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

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Spiritual Arthritis

“… when my anger goes on and on without my learning or changing anything then it is not plain anger anymore.  It has become bitterness instead.  It has become resentment, which a friend of mine calls ‘arthritis of the spirit.’  So there is another motivation for learning how to forgive – not only because we owe it to God but because we owe it to ourselves.  Because resentment deforms us.”
                                                              Barbara Brown Taylor, Gospel Medicine, p 10

I wonder at times
How people get into the places they are in

Where they define others simply by negative stereotype
Where they are so quick to believe the worst?

Where they can disregard the basic humanity of the other
Disregard the fact that the person they so detest
Is a child of God
A carrier of the Sacred?

The judgments flow freely


How can people look at
The person who is
a refugee
struggling with mental illness

and shut down their hearts

and attack
and exclude

It has something to do with resentment
It has to do with being crippled with spiritual arthritis

It is not a new ailment

Perhaps it is even a pre-existing condition

And it goes back to one’s sense
That if one does not have everything one wants
It has to be someone else’s fault
It has to be a matter of injustice

I should have a better job
I should be paid more
Women should like me
Men should adore me
My house should be nice
My car better

I should have all of this

Except for them

It deforms us
It shrinks our hearts and shrivels our souls
It turns us in upon ourselves
It makes us small

What it steals must of all
Is our sense of gratitude
And our sense of generosity

Someone once said that suffering is the gap
Between what we have and what we want (or think we should have)

Resentment is a form of suffering
And God knows, we suffer

The antidotes?
Gratitude and generosity

Gratitude for what we have
There is always a reason for gratitude (at least I believe there is)

I remember once, lamenting the fact
That due to my own errors, my own stuff, I needed to step
Away from a job
In my head I also felt like I was stepping away from my future
From the respect of others

And then my neighbor lost a child to disease
And I was reminded of many small gifts that still remained
My own children, healthy and happy

We need to rediscover gratitude
We need to look for what is good in life
In our lives

Because gratitude leads to generosity
If I am grateful, and see my blessings, I am then freed
To give out my own abundance
(Even if that abundance is a simple as time
Or the ability to lend a helping hand)

I personally don’t want to be deformed
I don’t want to suffer with spiritual arthritis

So I am prescribing myself
Heavy doses of gratitude

Followed by the therapy of generosity

Because I have profound respect
For what resentment can do

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

And so I wait

“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”
                      Friedrich Nietzsche
“I felt very still and empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in
 the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo.”
                      Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
“I accept chaos, I'm not sure whether it accepts me.”
                      Bob Dylan
“I would like to see anyone, prophet, king or God, convince a thousand cats to do the
 same thing at the same time.”
                      Neil Gaiman

Sometimes I am in the eye of the storm
Sometimes I am not

Sometimes, I am gone with the wind
Driven, whirled, tumbled, impelled

Helplessly carried by the urgent
the evolving

they say it is out of chaos
that amazing, wonderful newness comes

but I am not so sure
it feels at times as if I am unraveling
becoming so fragmented that the pieces may never reunite

it is partially all there is to do
sermons to write
a Presbytery to administer
people to visit
classes to teach
curriculums to revise

it is partially the storm within my brain
the fears
the memories of failure

those little bursts of PTSD that leave one sometimes shaken
and sometimes ashamed,
and sometimes hopeless

it is partially a slowing body
and a slowing brain

it is too many things forgotten
too many balls dropped
too many conflicts

too many dreams just out of reach
too many ideas I can simply not implement

I feel like I am herding a million cats
And all the cats
Are facets of myself

And so I strive and strive
And plan and plan
And hope and hope

And I look down searching for the breadcrumbs of God
To lead me forward

But the trail disappears
Into the forest of confusion
as time
and people
and politicians (who might be people but…)
and circumstances
and demands

roll in like fog

and so I stand
and breathe
and wait
and wait

I wait upon the Lord
to renew my strength
to help me soar (on wings like eagles)
run and not grow weary,
to walk and not be faint.

I wait
And hope

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

dealing with trauma

In response to threat and injury, animals, including humans, execute biologically based, non-conscious action patterns that prepare them to meet the threat and defend themselves. The very structure of trauma, including activation, dissociation and freezing are based on the evolution of survival behaviors. When threatened or injured, all animals draw from a "library" of possible responses. We orient, dodge, duck, stiffen, brace, retract, fight, flee, freeze, collapse, etc. All of these coordinated responses are somatically based- they are things that the body does to protect and defend itself. It is when these orienting and defending responses are overwhelmed that we see trauma.

The bodies of traumatized people portray "snapshots" of their unsuccessful attempts to defend themselves in the face of threat and injury. Trauma is a highly activated incomplete biological response to threat, frozen in time. For example, when we prepare to fight or to flee, muscles throughout our entire body are tensed in specific patterns of high energy readiness. When we are unable to complete the appropriate actions, we fail to discharge the tremendous energy generated by our survival preparations. This energy becomes fixed in specific patterns of neuromuscular readiness. The person then stays in a state of acute and then chronic arousal and dysfunction in the central nervous system. Traumatized people are not suffering from a disease in the normal sense of the word- they have become stuck in an aroused state. It is difficult if not impossible to function normally under these circumstances.”
                                                                         Peter A. Levine

“When you have a persistent sense of heartbreak and gutwrench, the physical sensations become intolerable and we will do anything to make those feelings disappear. And that is really the origin of what happens in human pathology. People take drugs to make it disappear, and they cut themselves to make it disappear, and they starve themselves to make it disappear, and they have sex with anyone who comes along to make it disappear and once you have these horrible sensations in your body, you’ll do anything to make it go away.”
                                                                        Bessel A. van der Kolk


The slow intentional destruction of the planet
Dead children
Arrogant leaders
Abused power
Willful ignorance
Entrenched racism

Too much fear
Too much pain
Too much hate
Too much greed
Too much
Too much
Too much

My soul feels the threats
Coming in from everywhere

And all too often it is traumatized

And I want to

I try all the common remedies
I read
I breathe, slowly
I meditate

But still my soul is vigilant
On fire

My entire spiritual system is on alert
Chronically aroused

And I cannot rest

My heart cries out, echoing the Psalmist
Railing against the prevailing evil

I want to believe in Love
In grace
In justice and truth

But then I see “the people
At the top, ….the wicked who have it made,
Who have nothing to worry about,     not a care in the whole wide world.
Pretentious with arrogance, they wear the latest fashions in violence,
Pampered and overfed, decked out in silk bows of silliness.
They jeer, using words to kill they bully their way with words.
They’re full of hot air, loudmouths disturbing the peace.
People actually listen to them—can you believe it?
    Like thirsty puppies, they lap up their words.
What’s going on here? Is God out to lunch?
    Nobody’s tending the store.  (Psalm 73, The Message)

And I am overwhelmed

my soul is tired
frayed at the edges
and my resolve weakens

I want to slip into vindictiveness
And anger
I am tempted to prayer for God’s wrath to descend

I slide to spiritual pathology

And then
I remember

All the stories of deliverance
God with a mighty hand, bringing people out
of slavery

even a slavery of their own making

I remember
How on the night he was betrayed
Jesus took the bread
And took the cup

And said,
I will be with you always

I cannot dodge what is happening
I cannot make it disappear

But awake to Sacred Presence
I can engage it

I can respond to it
A different way

it is no longer a matter of

but of
strength (not my own)
and Love (not my own)

When I am in touch with the Sacred within
I can discharge the tremendous energy of evil

I cannot escape the trauma
But I can heal from it,

And find my way
To hope and peace

(May the peace of God, which passes all understanding
keep our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of our Lord, Jesus Christ)  Phil. 4:7

Monday, October 14, 2019

Grace trumps Karma

“If you send out goodness from yourself, or if you share that which is happy or good within you, it will all come back to you multiplied ten thousand times. In the kingdom of love there is no competition; there is no possessiveness or control. The more love you give away, the more love you will have.”
                               John O'Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

the cycle of cause and effect

we reap what we sow
what goes around, comes around

I hope that karma is real
I fear that karma is real

when I hope karma is real, I’m usually thinking about someone else
hoping they will “get theirs

when I fear that karma is real, I am usually thinking about myself
worried that I will get what I deserve

it is a profound thing
this idea that what we send out returns to us

I have to admit that I doubt it is true
for we see the wicked prosper
we see liars and bullies flourish

some days I can almost taste karma

some days I hope for it

“God treat them as they deserve”

But that is dangerous territory

For if the Sacred treats other people as they deserve
God would have to treat me the way I deserve

and so I move, reluctantly (at times)
from karma to grace

it is not that do not believe
that as the days unfold
our actions, our words, do not follow us

it is not that I fail to believe
that ultimately history bends toward love and justice
(although at times that movement seems to happen soooo slowly)

It is just that I believe
profoundly in grace
in the Sacred offer of love
and new beginnings

in reconciliation and restoration

I know of course
That consequences are consequences
and even when grace is present
we sometimes pay the cost of our actions
and sometimes our words return to haunt is

but still, I believe
that we can change our trajectory
that we can chose a different destination

and that the Sacred offers and empowers this

and so, in this time
when I wish so intensely, that some would reap what they have sown
now and not later

I know
I know

that what I really wish for is grace
what is really want is transformation
an emergence from darkness into light
a recovery for hate and fear

what I really want is God’s surprise
not just an inevitable spiral into chaos and destruction

so here’s to grace
here’s to love

here’s to what God can do
with the worst of people
and the worst of situations


Sunday, October 13, 2019


“As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all - the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.”
                                J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

if you are to believe some politicians
we have a choice

a dire choice

between freedom and socialism

let those people on the left control
we are told

and everything you value will be gone
your wealth
your power
your health care
your freedom to practice your religion (by which they mean the freedom to impose your religion)
your safety
your supremacy
your guns

let those people on the right control and
the earth will die
the “aliens” will over run our beloved country
the poor will suffer
justice will disappear

(I will admit, I am one who aligns toward the left, and have those concerns)

I agree there is a choice to be made
There is always a choice

most religions make that very clear
but it is especially clear in the faith system that claims Jesus

we point to passages in the “older” testament
“Choose this day whom you will serve”

we point to the “newer” testament
“follow me”
(although in the newer testament the suggestion is that it is really a matter of God
choosing us, and us overwhelmed by Love, responding)

But it is true
There is no denying
There are choices to be made

But what are the choices, really?

From my perspective it would seem that the choices are between a socialism, which isn’t really socialism
(it’s a socially focused, meaning common good focused form of government found in the happiest, healthiest and most economically stable countries in the world)

and an authoritarian system which verges on fascism

it is between (from right to left)
essential selfishness and generosity
it is between fear and trust
between exclusion and inclusion
cruelty and kindness
apathy and empathy

it is between guns and children
between ethics and profit

it is between money and people
mostly lies and mostly truthfulness
it is between business and the planet

ultimately it is between
not Jesus
and Jesus
(I know this is strong language, but I feel this strongly)

I am not a fan of dualism
There is more grey than black and white
And most things are both/and rather than either/or
(and we must remember this)

but we have been pushed to this dualism by a radical pluralism
that requires a choice

but perhaps the option is not just which path we choose
perhaps another option, a more important option,
is whether we stay true to the path we have chosen
when we resist that which we cannot embrace

there, options abound
some good, some bad
We can use hate and ridicule
We can exaggerate
And name call

We can minimize and marginalize the “other”

we can listen, be patient, speak calmly
refuse to name call, refused to minimize or bully

we can go the way of hate, fear and enmity
we can overcome evil with good

our choice

Saturday, October 12, 2019

finding treasure

God decided to hide the kingdom of heaven not in any of the extraordinary places that treasure hunters would be sure to check but in the last place that any of us would think to look, namely, in the ordinary circumstances of our everyday lives…. the extraordinary hidden in the ordinary, the kingdom of heaven all mixed in with the humdrum and ho-hum of our days, as easy to find as… a child’s smile when she awakes from sleep, or the first thunderstorm after a long drought – all of them signs of the kingdom of heaven clues to all the holiness hidden in the dullest of our days.  
                                                              Barbara Brown Taylor, Heaven, p.44

we are all at some level treasurer hunters
all seeking for those precious things that make a life

hope, for example
or meaning

or love
or Love (

call them what you will
those are the things that comprise the kingdom of heaven

the reality is
our days are littered with treasure
with Sacred gifts

on a day much like any other day
a day perhaps, not to look forward

a long drive home after a long week
full of meetings and airplane flights, and airports

today treasure abounded
the sunrise oozing through the clouds
a good, hot Americano
the joy of Finn (the dog) when I arrived home
eggs in the chicken coop
a welcome from “the girls” (horses)

to be sure
there were detours along the way

the usual onslaught of horrific news
construction zones
instrusive thoughts
lingering notes of fear, and anger, and regret

not to mention guilt
and perhaps a touch of despair

but still
I could not help but trip over

sunshine on the mountain
the breeze, whispering through the aspens

signs of the kingdom
on the most common of days

Let those who have ears to hear, hear
Let those who have eyes to see, see

Glory be to God for dappled things—
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
       For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
       And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
       With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                     Praise Him.
Gerard Manley Hopkins

Friday, October 11, 2019

drip drip

Going to change the wording a bit from Barbara Brown Taylor’s original
The import is the same, I just changed some adjectives and the tense.
This feels very real right now!!!

[We] want a title wave of a Messiah – someone who would be impossible to miss, who would make a clean sweep of things, who would witness to the omnipotent righteousness of God.  What [we] get instead is a steady drop of mercy from a man named Jesus….  Sometimes [we] would give anything for one fireball from heaven, for one blast of raw power from a tidal wave God who would sweep [our] doubts away forever.  But this is not what [we] have.  What [we] have is a steady drop of mercy from the followers of a man named Jesus who is still playing doctor to a lot of marginal people in this world.”
                                                              Barbara Brown Taylor, Heaven, pp. 12,13

The world today
Hurts me
Scares me
Angers me

What I see seems so evil, so dark
So cruel, so hateful

And frankly I want God to set it all straight
Like right  now


I want that tidal wave
That blast of raw power

But that is not how God works
At all
At all

Jesus is proof positive

The one who walked in the dust
And ate with sinners
And accepted the riff raff
And healed the marginal

Jesus who was God’s grace

Instead I get as steady drip of mercy
Instead I get divine patience
And forgiveness
And faltering fresh starts
And relapses
And more fresh starts
And love

And I touched by that steady drip of mercy

And I am called to be a part of that steady drip

As I listen
As I hurt for others
As I notice the pain
As I seek to respond

As I forgive
And offer fresh starts
And love
And love
And love some more

I think the world needs a raw blast of power
Instead God offers me
And you


Wednesday, October 9, 2019


“… righteousness has never been a matter of following rules but of honoring relationships, with aliens as well as kin, with enemies as well as allies.”
                                         Barbara Brown Taylor, The Seeds of Heaven, p. 7

What does it mean to honor relationships in these days
What does it mean for conservatives to honor those they could so easily demean and call a “snowflake”?

What does it mean for liberals to honor those conservative people 
they are tempted to call ignorant, or foolish?

What does it mean for a person to honor the humanity of a ragged family on the border
even if one believes they have not followed the “rules”?

How does a person honor another person when that person’s sexual orientation seems to violate their concept of what is acceptable to God?

For me, how do I honor people who believe that the current political reality is good and Godly, when I believe it is not good and far from Godly?

So many things can get in the way of our ability to honor
the person in front of us

social status
educational level
sexual orientation

there are so many things that are barriers
so many things that twist and turn our perceptions

making connection tenuous
and difficult

and then we add in “the rules”

the things we think it important to do
or not do

those strange proscriptions and prescriptions
that define how we live

We think those rules should define how we honor our neighbors
And perhaps define who our neighbors are

But in reality our honor of neighbor should in some ways
Define how we interact with “the rules”

It is love, and respect
Our deep appreciation for the Sacred presence in all that should
Shape our worship (You shall worship)
Shape our words
Shape our behaviors

Think how often in our attempts to honor God
We diminish and demean other people

The rules may only make sense
Will only make sense
And will only work

If we honor others
If we see them, and treat them
As children of God
Precious souls

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Thoughts while wandering in the South

In the heartland
the not so south south
where bourbon and racehorses reign

it is a sultry even for a walk down to the “mothership”
the headquarters of the PCUSA (Presbyterian Church)

the sidewalks are littered with renta-scooters
and littered with people

we have name for them
these people with a hand out
and a story

but honestly
the names don’t fit
they are demeaning
and deny the humanity of these precious souls

children of God
children of God
children of God

she has a story
as tears stream down her check
about too many people wandnering in an out of where she lives
and having her hair cut as she sleeps
of asking a nurse in the ER to hold her “stuff”
why she goes out for smoke
only to find it gone on her return

“I can’t get across the bridge”
“I don’t know what is going on”

He is fresh out of the penitentiary
Tall and cheerful
Riding a scooter he would love whatever I can give

He is white, with scraggly hair
“Hey boyo, how about some helping”

They are everywhere

And I am just a country boy
Fresh off the plane

Perhaps it was the gospel lesson for this week
“take up your cross”

Perhaps it was my pontificating to the congregation I serve
Let your “me” become “we”

But I empty my wallet
A dollar here, five there

Until it is gone

The stories ring true
Don’t ring true
They are cogent and scattered
Logical and fanciful

It doesn’t matter

These are people
and one cannot look them in the eye
and listen
and leave

do it to the least of these
Jesus said

Perhaps it is fitting that the national church
Sit on the edge of a river
(think waters of baptism
 Spring of living water)

Perhaps it is more fitting that
It squats amidst this sea of people

Hurting, numb
Alone, not alone
Truthful, not truthful
Black, white


Children of God

When we do it to the least
We do it to Jesus

Did I get “taken”
Do I care?
Absolutely not

Monday, October 7, 2019

a new thing

“I want to feel all there is to feel, he thought. Let me feel tired, now, let me feel tired. I mustn't forget, I'm alive, I know I'm alive, I mustn't forget it tonight or tomorrow or the day after that.”
                                         Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

There are days
When I feel only partly alive

Things pile up
Things go wrong
There are no wins

And pretty soon you are going through the motions
You keep getting out of bed
Keep getting dressed
You eat and go to work
And come home, and walk the dog

But this profound state of ennui prevales

Its like those summer mornings
When the smoke of distant fires
Wafts in on a gentle breeze

And the mountain is there
But just barely
Vague and unsubstantial behind the haze

Looming but gloomy
Not quite itself

Such days are difficult
You mind is the only part of you that seems energized
But in such moments?
It is not your friends

Instead it bullies you

read my mind
and horrible things are going through it

things that honor the Sacred
things (retributive angry things) that don't

Just know
I see this world
I feel this world
I am impacted by this world
I preach to this world

and sometimes I have hope
and sometimes I don't

but I am alive

and I carry within the
in that central core where I am shaped and defined

I am a carrier of the Sacred
A Sacred child

And when I can remember that
Touch that
Experience that

I am renewed

And God can do God’s “new thing”  (Isaiah 43)

This is what the Lord says—
    he who made a way through the sea,
    a path through the mighty waters,
17 who drew out the chariots and horses,
    the army and reinforcements together,
and they lay there, never to rise again,
    extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
18 “Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Bully Brain

“Shut up, she tells her monkey mind. Please shut up, you picker of nits, presser of bruises, counter of losses, fearer of failures, collector of grievances future and past.”
                                                              Leni Zumas, Red Clocks

It is play time in the jungle
Thoughts are bouncing around in my head like
Monkeys on crack

Its rumination time!

There are so many imponderables these days

The population with the highest gun ownership in America is evangelical Christians
Why is that?
Jesus said “pick up your cross and follow me”,
Not “pick up your gun and follow me”  (definitely not)

Why do so many evangelical choose to support acts of cruelty toward immigrants?
Does not the Bible say “welcome the stranger”

Why is it deemed acceptable for mega-church pastors to
own mansions and multiple jets?
Didn’t Jesus say “sell all you have and follow me?”

Why is lying and bullying now an accepted form of leadership?

Why don’t people understand that for profit medicine is evil
and we need universal health care?

Why do so many still “buy” trickle down economics?

Why did my hair turn into on giant cowlick when it turned white?

Why did my chest slip down to my belly when I hit 65?

Why can’t I do a better job of dealing with my persistent sense of failure.

Why do I find it so hard to connect with people (I do fine with cats and dogs)

Why aren’t there more hours in a day?

Why don’t I learn to say no?

I ruminate about a lot of things
My failures
My fears

I worry about whether I am doing a good job
About whether people like
About whether it matters to my children that I exist
About whether I’ve helped anyone

What I have come to realise, if I step away from my brain
and observe

is that most of the noise come from my ego
that part of me that wants power
and wealth
and respect (or better yet admiration)

that part never stops talking
that part is never satisfied

And I realize too, that much of what I don’t understand about others
About why they think, and talk, and act the way they do,
is probably all tied up in their ego to
and their hungry ghosts
and their fears

so much of our suffering comes simply
for the “me” perspective

and so much could be resolved
let go

if we started from a different place
if we started from an awareness that we are soaked with God
that we are loved, and empowered
and accepted and forgiven

and that we have what we need

rather than starting from that empty gnawing place of need?

Why do I need to say “yes” and volunteer for one more thing?
Why does that person need to carry an AR-15 into a fast food joint

Perhaps the driving force behind the two is not that far apart
After all

So here is to being in the moment
To noticing the Sacred with in

And here is to doing (and being) what I care about

Thursday, October 3, 2019

help my unbelief

“We cannot wait for the world to turn, for times to change that we might change with them, for the revolution to come and carry us around in its new course. We are the future. We are the revolution.”
                                                    Beatrice Bruteau

My heart shall sing of the day you bring. Let the
fires of your justice burn. Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
and the world is about to turn!
                                                   Canticle of the Turning

In the darkness of a new day
as the sun slowly oozes into a smoke filled sky
and an early heat gives lie
to the coming fall

I sit hesitant
I recall the words of Maya Angelou

“This is a wonderful day,
  I’ve never seen this one before”

And as the gray evolves into red and orange
And the colors of the mountain

I do not want to lose this momentary hope
I do not want to go onto the internet
or turn on my phone

and let the world into this space

I know the world is out there
with its violence and hate
with its greed and lies

I know that there are people in power
Who lie awake at night plotting evil
Who are committed to a destructive course
and will not turn from wrong (Psalm 35)

but for this moment
I want to rest in the creative power of the Sacred
I want to believe in the fact that it is a God soaked world
That people, all people carrying within them divine DNA
The likeness of love

I want to believe that this Love
Incarnate in Jesus
Binds us together
And moves us forward

I want to believe the divine manifests
“through the natural, physical, and human world” (Rohr, Stoner, Swanson)

I want to believe in “radical optimism” (Beatrice Bruteau)
I want to believe the words of the old hymn

“God is working His purpose out as year succeeds to year;
God is working his purpose out, and the time is drawing near;
Nearer and nearer draws the time, the time that shall surely be,
When the earth shall be filled With the glory of God
As the waters cover the sea”

But it is hard to believe, in these times
In Sacred Evolution
In the idea that God is moving us forward to a new place

Some believe this new world can only come through destruction and chaos
And so they cheer these days

I believe this new world comes through death
But through our dying to greed
And hate
And racism
And fear

Through our dying to self
So that we can embrace that common center
we all share
that bond, that divine heritage

and thus see the value in all creation
all living things
and above all, all people

and live accordingly
loving in the Kingdom

I do believe
Lord help my unbelief

Help me be the revolution

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Participating in selfishness

“Mindfulness must be engaged… Once we see that something needs to be done, we must take action. Seeing and action go together. Otherwise, what is the point in seeing?  Nonviolent action arises from the compassion, lucidity and understanding you have within”   Thich Nhat Hanh

“We have the wrong perception that we are separate from the other,” he said. “So in a way Trump is a product of a certain way of being in this world so it is very easy to have him as a scapegoat. But if we look closely, we have elements of Trump in us and it is helpful to have time to reflect on that.”  Phap Dung (Buddhist Monk)

“Trump’s grand and vulgar self-absorption is inviting all of us to examine our own selfishness. His ignorance calls us to attend to our own blind spots. The fears that he stokes and the isolation he promotes goad us to be braver, more generous.” 
          James Gordon (American physician, Mindy Body Medicine)

I lost it last night
Truly lost it

I had been stunned previously, by the Trump administration sleathly implementing a draconian expulsion policy which would force severely ill children,
not immigrants, but children invited by our hospitals to participate in critical medical research on rare diseases, to leave our country within “33 days”.

It was one of those moments when evil hit me square in the chest
This policy was, and is, incomprehensible from any perspective other than racism and intentional cruelty

Then came the news that the outrage created by this policy had caused the administration to “back off”

Then came the news that in reality, although they administration
n was pretending to reverse this policy, their actually “reversal” was not a reversal at all.  It only applied to some, and did not reverse the possible expulsion, such allow the families to appeal expulsion (no guarantees)

Which then reminded me that although ordered by the court to stop separating children from parents, and in spite of saying that they would do so, this administration is still separating children from their parents

So I lost it

I became consumed with anger

And then providence put an amazing article in front of me

This article had two lessons
The first lesson was this

Or to put it another way, don’t become the evil you resist

Don’t let angry, fearful, hateful, people make you
Angry and hateful and fearful

If you want to resist, take care of yourself
Use mindfulness (and prayer)
Go inside, find that Sacred part of yourself
Let it grow
Nurture it
Let the Spirit move

And then from a place of peace
Move out, and into action

As Thich Nhat Hanh suggests, we must let our responses emerge from
“the compassion, lucidity and understanding you have within”

Or as Paul would put it, “let yourself be transformed by the renewing of your minds,
then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12)

But there was another lesson as well
Don’t just take care of yourself
Be honest about yourself

As you confront those things, those people
who roil your soil


It is easy for me to pretend Trump and I have nothing in common
That Stephen Miller is an anomaly

I can make them scapegoats, and I can separate myself from them

But I can’t

“if we look closely, we have elements of Trump in us and it is helpful to have time to reflect on that.”  Phap Dung (Buddhist Monk)

“Trump’s grand and vulgar self-absorption is inviting all of us to examine our own selfishness. His ignorance calls us to attend to our own blind spots. The fears that he stokes and the isolation he promotes goad us to be braver, more generous.” 
          James Gordon (American physician)

If I am honest these people, and people like them, draw out of my soul
the same things that appall me.

I can deny that, and become what I resist
Or I can be aware of that, and use it (hopefully)
As an opportunity to grow.

The gift (and curse) of interdependence means
As Phap Dung suggested

“that people we perceive as our greatest enemies can be our greatest teachers, because they show aspects of ourselves that we find unpalatable and give us the chance to heal.”

So here is to taking care of ourselves
To Meditating
Walking the dog
Singing hymns (and other songs… how about some 60’s rock and roll)

Here is to nurturing our connection to our Sacred DNA so that
we are working from that place of peace and compassion

And here is to connecting to our share culpability
Here is to nurturing our awareness of our own blind spots
So we can be “goaded to be braver and more generous”

and not just replicate the anger, fear and hate
that is being dredged up from within us

This brings me full circle to the words
which Martiin Luther King Jr spoke so many years ago

words to which I give lip service,
but find it very hard to live

“I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems.  I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love; I’m talking about a strong, demanding love. For I have seen too much hate. ... I have decided to love.”

Monday, September 30, 2019

on being "lite"

The Lite Church
Home of the 15-minute sermon
The 45-minute service
And the 7.5% tithe
We have only 8 commandments, your choice
Sugar free grape juice and gluten free bread
Everything you’ve wanted in a church, and less
                     Source unknown – a cartoon many years ago

Sometimes Jesus really makes it tough
I mean seriously!?

Just when we think we have this whole Jesus thing figured out
Just when we are getting comfortable


We run across something that blows our socks off
And maybe a few other undergarments as well

“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple… So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions”

There is no ducking that passage
Following Jesus is tough work
It demands a radical letting go
A radical allegiance
A radical cost

And, Jesus tells us, we must “count the cost”

We cannot avoid it, or pretend it is not there
Or we will be like a real estate mogul who gets in over his head
And goes bankrupt
And cannot finish the job

The trick is this
Knowing which cost we are avoiding?

The fact is, we all are masters of avoidance
We just pick different things to avoid
And different things to cling to

It’s a “twofer”
We avoid avoiding by patting ourselves on the back
For the things we fuse with

So one person might hold on, for dear life
to the idea of inerrant literalism,
and thus assume “they” are the ones who are true believers
while at the same time refusing to marry a couple of mixed race

Another person might fuse, hold on for dear life
to what they see as a “pro-life” stance,
but then turn a blind eye to caged children,
or children being gunned down in schools…
and totally miss the incongruity

Yet another person might be ready to side
with every oppressed person in the world,
the poor person,
the person of color
the immigrant,
but will then judge and ridicule those who struggle
with those issues

we can argue whether all “sins of omission are equal”
but my point is simply this

what Jesus calls us to do is to figure out what it is
we are fused with?
what is it we cannot let go?

our own sense of righteousness?
our wealth?
our guns?
our racism?
our hate?
our anger?
our literalism?
our political ideologies (when they don’t match the teachings of Jesus)?

I have things I need to let go of
Anger (right now) is one,
So is my tendency to judge
So is my fear

I have things that cause me to treat others
Talk about others
Think about others
Feel about others

In ways that are not “Jesus”

What about you?