Tag Archives: Faith

How to Keep the Faith

How to keep the faith

after fundamentalism was revealed a power structure designed to subjugate,

raise money

raise structures

raise men

All in the name of Jesus

In the spirit of greed, shame, and tyranny.

To this day, it is no longer natural to say, “I believe in God” without wondering if that means I believe in

Systems of exclusion

Prayer for the purpose of imperialism

Worship of drawn boundaries

Spirituality of capitalism

Politicking pastors and priests

But faith must be deeper than the skin of religion or propositional truths of the West

II.

Do I believe in God?

Ask me while my wife is in labor, at the first breath of a new life

Ask me when my grandfather lay dying, pleading the words “I love you”

Ask me as I put a wooden paddle into the quiet waters of Cedar Lake

Ask me at the twilight call of a loon

Ask me when the homeless man tells me he prays every day, and he’ll pray for me

III.

I believe in the spark that lit this soul

In the very first seed

In whatever it is that binds me to you

In the mystery of prayer

In systems of inclusion

In a spirituality of wholeness, nourishment, and equality

In worship as action on behalf of the oppressed and suffering

which welcomes my own story of oppression and suffering

which will beat every gun into a garden shovel

which will turn every corporation into a co-operative

which will transform every church into a neighborhood pub

which will make fellow Pilgrims out of politicians and corporate executives, religious radicals and heretics, rich and poor,

you and me.

This is the place where I can quietly, contentedly say that, yes

I believe in God.

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Beyond the Banter: Group Spiritual Direction for Men in a Faith Community

I’ve never heard guys talk like this in church.

Sure, there are the occasional swearwords, but I’ve experienced that sort of thing, even in the foyer. What I’m referring to is the way the four men have opened up to each other in our spiritual direction group. After facilitating this group for the last few months, I really can’t imagine a better way to experience a real sense of belonging in the places where we worship. Furthermore, I’m convinced that this sort of practice is essential for the health of any faith community.

As we gather each month, each gentleman takes a turn sharing whatever may be on his mind. The rest of us listen intently and wonder together what the Holy Spirit might be doing in his life. We then ask thoughtful, non-judgmental questions while being careful not to advise or patch up a person’s wound; this is a place to where one can suffer with dignity. And suffer together they do– sharing deep secrets or tragic stories that would otherwise stay locked up, untouched, and unattended. Together we gently bring things into the open to be exposed under the light of God’s love and grace.

We celebrate together as well. One of the younger guys will become a father this spring. Another shares stories of his joy in being a grandpa. Silently we give thanks for such incredible blessing.

 

IS CHURCH THE PLACE FOR GROUP DIRECTION?

As I said, I haven’t heard men talk this way in the sanctuary. Usually when I go to church and see other men, there’s typically some banter about sports, a cordial inquiry about work, and then off everyone goes. Rarely are there authentic and substantial friendship encounters.

While some may say that church is not the place for this sort of thing, that spiritual direction is a place for complete anonymity for the purpose of maximum self-disclosure and freedom from bias, I would push back. This is an opportunity for a group to grow together into what it means to love oneself, exercise hospitality, and practice being present.

If the process of spiritual direction is followed carefully, and the agreement of confidentiality is held with the utmost care, the church is one of the most ideal places for spiritual direction. Consider the powerful possibilities as men see first hand what it means for someone to listen to their most intimate stories in the context of a loving church body. They may see each other on Sunday morning, at work, or even a community event. These connection points only enhance what group spiritual direction gives us—a reminder to listen carefully, watch closely, and that one is deeply loved. Faces at church change from ‘that guy whose a consultant’ or ‘Jim the lawyer’ to a sacred friend with an entrusted story. I think this was the original dream for the Body of Christ.

And this is why I think group spiritual direction is essential for men who attend church together. It is an opportunity to bring the truth of the worship event into our practical lives. Rather than just singing about God and listening to sermons, we are talking about how God is presently happening in each of our lives. For those in the communion of believers, there is nothing more exciting or fulfilling.

A Prayer on Election Day in the USA

Thank you, Oh God for the changing of the seasons

The turning colors and falling leaves

Thank you, Oh God for a warm furnace

The peace of sleep at night while the air outside grows cold

Thank you, Oh God for the recent harvests

The food from the earth and the nourishment in our bones

Thank you, Oh God for dear companions

The family and friends who reflect your light and love

 

Thank you, Oh God for the President-elect

Whether he raises taxes

Or sends us to war with Iran

May it inspire us to live out your radical Kingdom

Of which we are citizens for eternity

Of which has no end

Or taxes

Or war

Thank you, Oh God

Amen.

Newell on Grace

Christ is often referred to in the Celtic Tradition as the truly natural one. He comes not to make us more than natural or somehow other than natural but to make us truly natural. He comes to restore us to the original root of our being. As the twentieth century French-mystic-scientist Teilhard de Chardin says much later in the Celtic world, grace is “the seed of resurrection” sown in our nature. It is given not to make us something other than ourselves but to make us radically ourselves. Grace is given not to implant in us a foreign wisdom but to make us alive to the wisdom that was born with us in our mother’s womb. Grace is given not to lead us into another identity but to reconnect us to the beauty of our deepest identity. And grace is given not that we might find some exterior source of strength but that we might be established again in the deep inner security of our being and in learning to lose ourselves in love for one another to truly find ourselves.

J. Philip Newell, Christ of the Celts (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass) 10.

Newell on the Gospel

I do not believe the gospel, which literally means “good news,” is given to tell us that we have failed or been false. That is not news, and it is not good. We already know that much about ourselves. We know we have been false, even to those whom we most love in our lives and would most want to be true to… Rather, the Gospel is given to tell us what we do not know or what we have forgotten, and that is who we are, sons and daughters of the One from whom all things come. It is when we begin to remember who we are, and who all people truly are, that we will begin to remember also what we should be doing and how we should be relating to one another as individuals and as nations and as an entire earth community.

J. Philip Newell, Christ of the Celts (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass) 8.

Sinful or Divine?

In my latest read, Christ of the Celts, J. Philip Newell challenges the church’s doctrine of original sin, saying that “it teaches that what is deepest in us is opposed to God rather than of God… it is a doctrine that disempowers us”. Rather than seeing man as inherently sinful or fallen, Newell presumes the inherently divine, viewing the created man as an extension of God. He further invokes the 4th Century Celt, Pelagius from Whales who opposed the doctrine of original sin because it would “distance Christ from what is at the core of our being (p 19)”.

Newell argues that “Christ comes to restore us to our depths” and remind us of our true identity as divine creation– not condemn us for being sinful.  I appreciate his point of view and also think that the implications for his view of self vs. sin cultivate space for a much more intimate and authentic relationship with God. In many ways, many of us Evangelicals have a very shame based faith as a result of our understanding of sin. This is what drives people to an immense amount of guilt, pain, and countless recommitments to Christ at the latest Billy Graham Crusade.  

Newell goes on to say that the “doctrine of original sin was a convenient truth for the builders of [the Roman] empire. They could continue to conquer the world and subdue peoples. And now they could do it with a divine calling… It was to be a religion of dependency.” (p 20)

The Song of Amergin

I am the wind on the sea. 
I am the ocean wave. 
I am the sound of the billows. 
I am the seven-horned stag. 
I am the hawk on the cliff. 
I am the dewdrop in sunlight. 
I am the fairest of flowers. 
I am the raging boar. 
I am the salmon in the deep pool. 
I am the lake on the plain. 
I am the meaning of the poem. 
I am the point of the spear. 
I am the god that makes fire in the head. 
Who levels the mountain? 
Who speaks the age of the moon? 
Who has been where the sun sleeps? 
Who, if not I?

Amergin mac Miled, 1530 BCE