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

Monday, December 31, 2018

The offense of Grace

“The last shall be first and the first shall be last.” This is exactly, when it comes down to it, why most people do not believe in grace. It is fucking offensive.”
― Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint

My New Year’s resolution this year is simple

And there is only one

This year I am going to believe in grace!

I am going to believe that God has turned myself
and everyone around me
into the beloved Children of God

just by speaking
(and God spoke, and the world began, and Christ was born, and I am God’s child)

I am going to believe in grace
that God loves me and accepts me
that God is present in me
that God’s Presence rubs off and is somehow mysteriously present through me
in this world

I am going to believe in grace
for that guy carrying a gun in McDonalds
for Donald Trump
for that person who shouts hate at a young Muslim girl
for that one who wants to refuse sanctuary for refugees and clamors for a wall
for that fearful one
that hateful one
That racist one
that 1%er greedy one

I am going to believe in grace
No matter how offensive that person is to me

I am going to believe in grace
Even though grace is offensive
(and believe me, it is offensive to believe in grace
for those who hate, and exclude, you hoard, and kill)

I am going to believe God values, loves all
That God is for all
That God seeks to redeems and restore all
and bless all
even those I can't stand

That God is not just my God
But their God too

believing in grace is costly
Grace calls me beyond myself
Beyond my capacity
To a place I would sometimes rather not be

But I am going to believe in grace
For if I cannot believe grace for them
I cannot truly believe grace for me
(at least not without really claiming privilege and merit, which is just silly)

So this year
I am going to believe in grace

And I am going to believe in what grace can do
In me
In you
In them

For grace is both the end
And the beginning

Happy New Year

Sunday, December 30, 2018

love is

"This is all I have known for certain, that God is love. Even if I have been mistaken about this or that point, God is nevertheless love. If I have made a mistake it will be plain enough; so I repent – and God is love. Is love – not was love, nor will be love, oh no, even that future is too slow for me – God is love. Oh, how wonderful! Sometimes, perhaps, my repentance does not come at once, and so there is a future. But, God keeps no person waiting, for God is love. Like spring water which keeps the same temperature summer and winter – so is God’s love. A love that is a spring that never runs dry." ~ Søren Kierkegaard

God is love
We are called to love

But what the heck does that mean?
What is love?

Is love a ‘feeling you feeling when you get a feeling you never felt before”?
That’s hormones

Is love “never having to say you are sorry”?
That’s just stupid

Some have said “love is a verb”
I suspect that is getting closer to the truth…
But still

We tend to think of love in terms of hearts,
And chocolates
Candlelight dinner with a good glass of wine

We blend emotionality with acts that express our passion
And there we are

But that is love as eros, romantic physical love
And we all know that while that is a part of love, it is not love

It specifically is not the totality of love that is God

If we want to know the love that is God (agape)
Then we can look first to the stable
To labor pains, an scratchy straw
To inconvenience
To (as Paul would put it) emptying, a giving up of privilege

We have to look to shepherds
And weird creepy strangers
And openness, risk, and vulnerability

If we want to know the love that is God we have to look to long trips on dusty roads
Mingling with the dregs of society
And ultimately death

Love is not just passion
It is not just feelings of “love” and romantic gestures
It is not just doing nice things for people we like
For people who are like us

It is not all warmth and affection
Joy and peace

Love is seems is hard
Love is changing diapers
Praying over a sick child, while your heart is gripped with fear
It is staying awake, listening for the car to pull into the driveway
It is sitting by a hospital bed, holding the hand of one who is dying
It is cleaning up vomit
Is is being with another in their pain...

It is grief
It is forgiveness
It is reconciliation with one who has harmed you
It is saying yes when you don’t want to,
And saying no when you don’t want to.
It is giving
It is giving, sometimes, more than you can afford

Love is setting aside fear and welcoming the stranger
It is setting aside hate, and looking for the humanity in the person
whose lifestyle, creed, or color is different from your own

Love is vulnerability

Love is difficult and uncomfortable
It is inconvenient

But love is what being a child of God is all about
Love is

Saturday, December 29, 2018

all things break...

“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.”
 L.R. Knost

I am dismayed by the brokenness of the world
It makes my heart hurt
It makes my soul stagger

All the lies
The greed
The hate

All the children, shot, abused, and cage

All the gloating rich
All the struggling poor

I am dismayed too by children’ whose hearts don’t work right
And mothers who fear for them
I am crushed as I hear the stories of young women
Abused, diminished, profoundly wounded by
Mothers, fathers, brothers, step-fathers, significant others

It is all too much Lord
All this sin (for lack of a better word)

And then I remember a baby born
Into poverty
Into oppression
Into a world where babies died
And babies were killed

Into a world of haves and have nots

A world where the people of privilege
Oppressed and minimized those who struggled

I remember a baby
Born in the hay and the dust
Surrounded by losers

God’s statement
It is never over
All things can be mended
All people can be healed

But not with power
Not with wealth

That is the way of the Herods and the Trumps
The way of the Ryans and McConnells
And so many more (Democrat and Republican)


This takes love

Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally given

Love was born at Christmas
Love was the flame that shone in the darkness

So it was
So it is

Only Jesus, when he comes
Is not born in a manger
He is born in the manure and grit of our own hearts

And when he is born
He changes everything

When the sacred wakes up
When our hearts wake up

Things get mended

Is the miracle of Christmas

Friday, December 28, 2018

come as a child

" When
I was a child,
I saw God,
saw angels;
I watched the mysteries
of the higher and lower worlds.

I thought
all men
saw the same.

At last
I realized
that they did not see. "
 Shams -e- Tabrizi

The Sacred came as a child
When he/she decided to take on flesh

To come as a little one
All potential
All wonder

As one who saw through eyes that wondered
And saw the mystery
Embedded in creation
And in each precious soul

Is it no wonder that when we seek the mystery
We are asked to come as a child

Even if we are old and gray
Even if we have come a long hard way**

We are asked to turn to all that is Love
All that is Beauty
All that is
Entering into a state of intimacy
Allowing ourselves to be enfolded into being itself
Like a child is enfolded into its mother’s/father’s arms

And from that place
Look out at the world
With eyes of wonder
With eyes that sees mystery in everything
With a soul that finds joy in everything
With a heart that is open to everyone
With a mind, waiting to be formed by the holy

Let us become all potential
All wonder

Let us participate in the mystery of the child who came
As children who come
This day and every day

May we never “grow up”

**Come as a little child, come with a smile of eagerness.
Greet each new day as a special gift of love,
Even if your old and gray, though you’ve come a long hard way.
Come ready to sing and play and dance, ready to risk and take a chance.

Come with an open mind, come through each door with humbleness.
Treat each new thought as a spark of Holy Light.
Even if you’re satisfied, proud and wise and dignified.
Come ready to open up your eyes – ready to learn and be surprised.

Come with a trusting heart, come face the world with innocence.
Meet everyone as a friend to know and love.
Even if you’re sick and tired, disillusioned, uninspired.
Come ready to follow and explore – ready to lift to your wings and soar.

For of such is the Kingdom, for of such is the Kingdom, come as a child
Avery and 

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The day after the day after the day

“It might seem to you that living in the woods on a riverbank would remove you from the modern world. But not if the river is navigable, as ours is. On pretty weekends in the summer, this riverbank is the very verge of the modern world. It is a seat in the front row, you might say. On those weekends, the river is disquieted from morning to night by people resting from their work.

This resting involves traveling at great speed, first on the road and then on the river. The people are in an emergency to relax. They long for the peace and quiet of the great outdoors. Their eyes are hungry for the scenes of nature. They go very fast in their boats. They stir the river like a spoon in a cup of coffee. They play their radios loud enough to hear above the noise of their motors. They look neither left nor right. They don't slow down for - or maybe even see - an old man in a rowboat raising his lines...

I watch and I wonder and I think. I think of the old slavery, and of the way The Economy has now improved upon it. The new slavery has improved upon the old by giving the new slaves the illusion that they are free. The Economy does not take people's freedom by force, which would be against its principles, for it is very humane. It buys their freedom, pays for it, and then persuades its money back again with shoddy goods and the promise of freedom.”
                                                                        Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow

happy dog roars through the house
prancing, rushing, whining
playing with his new ball
so much urgency
to be on his way

slipping along the road
roaring through the snow
nose down
in an orgy of smells and textures

rushing from one stick to another
one twisted piece of juniper barely tasted
before he is on to the next morsel

“I watch and I wonder and I think”
as I sit here on the 3rd day of Christmas
about the way we roar through life

we plunge into fall, scattering summer before us
as a the trees scatter their leaves
and barely breathing we roll through fall
from Halloween, to Thanksgiving
and into Advent

as season of waiting and reflection
which is sadly lost in the urgency
until some of us finally stagger exhausted into
Christmas Eve Services, where we take as desperate gasp of spirituality
And then return to the chaos of Christmas Day…

But now here we are
The day after the day after the day
And the days of Christmas stretch before us
Pleading with us

Take a moment to find yourself again
And place your feet firmly on the earth
Mountain pose

Stop Breathe Think
Of things mundane and things deep
Stretch wide your hands, your arms your heart
And let the faint rays of winter light
Creep into the crevices
And dark spots
And the lightness of the snow flakes
Life your souls

Stop, Breathe Think
Then journey on gently
Like the Magi
An epiphany awaits

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

On the Second Day of Christmas

This whole Santa Claus thing just doesn't make sense. Why all the secrecy? Why all the mystery?
If the guy exists why doesn't he ever show himself and prove it?
And if he doesn't exist what's the meaning of all this?
I dunno. Isn't this a religious holiday?
Yeah, but actually, I've got the same questions about God.
― Bill Watterson

OK God
We’ve done the whole Christmas thing

Well, actually, we’ve just started the Christmas thing
But still
We’ve been busy

And some of the season has been about You
More than we might think

For each family gathering
Each child returned home
Each “I love you”
Each gathering around a table
Each exchange of gifts

Were really about you

And yet on this second day of Christmas
So much remains the same
The rich still plot and plan
The Liar still lies

Games are played with people’s lives
Children die
Guns are given in celebration of the birth of the prince of peace
Blacks are still targeted

Seriously God
Would it be that hard to make liars accountable for their lies?
To bring down the arrogant
To spread out the wealth
To make the evil pay

Would it be that hard to give everyone healthcare?
To protect little children?
To give mothers strength

Why don’t you just show yourself,
And prove that you are love?

Why all the mystery?
This day of days
I could use a little certainty

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Eve

on this eve of eve’s
when we feel love
and loneliness

when we feel
our failures
and our joys
at their most intense

on this eve of eve’s
we recognize something profound
that we live
in that place

where sacred
and human meet

on that boundary
between the ugly and the sublime

where all that is good and beautiful
collides with all
that is hateful and destructive

on this eve of eve’s
we feel the world tilt
on its axis

and know
in our deepest place
that love

Sorry haters
Sorry those who would aid the rich and hurt the poor
your moments
your delusions
may carry the moment
but in the depth of eternity

love wins


I salute you!
There is nothing I can give you that you have not;
But there is much that, while I cannot give you
Can take

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts  
Find rest in it today
Find heaven

No peace lies in the future
That is not hidden in this present instant
Take peace

The gloom of the world is but a shadow
Behind it, yet within our reach
Is joy
Take joy

And so at this Christmas time I greet you
And with the prayer that for you
Now and forever
The day breaks the
Shadows flee away
Fra Giovanni  (1513) 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

How do we see God?

The bending of the mind by the powers of this world has twisted the gospel of grace into religious bondage and distorted the image of God into an eternal, small-minded bookkeeper.
                                                                                                Brennan Manning

Christmas is coming
And in the theology of merit the baby who comes
Comes to die

To be killed by a god who is an “eternal small-minded bookkeeper”
It is not that the cross and the death are not important

But they are important in the context of Jesus’ whole life

If we believe that God is love
And that God, as the angels said, is “well pleased” with people
Those who carry the diving image

And if God came, to show us who God is
What God is like

Then the whole life of Jesus is important
The birth, into poverty is important
The attendants at the birth, the lost and lowly are important
The normalcy of his family, a carpenter and his wife, from a backwater town, is important
His ministry is important
His teachings are important

His acceptance of all
His compassion
His kindness
His wit
His forgiveness
His ability to heal and restore

All of that is important

His willingness to combat the forces of his day
The legalism
The hate
The greed and the lust for power, is important

His choice to face that hate and violence
With love and forgiveness, is important.

Jesus showed a totally new way of doing life
He showed that it is by giving we receive
That by entering pain, we find joy
That by ceding power we find a new kind of power
That by including and welcoming, rather than by excluding and judging, we honor God
He showed that love is stronger than hate
And that by dying, to self, to ego, to the need for power, to greed, to hate, we live

Yes the cross is important
It was the final act of selfless giving

But Jesus came
Not so much to satisfy a vengeful God
As to reveal a loving One
And to enable us, as Sacred Children
To be conduits of Sacred Love

Jesus came to awake our hearts to Sacred Presence
To activate our divine DNA

Jesus came to make us people
Who do life a different way

People whose lives
As Sister Margaret puts it,
“shout the gospel”

Welcome to Advent

Saturday, December 22, 2018

full of grace

Do not fight to expel the darkness from the chamber of your soul
Open a tiny aperture for the light to enter
And the darkness will disappear
St Porphyrios

I cannot tell you how often I have heard it
In ranch kitchens
In hospital rooms


“I only hope
  I only hope

“That I have lived a good enough life”

Good enough?
For what?
Regard?  Respect?  Worth? Love?

Good enough to be worthy of God’s love?

It seems we cannot escape that hideous belief
That we must earn our place with God
That we can earn our place with God

It is wrong on so many counts
This merit based theology
This dogged belief that drives us into such awful places
Those fearful
Protective places

It shuts down our hearts
And drives us to our minds
It drives us out of our minds

But the truth is this!

We do not need to earn God’s love, its given
A gift
It just is
For me, you, everyone

That person over there who drinks too much
That person struggling with opioids
That person who was born Gay, or Lesbian, or Transgender
That person who lies, who is dishonest
That person who has made mistakes
That aged and fearful one
That young and arrogant one

God’s love is there
It may not always be accepted, or lived out
But it is there

And of course, the idea that we could ever measure up is

Not going to happen!
Oh there are moments
But there are also moments
(you know what I mean)

All we can do
All we need to do
It turn toward the light
Turn toward the One
Turn toward the One who Comes

And welcome

Say it how you will

All we need to do is let the mystery flow to us
Flow into us
(often through the cracks and fissures in our soul)

And chase out the darkness
Chase out those things, that make us
Fearful, and hateful

All we need to do is become
Grace full

And that perhaps, is the easiest, and most difficult task of all

Friday, December 21, 2018

look to your feet

I say that if you want to know who you are, if you are more than academically interested in that particular mystery, you could do a lot worse than look to your feet for an answer…Thus, when you wake up in the morning, called by God to be a self again, if you want to know who you are, watch your feet. Because where your feet take you, that is who you are.
Frederich Beuchner

Children of God
That is who we are


We carry divine DNA
We carry the Sacred with us

Sure, we do it poorly sometimes
Perhaps most of the time
Yes, the image is blurred

There was that one life
In which the Sacred shown through with startling clarity
That one surprising, amazing life
Which started in a manger

Amidst the hay dust
And the fumes of manure

But for the most part we struggle
To be ourselves

And yet each day, we are called
And called, and called again

To be Sacred Children
To live love
To offer compassion
To be generous
To commit random acts of grace

Our feet should carry us
Into the places where light and love are needed

Into the dark places
The dirty places

Into the painful places
The lonely places

Our feet should take us to the poor
The isolated
The hungry
The homeless
And the fearful

Oh yes, we will go other places too
To places where we can be fed, and comforted
(for we have needs too)

To our jobs, our places of worship
Our homes
But even then
Our path should be determined 
By that call

And so each day
We should watch our feet
And let love and light guide them

Into the way of peace (Luke 1, Song of Zechariah)

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Song of Compassion

“Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness.”
 Walter Brueggemann

Perhaps it may be, a Yeats says,
Writing in the turmoil of 1919
Standing in the midst of the muddy and bloody horror of World War I
The looming specter of the Russian Revolution,
and the political turmoil in his own native Ireland.

Perhaps things are spinning aparty
As the world spins
“turning an turning in the widening gyre”

Perhaps indeed
“things fall apart, the centre cannot hold”  (Yeats, Second Coming)

We live in anxious times,
With the rupture of traditional family and societal structures (that’ not all bad)
the loss of collective religious faith,
and erosion of a collective sense of purpose

Perhaps, in the time of Trump,
when we sense that the old rules no longer apply
and there’s nothing to replace them
and all we have left are lies, and hate, greed and brutality

it is true
that “some rough beast… slouches to Bethlehem to be born”

and we are left, watching its ponderous progress
as hate flourishes
and racism explodes
as fear dominates
a cruelty increases

We are left watching as inequity and injustice grow

This is a time of looming darkness
This time of waiting

And yet, we feel the call to resist the growing darkness
The imagery of Advent, the light shining in the darkness
Flickering, but hopefully
Ever growing

“But how!” we cry

And we stand perplex and vulnerable

O Sacred Children
We are not helpless

We have the power of the universe at our command
We have that which can transform

We have love
Not love as a vague romantic notion
But love as sacrifice and expenditure

And love is released first through compassion
It is sparked as we see and feel, the pain of others
As we participate in hunger, and fear
Rejection and exclusion

And then our souls offended, say “enough, no more”
“Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism,
for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously,
that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural
but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness.” (Walter Brueggemann)

How do we celebrate Advent?
How do we seek to prepare for the arrival
Not of the rough beast
But of the child

We shall sing the Sacred song of Hope
The song of compassion
In this strange land (Psalm 137)

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

A little bit of God

“Our human nature has been distorted, . . . I mean, we are actually quite remarkable creatures. In our religions I am created in the image of God. I am a God carrier. It’s fantastic. I have to be growing in godlikeness, in caring for the other. I know that each time I have acted compassionately, I have experienced a joy in me that I find in nothing else.”
                                                                                    Desmond Tutu

It is comforting to believe
When we are tired, and fearful
When we are weak, and doubtful

God carries us

It is comforting to believe that when all seems lost
When evil seems to win
And the wicked flourish

God carries us

But we must also remember
That we carry God

We are the children of God
We carry Sacred DNA
We carry the Spirit, Sacred Presence

And the God we carry
Makes us a little bit like God

We have a little of God’s joy
A little of God’s compassion
A little of God’s insight
A little of God’s forgiveness
A little of God’ generosity

And all God asks
Is that we live out the divine likeness

It’s a good thing
A little bit of God
Goes a long way

Monday, December 17, 2018

feeling the love

to seem impolite,
when the deer ran off she
raised her beautiful
white tail and

the moon
cloaked by comforting clouds
sleeps gently

gently crystalline
drift from heaven

then cling
like eager lovers to the
waiting branches

resting there like those beloved
in a lovers embrace

the deer tip toe
through the gathering white
then startled
dance into the night
as they wave “goodbye”

horses peer
with frost laden whiskers
across the fence
greeting me with eager expectation

and the local skunk
offers her gift
of vague perfume
as she shyly hides among the trees

and Finn the dog, not so shy
madly nose plows looking for
that favorite stick

whatever did I do
to deserve
such a gift
as this?

Ah Sacred
Today I feel the love

Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Hope of God-With-Us

The Hope of God-With-Us does not come as guaranteed outcome,
or predetermined plan, or promise of a happy ending.
Hope cannot be imposed from on high.
Hope cannot be commanded.
The Hope of God-With-Us is courageous, risky, unfolding, indeterminate.
The Hope of God-With-Us is collective, liberating us from deadly complacency.
Hope is gestating in darkness; it comes unexpectedly.
Hope invites our expectation, and demands our participation.
Prepare the way, for hope with courage.
May Hope be birthed among, within, and through us, this Advent.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel…
Rev. Anna Blaedel

The Season of difficult Hope

For even though one has proclaimed the way
Even though one has shown the way

We are confused
And stumble in the dark

We are told God is with us
We are told to fear not
To have hope

We are told that God will make a road through the wilderness
But we cannot even find a pathway

Our lives are full of the indeterminate and the unexpected
It never seems to stop

We are assailed from every side
Another large expense
Words of hate
Harbingers of fear.
Greed, abuse, lies

To have hope seems illogical

Perhaps it is better to say it is courageous

And hope is not received
It is lived

It is does not come down from on high, with angel wings
But emerges from the depths of our bowels
From the dirt and grime, the sweat and tears

It is lived out
Not only in the words we say,
“Prepare the Way of the Lord” (Luke et. al)
But in the lives we live,
“Let us abound in love” (I Thessalonians)

It is birthed each time we become aware
Of the advent of love in our lives
Of the Mystery that lurks in our souls

Of the love that in power incarnates
And ultimately determines who we are
In the face of it all

Friday, December 14, 2018

we wait, we wait

“Whatever it is you're seeking won't come in the form you're expecting.”
                                                             Haruki Murakami

We made a valiant attempt at Thanksgiving
that time when we ate too much,
and perhaps, drank too much
and attempted, for at least one day
to fend off the dark wolves of despair
and remember
that there are things to be thankful for
(and there are)

Today in the lingering dark
I look out the window at an almost colorless day
Following the footprints of some lonely deer
which wandered aimlessly through fresh fallen snow

the scene is both compelling and repelling
the ambiguity of darkness muted by white
softeness and cold harshness blended

and I remember that we are entering
that odd and melancholy season of Advent

I know that in the public marketplace
the true “war on Christmas” shoots forth is volleys
of color and music
with Santa reigning supreme over malls filled with
music and color and imposed good cheer

but in the church it is Advent
a relatively somber time of quiet and thoughtful preparation

we are waiting for…. ?
Ah, that is the question!
What are we waiting for?

Faith says that what we are waiting for has already come!
In the person of that baby, born in poverty, thousands of years ago

We are told this baby changed, and changes everything
Swords into plowshares
Peace, Justice, Love, Joy

But here we are in a world that is full of strife
Bursting with anger and hate, fear, trepidation
And a lot of bone deep sadness

And so we wait
What are we waiting for?
What are we hoping for?
What would it look like if “it” got here?

So we wait,
For we know not what
Yet for something we know, we feel,
deep down at the center of who we are
is there

We wait for something to burst forth into being

We have expectations

But I suspect, that when it comes, it won’t look
Or perhaps even feel, the way we expected

It won’t come through Trump
It wouldn’t have come through any president
It does not come, I suspect, through wealth, or power

It comes, I believe, in unexpected, often unheralded ways)
(as it did the first time)
For all our waiting and preparing
It is in odd and poignant moments
That Sacred Presence advents in our lives

In those all too rare times when we quiet our fears and hates
And open up our hearts
And wake up to the Sacred
In all its surprising and unusual forms

And participate, at least for the moment
In the kingdom

Which has been inaugurated, but not yet fully realized

Just as nature replays, endlessly the seasons
Our soul too participates in an endless cycle
Of waiting, and fulfillment
Celebration and struggle
Success and failure

Returning again and again and again
To that time of reflection and preparation

And we wait

Knowing that somehow,
what we wait for,
all unfolds through us or not at all

through the Advent of The One
into the manger of our heart

Swords into plowshares
Peace, Justice, Love, Joy