Tag Archives: Richard Rohr

Sermon Notes: The Spiritual Journey of the 40’s

Here’s the next “installment” of sermon notes from Grindstone church’s current series, “Understanding the Spiritual Journey.”  These are from my February 23rd message looking at the spiritual journey of the 40’s.

A Snapshot of Life in the 40’s

Paula D’Arcy: the 40’s are about “saving relationships.”

The 40’s is a “Hinge decade” of one’s life; decisions you make during this decade will determine the next 30-40 years.

Remember the wise and foolish builders in Matthew 7?  Often in our 40’s the “storms of life” really begin, and we find out what our foundation really is.

Specifically, in relationships.  Our 40’s is where the foundations of our marriage and key relationships begin to show.

Because of our social capital (wealth, education, support systems,) we’ve likely been able to navigate life fairly well through our 30’s.  But for many people the 40’s confront us with a new set of challenges that many people don’t feel prepared to handle.

When you talk to people about their 40’s, these are some of the common experiences of that decade:

  • Feeling like you’re being pulled in 100 different directions!  Exhausting! (sandwich generation!)
  • Discontentment or boredom with life or with things that have provided fulfillment for a long time.  Feeling restless and wanting to do something completely different.
  • As reflective space opens up, many begin questioning decisions made years earlier and the meaning of their life.  “What have I really done with my life?”  So there is confusion about who you are and where your life is going.
  • 40’s often struggle with disillusionment between with way things are vs. what they expected them to be.
  • Health stressors start (not indestructible!).
  • Often you’re raising teenagers in your 40’s (very stressful!

Taken together, all of these factors lead to many in their 40’s feeling like they’re losing control and that their life is unraveling.  Which is ironic, because in your 40’s you LOOK like you’ve peaked.  You appear to be strong to those around you.  But internally you feel like you’re in a very fragile place.

 

What are the major spiritual challenges?

THE Major Spiritual Challenge: Navigating the Mid-life Transition (Transition vs. Crisis!)

Jung/Rohr’s/Scriptures “Spirituality of Two Halves of Life”

-There are two halves to the spiritual life.  The “rules” for what leads to growth and maturity in the first half are different from those in the second.  And it’s usually in one’s 40’s that they begin to transition from a first-half to the second-half spirituality.  It’s not something you do, it’s more something that’s done to you.  You can’t control it, you just have to recognize it and lean into it.

And how you handle that transition is by far the most important challenge of the 40’s.

The first half of the spiritual life is defined by Rules and Wilfulness. 

The habits that lead to maturity and growth are:

  • Structure
  • Routine
  • Morality
  • Black/White thinking
  • Discipline
  • Hard Work
  • Ambition
  • Idealism
  • Self-control
  • Personal success

If these values and habits get embedded during the first-half of your life, you’re likely to be a healthy, maturing person into your 30’s.

Together these values act as a “Container” that allows you to go deep in  one place; to be rooted and grounded in healthy, productive habits.

The second half of the spiritual life is defined by Grace and Willingness.

 

The values of the first half aren’t discarded, but they are softened.  They just don’t matter as much.

They begin to give way to the 5 major characteristics of the second half of life

  1. Deep humility (lack of ego)
  2. Deep simplicity (lack of attachments)
  3. Deep faith (lack of control)
  4. Deep grace (lack of legalism/moralism)
  5. Deep generosity (lack of “personal success”)

 

“Jeff, is this biblical?”

For those who have eyes to see, yes!

Think about the general distinction between the Old and New Testament.  There does seem to be a more rigid, focused, disciplinarian emphasis in the Old Testament, while a more gracefilled, generous, loving emphasis dominates the New Testament.  Why?

Galatians 3:24 the law was our guardian/custodian until Christ came!

  • Servant whose responsibility was to accompany, protect, and sometimes discipline his master’s son until the boy reached maturity. These custodians supervised their charges’ moral conduct and general behavior. Their methods of persuasion varied from physical punishment to shaming. Paul regarded the Mosaic law as a “schoolmaster” (kjv) or “tutor” (nasb) to lead us to Christ (Gal 3:24-25).

Another level.  Think about the tension between Paul and Jesus.  Paul leans much more in this direction, and Jesus much more in this direction.  Some scholars even try to pit one against the other, framing things as if there are competing “kinds” of “Christianity.”  That misses the mark of what is going on.

Paul = first half of life teaching.  Makes sense, his mission focused on Gentiles!

Jesus = second-half of life teacher. Makes sense, his mission focused on Israel!

Key: Both halves are necessary for maturity in Christ! Jesus “full of grace and truth”

 

The 40’s is a time when the transition usually begins.  And the transition often begins in response to “a great Defeat.”  i.e. (usually a loss–friend, parent, child, job, marriage).  The loss of something integral to your identity.  It’s a defeat that confronts you with your limitations and powerlessness, often for the first-time.  Up to this point you’ve been able to leverage your social capital and growth, climb, achieve, and succeed.  But the great defeat puts an end to that.  The defeat forces you to confront things about your life that are neither easy or comfortable to face.  Some people choose not to face these things.  This leads to a mid-life crisis where they regress back into first-half of life values—only this time “harder” and “more determined.”  The results are always sad.

The major task of the this time in life is to recognize that a transition is taking place, and shift your life to align to these values and postures of the heart.

This is much easier for women to do then men (due to much better social support systems)

 

Jesus’/Scripture’s counsel to this demographic

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

40’s are an opportunity to take stock of which yoke you’ve been wearing.

40’s time to exchange that yoke for Jesus’, and to move deeper into God’s grace.  It’s a time to learn to enjoy God and create space for these

  • Deep humility (lack of ego)
  • Deep simplicity/generosity (lack of attachments)
  • Deep faith (lack of control)
  • Deep grace (lack of legalism/moralism)
  • Deep generosity (lack of “personal success”)

 

How do we navigate the mid-life transition well?

  1. Re-centring on the gospels.  Take on Jesus’ yoke!

How?

2. Practice disciplines of “secret defeat” (Andy Crouch).  These prepare us for the transition, and help us navigate the transition.  Found in Sermon on the mount.

  • Deep humility (Fasting)
  • Deep simplicity (Tithing/generosity)
  • Deep faith (prayer and contemplation)
  • Deep grace (repentance and restitution)
  • Deep generosity (joy in service to others—especially poor)

 

Practical Advice for the 40’s

Inner world/life is undergoing a huge shift! males = from outer world to inner female = from inner world to outer

So I want to address each individually.

Men: “There must be more to life than this.  There must be more to me than this!”

In 40’s, often realize what they’ve been chasing after doesn’t really deliver what they thought it would.  Men often discover they have lost their identity in their service of wrong things! (money, power, sex, ego, etc.)

All the titles and prestige don’t mean much.  Personal ambition starts to fade.

“What are you going to do with that tower?”

  • Men: From “making your mark” (striving and success) to relationships and reflection
  • A radical re-commitment to service and the common good is mandatory, while an increased attention to the inner life.
  • It can look like hesitancy, “giving up”, softening
  • From Warrior to King
  • Share your inner journey with someone

 

Women: “There must be more to life than this.  There must be more to me than this!”

Often, women have lost their identity in their service of good things! (family, relationships, etc.)

Women often transition from relationships and reflection to “making your mark” (striving and success).

Often the best Christian leaders and those making the biggest impact are usually second-half of life women

Husbands need to open up space for your wives to explore and expand

Women: it’s your time, get out there!

 

How can the church support those in their 40’s?

  • Acknowledging the mid-life transition and giving them tools.
  • Create spaces of lament (for The Big Defeat)
  • Be patient and gracious.  Life is exceedingly difficult in the 40’s due to interior shift.
  • Create safe spaces (small groups) where men can process The Big Defeat.
  • Create spaces for women to step into 2nd half of life calling/passion.

 

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Sermon Notes: “The Spiritual Journey of Childhood”

As part of Grindstone’s “Understanding the Spiritual Journey Series,” I had the pleasure of co-teaching a message on the spirituality of childhood with Tracy Crewson (one of our Children’s Ministry Co-ordinators) this past Sunday.  Our message is available via at www.grindstonechurch.com for those who want to listen to it.

Every time we do this series, I get a consistent stream of people wanting the notes from our messages, particularly the decade that is most relevant to them personally.

So I’ve decided to put an abbreviated version of each decade’s speaking notes on my blog so people can review the information whenever they would like.

Here are the notes from week one of our series: The Spiritual Journey of Childhood.

A snapshot of life in the childhood decade

Childhood is a time of enormous developmental change on every level.  Between 0-10 years of age, every 4-6 months children come into new capacities that they need to learn to adapt to and manage.

 

A. “What is happening? (Big Picture)”

  • Children are trying to develop a “container” (to borrow language from Richard Rohr) that can “hold” together their experience of the world.
  • Children are learning to manage continual and rapid growth on almost every level simultaneously.  The interior life of a child is in an almost continual state of flux, and this is part of the reason children thrive in environments that provide consistency and routine.  There is so much internal change, having a consistent and predictable external reality provides the necessary security and safety that allows children to adapt well to the internal changes.

B.  “What is happening? (Ground Level)”

       Children build this “container” be seeking the following:

  • Physically : Children are seeking touch, physical affirmation, and nourishment.
  • Emotionally: Children are seeking love, belonging, and security.
  • Psychologically: Children are seeking boundaries, expectations, consequences, and consistency
  • Spiritually: Children are in beginning stages of identity formation and “worldview coherence.”  They are asking big questions about life, death, God, meaning, etc.
  • Ideally, children are being nurtured on all four of these levels.

 

What are the major spiritual challenges?

A. Developing Trust.

  • Dr. David Richo says, “Trust is not an either / or proposition, but a matter of degree…It’s the capacity to trust, which may have been limited or disturbed in our early life, because that’s where we’ve first learned to trust. Trust is basically a feeling of safety and security. When that didn’t happen in our early life with our parents, our capacity to trust became limited. ”
  • Since our spiritual relationship with God is a relationship built on faith instead of sight, it is a relationship built on trust.  Our experiences early in life shape our capacity to trust God later as teens and adults.

 B. Overcoming a lack of nurture and care from adults.

  • Children need to be nourished on all four levels (physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritually).
  • While most people agree on the need to nurture their children physically, emotionally, psychologically, when it comes to nurturing their spirituality, we prefer a “hands off” approach.  Spiritually, it’s often viewed as progressive to “let them decide for themselves.”  This  mentality is dangerous, however, because it assumes that children are able to independently make healthy and wise decisions when it comes to spiritual matters (something Scripture and experience clearly disagrees with).

 

The Bible and Children

Scripture consistently emphasizes the importance of this decade!  Throughout the Bible there is an enormous value placed on children (which was rarely present in pagan cultures), and an enormous calling placed on communities and the raising of children. Deuteronomy 6 is a prime example:

Deuteronomy 6:6-9
6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

 

  • “Impress them on your children.” Imprint. Children are not meant to figure things out for themselves. To “empower” children in this way is usually a way for parents to relieve themselves from the burden of parenting.  We are to actively instruct children in the way they should go and explain why.

Matthew 19 contains another key text that reveals children’s worth and their place of prominence within the kingdom of God.

Matthew 19:13-15
13 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

 

  • Matthew records that Jesus was ‘indignant’ –  he was angry or annoyed at what he perceived to be unfair treatment of these children.  Jesus was angry that the children were being seen as unimportant.
  • We cannot view our children in the way that society increasingly views them – as burdens, interruptions, and inconveniences.

 

Advice to Parents

i. Parenting is difficult.  Don’t give up! Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

 ii. Habits matter.  What habits are you letting take root in your child’s life?

iii. Disciple your child. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” Proverbs 22:6.  Our guidance (or lack thereof) during the childhood years has enormous influence and ramifications in the subsequent decades.

iv. Provide morals, but not moralism. We need to give our children the reason behind the rules God has laid out for us.  We need to teach them the Scriptural ‘whys’ so our children develop a Christian conscience not a legalistic conscience.

v. Be a disciple yourself.  Christianity is just as much caught as taught.  What are they catching from you? Are you cultivating a growing and mature relationship with God, or is your Christian parenting style a Christianized version of “do as I say, not as I do”?

vi. Seek healing for a childhood lost.  Now is an important time to seek healing for those of us who never experienced a safe and healthy childhood due to abuse, neglect, or lack of care and nurture.

 

 Advice to all of us: learn from children

  • Our spiritual vibrancy is tied to the children around us.
  •  Matthew 18:3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
  •  Mark 10:14, “Let the children come to me.  Don’t hinder them for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
  •  There is something about the spirituality of children that we in the subsequent decades are to embrace and emulate in order to be thriving members of God’s kingdom.  Children, not just adults belong in the kingdom of Heaven and are not just as marginal members or on the coat-tails of their parents, but are models in the kingdom of God showing adults how to enter the Kingdom.
  •  Mark 10:14, “The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
  •  Jesus does not mean that the kingdom of heaven belongs only to children but rather to those like them – they are the perfect object lesson in the kind of humility, faith, and “powerlessness” that is require to enter into God’s kingdom.
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Beginning To Live For The First Time

A Christmas morning reflection via Richard Rohr that perfectly captures the power and glory of Christmas:

On this Christmas Day, let me begin with a quote from the twentieth-century writer G. K. Chesterton:  “When a person has found something which he prefers to life itself, he for the first time has begun to live.”

Jesus in his proclamation of the kingdom told us what we could prefer to life itself.  The Bible ends by telling us we are called to be a people who could say, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20), who could welcome something more than business as usual and live in God’s Big Picture.  We all have to ask for the grace to prefer something to our small life because we have been offered the Shared Life, the One Life, the Eternal Life, God’s Life that became visible for us in this world as Jesus.

What we are all searching for is Someone to surrender to, something we can prefer to life itself.  Well here is the wonderful surprise:  God is the only one we can surrender to without losing ourselves.  The irony is that we actually and finally find ourselves, but now in a whole new and much larger field of meaning.

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Thrones and High Chairs

I’ve been listening through Richard Rohr’s CD set “Fire from Heaven” over the last few weeks.  It’s a recording from a men’s retreat that focused on helping men (re)claim their identity in Christ.  It’s definitely geared towards those middle-aged and beyond, but I’ve found the talks very helpful on a number of levels.

A few days ago, I had the CD playing in my car, and in the midst of talking about men, authority, and leadership, Rohr just kind of threw out a metaphor and moved on.  I guess when you have tomes of wisdom, you can’t stop to unpack each insight, but his “throwaway” really struck me.

Rohr was discussing men and the two ways they veer towards holding leadership, authority, and power in their lives.  He said all men at some deep, unconscious level, want to be kings.  By kings, Rohr was referring to the archetypal king who embodies wisdom, justice, power, authority and grace.  Rohr mentioned that men will either occupy high chairs or thrones, depending on which path of spiritual growth they take (or refuse to take).

He said if men don’t mature beyond a “what’s in it for me?” worldview and grow up in God–really grow up–they’ll  likely become “high-chair tyrants” when they find themselves in positions of leadership.  The feet of a child in a high chair never touch the ground.  A high chair tyrant is childish and isn’t connected to reality–he isn’t grounded.  He usually lives out of arrogance and ignorance (I think this is a good summation of a lot of leadership in our world today).  One of the problems with high-chair tyrants is that they are unaware of how disconnected and ungrounded they are.  When someone is brave enough to confront them, any challenge is dismissed because it’s coming from one of the “common folk.”

However, Rohr notes that one of the main differences between a high chair and a throne is that, when sitting on a throne, one’s feet touch the ground.  A king is literally grounded, in touch with the earth, the community–it touch with what is real.   His authority, power and leadership are rooted in his experience with the earth (i.e., reality), and not his own ideas or ego-driven assumptions.

My experience tells me that the high chair will always be tempting, because it offers a shortcut to attention and authority without much work.  Just get a title or a position and start bossing people around–after all, you’re in control now!  You can even throw tantrums and often get what you want because of fear.

But the path towards kingship, the path that will shape us into leaders who are grounded in truth and live to serve while holding our kingdoms together, that path demands deep soul work.  It means confronting demons and a relentless commitment to live in reality, not in the fantasy of what we’d prefer.  Easier said than done, especially as one comes into successive levels of power and authority.

May we seek the narrow way; the way of the King.  Through his leadership, may we be refined into men who sit on thrones and not high chairs.

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We Are All Immigrants

The following reflection is an important one during this (U.S.) Thanksgiving holiday, especially in light of the debates that are occuring in both the United States and Canada related to immigration laws and reforms to the immigration system:

“Yahweh and the prophets repeatedly warned the Jews never to forget their own former status as foreigners in Egypt.  It is into this history that Jesus is born and becomes an immigrant in a foreign land himself along with Mary and Joseph in Egypt (Matthew 2:15).  It is astounding one-sidedness, and even chosen blindness, that allows pious Christians to forget and ignore this.

A Christian by identification with Jesus must by necessity identify with those that he called ‘blessed’ by at least four different standards (Matthew 5:3-6, 10).  He told us that if we did not ‘welcome the stranger’ we were ‘cursed’ (Matthew 25:40), and yet, this has had almost no effect on the typical Christian’s attitude toward outsiders in almost all countries. 

I have little patience with people who call the USA a Christian nation when I see our attitude toward the very poor who are doing all the hard jobs that we are unwilling to do. Such self serving hypocrisy will meet a firm judgment later, and deserves our judgment now.

‘Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.’  (President Franklin Roosevelt to the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1939).  Remember, the Pilgrims we Americans celebrate on this National Day of Thanksgiving were immigrants, too!”

~ Fr. Richard Rohr, A Lever and a Place to Stand (CD) and Contemplation in Action (book).

We are all foreigners, and we are all called to show hospitality.  We are all strangers, and we are all called to welcome and bless.  We are all immigrants, and we are all called to build community–and hope–with our neighbours.

 

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How Mentors Change Us

A fantastic reflection on the nature of mentoring arrived in my inbox this morning via Richard Rohr’s Radical Grace newsletter.  It’s the clearest and most compelling explanation of how mentors change us I’ve ever come across.

“To be around your mentor is to be near the fire.  A fire does two things.  It warms you, but it also burns you.  If you don’t allow your mentor to burn you once in a while—if you’re not willing to bear a little offense to your ego and to be stretched beyond your comfort zone—then it’s not a mentor relationship from your side.  But a mentor also warms you.  They excite you.  They fill you with the curiosity, the adventure, the possibility and the hope that you can be more of a human being.  This is the thrilling part.  This warmth gives you a sense of your true self—of your best self.  That’s what you want.  You want your soul to grow greater and your ego to grow smaller.”~ Richard Rohr

This quote is adapted from the DVD session MENTORING, which is available here.  

I think I’m definitely going to pick up the DVD soon. I’ve listened to and read tons of Rohr over the past three years, and he’s become a “satellite mentor” for me and my journey.  He’s provided lots of warmth, and quite a few (good) burns along the way.

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Living Inside a Cosmic Hope

If you aren’t reading Richard Rohr, you need to be.

“The final chapter [of history] will be ‘the universal restoration’ (Acts 3:21) that Peter speaks of in his first sermon. The good, the true, and the beautiful will have the last word, not the evil, the false, and the ugly. That will be the ‘second coming of Christ’ in all his glory, and God’s true victory. Trusting, therefore, that our failings and killings will not draw history into a final sad whimper, we live inside of a cosmic hope.” Radical Grace, Daily Meditations p. 387, day 402

I love the language of “a cosmic hope.”  Christians don’t simply live with a hope for their life–they live within a hope that is rooted in God’s redemptive plan for the cosmos!  Following Jesus doesn’t just lead us into a larger view of our life and purpose; it leads us into a grand cosmology that redefines our categories of faith, hope, and love.

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