Many Thanks!

In everything, there has to be a last day–an ending.  I believe that time has come for Oboedire.  For the past 6.5 years, I have “delivered my soul” on an array of topics directly and indirectly connected to Spiritual Formation.

But so far as new posts are concerned, I have run the race, fought the fight, and finished the course–to borrow Paul’s words.  I began Oboedire with a sense of calling to take it up; I am ending it with a sense of calling to lay it down.

The site will remain available, so that you may return as you like to explore the archived writings, but the original purpose, to provide regular and themed writings related to spiritual formation has come to an end. It’s been a good run.

The impetus for this comes from my realization that there is a new generation of people through whom God is speaking.  You likely are already following those who speak best to you.  I too have my own “new voices” who help me see the ongoing unfolding of God’s revelation.  They are engaged today in ways I simply am not.  I have taken my turn; now it is theirs.

Beyond the present moment, the “great cloud of witnesses” is still there, encouraging us as we run the race set before us.  I end this round of Oboedire encouraging you (as I have before) to root your soul in Scripture and the devotional classics.  This is the good foundation for any spiritual life.

But most of all, stay in love with Jesus. The spiritual life is “beyond belief”–that is, beyond content, doctrines, and dogmas. All these are on the circumference, and they exist as means, not ends. Jesus is Lord! And now, at the right hand of the Father, he exists as the eternal Christ (Alpha and Omega) bringing the Mystery to its glorious culmination (John 1:1-18, Ephesians 1:3-14, Philippians 2:9-11, Colossians 1:15-20, Colossians 3:11, Hebrews1:1-3, 1John 1:1-4, Revelation 1:4-8, and Revelation 7:9).

Your relationship with God is “I-Thou” not “I-It.” Do not settle for things which were never meant to be ultimate. Do not sell your soul to any person or group. Abide in Christ and let him abide in you. The risen, cosmic Christ is your Life!

And with God’s grace enabling you to continue your journey, take everything old and new, and make love your aim.  Follow “the more excellent way.”  Incarnate the two great commandments, manifest the fruit of the Spirit, and help build the Beloved Community where everyone is included (1 John 3:11 and 4:7). Be kind and compassionate to everyone each day.

This expansive vision–the cultivation of an attentive spiritual formation that is both deep and wide–has influenced everything I have written here on Oboedire.  Some of you have been part of the experience from the beginning, others of you are more-recent companions.  Many thanks to you all for allowing me to be part of your lives. You are kind to have done so, and I pray that some of what I have shared has been helpful to you.

Now, may the One Who has begun a good work in you continue to bring it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

Posted in Site Updates

Nonviolence: We Shall Overcome

Nonviolent movements sing their way forward.  Not insignificantly, angels sang when Jesus was born.  In the civil rights movement,  no song better captures the essence of nonviolence than “We Shall Overcome.”  I end this series on nonviolence with the lyrics of this song…

1.
We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome some day

CHORUS:
     Oh, deep in my heart
     I do believe
     We shall overcome some day

2.
We’ll walk hand in hand
We’ll walk hand in hand
We’ll walk hand in hand some day

CHORUS

3.
We shall all be free
We shall all be free
We shall all be free some day

CHORUS

4.
We are not afraid
We are not afraid
We are not afraid some day

CHORUS

5.
We are not alone
We are not alone
We are not alone some day

CHORUS

6.
The whole wide world around
The whole wide world around
The whole wide world around some day

CHORUS

7.
We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome some day

CHORUS

Interestingly, this song is closely connected with every Christmas Day and with what was going on at Bethlehem originally, where a baby was born as a sign that the ways of God “shall overcome some day.” It is in Christ where everything we have explored about nonviolence is incarnate, and where everything we have said about nonviolence is assured.

Posted in Nonviolence | 1 Comment

Nonviolence: A Way of Endurance

To read of the various expressions of nonviolent resistance inevitably raises the questions, “How were they able to keep going despite wave after wave of opposition, which sometimes included murder, and always included degradation?  How did they maintain such poise in the face of such poison?”

There are two responses which emerge from the nonviolent movements themselves.  The first is that sometimes they broke under the pressure.  Every nonviolent leader I have read acknowledges this.  Sometimes the suffering was so severe that even those committed to nonviolence caved in to depression and/or to retaliatory actions.  This is not to denigrate the validity of nonviolence, but rather to point to the immensity of the opposition.  The sad reality is that sometimes the abuse was more than some could bear.

But there was a second response to the questions–the response which characterized nonviolent movements as-a-whole.  The adherents believed they were moving with the flow of the Universe.  A Hindu looked at Gandhi and said, “He has accepted the law of nonviolence as certain as the law that governs the fall of Newton’s apple.”

Similarly, Martin Luther King Jr. believed that the practice of nonviolence in the civil rights movement had “cosmic backing” (agapé), which created the vision of a world “where all men live together…and respect the dignity and worth of all human personality.”

E. Stanley Jones stepped back from particular nonviolent movements and summarized the endurance of those involved, “Inward poise can only come when we are sure that the sum total of reality is backing our way of living. Inner poise is an outgrowth of an assurance that Reality approves of us, sustains us, and guarantees our future.” 

Jones used the image of fire to describe it and wrote, “The fire must be the fire of the Spirit.”  He wrote an entire book about it, ‘The Way to Power and Poise” (1949)–the same two words he used to describe Gandhi in his book, ‘Gandhi: Portrayal of a Friend’ written just one year earlier (1948).

Nonviolence endures suffering because those who practice it believe from the core of their being that by manifesting the fruit of the Spirit against opposition, that they are instruments of God’s peace.

Posted in Nonviolence

Advent #4: No More Abandonment

The reading for the final Sunday in Advent is Isaiah 7:10-16, foreseeing a time when there will be no more abandonment.

Ask any counselor or health-care provider, and they will confirm the “hole in the soul” which forms in individuals or groups who experience abandonment. Exile was the experience of it in Isaiah’s day.  The refugee crisis is a sign of it in our day.  But beneath the macro manifestations, there are innumerable people walking around feeling left alone, left behind, and left to fend for themselves.  This kind of abject loneliness (“aloneness”) drains our souls of strength and hope, creating the “desert” which Isaiah mentions periodically in his book–a “wilderness state” to use John Wesley’s phrase.

Into this sense of abandonment, God speaks one word: “Immanuel”–the word of assurance that we are never alone. God is with us!  Isaiah saw a day darker than had been since the day Ephraim departed from Judah (7:17), but (to borrow the words of St. John) the darkness could not defeat the light. 
This is the pinnacle of our faith, and the central message of Advent.  You are never alone!  But before people can hear that message and allow it to fill their emptiness, they must be shown it through acts of kindness offered by others. 

That is one reason why I have chosen to spend 2016 on my Oboedire blog writing about “Mercy” and “Nonviolence.”  These are the means of grace that bring relief from the ravages of war, injustice, fear, and abandonment which Isaiah has described in our Advent readings.

Immanuel!!  Love with skin on–love incarnate in Jesus and manifested by those of us who follow him. Advent–“something coming”–“something here.”  Do we see it?  Will we live it?

[I am not writing Christmastide meditations, but the readings continue in Isaiah–in the second section of the book, where the themes of promise and hope are intensified:  December 25–Isaiah 52:7-10, and January 1–Isaiah 60:1-6]

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Nonviolence: Process

Principles must be enacted.  Martin Luther King Jr. proposed the following six steps to express the principles of non violence in specific situations.  These steps are still taught at the King Center in Atlanta.

INFORMATION GATHERING:  To understand and articulate an issue, problem or injustice facing a person, community, or institution you must do research. You must investigate and gather all vital information from all sides of the argument or issue so as to increase your understanding of the problem. You must become an expert on your opponent’s position.

EDUCATION:  It is essential to inform others, including your opposition, about your issue. This minimizes misunderstandings and gains you support and sympathy.

PERSONAL COMMITMENT:  Daily check and affirm your faith in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence. Eliminate hidden motives and prepare yourself to accept suffering, if necessary, in your work for justice.

DISCUSSION/NEGOTIATION:  Using grace, humor and intelligence, confront the other party with a list of injustices and a plan for addressing and resolving these injustices. Look for what is positive in every action and statement the opposition makes. Do not seek to humiliate the opponent but to call forth the good in the opponent.

RECONCILIATION:  Nonviolence seeks friendship and understanding with the opponent. Nonviolence does not seek to defeat the opponent. Nonviolence is directed against evil systems, forces, oppressive policies, unjust acts, but not against persons. Through reasoned compromise, both sides resolve the injustice with a plan of action. Each act of reconciliation is one step closer to the ‘Beloved Community.’

These practices should be seen as a phases or cycles of a campaign rather than successive steps because each of them embodies a cluster or series of activities related to each of the other five elements.

DIRECT ACTION:  These are actions taken when the opponent is unwilling to enter into, or remain in, discussion/negotiation. These actions impose a “creative tension” into the conflict, supplying moral pressure on your opponent to work with you in resolving the injustice.

Posted in Nonviolence

Advent #3: No More Fear

The reading for the third Sunday in Advent is Isaiah 35:1-10, looking toward a time when there is no more fear.

When a people are enveloped over an extended period of time in an atmosphere of arrogance and are the victims of its injustice, they easily succumb to fear.  Such was the case in Isaiah’s day.  And all these years later a shroud of fear overlays many of our attitudes and actions today.  We know what it feels like to have “feeble knees” and “fearful hearts” (35:3-4). 

This is why the Advent message through the writing of Isaiah is so powerful this year.  We continue to get daily doses of unfolding history which are clearly foreboding. “Fear not!” is a two-word exhortation to live another way–not only one that Isaiah uttered, but also the message Gabriel gave to Mary, and words Jesus and Paul spoke to anxious people.

This is more than telling someone to “Buck up!” although we can engage in practices that decrease our fears.  Rather, the call to abandon fear is the deeper invitation to shift the basis of our trust from the things we see to the One Who is unseen.

This is not easy, and I admit that history shows there are often long stretches when Light and Life are eclipsed by darkness and death.  Isaiah’s time included a 200-year period of division and exile.  I have known people who suffered, without relief, until the day they died–despite being prayed for, anointed with oil, etc.

Isaiah’s vision did not begin in history, it began in the hearts of those who believed that sin, suffering, and struggle do not have the last word, and by faith they began to live in relation to that larger reality.  Not one person lived to see the return and restoration of the exiled nation, but today’s reading shows that they saw it from afar, and their anticipation kept hope alive. 

The writer of Hebrews said the same was true for the cavalcade of saints who likewise saw their redemption via anticipation (Hebrews 11:39-40).  We continue to sing the fear-not message, “Though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.”  We enter Advent with the promise that there will indeed be a time when there is no more fear, and with the power of faith to deliver us from it in the meantime.

Posted in Advent 2016

Nonviolence: Principles

Martin Luther King Jr. condensed the essence of nonviolence into the following six principles–principles which are still taught at the King Center in Atlanta.

PRINCIPLE ONE:  Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. It is active nonviolent resistance to evil. It is aggressive spiritually, mentally and emotionally. 

PRINCIPLE TWO:  Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding. The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation. The  purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.                                                                                                       
PRINCIPLE THREE:  Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people. Nonviolence recognizes that evildoers are also victims and are not evil people. The nonviolent resister seeks to defeat evil not people.

PRINCIPLE FOUR:  Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform. Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation. Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.   

PRINCIPLE FIVE:  Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate. Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as the body.  Nonviolent love is spontaneous, unmotivated, unselfish and creative. 

PRINCIPLE SIX:  Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice. The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win.  Nonviolence believes that God is a God of justice. 

Posted in Editorials