The Ordinary Life Gathering has officially become part of the Reconciling Ministries Network. The statement adopted and displayed is below -
The Ordinary Life Gathering has officially become part of the Reconciling Ministries Network. The statement adopted and displayed is below -
From the very beginning those who have attended Ordinary Life have been very generous with financial matters. Ordinary Life began and continues to support an after school program for neighborhood children, childcare and medical work in Bolivia, AIDS work in Malawi, micro-financing projects and numerous local causes.
Recently the newly formed Steering Committee of Ordinary Life has established giving guidelines. You can click on the link below to see them.
Also, if you have a cause you would like to see Ordinary Life support, a request for funding form can also be found using the link below.
Thank all of your for your generosity.
To see the giving guidelines click here.
To download the request for funds click here.
I have asked the Steering Committee of Ordinary Life to enroll us as a participating group in the Reconciling Ministries Network. If you want to know more about this group you can click here http://www.rmnetwork.org/newrmn/
The following statement will be available for signatures at the Ordinary Life Gathering through May 3. Our intention is, after that date, to submit documents and begin the process of having Ordinary Life enrolled as a participant in this organization. Here is the statement:
Ordinary Life Class of St Paul’s United Methodist Church: Houston, Texas
Statement of Reconciliation
The Members of Ordinary Life proclaim our commitment to loving kindness and compassion by holding fast to Jesus’ message of full inclusion. We invite all people to participate in seeking Sacred Mystery. We want to honor and experience God’s love, made evident by humanity’s inherent diversity of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, age, faith, economic and marital status, mental and physical ability, and educational attainment.
Whether you come with questions, answers, or some of both, you are welcome here. You are safe here. Please join us.
Please use the Contact Page to let us know of your support and/or to ask questions.
One More Model
If all of this sounds too airy fairy for you, I want to give you one more brief road map for growth.
We all begin in life at the
1. Information stage.
We take in as much information as possible in order to survive. The first questions the infant asks are "Who is in charge here?" And, "How can I get along with that person?" We learn early how to act in order to get our basic needs met.
At this early stage men learn to compete and women learn to compare. More information is better and, at this stage, information passes for intelligence. A lot of people never leave this stage of development.
2. Knowledge stage
This is the stage where we begin to see patterns and connect the dots. This level of development is much needed by society. We are grateful for the contributions of people at this level for without them we would not have this building to meet in or cars to drive to get us here.
3. Analytic intelligence
This is where people begin to see a much bigger picture and develop the ability to think outside the box. If they are good at this, they are likely initially mistrusted or laughed at. Think of someone like Bill Gates or St. Francis.
This is still dualistic thinking because people at this level are still measuring reality rather than meeting it.
4. Intuitive Intelligence
This is the crossover point into non-dual mind. Here is where head and heart start to work together. Here we work to see the world as God sees. The goal here is not to control or be afraid but to be with.
At this level is where the principle of "non-judging" begins to make sense. Buddhists call it the principle of equality and my early teacher said, when teaching me this material, "Bill, this can take you home. It is enough to work with the rest of your life." Every great spiritual teacher has taught something like this.
It is at this level that one gets it that what it means to love your neighbor as yourself is not to love your neighbor as much as you love yourself, though we inevitably do that. It means to love your neighbor as if your neighbor is yourself for your neighbor is. Here the need to label, control, explain begins to diminish. That same first teacher of mine said, "What is, is and what ain't, ain't."
At the wisdom level the ego is servant and Self is master.
Wisdom carries with it patience for paradox and sees that the notion of perfection is a trap.
Wisdom is where the practice of contemplative mind can lead to transformation.
I've seen some transformed people. Most of them, I think, likely fly under the radar because they have no need to stand out. When I was in clinical training I asked my analyst to give me an example of someone who embodied the kind of integrity and wholeness we were studying about. His reply let me know how hooked by my ego I was. I wanted to have a goal to shoot for. My ego wanted to accomplish and not get out of the way so my Self could emerge.
Erikson said that there were eight distinct stages of ego development. He said that if one didn't complete the work at one stage successfully, that person's life was affected forever because of that.
I will give you the essence of these stages because so many other theories of development - moral and spiritual - are modeled after Erikson's. There are extremes at each level that must be embraced or held in tension for the person to move forward.
1. Basic trust versus mistrust
This stage coveres the first year of life. Does the infant learn to trust? This is not merely a matter of nurture but whether the primary caretaker is trustworthy. Failure to develop this trust will result in fear in the baby and a belief that the world is inconsistent and unpredictable.
2. Autonomy versus shame
This stage covers from year one to three and is the time the infant is learning to master toilet training.
3. Purpose: Initiative versus guilt
This covers years three to six. Does the child develop the ability to do things on their own, such as dress him or herself. If the child is made to feel "guilty" about their choices, the child will not function well.
4. Competence - Industry versus inferiority
This covers years 6 - 11. Here the child begins to compare his or her sense of self-worth to others. The child begins to notice major disparities in personal abilities relative to other children.
5. Fidelity - Identity versus Role Confusion
This covers years 12 - 18. Here the questions begin to arise. Who am I? Where and how do I fit in? Where am I going in life? If parents allow the child to explore, they will conclude their own identity. However, if parents continually push the developing adult to conform to their views, the teen will face identity confusion.
6. Intimacy versus isolation
This is the first stage of adult development. It usually happens between the ages of 18 and 35. Dating, marriage, family and friendships are important during this stage. By successfully forming loving relationships with others, individuals are able to experience love and intimacy. Those who don't do this may feel isolated and alone.
7. Generativity versus stagnation
This covers the period of life from age 35 to 65. During this period of life people are normally settled in their life and know what is important to them. They are either on the path they want and are happy with it or are regretful about the decisions they have made and feel a sense of uselessness.
8. Ego integrity versus despair
This is, and remember this is only Erikson's take, the period from 65 on. This is the last chapter of the book of life. Here people look back on the lives they have lived with a sense of satisfaction, a sense of integrity. Or, if they have had trouble at earlier stages, may have a sense of despair.
In my own work and for my own purposes I later condensed all of this into three words and now, when I teach about it - which is what I suppose I'm doing here - call it "the three B's." They are Bonding, Behavior and Beliefs.
If we are lucky, we get a mother who is "just good enough." We don't get either over-whelmed or under-whelmed; smothered or abandoned. Sometimes unfortunate things happen in this bonding experience. Perhaps mother dies in childbirth, or she is overwhelmed by already having too much children or other life events. Perhaps she is alcoholic or crazy or she lives in a war zone or some other horrible circumstance. The bonding the infant experiences is important because it teaches something about whether the world is a safe and trustworthy place. For far too many children the world is not a safe place.
The behaviors the growing child experiences communicates something about stability. How is the child treated by parents and siblings. Is there abuse? Children are naturally narcissistic so they interpret everything that happens as having to do with them. "Daddy hit mother. It must be because I did something wrong."
The third "B" has to do with the sea os beliefs in which the child is immersed. What is held to be true about others, other religions, other races, other countries, other economic classes, other political parties and so forth.
Bonding affects how we see the world in which we live - safe or not.
Behaviors affect what we think about ourselves.
Beliefs determine how we grow to think about others.
Virtually all of this goes underground and lives in our unconscious and does not begin to make itself known until sometime late in the fourth decade of life.
I wanted you to know this information about Erickson's "discoveries" because his work laid the foundation for all that was to follow.
The Ordinary Life class generously supports a wide variety of endeavors both near and far. One of the groups we have made contributions to for years is the Global Aids Interfaith Alliance. Recently we received a report citing how your contributions had helped this orgnization. I thought you would like to see it. Thank you for your generosity.
Last year Dr. Paul Jones was the Endowment speaker. He is author of a book I would highly recommend for you to read. It is "The Church's Seven Deadly Secrets: Identity Theft From Within."
He recently had an article published on the role "fact checking" plays in gaining a high understanding of religious and spiritual "truth." It is a great article and I am happy to make it available to you.
To read it click here
Each week at the beginning of Ordinary Life, while people are gathering, visiting, drinking coffee, etc. a slide presentation runs with announcements of upcoming events, etc. Various "principles" of Ordinary Life are listed and illustrated with cartoons. Several people have requested the ability to access these. You can view all of these slides using the link below.
To view the slides use this link
St. Paul's has recently concluded its search for a new organist/choirmaster. Dr. Paolo Bordingnon will be joining the starr at St. Paul's in March. You can learn more about him by going to http://www.paolobordignon.com
Dear Folks -
Over the years, those who attend the weekly gatherings of Ordinary Life make financial contributions. We have a committee of people who decide how to disburse this money.
Recently, the following disbursements were made totaling $8,000.
$1,000 Glabal Aids Interfaith Alliance
$1,000 The Methodist Children's Home in Waco, Texas
$1,000 The Women"s Home in Houston, Texas
$1,000 St. Paul's Christmas Offering
$1,000 SEARCH - the organization that works with Houston Homeless
$1,000 Emergency Aid Coalition
$1,000 Russian Children's Camp
$1,000 Amazing Place
On December 3, we donated $3,000 to the ongoing work in Bolivia that St. Paul's and Ordinary Life has been a part of for years. This was matched in a like amount by funds from Global Ministries.
We also contribute regularly to the after-school tutoring and day-care program the works with the "latch-key" children population near St. Paul's.
If anyone wants to make a tax-exempt contribution, please send your check payable to
Ordinary Life Class
St. Paul's UMC
5501 South Main
Houston, TX 77004
Thank you all for your incredible generosity.
Over and over in the "life talks" I offer I stress the importance of having a daily spiritual practice.
The only way, especially in our culture, that one can gain the tools for growth psychologically and spiritually is to take the time to do so.
Questions and conversations with several people have convinced me that my assumption that everyone knows what is involved in having such a practice is not correct.
So here, in brief, are some guidelines for having such a practice. At the present time, I see four things to be involved.
The first thing required is the belief that the primary purpose of life is emotional and spiritual growth. After our survival needs are met and we have the luxury of wondering about meaning, we have to decide who we are and why we are here. One of my favorite lines from Carl Jung is, "If you don't decide who you are, the world will tell you." Our culture is more and more focused on entertainment, superficiality and an avoidance of personal responsibility. How can we avoid not being caught up in such?
My assumption is that our spiritual and psychological work is to keep us involved in the process of becoming centers of freedom and love. One key to such growth is to have a daily spiritual practice.
What makes up such a practice? Four things are involved.
First, set aside some time every day to have this practice. Most people find it helpful to do this the first thing in the morning. If you think you don't have time to have a spiritual practice, I promise you that if you make time for it, you will have more time. That is, you will be less stressed and live lighter.
The second thing involved in having a daily practice is learning. This involves growth in knowledge and information about matters of Self and Spirit and can take many forms: reading, listening to talks, being part of a group that is devoted to such growth and so forth.
The third component in a daily practice is contemplation. This involves asking oneself questions such as: How does what I am learning challenge me? How can I use what I am learning in my relationships? What about this teaching am I most resistant to? Most excited by?
I encourage you, as part of this, to keep a journal. Write what you are learning. Write the questions you are pondering. As you reflect on the day you just lived, what about that day are you most grateful for? Where did you learn something? What challenged you the most? Keeping such a journal is a way to live reflectively.
The fourth component of a daily practice is meditation. There are many different ways to meditate. Meditation is NOT about clearing the mind. Rather, it is about being quiet and calm enough to notice the mind's behavior.
Most people find it helpful to have a regular place to sit to meditate. The regularity of place makes settling down easier after a while. You can begin by assuming a posture where, either sitting on the floor or in a straight back chair, you close your eyes and simply count or notice your breath. Soon you will notice that your mind has strayed from the object of your intention - your breathing in this case. When you notice this, simply bring the focus of your mind gently back to your breathing.
One of my early spiritual teachers said that the key to meditating is patience and persistence. Patience, by the way, is not a personality trait but, rather, a skill. That is another topic for another time.
The object of meditation is the meditation itself. It is not "to get something out of it." It is called a "practice" because we take this practice into the rest of our day's activities as we allow it to aid us in paying attention to everything and everyone as we grow in the capacity to be non-judgmental.
The central truth of and for spiritual practice is "paying attention" and developing the resources to be present to "what is." Central to this spiritual practice is growing in the capacity to be non-judgmental.
One excellent resource to undergird your daily practice would be to go to Richard Rohr's website - www.cac.org - and explore some of the books and CDs that are available there. Rohr's book, "Everything Belongs" is excellent. The CDs with James Finley on "Jesus and Buddha" are also outstanding. You will find several books for daily meditation.
If you have questions about or suggestions for improving the content of this article, please let me know.