Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Whirlwind God

Holy Spirit, you are the mighty way in which everything that is in the heavens, on the earth, and under the  earth, is penetrated with connectedness, is penetrated with relatedness.

                               Hildegard of Bingen



the darkness fades grudgingly

black to grey

to brown to orange


then the fiery orb

peeks through smoke and clouds

angry red


as though in protest


I know how the sun feels

as look ponders over this orb

so filled with dissension and division


it was not designed to be this way

in the warmth of the original blessing

this was a peaceable kingdom


where the earth was respected

and the wolf dwelt with the lamb

and humans were not yet obsessed

with power


the world wore the Sacred openly

and the Spirit danced between

all living things

binding them together


earth the delightful abode


that world is lost, is now the stuff

of ancient myths and fables

as human creatures stalk the earth



seeking all they can grasp for themselves

devouring the earth

consuming all


until plenty becomes want

and we become starved for compassion, and generosity

our essential selfishness driving us

like an avenging angel from the garden


and the Spirit is merely a wisp


and the bonds of affection broken


as we callously disregard and destroy

the earth and one another


as we let the planet burn

and crush the breath out of precious souls

and call those who have given their lives for others

fools and losers


Holy Spirit come

blow like a mighty wind

burn hot like fire


dance among us once again

draw us out of our essential selfishness

help us see again how precious this earth

how precious that soul, that black, brown, addicted, angry soul


help us once again feel the bonds of affection

for one another


dance among us one again

Holy Spirit, Creator, Redeemer


whirlwind God


draw us back to you, into the circle of your love

draw us back to one another


carry us back to the basileia tou Theou

blow us back

to Eden

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Traveling light

… you know this moment as a new beginning

with no idea of what is arriving,

only for the sudden departure

of the burden you have been carrying for a lifetime,

leaving instead an unfamiliar lightness

as you struggle not to ascend toward the sun.


How you no longer need

to carry this heavy stone in your arms,

on your back, in your throat,

and you wonder why you didn’t lay it aside long ago

and you see how your curled fingers

have become frozen in their grasp.

                     Christine Valters Paintner



yesterday was a day from hell

a spinning journey down through the circles of the inferno

through limbo, lust and gluttony


into the deeper reaches of greed, anger

heresy (trying to claim God for agendas and actions that are ungodly)

to violence, fraud

and treachery


I know of course that some of this is in the eye of the beholder

and perhaps others think

we are climbing Jacob’s ladder

higher, higher


but for me these are dark times

and my heart has been gathering stones

proverbial pebbles in the heart

and growing heavy


until even as I walk the backroads

with happy dog dancing by my side

even as God’s grandeur

flames out like shining from shook foil (G M Hopkins)

all around me

I find my mind and soul are tired


all is smeared and blurred


and I am cast down, bowed by the weight of it all

and my heart echoes the words of the Psalmist (55)


“My heart is in anguish within me;     the terrors of death have fallen on me”

and I would fly away

far away

to a place of shelter


and yet I cannot run

I must stay

and I must walk this road

and I must do what I can


to love my neighbor

to create community

to calm and heal rather than rant and rave (as I am wont to do)


but I cannot carry love and hope

if my hands are full of anger and fear

if I hold resentment in a death grip


if I would ascend

I must let go of so much

and travel light


I must hand my burdens over (Psalm 55)

all that fear, and anger

all that resentment

to the One who can (and will) carry them


I must die (as Jesus insisted I must)

to all that blurs the Sacred image in me

to all that hinders and binds


I must die and be reborn

not just once, but over and over

each moment

endless resurrection


rising up

out of the ashes

bearing good news







Monday, September 28, 2020

God is in ALL

Either we acknowledge that God is in all things,

or we have lost the basis for seeing God in anything

                               Richard Rohr


God is “within all things but not enclosed, outside all things, but not excluded, above all things, but not aloof, below all things but not debased

                               Saint Bonaventure


Therefore, open your eyes, alter the ears of your spirit, open your lips and apply your heart so that in all creatures you may see, hear praise, love and worship, glorify and honor your God, lest the whole world rise against you

                               Saint Bonaventure



it makes a difference,

how we see creation, the world we live in

this planet with its mountains and streams

its flora and fauna


it makes a difference how we see especially

those unique animals who walk the earth


those human creatures who are close around us

those who are only images, flickering across a TV screen

or images plastered on Facebook


do we see

do we understand that God is woven into everything

that everything is sacred

that every person is a precious soul?


is it not a problem

is it not perhaps the problem


that we pick and choose what is Sacred

and in whom the Sacred dwells?


that we do not see God in everything

in everyone?


what happens when we fail to see

this planet as the original incarnation of God?


how do we treat a planet that is merely

a collection of creatures and elements

that we can use for our benefit?


we abuse it


how do we treat people

whose skin is a different color

who believe a different creed

who adhere to a different ideology…


how do we treat people who are struggling

with poverty

or mental illness

or addiction…


if we do not see them as those in whom the Sacred One dwells?


we devalue them

and then exclude them, oppress them, and yes

kill them


what do the eyes of a right wing militant see

as they pull the trigger of their “big gun”?


what does the policeman see, as he

crushes the life out of a person of color?


what do I see, when I see a person with a MAGA hat?


do I see God?


The fact is that if I start to choose in whom God dwells

then I deny God


did I just say that?




When we start to pick and choose in whom God dwells

If we do not open our eyes,

alter the ears of your spirit,

open our lips and speak words of grace


if we do not apply our hearts so that in all creatures we see,

hear praise, love and worship, glorify and honor God,


then eventually

the whole world will rise against us


our hate

our anger

our disrespect

with rebound against us


yes, yes, yes

I know

the Sacred is so terribly blurred at times

as to be invisible


yes, yes, yes

I know there is much out there that is profane

and yes, yes, yes

evil abounds, and must be addressed and challenged


yes, today I will probably see a person act and not see God

hear a speak and not see God


but still God is there

in that one I would discount and devalue


if we can grab hold of that truth

however inconvenient it is

if we can grab hold of that truth

however imperfectly we do it


it can alter the eyes and ears of our Spirit

and change our words

from “God destroy them” to “God forgive them”


it can restore the humanity to those we have chosen to dehumanize


it is a starting place

if only that




And now may the God who suffers us to endure

And gives us such loving care

Give us a mind united toward one another

Because of our common loyalty to Jesus Christ


Then as one person we will sing from the heart the praises of God

The father of our Lord Jesus Christ


So open your hearts to one another, as Christ as opened his heart to you

And God will be glorified

                               (Romans 15:7, JB Phillips, adapted slightly)

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Can we be honest to God?

Secondly, white Christianity suffers from a bad case of Disney Princess theology. As each individual reads Scripture, they see themselves as the princess in every story. They are Esther, never Xerxes or Haman. They are Peter, but never Judas. They are the woman anointing Jesus, never the Pharisees. They are the Jews escaping slavery, never Egypt. For citizens of the most powerful country in the world, who enslaved both Native and Black people, to see itself as Israel and not Egypt when studying Scripture is a perfect example of Disney princess theology. And it means that as people in power, they have no lens for locating themselves rightly in Scripture or society — and it has made them blind and utterly ill-equipped to engage issues of power and injustice. It is some very weak Bible work.

                               Erna Kim Hackett



“once upon a time”

there was a man named Abraham

another named Joseph

and another named Moses


“once upon a time”

there was a woman named Mary

actually a lot of women named Mary (all important)


“once upon a time”


there are lots of stories in the Bible

stories about individuals, yes

but stories that are,

when all is said and done, cosmic, universal


every story in that book is my story

your story


and the question we must always ask

as we read those stories


is who am I in this story?

which one of these characters is me?


(We can do the same thing with the prophets -where is my country, my political party in

 these words of warning?  Is God talking to me, to my country?  Or the letters.  If this letter (say Romans) showed up in my mail box, what things in my life would that letter be addressing?  Has Paul been peeking through my window?  Or the window of my church? That voyeur!)


But when we ask that question, we must ask it with honesty

And we have to be prepared to understand, that we may not like the answer!


We are well prepared to be the people of faith in the story.


We are even prepared to take on the weaknesses of the Biblical heroes,

for many of those heroes have “feet of clay”

many of them have doubts, and fears


and we are good with that


but are we willing to see ourselves

as “them”

as those who are functionally the “enemies” of God and God’s way?


can I recognize the fact that, when reading about John the Baptist

wailing his way out of the wilderness,

that I may be more likely to be one of those tagged as a “viper”

than one of those humbly standing in line to be washed?


can I see myself, important and busy person as I am, more as the priest who hurries by the beaten and bloody traveler, than as the Good Samaritan?


Can we as a country see ourselves as oppressive Egypt, rather

than enslaved Israel


Can we see, in our armor clad police, the echoes of the Pharaoh’s soldiers, chasing down the children of Israel?


Can we as the church see ourselves as those Amos is speaking to when he says

“I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me…

Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your [guitars]

But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”


for the failure of the White church over so many years to insist that Black Lives Matter?

For our failure to understand that unless black lives matter as much as white lives, we cannot say all lives matter.  That we, as whites, are merely defaulting to the place of “I matter!” (which is not untrue, but still…)


It is not just our own, individual faces we need to see in the mirror

It is our political party

It is our nation

for in the Bible the individual and the nation, the community, the people, are always intertwined and cannot be artificially separated


As I preach the lectionary this week

Am I oppressed Israel, hoping for the angel of death to pass over,

or am I oppressive Egypt? (Exodus 12)


Am I the sentinel of Ezekiel (33) shouting warming, or am I the recalcitrant one who refuses to listen?


Am I the righteous one, chastising the sinner, or the sinner who refuses to change?

(Matthew 18).  Or will I just skip that and jump to the comfort of “where two or three are gathered, there is God”?


Am I the one who has put on the armor of love, or am I the one wallowing in the darkness of resentment (Romans 13)?


If I am honest, I am everywhere

I am the hero and villain alike

I am good and I am not so good

I am faithful, and I am faithless

I am loving, and I am not

I am kind, and brutal, generous and grasping


It’s a right mess

But thanks be to God, for the freedom I have to be honest

For the Sacred takes me as I am, and we go from there…..

“Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  (Romans 7:25)


Saturday, September 19, 2020

good hearts, good fruit

You are a manipulator when you try to persuade people to do something that is not in their best interests but is in yours. You are a motivator when you find goals that will be good for both sides, then weld together a high-achieving, high-morale partnership to achieve them.

                               Alan Loy McGinnis


Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

                               Paul (Letter to the Galatians, Chapter 6)


Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of anger will fail.

                               Proverbs 22:8


You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.

                               Jesus, as quoted by Matthew (7:16-18)



my mother

who was a force of nature

all wrapped up in a feisty little package (5’ maybe)


was a doer

she rarely talked about feelings


but she felt deeply

and she lived her feelings

she lived her heart


she gave of herself in a plethora of ways

serving her family

her church

her community


when I was headed off into “the bigger” world

she took a moment to give me

a rare piece of advice


“Stephen Paul, if you want to be happy

 work to make other’s happy”


I have not always followed her advice

seeking at times to full my cup

with power, or accomplishments

or affluence


but she was right

it has been in service to others that I have found

my deepest joy


I cannot help but think about this

as I watch the whole of creation “groan in pain” (Romans 8)


as I watch the virus creep

as I watch protests unfold

as I see the pain of hundreds of thousands of deaths

and the pain of injustice and inequality


as I see pain piled on pain piled on pain

and then see

instead of a healing, restoring servanthood


essential selfishness


I see leaders manipulating and not motivating

I see people refusing to wear masks, and refusing to distance

Simple acts of kindness


I see people in big trucks carrying big guns

seeking to intimidate and silence

I see people, sharing their pain (not always in wise ways)

and that pain being used to create more pain (manipulation again)


and that tells me one thing

that we have some badly damaged hearts


The scriptures are very clear

the things we say

the things we do

reveal our hearts


this is complicated

because there are those moments of acute pain

and, perhaps, acute fear

that cause us at times to behave in ways that are not good

wounded hearts are not always bad hearts…. but


I see a fundamental difference between people who protest racism

and act out of the pain of a history of discrimination and injustice


and people with power and privilege

who do things that are oppressive, intimidating, divisive and destructive


As I sit here

in my isolated rural county

far from much of the chaos


and as I watch the events unfold

I am going with Jesus

and with James Joyce, an acute observer of humanity

who said

“the actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts”


I am watching what people say

I am watching how they respond to the pain of others

I am watching to see who is “for others” and who is “for self”

I am watching to see who unites and who divides

Who calms, and who incites


I am looking for good fruit

For by their fruits we will know them

I am looking for good fruit

For motivators not manipulators


And I know, that no matter how tempting it is

to go with domination, and power

to side with wealth


that if we sow greed, and injustice

we will reap calamity,

and we will fail


In this time, in this world

with its pandemic, with the economic collapse, with the cultivated violence

we must look for people with good hearts


and we must have good hearts


As Paul implores


“let us not grow weary of doing good,

for in due season we will reap,

if we do not give up”

Friday, September 18, 2020

It is dark

It is dark outside

It is dark inside


in my soul there is an

echoing emptiness which drowns out


the faint murmurings of hope


the violence is endless and growing

fueled by narcissism

and racism


fueled by anger

and despair


the calls for justice and equity

drowned by the clamor of frantic discontent


I want to believe that love will win

I do believe that love will win


I understand that the old order

must die

it must suffer through painful death throes


and we must fall

at some level, into chaos

into pain

which we can only hope are birth pang


before we can find that new place

which is more just

more equitable


but still the fear lingers

that hope will be still born

and not draw that first breath of the born again


for we have abandoned truth and embraced lies

and we have called good evil, and evil good

we have chosen the way of domination rather than service

the way of violence rather than peace

the way of hate rather than love


it is dark outside

it is dark inside


and I look for that light

which shines in the darkness

that light that cannot be overcome to flame out


not only in my heart

but in the hearts of all those who love Love


I pray that we can hold on to hope

Hold on to love


people who do not respond to evil with evil

but respond to

and overcome

evil with good


this long darkness

is lit by the fires of hate and violence


as flames dance from burning cars

and burning buildings


this long darkness cannot hide

the blood on the streets


this darkness is profound and ugly

and creeps into our souls


if the dawn is going to come

we must be the light bearers

we must be the points of light


Anne Frank once wrote,

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

We must be the people who reveal the darkness

We must be the people who defy the darkness

If not us, who?


Lord keep our lamps burning

Turn our darkness into light !  (Psalm 18:28)




Thursday, September 17, 2020

God Whispers

The earth has moved through another

revolution; there are still many fine mornings

when you just might believe

that anything at all is possible

                               Christine Valters Painter




is an illusive thing


after all

it’s a pretty grim world out there

a “dark night of the soul” kind of world


if one dares look to long at the doings

of leaders behaving badly

if one ponders too much about the implications

of words spoken from the high places

if one looks at the chaos in the streets

at the dark, armed presence of the resentful

and the unruly behavior of nature


it is scary


one can feel the palpable hate

coming from those who would put on the armor of evil

and wage war against those they have chosen

to dehumanize


one can feel the despair of those for whom

there is no justice


one can even feel the apathy of those

protected by power and wealth

ignore and abandon the poor and the vulnerable


and yet

hope is persistent and tough


hope rises unbidden, like the sun

it pulls us to our feet


if not to our feet, then to our knees

where we, like the alien woman

scramble beneath the table of the universe

searching for crumbs from God


the crumbs of hope


what crumbs will I find this day?


will my eyes be able to see the beauty of nature?

will I feel the breeze on my face?

will I rejoice in the smell of frying bacon?

will I read something that will lift my heart?

will I hear words of kindness?

will I see someone act with love?


will I catch a glimpse of justice served?


will these small sacred acts be mixed in among

the lies of the President,

the violent resentment of the white militia

the sometimes destructive despair of blacks

(whose protest and lament can also be sacred)

the deadly creep of C19

the devastating power of Laura

the roaring infernos in our forests?


and will they be enough

to feed my soul

and keep it from starving


Ah, yes

even the crumbs of grace

are enough


it is complicated to be sure

hope is mingled with despair

joy is mingled with grief

love is mingle with hate


sacred is mingled with profane


it is not a black and white world

it is not either/or

it is (and always has been) both/and


it is a Jesus on the cross world

a Peter the denier as the rock work

it is me a sinner as a saint world


it is a world where

as the chaos roars

as the window blow, the fire roars


God whispers in our ears


“Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”  (Shel Silverstein}


for I am with you

and will never leave you alone




Wednesday, September 16, 2020

the still point

Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is…

Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,

Neither ascent nor decline.  Except for the point, the still point,


                               TS Eliot



this world is in flux

change is happening everywhere, everywhere


and it scares us

and we hate it

and we love it


it’s a right mess


how do we survive this chaos

this swirling cacophony of transformation


without becoming fundamentally dishonest

fearful, protective


violent (we can be violent in many ways)?


I was hiking a while back, and decided to go across

a shallow point in the river

how bad could it be?

I could see the bottom…


but the waters were deceptive and the river bed

underneath my feet was full of sand and gravel

and older, and weaker, and less stable than I used to be

I felt unstable and anxious


Until my feet found a rock

a nice flat, solid rock

a still point

where I could stand, rest, gain my equilibrium


we all need a still point

a place to stand


but that still point has to be something solid





it cannot be an ideology

it definitely cannot be a person, not even a good person

(although people who support and guide are important)


that still place must be the Sacred

in the language I use, that still point is God


but even then, it is complex

for our God-image matters


how we see God affects how we see ourselves, and how we see the world


if God is a judge we will be fearful

if God is retributive we might be cruel

if God plays favorites, we will be arrogant and careless of others


if God is love


that is the absolute, the still place for me

and I am finding that I can’t just say that

as a tired cliché

I can’t believe it casually and reflexively


this is one I have to feel, experience

this reality has to permeate me from my head down to my toes


or it can’t be my still place

and it won’t change me

or my relationship to the people around me


but when it is real

it leads me to my true self, a self I can hold to as

the words of my bully brain, and the words of others assail me


it empowers me to relate to others in a new way

if God is love and my still point is love


than I can begin to live love (never perfectly) because


“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.   Love never fails.” (I Corinthians 13)


As Paul reminds us

all else passes away


there is no other still point

those that wait upon the Lord

shall renew their strength

shall renew their strength

and renew their strength


this day I am reminded

to return to that still place

around which all moves

to that place where I can stand

and breathe

and be recreated


to that place

to that One

who is Love

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

follow we must

The Kingdom movement was Jesus’ program of empowerment for a peasantry becoming steadily more hard-pressed…


Jesus lived, against the systematic injustice and structural evil of that situation, an alternative open to all who would accept it; a life of open healing and shared eating, of radical itinerancy, programmatic homelessness, and fundamental egalitarianism, of human contact without discrimination and of divine contact without hierarch.  He also died for that alternative.

                               John Dominic Crossan



Jesus was a teacher, to be sure

his teachings were rich and deep

pointing those who would hear, toward a whole new way of doing life


but Jesus was more than a teacher


he was an agitator


his teachings, if actually followed, would have disrupted

both the religious and political hierarchies of his time


but teachings are just teachings

and have little power unless lived


and he lived his teachings

he healed the sick

he sat at the table, and broke bread with anyone who showed up

Romans, tax collectors, women!!! Oh my God!


he touched lepers


he lived his teachings

and he lived them in an every escalating way

moving from provincial gatherings

to a near riot in the streets of Jerusalem

to an actual act of civil disobedience

in the temple itself


he challenged the status quo

he attacked the structural evil of his time

structural racism (against Samaritans and others)

structural corruption (the money changers)

structural poverty

structural exclusion


Martin Bell catches this aspect of Jesus well


“There he is.  In the temple again

Causing trouble

Speaking very differently from other preachers

Speaking with authority about sorrow, anxiety, sickness and death

Penetrating the dark corners of human existence

Shattering illusions

Make no mistake about it

This is a dangerous man”


the Kingdom movement was Jesus’ program of empowerment

for the poor

the sick

the oppressed

the rejected

the excluded


and yet

look at what is being said, being done

in “Jesus name”



We see people who claim God stand

and not only defend greed, but live it

defend hate, but push it

we see people who claim God not only ignore the pain of the world

but contribute to it


We see people hate, coerce, oppress, reject, exclude

impoverish, and destroy

in the name of God


we see a church that does not assail the deadly “structures” of this time

but sustains them



yes, there is a price to pay

for being part of the Jesus movement

always has been

always will be


being a follower is not safe

being part of the movement is costly



and yet

follow we must


I keep thinking about where Jesus would be today

He would not be a guest speaker at the RNC

or the DNC


he would be in the streets

proclaiming that Black Lives Matter

he would be fighting for universal health care

he would be breaking bread in a homeless shelter


he would be speaking out against all of those things

that are not “of the Kingdom”


he would put his life on the line

for equity and justice


am I willing to follow?

am I willing to put the number of “likes” for my blog at risk

willing to risk being “unfriended”

willing to have people stop attending my church

willing to be excluded in my community (which is very, very red)

willing to see my investments implode


for the sake of equity and justice?

am I willing to be part of God’s movement in this world?

Jesus was willing to put his life on the line to change the structural evil of the world

am I?

Saturday, September 12, 2020

the economy of God

Do you wish to have love?

If you wish to have love, you must leave love.

                               Mechtild of Magdeburg




being overly focused on the self


on one’s own wants

own needs

own ego


does not work


I am not talking about healthy self-esteem

an appreciation of self


I am not talking about healthy boundaries

where one keeps the predators from eroding and destroying


I am talking about that prioritization of one’s own self

That “me first”

America First

Party First

Place that consumes and devours all around it


I believe if Jesus were hanging around today (in the flesh)

he would actually say “Christianity First”

is a problem

just as he struggled with that attitude in the religious zealots of his day


the problem here is that if we are looking inward

we can’t see the people around us


if we are always protecting we can’t reach out


if we are always taking

we can’t give


if we are always grasping for adoration

we can’t adore


if we are always seeking power

we can’t empower


if we are always seeking to dominate

we can’t serve


Jesus is always presenting us with paradoxes

it you want to live, die

if you want to be full, empty yourself out

if you want to receive, give


it is the odd economy of God


we are seeing, in real time

what happens when we get selfish


when we hug money to ourselves

we get economic inequity, and people go hungry

and are homeless


when we refuse to consider others

Covid-19 runs rampant, and kills


when we refuse to leave our comfort zones

racism flourishes


when we refuse to allow controls on our guns

children die


when we make it all about ourselves

we pile pain upon pain

and some of the pain is ours


as we end up “cut off” from others


if we want to be secure and safe, we must reach out


if we want to receive, we must give

if we to be respected, we have to offer respect


If we want power, we have to empower


if we want real power, we have to empower those around us


if we want to be fulfilled, we have to serve


for in the economy of God those who die shall live

those who are last shall be first


and love comes, only when it is given away

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Glimpse of truth

Human kind cannot bear very much reality

                     TS Eliot


People with a distorted image of self, world, or God will be largely incapable of experiencing what is really real in the world.  They will see things through a narrow keyhole.  They’ll see instead what they need reality to be, what they’re afraid it is, or what they’re angry for it being.  They’ll see everything through their anger, their fear, or their agenda.  In other words, they won’t see it at all

                     Richard Rohr (the wisdom pattern)




we see what we want to see

we hear what we want to hear

we believe what we want to believe


in short

each one of us tends to create our reality “whole cloth” out of our own

anger and fear

our own values and priorities


and it makes for an unholy mess


as we distort

and avoid

and end up functionally more than a little delusional


this is why some people can look at Donald Trump and see a savior

and others look at him and see the incarnation of evil


this why some look at Joe Biden and see strength and decency

and others see a stuttering and demented fool


this is why to some the BLM protests look like destructive anarchy

and to others they look like peace and productive cries for change


this is why when a minister preachers a sermon to 50 people

she or he preaches 50 different sermons


as much as we would like to believe that it is only the “other” side

that does this kind of distortion

the reality is that all of us, at one level or another

are guilty


it is part of the human condition


it is not all bad!

It is natural and appropriate for us to interpret reality

based upon who we are, and what we have experienced

this is why one passage in the Bible can say different things to different people


because we need different things from that passage


but at some level there must be a truth that is universal

truth is not simply in the mind of the beholder


which is why I like Paul’s statement in Romans 12

“do not let he world squeeze you into its mold

 but be transformed by the renewing of your minds”


be transformed

let Sacred renew your minds


in short, rather than letting the world

with its warped priorities and extreme ideologies

alter our brains, until we can no longer see


we need to go deep

go inside

find the Sacred in us


we need to let the spring of living water gush

need to let the living giving sap flow from the vine


or to put it another way

we need to let God alter our brains

so that we can see what is true


or at least catch glimpses of the truth

(because we will never, ever, have a monopoly on truth)


and once we have that “bit of truth”

we need to test it

by chewing on it in the context of a “beloved community”

but altering it, constantly

by offering it humbly, to others, knowing we might be wrong

by looking at our “truth” in the context of Jesus’ teachings


did I mention humility?

and flexibility?  the need to allow God to constantly introduce ‘the new”?


letting God shape our minds is a never ending process

perhaps that is why we are also told to pray without ceasing


there are somethings I will probably never stop believing

that all people are valuable

that all people are loved by God

that God calls us to heal the stick, clothed the naked, feed the hungry

house the homeless


that we are to overcome evil with good

and that love wins


but I need to constantly, every moment

allow my soul to be a construction zone

and let God renew my mind

and give me


eyes that see what is true

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

My Pain is NOT "the story"

Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken belief that you can not bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain. What you have not done is feel all you are beyond that pain.

                               Kahlil Gibran




when we have dealt with pain for a long time

we become our pain


pain becomes who we are

instead of our larger self, carrying pain

the self becomes swallowed up in pain

and it becomes our identity


we are our aching back

the abuse we have suffered

our worst failures

our sin


we lose sight of our original self

and our original blessing


and pain takes control


but here is the thing about pain

it is not who we are

we feel pain

we carry pain

it is powerful


but it is not who we are

any more than the flogging

the crown of thorns

and the cross

were who Christ was


those things were part of Christ’s story

but not the story (although we sometimes make them so)

the real story is the resurrection

the real story is what God was able to do

with the worst that could happen


and I think that is always the story

what God is able to do

with the worst that can happen to us


I have pain every day

the pain that comes from an aging body

well used

the pain that comes from an anxiety disorder

the pain that comes from big mistakes along the way


but I am not my pain

it is (when all is said and done) only a part of who I am

and when I can remember that

and after recognizing the pain, and accepting it,

(“Hello pain, there you are!  How are you today?”)


I can move on, to the other parts of who I am

I can move on, into this moment

Into the things that are important to me


I can do what I value

I can be who I want to be


for the Spirit, the paraclete, the helper

the inner presence of the Sacred, Spirit, Jesus

is there to guide, comfort, empower, and heal

and remind me of who I am

Child of God


Pain may be part of my story

but it is not

and never will be


the story

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Envelopes filled with love

[In] John’s Gospel, Jesus continues to use the imagery of disruption (John 3–4). First, he tells a man that in spite of all his learning, in spite of all his status, he needs to go back and start over, to be born again—perhaps the most apt image for disruption ever. Then he tells a woman that the location of worship doesn’t matter at all—which in their day meant that temples were irrelevant. What matters, Jesus says, is the attitude (or spirit) and authenticity (or truth) of the worshipper. . . .


If you want to see the future of Christianity as a great spiritual migration, don’t look at a church building. Go look in the mirror and look at your neighbor. God’s message of love is sent into the world in human envelopes. If you want to see a great spiritual migration begin, then let it start right in your body. Let your life be a foothold of liberation.



Disruption sucks!

Disruption frightens

Disruption can be dangerous


And so we love order

We love having things remains that same

And so with human beings we are constantly looking back

at what was


looking back, with longing

with passion


Adam and Eve, looking back at the garden

(the one time such longing may have been appropriate)

the people (I am sure) looking back at the Tower of Babel

before the great disruption


(funny how those keep coming around)


the tribes, with cloud and fire in front of them

yearning to go back to Egypt and slavery


the disciples who after the disruption of Jesus’ crucifixion

went back to their nets


Make America Great – Again


We love order

We had disruption


“The moving ever shall stay,” Basava said.


Those words contradict so much of our inherited religious sensibility.

“Stay the same. Don’t move. Hold on.

Survival depends on resistance to change,”


and yet Jesus says

you must die, and be born again

the temple of stone must come down

so I can build a temple not made of stones

but of human hearts


we are in another time of disruption

the unrest fermented by the oppression of people black and brown

the unrest created by people who happen to be LGBTQI

stepping forth and saying “Here we are!  Value us!  Love us!  Include us”

the disruption of Covid-19

which has disrupted our well worn patterns of



and yes, worship


we can see this as an awful thing

a terrible horrible time


and yet

out of the disruption comes the opportunity for God’s new thing

just as out of death comes the possibility of resurrection and new life


even as old structures crumble, and are torn apart

even as statues are removed

and language is changed

and our way of looking at policing is scrutinized

the new emerges


who knows!

May be this time, in our time, systematic racism will be replace

With systematic equity and equality

Maybe this time, in our time, a staggeringly pathetic system of funding health care

Will be replaced with one that provides access for all


Maybe this time the old paradigm of might makes right

domination is the goal

will be replace with an understanding that if we don’t all get there together

we don’t get there at all


Maybe this time the church instead of getting in the way of the kingdom

help drag the Kingdom of God into reality




Maybe we can understand, as we are limited in our ability to gather

And worship in modern day temples (or rather auditoriums)

That the true “temples” are not those places where

The masses gather, the stage mist smoke rises, the bands play, and the monitors glow, but are human beings, hearts on fire

human beings, cemented together by love, living faith

doing acts of mercy

protecting on another

respecting, honoring,

being holy abodes


As Richard Rohr says it,

“If you want to see the future of Christianity as a great spiritual migration,

don’t look at a church building.

Go look in the mirror and look at your neighbor.

God’s message of love is sent into the world in human envelopes.”


Yes, this is a time of disruption and chaos

It can be a time of devastation

Or it can be a time of preparation and germination

And the beginning of something new


If we want it to be the start of a new order

Then it needs to start right in our own bodies


given over

holy temples

Sacred seeds, scattered



envelopes filled

with Sacred Love