Click here to download a PDF of this letter: 2015 Reflection
Within a mile of our office in Redwood City, unprecedented levels of wealth and material abundance exist alongside extreme poverty. At Harvest Time we ask, “How can we bring our money into alignment with spiritual wisdom and with our own hearts so that all human beings can thrive?” In this letter, I would like to share with you some of the ways that we have been asking that question this year and invite you to consider making a financial gift so we can continue to offer this ministry.
At the outset, I need to acknowledge that I would much rather read or write spiritual reflections than annual updates or fundraising letters such as this one. Yet, the gifts that flow to this ministry make possible powerful and inspiring conversations and I want you to see what is happening in Harvest Time so you can appreciate what your gifts are creating.
I am also aware that part of being in the flow of gift means asking for what we need. As you may recall, Harvest Time is an experiment in gift economy. What that means is that we do not charge a fee for anything we do; all of our programs are offered as a gift to the participants. And we invite all who are connected to this ministry to make gifts to Harvest Time so we can continue to host conversations about money and spiritual transformation. We operate in this manner because we believe that there is something sacred about exchanges in which the distinctions between giver and receiver collapse and all are brought together in the mystery of grace. Being an experiment in gift is our way of practicing that mystery.
So please pour a cup of tea and sit with me as I attempt to share what I have seen in Harvest Time this year and invite you to support our work as we move into the new year.
Reflection on Harvest Time’s work in 2015
In 2015, I gathered with several small circles of friends who are seeking to transform the flow of money through our lives for the well being of all. Harvest Time currently convenes four circles: a retreat circle on each coast, a group that meets in my home on a monthly basis and a circle of women who meet by phone. In these circles, deep friendships are formed as we pray together and talk about money and our lives. Our circles focus on the topics that matter most to those gathered, topics such as giving, lifestyle choices, investing, estate plans and work. Together we share what we see is possible with money, what we are actually doing, including the ways we fall short, and support each other in stepping more fully into our vision. There is something about this combination of vision, transparency and compassionate community that over time shifts lives and our relationships with money.
Also, during this past year, while the pain of systemic racism was present in the news, we had the opportunity to sit among people who are creating partnerships of trust across differences of race. In August Harvest Time completed a long-term project in Mississippi. Our commitment was to make a gift of land in a way that embodied spiritual transformation so we joined with the other organizations involved in a circle of collaboration and trust, sharing decision making with the full circle. It was an amazing and challenging journey. What a gift it was to finally complete that process in August and celebrate with our partners Mary Brooks Tyler, Be Present and Community Wholeness Venture.
This year, we also participated in Be Present’s Race, Gender, Power & Class Institute that culminated in a national conference at the end of September. It was wonderful to be joined by seven Harvest Time friends who are clear in their commitment to work across difference to build partnership and willing to do the accompanying inner and interpersonal work.
Sitting in these diverse circles felt like a miracle of grace, especially this year. At one point, when the news was particularly painful, my son asked me if I had hope that we could shift racism in our country. I told him yes. My experience in diverse partnership gives me hope because I have already seen that something else is possible.
Also this year, we had the opportunity to dive deep into an exploration into the connection between Wisdom & Money. Wisdom is a spiritual stream that focuses, among other things, on inner transformation through contemplative practice. In many ways, Wisdom has been at the heart of Harvest Time since an early circle discovered the story of Mary of Bethany in John 12. There was something about her story, we noticed, that shifted the tone of our conversations from trying hard to do the right thing to surrendering to God’s extravagant love. Helen Daly deepened this connection when she shared the work of Cynthia Bourgeault with the Boston Circle.
This past year, a gift from Helen’s estate allowed me to attend a Wisdom school with Cynthia Bourgeault and journey to the New Camaldoli Hermitage with board members and friends from around the network to continue the exploration. There we were in conversation with Father Bruno Barnhart, OSB about Wisdom in the west, which sees God’s radiance in history (in contrast to some other wisdom streams that focus primarily on the relationship between the individual and God). I am fascinated by his approach because it resonates with what I have seen in our work with money. What if the money that we gave, spent or invested, for instance, carried with it a spark of divine light? What if our use of money can be a way that to participate in what God is doing to draw all of creation into unity and love? We think money can do just that which is one reason why we are drawn to talk about money and Wisdom together.
These threads, convening circles of friends to talk about money; exploring ways to build partnerships across difference; and connecting Wisdom and money have been at the heart of Harvest Time’s work this year. These are also the threads that I am actively working to share in my neighborhood, Silicon Valley. I have heard some people describe this neighborhood as a center of gravity for the flow of money in the world. And yet the inequalities here are staggering, mirroring the inequalities in the world. In the midst of this community, Harvest Time is seeking to be a presence, gathering people who want to explore relationship with money as a way to be in service of divine love and the common good.
As the year draws to a close, I have slowed down my travel schedule to create space to listen to friends in our local community and around Harvest Time’s network to understand how to best share the wisdom that flows from Harvest Time 15 years of exploration. Perhaps inspired by the tech environment, I find myself wondering how we can “open source” what we have learned. How can we share the path through the “eye of the needle” that we see is possible in a way that people in our local neighborhood can see? How can we offer examples of circulating money in service of common good and divine love? In the weeks ahead, I will be reaching out to many of you and invite you to help me tell our story.
As we turn toward the new year, I invite you to offer a gift to help us continue our work so that money can be an expression of God’s radiant justice and love in the world. Have you noticed any shifts in your own experience of money as a result of our work? If yes, then I invite you to offer a gift that flows from gratitude. Are you right at your edge in some area of your financial life? Then I invite you to make a gift that feels like a “healthy stretch” as a way of moving to a new place of freedom. Do you have a vision for money moving in the flow of gift? Then I invite you to make a gift as a way of practicing manifesting that vision. More than anything else I invite you to consider a gift to Harvest Time as part of your own money practice. If a conversation with me would be helpful in your discernment process, I am, of course, happy to be in dialogue with you. Our budget and intentions for the year are available here.
Finally, as I hope is obvious from these words, it is an honor and privilege for me to serve the conversations happening among the people who make up Harvest Time. Thank you for providing me the gift of this work.