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, August 31, 2020

Here's to the losers

Christianity was intended by Jesus to be a minority position and always will be.  He wasn’t dividing the world into those God loved and those God didn’t love. Jesus was creating a remnant who were useable by God – to keep the whole world from its violent path toward self destruction….  That is very different from forming a new tribe of saved and superior people.

                               Richard Rohr



from the moment he took his first breath

and lay squalling among the cows and sheep

Jesus was aligned with the poor and vulnerable


he spent time as a refugee

he grew up rural (as far as we can tell)

he was a blue collar kind of guy


his ministry was to the common folk

the dirt farmers

the street people

the nobodies

the riff-raff


Oh sure, he spent a little time with

some rich folk

but many of them were shady


and the few moments he spent with the religious elite?

let’s just say both sides were disappointed

they in the uncouth libertarian they saw

he in the rigid, arrogant moralism


Jesus never lined up with the power structure of his day

He didn’t use the “elite”

and he didn’t allow them to use him


instead he hung out with the poor and the powerless

the sick

the sinners

those who were so very, very “out” of power


it is interesting that when he talks about the Kingdom

he uses images like “yeast”

and talks of the “small” permeating and transforming



The way of Jesus was always meant to be transformative

It was always meant to align with the “least of these”

It was always meant to stand against the power structure of the day,


Because power and wealth corrupt

and when the church aligns with corruption

it is corrupted

and becomes useless


there is no more unholy alliance than

religion and political power


and when the church tries to use political power to reach its ends

it ends up abusive, and lost

when political powers try to use the church to reach their ends

they corrupt the church

and reveal their own paucity


if the church would deign to touch the world

with the love of God


it must be like yeast

separate, unique, powerful

yet mixed in


what would happen if the church dared oppose earthly power?

(it did, at one time, a long time ago, briefly)


what would happen if the church said

lying is wrong

greed is wrong

trickle down is bullshit

coercion doesn’t work?

abusive power is evil?


what if the church did that?

instead of lining up with things “not Jesus”

to promote its “agenda”


what if the church trusted God rather than Presidents?

what if it relied on love rather than coercion

what if it fought for the poor, rather that cater (pander) to the rich

what if supported the way of peace rather than violence,

what if it went with servanthood rather than domination


we are so afraid of letting go of influence

of earthly power

we think that if we win the White House,

or stack the Supreme Court with “our people”

or use might to create right


we will somehow “win the day” for God


but when we align with power

it gets ugly


and the way of God loses


the foolishness of the cross tells us

that if we want to change the world

we have to align with God

who is aligned with the poor and the vulnerable


we have to be a remnant people

who dare to abandon

the way of domination

who dare oppose the way of inequity and privilege

who dare stand up for justice, and against oppression

who dare to serve rather than dominate


choosing the way of earthly power has never done anything

but rob us of spiritual power

and create a destructive tribalism

that crushes and kills


so here is to the losers

here is to the poor

here is to the humble

here is to those who will give up everything



in order to welcome



and love


here is to those who are willing to be the yeast that changes the whole

rather than the hammer that merely destroys



Sunday, August 30, 2020

when your world implodes

The word change normally refers to new beginnings. But transformation, the mystery we are examining, more often happens not when something new begins, but when something old falls apart… Most of us would never go to new places any other way.

                               Richard Rohr



I am currently tired of the world, as I know it, falling apart


and so much does seem to be




my daughter, a child of her times

would often sing the chorus of an R.E.M. song to her children

when the would decompensate over things not going their way…


“It's the end of the world as we know it

It's the end of the world as we know it

It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine”


it is the end of the world as we know it

with the growing darkness of authoritarianism, if not fascism

the Covid-19 virus

radical social change

and climate change


the world will never be the same




that is NOT a bad thing

but it is a challenging thing, and uncomfortable thing


and for the most part

we are responding to the change

much as my grandchildren did (when very young)

to forces they too could not control


but we need this time of disruption

for often it is only disruption that will get us to the next new thing

to God’s new thing


I had a period of my life when I was shooting star

I was young, successful, climbing the ladder to the heights


but while all that wonderful goodness was going on

I had some stuff seriously wrong in my head and my soul

mostly a sense that I was not enough

so I try to work myself into relevance


I tried to use relationships to prop up a collapsing ego


I drank too much


I was dysfunction


and then my world imploded

and it hated it

and I despaired


and I wallowed for a while in fear, and anger

distrust and despair


but somehow I kept within shouting distance of Sacred

and eventually, just as Jonah was spit up from the belly of the whale

emerging from the deep and finding a new life


I found myself moving on

in new directions

doing new things

a mostly, but not totally new person

(it took another couple decades to get as far as I am now,

 and there is still transformation pending)


ah, the amazing gifts that I have found along the way

amazing jobs

new knowledge

great adventures


I could have suffered on, being eaten up from the inside out

but instead I found newness


this may be a time in our world

for transformation to happen

a time for ugly things to be reveal, and (hopefully) address

for things that hinder to be released

for transformation to happen


it can be

it will be

but only if, at the center of it all, is the Sacred

is Love


if the self is at the center, this disruption will lead to nothing more than

increased bitterness, to a narrowing down, a toxic defensiveness.  We will get trapped in pettiness.


if a political party is at the center, this disruption will lead to denial and

a refusal to see God’s new way


if a human leader is at the center of our universe, we will be cultish, and manipulated


if a country is at the center, we will find ourselves drawn to authoritarian, domination models, and will slowly sink into the mire of abuse, greed, and worse


But if God / Sacred is at the center, if and if we live from that center

than we have the security, we have the love, we have the power

to do life a different way


we have the power to be transformed

not forcefully changed from the outside in

but transformed, from the inside out


and that is when it happens

new birth

that is when it happens





transformed by the renewing of our minds

we discover God’s new way


and then and only then

does disorientation become reorientation

then and only then

do we overcome evil and good


then and only then

does the kingdom come

Saturday, August 29, 2020

the Bully Brain

The violence, hatred, discrimination, and fear and society water the seeds of the violence, hatred and discrimination and fear in us.  If we go back to ourselves and touch our feelings, we will see the ways that we furnish fuel for the wars going on inside.  Meditation is, first of all, a tool for surveying our own territory so we can know what is going on.  With the energy of mindfulness, we can calm things down, understand them, and bring harmony back to the conflicting elements inside us.  If we can learn ways to touch the peace, joy, and happiness that are already there, we will become healthy and strong, and a resource for others.

                               Thich Nhat Hanh


Mysticism begins when we start to make room for a completely new experience of God as immanent, present here and now, with and within all of us. God isn’t only transcendent, “out there,” and separate from me. Augustine of Hippo (354–430) wrote that God is “more intimate to me than I am to myself.” [4] St. Catherine of Genoa (1447–1510) said, “My me is God: nor do I know my selfhood except in God.” [5] Like all mystics, they overcame the gap, and we can too. When God is no longer out there or over there, we have begun the mystical journey. It’s not simply that we have a new relationship with God. It’s as though we have a whole new God!

                               Richard Rohr  (Daily Mediation 8/7/20)


Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

                               Paul (Romans 12)



We call it lots of things

Monkey brain





But let’s be honest

sometimes our brain is just, simply, a bully


it pushes us around


this trash receptacle for the garbage of the world


it sucks in everything that is out there

there good the bad and the ugly

and what it pulls resonates with and activates

whatever happens to be inside us


fear touches fear

hate touches hate

prejudice touches that lingering bit of prejudice

we have tried so hard to hide


and then, there we are

with mental weeds sprouting everywhere

as we water the seeds of dysfunction


and then this agitated brain becomes a bully

pushing us around

controlling our thoughts and feelings

putting us at the mercy of malevolent forces


making us vulnerable to those voices that asks us to hate

making us susceptible to those feelings that lust for retribution and revenge


suddenly we are people who are molded by the world



But it doesn’t have to be that way!

for we are Sacred Children

and we carry within us, Sacred Presence


Sacred is in our DNA

Sacred is woven into the fabric of our being

It is there!

more intimate to us than we are to ourselves


Sacred, God, Jesus

call it what you will

is as close as our next breath


and so we need to step away from the brain

(much like stepping out of our house, away from the TV, and looking into the night sky)

and breathe

and breathe some more

and reach out to the Sacred,


we need to touch it, or rather let it touch us


and let the living water of Holy Presence

water within us

the seeds of hope, peace, joy, and love


and we need to let these seed grow

and bloom

until they fill our inner self so completely

there is little room for the weeds


this morning I did something simple

I did not read the news

I did not jump on Facebook and wallow in the outrage


I took a walk

I played with the dog

I read some poetry (Hafiz)

I did some breathing


I touched the positive things, already lurking in my soul


And I sighed

And I smiled




Thursday, August 27, 2020

words have power

How does heaven assign worth to our sounds?

It comes down to this:


If what you say or do becomes memorable to another in times of need,

an ally are you then considered by the gods.





words, Words, WORDS


words are everywhere

they escape from our mouths, sometimes unbidden

they flow from our fingers and pop up magically on our computer screens

and then, magically again

on our Facebook pages, and our Twitter accounts



more rarely these days

they are scribbled (in my case rather illegibly)

on paper


words have energy

oh, yes they do


whether they are the words we throw out into

the space around us

our whether they are the words that bounce around

in the space inside us


words have energy



God’s words brought this earth into being

with all its beauty and complexity


Jesus is God’s ultimate expression

The Word rings loud and clear

“I love you”


The sibilant sounds of the serpent

created doubt, distrust and longing


and showed that words could unravel creativity and love


we see the power of words

as leaders speak

and draw out of the people good, or ill

stirring our darker angels, or waking up our better angels


dividing or uniting

helping us be our best selves, selfless, compassionate, and kind

or drawing out the dark side of our souls,

revealing fear, racism, and anger

making us greedy and abusive


My words, your words too have power

So today I am reminded to use my words carefully


there is enough darkness in this world

people are hurting

they are stressed and depressed


even those bright souls among us are flickering

in this time of pandemic and uncertainty

as our society unravels


torn apart by words spoken with malice


the seeds of destruction do not need to be nurtured by me


instead, let me speak words that lift up, and encourage

let me speak words of love


may my words be something people can cling to

in a dark moment


“I love you

I am proud of you

You are amazing

Thank you for who you are

You can do this

You are valuable

God loves you

You are accepted, just as you are”


May no one leave my presence, this day (or any day)



but may they leave affirmed,




by my words



Tuesday, August 25, 2020

God is disguised as your life

God comes disguised as your life

                               Paula D’Arcy


Priesthood simply means the one who names the connection between the transcendent world and this world

                               Richard Rohr



we are all priests/ priestesses

all of us


we are the channel through which Sacred flows,

like a river rushing to the sea,

to this earth


earth itself is crammed with God

God is everywhere, everywhere


In the sun, sneaking into the sky

In the light reflecting off the mountain

In the screech of the hawk

And the yipping laughter of the coyotes


but we seem to have a special role

the role of putting flesh on Love


I don’t know why, some of the time

the Sacred is so hard to see

it should be obvious enough


but frankly “the presence” gets blurred

in the mist of all the hate and greed

as illnesses rage

hurricanes roar

politicians lie

and countries war


and so we end up in a “dry and weary land”

desperately in need of living water

in need of Sacred


the spring that refreshes

and gives life

is within us


we carry Sacred

in Jesus talk we carry the Spirit

the “water of life”


it wells up

oozes out

and flows

rushes, gushes

and we become


priests and priestesses

we become the continuing incarnation


Sacred Presence in us

Allows us to be Sacred Presence in this weary world



Sounds like an over statement

Sounds foolish, crazy even


And yet this same truth

Is sprinkled through the teachings of the Christian Bible

Is ever present in the words of Jesus


It is present in other faiths as well

Thich Nhat Hanh notes

“when mindfulness is in you, the Holy Spirit is in you,

and your friends will see it, not just by what you say, but through

your whole being”  (Living Buddha, Living Christ, p.24)


God come disguised as our lives


This day, how will I be the incarnation?

How will I feed others?

How will I proclaim “good news”

How will I fight for justice?

How will I water the earth with love?


Come Dear One

put your lips on my forehead

and light the Holy Lamp

inside my heart. (Hafiz)


that I might fill the world

with your Love


Monday, August 24, 2020

The Gift of Being Wrong

Hello to the gift of being wrong

Hello to repentance

Hello to change

                     Padraig O’ Tuama



If you have not noticed it yet

we live in a polarized world


the world has always been polarized

but the spectrum, or so it seems to me,

used to be shorter


the gap has widened


or if the gap has not widened

perhaps we were, at one time, clustered more tightly around the center


we felt, whether it was true or not

a sense of community, of nation


indeed if we are honest, that sense of community was not true

for there were the excluded, the minimized, the marginalized

can we say their names?

the black person

the LGBTQI person

the immigrant

the person with mental illness

the poor person

the addicted person

the list goes on and on an on


but till, the fabric of community was tighter knit

and we were close enough to on another to sometimes talk

and sometimes join hands, and work together

to solve ills


but now we are radically divided

the spectrum has unrolled to its greater length

and we are clustered on the poles

so far apart we cannot speak but can only shout

entrenched in our own rightness

ears closed

mouths open


all of us

those on the right, those on the left


and all of this in part

is because we have lost the gift of being wrong

we will not be wrong

we cannot be wrong


it’s a sign of weakness

so we cannot entertain the possibility

so open mouth

closed soul


and our families

our churches

our communities

our country

our world

are unraveling


for we are pulling on the ends of the threads

that hold us together

and tearing the fabric apart


one harsh word

one insult

one cruelty

at a time


what we need is reconciliation

and reconciliation is hard word

it involves listening

it involves shutting our mouths, and opening our hearts

it involves honesty, and more than a little pain

but mostly


it involves being willing to sit with the fact that we not only might be wrong

but have been wrong


hello to the gift of wrongness


O’ Tuama tells of a time a fundamentalist Christian (that is how the man identified himself) met with people from the LGBTQI community.


The goal of the retreat was to build community, or if not community, at least understanding.


The man, at one point asked a risky question

“How many times, since we first started this meeting, have my words bruised you?”


One person, bravely answered,  “I quit counting after the first hour”



“I have learned something, thank you” was the man’s reply


How many times do we, all wrapped up in our own perceptions, our own belief,

Bruise others


With our words?

Our actions?


It is a terrifying question for me, as a person with strong beliefs

And strong opinions

And a big mouth (metaphorically speaking)


I have started to think about things I have said!

Hello to being wrong

I have started to think about the people who have been bruised by my words

Hello to repentance


I am trying to “do life a different way”

Hello to change


I will not always succeed

My feelings and thoughts, my behaviors too, are habits

And it takes time, and a lot of work, to break habits


But this is what my faith is all about

Honesty, with self, to God, with others

Humility, being able to stop, breathe, and think, and entertain the thought

I might be wrong

Hope, that with God’s help I can truly change my mind, my heart, and my actions


and help build

and perhaps in places, rebuild

the beloved community


where all are heard

all are welcomed

all are safe

all are valued

all are loved



Saturday, August 22, 2020

Try a little repentance

you must have something on your mind Lord


today I picked up two books

one by an Irish poet, who as a gay man has a unique perspective

the other by an rouge America Roman Catholic


both books just happened

to talk about repentence


Richard Rohr noted that repentance is nothing more an nothing less that

“a radical transformation” of the mind which reveals a new world


Padraig O’ Tuama too points to transformation

“metanoia” he notes (the Greek word for repentance)

“means to change your thoughts, to change your mind, to turn in a new direction,

 to reverse a direction, and go a different way”


“Hello” he says, “to changing our minds…Hello to new directions”


it occurs to me that we are in the throes of change

and it is obvious that change is difficult

it comes out of pain

it creates pain


and so it comes slowly

with some leading the way

the “great souls” as Rohr calls them, who get there first

with most of us stumbling long behind

trying to catch up


and then those souls who, frightened perhaps,

misinformed, mislead

fight change, often with every fiber of their being


In thinking about repentance it occurs that the spiritual

Process of repentance is kind of like the scientific method


Often, in science, the goal is not to prove a hypothesis, but to disprove

As O’ Tuama notes, “written into the heart of science is the embrace of the gift of being wrong”.


It takes a special kind of integrity to admit you are wrong when you thought you were correct.


This is the integrity of the scientists who in their earliest directives about Covid

Said masks are not important

But now say, they are critically important


We must be able to “repent,” if we are going to progress

It does not matter if you are a scientist

A politician

A parent

A student

Or a follower of Jesus


we should be people who are open to being wrong

to changing our thoughts, our minds

our direction


as we think of repentance we often think of “sin”

The Greek word for sin is hamartia, to miss the mark


We have to be willing to see when we have missed the mark

and then change

and we have to engage in the discipline of testing, constantly


is what I am doing work

is my mindset one that is healthy and hopeful


perhaps the great test is simply

what is my mindset, what are my behaviors producing

what are the fruits?


Has what I have been thinking produced joy? Hope? Love

Has what I have been doing lifted people up, or beaten them down?

Is this home, this community, this state, this nation, a better place because of what I have been thinking, saying, doing…  or is it worse?


We have to be honest to God, honest to ourselves

And when we are wrong…. Repent

Seek that transformation that turns us around

and gets us going a new direction


If I don’t do that, I won’t get better

If our nation doesn’t do that, it won’t get better

If the church doesn’t do that….


When Gandhi visited Britain and English politician asked him,

“What do you think of Christianity”

Gandhi answered…

“It’s a nice idea”


Our faith will never be what it can be

If we are not ready to repent

To say, not just ‘I might be wrong”

But “I was wrong”


we will always struggle with this

because we are so profoundly self-centered


this makes our learning curve slow

it is hard to let go

difficult to admit fault

painful even


but if we want our faith to go from being a “nice idea’

to being something that creates positive change

we must find the freedom to be wrong

and discover the God induced capacity

to change direction


no matter the cost


Thursday, August 20, 2020

A kiss to my day


do I need you today god

you are an open friend

when prayer is meager salt

so give your full and cozy

kiss to my day

and soon

                     Kirk Ruehl

                     prayer of a hospital chaplain in the time of Covid-19



Man do I need you today god

when prayer is meager salt

when conversations with you feel like

talking to a wall


it would be lovely if you would answer

my cries of the heart


it would be special

if you could do that incarnation thing

and somehow put flesh on your presence


we make such a mess of things

we wallow in greed and corruption

we live in fear

and nurture hate


we have created a society

which punishes those already punished

and condemns people for doing good

which abandons the poor and vulnerable

and embraces arrogance and brutality


we are surrounded by violence

and illness

by hate, and worse, apathy


so we could use a little bit of Love

just a little bit would do


wander among us

as you are want to do

touch us

let us touch you


help us bind hope to our hopelessness

help us to drink from the spring of living water

gulping love

finding nourishment and refreshment


help us ooze forgiveness

and acceptance


and generosity


for we are reminded Lord

that your incarnation thing

in this time, in this place


involves us

as you are incarnate in us

you are incarnate through us


“man, do I need you today God

…so give your full and cozy kiss

to my day

and soon” (KR)

Monday, August 17, 2020

Resisting Retribution

The old is forever repeated… “my violence is okay because your violence was wrong”.  Don’t we see that there has to be a way out of this stupidity?  When both are blind we both fall into the pit.  Vengeance seems so logical, but it doesn’t really work.  It doesn’t advance human history.


The wonder of the resurrection stories in the Gospels is that Jesus has no punitive attitude toward the authorities or his cowardly followers, and that the followers themselves never call for any kind of holy war against those who killed their leader.  Something new has clearly transpired in history.  This is not the common and expected story line.  All Jesus does is breathe forgiveness.

                               Richard Rohr, the wisdom pattern


Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:


“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”


Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  (Romans 12)

                               Paul of Tarsus



I remember the old joke, which in other days, I deemed so funny

“Vengeance is mine saith the Lord”, but I enjoy being God’s tool


It is no so funny anymore


Vengeance does seem so logical

Get even

Make the one who hurt you “pay”


There is a certain satisfaction in retribution

But a certain emptiness too


It is interesting to think about Paul’s statement

Leave room for God’s wrath

(or would we call it karma)


Leave room for God’s wrath


what a potentially unsatisfying thing to do

from a human perspective


if God is not a God of wrath


perhaps we are asked to leave room for God’s wrath

and not exact our own vengeance

specifically because God will NOT respond the way we would

the way we desire


but because the response of the crucified one

the betrayed one

was to bless not curse

forgive not hate

restore not punish


Peter, feed my sheep

Stephen, feed my sheep

Whomever you are, feed my little sheep


we know vengeance and retribution do not work

we need no more history to teach us this lesson

hate begets hate and violence begets violence


it is a never ending circle

a cycle of destruction and devastation


we will never move forward

without forgiveness


there is a time to rattle the bar

there is a time for disorder

that much is clear


the structures of power and privilege

will never change without confrontation


but that confrontation must look like the cross

not the sword


even as I write this my logic is violated

my mind protests

and my heart too


we must destroy order

and create disorder

to find a new order


but what does a holy rebellion look like

how do we really move toward change?


How do we walk the line between raw, gross vengeance and retribution

and apathy and inaction?


I have no other model than that of Jesus

who challenged

who left the world shaken and stirred

but did so through forgiveness and not vengeance


who waded into the cycle of retribution

and said “this stops here”

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Breaking the Pattern

Christians indeed have a strange image of God; a naked bleeding man dying on a cross…  What question is God trying to answer by giving us a crucified man for a God? What human problem is God trying to reveal and from what is God trying to save us on the cross?

                               Richard Rohr (the wisdom pattern  pp. 38,39



where is the Sacred in these times


as faceless armored men assail a “wall of mothers”

as dark figures break windows and set fires

as a virus rages

and people rage in return, refusing to save themselves and their neighbors

by the simple wearing of a mask?


Where is Sacred?

whose side is God on?


there is so much struggle

so much hatred

so much suffering


as we strive, strive, strive

to find our way out of this travail

as we fight for a win


in the striving everyone claims God


right and left

or at least everyone claims to be in the right (for not all believe in a God)


we all find refuge in a perverse sort of certitude that insists

I am right, and he/she is wrong

We are right, they are wrong

and truth, and justice, and yes, God, must be on “our side”


and where does this take us?


It circles us right back into the primordial swamp

of struggle, and hate, and suffering


our solutions to the hurts, and betrayal

the injustices and inequities


our response to the people who have rejected us

or oppressed us

or even abused us

often drive us to become a mirror image of that we resist


we double down on our need to be superior, right, and in control


and so transformation never happens

change never comes

revolutions come and go and in the end

nothing is different


we have merely “rearranged the furniture on the Titanic


a but then there is the cross

where something else is modeled


where hatred is received but not returned

where suffering is accepted, but not passed on

where all the sins of the world are absorbed

and held

and, dare we say it, killed


the newness might rise up


the cross is about breaking the old, endless pattern


where is God, Sacred, Jesus, Love, “the good”

in these times?


On the cross


Hanging there

taking it all in, all the sin and hate and anger

fighting hate without becoming hate

fighting violence without using violence

breathing forgiveness


saying in no uncertain terms


“this stops here”


Thursday, August 13, 2020

Our lesser selves

Sin is “an addiction to being less than ourselves”

                     James Alison


What do we do with all the pain we both endure and cause?....


We must find a way to tell the violences of our own lives, and in doing so cause less harm.  ‘Here is the world’ Frederick Buechner tells us. ‘Beautiful and terrible things will happen.  Don’t be afraid.’  And for this harsh truth we have confession, we have table talk, we have the secrets we tell aloud and the secrets we keep.  We have the sacrament of encounter, sometimes with our own private selves, sometimes we another, always – we hope – in the sight and hearing of God.

                     Padraig O’ Tuama



we carry our pain

we carry pain in our minds

we carry pain in our souls

we carry pain in our bodies


and too often we share it


pain is contagious

whether we have endured it at the hands of another

or whether it is self inflicted


it is something that will ooze out of the very pores of out body

it will sneak out in our words

it will find its way into our actions


we live our pain

the pain of oppression

of poverty

of illness


the pain of sin

the pain that comes when we are less than ourselves


we live this pain which we cannot seem to avoid

this addiction to being “less”

this denial of our sacred genetics


at least I do

my heart resonates with the despair of Paul

who told aloud his secrets


“I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.

 I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on

 doing…  What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject

 to death? ‘ (Romans 7)


this pain must be expressed

we have no choice


it will find its way to the surface

it must find its way to the surface

or we rot, from the inside out


rot, rot, fester, fester


and make no mistake

pain (and sin) not expressed, will express themselves


and we will pass it on

and we will infect all those around us


so we must tell the violences of our own lives

we must tell them to ourselves (self honesty is critical)

we must tell them to others (if we can find a safe person)

but above all we must take them to God


all pain must find its way to the feet of the Sacred One

for God is the only One who can fully receive out pain

who can take it from us

so that we no longer have to carry it


it is not that the pain will go away

it comes freshly, every morning

but so does grace and love

which is new every morning


Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Dread is contagious, so is peace

“Dread is anxiety on steroids.”

                     Emily Nagoski

“I dread to think of a society devoid of love, compassion and humanity.”

                     Suman Pokhrel



I have always been anxious

Even as a child, wrapped in the cocoon of affluence,

and nestled in the bosom of a healthy family


Even in the relatively secure world of the 50’s and early 60’s

(there was the cold war of course, and atomic bomb drills)


Even in the relative isolation of Eastern Oregon

where homogeneity was rampant

and our world was relatively small


Even with my fair share of intelligence, and talent

I was anxious and insecure


I worry about everything, all the time

And was living on Titralac in grade school

my body carrying my anxiety poorly


as a pastor I worried (and worry) about whether I was saying anything useful

and about whether people like and respect me


as a mental health director I woke up each morning

worrying about the budget, and funding cuts

and about whether our clinic was truly serving the community


so these are difficult times

Covid-19!  I am old enough to be at risk

Racial unrest!  I worry that once again we won’t listen, and once again

Things won’t change

Unidentified, militarized federal agents on the streets,

Grabbing people without due process

Yes, that worries me!


And so I wake up each morning

Even on these fine mornings

When the sun shines brightly

And the air is clear


And as I get out of bed

I put on dread, along with my clothes


There is that sense of heaviness, of discontent

That is so difficult to shake


I find myself lurking around the data

Furtively scrolling through the news


and feeling my heart ache

and my soul grow heavy


I know the platitudes, the comforting phrases

“I do not know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future”

But I do not find them compelling


Any quick review of history will show that

there is no clear (it seems to me) sense of true justice

those who do evil flourish, the righteous often perish


there is little sense that “God has this”


and yet

and yet


the words of Isaiah resonate still

in the echo chamber of my heart


those that wait upon the Lord

those that wait upon the Lord

those that wait upon the Lord


will renew their strength

the will rise up on wings like eagles

they will walk and not grow weary

the will run and not faint


the promises are there


God has poured love into our hearts …

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Love

Who are called and live by love (my paraphrase of Romans 8)


I have no foolproof antidote for dread

No magic bullet


All I can do is humbly share the belief

That while I do not see “God” directing history

And while I do see what can only be called “evil” flourish


that this Love, this Presence, which is woven into the fabric of my being

has the power

to make a difference


in how I think

and how I feel

and how I live


God gives me the power the do life a different way


And while that may not make much of a dent

In the dynamics that surround me

It matters


As Jesus told his disciples, right before he walked out the door to his death

(and resurrection)


I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”


So we can have peace in our hearts

And we can be peacemakers


And I think I can say this too

While dread is contagious

So is peace

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

breaking the cycle

The reason people do evil, why they hate sin or make mistakes, is because at some point they were hurt, rejected, excluded, or wounded. They just keep passing it on and the cycle repeats and spreads. Jesus, you could say, came to break, and even stop, the cycle

                               Richard Rohr (the wisdom pattern, p.37)



there is no question people engaged in what is evil


of course evil is often in the eye of the beholder

what one person sees as evil, another might actually see as good


but evil is, essentially, the opposite or absence of good

it is whatever violates our confused concepts of what is moral


there are certainly things most of us would agree are evil

sexual abuse

physical abuse



there are things you would think we would agree are evil

but perhaps don’t



there are things that we don’t agree on at all

is capitalism evil?

some say yes, while others say no

how about “socialism”? (whatever that really is)

again, no agreement


it gets tricky

but here is a trickier question

are particular people evil?


Is it “ok” to put that label on another human being?

That person, that one, right there, who is causing so much pain and misery

That person is evil!!!!


It is tempting for sure


But I have become increasingly convinced that while people may do evil things

seeing them as “evil” is not a Jesus thing


the closest thing we have to that in the Bible is Jesus telling poor Peter

“get thee behind me Satan!!”


but I don’t think “Satan” was Peter, but rather a perversion of the Gospel

Peter’s denial that the way of God was not the way of domination, but the way of sacrificial servanthood.


“Put that thought away” Jesus was saying

“If you start thinking God is about domination and wealth

that will take you into evil places”

(sadly the church today has all too often done just that)


I don’t think people are evil

I think they are wounded, damaged

Perhaps twisted and distorted


Certainly the image of God in us can be almost totally blurred


But I have to believe that it is never eradicated



so I am called to see

even in that person I find most abhorrent

a child of God


It is difficult sometimes

Just as, I assume, it is sometimes difficult

for some to see the divine reality in me


but it is something I must attempt

for my change of perspective, while it may not impact the other

has an impact on me

it changes how I think, how I feel, and how I act


It changes cursing to blessing

And the lust for retribution into a deep desire for reconciliation

It changes my desires about what happens to that person

It changes my prayers for that person

In short, it breaks the cycle


If nowhere else, than in my own heart

And that is



Sunday, August 9, 2020

Stop, breathe, think, then act

Sometimes I delete my own texts because I’m not the person

I was 4 minutes ago




I have this theory about feelings,

thoughts too


you know,

those things that just “show up” in my inner self

as I walk through life


what I believe is that my inner world

that world of heart, mind and soul

will always, eventually, find its way into my outer world


the cry of my heart will become a vocal lament

my poverty of soul will eventually show up as poor behavior

the chaos in my brain will come spilling out of my mouth

or tumble onto the screen of my computer


this means of course, that we must pay attention to our inner self


many of us were taught that we have “three” brains

the reactive, the emotional, and the thinking brains

(otherwise known as the amygdala, limbic, and cortex)


that is of course oversimplified

the interactions of all the parts of the brain are complex

and only partially understood


but still, there is truth there

we think, we feel, and we react


and what happens in side will be expressed

it will come out


the question is this

HOW will it come out


My theory is that if are not aware, if we are not paying attention to our inner self

and do not “name and claim” our inner world

and then consciously choose how that inner world is expressed


that inner world will express itself

we will “act out” or “act in”

our thoughts and feeling finding ways to make themselves heard


when we act out we often behave poorly

when we act in, we take our anger and fear and guilt out on ourselves

and our bodies suffer


when our thoughts and feelings express themselves

we have lost control


which is where, in the treatment modality I use

(Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT)

the observing brain comes in


we have the capacity to step away from our brains

from all the stuff going on inside

and look at it from a distance

not much of a distance sometimes, but still


as we work to become aware, and then to articulate

(if only to ourselves) what is going on

we can begin to take control back


because then we can choose how what is inside

gets expressed outside


instead of just falling into patterned thoughts and feeling

and repeating habitual behaviors

(I hurt therefor I drink, I am angry therefor I attack)

we notice those thoughts, those feeling

we step away from them, defuse from them

and we create space

and flexibility


and then we choose, how to process, to express

that inner “stuff” that has come up


sometimes I read an article

and boom, my fingers fly

and I have written an impassioned post on FaceBook


4 minutes later (sometimes)

I step away from my brain, and look at how I have responded

I see the forces driving me


I can ask the question, “Did my brain just bully me?”


And then?


Well, often

Delete, delete, delete


Which is why this little formula is my “go to” tool these days


and then act


because I want to be the one in control

my “divine child self” advised by the Spirit wants to be in control

and I want to choose how I respond, consciously

and I want to choose