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, December 31, 2022


“Christmas is not a reminder that the world is really quite a nice old place. It reminds us that the world is a shockingly bad old place, where wickedness flourishes unchecked, where children are murdered, where civilized countries make a lot of money by selling weapons to uncivilized ones so they can blow each other apart. Christmas is God lighting a candle, and you don't light a candle in a room that's already full of sunlight. You light a candle in a room that's so murky that the candle, when lit, reveals just how bad things really are. The light shines in the darkness, says St. John, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

                                                              N.T. Wright, For All God's Worth



What happened to those shepherds

who heard the angels sing?

Who saw the darkness dispelled by light and heard good news for all


What happened to those foolish ones who haphazardly left their flocks

And stumbled through the darkness

To where the baby lay


Did they dream wild new dreams?

Were their lives transformed?


Or did they merely wander back into the hills

Pick up their staffs, and sit once again in the cold stillness

The ardor of the moment cooling

The light fading?

And watch sheep?


What happened to those odd assorted souls who happened

by the scene

and awkwardly watched the sight of a motley crew

of socially sketchy folk

gathered around a mother and child?


Were they too touched by angel fire?

Did they too wander aimlessly, pondering these things that had come to pass?

The good news of great joy?

Or did they shrug and scurry on unchanged.


What happened to the cousins and aunts,

the family gathered upstairs in that warmer cleaner space?

Were they oblivious to the wonder underneath their feet?

Or did grace rise and touch the room in which they ate

And argued as families do?


What happened to merchants and kings

And magi from afar

As they wondered near or wondered from afar?

As they heard the experts opine


What happened?

Did that star, those prophetic words mean something?

Or nothing


Did the signs and wonders invoke hope, or fear?

Did they stay trapped in their old beliefs and systems?

Did their stomachs clinch and the bile rise?

Or did they catch a glimmer of something new?


Surely the only stories are not those

Of mad kings plotting infant deaths

Of magi fleeing in the dark, another way


Surely stories of refugee flights in the darkness

and violent oppression are not all we have


Surely someone became kinder

Someone loved

Someone forgave

Some one felt moved to generosity


Surely someone felt hope

And someone gazed into the now silent skies,

And remembered the angels singing


For all that happened

And all that did not happen

The world slouches on its way


Still Christmas comes and goes, and comes and goes again

Still the air is filled with the sound of singing

And lights twinkle as the stars


Still people gather

And make much of a baby’s birth

And celebrate


And still when all is said and done

The world returns to its ways

Still the powerful plot and the poor suffer

Still fear and hate lead to violence


No! This is not all that we have.

An empty celebration that when all is said and done

Leaves the world the same dark place


Yes, the world is indeed “a shockingly bad old place,

where wickedness flourishes unchecked,

And yet at Christmas the light came into the world


A light in the darkness

A light to show us the way

A light that at times may seem fragile and weak,


But never goes out


The light of hope, and peace, and joy

The light of love


which is kindled and flames in our hearts

so that sometimes we are kinder

and sometimes we love

and forgive

and give


And sometimes

Even as the light shines in a world murky with darkness

We gaze into the now silent skies,

And remember

And hope


“We are sorry for the inconvenience, but this is a revolution.”

                                          Subcomandante Marcos


You say you want a revolution

Well, you know

We all want to change the world

You tell me that it's evolution

Well, you know

We all want to change the world

                                         John Lennon/ Paul McCartney



We like our Advent expectant




And love


We wrap ourselves up

In the hauntingly somber songs

Of longing

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”


We like our Christmas soft

Starry skies

Simple shepherds

Friendly animals

Angel choirs

And a cute little baby boy


Our hearts burn within us

as we sing “Silent Night”

by the of candlelight


And so

With the best of intentions, we domesticate Christmas


But Christmas is not soft or comfortable

Sorry for the inconvenience, but Christmas is a revolution.

Advent is the prelude to a revolution (Robert Barron)

And Christmas is that moment when the revolution began

That moment when God intruded into human history

And said (in effect)

Look and listen!


And then proceeded to turn everything upside down

Introducing a revolutionary new way of doing life


A crazy, foolish way of life

Where the first are last and the last first

Where you give to receive

And die to live


This is what a revolution of love looks like


Where we change the world

Not by grabbing power and using power

Not by accumulating wealth,

But by embracing the pain of the world,

And lifting others up

By feeding the poor, clothing the naked, and housing the homeless

Welcoming the stranger

And changing the systems that lead to injustice and inequity


In Advent we prepare for change

It is a time for introspection

And honesty


It is a time when we open the manger of our heart

And prepare for love to be born



Is when Jesus, truly Emmanuel

when Jesus alive inside us

changes us forever

and we start the revolution


Friday, December 30, 2022


Birth is never easy



there is the waiting

the long time of expectation mixed with fear

will the child ever come

will it be what we hoped and dreamed for


there are dangers to that expectancy too

will we accept the child as the child comes

will rejoice in who he is, who she is

or will we try to remake him, reshape her in our own image?


there is cost too

for birth requires change

commitment, and accountability!

a birth is a sacred trust

into our hands

a child is born


there is pain

the pain of birth is real


a time of travail


and yet the child will come


on this Christmas Eve we come to the time of birthing

we stumble unexpectedly

on the child


there he lies

a wrinkled bit of flesh

squalling into the night

the delight of his mother's



but to us

just a baby

just that pink

and squalling mess


that baby in a manger

so common


and yet


lying there in that trough

made for feeding


do we not see glimmers of some truth

that he may be more than we see

or understand


that in this birth more than a child is born

that this birth gives birth to

love, perhaps,

or peace



do we not see that this baby is soaked with the divine

and that this birth gives birth


that he may be

food for the world

that he might become

bread broken

and wine poured


sustenance for us

what we need to live


Where do we even start on the daily walk of restoration and awakening? We start where we are.

Anne Lamott               


We spend so much of our spiritual lives trying to ascend.  Descent is the path of having everything that offered comfort stripped away.  In the mystical tradition, the descent is also the slow revelation of the true face and incredible mystery that is God                                      

          Christine Valters Paintner, the soul’s slow ripening, pp. 120, 121



the days are short, the nights are long

the ground is frozen


the snow is littered

with the debris of trees lashed by winter winds


and we have descended slowly into a deep darkness


it is a season of struggle

a season of descent


in the darkness, we turn in on ourselves

and in the deep stillness come face to face with ourselves

our own barrenness


when we stare out the window at the blackness

all we see is ourselves, looking back


Sometimes in the dark, we are haunted

By things we would rather avoid

By the hungry ghosts of fear and failure

that leave us dis-eased


yet as much as we struggle with

this journey into darkness

it is a fertile time


For as we sit and keep our souls company

in the cold soil of our souls

the seeds of newness linger

ready to be awakened


they are necessary, these times of descent

these dark nights of the souls

for out of such winters of discontent comes new life

comes restoration


It seems we must descend before we can ascend

We must empty before we can be filled

rest before we can toil

die to be reborn


if the Advent of Jesus teaches us anything

it teaches us the power of love and life

the ability of Sacred to restore


from humble birth

to scandalous death, the Jesus story is permeated

with struggle and pain

with oppression and poverty


there are wounded people everywhere

there is an ignominious death


and yet everywhere there is newness

a baby born

shepherds rejoicing

demons expelled

errors forgiven

bodies healed

hope restored

generosity found

life out of death


God is always doing something new

always working to turn our descent into ascent


so as we sit, frozen and stolid

barely awake

barely alive


we are called to remember, remember, remember

the spring


to remember what Love can do


that no matter how deep hope and joy our buried

no matter how far we have descended


God will feed and restore our souls for the good work of ascent

for the good work of living in the light

of being the light


in a glooming world

Thursday, December 29, 2022


Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ~Norman Vincent Peale





sorry Norman

but you’ve really got it wrong

Christmas does not make the world softer or more beautiful


Christmas, the advent of God was not

Soft and comfortable


Ask Mary, pregnant and unwed at 15

Oh yeah!  Right!  Easy, cool, special

Well, it was special, but it sure wasn’t easy



I don’t even want to go into that mess

poor Joseph who had to choose to stay or go

support or condemn

who had to choose to step back and silently protect


then we have dirty shepherds attending a birth in a manger

and an angry, paranoid king

and babies being murdered


we have aliens arriving

and a family fleeing, immigrants fleeing death


Christmas is real, very, very, real


when God came it was difficult, challenging, and costly

and people were confronted with a choice, every single one of them

Mary had to choose to say yes

and Joseph too


the shepherds had to choose to leave their sheep

the magi had to follow the star


Herod, paranoid and wanting to keep his power

had to choose to listen to the scriptures, or not

to accept or resist the arrival of a new King


later the disciples would have to choose to drop their nets and follow

or not


the rich young ruler would have to choose whether to keep his money

or give it away


Pilate had to choose

the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees had to choose

soldiers had to choose

tax collectors and other assorted “sinners” had to choose

all those Jesus met, rich, poor, Jew, Samaritan, Gentile

had to choose


to listen or not

to hear or not

to follow or not

to change or not

to be healed, or not

to love, or not


in the end, that is the one choice

to love or not

to go with the way of service and love

or not


choosing to buy into the strategy of God as revealed by Jesus

is no small thing


when we choose between Jesus and “not Jesus” we are choosing between

essential selfishness and generosity

fear and trust

exclusion and inclusion

cruelty and kindness

apathy and empathy

guns and children

profit and generosity

money and people

lies and truthfulness

businesses and the planet


there is cost here!

and sacrifice

and we are being asked to abandon one kind of power, the power of domination

for another kind of power

the power of service


but the reality is that the baby of Christmas

demands a choice


we are there

in the manger

staring down at a pink and wrinkled infant King

what choice do we make?


To have Faith in Christ means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


The greatest crimes in the world are not committed by people breaking the rules but by people following the rules. It's people who follow orders that drop bombs and massacre villages.





I once took my dog to obedience school


sit, lie down, come, heel


good boy!


I think, most of the time, he does not understand why I want him to do what I ask

he only does it

automatically without thought


I would like to think I have good reasons for asking

his safety

the safety of others

and I would like to think he obeys because he trusts me

and knows that I love him




I wanted my children to be obedient too

I wanted them to do what I asked

to stop

to go to bed

to come to the table


they only sometimes obeyed

having minds, very much of their own

I don’t think they always understood why I shouted “stop”

(as they wandered toward the road as toddlers)


but I would like to think they too knew that my requests

were not just a matter of my seeking to control,

but to protect, and help


I would like to think they trusted me

my intent, but most of all my love


and I would like to think, that in the end,

they obeyed not out of fear, but out of love


at its best, I think obedience

is love in, love out


one is asked to do something, out of love

one responds out of love


this seems particularly important when it comes to obedience

to those imperatives that come from the Sacred

to those laws that come from Love


how can we be true to Love

if love is absent?


commands that are not offered in love

that are a matter of dominance and control

that are purely for the benefit of the one with power

that have an intent that is malevolent


are dangerous and deadly

and lead to Dachau and Mi Lai

and even, perhaps, January 6


obedience that is not based on love

can be oppressive and fear-laden


I must obey, or else!


but when the commands and laws come out of love

and the response of obedience comes out of love




I do not know why Mary obediently said “yes”

I do not know why Joseph obediently supported her

I do not know why the shepherds obediently stumbled to the manger

rather than run into the hills out of fear

I do not know what inner prompting caused the magi

to obediently follow that star


I do know the result

a child born

a gift given

and from that giving, more giving


I do know that in the dimness of a world in travail

the faint glimmer of heaven



and that as we are guided in love

and respond in love

and live love


it still shines

Tuesday, December 27, 2022




Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy

Do you hear what I hear? (Do you hear what I hear?)

Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy

Do you hear what I hear? (Do you hear what I hear?)

A song, a song high above the trees

With a voice as big as the sea, with a voice as big as the sea

          Song Lyrics by Gloria Shayne Baker & Noël Regney


Then Jesus said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

          Mark 5:9


But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

          John 16:13



Sleigh bells ring, are you listening

So are cell phones!


The TV is on to the latest news

about political division,




assailing our hearts and our souls


there is the noise of cars and trucks

washing machines and driers


our world is filled with the clamor of life

we have lost the gift of silence

letting noise distract us from the essence of life


we are assaulted by noise

tooting, howling, screeching, beeping, shrieking

grating, blaring, swooshing, swirling twanging

booming, crashing, things


we have become addicted to noise

taking it with us into the silent beautiful places

where we trod ear buds firmly placed

tuned in

tuned out


those who have ears, let them hear


let us hear the sound of a bird singing

of the wind in the trees


let us hear the crunch of snow underfoot

the sigh of breath, moving in, moving out

the sound of a heart



let us hear the voices of angels singing

the cry of a baby in a manger

the whisper of Love in our souls


let us listen to the still small voice

to the gentle whisper of

the Spirit


which says persistently, insistently

“unto you, a child is born”

which says,

“you are my beloved child”

which says

“follow me”




Is there anything I can do to make myself Enlightened?

As little as you can do to make the sun rise in the morning!

Then what use are the spiritual exercises you prescribe?

To make sure you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise.

                     Anthony De Mello (a conversation between a master and disciple



There were signs everywhere



In the sky a tiny point of light

Shining, moving, drawing eager searchers nigh

gifts in hand


prophets of old had spoken

the promises were there

the details many

scattered through the Law and Prophets

and pondered

and proclaimed



So many angels





Do not fear

Do not fear

Do not fear


Someone is coming

God is on the way


John the Baptist

Hairy messenger of God

Shouting in the wilderness

As wild and unkempt as the ground on which he stood

Uncomfortable and strident

You brood of vipers!!!


Angels again

Awake shepherds awake!

Leave your sheep

find the lamb


There were signs everywhere


And so many slept

And so many sleep


Where are the signs that Love is on the way?

Where are the signs that the one into whom God poured God’s self

Will come and transform this bend and homely world


Eden reborn

Human creatures reborn

A new heaven and a new earth?


Perhaps there are signs everywhere



If only we have eyes to see



"Arise, shine, for your light has come,

and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.

Isaiah 60:1

Monday, December 26, 2022




All great spirituality is about letting go. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection show us how to win by losing. In fact, this “Path of Descent” could be called the metanarrative of the Bible. It is so obvious, consistent, and constant that it’s hidden in plain sight.

          Richard Rohr


God is not found in the soul by adding anything, but by a process of subtraction

          Meister Eckhart



Forget original sin

I mean, really!


God created the world and it was



And when angels sang over Bethlehem

It was to those with whom God

Was “well pleased”.


I am the first to admit that the image of God

woven into the fabric of our being

is more than a little blurred


there is no question that we human creatures can be ugly

Sinful if you like

Yes we give into fear

Yes, we get selfish and hoard

Yes we hate and misuse power


Yes we are all too often poster children

for the fall





But that is not our nature

It may be “who we are”

But it is also not who we are


which is why we need to be purified!



Perhaps faith is as much a matter of unlearning as it is of learning

Perhaps “God is not found in the soul by adding anything,

but by a process of subtraction” (Meister Eckhart)


there are so many things to unlearn that do not work



The need to win (be number one)

Some pretty profound selfishness (me first)

A desperate need to be liked and admired


We must unlearn so that we can learn

Not for the first time

That we are loved by God

That we do not have to fear

That winning isn’t everything

And that we gain more by giving than by grasping


Unlearning is hard work

it can be painful

purging, refining, reconstructing

being born again


and our hearts cry out to God

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”

(Psalm 51)


O Sacred One

O God

My God


It is all pretty simple, isn’t it?


The answer to everything

to sleepless nights, to torturous thoughts

to fear and anger


the answer to those things that distort original blessing

and blur the divine image


the secret to peace, hope, joy

and love


is placing ourselves in your loving hands

and letting You do

Your purifying


Creating in us a clean heart,

Putting new and right spirit within us


So why do we try to make it all

So much




The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;

    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

    And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.


And for all this, nature is never spent;

    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black West went

    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

          Gerard Manley Hopkins




mountains soaring high into the sky

fiery clouds on a winter’s morn

snow-draped trees and the squeak of freshly fallen snow

and a million stars sparkling in the sky



a dog howling at the moon

and a cat at play

a horse feeling her oats in a pasture green



a child’s laughter

and a voice lifted in song

a stuffed bear loved to extinction

a living room filled with the chaos of life and love


majesty is not just found

in mansions large

in gold-gilded extravagance

in crowns and scepters


majesty is found in strange and mystical places

in every place

that Sacred dwells


and Sacred dwells in everything

in everyone


which is why everyone is a royal child

behold what love God has given us

that we should be called the children of God

and that is what we are



the child at school

the food handler at McDonald’s

the farmer in the field

the worker in a cubical

the nurse on the floor, the doctor in the exam room

the man at the bar, deep in his “cups”

the woman behind the counter facing the Christmas rush

the person sleeping in the doorway, soaked with urine and sweat

the family sneaking across the border in the dead of night

the gay couple celebrating their marriage

the minister wondering what to say on Christmas Eve



angel choirs singing in the heavens

shepherds in the fields, watching their flocks by night

animals in a stable

magi wandering

and a wrinkled and red child of poverty



Saturday, December 24, 2022



Isn't it instructive that the spiritual formation of the original disciples happens with Jesus on the road? In effect, the disciples learn by doing. They grow into an understanding of this God of love, this God of compassion, this God who loves justice, this God who makes all things new, by participating as active observers and agents of compassion, justice, and newness. And, yes, necessarily, they pause with Jesus to reflect, ask questions (sometimes stupid questions), and pray. But the spiritual adventure described in the four Gospels does not happen in the sanctuary; it happens on the road, in the company of beggars, prostitutes, and lepers.

              Richard Rohr



Each day

is a crash course in love


after we

who would be connected with something Sacred

have practiced our spirituality


after the prayers have been prayed

the metta phrases spoken the deep breaths taken


after the sacred texts have been perused


we must, one way or another,

hit the road


and on that road (or so it seems to me)

we have one primary agenda


to live love


to think love

carry love

practice love

be love


it is not easy


for there are other people on that road


some we find easy to love

but others? not so much!


that person whose ideology makes our heads hurt

whose hate makes our souls hurt

that person whose very being challenges or frightens us

that person who has hurt us

insulted us

said negative things about us


that person we know just simply doesn’t like us


most of us do not run into actual lepers these days,

but our society has “lepers” of its own making

people with mental illness

or addiction


then there are the poor

the homeless

those “lazy moochers”

who just need to “get off their asses” and get to work!


and when we meet these people

we are called by one who is Love

to think love

and live love


and it is not easy


sometimes we are just too wrapped up in ourselves

and our own agendas, our own needs

sometimes too fearful, too angry


and yet there on the road

in the dust

on the hard pavement

in the grocery store

in our places of work

on Facebook


that is where our adventure with the Sacred is to be lived out

that is where we really learn


life is our spiritual school

and it is on the road that we learn about God

learn about ourselves

and learn, ah yes, learn about love, giving, forgiving, compassion

about the need for common good


Abraham, Moses

Elijah and Elisha

the magi on their journey

the disciples in their wanderings

Peter, and Paul (on the road to Damascus)


were travelers all


their journeys were varied

the destinations too

the lessons were diverse

and yes, some got lost

at least for a moment


but they traveled on

and found in mysterious and unexpected ways


peace, hope, joy

and yes



The world is thirsty. All creation is groaning. Christianity, as it is, has not satisfied the souls of those who hunger for another way of life.”

Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical


I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground;

I will pour my spirit upon your descendants and my blessing on your offspring.

They shall spring up like a green tamarisk, like willows by flowing streams.

          Isaiah 44 (NRSVUE)



I am thirsty Lord

My soul is parched by the hotness of hate

The heat of fear


I am thirsty

Wrung dry by a world where domination and greed rule

And people are oppressed and impoverished


Sometimes this life feels like a wasteland

A plodding existence through

A dry and barren land

Where there is no water


A long night’s journey toward a dawning

That never seems to come

Toward an Advent that seems more like a mirage

Than a promise


I am thirsty

And I long for water

Living water that will well up in my soul

That will bubble and splash

That will gush and roar


So that I bloom and grow

Roots deep



I know that water is dangerous

I know the devastation of the flood

As waters roar and rend


Covering, tearing, clearing



I know I can find myself

Like the armies of Pharoah

At the bottom of the sea


But yet I seek the water of life

The gushing roar of the Spirit

The fountain of life


my soul thirsts for Sacred Presence

my flesh faints for Lord

as in a dry and weary land where there is no water (Psalm 63)


I am willing to take the risk

Knowing I may be uprooted

Washed away

Knowing I may be plunged into crushing depths

Knowing I may be tossed and battered

By the raging of the water


I want to be filled with water overflowing

Until the very stuff of life leaks out of the cracks in my soul

To water the dryness of the world


And the world blooms

And the air is filled

With the fragrance of Love


Thursday, December 22, 2022


When you looked at me

your eyes imprinted your grace in me;

for this you loved me ardently;

and thus my eyes deserved

to adore what they beheld in you. . . .

Let us go forth to behold ourselves in your beauty.

                     John of the Cross, “The Spiritual Canticle,” stanzas 32, 36



what is grace

other than the Beloved

looking on us with eyes of love?


What is grace

other than the Beloved making us the beloved?

loving us so deeply that we are given Love

permeated with the Sacred


the Beloved giving us a piece of

the Sacred

call it Spirit

call it Love

a piece of himself/herself


and then, as the indwelling one, empowering us to love God

which allows God to come back to us in full measure

a circle of love


The "very love with which we think we are loving God

is actually the love by which God first loved us" (Meister Eckhart)

until beloved by the beloved


we participate

in all that is peace

all that is hope

all that is joy

all that is love


and thus connected

and so filled

we are reconciled and transformed


new creations!

Sacred children


what is grace

other than we children of grace

flawed vessels that we are

cracked pots


leaking grace


looking at others the way the Beloved looks at us?

seeing in them not just a little piece of the divine

but also a little piece of ourselves


for we all participate

that “single, bigger Gazing and Loving”  (Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations, 4/11/21)

that some call God


we all are joined together

by the bond of Sacred Presence

that inner dwelling


so that Sacred is in me

and Sacred is in you

and thus I am part of you

and you are part of me


what is grace

other than realizing we all participate

in the same love

unearned and freely giving


all participate in the same



the same welcome


that we are indeed One in the Spirit

and that we have no other choice

but to love our neighbor


no matter who that neighbor is

no matter what that neighbor has done

no matter their color, culture

creed, sexual orientation

or ideology


we have no choice

but to love them as ourselves

passing on

humbly, through (in many cases) our weakness


(remember, grace is most often leaked)


the acceptance and welcome

we have received


until they too understand

they are precious souls