Today on Soul School I am sharing a version of a presentation on prayer that I gave to the inmates at Federal Prison FCI Schuylkill who (voluntarily) attend ongoing LIFE Ministry(Christian)classes.
My book on prayer is called LIFE AS PRAYER:
My book was inspired by Brother Lawrence and this book:
The Letters of Brother Lawrence
Brother Lawrence was a man of humble beginnings who discovered the greatest secret of living in the kingdom of God while serving as a brother in a monastery near Paris. For Lawrence his life was involved the art of “practicing the presence of God in one single act that does not end.” Lawerence often stated that it is God who paints Himself in the depths of our soul. We must only open our hearts to receive God and God’s loving presence. For nearly 300 years this unparalleled classic (which is mainly a collection of letters from him and remembrances of him) has given both blessing and instruction to those who can be content with nothing less than knowing God presence in all God’s majesty and feeling God’s loving presence throughout each simple day.
Did this ever happen to you? You think the way your family (of origin) does something is normal, and then, suddenly, you find out it isn’t?
Usually, this happens when you form close relationships outside your family of origin. Fireworks can ensue!
How your family dealt with conflicts, problems, shame, secrets, and tragedies shaped you and learning relational and loyalty dynamics from the previous generations in your family can bring relational repair, health, and hope.
That’s what today’s show is about. I’m glad you can listen, today.
Today’s guest is graduate school professor and marriage and family therapist in private clinical practice, Janet Stauffer, Ph.D.
Dean of Students, Evangelical Seminary
Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy
In addition to her work at the seminary and her clinical practice, Janet is vice president of the Board of Directors at Philhaven Behavioral Healthcare facility. She has led retreats, presented at professional conferences, and published articles in a number of journals. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist and approved supervisor and clinical member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. She also holds membership in the Christian Association for Psychological Studies. Her research interests include genuine meeting through dialogical engagement, loyalty dynamics between and across the generations of the family, and the intersection of faith and therapy.
Each person is born with an inherent longing to connect.
Early childhood experiences shape who we are and how we relate to others.
Our ancestors deliver ways of being to us across generations:
What can be done if the early years weren’t filled with dysfunction and problems?
How relationship can alter the wiring and re-patterning of the brain.
Jim Coen, UVA – The Hand holding experiment.
In close relationships, we end up feeling–not only are you here with me–but somehow you are me. Somehow we are here together.
Before we can help others, we have to be open to ourselves and our own healing. Our wounds can remain as vulnerabilities and our greatest resource.
“I because who I am through my relationships with other people, so that more of me gets called forth as I respond to others in my world around me.”
The still face experiment:
“Foo-Poo” (FOO = Family of Origin) influences our current relationships.
The interconnectedness and “loyalty dynamics” between and across the generations and how during all our interactions we are holding something that has been passed down across generations and in the larger cultural dynamics.
Example from life (Janet, her husband and the Ford Fiesta). Naming the truth in our interactions and being curious about what we hold from generations before us.
Janet explored what anger was like for her mother and grandmother and discovered not just a family secret and the shame that was carried on, but also a a family norm relating to how pain is dealt with.
Family secrets and ways of interacting waiting like land mines that can sabotage our other relationships.
We can also end up carrying or holding visibly or invisibly things that our spouse (or other close relationships) hold as well.
There are options for growth and healing if we can be open, aware, curious and can find courage to turn and face [the other] and remember where our weakness are and admit them.
The power of naming what is happening for us emotionally.
“Honoring my personal truth, personal awareness, my being, and made a claim for myself has a profound impact in my own knowing.”
“Every one of us experiences terror at the thought of finding the courage to turn and face the other in a painful situation at some point in our life.”
A defend or fight mode should be superseded by the prevailing message “You and I are on the team team ultimately. We have a reason to connect and I long for you. But it’s been hard between and here’s something of how it’s been for me… and I want to know what it’s like for you.”
Yet, we cannot think what we say will always help because we cannot guarantee the other person’s response. So there is vulnerability in saying the truth.
Being calm, curious and compassionate even in the face of wounds and vulnerability.
Emotionally self-regulating and contending with emotional triggers.
(In marriage or close relationships) Learning self and other in a whole new way…in a kind of sacred space to grow through the most tender places that we hold.
Telling the other what would help in what feels like an unsafe place emotionally.
Learning to soothe one another.
On core lies we can believe about ourselves.
Honoring when emotional safety is just as important as physical safety.
What to do when it’s not safe to have important conversations.
Martin Buber-We live with an armor around us and bands around our heart and being closed off and unaware and unaddressed.
Asking questions of ourselves to create more awareness and realizing our thoughts and memories are not us.
We limit our imagination about the capacity each of us holds to respond the other, the world around us and ourself.
We can test our assumptions and plant seeds that bring new possibilities for ourself and others.
When we can’t yet name or isolate our feelings.
Giving permission and a soft demand to know what is going on with someone else and helping them find their voice.
The biblical tradition of the garden where God says “Where art thou?” a story about hiding. God’s longing for humankind.
King David in the psalms is modeling openness and receptivity…asking “What is in my heart?” “Who am I?” “What do I hold?”
Being open and still safe. Giving yourself warm, regard, and leaving the self-judgment out.
“Judgment limits the knowing.”
Being present to and growing in recognition of “here’s what I hold” or “here’s what freezes me” etc and asking “how can I be more free?” and then exploring new pathways and practices that go somewhere.
On the spiritual practices and things can people do to move forward.
These ways of understanding what it is to connect, grow and be human are universal and offer hope to those with varied religious tradition and no religious affiliation too.
The spiritual and the Other when it is not defined as “God”.
“God doesn’t limit God’s self to the church or the synagogue or the mosque and we can never fully describe God because God cannot be contained and is always more than what I can fathom or grasp”
Asking, “How do I understand the call before me and how do I invite others and find the place where they are experiencing call and longing and where is this work happening within them. What is being invited forth?”
How we can pass down the best of our generational dynamics and loyalties to our children.
On the invisible family rule of perfectionism and how it made Janet think she could be the perfect parent and how that idea was shattered.
How she approached her son after that point to understand what he was experiencing and being surprised by his reply.
We can never get it all right, but we can be willing to go to our child and ask them about their experience.
Inviting others to know themselves in whatever capacity to do that they can and hold what they say with care and honor.
Enacting moments and accumulating themes and transactions and happenings and asking “Is their a burden they carry or an injury of disregard or diminishment that was not theirs to carry?” which deserve address and caring and honor.
On having a commit to “I will be there for you, and I will be here for me, and I invite you to be here for me,” is a profound act that helps us for the long run.
Despite our efforts, outcomes are not guaranteed and each person has an opportunity to respond uniquely.
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Shownotes: PART I
A conversation (in 2 parts) with
the author of Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality, by practical theologian Tom Reynolds
Tom joined the Emmanuel College (part of the University of Toronto) faculty in 2007. He is committed to an interdisciplinary, practical, and relational vision of theology, his teaching and research address a range of topics related to constructive theology (particularly the doctrine of God and theological anthropology), theological method, intercultural and interfaith engagements, contextual theologies and globalization, philosophical theology, disability studies, and the thought and influence of Friedrich Schleiermacher.
Incorporating the theology of disability into his work training pastors at Emmanuel Seminary, because theology is personal, and not disconnected from the real world concerns of the church and people living their lives.
About his son Chris sparking his interest and work in the theology of disability.
5:30 Learning that disability isn’t a problem to figure out, but rather it’s about a person who I love and live with, and care with and for, which radically reoriented my perspective on theology.
Disability and God’s Providence
(Questioning does God “cause” disability as a curse or opportunity for healing…or a kind of moral lesson…)
His son exploded the theological categories (and assumptions) pertain to Providence…making everything confusing and needing to be re-thought.
What is abnormal? What is “faulty” humanity?
Amos Yong, Hans Reinders, John Swinton writing on the topic too.
Tom details the new book on the Theology of Care which builds on the first book.
Some churches stress Cure over Care in terms of disability.
(Lisa) My visit to a church where the leadership was interested in healing my son from his non normative experience of the world.
The range of responses churches have when encountering people with disabilities.
The church’s “urge to cure” is better than outright exclusion, which plenty of families have encountered.
It comes from the the idea of remaking and fixing someone in a way that is more comfortable for non disable people and normalcy (what they consider normal). Not helpful or Christian.
About the church that didn’t want his son as a disruption and a church that did receive them.
“How can we help you?” was water for his parched soul. How the church accepted and welcomed the uniqueness of his son.
Hospitality vs. a narrow view of what is preferred.
The messiness of various kinds of people, in general, means we have to expand our view of grace.
Who gets to be a full-fledge member of the church community?
and the “mascot syndrome” for those with disabilities.
16:30 – 17:50
Levels and types of responses:
• Tolerate disabled, but they do not get to be a true part of the church.
• “Inclusion” sometimes means means the the “outsiders” get invites to the inside group based on the good graces of the in group, but are still treated as problems to be solved, or people that are to receive the gestures of charity from others (people for whom things are “done for (them”)”. Doing for instead of “being with”.
What is access? In is not just accommodations (i.e. ramps and special bathrooms) and alterations but ongoing…
Faith communities may be not expecting and not ready to receive those with disabilities.
It’s not an issue about outsiders, because disability extend to a broad range of issues, both visible and not visible, including mental health challenges that are already there.
Thinking of the word “BELONGING”
as in “to be longed for when you aren’t there in the fullest sense.”
John Swinton and belonging
Jean Vanier “In giving and receiving do we really thrive as people”
Unconscious bias that includes “fear of the stranger” and “fear of the stranger within”.
We fear weakness and vulnerability.
Before “mainstream”…the stigma of “retard”…and fearing and disposing weakness.
Nathan means gift. (Lisa) I learned that I had to recognize weaknesses (shortcomings) in myself the I saw reflected in my son…and communities can do the same type of thing unconsciously.
“The encounter with disability punctures the illusions of what we think of as our own strengths.”
The journey with a child with disabilities is isolating.
Societal epidemic that fears being vulnerable or perceived as weak or unable to perform in ways that are considered valuable by society.
We have to see what are myths about autonomy, independence, and productivity where are assume we are self-reliant and these qualities are prized so highly. “Able-ism” (The idea that being able in body and mind is normal and most vital which serves as the lens by which we see and judge the world and others outside those parameters as faulty.)
Tom’s latest work called “A spirituality of attentiveness”. Christianity: St Paul’s strength in weakness serves as a prophetic witness against a society that prizes the strong as the main thing of value. 1 Corinthinians pretense of strength undercuts our ideas of grace)
We are all only temporarily-abled. (Lisa).
On hearing “You must be so blessed to have a disabled person as a teacher.” Is this sometimes a reframing of the situation that spins the situation to be more palatable? A glossing with spiritual truths and making it about spiritual growth.
Instead, Chris’s life seeks its own flourishes, and he may at times function as a teacher.
Thoughts on intellectual ability (or inability) and belief in terms of Salvation.
God’s works God’s own path in different ways and in different capacities with people. This undercuts my arrogance (as a theologian), so I don’t think I can so easily map it out definitively and universal for all people in all places.
His son’s atheism (who is the God he doesn’t believe in)…and how that challenges our presuppositions about God.
“It is in the kind of relationships of mutual belonging that the full image of God is borne out.”
(Lisa) To my son I said, “when you see someone who is loving you, you are seeing God.”
(Lisa) On how I changed from thinking “right belief” as the way to understand God was central. Our intellectualizing what God has done is not salvific.
Martin Luther’s theology of the Cross:
The pretense that we know exactly where God is and how God works. Where God is most hidden is where God is most vividly revealed in saving ways.
“Who I am to declare that God’s grace only works in some ways? and the God’s capacity and God’s own mystery is limited to what I would deem and my community would deem adequate.”
What the practical theology of disability tells us about Grace with God and relationships with others.
“The longer I live and work as a theologian the more I realize the limitations of theology and the true infinite mysteries of God.”
Jesus was disruptive to religious pretense and suppositions. “You say this..but I say this…”
Theodicy – The question of why does God allow suffering and how should we think about suffering.
How Tom, as a theologian, answers the question,
“Why would a sovereign God allow a person to be born disable and encounter such suffering?” (This is great!)
The best is yet to come! Come back for part II next week.
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BIO: Nicole Unice is on staff at Hope Church in Richmond, Virginia, and the author of the breakout book: “She’s Got Issues” which she wrote from her counseling and ministry experiences. The book produced and encouraged a refreshing and radical honesty that she’s built on in her new book “Brave Enough”.
Enjoy the Shownotes and links below and please share this with friends that you know CAN be “Brave Enough“. Thanks for listening!
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(Your ears are not fooling you. In Columbus, Ohio at 9:30 pm a man rides a bike around and rings a bell as he sells frozen chocolate covered bananas. Too funny. And it sounds delicious, if not suspicious. That’s why I’m featuring chocolate in the wine segment today! Enjoy it. It’s bananas, after all.)
Want to try the practice of EXAMEN?
In this episode Ed and I chat about one of his favorite spiritual practices. It’s been very transforming for me too. It’s the practice of Examen (typically pronounced: EGGS-Aye-men).
This age old practice of reflection, mindfulness, and prayer to begin and end one’s day goes back ages in Christian History and is reflected in spirit throughout the bible. Like in David’s sentiments in the Psalms (like Psalm 119) and in Isaiah 26:9.
“My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you…”
So today I offer you my personal version of the Examen practice!
I call it “The Daily Sharpening Ritual”
–It’s the perfect way to supercharge and renew personal and spiritual awareness in your life.
It’s a simple but effective worksheet makes the practice easier to sustain. I hope you give it a try. The practice takes just 3-5 minutes each morning and just before bed. • You can see surprising changes in awareness in only 5 days.
(Simply print out 5 copies and follow-through for 5 days!)
Both EXAMEN-like worksheets below work like an Examen practice, but the 2nd one features prayer more fully in addition to reflection and mindfulness.
Check them out to see which one you like best. Print out both if you’d like:
(Enjoy these resources with my compliments…tipping what you can is optional.)
How we find spark:
We are in this together. As you listen and become part of what is happening here, it will be obvious that I spend a lot of time and a bit of money doing the show: website, paying for media hosting, producing it, editing, adding music, finding and speaking with guests, more editing, more research, and all the rest to bring you something of value in the Spark My Muse podcast.
Lots of heart, sweat and occasionally tears for your enjoyment and inspiration. You get to decide what that means and what it’s worth.
So, I invite you to just listen, read, and contribute what the episode is worth to you.
• If nothing, I apologize. Please, come back and listen again soon.
• If you think it’s worth one dollar, five dollars, twenty-five dollars, six hundred billion-gazillion dollars…you see where I’m going with this…, or offer something of equal value that is not monetary, simply contribute what it has been worth to you. HERE.
(or contact me here if it’s not monetary. Be creative!)
Best tips for the tastiest pairing Party of chocolate and wine!
A chocolate and wine tasting party is so much fun.
• It’s ideal for groups of 3-12 people.
• Have each person bring some wine and provide samples of high quality chocolate and let the fun start!
It’s the acid:
One of the tasty things you can do is pair chocolate and wine. Both chocolate and wine have higher levels of acidity which makes them a naturally delicious match.
Well-paired wine and chocolate work together to make each one taste better. Delicious qualities come out in both the wine and the chocolate and even form a third taste. A careful selection is needed.
Here are some ideas of which wine to pair with which kinds of chocolate treats.
The most important tip to remember is to keep the wine sweeter than the treat it’s pair with.
(If you don’t it can make the wine seem less tasty and flavorful or heighten its bitterness. yucky.)
Make sure you have high-quality chocolate.
Many supermarketers have a premium chocolate section and you probably only need one bar of each kind or just a good quality box assortment. Baked good work as well and you can search online too.
Taste test the chocolate ahead of time: Pick out certain fruit flavors, determine the sweet and bitter components they have, check for nuttiness qualities and levels of acidity. If the chocolate has a creme center this will take on added complexity that might pair well with fruit-forward wines.
A rule of thumb is that darker wines tend to pair better which darker chocolate and should be served first: More full-bodied, (heavier feeling in the mouth) dark and drier (not a sweet style) red wine pair well with the more bitter chocolates that have a higher cocoa %.
White wines tend to pair well with milk chocolate blends and chocolates that have sweeter and fruitier flavor notes.
TIP 5 Remember TIP #1 one …keep the wine SWEETER than the chocolate!
MAKING A MATCH
Pick your wines according to the flavors you’ve tasted in the chocolate, and ask your guests to bring a specific variety of wine.
Here are some specific ideas for the kinds of wine you may want to serve, but you can feel free to experiment and see if your palate prefers something different.
Bittersweet chocolate (70% to 100%): This chocolate type enters the bitter range with deep intensity. Good choices include Bordeaux wines (merlot, cab franc, cab save), Beaujolais, Shiraz, Port, Malbec.
Dark chocolate (50% to 70%): Pair this with more robust wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, off-dry chamborcin and Port. A Chianti can match well with chocolate around 65 percent cocoa content.
Milk chocolate: Try Merlot, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Muscat, and dessert wines. Champagne is also a natural match for milk chocolate. The crisp, dry flavour of the bubbly contrasts perfectly with the creaminess of a simple milk chocolate tablet. Be careful of the higher sugar levels in milk chocolate, as these may cancel out any fruitiness in dry red wines, leaving them tasting bitter.
White chocolate (which is really cocoa butter) : Match with Sherry, Muscato (a.k.a. Muscat) a fruity Chardonnay (un-oaked), These wines will pick up on the buttery, slightly oilier tones of the cocoa butter. Vidal Blanc, Niagra blends, catawba blends.
Champagne or sparkling wine goes well with all chocolate types. It is a variety that compliments many kinds of wines. Many fortified dessert wines work well across the chocolate spectrum as well because they tend to be sweeter.
PARTY TIP To keep every one sharp and feeling well, Offer your guests some bread or light fare before you begin and keep the wine samples to just an ounce.
HOW TO TASTE THE PAIR 1. Take take a small sip of wine and note the aromas and tastes. Some hosts offer guest a sheet to jot down their observations.
2. Then bite into the chocolate and note what it happening as you taste and eat it.
3. Then you sip the wine again and note the new flavor notes and changes that the chocolate brought to the wine. It’s amazing how much the taste of the wine will change according to what it is paired with.
4. Don’t rush through the pairing. 7-10 minutes per pairing is about right. Allow people to really luxuriate on the experience and talk about the flavors and taste combinations they are experiencing.
AMBIENCE TIP This is not a consumption event, it’s a sensory group experience where enhanced awareness is key. Relax and take your time. Chocolate and wine are luxury items.
THE TAKEAWAY It’s a great lesson for life too. The point isn’t to bulldoze through life and get it out of the way, but to really notice what is happening and take it all in deeply. Downshift to a better appreciation of encounters with others, with our surroundings, and ultimately with ourselves and to God who makes a home within us.
• Enjoy yourself and let me know of the pairings you came up with (in the comments section) and how your pairing experimenting went, or what your plans are. I’d love to know. You can post pictures at the Spark My Muse Facebook page too.
Do you have questions? Leave them here, use the voice mail feature, or use the contact page and I’ll try to answer them in future episodes.
Trying to encourage others to be redemptive and holding back if he can’t do it in a redemptive way. Waiting is important.
How we change. Example: Women in Ministry and how Ed’s mind changed.
“God is all about the long game.”
(It’s not helpful to create animosity)
(Lisa) “The power of heightening Empathy (to solve problems). Sharing stories helps.
The job of a person who is called to communicate for something bigger than themselves is to ask…
‘Am I able to show people something that they haven’t seen, but then once they see they know it’s true. And they can’t unseen it’.”
“And to feel it too…what that (other) person is feeling.” -Ed
(If you’d like to have Ed back to discuss how writing can be “soul-killing” and what to do about it, please let us know and leave a comment! Was the show too long? Too short? Ed and I decided we are curious about this, so let us know.)
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Shane Claiborne is joining Spark My Muse as a guest this summer! WHOOP whoop !!!