One of my hardest tasks in life is asking for help.
Number one, I am often unaware of needing help, (a most unusual form of denial). Number two, when I sense a need, I hint. It is usually your job to guess what I need. Number three, if I come right out and ask for what I need, that will risk rejection. And even after 59 years of living, I still prefer to avoid possible rejection. Weird huh?
So lately I have been aware of my need to simply ask: “Can you help me.”
Here is why. I am a contemplative missionary, and people like me always need people like you to support us. Even your little comments in response to things I write are an immense help. They literally keep me going.
I have found an amazing calling in sharing contemplative practices with a stress-wearied world. Nothing gives me more joy than cultivating inner stillness with people. We are gathered in the presence of God when we sit or eat or walk or stretch our way into the inner stillness. Something profound shifts within us as thoughts settle, stresses dissipate, and we find the Center of our beings in community. I share these practices because people need them, and so do I.
In the past week we had especially meaningful sessions in a number of our contemplative groups: from sacred yoga to centering prayer, and from mindfulness meditation to sacred poetry sharing. From hour to hour, in one place and then others, groups of us gathered to practice the presence of God in our inner sanctuaries. And in so doing we were transformed once again.
This is an unusual calling, this business of helping physicians and nurses and ministers and social workers and grandfathers and parents and business people and retired people to find the Quiet Center. It seems so different from a mission to save starving children in Africa. But is it that different?
I believe people are drawn into contemplative groups because something in them is starving. And I am drawn into contemplative groups because something in me is starving too. Even though most of us have plenty to eat, we do not seem to have enough soul food. We are rarely offered opportunities to touch the healing peace we need in our frantic culture. So our souls starve for lack of depth and stillness and nourishment. These needs are met when we gather to practice the Presence.
In our Christian tradition, Jesus told his disciples, “I have food that you know not of.” I believe Jesus was speaking of soul food, which he “tasted” by practicing the presence of God. A hunger deeper than eating an apple was met in that inner communion. And to this day, contemplative practices help us fill that same hunger. I need soul food. Our people gather for soul food. Perhaps you know soul hunger too.
The mission of a contemplative missionary is to create contemplative communities who practice the presence of God. Fed by such inner nourishment, we can get back to our daily task of helping to change the world. To live this mission and keep expanding it I need help.
Our School for Contemplative Living has been creating contemplative communities around the region of New Orleans for seven years. Occasionally, some of us also lead retreats and speak in other places where there is a hunger for contemplative soul food. My book on the work, Monks in the World, was published by Wipf & Stock in 2014. Last year, we completed a six-minute video trailer on YouTube titled “Monks in the World,” which you can see at this link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEklS0j_HLg.
We could do even more with your help.
I have three new goals for 2016: to complete a full documentary on contemplative living with Don Downey, (http://dondowneywork.com/); to reach new people needing our service by creating contemplative communities in new places; and to complete a new manuscript titled The Gate of Heaven is Everywhere. Such broad goals need broad support.
Additional filming and editing will cost at least $25,000. Sabbatical time to complete the writing/editing and to make contemplative contacts in new cities will cost another $25,000. And none of this will be possible without the direct involvement of a wide variety of people offering spiritual guidance along the way. Your support is really needed.
Here are two ways you can help. Contact me and share the new place in the world where you see we need to be offering contemplative training. And donate to help us raise $50,000 to meet these goals for 2016. (Today’s blog now officially qualifies as a fundraising project). Can you help me?
To donate you can go to our School’s website at http://www.thescl.net and use the donate button at the bottom of the homepage. Or you can mail a check made out to Parker United Methodist Church with SCL on the memo line. That can be mailed to the church at 1130 Nashville Ave. New Orleans, LA 70115.
Thanks so much for reading and responding, in whatever way speaks to you. Your input, suggestions, and support are such a gift so a contemplative missionary can live his mission.