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

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

hang on and let go

Ya’all better hold on tight

2020 is fixin’ to turn 21

and start drinkin’



Help me to journey beyond the familiar

and into the unknown.

Give me the faith to leave old ways

and break fresh ground with You. . .

                     from the Prayer of St. Brendan



every winter (or summer, depends on where you live)

as the calendar year come to an end

we like to pretend that we are joyously leaving

the old year behind


letting go of the past

moving on to the future


getting rid of the old

embracing the new


we make a big show of it!

and it’s a total joke


we are people prone to cling

we cling to old hurts

we cling to old victories

we cling to ways of thinking and behaviors


we have a death grip on what was and is

and our eyes seems to constantly look back

to “the golden age”


certainly the past is important

it both shapes and informs us


but our failure to “let go”, to de-fuse from the past

can be devastating

for both us as individuals

and us as a “corporation” a society


in the United Stated our inability to let go of old ideologies

the ideology of white supremacy

and of domination


has led to the fabric of our country being torn asunder


for we cannot move on without facing

and healing

and letting go of the past


only then can newness emerge

only then can we bloom and go


why is it so hard to move on to what is next?


Because letting go so often feels like death

we are letting go of what is certain and known

moving into what is uncertain and unknown


we are leaving behind the things we have relied on

those things from which we have gotten our identity

our sense of value


Jesus understood how dramatic this is

which is why he said we must die to live


the only way to resurrection, to newness of life

is through crucifixion


as I enter into this new year

the question I am asking myself is this

“In what ways do I need to die?”


What do I need to let go of?

What do I need to leave behind to press forward?


And this is not just a question for the new year

This is the question I must ask every day of my life

Perhaps every moment


What am I clinging to?

What have I become dependent on?

What have I allowed to become my identity?


Once I have figured that out

I have to let go…


death must precede resurrection

this is “the only trustworthy pattern of spiritual transformation” *


I have to die to the old

so that Sacred may pick up all the debris,

all the flotsam of my life,

and make something new


it is always a risk to do this

always scary

but every time I let go

every time I “trust the dying”*

I find my self anew

A better self, a larger self


and I move closer

to being what I was created to be

a Sacred child


*this language comes from Richard Rohr in his book The Universal Christ

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Hope rises

That peace

will rise like bread

we can always hope


That justice

will flow like wine

we can always hope


That the table

will make strangers kin

we can always hope


That our hope

will rise like bread

we can always pray

                     Jan Richardson  In Wisdom’s Path



we stumble dazedly out of a demented year

like crazed teenagers in a horror movie

having made every bad choice available


our heads filled with the lies of mad kings

our days filled with fear

our streets filled with armed bullies

and explosive laden RV’s


we stumble toward a new year

uncertain of whether we

are running away from danger or into danger


“ya’ll better hold on tight” one sage proclaimed

“2020 is fixin’ to turn 21 and start drinking”


but we want to hope

we are built, I think, for hope


we hope as people have always hoped

for peace, and justice and equity

we hope that people will learn to live together


in a world where all are valued

all are welcomed

all are accepted

where all gather, together, at the table of Love


but where do we find true reason for hope?


the Instagram poet Atticus once wrote

“some say

the sun is god –

and you don’t see

the sun


who it warms”  (The Truth About Magic)


we find hope in the sun

we find hope in the sun rise

we find hope in the snowcapped mountain

that looms in the light of a full moon


we find hope in the light


not just the light of the sun

but in the light was incarnation

in the light that was Jesus


we find hope in the fact that the light came into the darkness

and was not overcome

we find hope in the reality that the light comes, and come, and come again

into the dark corners of our hearts

into our lives

and is not overcome


We find hope in the fact that when we believe in, and embrace Love,

believe in the incarnate presence that was (Jesus)

and believe (ongoing) in the incarnate presence that is (the Spirit)

we have the “power” to be Sacred Children, all of us


Believing is not a belief

It is not intellectual assent


It is the active ongoing embracing of love

of hope


it is trust, intimacy

commitment, passion


it is opening, letting go

it is being taken over

by the yeast of heaven


so that hope rises

like bread



Monday, December 28, 2020

Those who inhabit us

I believe that we carry within us the strength of generations and that we, too, are inhabited by those who have gone before, by their brokenness and the pain that their decisions have sometimes inflicted upon us, yes, but also by their wisdom, by the courage of their choices made for healing and freedom.  There are wise ones who inhabit our blood, their dreams and hope flowing through us, their voices echoing in the pounding of our hearts.

                     Jan Richardson  In Wisdoms Path  p. 29



I barely knew my grandparents

distance and death took their toll

and they were early gone, leaving behind vague memories


Grandpa Kliewer, that tall, distinguished one

Peter Albert was a fitting name for this Mennonite minister

who, ravaged by the Spanish flu, was often ill

and often lay in bed in a back room, a mystery

but sometimes emerged with a kind smile

and held me proudly, the first Kliewer grandson


Grandmother Kliewer

the power in the family, that one with stern visage

who never quite accepted my mother,

but had a weakness for Chinese checkers

because playing cards was a “sin” (as were many, many other things)

and would play for hours with her young grandson


that one who pushed my gentle grandfather into

a semblance of sternness and impelled him into the local

bars to “rescue the sinners”

when he would much rather play baseball with the team he formed

with his Cheyenne brothers


Peter was inclusive, not imposing his white culture on the Cheyenne

he served, but translating much into their language, and valuing their culture


You did not cross Grandmother Kliewer

You did not slouch, or put your elbows on the table

But you could still make her smile


Grandfather Fairbanks, the descendent of early settlers

his family coming to America in 1635, and building

the Fairbanks House (which still stands in Dedham, Mass)

people of prominence and wealth


But grandpa was simple soul

Short and thin, with a huge flock of white hair

he lived a hard scrabble life, eking a living from the hard ground

of southeast Nebraska, a dirt farmer

who never owned a tractor, only horses

and whose house never had running water


but his poverty was delightful in my innocence

baths taken on the back porch, with water heated on a wood stove

loose hay in the barn, an outhouse in the back yard

possum hunts

trips to check the catfish lines in the channels, and searches for crawdads

lightening bugs flickering in the evening

He worked hard, and smoked hard, and died of emphysema far too young


Grandma was short and round

And filled the house with the scent of fried catfish and other wonders

An immigrant, fresh from Switzerland, I have no idea

How she came to Nebraska, or met my small and quiet grandfather,

But they fit together, comfortably, and raised many children, including my mother

And after grandpa’s death stayed on the farm (now plumbed by my parents)

And with the help of some sons, stayed there for many years

Watching her soap operas with passion


The blood of these people flows in my veins

The devote kindness of Peter Albert Kliewer

The stubborn intensity of Katherine Ruth Braun Kliewer

The love of the soil of James Fairbanks

And the resilience of Emma Deutschman Fairbanks


They passed on so much to my parents

Paul Kliewer, and Mavis Fairbanks Kliewer

Those qualities of service, even servanthood

That awareness of common good

The stubbornness, and intensity

The persistence

That driven need to work and accomplish

The love


for good and for ill, the blood of these people

flowed in the veins of my parents, and now

flows in my veins


They were shaped by time and the history of the world

by depressions and wars

Impacted by the history of their bodies

with emphysema and heart damage (due to the Spanish flu)

and cancer and bulbar palsy


Shaped by all that

They shaped my parents

Who shaped me


And I suspect I have passed on

both the best and the world to my children


“There are wise ones who inhabit my blood,

their dreams and hope flowing through me,

their voices echoing in the pounding of my heart,”


we may walk through a chaotic and scary world

but we do not walk alone

Sunday, December 27, 2020

choose wisely

What we choose

changes us


Who we love

transforms us


How we create

remakes us


Where we live

reshapes us


So in all our choosing,

O God make us wise,


In all our loving,

O Christ make us bold,


In all our creating

O Spirit, give us courage


In all our living

may we become whole

                     Jan Richardson, In Wisdom’s Path, p. 24



It has been shockingly bad year

but then aren’t all years, all decades, all centuries


each in their own way?


but we have been humbled

by our capacity to choose poorly

our fearful reluctance to love

our timid reticence which restrains us

keeping us from chasing our dreams


we have seen, in this year of plague and poverty

in this foul season of abused power and hoarded wealth

how we are shaped by our the communities which surround us


how values and beliefs

attitudes, and social norms

trickled down

and seep into our hearts and souls


melding, sometimes

clashing, sometimes

with the Sacred, which is woven into

the fabric of our being


altering and at times impairing

the way we see the world, and others

and yes!



we have chosen personal freedom,

and released a pandemic


we have chosen hate and fear

and have release enmity and retribution


we have chosen exclusionary tribalism

and have closed our hearts to those around us

close our eyes to the ills of the world

closed our hands

until they have become fists


O Lord

In this season of solstice  when we celebrate

The return of light to creation


When we celebration the arrival of love

And honor the incarnation of love


As we look forward into an uncertain future

peering fretfully down and dim and twisted path

where the virus still lurks,

and abusers bully

and hate grips fear full hearts


help us to choose wisely

help us to choose love

help us to express our best selves

help us to create homes, and workplaces

and places of worship


where the original blessing can be rediscovered

where we can find ourselves again

as Sacred Children


it is time to participate

in epiphany

Friday, December 25, 2020

take peace

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven!


No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace!


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

There is radiance and glory in the darkness could we but see - and to see we have only to look.

I beseech you to look!


….Welcome it, grasp it, touch the angel's hand that brings it to you.

Everything we call a trial, a sorrow, or a duty, believe me, that angel's hand is there,

the gift is there, and the wonder of an overshadowing presence.

Our joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts.


Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty - beneath its covering - that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.


Courage, then, to claim it, that is all. But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are all pilgrims together, wending through unknown country, home.


And so, at this time, I greet you.

Not quite as the world sends greetings,

but with profound esteem and with the prayer

that for you now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.


Excerpts from a letter was written by Fra Giovanni Giocondo

to his friend, Countess Allagia Aldobrandeschi on Christmas Eve, 1513




on this eve of eve’s

when we feel love

and loneliness


when we feel

our failures

and our joys

at their most intense


on this eve of eve’s

we recognize something profound

that we live

in that place




where sacred

and human interface


on that boundary

between the ugly and the sublime


where all that is good and beautiful

collides with all

that is hateful and destructive


on this eve of eve’s

we feel the world tilt

on its axis


and know

in our deepest place

that love



Sorry haters

Sorry those who would aid the rich and hurt the poor

your moments

your delusions

may carry the moment

but in the depth of eternity


love wins


Rejoice lovers

Even as we wait, even as the dawn struggles to break

let us take heaven

take peace

take love


for the light has come into the darkness

and the darkness cannot overcome it

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

awkward harvesting

For everything under the sun there is a time.

This is the season of your awkward harvesting,

When the pain takes you where you would rather not go…


May you be blessed with a wise and compassionate guide

Who can accompany you through the fear and grief

Until your heart has wept its way to your true self.


As your tears fall over that wounded place,

May they wash away your hurt and free your heart.

May your forgiveness still the hunger of the wound


So that for the first time you can walk away from that place,

Reunited with your banished heart, now healed and freed,

And feel the clear, free air bless your new face.

          John O’Donohue, For Someone Awakening to the Trauma of His or Her Past

          To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings


As you have often heard me say, if you do not transform your pain, you will most assuredly transmit it. Healthy religion on the practical level tells us what to do with our pain—because we will have pain. We can’t avoid it; it’s part of life. If we’re not trained in letting go of it, transforming it, turning crucifixion into resurrection, so to speak, we’ll hand it off to our family, to our children, to our neighborhood, to our nation.

          Richard Rohr, Daily Meditation 12/18/2020, Letting Go is Liberation



The day has not yet fully begun

The sun has not yet risen


It is the dawning time

When one’s heart and soul and mind slowly rouse

And prepare to face to day


It is that time when one stares into the darkness

Watching as the light slowly dawns

And the world is slowly revealed

And wonders


What will this day bring?


As the darkness dissolves what will be revealed?


What I have come to learn is that my day will be profoundly shaped

by what I carry into it

by what clings to me


if I carry into this day resentment and anger

this day will be full of affronts and outrage

my soul will be dis-eased

and I will be one who spreads the virus

hurt and fear


if I walk into the day

having taken the time to connect with Sacred Presence

Having drunk deeply from the spring of living Water

that is God’s love


If I have let Love wash through me,

And empower me

So that I have let go

Of hurt and fear and resentment


If I have faced my pain, touched it

And let God transform it, heal it

If I have let the power of Life turn death into life

Pain into forgiveness

Crucifixion into resurrection,


Then I will be healed and freed

And I will find, in this day

Every day

Hope, Peace, Joy, and yes, Love


This day is just being born

The light is just beginning to dawn

The world is taking shape


What kind of a day is it going to be?




It’s Heaven all the way to Heaven and it’s Hell all the way to Hell. We are in Heaven now by falling, by letting go, and by trusting and surrendering to this deeper, broader, and better reality that is already available to us. We’re in Hell now by wrapping ourselves around our hurts, by over-identifying with and attaching ourselves to our fears, so much so that they become our very identity.

                     Richard Rohr, Daily Meditation 12/18/2020

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Inward outward

The outward work will never be feeble if the inward work is great.  And the outward work can never be great or good if the inward work is feeble or of little worth.

                               Meister Eckhart



I did it again this morning

I woke up with a head full of garbage


With a head full of fears

And anger

A head full “if onlys” and “what ifs”

A head full of white nationalism

And constitutional crises


And then there is Trump, who recently has lived in my head,

controlling my thinking with his machinations just as he dominates

the media with his malevolence


and what I want to do

is push the garbage in the corner, into those dark and slimy places

and just carry on


I want to get up and get busy

After all, there are sermons to write, services to prepare

There are clients to see (whose issues make mine look mild)

Classes to teach

Horses and chickens to feed


and baby its cold out there!!!! (10 degrees)

and the snow is deep (1foot)


it would be so easy to leave the garbage where it lies

there in the corners


but I can’t


none of us can ignore our inner world

which if ignored

rots and festers


because it is what’s inside that counts

it is what is inside that determines how we function in this world


Eckhart reminds us that “God is not found in the soul by adding anything,

but by a process of subtraction”.


So just as was the case when I was a little child

one of my primary chores is to empty the garbage


other writers put it other ways

Paul says (Romans 12) “be transformed by the renewing of your minds”


Ezekiel says that if we turn to God, our God will remove our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh


We are told to seek forgiveness, to offer forgiveness, to repent

to turn our hearts and minds over to God, to meditate on God night and day

to pray without ceasing


In so many ways we are told to clean out the garbage

To order our inner lives

Or rather, to let God order our inner lives


It is difficult, this letting go of all that stuff that rattles around in our brains

It is harder than it might seem to make room for the Sacred


And yet, it is what is inside that counts

Whatever we are filled with is what we offer the world

If we are filled with greed we will live greed, and do greedy things

If we are filled with hate, we will live hate, and act with enmity

If we are filled with ego, we will never be able to see others, and feel for others

If we are filled with fear, we will ooze fear, and we will be defensive and offensive


If we are filled with love?


Then we are a different person

And if we can be those “different” people

Then we have a different home, a different community

A different nation

A different world


We cannot neglect our inner worlds

We cannot let FOX or MSNBC

We cannot let Trump or Biden or anyone else, we cannot let the world

“… squeeze [us] you into its own mold, but let God re-mold [our] your minds from within, so that [we] you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you [us] is good…”  (Romans 12, JB Phillips)


We must do the inner work of cleansing



We must create a free and friendly space for the Spirit to dwell


If we don’t, no matter how much we worry no matter how frantically we work

our work will be feeble


But if we do, then our outer work will honor God

(for it will be God at work through us)


and things will work together for good


Sunday, December 20, 2020

God equals change

Jesus quite clearly believed in change.  In fact, the first public word out of his mouth was the Greek imperative metanoeite which literally translates as “change your mind’ or ‘go beyond your mind”…  The word metanoeite, however, is talking about a primal change of mind, worldview, or your way of processing – and only be corollary about a specific change in behavior.  The common misunderstanding puts the cart before the horse; we think we can change a few externals while our underlying worldview often remains narcissistic and self-referential.

                               Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p.86



some people like change

God for instance

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland”  (Isaiah 43:19)


Some people don’t like change

That would be most of us


Change is difficult!

Which is why the images related to change in sacred tomes are often quite radical



Cataclysmic events


Which is why apocalyptic  literature is rarely comfortable to read


if any group of people on this earth should be open to change

open to growth and newness

it should be those who claim to follow the one who called people to be


born again

which really means to be born from above

which really means to be open to the powerful transformative presence of the Spirit

which really means being blown by the Spirit into to places

and reoriented by the fire of God’s transforming love


it is true of course that not all things change

Sacred doesn’t change

God is who God is


Sometimes our concept of God needs to change

being tainted by ideology, and social norms,

by bias and hate

and fear

but God is who God is


The primacy of love doesn’t change

Love God

Love yourself

Love your neighbor as yourself


That never changes!


God’s lust for equity,

and justice


God’s preference for the poor…

never changes


but we need to change


our minds need to change

our hearts need to change

our way of seeing things needs to change

our behaviors need to change, badly


we need to go “beyond our minds”

to the mind of Christ


we need to go beyond of prejudices

our biases

our “deeply held beliefs” in certain societal norms


right now too many voices are screaming at us

to hang on to the old

to the delusion that the way to “win” is to seek domination and power

to our almost universal addiction to wealth

to the false notion that one race is superior to others

to old views regarding the LGBTQI+ community

and more


God is saying change

Too many times we respond by saying “no”


No! I won’t see all as valuable and valued

No! I won’t include all

No!  I won’t love all

No! I won’t let go of my lust for power. 

No! I won’t let go of my view that might makes right, and wealth is a sign of blessing


But here is the thing

God’s new thing is irresistible

It will happen!


And we can be part of the God movement

Or not


Our choice


But if we choose not to go with God

We will need to do some pretty grim things to combat change


We will have to lie, to ourselves, and others

We will have to intimidate and coerce

We will have to shut our eyes to the pain and hurt others are experiencing

We will have literally work against equity and justice


As for me?

I know change is difficult

It stretches me, spiritually, mentally, emotionally

It is, at times, painful

It requires me to admit I have been wrong

It asks for sacrifices, and the abandonment of privilege

It forces me to go against people I care about


But I have to go with God

Wherever I find God taking me

I have to let the fire transform

And the wind blow me where it will


Because God is doing a new thing

And I want to see it!  And be it!


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

domination is diminutive

Domination cannot exist in any social situation where a love ethic prevails. . . . When love is present the desire to dominate and exercise power cannot rule the day. All the great social movements for freedom and justice in our society have promoted a love ethic. Concern for the collective good of our nation, city, or neighbor rooted in the values of love makes us all seek to nurture and protect that good. If all public policy was created in the spirit of love, we would not have to worry about unemployment, homelessness, schools failing to teach children, or addiction. . . .


To live our lives based on the principles of a love ethic (showing care, respect, knowledge, integrity, and the will to cooperate), we have to be courageous. Learning how to face our fears is one way we embrace love. Our fear may not go away, but it will not stand in the way.


bell hooks, All about Love: New Visions (William Morrow: 2000), 87–88, 94, 98, 101


I pray that out of glorious riches God may strengthen you with power through the Spirit... I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 

                                 Paul  (Ephesians 3)



let me go on the record

this faith I hold

this desire to live life by walking the way of Jesus

filled by

comforted by

guided by

empowered by

the Spirit, the active presence of the Sacred in me


is not about winning

it is not about power

it is not about wealth

it is above all else, no about domination


for some domination is the answer to everything

gain control, grab hold of the power

and you make good things happen for yourself


from that position of domination

you can create wealth

you can be safe and secure

you can manipulate and control others


its good to be king/queen/despot/president


but domination

is not the way of Jesus


it is the way of repression

minimization, marginalization

and abuse


for those for whom domination is the key,

it consumes

making them cruel, dishonest, hurtful


once they have a little they want more

and once  they have it, they cannot let it

and will destroy all, even themselves, to stay



power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely

as the saying goes


for Jesus it is all about love

love of neighbor

love for the poor, the wounded, the ill

the widow and the orphan


love for the collective

for the common good


a love that seeks to nurture and protect

those things that lead to the common good

for all


for Jesus there is power

but it is the power of love, the power of service

the power of compassion

the power of generosity


domination has power

but that power is always short lived and destructive

leading eventually to yet another fall

in a long line of many falls in human history


we are living in the middle of such a fall in America!


but love, that is where the real power lies

the power to lift up

to transform

the power to draw the reality of the Kingdom of God into being


love is not safe

for love is never safe


but to live our lives based on love

to show care

to offer respect

to live with integrity

and to work together for the common good


that is how we change the world

that is how we make America, and every other nation



Gloria Jean Watkins (born September 25, 1952), better known by her pen name bell hooks, is an American author, professor, feminist, and social activist. The name "bell hooks" is borrowed from her maternal great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

living hearts

I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  No longer shall they teach one another or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me….

                               Jeremiah 31:31-34


Discernment is an act of the heart, a way of listening with more than the mind… when we discern, we are making space for new revelation to arrive without needing to force it.  This is the soul’s slow ripening.

                               Christine Valters Paintner The Soul’s Slow Ripening, pp 95,96



How do we end up with so much hate?

How do we profoundly neglect the poor?

How do we marginalize people and treat them cruelly

How do we abuse power?

How do exclude the immigrant and refugee from our abundance?

How do we accept violence as a solution?


How do we do all of this

and do it while claiming to be aligned with the Sacred,

with God,

with Love?


Why does this faith we claim with such passion,

not make us







Why does faith become, all too often, a weapon we use on others

rather than for others?


perhaps it is because we have hearts of stone

and have tried to impose holiness

impose faith


through power and domination

through coercions

through rules, and even civil law


we have made faith rigid and cold

a matter of earning God’s love

and then, from a position not of grace, but of merit

not of peace but fear


we have shut our hearts to those who are

less (in our eyes), who are






demanding they conform

demanding they “be like us”


but true faith comes not from hearts of stone

but from hearts beating

and hearts broken


hearts broken by our own failure and pain

and broken by the pain of the world


true faith comes from the slow awakening of the heart

and the slow ripening of the soul


as the warmth of Sacred love

softens us

opens us


until our now malleable hearts have space


not only for Sacred presence

but for, all


all the pain

all the misery

all the joy

all the love

all the people


when God is in us

no longer do we have to demand

“Know the Lord!”

No longer do we have to question

“Do you know Jesus?”


for our hearts will know

and welcome the Sacred One

and our hearts will know and welcome





Monday, December 14, 2020

Encircled by God

This is a time of deep uncertainty

A time with despots refuse to cede power

And collaborators refuse to stand up for justice


A time when people permeated with hate

Threaten violence

And carry guns


It is a time when justice is threatened

and the frail protections of a dying democracy

are fading


And many are frightened


We are fragile shells, we humans

It takes so little to threaten and harm


Illness comes and destroys health

The economy stumbles and our security vanishes

People hurt us

Relationships fail


And we feel as if we cannot withstand it all

As if the pressures will break us

And we will crumble


Dour words echo in our souls

Dust to dust

Ashes to ashes

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity


And yet we are “homo divinus”

Sacred children

We are permeated with the Sacred

We are filled with a love that sustains


Although we pray and offer prayers of supplication

We must remember that Sacred presence is with us already

And that if we do not give up


Those dreadful cracks in our fa├žade

Allow us to receive the Spirit in new ways


And so on this day

As we feel cracked and crumbling

We can embrace the Celtic tradition of encircling prayer

(lorica or “shield” prayer)


God does not need to be reminded to be with us

But we need to be reminded that God is


“May the yoke of the Law of God rest upon this shoulder,

May the coming of the Holy Spirit be on this head,

May this sign of Christ be on this forehead,

May the hearing of the Holy Spirit be in these.”

                                        St Fursa (8th Century)

Sunday, December 13, 2020

the Dangerous Gift

Why are we the one terrible part of creation privileged to refuse our own flowering?

                               David Whythe, Quoted by  CV Paintner in Soul’s Slow Ripening p.57




There is something about time of waiting

Something about those liminal moments

When we are stuck in between


for as things slow, and sometimes even stop

we have time to stop

and in the quiet stillness



listen our hearts beat

our lungs fill

listen to our bodies, and feel the places where we carry our pain

all the emotional, mental, spiritual pain

that finds its home

in our physical shell


in the stillness we have time

for what Ignatius call “the daily examen”


we can look in the mirror and take a look at



this is critical task

for healthy people

(or so my training as both as pastor and therapist tell me)

are souls who have



and self-control


Do we examine ourselves honestly?

(Some don’t examine, and some do, and are too harsh)

Do we think deeply about what we find?

Do we respond to what we find in meaningful ways?


It is scary and painful to go to that quiet place

Inside the soul, and meet the Sacred One

Such moments are our Gethsemane

our moment when we lie on the hard rock of reality


it is not that it is all bad

we are all people who are both wonderful and terrible

good and bad

generous and greedy

kind and cruel


Our inner world is not black and white

There are many shades of gray

But there are also amazing, brilliant colors

Swirling and mixed together


A kaleidoscope of grace


It can be a bit overwhelming


Sometimes, as we linger

We are driven to tears

We see it all!  Who we can be.  Who we want to be.  Who we are.


We see the grand victories and the abysmal failures


I love the old Irish poem

“When I contemplate my sins, grant me tears always,

For great are the claims of tears on checks

Grant me tears when rising, grant me tears when resting…..


Grant me tears, the poem concludes, “to help cure the soul”


In this time, in this still moment

As we sit with COVID

As we await the outcome of a hate filled election

As we struggle with who we are as people of faith

And members of a community

And citizens of a nation


I have tears…


Because what I see is that we have exchanged

The radicality of God, for the normalcy of the world


We have taken the way of God, and we have bent it to our will

We have soften it, watered it down

until now only hints of the radicality remain


we still talk about loving our neighbor

but we have accepted the world’s definition of “neighbor” not God’s

We still insist we need to be generous,

But we have accepted the world’s insistence that the person

Who dies with the most toys wins


But most of all

This is the deepest failure of all (as I reflect upon it)

We have become radical individualists, rather than people

Who think, live and breathe community


In the early church, the work of God was communal

The life and death and resurrection of Jesus was a universal action


It is not that there is not an individualistic impact on each of us

for we are part of the whole (indeed)


but when Christ rose the early church saw it as

the trampling of hell

the leading of all souls out of hell,

and the lifting up of all humanity with Christ


this was not a partial victory

and it was not about individuals

it was about the world


it was about all nations

all people

and all of life


and we are called to be swept along

“We are all caught up in the cosmic sweep of Divine grace and mercy”

(Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p.166)


but in my heart I have made all of this about me

my comfort

my wealth

my power

my agenda

my values


I have no let God overwhelm me

I have not allowed that complete, non-hostile takeover

and so I am still way too much about “me”


I am still an individualist

And thus cannot grab hold of the communal

Cannot fully grasp how we humans are bound together

And how we humans around bound with the earth


and cannot really see (and feel)

that when the earth suffers we all suffer

and when another nation suffers, all nations suffer

and when another race is minimized and abused, we are all minimized and abused

and when some struggle with poverty, we are all poor

and when some are oppressed, we are all oppressed

and when some are brutalized we are all brutalized


this is what I find in my soul mirror

in this time of waiting


and my heart is full of tears

because I believe with Rohr, and Crossan

and a cloud of witnesses


that until we are caught up in the Cosmic Sweep of Divine Love

and until we believe that God is all in all” (I Corinthians 15:28)

and until we let that sink into our hearts

and into our minds

and transform our ideologies and actions


than “much of what passes for Christianity

will amount to little more than well-disguised narcissism

and self-referential politics”   (Rohr, The Universal Christ, p.167)


But there is hope, dear ones

For we are all precious souls

And God is

And Love is

And the inner presence of God means


That we can indeed participate in the work of love

We can move beyond ourselves

We can fight for the common good

We can reject this implicit narcissism that affects us all


There is hope, for when we love God

Then Sacred Love, present as Holy Spirit

Can move within us

Can seize us, permeate us,


And we can flower

Love can bloom forth

We can look beyond ourselves, act beyond ourselves

Love beyond ourselves


And all things can work together for the good of all


if we do not give up


Saturday, December 12, 2020

Go to where the pain is

This has been a week of disunity

So tonight I would like to talk about unity


There are more than a few biblical passages that suggest that when it comes to being God’s people, unity is it.


1 Corinthians 1:10 ESV / 838 helpful votes

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.


1 Peter 3:8

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.


Philippians 2:2

Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.


Colossians 3: And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.


2 Corinthians 13:

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.


Ephesians 4:3 Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.




We live in a time of great hostility, and the temptation from which we must defend ourselves is to pull back from others, deny our shadow, and retreat into our own defended camps or isolated positions. This temptation is not detachment, but the giving over of ourselves to the illusion of separation. True spiritual action (as opposed to reaction) demands our own ongoing transformation, often changing sides to be where the pain is…

                               Richard Rohr, CAC note, 11/2/2020



this is a time of great hostility

it is also a time of great fear

a time of great anger


it is a time when every is entrenching

doubling down


a time when both sides claim righteousness

and both sides claim

that if the other wins the world will come to an end


it will be the “end of the world as we know it!”


and so we have two parties

two ideologies

two agendas


and hostility dominates

hate saturates the air

and saturates our souls


and we are naturally defensive

steeled against defeat

but also alienated

separated from one another


those people I have worshiped with

painted with

work with

studied with

are they really people I might abandon because they support Trump?

am I really someone they would  reject, because I am for Biden?


can I remember

can they remember

the time we spent together

at the side of graves


in the candle light of a Christmas Eve service


My task, in this time, is to go where the pain is

Not my pain, but their pain

and feel that pain, and feel the fear

that the country they love will become something

they no longer recognize?


Can I open my heart enough

can I tear down the walls?

can I build a bridge of love

across the ideological abyss?


This election, no one wins

If we end up in armed camps

If we end up separated from one another.


I admit

I am frightened by the specter

of white supremacy

of armed men patrolling the streets


I am in pain

Because of children separated from their children

LGBTQI friends being diminished and threatened

Colored people marginalized

Poor people abandoned


But I know that everyone is in pain

And I know

That if I can enter into the pain of other

Into their fear of loss, their struggle with ways that are different and frightening

Then “win” or “lose”


Something will emerge

That will be more than I can ask or imagine







It may seem illogical

But it is the way God works

When we open up, let go

When we die to our own dominance


Good things happen

Healing happens

Love happens


And God knows we need

Need love

This day


So let us not be armed camps

Let us not be closed

Let us have open hearts

And go to where the pain is

And in our common pain, find unity