Love Is Stronger Than Fear with Amy Julia Becker

S4 E4 | Spiritual Practices That Heal with Rich Villodas

February 09, 2021 Rich Villodas Season 4 Episode 4
Love Is Stronger Than Fear with Amy Julia Becker
S4 E4 | Spiritual Practices That Heal with Rich Villodas
Show Notes Transcript

How do spiritual practices equip us to participate in God’s healing work in the world? Rich Villodas, pastor and author of The Deeply Formed Life, talks with Amy Julia about social divisions, the relationship between inner spiritual formation and outward actions, and God’s healing work within individuals and communities.

SHOW NOTES:
“Rich Villodas  is the Brooklyn-born lead pastor of New Life Fellowship, a large, multiracial church with more than seventy-five countries represented in Elmhurst, Queens.” 

Connect with Rich online:

On the Podcast:

“It’s quite liberating—it’s very difficult at first—but it’s quite liberating when you realize, ‘I’m not a human doing, I’m a human being. I can take an extra nap. Or I can delight in or cultivate things that bring me joy.’”

“Contemplative prayer for me has been the most important element for how I think about race, how I think about the interior life, how I think about justice...the goal is to be present with God so that I can be present with myself and then be present with my neighbor. For me, contemplative prayer serves as the foundation to be present with those who are difficult to love, to be present with those I disagree with.”

“The agony of prayer is that I don’t see fruit in the moment. And I need to be okay with that.”

“Who are you allowing to speak into your life? What are the stories you’re opening yourself to? Even in the books that we read, the music that we listen to,  the stories that we come across, I think that moving close to someone isn’t necessarily a physical proximity. Sometimes it’s an emotional proximity. Sometimes it’s narrative proximity—trying to understand someone’s story.”

“How Christians can participate in the renewal of the world—we can see people as enemies to be conquered or see wounds that need to be healed. And that’s hard. That’s a cruciform way of living. It’s painful. It’s slow.”
___

Thank you to Breaking Ground, the co-host for this podcast.

Head, Heart, Hands, Season 4 of the Love Is Stronger Than Fear podcast, is based on my e-book Head, Heart, Hands, which accompanies White Picket Fences. Check out free RESOURCES that are designed to help you respond to the harm of privilege and join in the work of healing. Learn more about my writing and speaking at amyjuliabecker.com.

Note: This transcript is autogenerated using speech recognition software and does contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

0 (3s):
Hi friends. I'm Amy Julia Becker and this is love is stronger than Fear a podcast about pursuing hope and healing in the midst of social division. In this season, we're talking about how we can respond to the brokenness in our lives and in our society and how we can do that with our whole selves head, heart and hands. Today, I get to talk to pastor Rich Villodas about spiritual practices that can center us in a Ground us so that we can go into the world and love others and participate in God's reconciling activity and forgive and show compassion and seek justice. So we can do all of those things from a place of wholeness and not from a place of fear, fear of being depleted so that we can go out in love.

0 (50s):
Instead of fear, before I get to that interview, one quick reminder, as the season of lent approaches, I do have a new devotional book out and it walks through each day of this season with a short spiritual reflection and a weekly set of questions for further reflection or discussion. And I'd love for you to check it out. You can go to Amy Julia Becker dot com and look under the resources tab. Ah, there are a physical paperback books for sale, as well as eBooks, and then there really should be great for you or for a group. And now let's get to my interview with Rich Villodas. Well, I'm here today with Rich Villodas lead pastor at new life Fellowship, which are from the book jacket that I've read.

0 (1m 36s):
At least there's a large multiracial church in New York city. He is also the author of the Deeply Formed Life. It is a wonderful book. I just had the great pleasure of reading it over the course of the last few weeks. Actually I would probably advise reading it more slowly than I did because it's rich and it is really applicable and deep. And I had to read it quickly enough to be able to do this interview, but I advised reading it slowly. I do though. Want to welcome you Rich to love is stronger than Fear. Thank you for being here.

1 (2m 5s):
All right. Thank you so much for the kind invitation look forward to a good conversation with you.

0 (2m 11s):
So I'd love to introduce you to our audience a little bit. So I love to hear about new life Fellowship end specifically. What compelled you to write this book? The deeply Formed Life I'm sure you got a lot of demands on your time and knowing a little bit about your congregation and ministry and how this book came out of that. I think it could be really helpful.

1 (2m 29s):
Yeah. I've been at new life for 12 years now when I got here, I'm from New York city. I'm from, Brooklyn spent the vast majority of my life in Brooklyn, the last 12 years in Queens and my predecessor, Pete Scazzero, a rote who is known for emotionally healthy spirituality, emotional health, and all of that. There is, you know, he planted the church and, and Queens, so it's a very diverse congregation. Over 75 nations represented a 123 languages spoken in the neighborhood in Elmhurst and the diversity of Hands ethnicity, a generation and economics it's, it's diverse in every sense of the word politically, right?

1 (3m 13s):
So it's a very complicated congregation, a beautiful, but very complicated as a congregation. When I wrote this book, I wrote it really number one out of pastoral concern, the, the values that I write about like write about five values really are the values of our congregation. The difference is in my book, I wanted to use language that was a bit more accessible to people outside of our context, but I had too many conversation with people saying, can you tell me more about Contemplative rhythms or what can I, what, what, how can I learn more about racial justice and reconciliation or, or tell me a little bit more about theology and spirituality and sexuality and how this, how do you hold those things together?

1 (4m 0s):
And So as opposed to just answering these questions weekend and week out in the lobby after the services, I just thought I'd let me write a book to help people grasp this. And so much like many people know Eugene Peterson who translated the Bible into the message translation that can be reaching came out of pastoral concern for him because he was leading his church through Paul's epistles and recognize that his congregation really didn't know what Paul was getting at. And so Peter said, let me translate it into accessible language. That's essentially what a, what I've attempted to do. And then the other reason that I wrote it is because, because of the international nature of our context in our congregation, I thought, whatever resonates here is going to resonate beyond our church as well because of our diversity.

1 (4m 53s):
And it was really trying to offer a, an ambitious reframing of spiritual formation there. I want to be able to see aspects of spirituality and discipleship. That's not often included in the spiritual formation category, like race, like sexuality, like justice. And so for me, it was how can we ambitiously reframe what formation spiritual formation is for this generation.

0 (5m 25s):
I love that. And that is part of what really drew me to your book. And then when I was, so I get, I don't know, pleasantly surprised by in your book because I've read a lot of spiritual formation books. I really liked them. I'm like, Oh yes. Tell me more about fasting and Contemplative prayer and all of these things. I am a big fan, but I, and I love the way that those have equipped to me in the past to connect with God in a meaningful way. But what I think your book does is not, it does those things. It gives a way to really connect with God and to understand that the interior, as an integral part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, but it's a vision of a Deeply form in life that is not only about individuals cultivating a personal, meaningful relationship with God, but actually saying, we gotta think about spiritual practices as they relate to other people.

0 (6m 16s):
So I you've mentioned some of the values and practices that you wrote about, but could you say Y those five values and, and how they relate to each other in your mind, if, if you have a way that they relate to you. Okay.

1 (6m 31s):
Yeah. You know, these values have been worked out in our context. So, you know, for, for the listener, its Contemplative rhythms, racial reconciliation, anterior examination, sexual wholeness, and Michelle presents a new life. A, we call them R five M. So there are a little different in terms of language. So for us, it's a monastic and a multi-racial emotional health or marriage to Christ and missional. And so part of that is the reason I wrote it is 'cause it was, it's been a slow unfolding of how we've understood formation in following Jesus. In our local context. A part of that comes from my predecessor's story of, of being burned out and having crisis after crisis, because he did not know how to navigate his interior World.

1 (7m 22s):
And so it might be a book called emotionally healthy spirituality. And then he recognizes the pace of New York city and not just New York city, but the pace of New York city is so frenetic. He needed a different pace. I came to new life because of those things that he was writing about some 12 years ago. And so it's just been the, the slow unfolding of local ministry a over the years where, you know what we need to slow down, you know, what we need to look within, you know what, there are 75 nations here. We have to learn how to live together. You know what? There's a, they're in an area of Queen's in which there are a lot of people who are overlooked and under resourced, 50% of Queens is foreign born.

1 (8m 3s):
How do we have ministries of justice? You know, that there's a lot of marriage and marriage is in crisis in young adults coming into our church. We're trying to figure out how to steward their bodies and how to inter a sector spirituality with their sexuality, lets just a wrestle with that. And so it's just been the, the organic slow unfolding and it was 78 years ago where we named those five values. We, you know, kind of looking back, I was stepping into the lead pastor role and I thought able to synthesize our journey and I synthesized it through those five areas of, of ministry. And so, but that's how it came out really out of this.

1 (8m 44s):
It really is a, a, a inductive approach to understanding, you know, formation and such.

0 (8m 52s):
Well, I love how you have woven them together. I wanted to hone in a little bit on this a while. Well, I'll back up a minute in both are secular culture. And in Christian culture, I feel like there's often a gap between spiritual formation and taking action in the world. So there's often a gap between a sense of contemplation in an interior life with God and social commitment and justice being worked out. There's a gap between a life of prayer and, you know, protesting or acting on behalf of the poor or the marginalized or whoever we're talking about. Whereas I think you are trying to really wed to those things and demonstrate that there is an important, its not just these exist side-by-side but they are actually interrelated.

0 (9m 36s):
So I was wondering if you could talk about that relationship between the inner spiritual life and the outward expression of that in word work with the spirit.

1 (9m 46s):
Yeah. You know, it's a great question and how I try to outline it in the book and in other places Is the, the, the tasks before me and writing this book and then thinking about these things is to resist what I call it. You know, formational compartmentalization, and by formational compartmentalization, this flows out of my own story of formation, where I have been in a very, I'm very happy for this shaped by multiple traditions and streams of Christian historic faith. I have been shaped by the evangelical, the Pentecostal charismatic as well as the mainline progressive traditions.

1 (10m 27s):
And what I found is it's often the case that these traditions and the streams get segmented get compartmentalised. And so in the evangelical tradition is often about right thinking, right theology and the Pentecostal charismatic tradition is often about right experiences. Have you had a particular experience with God that is that that can be verified and you know, something it's, it's not just interior, but something that happens in, in, in the midst of the community and then there's the, so the right experiences and then with the progressive kind of mainline is right. Action, right. Justice, right? Social engagement in the world. I've been shaped by all of these traditions.

1 (11m 8s):
And for me, I was thinking, first of all, why do we need to segment them? Why or why not wrestle to hold these things are tightly together. 'cause what I have seen in each tradition when there is one emphasis over the other is going to inevitably lead to a kind of burnout. It's going to lead to a kind of irrelevance is going to lead to a kind of a duplicity where there's right thinking, but not right interiority there's right. Experiences. But there's not, we're not thinking about engagement in the world or there's right. Action. But we are not thinking about, ah, how do we love from a deeper place, a not just related to the policies and a, but related to how we truly love a neighbor as ourselves.

1 (11m 58s):
So for me, I'm trying to resist all of the formational compartmentalization that I see in our world and saying, we can take the best from these various streams and try to offer them up to God. And I see this in Jesus. I mean, Jesus is the model for us where he has a robust life with God with the father in prayer, he is cultivating silence. He is cultivating interior examination. You can argue after he gets baptized and goes into the wilderness for 40 days, she's being tempted by the evil one. And it's a, it's a moment of interiority, a moment of self emanation. And then out of that place, he burst out of the wilderness, offering a word of liberation to people who are oppressed the gun.

1 (12m 42s):
You know, the, the, the spirit of the Lord is upon me because he's anointed me to preach good news to the poor. So in Jesus' in that passage right then, and Luke three and four, we see these, we would understand the strains for Jesus. That's just who he is. He's are fully Formed in him. And so with him as our model, that's what I'm trying to do in terms of resisting that formation of compartmentalization.

0 (13m 5s):
Yeah. That, for me, I'm mentioned to you earlier, when we were talking before that I wrote this book, white picket fences, which is a memoir, and it's definitely me struggling as a white woman who are somewhat similar to you. I've had these multiple strands of Christianity where I was a pan of baptized into a mainline church, but had a, a para church experience in which the Holy spirit really came alive for me in high school. And as a result of, you know, had different experiences in different streams of the faith. And I'm really grateful for that. But when I was talking to people about addressing the social divisions, we see whether it's with race or class or political, I mean, all of these different divisions, so many people said, okay, great.

0 (13m 47s):
We can acknowledge that these are there, but what do I do? What do I do? What do I do? And it was really hesitant to say, go do this because of both the experience of burnout, because of the sense of superiority that can come, if I just go and help people out of my earnest Christian desire to do so. You know? And so I started thinking about the head, the heart and the hand, which is really what you just described when you were talking about the, you know, it kind of intellectual word-based Protestantism and the experiential and the activism, but what does it mean to actually connect all of those things? And of course, I mean, I don't mean to say any of us will do it perfectly all the time. And of course, Jesus is a fantastic model of that in action.

0 (14m 30s):
But I'm thinking back to the beginning of the book where you talk about the Contemplative rhythms, is that when you call it a Contemplative for them? Yes. Yeah. Okay. So you can tell me a lot of rhythms. And then from there you go straight into a racial reconciliation and I just would love to hone in a little bit on that in the fast paced world. And you do a wonderful of being like, Hey guys, I am not in a monastery. Like really I live in Queens, there's a lot going on. There are cars honking outside and I'm still going to be contemplating, you know, I'm going to be having these rhythms of life. Can you talk a little bit about what those rhythms of life, our, for you and how that actually is part of that slowing down and that going inward can actually equip us to do the work that God has for us in the world.

1 (15m 20s):
Yeah, it's I do it very painfully here in, in Queens two blocks away from Queens Boulevard or one of the more famous roads here in New York city where, I mean, thousands of cars are passing by a free day. And so for me, what has what I have focused in my life and in terms of Contemplative rhythms has been a couple of things. Really. First of all, it is that regular weekly practice of keeping Sabbath. Is this an ancient, a, a way of slowing down to be with God, a a a 24 hour period literal period without any have tos or should it, which over time has to result in deep rest and renewal.

1 (16m 5s):
And so, you know, for now 12 years, I've been practicing sad, but at the weekly, from 6:00 PM on Friday evenings to 6:00 PM on Saturday, and it's, it's quite liberating at its very difficult at first, but it was quite liberating when you realize I'm not a human doing, I'm a human being and I can take an extra nap or I can delight and cultivate things that bring me joy. And I can have a life outside of my work in my job and my life doesn't revolve around in my life as a pastor that, that I can have a life outside of that. So Sabbath has been incredibly instrumental.

1 (16m 45s):
The thing that is probably most insurance with my daily life is just, it is contemplative prayer. And I believe all kinds of prayers. I mean, intercessory, prayer, petitionary, prayer, all kinds of prayer, meditative prayer, Contemplative prayer for me has been the most important element for how I think about race. How I think about the interior life, how I think about justice. Number one, because I do think it's, it's, it's a commitment to a life with God that moves beyond transactionalism right. It's a, it's a Life of shared presence with God where I am not trying to get anything out of prayer except sharing presence with God.

1 (17m 30s):
And whether something gets a deposited in me that I recognize or not, the goal is not a particular outcome. The goal is shared present in the same way that when I'm sitting down with my wife and enjoying her presence or with a trusted friend, the goal is not to get anything out of it per say the goal, just sharing presence. And I do think over time and all of the studies on mindfulness have talked about the ways that the brain is rewired through this kind of silence and meditative prayer. The goal is to be present with God so that I can be present with myself and then present with my neighbor.

1 (18m 11s):
And, and so for me, contemplative, prayer serves as the foundation to be present with those who are difficult to love to be present with those who I disagree with. I mean, next week I have a couple of meetings with people from our congregation who see the world very differently than I do. And they've got a meeting and I don't want to have that meeting. I don't know how to sit with them, but what, what Contemplative prior has trained me to do is more than anything to be present, present with myself, present to God and present with my neighbor. So, so whether it Sabbath, Contemplative prayer, of course, there's a slow reading of scripture that somehow gets infused into that.

1 (18m 53s):
But those are the Contemplative Practices that have oriented me and not just for my own life with God, but how do I want a witness to Christ, especially in some of the more polarizing, divisive issues that are before us.

0 (19m 6s):
Can you give some great examples of that in the book I'm thinking of a cab ride. This is actually in the middle of section, I think, but when you're in a cab ride and a woman talks about how she does like spiritual, but not religious, and doesn't go to church anymore. And instead of being like, well, I'm a pastor. So let me tell you about Jesus' and invite you to the next service. You just asked questions and listened, and it really trusted God to care for her rather than feeling like, okay, I've got 10 minutes and I can be present to you. That's all I've got, but I can do that. I I'd love for that example, but I want to pause for a minute knowing that some listeners may hear the words Contemplative prayer and not really know what that means, especially in comparison to other types of prayer. So can you describe for a minute what you mean by contemplative prayer?

0 (19m 48s):
Like what does it mean to just to be present with God and allow God to just be present with you?

1 (19m 53s):
Yeah. Contemplative prayer in some contexts, some of the centering prayer, ah, it, it is a prayer that is, it's a wordless, a prayer without words, essentially. It is. So it's, it's not the purpose of putting it down a laundry list of things that I need from God it's, it's it's awareness and awakening to God's presence. You know, Saint Augustan said, God is closer to us than we are to ourselves a in prayer. We recognize that dimension of loving union with God. And so for me, what that means very practically is sit in this chair in my bedroom, like I'm right now, I'm sitting at my prayer chair in my office.

1 (20m 38s):
This is my prayer chair. This is, everything gets done here. My 900 square foot apartment in this chair. And so for me, what that means is I placed my feet on the ground. I opened my hands up for, you know, poems up in this posture of receiving. I take a deep breath in and out a few times, and then I have a particular phrase or the name Jesus or a phrase like Lord, here I am. And when my mind gets distracted, as it inevitably inevitably does in 10 minutes, I simply very gently come back to that phrase. Someone said, ah, he was Thomas Keating, you know, a very well-known author who is a, a, a Trappist monk who said, if your mind gets distracted, 10,000 are a thousand times in 10 minutes, it's a thousand opportunities to come back to Christ, which is a very generous way of understanding as opposed to I'm such a bad Christian.

1 (21m 30s):
Like, why am I so distracted? No, it's another opportunity to come back to the loving embrace of God. And so for me, I do that for two minutes, five minutes, 10 minutes. If I want to get ambitious, sometimes 20 minutes, I feel I'm going to die. I do think I'm going to die right now if I add another minute, but all of this is training me and training my soul and rewiring my brain to be attentive to God and to live beyond the need for stimulation the need for a fruits and results. Right. But for me, that's essentially how it is. I have the name of Jesus on my lips, or to have a phrase like Lord, here I am a very gently, I set my, my phone for 10 minutes.

1 (22m 18s):
I breathe in. I say, I whisper It my mind gets distracted. I come back again and Henri now. And he said is often the case. He was a, you know, very famous author of the 20th century. It's often the case that we, we don't see growth in the moment we see it in retrospect, when we look back. So, wow, look how far I've come so that we, you know, we, we live life for it, but we understand the backwards. It's only when we look back that we realize how far we've come, but that's the agony of prayer. I don't see fruit in the moment. And I think I need to be okay with that. So, but that's, that's for me, the very simple practices of a contemplative prayer.

0 (22m 57s):
Thank you. I think that's really helpful. And I have only in, I dunno, maybe the past five years been introduced to that practice of Contemplative prayer and I've similarly found that I am calm. I mean, it's like years into it and I'm still distracted all the time. And yet I'm learning how to be gracious and to trust in God's graciousness. And, and as you said to see that in the moment, I don't see much of what is happening, that's changing me, but I do. And then when I look back over those years, so, well, I want to pivot, actually, you've just mentioned having some members of your own congregation who, you know, disagree with you and want to come and talk. And you mentioned in the book, just having like every, you know, that if you've got a political spectrum, you've got the full array and you've spoken somewhat to why that would be true in your context.

0 (23m 44s):
And I know that there are of pastors, there are lots of Christians, there are lots of lay leaders, and there are lots of just families that are experiencing those types of divisions right now in their own households, or, you know, certainly if it was like an extended family. And I'm curious just again, what are there any other than what you've already mentioned, spiritual practices that you would offer in terms of, what does it mean to enter into relationship with people where I know we really disagree.

1 (24m 15s):
Yeah. There's a few that come to mind. One is a, not so much a Spiritual practice as it is a way of seeing the world. And I draw a lot out of family systems. Theory is just an area of interest for me all over the years. And as a pastor, I've found it's, it's one of the most important, I think, disciplines for the particular moment that we find ourselves in and one of the I, and you could argue that the, the goal of a family systems theory or the, the, the, the telos to end too, which we want to be growing into is a Life growing and self differentiation.

1 (24m 59s):
And self-differentiation is for me how I tried to explain it in translate. It is it's, it's the process of staying close to myself and stay close to the others in times of high anxiety instinct, the polar opposite, pull of cutting people off or being in meshed in them. Now that is very difficult to do, but that's the ultimate goal. How do I stay close to myself and remain close to others? One of the ways that I have, I think, through this, and I talk about some of this in the book where whenever there is disagreement or were seeing the world very differently, there's often reactions and there's lots of revelations in our reactions.

1 (25m 48s):
If we would just pay attention to them. Ah, and the anxiety that comes from the reaction. And so for me, for example, someone says, Hey, Rich I heard you preach a message. I really didn't like it. Can we talk about it? I'm thinking, no, not at all. That's what I'm thinking. That's the first response that comes to my mind, but because I'm trying to walk in the Jesus way after I say no to myself and go no way. And I turned a laptop off, you go two hours later, opened it up again, take a deep breath and go, I guess we can meet. You know, now at that moment before we've even met, I've already come two lots of conclusions.

1 (26m 29s):
And there is lots of reactions inside of me. And so I have, there's a practice, a five step practice that I talk about that has been so helpful. Whenever, whenever anxiety floods my soul and my body, whenever it reactions are disproportionate, you know, sometimes I look at an email, I haven't even read the email. I just see who it's from. And I'm lying to your God. What is it now? And it's, you know, there's, what's, what's that about? And so there's a, there's a lot for those listening to the five questions that I asked myself. And, and I, I think for those who are starting to practice like this is, it's going to take that kinda methodical step by step.

1 (27m 11s):
But after a while, it's gonna start flowing freely. The question is, are what happened? What am I feeling? What's the story I'm telling myself, what's the gospel se and what's the counter instinctual act that's required of me. So I'm a very simple, I would just play this out, how this happened on a weekly basis with me. So this is that as a pastor of a big church, you no more puff daddy say more money, more problems.

2 (27m 36s):
It's more people, more problems.

1 (27m 38s):
And so, but he, he clearly, he was not a pastor puffed

2 (27m 40s):
Up, but it was more

1 (27m 43s):
People, more problems. So this is a weekly experience for me, where I get an e-mail, lets just see if the criticism or a disagreement, which happened three times the last week. Right? And you know what happened, received an email of critique from someone in our congregation who I respect, who has lots of a relational power in our congregation, what am I feeling? You know, fear or shame, you know, embarrassment, what's the story I'm telling myself, you know, I will never be the pastor that I want to be.

1 (28m 23s):
I'm a failure. What's the gospel say, you know, God has a way of using weak, broken, failing people, you know, just, and what's the counter instinctual act that's required for me. And I think it's for most people, the counter instinctual act for most people is to just look within and internalize it and try to now resolve the issue alone, a resolve that, and, and what's happened. What's happened for me is that's often the place where I go internal I'm obsessing about it, but there is something really powerful about externalizing in naming it to someone else, you know, in a good Christian practice. And historically, I mean, I think this is the practice of confession where Christians for centuries have held onto that.

1 (29m 10s):
We need to confess not just our sins, that's typically where we are, but confessing our anxieties is confess or troubles. Our worries when I confess that and externalize That, especially to my wife, Or to the group of pastors that I meet with once a month or two, a therapist that I meet with seasonally there is besides it being cathartic, it, it, it, it really I'm encountered with my frailty, but in that frailty, God encounters me and, and fresh ways. So in light of all of the divisions and anxiety that's being produced, politically racially theologically, that's been a very important process.

1 (29m 54s):
And what it does is essentially helps me to navigate my anxiety in a way that moves me, moves me beyond freezing or fleeing or just wanting to fight others. Right.

0 (30m 4s):
Right. Yeah. Well, so somewhat related to that. So you were in a multi-ethnic church and a multiethnic just neighborhood and area of the country. And in your final section, I wanna read one, this is all about being called to mission outside of the church walls. And you talked about the practice of justice and right. Practicing justice becomes a possibility when we are present to God and in close proximity to the vulnerable among us. So I'm thinking about people like me, you know, live out in the country or an hour. And actually there, I think there's probably in small towns, more proximity to vulnerability than there might be in some suburban centers, just because with more people you can live in an even more homogeneous way.

0 (30m 47s):
But certainly are. I live in a very white context, lots of people in our country due live in context that are much more homogenous than yours. So for people who are in a church or a personal context that it's like that, what does it look like to participate in reconciliation, to participate in justice, to actually have a close proximity to the vulnerable among us? What can you say to that?

1 (31m 11s):
That's a great question. And, and it's one that I address on a regular basis. A pastorally, there are a lots of pastors run the country who asks me the same question. Like, Hey, I'm in this homogeneous context, but I wanted to be a person who works for racial justice, but there are no Asian people among the Or. There are no black people among the no Hispanic. Tell me how do I do it? And I think it's still possible. First of all, I think what I tell pastors is who are you allowing me to speak into your life? What are the stories that you're opening yourself to? And so even in the books that we read a, the music, we listen to a, the stories that we come across, I think there is moving close to someone isn't necessarily of physical proximity.

1 (32m 2s):
Sometimes it does. It's emotional proximity, sometimes its narrative proximity and trying to understand someone story and, and the simple act of, of reading and a study about his history of slavery history of Jim Crow, history of segregation. I mean an opening ourselves up to that painful historic racial reality. Yeah. I think there's proximity. There's empathy that is taking place so that when an issue comes to the form and you're going Vista, it comes out of a context. So it's often the case that people think physical proximity.

1 (32m 43s):
And I think by all means I'm, For the physical proximity, but we all know what it's like to have physical proximity, but still be emotionally distant. The proximity before us is how can I open myself up to the stories, to the fears, to the values, to the beauty of people who don't look like me. And there's a myriad of ways that that can come through and especially in a world of, of zoom that we're in right now, this technology has a virtual world that we're in a way we can open ourselves up to that kind of proximity and new ways that we didn't envision in the past.

1 (33m 23s):
But a proximity's more than just physical. I, I think at the core of it, it's emotional and spiritual and, you know, folks who are in these a monocultural homogeneous context can still work in that movie in that direction.

0 (33m 39s):
Yeah. I think the idea of narrative proximity, I've never heard those words put together. I love that. And you can call it a great phrase. I really like that. And I also, what I'm also struck by is just the, you know, when we do expand, as you said, you've got a diversity in your church that is not just about multiethnic people, but whether it's age or gender or income or disability, but there, and that is true in any, in any social situation, there are people who are hurting and who are vulnerable. And so what does it mean to have eyes to see those people and to move towards them in Love at least as the beginning of what a day of being equipped by God to participate in healing?

0 (34m 24s):
I think, but I, yeah, I really liked narrative proximity, but I wanted to close by just asking you. So, as I mentioned, the purpose of this podcast is to talk about how we as individuals can participate in healing, social divisions in a holistic way. So with our heads, our hearts in our hands, and I think you do do a great job in this book of offering practical ways to incorporate all of those aspects of ourselves as we relate to God and to be, to have people around us. But so as you think about specifically social healing, all of the things that divide us and participating in the work that God is already doing in the world, are there any spiritual practices that you would say are essential for people who really want to participate in social, the social healing, which might be a repetition of what we've already said or adding something new, but I just want it to end in that sense of like, okay, if you're someone who really cares about this here, or a couple things to really consider as far as being equipped by the spirit to be a part of a work of healing in the world,

1 (35m 29s):
You know, this is actually a, a, a, a good summary of what I'm trying to aim for with my second book, hear in terms of, in terms of healing, the various divisions that are of value for us, it, it out, I think I could express it. And, and the story here, ah, there's a congregant several years ago, who was just giving me a hard time. I mean, he saw the world very differently than I did. He came from a very different culture context and he, I mean, he sent some pretty rough emails and I was just triggered by him every time I saw him, every time every conversation we had.

1 (36m 13s):
And I remember my predecessor at the point, P a Pete Scazzero, he said to me, I was just lamenting about a conversation I need to have with him. And he said, do you know this guy he's experienced some significant trauma and let me talk about the trauma he's experienced. And he started going into detail about, about the horrific trauma that he's experienced. Now, of course, I wouldn't know this, but this level of, and for what, what did for me. And that moment was to recognize that there are so many room, did people in the world know that there are people that you can talk up and say, Oh, that's an evil person.

1 (36m 54s):
That first scene that is wicked is a wicked Proverbs, you know, wicked person there. There's so many rounded, traumatized people in the world. And when I heard his story and his background, I came to that meeting with a new set of eyes to see the fear beneath the surface, the hurt beneath the surface. And then I began to recognize my own woundedness. And My all the ways that I have been traumatized. And the defendant in this that I put up because of fear. I think if we're going to heal our social divisions, the, there are many different ways and many different layers here. But I do think it begins by seeing the woundedness of every person, John Vanya, who sadly many people know he, he had some significant missteps of abuse and just bring his name up because Stanley heroine.

1 (37m 50s):
He wrote a book called living Gently and a violence and Violent world. And he, he, he will just give this for the sake of illustration, where he was talking about the <inaudible>, the ways that he sees people. How has whenever, when he sees an enemy to be conquered Vanya, he sees a wound that needs to be healed. Right? And I, I do think that is that the essence of that truth is I believe How Christians can participate in the renewal of the world. We can see people as enemies to be conquered or T wounds that need to be healed. And that's hard. That's a cruciform way of living. It's painful, it's slow.

1 (38m 32s):
But I do think if we recognize our own woundedness and, and start the conversation is from that point, we, we can make more progress than we think.

0 (38m 43s):
Well, and it seems to me, it just was thinking, I'd read a book recently where they just pointed out the root word of hospital and hospitality, obviously being the same and like the place where you come to get well, the hospital is the place of welcome and of at the banquet, right. And being able to come and be welcomed as who you are. And I've just been thinking about that relationship, which I think speaks to what you were just saying there, but there is a sense of, you know, there's that saying hurt people, hurt people. And I don't think that we are the healers. So saying healed people, heal people is a little too trait, but they're is a sense that if we have like experienced the love of God, that has begun a healing work in our lives, we are so much more equipped to actually be able to see the woundedness of other people and bring as a taste at least, or an offering of that same type of healing, perhaps through Practices of hospitality of, and certainly of, you know, of justice in the world.

0 (39m 45s):
And I am not in any way of saying we shouldn't be, you know, signing petitions to change. The legislation are things like that, but there is a sense of that relational, a care and Wellcome that is really transformative for whole communities and really our, our, our whole society. I, I believe so. I'm thank you for writing a book that I think that it helps us to at least start moving in that direction of, of healing. And I hope I'm really, really appreciated your time. Really appreciate it in your words. And I look forward to the next book.

1 (40m 18s):
Yeah. We'll see what happens there. This one has given me more trouble than the first one in terms of just trying to get my ideas around it, but hopefully an a in a few months, things will come together.

0 (40m 30s):
Yeah. Well, good luck with that. I know how that goes and yeah, I'm really grateful for your time.

1 (40m 36s):
Thanks, man. Good to be in the field.

0 (40m 39s):
Thanks so much for listening to love is stronger than Fear. I'm really grateful that you are here and as always, I'd love for other people to benefit from the ideas and practices that came up in this conversation. So that's on you. You will have a chance to share this podcast, to read it, to review it, to let other people know about it. That would be a huge help in spreading the word and in spreading the love. I also want to thank our cohost Breaking Ground, they've got more podcasts articles, videos. They reflect from a Christian perspective on how to think about the past, understand the present and explore redemptive possibilities for the future. And that's breaking ground that you asked. I'm also so thankful for Jake Hanson, the editor of this Podcast to Amber Barrie and my social media coordinator.

0 (41m 26s):
And I'm thankful for you for being here as you go into your day to day, I do hope and pray that you will carry with you. The piece that comes from believing that love is stronger.

3 (41m 38s):
Fear.