authenticity, compassion, vision, suffering, conscience and awakening from the sleep of inhumanity.

I picked this book up because it was recommended by Phileena Heuertz, the co-founder of The Gravity Center (a center for contemplative activism in Omaha, Nebraska).  A Sacred Voice is Calling is one of her favorite books she recommends on contemplative activism.  I am so thankful that I read the book!  There is a balance to this book on cultivating our own personal vocation as an individual and also awakening to a social consciousness in the world we live in.

I love the focus on living out the way of the wounded healer.  The wounded healer is one who uses their wounds in life to help others with similar wounds.  Our wounds are not wasted, but allow us to be broken open for the world in love, compassion and empathy.

We are called to social analysis of how we have participated in, supported and benefitted from status quo systems that oppress others bringing exploitation to our world.  This is valuable because our social consciousness is often times given little attention in our spirituality.  But the world matters and we are called to be true to ourselves through working toward the collective good of the communities we live in.

I feel like I have greater understanding and clarity around engaging the world with authenticity.  This book was a guide in helping me to become aware of my true self.  A Sacred Voice is Calling was instrumental in guiding me to look inside of myself and find a sense of love for the world I live in.

  • The scandal of unjust poverty

“God is always trying to get us to pay attention to the scandal of unjust poverty, the deprivations of basic human rights (enough food to survive and thrive, decent housing, education, medical care) that are the daily reality of most of our brothers and sisters in the world…”

  • Something worth listening for

“The image of the still, small voice resonates deeply with many people.  It seems to capture something of the depth and nuance and mystery of the inner voice, the patience and practice it takes to hear it, and our intuition that there really is something worth listening for beneath the noise and activity on the surface of our lives…”

  • Listening for the voice of vocation

“Listening for the voice of vocation, we inevitably encounter a conflicting mix of voices within ourselves and in our world that beckon us in many possible directions.  Which of these we allow to influence our choices will have profound implications, for better or for worse, not only for the quality of our own lives, but also for the future well-being of our loved ones, our communities, and the wider world.”

  • Participating in, supporting, or benefitting from an unjust status quo

“An important element of social analysis has to do with our capacity to question and critically examine our own social position or location in the world.  Though we may be a ‘good person’ who means well, justice still requires that we take a hard look at the ways we may be unconsciously participating in, supporting, or benefitting from an unjust status quo that gives unfair, unearned advantages to privileged persons in our society (e.g., because we are white, or male, of a certain social class, etc.).  It is necessary for us to do this so we can break free of cultural and institutional patterns of ignorance and complacency that hold us back from being truly just and compassionate persons.”

  • The call to authenticity

“…genuine callings are grounded in a sense of personal authenticity, in the God honest truth of who we are.  The call to authenticity is about knowing ourselves and being ourselves…”

  • We do not discover ourselves in isolation

“We are also faced with the complex challenge of achieving an honest integration of personal authenticity and social responsibility.  We do not discover ourselves in isolation, but only within the complex web of relationships and forces that make up the social context of the world in which we live.  Justice requires courageous attention to both individual and collective truth, a discerning awareness of our personal inner truth and a critical consciousness of the larger, collective realities of social sin and social suffering in our world.”

  • Learning to recognize our own depth

“Learning to recognize our own depth requires that we become comfortable and at home with the affective, nonrational dimension of ourselves.  Conscious awareness of our inner emotional experience helps us to become more receptive and attuned to the messages of our inmost self or conscience, which tends to speak in a language that is different from the linear, logical process of our rational mind or consciousness…”

  • Collective dimensions to empathy and compassion

“Beyond the one-to-one connection, there are collective dimensions to empathy and compassion.  Sometimes we have a special feeling for whole groups of people or communities.  Because of our unique personal backgrounds and histories, our hearts may be particularly responsive to certain kinds of people or problems.  Universal compassion for all humanity is a worthy ideal, but on a practical level most people are more likely to personally identify with the sufferings or aspirations of certain groups of people (e.g., children with special needs, oppressed minorities, victims of hunger or war).  Sometimes very specific vocations grow out of a feeling of ‘suffering with’ particular groups of others.  Compassion and our sense of social justice are related in the sense that compassion helps us to appreciate how certain unjust conditions, policies, and ideologies hurt and deprive particular groups of people.”

  • Cultivating our capacity for prophetic imagination

“Each of us, in our own way, is called to cultivate our capacity for prophetic imagination, to find our own way of making the Dream of God a reality.”

  • Love entails pain and risk

“The call to love also entails pain and risk.  We experience growing pains with every step we take in the direction of becoming more loving persons, with every increase in our capacity to give and receive genuine love…”

  • The way of the wounded healer

“Sometimes callings originate in painful life experiences that serve as a kind of initiation into the way of the wounded healer – the person whose sufferings become a source of healing to others.”

  • A way of being true to ourselves

“Taking the risk of saying ‘Yes’ to a call is itself a form of obedience, in the sense not of submitting to a law or expectation imposed on us by external authority but of surrendering ourselves to the internal authority of our true self, our conscience, our secret ‘heart.’  We obey by letting the Voice guide our choices, by allowing it to have a say in our lives.  Following a call, in this sense, is a way of being true to ourselves…”

  • An uneasy conscience may be one of the best places to listen

“…an uneasy conscience may be one of the best places to listen for the whisper of the Spirit that calls to us in a better way.”

  • Realizing our full humanity

“All of us are called to opt for the poor, to open our hearts to the poor, to do something with our lives that will make a difference for the better in theirs.  The secret to salvation, to realizing our full humanity, is to find our own way to exercise this option in a meaningful way…”

  • Success is measured by “upward mobility”

“By conventional cultural standards, success is measured by the yardstick of ‘upward mobility.’  The call of compassion, however, sometimes beckons us in a countercultural direction.  Contrary to our expectation that we will be carried upwards, we experience instead an unsettling downward pull…”

Have you found a personal vocation and a social conscience?

http://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Voice-Calling-Personal-Conscience/dp/1570756457/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1422631229&sr=8-1&keywords=a+sacred+voice+is+calling

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1422558986&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination