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



Monday, February 17, 2020

short-hand religion



“It’s short-hand religion without a deeper theology,” he said. “If you don’t have a theology of empathy, there is no Jesus there. Even if you look at someone who is gay [greedy, dishonest, hateful, racist] and you believe that’s not what God wants for people, Jesus encountered people throughout his ministry that would be doing things God wouldn’t want for them. And he always leaves them with more dignity than he found them.”
                                                              John Pavlovitz
__________________________________________

Why bother with faith?
Why bother, to put it more bluntly
With religion

I mean really, what a pain
You’ve got to give up part of a weekend
To go listen to some dude or dudette talk
And talk
And talk

you’ve got to give up not just time
but money
and perhaps
if your faith system has really got religion

things like
depending on your brand

pot
coffee and coke
alcohol
swearing (I mean WTF?)

and you’ve got to behave
or not

but seriously

what is it that moves a think adult
to embrace a religion

a lot of thinking adults aren’t, anymore

and so we have the “none”

As in I’ll have none of that!

But for those that remain….
Why?

Honestly it seems that for many it is a matter of….
Wait for it…..
Transaction

I participate in this faith thing
And I get blessed
I get prosperous
I get happy
I get saved
From eternal torment

Its turn or burn!

I ran across a song the other day
That might well be the national anthem
Of much of American Christianity

'll be so happy (Lord I'll be)
I'll be so happy (yes I will)
I'll be so happy (when I see his precious face)
I'll be so happy (When I see Jesus inside of me)
I'll be so happy (All my heartaches, they will be over)
I'll be so happy (All my sorrows, they'll be over)
I'll be so happy
(All my tears and my pains, it will be over, yes it will
Oh I won't have to bear noo, won't have to bear no more burdens
I'll be so happy
They'll be nothing but joy and peace over there
Every day will be Sunday
So Happy, Jesus and Me

Jesus and me
We are like “this”
And all is well with the world

Except
I wonder

Is that really what it’s all about?

As I think about my choice
To engage with a God who is love

There are of course “Jesus and me” moments
Yeah
Oh yeah

I want to be in communion with the Sacred
Drawn into a swirling vortex of Love
Forgiven
Healed
Empowered

I want to be filled to overflowing
With Sacred Presence

But there is the critical point
Filled with sacred presence not just
So that I can “be so happy”

But so full of God’s love
That I leak love
So full that it oozes out of me
And transforms

The way I see
The way I treat
Other people

All other people

Not just the easy people
The beautiful people
Rich people
Smart people
Kind people
Clever people

But all people
All meaning all

Even that dirty and drained soul lying on a park bench
Even that greedy and shriveled soul sitting in chairs of gold

My religion (I prefer spirituality)
Should be about how I interact with those people
Who I encounter
Each day

And I should be about one thing
One
Thing

Building a bridge between myself and the other
So that the Sacred can cross over
And do for that person
As much or more as the Sacred has done for me

What I want from my “religion”
Is to become human
To be drawn out of my subhuman
Selfishness and greed
Out of my need for power
And my need to put others down

Into the fullness of my humanity
Into my divine heritage
Into the image

So that I can work with God
To help others
Find themselves
Their true selves
That precious, amazing self
That reflects the very nature of the Sacred

What I want my religion to do
Is to make me a person
Who leaves other people
With more love
More hope
More joy
More peace

With more humanity
With more dignity
Than when I first met them

And that
Is why
I bother

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Defy the darkness

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”
                                                              Anne Frank

Endure the injustice and take the opportunity to put the extravagant love of Christ’s Kingdom into practice; bring the audacious and everlasting love of God into the daylight and dazzle those whose eyes have never seen or imagined such overwhelming and sincere love. This is how we change the world. This is how we transform our enemies into friends. This is how we end the violence. This is how we push back the darkness – not with more darkness – but with true, undeniable light; the light that only comes from God.  If the best we can do is take an eye for an eye, we will never escape this world of blindness.
                                                              Keith Giles (Our Christless Christianity)
____________________________________________

What do we do in times like this?

We know the litany of ills
The exclusion of the needy from our shores
The neglect and oppression of the poor and vulnerable
The proliferation of lies
The rise of hate
The destruction of the earth

We know them all to well
They are encroaching darkness
That threatens to smother us
And rob us of sight
And sound
And feeling

Leaving us
With nothing

Our hearts pound
Our heads scream with a thousand voices
As we are consumed by it all

And yet
And yet
And yet

We believe
Not in the power of the darkness
But in the power of the light

And we
Beloved children of God
Spirit carriers
Precious souls

Are the candle
We defy the darkness

For blown by the Spirit
Consumed by the flame of Sacred love

Through us sacred love
flames out (like shining from shook foil)  (Hopkins)

and we
by how we live
By how we accept and welcome
By our kindness and caring
By our generosity and service

By our love
Reveal the darkness for what it is
We define it as small
Empty and ugly
Powerful but powerless to defeat

And we shine on
Pushing back the darkness

Bringing “the audacious and everlasting love of God
into the daylight”

destroying the darkness with overwhelming and sincere love.
Bringing sight to the blind
Giving voice to hope
Thawing the frozen heart

We do this
We
One by one
Gathered

We shine on
With the “true, undeniable light; the
light that only comes from God”

and darkness define
and darkness defied

the kingdom comes

Friday, February 7, 2020

Do not be afraid

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
                                                   Corrie Ten Boom

“I've spent most of my life and most of my friendships holding my breath and hoping that when people get close enough they won't leave, and fearing that it's a matter of time before they figure me out and go.”
                                                    Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet

“A psychiatrist once told me early in treatment, “Stop trying to make me like you,” and what a sobering and welcome smack in the face that statement was. Yet somehow, every day of my life is still a campaign for popularity, or better yet, a crowded funeral.”
                                                    John Waters
__________________________________________________

I don’t know when it started
this endless litany in my skull

you are not enough
you are not enough
no matter what you do it will not be enough

but I cannot remember a time when my stomach did not hurt
and each day
as life assailed me

I chewed an anti-acid
Even my grade school body
Revealing my anxiety

I know I wanted to please
I know I wanted to be liked

And the judges were out there
Real and imagined
My father
My classmates

That cute girl in 7th grade math

And soon my life became
A test

Of value
Of worth

An examination in worthiness

And all too often
I failed

Not perhaps in other’s eyes
But always in my one

Do they like me?
Am I “in”?
Will she admire me?
Will he respect me?

And life was shaped
by my attempts to be
what I thought others wanted me to be…

and the voice in the head
that bully brain
continued the refrain…

“how am I doing?”

And still today
As I write my blog
Or give a sermon
Or work with a Mental Health client

I worry
And I want to make everyone happy
Everyone

Just try that these days !!!

I suspect there is plenty of evidence I do just fine
but then that comment comes

and it all floods in
the doubt,
the anxiety,
the pain
that I carry, carry, carry
in the aging body

and still at 68
as at 8
my stomach hurts
and my heart hurts

and I am haunted
by failures real and imagined

and then there is nothing to do
but to turn to the One
who always loves
always accepts
always sees me as a precious soul

there is nothing to do but to breathe
and sink into the depths
where love lives

and in that deep place seek God, and seek, perhaps myself
St. Francis of Assisi would spend whole nights praying “Who are you, my most dear God, and who am I . . . ?”

It is a good question

But who God is love
Unfailing
Unreserved
Unencumbered

And in that love one experiences
the absolute safety of God
one finds a God who is “always and forever larger than we expected” (Rohr)

and in that Sacred space, one finds one’s True Self,

I have become a fan of self-compassion
And there are standard phrases (metta phrases)

But here is mine

“As I wander deep within
May I find myself again
In the context of Sacred love
May my body be healed
May my mind be healed
May my heart be healed
May my soul be healed
May I be at peace”

It is in those moments when I find that peace
That I can quit trying so hard to please
Quit trying to make people like me

And just be
Honest
Brave
Kind
Loving

An agent of reconciliation
So that others
Do not have to be afraid

And do not have to wonder

Am I enough?

Thursday, February 6, 2020

close to the ground

Life in the desert is not easy. It does not offer moderate temperatures to please the human desire for comfort nor abundant water to quench inevitable thirst. The caves that offer shelter likely don’t provide a soft place to lay tired bodies. And yet, the desert abbas and ammas sought out these conditions, believing they would find new and abundant life—even where life seemed impossible. We invite you to take a few breaths and to slowly and contemplatively read this passage from Howard Thurman’sMeditations of the Heart, in which he describes an encounter in another kind of mountain wilderness

It was above the timber line. The steady march of the forest had stopped as if some invisible barrier had been erected beyond which no trees dared move in a single file. Beyond was barrenness, sheer rocks, snow patches and strong untrammeled winds. Here and there were short tufts of evergreen bushes that had somehow managed to survive despite the severe pressures under which they had to live. They were not lush, they lacked the kind of grace of the vegetation below the timber line, but they were alive and hardy. Upon close investigation, however, it was found that these were not ordinary shrubs. The formation of the needles, etc., was identical with that of the trees further down; as a matter of fact, they looked like branches of the other trees. When one actually examined them, the astounding revelation was that theywerebranches. For, hugging the ground, following the shape of the terrain, were trees that could not grow upright, following the pattern of their kind. Instead, they were growing as vines grow along the ground, and what seemed to be patches of stunted shrubs were rows of branches of growing, developing trees. What must have been the torturous frustration and the stubborn battle that had finally resulted in this strange phenomenon! It is as if the tree had said, “I am destined to reach for the skies and embrace in my arms the wind, the rain, the snow and the sun, singing my song of joy to all the heavens. But this I cannot do. I have taken root beyond the timber line, and yet I do not want to die; I must not die. I shall make a careful survey of my situation and work out a method, a way of life, that will yield growth and development for me despite the contradictions under which I must eke out my days.In the end I may not look like the other trees, I may not be what all that is within me cries out to be. But I will not give up. I will use to the full every resource in me and about me to answer life with life. In so doing I shall affirm that this is the kind of universe that sustains, upon demand, the life that is in it.” I wonder if I dare to act even as the tree acts. I wonder! I wonder! Do you?
                     Howard Thurman,Meditations of the Heart(Beacon Press: 1999), 123-124

                     Richard Rohr (meditation 1/25/2020

________________________________________________________

This morning
as on many mornings lately
I did not want to get out of bed

call it depression
call it despair
call it hopelessness

the world seems stunted and barren these days
and only the limbic mewing of the cats
and the unbounded enthusiasm of my  dog
drag me

even while darkness lingers
into the barren and uneven terrain of a new day

I am tired to the bone these day
Tired of the vindictiveness,
The lust for retribution
The need to win
To dominate and control

I am tired of
the evil
the duplicity
the hypocrisy
the greed
the abuse of power
the lost of justice
the growing inequity
the racism
the fear
the hate

and yet
if I look
closely

near the ground
I see caring and kindness
Compassion and generosity

Grimly hanging one
Their roots clinging desperately
To the hearts people

Who in such an inhuman world
Would be fully human

Children of God
Bearers of the Sacred
Reflection of the divine image

There close to the ground
As the winds of hate blow
And the freezing power of greed oppresses

And people obsessed with power
Discarding all semblance of honesty, and integrity
call evil good and good evil
and stunt all that is sacred

There close to the ground
Love grows
Tortured and oppressed
But still alive

Striving toward the light

There close to the ground
People sit by the side of dying friends
And listen to hurting friends
And do acts of random kindness
And welcome the stranger
And wrap the vulnerable in acceptance and compassion

And love lives

So I will not give up
And I will seek
With every fiber of my being
And with the help of the Sacred Presence
Which lurks in my soul

To answer life with life

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

who am I


St. Francis of Assisi (1182–1226) would spend whole nights praying “Who are you, my most dear God, and who am I . . . ?” It is through encountering the absolute safety of God that we discover our True Self, and in finding our truest self, we find a God who is always and forever larger than we expected.
                                                                        Richard Rohr  (Meditation, 1/24/2020)

May I be happy.
May I be at peace.
May I live with ease.
May I be free from suffering.
                                                                        Traditional Metta Phrases
___________________________________________________

Ah compassion
that moment when we step ourselves
when we notice
those empty eyes
the tears that cannot quite
flow

the body bend
the hands clenched

when for a moment we step outside our own
pain
and see, and hear
the other

Ah empathy
when we move past noticing
past vague feelings of pity
and enter in

walking into the pain
the fear
the loneliness

when we feel not for the other
but with the other

when we stand with them
sit with them
when we grieve and weep with them
entering into the world
seeing as best we can through their eyes
feeling with their heart

people drawn together

we know there is too little compassion
and too little empathy

there is faux compassion and empathy
often called sympathy

where those in position of power
or relative comfort look down
condescending
on “lesser folk”

but this act of joining
ah that we could learn
for those limbic driven
friends, from that dog who lies
as her person’s feet when he
knows her person is hurting

or the cat who usually aloof
snuggles next to her suffering person

where does it come from?
This ability to have compassion, and ultimately
Empathy

It comes from our ability to have self compassion
A compassion that emerges for many of us
Only when we are able to access the reality of divine compassion
And divine empathy

We talk incarnation
God entering into our world
Our space

But we must realize that incarnation is what God does
Always
It is who God is
God with us

And this God
Whom we can find in the sunrise
And stars
and wind

we also find at our own center
in that deep place where angels and demons dwell

which is also where we find ourselves

and in that place we sit together
our self and the Sacred
and we learn that God understands (has empathy)
and we learn of God’s compassion
and in the safety of Sacred love
we learn to sit with our own pain and fear
and sitting with ourselves
we learn to have compassion on that self

and then…
we are safe in our hearts
safe enough to look past our own “stuff”
our own loss, and regret,
our own anger and fear

and see
and feel
and have a little empathy
and a little compassion

in a world that has far too little

then we can sit with others
and let our hearts ache
and the tears come
and generosity flow

because we have found and accepted ourselves
and we have found a God
“who is always and forever larger [and more loving] than we expected.”

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Use your brain, it works!


“Is there any point in public debate in a society where hardly anyone has been taught how to think, while millions have been taught what to think?”
                                                   Peter Hitchens

“In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable—what then?”
                                                    George Orwell, 1984

“Most people do not have a problem with you thinking for yourself, as long as your conclusions are the same as or at least compatible with their beliefs.”
                                                    Mokokoma Mokhonoana

_______________________________________________

I sat with my elderly friend
as we talked about days gone by
of long lost fathers, and brothers, and sisters

of her husband
gone these many years

attendants came and went
with eye drops and pills

and then through the air
unrelenting
came the sound of a TV
turned up to the thunder level

as an elderly man sat
literally 2 feet from the screen watching the news

the hosts were pleasant and chatty
happy folk in their extreme whiteness

and they overwhelmed the space
with a reality I did not recognize
an alternative truth

and it hit me
profoundly
to what degree we shape our own realities
or allow others to shape them

Listening to the hosts of the show
I came to understand that if I trusted those voices
I too would see the President as the savior of America
A gifted leader leading us to greatness

If I trusted those voices, as they talked about immigrants
and democrats,
and liberals
I too would fear the immigrants, despise the democrats
and hate the liberals

It struck me so powerfully
That if I had not had the experiences I have had

That person in front of that TV could be me

What I saw was a man who
I am sure
Loves his country
Loves God (as he understands God)
Loves his family

What I saw was a man who probably worked hard
And was generous
And a good neighbor

What I saw was a good person
Shaped by the family that raised him
The preachers who preached at him
The teachers who taught him
The people and the culture that surrounds him
And, those voices…
Coming loudly, out of that TV

I could see how that reality
That I see as false, alternative

Could be his total reality
How there could easily be no hole in the bubble
No crack in the wall

I cannot accept this alternative reality
Where I believe
Good is called evil, and evil is called good

I cannot accept this reality where greed is accepted
Corruption is ignored and excused
And others are see not only as less, but without true value

(Even as I write those words I realize that
Those inside that alternative reality do not see greed as greed but success and power
And see corruption as “the art of the deal”
And do not understand that they are caught up in privilege and even supremacism)

So I struggle to understand
To have compassion
To love
While watching the hate roil
And the waters become poisoned
And the earth wither
And people, so many people, be harmed
By poverty, injustice, hate, racism, exclusion,

And in this painful place I struggle to remember
That I too have been shaped

I have been shaped by my Mennonite, pacifist heritage
By my father who served his patients and community so diligently
By my uncle, a Wake Island survivor
Who hunted down the Japanese commandant who brutalized him and almost killed him
And reconciled with that man, on the 50th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.

I have been shaped by my education (I admit it, my amazing times at four great schools have shaped my capacity to gather facts, evaluate them, and think, critically)

I have been shaped by my time as a pastor
By time sitting in hospital rooms and by death beds
By time sipping coffee, an extravagant gift, in a house touched by poverty
By time working with the poor
The mentally ill
The addicted

I have been shaped by time in Northern Iraq, Azerbaijan, Israel, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, and Romania, responding to war and natural disasters

I have been shaped by holding a dying Kurdish child in my arms
And looking a decimated villages
And ravaged people with empty eyes

I have also been shaped by my whiteness
Maleness
And economic privilege

So I have a reality shaped by many things
And I know my grasp of reality is not perfect
I know I do not see everything clearly
I know I am biased
I know I may well, all to many times, be wrong

And so I have to be honest about how I am shaped
And who shapes me

And I have to constantly, daily, even hourly
Return to my center
To that place where the Sacred dwells
To that place where the Spirit
Advocate
Comforter
And Guide roams

And I have to let the Spirit help me sort out
The fine line between opinion and fact
Truth and that pesky alternative truth

Do I always succeed in finding the truth?
Of course, not but I try
I try
And I listen to many voices… not just one
Not just the same ones

And the truth is
I fear too many people have be told what to think
Rather than taught how to think

I fear there are “People of the Lie” out there
Who are peddling lies for profit and power

And I fear some very good, decent people
Are actively supporting evil, unawares

So what do we do with this?

Here are my meager thoughts…
Turn on our hearts
Become open to the Spirit
Use our brains
Keep humble
Keep kind
Keep loving

And pray
That we can be mustard seeds
That we can be yeast

And help all of us
Together
Find truth and love, and
Build the kingdom

Monday, February 3, 2020

the price of love


“The pain of grief is just as much part of life as the joy of love: it is perhaps the price we pay for love, the cost of commitment. To ignore this fact, or to pretend that it is not so, is to put on emotional blinkers which leave us unprepared for the losses that will inevitably occur in our own lives and unprepared to bereavement little help others cope with losses in theirs.
                                                   Colin Murray Parkes
_____________________________________

It seems as if every day my heart breaks

This is the price I pay for love
Not romantic love

But that deep earthy love
that comes from the Sacred
for all things Sacred

and everything is Sacred

the earth is sacred
the mountains, and streams, and oceans
all of it

the sky is sacred
as it flashes neon orange in the morning
and stretches blue during the day
only to die flaming

Animals too
All creatures great and small
Are fashioned by divine design

And humans
Ah yes
Those beings created in the image
Carriers of divine love

Those in whom the sacred dwells
Those who have so badly blurred the divine image

And my heart breaks
As I watch people who seem
Somehow
To have lost their hearts
(and their minds too)

Do things that so assail
Everything good, and bright, and beautiful
And sacred

It hurts my heart to see
The comfortable, the powerful, the rich
The hard, the cruel, the empty, the angry,
Make decisions that hurt the planet
And hurt people

It hurts my heart to see justice perverted
To see equity vanish
To see the rule of law ignored
To see our freedoms destroyed

It hurts my heart to hear our leaders lie
To see people who are supposed to provide justice subvert justice
To see the rich enriched
And the poor abandoned

Each day it gets worse
Each day evil grows bolder

I watch it all
and I grieve

I grieve for the LGBTQI person who has lost rights
For the woman who has been minimized, or worse, assaulted, and abused
I grieve for the homeless, the hungry, the poverty stricken
I grieve for the immigrant who fears each day the arrival of ICE
(and you don’t have to be illegal to have that fear)

I grieve for the refugee who comes to our borders and is put in a camp
Whose child is taken away

I grieve the daily assault on truth
On kindness
On integrity
On compassion
On justice
On morality

Sometimes I wonder, do they know what they are doing?
These “People of the Lie” (Scott Peck)

Are these conscious intentional acts of evil, of injustice, greed, and immorality,
or have these people truly become deluded, incapable of seeing, speaking and doing truth?

Do they simply not see the damage they are doing,
or do they see, and just not care?

Are they simply so shortsighted that they cannot see
beyond the next election?

What goes through the mind of a person who participates
in a farce, in a coverup?
What goes on in the mind of a person who allows a small, retributive person
destroy the earth?
What goes on in the heart of a person who can casually watch children be caged?

I have come to the conclusion that it does not matter
I must grieve for them too

And I must grieve for those who have been led into the darkness

I know they do not understand
They have chosen to believe people of the lie
They are wrapped in lies
Fed a steady diet of false information,
and thus are consumed by hate and fear

Those who cheer brutality and retribution
and cheer their own destruction?

I grieve for them too

I do not know what to do with this grief
Any more than Jesus knew what to do with his grief
As he approached Jerusalem

All he could do is weep
Weep that they would not and could not see
(If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes)
Weep at the horror that was to come

But he wept for everyone
Without distinction

Because that is how the heart of God works

I want to be angry
I want to hate

But instead I am called to grieve
As I believe God grieves

It is the price of love



Sunday, February 2, 2020

love will remain


“We are only just beginning to understand the power of love because we are just beginning to understand the weakness of force and aggression.”
B.F. Skinner, Walden Two

“I'm the caring type also. I care aggressively. That's just who I am.”
Salman Rushdie, Quichotte
___________________________________

What it about the lust for power?
What is behind this need to have power “over” others,
And why this need to use that power,
Often abusively?

This is the question that lingers in my head
as I watch camouflaged mostly white mostly men
parade through the streets

posturing
with one intent
to intimidate
to bully

that is the question
as I listen to right wing church leaders
back evil

as I watch those who claim to follow
the way the truth and the life
back a person who lies
support the minimization of women
exclude LGBTQI people
cheer the incarceration of vulnerable immigrants

This is the question
As I watch my country
Attempt to bully the world
Siding with other abusive nations

Why do husbands, sometimes wives
Parents
Teachers
Bosses
Police
Soldiers
Politicians
Abuse power?

Perhaps it is hardwired into our nature
With Adam and Even
Who had it all
Wanting more

Wanting to “be like God”
a wish for power

Perhaps it is something pathological
Something alien to our nature as
Sacred Children

Something found in all
A hint
But found in some
A drive a hunger
That defines
And shapes

Becomes a gun packed
A fist curled
A harsh word spoken
Violence

Perhaps it is
As some suggest fear

Those swaggering camo clad
Gun carrying
Slogan shouting
White power symbol toting
Facades hiding

Fear

That they are losing
That they are less
That they are not superior after all

As if equality were not enough

And yet there are different kinds of power
Power over
Is not the only option

There is aggressive compassion
Aggressive kindness
Aggressive love

Paul once reminded the early followers
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves..”  (Phil 2:3)

Asking those who would walk in the steps of Jesus,
To truly walk in the steps of Jesus

“who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.”  (Phil. 2:6-8)

the bottom line is this
straight from God’s heart

those aggressive ones
who use force
to create fear
to dominate and control
to minimize and subdue

do not show their strength
they simply show how frail they really are

strength is not to be found on the streets of Richmond, Virginia
Or in the White House
Or in the US Senate
Or in drones

Strength and power are to be found
In the woman who sits by the bed of her dying friend
In the sons who also sit
Holding their mothers hand

True power is held by
The one who is strong enough to listen
Strong enough to give
Strong enough to forgive
Strong enough to lift the other up
Strong enough to be vulnerable
And love

It is an odd kind of power
A cross kind of power

But in the end
When dictators and their kingdoms
Have fallen
The kingdom of love
Will remain

Saturday, February 1, 2020

love or perish


We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.
                                         Martin Luther King, Jr.

“They want us to be afraid.
They want us to be afraid of leaving our homes.
They want us to barricade our doors and hide our children.
Their aim is to make us fear life itself!
They want us to hate.
They want us to hate 'the other'.
They want us to practice aggression and perfect antagonism.
Their aim is to divide us all!
They want us to be inhuman.
They want us to throw out our kindness.
They want us to bury our love and burn our hope.
Their aim is to take all our light!
They think their bricked walls will separate us.
They think their damned bombs will defeat us.
They are so ignorant they don’t understand that my soul and your soul are old friends.
They are so ignorant they don’t understand that when they cut you I bleed.
They are so ignorant they don’t understand that we will never be afraid,
we will never hate and we will never be silent
for life is ours!”
Kamand Kojouri
___________________________________

Is anyone tired of all the hate?
The name calling?
The bullying?
The fear mongering?

Is anyone tired of all the division?
And distrust

It seems patently true that there are those who seek to divide us
It seems as if those souls are everywhere, everywhere

With their memes, and articles, comments

And we,
Most of us
Walk around with emotional shell shock
Vigilant
And either silent and cautious
Or outspoken and aggressive

And it is taking its toll
On our nation
On our communities
On our churches

It has made it hard to sit down together and worship, together
it has made it difficult to sing praise, together
It has strained the bonds of affection

I cannot help but remember the words of President Lincoln
Who, in his first inaugural address
As the dark cloud of the civil war loomed on the horizon
(it would begin one month later)

Uttered these words

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

I cannot share, adequately
The depth of pain I feel when the bonds of affection are broken
By political passion
By hatred, planted, watered, and nurtured
By those who would use it for their own purposes

My heart is torn as I see the faces of people I care about
People whom I have visited as a pastor
People whom I have prayed with
People whose loved one’s I have buried (and perhaps married)

Harden

When they see other people whom I have visit, with whom I have prayer
Others who have lost someone dear, or whose family has been stricken by illness

Harden because instead of community, there is division

This is a difficult time
People with strongly held beliefs think a person is the savior of our nation
People with strongly held beliefs think that same person is its greatest threat

There are many points of division

But the point is these are all people who are trying to do the best they can

And the reasons for the differences are complex
They have to do with family and local culture, with whom a person chooses to trust, with sources of information, with what is being taught in a person’s church…

And we can judgmentally say (to ourselves)
They should be able to see the lies, see the damage see, the evil
(as we perceive it)
But those who believe differently from us are saying exactly the same thing in their head and hearts.

And everyone (OK, many) are totally sincere

Richard Rohr, in this blog (1/20/20) made this observation, when talking about the desert fathers and mothers, who were clearly people of faith and passion, but sometimes wrote things that make us cringe.

“Contemporary philosopher Ken Wilber offers a helpful distinction between stages and states. Your stage is your outer awareness. Your state is your inner aliveness. The goal is to be both holy and whole, saintly and wise. But your state and stage don’t always coincide; many of us are stronger in one area than another.

You can be a high-level thinker and be quite astute about psychology, theology, history, or philosophy (a high stage), but do it all from a perspective of individualism and arrogance about that very information (a low state)—because it is still all about “you.” Conversely, you could be quite unified within and with others, in a high state of loving consciousness, but be poorly informed, lacking in exposure and education to helpful and informative knowledge.”
In short this mixture of stage and state make us inconsistent
Confused
And sometimes inexplicable
In terms of what we think and believe, and
In terms of who and what we support

And so, I have decided, that even though I have my passions
And even though my great passion is Jesus, and his way of
Generosity and servanthood

I must find a way to be in the same town
The same pew
The same space
As those who do not agree with me

My job, if I am really going to take Jesus seriously
Is just that
To be in the same space
And to talk with those people, kindly
And listen to those people, openly
And hold the tension that arises

Hold it carefully, so that the bonds are not broken
So that we can continue to be
In community
And in communion

Gathered around the same table
Breaking bread
And drinking from the common cup
Of Sacred Love

This is not easy
It may not always work
The bonds may sometimes snap

But this pain, the pain that comes when I see
Tight angry faces
Read hateful words
See empty places in the pews
And at the table of the Lord

Impels me

I will not be silent
But I will not hate
And I will not exclude
And I will not avoid
And I will not hold back from doing good,
Even for those with whom I do not agree

I will pour as much of my time and ministry
As much of my love into those with whom I disagree
As into those with whom I agree
(to the best of my ability – come Holy Spirit, I need a lot of help)

For we must learn to live together as brothers and sisters,
or perish together as fools.