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Jul 022016

Quotes from Richard's Book

Apr 092016

Quotes from Richard's Book

Aug 232014

Recently I was going through some old files and came across the following piece I wrote back in the 1970’s.  The quote is presented unedited.

Someday I would like to talk to Jesus of Nazareth.

I want to ask him if he is angry about the way his life has been portrayed.  I am!

I want to ask him if he was really God, or what seems more wondrous, a spirit filled man struggling with life.

I want to ask him if he died for my sins, or what seems more wondrous, because he tried to live life fully.

I want to ask Jesus if the God he knows was some kind of sadistic tyrant who required blood sacrifices, or what seems more wondrous, a consonant spirit who speaks in our heart, and calls us forth. Mine is!

I want to ask Jesus if he was celibate or what seems more wondrous, a passionate sexual being who made gentle and lusty love with a woman he loved.

Someday I would like to talk to Mary the mother of Jesus.

I want to ask her if she is angry about the way her life has been portrayed.  I am!

I want to ask her if her son Jesus was really conceived by the Holy Spirit, or what seems more wondrous, by a wild night of passion with her husband.

I would still like to have that conversation.  All of the questions are still valid.

May 212014

Reflection II:  Because We Must

The Call To Prayer
Part 1

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Image to be added when available.

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Praying is no easy matter.    It demands a relationship in which you allow the other to enter into the very center of your person, allow  him to speak there, allow him to touch the sensitive core of your being, and allow him to see so much that you would rather leave in darkness.    And when do you really want to do that?   Perhaps you would let the other come across the threshold to say something, to touch something, but to let him into that place where your life gets its form, that is dangerous and calls for defense.1
Henri J.  M.  Nouwen
It seems that the simplest answer to the question “Why do we pray?” is the most profound.  We pray simply  “because we must”.  A still small voice inside of us calls to us, and prayer is the only meaningful response.  We must listen, and we must respond.  We pray because we are responding to that sacred inner voice deep inside of us.  We can run from that voice.  We can deny its sacredness.  We can even deny it’s existence entirely, or we can settle for some psychological explanation.  The call is still there, waiting for us, pressing us, calling us, demanding a response from us, often when we least expect it and when we least desire it.  Left unattended to, this inner calling sometimes imposes itself on us in myriad ways, some positive and some negative, some inward and some outward.  In one way or another we all respond.  It is ultimately our choice whether our response or lack thereof leads to growth and service or to deformation and violence.  Listening to this sacred inner voice and living our lives in response to that voice is the very essence of what spirituality and prayer are all about.  It is what all true religion is all about.  It is what being fully human and fully alive is all about.  Choosing our response to this inner call and being obedient to it will determine the very direction and the quality of our life.  Choosing to follow that voice intentionally is ultimately what true “conversion” is all about.

This calling manifests itself in our lives in different ways.  Maybe the most obvious way is through an experience of awe and wonder.  We look up at the night sky on a clear night and we see thousands upon thousands of stars.  We realize the vast amazing wonder and mystery of the universe.  We sense with amazement our tiny but wondrous place in it.  We look into the face of an infant and realize with awe and wonder that it is a part of us and yet it is somehow unique from every other being in this vast universe.  We are awestruck wondering what this tiny writhing potential might become.  In the face of these and a thousand other wonders, questions rise up in us, sometimes just perceptibly and sometimes powerfully,  and they call to us.  Where does it all come from?  What does it all mean?  Where do I fit into the vastness of this great universe?  What does my life really mean?  Who am I called to be?  How am I called to live my unique life?  How do I know?  How is it even possible to know?  Even if I knew, how is it possible to actually become that in a world that has its own demands, its own agenda for our lives?  How do I connect with that “something” that is behind it all—how do I connect with that Mysterious Other we call God?  For some these questions rise up in a specifically Christian context.  For others they rise up in more secular terms, or in the language and symbols of other religious traditions.  However they are phrased, these questions call to us profoundly, and the only satisfactory answer is prayer.  Ultimately the only satisfactory answer is to sit quietly in the face of the awesomeness of it all and listen.  In that moment prayer is born in us.

This calling can also manifest itself through an experience of suffering or loss.  We face the death of a loved one, or we face serious illness, or we face our own impending death.  We lose our job, our home, or a family member or close friend commits suicide or becomes involved in drugs or alcohol.  Our spouse tells us they want a divorce.  We experience some kind of physical or emotional abuse.  The specific examples are legion, but whatever the event is, it leaves us torn apart inside.  We begin to question the very foundations of our lives.  We no longer see the world as a safe place for us.   Sometimes we just sense that our lives are being wasted, that time is just passing us by, and that time can never be recovered.  Just as an experience of awe can lead us to ask those seemingly unanswerable questions, an experience of suffering or loss or aimlessness can raise those same questions, albeit in a different form.  Where does this suffering come from?  Why is this happening to me now?  What did I do wrong?  How am I called to live my unique life in the face of these painful events?  Even if I knew, how is it possible to live that in the face of these realities?  How can that reality, if in fact there is a Mysterious Other, allow all of the pain and suffering that I see all around me to happen?  Again, ultimately the only satisfactory answer is to sit quietly in the face of this pain and suffering and listen— just be present—and in that moment, when we finally sit quietly and listen, prayer is born.

Yet, if we are perceptive, if we are paying attention, if at some point we wake up from the sleep of our ordinary life, this calling can simply rise up in us for no apparent reason at all.  There may be no particular experience of awe or wonder.  No unusual experience of suffering or loss.  Nothing dramatic at all.  This calling can just rise up inside of us uninvited, and even unwanted.  The questions themselves call to us in the very depths of our soul and demand answers, or at least they demand that we struggle with them.  Again, prayer is born in all of its own awesomeness, wonder, and yes, suffering.

Yet this calling, left unacknowledged and unattended, can also manifest itself in all kinds of destructive ways.  Left unattended to, this calling often leads us to restlessness and boredom,  anger and aggressiveness and to violence, addiction and all manner of other anti-social and destructive behavior.  Adrian van Kaam rightly pointed out that:

When a person is denied the right of legitimate self-expression a deep inner rage develops in them which can permeate their life.2

It is that sacred inner voice that reveals to us who we are and who we are called to be.  To the extent that we fail to listen and respond to that inner voice we deny ourselves even the possibility of that “legitimate self-expression” van Kaam speaks of so profoundly and opens us to that resulting incessant rage in all of its various expressions.  That rage may rise up in different ways in each of us, but rise up it will.  In one way or another that inner voice will be “heard”.  In its mildest forms it can show itself as restlessness, dissatisfaction and boredom.  In its extreme it can result in suicide and violence, including such things as mass killings and war.    If we “wake up” at some point and listen to that rage in all of its various forms, prayer can be born here as well.

Just as the questions can rise up in us in different terms and symbols, prayer, wherever and however it is born in us, will express itself in different forms, in different traditions, in different symbols, and in different languages.  It may find its expression in specifically Christian terms, but it also may find its expression in terms and symbols from other religious traditions such as Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or even in secular terms that we do not normally think of as prayer at all.  That said there are foundational principles that cut across these different traditions that, if followed, will lead us to live more authentic and consonant lives.  We will speak of several of these foundational principles in this series.  If those foundational principles are not followed, “prayer” itself can lead us to dissonance and all kinds of destructive and violent behavior as well.  We have to look no further than the seemingly endless violent acts performed by people who believed that they were led by God.

We can trace this call to prayer all the way back to the earliest days of human existence.  Archeologists have found paintings on cave walls and the remains of all kinds of ritualistic  activities going back thousands of years indicating early human responses to this inner call to prayer—this call to relate to something deeper than ourselves and yet a part of ourselves long before there were organized religions per se.  In more recent times all of the varied cultures of the world have developed innumerable responses to this call.  In states that have tried to suppress it, it has continued to survive, sometimes in the underground, and sometimes in open defiance and rebellion.  The holocaust is only one blatant example.  Admittedly some of these developments have been questionable—even destructive and violent, but many of them have also been passionate and life giving.

Whatever else that can be said about the vast array of religious practice we humans have developed over the centuries, it seems clear that there is a deep inner call in us to connect with something deep inside of us and all around us—a call, the only response to which is prayer in all of its challenges, in all of its complexity, in all of its different forms, and ultimately in all of its beauty and sacredness  as well.  In the end we pray because we must, but that sacred inner voice calls us not just to pray but to go further.  It calls us to  go where we sometimes are hesitant to go.  Prayer, if we take it really seriously, calls us to change, to growth, to transformation, and to conversion of heart.  It calls us to live truly authentic lives.  Prayer calls us to live our lives differently, and to be present in the events of our lives in a whole new way.  This change and growth—this movement toward authenticity, is the thing we long for in the deepest part of ourselves, but it is also the thing we often fear the most.   We long for it because it calls us to become the very essence of who we were created to be—of who we really are.  We fear it because, intuitively we know it will change us in ways that we cannot even imagine.

Make no mistake, true prayer taken seriously is hard work.  It is The Work of the Spiritual Journey.   As we shall see, it is more than having a relationship with that Mysterious Other we call God.  It is more than the traditional approaches of praise, adoration, communion, conversation, petition, penance, and forgiveness.  It involves all of those things and much more.  Prayer, in its deepest sense, also involves solitude, listening, discovery, and incarnation.  In the end it involves something the monastics call Divine Union.  In the next several reflections we will take a look at each of those topics.

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Questions for reflection and a response to one of the questions by Richard are in another post.  Go there…

1 Nouwen, Henri J. M., With Open Hands (Notre Dame, Indiana, Ava Maria Press, 1972), p. 12.
2 Comment made in a class by Father Adrian van Kaam, CSP, the founder of the Institute Of Formative Spirituality at Duquesne University, circa. 1986.

Nov 102013

About This Endeavor

Laying the Groundwork

No BS Spirituality for the Rest of Us


I have written more about No BS Spirituality for the rest of us elsewhere.*  Here I simply want to define the term so  you will have at least an understanding of the basic underlying principles behind this volume.

No BS Spirituality is spirituality that:

  • Quiets the inner turmoil of compulsive thoughts, emotions, and impulses that typically drive our lives.
  • Guides us to the ongoing discovery of who we most deeply are  and who we are called to be as unique spiritual persons.
  • Facilitates the ongoing  incarnation of those discoveries into the reality of our day-to-day active lives.

The Rest of Us

  • Anyone who is tipping about the periphery of the undiscovered country of the deeper spiritual journey.**

Each of the three principles are critical to valid spiritual practice, but no one or two of them are enough.  Until we quiet our inner turmoil we cannot even begin to hear that sacred inner voice that calls to us so profoundly.  Until we begin to discover our sacred inner being we cannot even begin to know how we are called to live our lives, or how we are called to grow and change.  Until we can actually incarnate what we hear from that inner voice into the way we experience and live our daily lives our spiritual practice will never really change us.  When our practice begins to include all three—when it begins to quiet our inner turmoil, when it begins to lead us to the discovery of who we really are and who we are called to be, and when it facilitates the incarnation of those discoveries,—then, and only then, will we begin the lifelong process of Turning Around—of what the monastics call conversion of heart.

If these principles are not present in our current spiritual practice, and if the conversion of heart is not happening for us in the nitty-gritty way we experience our day-to-day lives, then we need to do the often difficult and sometimes painful spiritual work necessary to deepen our practice and to assure that all three of these principles are given the attention they need.  What I am advocating here is an approach to spirituality that will change us profoundly, and that will powerfully move us ever forward on the Journey Toward Spiritual Maturity.  This journey is neither easy nor simple.  It is not something that is done to us or for us by that Mysterious Other we call God.  It requires a real commitment of time and effort on our part to open ourselves to the guidance, strength, and courage that comes from that Mysterious Other.  It is a series of conscious choices we have to make every day.  It requires much study and practice and trial and error, and it is a lifelong journey.

No BS Spirituality also requires a willingness to look deeply and seriously at all aspects of our lives, including the compulsive thoughts, emotions, and impulses that typically drive our lives.  Over and over again it will require us to let go of things we consider a part of who we are as a person—of things that ultimately are ego driven.  Richard Rohr is reported to have put it this way:

Do not expect people to rush to a practice the ultimate goal of which is to destroy the ego.

Destroy is a strong word here, but Rohr’s point is valid.  Taking a serious “No BS” approach to our spiritual life will in fact change us in ways we can only imagine, and in the process it will again and again require us to let go of our ego driven responses to the people, events, and things in our lives.

These principles awaken us from distraction, denial, and deep sleep.  But that awakening is ultimately extremely rewarding as we discover who we are called to be, and as the way we experience and live our lives becomes more and more an authentic expression of that discovery.

An actual transformed life is the real indicator of spiritual growth and spiritual maturity, not just right belief, church attendance, committee membership, or involvement in charitable causes, as good as those things may be.  That transformation is the very essence of the spiritual life—The Work of the Spiritual Journey.  That is what this book, and all that I write and teach, is about.


*  Southworth, Richard N., Choosing Authenticity: Religion Is Not Enough. (Richmond, VA: CreateSpace, 2011), p. 52-54 et. al.
** Taken from an email message from my friend Drexel Rayford, PhD.

Sep 162013

This video was excerpted from a class I taught at Walnut Grove Baptist Church in Mechanicsville, Virginia in the fall of 2012.  It is taken from Session I: The Introduction of the eight session program entitled Developing Our Practice.  In the video I tell the story of how the term “No BS Spirituality” came about, and then talk about the core concepts of No BS Spirituality.

Questions for Reflection:

Reflect on your current spiritual practice:

  1. In what ways does your practice “Quiet the inner turmoil of compulsive thoughts, emotions, and impulses that typically drive our lives”?  In your time apart?  In your active lives”?
  2. In what ways does your practice “Guide us in the ongoing discovery of who we most deeply are and who we are called to be as unique spiritual persons?”
  3. In what ways does your practice “Facilitate the ongoing incarnation of those discoveries into the reality of your day-to-day active lives”?
  4. In what ways does you practice fail to meet these goals?  Where does it call you to grow in these areas.

Watch, Reflect, Enjoy! Richard



Jan 242013

Gravitational Pull

There’s a reason why a wolf pack howls at the moon.
Deep inside their primal brain runs a DNA tune
And the reason why the tides keep rising to fall.
Is the grand gravitational pull of it all
That’s the reason

And the reason why boys keep falling for girls
Deep inside their primal brain there’s a DNA curl.
And the reason why the universe won’t fly apart
Is the grand gravitational pull at its heart
That’s the reason

But there’s a reason that reason can’t know.
A conversation where words won’t go
There’s a reason that reason can’t know
It stands to reason.*

R. Drexel Rayford, Ph.D. 

Gravitational Pull**

The “grand gravitational pull of it all”!  Some things are written in our DNA.  They are foundational to who we are as human beings.  They show up in all consonant cultures and traditions.  When they are ignored, or denied, or suppressed they leave an emptiness that causes individuals and whole cultures to seek fulfillment in all kinds of often destructive behavior.  The spiritual life is one such foundational human longing.  We ignore it to our peril, as individuals and as a culture.

Dr. Rayford is right.  The “grand gravitational pull of it all”  is a “reason that reason can’t know”.  Beyond all of the words in this book and the thousands of books like it, beyond all of the words in the religious texts of all religions, beyond all of our science and reason, there is ultimately a “conversation where words won’t go”.  There is something that cannot be captured in either the spoken or the written word, or even in pictures.   Anyone who dares to write and teach about the spiritual life can only hope to somehow awaken and renew this foundational human longing in the reader or student, provide some tools for the journey, and maybe point to some of the pitfalls.  In this volume I hope I have done at least some of that, but in the end I have no illusions.  That is as far as any book or any teaching can take you.  In the end you have to do the difficult and sometimes painful but very rewarding spiritual work of finding and following your own path.  Religion Is Not Enough.  You must accept the challenge of Choosing Authenticity.  You must take your own Journey Toward Spiritual Maturity.

“It stands to reason”.


Richard's Book


Excerpted from Southworth, Richard N., Choosing Authenticity:  Religion Is Not Enough, (Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, 2011), p. 250-253.
* Rayford, Drexel:  Gravitational Pull, (Vagrants Chapel Music, BMI; recorded on Reels of Life, The Bob Amos Band, Bristlecone Records, 2004)
** Image by NASA Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE)

Dec 132012

Being An Outsider
Being in the World and Not of the World

Who is this man?   He is a person who has a great deal of attracting power for those around him.  Those who meet him are fascinated by him and want to know more about him…

But it is also plain that a revolutionary man not only draws men to him, he repels them as well.  The offense he provokes is just as great a reality as the attractiveness he displays.  Precisely because he is so free from things which many men hold sacred, he is a threat to them.*

Henri J. M. Nouwen 

Being an Outsider

Being an Outsider

Committing ourselves seriously to the spiritual life and to becoming more and more authentic and spiritually mature involves becoming more inner-directed and less driven by the cultural imperatives of acceptance, success, prestige, power, wealth, and pleasure.  It also involves becoming less driven by the religious imperatives of belief, ritual, experience, community, service, and values.  On the one hand it is ultimately that “one perfect, all-encompassing goal that would give complete fulfillment and happiness to him who has become a part of it”** that Westhues described.  And, as Nouwen points out above, the person who takes the spiritual life seriously also “has a great deal of attracting power for those around him”.   But as Nouwen also points out, “it is also plain that a revolutionary man not only draws men to him, he repels them as well”.

As we continue to discover who we are and who we are called to be as unique spiritual persons, and as we incarnate those discoveries into the reality of the way we live our day-to-day active lives, we often find ourselves becoming something of an outsider.  We find ourselves choosing to follow our sacred inner voice rather than the cultural and religious imperatives that previously guided our life.  In a very real sense this involves selective withdrawal from the world.  At the same time, the spiritual life itself calls us to engagement in the world in an ever deepening way.  Discovering how to balance this withdrawal and engagement may be one of the most challenging aspects of the spiritual life.  Alexandra Stoddard captures the challenge:  “While we will always care what other people think, we have to find out what speaks to us personally even if others won’t fully understand”***.  In short we are called to be an outsider, and at the same time, we are called to be more deeply engaged with the people, events, and things that make up our active lives.

Choosing Withdrawal from the World
Responding To Dissonance

Living life spiritually requires us to pay attention to the dissonance in our lives.  The dictionary defines “dissonance” as “lack of consistency or compatibility between actions or beliefs”***.  A crucial aspect of the spiritual life is taking the dissonance we discover in our active lives—the inconsistencies between the call of our sacred inner being and our active life—into our practice.  When we do that consistently we will find ourselves changing the way we are present in the events of our lives.  It will call us to withdraw from activities that are dissonant for us or that prevent us from keeping our spiritual commitments.  If we are not called to actually withdraw from those activities, we will inevitably be called to be present and participate in them differently, and we will often discover that we are still, in many ways, an outsider, even in our participation.

Some years ago, my wife and I were a team couple for Marriage Encounter.****  Our team meetings often ran late into the evening.  Some of the most rewarding times came toward the end of the meetings when most of the work was done, and we could just enjoy being together.  Often the depth of the sharing during those times was profound.  One of the team couples would consistently excuse themselves at 9:00 PM saying simply that they had to go home, which some of us found to be disappointing because we enjoyed their presence and sharing.  I later learned that they left because they were committed to their spiritual practice before bed time and to getting up early for their morning practice.  That commitment required them to choose to withdraw from an otherwise rewarding, and even possibly growth producing activity.  The spiritual life challenges us to be willing to make and keep those kinds of primary commitments and make the difficult choices those commitments require.

QuoteSometimes the choices are painful and difficult.  I know that I am a contemplative person, and I am not a contemporary “Christian”, whatever that really means.  As a result many church activities do not speak to me.  I long for services that are more contemplative.  I would like Sunday school classes and small groups to be more focused on spiritual growth, and more open to questioning and different approaches.  Over my life I have found very little of either in the many churches I have attended.  As I have accepted this reality it has forced me to withdraw from many of those activities.  It has also led me to search for insight and guidance in personal reading, study, and practice outside of the church.  Even though I sometimes  choose to participate in these activities, as I have increasingly committed myself to following my own spiritual path I have become an outsider to many contemporary church activities, even when I still choose to participate.

The point is that the spiritual life will call us to make some difficult and sometimes painful choices.  We will, by definition, be called to withdraw from many of the activities of “the world” as we strive to become more and more authentic.  Some of those choices will be difficult, and if we are unwilling to make those choices, and if we are unwilling to accept the “withdrawals” that are forced on us by the culture, including the religious community, our spiritual journey will be thwarted.  This is precisely where the spiritual journey becomes real.  Unless we are willing to make the very real choices necessary to incarnate what we discover in our time apart into our active lives, our practice will become either some kind of “feel good” activity that does not transform us, or it will become frustrating and defeating.  Either way, it will not lead to the conversion of heart and spiritual maturity that is our highest dream.

Other Topics In Reflection IV:

Choosing Engagement in the World: Seeking Consonance
Avoiding the Extremes: Seeking the Middle Path
Being an Outsider Is Not Our Mission: Choosing Consonant Engagement
Accepting Our Place Outside of the Norm: Choosing Sacred Presence
Offering the World an Alternative: Transmitting the Teaching by the Way We Live Our Lives
Setting Priorities: Saying No In Order To Say Yes


Richard's Book


Excerpted from Southworth, Richard N., Choosing Authenticity:  Religion Is Not Enough, (Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, 2011), p. 122-147.
* Nouwen, Henri J. M., With Open Hands.  (Notre Dame, Indiana:  Ave Maria Press, 1972), p. 132.
** Nouwen, Henri J. M., With Open Hands.  (Notre Dame, Indiana:  Ave Maria Press, 1972), p. 132.
*** Microsoft Encarta Dictionary, (Microsoft Corporation, 2007).
**** Marriage Encounter is a marriage enrichment program founded by Fr. Gabriel Calvo.  For more information see and

Nov 102012

The Quest for Authenticity
Rediscovering Our Sacred Inner Being

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?  Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world.  There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.  We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.*

Marianne Williamson 

The fact that Christianity has lost “the Christianity that works, that actually produces real change in human nature”  has far-reaching effects on the lives of individual people, both within Christianity and in the culture at large.  We are each driven by our inner turmoil of compulsive thoughts, emotions, and impulses.  These drives typically have their roots in the cultural imperatives of acceptance, success, prestige, power, wealth, and pleasure.   As individuals we lose the ability to live authentic lives.  We lose the ability to become the person we are called to be.  We may lose even our awareness of that sense of calling to live our lives authentically.

The Right of Legitimate Self-Expression
The Source of Our Anger, Rage, Violence, Obsessions, and Addictions

As far back as I can remember there has been this powerful sense of being called to something profoundly different.  At times that sense of restlessness is so pervasive it seems as if I have built much of my life on a lie, on a series of false assumptions about who I am as a person and what I need to be and do in this life.  I have found myself seeking to discover who I am in the deepest part of myself.  Yet, maybe even more significant has been a deep sense of calling to become that person in the reality of my active life.  In a very real sense, this search does not seem to be just a religious calling.  It seems to be a basic human calling.  It is the quest for authenticity—the deep desire to live an authentic life.  This quest for authenticity is the very essence of the whole religious vocation.


Seeking our Sacred Inner Being

This search has taken me in a thousand different directions.  It has led me to explore several different religious traditions.  While each of them spoke to this calling in different ways, I have not felt at home in any of them.  None of them addressed this deep longing in a satisfactory manner.

I have studied psychology, religion, and spirituality in undergraduate school, graduate school, and through self-study.  Again, while my studies were both fascinating and helpful, there was still that same sense of not being at home with any of them.  Again, none of my studies really spoke to my deepest longings.  I spent sixteen years as a police officer, three years as the administrator of a retreat center, and thirteen years as a fraud investigator and manager for a health insurance company.  In the process,  I have learned much about who I am, but there has always been this powerful underlying restlessness—this sense of playing a role—this sense of not being authentic—of not being myself in any of these positions.

I have also been plagued with anger.  That anger has at times seemed to pervade my life.  It has spilled over onto my wife and my children in ways that I cannot begin to describe or even fully understand.  For years I never understood where the anger came from, but I did sense that it was somehow connected to this pervasive restlessness and sense of not being at home, of playing a role.

Then one day I was sitting in a college class and the professor made the following statement:

When a person is denied the right of legitimate self-expression, a deep incessant rage develops in them that permeates their entire life.**

MaskI remember that statement as if it were yesterday.  It all came together.  The quest for authenticity and the anger—the two things that seemed to dominate my life were, in reality, two sides of the same thing.  I was angry because I knew on a preconscious level that I was not being the person I was called to be.  I was, in the most basic sense, “denied the right of legitimate self-expression”.  As I have reflected on this insight I have come to understand that while this denial of legitimate self-expression came partially from family expectations, cultural demands, and religious dogma, most of it came from the turmoil within myself.

This insight gave my life a very different focus.  While I did not know how to figure out what this meant for me, the problem was now defined.  I began a quest for authenticity in earnest.  I began to focus less on the people, events, and things in my life that frustrate and anger me.  I was now asking the right questions.  Who I am as a unique spiritual person?  How can I become that person in the way I live my life?   How can I be authentic in this particular event.

Look for your own.  Do not do what someone else could do as well as you.  Do not say or write what someone else could say or write as well as you.  Care for nothing in yourself but what you feel exists nowhere else and out of yourself create impatiently, or patiently the most irreplaceable of beings.***

Unknown Author

My business is not to remake myself, but make the absolute best of what God has made.****

Robert Browning 

QuoteOther Topics In Reflection III:

Loss of Soul: Loosing Our Guiding Principle
No BS Spirituality: Rediscovering Our Soul
The Practice: The Work of the Spiritual Life
Discernment: Seeking Consonance
Community: Seeking Guidance and Support
Authentic Living : Changing Our Orientation


Richard's Book


Excerpted from Southworth, Richard N., Choosing Authenticity:  Religion Is Not Enough, (Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, 2011), p. 88-118.
Photo by Michelle Evans
* Williamson, Marianne, A Return to Love:  Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles. (New York:  HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1992),p. 165.
** Anonymous quotation on a plaque given to me by my daughter, Michelle S. Evens.
*** Browning, Robert, Quoted in Stoddard, Alexandra, Daring To Be Yourself.  (Avon Books, New York, 1990), p. xi
**** Father Adrian van Kaam, CSP, the founder of the Institute Of Formative Spirituality at Duquesne University, circa. 1986.

Nov 032012

Lost Christianity
Rediscovering Christianity As An Inner Path

At the same time, it became increasingly clear to me that were Christianity actually to recover its own esoteric tradition, it would be a development of immense significance.  In using this term, “esoteric” I mean to say the Christianity that works, that actually produces real change in human nature, real transformation.*

Jacob Needleman 

Path to the Desert

Path into the Desert

Christianity has lost something essential.  It has lost the method and the practices that lead to genuine growth toward spiritual maturity.  Needleman is correct, were Christianity to recover this lost element of the tradition, “it would be a development of immense significance”, to Christianity itself, to individual Christians, and ultimately to the world.  What would happen if Christianity rediscovered the spiritual practices that “actually produce real change in human nature, real transformation”?  What would happen if conversion of heart became a central focus of contemporary Christianity,?  How might that change us as individuals and as a world?

As I mentioned in the last reflection, I have struggled for many years to find spiritual practice that would change the way I experienced and lived my life.  I was surprised to find that I didn’t have to look outside of the Christian tradition for those practices;  I had only to look deeper into the tradition, beyond what was presented in the contemporary church.

There are any number of ways to look at the different aspects of Christianity.  We can look at developmental periods or at the various denominations that have developed.  We can also look at differences in beliefs, rituals, experiences, community, service, and values.  But for our purposes here I want to take a look, not at the differences, but at some broader, foundational elements of the Christian tradition that might help us to understand what is “lost” from contemporary Christianity.  What might we rediscover if we are open to that possibility?  I want to look at four elements of the tradition: Christianity as a commitment, Christianity as an inner path, Christianity as an institution, and Christianity as a way of life.  I want us to consider these four elements, how they work together, and what happens when one of those elements is “lost”.

QuoteOther Topics In Reflection II:

Christianity As A Commitment: The Beginning
Christianity As An Inner Path: The Method
Christianity As An Institution: The Support
Christianity As A Way of Life: The Goal
Lost Christianity: The Problem
Rediscovering Christianity As An Inner Path: The Solution
Balancing Community and Personal Spiritual Practice: The Responsibility 

Richard's Book


Excerpted from Southworth, Richard N., Choosing Authenticity:  Religion Is Not Enough, (Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, 2011), p. 60-63.
Photo by Michelle Evans
* Needleman,  Jacob,Lost Christianity:  A Journey of Rediscovery to the Centre of Christian Experience.  (Rockport, MA: Element, Inc., 1980), p. 4



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