Tag Archives: Richard Rohr

Out of Exile: Day 40 – Goodness and Mercy

Today marks the end of our 40-day journey in, through, and hopefully out of exile. Thanks for walking with me over these months as I’ve sought to help you process the losses, betrayals, setbacks, and outright rebellion that landed you in exile, far from anything that looked remotely familiar, wondering if you’d ever find your way back. 

My hope in writing for these 40 days, and my prayer for you now, is that you would experience the fullness of God’s goodness to such an extent that it would overflow you and into the life of others. After all, isn’t that what God is working into all of us…a generous heart to reveal his goodness to others? 

Let me quoted Richard Rohr one last time:

The soul has many secrets. They are only revealed to those who want them, and are never completely forced upon us. One of the best-kept secrets, and yet one hidden in plain sight, is that the way up is the way down. Or, if you prefer, the way down is the way up.

In Scripture, we see that the wrestling and wounding of Jacob are necessary for Jacob to become Israel (Genesis 32:26-32), and the death and resurrection of Jesus are necessary to create Christianity. The loss and renewal pattern is so constant and ubiquitous that it should hardly be called a secret at all.

I hope you see by now that loss, or what I’ve been calling “exile,” is not a misnomer…it’s not an aberration that hits people God is upset with or just “bad luck.” Loss comes to us all. It’s a part of life that we need to learn how to recover from and even dance with it gracefully.

When I lived on our farm, one of the many things I learned about farm life is that death is as much a part of the farm as was life. You think of a farm as a place with many living animals. But when you are there 24/7, you begin to realize that death happens all around you. There is almost a rhythm of life and death. I’d imagine people who work in hospitals experience the same thing.

We live in a sanitized world where we quickly remove pain, suffering, death, or anything that makes us feel uncomfortable. We have lost our ability to suffer, learn patience, grieve and then recover well. As a result we become shallow, self-absorbed people who get stuck in exile, having no idea how to return.

But I’m confident that God not only provides a way to return from exile but longs to restore and prosper us.  David was convinced that “goodness and mercy” would “follow him all the days of his life” even though he walked through the valley of the shadow of death. Psalm 23

When my wife and I moved off of our farm, into town and back into ministry, I was surprised at how quickly the blessings of God came back into my life. That was in 1997, and they continue today. One day I was reading through Psalm 31 where it says:

How great is your goodness that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you have given to those who trust you. You do this for all to see. Psalm 31:19

I felt like God was speaking to me directly, saying: Remy, you think you wasted seven years. You think the world passed you by and life will never be what you hoped. But all the time you were enduring hardship, I was storing up the goodness that you were missing. And now I’m bringing that goodness out of storage for you to enjoy.

I find it hard to believe that God would want any more for me than he wants for any of his children. I have to believe he has goodness stored up for you as well.

My hope in writing for these 40 days, and my prayer for you now, is that you would experience the fullness of God’s goodness to such an extent that it would overflow you and into the life of others. After all, isn’t that what God is working into all of us…a generous heart to reveal his goodness to others?

I haven’t gotten as many comments since I took a break for the holidays. But I’d love to get your final thoughts now that the journey is over. Please leave them below or email me directly.

I’m not sure how much I will be posting in days to come. Much less for sure. But I’d love to post the thoughts and stories of people who are either going through an exile or have found their way out…especially if you are in ministry. People in ministry have their own special exiles and we need to hear from our peers to gain comfort and insight.  Click the mail icon in the margin to email me.

Thanks again for traveling with me. God bless you in your journey.

Facebooktwitterrss

Out of Exile: Day 29 – Listen

I live about a mile south of a freeway. I don’t think much about it. I never hear it. But some days in the summer, if I sit outside and I’m quiet and think about it, there it is. I hear it. It’s this constant hum in the background.

I hear a lot of things when I’m quiet. If I focus on bird calls I hear all kinds of birds I didn’t even know were out there. 

To be told to “be quiet and listen” is almost offensive to people who expect a solution to every problem.

That’s what happens when you stop to listen: you hear things you don’t normally hear.

If you want to return from exile, you need to learn to be quiet and listen. There are so many things to think about when you are walking the desert, far from where you ever imagined you’d be. You think about:

  • all the mistakes you made to cause you to end up in exile
  • all the people who did you wrong and the ways you hope they get theirs
  • all the worst case scenarios and how life will never be good again
  • all the Bible verses that you were “claiming” but didn’t come to fruition
  • all the plans to take back your life and show people who no one can put you down

With all that going on in your mind, it’s hard to be quiet. Sometimes we call our obsessive thinking “prayer” because we direct a lot of our thinking at God. I’m not so sure it’s prayer if it’s just you venting without giving God equal time to speak back.

If you want to return from exile it’s important to learn the discipline of silence. Turn off your obsessions. Stop judging yourself and/or others. Stop planning. Stop regretting. Just shut it all down and create space in your mind for new thoughts.

I read Henry Cloud say that 90% of our thoughts every day are the same as yesterday. We just keep rehashing them. We need to cease thinking to create space for new thoughts. Better thoughts.

Richard Rohr talks about silence as a form of prayer:

Prayer is largely just being silent: holding the tension instead of even talking it through, offering the moment instead of fixing it by words and ideas, loving reality as it is instead of understanding it fully. Prayer is commonly a willingness to say “I don’t know.” We must not push the river, we must just trust that we are already in the river, and God is the certain flow and current.

Sometimes we try to hard to fix our situation. We are desperate to gain back control. But maybe that’s one of the big reasons you ended up in exile: God wants to show you that you are not in control. He is. Rohr continues to explain…

…the way of faith is not the way of efficiency. So much of life is just a matter of listening and waiting …It is like carrying and growing a baby: women wait and trust and hopefully eat good food, and the baby is born.

To be told to “be quiet and listen” is almost offensive to people who expect a solution to every problem. I’m not saying there isn’t a solution to your exile. I’m just saying that the solution to your exile probably isn’t in your brain when you first get there. That’s one reason you ended up there in the first place. You need to make room for God to reveal new things to you. Before he can do that, you need to create space through silence.

How good are you at silence and listening? What keeps you from it? What can you do to create that kind of space in your life?  Join the discussion by leaving your thoughts below. Consider sharing this post on Facebook. Thanks.

Facebooktwitterrss

Out of Exile: Day 25 – Discipline of Darkness

I’ve said, in these past days, that you need a companion or guide to help you through your exile. I hope this series has served that purpose. One person that has helped me is Richard Rohr.

Another guide for me has been Oswald Chambers in his devotional, My Utmost for His Highest. He talks about exile as a darkness:

At times God puts us through the discipline of darkness to teach us to heed Him. Song birds are taught to sing in the dark, and we are put into the shadow of God’s hand until we learn to hear Him…

Have you seen your exile as that…a discipline…a time of intense teaching/training?  Or has it just been a time of disappointment? 

When you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a very precious message for someone else when you get into the light. Oswald Chambers

When you are in the dark, you lose sight of what was once so important. When a small candle burns, suddenly it becomes the most important thing to you, drawing all your attention. That’s exactly what God wants to accomplish in exile. He wants his light to become your focus while everything else fades to black.

Exile is meant as a place to detach from everything  unnecessary in your life so you will attach yourself  fully to God. As you attach yourself to God you can let go of the things you felt were so important to your survival. It’s one thing to talk about God and faith. It’s another thing to live it. Exile helps you live out what you’ve been speaking for years. If there was a better way to effect this change, God would use it. But there’s not.

In the book of Hebrews, the writer refers to the priest in Genesis that met Abraham (Melchizedek):

Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning  of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually .   Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils. Hebrews 7:3,4

Melchizedek was without everything that typically gives one their identity. His only identity was as a priest of God.  Because of it, he was called “great.” Are you willing to undergo that kind of a stripping to obtain that same identity?

Oswald Chambers offers this final insight:

Are you in the dark just now in your circumstances, or in your life with God? When you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a very precious message for someone else when you get into the light. 

How does that land on you? Is it hopeful or does it just make you shake your head and say, “Right now I’m not concerned about having a precious message for someone else. I’d just like to make it through one day happy.” Be honest.

What is it that God might be teaching you in the darkness that you could share one day in the light? Please take a minute to comment below and click the share buttons.

Facebooktwitterrss

Out of Exile: Day 24 – The Enemy of the Good

If you are late to this party, I hope you’ll go back to the beginning and catch up. The idea of exile isn’t readily understandable and takes some time to sink in. But once it sinks in, everything starts to make sense…at least from a faith perspective.

The problem with most Christian faith is we try to embrace it through a secular grid of success. It doesn’t work. We should have caught on to that when Jesus said, “The last will be first.” But no one wants to believe that. We want to think Jesus was being clever. No, he was speaking Truth, we are just too blind to see it.

Exile will always be offensive until we understand life from God’s perspective. The author who has helped me grasp this the best is Richard Rohr. I’m sharing a number of his writings because I think he says it better than I can. Here is yet another post taken from his book, Falling Upward:

The Demand for the Perfect is the Enemy of the Good – Richard Rohr

We grow spiritually much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right.That might just be the central message of how spiritual growth happens, yet nothing in us wants to believe it.

If there is such a thing as human perfection, it seems to emerge precisely from how we handle the imperfection that is everywhere, especially our own. What a clever place for God to hide holiness, so that only the humble and earnest will find it!  A “perfect” person ends up being one who can consciously forgive and include imperfection rather than one who thinks he or she is totally above and beyond imperfection. 

We grow spiritually much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right. – Rohr

It becomes sort of obvious once you say it out loud. In fact, I would say that the demand for the perfect is the greatest enemy of the good. Perfection is a mathematical or divine concept; goodness is a beautiful human concept that includes us all. People whom we call “good people” are always people who have learned how to include contradictions and others, even at risk to their own proper self-image or their social standing. This is quite obvious in Jesus.  

Exile feels like “exile” because we insist on life being perfect. We expect things to go “well.” If you are a pastor, you expect your congregation to grow spiritually, your offerings to go up, your building program to succeed, and that you will make an impact in your community. If it doesn’t, something must be wrong. Fix it!

Sometimes the only way to break free from this “success” mentality is to experience “failure.” It’s a gift to “fail” and wake up one day and see that the world didn’t end. Life goes on. God is still God. The forecasts were wrong. There is life after failure, unless you insist on living in regret. You see the world differently on the other side of failure.

How have you grown spiritually by doing it wrong? How has the perfect been the enemy of the good for you? Leave a comment and share this with a friend if it you found it helpful. Thanks for joining the conversation.

Facebooktwitterrss

Out of Exile: Day 23 – Two Halves of Life

Richard Rohr has been a wise companion for me. I’m using a few days of this journey to introduce you to his writings.

Rohr often speaks of the two halves of life. The first half is spent creating a box: rules to live by, unchangeable truths to help you feel in control, and markers that show success. He says these are all a natural part of development, a phase we all grow through: like training wheels on a bicycle.

But the second half of life is meant to let go of these constructs. By letting go of the box you are free to experience life in its fullness. You are no longer threatened by what’s outside of the box. Your thinking becomes less black and white. Less in or out. Less inclined to feel the need to put a value judgment on everything but rather to just experience life as it is.

But to transition to this second half of life requires an exile. A time of stripping. It often feels unsuccessful and contrary to everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve in the first half of life. Here is another post where he refers to the second half of life.

The soul has many secrets. They are only revealed to those who want them, and are never completely forced upon us. One of the best-kept secrets, and yet one hidden in plain sight, is that the way up is the way down. Or, if you prefer, the way down is the way up.

Your thinking becomes less black and white. Less in or out. Less inclined to feel the need to put a value judgment on everything but rather to just experience life as it is. 

In Scripture, we see that the wrestling and wounding of Jacob are necessary for Jacob to become Israel (Genesis 32:26-32), and the death and resurrection of Jesus are necessary to create Christianity. The loss and renewal pattern is so constant and ubiquitous that it should hardly be called a secret at all.

Yet it is still a secret, probably because we do not want to see it. We do not want to embark on a further journey (the second half of life) if it feels like going down, especially after having put so much sound and fury into going up (the first half of life). This is surely the first and primary reason why many people never get to the fullness of their own lives.

Adapted from Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life,

Exile can produce so much fear. But the fear comes  from what you think life MUST BE. If you can step back and reframe what must be, the fear can possibly subside. If living in fear is not of God and you are fearful, then maybe you have the wrong perspective. Maybe, with the right perspective, you can see exile as an opportunity to enter into a new fullness.

How could (or has) exile enable/d you to experience life more fully? Please take a minute to leave a comment below and share this post on Facebook. Thanks.

Facebooktwitterrss

Out of Exile: Day 22 – Exile Wisdom

I mentioned on Day Eighteen that God gives us companions in exile.  God speaks to us words of comfort through people, certain Bible passages, and authors (some people added “music” to my list).  Today, I want to begin sharing a few readings from one of my exile “friends” – Richard Rohr.

I had never heard of Rohr until about a year ago when a friend of mine recommended his book: Failing Forward. Since then I’ve been getting daily emails with excerpts from his many writings. I wish I would have known about Rohr in all my exiles. His words cut to the essence of life and walking with God.  Here is a reprint of a recent post from his daily blog:

You Can’t Make Love All Dressed Up – Richard Rohr

We fear nothingness. That’s why we fear death, of course, which feels like nothingness. Death is the shocking realization that everything I thought was me, everything I held onto so desperately, was finally nothing (read Kathleen Dowling Singh’s The Grace in Dying: How We Are Transformed Spiritually As We Die).

The nothingness we fear so much is, in fact, the treasure and freedom that we long for, which is revealed in the joy and glory of the Risen Christ. We long for the space where there is nothing to prove and nothing to protect; where I am who I am, in the mind and heart of God, and that is more than enough. 

The nothingness we fear so much is, in fact, the treasure and freedom that we long for…

Spirituality teaches us how to get naked ahead of time, so God can make love to us as we really are. Adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 333, day 344 (Available through Franciscan Media

The pain of exile is the stripping that takes place.  Not only does the stripping hurt but the fear of being naked and having nothing can be suffocating.  But the beauty of having gone through an exile is when, after the stripping is over, you can truthfully say…I’m okay. I’m naked, but I’m okay. 

I remember my parents fighting about the lyrics to a song when I was a kid. It was called, “Is that all there is?”  The song listed a number of traumatic events, like your house burning down. Then the refrain was: Is that all there is?  If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing, and have a ball, if that’s all there is. 

My dad thought it was a stupid song because, of course you would hate your house burning down. My mom saw the freedom of not being impacted by the tragedy.

I can relate to what Rohr said about not having anything to prove or protect. After coming out of my personal exiles, I now see every gain as a great bonus. I know what’s it’s like to have nothing. I really thought I might live the rest of my life in poverty and without ministry. So now that I have both I’m just extremely grateful. If I lost it all tomorrow, I can’t be sure, but I think I could “just keep dancing.” At least I hope I could.

How about you? Have you come to that place yet or are you still in process? What needs to happen for you to let go off the fear of being “naked.” Please leave a comment and share this on Facebook if it meant something to you.

Facebooktwitterrss

Truth Comes From the Margins of Life- Rohr

Truth

Richard Rohr

It’s funny how you come across something that encapsulates an experience for you. That happened with me a I read something by Richard Rohr on finding truth.

This past week I have been in the nitty-gritty of people’s lives… a funeral, a divorce, a radio interview talking about shame where I answered some painful call in questions, and my usual sessions at the addiction treatment center.  These are situations that most people dread…topics that most people avoid.  Maybe I’m a little odd but I find something rich about talking about the pain we suffer. It just seems so pregnant with truth.

Richard Rohr on Truth

Richard Rohr summarizes my feelings…

The truth comes from the edges of society. Jesus’ reality is affirmed and announced on the margins, where people are ready to understand and to ask new questions. The establishment at the center is seldom ready for the truth because it’s got too much to protect; it has bought into the system. As Walter Brueggeman says, “the home of hope is hurt.”

Yes…the edges. The margins. That’s where I spend time with people…where things aren’t working so well.  Sadly, people apologize all the time to me for being there.  They are sorry to be there. Sorry to “waste my time”. But I want to push “pause” and say…no…wait…this is rich. This is where the really good questions in life come from. This is where we find clarity. Don’t apologize. Invite God into this moment and listen to what he’s saying. It could change your life!

Beauty in a Funeral

For example, the funeral I presided over last week for a man that was developmentally disabled and spent his whole life being cared for by others.  There were only ten people in attendance…no family…just a guardian and people that had cared for the man all his life.

I had never performed a funeral like that before. I didn’t have words to express what I felt needed to be said. So we put our rows of chairs in a circle and I asked these caregivers to tell ME why this man’s life was valuable. What a powerful time. One man who also lived in the margins with humble people shared about dignity of the deceased. He sat and shared stories with tears and insight that were priceless. I loved being there. It was such a privilege.

I’ve spent time with the educated and the rich and the theologically wise. But I have never found as much insight as I have in the margins with people who don’t see themselves as spiritual at all. There is wisdom there. We would all be better to slow down and listen.

Question: What truth have you found on the edges of society? Leave your comment below.

Facebooktwitterrss