Tag Archives: Center for Action and Contemplation

Jan 20 – A Truth-Teller More People Should Know – Jacqui Lewis

Jacqui Lewis (photo from https://www.middlechurch.org/jacqui/)

Repost from the Center for Action and Contemplation Daily Meditations https://cac.org/daily-meditations/

Love Speaks the Truth

Truth-telling can be a very difficult journey on the way to freedom.
—Jacqui Lewis, Fierce Love

CAC friend Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis writes about the ways both prophetic and personal truth-telling challenge us and the systems to which we belong:

In my faith tradition we call that speaking the truth—in love. As a clergyperson, I have many truth-telling strategies. Sometimes I’m gentle, needing to take good care of the one who is listening. Sometimes I’ve got my fists in the air while marching for the truth, for justice and liberation. Always my intention is to free up the energy that’s caught in the story, to liberate myself and the other with whom I’m in relationship to find a way forward. Can we win this action? Will the politician change policy or give in to demands? Will the congregant or colleague hear my point of view, and can I hear theirs? Can I change the story in the public square in a compelling way and open eyes, hearts, and minds to new worldviews? Will [my husband] John and I become stronger because of this difficult talk? Telling the truth is an act of love, an act of resistance, an act of courage. Its end is liberation, freedom, and, if possible, reconciliation. But there can be no reconciliation without truth.…

The historian Howard Zinn wrote, “The most revolutionary act one can engage in is […] to tell the truth.” [1] Indeed! I think the revolutionary part of truth is that it can free us and those around us to live with greater certainty about what is real, even when it hurts, because we are no longer shackled to the energy lying requires of us. Lying demands the continuation of the lie and the amplification of the lie to keep the truth hidden.… Telling the truth creates ripples of authenticity that change the world.…

I believe truth is revolutionary; it’s part of the work of fierce love. Truth makes a personal, spiritual, ethical, and moral demand upon us. It wants to be said, known, told. It hurts and it’s inconvenient, but it’s essential to our well-being. It cleanses our spiritual palate and restores our souls. Truth is a drink of water to a parched traveler. It lubricates relationships. It liberates us from bondage. It builds trust and connections. It’s the beginning of authentic living and joy. Truth eludes us at times, and we have to pursue it. Truth invites us to be honest about who we are, about our flawed-but-beautiful, broken-but-healing selves. Truth leads to reconciliation and peace; without truth, there is no peace. In the light of truth, we are able to honor our journey and love ourselves. Truth-telling is a spiritual discipline that requires practice. We must not lie to others and, as Fyodor Dostoevsky suggested, we mustn’t lie to ourselves. Being honest with ourselves about ourselves is to love ourselves unconditionally, to love ourselves fiercely.

[1] Howard Zinn, “Marx in Soho: A Play on History,” in Three Plays: The Political Theater of Howard Zinn (Boston: Beacon Press, 2010), 115.

Jacqui Lewis, Fierce Love: A Bold Path to Ferocious Courage and Rule-Breaking Kindness That Can Heal the World (New York: Harmony Books, 2021), 58, 64, 65.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/56293867-fierce-love

Jan 18 – Repost: Anger Does Its Work

Below is today’s Daily Meditation from Richard Rohr‘s Center for Action and Contemplation. It highlights a teaching from Brian McLaren on the positive gift and use of anger. See https://cac.org/daily-meditations/ for more information on this valuable resource.

Anger Does Its Work

Prophets are often known for their anger against injustice. CAC teacher Brian McLaren makes a connection between anger and love:  

I think about things I love … birds, trees, wetlands, forested mountains, coral reefs, my grandchildren … and I see the bulldozers and smokestacks and tanks on the horizon.  

And so, because I love, I am angry. Really angry.  

And if you’re not angry, I think you should check your pulse, because if your heart beats in love for something, someone, anything … you’ll be angry when it’s harmed or threatened.  

To paraphrase René Descartes (1596–1650): I love; therefore, I’m angry. […]

Anger makes most sense to me through an analogy of pain. What pain is to my body, anger is to my soul, psyche, or inner self. When I put my hand on a hot stove, physical pain reflexes make me react quickly, to address with all due urgency whatever is damaging my fragile tissues. Physical pain must be strong enough to prompt me to action, immediate action, or I will be harmed, even killed.  

Similarly, when I or someone I love is in the company of insult, injustice, injury, degradation, or threat, anger awakens. It tells me to change my posture or position; it demands I address the threat.

McClaren shares scriptural passages that urge us not to react in anger, and describes how contemplative practice can direct our anger into loving action:  

Don’t be overcome with evil. Overcome evil with good. (See Romans 12:21).  

When someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other cheek. (See Luke 6:29).  

Do not return evil for evil to anyone. (See Romans 12:17).  

Bless those who persecute you. Bless, and do not curse. (See Romans 12:14).  

In each case, we’re given alternatives to our natural reactions, alternatives that break us out of fight/flight/freeze, mirroring, and judging. In the split second when we take that long, deep breath, we might breathe out a prayer: “Guide me, Spirit of God!” We might pause to hear if the Spirit inspires us with some non-reactive, non-reflexive response. […]

Anger does its work. It prompts us to action, for better or worse. With time and practice, we can let the reflexive reactions of fight/flight/freeze, mirroring, and judging pass by like unwanted items on a conveyor belt. Also, with practice, we can make space for creative actions to be prompted by our anger … actions that are in tune with the Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (see Galatians 5:22) … actions that overcome evil with good and bring healing instead of hate.  

So, yes, you bet I’m angry. It’s a source of my creativity. It’s a vaccination against apathy and complacency. It’s a gift that can be abused—or wisely used. Yes, it’s a temptation, but it’s also a resource and an opportunity, as unavoidable and necessary as pain. It’s part of the gift of being human and being alive.

Brian D. McLaren, “Anger, Contemplation, and Action,” Oneing 6, no. 1, Anger (Spring 2018): 84, 85, 89, 90. Available in print and PDF download.

https://cac.org/about/our-teachers/

Jan 15 – Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Change is difficult, for us and for the collective. Unfortunately, when we make progress, it’s easy to assume that it will continue without our continued effort. No, we must not give up. Our efforts to sustain the progress is needed today and everyday going forward. It takes all of us to make a Beloved Community.

Today’s senryu: Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

listen to prophets,

become a prophet, and change

the future for good

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Thich Nhat Hanh statues in the Beloved Community Garden at Magnolia Grove Monastery https://magnoliagrovemonastery.org/photo-gallery/#bwg2/25

See today’s daily meditation from the Center for Action AND Contemplation below and here: https://cac.org/daily-meditations/disrupting-the-status-quo-2023-01-15/

Disrupting the Status Quo

Richard Rohr describes how speaking truth to power is an essential part of the prophet’s mission:

One of the gifts of the prophets is that they evoke a crisis where one did not appear to exist before their truth-telling. In the 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. was blamed for creating violence—but those who had eyes to see and were ready to hear recognized, “My God, the violence was already there!” Structural violence was inherent in the system, but it was denied and disguised. No one was willing to talk about it. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and others said, “We’re going to talk about it.”

Prophets always talk about the untalkable and open a huge new area of “talkability.” For those who are willing to go there, it helps us see what we didn’t know how to see until they helped us to see it. That’s how we begin to recognize a prophet—there is this widening of seeing, this deepening of a truth that was always there.

Prophets generate a crisis, so it’s almost understandable why they’re usually called troublemakers and so often killed. They generate the crisis because while everybody else is saying the emperor is beautifully clothed, they are willing to say, “No, he’s naked.” We’re not supposed to say that the emperor has no clothes!

It’s the nature of culture to have its agreed-upon lies. Culture holds itself together by projecting its shadow side elsewhere. That’s called the “scapegoat mechanism.” René Girard, Gil Bailie, and others have pointed out that the scapegoat mechanism is the subtext of the entire biblical revelation. It’s the tendency to export our evil elsewhere and to hate it there, and therefore to remain in splendid delusion. If there isn’t a willingness to be critical of our country, our institution, and ourselves, we certainly can’t be prophets. [1]

When the prophet is missing from the story, the shadow side of things is always out of control, as in much of the world today, where we do not honor wisdom or truth.

It seems the prophet’s job is first to deconstruct current illusions, which is the status quo, and then reconstruct on a new and honest foundation. That is why the prophet is never popular with the comfortable or with those in power. Only a holy few have any patience with the deconstruction of egos and institutions.

The prophets are “radical” teachers in the truest sense of the word. The Latin radix means root, and the prophets go to the root causes and root vices and “root” them out! Their educational method is to expose and accuse with no holds barred. Ministers and religion in general tend to concentrate on effects and symptoms, usually a mopping up exercise after the fact. As someone once put it, we throw life preservers to people drowning in the swollen stream, which is all well and good—but prophets work far upstream to find out why the stream is swollen in the first place. [2]

[1] Adapted from Joan Chittister and Richard RohrProphets Then, Prophets Now (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2006). Available as MP3 download.

[2] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Soul Brothers: Men in the Bible Speak to Men Today (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004), 31, 39, 40.