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, 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



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




I need you

We need you


Come Holy Spirit


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



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


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


Sunday, June 21, 2020

Out of the Silence

The basic condition for us to be able

to hear the call of beauty and respond to it, ...

is Silence.

If we don't have Silence in ourselves, if our mind, body, are full of noise

then we can't hear beauty's call. "

                               Thich Nhat Hanh



the noise is deafening





so many words roaring out of our televisions

so many images flashing across our computer screens

so many YouTube videos

Facebook posts

And so so many “comments”


it is a toxic cacophony

that sucks our souls dry


and yet, it seems we (maybe it’s just me) cannot turn away


we get lost in this noise

our brains become altered

our hearts harden

and our souls shrink


and we become people we barely know

and the spiritual junk food we consume creates a lot of foul crap

that oozes from our souls


there is an antidote




moments when we stop, breathe, listen

stop, breathe, seek

stop, breathe, connect

with the Sacred Presence within


it never hurts to listen to the heart

and to the still small voice

the divine voice


and when sit in the silence

or walk in silence

and notice, the beauty

the sun rising over the mountains,

the breeze caressing our face

the beat of our heart

the air, coming in, going out


when we take the time to connect to all of that

we not only connect to the Sacred

we become connected to ourselves


this is one of the gifts of these times

when we have been forced to slow down

spent more time sheltered


we have a chance to use this time to move toward deeper things

and perhaps

just perhaps, as we do that

we will learn to choose wisely

to sort through the noise, and find the truth

and live accordingly


perhaps in the sheltering silence we will learn to

“no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about

by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming…

but speaking the truth in love, grow up in every way into Jesus” (Ephesians 4)



Thursday, June 18, 2020

in the name of God

In the name of God

people do the most horrible things


parents abuse their children

angry people pick up guns, and use them

voters put a malignant narcissist in power

churches gather when they should not gather

hate is nurtured


In the name of God

vulnerable people are bullied and reviled

desperate people are excluded

poor people are shamed


I wonder what God thinks about that?

I wonder how God responds to people saying that God wants them to gather

in the midst of pandemic, and endanger their communities?

I wonder if God gives a Trumpian thumbs up to that one who refuses to wear a mask,

because “God will protect me”?


In the name of God we do the most un-God like things




Because it seems like God is pretty clear

God with us said there are two commandments

Love God

Love your neighbor as yourself


And God with us showed us that when it comes to love

you have to go all the way to death


So why can’t we stay home?

Why can’t, if we don’t stay home, we wear a mask?


I know that for myself, when I get into those places

When I become most unpleasant

And it does happen


It is usually because I am in the throes of essential selfishness

I am in that place where it is all about me

My perceived (if not real) needs

My agenda

My priorities

My safety

My power

My affluence


That is to be expected

That is the human condition

I doubt if there is a single person living who can’t identify with Paul when he says:


“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.”


but I have a big God, an immanent God

and I also have an intimate God, who is as close as my breath


so I am not helpless and hopeless

and in the name of God


I can wear a mask

In the name of God, I can keep my church closed to face to face worship

In the name of God I can do whatever I need to do

To keep others safe


In the name of God I can be offended when someone carries a sign that says

Sacrifice the weak, reopen (insert name of state here)


Because acting in the name of God

Leads always

To an emptying of self, and letting go of personal rights

The ceding of power


Acting in the name of God leads to extreme love

And extreme selflessness


It took Jesus to the Cross




It may simply mean we wear a mask

And livestream worship

And follow our state guidelines

In the name of God


Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Focus on the lesson

Karma says, if you focus on the hurt you will continue to suffer,

If you focus on the lesson you will continue to grow




I have made mistakes


I have been hurt

Many times


to put it quite another way,

I have been hurt by others

and I have hurt myself


all of this is inevitable

all of this is ‘life’


and one of the things I have learned over the many years

is that the quality of my life depends less on what happens to me

than what happens in me


my joy or my misery

is an expression of how I respond to what I encounter

as I journey along life’s way


and how I respond often depends upon the questions I ask


I had a moment, some years ago,

when I hit a dead end

after many years of service to my organization, I was encouraged

to step down from a position of leadership


a younger and more energetic leader was waiting in the wings

and I remember thinking

“they want to replace this old Crown Victoria with a bright red sports car”


it hurt


but at that moment I had a choice

to focus on the hurt, or to focus on the lesson

the hurt was real

but so were the lessons


there were lessons about letting go, and lessons about self-care

there were lessons to be learned about slowing down,

and about embracing accomplishments


I did not leave my organization mad

I did not leave at all

I found a new role, and a new passion

I created a new program


And I learned, and flourished


I have not always done so well

But even when I have struggled, I have found

that eventually if I ask the right questions

if I am open to learning

and if I give the Sacred Presence that wanders around my soul

permission to work


eventually every situation becomes an opportunity for growth

and the beginning of something new

and I am able to echo the words of Paul

“all things work together for good”  (not easy, not painless, just good)


this pandemic is one of those moments when we can suffer or grow

our choice


will we focus on the hurt, the losses

and become those who spit in the faces of people wearing masks,

and strut angrily around with guns and flags?


or will we grab the opportunity to learn

about what is really important, and how to slow down,

and how to reconnect with those we love?


will we be resentful, and act accordingly,

or will we be grateful, and live our gratitude?


will we follow the one who makes us resentful

or will we follow the One who makes us joyful?


Back in the early days of English history a Saxon missionary

was asked by an Anglo King


“What should I expect if I accept your message and become Christ’s?”

The missionary answered

“If you become Christ’s, you will stumble on from wonder to wonder,

 and every wonder will be true”


today I am going to live in the realm of gratitude and wonder

I am grateful for the rain

I am grateful for those who encourage me

I am grateful for breath

I am grateful for morning walks with Finn (the dog)


and I am grateful for that presence within

that fire in the belly

that calming presence

that renews my mind and transforms me


so that I can live life from the inside out, and grow

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

A dog's life

So here we are Still struggling along with this virus And let’s face it, as we struggle forward We are all on the same path And yet, we aren’t We want this to be over But we do not all have the same idea about what it will look like, should look like when we get to the end of this. And we do not all have the same idea about how to get there You know this would be easier if we had approached this the way dogs approach life I live with a dog I know A dog’s agenda is simple, fathomable, overt: I want. “I want to go out, come in, eat something, lie here, play with that, lick you. There are no ulterior motives with a dog, no mind games, no second-guessing, no complicated negotiations or bargains, and no guilt trips or grudges if a request is denied.” (of course there are those eyes) With Finn the dog its ball, ball, ball Food, food, food Cat, cat, cat – he loves his cats- not so sure they love him, but he loves them Car, car, car – he loves his car rides But we are humans Alas and alack So here we are, wanting to move forward And it is complicated We have epidemiologists and medical people who see it one way And we have people, fueled by YouTube and FaceBook who see it another way We have people who take it really seriously And people who aren’t too sure And people who think its all a scam, a hoax We have people whose priority is safety And people whose priority is the economy And people whose priority is face to face worship We have people who frame the guidelines being set as an assault on freedom And people who see them as reasonable attempts to save lives We have people who are afraid And people who are angry People who are actually responding to the virus And people who are loading all kinds of others things on to this situation that seem to have little to do with the virus Like guns And partisan politics And white nationalism And the end result is that we are fragmented And there is a whole lot of ugly stuff going on People who wear masks are shamed. People who don’t wear masks are shame People march around with guns and Nazi flags I read an article today, which came from my denomination, and a person who is a experienced immunologist says this is not going to be over any time soon… And we are already tired On edge But here we are Communities of faith Communities of people gathered together in geographical places The larger communities that are our States, and our Nation. Communities of diverse people all stumbling along toward the same goal But wanting to go down many different paths And we are struggling how to deal with each other How do we talk to each other? How do we work together? How? I think this passage from I Peter for gives us some help Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing. For those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking deceit; let them turn away from evil and do good; let them seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Think about that! We were called to inherit a blessing And we were called to be a blessing And we are a blessing when we come together, rather than scatter When we come together in love, with tender hearts rather than in anger When instead of isolating and encapsulating we seek as best we can to hear each other, respect each other, protect each other It is too easy to get angry and repay evil with evil, abuse for abuse But no matter how we see this, that is what we cannot do We need to listen to those, care for those, hurt with those who are fearful they will lose their business. Lose their house. Be unable to support their families We need to listen to those, care for those, hurt with those who are fearful that they will get this virus, and because they are vulnerable, die I don’t know that there are any easy answers to this crisis. But I do know that as we search for answers, there is no place here for hate, ridicule, or selfishness. No place for behaviors that minimize and marginalize others This is a time for unity, sympathy, caution, intelligence, This is a time to use every bit of real information we have And every tool we have But above all this is a time to have tender hearts This is a time to strive, in whatever ways we can, to love each other We start I think, by listening to those who know the most, and trusting them And then we move forward listening carefully to the Holy Spirit Which is a Spirit of love and life No easy answers are available. But if we go into this the way Peter suggests? With tender hearts? We will come out the other side Still a community And hopefully we will come out with no one missing

Monday, June 15, 2020

I am here

I Am Here
In Papua New Guinea one tribal group has not word for “hello”
Instead, upon seeing someone, one simply says “You are here”
To which the answer is, “Yes I am”
How hard it is to be here
Here in this sheltering place
Here in this divided and dysfunctional country
Here in this aged wrinkled skin
Here in this mind, this heart, this soul
Padrig O’ Tauma, in his book “In the Shelter”
suggests that ‘you are here’ and ‘yes I am’
might be as good a place as any to begin in prayer
it is not that we have a choice, really, to be anywhere else than where we are
but in a way we are also in many other places in our scattered minds
Padrig notes
“We are saying to ourselves ‘I should be somewhere else’ or ‘I should be someone else’, or ‘I am not where I say I am’.
I know that place un-place
that divine discontent, and sometimes shame,
that feeling of wanting to hide unto the proverbial bushel basket
or perhaps under my bed
but this is where I am
and this is who I am
even when the Sacred is looking
and it from here that I need to start
as I walk that bridge we call prayer to the One
who is in here, out there, everywhere
that reality that is as broad as all that is, infinite and eternal
and as near as my breath, immanent, even intimate
here you are
yes I am
here I am
yes you are
just here, in this place
sheltering, not sheltering
a peace, suffering disease
hopeful, hopeless
saint and sinner
good and bad
I am here
and I am ready
for the Spirit to move
and do all that the Spirit does
I echo this day the words of the Palmist (139)
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Welcome Lord to this place to this precious soul
To this tattered soul
I am here
no hiding allowed
ready for Sacred to take me from where I really am
into Sacred newness
this day
and every day

Sunday, June 14, 2020

power to you

When you have faith your eyes are bright, your steps are confident.  This is power….

This power will not destroy you, or the people around you.  In fact it gives strength and energy other people can feel.

                                         Attributed to Tich Nhat Hanh



when we walk through times of trial

we seek to be strong

we thirst for safety

we long for control


we want to be able to do something


anything at all

to make things better


we want power


yet what does power look like

when we are combatting a virus

or when evil perches in the highest places?


does it look like military gear and guns

marching down the street

waving flags?


does it look like cardboard signs

waved in the public square?


are we exercising power

when we choose not defy authority in the name of freedom

and refuse to wear mask?


does power look like people crowding a bar in Wisconsin

or a beach in Florida?


I believe

that real power is a matter of the heart

that it is the natural consequence of being people

who have journeyed inward

to the deepest places

and found that sacred place where love dwells


and having discovered


that they are permeated by the divine, say to themselves


“Hey, I’m pretty special!  I am a child of God!”


Power comes when we become intimate with the God within

and with our true self

and take that intimacy into our day


and live it


there is peace here




this is a power that embraces rather than batters

a power that includes rather than excludes

it is a power that sees beyond the self, rather than a power focused on self


true power does not intimidate

and does not demean

it does not bully

it lifts up

it comforts


it makes us better, not worse


this is a power that wears a mask, rather than carries a gun

it is a power that passes from us to others as love

not a power that passes from us to others as fear


more power to you

Saturday, June 13, 2020

All will be well

“All will be well and all will be well and every kind of thing shall be well.”

                                         Julian of Norwich



I felt a moment of disgust today

One too many stories of people embracing falsehoods

One too many stories of angry people with guns, intimidating others

One too many stories of churches choosing to endanger their people

in the name of faith


it was overwhelming!


the fear, the ignorance

the cultivated distrust

the lies

the enmity


it hurt to watch people foolishly imperil themselves and others

it was painful to hear the lies

and see the denial


ideologically altered brains are a terrible thing


and so I was disgusted


and I was sickened by my own response

at my inability to feel compassion

at my lack of tolerance

at my willingness to simply abandon these precious souls

to sickness (they are asking for it after all) and even death


I reached a moment when I knew

that at least for a moment, my optimism was gone


no, it is no going to be OK

and for all my pronouncements that “God has got this”!

it did not feel that way


and yet, penetrating the fog of my despair

was the optimism of Julian of Norwich


who though painfully aware

that we as human beings are terminally foul;


we rupture relationships

we take God’s name in vain (claiming God but not living God)

we hate and embrace violence

we are greedy and cruel


and we are sometimes stupid

oh, so stupid


was able to assert

All will be well and all will be well and every kind of thing shall be well


She had to say it three times

that holy three

three persons

three days in the tomb


she had to say it again and again

upping the faith in that final emphatic claim


and every kind of thing shall well


it is not that all is well

it is not that all is “in God’s plan”


it is simply that God is love

and God loves us

and we find that love in those very moments we are failing


when we have done everything we can to deny God, and deny love

and God is there anyway

and so too, love


in our worst moments

God’s love and mercy swiftly come


And thus “It is frankly rude of us to doubt that all will be well” (Mirabai Starr)


Ah, dear Jesus

Come to me this day, as the clouds glower

and the rain falls

and we foolish people do foolish things


come to me as I plod through my day muttering

under my breath, invectives and curses


penetrate the fog of despair and remind me

“All will be well and all will be well and every kind of thing shall be well.”

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Help my unbelief

Lord, I believe, help my unbelief

                     Father of a child with seizures (spoken to Jesus)



it is a curious question

what does faith look like in the time of Covid-19?


as an individual

I think it looks like the beatitudes


it looks like humble reliance on God

it looks like grief, for the illness and pain

it looks like humility, and a willingness to walk alongside others

it looks like a passion for doing what is right

it looks like radical concern for others

it looks like honesty and integrity

it look like kindness and gentleness


and it looks like doing what is right

even when the armed and angry mass

even when you are sued

even when it costs you


it looks like being the person people can talk to about their fears

the person they can go to for comfort and understanding

for help, but also honesty


not an easy task when you carry your own fears

and your own personal pain

and anxiety


but what does it look like for the church?

in this time as churches are suing their states in the name of religious freedom

and choosing to openly disregard the orders of governors

and the wisdom of the epidemiologists?


we have faith, they cry

and faith means we have to show how much we trust God

we have to show how much we love God

we have to show that we are not afraid

we have to prove our value, that we are “essential”

by gathering


let me be clear

I think this need to gather is not an act of belief, but unbelief


I get that not gathering is painful

as a pastor not meeting infringes on my ego need to have people in the pew,

it infringes on our organizational need to "pass the plate"

and yes, we missed each other




since when is God confined to a building?

since when is the worship of God something that only happens 1 hour on Sunday morning?

since when is God's presence and action limited to our gathered, sheltered meetings?


we can worship God at any time of day, in any place.

we can pray anywhere.


the fact is, “church” is not just a meeting in a building

it is people both gathered (yes) and scattered.

it is what those people do in their homes

and how they treat one another

and how they serve the community around them


and it strikes me that the need to gather on Sunday morning

in order to feel essential

in order to “be the church”


thus marks not the presence of faith

but the absence


it says we do not trust God enough

we do not believe in the presence of the Spirit in the lives of our people enough

we do not believe in our community of faith enough

to believe it can survive being “scattered”


I believe the church can survive being scattered

it has always survived being scattered


my scattered little church is not only surviving, it is thriving

we worship online.

we give via the mail.

we drop food off at the church for the food bank.

we call each other

we shop for each other

we may not be in church but we can be the church quite effectively,

without meeting in person


all it takes is mustard seed faith


so we will choose not to meet (not yet)

we will choose to be scattered in love, for love

until gathering is once again


an act of love





Sunday, June 7, 2020

Be Still

Stand still.  The
trees ahead and bushes beside you 
Are not lost,  Wherever you are is called Here
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger
                                         David Wagoner
There are the places you wish to go, there are the places you desperately wish you never left, there are the places you imagine you should be, and there is the place called here
                                         Padraig O’ Tauma
in this virus time
when we are Covid tired
Sheltering here
Wherever here is
In a cabin in the woods
In an apartment in the concrete
Alone or with loved ones, alienated ones
Happy one’s, sad ones
We think
we think of place
of this place
of places we have been
of places we wish to go
my head and heart are full of places
of snapshots in time
of moments of brilliant joy
of moments of deep violet, red, black shame
and I am all over the place
but not in this place
this sheltering place
I can escape the virus, perhaps
but I struggle to escape
or my fears
hand to the plow I keep looking back
and the jagged ragged furrow of my life
heart in my throat I look forward
into the bleakness of a new world
of shortened time
all of this roils
as I find myself
in this place
but I am here
and this is the place
and this place does shelter and hold me
and if I can just be here
for a moment
for this moment
breathe in, breathe out
if I can just be here
then in this place Jesus can find me
locked in my room for fear
(as Jesus found this disciples, locked away for fear)
Jesus can find me
And I know just what he will say
 Hello beloved child
 Hello least of these
 Hello impetuous, impulsive, tortured one
 Peace be with you”

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Blessed are the poor

“What I love about the ministry of Jesus is that he identified the poor as blessed and the rich as needy...and then he went and ministered to them both. This, I think, is the difference between charity and justice. Justice means moving beyond the dichotomy between those who need and those who supply and confronting the frightening and beautiful reality that we desperately need one another.”
                                Rachel Held Evans

the First Church of Mutual Need
now THAT
would be a great name for a church

for the fact is we all have needs
and we all need each other

we do of course all have different needs
and we all have different things we can offer one another

but like it our not
convenient or not
we are all in this together

and if there is a hierarchy of needs
it is a reverse hierarchy
those we think are the neediest are the most blessed
and those we think are the most blessed are the neediest

now that will make your mind explode

the rich are perhaps the neediest of all
think about their compulsive need for more
and about how difficult it is for them to share
(the rich give proportional much less to charity than the poor)
and I suspect, how difficult it is for them to connect with others
to feel, to have empathy

the poor?
we can’t sugarcoat things, and create some sort of caricature of the blessed poor
being poor sucks, big time
insecurity, struggles with housing, transportation, food security, healthcare, education, and all the rest

no one wants to be poor
no one should be poor
and that is partly the point

Jesus advocated the rich opening their hands
In the early church, apparently, they did (Acts 2)
and everyone’s needs were met
the need of the rich to learn generosity, and experience the
joy of giving, and then need of the poor for food

of course we live in a country with extreme and growing inequity
the rich are really rich, the poor are really poor
and the gap between the two is growing

and it is devastating
the entire system is designed to keep the poor poor and make the rich richer
and it is done, often, in the name of Jesus (which is blasphemy)

and now we have Covid-19
and we are living out our failure to take care of each other

we have protected the stock market, but not the poor
we have protected the rich, but not the poor

and that is why we are in pain, around choices related to
opening or safety
and why people are literally willing to let people die for the economy

if we had more equity
if our response to the virus was to take care of everyone
I suspect the dialog would be different
The questions would be different

Is suspect this would all feel different

What if, instead of asking
How can we open our country so that businesses and people can pay their bills?
We asked “how can we help businesses and people pay their bills so they can stay safe?

Perhaps instead of ending up in armed (literally) camps
With the “open” folks on one side and the “safety” folks on the other
With both sides shaming and condemning each other

We would be working together to find solutions
Finding ways to take care of everyone, as they have need

I realize there are no easy answers
But it seems that one answer is to change the starting point
From taking care of “me”
To taking care of “all”

Welcome to the First Church of the Needy
(which might end up being First Church of the Joyful Givers)