Welcome

Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

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

Elizabeth Browning



Saturday, September 25, 2021

stop, breath, pray

A man I very much admire

and I had a chat.

 

One of those Facebook chats that come about sometimes

when someone put something out there

that jars.

 

In this case I was the culprit,

lamenting the use, by people people with low empathy

(or no empathy) of the laugh emoji

as a response to a serious statement.

 

I see a laugh emoji, when a person is lamenting covid cases,

or when they are made a values statement, or even just a factual statement,

as an act of minimization and marginalization.

 

It says “who cares?” at the best, and “you are stupid” at the worst.

 

My dear friend, who is a man of compassion, felt me comments were unnecessary and judgmental.  He also felt (at the same time) that my comments in response to a person

who was on the “personal freedom’ side of the vaccination issues were too harsh.

 

“That seems harsh and unloving.”

I can’t say he was wrong.

 

The conversation has plagued me all night,

in part because it reminds me how difficult it is to navigate through these times when extremism is a way of life for many.

 

I believe we need to be kind.

As Ian Maclaren, (real name John Watson, a Presbyterian Minister) minister once noted (1897), “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle,”

 

Indeed the call to respond with kindness and love that comes from Jesus is extreme.

He took the need to not respond with violence and retribution as far as dying on the cross.

 

How far do I give up my rights?

How far do I give up my right to be right?

How far do I go in trying to reconcile rather than in trying to shame?

As far as Jesus took those things.

 

And yet, I recognize that Jesus had his limits.

He did flip tables.

He did tell the rich young ruler just how much of this possessions he had to divest,

and did not soften his stance when the young man was unwilling to do that.

He told Peter he was “full of it”, numerous times.

He told Peter he would fail (and Peter did).

 

He stood up to the Pharisees and the Sadducees

and at times made them very uncomfortable,

using the parable of the Good Samaritan, for example, to highlight their hypocrisy.

 

Is there a place where putting others before yourself, being sacrificial (unto the cross) become a problem?

Can it be that “turning the other check” and “loving our enemies,” and “doing good to those that harm us” has its limits?

 

Is there a point where we have to push back?

Even confront?  Resist things that we know (hopefully) to be wrong?

Can we call out lies?  Overtly!

Can we push back at people who are engaged in harmful, abusive behavior?

 

Can kindnesss be toxic?

At its worst, kindness can have a dark side.

It can allow one’s self to be eroded.  It can destroy necessary boundaries that keep us healthy.  I can also be enabling. It can effectually be the equivalent of standing by and letting others abuse and harm. 

 

On the other hand.  Failing to be kind can take us into really dark places.  At times I find myself in those dark places.  I love this paragraph by Tracy A. Dennis-Tiwary, where shew talks about a thing she calls “moral disgust”

 

“Moral disgust is currently the default emotion in our politically-divided country and it has toxic social and emotional effects on all of us. Moral disgust can be thought of as the universal repugnance people feel toward extremely bad conduct, like abuse of the vulnerable, cruelty, corruption, and so on. Moral disgust in a relationship is toxic because, like physical disgust, when we’re disgusted by someone, we want nothing to do with them. We want to “expel” the offender and their offensive behavior or beliefs, like spitting out rotten food. Even more radically, in the throes of disgust, we no longer think of the other as quite completely human, and, therefore, not truly worthy of being heard and understood. Sociologists call this tacit belief that one’s “in-group” is more human than an “out-group” infrahumanization and it’s dangerous for healthy social relationships.”

 

Ouch!

 

What do we do? Many of us feel paralyzed by these divisions, whereas others feel overwhelmed with anger and disgust.

 

I am not sure what we do.

I continue to believe we have to, in every way, counteract hate, and violence, and we have to confront behaviors that destroy the common good.

 

How do we create understanding and promote positive change (rather than just feed the divide?)

 

I think we start with listening, which can be difficult to do.

But the reality is we can reach out an get to know the other person better,

and understanding what the “great burden” they are carrying.

 

Or at least what got them to the place in which they dwell.

 

(A shout out here to non-violent communication)

 

Here we note what is happening without blaming or criticizing. “I notice you just said”

Then we express OUR feelings.  “When you said that (or did that) I felt”

 

We own how what is happening affects us.

 

And then we share what we need.  “I need to understand why you feel that way.”

“I need to understand why you believe that.”  Give me more information!  Where is this stuff I am getting from you coming from?

 

Then we make a request.  “Can we restart this conversation.”  “Can we both go in and look at all the evidence together.”

 

Of course we struggle with the “other side” isn’t open to this approach.

 

David Brooks of the New York Times once wrote an article on “How to Engage a Fanatic.” Can you , he asks, have a civil conversation with an extremist.

 

He suggests that to have a decent conversation you can’t confront them with equal and opposite force, but must use compassion and civility.  You have to confront extremism with love.

 

“All you have to do” he writes, “is try to imitate Martin Luther King, who thrust his love into his enemies’ hearts in a way that was aggressive, remorseless and destabilizing.”

 

This is not easy.

None of this is.

Sometimes we don’t go far enough with our kindness

Sometimes we go to far.

 

I have no great solutions here!

Only struggle

And only a belief that love is the way, and that violent confrontation makes us exactly what we are trying to confront.

 

So I end in tension.  The tension between confrontation and reconciliation.  Between the need to be kind, and the need to stand firm.  Between the need to stop evil, and the need to be compassionate and empathetic.

 

I know I will at times be kind, in the right way

I know I times I will let people erode my boundaries and leave me bruised and manipulated.

I know at times I will be too harsh, and will not act in a way that promotes reconciliation.

 

So all I can do, as I read a comment on Facebook

Or hear a comment made in person.

Or listen to the pundits on TV

 

All I can do as I am confronted with things that hurt my soul

Is stop, breathe, pray (I need spiritual resources here), open myself to the presence

of the one who knew how to confront kindly,

 

and then respond.  Hopefully living out what I say I believe.

Hopefully being a person who reflects the Jesus I say I love.

 

May God have mercy


Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Eyes that see

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

          Author of the First Letter of John

______________________________________

 

How do we know where our eyes are?

Where our gaze is turned?

Where our eyes linger, and then linger some more?

 

By how we live!

 

Whether we are aware of it or not,

and usually we are not,

we “mirror” others.

 

When we are in the presence of another, and are focused on them,

truly focused,

and when we value them,

we often pick up their gestures, speech patterns, and even their attitudes.

 

Children mirror their parents, and grandparents,

and later their peers.

 

Employees often mirror their bosses,

and sometimes, God help us, we mirror our political leaders!

 

So the way we think,

the inclinations of our hearts

our attitudes,

and ultimately our actions are reflective

 

of where our eyes (and perhaps heart) linger.

 

Who do we mirror?

Whose attitudes and actions do we reflect?

 

Ah, Beloved One,

you are always before us, you are always above us,

you are always below us, you are always behind us,

you are always in us.

 

We are permeated with Sacred presence

and so should truly be Sacred Children.

 

We should reflect your love,

your generosity,

your forgiveness,

your patience

your kindness.

 

But our eyes stray,

pulled away from you by so many things

which catch our eyes.

 

And then your image in us dims and blurs.

 

Help us Jesus, beloved,

Help us Christ, the Cosmic One,

keep our eyes stayed on you

 

that we may see you as you really are,

and be more like you.


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

We shall overcome

God did not say ‘ you will not be tempted; you will not be troubled; you will not be distressed.’  What God said was ‘You shall not be overcome.’

                     Julian of Norwich

____________________________

 

Morning comes slowly

Anxiety creeps in more quickly,

waking me up and keeping me awake.

 

Sitting at my desk, watching a blood red sun rise

in a smoky sky, neurotic cat snuggled on my lap,

 

my mind is fill with the worries of the “via negativa”.

with the ills of the world which rot and fester.

 

Predominate is my bewilderment over those who have

chosen to trust liars and embrace lies.

We were warned that this is what humans do, when afflicted with the

hungry ghosts of the soul.

 

That our human minds, brilliant and wonderful,

can also become afflicted, and dis-eased.

That we can become ideologically impaired so that

while claiming to be wise we become fools (Romans 1).

 

That our hearts, made for love can become frozen and hard.

 

And worse, that so afflicted we can end up embracing lies and abandoning truth.

Even exchanging the truth about God,

that God is love, and that God works through people to reconcile and heal,

for lies about who God is and how God works.

 

Exchanging trust in God, and trust in love,

for trust in malignant leaders, and trust in hate and violence

 

We have exchanged the way of love with the way of alienation,

the way of compassion with the way of judgment,

the way of peace with the way of violence

the way of inclusion with the way of exclusion

the way of trust with the way of conspiracy and distrust.

 

And it is a right mess

 

But as I sit, and the sky becomes lighter,

and the sun turns from red to yellow,

and the beauty of the mountain emerges from the haze,

 

I am reminded that God is.

That God is present.

That God is present in me (and you too!).

 

It will never be easy, this life.

The “via positiva” will always be mixed together with the “via negativa”,

and life will never be easy.

 

But God is present, seated on the throne of my heart.

God dwells in this house that is my body.

 

And so, though I may be tempted, and troubled,

and distressed by what I see going on around me.

 

I will not be overcome.


Monday, September 20, 2021

The fruit of trust

Why is it that some people do not bear fruit?  It is because they have no trust either in God or in themselves

                     Meister Eckhart

 

You may call it courage, but I call it trust.  When they blew up my house and the whole roof caved in, and I walked out OK I said to myself.  “They can’t kille me.  Oh, some day they may kill my body, but they can’t kill my soul, and they can’t kill the movement.”

Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth (when asked how he could have such courage during the violence of the civil rights conflicts in Birmingham, AL)

________________________________

 

There are time I do not understand people

I do not understand people who have to carry guns, everywhere.

I do not understand people who have to always control and manipulate, who are obsessed with winning and domination.

I do not understand people who would refuse refuge to refugees.

I do not understand people who think “they” (whoever “they” are) are plotting against them (and putting micro chips in the Covid vaccine, or using it to poison them).

 

The list could go on, but suffice it to say

that they are people whom I do not understand.

 

I have been trying to figure this out.

Is it as simply as people buying into a paradigm of domination?

I (and my tribe) must be on top.  I must win.  I must be in control?

 

Is it about hate?

Or perhaps an inability to accept change?

Or a fear of change, a fear of loss?

 

And what about my own foibles?

My own anger and frustration?

My own impatience?

My own inability to see those I do not agree with or understand

with compassion?

 

I am coming to believe that it is all about trust.

Do we trust in our own capacity?

Do we trust in God?

Mostly, do we trust in God?

 

Do we believe that God is?

Do we believe that God is present?

Do we believe that God is present in us?

Do we believe that just as God filled the Temple of Solomon, turning it from

just a building to the “mercy seat” of God,

that God fills the temple that is us?

 

If we don't trust ourselves, and we don't trust anyone else.

And if we don’t trust God? 

 

I would suggest much of what we are seeing from the right is in fact a lack of trust. 

 

They don't really trust God (so they need their guns, and their refusal to get the shot, which they say is trust, is really a test, so it is not trust).

 

They don't trust others (again guns, voter suppression and more), and they don't trust their leaders (thus QAnon and all the conspiracy theories).

 

Not trusting they need to dominate.  They need violence.  They need anger.

They need all the sins

 

And when I don’t trust, I join them.

 

So I am working on trust

I do trust God.

I also trust the brains God has given some that enable them to come up with vaccines. 

I trust that many of our leaders (not all) are actually giving us good guidance.

And I trust myself, as a vessel, a "house" in whom God dwells, to make it through all of this.

 

Peace out friends

 


Saturday, September 18, 2021

Peace, Love, and Understanding

As I walk through this wicked world

Searchin' for light in the darkness of insanity

I ask myself, "Is all hope lost?

Is there only pain and hatred and misery?"

And each time I feel like this inside

There's one thing I wanna know

What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?

 

And as I walk on through troubled times

My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes

So where are the strong and who are the trusted?

And where is the harmony, sweet harmony?

'Cause each time I feel it slippin' away

Just makes me wanna cry

What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?

 

So where are the strong and who are the trusted?

And where is the harmony, sweet harmony?

'Cause each time I feel it slippin' away

Just makes me wanna cry

What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?

          Words by Nick Lowe, Sing by Elvis Costello

______________________________

 

For me the question is this;

What is so hard about peace, love, and understanding?

 

Why is it so hard to be kind?

Why is it so hard to put down the guns?

Why is it so hard to listen?

Why is it so hard to put the other first?

 

It is a serious question.

Some people say the answer is fear.

People are afraid of what is different.

Afraid of change.

Afraid of losing power and influence.

Afraid of not having enough.

 

Ok, perhaps.

Some say our minds have been tainted and twisted by political agendas,

the lust for power, the desire for wealth.

They say that we have become programmed by the manipulators and have

become ideologically impaired.

 

That we are walking through life under the influence of malign forces.

That too is probably part of the problem.

 

I suspect one could ponder for hours, even days,

and we would always circle around to this.

 

Peace, love, and understanding will always seem “funny” and weird,

and functionally unobtainable

if we haven’t experienced or don’t trust our God-given “power within.”

 

If we are not “filled with Sacred (Spirit) we are afraid of everything, and our response is to exert too much power over others in order to be safe.

 

In our distrust we have created enduring structures of “power-over,” like patriarchy, white supremacy, and rigid capitalism, and keep others “down” and “controlled.” 

 

We have created what Beatrice Bruteau calls the “domination paradigm.”  And this is a paradigm that kills peace, love, and understanding. Domination is not an equal opportunity concept.  In that paradigm relationship are not multi-directional.  People are not equals.  Power does not move the same in both directions. One commands, the other obeys. One shows respect, the other accepts it but does not return it. One gains privileges from which the other is excluded.

 

The church, which was meant to destroy the domination paradigm for the communion paradigm, where people are in communion and work for others, all others, has instead embraced the domination paradigm and become ugly.

 

With the domination paradigm God plays favorites.  God blesses our tribe (God Bless America) but not other tribes.  We fail to accept that God does not play favorites. That God loves all equally.

 

Until we are willing to accept that we were designed to be in community.

Until we are willing to believe that Jesus meant it when he said we have to die to our toxic individualism.

Until we are willing to give up our rights, our privileges, our power, our resources, so that all can not just survive but equally flourish,

Until we grab hold of the model Jesus gave us of “emptying”, kenosis,

 

Until we take the cross seriously,

not as divine punishment, and then, weirdly divine rescue

but as human ugliness, and divine model for reconciliation and restoration,

 

we will not get to peace, love, and understanding.

 

But if we do?

 

Well, that is when we get the peaceable kingdom

a “new heaven and a new earth”

the Kingdom of heaven

 

Domination will not get us safety, or ultimately real power

Community will.

 

Friday, September 17, 2021

Overcoming

God did not say ‘ you will not be tempted; you will not be troubled; you will not be distressed.’  What God said was ‘You shall not be overcome.’

                     Julian of Norwich

____________________________

 

Morning comes slowly

Anxiety creeps in more quickly,

waking me up and keeping me awake.

 

Sitting at my desk, watching a blood red sun rise

in a smoky sky, neurotic cat snuggled on my lap,

 

my mind is fill with the worries of the “via negativa”.

with the ills of the world which rot and fester.

 

Predominate is my bewilderment over those who have

chosen to trust liars and embrace lies.

We were warned that this is what humans do, when afflicted with the

hungry ghosts of the soul.

 

That our human minds, brilliant and wonderful,

can also become afflicted, and dis-eased.

That we can become ideologically impaired so that

while claiming to be wise we become fools (Romans 1).

 

That our hearts, made for love can become frozen and hard.

 

And worse, that so afflicted we can end up embracing lies and abandoning truth.

Even exchanging the truth about God,

that God is love, and that God works through people to reconcile and heal,

for lies about who God is and how God works.

 

Exchanging trust in God, and trust in love,

for trust in malignant leaders, and trust in hate and violence

 

We have exchanged the way of love with the way of alienation,

the way of compassion with the way of judgment,

the way of peace with the way of violence

the way of inclusion with the way of exclusion

the way of trust with the way of conspiracy and distrust.

 

And it is a right mess

 

But as I sit, and the sky becomes lighter,

and the sun turns from red to yellow,

and the beauty of the mountain emerges from the haze,

 

I am reminded that God is.

That God is present.

That God is present in me (and you too!).

 

It will never be easy, this life.

The “via positiva” will always be mixed together with the “via negativa”,

and life will never be easy.

 

But God is present, seated on the throne of my heart.

God dwells in this house that is my body.

 

And so, though I may be tempted, and troubled,

and distressed by what I see going on around me.

 

I will not be overcome.

 

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

working on trust

Why is it that some people do not bear fruit?  It is because they have no trust either in God or in themselves

                     Meister Eckhart

 

You may call it courage, but I call it trust.  When they blew up my house and the whole roof caved in, and I walked out OK I said to myself.  “They can’t kille me.  Oh, some day they may kill my body, but they can’t kill my soul, and they can’t kill the movement.”

Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth (when asked how he could have such courage during the violence of the civil rights conflicts in Birmingham, AL)

________________________________

 

There are time I do not understand people

I do not understand people who have to carry guns, everywhere.

I do not understand people who have to always control and manipulate, who are obsessed with winning and domination.

I do not understand people who would refuse refuge to refugees.

I do not understand people who think “they” (whoever “they” are) are plotting against them (and putting micro chips in the Covid vaccine, or using it to poison them).

 

The list could go on, but suffice it to say

that they are people whom I do not understand.

 

I have been trying to figure this out.

Is it as simply as people buying into a paradigm of domination?

I (and my tribe) must be on top.  I must win.  I must be in control?

 

Is it about hate?

Or perhaps an inability to accept change?

Or a fear of change, a fear of loss?

 

And what about my own foibles?

My own anger and frustration?

My own impatience?

My own inability to see those I do not agree with or understand

with compassion?

 

I am coming to believe that it is all about trust.

Do we trust in our own capacity?

Do we trust in God?

Mostly, do we trust in God?

 

Do we believe that God is?

Do we believe that God is present?

Do we believe that God is present in us?

Do we believe that just as God filled the Temple of Solomon, turning it from

just a building to the “mercy seat” of God,

that God fills the temple that is us?

 

If we don't trust ourselves, and we don't trust anyone else.

And if we don’t trust God? 

 

I would suggest much of what we are seeing from the right is in fact a lack of trust. 

 

They don't really trust God (so they need their guns, and their refusal to get the shot, which they say is trust, is really a test, so it is not trust).

 

They don't trust others (again guns, voter suppression and more), and they don't trust their leaders (thus QAnon and all the conspiracy theories).

 

Not trusting they need to dominate.  They need violence.  They need anger.

They need all the sins

 

And when I don’t trust, I join them.

 

So I am working on trust

I do trust God.

I also trust the brains God has given some that enable them to come up with vaccines. 

I trust that many of our leaders (not all) are actually giving us good guidance.

And I trust myself, as a vessel, a "house" in whom God dwells, to make it through all of this.

 

Peace out friends

 

Monday, September 13, 2021

Searching for the Light

As I walk through this wicked world

Searchin' for light in the darkness of insanity

I ask myself, "Is all hope lost?

Is there only pain and hatred and misery?"

And each time I feel like this inside

There's one thing I wanna know

What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?

 

And as I walk on through troubled times

My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes

So where are the strong and who are the trusted?

And where is the harmony, sweet harmony?

'Cause each time I feel it slippin' away

Just makes me wanna cry

What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?

 

So where are the strong and who are the trusted?

And where is the harmony, sweet harmony?

'Cause each time I feel it slippin' away

Just makes me wanna cry

What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?

          Words by Nick Lowe, Sing by Elvis Costello

______________________________

 

For me the question is this;

What is so hard about peace, love, and understanding?

 

Why is it so hard to be kind?

Why is it so hard to put down the guns?

Why is it so hard to listen?

Why is it so hard to put the other first?

 

It is a serious question.

Some people say the answer is fear.

People are afraid of what is different.

Afraid of change.

Afraid of losing power and influence.

Afraid of not having enough.

 

Ok, perhaps.

Some say our minds have been tainted and twisted by political agendas,

the lust for power, the desire for wealth.

They say that we have become programmed by the manipulators and have

become ideologically impaired.

 

That we are walking through life under the influence of malign forces.

That too is probably part of the problem.

 

I suspect one could ponder for hours, even days,

and we would always circle around to this.

 

Peace, love, and understanding will always seem “funny” and weird,

and functionally unobtainable

if we haven’t experienced or don’t trust our God-given “power within.”

 

If we are not “filled with Sacred (Spirit) we are afraid of everything, and our response is to exert too much power over others in order to be safe.

 

In our distrust we have created enduring structures of “power-over,” like patriarchy, white supremacy, and rigid capitalism, and keep others “down” and “controlled.” 

 

We have created what Beatrice Bruteau calls the “domination paradigm.”  And this is a paradigm that kills peace, love, and understanding. Domination is not an equal opportunity concept.  In that paradigm relationship are not multi-directional.  People are not equals.  Power does not move the same in both directions. One commands, the other obeys. One shows respect, the other accepts it but does not return it. One gains privileges from which the other is excluded.

 

The church, which was meant to destroy the domination paradigm for the communion paradigm, where people are in communion and work for others, all others, has instead embraced the domination paradigm and become ugly.

 

With the domination paradigm God plays favorites.  God blesses our tribe (God Bless America) but not other tribes.  We fail to accept that God does not play favorites. That God loves all equally.

 

Until we are willing to accept that we were designed to be in community.

Until we are willing to believe that Jesus meant it when he said we have to die to our toxic individualism.

Until we are willing to give up our rights, our privileges, our power, our resources, so that all can not just survive but equally flourish,

Until we grab hold of the model Jesus gave us of “emptying”, kenosis,

 

Until we take the cross seriously,

not as divine punishment, and then, weirdly divine rescue

but as human ugliness, and divine model for reconciliation and restoration,

 

we will not get to peace, love, and understanding.

 

But if we do?

 

Well, that is when we get the peaceable kingdom

a “new heaven and a new earth”

the Kingdom of heaven

 

Domination will not get us safety, or ultimately real power

Community will.

 

Friday, September 10, 2021

We shall overcome

God did not say ‘ you will not be tempted; you will not be troubled; you will not be distressed.’  What God said was ‘You shall not be overcome.’

                     Julian of Norwich

____________________________

 

Morning comes slowly

Anxiety creeps in more quickly,

waking me up and keeping me awake.

 

Sitting at my desk, watching a blood red sun rise

in a smoky sky, neurotic cat snuggled on my lap,

 

my mind is fill with the worries of the “via negativa”.

with the ills of the world which rot and fester.

 

Predominate is my bewilderment over those who have

chosen to trust liars and embrace lies.

We were warned that this is what humans do, when afflicted with the

hungry ghosts of the soul.

 

That our human minds, brilliant and wonderful,

can also become afflicted, and dis-eased.

That we can become ideologically impaired so that

while claiming to be wise we become fools (Romans 1).

 

That our hearts, made for love can become frozen and hard.

 

And worse, that so afflicted we can end up embracing lies and abandoning truth.

Even exchanging the truth about God,

that God is love, and that God works through people to reconcile and heal,

for lies about who God is and how God works.

 

Exchanging trust in God, and trust in love,

for trust in malignant leaders, and trust in hate and violence

 

We have exchanged the way of love with the way of alienation,

the way of compassion with the way of judgment,

the way of peace with the way of violence

the way of inclusion with the way of exclusion

the way of trust with the way of conspiracy and distrust.

 

And it is a right mess

 

But as I sit, and the sky becomes lighter,

and the sun turns from red to yellow,

and the beauty of the mountain emerges from the haze,

 

I am reminded that God is.

That God is present.

That God is present in me (and you too!).

 

It will never be easy, this life.

The “via positiva” will always be mixed together with the “via negativa”,

and life will never be easy.

 

But God is present, seated on the throne of my heart.

God dwells in this house that is my body.

 

And so, though I may be tempted, and troubled,

and distressed by what I see going on around me.

 

I will not be overcome.

 

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Being Fruitful, or Not

Why is it that some people do not bear fruit?  It is because they have no trust either in God or in themselves

                     Meister Eckhart

 

You may call it courage, but I call it trust.  When they blew up my house and the whole roof caved in, and I walked out OK I said to myself.  “They can’t kille me.  Oh, some day they may kill my body, but they can’t kill my soul, and they can’t kill the movement.”

Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth (when asked how he could have such courage during the violence of the civil rights conflicts in Birmingham, AL)

________________________________

 

There are time I do not understand people

I do not understand people who have to carry guns, everywhere.

I do not understand people who have to always control and manipulate, who are obsessed with winning and domination.

I do not understand people who would refuse refuge to refugees.

I do not understand people who think “they” (whoever “they” are) are plotting against them (and putting micro chips in the Covid vaccine, or using it to poison them).

 

The list could go on, but suffice it to say

that they are people whom I do not understand.

 

I have been trying to figure this out.

Is it as simply as people buying into a paradigm of domination?

I (and my tribe) must be on top.  I must win.  I must be in control?

 

Is it about hate?

Or perhaps an inability to accept change?

Or a fear of change, a fear of loss?

 

And what about my own foibles?

My own anger and frustration?

My own impatience?

My own inability to see those I do not agree with or understand

with compassion?

 

I am coming to believe that it is all about trust.

Do we trust in our own capacity?

Do we trust in God?

Mostly, do we trust in God?

 

Do we believe that God is?

Do we believe that God is present?

Do we believe that God is present in us?

Do we believe that just as God filled the Temple of Solomon, turning it from

just a building to the “mercy seat” of God,

that God fills the temple that is us?

 

If we don't trust ourselves, and we don't trust anyone else.

And if we don’t trust God? 

 

I would suggest much of what we are seeing from the right is in fact a lack of trust. 

 

They don't really trust God (so they need their guns, and their refusal to get the shot, which they say is trust, is really a test, so it is not trust).

 

They don't trust others (again guns, voter suppression and more), and they don't trust their leaders (thus QAnon and all the conspiracy theories).

 

Not trusting they need to dominate.  They need violence.  They need anger.

They need all the sins

 

And when I don’t trust, I join them.

 

So I am working on trust

I do trust God.

I also trust the brains God has given some that enable them to come up with vaccines. 

I trust that many of our leaders (not all) are actually giving us good guidance.

And I trust myself, as a vessel, a "house" in whom God dwells, to make it through all of this.

 

Peace out friends

 

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Peace, Love, and Understanding

As I walk through this wicked world

Searchin' for light in the darkness of insanity

I ask myself, "Is all hope lost?

Is there only pain and hatred and misery?"

And each time I feel like this inside

There's one thing I wanna know

What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?

 

And as I walk on through troubled times

My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes

So where are the strong and who are the trusted?

And where is the harmony, sweet harmony?

'Cause each time I feel it slippin' away

Just makes me wanna cry

What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?

 

So where are the strong and who are the trusted?

And where is the harmony, sweet harmony?

'Cause each time I feel it slippin' away

Just makes me wanna cry

What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?

          Words by Nick Lowe, Sing by Elvis Costello

______________________________

 

For me the question is this;

What is so hard about peace, love, and understanding?

 

Why is it so hard to be kind?

Why is it so hard to put down the guns?

Why is it so hard to listen?

Why is it so hard to put the other first?

 

It is a serious question.

Some people say the answer is fear.

People are afraid of what is different.

Afraid of change.

Afraid of losing power and influence.

Afraid of not having enough.

 

Ok, perhaps.

Some say our minds have been tainted and twisted by political agendas,

the lust for power, the desire for wealth.

They say that we have become programmed by the manipulators and have

become ideologically impaired.

 

That we are walking through life under the influence of malign forces.

That too is probably part of the problem.

 

I suspect one could ponder for hours, even days,

and we would always circle around to this.

 

Peace, love, and understanding will always seem “funny” and weird,

and functionally unobtainable

if we haven’t experienced or don’t trust our God-given “power within.”

 

If we are not “filled with Sacred (Spirit) we are afraid of everything, and our response is to exert too much power over others in order to be safe.

 

In our distrust we have created enduring structures of “power-over,” like patriarchy, white supremacy, and rigid capitalism, and keep others “down” and “controlled.” 

 

We have created what Beatrice Bruteau calls the “domination paradigm.”  And this is a paradigm that kills peace, love, and understanding. Domination is not an equal opportunity concept.  In that paradigm relationship are not multi-directional.  People are not equals.  Power does not move the same in both directions. One commands, the other obeys. One shows respect, the other accepts it but does not return it. One gains privileges from which the other is excluded.

 

The church, which was meant to destroy the domination paradigm for the communion paradigm, where people are in communion and work for others, all others, has instead embraced the domination paradigm and become ugly.

 

With the domination paradigm God plays favorites.  God blesses our tribe (God Bless America) but not other tribes.  We fail to accept that God does not play favorites. That God loves all equally.

 

Until we are willing to accept that we were designed to be in community.

Until we are willing to believe that Jesus meant it when he said we have to die to our toxic individualism.

Until we are willing to give up our rights, our privileges, our power, our resources, so that all can not just survive but equally flourish,

Until we grab hold of the model Jesus gave us of “emptying”, kenosis,

 

Until we take the cross seriously,

not as divine punishment, and then, weirdly divine rescue

but as human ugliness, and divine model for reconciliation and restoration,

 

we will not get to peace, love, and understanding.

 

But if we do?

 

Well, that is when we get the peaceable kingdom

a “new heaven and a new earth”

the Kingdom of heaven

 

Domination will not get us safety, or ultimately real power

Community will.

 

Saturday, September 4, 2021

You can do this

God did not say ‘you will not be tempted; you will not be troubled; you will not be distressed’… What God said was, ‘You shall not be overcome.’”

                     Julian of Norwich

_________________________________

 

It comes at us from all sides

Bad news

Dark news

 

Another wildfire rages and homes and lives are destroyed.

Covid explodes and the Emergency Rooms are overwhelmed.

Politicians literally mandate their constituents harm.

The Greedy flourish.

Righteous people get sick and die.

An authoritarian party robs people of freedom in the name of freedom.

The planet tilts toward climate disaster

 

And nothing seems to help!

People of good will are shouted down.

Vulnerable people are disenfranchised through voter suppression, and worse

Injustice flourishes

Inequity is the name of the game in toxic capitalism.

 

We echo the words of faith!

“Love wins!”

“God has this!”

 

But if we are honest, most of us wonder sometimes

How if love really wins, and how, if God (who is love) really has this

We get governors helping children get sick

And politicians robbing people of their rights

And people refusing to protect other people, and doing so while claiming “Jesus.”

 

I mean really?!

 

It is a right mess out there!

Do we dare believe that “all shall be well”?

 

Or at the very least, do we dare believe that we can handle what is going on,

and do so without becoming angry, bitter, and cruel (ourselves).

 

I have found I can hold on to one thing.

 

That God is indeed, everywhere.

More specifically that God (Sacred, Something beyond) is part of my DNA

That Sacred is woven into the fabric of my being,

woven into the fabric of others,

woven into the fabric of this creation, this fragile planet).

 

This does not mean that there will not be troubles (duh)

This does not mean there will be no distress.

This does not mean I won’t be tempted to do such things as despair.

 

What it does mean is that the thin thread which binds me to the Sacred,

and to the earth

and to the animals and birds

and to other people

 

that thin thread of love and life

cannot be broken

 

ultimately love will win

and ultimately I will not be overcome

at the worst I will be reunited with the One from whom I came

I will move from communion with the Sacred to union with the Sacred

 

And so, as we are told so many times in scriptures

I do not need to fear

I can trust in God

Trust in love

 

Even as people like DeSantis and Abbott do what is evil

in the eyes of love

Even as the greedy fly into space while children starve

Even as fearful racists work to destroy our electoral system

Even as the Delta variant spread

 

Even as

Friday, September 3, 2021

a big mistake

Every day I make a mistake

I allow my pain to turn to anger.

 

Pain is a powerful thing.

The pain I feel in my body, daily is a real thing!

The rebuilt shoulder that wakes me up 5 times a night.

The overall body pain that seems to come with being 70.

 

I carry that pain.  It makes my sleep restless,

it goes with me when I leave my bed,

it hangs around all day,

like an adolescent on a street corner,

and returns to bed with me at night.

 

I would love to think I am stoic, but then some little thing goes wrong.

I drop something (another new affliction),

I stub my toe,

something, anything unwanted happens

and I explode

sending innocent cats scurrying for cover and

the dog wondering what he did wrong.

 

And it is then I know, that I am carrying my pain

and allowing it to become anger

 

I carry my spiritual pain too.

My pain for what is happening to the world, and in the world.

I see the fear filled faces of people in Afghanistan.

I see the hopeless eyes of the poor person on the American street.

I see the political machinations of the political and religious right with its

lust for power, and its desire to impose its will on all.

I hear the lies from the pundits, and experience hate as it oozes from Facebook,

 

and I carry it

 

I and as I do, all to often I let it turn to anger

But it is not a righteous anger!

It is an anger that is hot and can be destructive.

I answer, all too often, with harsh and cruel words.

 

I respond by losing sight of the imago die

the presence of the Sacred in the other.

 

It is OK to feel pain at a evil

It is OK to be disturbed, and perhaps, it is even OK

to move toward anger.

 

But it is what we do with those feelings that matter.

 

We can not sit silently by, and watch

 

There is a time to speak up.

A time to mobilize.

A time to vote.

 

But we cannot, in anger

become what we fight. 

 

People who are cruel and hurtful. 

 

Instead, as has been suggested, we need to work at “overcoming this evil with good.”

 

We must follow the path of being people for others,, all others

We must create equity and justice

We must take care of the vulnerable

We must use power for the common good. Not just our tribe

We must control guns

We must deal with climate change

And fight for universal health care,

And more.

 

It is in fighting FOR these things, with the weapons of love and compassion

that we challenge the politics of hate and divisions.

 

There is work to do

Our pain compels us to act

But let us be careful how we live

Not as unwise but wise (for the days are evil)

 

Let us follow the path of the one who humbled himself

And served

And was obedient to death

to the rule of Love

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

where is God?

Question: “Where is God?”

Answer:  “God is everywhere.”

                     Baltimore Catechism

 

Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

                     Psalm 139

________________________________________________

 

I always find it amusing

and more than a little sad

 

when those who are zealous for God,

or perhaps, if the truth were told,

are zealous for a political and social culture

they fear is fading,

 

piously pronounce that the problem is

that we liberals have “removed” God,

and that all would be well if we would simply

put God back!

 

What they mean of course, is that they want

the privilege of doing their religious thing

in the marketplace.

 

They want to impose their version of prayer

and their version of God on all.

 

I always find it amusing

and more than a little sad

when people proclaim that making people wear masks

“hides the image of God” in the wearer,

 

or insist that if they can’t go to a particular building

at a particular time

on a particular day

and go through a particular ritual

 

they are somehow being kept away from God.

 

Honest to God!

 

God is everywhere.

In everyone

In every thing

 

We cannot move an inch without tripping over Sacred

We cannot open our eyes without seeing Sacred

 

This creation is the incarnation of Love

All of it!  The mountains, the rivers,

the animals,

and even the people

 

especially the people

we Sacred children

we Spirit carriers

 

we too are little incarnations

Imago Dei

 

God is unavoidable

even the Psalmist reminds us

in the darkest, most horrible places

even in the depths

 

It is all, everything we

see, touch, smell, taste, and hear

an aspect of the infinite mystery of God (John Duns Scotus)

 

If we do not experience God

in a place, in a moment, at an event

it is not because God is not there!

 

It is because we have chosen to limit

the way God arrives

(which is such a human thing to do)

 

This day I am

am stumbling over God

constantly

 

I see God

in the hazy air

in the insistent cats

in the person who makes me smile

in the person who makes me despair for the future of humankind

in the chipped paint on the church building

 

I know God is present

in the moment when my heart sings (as the sun rises once again)

and in the moment when my heart hurts (as I watch the news unfold)

 

God is!

Where is God?

Everywhere!

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Share it all

God invites us into a covenant, where by the power of the Spirit we can choose to allow our hearts to break, and then take the pieces—our lives, our goods, our love, and our privileges—and share it all like a broken loaf of communion bread…

 

When you take something you possess—your bread and power, your abilities and identities, your comfort and control, your treasured structures and even life itself—and release your attachment to it and make it useful to God’s movement, you are practicing kenosis.

                     Stephanie Spellers, The Church Cracked Open

________________________________________

 

If I believe in God, love God, trust God, obey (a biggie for many) God, give to God,

God will…

 

How do we finish that sentence?

 

God will bless me?

God will save me from eternal torment?

God will give me wealth?

God will give me and power and make me a “winner”?

God will heal me?

God will protect me?

God will “Bless America!”?

 

How do we finish the sentence?

 

It matters.

 

Biblically there is indeed a concept of blessing

But if we take the “blessings” of Jesus seriously, it is a strange concept indeed.

Blessed are the poor?  Those who mourn?

Blessed are those who suffer?

 

When we connect with all that is Sacred

When we connect with that Power, that Love

in which we move, and breathe, and have out being,

 

what happens?

 

What is the consequence?

Is it that we become favored, blessed?

 

Yes, but in that odd Jesus kind of way

Where blessing takes the form of becoming people for others

 

God invites us into a covenant, not where we become the favored, dominate ones

who have all the power and the goodies,

but where we STOP organizing our lives around our selves,

STOP engaging in a tribalism (nationalism) where we protect ourselves

and protect what we have

and seek to get more

 

as we carry our guns, wave our flags

and hide behind racial, class or gender privilege (Spelling)

                     

God calls us into a life style where we “allow our hearts to break”

and then take the fragments of our lives

our time, energy, privileges, power, and yes money

 

“and share it all like a broken loaf of communion bread…” (Spelling)

 

In short we are calling to empty ourselves

to adopt the pattern of Jesus

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

 

When we believe in God, love God, trust God, obey (a biggie for many) God, give to God, God will…

 

break us open and pour us out,

that we might become a blessing to others,

and might find that unique Jesus kind of blessing

ourselves.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Domination versus Communion

Under the Domination Paradigm, people are encouraged to think of themselves as identified by their descriptions and to see themselves as real insofar as they are distinct from others. . . . “I am I by virtue of being not-you.” So defined, people feel the insufficiency of their being, which is always vulnerable, always at risk. Consequently, people are insecure and anxious. Strongly pressed to preserve and enhance what being they have, people are easily tempted to believe that helping others may hurt themselves and that hurting others may be the best way to help themselves. After all, the others are “others,” and our first priority is ourselves. “My” well-being has to take precedence over “yours.”

          Beatrice Bruteau (Holy Thursday Revolution)

_______________________________________________________

 

Its you and me against the world!

Sometimes it is just “me” against the world

 

This is the modern American mindset

Cultured and nurtured for hundreds of years

 

I am distinct!

I am exceptional!

I am entitled to wealth and power!

 

I am, and I am distinct from you.

And you?

You are mostly likely a threat!

 

Especially if you do not look and think the way I do.

 

Where does this mindset take us?

This human reality so evident in the symbolic stories of the Bible

 

In the stories of the Garden,

Cain and Able,

the Tower of Babel

even Noah?

 

It takes us to a place where we are fragmented and divided as human creatures.

There we are in our isolated magnificence.

There we are in our isolated vulnerability.

 

Needing to “preserve and enhance” what we have

Seeing those around us as competition, as threats.

 

Fearful that generosity is an erosion of safety and power,

and thus, becoming fearful hoarders and worse.

 

Becoming people willing to sacrifice other people for our benefit.

Willing, when in leadership, to not only fail to do what is good for others,

but willing to prevent others from doing good (think Abbott and DeSantis)

 

We become such fragmented and dysfunctional people, the evidence

of our dysfunction glaring in the harsh rays of the sun

beating down on a dying planet.

 

The evidence is everywhere!

In injustice,

Inequity!

Guns.

Climate change.

Authoritarianism (the corporate version of all this).

 

There is “me”

And then there are “others”

And they are of no consequence.

 

But the Sacred demands a different way.

The Jesus Movement makes this clear.

 

With the Sacred we are unified.

We carry all carry the Sacred, One Spirit

We all participate in the Divine

We all are loved

We all are children of God

We are all safe in Sacred Love (although not “safe” in this world).

 

And we are drawn together, not driven apart

With Pentecost, and the revelation that we are Sacred Filled

The Tower of Babel was reverse

Division and confusion became union and understanding

 

The world is a mess

The Jesus Way is the way out of this mess.

 

That way where we do not say,

“here I am by virtue of being not you”

But say instead

“Here I am I by virtue of being in-you/with-you/for-you” (Bruteau).