Book Review: ‘Finding God in the Waves’ By Mike McHargue

Do you ever want to read a book not because you don’t know the story, but because you actually already DO know the story and you simply want to know more of the details?

This was the case for me with Mike McHargue’s book, Finding God in the Waves.

Finding God in the Waves

Finding God in the Waves is a memoir, a book on the Bible, and a science book all in one. It is a book in which Mike shares his story of falling away from his faith and then finding it again.

I was very familiar with Mike’s story before reading his book. I follow much of Mike’s other work in which he is better known as ‘Science Mike.’ I am an avid listener of The Liturgist Podcast, which Mike started with Michael Gungor. I also really enjoy listening to Ask Science Mike, which is Mike’s solo podcast in which he answers life, faith, and science questions that his listening audience submit for him to answer. I highly recommend both of these podcasts.

Mike has shared his story of being a strict Southern Baptist, losing his faith and becoming an Atheist for a few years, only to have an incredible mystical experience during a Rob Bell two-day conference that awakened his faith in new and exciting ways.

Wild story, right? Don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler. Again, Finding God in the Waves, should not be read to learn the story.

It should be read to learn the details.

The how, the when, and the why.

His story is incredibly intriguing. If you didn’t just read, “A strict Southern Baptist, losing his faith and becoming an Atheist, only to have an incredible mystical experience during a Rob Bell two-day conference that awakened his faith in new and exciting ways,” and think, “Hmmm…I really need to read this book,” then something is wrong with you! Ha!

I still remember the first time I heard Mike share his story. I was listening to The Liturgists Podcast episodes 6 and 7 “Lost and Found” as I was driving home. His story had me laughing, thinking, and crying. It had me moved. It gave me goosebumps and made tears come to my eyes as I felt a flow of spiritual energy run through me.  I was shook. I don’t know of another way to describe it.

Since then, I have heard Mike tell his story many times on other Podcasts or interviews. I was able to see Mike talk in Minneapolis at a conference about Faith and Science called “Jesus Rode a Dinosaur.” (Awesome name right?! Ha!)

Again, I was very familiar with his story. Yet I still wanted to read his book.

I needed to read his book. 

I was not disappointed.

Mike’s writing holds depth and while he tackles incredibly complex concepts scientifically and spiritually, his writing is approachable and understandable.

You don’t need to be a scientist to read this book. You also don’t need to be a professional theologian.

All that you need is an open mind, a little curiosity, and a willingness to allow yourself to question.

If you come to Mike’s book, Finding God in the Waves, with those few things, then you just may find God within the pages.

Get Finding God in the Waves HERE.


What are you currently reading? Anything that is waking you up? Let me know in the comments.

May the peace which surpasses all understanding be with you all.

©Derek Harkins 2018

Book Review: ‘Falling Upward’ by Richard Rohr

Do you ever walk into a book store or a library and are immediately overwhelmed by the vast amount of literature and information collected there? Does it make it difficult to pick out something to read? Or if you are anything like me you will want to grab them all. I live by a philosophy, “No Cover Goes Uncracked.” However, because of the vast amount of reading to be done, I often get overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.

I have always been an avid reader, however, as life has gotten busier that has been one spiritual practice I have continually let slide. Throughout my process of deconstruction/reconstruction, especially this last year, I have made reading a priority again. I have read some amazing, life-changing books and I want to share them with you.

I will be starting a new ‘Book Review’ series on my blog where I give reviews of the books that I have recently read. Hopefully this will help you sift through the vast amounts of reading material and help you narrow down that search for the next book you will read. Or perhaps I will save you some time reading a book that isn’t very helpful (But so far I have read some amazing works that I will be fully recommending). I will start with the book that I most recently finished, Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward.


Falling Upward: A Spirituality of the Two Halves of Life
By: Richard Rohr

Falling Upward

Many people are mistaken in thinking that Rohr’s book, Falling Upward, is a book for those entering the later half of life, meaning that is for those “Over the Hill” on the back end of life.  This book really has nothing to do with age. It does not mean your first half of life is from age 0-40 and your second half of life is from 41-80+.

This book is about the two spiritual halves of life.

There is the first half of your spiritual life where we work so hard to build up our ‘false selves’ and we are so worried about power, structure, and institutions. This half is far more concerned with ‘Me, Myself, and I’ than it is about God or serving the other. This half is about the building up of yourself, your individuality – it is about creating your identity.

Then there is the second half of life, where you find your true self and are able to finally and fully live into who you were created to be. It is only in this ‘second half’ that you are able to let go of the illusion that we have built up in the first half and begin to swim in the deep waters of spirituality. According to Rohr, this is where the mystics of every faith tradition find themselves. It is the path of contemplation.

Rohr is a Franciscan monk and has practiced deep contemplation and taught it for many years.  Falling Upward is Rohr imparting his lifetime of knowledge, but it is also his encouragement for our own spiritual journeys.

Interestingly, Rohr emphasizes again and again that we need the first half in order to get to the second half. So we shouldn’t beat ourselves up for all the work we did building up our false selves. In fact, he talks about the first half as ‘building up our container’ that will hold our second half.

Rohr also makes very clear that almost universally, if one finds their way into the second half of their spiritual life, people must undergo great challenges, struggles, and suffering to reach the second half. One cannot simply read Rohr’s book and will themselves into the second half. It can help guide their journey, but each individual must walk their own journey.  The struggle of climbing the mountain and journeying the depths of the valley is actually the very thing that will allow one to let go of their illusions and allow themselves to live into their true self. If an individual finds themselves in the comfort of dwelling on the beach by a lake, well, what reason do they have to question or wonder if there is something more or deeper.  They don’t. And they won’t want to let the comfort and security go. Finding our way into the second half is difficult work.

It should be made clear that not everyone actually makes it through the valley and into the second half of their spiritual journey. Some people choose to be stuck in the first half forever. This can be for many reasons, but mostly it seems to be that the individual chooses to hold onto the reality of perceived power, wealth, and security that they have created for themselves in the first half. They cannot let it go. Much like the rich man that Jesus told to go sell all of his possessions and give it away to the poor before he could follow him, the man was unwilling to let it all go. (Luke 18:18-23)

Regardless of where you might feel you are at in your journey, I recommend Falling Upward. It might help you gain clarity and insight into your own journey and where you have been. It might jump-start some questioning and pondering for you. It is not an answer book or an easy fix or a handbook towards finding God. It is a gentle prodding to those on the beach of their first half telling them that there is far more to be found if they just start walking. It is also a word of encouragement to let you know that you are not alone if you find yourself on that journey now. The transition can be incredibly difficult from the first half to the second. To know that there are others who have gone before us is helpful.

You can purchase Falling Upward HERE


Let me know in the comments if you have read Falling Upward and what your thoughts are. Also please share with me what you currently reading and if you recommend it.

Wherever you are in your journey, may the peace which surpasses all understanding be with you all.

©Derek Harkins 2018

The Parable of the Round Table

The Realm of God is like a rabbi, a Roman Catholic priest, a Protestant pastor, an imam, a Buddhist monk, a Hindu priest, and an atheist gathering together around a round table in their favorite bar. As they each enter the establishment they walk up to the bar and order their drink before finding their seat around the worn, stained table. Many pints and drinks of joy and sorrow had been shared around this table.

If the table could talk, oh the secrets it would share.

The table does talk though – in its own way. Through its scars, watermarks, and gouges it tells those who sit at it that this is a place of peace. This is a place of conversation. This is a place of questions. A place for burdens and delights to be shared openly and freely. This table is a safe space. It is a place for disagreements and debate, but never for winning. Never for converting. Never for proselytizing. This table is neutral ground.

No.

This table is Holy Ground.

If it weren’t for the spilled beer, popcorn, and peanut shells covering the floor, one could get the crazy idea that they should take their shoes off here. However, these holy women and men leave their shoes on and saddle up to the table with their drinks. Each of them places their drink in front of them, but none of them partake.

They do not talk.

No. Now is not the time for talking.

Now is the time for listening…for dwelling.

Now is the time for being.

They sit there around that old, worn table. They sit there in silence, looking into each others eyes. Sometimes what is seen in those eyes is too much to bear, and the glance is diverted until they rest on another’s. Sometimes the gaze is locked, eyes studying eyes – seeking, searching for something within. Each human being taking in the one across from them, and then the one next to them, and then the one next to them.

Female. Old. Brown. Freckles. Black. Simple. Male. Young. White. Ornate.

Differences. Many differences gathered around that table. Many walls that could be put up. Many judgements and prejudices that hover around them like a smog that if given credence would flood the room suffocating them all.

Yet, as they stare into one another’s eyes and as tears start to fall down each of their cheeks, so to does the perception of the walls between them begin to crumble down.

As they look into one another’s eyes in silence gathered around that holy table, they begin to weep. Tears stream down their faces and as they weep hands reach out to hands. They grasp one another, clasping – united. A circle of difference bound together by their shared humanity.

And then the first words of this gathering are uttered from the lips of those united in this circle.

One word. Many languages.

“Shalom”

“Pax”

“Salaam”

“Shanti”

“Peace”

Peace. Peace. Peace. 

Only then are their glasses raised and laughter fills the air.

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©Derek Harkins 2018

I Am Moved

The Universe moves me.

Whether I am looking at the clouds
flying across the blue canvas that drapes our planet,
or I am looking at those specks of light
scattered across the darkness, billions of light years away,
day or night
I am moved.

I stand still,
completely still.

As I stand and reflect on existence and the Cosmos,
I am moved.
Still, yet moving.
Another of life’s mysterious paradoxes that brings me such joy…
that I can be as still as can be,
and, at the very same time, I am moving at speeds and rates unfathomable.

Literally moving.
1,000 miles per hour, the Earth spins on its axis.
67,000 miles per hour, our planet soars around the Sun.
515,000 miles per hour, our neighborhood – eight planets (or nine if you count Pluto) and our star – meanders through our galaxy.
1.3 million miles per hour, The Milky Way makes its way through space.

And lest you still might be under the illusion that we are actually able to stand still…
The entire Universe is expanding,
moving outward at a rate of 68 kilometers per second per megaparsec.
In order to help your mind grasp the ungraspable,
A megaparsec is roughly 3 million light years.

Yes, I am moved.

Literally
Emotionally
Figuratively
Spiritually

Moved.

I am moved by the divine reflected in and through all of creation,
from the mystery of subatomic particles that appear and disappear at whim,
to the supernovas that while being the death of a star,
are actually a rebirth of matter and energy into something new…
a resurrection of colossal scale.

Oh, sisters and brothers, are we moving!

Nothing unifies us more than this.
We are moving together.
Brown, black, white,
regardless of sexuality,
regardless of gender identity,
Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist,
American, Mexican, Russian, Iranian, Palestinian, Chinese,
human, mammal, reptile, amphibian, birds, and sea creatures
trees, flowers, forests, oceans, lakes, rivers…

We are moving.

On this rock we lovingly call our planet,
we are ALL hurtling through space together.
We are on this journey together.

The Universe is the great equalizer.
It cares not about perceived divisions.
It is unity.
It cares not about perceived power.
It is power.
It cares not about perceived constructs.
It is beauty.

It is.

So, fellow residents of the Universe,
stand still with me.
Stand still and know that you are moving…
moving at incomprehensible rates without even taking a step.

We are moving forward.
Continually called forward together by the divine movement.
Together.

Yes, in my stillness…

I am moved.

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©Derek Harkins 2018

Enneagram Experts: Your Go-To Gurus

As I stated in my last post (HERE), I am not an expert on the Enneagram. I have only been studying it and doing my own self-reflection and deconstruction/reconstruction for a year now. That being said, I do have several experts I would like to recommend to you on just about every platform available…a little something for everyone’s personal learning preference.


We will start with my favorite way to learn – taking it back to the Old SchoolBooks! Reading words on real, bound, paper pages is still my preferred way to study and learn. Of course, many of these books I will be recommending can be found for your favorite e-reader, but be sure to have a notebook or journal ready to jot down notes in. Here are the books I recommend and in this reading order (of course if you are a One you will follow my reading order perfectly, if you are an Eight you will read in whatever order you darn well please, and if you are a Five you won’t need these recommendations at all because you will have already researched them yourself):

The Road Back to You Cover

1.The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery By Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile are the current Enneagram ‘Rock Stars’ and you will see them both featured a couple times in this article with other projects. The Road Back to You is the perfect doorway into The Enneagram.  It is the primer you need to help you find your number if you are struggling with figuring that out. It also is a great thorough starting point towards understanding all of the other numbers and their intricacies. It doesn’t go into great depth, but is a great starting point.

Purchase The Road Back to You HERE

The Complete Enneagram Cover

2. The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge By Beatrice Chestnut, PHD

Beatrice Chestnut titled her work here appropriately. This indeed is the COMPLETE Enneagram. There is so much depth, knowledge, wisdom, and information here that calls for multiple readings of the entire book. While it is ‘academic’ and thorough, it is also very readable, so no worries there. If you are at all serious about digging deep and doing real personal reflection and work this is a must read.

Purchase The Complete Enneagram HERE

The Enneagram Christian Perspective Cover

3. The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective By Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert

The Enneagram can be an incredible tool for self-understanding, but it is also an amazing tool for enhancing your Spiritual Life and connection to God and creation. Rohr and Ebert do a great job of this by tying The Enneagram into their understanding of the Christian faith. Rohr, a Franciscan Monk and author of several other books, is known across the world as a leading and respected Enneagram expert. I found this book much more helpful and understandable after I had a deeper grasp on what The Enneagram is. It was the first book I tried to read and had to put it down to read The Road Back to You, but then came back to it recently and was pleased to be able to connect with it on a much deeper level and enjoyed it greatly.

Purchase The Enneagram HERE

(These last two book recommendations are books that I personally have not read yet, but they are on my reading list.)

The Sacred Enneagram Cover

4. The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth By Christopher L. Heuertz

Purchase The Sacred Enneagram HERE

The Path Between Us Cover

5. The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey to Healthy Relationships By Suzanne Stabile

Purchase The Path Between Us HERE


The next medium that I have used a ton for learning is Podcasts. Podcasts are awesome ways to learn from real experts at just about anytime whether it be when you are driving, working, cleaning, cooking, relaxing, waiting…well you get the point. Huge fan of podcasts in general, but these are a few Enneagram themed podcasts that I found to be enlightening and helpful:

The Liturgists Podcast

1. The Liturgists Podcast: episode 37 By Michael Gungor and Science Mike

The Liturgists Podcast is a great podcast all around and they cover absolutely every topic under the sun. However, I am specifically recommending that you listen to Episode 37 of their podcast initially before the others, because it is a great starting point. Michael and Science Mike interview Suzanne Stabile and Ian Morgan Cron and it gives a great basic understanding of The Enneagram and all nine numbers.

Find Episode 37 of The Liturgist Podcast HERE

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2. Typology By Ian Morgan Cron

Typology is a great podcast that is Enneagram all the time. Ian Morgan Cron, coauthor of The Road Back to You, usually interviews other people talking to them about their numbers. Many different subjects arise and how the Enneagram fits into each situation. Highly recommend.

Find Typology at your favorite Podcast app, iTunes, or HERE

the Enneagram Journey

3. The Enneagram Journey By Suzanne Stabile

Much like Typology, The Enneagram Journey is a podcast where coauthor of The Road Back to You, Suzanne Stabile, interviews people and talks to them about their number and how they relate to the world and to other people and numbers. It is a great podcast and I always appreciate Suzanne’s perspective and wisdom.

Find The Enneagram Journey at your favorite Podcast app, iTunes, or HERE

sleeping at last podcast

4. The Sleeping At Last Podcast By Ryan O’Neal

If you haven’t heard of Sleeping at Last and the music of Ryan O’Neal, you are missing out! Ryan is a Chicago based singer-songwriter, composer, and producer. Ryan is also a student of the Enneagram and has taken it upon himself to compose a song for each number of the Enneagram. He has only released the first 5 numbers, but each one is breathtaking and incredibly insightful. On his podcast he breaks the songs down and tells you why he made the compositional and production choices he made based upon each number. He also has Enneagram expert Chris Heuertz, author of The Sacred Enneagram, on to help him break down each number. Each episode and song is fascinating and I can’t wait until he has released them all (mostly because I am a Nine and my song will be last! HA!) Definitely give these a listen, even if they aren’t your specific number.

Find The Sleeping At Last Podcast at your favorite Podcast app, iTunes, or HERE


Another great resource for learning is of course the internet. There are two main websites that I have found helpful, but of course there is an endless supply of information if you just Google. The two webpages I recommend are:

1. https://www.enneagramworldwide.com/  <——— My primary web source

2. https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/


Finally, if you are really serious about digging deeper you can always consider seeking out workshops or retreats that an accredited Enneagram teacher might be leading in a city near you. For those on a budget or can’t travel or who simply want to learn from the comfort of their couch, The Liturgist have released a wonderful online workshop on The Enneagram with Enneagram expert Annie Diamond. Check it out HERE


There, that should keep you all plenty busy for awhile! HA!  I hope you find these resources helpful. I would love to hear from you if you find any specific insights helpful or have questions. We are all here to learn together. Were there any resources that I missed that you have found helpful? I would love to hear about them.

Peace.

©Derek Harkins 2018

Why are you afraid? – Part 3 of 3 on Fear

(The following is a poem I wrote while reflecting on Fear and Jesus’ response to the disciples in Mark 4:35-41 when Jesus calmed the storm. It is the final post in the 3 part series. You can find post 1 HERE and post 2 HERE)

Why are you afraid?

Why are you afraid of change?
Do you not know that I, the one who can calm even the sea, will be with you through it all?

Why are you afraid of giving up your privilege and power?
Do you not know that the last will be first and the first will be last?

Why are you afraid of ‘Those people?’ People of Color? Women? LGBTQ people? Muslim people? Atheist people? Immigrant people? Refugee people?
Do you not know that they are your sisters and brothers, my children, whom I love deeply?

Why are you afraid of losing your present life, your possessions, your money, your security, your lifestyle?
Do you not know that in me you will find real life?

Why are you afraid of failure?
Do you not know that I have already forgiven you?

Why are you afraid of death?
Do you not know that I conquered death?

Why are you afraid?

I am with you.

I love you.

You are mine.

Peace. Be. Still. 

©2018 Derek Harkins

 

 

Reaching Out – Part 2 of 3 on Fear

(If you didn’t catch Part 1 of this series check it out here)

Fear has the power to overtake us.

In fact, I think more than anything what our country and our world is dealing with today is an epidemic of fear. It’s a virus that has infected us all. Everywhere I look I just see fear – the news, the Internet, television, billboards, social media…the most fearful place I experience regularly is Facebook. Even the speech that I hear us speak towards one another is full of fear, and it is no longer just in private that we hold these conversations with one another, but I hear them spoken out loud in public.

Just the other day while at a workshop on migration and refugees, I experienced a scene where a woman got offended by the presenter. The woman stood up and began to berate the presenter, quite literally yelling at her in the middle of this public forum with 20 other people looking on. She gave the presenter a two-minute ‘dressing down.’ This woman was angry, but, underneath it all, I believe she was filled to the brim with fear. After her ‘speech,’ the presenter thanked her for sharing her opinion and then tried to engage her in dialogue. Not even one sentence into the presenter’s response, the woman walked out of the room, not allowing for any dialogue or conversation, even as many of us in the room were calling for her to stay and engage in conversation. I have to add that this was a church sponsored workshop. Everyone there belonged to the same church denomination. The church most certainly is not immune to this fear, but it actually perpetuates fear in a very real way. Sadly, this experience is not rare. I believe we are getting conditioned towards experiencing these types of interactions. They are becoming normal.

Everywhere I look everything is saturated in fear. Fear of change. Fear of the other. Fear of losing oneself. Fear for our families, our loved ones, our country. Fear of changing ideals. Fear of losing power, status, and position. And this fear binds us.

It makes us small.

We retreat inside of ourselves thinking we will be safe inside the fortified walls of our box that we have fashioned. And we think as long as we keep everything out that we will be safe and secure. Stronger borders do not create safer people, just as more guns do not create more security. Not only does it create an environment that threatens real safety and security, but it imprisons us. It is living bound by fear.

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And the fear is choking us.

It is boiling over. Do you know what fear boiling over creates?

Hate.

Fear creates hate, plain and simple. We entrench ourselves so deeply that we dehumanize the other and hate arises. The truth is that it has gotten so out of hand that we cannot even have civil conversation anymore let alone debates about issues that truly matter. Not in families, not in classrooms, not in churches, and certainly not in public spaces without hate being spewed from every side. Honestly, as a 9, it makes it almost impossible for me to want to try to have a substantive conversation, because I know it will lead to some conflict.

We are so incredibly polarized today.  It isn’t that having differing ideas or opinions is bad. That isn’t it at all. We are all unique, with unique perspectives and experiences that make us who we are in this moment, at this time. We could learn so much from one another if we could only have a conversation. But we cannot even have a conversation. No dialogue. No learning. No growing. The only thing I see happening is entrenchment.

Our fear dictates our beliefs and opinions, and it’s perpetuated by the advertising and media we surround ourselves with. We entrench deeper and deeper until we can no longer recognize someone with a differing perspective as a human being. Our walls and defenses are firmly in place, and the ‘other’ has been designated an enemy. So instead of engaging with someone that thinks differently than we do, we attack. We use anything we can to tear down their personhood and their being. It leads to the injustices and sins that are Racism, Sexism, Classism, Homophobia, and on and on. We degrade our fellow human beings by hurling slurs and insults at them, tearing them down both verbally and physically. We tear them down in order to, what – build ourselves up? Justify our own personhood? Make ourselves feel more human or more worthy? Some of that is true, but the root of it all, in my opinion, is…

Fear.

If we engage with the other, we might change. Our views might change. Our opinions might change. My being might change. Who I think I am might change. The constructs that I have found my self-worth and identity in might change, and then what?! Who am I then?! Change is damn scary!

And so we entrench…further and further.

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We see the results all around us. The polarization is everywhere. Left/Right. Democrat/Republican. Gay/Straight. Black/White. Citizen/Refugee. Old/Young. Baby Boomer/Millennial. Christian/Muslim. The results are a maze of walls that we have constructed in order to keep human beings who are different away from us.

Unless we can find a way to truly see one another from the commonality that we are ALL beloved creatures, it will only get worse. And that is my fear. A real fear. I fear for my children. I fear for the church. I fear for the country. I fear for the world. It paralyzes me. How do we move forward? Is there a way?

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One step at a time.

If we can summon our courage and open our fortified gates, lower the drawbridge, and step forward out of our box towards the other, I have hope. If we can have true conversations and dialogue with people who disagree that doesn’t end in shouting matches and belittling one another, I have hope. If we can begin to build relationships with others who look, act, believe, and think differently than we do, I have hope.

Fear cannot be conquered by retreating towards the safety of the known. Fear cannot be overcome by entrenching ourselves trying to feel safe and secure. Fear can only be defeated by stepping forward, towards that which you fear – recognizing that fear, owning that fear, claiming that fear, and then stepping forward telling that fear…

You will control me no longer!!

We need to be a people that builds bridges, sisters and brothers, not walls. Jesus was a bridge builder, THE bridge builder. If I have learned anything from Jesus, it’s that bridges are not built with fear, hate, judgment, or condemnation. Bridges are built with love, humility, grace, mercy, and service. Bridges are built through relationships. Bridges are built by stepping forward, reaching out, and openly embracing the unknown. Bridges are built when we are open to change.

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(This is the second of a three part series on Fear. You can find part 1 HERE)

©2018 Derek Harkins

Stepping Forward – Part 1 of 3 on Fear

I am learning to step into my fear – to move forward through it.

My initial instinct when I begin to feel fear is to stop whatever is causing the fear – to move backward away from it.

Maybe if I bury it deep enough, it will just go away and disappear. This is what I hope anyways…that the fear will dissipate into nothingness, and I will be free to go about my business. I just need to ignore it and wait it out – wait for it to subside.

This is how fear paralyzes.

We won’t allow ourselves to engage it – to step forward into the fear. Instead we retreat and hope that it will just go away. Retreating gives us the desired result. The fear does subside. It is the quick, easy fix.

Ahhh…but it isn’t a fix, is it, sisters and brothers?

No.

When we retreat from our fear or bury it, we actually become imprisoned by it. By trying to control it and manage it, we actually are the ones who are being controlled and managed by the fear. It prevents us from moving forward where we feel we are called to go. It holds us bound where we are, or worse yet, it drives us backwards where we came from.

I am convinced that we are called forward in life.

The movement of life should always be forward – it should always be growth. Life is a movement forward…forward in personal growth and development, forward in faith, forward in questions and knowledge, forward in our relationships, forward in maturity and depth, forward continually. Each day should be a day of growth and learning.

Fear prohibits growth and questioning. Fear constricts. It builds walls. Fear chokes life and makes us small. It makes our minds small. It makes our hearts small. It makes our spirits small. It makes our very being small. When we shrink from our fear and retreat, we retreat inside of a box – a fortification that we think might keep us safe. In order to keep the fear out and at bay, we build our walls higher. We reinforce the gate so that it might not be breached. We may even dig a moat around our box, entrenching ourselves even more. When we really allow fear to take over we not only build defenses, but we start building offenses – tools to attack with. Tools we use to attack our fears. Tools we use to attack those whom we fear. Anything that will help keep our fear at bay.

“What is my greatest fear?” you might ask.

Nothingness.

I don’t know when I first started having the thoughts…I must have been 5 or 6 years old, maybe younger. I remember lying in bed trying to go to sleep as a child. I remember the thoughts would creep slowly into my consciousness.  I would begin to wonder what would happen if I went to sleep and never woke up. What would happen if I died in my sleep? I would feel the fear begin to creep into my stomach. And then my mind would imagine what death would be like. My mind would start to race and doubts would creep in – doubts that would not go away. What if I don’t go to heaven? What if I am not worthy to be in heaven? What if there is no heaven? And then the big question would drop upon my being like an anchor pulling me down into the depths of the ocean struggling for oxygen…

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What if God is not real? 

What if there is no God? This question would fall upon me and suffocate me. I could feel the panic start to rise into my chest as I lay there thinking about dying, and how all that I am would in an instant be…

Nothing.

Writing this, I can feel that familiar fear creep into my being as I allow myself to confront this fear…to step into it. A fear that I kept buried deep inside for years. A fear that I have kept secret for my entire life. I grew up going to church. Faith and believing in God was important to not only my family, but to my community, the society and culture I was raised in. It is still a societal expectation to not only believe in God, but to be a Christian. 30 years ago, it was simply a given. I sensed from a very young age that such questions or thoughts would not be welcome in the community, or at the very least they would be brushed off and not allowed to have space. And honestly, I was lucky. I grew up with some amazing pastors and a church that loved me and cared for me deeply. This is not a knock on them. The reality was that you are to believe what the pastor says at face value. You are to believe what your Sunday School teachers teach you at face value.

Why?

Just because.

No matter how old you are, whether you are 5 or 95, we all know that “Just because…” is not a sufficient answer. “I don’t know,” is a far more satisfying answer than “Just because…” or “Because the Bible says so.”  At least being honest and stating, “I don’t know, that’s a great question,” keeps the conversation open and allows for more seeking and greater depth to be found.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I love scripture and have grown to love the compilation of books, stories, letters, songs, and poetry that we call The Holy Bible. At times it has been a love/hate, hate/love relationship. It has been a struggle and a journey for me and continues to be so. Honestly, I think that is a healthy relationship with scripture…

Scripture is something to be wrestled with.

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That is my problem with the argument, “Because the Bible says so.” It ends the conversation and discussion. Just like answering a question with “Just because…” ends the conversation. There is no engagement. No conversation. No learning. No creativity. No relationship or dialogue.

And so, I wouldn’t engage. I would not step forward into my fear, but I would retreat within myself. Yes, I feared the conflict that would arise if I openly confessed my doubts and fears. There is no doubt about that. But even more than that fear of being judged or condemned by my community, honestly, I feared engaging my fear, because…

It might be true.

So, I began to build my box. I built and fortified it by saying and doing the right things. By pushing my doubts down – by trying my hardest to bury them.

There have been moments where I stepped into those doubts and fears. Looking back on my life I can see them. Subconsciously, I think following my calling into ministry may have been a way I was trying to ease the fear, or perhaps God was calling me into my fear. I sought answers. I wanted certainty and truth. What better way to find the truth than to immerse yourself in the study of God? (This is incredibly funny to me now, in a sick sort of way, as my experience has taught me that the more I seek the more questions I have.) I went against some advice I received while discerning my call, that if I wanted to be a pastor, maybe I shouldn’t major in religion for my undergraduate studies, because I would get enough religious education at seminary. Instead, I moved forward majoring in religion, mostly because I needed to continue to engage my questions, and to know whether I could fully step into my calling as a pastor or not. Is there a place in the church for me as a leader? What in the world do I actually believe?

It was the best decision of my life, simply because of one book that I was assigned to read in a Christian Theology class. I mean there were other amazing things about my undergraduate experience. It changed and shaped me in ways I am still finding out and I am incredibly grateful for that experience. But all of it would have been worth it just for this one book…the rest was a bonus! (An expensive bonus! Ha!) I remember vividly, sitting in the basement of Luther College’s Preus Library, at a cubicle reading through a book for an assignment.  The book was Paul Tillich’s Dynamics of Faith. In that book, I remember reading the section where Tillich explains that doubt is not only good, but that it is necessary for faith. That doubt is a necessary component to our faith being able to grow. As I read that, something unlocked deep within my being…a sigh of relief. I could breath. Perhaps there was a place for me.

I found some peace within myself at that point. However, I still would not allow myself to fully engage my fear. I still kept my deepest questions buried and secret. I tried not to engage them with all of my being. And now I felt the added pressure of being on the path towards becoming a pastor, and a few years later I was now a pastor. A pastor should not have these questions or doubts? And if they do, they certainly shouldn’t be open about them, right?! As a result, the moment I would feel that old feeling creep up into my heart and throat I would shove it back down, and move in another direction.

You see, that’s the thing with fear…It never goes away.

Unless you step into it. You have to face it. Engage it. Dwell in it. Burying our fear, or ignoring it keeps us stuck. It imprisons us, and holds us back.

So, even while I feel the fear clenching at my heart and choking my breath, I will step forward. I will engage it. And that means being open about it. Being honest about it with myself and with others.

And while that scares me – actually terrifies me – it also gives me life. I am energized and excited about the journey. It is liberating, quite literally, to unbury the fear and not let it control me anymore. Honestly, I feel healthier spiritually and stronger in my relationship with God, now more than ever before. God can handle my questions and my doubts.

So, I step forward.

What is the fear that imprisons you and keeps you from living the life you desire? Can you take a step forward into your fear, no matter how small of a step it may be? Step forward, sisters and brothers. Step forward into life.

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(This is the first of a three-part series on Fear. You can find part 2 HERE)

© 2018 Derek Harkins

How do you feel?

Jessica, my spouse, asked me Friday night after I published my first blog post, “Well Derek, how does it feel? How does it feel to finally get your blog started – to put yourself out there?”

Pretty sure my first reaction to that question was panic and horror. That’s always my first reaction to the question, “How do you feel?” Feeling usually leads to having opinions, which usually leads to action of some kind, and…well…you should know from just one post now that action can disrupt a 9’s harmony. Having opinions and feelings and then voicing them is a risky venture for a 9. The probability of conflict skyrockets. I suppose doing anything at all will cause the probability of conflict to rise, as opposed to doing, feeling, and voicing nothing. Which is why I often opt for the safer path – keep my mouth shut and my head down.

But I am trying not to do that.

I breathed deep and let out a nervous laugh as I tried to allow myself to ponder her question and engage it.

“I feel nervous and scared,” I finally responded.

I don’t know why I felt so bad for feeling that way either. In reflection, of course it is normal to feel nervous and scared when putting oneself out there for the world to see. I am trying to be open and honest, trying to find my true self and communicate that to others. I believe that this is an important part of my waking up. I am finding myself, who I really am. I need to be honest about that and sharing with others is a way that I can own and truly embody where I am at in my journey. So, yeah, that’s terrifying for me.

Ugh…I wish I had stayed asleep! Ha!

That was my first thought after creating my blog. Why am I doing this?! Why am I putting myself through this?!

It is necessary though. As much as my being cries out against doing the hard work of inner reflection and dealing with things in a healthy manner (as opposed to doing nothing which is my inclination), I know it is exactly that hard work that I must do – that I need to do.

So, after an hour or so of further inward turmoil, I decided to be vulnerable and share further with Jess.

“You know…I was pretty surprised by the amount of shame I felt rise up within me after hitting that ‘publish’ button. I sat there looking at my post thinking, ‘What are people going to think?’ I have been here before. I felt the shame from my past failures.”

I have tried to start blogs before…twice. I got them kicked off and then instead of engaging in the difficult work, I went back to sleep. To be fair, I had a different purpose in mind for my other blog. I was not at the place I am now. I was not ready to wake up, because I didn’t even realize at that point that I was asleep. While I recognize that  I am different now and this time feels very different to me, I still have a fear that this will end like the others…4-5 posts and then back into hibernation. And the shame I feel thinking about that sucks. But at least I know what I’m dealing with. I can name it and own it. Thanks to Brené Brown, especially her book Daring Greatly, I am able to understand what I am feeling and going through and begin to move past it.

Taking steps forward instead of backwards, no matter how small they may be, is the name of the game.

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As with anything in life, when making a change or transition we as human beings need support and accountability from others. Accountability is huge for 9’s. It helps us sustain momentum. It is hard for 9’s to get started and it’s incredibly easy for us to stop. Sustaining any sort of movement and momentum will be important for me. And that is probably the number one reason I will be writing about my journey and sharing it here.

As part of my own accountability I am going to post some ideas I have for future posts, in order to encourage myself to make future posts! So, in the future you might be seeing posts on:

  • A general overview of the Enneagram and what it is. A very brief description of each number.
  • A more in depth post on what it means to be an Enneagram 9, to not only help you know me better, but so that I can know myself better. Each time I write I find out something new about myself.
  • You will continue to find posts about my everyday life experiences when I feel moved to share them and reflect on them.
  • Posts about how my faith is changing, going through a deconstruction and renewal. Along these lines I will probably write a series of posts about the Bible and how scripture informs my journey and how changing how I read and approach scripture has caused my relationship with God to deepen.
  • Posts about my love for Science and the Universe and how it all works. Also, you will read plenty about how I think Science and Faith compliment one another.
  • Posts on spiritual practices, especially meditation, that I am finding incredibly useful.
  • I will probably be writing some book reviews. I have been reading a great deal and want to share the wonderful books I am reading with others.
  • At times I will also share some poetry, prayers, and liturgies. I probably won’t share my sermons here as they get posted elsewhere and are intended for the specific context that I serve.

Until next time, may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, be with you all.

© Derek Harkins 2018

Waking Up

Waking up is hard.

Waking up is painful and difficult. At least, if you are me it is. I know that for a lot of you blessed ‘morning people’ out there, you don’t have any problems waking up and getting out of bed. My middle child is one of your kind.  Let me just say this:

I don’t get you! 

How do you do it? Ha! I have had several jobs now that have forced me to get out of bed well before I wanted to. I can do it. I can. I can even come to enjoy it…

But only after I have actually swung my legs out of bed and wiped the sleep out of my eyes.  Those moments when my alarm clock is going off, and I snooze 5 times, is pure torture.  It is the war of all wars raging inside of me trying to get out of bed every morning.  My body and mind fighting with all of their might against their arch nemesis – Responsibility.

Yet, once I am up, coffee in hand, I do quite enjoy the morning.  There is a peace that can be found in waking up early that cannot be found at any other time.  I only have to conquer myself each and every morning to find that peace.

That is life though, isn’t it? And not just life, but a life of depth, purpose, and meaning.  A spiritual life of any kind, I am finding, will be conquering myself each and every day to find that peace. A certain someone said something along the lines of, “If you lose your life you will find it.” Oh, that’s right…Jesus! We must die to self in order to have life.

Wake up!

These are words that have not only been emblazoned on my heart and my very being the last couple of months, but they are a mantra – a way of life for me now.  I am currently in a state of waking up.  My eyes are opening.  It is painful and everything in my being is fighting against this awakening.

Why?

Because change awaits.  I am a human being. If there is one thing that human beings have in common, it is the engrained resistance to change.

I believe we all need and experience awakenings in our lives, no matter what your number is. However, as an Enneagram 9, my resistance towards waking up is a little more complicated. 9’s are often called Peacemakers.  We are called peacemakers because everything in our being cries out against conflict. Conflict makes us uncomfortable and pained. 9’s are all about keeping and restoring our inner and outer harmony.  If the outer harmony is thrown out of whack, our first instinct as 9’s isn’t to resolve that conflict, but to retreat within what other 9’s call our Inner Sanctum. The sanctuary that we have built inside ourselves to hold our own inner harmony together. It is this harmony that 9’s try to sustain at all costs, and change is the number one way to throw harmony into dissonance. So what is our primary defense against the dissonance created by conflict?

SLEEP.

Figurative and literal sleep. 9’s in times of deep conflict and change can just fall asleep.  Not only can they, but they actually do just fall asleep.  Sometimes in the middle of the conversation or disagreement. Our body literally shuts down trying to sustain the harmony we hold so dear.  We will also figuratively fall asleep to keep the harmony.  Our being will actually appear to leave our bodies, but in reality we just go inside of ourselves to our Inner Sanctum.  9’s are very good at continuing conversations without actually being present.  I don’t say this to brag.  I believe it is a downfall of 9’s.  It is a survival mechanism. We will hold entire conversations without actually being present. If you are married to a 9 or have a 9 child or friend, you will know exactly what I am talking about, because you have probably seen this happen in the middle of an argument or conversation. Knowing this now grieves me in many ways, because it not only happens in conversations or conflict, but we can be asleep for life itself.

This is my reality I find myself in now. I am just now waking up. I have been stirred. My alarm is going off. The beams of the morning light are breaking through my eyelids.  My Inner Sanctum has been disturbed.

My being is awakening. 

My instinct is to pull the covers over my head and try my hardest to go back to sleep, but something inside of me cries out and will not allow it. Not this time. Not anymore.  I have been asleep for far too long. Something is different this time. I can’t just retreat. I am being stirred and shaken.  It is both exciting and terrifying at the same time. Perhaps that is why I am being drawn to write, to document my journey of waking up…because I don’t want to go back to sleep.  Writing and speaking the reality – the pain, joys, progress, and failures – will give me accountability, something I know I need in order to not fall back asleep.

This is my journey of waking up.

© Derek Harkins 2018