Tag Archives: Richard Rohr

Death defines me

The title should perhaps read, Death (Re)defines Me and Us. As a chaplain, and perhaps more specifically, as a human with my particular “Soulcraft,” I think about death daily. It happens to be my road in life to walk alongside those who are dying, wonder with them what death asks of them and of us, and to seek to understand death as best I can. As Stephen Jenkinson teaches, if we didn’t have death, we wouldn’t have life as we experience it. Our appreciation for a flower is very much affected by the knowledge that this particular flower will not be here forever. Our appreciation of the summer is only in the context that summer will change into fall and then into winter. Death does not have to equal trauma, death does not have to equal “giving up,” and death does not have to equal bad. Death IS real and we all will come to our time when it is our time.

My body will nourish the earth one day. I will become the literal compost of new and becoming life.

The difficulty of describing how this lands in my life is palpable. Living and dying is such an individual experience. Each of us has our own take… and to assume I know what it is like for another is ludicrous.And yet, we are so connected. So connected. We as humans have done the earth wrong in a million different ways by forgetting this, by living as if our living and dying is not part of the bigger thing.

For me, I want my to be as aware of my dying as possible. I will tell any who will listen (and perhaps some who won’t) what it is like and how it is to die. Especially my children, and those who I am blessed to elder in their growing and learning. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts I can leave behind is what it is like to go through this particularly individual and uncharted territory, so that when they go through their dying time, they might remember one who has been there before.

I forget sometimes, in any given moment, that I might not be alive in the next moment. Unlikely, perhaps, but things can change in an instant and we do ourselves and others we are blessed to journey with, a deep service to remember this. Life and death, both are good and beautiful things. As Richard Rohr says, “Everything belongs.”

My body will nourish the earth one day. I will become the literal compost of new and becoming life. This is where I belong in the circle of life. The earth gives me life and one day I will give her life. What does this do to us to feel this? To know it deep in our bones as we walk this land? In the depth of our lungs as we breath into our being? To eat our food, each plant and animal having had to die to sustain us?


My soul resource in suffering

Now that I have begun my residency for hospital chaplaincy, I have had plenty of opportunity to reflect on my view and process of suffering. In a recent conversation with a friend, I was asked my view on suffering as it pertains to helping others work through their own suffering and being able to internally deal with my own suffering and that suffering I hear on a daily basis. How do I not become overwhelmed? How do I translate my views in such a way that helps the other despite differences in theology or spiritual paths? What is even appropriate to share with others about why suffering happens?

Why does suffering happen anyway? My immediate response is one of, “I really don’t know.” There is some suffering that simply cannot be explained. I have heard from many different places that we live in a sinful world, that humanity is inherently sinful because of what Adam and Eve did in the garden when they disobeyed God. So because humanity is sinful, we do sinful things, and of course that is why we need to repent and believe the right things about Jesus so that we have access to his transformational power to change our nature and at least not have to suffer for all of eternity. In my thinking, this doesn’t cut it in so many ways. It still doesn’t answer why I and so many others still have to face suffering in this life. It also seems like a minimization of someone’s current troubles in order to fit them into a system of beliefs that moves them from focusing on the pain here and now to hope in something that they or we haven’t experienced yet. It doesn’t fit with my belief in a God who suffers with us and doesn’t want his children to suffer. I have also heard people say that suffering happens to teach us something. While God doesn’t want us to suffer, he allows it to happen to us so we can become stronger. I could never give this to someone as a reason for why they are suffering. “God wants to teach you something.” What kind of help does that give when someone has lost their child or their loved one, or they are faced with the loss of a limb or cancer? Continue reading My soul resource in suffering

Nature is the First Scripture

“Sacred writings are bound in two volumes – that of creation and that of the Holy Scriptures… Visible creatures are like a book in which we read the knowledge of God. One has every right to call God’s creatures God’s ‘works,’ for they express the divine mind just as effects manifest their cause. ‘The works of the Lord are the words of the Lord.’ (Eccles. 42.15).” ~Thomas Aquinas

In our men’s work we hear often from Fr. Richard Rohr, a quote from one of our early spiritual father’s that the Nature is the first Scripture and the Bible is the second. If we can’t be in right relation with the first, we will never be in right relation with the second. I tend to agree.

It seems that it is so easy to formulate our spirituality from the books we read, the people we listen to, and the doctrines we hold… but do we stop and pause long enough to hear of the mystery that comes to us from the natural world? This is the purest and most distinct-from-ego revelation of the divine that we can encounter. It seems to make sense to start there.

Suffering… when you are not in control and you know it!

How difficult it is to be a man and know that I am not in control. I want to fix so badly. In these days when Kat and I are really trying to learn about self-care and staying healthy for the baby, and struggling in our attempts, this lesson of control is so real. To be with my wife while she is in the throes of coughing or the agony of a clenched up back, and feeling as though there is nothing I can do, is emotionally and even physically disorienting.

It is such an effort for me to call on that place of love and acceptance, of calm, patience, and breath. Presence remains… personal, loving, healing. And my prayers go there, and go there, and go there, and go there. Breathe, breathe, breathe… remember. And then of course, I call the “village” mothers and my own mother… HELP!

These words I recently read from Richard Rohr (The Naked Now) have been so encouraging… It is what it is. I have said it myself many times.

When you are inside great love and great suffering, you have a much stronger possibility of surrendering your ego controls and opening up to the whole field of life.

[In suffering], things happen against your will… you are not in control – which is what makes it suffering. And over time, you can learn to give up your defended state, again because you have no choice. The situation is what it is… The suffering might feel wrong, terminal, absurd, unjust, impossible, physically painful, or just outside of your comfort zone. So you see why we must have a proper attitude towards suffering, because many things every day leave us out of control – even if just a long stoplight. Remember, always, however, that if you do not transform your pain, you will surely transmit it to those around you and even to the next generation.

Suffering can lead you in either of two directions: It can make you very bitter and close you down, or it can make you wise, compassionate, and utterly open, either because your heart has been softened, or perhaps because suffering makes you feel like you have nothing more to lose.

Setting Priorities, fun for the 9…

This whole year so far has been one of such deep, deep searching and clarifying of intention and person and soul. Friends have been asking me what I have been doing lately, and as of last week (due to sickness and much work at Great Harvest Bakery), I have been telling people I have 3 priorities:

  • Kat (along with baby Brendan) and the home
  • Work (as much as I would rather this be of lesser importance…)
  • Homework (I am after all paying for my further education and it is deeply important to my gifts to the community)

Of course wrapped into all of this is my deep dedication to listening, prayer, and self-work.

Setting priorities in this way has always been a major hurtle for more me. Much of the importance of the homework I have been dedicating myself to has been in working with the Enneagram (one of our western civilization’s oldest tools for spiritual growth). It has been one of the most enlightening (and “gut wrenching”) things I have ever been exposed to. After a bit of confusion and brutal honesty, I realized that 9 is my central number… and that I have been working on 9 issues probably my whole life. Riso and Hudson describe 9 as the following on their website

The easy-going, self-effacing type. Nines are accepting, trusting, and stable. They are usually grounded, supportive, and often creative, but can also be too willing to go along with others to keep the peace. They want everything to go smoothly and be without conflict, but they can also tend to be complacent and emotionally distant, simplifying problems and ignoring anything upsetting. They typically have problems with inertia and stubbornness. At their Best: indomitable and all-embracing, they are able to bring people together and heal conflicts.

My sister, Brittany,  reflected recently on being a 4.

I have been reading Richard Rohr‘s book, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, and finding it so powerfully informing. In reflecting on the root sin|set-back|hurdle of the 9, which is laziness (or goal-lessness), I realize some humbling truths. A 9 numbs himself under stress, in an effort to maintain balance, harmony, peace. The turnaround is having goals and practicing taking the first step.

Personally, I will actually stay busy|active|engaged with small tasks (email, extra time reading, coffee shop, movies, drinking a beer, etc) SO THAT I can avoid doing other important tasks. And its not even that I don’t want to do these other tasks… I just don’t want to do them in that instant. I don’t want to take the first step. As Rohr writes and says, “I’ve been doing everything for all the wrong reasons my whole life.”

There are of course many positives to being a 9… I don’t have to get into them now… time to take the first step and eat my lunch (rather than blogging) so I can get to my 1:00 meeting on time.