Living Well Ministries


Jacki's Blog

Diversity, Equality, and Trusting God

The Reverend Jacki Belile

We are so blessed to live in a country founded on the principles of freedom of religion and conscience. Our founders were living in the time period when some new lessons were really fresh for the church, including the ideas that forcing people to profess Christ in your certain way—or to live in the manner that you think they ought to live—is NOT the way God works in our lives. Instead, they were coming to believe that we could live together as a people who differ greatly on religious and moral matters AND YET STILL WORK TO CREATE A FAIR AND EQUAL society. In Divine guidance, they even dared to trust that our Creator has given us all "inalienable rights" to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The American experiment is the working out of this: Do we really believe the above, and how on earth can we create a vibrant, stable society amid increasingly divergent views on these inalienable rights? Far from being a weak statement on morals, or a slippery slope, this is a way to trust God (and trust our neighbors' fate to God)! From the beginning, though, we have had to work this out and apply it to new situations because we as a people have been growing and new situations have presented themselves. Some evolving situations: Increased religious and cultural diversity. Equal rights for women. Repentance of slavery and our Native American genocide. The challenge to racist laws. (All of this work is so clearly not yet done.)

And, today: The emergence of a visible, organized gay community devoted to being citizens (with contractual obligations to work and family, patriotic desire to serve in the military, and to nurture future generations). Yes, this is challenging to many who do not understand or approve of our lives. It is clearly so challenging that many who hold religious-based judgement of our lives do not wish even to TREAT US LIKE FELLOW CITIZENS. That is, our opponents think that based on religious or moral disagreements, we do not deserve the same basic privileges of citizenship that they do.

We do not seek agreement, or approval, or to convert anyone to anything beyond what their own conscience dictates. We seek the integrity of lives not lived in shame and hiding. We seek to live our lives in safety and peace, to serve our churches and country, and to utilize the same services, opportunities and infrastructure as our fellow citizens. If there is a slippery slope to fear, it is the danger that discriminatory acts in the name of serving God will actually be found to be idolatrous attempts at being God. The American ideals I treasure are the ideals of an experiment that says there is a better way: Learn to live together in a respectful accord of equal rights and wrestle together in a free marketplace of ideas. Savor the gifts of true faith and holiness, which are neither coerced nor produced by punishments.

The outcome?

"By their fruits you shall know them."

~The Rev. Jacki Belile, CPC, ELI-MP

A Living Sacrifice: Biblical Principles for "Self" Care

The Reverend Jacki Belile

Are you ready to feel grounded and abundant…
To shift out of daily survival mode?

Do you want to embrace the joy of service and generosity…
To set aside chronic scarcity and anxiety?

Do you seek the skill to draw loving boundaries…
To feel the power of saying “Yes”
rather than the guilt of saying “No”?

Here’s a NEW WORD…

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:1-2

~The Rev. Jacki Belile, CPC, ELI-MP

Behold the Sun at Midnight

The Reverend Jacki Belile

WINTER SOLSTICE

Behold the Sun
at midnight.

Build with stones
On lifeless ground.

Find in decline,
In death’s night,
Creation’s new beginning,
Morning’s youthful night.

The heights reveal
The gods’ eternal word.

The depths guard
The peaceful treasure.

Living in darkness,
Create a Sun.

Weaving in matter,
Know Spirit’s delight.

                ~Rudolf Steiner

A tattered poem on Winter Solstice tumbles out of my wallet this morning. I fumble for it each year around this time, and savor it every day. I could live into it all year, frankly. This is what I wrote last year:

This Word has spoken to me often from its secure little nest, on the days I pull it out for mantra and on the days it just travels alongside of me. I have carried it for many years, this Word. On days and nights that seemed long, that seemed without light or path for others, it steadied me with an ancient, creation imperative. The Sun was present and I knew it. It brought delight and rebirth.

I wonder now if I am done with it.

The wondering passes. I am not. I need this Word. People and places I love need this Word.

This brings the resolve of Rest. It is not a resolve of tirelessly plodding on, like a sturdy oak, mindless of fatigue or surroundings. It’s Presence Possible only in the bearings of that Sun. It’s a body-mind-spirit delight found when I sense the right place, the right time, the right work.

It’s faith.

I am grateful,

and not alone.

Emmanuel. God with Us!

~The Rev. Jacki Belile, CPC, ELI-MP

The Lord Looks at the HEART

The Reverend Jacki Belile

"Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7

This Good News is on my heart this Advent, as I ponder the grace born anew in our world because of the birth of Jesus Christ.

I'm savoring Gospel stories where we feel his ability to REALLY SEE the potential and need in those he healed. Beyond the trappings of gender, class, health status, nationality, religion, etc. I'm sobered by his preaching which warned us of the consequences of thinking too much about the outward appearances of status and respect.

In light of the forgiveness teaching and coaching I do, I would add that sometimes we look at the "outward appearance" of the mistakes we or others make, and can even get trapped there in the Ego's world of ceaseless judgment. When I walk with churches and non-profits seeking to grow, I sometimes find this related longing as people look at the outward appearance of things, rather than–with the Lord's eyes—looking at the heart of the people involved. Our outward postures or plans often disguise the longings of the heart. I think often we all struggle even with seeing OURSELVES with eyes of compassion.

I was blessed recently to hear James Alison's fresh teaching on the "pantry" (prayer closet). Our time away in prayer is rewarded with true life transformation precisely because that is where we can really be ourselves with God, while in the world we endlessly relate to Others for the sake of their pleasure or respect. And we thus concern ourselves with the outward appearances.

Jesus was simply The Human One ("Son of Man") and revealed to us what we can be in him: people who see the heart of the matter, who are able to increasingly live from the Heart which His Spirit makes new. People who see others' hearts and judge with increasing compassion and wisdom (not judgment) the matters and choices of this world.

One recent resource I've been treasuring is a book called Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind by Kristen Neff. Find out more at Neff's website. In Christian terms, this path of practicing "self" compassion is, I think, simply the course of unlearning human judgments of self and growing in our capacity to FEEL and INTEGRATE the transforming truth of the grace Jesus brings.

A tough question for many churches: Are we places which nurture this encounter with grace? Or, do we get in the way?

I pray that during this Advent you will find grace breaking into and disrupting the stresses and judgments and pressures of this world in which we live. It takes TIME to slow down and see with the Lord's heart. We just need to be alert and awake to see.

~The Rev. Jacki Belile, CPC, ELI-MP

A Heart for History

The Reverend Jacki Belile

My heart is broken open–with lament and love–as I contemplate again the pain of Jesus' day and ours, and of each day in between. During Advent, I try to ground myself in historical tools which open up reminders of the time and place into which he was born. Far from being a heady exercise, this practice invites me into a deeper heart connection with his fellow Jews and the sorts of longings that THEY BROUGHT into their discoveries and debates with him. His birth has changed the world in many ways through his promised Spirit and the 2000+years of a living Body of believers who claim his name. At the same time, deepening my sense of the human story–and the church story within the human story—requires the confession that we have not "arrived" yet! It's startling to discover so many of the same themes in his day as the ones with which we grapple: corruption of religious and civil authority, distrust, enmity, scapegoating, discrimination, inequity etc. Far from diminishing my faith in Christ's impact, this reality beckons me into a clearer picture of the kingdom he established and establishes in us today. Maybe it's just the institutions of human greed and coercion which long for a more ultimate victory, while the Gospel murmurs in breakthrough moments about peace, stillness, reconciliation…

~The Rev. Jacki Belile, CPC, ELI-MP

We Are Not Bound By Our Mistakes

The Reverend Jacki Belile

"We may have made mistakes in our past, but we're not bound by those mistakes in the present — as long as we're willing to think now as we did not think then, think now as we did not think then, act now as we did not act then, clean up in the present what needs to be cleaned up from the past, and be now who we were not then." —Marianne Williamson, in The Law of Divine Compensation.

I think this encapsulates beautifully the freedom intrinsic to the forgiveness journey. As a Christian, I place the forgiving life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ at the center of the Good News given as gracious gift by a reconciling and ever-creating God. The process of transformation that Williamson describes here is one that must be grounded in unconditional grace and love, not the ego-burdened efforts of cleaning up our acts so that we will be "good enough." Jesus opened up—for all who look to him—the way of release from all that effort. Christians call it New Creation.

This is what it sounds like from Paul's pen:

2 Corinthians 5:16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

I'm meditating on these connections in the run-up to a few things on my/our plate:

–My next Forgive for Life workshop on 12/1. it is always such a privilege to meet people in that supportive space.

–Advent (around the corner!) and the invitation to celebrate a Christ Child that is not meek and mild (if that means of no disruptive impact), but meek and therefore MIGHTY.

–The joy of attending an upcoming train-the-trainer event with theologian James Alison, along with 75 others whom I will join as we "beta test" a new adult ed curriculum: The Forgiving Victim: an Induction into Christian Vulnerability.

(A number of peers have shared ambivalence or concern about the first part of that title. What I know, and am thrilled about, is that we will be focusing on the way that forgiveness allows us to participate in that New Creation AND REMAIN VICTIMS NO LONGER to our past hurts or regrets.)

WHAT WOULD A CHURCH LOOK LIKE THAT REALLY REALLY participated in and practiced this Gospel?!!! To anchor all in the forgiving work of Christ and the gift of a life oriented and grounded in reconciliation? Let's think on that together this Advent.

~The Rev. Jacki Belile, CPC, ELI-MP

Healing the Heart of Democracy

The Reverend Jacki Belile

I just started reading Parker Palmer's book Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit. It looks fabulous, and a well-timed gift as I personally rejoice in the election results AND feel a tender heart for the apparently intractable divisions we face. Here's a provocative opening quote from Terry Tempest Williams in her book Engagement:

"The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions. Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions? And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up—ever—trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy?"

This really resonates deeply with me as a Baptist. I have been blessed to spend my adult faith formation among a denominational family (American Baptist Churches-USA) which values the spiritual journey of relationship-building and genuine partnership across theological and cultural diversity. I think we have something special to offer the national crisis of polarization. Perhaps a reminder that democracy's flowering requires the capacity of the heart to be WITH differences of need, perspective etc. To offer our selves as the presence of Christ rather than just our opinions. To be willing to humbly assert our convictions while not striving to coerce others.

This is really heavy on my heart in my "prayer closet" this season.

~The Rev. Jacki Belile, CPC, ELI-MP

A Prayer for Election Day 2012

The Reverend Jacki Belile

Oh, Creating One!

You reside within and among us all.

You reveal all Light, and revel in all Love.

You beckon us beyond Ego's fear and violence.

You call us to our true home, where earth-loving citizens live from Heaven's embrace.

Deliver us from pride and despair,

from tribalism and lofty rhetoric,

from anger and apathy.

May we be unrelenting in our work for true peace and true prosperity for all.

May we be bold in speaking truth about the barriers to these, wherever they are found.

May today's results reveal our best selves, and illumine with clarity the spiritual and civic growth that is yet ours to do.

May we see in one another's eyes the longings and hopes, the vulnerabilities and frailties that are our own.

May such knowing animate a New Creation wherever we live and serve.
For the Sake of Good News, I pray.

With vision of these already answered, I pray.

In union with the Living Christ, I pray.

With the deeds of my life, I pray.

Blessed Be.

~The Rev. Jacki Belile, CPC, ELI-MP

Love from the Center of Who You Are

The Reverend Jacki Belile

How do you hear this invitation in your season of life?

I hear it as a beacon of wisdom for conversations about "self" care.

My clients and I often reflect on natural connections between this great invitation and the wisdom of Don Miguel Ruiz in The Four Agreements. Indirectly, these great themes from TFA often show up on this Biblical "self" care series:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don't take anything personally.
  3. Don't make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

In my own life, I have discovered that if my current load of commitments, or my mindframe or approach to them, are hindrances to the above agreements, then I am in danger of damaging my "self", relationships or commitments.

None of us are–orare called to be—PERFECT. Yet we are invited to a quality of peace and integrity and abundance in our living and serving that I so often find sadly lacking in the realm of those of us called to serve. Perhaps you have seen this too. There is so much suffering of anxiety, frustration, resentments and fear that accumulate if we are compulsively accruing the responsibilities we carry. One way to relieve this suffering is to explore whether we have discerned well, or chosen freely, that which is on our plate.

~The Rev. Jacki Belile, CPC, ELI-MP