Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Light Grows

The light glows
dim at first
then glowing, growing
bringing with it the beauty
of snow
 kissed lightly with fire
and rocks
wild and majestic
casting dark mysteries
upon the innocent white

impressions at first
speckled sparkling wraiths
slowly becoming domesticated
as the light grows
bringing definition
a new beauty

a metamorphasis of shape and color

yet still a wonder,
still a mystery

and so it is with you
and I
and life

I have been learning, sometimes the hard way, that life, and growth, even joy are a process.  A process that happens as we become open.  Open to the things we fear, open to our own dark corners, but also open to the love of others, and above all the love of God.

It is a process that involves letting the light of God's love shine.. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:6, "For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ."

When God's love shines, we see things more clearly.  Some of what we see is beautiful.  Some, we not beautiful at all.  But the point is we begin to see.  And accept - not just parts of ourselves - but our whole selves.

This can be a mixed blessing.  Wayne Muller in his book "How Then, Shall We Live" talks about how being open to the wholeness of who we are can be complex, and powerful.  "We being to feel how love and hurt often arise together.  People who love us are the same people who hurt us.  When our heart opens in love, whatever is embedded in the heart will also spill out.  The love that opens our heart will open whatever sadness we have carried for a lifetime."  

But in the end - this is how we learn to really live
And really "be"
This is how we find definition, clarity, a new beauty
And become God's "new creations"

Am I good at this?
Absolutely -   not    But I am learning :)
Blessings!  Stephen

Thursday, July 28, 2011

God is Watching

Jim Wallis of Sojourners opens a recent blog in the following manner: 
"The markets are watching, the Republicans are watching, the Democrats are watching, the media are watching, the pollsters and pundits are watching. The public is watching and is disgusted with Washington, D.C.  When it comes to the bitter and ultra-partisan battles over the budget, the deficit, and the fast-approaching deadline for America to avoid defaulting on its financial commitments, the whole nation and even the world is watching.

But God is watching too."

Ministers like to note, especially when asking for gifts, that money is a huge topic in the Bible.  It is the main subject of nearly half the parables Jesus told.  One in seven verses in the New Testament deals with the topic of money.  The Bible offers 500 verses on prayer, few than 500 verses on faith and more than 2,000 verses on money.  In fact 15% of everything Jesus ever taught was on the topic of money and possessions.

Ok, so the Bible is full of verses about money. This begs the question "why?" The answer?  Think it is because there is a fundamental connection between our spiritual lives and how we think about, and use, money.

I wonder what God would think about the United States right now?  More to the point, how would he few those people who are systematically protecting the rich, and systematically gutting programs for the poor and vulnerable?
I have no question.  He would seem them as violating his priorities.  He would see then as people who are off the path, no longer people of "the way."

The debt-ceiling debate is not so much a fiscal discussion, as it is a moral discussion.  And I believe God is watching.

What would a moral budget look like?  If we take the biblical concept of jubilee seriously, then we have to believe that God believes that it is not good for there to be inequity.  Thus any solutions that supports inequity would not be moral.  God says over and over again in the prophets, and in the words of Jesus that we must take care of the poor.  Any budget that abandons the poor is not a moral budget.  The Bible suggests that extreme wealth is not good for one's spiritual health (think about that camel and the eye of a needle).  Any budget that benefits the rich and increases the gap between rich and poor is not a moral budget

And remember, God is watching.  Yes we need accountability.  Yes we need efficiency.  Yes we need to use our tax dollars well.  I believe medical care is a good use. Education is a good use.  Housing and heating are good uses.  Food is a good use.  Subsidies for the very rich?  Loopholes so huge corporations can rake in the profits and pay no taxes?  Trickle up economics that allows the privileged to stock pile Americas money and not reinvest it in jobs?  Not so much

I am not sure either side in this debate is right.  We may have to choose between the lesser of two evils.  But I believe that most Americans (75% according to most polls) understand that a moral budget involves both cuts and increases in revenues.

Children of God in Washington.  Be child like, but not childish.  God is watching

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Grace Alone

night falls
the deep emptiness of the day
is now surpassed
by the dark emptiness of the night

as daylight endured
i could ignore the
abyss within

I could fill the moments.
phone calls, meetings
the urgency of it all gave me
from thinking and feeling

but in the night
what was
and is
and might be
crashes in
leaving me defenseless

and in the night
as all around me quiets
the turmoil within swells
into a cacophony
of questions and doubts

and so i sink
into restless sleep
it will be
a long night’s journey to the dawn


I am constantly reminded, as I struggle with so much in life
with my own failures
and with the demons without
debt ceilings

that it is always
all about God
it is all about GRACE

All I can do, ultimately
is rest gently in God's love

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Little things

The story of Gideon (Judges 7) is great. One the one side are the Midianites.  There are a lot of Midianites.  According to verse 12 the "Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts.  Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore."

In other words?  A whole lot of Midianites
On the other side?
Gideon.  300 men.  Some lamps and assorted horns.

Bad odds
And what is amazing is that Gideon actually made the odds worse
He started out 32,000 men
But being a tester he told those who were afraid to go home.  22,000 left.  I guess we should be impressed they were honest.

Then he took them down to the water and told them to get a drink
300 reached down, and while still erect brought water to their mouths with their hands
The rest got on their knees and drank….

Only the 300 were allowed to remain.  Instructions from God

So small a force
Huge enemy
And what happens.
Small force, plus God, equaled victory
As we heard the enemy were defeated and driven out of the land!
Not just a victory, a BIG victory

This is really the story
Small versus large, not just large, really large!  Overwhelming

That is what God, and faith, together can do!

Now that is not exactly news
But what I like about this story
What I love about this story
Is how god can use little things…. to defeat the big, overhwhelming things

300 men,  not 32,000, not 10,000, but 300

Our world is full of overwhelming things
Forces, powers, problems that seem… soooo big
So overwhelming

Debt Ceiling Issues
Budget Cuts
Any of you have anything overwhelming right now in your life?
What do you look at in your life?
What do you look at in the world?
That makes your feel hopeless and helpless?

I know what it is for me
I know what it is for some of you
There are hard things out there
Dark things
Difficult things
For some of us has a lot to do with us… addictions, failures
For others it is what is happening in our country, in our world

It doesn’t matter what it is…
It is the thing that feels us with fear
Takes our breath away
Makes us just want to give up!

We just reach that place where we feel there is nothing, nothing we can do to make a difference
We are just too small
Too powerless

The story of Gideon is the story for us
Because it reminds us that with God, even little things can make a big difference. . .
We are not powerless, against the things that loom over us and assail us
We are not hopeless
God can use our efforts
No matter how small, no matter how feeble
And through those small efforts, those random acts of kindness
To assail the forces that rob us of hope and love

I personally am traumatized by what I see our nation, our government doing to the vulnerable
That feels overwhelming to me.  I don’t want to live in a nation that doesn’t care for the poor, the mentally ill, the children.

And I feel powerless.  As if I have no voice.  As if there is nothing I can do!
But there is
I can trust in God.  I can be God’s.
And I can do what I can do for the people God puts in my path
I can listen.
I can find resources
I can counsel
I can love
I can make a difference, in this church, in this town, in this county…

And so can you

We can’t create legislation
We might not be able to end wars
But we are not helpless

So what is it that – as you look out there – most bothers you?
Look for the small thing you can do
For one person
The small thing you can do

And do it!
And God will be with you
And God will honor that work
And you will make a difference
Thanks be to God!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

God's love

The world is not a friendly place
Headlines scream
The journalists pontificate
Movies, books
Even cartoons
Send the message....
It’s a killing ground out there
It’s dangerous
A person might get hurt
out there

And so,
reasonable beings that we are,
full of rational thought,
well versed in the way of the world,
We protect ourselves

Don’t look
Don’t smile
Don’t talk
Don’t touch!

And so it goes
And so the barriers grow
Episode by episode
Relationship by relationship
layer by layer

Bound by our cautions
We can hardly breathe
or move
or live
or love

What we need is a free a friendly space,
piece by piece
we can chip away the veneer that enslaves
and free the one within

That one who wants to run and play,
sing and dance,
the one who wants to love and be loved

The one who wants to give and take  --  and be
The greatest gift you give.....is the freedom to be me.

Thank you God for the gift of your Love

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Insidiously it creeps,
sliming its way around the passages of our mind,
sniveling and Machiavellian,

Sometimes invisible,
sometime stark and frightening,
always powerful.

like the working of waters,
lapping against a shore,
it erodes our soul,
devouring us
and leaving us less than we were.

It sidles up to us
and whispers in our ear
of things best forgotten,
of things which have been,
and things which yet might be,

It grips us with its cruel presence,
and we are helpless in its grasp,
twisting helpless and doomed,
like prey in the jaws of the tiger,
dancing the dance of death.

BUT, perfect love (GOD), casts out fear!  (I John 4:18)
Thanks be!

Monday, July 18, 2011

A persistent God

Most of us know the story of Gideon and his small group of warriors and their lamps.  But what is curious to me is how the story of Gideon really starts.   God comes to Gideon with his call. . . . “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”

And Gideon responds in a manner that is almost puzzling. “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

The first thing Gideon does is question God.  In fact we might go beyond that and say that Gideon actually blames God for the horrible things happening to Israel at the hands of its enemies. "You abandoned us God!"
An interesting human trait...

Funny how so often the reason for our struggles is right there before our eyes…
And how often our first response is to put the responsibility, the burden of what is happening on God
Indeed, sometimes we actually blame God
Blame God for not being there
For not doing something
We get angry at God….
God caused this mess
God didn’t protect

This is normal and predictable
Why do you think we do this?

I don’t think it lies in anything dark
Or sinister
Or bad

It is just that we have so much trouble trusting
We are so fearful
So we say to ourselves… maybe God isn’t what I thought, God isn’t powerful, or loving
Or maybe it is worse.  Maybe God is what I fear… stern, judgmental, angry….
Maybe God isn’t really on my side
Maybe God doesn’t really love me

I suspect a lot of this comes out of that part of us that thinks we have to earn God’s love
Have to deserve it.  And our fear, our knowledge that we don’t…..

Whatever is going on, what it does is take us to a place where in fear
We start questioning and doubting
And essentially push God away
There is that doubt, that barrier, that reluctance to be open to God.  That reluctance to trust!

Good thing God understands …..

And what is amazing is what God does with our doubt, our fear, our reluctance.
The patience of God is staggering….

He just keeps coming – with his love, with his power, with his desire to create hope and healing
I had a dog named Hannah.  Hannah loved to chase pinecones.  She was insatiable, and amazingly persistent.  No matter how many strategies you would use to move Hannah away from her desire to chance and retrieve pinecones, or any other suitable object, she would remain undeterred….

Dog – goD  
God has that persistence
That singleness of purpose
To love us, cherish us, empower us, and use us
I am so glad God does!