Living In More Gracious Space

Does religious thinking actually make it more difficult to know God and if so, what can we do about it? Kent Burgess of Manchester, IL joins Wayne in this podcast as they discuss that religion isn’t all that different from most of the ways the world thinks in that it drives us by fear and performance to try to control what’s coming at them. As Kent shares from the dramatic changes in his thinking over the last decade, they talk about how political rancor and religious thinking actually draws us away from the space where God is most easily known and where we can enjoy a growing relationship with him. Both Wayne and Kent have engaged people recently that only found the God they were looking for when they got away from the demands of religion and connected in more natural ways with the God of the Bible.

Podcast Links:
Just to clarify, Kent is from Manchester, MO, not Illinois as Wayne mistakenly said on the podcast.
Kent’s Blog Faithfully Dangerous
For Kent’s previous appearances on The God Journey, please look him up in our Guest Archive
Thanks to your generosity, we’ve been able to buy new clothes for the children at the orphanage in Kenya. You can see pictures here!

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24 Responses to “Living In More Gracious Space”

  1. Don Feazelle says:

    Love the conversation. I started practicing Yoga for the health and emotional benefits about a 1 and 1/2 years ago. I have not been compelled into Hinduism or Buddhism, but it has been a tool that has allowed me to calm the mind that I might spend time in prayer and contemplation upon our Heavenly Father and Redeemer. We spend so much of our time regretting the past or worrying about the future. The practice of Yoga brings you into what is happening right now and helps me focus on a very present God. It is not about performance or working up to get God’s attention, But about allowing my mind to be attentive to God. May not be for everyone, but it has been a tool in my life that has been beneficial.

  2. kent says:

    Don, I live with al lot of muscular pain Don due to an autoimmune disorder. I have intentions to add yoga to my life to assist me with that.

    I love this description of the challenges we all face while living in a space that feels like a relentless barrage of distraction and manipulation of our true longing by the visible world and the activity there we all have to engage in and learning to live following the Spirit who is invisible and wholly other from the ways of the world humans have created. I think it is why creating some space away from it is so important. And that time away is all about the formation of an internal reality, quality of being, that once we recognize, we will remain in touch with wherever we go in this visible world.

    “Fire exhibits exponential rapidity. Starting with the most meagre measure, it can, through its multiplication pattern, transform that measure into an infinity. Every moment doubles and re-doubles itself. This is an appropriate metaphor for the speed and rush that governs so much of modern life.

    The French philosopher Baudrillard says that perception is so difficult for modern man precisely because of the speed that burdens modern consciousness. The spark becomes a furnace. This has a negative effect on the person. It accounts for the massive hunger for the spiritual that we experience, but also for the overload on consciousness that denies us peace and fulfillment.

    The spiritual develops best where the rhythm has an ease and stillness. Without this stillness and silence, the soul can never emerge or engage the life. Thus, the frenetic pace of modern life allows no real hospitality to the spiritual.”~~~John O’Donohue

  3. David William Edwards says:

    Great one… there are many different “boxes”…

    We are now seeing people seeing the political landscape as a tangible way to determine “God’s blessing or cursings” of a nation based upon your opinion on which candidate won. They take “you get the candidate you deserve” as an oracle from on high. Therefore your countenance and attitude toward others based on those outcomes. It’s such an easy way to get shipwrecked along the way…

  4. Carolyn says:

    Loved this conversation. As I progress on my journey, my heart (and mind) has become more opened to thoughts and practices that in my religious days, I frowned on. I am learning more and more to be in the moment…present…because that’s where God is. And I must say that my live for Him…and my trust in Him have only grow stronger.

    I also appreciate the acknowledgement of the fact that our journey cannot be measured in time…but awareness I guess.

    I appreciate you Kent and Wayne. Thanks for a heart-provoking conversation.

  5. jennifer says:

    Hi Kent!
    THANK YOU SO MUCH for sharing your story! God has had me on a similar journey wtih detoxing from politics the past several years… I was AMENing all the way through the first part of the podcast!

    I also have several autoimmune diesases and have chronic back pain. If you haven’t found a yoga program you like yet I would highly recommend WholyFit Devotional Exercise DVD. There are scripture verses that the instructor speaks while she is instructing the position changes. I have found that it is great not only for my aching body, but also renewing my mind.

    Thanks again for sharing your story! :o)

  6. Richard says:

    Great pod cast, (conversation) Wayne and Kent, super enjoyed it.

  7. Ron Cabay says:

    Enjoyed the podcast.

    While listening, I kept reflecting back to a short interview that I heard within the past week. It involved Stanley Hauerwas (Duke University Theologian) and pertained to his involvement with Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche (French for Ark) Community. The L’Arche community works with the severely disabled.

    This may initially seem like an odd fit to your recent podcast, but from my perspective much of the subject matter seemed to mesh. In typical Hauerwas fashion, he speaks of the politics of gentleness, throws in a little Henri Nouwen (close friend of Jean Vanier), and Kent will most likely be pleased that he alludes to Jacque Ellul when he considers technology (technique).

    Here are a few outtakes from the 17 minute interview;

    You have written about peace and time in your book ‘Living Gently in a Violent World’. Could you explain the idea of the politics of peace being a politics of time and how L’Arche fits into this?
    “If you want to know what speed is, it’s war. War is made necessary by the presumption that we don’t have the time to come to reconciliation. Or to discover who the other is that seems to be threatening us…. What L’Arche represents is time, and how patience (in working w/ the disabled) creates the time necessary for people to come to reconciliation and knowledge of one another in a way that we aren’t threatened to eliminate one another because they frighten us so deeply. We have all the time we need in a world that doesn’t think it has much time at all, to draw on God’s love, to enact that love among a body of people, so that the world might see what it means to be chosen by God… L’Arche is time in a world that has no time.”

    What is the political significance of gentleness?
    “In a world of unbelievable cruelty, gentleness is a gesture that suggests we’re not condemned to cruelty. That means something as simple as reaching out and touching another human being, in a way that is non-threatening. To call that politics is a way to remind us that politics is about struggle for cooperative acknowledgment of one another in a way that we discover good that otherwise could not be discovered. Politics is the ongoing challenge of confronting the other in a way that I’m not tempted to short circuit politics by violence.”

    What does L’Arche teach about gentleness?
    “L’Arche is a very gentle community. I’ve never been around anyone more gentle than John Vanier. That gentleness is pervasive in the community. John lives in a way that does not need defense. He never feels the need for self-justification that is so prevalent for each of us, to defend our status. That kind of gentleness is at the heart of L’Arche and at the heart of our Savior Christ.

    Is L’Arche only for Christians?
    “There are L’Arche communities that are Muslim. However, it’s very hard to understand L’Arche without the gospel… The piety is unmistakable, the convictions are unmistakable. But since the gospel is not just for Christians, it’s for anyone. How could we think it could be limited only to Christians. So of course I think that people who are not Christian will see in L’Arche what it means to be a human being.”

    You have pointed out the desire of the church today to want to catch up to the world in speed and modernity. Does L’Arche point to the problems that we face in the church in that regard?
    “L’Arche doesn’t need to think of itself as anti-modern… L’Arche helps us to discern some of the pathologies that have gone hand and hand with progressive forces that presume that we want to create a world in which we can get out of life alive. That world in which we try to create, to get out of life alive, turns out to be extraordinarily manipulative and in particular underwrites the status of those who are in power… L’Arche often times helps us see what we take to be normality is actually deep perversions.”

    “John Vanier and his friends have created an imaginary in a world that could not imagine.”

    “Through John Vanier I began to see people who had a patience in a world of impatience.”

    “John Vanier often talks about welcoming the broken who are on the outside and then discovering the broken inside.”

    “L’Arche is a sign rather than a solution. The world wants solutions. Solution is just another name for the elimination of disability and of the disabled. Solution is an invitation to use technological forms of power to make us free of what we think are limits. Sign is a way of saying that this is not a problem that needs a solution. This is a gift that requires reception.”

    If anyone is interested, this interview can be accessed at
    http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/encounter/jean-vaniers-ark/2979180

    Some may also be interested in a 2009 Krista Tippet interview of Jean Vanier (the gentle giant) entitled “The Wisdom of Tenderness”.
    http://www.onbeing.org/program/wisdom-tenderness/234

  8. Dave says:

    Thank you Wayne and Kent. I’m just listening the this pod cast on Friday night.

    Politics seem to be one turkey with two wings. It’s all the same bird. A funny quote and a Scripture comes to mind, “It’s hard to soar like an eagle when focused on a turkey”. And Isaiah 40:31 “But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles. . .”
    (Amplified Bible)

    On another note, our thoughts and prayers are with you Wayne and with Sara for her recovery. Today’s Emails would have been put on a long hold if I had listened to the pod cast earlier.

  9. Wayne says:

    No worries, Dave. Lots of waiting around today and the distractions were a blessing. For those who didn’t see the Facebook postings or my blog, Sara is out of surgery now and recuperating in her room. Hopefully she’ll only be here one night and we’ll get to go home in the morning. Also, I apologize to Kent for moving him to Illinois. He’s actually from Manchester, MO! I guess I was a bit distracted when I recorded the intro for that… Blessings to all. We have felt deeply loved over these past 24 hours…

  10. Timothy Buchser says:

    Great podcast! I think Brad may be upset that you were cow tipping without him though, he was always so fond of that. (Well, you really weren’t tipping the sacred cows, as much as pushing them off the cliff.)
    One thing of note, I think if folks are looking to eastern religions for simplicity, they are looking in the wrong place. Simplicity and being enmeshed in religion are not copacetic to one another.
    There is nothing more simple than following Jesus. All you need do is open your heart.
    Following the religion of Christianity on the other hand…

    You and Sara are both in our prayers brother. So glad she is well and the healer is with you both!

  11. kent says:

    Ron, you touched on a few people there, Stanley, Jacques, and John Vanier all who have had a significant influence on me.

    And Timothy, like Wayne and I attempted to make clear…..we certainly weren’t promoting any religion Eastern or Western. I just know people who have passed through both. What amazes me is Jesus’ willingness to go get the one…..wherever they might be passing through.

  12. joni menard says:

    Wonderful conversation thank you for sharing this with us. I love the quote from a previous podcast about religion making us relationally challenged. I believe that is true for all religions east or west. I think our labeling of things “bad or good” is the fruit of dualistic thinking and seeing. I was raised on this side of the Christian pendulum (metaphysical, new age, Buddhism,) and still missed the core message of identity and consciousness that Jesus whispers. I did know as a young child that God is love. It is taking the second half of life to know that I am my Beloveds and He is mine. Seems like it all still goes back to attachments and identity. Sail into the mystic.

  13. kent says:

    :-) I like that Joni.

  14. Richard says:

    I love it as well Joni!

  15. Sue says:

    Thanks Wayne and Kent. I share with some of the other postings that Buddhism (like any institution) has rules and legalism of it’s own. Amen to the simplicity of following Jesus…period end of sentence : ) As with many others, Father is walking me out of years of the institutional church and a very harsh upbringing. The gentleness and compassion that Jesus showed and which many of us long for can only be gleaned as part of the transformation over a long time. For me it’s been three years and I continue to ask Father to free me from my impatience. When I hear of 20 or 20plus years…3 years is a short time indeed : ) Blessings

  16. kent says:

    This is an example of something I ran into from Richard Rohr, back during a transitional season in my life, to where I came face to face with the reality that he was describing a way of being that I had never learned in 42 years of Christian training. And I knew the spirit wanted to walk me out of where I was and into something more like this……

    “On my better days, when I am “open, undefended, and immediately present,” I can sometimes begin with a contemplative mind and heart. Often I can get there later and even end there, but it is usually a second gaze. The True Self seems to always be ridden and blinded by the defensive needs of the false self. It is an hour-by-hour battle, at least for me. I can see why all spiritual traditions insist on daily prayer, in fact, morning, midday, evening, and before-we-go-to-bed prayer too. Otherwise, I can assume that I am back on cruise control of small and personal self-interest, the pitiable and fragile “richard” self.

    The first gaze is seldom compassionate. It is too busy weighing and feeling itself: “How will this effect me?” or “How does my self image demand that I react to this?” or “How can I get back in control of this situation?” This leads to an implosion, a self preoccupation that can not enter into communion with the other or the moment. In other words, we first feel our feelings before we can relate to the situation and emotions of the other. Only after God had taught us to live “undefended” can we immediately stand with and for the other, and for the moment. It takes a lot of practice.”

  17. kent says:

    And I post that excerpt from Richard Rohr so as to draw attention to the very desire I had for this podcast conversation (and all of my conversations for that matter). Wayne at one point in the conversation expressed his concern in regards to me referring to Buddhism. And he even mentioned his concern for less mature believers hearing it and being confused. And I really do get that. But that is the very reason for us to have been having the conversation in the first place. Or at least that was my intentions.

    The observation above made by Richard is a perfect example. The use of the terms ‘true self’ and ‘false self’ to many Christians will sound new agey. They are terms used by Buddhist regularly. When I believe it to be at the heart of the gospel and transformation…leaving the old self behind and stepping into new life. And too often, ‘old self’ and ‘new life’ which are familiar terms use in Christian language have lost their liberating reality because too often ‘new life’ is nothing more than religious performance.

    I want to talk about these things to both young believers and older believers also, free of fear, because I want them to see that they are Jesus/new life centered and not owned by any religion. And the use of fresh language helps shake us free of the dead familiar language that is so entangled in dead religion. The reason I find it important to voyage into to such conversations, even though they are tricky and can create misunderstanding and reaction, is because I want to see young believers and older ones too, free of the paralyzing control of the frightened functionaries of religion, whether Christian or otherwise. If a young believer were to take such things to a ‘gatekeeper’ (and I know firsthand that it happens often) too often it is written off as Eastern religion/New Age, and due to so much fear of getting it wrong, young believers especially put it aside and learn to then detect it with great suspicion as dangerous thinking. When what is dangerous to our spirit, our soul and our minds is the thinking that keeps us trapped in activities that have no power to shake us free of a way of being that doesn’t transform us.

    “If, however, Christianity and the church are in fact reactionary and static, it is becasue they have lost the basic meaning of the Christian life, which is freedom. They have transformed revelation into a religion. Religion is indeed a conservative, retarding, and restrictive force. In this transformation, fellowship with Christ is lost, and with it the purity for which everything is pure and everything is possible. This is why it seems to me that the most urgent and decisive task for Christianity today, on the basis of fellowship with Christ, is to recover the full meaning of freedom.” Jacques Ellul….The Ethics Of Freedom

  18. Judy Gale says:

    Hi, Kent! I appreciate all that you shared here, and have been on a similar journey: from turning off cable news to having just read my first Jean Vanier writing. I’m looking forward to reading your blog!
    Blessings to you, Judy

  19. Sue says:

    Thanks for the posts Kent…and others. Yes…to have an “undefended” gaze at oneself and to be able to “lay down” the voices of “But hurry up already! You cannot live that way and to even ask for a greater reality is to have expectations too high!!! What’s wrong with you. We survive the institution and see it as good!!!” This indeed takes time to walk out of. God has the patience and it seems as though more and more I can ask Him to allow me to see His heart. Maybe over time my gaze will more and more come off of myself, my feelings and on to Him and what He is doing. I also understand the potential for much misunderstanding and share with you the thought that this conversation is important to risk anyway : )

  20. Leo Free says:

    This was marvelous, albeit too short, conversation. Thank you both for jumping into the water rather than talking about trying to understand wet from a dry point of view.
    I understand concerns over immature believers and that they shop for what works. But that would still be true if none of the Body matured beyond fear’s manipulations. So again, I’m thankful for the posting of this conversation. If some souls never even enter a genuine journey with God or if others fall off some deep end of delusion trying to find Him, it is refreshing to find discussions that are not propping up religious ministries established to keep those tragic things from happening. (and I’m OK with those called to do such). However, some are indeed hearing a call to climb the mountain with God, not in search of Him.
    Also, appreciate your gracious sharing of your and Sarah’s journey together and also as unique souls in Abba’s garden. Deeply encouraging and timely.
    Blessings and prayers are with you both. (and now Kent, too) :-D

  21. Doug says:

    This is the best Podcast (for me) that I have heard as it is so timely. I relate so much to what Kent was discussing. In fact I don’t think I have ever wept during a Podcast of anyone’s before. The reason I say this is because it was like God speaking to me. I am not hyper spiritual, but it was just that kind of moment. I too was very conservative politically and part of the Fox News and Limbaugh audience as well as the Christian Coalition, it leads to nothing. It is a dead end road. The part that got to me the most was the journey, that for a while I believe God put me on was using mindfulness and contemplation as a way of reconnecting to what is real. I am all in for Jesus, but if you mention mindfulness to our fundamentalist family they will not understand as the church has put bars like a jail cell around their hearts and minds.

    I was thinking about the whole Eastern Philosophy ideas with things such as mindfulness and how it gets credited to Buddhism. Mindfulness is basically observing your thoughts and calling them what they are…thoughts. Crap that pops up in our mind. Mindfulness practice would say just allow it because it is what it is and it is not you. Just let it flow. What occurred to me was this, why do Buddhists get credit for an ability the creator God of the universe gave every person to do? We all can do this. I recommend it to anyone. The practice does not ask you to leave Jesus Christ, deny Jesus Christ, or anything of the sort. This practice is a Jesus practice and I wish Christians would have coined the phrase.

    Thanks guys for the courage to do this podcast. This was amazing. We have a lot to learn from the East, not only in the ideas Kent talked about but medicine also.

  22. kent says:

    Doug, I’m grateful that it was good for you.

    And what you said gets to the heart of what my intentions were ….. to draw attention to some helpful practices that get attributed to other religions, and through the association, classified as evil and dangerous and then sealed off from people who are a part of Western Christianity, especially the Conservative streams.

    The journey and we as individuals aren’t owned by any religion ….the journey is ours and we belong to God. And as I said, if Jesus is my example of how a human should approach this life….I can’t think of a better descriptor than mindfully present.

  23. Doug says:

    Thanks Ken, I like the way you put that. Jesus is the embodiment of being in the present. We so need to chill out in our Christianity. God is teaching people to be center (the heart) focused these days. People are hungry for the spiritual and losing the appetite for the sermons and cerebral stimulation. Be still and know that I am God the psalmist writes. How much simpler can it get. Know and believe seems to be our marching orders. Oh, and don’t forget He came to restore “that” which was lost. I believe the “that” is our rest. Our rest was lost becasue of religion. The things you were talking about are being awakened in people. People normally get their wake up due to stress, anxiety, or emotional dysfunction. Believers experience much of this, usually becasue of wrong thinking about God. We had dinner a few weeks ago with some very fundamental Christians and they were recovering from the election, and are preparing for the end, and telling me about a prophet who is saying the end is near, and oh my God stop it! That used to be me too. No longer. This isn’t the place God wants us. He wants us to be still and know. I just smile and want to tell them, but I know I wouldn’t be received. Guess what people? Jesus was asleep in the bottom of the boat in a hurricane. He was Jesus I know, but rest and peace is there for us when we focus on Him, not on prophet I M Wrongalot.

  24. Steve says:

    What can I say?

    Having listened to almost 7 years of the God Journey this last episode describes my headspace perfectly.

    Kent thanks so so much for your openness and honesty.

    Wayne, thanks so much for this dialogue – so much appreciated this and all the transitions you have helped me through from a misguided and warped fundamentalism and revivalism.

    I have written on this in me self published book – Soulshift.

    Blessings to all

    Steve

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