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

Friday, January 14, 2022

Thesis, antithesis, synthesis




The dialectic method of progress!


Blame Hegel, or perhaps better Kant

or perhaps better yet Fichte


or perhaps we should blame “God”

or some guy named Jesus


Think about it!

In the Bible we start with order, creation

Where all is good

Then we have the fall into a disordered world

And eventually, or so we are told, we will have a new order, the Kingdom of God


Jesus taught that we have the “self”, but we have to die to that self to become a new creation.


And now today, we have many in the church talking generally about

Construction, Deconstruction, Reconstruction


Order, Disorder, Reorder


I have friends who are clearly in the Order phase

They were raised in the church and they have accepted the faith they were taught, with

few questions


Jesus loves me this I know for the bible tells me so


And I respect their faith


I have friends who are clearly in the disorder phase.

It is not that they don’t read the bible, or respect it

It is that they do read the bible, and they find in its pages a lot of really strange

disturbing, even contradictory stuff.


I am not sure about the Reconstruction, Reorder, or perhaps better, New Creation stage is one any of us get to settle into.


Once we get broken open

Once we find a new point of statis

The holy spirit, fire and wind

Comes roaring in to disrupt things yet again!


So much for recliner faith!


What strikes me today, as I think about Advent, and Christmas,

and John the Baptist and Jesus

is just how disruptive Jesus was


John the Baptist warned everyone!

But seriously


Take the idea of who is blessed

Most people of Jesus time believed that those with power and money

Were the blessed


But Jesus said

Blessed are the poor

Blessed are the meek

Blessed are those who mourn

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst


We can spiritualize those radical statements if we want

(And make them less radical)

Blessed are the poor in Spirit (thank you Matthew)

And slip off the hook just a little


But still the statement stands!


What do American Christians do with that radicality?


We ignore it, and double down on wealth and power.


Take the idea of who is in heaven!

We would assume those who have been blessed and blessed

In this lifetime.


But Jesus turns heaven upside down, with the poor and miserable

Being those who gain a place at the table

And the rich and powerful being thrown into the abyss


Those who live die

Those who die live

That who are first are last

Those who are last are first

Those who are great are those who serve (and let go of greatness)


What strikes me most is that Jesus was with and for

and Jesus loved without reservation

the marginalized


the rejected

the doubtful

the sinful

the alien


Jesus spent most of his time with people we wouldn’t let inside

the doors of our churches.


which makes me believe that is it is indeed

time again for a little disorder


it is time to re-think everything


Because the order we have now

Probably makes God/Jesus/Spirit cringe


Our neat little formulas

Our tribalism

Our alliance with power and wealth

Our exclusionism

Our privilege


It all needs to go

The church needs to fall in the same way the temple fell

And we need to stand in the rubble

Singing hallelujah


And then we need to once again

Return to those radical teachings

We need to fellowship with the dregs of humanity

Embrace the poor

Reject the trappings of earthly power


We need to once again open the windows of our souls

And let the spirit blow again

We need to let God disrupt and disorder

So we can find God’s thing


Which is always, always newf

Thursday, January 13, 2022

nature or nurture

People always wonder, or so I seems.

Is it nurture or nature?


In other words,

how did we get to get the way we are?

It is the result of external factors

Where we grew up?

Who raised us?

What has happened to us in life?

The things we were taught?

Just dumb luck?  Or bad luck?


Or are there things about us that just are?

Hardwired in!


Many would suggest that if we are primarily shaped by external factors,

we have a great opportunity to change.  We can learn things!  Go to therapy!

Pick different friends.  We can make choices that will not only change our life trajectory but change how we function.


With this framework (advocated by Freud) I might be shaped, profoundly, at an early age, by someone like a mother or father.


My parents were great.  But dad was pretty rigid and had very high expectations.

And he was not particularly good at nurture.

So I got told a lot about my deficits.

This potentially shaped my self-perception, making me a person who always needs to prove himself.  Can this perception, and the drivenness that emerges from it be changed?

In theory, yes. As I come to understand that those are dysfunctional thoughts, and where those thoughts come from, I can reframe, and move away from that place.


If we are born with certain tendencies,

to be introverted or extroverted for example, then perhaps change is not as easy.


Meyers-Briggs assumes (based on Jung) that there are certain traits hardwired in.

I am an INFP almost an ENFP,

According to that framework that is what I will always be.  Always.

I might compensate and manage my traits,

Learn to be more extroverted for example,

But it won’t change who I am, fundamentally.


I suspect it is a little of both.

And in fact, no matter which theory one buys into

Change is not easy.


I would say I have changed.

But there are always ways in which I have not changed.


I was so anxious in grade school I took antiacids

I am still anxious.


I tried super hard to impress people when young

I still feel the need to impress people


I am impulsive, and no number of tools related to

control seem to make much of a difference.


Open up a bag of chips, I will eat the whole bag!

Put anything I like in front of me and I am fundamentally unable to resist.

Throw in a side helping of impulsivity,

and I have always struggled to not eat or drink to excess

and to not do really stupid things.


Has that stuff changed?

Not so much.


I will probably always be socially awkward (not at surface relationships, but at deep relationships.  I will always try to impress people.  I will always be trying to prove myself.

I will always do things I regret and sabotage myself.


Makes it hard to be a good partner

And a good parent.


I won’t say I haven’t changed.

I have a little more understanding, and with more understanding more control.

But still my nature, my innate traits jump and bite me, all the time.


But now for the wild card



I do believe there is something in everything


In the earth, the animals, fish, birds, trees


That is a creative, even loving reality

Religions have tried to capture this concept, and have mostly done a pretty poor job


But I do believe that if we can go inside, to our true self

Not our small self, but our true self,

The self that participates in everything,


That this power, this presence, this something

Has the potential to change, to heal


And this is why we do see people change.

Become different, and new.


It still takes work

And often the world around the person

And even the people around the person make it harder.


People find it hard to accept change in others.

A person may leave some old destructive stuff behind,

But it is difficult for those who were hurt by that person, are close to that person,

to believe in the change.


And if they act as if the person can’t change, they may in fact push that person

Back into old patterns.


So it is all very complex.

My answer to “can people change?”


Yes, and No

But I have spent my life, as both a minister and therapist

Believing primarily in the “yes”


Wednesday, January 12, 2022

love is all we have

The daily reality of our lives is not under the rule of love, but under the rule of law, of force and of punishment.  We talk about love, but we live by hate: we hate in the name of love…

          Thomas Merton


I’m sure we all agree that we ought to love one another, and I know there are people in the world who do not love their fellow human beings, and I hate people like that!

          Tom Leher (intro to “National Brotherhood Week”)



Love, love, love, love

Christians this is your call

Love your neighbor as yourself for God loves all


How is it that we get it so wrong?

The intensity of love, we might think

Would lead us into the realm of love.


That loving someone, something,

almost anything

would make us more open, more vulnerable

happier, kinder, more compassionate


and yet it seems, all too often

that extreme love can lead us into places dark and dangerous


perhaps it is not so much love

as it is extremism


Certainly, some kinds of extremism are loaded with danger

An extreme love of power

Or a love of guns

Extreme hate


But one would think extreme loyalty (patriotism?)

or extreme love of God (religion?)

or extreme love of animals (veganism?)

would be good things


Certainly, it seems as though Christianity (for example)

calls for an extreme love of God

“You shall love the Lord your God with all

  Your heart, soul, mind, and strength”


But have we not seen this extreme love of God

turn into hate for others?

Have we not seen horrible things done in the name of God?

People tortured.  Burned. 

Countries destroyed


Does not the “pro-life” movement seem like a good thing?

Who doesn’t want to protect life?

But have we not seen this movement turn cruel?

Dehumanizing women? 

(And there are those reading this who will say a woman who would abort a child deserves to be treated poorly)

Calling all who do not agree with them murderers?

(And there are those reading this who will simply shrug and say “they are!”)

Sacrificing people who are alive for people not yet born?


We are called to love

But we end up hating in the name of love!


It seems, perhaps, that all extremism

Ultimately turns cruel


And yet

There is that call for,

even that need for extremism?


How do we reconcile the need to go “all in” on some issues

and “all in” with God

with the fact that such extremism can separate us from others

cause us to dehumanize others

and then treat others

with blind cruelty


I don’t know

Jesus did

A few other brave souls have at least come close



Not so much


Perhaps Jesus gives us the clue

Even as he saw legalism

And neglect

And greed

And a lust for power in “the other”


He still saw “the other”

as a precious child of God

as a precious soul

worthy of inclusion

worthy of sitting at the banquet table

worthy of being searched for and found

worthy of love


no matter who extreme our love for anything

justice, the planet, God

we must always see the other


see them

as Sacred Children

see them as carriers of the Sacred

see them as precious


This answer feels like “not enough’

and it is, I suspect, harder than it sounds.


But on this day

As in the name of justice, peace, compassion, kindness

I am tempted to become unjust, angry, apathetic, and unkind

It is all I have.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

I keep thinking

I keep thinking of Jesus, peasant child, lying vulnerable among the animals

I keep thinking of Jesus, tiny child, fearful immigrant heading to a strange land.


I see Jesus, tempted to use his power to impress and influence

Tempted to thrill the masses

Tempted to grab earthly power

and rejecting the temptation


I see Jesus talking to the poor, talking to the rich

Talking to saints, talking to sinners


Open, listening, compassionate

Offering a doorway to a new way of life

But no coercion

Just an invitation, to be accepted or not


I remember Jesus, humble and mounted on a donkey

While the power of empire entered through another gate


And Jesus, vulnerable and anguished, praying

Jesus on trial

Asked unequivocally, “are you the King of the Jews”


And answering, “my kingdom is not of this world, if it were

my followers would be assailing this capital, AR-15s in hand”


You say I am the King, but I came into the world for this

to reveal the truth


And how can I ignore Jesus on the cross

Father forgive them

Today you will be with me

It is finished


I see Jesus

Who lived a life of vulnerability, servanthood, compassion, and sacrifice

And said, “THIS IS THE WAY”


I wonder what Jesus would think of us.

As we seek to grab political power in his name

As we stack the courts in his name

As we celebrate wealth, in his name

As we exclude others, from our country, from our churches, in his name

As we flourish AR-15s in his name


I wonder what Jesus thinks as he watches

those of us who claim his name choose dominion instead of servanthood

Lies over truth

Coercion over compassion


I wonder


Lord have mercy on us

Who have lost their way


“Brightest and best of the sons of the morning

Shine on our darkness, lend us thy aid”


Monday, January 10, 2022

Shaken Up

Love wants to reach out and shake us up

Be the bull in a china shop and break a few cups.

The Beloved wants to turn us upside down and inside out


When the Sacred is in such a “playful drunken mood”

Most of us

Quickly slink from the room

Hoping the divine won’t notice  (a paraphrase of a poem by Hafiz)


There is one thing we can say about God

God is not safe!


We want God to be safe

And we want God to make us safe

We want God predictable

We even want to control God


Perhaps this is why we create a God who is not God

Jacqui Lewis suggests that some of us imagine God as punitive, angry, and vengeful because these are aspects of ourselves that make us feel powerful and protected,

rather than vulnerable.


And God knows that we don’t want to feel vulnerable!


It seems to me that God is often in the process of shaking things up

Isaiah images God as a 150,00 lb Caterpillar creating a freeway in the desert

And insists that God is always doing “a new thing!”

Can’t we see it?


Jesus certainly shook things up

Love your enemy.

Turn the other cheek.

Give away all that you have!  Heck, give away half of what you have like Zacchaeus.

Bless those who curse you.

If you want to be great be a servant.


The list goes on!


It is not that God doesn’t comfort.

But as the saying goes, “God comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.”


When we want to be comfortable God is there

Creating a little chaos.


Where do we need a little chaos today?

We all need some (I suspect)


Right now I would like to see God create a little chaos in the lives of others.

I would like to see God shake up gun-rights folk.

And pro-birth folk.

And I would like to see God shake the foundations of those who seek domination, who seek to control and manipulate, and ultimately abuse.


But in what ways do I need to be shaken up?

Where am I stuck?

Where am I too comfortable?


I do know this!  This chaotic world

With creeping fascism in the US, and the pandemic everywhere,

This chaotic world with its racism and hate has shaken me open


As much as it hurts my heart (and gives me a stomach ache)

These last years have created an immense amount of growth

As I have been challenged to define, and re-define what I believe


About God

About others

About myself


I would love to bury my head in orthodoxy!

But God is not into orthodoxy (Jesus makes that very clear).

I would love to find comfort and security


But here I am, a reed blowing in the wind!

Thank God!

Friday, January 7, 2022

I want a broken heart

I want a heart that is torn open with longing

so that I might share the pain of this love.



Shit happens

This is the human condition… It is by showing up for the full encounter with reality that we discover our hidden wholeness, which was of course present all along.

          Mirabai Starr



my heart hurts

a lot


At times I wish it were not so!

It would be much easier not to care.

It would be much safer to hide behind privilege.


There is something appealing by suiting up in emotional Kevlar

so that I cannot be wounded


There is something alluring in the idea of using weapons

both figurative and literal

to assault those things that threaten or simply anger


But we cannot hide from the pain.

We cannot blast it away with words or bullets


Not without losing touch with that

within us which makes us Sacred children.

Not without denying the divine image.


Just as God takes on our pain, and carries it

and transforms it,

so we must take on not only our own pain,

but the pain of the world.


For as we accept the pain, and let it cut through

our defenses to the heart

that is when we find

that there, at the center of how we are

is what we need

call it divine presence, call it Holy Spirit

call it the true self,


to touch that pain and transform it


to translate it into compassion

and forgiveness

and generosity

and caring


pain and love go together

the alchemy of God




Wednesday, January 5, 2022

The God I believe in shapes me

Until I discover the God in which I believe, I will never understand another thing about my own life. If my God is harsh judge, I will live in unquenchable guilt. If my God is Holy Nothingness, I will live a life of cosmic loneliness. If my God is taunt and bully, I will live my life impaled on the pin of a grinning giant. If my God is life and hope, I will live my life in fullness overflowing forever.

Joan Chittister, In Search of Belief (Liguori Publications: 1999), 20–21, 22.

(via Rohr, Daily Meditations, 11/30/21)



If God

If God is my life

If God is my life and hope




If only

we could let God be God

not just in the sense that we let God rule

meaning not that we let God bully and coerce

but that we let God be THE influencer in our lives


the one in whom we live and breathe

and have our being


the one who shapes us




If only


This morning as I await the sun

longing for the light

I am visited by hungry ghosts


I think of all those encounters lately

where I have responded with anger

and perhaps worse,



jumping into conflict mode

rebutting, rebuking



making my stand, making my point

without having the peace and calmness

to be open

to listen



Why did they say that?

Where did that come from?

Is there any truth in what they say?


I think of my anxiety

my lifelong companion

I worry.  I worry about the little outpost of the kingdom which is serve

as it moves along, faithful, generous, compassionate

but aging


Will it be around in ten years, as it has been for 136 years past?

Will the next generation step-up?

How do we make the church authentic?

How do we draw people with diverse ideologies together into the circle of Sacred love?

How we become the servant body of Christ?

How do we make faith relevant?


And as I stare at my own reflection in the window

As I stare into the darkness

I realize


that the only way out of this wilderness

is to live life connected to Love

to a reality, a power that I cannot define, cannot capture

in a word such as God

but will call God for lack of a better word


that Love that created the universe

and was personified in Jesus

and even now



That Love that as it fills me

touches the anxiety

calms the anger

softens the need to defend


opens me up


this God

this Love


is my life and hope

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

The cry of the heart

When you breathe into the pain of your losses, you detect the presence of a smoldering ember you thought had been snuffed out years ago.  But there it is, fragrant and warm.  If you blew on it now it would bursting into flame.  Longing.  Longing for God.

          Mirabai Starr



our lives are filled with losses

some are superficial

the pain is glancing and quickly goes


some losses are more profound

a lost love

a lost dream

a lost career


the pain of these losses linger

and we carry their weight with us

left foot, right foot, left foot, breathe


doors are closed, but not locked

and other doors open

and we move on


but some losses

seem to devour us

the loss of hope

the loss of God


our disappointment burns

and we are reduced

to embers





we are still breathing

electricity still sparkles through our brain

our heart still beats


but the world is reduced to our losses

and thus our pain


wretched ones that we are, who can deliver us?!


we should not bother to look outside our own soul for the answer

there is no leader out there

no teacher, no guide

no lover


who can reignite us


only the wind

only the breath of the Spirit

blowing through our soul


only the fire of divine love



can bring us back to life

new creations


we do not need to go on a pilgrimage

to find the answer

it lies within

in the cry of our heart



Sunday, January 2, 2022

Turn from, turn toward

Feeling sorry, acknowledging guilt, and prolonging regret may be components of the human condition, but they are not what Jesus means by repentance. Repentance is the response to grace that overcomes the past and opens out to a new future. Repentance distinguishes Christian life as one of struggle and conversion and pervades it, not with remorse, but with hope. The message of Jesus is not “Repent,” but “Repent for the Kingdom of God is near.”

John Shea, A Star at Its Rising: Advent Meditations



the word is thrown around careless,

like disposable containers littering the road


an empty beer can here

a McDonald’s wrapper there




there are those who love the sound of the word

or so it seems

and use it as a weapon

pointing it with deadly accuracy at the already wounded




we use it when convenient

we use it to control

we use it to shame

we avoid it

we wallow in it


this idea that some how we must recognize our “sinfulness”

feel the pain of our lost innocence,

understand the destructive forces at work in our world

and our own personal evil


and yet it seems that for many the process of repentance is incomplete

repentance, or metanoia, is a process of turning

it is indeed a matter of turning from


turning from things such as hate, and greed

turning from those thoughts, feelings,

words and behaviors that are destructive


we have to see the ways in which the original blessing has been lost

in which the divine image has been blurred

in us

in our country

in our world


and stop, and turn


but too often we stop here

which leaves us with repentance half-chewed,

stuck in our throats


we choke on our remorse, and regret

we struggle to breath the fresh air of grace



repent for

repent for the Kingdom of God is near



turn around

look behind you


see the glow of Sacred love rising over the ruins of Eden

know that in turning you not only turn from

you turn toward







you turn toward love

and an entirely new



Saturday, January 1, 2022

Divine Intention

For the raindrop, joy is entering the river



Yes, it could be that I am a tiny piece of God, and

each of you too, or at least

of his intention and his hope.

          Mary Oliver



in the dreariness of this season

where long dark nights

and dark thoughts


where fragmentation and enmity

are not overcome by the forced

joy of the season


and when the world’s slow slide into

domination and violence

is preeminent,


and the malevolent forces that seem to

rise out of our fear and longing

seem like that “rough beast, its hour come round at last,”

which “Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born…”


in this time when the “center cannot hold” (Yeats)


we must go to the center

we must be the drop entering the river


finding in a journey deep within

that we are a part of a holy whole,


that we are a tiny piece of God

an incarnation

among incarnations


creation may be the first incarnation of Love

and Jesus too

but we, we are the ongoing incarnation

the hands and feet of God

living good news

speaking good news

being good news


love unmuted

the love of our ever speaking God


light shining in the darkness

a reminder of God’s intention

and original blessing