Welcome

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, July 12, 2020

true courage

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.
Lao Tzu

Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently.
Maya Angelou
___________________________________________

these are times for courage
not the fake courage of those who hide behind power and bully
not the “courage” of those who show up at rallies with guns
not the courage that comes from aligning one’s self with the powers that be
not the courage that comes from gathering your “flock” because you need an audience

but the courage of a young black woman
standing firm and peaceful while a large white man attempts to intimidate her
the courage of pastors who encourage their churches to remain closed
the courage of mayors and county commissioners, and governors
who make unpopular directives, to keep people safe

I’ve been thinking about courage today
and what makes for real courage versus fake courage

Lao Tzu has part of the answer
perhaps all of the answer when he says 

“Being deeply loved gives you strength …
 Loving someone deeply gives your courage’

Courage must be grounded in love
It must rise out of love
And it must be guided by love

Not desire, not want
But authentic love

When we are called to be courageous
that is when our values show

because moments that most call for courage
also call us to define who we are, what we believe in, and what we value

What do we value?

Commerce over people?
Money over people?
Individualism versus community?
Personal agendas versus the common good?
Popularity over leadership?

Do we have good values?  A good moral compass
And do we have the courage to live out our values?

Can we choose people over money
when our bank account is at risk

Can we choose to wear a mask, when people around us ridicule us?
Can we choose to stand up for black people, LGBTQI people, when our neighbors, 
our church, our leaders, won’t?

Do we have the courage to be unpopular?
Demonized
Do we have the courage to have people reject us?
As ministers do we have the courage to anger members of our “flock” in order to truly hold to the values and teachings of Christ?

The answer should be “yes”
But it is not easy
Sometimes we remain silent
Sometimes we ‘parse’ our answers to make them less overt
Sometimes we “cave”, and go along with the prevailing crowd

And sometimes
We are courageous
Sometimes because we know we are loved by God
And those around us are loved by God
We have the courage to choose love
Choose people
Choose inclusion
Choose the difficult path

Because love gives us the courage
To live out those values that arise out of love
Compassion
Generosity
Patience
Forgiveness
Acceptance

So give us courage Lord
The courage that comes from love
The courage that enables us to love

Because right now the world needs people
Who have courage rooted in love 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Rooted in Faith



While children were escorted into schools by national guardsmen, the song “Jesus Loves Me” became an anthem of faith in the face of contradictory evidence. You cannot face German shepherds and fire hoses with your own resources; there must be God and stillness at the very center of your being.



Like a spiritual earthquake, the resolve of the marchers affirmed the faith of foremothers and forefathers. Each step was a reclamation of the hope unborn. Each marcher embodied the communal affirmation of already/not yet sacred spaces. . . . The sacred act of walking together toward justice was usually preceded by a pre-march meeting that began with a prayer service, where preaching, singing, and exhortation prepared the people to move toward the hope they all held. This hope was carefully explicated by the leadership as a fulfillment of God’s promises. As a consequence, the movement that spilled from the churches to the streets was a ritual enactment of a communal faith journey toward the basileia [realm] of God. . . .

Richard Rohr

__________________________________________________



we are living in a time of relative chaos


it may not be as chaotic as some claim
it may not be as chaotic as some desire

but this is a time of discontent

it is not the first time we have been here,
as a world or as a nation

we have walked this path before
this path of hate and anger
where the darker angels of our nature spread their wings
and hover over the turbulence

there they are
greed, and a lust for power
a kind of blood thirst for retribution
and profound level of vindictiveness

and the result is chaos

Yes, the seeds of chaos have been with us forever.
We have a lot of racism woven into our culture
We love power, and the use of power.
We worship wealth.

This is all “no surprise”
The problem is all too clear

The question is this…
How we find our way out?

How do we emerge from this, and stumble our way toward the realm of God?

In the old days of the civil rights movement,
the resistance that was expressed was deeply spiritual at its core.
The protestors often met to sing and pray before they marched.
Because the movement came out of a deep connection with a God who loves justice, and equity, it worked.
The sound of "We Shall Overcome" drowned out the sounds of hate and violence.

If we would redeem our country, we need one primary thing. We need to focus on the Spiritual. Our resistance to what is going on has to emerge from hearts burning with the love of God and God's way of justice and equity

Having our values and actions rooted in our connection with the God of love should inform our politics, who we choose to lead us (remember trickle down),
should inform where we stand on the issues,
and should shape our actions

If we would move us away from smallness, from vindictiveness and retribution
and into the realm of compassion and service
the our resistance needs to emerge more out of fullness rather than need
More out of full hearts than empty hearts

I am not saying we can’t have aching hearts
I am not saying we can’t be angry at the injustice
I am certainly not saying that we “do nothing”

This is a time to speak out
This is a time to stand up

But we need to first to gather in faith
We need to get down on our knees
We need to pray, and agonize in the presence of the One who is Love
We need to draw together and become, truly
A community of faith

And then, rooted in love, move into action
Our resistance needs to be an act of communal faith
But above all it needs to be an act of faith

For it is that faith that will transform
It is that faith that will tap into
The boundless love of God

It is that faith
In a God of love
That will ultimately win

_______________________________________

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men (and women)?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes

Les Miserables

 


Friday, July 10, 2020

be true to love

Your fidelity to love, that is all you need

No day will then match your strength

What was once a fear or problem will see

You coming , and step aside… or run.

                                         Hafiz (A Year with Hafiz, p 184)

__________________________________________

 

The great commandment

Love God

 

In other words….

There are many words, great words,

But in other words

 

Have your primary allegiance be the sacred

Not an ideology

Not a religious dogma

Not money

Not power

Not a particular leader or party

Not a nation

 

But that which we cannot define and contain

But which we know

Which we experience

 

If we experience it at all,

As Love

 

Love God

And then love your self

As a the offspring of love

 

If you are created in love

And filled with love

How can you not love yourself?

 

And then live love

Let love ooze out of your soul

 

Because love is the true power

 

We blithely make the affirmation that “love wins”

 

I wonder sometimes whether we believe it

If we believed it would we not live it?

Would we not attempt, as Paul puts it, “to overcome evil with good”?

 

Yet look at how we live!

Angry and fearful

All too often retributive, sometimes cruel

 

Look at how we live, grasping for power and money

Heedlessly trampling the poor and the vulnerable

In our heedless rush

 

What would it look like to have a fidelity to love?

I try to imagine it sometimes

 

What would it look like to have a fidelity to love

When I am faced with betrayal?

What would it look like to have a fidelity to love,

If I were oppressed?

What would it look like to have a fidelity to love

When assailed by hate?

 

When Jesus was faced with those things

Fidelity to love looked like the cross

 

What would it look like for me?

What would it look like if I really lived out what I piously echo,

“love wins”

 

It is scary to contemplate

The cost is so great

The risk is so high

 

From the perspective of this world

Such a radical stance is foolish

Even the foolishness of the cross

 

I can only catch the briefest, glimmering glance

For it is rare

 

I suspect it looks like generosity

And forgiveness

And a radical commitment to justice

 

I can wander cautiously down those paths

But can I plunge into the depths of that world

Heedlessly?

Whole heartedly?

 

And if I did, what would that look like?

And am I brave enough,

Do I have courage enough

To walk all the way

To the cross?

 

Do I have enough love

That fear, and hate

Greed and racism

Will scatter when they see me coming?

 


Thursday, July 9, 2020

In the Silence

The silence of the early morning is why I wake early. I
can’t be myself without it. But as I grow in the life of faith, I feel more and
more the connection between that silence and the silence at the center of [a
mourning mother’s] cry—the silence of the down beat between the claps in a
freedom song. There is a still point in the turning world, and we practice
contemplation as we ground ourselves in that place, not apart from action, but
in the center of it.
                                                              Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
____________________________________
 
I well remember
The words of the old spiritual
 
In the morning when I rise
In the morning when I rise
In the morning when I rise
Give me Jesus
 
In the morning when I rise
In that vague darkness
In the pungent silence
 
I find the still point
 
In the crunch of the gravel beneath my feet
In the sound of the hawks cry
In the rising of the sun over the Seven Devils
 
In the black, then grey, then orange sky
In the mountain casting of its blanket of night
And rising white into the sky
 
I find the still point
 
While the world rages around me
And leaders lies and spew hate
And the forces of the law are unlawful
 
While masses protest
And radicals manipulate and agitate
And justice is subverted
 
I find the still point
 
While so much changes
While so much needs to change but doesn’t
While my mind races
And my heart aches
While if feel helpless, and sometimes defeated
 
I find the still point
 
I find that place where God is God
And I am truly me
And truth is truth
And love wins
 
And there I stop
And breathe
 
There I stand
And find the courage, and (hopefully) wisdom
the power, and love
to make it through another day
 
left foot
right foot
left foot
breathe, pray, hope, love, act
 
grounded in that place
grounded in Jesus
in the middle of it al
l

 


Wednesday, July 8, 2020

the energy of anger

I have learned to use my anger for good… Without it, we
would not be motivated to rise to a challenge. 
It is an energy that compels us to define what is just and unjust.
                                                                        Gandhi
______________________________________
 
we see it in the faces of the protestor
claiming the streets and insisting
black lives matter
 
we see it too in the faces of those who
push them, contain them,
and sometimes brutalize them
 
there is the anger over injustice
anger over “rules” broken
anger over death
anger over old norms and systems assailed
 
it is a holy mess
it is a mess because there is destruction and even death
and the fabric of our nation is shredded
 
it is holy because sometimes things need to change
 
anger opens our eyes to what is wrong
anger wakes us up, and compels us to action
anger demands that we do something
 
but anger is almost never arises alone
its constant companion is grief
grief over injustice and oppression
grief over lives lost
grief over what we learn about ourselves
 
and comingled grief and anger
which comes as pain is piled on pain
and finally explodes
 
can, if we are willing to truly look at where the
pain and anger are coming from
if we are willing to address the ills
if we are willing to move to communal repentance
and if we are willing to translate this all
into compassionate action
and justice seeking
 
help us rebuild the beloved community
 
out of the anger
and out of the grief
can come joy
 
not a shallow happiness
that glosses over the pain
but the deep joy
of resilience
 
the joy of justice defying injustice
the joy of reconciliation defying division
the joy of kindness defying brutality
the joy of truth defying deceit
the joy of love defying hate
 
the joy that comes when we refuse
to answer evil with evil
but overcome evil with good


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

dreams deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?
 
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore –
and then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over –
like a syrupy sweet?
 
Maybe is just sags
like a heavy load.
 
Or does it explode?
                               Langston Hughes (Selected Poem, p. 268)
 
Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.
                               Langston Hughes
__________________________________
 
When I was young I used to dream
the dreams of a boy
a product of the west
 
I dreamed of being a cowboy
a soldier
 
I dreamed of being, as I grew older
an athlete
the high school star
with the letter on his sweater
one of the “guys”
who all the girls would swoon over
 
I dreamed of being a super star pastor
of huge churches packed with people
of writing books
and being known
and respected, even admired
 
but dreams get deferred
 
life happens
mistakes are made
 
blooming late
blooming fast
scoliosis
esteem issues
an impulsive nature
introversion
 
I was no star
I had my moments of success
But moments of abject failure too
 
Moments when I was a leader
And moments when I was an ass
 
Dreams deferred
A person just getting through
Following the breadcrumbs of God
Stumbling, falling, getting up
Stumbling forward again
 
But dreams remain
The dream of love
The dream of friendships
The dream that at some level I can contribute something
That will help
Something that will last
 
Dreams remain
Dreams of publishing a book
Dreams of being a person who helps others
Of nurturing my little church
 
And dreaming I keep moving
Left foot, right foot, left foot breath
 
And when I stop dreaming, I am done
When there are no dreams
Life is over
 
We need dreams
 
Which is why it is so deadly
For us to defer dreams
Through racism
And systematic oppression
And poverty wages
And the abuse of privilege
 
If I with all my privilege struggle to hold on to my dreams
What must it be like for that black person
Who wakes up each day to poverty
Whose children go to substandard schools with few resources
Whose must do 2 or 3 jobs to pay the rent and feed a family
 
Who must fear those who are sworn to protect
Who must wonder, every time the lights of a cop car flash
‘am I going to get out of this alive?”
 
What happens to those dreams
Crushed beneath a knee/
Squeezed off in a choke hold?
Eliminated in a hail of bullets?
 
Do they wither?
Do they fester and stink, growing foul?
Does the pain pile on pain pile on pain
 
Until it all explodes?
 
Ah Lord
Helps us to have dreams
Help us to hang on to dreams
But above all
Help us to support the dreamers
Who come our way
Help us to nurture, and comfort the broken winged bird
Until it fl
ies


Sunday, July 5, 2020

conflicted

So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show
the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon faces,
poreless, hairless, expressionless. We are living in a time when flowers are
trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam.”
                                                   Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
____________________________________
 
it may come as a surprise to some
but I would love to be one of the comfortable people
 
I don’t want to be one of those people who
Seeing what is going on the world
Fuses with all the dysfunction, and carries it around
 
I want to close my eyes (sometimes)
And pretend it all isn’t there
All that stuff that makes me uncomfortable
 
I want to be one of those people who can take a few breaths
And let it go
 
And I want to be one of those people who makes other people comfortable
one of those who never roils the waters
one of those who is always
 
comforting and uplifting
one who inspires
 
and
I will admit it
I want people to like my blog
I want people to like my sermons
I want people to like me
 
I want people to think well of me
to see me as intelligent
fair, kind, tolerant, balanced
 
I want people to see me as an asset in their lives
 
And yet, I am me
I tend to see it all, and I let it all slam against me
like a spiritual 2X4
 
I overthink
I fuse
I get, hooked
I can be impulsive, and stubborn
 
Shall we call it opinionated?
 
And so after my fingers fly
and my blog is “out there”
 
I am often haunted
Was what I said true?
Did I really explain what I meant?
Did I say it in a way to avoid misunderstanding?
Want did I miss?
Was it too harsh?
Was it too soft?
Did I avoid the real issue?
I watch the likes, and agonize over the unlikes
 
My mind and heart carry it all
 
In the end I am accountable
I am accountable for my tone
For veracity
I am the one who needs to think carefully
And speak more carefully
 
But I also have no control
Over where people go with what I write
Or how they respond
 
So in the end all I can do is what I can do
I can simply do my best to put out there what is on my heart
 
I hope that God has a part in guiding my passion
Although I know that is not always true
 
I can strive to tell the truth
Although I know that sometimes I will be wrong
 
But all I can do is put it out there,
And know that discomfort is the price
Of making a difference….
 
I am reminded of what Wilbur Rees writes in his book Three Dollars Worth of God:
 
“I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk, or a snooze in the sunshine.
I don’t want enough of God to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth.
I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.”
 
I want God to explode my soul
I want God to make me passionate about Black Lives Matter
I want God to make me feel the pain of those immigrants, caged and alone
I want God to give me transformation
And challenge
 
and I want that tumult of soul
to sound forth in what I write       
 
not because I want to make people uncomfortable
(I hate that)
But because, perhaps, we need to be uncomfortable
 
Well
 
At least I do
Maybe we all do
 
So all I can do is “speak out”
and hope for a little bit of grace… from God and fro
m you


Thursday, July 2, 2020

i need you all

We have all known the long loneliness 
and we have learned that the only solution is love
and that love comes with community. 
                                         Dorothy Day
______________________________________________
 
last night I joined a protest
it was not huge as protests go
maybe around 200 people
 
but then my community is not large, as communities go
our county sheltering around 7000 souls
who must do without even a flashing red light
and without the “essentials” of life such as fast food chains
Walmarts and Costco
 
We a Safeway, and that is about
 
but on this night,
as the clouds gathered, and eventually showered us with hail
the people gathered
the very young and the very old
liberals and moderates, and perhaps a few conservatives
 
my Rotary Club was there in mass
there were members of my church, and other churches too
and a lot of people who were “nones”
having decided long ago that the church had lost its way
and lost them
 
there were people who were Cis
and people who were LGBTQI
 
all drawn together by a desire to do something
say something
by a need to stand up for justice, and equity
for kindness and compassion
 
it got me thinking about the importance of community
about the power of community
 
about what happens when people gather together in hate
and about what happens when people gather together in love
 
it got me thinking about the fact
that when Jesus left this earth, he purposefully left behind a community
a living breathing community called the ekklasia, the “body of Christ”
 
and it was reminded that we need each other
one person standing on that sidewalk with a sign would have been
weak, foolish, powerless
 
but there was power in the gathered community
 
the point is
we need each other
the “long loneliness” is not what works
 
I need those high school kids who came straight from graduation
To cry for justice
 
I need all those women, who, white hair peeking above their masks
Held signs and chanted
 
I need those young, intense people in their 20’s and 30’s who
full of the power and energy of the young strode and chanted
 
I need those friends from my congregation
from work
who on not just this night
but every day are part of that community
in which I live and breathe and have my being
 
I also need that cousin, who right wing, evangelical, perhaps fundamentalists
who chastises me on facebook
 
and that congregant who posts extreme right wing memes that make
my teeth grind
 
Yes, I need them too
they are part of this tribe we call humanity
they are also children of God
my brothers and sisters
 
I need the person who writes me a personal message
on this blog, telling me I need to support this President
and suggesting that I am doing “harm”
by not doing so
 
I need them all
 
we may not agree
but in the dialog, in the sharing, in the challenging
sometimes in the confronting of one another
we become the body of Christ
the family of God
 
together we stumble forward
toward the Kingdom
 
I cannot do this alone
None of us can do this alone
 
We need each other
At least I know
I
need you


Wednesday, July 1, 2020

life is hard, be kind

Folks, I’m telling you,

birthing is hard

and dying is mean

so get yourself

a little loving

in between

                     Langston Hughes

_________________________________

 

we come into the world crying

smack, squall

take a deep breath, turn a little red

and the journey begins

 

it’s a heck of a journey

this thing called life

just when we think we have it all figured out

we learn we don’t

 

just when we think everything is coming together

and we can coast for a while

things fall apart

 

just when we think we have progressed

we prove to ourselves

in unmistakable terms, that we have not

 

three steps forward two steps back

or is that two steps forward, three steps back

 

back into those old patterns of hate and violence

back into those old scripts

where we convince ourselves that domination works

and if we add a side order of cruelty

it works even better

 

we hold a vigil

to remember life

to say that “all lives matter”

to cry for justice

 

and someone says

“I’m coming and I’m bringing my gun”

And another echoes

“Just kick the shit out of them”

(comments on Facebook related to a small “Black Lives Matter” protest)

 

and so the haters hate

and intimidate

and perpetuate violence death

 

life is hard

and we see that violence begets violence

and hate begets hate

and greed begets hoarding

and hoarding begets poverty

 

it is a vicious cycle

that goes round and round

and grinds people into the earth

and drives them to their deaths

 

and we are call to break that cycle

 

“do not overcome evil with evil but overcome evil with good”

it is time to do a little loving

here in between birthing and dying

 

so put aside that gun

let go of those old biases, that racism

clean out your soul

and make room for Love, for Sacred Presence

 

and do a little loving

 

For we were called to freedom, brothers and sisters;

Let us not use our freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence

but through love become slaves to one another.

For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment,

‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

If, however, you bite and devour one another,

take care that you are not consumed by one another (Galatians 5)

 

we can do this!

or rather the Christ in us can do it

 

and that after all

is the secret

 

Christ in us, the hope of glory


Monday, June 29, 2020

thinking people dead, or not





Since wars begin in the minds of men,
It is in the minds of men
That we have to create the ramparts of peace
UNESCO Charter


In the beginning we created the enemy
Before the weapon comes the image
We think others to death
Then invent the [weapon] with which to actually kill them
Sam Keen, Faces of the Enemy
_______________________________________________


who is “the enemy”
it depends, I suppose, who you ask


is it the immigrant, fleeing from the south
that desperate soul with brown skin, and a haunted look in dark eyes?


is it that person with darker skin who invokes Allah
or that black person who seems so angry


maybe it is that bearded white guy with the AR-15
and multiple clips of ammunition
waving that confederate flag


who is the enemy?


Although there are enemies,
people who wish us ill
or if they do not wish us ill, are so focused on their own needs
their own lust for power or wealth
that they are willing to do us ill


the reality is that most of our enemies
are of our own making


sometimes we have help
for there are plenty of people who
for reasons nefarious
want to create enemies for us


for an enemy is a handy tool, if one wants to control another


the American “Christian” church has done this masterfully
creating enemies against which to rail
enemies against which to battle
so that it can “rally the troops”, and fill the pews, and the coffers


so progressive women are the enemy
the LGBTQI community is the enemy
Muslims are the enemy
Liberals are the enemy


the church is not alone
this President
the GOP
the Democrats
the white nationalists, such as the “Proud Boys” and the 3%ers


all excel in creating enemies


but how do you create an enemy?
It is really quite simple
You take away their face


Your make them a caricature
a stereotype
your bestialize them
you make immigrants from the south
fathers, mothers, little children
murderers and rapists
you call them animals, you say they all have AIDS
you suggest they come from “shithole countries”


you take a person
and you call them “the Orange One”
or reduce them to the number 45


You give them demeaning nicknames
Moscow Mitch
Putin’s Bitch
Crazy Nancy, Crooked Hillary, Little Adam, Pocahontas, Sleepy Creepy Joe


you do anything you can
to rob the other of their essential humanness
you take away their face
so you can dismiss them
so you can hate them
so you can kill them


so you can kneel on a person’s neck,
while they plead for their life
and stay there until they are dead


you can say “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat”
you can blithely arm the military, or the police
and send them out there to get “tough” on “them”
those faceless ones
those one’s who no longer counter
no longer matter


you can wish your enemy dead
you can think them dead


so perhaps if we want to find the real enemy
we need to look in the mirror
and look into our own eyes


and into our own souls
into that deepest place that makes us who we are
and recognize
that the problem may be that there is a vacuum of love
at the center of who we are


a void where the Sacred should dwell
not because the Sacred is not there, but because we have compressed
the Sacred into such a small space


and have left space for things not Sacred to dwell
and rot, and fester and destroy the ‘divine original’


Perhaps, as Pogo once so famously put it
“We have met the enemy, and he (she) is us”


Only love can reverse this
Only Love can make this better
Love is the antidote


And so we must allow ourselves to be Loved by God
We must love God in return
We must fill that void
So that we can then love ourselves
And love those around us


It is time to stop thinking others dead
and start thinking them fully alive

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Mother God

God is strong and has a good mother

                     Irish Proverb

 

_______________________________________

 

I was thinking today about mothers

I remember my own mother

a force of nature in a small package (5’ tall, maybe 100 lbs)

 

a woman who was ordered

and in control (but not controlling)

a woman who did not know how to say “I love you”

but knew who to live “I love you”

 

I was thinking too of George Floyd’s mother

gone these several years

who was not here to see her son die

ignominiously on the pavement

a white man’s knee on his knee

 

the absolute image of

one enslaved and dominated

a symbol

of so many down trodden, crushed, shackled, lynched

 

and of how in his last gasping moments

he cried “Momma! Momma! I’m through...”

 

through the veil

killed by apathy, systematic racism, hate

by a cruel theology of domination and cruelty

that discounts and dehumanizes

 

And I think of other mothers

Mothers waiting at home in fear for their sons to come home

Mothers watching the violence and remembering

 

The mothers of black men, black women

White men, white women

Mothers of all races and creeds

 

Watching their children

 

What goes on in the heart of a mother

who sees her child abused by those who should protect?

What goes on in the heart of a mother

who sees her child abusing others, swinging that club from behind that shield?

 

Ah the mothers

Who have nurtured and cuddled

Who have taught and disciplined

Who have loved, and loved, and loved some more

 

And now must watch

as that child they carried, who was part of her

is out there, on the streets

out there

 

my mother, gone these 30 years

is still woven into the fabric of my being

the lessons still rattle in my brain

“Open the door

Walk on the outside of the sidewalk

If you want to be happy, seek to make others happy

Treat others with respect

Always be aware of others, and how what you are doing affects them”

 

I know at times I made her proud

I know at times she wondered where she had gone wrong

 

What are the mothers thinking in this time of chaos and violence?

As they watch their children be abused?

As they watch their children abuse?

 

What pain do they carry, what regrets?

What joys?

What secret hopes, what fears

 

I do not know

But I know that mothers are what make the world run

Which is why, perhaps, it is the mothers

who when they assume office, become strong leaders

and create strong children (countries)

(I think of Jacinda Ardern, who gave her child the Irish name meaning “bright love”)

 

I am thinking today about mothers

and thinking too of our mothering God

(for women too are the image of God)

 

who mixed in among this mess,

as One woven into the fabric of all the children

is part of all

this

 

I am thinking about God

Who taught us to walk,

Who takes us up in Her arms;

Even when we resist, and heals us

 

I am thinking about god how leads us

“with cords of human kindness, with bands of love”

 

Who lifts us like infants to Her cheeks.

And bends down to us and feeds us

 

I am thinking today about mothers

 


Friday, June 26, 2020

Corner of ugliness

The quiet fading out of life

In a corner of ugliness

 

I went lookin’ for magnolia flowers

But I didn’t find them

I went lookin’ for magnolia flowers in the dusk

And there was only this corner

Full of ugliness

                               Langston Hughes

_________________________________________

 

nothing like a morning dose of reality

to ruin a morning’s cup of coffee

 

nothing like the latest bit of news

to blunt a sunrise

rendering it colorless

 

nothing like people

“biting and devouring” each other

until all life and love are consumed

 

nothing quite so defeating as people in power

confusing the truth

causing us to stumble in the dark

spewing falsehoods

the yeast of hate infecting the whole

 

and yet

there is another kind yeast

which causes us to rise

to rise

 

which permeates us

and feels like wind

burns like fire

 

cleaning and impelling

driving us

out of that dark corner of ugliness

into a place of freedom

 

into that glorious space where

we flourish, and our lives are marked by

“love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5)

 

Ah yeast of heaven

Holy Dove

Tongues of Fire

Rushing Wind

 

Come

 

I need you

We need you

 

Come Holy Spirit

Come


Wednesday, June 24, 2020

fully alive

As the intelligence of the human race evolves

all the competing-campaigning as it were –

religions will be viewed differently

 

One will see they are all basically contestants

in a beauty pageant

 

and the religion that an make your own

beauty most know will win your most respect

                                         Hafiz  (A Year with Hafiz p.165)

__________________________________

 

Ignatius of Loyola, that salty Basque once observed

“the glory of God is found in a human being fully alive”

 

when we are fully alive, God’s glory shine

when God’s glory shines in us, we are fully alive

 

it seems to me, as I think about it

as I sit in my study, looking out the window

as an early summers sun shines through the fluttering leaves of the aspens

 

that if one belongs to God

and if God is present and roiling in one’s soul

burning like fire, roaring like wind

then the very nature of God should ooze from us

 

Jesus is more optimistic

He says Sacred Presence will rush from us, like a spring of water

 

and since God is joy, and hope

peace, and love

we should too should be like that

fully alive, reflecting the glory of God

love, joy, peace, and hope

 

So it seems, as I struggle through this,

that whatever flows from me reflects what fills me and determines me

 

if God, glory

if not God?

 

Sometimes as I look at what comes forth out or my mouth

what spills forth from my fingers as I madly type

sometimes as I look at how I act

I realize that what is inspiring my life is not God

 

but something else

anger, perhaps, or fear, pride, or insecurity

 

and I realize that my “fruits” are the best indicator I have

as to how I am doing in terms of my connection with the Sacred.

Am I a green, flexible, joyful branch, or a dead stick?

 

what makes this even more critical is the fact

that whatever oozes from my soul is contagious

I pass it along, infecting others

 

Padraig O’Tuama suggests that [if] we are from God and for God

then we are from goodness and for goodness

 

as God draws forth the goodness in us

we, as those filled with God, should draw forth the goodness in other

“by their fruit you shall know them”

 

how we fill the space around us

what happens in the lives and souls of those we live with, work with,

worship with, play with, reflects our inner world

 

just as God makes us fully alive

and draws out the best in us (if what controls us is actually God)

so we, as God’s people, are to draw out the best in those around us

 

these are not just times that test our souls, these are times that reveal our souls

and reveal who, or what, is defining our lives

 

So my prayer for the day is simple

Lord make me fully alive, make me fully love

Reveal my own beauty, that I might reveal the beauty in others… amen


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

let us grieve

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”

                     C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

 

“Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.”

                     Leo Tolstoy

 

I have outlasted all desire,

My dreams and I have grown apart;

My grief alone is left entire,

The gleamings of an empty heart.

                     Alexander Pushkin

_________________________________________________

 

we look at the numbers

and they are, for a moment just numbers

 

352,904 people dead, globally, of Covid-19

100,625 people dead, in America, of Covid-19

 

and there is a part of us that wishes, so profoundly

that they could remain just numbers

sitting there on our computer screens

void, without substance

 

but these numbers have faces

and they look at us from behind the numbers

 

hundreds of thousands of faces

black and brown and white

wrinkled and smooth

male and female,

Old and young

Rich and poor

Famous and unknown

 

These were people who dreamed and hoped

Who loved and hated

These were people who gathered around tables with family

Who made the meals, and served them

These were people who waited tables

worked in Emergency rooms

taught children

 

People who made music

Wrote poetry

And painted pictures

 

These were people who held someone close

in the darkness of night

or played in the sun with grandchildren

 

these were people who had dogs and cats

 

these were people

and they are gone

 

and they have left behind them people who grieve

lovers, children, parents, friends

fellow workers

neighbors

 

people who loved them, and now will no longer see their face

hear their voice

feel their hugs

 

so this is a time for grieving

this is a time to mourn

 

we cannot simply ignore this carnage

these lives, lost

this hurt

 

only one who cannot love

who has no empathy can fail to grieve

 

and yet, we seem to have lost our sense of corporate grief

that grief that overwhelmed us, and then turned to anger on 9/11

(and thus sadly twisted became damaging)

 

Here we sit, with over 100,000 faces peering at us from beyond the veil

With 100,000s of thousands more grieving that specific person they have lost

 

And we complain about wearing masks

And argue about “personal freedom”

And crowd into pools, and flock to beaches

And party

And golf

 

And act as if nothing had happened

As if those people had never existed, and never died

 

When did we lose our sense of community?

Our understanding that each person is an infinitely precious soul?

And that we are all connected?

 

When did we get so encapsulated that if the pain is not our pain

Personally, immediately,

It is not pain, and can be ignored?

 

Set aside?

 

Perhaps we need to set aside some time for mourning

For lamentation

Perhaps each day, we ought to stop for a moment

And look at those numbers, and see those faces,

And see the faces behind the faces

The lives and relationships behind those faces

 

There is so much to grieve about

That “death by cop”

That latest act of aggression, racism, misogyny

The latest proof that our planet is dying

The most recent evidence of corporate greed

 

Perhaps we should stop and feel the loss

Of life

Of “normalcy” (whatever that is)

Of jobs, and businesses, and dream

Of corporate worship

 

A grieve

Grief is hard

It is the price we pay for love

Being willing to grieve is what opens the doors of our hearts so we can

Walk through each day, connected to God

And connected to others

 

If we can’t grieve, we can’t love

If we can’t love, we can’t have community

 

Without grief we become entombed and isolated

Ciphers

Without grief we lose our humanity

 

So let us grieve


Monday, June 22, 2020

God feels our pain

I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the one Nietzsche ridiculed as “God on the Cross.” In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?

                                         John Stott

________________________________________

 

it is in time of dis-ease and distress

that we learn the importance of empathy

 

we learn its power when we receive it

and we learn its power when we give it

 

for it is when people are bound together by empathy

by shared pain

shared hopelessness

and even shared joy

 

that intimacy happens

and healing happens

 

without empathy these is a space

sometimes a great, abysmal space

between ourselves and others

 

if we cannot feel with them

we cannot connect with them

and we cannot respond to them in appropriate way

 

empathy is not sympathy

It is not ”Oh you poor dear”

It is “That must really hurt!”

 

It is not given from above, but is given from alongside

 

With empathy we enter into the experience of the other

we don’t protect, or hide, or observe from a distance

we participate,

 

which is why the incarnation was an amazing act of empathy

on the part of God

and why the cross is the illustration of just how completely

God is willing to enter into our pain

 

Any God who is willing to enter so completely into the depravity of this world

is a God I can trust, and turn to

 

this is a God who is with me, in my sheltering

this is a God who is with me in my anger over the carelessness of others

this is a God who can help me deal with the lack of empathy I see from people who,

          above all others, should have empathy (our religious leaders and political leaders)

this is a God who can embrace my pain

and my sorrow

 

and the pain and sorrow of the world

the pain and sorrow of those who have lost loved ones to this virus

Almost 350,000 people have die, 100,000 here in America

(think of the sheer amount of grief that (should) represents, how many fathers, mothers, children, friends are grieving those who have died)

 

I can believe the God of the cross is grieving too

and holding those grievers close

that this God is not immune to our pain

 

but is close, as close as our pain

and it is this closeness itself

this intimacy offered by an infinite God

that heals