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

Thursday, January 31, 2019

the curiosity of compassion

Ask about your enemy’s wounds and scars
Seek his hidden cause of trouble
Feed your enemy’s children
Learn their word for home

Repair their well.
Learn their sorrow’s history.
Trace their lineage of good.
Ask them for a song.

Make tea.  Break bread
                        Kim Stafford

We have lost a jewel of great value
It slipped away somehow
While we were not looking

While our fingers threw,
Tweets like stones,
And we raged with righteousness,
It fell from our hearts and was gone

The curiosity of compassion

We listen and look
We react and respond

But we do not ask

Questions are the tools of empathy and understanding

Where did it come from, that hate that spews?
What was the genesis of that unfathomable thought?
Who, or what, wounded this one so badly?

What is this person’s story?
Who is this person?
Who is so much more than what I see or hear?

Understanding is not acquiescence
But it creates sacred space
In which connection and healing happen

That space in which that raging fool,
Is transformed into a deeply wounded person
Where anger is metamorphosed into pain

That space in which I gain access once again to my own heart
And can meet the other
As a fellow human being

With the curiosity of compassion
My eyes and heart are opened to the wonder and complexity
Of the precious soul in front of me
And to the wonder and complexity of my own soul

It should be no surprise that we have more stories of Jesus
Than stories of Jesus

I can think of very few times when I have “argued” my way into reconciliation
But I can think of many times
When over a meal
Or over a task (those who paint church basements together, come together)

Communion has been born

We live in a world full of shouting,

maybe it’s time to stop
and listen
and understand

tea anyone?

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

the myth of merit

“You often say; I would give, but only to the deserving, The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.  Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and nights is worthy of all else from you. And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream. See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving.  For in truth it is life that gives unto life-while you, who deem yourself a giver, is but a witness.”                            Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

 “Easter is never deserved.”
 Jan Karon, Home to Holly Springs

It is an endless dance
when early a’morn
the hay finds its way to those

three lovely ladies
who hoofs prancing
and breath exploding in the cold

dance endlessly around the piles
settling in for the snuffling and the chomping

they know who is oldest and most venerable
and there is respect there
but no exclusion

all find a place
and one some fine days
as two piles lay somewhat neglect
the three
noses together
munch happily together

I do not think a single one
Sadie, Tiger Lilly or Sadie
Have a since though about merit

I deserved this
You don’t
I gotten ridden yesterday
You didn’t


There is enough
They share

Any illusion that there is not is enough to share
Is merely an illusion

What is it about us humans

Who can watch the homeless and hungry
Dance around our “enough”
And say “I earned this, its mine, you can’t have any?”

What is it about us humans
That we are so worried about whether someone deserves
Food, or housing, or health, or love?

How can we pour so much passion into a zygote
And have disdain for the mother
And ignore the breathing living child
And the struggling youth in transition
And the lonely and ill adult?

We are so weird!

How can we not see each person
As a miracle
How can we not see each person as a child of God
How can we not see each person as one who carries divine DNA?
How can we not see
Jesus in the face of each person we meet?

Even that face we most disdain
(that is where it gets really hard… to see the face of Jesus
 in certain pink rimmed eyes)

It is never a matter of whether a person “deserves” grace
Or love, or food, or housing
“Easter is not deserved”

It is a matter of remember what we have been given
And giving to others (yes, there are limits, and boundaries can be good)
Until they remember
That they are worthy of the gift

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Deal with it

God loves you, and there is nothing you can do about that!
David Mangan

A Theology of Merit

I see it every day
I see it in so many ways

We have decided, somewhere, somehow
That some people are worthy
And some people are not

Worthiness is defined in so many ways
Sexual orientation
Mental health

The list goes on and on and on and on and on.

And we just quickly and harshly
That person deserves care, or love, or forgiveness
Or they do not

That person is worth allowing in our country
Or not

That person is worthy giving help,
Or not

That person is worth respecting
Or not

It is amazing to me how insidious the process is
By which we choose whether to value another person or not

They support Trump!   Not valued
The are a libtard who doesn’t support Trump
Not valued

They are black, brown
Poor, ill
Non English speaking


It is almost a national pastime to decide who we believe should get health care
Or food stamps
Or be accepted within our borders

But is the discussion really about worth?
Or is it a discussion about fear, and greed, and other weighty things

I don’t want that brown person to get help
Because they are “undeserving” and keep some “deserving” white person from getting what they should get (it is doubtful that one person getting help precludes another needy person from getting what they want, but that is how the thinking goes)

Undeserving perhaps, really means different
And fairness is racism and elitism, and dominionism in disguise.

We play this game at so many levels
There are white collar versions.  I deserve that promotion, she doesn’t
I deserve what I earn, because I am smart and powerful and its might right
But those people at McDonalds don’t deserve a living wage

It is pervasive
And destructive

And Jesus saw it
So many people who are spiritual awake have seen it

It’s not just wrong
It’s deadly
It’s ugly
And it is anti- Jesus

Even though we try to dress it in the clothing of religion
Right now the least Christian part of the American populace is the Christian right!

Really, I mean it!

Jesus was not ambiguous.   (Luke 14:21) 
“So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.”    (Luke 13:29)  “And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.”

The table of grace is open for business
All are welcome

There is no theology of merit
Grace alone

Monday, January 28, 2019

Our shared humanity

Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded
It’s a relationship between equals
Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others.
Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity
                                                            Rene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

If you want to help people you cannot stand above them
You cannot be separate from them
You have to be with them
In extremely profound ways

This is a truth as old as the scriptures

Remember that baby in a manger?
Remember “God WITH us?”

And Every time I read the story about the Baptism of Jesus
One thing always strikes me

Jesus does not stand on the bank
Cheering the sinners on, as they slosh into the muddy waters of the Jordan
To be baptized by his cousin John

No, he sloshes down into the river with them

Which merely confirmed that God understood what we too should understand
You cannot be a force for healing, if you do not some how
Identify with
And join with
Those you wish to help

Or should I say serve

God had a history, even before Jesus
Of tenting with the people
Wandering with them in the wilderness
In their midst
Camping with them

This is not a easy thing

The bible says that in order to do it we have to “empty” ourselves
Who the heck wants to do that!

Empty ourselves of pride, comfort, power
If I want to work with that person with addiction
I have to face and acknowledge my own addictions

If I want to work with that person who is caught up in poverty
I have to step down from my own affluence and privilege

This does not have to mean I give away my affluence, although I suspect that would help
But at the very least it means I have to go into the homes of poverty
And “tent” there, be there
And be there comfortably, happily, humbly

Mostly humbly, grateful for the hospitality
Received, but probably not totally deserved

This is perhaps why compassion is so hard
And why condescension is so easy

It is hard to enter into the pain
The want
The lack of control
The fear
The hopelessness

It is easier to stand on the bank and,
Our own clothes clean and dry, reach out and hand

“here ‘little one’, let me help”

I am fortunate
I have really screwed up at times in my life
I have lost a job, and deserved to lose it
I have gone from being a shooting star to being a falling star
I have had to leave most everything behind, and start all over again
I have been “relieved” of a job in way that was fundamentally unfair

I have lived on donated food

No, I am not there now
But I have been there

I have struggled with an impulsive personality
And I have done things I regret, deeply

And even though, right now, for this moment
I am in a good space, and have nothing to hide

I remember
And I can connect
I can understand, at least to a degree

Because of my own moments of darkness
I can stand in the dark with others

That is why I always have loved President Carter
Who admitted that he sometimes “lusted in his heart”
Bravo Jimmy!

And now look at him
Still married
Still serving
Getting sawdust in his hair

Building the right kinds of walls
Walls to embrace and comfort
Not walls to exclude and punish

I understand
That when I am truly useful
It is when I am with others as just another sinner
Just another person in pain
Just another anxious soul

That I am a healer
Not when I am the one with answers
Not when I am the one who is strong, or brilliant
Or even… good

I am a healer when I am just present
Holding hands with another
As we stumble through the dark

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Prophet or Pastor

“All men are Prophets or else God does not exist.”
― Jean-Paul Sartre

It is tough to be a pastor these day

It doesn’t help that
I never wanted to be a minister
I’ve always gotten a little itch when I am  that role

Like I am slightly allergic to the task

One should only be a pastor if they have not choice
Really I mean it.

I don’t often see myself as a pastor
In my minds eye I just don’t fit the mold
Too impulsive, rebellious, outspoken, sexual, impulsive, needy, crazy (yes really) undisciplined
Not to mention slightly addictive

Don’t put a bag of chips near me, It will not survive.
I will eat it all, all six helpings!

I have no shame

But beyond all that, it is difficult being pastor
Because if keep getting pulled into the role of being a prophet

It would be nice to just pastor.
To visit, to comfort, to tell people nice uplifting things
To leave the comfortable, comfortable

It would be nice to just listen
And love

But sadly I cannot just relax into the sacred

I see so much wrong
I see the multitude of ways we oppress and repress
I see the hate and the greed
I see us ignoring the priorities of Jesus
I see us calling good evil and evil good (gaslighting)

I wander through the prophets and look at the beatitudes and I know
I know
We are so far off

And I feel driven to speak up
And speak out
And challenge
And question

And I wonder sometimes
Can I be both pastor and prophet

Can I offer comfort for the hurting
Support for the confused

Can I lift people up when I suspect
They (and I) needs so badly to be challenged
And perhaps
Even rebuked

I suspect I am more prophet than pastor
But I want to be more pastor than prophet

I make my resolutions
To keep quiet about touchy subjects
I promise myself I won’t challenge

But I cannot be quiet
I seem driven
I hope it is God
I fear it is not

I want to be a catalyst for change
I want people to like me
I want the church to grow
I want the church to be true

But if I speak what I see to be the truth?

If I really dwell on the touchy stuff
I see things in people I don’t want to see

Lord, I want to be liked
I want to make people feel good
I want to hear “good sermon”
I want so much

What do you want!?
Ah you want me to be true to the gospel
To preach it as you bring it to me

Left foot, right foot,
Left foot breathe

What if they don’t like me
What if it makes my church smaller


Oh Sacred one, forgive me if I’m wrong
Its always an option

But always lead me onward
Filling my heart, my mind with you
Filing my mouth with words that do what they must do

Challenge or uplift
Express love
Offer hope

Help me be what you need me to be

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Myopia is dangerous

This is an blog that has been lurking in my head for many a day
Perhaps many a week
Perhaps years

I was watching the dog the other, as he very single mindedly
“chased the ball”

I can almost guarantee you there was nothing else in his brain
But that ball

Ball, ball, ball

Is suspect that is rarely more than one thing in his mind at one time
Ball, cat (he likes to play with is buddies)
Food, nap
Scratch, lick

It’s a simple life

This day he saw nothing but the ball
And so in a huge rush he not only ran over a cat
But he forgot about the ice, and went spinning into a rock wall


Didn’t phase him a bit
The ball was all that counted
Not cat, not the wall, just the ball

What I have been thinking about is people who are “one issue people”
So focused on one issues, or worse on one facet of an issues
That they lose sight of everything else.
And who,

Losing sight of other concerns, and in too many cases, other people
Actually become people who, while trying to do good
End up doing real harm

Let start with a ‘safe’ issue, the economy
For many in America the most important issue around is the economy

Specifically they what an economy that generates profits
And so they are willing to give all kinds of breaks to those they see as driving the economy, the very rich and the very powerful

They are so fixated on the economy, and on the GDP, profits, and the Stockmarket that good and evil are defined by the numbers.

But there are some very important things that can get lost in the rush for profit


There are big moral/ ethical questions attached to the economy

Is it OK to create an economic engine that produce huge profits if you under pay your workers, forcing them on public assistance? Is it OK to produce large profits if only a few benefit, creating ever increasing economic inequity? Is it OK to abuse the earth, and destroy the environment, dooming future generations to misery, and possible death?

Or there is the issue of security.  Sure we all want to be secure.  But at what cost?  At the cost of being kind?  Inclusive?  Generous.  If all you think of is security you might love a border wall.  Without thinking about the impact on other people.  The people on the border whose lives will be disrupted.  The land and animals harmed.  The people who won’t get social services because the money has gone to a wall.  The immigrants who have legitimate reasons to flee, who will end up lined up behind the wall, because our intake process is such a mess.  You might think it’s OK to hold the lives of 800,000 public servants (yes, I said servants) and their wellbeing of their families for that wall, but I don’t. One issue illness.

What about guns? (we are getting in to even touchier territory here)  I get guns.  I grew up with them.  I have some.  I used to hunt with my dad.  But it seems to me that people can get too fixated on guns.

So fixated that there is no awareness of any other issue than the issue of whether their access to guns, any kind of gun, might have a few limits placed on them. 

So they insist on no controls.  Without thinking of all the children gunned down in schools.  Or the spouses killed by angry husband and wives.  Or the depressed people who have shot themselves.  And the children shot by accident at home.  They forget all the adults, shot down in places like Orlando, and Los Vegas, simply because????  In one case simply because they were there.  In the other because someone was full of hate

If a person is not a one issue person, perhaps that person can also powerfully moved by the deaths of children, or abused women, or policemen.  By unnecessary deaths, some of which could be prevented if some guns were illegal, and there were fewer guns in fewer places.

Some places will always have, and need guns.  Ranches, for example. 
And that’s OK.  But if the focus can move from that one, blinding issue, perhaps reasonable controls can emerge.

Now let’s get to the big one.  Abortion.  I hate abortion.  But I also really, really struggle with right to life extremists.  Not because I disagree with their goal of trying have fewer abortions, but because they do so much harm when denying everyone an abortion is their only concern.

They forget the pain, the trials, the limitations of those who are struggle with a dangerous or unwanted pregnancy.  They never think that it might, for this person, be the lesser of two evils.  For them it is all about what they would do. The other person doesn’t count.  They are willing to trade one life maybe many others lives, for the one life that has not even drawn breath. 

These same people, who seem really to be pro-fetus, not pro-life, are willing to vote into power people who say they are anti-abortion, but are truly anti- children, anti-mothers, and anti-life.

You can’t say you are pro-life if you fearfully demand a huge military and aggressive action.  You can’t say that if you are willing to support people who cut important safety net programs for the poor, such as Medicaid and SNAP, and Medicare.  You can’t say you are pro-life if the people you have put into power people who cut funding for housing, and education.  And refuse to provide good birth control programs.  And support the proliferation of guns (which kill children)

There are many, many ways to kill women and children, even if some of them do it slowly. 

It works the other way as well
Those who are more liberal have their own sacred cows, their own ways to be harmful.  And sometimes the behavior of the far left makes me cringe.

Liberals can be greedy too
They can seek power at any cost
They are willing to ignore the feelings, the beliefs of others
And they are willing to push their agenda to the detriment of others

And I am right in the mix… more toward the middle
But I still have my blind spots
Where my issues blind me to others
Blind me to fairness, to generosity, to kindness

I go roaring over the cat
I hit that wall

Then maybe, maybe I wake

I have no great solution
Only a plea.
Please don’t become so blind because of your blind preoccupations with certain issues, that you lose sight of the complexities
Loose sight of other people
Lose sight of fairness, generosity
And love

We all have so much work to do, to create healing
In our world

Friday, January 25, 2019


I find

Such is
the nature
my madness.
Fahad Faruqi

It seems to be an immutable rule of the universe
That what is in our hearts oozes out
Leaving a faint trail
As we wander through our day

The wise have warned us
“by your fruits they will know you” (Jesus)
“wherever you go there you are” (Jon Kabat-Zinn)
‘for out of the heart comes evil….” (Jesus)
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time”  (Maya Angelou)

it does not matter
how careful we are
or how hard we try to hide

the truth, as they say, will “out”

who we are will leak into the space around us
and shape that space
for good or for ill

Some have said that if we want to know who, or what
We really are, we should look to ourselves

How we think and speak about others?
How we treat those who have less than we do?
How we behave when no one is looking?
How we deal with mistakes and failures?
How we behave when we are upset?

All true

But I suspect that what most reveals who and what we are
is the atmosphere we create around us
the impact we have on those who cross our paths

what do we elicit?

do we bring out the best in others, or the worst?
do we cause people to be more open, or more protective?
do we elicit kindness, or cruelty?
Inclusion, or exclusion?
Love or hate?

As we stumble through life, what lingers behind us?
A sweet smelling aroma of love, and kindness?
Or something else?

Someone once wrote, “joy is contagious, catch it!”
So is forgiveness, and peace, and love

What are people catching from us?
What are they catching from me?

It all depends, I do believe
On what we carry in our souls,
On what is in our hearts

If we want a better world
If we want a better life
It is not matter of changing the world around us
It is not a matter of changing the people around us

It is a matter of letting the sacred permeate
And change
The world within in us


“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
 Martin Luther King Jr.

“Jesus does not call us to do what he did, but to be as he was, permeated with love. Then the doing of what he did and said becomes the natural expression of who we are in him.”
            Dallas Willard

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Your choice

“At any moment, you have a choice, that either leads you closer to your spirit or further away from it.”
― Thích Nht Hnh

today I will have many choices
I can choose whatever I want

I can pick my path

Those are there if I want them

Those too

I will make thousands of choices this day
And there will be no small choices

Each one will shape my mind,
my body (no I don’t need that extra bit of sugar)
my soul

each choice  I make will
determine all the choices to come
they will define my path

may I choose
to be awake
to the Sacred woven into my being

for that awareness
that I am sacred ground

choice one
breathe deeply
choice two
pet the cat
choice three
walk the dog

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Dry souls

For what is life but reaching for an answer?
And what is death but a refusal to grow
                                    Mary Oliver, “Magellan”
New and Selected Poem Vol 1 p238

God is a God of new things
Always, always, things are changing, growing emerging
New pathways
New understandings
New directions
New rules

It’s the way God rolls

Out of God’s imagination the world was born
The expression of all things Sacred
Something new, amazing, creative

And the world is constantly being reborn
And is constantly being reborn
As are we

Each moment the Sacred offers us something new

All we have to do is say yes
As Abraham said “yes”
And Moses
And Samuel, Saul, David

As the disciples said “yes’
Yes to what is new, and emerging

But we cannot grab hold of the new
While hanging desperately on to the old

It is fear, perhaps that keeps us fused to the comfortable
To those old patterns of seeing and believing

It is that deep desire we have for safety
For comfort, that stops our questioning
And stops our questing
That closes us off
From God’s new thing

But God is not safe
And neither is God’s way
And our refusal to let God take us to new places
Our refusal to ask the tough questions

Is surely a kind of death
We hide behind formulas and platitudes

And slowly die to growth
Die to openness
Die to generosity, and acceptance

But above all we die to love

We die to the ability to see the other with God’s eyes
To feel for others with God’s heart
To find in them Sacred Presence

We lose the ability to sit with others
In their pain
And in their questions

We spout judgements and answers
Formulas and certitudes

And in the end
Our souls
Wither and dry up

So lets hear it for the questions
And the uncertainties
Let’s celebrate what we don’t know
And the fact that our God is simply to big
To be put in a box

And walk that unknown path
With our partially known God

Always seeking
Always growing

Tuesday, January 22, 2019


“According to the Talmud, every blade of grass has its own angel bending over it, whispering, “Grow, grow.”
― Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith

Angels watching over me O Lord
Angels watching over me!

as the wind blows
and bends me toward the earth

as age slows my body and my mind

as I drag along
old wounds and hurts
old hate
into the new day

as I stand
weakly rooted in the fabric of the universe
Sacred is calling

be joyful
be loving
be generous

let the Sacred without
the Sacred within

stretch your very being toward the

and grow

Sunday, January 20, 2019

A Sacred rush

Starlings in Winter

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can’t imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.
Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,

even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard, I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

~Mary Oliver, from Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays, 2003

sometimes I am an earthbound creature
plodding along day by day
bowed down, burdened

by the ills of the world
beset too by burdens of my own making

it is all so very heavy
this fear and anger
these expectations and hopes

and I am pressed into the earth
my feet sink into the soil
and my heart follows

I cannot rise

and yet
I do not stop
one foot goes in front of the other
and on I go

seeking that presence that can give me wings
so that I may rise and spin
and might feel my “boots leave the ground”

may the Sacred rush through my soul
prompting me to “think again
of dangerous and noble things”

of generosity
and forgiveness
and love
(which are dangerous and noble)

may it wash away all fear
with love

so that in this winter of discontent
in this wilderness of greed and abuse

I might be full of “gorgeous life” 
and travel light