From: William Gibbons
Sent: Thursday, July 19, 2018
To: 'william's email list 2018'
Subject: Independence Day
Greetings to each of you,
I hope you had a wonderful July
4th Independence Day, full of meaning and fun.
With both of my grandfathers
being of Irish heritage, I had originally thought of doing a newsletter
around St. Patrick's Day. Though that day came and went without my being
able to find the time to compose any communication, I have often joked
that with this much Irish heritage, you are either still celebrating
St. Patrick's Day, or getting ready for the next one. In light of that,
perhaps at the end of this newsletter, I will throw in the shamrock
graphic I had picked out. I will also see what might fit in with the
theme here from what I had set aside in March.
Independence Day is the next
holiday I like to acknowledge. When I set up the parameters for the
non-profit, and even before then, it was not by accident that July 4th
was chosen as the renewal date for all memberships. Jesus said the truth
will set you free. His truth rests at the core of what I choose to do,
who I am trying to be, and at the heart of the practices and philosophies
of the Teaching & Sharing Centers organization which grew from my work.
Finding freedom in the truth is what I finally decided to write about.
Especially what has worked in this 24 year journey of trying to live
the truth in Christ, and learning the practical applications of biblical
As mentioned in January, in
order to avoid lengthy big file emails in your inbox, and to save me
the time necessary to do two separate layouts, first as an email, then
as a webpage, I am returning to a previous practice of doing the content
as a webpage first. This email is your introduction to the newsletter
online. If you want to continue, all you have to do is click . . .
Our American Independence Day
will have taken place over two weeks ago when you read this. We were
up north celebrating Donna's daughter's birthday with her then. She
was born on the 4th. On the way home, by way of M66, we passed a church
with a sign out front which stated, "Jesus is the true source of freedom."
I agree. In addition to it being Dee's birthday, the celebration on
July 4th each year is in my top five of meaningful holidays worthy of
reflection beyond how we have come to celebrate them in our modern American
culture. I once created a desktop background with a list of the top
five values/attributes I hold dearest. Freedom was listed second. Only
truth stood above it. Yet I fear that real freedom is something that
few of us truly live or experience.
John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth, and the truth
will set you free.”
I will not get into the details around the passage,
but the Jews in Jesus' day did not respond to that any better than most
Americans would, who already see themselves as free. He went on to say
that committing sin makes one a slave to sin. In our culture, sin is
not a popular word. It carries with it a sound of fundamentalism, and
being judged by others. I have noticed even many churches shy away from
the word sin. I do not like it, or the word sinner. It feels like being
put down, rather than being lifted up. The only person who could say
either to me, without an emotionally retaliatory reaction on my part,
would be Jesus, whom I believe when He calls Himself the Truth. So,
I am going to put it another way. Whatever is more important to you
in this world than a close personal relationship with your Creator,
that is what has taken away your freedom. It is a simple truth. God
gave you your free will right from the start. As far as I can tell,
from years of reading Scripture, God is all about freedom of choice
in every way. Even if your decisions are likely to enslave you, He gave
you the right to make them for yourself. But, He also offered, if you
would like to avoid the many pitfalls of this world, He would be happy
to walk along with you, and offer you His wisdom, as you journey through
this introductory life, on your way to a bigger life beyond. That is
an amazing freedom.
"An article in The Washington Post told
about a 15-year-old girl who sent and received 6,473 cell phone
text messages in a single month. She says about her constant communication
with friends, 'I would die without it.' And she is not alone.
Researchers say that US teens with cell phones average more than
2,200 text messages per month." (This was based on 2010
Any of us, as Americans, can list a whole slew of
things which enslave us if we are honest about it. It can be things
like cell phones and texting, or just wanting more than enough of anything.
It might be an attitude like judging others, being unforgiving, or an
emotion such as anger or hate. It could be a situation like working
at something you really dislike in order to pay the bills. Or becoming
someone who spends much of their life worrying, because they have so
much they fear to lose. The list could go on. But it is not my place
to judge the things, and choices, which hold people bound. The real
question is do you actually want to be free? I had a quote on the wall
at the Center some years ago. I cannot find it now, but basically it
said that true security lies not in what you have, but in what you can
do without. That statement resonated with me several decades ago. Although
I see God as the only ultimate security, I believed that living the
truth of such a statement was a step toward freedom, and still do. I
believe Jesus about the truth setting you free.
So what has worked in granting me a greater freedom
over these last two and a half decades? I think I will start with something
practical, and a common enslaver for many of us . . . our personal finances.
Even before terminating my contract with State Farm Insurance to begin
the Teaching & Sharing Center, I came to believe that sharing 10% (a
tithe) of my gross income wherever I saw God's work being done was an
absolute I needed to make a part of my life. I saw it as a minimum,
not something to work up to. I began to do it at a time when my money
was tight, and by worldly wisdom I could ill afford to add any additional
expenditures. Still, I had read in Scripture that God invited us to
"Bring the whole tithe
into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test
me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw
open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that
there will not be room enough to store it." (Malachi 3:10
In those same years, I read an article based on Biblical
principles which was written by a Christian financial counselor who
recommended what he called the 10-10-80 system. Tithe the first ten
percent. Save the second ten percent. Then learn to live on the eighty
percent. I also saw that the Bible spoke against credit use, as something
that would easily enslave you. My dad had offered the same advice earlier,
but I had not heeded it. Significant debt had already taken me captive
by the time I was ready to seriously find some sort of financial relief.
I had enough experience under my belt to know trying to get rich would
not provide the freedom I yearned for. I have embraced the 10-10-80
system to this day. The T&SC finances are managed the same way. It took
15 years to get rid of all the debt I had incurred, but it did happen.
We have no credit cards. We do have debit cards from our checking accounts
in the event we need to use a Visa or MasterCard. But we buy only what
we actually have the cash for. And we set aside a tithe, religiously,
on every little bit of income. I do not think our situation would qualify
as "so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it."
However, we went through the last recession without even a financial
Edgar Cayce was quoted as saying ". . . for never
has he that served the living God wanted for the necessities
of life." That would be an accurate description for us. In fact, I have
come to appreciate the things we often take for granted . . . clean
drinking water, clean hot water to shower with, a heated home in winter,
and a cool home in summer, a good roof over our heads, a car, and food
in the cupboards and refrigerator, as immense blessings to be thankful
for. We are not entitled just because we were born as Americans. Every
thing we have is a gift from God. Sometimes directly, and sometimes
through the talents and intelligence He endowed us with. The 10-10-80
system combined with debt free living works.
Forgiveness works. No need to quote the Bible. Even
secular culture preaches the personal benefit of embracing forgiveness.
A prayer of forgiveness was one of the first major prayers I lifted
up to God when I began my spiritual journey. Later in the william's
works section of this newsletter, I will share an Elaine Dessing email,
where she elaborates on the freedom found in forgiveness. I also have
a Richard Rohr article following relating to grace and forgiveness.
Humility works. I am not very good at it. But on
those occasions when it legitimately shows up, I find it brings with
it an incredible sense of freedom. It is the topic of the other article
Grace works. Accepting that we are all just trying
to find our way in a place we truly have no concept of how it, or we,
came to be, allows us to embrace grace. Even being as comfortable as
I am with saying God did it, does not shed light on the most basic question
of how anything, especially God, is. If we cannot answer this most basic
of questions, why are we arrogantly drawing lines in the sand about
anything? I will share a John Two-Hawks article about "demarcation"
later, along with some Richard Rohr items.
Simplicity works. It can be a rather complicated
journey to work toward simplicity, but it is ultimately a necessity
for our survival as a species. Plus, it is very freeing at every step
along the way. Jerry Iversen sends an email called Today’s Simpler
Living Nudge. A few of them relating to simple living will be shared
in the william's works section.
Surrendering to Jesus' most basic admonitions really
works. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," as with
so many other things He said, might sound restrictive, but actually
sets you free. Any day can be Independence Day when you finally decide
to stop trying to run the show by yourself, and surrender control back
to the God who gave you your freedom in the first place. It seems contradictory.
Yet my experience has been my freedom increases every time I give any
area of my life fully over to God. Do not be fooled by this. Sometimes
our seemingly surrender to God often takes on the form of accepting
a religious kind of slavery found in trying to live up to man made interpretations
of what God wants or expects. God is real. You can ask Him directly.
In doing so, if participation in a religious community would be good
for your life, you can be involved with others while keeping your hope
and desire for help focused in God. (See Psalm 146:3-6.)
“I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me."
(John 14:6 NIV)
Everyone is free to do as they like with statements
Jesus made, including questioning whether He actually made them. You
are free to believe He was "God with us," or not. If He is Who He says
He is, He gave you that freedom. I do not like everything He said. Still,
I trust Him. I am not willing to take a chance that John 14:6 is not
accurately recorded, nor the literal truth. Almost everything about
Jesus makes sense to me. Mostly because it is all so contrary to worldly
ways, only God would dare to offer it up with such authority. If the
Christians you know, or have seen in the news, have left you less than
enthusiastic about a relationship with Jesus, I would humbly suggest
you stop looking at, or listening to those Christians. Seek instead
to learn all you can about Jesus directly, without the distortions of
how we conveniently conform Him to the desires of our own lives, and
our own personalities. If Scripture turns out to be accurately passed
down through the ages, and there is every evidence it has, then Jesus
died saving you. He died saving me. Any friend who would step in and
take a bullet, arrow, disease, or any cause of death headed your way
would be worthy of more than a few moments of your time to remember,
and maybe even learn more about such a love. A worldly friend would
be past any ability to help you further. But a resurrected Jesus still
loves you so much He is willing to walk through your whole life with
you. Even if you have spent most of it so far spitting on him, pressing
crowns of thorns into his scalp, calling him a liar or a fraud, or simply
ignoring Him altogether, and the great love that would be poured out
in blood for you . . . for me . . . for every one of us . . . however
we might have chosen to abuse our freedom. The last three decades of
giving my life back to God, is the best decision I have ever made. It
One of the t-shirts I wear for exercising says "freedom
is not free." It is a fine thought, but it is not the truth. God freely
granted each of us our independence from the beginning. Keeping that
freedom is what is not free. There are many who would take our God given
freedom from us, both blatantly and deceptively. I pray you will find
the truth which sets you free from the numerous forms of bondage this
world, and our culture, brings to your doorstep.
Teaching and sharing the knowledge
and wisdom I find in other's works, is as much a part of the william's
works mission as is sharing my own creations. I had set aside quite
a lot of possibilities when I finally made time to do this newsletter.
While I am sharing only a portion of them, it is still very long. You
might not want to read it all in one sitting. You could treat it as
six months of smaller newsletters waiting to be read at your convenience.
Leaving the email in your inbox as a reminder to read another piece
whenever you like might help. Another option is to just glance over
it to see if anything catches your eye. Of course, ignoring it entirely
is also a part of the freedom God has given to us. But, I hope something
here touches your spirit, and increases your freedom.
My Picture of the Week on July
Text: After the
American flag, there has come to be no greater recognized symbol of
American freedom than the bald eagle. Even injured, and recovering in
a captive environment, as is this bird, it has a determined look of
power and independence about it. I hope you each had a wonderful Independence
Day with the opportunity to reflect on our freedom, and the sacrifices
to gain and maintain it. *Added Note Here: We tend to think mostly
of military sacrifices these days, but our history is full of stories
of those who stood up for our freedoms far from military battlefields
at home or abroad.
Here are some reminders from
three old testament prophets we would do well to keep in mind.
So he said to me, “This is the word of the
Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’
says the Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6 NIV)
All those gathered here will know that it is
not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the
Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” (1 Samuel
Yet I will show love to Judah; and I will save
them — not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen,
but I, the Lord their God, will save them (Hosea 1:7 NIV)
History is packed with nations, empires, and civilizations
who have seen themselves as powerful. Yet they have come and gone without
exception, usually when they got so full of themselves they forgot they
could not even answer the most basic life question, and saw themselves
as the ultimate supreme source of their bounty and good fortune. In
some you only had our levels of freedom if you were high in the societal
structure. In those with broader freedoms for the multitudes, as things
started to crumble, freedoms also disappeared quickly with the deterioration
of each culture.
We are not immune to the historical disease of self-deception.
Abraham Lincoln once said that we need not fear being conquered by outside
forces. If we were to be destroyed, it would come from within our own
selves. We would do well to not become so enamored and self-indulgent
with the trivial, that we brush off as unimportant the real choices
which will determine our future freedom.
From: Elaine Holistic
Sent: Tuesday, June 19, 2018 7:20 PM
Subject: Father’s Day and Forgiveness
We just celebrated Father’s Day last Sunday.
All of us had a father. He may have been a wonderful supportive
role model. I hope that was your experience. Many people,
though, had fathers that were not supportive and loving – father’s are,
after all, human. Some fathers were just absent and in certain
cases they were even abusive. Can you forgive the ones who hurt
you, or weren’t there for you? That doesn’t mean you forget,
whether it was your father or anyone else in your life who hurt you.
Your memories will always be yours to keep. Does that memory bring
pain, though? That can be changed. The emotional charge
that the person or event triggers in you can be released.
Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself.
When someone has hurt you, you can carry the pain long past the moment.
Even when they are gone you can still be suffering if you carry the
heavy burden of hatred, or anger, or sadness. You deserve to be
free of those feelings. Forgiveness frees you. In forgiveness
you give the person over to God for Divine Justice and you cut the cords
that had you tied to to the person or the painful event. That
never for one moment minimizes what was done, or implies that what was
done doesn’t matter. It matters. You have just removed yourself
from the process that will take place between the perpetrator and God.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to forgive everybody
for everything, and just be free to live your life? You can decide
to do that by giving all those situations and all those people and all
those feelings over to God. May you find the peace that forgiveness
From: Elaine Holistic
Sent: Tuesday, May 1, 2018 7:52 PM
Subject: Definitions of Humility
The word humility has often been a hard one for humans
to understand. Some people believe it means to think less of themselves
than they do of someone else, or to put themselves down. That’s sad.
If someone’s accomplishments have exceeded mine, they may often deserve
my respect and my appreciation, but humility is a whole other thing.
Perhaps humility is best understood if we don’t use
it as a comparison with something or someone else, unless that someone
else is God. I have often used the definition that when I am humble
I can acknowledge all the wonderful things I am and the wonderful things
I do – however, I never, ever forget that God gave me those abilities
in the first place and all glory goes to God. Humility for me is all
wrapped up with gratitude.
Scriptures suggest that we humble ourselves in the
presence of the Lord. That in no way means to think you are small and
unimportant and insignificant and unworthy. It only means to be aware
of how powerful, mighty and wonderful the Lord is.
I heard other great definitions of humility this
week, though, that I wanted to share with you. Someone said, ‘when I
am humble I am teachable’. Another said, ‘true humility does not mean
meek surrender to any given human situation, but surrender to God’s
will for your life. The attitude of true humility confers dignity and
grace on us, and strengthens us to take intelligent spiritual action
in solving our problems.’
I love those definitions of humility. Rather than
putting us down, they build us up, and empower us, and that’s what true
humility is supposed to do.
From: John Two-Hawks
Sent: Wednesday, June 20, 2018 6:42 PM
Subject: Circle of Nations Newsletter - June 2018
Each section of the Circle of Nations newsletter
is written 'facing' one of the four sacred winds, beginning with the
east, then the south, west and finally the north. This is to honor
the old ways. It is to teach and to help us to focus and find
This excerpt reprinted with permission is:
WEST - Wiyohpeyata
determining and marking off of the boundaries of something.”
In this image, a woman
walks casually over the very place where the infamous Berlin Wall
once stood. As I stand on the vantage point of perspective and
cast my eyes upon the history of humanity, I can see clearly that
which is at the root of nearly all human strife – demarcation.
It is uniquely human to draw lines, to divide and separate – and
to then categorize, marginalize and label. We have done it forever.
The demarcations we imagine between us have resulted in oppression,
slavery, racism, genocide and war. From ancient times, human
beings have suffered with the sickness of demarcation. From time
immemorial we have divided ourselves from one another by race,
color, gender, ethnicity, culture, class, and a myriad of other
fictional justifications for divisiveness. What is wrong with
us? When are we going to learn?
When are we going to finally realize that we are
in this together, and that we have far more in common with each other
than we often realize? Did you know that 99.9% of all human DNA
is identical? That’s right – we are all 99.9% identical to one
another. What that means is that it is only the .1% of our shared
DNA that results in all of our beautiful diversity. That is a
miracle, and it is something we should celebrate each other for – not
hate each other for. It is long past time for humanity to come
to terms with itself; to put an end to the sickness of demarcation,
and open our hearts and our arms to one another. Especially to
those who we have been fooled into thinking are so vastly different
from us; those whose ethnicity or complexion is different from ours
– those on the other side of our demarcation, our line, our boundary.
We must learn the power of empathy – to stand in someone else's shoes
and feel what they feel – that we may finally see the truth, that we
are not so different after all. That, in the end, when the demarcations
we have been duped into believing are erased, we will look over and
find a friend, a brother, and a sister on the other side of a once impenetrable
wall . . . .
From: Richard Rohr [Center for Action and Contemplation]
Sent: Tuesday, June 12, 2018 2:01 AM
Subject: Restorative Justice
Almost all religion and cultures that I know of have
believed in one way or another that sin and evil are to be punished
and that retribution is to be demanded of the sinner in this world—and
usually the next world, too. Such retributive justice is a
dualistic system of reward and punishment, good guys and bad guys, and
makes perfect sense to the ego. I call it the economy of merit or “meritocracy.”
This system seems to be the best that prisons, courtrooms, wars, and
even most of the church (which should know better) appear equipped to
Jesus, many mystics, and other wisdom traditions—such
as the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous—show that sin and failure
are, in fact, an opportunity for the transformation and enlightenment
of the offender. Mere counting and ledger-keeping is not the way of
the Gospel. Our best self wants to restore relationships, and not just
blame or punish. This is the “economy of grace.” (The trouble is that
we defined God as “punisher in chief” instead of Healer, Forgiver, and
Reconciler and so the retribution model was legitimized all the way
What humanity really needs is an honest exposure
of the truth and accountability for what has happened. Only then can
human beings move ahead with dignity. Hurt needs to be spoken and heard.
It does not just go away on its own. This can then lead to “restorative
justice,” which is what the prophets invariably promise to the people
of Israel (e.g., Ezekiel 16:53; Isaiah 57:17-19) and is exemplified
in Jesus’ story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) and throughout his
healing ministry. We lose that and we lose the Gospel itself.
The aim of restorative justice is to return the person
to a useful position in the community. Thus, there can be healing on
both sides. Such justice is a mystery that only makes sense to the soul.
It is a direct corollary of our “economy of grace” and yet the term
restorative justice only entered our vocabulary in the last few decades.
How can we deny that there is an evolution of consciousness, even consciousness
of where the Gospel is leading us?
As any good therapist will tell you, you cannot heal
what you do not acknowledge. What you do not consciously acknowledge
will remain in control from within, festering and destroying you and
those around you. In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus teaches, “If
you bring forth that which is within you, it will save you. If you do
not bring it forth, it will destroy you.”
Only mutual apology, healing, and forgiveness offer
a sustainable future for humanity. Otherwise, we are controlled by the
past, individually and corporately. We all need to apologize, and we
all need to forgive or this human project will surely self-destruct.
No wonder that almost two-thirds of Jesus’ teaching is directly or indirectly
about forgiveness. Otherwise, history devolves into taking sides, bitterness,
holding grudges, and the violence that inevitably follows. As others
have said, “Forgiveness is to let go of our hope for a different past.”
Reality is what it is, and such acceptance leads to great freedom,
as long as there is also both accountability and healing forgiveness.
From: Richard Rohr [Center for Action and Contemplation]
Sent: Tuesday, June 19, 2018 2:01 AM
Subject: Reclaiming Jesus
Earlier this year, I collaborated with a group
of Christian leaders in the United States to write a statement to our
churches, “Reclaiming Jesus: A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis.”
I invite you to meditate on three of our affirmations:
The church’s role is to change the world through
the life and love of Jesus Christ. The government’s role is to serve
the common good by protecting justice and peace, rewarding good behavior
while restraining bad behavior (Romans 13). When that role is undermined
by political leadership, faith leaders must stand up and speak out.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The church must be reminded that
it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience
of the state.”
I. WE BELIEVE each human being is made in God’s image
and likeness (Genesis 1:26). That image and likeness confers a divinely
decreed dignity, worth, and God-given equality to all of us as children
of the one God who is the Creator of all things. Racial bigotry is a
brutal denial of the image of God (the imago dei) in some of
the children of God. Our participation in the global community of Christ
absolutely prevents any toleration of racial bigotry. Racial justice
and healing are biblical and theological issues for us, and are central
to the mission of the body of Christ in the world. We give thanks for
the prophetic role of the historic black churches in America when they
have called for a more faithful gospel.
II. WE BELIEVE we are one body. In Christ, there
is to be no oppression based on race, gender, identity, or class (Galatians
3:28). [I would add sexual orientation as well.] The body of Christ,
where those great human divisions are to be overcome, is meant to be
an example for the rest of society. When we fail to overcome these oppressive
obstacles, and even perpetuate them, we have failed in our vocation
to the world—to proclaim and live the reconciling gospel of Christ.
III. WE BELIEVE how we treat the hungry, the thirsty,
the naked, the stranger, the sick, and the prisoner is how we treat
Christ himself. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the
least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew
25:40). God calls us to protect and seek justice for those who are poor
and vulnerable, and our treatment of people who are “oppressed,” “strangers,”
“outsiders,” or otherwise considered “marginal” is a test of our relationship
to God, who made us all equal in divine dignity and love. Our proclamation
of the lordship of Jesus Christ is at stake in our solidarity with the
most vulnerable. If our gospel is not “good news to the poor,” it is
not the gospel of Jesus Christ (Luke 4:18).
Here are a few excerpts, rather than the whole daily meditation:
Thursday, June 14, 2018 2:01 AM
. . . Prayer is a way of connecting with our source.
It is about being centered, grounded, mindful of the holy, the presence
of the sacred and the precious . . . Prayer can help us to connect with
the poor with open eyes and hearts. It is prayer that can allow us to
educate with patience, love and understanding. It is prayer that can
enable us to move to a simpler lifestyle. And it is prayer that will
allow us to do this with conviction and joy.
And whether or not we pray is as obvious as whether
or not we have put our clothes on. For example, the compulsive, frantic,
angry, cynical, unintegrated rambling from project to project — even
from peace project to peace project — may speak of good intentions,
but also of an uneasy and untended inner life. It is possible . . .
to do much harm because we have not taken the time to pray . . .
We are nonviolent, not because we simply eschew violence;
rather, we are nonviolent because we are people who love like Jesus.
When our lives are active and occupied in the name of doing good, there
is little space for violence and doing harm.
. . . we must imagine what God’s peace and justice
look like on this earth, and we must begin the work of crafting structures,
institutions, human realities that are the antithesis to division, hate,
greed and scarcity, that anticipate and cultivate justice and goodness
Thursday, June 21, 2018 2:01 AM
The translation of Namaste is one of infinite
depth. It means: The divinity in me . . . salutes the divinity in
Namaste asks something huge of us: If the
divinity in me recognizes the divinity in you, how could I abuse, debase,
violate, or harass? I would, after all, only be punishing myself . .
This next one also relates to "finding freedom in
the truth," but is primarily reprinted in its entirety to honor the
mission statement of Cherokee Bill's Teaching & Trade Center, an
important aspect of not who my ancestors might have been, but where
God has lead me. Blended into who I am.
From: Richard Rohr [Center for Action and Contemplation]
Sent: Friday, June 22, 2018 2:01 AM
Subject: Justice Close to Home
Over the last two weeks I’ve explored justice in
a broad way. Today I’d like to bring it closer to home, in a little
longer meditation, so you get a fuller picture and some of the nuances
in my own life.
My first assignment as an ordained deacon in 1969
was working with the Acoma Indians, a Pueblo people living west of Albuquerque.
I quickly fell in love with this multi-cultural and beautiful “Land
In 1986 when I felt called to start the Center for
Action and Contemplation, I returned to New Mexico. Its physical proximity
to the U.S./Mexico border, Franciscan legacy (both good and bad), extreme
poverty (only Mississippi and U.S. territories have higher poverty rates
in the U.S.), and history of nuclear testing made this seem like a good
place to live in solidarity with suffering and practice contemplative
approaches to justice and peacemaking.
I am still learning to hold the tension of our stunning
landscape and rich art with so much injustice and pain. I’ll share just
a few examples of New Mexico’s complex past and present.
The Catholic “Doctrine of Discovery” sent Spanish
Conquistadors in search of gold, beginning in the sixteenth century.
As the area was colonized, many indigenous peoples were massacred, enslaved,
or forced to assimilate. Colonial governor Juan de Oñate (1550-1626)
had one foot cut off of each man in Acoma Pueblo after they rebelled
against Spanish domination. By the late eighteenth century, approximately
one-third of New Mexico’s native population was enslaved.
The exploitation of Native Americans continued under
Mexican and then United States rule. In the late 1800s, two federal
“Indian” boarding schools in the state tried to “remove the cultural
and individual identity” of Native American children by prohibiting
them from “practicing their native language and beliefs.” Anglo settlers
stole land from both Native Americans and Hispanic residents. The U.S.
Army forced the Navajo or Diné people onto a small reservation on the
eastern side of the state in 1864; the “Long Walk to Bosque Redondo”
from the Navajos’ home in western New Mexico — which covered 300 miles
of desert and mountains — was an attempt at ethnic cleansing.
The U.S. government has formed numerous treaties
with tribes and pueblos, only to blatantly disregard them and give preference
to corporations and private interests. Today Native Americans continue
to struggle to protect their land, water, and diverse cultures. Even
while many in the U.S. try to keep immigrants from crossing our country’s
borders, they have broken promises to respect the boundaries of those
who were here before us.
Migration — whether chosen or forced — is a reality we
must continue to face. U.S. interference in Central America has led
to destabilization and violence. In 1986, the year before the Center
for Action and Contemplation officially opened, our governor declared
New Mexico the country’s first “State of Sanctuary,” a welcoming place
for those fleeing civil wars in Central America. Albuquerque’s mayor,
Tim Keller, recently affirmed that we are an “Immigrant Friendly” city,
limiting city resources in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.
I support this decision and applaud the faith communities who are sheltering
The policies of separating families at the U.S./Mexico
border and of criminalizing those who seek asylum are disgraceful. Throughout
Scripture we see God’s mercy toward the outsider and the vulnerable.
Jesus makes our treatment of "the least of these brothers and sisters"
the only real criteria for the final judgment (see Matthew 25:31-46).
Jesus himself was a refugee, and his life and teaching show us what
it means to welcome the stranger in our midst. Without love, "law and
order" mentalities too often lead to dehumanization, concentration camps,
and genocide. In today’s political arena there is a lot of finger-pointing;
we need to move beyond blame and rhetoric to take action on behalf of
those who are suffering.
With its high desert environment, New Mexico is particularly
vulnerable to climate change. The Rio Grande, which begins in Colorado
and finally borders Texas and Mexico, often dries up in the summer before
it reaches the Gulf of Mexico, and droughts will only worsen. The over-consumption
of fossil fuels in the U.S. has significantly contributed to global
warming. Those in power must take responsibility for caring for the
people and places most impacted. We’ll all have to come together as
a community to find creative ways of sharing and preserving our resources.
Our history is complex and layered. There is no single
side of the story, though history is often written from the perspective
of the “victor.” We continue to peel back the layers and learn more
about the many people who call New Mexico home, often displacing or
marginalizing the previous residents. I can only touch on a few of the
issues I’ve learned about. In doing so I hope to spark curiosity about
your own place in the world. Who lived on “your” land before you? If
you don’t know, find out. How might this awareness change the way you
live and your attitudes and actions toward indigenous peoples and immigrants?
I have been told there are two
kinds of people in the world. Those who are Irish, and those who wish
they were Irish. I do not remember if it was a Leprechaun who said such
a thing, but before I forget, Happy St. Patrick's Day, whether you are
still celebrating the last one, or getting ready for the next. I am
not so certain St. Patrick himself would be all that enamored by the
way we have come to celebrate a day honoring him, but that is another
From: Jerry Iversen [Simple Living Works]
Sent: Thursday, November 3, 2016 10:34 AM
Subject: Today’s Simpler Living Nudge
Simplicity is a disciplined
life - disciplined, not punished or deprived or joyless. We are given
great freedom to care about all of God's Creation, rather than nurturing
the perversions and idols that our society has created and worships
- our "stuff." Stuff exists to meet our needs. But if we spend our time,
energy and money nurturing it instead of our relationships with God,
others and ourselves, it will own us, control us and ultimately destroy
us and the Earth.
From: Jerry Iversen [Simple Living Works]
Sent: Monday, January 2, 2017 3:38 PM
Subject: Today’s Simpler Living Nudge
Voluntary Simplicity is not
about following rules, but about living by principles. Living more simply
is about personal responsibility. It's seeing where our lives may be
extravagant, even out-of-control, and deciding what to do a little at
a time to cut down on overconsumption. Don't begin cold turkey. You
might get frustrated and give up.
From: Jerry Iversen [Simple Living Works]
Sent: Tuesday, January 3, 2017 11:39 AM
Subject: Today’s Simpler Living Nudge
20% of the world's population
- the Overconsumers - use 80% of the resources and the other 80% - the
Sustainers - use only 20%. Our planet cannot sustain life if everyone
lived like the Overconsumers. The motto of voluntary simplicity begins
to make sense: Live simply that others may simply live. Alternatives'
Any Year Calendar challenges us Overconsumers - virtually every person
in North America, Western Europe and Japan - to offer up an Environmental
Tithe, to reduce consumption of all resources by at least 10%. God put
us on Earth to be stewards of Creation - sustainers, not abusers; protectors,
There are many voices out there
teaching and sharing, but there are still way too many lives stuck in
the competing and comparing model our culture has embraced for most
of our history. A very good friend once remarked about the world being
divided into the "haves" and the "have nots." He indicated he saw himself
in the former, and me in the latter. Just in case you missed it along
the way, I do not see myself as a person who lacks anything the world
has to offer, much of which would give me less freedom, not more. The
real things of value are found in that which God offers. There are several of
those in which I deem myself lacking. One of those is in the area of
faith . . .
Matthew 6:19-21 and 6:24-34
(NRSV excerpts *except the last line is as translated in the movie
Jesus of Nazareth)
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where
neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and
steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will
“No one can serve two masters . . . You cannot serve God and wealth."
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat
or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food,
and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of
the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your
heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your
span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies
of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed
like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of
the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven,
will he not much more clothe you — you of little faith?
Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we
drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles
who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows
that you need all these things. But strive first for the
kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of
its own. *Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day."
These were the key Scripture verses I took to
heart when I left my former career to begin this journey over 24 years ago.
My commitment to them had begun even before then. When Donna and I
were talking about getting married, I explained it would not be a
merging of philosophies. I had made an absolute commitment to God,
and she would be joining me on wherever that led. She indicated the
main thing for her was she did not want to be a stay at home wife.
She had a career, and wanted to keep it. As it turns out, it was
what put food on the table for the twenty years I worked without an
income. God chose well.
Still it was not an easy time for me. I took a
lot of criticism that living the above verses was totally
unrealistic. And did not the Bible also say the man was supposed to
provide for his family? And how did I expect to pay the bills of the
ministry if I had no income? I did not have a pot of money sitting
somewhere. I had only a small amount of termination payments which
would come in from State Farm for five years, which would all be
used up just paying the Center rent, utilities, insurance, and phone
bill. I gave myself a year. Then five. Then the State Farm money
stopped. As things got tight along the way in that first decade, I
listened to the critics. Not wanting to be the joke of the man in
the flood who passed up two boats and a helicopter waiting for God
to do something miraculous, I tried several opportunities which
presented themselves as possible income sources. In spite of twenty
years of training and good skills, everything hit a brick wall. At
one point a friend offered me a job where I could set my own hours,
but I only tried it briefly. Even setting my own hours it left too
much of my "seeking first the kingdom of God" endeavors undone, and
work piling up. At about the halfway point of the first two decades,
I concluded God's message was that I was not to chase after money.
Not even in small ways. Not even to do "His work." It showed a lack
of faith in what I said I believed, and the full commitment to
living the above verses. All along the way I have said when the
money ran out, I would just close the doors, and figure out where
else God wanted me to serve. It has been 24 years since those verses
influenced one of the biggest choices in my life.
In multiple Bible verses (Matthew 17:20, Matthew
21:21, Mark 11:22-23, and Luke 17:6) Jesus states it would only take
a little bit (in one verse the size of a mustard seed) of absolute
faith to command a tree, or even a mountain to move into the sea. I
cannot even comprehend that level of faith, but I believe Him. The
more I learn about science, the more plausible it seems. But that is
the far end of the scale. I am still at the beginning. I think my
listening to the criticisms, and showing only a half-hearted faith
has cost me. It certainly let me lose some momentum. It also seemed
to diminish my credibility among some of those who contributed
financially early on. I do not regret the choices made. It was
obviously the best way for me to gain what I needed to learn. How a
little more faith contributes to an enormous increase in freedom.
Waiting for God, and living with how He chooses to provide, has been
a difficult journey for me. But 24 years later, the T&SC is still
here, and now a public charity. And my part, whatever God deems that
to be, continues. Hopefully with a little more faith, because . . .
faith ultimately works . . . even faith smaller than a mustard seed.
I suspect if faith, hope, and love were a final
exam, I would only pass the hope part of it. But the Bible says
the only test I need to pass is believing in and connecting with
Jesus. This is Love.
I had the below graphic in my
last newsletter as well. But it seemed to fit into this theme too, so
I am repeating it. I probably need to see it over and over again as
a reminder. Then I will close this newsletter with an email from a longtime
friend. Richard also happens to be the pastor who baptized me. I had
not set his email aside for here, but when I ran across it while getting
other things from folders, it felt like God was offering an item relating
to both faith and freedom. In fact, I only went looking for the above
poem, and wrote the preceding text, after I had copied the email into
this newsletter. I think God was making sure I included faith in the
list of what works.
Sent: Saturday, June 30, 2018 4:10 PM
To: William Gibbons Jr.
Subject: Need Washing?
"A little girl had been shopping with her Mom in
Walmart. She must have been 6 years old, this beautiful red haired,
freckle faced image of innocence.
It was pouring outside. The kind of rain that gushes
over the top of rain gutters, so much in a hurry to hit the earth it
has no time to flow down the spout. We all stood there, under the awning,
just inside the door of the Walmart. We waited, some patiently, others
irritated because nature messed up their hurried day.
I am always mesmerized by rainfall. I got lost in
the sound and sight of the heavens washing away the dirt and dust of
the world. Memories of running, splashing so carefree as a child
came pouring in as a welcome reprieve from the worries of my day.
Her little voice was so sweet as it broke the hypnotic
trance we were all caught in, 'Mom let's run through the rain,' She
said. 'What?' Mom asked. 'Let's run through the rain!' She repeated.
'No, honey. We'll wait until it slows down a bit,' Mom replied.
This young child waited a minute and repeated: 'Mom,
let's run through the rain.' 'We'll get soaked if we do,' Mom said.
'No, we won't, Mom. That's not what you said this morning,' the young
girl said as she tugged at her Mom's arm.
'This morning? When did I say we could run through
the rain and not get wet?' 'Don't you remember? When you were talking
to Daddy about his cancer, you said, 'If God can get us through this,
He can get us through anything!'
The entire crowd stopped dead silent . . . I swear
you couldn't hear anything but the rain . . . We all stood silently.
No one left. Mom paused and thought for a moment about what she would
say. Now some would laugh it off and scold her for being silly. Some
might even ignore what was said. But this was a moment of affirmation
in a young child's life. A time when innocent trust can be nurtured
so that it will bloom into faith.
'Honey, you are absolutely right. Let's run through
the rain. If GOD lets us get wet, well maybe we just need washing,'
Mom said. Then off they ran. We all stood watching, smiling and laughing
as they darted past the cars and yes, through the puddles. They got
soaked. They were followed by a few who screamed and laughed like children
all the way to their cars. And yes, I did. I ran. I got
wet. I needed washing.
Circumstances or people can take away your material
possessions, they can take away your money, and they can take away your
health. But no one can ever take away your precious memories . . . So,
don't forget to make time and take the opportunities to make memories
To everything there is a season and a time to every
purpose under heaven.
I HOPE YOU STILL TAKE THE TIME TO RUN THROUGH THE
And I will add, may God bless you with the freedom of heart to unabashedly
make such a choice.