• Rich Villodas "Becoming Whole in a Fractured World" | Episode Transcript

    Karen Pascal: Hello, I’m Karen Pascal. I’m the executive director of the Henri Nouwen Society. Welcome to a new episode of Henri Nouwen, Now and Then. Our goal at the Henri Nouwen Society is to extend the rich, spiritual legacy of Henri Nouwen to audiences around the world. Each week we endeavor to bring you a new interview with someone who’s been deeply influenced by the writings of Henri Nouwen. And sometimes, we bring a recording of Henri himself. We invite you to share the daily meditations and these podcasts with your friends and family. Through them, we can continue to reach our spiritually hungry world with Henri’s writings, his encouragement, and of course, his reminder that each of us is a beloved child of God. 

    Now, let me take a moment to introduce today’s guest. Pastor and Christianity Today-award-winning author, Rich Villodas offers a spiritually formative guide to help Christians receive and walk in authentic healing and wholeness in the midst of a fractured world. He’s written a wonderful new book called Good and Beautiful and Kind: Becoming Whole in a Fractured World. 

    Let me say right off the top: This book has just been what I needed. I loved it. It has spoken deeply to me. Rich, thank you for being with us today.

    Rich Villodas: So good to be with you, Karen. Thanks for the kind invitation.

    Karen Pascal: Rich, you say that hostility, rage, and offense is a language of our fractured culture and world. How did we lose the goodness, kindness, and beauty we long for?

    Rich Villodas: Yeah. You know, when I think about that, the book that I wrote emerged out of a poem from the great African-American poet, Langston Hughes. And Hughes wrote a poem entitled Tired, in which he said: 

    I am so tired of waiting, 

    Aren’t you,

    For the world to become good 

    And beautiful and kind? 

    Let us take a knife 

    And cut the world in two— 

    And see what worms are eating 

    At the rind. 

    And what Hughes does in that poem is he names the longing of our soul for beauty, for goodness, for kindness. But then he realizes that there’s some worms beneath the surface, under the rind, that we must attend to. And I think in many ways what I’m trying to do, at least theologically and from a spiritual formation perspective, is to ask the question that you just asked: What has disrupted goodness and beauty? And without being overly simplistic around it, I do think there are a couple of powers related to sin, related to the powers and principalities in our world, and our inability as a result to hold space with one another, to become curious with one another, present with one another. And so, those are a few of the introductory remarks I have in terms of why has this not been our reality. I think theology can help us here.

    Karen Pascal: You have a phrase you use, that “sin is curving us inward.” What is that phrase that you take from Augustine?

    Rich Villodas: Yeah, there’s a phrase that I’ve read a number of years ago, and I never forgot it the first time I heard it. He calls it that sin is about being incurvatus in se, that is, to be curved in on one’s self. And on some levels, to be curved in on oneself can be good, if it is leading to proper introspection and interior examination that ultimately leads to love. But the kind of incurvatus in se, to be curved in on oneself that Augustine writes about is really more about centering ourselves, seeing ourselves as the beginning and the end. Love is no longer prioritized. Actually, as a matter of fact, worship of God is no longer prioritized. We become the center of the universe. And when we are caught in that way, he argues that that is the essence of sin, not simply that we’re just missing a mark morally, but that we are curved in on oneself, leaving no space for God and no space for our neighbor, in ways that are actually marked by love and kindness and justice and goodness.

    Karen Pascal: It was interesting to me, because I felt like one of the things you put your finger on is that sin’s not just the violation of laws. It’s doing something wrong, something morally wrong, but it is really the disruption of love, the failure to love. I found that you really hammer in on that point for me.

    Rich Villodas: Yeah. You know, it hit me one day as I was just writing, and reading the gospels, that Jesus prioritizes, he said, “The greatest commandment to love God with your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.” And I just began to sit with that age-old teaching of Jesus for some time. And I began to think, if love is the greatest commandment, or if the greatest commandment is rooted in love, then sin must be failure to do this great command, or the greatest command. Or the essence of sin is the failure to love, to love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. And what that did for me was, Karen, it helped me to situate sin, I think, in a way that was more consistent with how Jesus thought of it.

    It’s very easy to think about sin in privatized, morally scrupulous categories. And I believe in integrity being who you are in private is who you are in public, and that our thinking life, our interior life is so important. But it’s very easy to have all the things right, morally speaking. To obey all the laws, so to speak, and still fail at following Jesus and living out that command, because it’s not flowing from a place of love. And I think that’s the essence of sin: to be curved in on oneself, which ultimately leads to the failure to love God. 

    Karen Pascal: Well, in your book, you don’t hesitate to start out by looking at sin. I mean, you kind of go there, you start there and say, “Okay, here’s the reality.” I was so grateful to see the title on the book, because we are living in a fractured time. Somehow it feels like it’s gotten worse instead of better in our world. But who do you think is the unseen enemy in all of this?

    Rich Villodas: Yeah. You know, when I write about that, I talk about the language of powers and principalities, and it’s really drawn out of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians Chapter Six. Now, I came from a Pentecostal church tradition. That’s where I became a Christian, and that has a way of emphasizing, sometimes to a fault, evil spiritual powers. But what I think should be retained in that emphasis is what Paul talks about in Ephesians Chapter Six, that there’s actually an enemy, an unseen enemy; that we don’t battle against (this is Paul’s language) flesh and blood, but against powers, against principalities. And these principalities are these forces that get entrenched in individuals, ideologies, and institutions, that lead to deception, depersonalization, and division. And whether we’re talking about church institutions, whether we’re talking about something like social media, whether we’re talking about church, whether we’re talking about various ideologies, there’s something at work in the world that we often can’t put our finger on in terms of the source of it.

    And it’s very easy in our society to point the finger and say, “This is what’s wrong with the world, and this is who’s responsible for the place that the world is in right now.” And I do think we all need to be accountable for our decisions that we make, especially those in high positions of leadership. But I think what Paul does in the New Testament is he helps us to see that there’s also things that we cannot see with our eyes, that are at work in the world. And this is not to – you know, C.S. Lewis talked about there’s two equal and opposite errors that people fall into, as it pertains to demons, that one is to disbelieve in their existence, and the other is to have an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. And we’re not trying to go either way, but we’re trying to recognize, or at least I’m trying to recognize, that when you look at some of the evil in the world, the only answer sometimes I have is that there’s something else going on in the world, that we cannot see with our eyes.

    Karen Pascal: Well, what do you think defeats evil? If it’s there, what can defeat it? 

    Rich Villodas: Well, you know what, I think this is where Paul is really helpful actually, in the book of Ephesians, because when he writes about the battle that we have, he then talks about the kind of life, the kind of armor of God, that we are to have our lives identified by. And I think, ultimately, evil is defeated, particularly in the way of Jesus, through love. I think love is the way that evil is ultimately conquered. Without love, us trying to deal with evil in its own terms will ultimately lead to us using the weapons of the world, which just perpetuates more evil. But love, this is the nature of the cross, isn’t it? That as Jesus is being crucified, he speaks out from the cross: “Father, forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing.”

    And in his death and in his vindicating resurrection, we see that evil, which is not fully destroyed at the moment, but we’ve gotten a foretaste of it. We’ve gotten us a snapshot that this is ultimately how evil will be defeated: It is through love. But at the same time, I think evil is also pushed back, Karen, through truth. You know, when Paul talks about putting on the belt of truth, that our lives are to be marked by honesty. Our lives are to be marked by living in reality. When we concern ourselves with the work of righteousness and justice, when we become people who are marked by peacekeeping and making peace, rather, I think these are the ways that evil, whereas it might not be defeated per se, but it gets pushed back in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our churches, and in the world around us. But it’s no easy feat before us. But I do think we have some guidance from the scriptures, from the life of Jesus and from Paul, about how evil is ultimately pushed back and defeated.

    Karen Pascal: I love the way you use the expression, “suffering love.” Evil is defeated by suffering love. And that’s the quality of Christ’s love that stands before us, and calls us forward into a love that doesn’t exactly put bounds on itself and says, “I’ve done my part; now you do your part,” but it goes way, way, way beyond that. Do you address what gets in the way of our loving well? I think this is where it began to kind of unravel me, because you address the fact there are things in our own lives that get in the way of us loving well. And by the way, I will have to say to our listeners, if you’re going to read this book, which is an excellent book, Rich keeps pulling us back to love in a way. Good and Beautiful and Kind keeps pulling us back to how love works itself out in every part of our lives, has to work itself out if we’re going to be like Jesus. But what I wanted to say was, you do not say, “Okay, well then just go ahead and love.” You talk about what gets in the way of loving well, and I appreciated that. And some of that was wounds and some of it was trauma. Tell us a bit about that.

    Rich Villodas: Yeah. You know, if there’s anyone who should have language for trauma, it should be people who are trying to take seriously the teachings of Jesus, because Christians confess that Jesus is the wounded one, and that’s what trauma means. It means to wound. And I think, because of the nature of trauma, we live in a very wounded and wounding world. To talk about Nouwen, you know, we’re not just wounded healers, we’re often wounded wounders. And because of our wounds that have been received . . . you know, there was a 1950s psychiatrist named D.W. Winnicott who mentioned there’s really two kinds of traumas that we experience. It is things that happen that should not have happened, and things that did not happen that should have happened. You know, attunement, love from our parents, a safe space when you are hurt – often many people grow up without getting those things.

    And as a result, we find ourselves emotionally stunted, relationally incapable to live out relationships marked by vulnerability and love and care. And because of the things that we’ve carried often from childhood into adulthood, we don’t know how to show up in the world in ways that are marked by healing. And so, what I’ve tried to do, and much of this emerges out of my own life, Karen, I’ve tried to identify what are the things that have happened that should not have happened? And what are the things that did not happen that should have happened? And as I’ve done inventory in my own soul, and I identify an impact of those things, what I found is, I find myself living in reality more. And reality is the only place where God dwells. And to the degree that I’m able to identify these are the things that have hindered me, the wounds that have hindered me, now I can open myself up to God’s grace, and to God’s love, and to God’s healing. 

    But I do think trauma, which in recent years is becoming more mainstream, it seems; people become more trauma-aware and trauma-sensitive. And I think this is a good thing. But more than anything, I think it’s good because Christians follow a traumatized and risen Savior who understands the wounds that we carry. And I just think it’s an important category – formationally, spiritually, emotionally – if we’re going to be people marked by love and wholeness.

    Karen Pascal: I love this, a quote in here that caught my eye: “Facing the truth about ourselves and opening that part of our lives to God are imperative, because God dwells only in reality.” So, in a sense, we don’t have to hide that stuff that we’re stumbling over or has happened to us or didn’t happen. As you pointed out, sometimes it’s what didn’t happen, what was left out, that wasn’t there and would’ve made us healthier human beings, more capable of loving if it had been there. 

    How has Henri Nouwen impacted you? You know, you mentioned wounded healers, and I’m just curious. I think I got this little note saying that he’d been one of the great influences in your life. I’d just love to hear what did you find in Henri that was valuable for you?

    Rich Villodas: Karen, I wish I had three hours to talk about this here. It is hard to truly estimate the impact that he’s had on my life. I’ve been reading the works of Nouwen, I want to say, for 24 years now; I’m 43 years old. I was introduced to Nouwen as a 20-year-old, at a class at a college that I had. And I was given the assignment to read The Return of the Prodigal Son. And when I read The Return of the Prodigal Son, I was so taken aback by what I was reading. It was more than just an assignment. It was an encounter. And as I finished that book, I went to the school library and said, “What else has this guy written? Who is this person, number one, and what else has he written?”

    And from that point on, I think by the time I was 23, 24, I had probably read at least 10 to 12 of his works. And from that point on, the reason why he’s impacted me is he, from the very beginning, I understood Christianity to be one that must be marked by brokenness and vulnerability. And I saw that in his life and what I read. His ability, because of his work in psychology, his ability to integrate psychology and spirituality has made a big impact on my life and has formed many ways how I think about pastoring. His love for the poor, his work on justice, and his words on justice and peacemaking were truly important in my life. A new way of thinking about success, you know, what is success as followers of Jesus? What is true success in the world?

    And so, when I think about all of those things, and then I think perhaps the thing that impacted me most was, as I’ve read his biographies and things that have been written, his friends have written about him. Marjorie Thompson, who I know has been on your podcast, Marjorie, who was a friend of Henri, has been to our church and spoken there. So, I’ve had lengthy conversations with her, and she would talk about her experience with him as well as other friends. And just to hear about the anxiety he carried, the frenetic pace of life that he often lived, the ways that he found himself experiencing loneliness and the ways he would name that, I’ve found so much freedom in his authenticity and vulnerability that yes, he can be so deep and thoughtful in his ways and still be wrestling with these things in a profound way. And so, for those reasons and many others, that’s why he’s meant so much to me over the last few decades.

    Karen Pascal: Oh, I’m delighted to hear that. I am delighted. Really. It’s interesting. I think Henri, in his ability to be honest about what he was battling with, frees up so many people to feel, “Me, too. That’s me. I can understand that.” And that level of honesty, it really helps us move into a kind of different level of intimacy with God, I think. Because we’re no longer bringing our false self into that, we can bring the real us, the real person that is so uncertain. And Henri’s a treasure. I agree.

    Rich Villodas: Absolutely. And I come back to his journals, his writings on a regular basis. So, when the idea to join this conversation came, I said I’ll do it at any time of the day, because of the importance of his leadership and his writing in my life.

    Karen Pascal: Well, I wondered if by chance, through Henri, if that’s what pointed you in the direction of the Desert Fathers. Because I found it very interesting, your whole understanding of prayer and contemplative prayer. And I know for myself, even coming out of a more of an evangelical background, finding that is very, very strengthening. Tell me a little bit about how prayer – I mean, it weaves into this book. So, tell us a bit about the role of prayer and what you want to share with others.

    Rich Villodas: And you just named it, Karen, because when I read The Way of the Heart – because again, I was in the library finding out what else has this man written – and then I read The Way of the Heart, and you know, here I am, I’m a 20-, 21-year-old and I start hearing the language of Desert Fathers. So, I’m thinking, who are these people? And from that point on, I started immersing myself in the writings of Thomas Merton as well as those in the desert tradition. And the contemplative prayer for me, I believe is the starting point for a world that’s going to be marked by love and wholeness. Because in contemplative prayer, we move beyond seeing prayer as transactionalism to seeing it as the place of communion. It’s the place where we experience communion with God for the sake of experiencing communion with one another.

    And so, in contemplative prayer, the goal is not to throw out our laundry list of all the things that we need God to do. And I believe there’s a place and time for that. I believe that there’s a time to lift our requests, our petitions, our hurts before God. I believe we should be doing that, absolutely. And I think those things emerge out of being with God. It is being with Being, it’s being present to Present. It’s friendship with Jesus. It’s recognizing our relationships as daughters and sons of the living God. And contemplative prayer really is about the training of the soul to be present. 

    You know, when I sit down to pray, I often set a timer for five, 10, 15 minutes or so. And I usually have a very simple phrase on my heart, a phrase like, “Jesus, here I am.” And whenever my mind gets distracted, I come back to that phrase, “Jesus, here I am.” And when I do it, I’m doing it with the intention to do God’s will. And not just do God’s will in terms of my own individual decisions, but ultimately to do God’s will as it relates to love. I want to be present to my neighbor in the way that I’m present to God. And so, contemplative prayer over the years has been so important in terms of my own formation. And what people are discovering now, in recent years, is the impact that this kind of prayer has in our brains – the neurology of it, the ways that our brains are rewired, the impact it has in our emotional life. And so, contemplative prayer has been so important for me in that respect. It’s training me to love God and to love my neighbor well.

    Karen Pascal: You know, where you kind of caught me in the book, where I actually got stopped and went, “Okay, I’m reading this part slowly, because it’s so ‘to me.’” And it was “beyond the walls of false self.” I found myself there and I went, “Oh, my goodness.” This is very much about lowering all our defenses. I can tend to be so defensive and instead, I’m defending the false self. Would you talk a little bit about this? Because I just found this so rich and challenging.

    Rich Villodas: Yeah. You know what I was trying to do – and Karen, I just say “amen” to you, because this is my struggle. This is why I wrote it, because I really have specialized in fragility and defensive views. Listen, I’ve gotten many multiple degrees in this, here. And so, what I try to do is rethink what is humility. And it’s also the case that humility is defined as someone who does the lowly task. And so, humility’s often task-oriented – the person who is cleaning the toilets or the person who is taking the low rung of whatever. And I do think that that is an important element of humility that must be retained. But what I try to do is look at humility from an angle of, it’s not just doing the lowly task, it’s about the hard work of lowering our defenses.

    And so, in this respect, I’ve tried to connect humility with poverty of spirit, poverty of spirit. When Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” I believe that’s also language not just recognizing our ultimate dependence upon God, but recognizing that there is nothing to prove, nothing to possess, nothing to protect. That the essence of a poor-in-spirit life is a life that is free from those things, which really is ultimately the way of the false self. The false self has lots to protect, the false self has lots to prove, and the false self has lots to possess. The true self, no, doesn’t need to prove, possess, or to protect. And so, one of the ways that humility works itself out is in our ability to lower our defenses, particularly in conflict, particularly when we are experiencing criticism, resistance. And this is something I’ve had to learn over and over again: to see these things – conflict, criticism – as invitations to become more whole, as invitations to become more like Jesus.

    And yet, this is a very difficult task, because my life tends to be very fragile. And so, I feel like this is, I know, I don’t just feel it, I know this is a lifelong work. But what I’ve discovered, Karen, in the process of trying to prayerfully integrate this in my life, is it’s not that I don’t experience fragility anymore, or that I don’t experience defensiveness. (Just ask my wife; she’ll tell you.) But I don’t think it has had the same power it’s had over me. In the past, whenever I got criticized, it would often take a number of days for me to recover. And you know, I’d get an email from someone who didn’t like my sermon, or a critique, it would take me days. I would just be so absorbed in the words that I heard. And now, it’s not that I don’t get absorbed in it, but I do think I’m able to wrestle with it a little bit more, externalize it a little bit more, and become a bit more curious as well, that when people have criticism or there is conflict, I’ve been asking God to help me to actually be more curious in that respect. But I imagine this is a lifelong work that will never end, until I see Jesus, face to face.

    Karen Pascal: It’s interesting, because you do say that if you’re going to have a life that’s marked by goodness, beauty, and kindness, it does not mean it’s not going to be without conflict and conflict learning. I love how you go there and deal with the idea of what it is to deal with conflict in a mature fashion, which I found really challenging. I appreciate it. But even calling us to the culture of healthy speaking, you know, in other words, it was toward the end of the book, you were just kind of giving us really healthy tools that clearly maybe you’ve had to put in place in your own life, so you can share them. That’s what I found there, that I found very helpful.

    Rich Villodas: Yeah. Specifically with conflict, this is something as a pastor of a very diverse congregation. I pastor a church in Queens, New York City, where 75 nations are represented, in an area where 123 languages are spoken. National Geographic has called our neighborhood zip code the most diverse zip code in the world. And so, when you get that many different people in close proximity to each other, there’s going to be lots of conflict. I mean, we have conflict with people who look just like us, and vote like we do and see the world like we do. Imagine a context like the one that I have the privilege of pastoring in. And so, I’ve had to think a lot and try to work through it myself, and disciple others to work through conflict.

    And what I’ve discovered, first and foremost, Karen, is giving people language to understand the normal nature of human conflict. I often think of it in three stages. There’s this heavenly stage of relationships that everything is so wonderful all the time. And it’s usually at the beginning of a relationship, which is why when someone comes to my church for the first time, and they’re just talking about how this is the best church ever, and they’ve never experienced anything like this church. And sometimes I wonder, “How long have you been here?” And they say, “I’ve been here two weeks.” And I go, “Well, just stick around. I think we’re a great church, but stick around, because we have just as many problems like anyone else.” 

    But what happens is, because people tend to live in the world of romanticism and idealism, and because they think this is what it is, when conflict comes, when difficulty comes, when disagreements come, the pendulum often swings so drastically, where it’s no longer a heavenly stage, it’s a hellish stage. And no longer are people angels, but everyone, they’re demons now. And what I’ve tried to do is go to the third stage and help people go to the holding-the-tension stage: that we’re not angels, we’re not demons. This is not Heaven, this is not hell, but we’re somewhere in between. And we have to learn how to, more than anything, negotiate and navigate our differences. But that’s no small task. So, I don’t know how we move towards wholeness without the language of healthy conflict and practices to do so.

    Karen Pascal: You know, I would like to go on and on and on, but there’s something in your book I do not want us to miss, and that’s your whole understanding of justice. Let’s talk about that. I mean, I felt like you treat it with lots of light, but I want to hear why is justice important to God? How does it connect to God? What’s it look like?

    Rich Villodas: Yeah. When I think about justice, I think about something the philosopher Cornel West said, and it’s one of my favorite ways to think about justice. He said that “Justice is what love looks like in public.” Justice is what love looks like in public. And when I read that, I thought, that’s exactly it. This is exactly it. It’s often the case, particularly in the West and especially in the United States, that justice is seen through the lens of rights and kind of retribution. Like, you’re going to pay for what you did. Or rights, like these are my freedoms, these are my rights. Don’t infringe upon these things. And I think we need to have conversations along those lines. And I think that’s part of the conversation of justice. 

    But for the Christian, for the follower of Jesus, for the person who’s trying to take seriously the words of Jesus, which is why the works of Nouwen have impacted me so much, because just like Henri, he had language for love being expressed interpersonally, and not just interpersonally, but institutionally as well.

    And I think in this respect, Jesus is in the line of Hebrew prophets who saw love and justice to be two sides of the same coin. And whether you’re talking about the poor, the widows, the orphans, whether we’re talking about refugees, whether we’re talking about immigrants, whether we’re talking about people who are oppressed in society, the reason why justice is important is because love must be externalized, love must be systematized, love must be prioritized. And so, when I think about justice, I’m not thinking about it primarily through the lens of our rights. And again, I think that’s an important category for another time. 

    But I do think it’s about right relationship and how that right relationship is actually embodied into the very structures and institutions of our world. And whether we’re talking about education, whether we’re talking about government, whether we’re talking about criminal justice, whether we’re talking about the church, justice is too big of a value for God, for us to make it a footnote to our spirituality and to our life with God. It is truly what love looks like in public. That’s the nature of justice.

    Karen Pascal: One of the quotes in your book says, “God is not just doing justice, but his very essence is justice.” And I love that. And it is such a call for all of us, particularly in a time when we feel like we’re in a very fractured world where people find themselves positioned on one side or the other. I think it’s very important to understand the nature of God and not position God differently than that.

    Rich Villodas: Absolutely. Absolutely.

    Karen Pascal: I also love, there’s a line in your book about not naming the problems without pursuing the solutions. That just spoke to me. I thought, “Yes, got to name the problems, but then pursue the solutions, be part of the ongoing process of bringing justice in all the situations we can see.”

    Rich Villodas: It’s easy to name the problems, Karen. I’m really good at that, too, when actually responding with creativity and a kind of social imagination towards justice, that’s the hard work that very few people want to do.

    Karen Pascal: You know, one of the things that was very touching to me within the book, and I want to go back, it’s just a little bit, but it was about dealing with things calmly. I mean, it was really interesting, but you kind of spoke about it, kind of calm attentiveness. Maybe just explore that a little bit with me, because I think we’re so quick to position ourselves and what does it look like to be kind of a mature, loving human being in this world?

    Rich Villodas: Yeah. You know, when I talk about calm presence, another way of thinking about this is through the language of what family system theorists call “self-differentiation.” And by that, calm presence for me, as I think about it, is remaining close and curious to God, close and curious to myself and close and curious to my neighbor, especially in times of high anxiety, and resisting the polar opposite pull of cutting people off or being enmeshed into them. And calm presence is a life exactly that. It’s curious. It’s close. It’s a recognition that I have particular values that mean a great deal to me, but also that people around me have values that mean a great deal to them. And the ways that we respond in our cultural moment right now is not through calm presence, it’s through reactivity and emotionality, and it’s fueled out of anxiety.

    And so, what we have is an anxious life. And anxiety, very simply, it’s not necessarily feelings of worry or overwhelming feelings of concern. That includes that. But anxiety is about this automatic response within us that’s based on a real or perceived threat. And I think calm presence is what we’re invited into. When I look at Jesus in the gospels, I see calm presence. I see all kinds of conflicts, all kinds of anxious situations. I mean, there’s a storm and he’s sleeping on a boat. There are people around him, religious leaders who don’t like what he’s doing, and he asks questions. 

    And so, what we find in the life of Jesus is someone – and this is why it’s connected to humility, Karen, because I don’t know if we can live the calm presence without cultivating humility, because our defenses will be too high. But when the defenses come down a bit, it’s to lead to curiosity and to emotional closeness. And that’s the hope; and this is something that I, in a given week, I succeed at and I fail at. But it’s something that’s worth continuing over and over again, because the world is not healed by reactivity, anxiety, and emotionality. The world is ultimately made whole through calm presence.

    Karen Pascal: Oh, Rich, thank you. This has been so good. And I just want to say to the people that are listening, please go get this book. It’s so good, Good and Beautiful and Kind: Becoming Whole in a Fractured World. 

    What a treat to talk with you, Rich. When I’m in New York City next, I want to go to your church. I want to have the experience of what’s going on in that very diverse community that is obviously welcoming many from many different backgrounds and many different places. I think that’s pretty exciting.

    Rich Villodas: Yeah. You’re welcome anytime.

    Karen Pascal: Thank you. Thanks for being with us today, Rich.

    Rich Villodas: This was a real treat for me, Karen, truthfully, just to have a conversation with you.

    Karen Pascal: Thanks so much, Rich. I really appreciate it.

    Rich Villodas: Karen, thank you.

    Karen Pascal: Thank you for listening to today’s podcast. What a pleasure to talk to Pastor Rich Villodas, author of Good and Beautiful and Kind: Becoming Whole in a Fractured World. Rich wisely speaks to the times we’re living in. He writes: “First, I want you to release any image of God that is anything less than pure, self-giving, abundant love. Second, choose, whether you understand it or not, to abide in that love, to dwell in it, to live in it. Opening ourselves to God’s love doesn’t just absolve us from guilt and shame. It transforms us into love.” As Rich Villodas says, abiding in his love is the greatest task of life. 

    For more resources related to this program, click on the links on the podcast page of our website. You’ll find links to Rich Villodas’s book, and to anything else mentioned today, as well as book suggestions. 

    If you enjoyed today’s podcast, we’d be so grateful if you’d take time to give us a review or a thumbs-up, and certainly we’d invite you to pass it on to your friends and family. Thanks for listening. Until next time.

Praise from our podcast listeners

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