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Oct 032017
 

Quotes from Richard's Book

Jun 262017
 

This post is part of a series titled Choosing Authenticity: A Prayer of My Own.  It is Part 9/9 of Reflection IV: of that series titled Listening Obedience | Attention Is Everything.


 Choosing Authenticity
A Prayer of Our Own

Reflection IV
Listening Obedience
Attention Is Everything
(Part 9)


Richard’s Rule of Life
My Commitments

Richard’s Personal Mission Statement

I aspire to live a holy life.

I aspire to live that holy life in the midst of my daily activities as an individual, a husband, a father, grandfather, and as a citizen in this world as it is, and as it will become.

I aspire to be in constant awareness of the Mysterious Divine Center I call God; in myself; in each person, each event, and each thing that makes up my life, whether it appears to be good or evil.

I aspire to participate in the holy life with these people, events, and things based on the directives and guidance that flows out of constant awareness of the Mysterious Divine Center.

In light of that divine guidance I aspire to give shape and form to my life and world in a way that will bring an ever increasing consonance, wholeness, and holiness to my own life and that of those I touch.

In the pursuit of this holy life I aspire to challenge myself and others, but also to respect their freedom while being true to my own life call.

Richard Southworth

I want to be this person! In the very depths of my soul I long to be this person! This mission statement is in my previous book, Choosing Authenticity: Religion Is Not Enough, which was published back in 2011, and it actually predates that time. It is still valid for me today. It is still a good description of the person I feel called to be. I know that I can never fully be that person, but I can move in that direction. Longing for it, striving for it, reaching for that vision gives my life its meaning. Seeing the “just perceptual difference” as I grow toward that goal motivates me to continue on this often difficult journey. This vision calls to me in the midst of all of my other activities, in the midst of happiness and joy, pain and suffering, anger and violence, and it permeates my thoughts and reflections. The vision is the very essence of who I am as a person.

In order for me to continue to move toward becoming that person I need to make specific commitments and hold myself accountable for those commitments. I need to write those commitments down. I need to take the results of my discernment practice and write them down into what is often referred to in the spiritual literature as a“Rule of Life”. I realize that it is impractical to think that I can, or even should, do all of this all of the time, but I am committed to striving to moving in that direction. I am also committed to paying attention of what works and what does not work and making reasonable adjustments as necessary.

My Practice: I am committed to maintaining a regular spiritual practice.

My Practice

Photo by Winnie Southworth

(1) I am committed to one complete time apart every day as early in the morning as practical to include reading three psalms out loud (3, 51, & 95), reading a section from Preferring Christ, and a twenty minute silent contemplation.

(2) I am committed to a twenty minute silent contemplation sometime in the middle of the day.

(3) I am committed to a daily practice with Winnie in the evening to include at least Centering, Reading, Meditation, and a twenty minute silent contemplation.

(4) I am committed to taking some silent time, without any other practice, sometime each day.

(5) I am committed to reviewing one section of this Rule regularly 
 as part of my practice.

Self Presence: I am committed to paying attention to the way I am present in the events of my day.

My Presence

Photo by Winnie Southworth

(1) Specifically I am committed to monitoring my compulsive thoughts, emotions, and impulses and to letting go of those thoughts, emotions, and impulses when appropriate.

(2) As a part of that I am committed to monitoring my speech to include both the content of that speech and the tone and delivery.

(3) When I am unable to do that I am committed to withdrawing from the event and taking time apart until I can.

 

 

 

My Presence: I am committed to being fully present in the events of my day. I will strive to be “that man” as described by Henri Nouwen or as I have come to call him “Abbot Richard”.

My Presence

Photo by Winnie Southworth

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. All he comes in contact with get the irresistible impression that he derives his strength from a hidden source which is strong and rich. An inner freedom flows out from him, giving him an independence which is neither haughty nor aloof, but which enables him to stand above immediate needs and most pressing necessities. He is moved by what happens around him, but he doesn’t let it oppress or shatter him. He listens attentively, speaks with a self-possessed authority, but doesn’t easily get rushed or excited. In everything he says and does, he seems to have a lively vision before him which those who hear him can intimate, but cannot see. This vision leads his life. He is obedient to it. Through it he knows how to distinguish between what is important and what is not. Many things which seem of gripping immediacy hardly stir him, and he attaches great importance to some things which others simply let pass.*

Henri Nouwen

My Family: I am committed to supporting my family and to deepening my relationship with each person. Specifically I am committed to:

My Family

Photo by Sandra Marr

(1) Spending time with each of them on a regular basis.

(2) Participating in family events enthusiastically while taking care of my need for quiet and solitude.

(3) Engaging is discussion and speaking my truth in an appropriate manner when I sense that I am called to do so even when my “truth” conflicts with others.

(4) Offering guidance and wisdom in an appropriate manner even or maybe especially when it is difficult or not received well.

Church: I am committed to maintaining my relationship with Walnut Grove Baptist Church for the foreseeable future. Specifically I am committed to:

Church

Photo by Winnie Southworth

(1) Attending Sunday School and Church with my family one some Sundays.

(2) Staying home on those days when my need for quiet and solitude is particularly strong. I will do that without guilt and without apologizing for my decision.

(3) Engaging in discussion and speaking my truth in an appropriate manner when I sense that I am called to do so even when my “truth” conflicts with others.

(4) Being open to opportunities to speak, teach, or serve in ways that are consistent with my ministry goals and objectives.

 

My Ministry: I am committed to sharing my experience and knowledge of spiritual formation and the contemplative lifestyle with others.. Specifically I am committed to:

Photo by Winnie Southworth

(1) Finishing and publishing my second book, tentatively titled Choosing Authenticity: A Prayer Of Our Own.

(2) Maintaining my blog Turning Around,

(3) Considering the place of both in person and online teaching and speaking in my ministry.

(4) Developing and implementing a marketing plan, including specific goals and objectives, to include my first book titled Choosing Authenticity: Religion Is Not Enough, my second book tentatively titled Choosing Authenticity: A Prayer Of Our Own, and my blog Turning Around.

 

(Written in June 2017)

____________

Nouwen, Henri J. M., With Open Hands. (Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 1972), p. 132.



If you liked this post, check out the other posts in this series:

Listening Obedience:  Attention Is Everything View…
Introduction

Developing Attention  View…
The Power of Focused Attention

Developing Openness  View…
Becoming Vulnerable 

Attention To Our Speech View…
The Discipline of Restraint of Speech

Developing Apatheia View
Attention To Our Thoughts, Emotions, and Impulses

Prayer View
Attention To Our Sacred Inner Being

Developing  A Way of Life View
A Guide To Live By

Obedience View
Seeking Consonance

Richard’s Rule of Life (This Post)
My Commitments

(Coming Soon…)

Another series:
Reflection V
Conversion of Heart

Saying Our Prayers Is Not Enough


Follow Us

May 142017
 

This post is part of a series titled Choosing Authenticity: A Prayer of My Own.  It is Part 6/9 of Reflection IV: of that series titled Listening Obedience | Attention Is Everything.


 Choosing Authenticity
A Prayer of Our Own

Reflection IV
Listening Obedience
Attention Is Everything
(Part 6)


Prayer
Attention To Our Sacred Inner Being

As we saw earlier, the dictionary defines prayer as:

a spiritual communion with God or an object of worship, as in supplication, thanksgiving, adoration, or confession.*

This definition captures the essence of the way we typically approach prayer. We tend to focus on “supplication, thanksgiving, adoration, or confession.” These are all valid and even necessary ways we communicate with God. They are all an important part of what prayer should be, and yet they all focus on our approach to God. If we are not careful this focus can cause us to miss prayer’s deepest meaning: “a spiritual communion with God”. The dictionary defines communion as:

the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level.**

It is this “sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings” that is the very essence of prayer for me. It is not enough for me to communicate with that Mysterious Other I call God. “Supplication, thanksgiving, adoration, or confession” is extremely important, but it can take us only so far. What I seek is what the monastics call Divine Union. I want God to communicate with me too. I want God to actually lead my life. I want God to actively provide ongoing “guidance, strength, and courage” for my routine day-to-day interactions with the people, events, and things that make up my life. I want real communion with God—real day-to day two way communication. Nothing else is enough.

Let me be very clear here. Someone once said, “we do not need to listen to God because God has already communicated everything he had to say in scripture”. I simply do not believe that is true. When my wife read this statement she said, “So does that mean that God is dead and there is no holy spirit?” That seems to be a reasonable conclusion to me. Scripture, and other people’s commentary on scripture, can only tell me how the writers of both scripture and the writers of scripture commentary related to God. It can help clarify goals and practices, but it does not and cannot provide real two-way “communion”—real “sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings”. It ultimately does not and cannot take us to Divine Union. It can call us and lead us toward a deeper communion, but it is not that communion, and it is not near enough.

Then how does this communion take place? How does Divine Union actually happen? How does this Mysterious Other actually communicate with us and provide “guidance, strength, and courage”? There is a place deep inside of us I have come to call the Sacred Inner Being where this relationship—this communion can happen. One of the most profound goals of prayer in specific and the whole spiritual life in general is to discover, acknowledge, and develop an ongoing relationship with that Sacred Inner Being. It is here that we can develop real communion—a deep, ongoing, two way relationship and communication with God. It is precisely here that this Mysterious Other can provide us with that ongoing, day to day “guidance, strength, and courage” so central to living a spiritual life. It is here that divine union can happen. That Sacred Inner Being is always there. It is always available to us. Always! We have only to be open to it.

It is through prayer and spiritual practice that we can learn to quieten our ego driven turmoil and be attentive to that Sacred Inner Voice we so often ignore. As we learn to recognize the source of that Sacred Inner Voice in our prayer—in our time apart—over time it becomes a part of the way we approach and live our active lives. That Voice will more and more speak to us in the events of our day. It will provide us with that “guidance, strength, and courage” we need. Over time that voice will lead our lives and we will experience true Divine Union.

Two People Talking

Photo by Winnie Southworth

Listening to that sacred inner voice is not enough. If we are to experience true Divine Union we also have to be obedient to the “guidance, strength and courage” that comes to us through that Voice. We have to live our lives in response to that Voice. This is the very essence of what spiritual maturity is all about—learning to listen to our Sacred Inner Voice and be obedient to it in all of the myriad interactions we have with the people, events, and things in our day to day lives.

As a recent personal example, I have been looking for, or better said, wishing for, a really good life coach. I had convinced myself that I would not be able to find one that would really understand me, or as my grandson’s then girl friend once put it, that “really gets me”. I do not fit the traditional molds. I am not a traditional Christian. I am a strong introvert in a primarily extroverted world. And I am certainly not into the traditional culture.

So I am sitting in a group meeting I participate in. Everyone is engaged in small talk and I am wanting to be at home in my room. There is a woman there who I had never really connected with, but I did know that she was a coach. She started talking about something I was interested in, and I realized she was someone I could talk to. That said the introvert in me was resisting asking her about the coaching. As I was about to leave that Still Small Voice that I have come to trust “said to me” “Richard, you should really talk to her about coaching, and you should do it now”. The resistance in me was palpable, but I was “listening”, and I knew I needed to be “obedient” to the leading of that Sacred Inner Voice, so I walked up to her in the group and asked her about the coaching, something I would normally never even consider. We met a week later and really hit it off. It was clear to me that she really did “get me”, and we developed a coaching relationship that is really special to me.

If I had not been listening, and if I had not been obedient to what came to me I would still be complaining about not being able to find a coach that “gets me”. Let me be clear here, there was no audible voice that “spoke to me”. It was simply that “Still Small Voice” that rose up from that deep place in me that I have come to trust. It was just a clear awareness of what I was called to do, and I was listening to it, and I was obedient to it. I trusted it, and I knew it was guidance from that Mysterious Other I call God. (More about how we “know” and come to recognize and trust that inner voice later.)

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you recognize that Sacred Inner Voice in your life?  Does that voice sometimes speak to you and provide you with guidance, strength, and courage?  Do you trust that guidance?  Are you obedient to it? 

____________
* Apple Dictionary, iOS Software version 7.0.4., © 1983-2013, Apple, Inc. All rights reserved.
** Apple Dictionary, iOS Software version 7.0.4., © 1983-2013, Apple, Inc. All rights reserved.


If you liked this post, check out the other posts in this series:

Listening Obedience:  Attention Is Everything View…
Introduction

Developing Attention  View…
The Power of Focused Attention

Developing Openness  View…
Becoming Vulnerable 

Attention To Our Speech View…
The Discipline of Restraint of Speech

Developing Apatheia View
Attention To Our Thoughts, Emotions, and Impulses

Prayer (This post)
Attention To Our Sacred Inner Being

(Coming Soon)

Developing  A Way of Life
A Guide To Live By

Obedience
Seeking Consonance

Richard’s Rule of Life


Follow our blog.

May 212016
 

Quotes from Richard's Book

Mar 262016
 

Quotes from Richard's Book

Nov 072015
 

Every year my wife goes away for a week or so to visit her family.  I love my wife, but as an introvert I love being alone, so I value this alone time.  One of the things I have noticed is that for the first couple of days I tend not to actually do anything much at all.  I spend a good bit of my day just sitting, taking walks around the neighborhood, and thinking about nothing much.  To use Iyer’s language, “Going nowhere”.  Doing this time I seldom write or check my email, or even meditate.  Sometimes I have felt guilty about that.  With all of this free time one would think I would make better use of my time.  Iyer has given that “practice” a name:  “The Art of Stillness”.  In the process he has authenticated my experience.  In this video he makes the case for taking:

A few minutes out of every day
A Few days out of every season,
Or even, as some people do, a few years out of a life,
In order to sit still long enough to find out what moves, you most.
To recall where your truest happiness lies,
And to remember that making a living and making a life sometimes point in opposite directions.

He reminds us that:

In an age of acceleration nothing can be more exhilarating that doing slow,
In an age of distraction nothing is more exhilarating than paying attention,
In an age of constant movement nothing is so urgent than sitting still.

ListenReflect

 

 

The place that travel writer Pico Iyer would most like to go? Nowhere. In a counterintuitive and lyrical meditation, Iyer takes a look at the incredible insight that comes with taking time for stillness. In our world of constant movement and distraction, he teases out strategies we all can use to take back a few minutes out of every day, or a few days out of every season. It’s the talk for anyone who feels overwhelmed by the demands for our world.*

Please add your comments and experiences below.

____________

* From: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUBawr1hUwo

Sep 112015
 
Photo by Winnie Southworth

Photo by Winnie Southworth

I have a small alter on the dresser in my bedroom.  The purpose of the alter is to remind me of my intent to listen to that still small voice where that Mysterious Other I call God speaks to me and gives me guidance, strength, and courage, and to be obedient to that voice as I go through the events of my day.  Each time I walk past that alter I make it a point to take just a second or two to center myself and to be present to myself, to check in with that still small voice, and to my current thoughts, emotions, and impulses.  Essentially I check to see if I am currently being obedient to that leading. Among the items on that alter is a bible that is currently open to the first page of the Gospel of Mark.  As part of that process I often just run my hand across the pages of the bible.

On one level this practice seems a bit hypocritical.  I seldom actually read scripture, and I haven’t for years.  As I reflected on this situation recently I realized that while the traditional approach to scripture I have been exposed to through Sunday school and church over the years does not speak to me at all.  In fact it turns me off.  Sometimes when someone is trying to push that approach on me it makes me downright defensive, and sometimes even angry.  It offers me “an opportunity to practice”, to center myself and let go of the judgements that are behind the defensive reaction, and have compassion for the other person.  Sometimes that effort is successful and sometimes not.

I know that there are other ways of reading and understanding scripture.  Periodically I have picked up the Bible with the intent of reading it again from that other perspective, but each time I do it either boors me or makes me frustrated or angry.  I simply cannot get past all of my negative reactions to the traditional teaching that has been drilled in me over the years in order to see anything new.

Yet at some deeper level scripture still speaks to me, even without reading it.  I still include it on my alter, and I still run my hand across it to center myself.  I have a very strong sense that there is something much deeper there if only I could let go of the traditional teaching and connect with it.  I know that, but in the end it still doesn’t work.

Jacob Needleman points to my own dilemma when he says:

…in my own academic work as a professor of philosophy and religion I had begun to perceive things in the Bible that I had never dreamed were there. I was beginning to understand that everything I had seen in the Eastern teachings was also contained in Judaism and Christianity, although the language of the Bible was practically impossible to penetrate, because it had become so encrusted with familiar associations.”*

For me the language of the bible really is “practically impossible to penetrate, because it [has] become so encrusted with familiar associations” (read traditional associations).  I sense that I need to get passed those “familiar associations” so that I can connect with that deeper meaning that I know is there and that leads me to keep that bible on my alter and run my hand over it as I pass by during my day.  I know that but so far I have not been able to actually do it.

In an effort to be obedient to that calling I have started reading the book Reading The Bible Again for the First Time:  Taking the Bible Seriously but Not Literally by Marcus J. Borg.

Much like Needleman Borg captures my issue:

“The key word in the title of this book—Reading the Bible Again for the First Time—is “again.” It points to my central claim. Over the past century an older way of reading the Bible has ceased to be persuasive for millions of people, and thus one of the most imperative needs in our time is a way of reading the Bible anew.”**

I honestly don’t remember that “older way of reading the bible” was ever persuasive to me.  A critical issue for me is captured in the subtitle of the book: Taking the Bible Seriously but Not Literally.  When I reflect on my own struggle with the bible over the years it is clear to me that this is at the heart of my issue.  I very much want to take the Bible seriously, yet I do believe it is counter productive to take it literally.  We will see if Borg’s approach can take me past my deep seated resistances.

I Believe

I believe that the bible is a book about people and about how they understood and related to God in their own time and in their own culture.  It is not a book about God.  I do not believe it was somehow dictated by God.  I believe it was written by fallible human beings, and it should not be taken literally.  In our efforts through traditional bible study to interpret scripture literally we often miss the real point, and what is worse, we do a great deal of harm in the process trying to live that “truth” and force it on other people.  Some times we fight among ourselves, and sometimes we fight wars over those meanings.  I believe that many of the stories in the bible are metaphoric and have much deeper meanings when those metaphors are penetrated and understood.  I believe that there is much in scripture which is simply lost to us today, and we need to be open and accepting to that mystery.  I look forward to whatever insights Borg’s book can offer.

____________
*Needleman, Jacob, Lost Christianity: A Journey of Rediscovery.  (Pinguin Publishing Group, 2003) Chapter 1, Paragraph 4.  iBooks Edition. https://itun.es/us/hyyvv.l

** Borg, Marcus J., Reading the Bible Again For the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally, (Harper Collins eBooks, 2009), Chapter 1, Paragraph 1. (iBooks Edition. https://itun.es/us/EFNFv.l)


 

Sep 032013
 

Preface

The Quest

Page Divider

Windmill

Original Painting by Winnie Southworth

Page Divider

Don QuixotePlease, try to remember.
You looked at me and you called me by another name.
Dulcinea, Dulcinea.
Once you found a girl and called her Dulcinea.
When you spoke the name an angel seemed to whisper,
Dulcinea, Dulcinea.Dulcinea, Dulcinea.
Won’t you please bring back the dream of Dulcinea?
Won’t you bring me back to that moment of shining glory?
Of Dulcinea, Dulcinea.Perhaps, perhaps it was not a dream.
You spoke of a dream, and about the quest.
The Quest.
The words, tell me, tell me the words.
But they are your own words.
Try to remember.

From The Man of Lamancha *

I remember the event like it was yesterday, even though it was over twenty years ago.  I was sitting at the dinner table with my family.  I have no idea what we were talking about, but something made me extremely angry, until finally I picked up a dinner plate and threw it across the room against the wall breaking it and scattering the pieces and the food all across the floor and the wall.  Luckily I did not hurt anyone, but it was a wakeup call for me.  I knew then I had to do something about my anger.  I began meeting with a psychologist shortly after that.

Almost two years later I was sitting with my therapist, and I was tired and frustrated with the process.  I told her that over the time I had been meeting with her I had learned a lot about where my anger came from and about how to manage that anger so it did not spill over onto my family nearly as much.  But, I told her, the anger was still there, and it seemed to me that, in a way, continually having to manage that anger actually added to the depth and strength of the anger rather than reducing it.  I asked her if I would ever get to the place where that anger would subside.  Her answer shocked me.  “No”, she said, “the best you can hope for is to be able to manage the anger better.”  Now, my daughter, who is a clinical psychologist, assured me that this was not the case.  Good therapy, she insisted, should really reduce the anger.  I get that on some level, but the words of my therapist, confirmed by my own experience, made my daughter’s denial seem hollow.  The fact was still true—in two years of therapy I was still living with that anger, albeit mitigated externally by my improved ability to manage it.  I quit therapy shortly after this discussion.

Interestingly my experience with Christianity followed much the same pattern.  As I have written in my previous book Choosing Authenticity: Religion Is Not Enough:

I grew up as a Southern Baptist, but I do not remember church being a particularly important part of my life as a child.  After I was married I went to church off and on, more because of my wife’s encouragement than anything else.  Through those years we attended various churches in a number of different denominations, some orthodox and some not.  We became involved in leadership roles in some.  I often found myself in conflict with the churches, the theology, the pastors, and the leadership.  While I did find fellowship with individuals and couples in some of those churches, I almost never felt “at home” in any of them.  I had a deep longing for that Mysterious Other, but I longed for my relationship with God to positively affect the way I experienced and lived my life. I grew up with a lot of inner turmoil, and I longed for a way of healing that  turmoil, and I longed for my relationship with God and the church to provide a path toward that healing.  The churches I attended simply did not address that longing, and most of the pastors, church leaders, and friends just did not seem to understand what all of the struggle was about, though some of them tried very hard. **

I was discussing that with the pastor at one of the churches I attended, and finally, out of frustration I said, “Mr. D, you have answers to questions that are not even questions for me, and you have absolutely no answers to the questions I do have.”  What I took from that discussion and others like it was essentially the same message I got from my therapist.  I was exhorted to manage my anger—my sin, but I should not expect it to dissipate.  Unlike my therapist, my church experience did not even offer any guidance on how to manage the anger except to say that I should pray, whatever that meant.  The message I did get was that it really didn’t matter anyway.  If I gave my life to Jesus I would be forgiven.  In some of the messages there was a kind of magical option where God would just reach down and transform me, but that never actually happened, and that, I was told, was because my faith was not strong enough.  NEVER, in any of the churches I attended, was I offered spiritual practices—prayer practices—that might begin to heal that anger.  I ultimately gave up on church too, though I continued to attend with my wife and family from time to time.

A short time later I began a period of self-study of the spiritual literature I had discovered as a part of my academic studies.  From that self-study I began experimenting with various spiritual practices. Over a couple of years I developed a personal practice that worked for me, and the turmoil and anger really did begin to dissipate.  Over time my life has been changed dramatically in ways that neither therapy nor my church experience even began to touch.  That growth and transformation, or what the monastics call “conversion of heart” continues.  My wife, both of my daughters, my supervisors, and some of my friends have all told me in different ways that I have changed more than anyone they have known.  I attribute that “conversion” almost entirely to my spiritual practice—to my prayer practice.

It is sad to me that neither my therapist nor anyone in any of the many churches I attended seemed to even know of those practices, even though they come from the very roots of the Christian tradition, and the roots of those practices can be seen clearly in Jesus’ life.  They also can be found in different forms in most all major religious traditions.  The prayer practices that are outlined here are not new.  They come from deep within the Christian tradition.  They can be found in the writings of the spiritual masters, the saints, the desert fathers and mothers, and the monastic tradition.  My quest to continue my own growth, and to write and teach about the spiritual life begins precisely here.  I want to make what I have discovered available to others.    To the extent that I can, I want to be obedient to that quest.

This book and those I hope will follow are about Turning Around.  It is about transformation and that “conversion of heart” that the monastics speak of so profoundly.  But in the end it is a book about prayer as The Work of the Spiritual Journey.  It is prayer that includes Turning Around as part of that work.  These prayer practices changed my life and continue to change my life.  They can change yours as well if you are obedient to them.  Sharing that insight is the very essence of my quest.

Yet, at the same time, it seems ironic—even hypocritical, for me to be writing a book about prayer.  How can I presume to have anything useful to say about prayer?  How can I presume to teach anyone about prayer?   For most of my adult life I have openly criticized much of what has been said about prayer in the churches I have attended.  As a result, I spent little time even thinking about prayer, much less actually praying.  I pretty much ignored the subject entirely, and if I spoke of it at all it was mostly to offer some criticism of what the church teaches, or does not teach, about prayer.  Yet here I sit, hands on the keyboard, typing the first paragraphs of just such a book.

This is a series that I must write if I am to be true and authentic to who I am and who I feel called to be by that Mysterious Other I call God. It grows out of this long process of criticism, study, practice, and growth.  Maybe it is my initial struggle with prayer as it was presented to me in the churches I attended, combined with my own study and practice and experience that will give these reflections a quality of legitimacy they might otherwise lack.  That is my sincere desire.  That is my prayer.

My friend and Catholic priest, Fr. Patrick Foley put it this way in the forward to my first book, Choosing Authenticity: Religion Is Not Enough:

Richard Southworth is such a man: restless, searching, unsatisfied.  His hunger for transcendence – which for the believer is ultimately a hunger for God – has driven him into, and out of, churches, various religious organizations and activities, leaving him frustrated but still searching.  Having been his friend, occasional fellow-traveler, and frequent sounding board for almost thirty years, I have often thought that this search possesses him more than he possesses it – and that very quality is proof enough of its authenticity.  “The hound of heaven,” to borrow Francis Thompson’s image, pursues us all, whether we recognize it or not.  Wisdom is found in that recognition, and in the desire and willingness to remove whatever obstacles stand in the way of such a pursuit.***

Read, reflect, enjoy!

____________

From the song The Finale, from the movie Man of La Mancha (1972), music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion.
** 
Southworth, Richard N., Choosing Authenticity:  Religion Is Not Enough, (Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, 2011). – See more at:  http://www.thegreatjourney.com
*** 
Southworth, Richard N., Choosing Authenticity:  Religion Is Not Enough, (Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, 2011), p. xiv-xv. See more at:  http://www.thegreatjourney.com

 

Aug 232013
 

As I have written about in another post, my wife and I do this thing that the family calls “bickering”.  One of us will say something, the other one will take issue with it, and we are off.  Most of the topics are not even important, but the bickering often continues for way too long.  We have worked on the bad habit recently, and we have gotten much better.  We don’t bicker near as often as we did and when we do one of us will call attention to it, and thus they don’t last near as long as they used to.

That said, the other day we in fact began to bicker and it lasted way too long.  In this case, even though the issue was totally unimportant, neither of us were willing to let it go.  We finally stopped and decided to go out to dinner. We went to a Chinese restaurant, and when we were done we got the usual fortune cookies.  Normally they are both different, but this time when we opened them they were both alike.

Fortune Cookie

Fortune Cookie

I could no doubt written a very profound blog post about the spiritual importance of “calm, poise, and balance”, but in this context this simple message in a fortune cookie was all either of us needed to hear.  Had we been practicing these simple spiritual principles, the bickering we had engaged in would never have happened.

On one level I found this to be funny, but on another it really reminded me that we can find wisdom in a lot of different places, even in a fortune cookie.  So with this thought running around in my head, I was driving down the road a day or two later, and I stopped for a stop light behind a car with this bumper sticker.

Bumper Sticker

Bumper Sticker

Ok, I get it!  Really, I get it!

Mar 262013
 

This is a wonderful story posted on writer Susan Cain’s blog, The Power of Introverts.  As Susan put it:  “Rich Day, one of this blog’s most active participants, shares a lovely story that’s guaranteed to give you what my mother-in-law calls a “leaky faucet moment.” 

This is the story of a young woman who struggles with her first piano competition, falters several times, each time showing great courage, beginning again, until she reaches something deeper–something authentic and beautiful.  In words taken from the title of my book, she is “Choosing Authenticity“.*

Rich Day begins…

Both of my daughters, Christine and Shannon, took up the piano, along with all the lessons, the hours of practice, and the nervousness of performing at recitals.In particular, the performance aspect of piano was an act of courage for Christine, who is quiet and reserved, but she did very well. She’s an enigma in her quiet ways, a girl who will not be held back in spite of some discomfort.


This true story takes place at their first piano competition…**

Rich Day
Posted on Susan Cain’s blog, The Power of Introverts

thepowerofintroverts.com

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* Southworth, Richard N., Choosing Authenticity:  Religion Is Not Enough, (Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, 2011).
** From the Blog The Power of Introverts: From Moonlight to Courage | A Spirit’s Guide to Surviving Live’s Song, Posted March 14, 20013.

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