Saturday, September 14, 2019
Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. ”
― Carrie Fisher
“I must fight with my weapons. Not his. Not selfishness and brutality and shame and resentment.”
― John Fowles, The Collector
If there is a poison flowing through the arteries of America
It is resentment
We have a culture of indignation
People absolutely convinced
That life is unfair
Totally sure that they have been “done wrong”
And there are lots of people to tell us who the villains are….
Those brown people who take “our” jobs (the one’s we don’t want and won’t do)
Those black people who are violent and threatening (so we need to pack a gun)
Those poor people who just might get something they don’t deserve
Those liberal persons who are going to take away my gun
[fill in the blank here]
And what do we do with our resentment?
How do we respond when we roll in the fetid waste of essential selfishness
And become convinced that it is the “end of the world as we know it?”
We respond by getting defensive and protective
Worse, we respond by using shame and brutality
All that anger and hate
All those jeers wafting up from a Trump rally
All those cries of “lock her up”, or “send them back”
All those cries of “shoot them”
By calling them criminals (for seeking asylum)
Or lazy moochers
Resentment robs us
It causes us to become aggressive, even brutal
It pushes us into that place where we use
Whatever power we have, or think we have
It makes us ugly
There are plenty of things wrong with this world
There are plenty of predators our there
There are plenty of people who are abusing the positions they hold
There are plenty of people who
Fearful, and small, and resentful
Greedy and living with hungry egos
Do terrible things
And it is appropriate to resist
But we must respond in the right way
We cannot become what we resist
We can all to easily slide into resentment, and fear
Into that place of wounded affront
Where our only response is to lash out
Hoping to wound, to destroy
Jesus gave us a much different toolbox
Jesus called us to a much different way of life
A life of gratitude,
We are called, as the children of God
To embrace not repel
To include not exclude
To share not horde
To lift up, not tear down
To be grateful, not resentful
It’s not any easy path
It is so much easier to make it all about “them”
Jesus is unambiguous
Love your neighbor
Feed your enemy
Give your enemy something to drink
Go the second mile
Give all you have
Do not rejoice in the troubles of others
Put your weapons [sword] away….
Or as Paul would later say
Don’t over come evil with evil
Over come evil with good
Friday, September 13, 2019
“Live counterculturally when the culture, baptized or secular, does not affirm truth, love, faith, mercy, and justice.”
We don’t expect it from Jesus
Who, we think, is all about peace
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
But there it is
Jesus claiming that he has come to bring division
“For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.”
Jesus, Joseph, and Holy Mary
What the heck is going on here!
We can get all theological and deep
Or we can keep it simple (Keep it simply stupid)
The presence of Jesus in not comfortable
The way of Jesus is not comfortable
We would like to settle into our old way
We would like to settle into our established culture
We would like to grab hold of our old values, old priorities, old patterns
And here comes Jesus
All of a sudden so much of what we hold near and dear is ripped asunder.
Wealth is good, right?
Wealth is our goal, right?
Sell all you have and give to the poor
Its important, to above all, maintain peace
Peace is often the enemy of truth!
Following the way of Jesus
Sharing the truths he shared
Hold fast to his priorities
Will often lead to discord and conflict, not peace
Because the way of Jesus is counter to the way of this world
When we choose to follow Jesus
We like all the great heroes of the faith
As asked to step into the unknown
We are asked to step out of the boat and into the storm
We are asked to tear asunder
(shred with the sword of truth?)
Those things about our world, our ideologies, our selves
That are false
Jesus asks us to go at war with ourselves
Jesus asks us to go at war with those who insist on a way that is not his
Jesus asks us to assail systems that minimize people
And oppress them
No peace for us!
At least not that kind of peace
But there is peace, in standing up for Jesus and Jesus’ way
And in standing up for the vulnerable
And in siding with the truth (as revealed by Jesus
If we would follow Jesus
We can’t just sit back
And seek to avoid conflict
We can’t just sit back and hope for
We’ve got to be out there
Confronting everything that violates the way of Jesus
Tuesday, September 10, 2019
“Christians should put survival of the planet ahead of national security...Here is the mystery of our global responsibility: that we are in communion with Christ- and we are in communion with all people...The fact that the people of Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Russia, Afghanistan, and Ethiopia are our brothers and sisters is not obvious. People kill each other by the thousands and do not see themselves as brothers and sisters. If we want to be real peace-makers, national security cannot be our primary concern. Our primary concern should be survival of humanity, the survival of the planet, and the health of all people. Whether we are Russians, Iraqis, Ethiopians, or North Americans, we belong to the same human family that God loves. And we have to start taking some risks- not just individually, but risks of a more global quality, risks to let other people develop their own independence, risks to share our wealth with others and invite refugees to our country, risks to offer sanctuary- because we are people of God”
Henri J.M. Nouwen
It is not by accident that the two great sacraments of the [protestant] church are baptism and communion
In baptism we are baptized into a community
In communion the community gathers around the common table, eats a common meal, celebrates the assimilation of the Sacred, and experiences communion with one the One and with one another.
Although there are stories about individuals in the Bible, those stories are always woven into a larger story, about a community of faith, a nation.
It appears certain that any faith system that really taps into that truth, that reality we often call God, is also a faith system that is communal by nature.
It is always about “we” more than it is about “me”
When the prophets call for repentance and transformation, they call for the nation
To change its ways, for the nation to be redeemed
That is because, in some profound ways, sin is corporate, communal by nature
We make a mistake, I think, when we make the concept of “salvation” primarily personal.
Once my relationship with God is about “my salvation” it is deeply tainted.
My salvation must be deeply tied to the salvation of those around me, and my community, my nation,
And yes, even my world!
Jesus, when talked about what God was bringing forth, did not talk about individuals, or even countries, he talked about a new “heaven and a new earth”.
I am convinced contemporary, American Christianity has lost its way because it has developed and individualist, “me” oriented approach to faith.
It is my relationship with God
God responds to me and blesses ME
Or punishes ME
God provides ME with power or wealth or safety
And if THEY are not me, or aren’t part of my crowd, my church, my party, my nation
A faith that takes seriously the fact that God loves all, is for all, is in all,
And that this God calls us all into community
Must see faith differently
Must live faith differently
Such a faith will work to get the Kingdom into the world
As hard as it works to get individuals tickets to heaven
Such a faith will work to redeem social and political structures
Those structures that oppress and minimize
As hard as it works to redeem individuals
Such a faith community will realize that it must be immersed in the community in which it exists, rather than sitting safely together in a sanctuary, singing hymns
And piously celebrating that is not like “THEM”
Such a faith could never embrace essential selfishness
A philosophy of life that builds walls, excludes immigrants, stacks the economic system for the rich, shames the poor, abandons the vulnerable, minimizes women, and bully and oppress those it chooses not to value, or sees as enemies.
Because this faith system is all about radical connection
And is about all of us working together
Helping each other
“We are put here to help each other. Otherwise, why?
“We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.”
(Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country)
Sunday, September 8, 2019
“The waitress brought me another drink. She wanted to light my hurricane lamp again. I wouldn't let her.
"Can you see anything in the dark, with your sunglasses on?" she asked me.
"The big show is inside my head," I said.”
Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions
Some say we live in a time of darkness
That there are forces in the world
That surround us
And overwhelm us
So we are left frozen in the dark
Unable to see
Unable to find a way forward
And yet, darkness is not all bad.
Barbara Brown Taylor remarks,
“I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.”
What occurs to me is that in the darkness, the outer world is muted
And we are driven inward
We know how this works
We lie in bed, our suddenly the “big show” in our head starts
And we become aware of thoughts and feelings that
During the busyness of the day
We did not notice
Perhaps on purpose
In the darkness feelings ooze out of our core
And our mental scripts for good or ill
Dancing in our frontal lobe
“I am not enough”
“Where am I going?”
“Is my life worth anything?”
So too the darkness of the world
Drives us inward toward our soul
A bit like dogs with their tails between their legs
I will have to admit
I have thought more about what I value
And more about what Jesus really taught about how to live (and love)
Since the darkness of the times has grown
Each new insult to the earth
Each new act of graft
Turns my focus to the big show inside my head
Turns me in toward my core
Where dark things lurk
But where too
The Spirit wanders
And that is not
Saturday, September 7, 2019
“America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, 'It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.' It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: 'if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?' There will also be an American flag no larger than a child’s hand – glued to a lollipop stick and flying from the cash register.
Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say Napoleonic times. Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent, is a mass of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves.”
Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
“The poor are with you always” Jesus said
Some have used that comment as an excuse to simply ignore the issue of poverty
Sorry, that really won’t fly!
Because Jesus said, from the very beginning,
I have come to bring GOOD NEWS to the poor!
I think we can safely say
That Jesus did not minimize or marginalize the poor
Instead he ate with them
Invited them to be disciples
Walked the dusty roads with them
And taught them
Indeed he spent his live
Mixed in among the poor and the needy
Rarely spending time with the wealthy
Or those with power
It’s not that Jesus disliked the poor
Although he was, it would seem, often disappointed with them
Not so much because they were bad, but because they were enslaved
Unable to defuse from their need for power and wealth
And therefore unable, like the rich young rule
To truly follow Jesus
Not so much because they were bad, but because they mistakenly believe
That wealth and power were the measure of the person
And for Jesus, those things clearly were not
Jesus looked for different things
He looked for curiosity
And for hunger
He looked for humility
And for compassion
He looked for
He looked for passion
For a passion for justice
And above all, a passion for all things Sacred
But we have gotten it all backwards
And so the rich, who are the poorest in the eyes of God
See themselves as superior
And the poor, who are blessed
See themselves as failures
And God laughs
Because we have it so wrong
But it is no laughing matter
Because our failure to understand
Causes us to shame the poor
And abandon them
It causes us to oppress and suppress and minimize them
Take advantage of them
It causes us to create systems that make it difficult
In spite of our shallow patriotic rhetoric
For a poor person to improve their live
And if we add race into the equation, make it almost impossible.
40 million Americans live in poverty (this is true, aweful poverty. Many, many more live on the edge of poverty, and are one “bad event” away from poverty)
Only 30% of the people in true poverty ever make it out
And much of the reason for that is systematic, and is due to a significant degree
to the greed of the wealthy, and the failure to provide the wages and supports needed)
Millions WORK full time and don’t earn enough to move out of poverty
For too many wealthy American’s the poor are invisible, inconsequential at best
For others they are objects to be used and underpaid
For others they are lazy moochers
The poor themselves accept the way they are defined
And ironically vote for the very people who promise to lift them out of poverty
But have policies that keep them in poverty
So the poor are seen as less
As “not enough”
But for Jesus
These are his people
These are children of God
These are people of amazing value
These are the people he hangs out with
For Jesus these are the blessed
And these are first
If those who are affluent would see the poor the way Jesus see them
If the poor would see themselves the way Jesus sees them
If we would all learn to value people
The way God values people…
This would be a different world,
A different nation
And this would be a place where equity would be possible
So too justice
So too peace
So too community
So too health
And so much more
Friday, September 6, 2019
“When politicians start talking about large groups of their fellow Americans as 'enemies,' it's time for a quiet stir of alertness. Polarizing people is a good way to win an election, and also a good way to wreck a country.”
We live in a polarized world
With live in a world
Where divisions are purposefully nurtured
The polarities are many
Liberal and conservative
Black and white
Rich and poor
Privileged and vulnerable
Progressive Christian and Evangelical Christian
But is seems to me that there is one profound polarity
From which comes many others
This is the polarity between people who
Are “me” people,
versus those we are “we” people
The polarity between those who believe we are put here
To help each other
And those who scream “socialism” (something few of them understand)
As if it were a dirty word.
This polarity has many facets
It is about choosing the way of domination and control
And choosing the way of humility and service
How one thinks about everything is determined by this one polarity
One’s relationship to money
All is profoundly impacted by whether one is engrossed in essential selfishness
Or essential generosity
The way of selfishness has many so called fruits
Fear (after all, I must be afraid of those who might take something that is mine, or that I think is mine)
But the way of selfishness creates deep wounds
It creates apathy, robbing us of empathy
It creates cruelty
It smiles with glee over a photo opportunity
While standing next to a baby whose parents have both been killed by a racists
It seizes and deports people who are contributing our society
While leaving stunned children with our parents
This way shreds community
And leaves it in tatters
Leaving a few with much
And many with little
But then there is the other end of this pole
The way of generosity and service
Some look at this way of being
And consider its adherents as weak
There is nothing weak about being empathetic
Nothing week about giving up some of what you have for others
Nothing weak about standing up for the vulnerable,
Nothing weak about resisting those in power
Nothing weak about saying what you believe
Putting your time and money on the line
Nothing weak about talking out
Caring is risking
Which is why Jesus likened it to “taking up a cross” and following him
For that is the Jesus way
The way of generosity and compassion
It too has fruits
Healthcare for all
This way makes us kind….
It feeds the hungry
Houses the homeless
Provides clothing for the marginalized
Welcomes the immigrant
This way welcomes all into the church
All to the table
There are politicians out there, calling us to essential selfishness
They are people, profoundly afraid of this radical way
But it is
Like it or no
The way of Jesus
And it reflects God’s paradoxical kind of power
And power expressed
In service and love
Thursday, September 5, 2019
Pests, drought animals, insects,
no gardener gives up.
Water, fertilize, plant new seeds.
Whatever you plant and tend with care
will bear fruit.
Jack Kornfield, A Lamp in the Darkness, p. 30
we are rich soil
dark and fertile and Sacred
from this soil
from our souls
from our deepest place
but that fruit can be bitter or sweet
it can nourish
it all depends on the seed
Sacred seed bears Sacred fruit
Love, tended and nurtured
Hate, tended carefully
Germinates into full blossom
the winds of life
blow many seeds our way
they litter the soil of our souls
anger, joy, hate and love
hope and gloom
these seeds will either wither or flourish
we must choose with care, which seeds we welcome
which seeds we tend
which seeds we feed
for it is those we plant and tend with care
which will bear fruit
O Sacred One
may it never be said of us
that one cannot see the flowers
for the weeds
Wednesday, September 4, 2019
“Life is choice. All day, everyday. Who we talk to, where we sit, what we say, how we say it. And our lives become defined by our choices. It's as simple and as complex as that. And as powerful. so when I'm observing that's what I'm watching for. The choices people make”
― Louise Penny, Still Life
Choices. Every day we are bombarded with choices.
In fact studies have shown that many people are stressed because there are too many choices.
We’ve gone from 4 TV channels to 400.
Three or four kinds of soda to dozen of options.
Not to mention what we used to innocently call potato chips…
it takes an entire isle in the store to hold the options.
And it gets worse.
Because we not only have mundane choices, about chips and sodas and TV shows…
we have other choices -- serious choices,
about lifestyle, right and wrong, values, directions, Presidents.
We have choices that shape our lives, determine our destinies, which build us up or tear us down.
A big part of what it means to be human, to be created in God’s image,
is to have the capacity to choose and decide.
It is a wonderful gift that God has given us,
the gift of freedom and self-determination.
It is a terrible gift as well.
The choices are so difficult.
Do I have treatments, or allow the cancer to take its course?
Do I take that new job, or stay where I am?
Do I enter into this new relationship, or avoid it?
Do I respond to a difficult child this way, or that?
Choices, choices…how do we make the right ones?
This creates mental, spiritual, and emotional chaos…
Muller, in his book “a life of being, having, and doing enough” says that we “lose our inner sense of what is the most nourishing or right action for us to take in this moment. We gradually weaken the capacity of our inner thermostat to provide us with reliable, trustworthy information.” In short we lose knowledge and wisdom in the midst of information overload. We lose our vision of what life is meant to be all about.
Muller goes on to ask this question.
“When we envision our most beautifully perfect day,
what do we dream about doing?
Who is with us, and what are the feelings or experiences we yearn for,
how would we fill our day?”
Think about that for a moment.
And then think about how you might get to that place you dream of?
How do you become who you dream of being?
How do you move toward to person you treasure?
How do move toward the things you really value?
Its all about choices
I know it feels, at times, as if we don’t have choices
But we do
And we can choose what Wayne Muller calls the “next right choice”
Muller insists that each day we are confronted with choices, over and over again, each day. These choices shape our moments, our days, our years. The goal is to make the right choice. The best choice!
And that is possible when our choices are inspired by our deepest heart’s wisdom and authentic knowing. And authentic knowing occurs, primarily, when we are paying attention to the Spirit within.
When we allow God, through this Spirit, to inspire and guide us.
It is like following breadcrumbs. God’s Spirit prods us, prompts us
Moves us, restrains us,
Moment by moment we follow the bread crumbs, and we get where God wants us to go. But the path is not straight. There are twists and turns, and unforeseen obstacles. Sometimes, we look way out there and decide where we think we should go, and create our own path.
Sometimes we make a choice that is not the best, and we start off on a wrong direction. Thankfully God is creative and innovative.
And as we keep looking for the bread crumbs, with the help of that Spirit of truth,
God will nudge us where we need to go.
Sometimes we may get a little off the path, and just need a gentle nudge.
Sometimes we may get way off the path, and God may, as the innovator, may have to nudge us less gently….
Or God may even change destinations for us. I think that’s possible.
Plan A becomes plan B (I think I am on Z5)
Sometimes, it is really confusing, because we have gotten ourselves in a place where there are no choices, or, perhaps only bad choices.
But we do have choices
And there is always a way forward.
Our job, as I see it,
is to follow the breadcrumbs
To let the Spirit in us, interact with the creative, guidance of the Sacred
And move us on
Day by day
Step by step
Choice by choice
Sunday, September 1, 2019
“God's grace is not defined as God being forgiving to us even though we sin. Grace is when God is a source of wholeness, which makes up for my failings. My failings hurt me and others and even the planet, and God's grace to me is that my brokenness is not the final word ... it's that God makes beautiful things out of even my own shit
Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint
Whatever became of grace?
I am not talking so much about my sense of God’s grace for me
That is a powerful and personal experience
When the Sacred in me
Rocks and Rolls
And opens me up to newness
To joy, and hope
To compassion and generosity
When the sacred in me fills me
And moves me beyond my self
Giving me the capacity to move beyond
Those wounds I have accumulated
And picked at for years,
And brings me to a place more whole
Not completely whole, alas
For still I squat, at times in my own shit
More secure in God’s love
Yes, I know Grace
But what has happened to our ability
Include others in grace
I know we try
I know we believe, if we have really listened to Jesus
That the grace of God is broader than we can ever image
But there are moments
At least for me, when I struggle
To grab hold of the reality that Grace
Can make up for the failings of those I believe are systematically
Hurting others and even the planet.
Is my God big enough to
Make up for their failings?
Am I willing to let them join me,
As I frolic in the fountain of Grace?
It is in God’s nature to make us whole
The fact is, Grace is for everyone
Will every one accept Grace?
Will every one give the Sacred a big enough place
That they are made new?
But that is not something I am asked to determine
Or even judge
All I am asked to do is claim grace for myself
With all my heart
That a person’s brokenness is never the final word ...
And that God can make beautiful things out anyone’s shitf