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



Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Alone

The desire to be noticed has always been an essential part of the human condition.

          Charlotte Fox Weber

 

We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.  Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. 

          Bren√© Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

 

And a second is like it.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself

          Jesus

__________________________________

 

I grew up a loner

 

Oh I had a good family, maybe even a great one

Parents who loved me in their own unique ways

Sisters who protected and tolerated

A wonderful small neighborhood nestled in the country

Casual friends at school

 

But I was fundamentally a loner

A loner who loved being alone

Who hated being alone

 

I spent most of my time alone

Reading

Dreaming

Playing games of the imagination

 

Because when I was with people

I struggled

I wanted to be known

I feared being known

 

I wanted to be liked

Included

Valued

Respected

Loved even

 

But being a late bloomer

Skinny little geek

I wasn’t sure that the truly me

Would ever be included, valued

Respected

Love

 

So I tried too hard

And then ran

Because it all felt so clumsy and awkward

I was truly an artificial self

 

The problem was that I had so little self-love

I looked like I had too much self-love

As I promoted myself

Seeking to be found

 

But in truth, I was a cipher

I had “skills”

I was musical, bright, witty

I could draw

And (although I was a good 2 years behind physically) mostly hold my own in sports

 

The problem is, as Jesus and others have pointed out

“Love is not something we give or get;

it is something that we nurture and grow,

a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.”  (Bren√© Brown),

 

And so I was alone

A highly functional dysfunctional

Stumbling through high school, college, and seminary

And a myriad of careers

 

And so I am alone still

Not truly alone

I have people who care about me

People who want to love me

People I want to love

 

But still, a distance remains

Between myself and those who are part of my life

 

My lack of self-love

Has caused no end of grief

It has caused me to seek connection in unhealthy ways

It has caused me to hide my true self

 

Because of my fundamental struggle to be noticed and valued

I have alienated people

I have been rightly and wrongly vilified

I have people who love me, I suspect

People who value me

And people who despise me

 

But it all comes down to not letting love in.

Not trusting enough in God’s love

And my own self-worth

To just “be”

 

I believe that God is love

And I believe that God loves me

I know that if I let that love fill me

I will leak love, and the world will be a better place

And I will not be alone

Never alone

 

I believe

Lord, help my unbelief


Monday, August 21, 2023

Keep it simple

Today I sit and stare

At nothing

 

On the screen in front of me is a

New document

 

The empty whiteness screaming at me

Brash and demanding!

 

Write something, anything

 

Outside my window, all is empty blackness

The dark of stormy mornings

Where darkness rules

 

I have nothing profound to say

No thoughts that are new

 

I have been on this journey will call life for a long time

It has been a journey populated by people

Good and bad

 

It has been a journey of twists and turns

Successes and failures

I have been praised and vilified

I have been lost and found

Or rather I have lost and found myself

 

I have sought to understand the really real

What some call God

Or El

Or Sacred

 

I have read, studied, and reflected

I have earned two Master's degrees and a Doctorate

 

I have immersed myself in philosophy, theology, and psychology

 

And yet as I sit here this morning

Staring at nothing

This truth emerges

 

That whatever else the really real is

It is a mystery

 

I cannot claim to be a good mystic

I love certitude far too much for that.

 

But I have come to understand that what is real

What is love

What is life

What is all

 

Cannot be contained in books

Especially not one book

 

There are no hard edges

The really real is beyond us

It is that which cannot be defined

 

And yet

What is really real can be encountered

Experienced

Even to some degree lived

 

It is best found not in creeds

Or systematic theologies

Our attempts to capture the wind

 

It is best found in the simple things

In the wind in the trees

In the smile of a child

In the beauty of a doe with her fawns

In the freshness of the rain

 

And it is best explained

Simply

 

Love is

We are loved by Love

We carry Love in us

The more room we give for Love within us

The more Love fills us

The more we are filled with Love, the more we can love ourselves in a healthy way

And the more love fills us the less room there is for that which is not love

The more we are filled with Love, the more we can love those around us

 

And the more the world is filled with Love, the more it is how it was meant to be.

 

(replace the word Love with God, it still works!  We can “God” each other.  Sadly we can replace the word Love with Hate as well, and it still works -  try it)

 

Simple

Mysterious

Mystical                       

 

Something we can understand

And yet never fully understand

 

There are no new truths

Only simple truths that make us new


Tuesday, August 15, 2023

radical generosity

Redistribution is a description of what happens when people fall in love with each other across class lines… [it] flows naturally out of a love for God and neighbor.

 

The way we give money and possession power is by holding them with clenched fists.  On the flip side, the way we take away their power is by holding them with open hands and giving them away winsomely

          Shane Claiborne

_____________________________________________

 

We are controlled by what we have

And the more we have

It seems

The more we are controlled

 

I have always wondered why the really rich

Never seem to have enough

I have always wondered why those people with power

Always want more

And more

And more

And more

 

Jesus hints that it doesn’t have to be this way

Indeed we are invited to give it all away

 

I don’t think Jesus gave that challenge to the rich young man

Just to shame him

 

He knew it could be done

He knew it needed to be done

 

Jesus would also say

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”

 

No kidding!

 

It is not where our heart is, our treasure will be

It is that our hearts follow the money,

And the power

 

But if our hearts follow the money and the power

Then they aren’t being given to God and our neighbor

 

If our hearts follow the money and the power

Then most of what we do will be about money and power

How we spend our time

The kind of jobs we take

 

It is all determined

We are determined and defined

By power and money

 

And then our house, our boat, our car

Our clothes, our bank balance

Become our identify

Our comfort

Our all

 

Not God

Not love

 

There are people who have done this well

Or so we are told

At times radical generosity blossomed in the early church (Acts 4)

Francis of Assisi perhaps

 

Mother Theresa had deformed feet because she

Would always take the worst shoes out of the donation piles for herself

Leaving the better shoes for the poor

 

I suspect radical generosity is often more frequently

Among the poor

 

A friend tells of a time he gave a child

Begging on the streets, a piece of gum (all he had on him at the time)

That child broke the piece into three pieces and share it with friends

 

The more we have, the harder it is to give

Proportionally the poor are more generous than the rich

 

I truly believe that radical generosity

And perhaps the eradication of extreme wealth

Are the most powerful antidote we have to hate

And to such movements as fascism and MAGA

 

God did not mess up and make too many people

And not enough stuff

Poverty was created because too many people have too much stuff

 

As Gandhi suggests

“There is enough for everyone’s need, but there is not enough for everyone’s greed”

 

We cannot afford to cling to wealth and power

We think we cannot afford not to

But we are wrong

 

It is when we cling to such things

that we are in peril

of gaining the world

but losing our souls


Monday, August 14, 2023

Listen

Listen

Quiet friend who has come so far,

feel how your breathing makes more space

around you.

Let this darkness be a bell tower

and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.

Move back and forth into the change.

What is it like, such intensity of pain?

If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,

be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,

the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,

Say to the silent earth: I flow.

to the rushing water, speak: I am.

          Rainer Marie Rilke (quoted by DBB in Sunday Musings, 8/13/23)

 

The voices that are easiest to hear are often those voices to whom I should listen least. And the listening I need to hear most is often the hardest to hear, because it is quiet, and like God to the Prophet Elijah, it speaks only in the stillness after the whirlwind has passed.

          Diana Butler Bass

______________________________________________

 

God says

God told me

The Bible says

Our church says

 

FOX says

MSNBC says

There are loud gongs and clashing cymbals everywhere

 

There are angry souls,

Demanding to be heard

Yelling and screaming

Telling us what is wrong, what is right

 

Demanding that we hate and fear

 

Telling us to be afraid

To pick up the sword, or rather the AR-15

And kill

Eradicate

 

Telling us that the chief end of humankind

is to rule, to dominate

and perchance

destroy

 

We live in the whirlwind

in a searing time

where like a wildfire driven by the wind

foul forces

urge us to embrace our darker angels

 

We seek Sacred in the noise

in the loud demanding noises

in the huge auditorium, filled with smoke and mirrors

in the mass gatherings where people

whose egos ooze and poison

tell us to follow them

to the promised land

(where White American Christianity once again rules)

 

It is hard to miss the voices of hate and fear

Of dominance and greed

Loud and harsh, intrusive and constant

 

It is hard not to listen

To those voices that tell us what we want to hear

That tell us we are better, smarter, more righteous

That tell us we are right, and they are wrong

We are blessed, they are cursed

 

It is hard not to listen to those voices

That excuse our behaviors

That insist we can ignore climate change

The poor

The homeless

 

But those voices are like the strong winds

That tear into the mountains and break the rocks into pieces

Like the earthquakes that shake

And the fire that burns (I Kings 19)

 

All too often Sacred is not in them

And we are deceived

 

Where is the voice we need to hear

that almost silent whisper

that echoes gently in the stillness?

 

Where is the Truth that is often so hard to hear

Among the clamor

Hard to hear because it tells us what we do not want to hear.

 

Where is the One who whispers

Here I Am.

I Am

 

The voice of El

Comes to us in unexpected ways

Through unexpected people

 

It comes to us on foul city streets

On lonely rural roads

It echoes across the waters

It lingers in the trees

 

It comes from that person who has no place to live

From that one dying alone

From the person struggling with addiction

From that transgender person who has been denied the right to be

 

It whispers to us in the voices of the poor

It drifts like smoke from the devastation on Maui

It comes almost silent and small from those oppressed

Marginalized

And minimalized

By those who would dominate and control them

 

We live in the whirlwind

In a world of earthquake and fire

But still

If we listen

The Voice is there

 

I am

I am here

I am love

You are loved

Please love

 


Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Out of emptiness, dark things come

“The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns. Faith also means reaching deeply within, for the sense one was born with, the sense, for example, to go for a walk.”

          Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

_________________________________

 

Someone once asked me if I believed in demons

 

“Yes,” I answered

“I do.”

 

We all have our demons

Those hungry ghosts that lurk in our souls

Those voices telling us we are not enough

Those voices telling us that “they” are the enemy

 

Jesus understood that what is going on within

Profoundly impacts how we live

 

Out of the heart, he suggested

Comes evil

Comes lies, slander, hate, greed

Comes words that hurt

And actions that wound

 

It is not so much that we are filled with

Awful things (call them what you will)

But that we are NOT filled with love.

 

Looking back on my own life

My worst moments have come because

of a profound emptiness within

 

from a void at my core

that comes when, for whatever reason

I am not abiding

 

Am not connected to Love

Am not filled with that spring of living water

Welling up

 

When I am empty

Terrible things fill the void

Doubt and despair

Anger and resentment

 

When I am empty I am needy

And I reach out seeking to fill the void

 

I seek to accomplish

I try to build myself up

I reach out to others

But reaching out in need,

I am grasping

I am a taker

I use and manipulate

It gets ugly!  I have done ugly things.

 

Wretched man!

Who will rescue me?

 

I need that spring of living water

I need that holy presence

I need to be filled

 

I need to take the time to go down deep

Inside

To that place that defines me

To that place where Sacred dwells

 

And find Sacred

Find love

Find me

 

For only when I have become inwardly intimate

With God, and even with my true self

Can I be outwardly

A person who reflects in any way

the Image of God

 

If I have made that inner connect

Then when I move outward

It is out of fullness, and not need

And that makes all the difference!

 

Poor Donald

So needy

Poor Mitch, Marjorie, Mike, Joe, Nancy

Poor all of us

 

To whatever degree we are empty

We are destructive

 

Faith means reaching deeply within

For the truth

That we are loved

And we don’t need to dominate, control, use, take, consume

We are loved

 

So we can give, care, forgive, protect, include

 

We are loved

And that is the beginning and the end

Of our story

 

 


Wednesday, August 2, 2023

community

people don’t seem to leave the church because they no longer believe in the beauty of Jesus and his teachings. People leave the church because they believe in the beauty of Jesus and his teaching so much that they can no longer stomach being part of an institution that says it’s about that and so clearly is not.

          Nadia Bolz-Weber

 

When we talk about building a world where all people can achieve justice and fulfill our potential as human beings, we really mean all people. That is Dr. [Martin Luther] King’s vision of “Beloved Community,” where all people can live in peace. Beloved Community is an acknowledgment that the only way for a peace to ever be sustainable, the only way that our people can always be safe, is if all people are free.…

 

Building Beloved Community is not about loving the people who are easy to love. It is about cultivating love for those that are difficult to love

 

If you are not struggling to love people, if you are not trying to build understanding with those you disagree with, then you are not really doing the work of building Beloved Community. The work of building Beloved Community is understanding that we’re not trying to win over people, but to win people over. Historically, winning a war has meant defeating the opponent. There is a clear winner and a clear loser.... But in nonviolence, there is no real victory until everyone is on the same side. 

          Richard Rohr

____________________________________________

 

the church is dying

Long live the church!

 

I think a lot about the church

as an aged coot who inhabits a pulpit on Sunday morning

wondering if he has something to say

to the scattered souls scattered among the pews

 

and I think it is dying

the average congregation has 65 people

and only 16% of Americans say religion is the most important thing in their life

 

did I say congregation?

Ah!

a congregation is a group of people gathered for

that exercise in religiosity we call worship

 

most of the “congregations” that seem to be flourishing

(or so the statisticians tell us)

are those that are very large

 

where worship can be done with flair!

where the entertainment is excellent and

the energy of the gathered masses

takes on the quality of a Trump rally (or a rock concert)

 

(yeah, I know, there are exceptions)!

 

but it all has me wondering about the fate

of all those little congregations

which are dying

one by one

 

it strikes me that something needs to change

perhaps we need to start by changing one word

and stop talking about congregations

and start talking about communities

 

what does it mean to be a community

it doesn’t mean you come together once a week to perform a “task”

it means you live together

struggle together 

share together

eat together

 

community

communities of faith

 

what does that look like

it might mean meeting in a home, not a sanctuary

it might mean meeting to serve (together) at a food bank

or gathering to help an elderly person with their garden

 

a community looks like people rallying around that person

who, suffering from mental illness and trauma just got a DUII

and making sure they still know they are loved

and are a child of God

 

communities are neighbors loving neighbors

people taking care of one another

 

communities are about people listening

forgiving

and giving

 

communities are about working together

despite differences

until everyone wins

everyone gets to the goal, together

 

I don’t know, for sure

how to turn a congregation

scattered souls, scattered among the pews

into a community of faith

a community of love

 

I suspect that I will have little to do with that process

but I do know that in my little corner of the world

middle of nowhere

center of the universe (Wallowa County, Oregon)

my congregation will survive

if it can move beyond being a congregation

 

we live in a world full of lonely, anxious, and uncertain people

scared to death of the future

seeking answers in all the wrong places (in authoritarian leaders for example)

 

the church, if it is to be relevant

has to offer these suffering people that can’t be more easily found somewhere else

 

and it hasn’t

As Jake Meador of the Atlantic puts it

“American churches have too often been content to function as a kind of vaguely spiritual NGO, an organization of detached individuals who meet together for religious services that inspire them, provide practical life advice, or offer positive emotional experiences. Too often it has not been a community that through its preaching and living bears witness to another way to live”

 

The church is dying!

That is not all bad

Because you have to die to be resurrected

You have to die (both Jesus and Paul said this) to the old

to be raised to new life

 

Maybe it is time the church dies

so that it can become the church?

 

the resurrected body of Christ

in this world


Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Jesus

you may “get” us

but we don’t “get” you

 

we have built beautiful soaring buildings to hold your presence

we have built ugly auditoriums in which to shout your praise

we have written complex (and unsingable) hymns

and endless praise songs in your honor

 

we have put together a book

and have idolized it

 

we have fought over its meaning

and sought “right faith”

and fought over what that means

 

we have worshipped you

prayed to you

and talked about you

 

we have bedecked our bodies with crosses

and our cars with bumper stickers

touting our faith

 

and yet we have found ourselves far from you

and it shows

 

we talk about the poor

you lived among the poor

 

those of us who “have”

allow a little of what we have to trickle down to the poor

you called for radical redistribution!

 

we plot and plan and seek to infiltrate the halls of power

we work to codify righteousness

and impose it

 

we enter into the world of Empire and seek to use it

not knowing that Empire simply uses us!

You refused to align with Empire at all

Instead, you resisted Empire and all that it stands for

Wealth

Power

Control

Imposed righteousness

 

Knowing that none of those things is love

 

And Empire killed you

And Empire kills you still!

 

You were about one thing

Love

Love lived out

Love lived out radically and sacrificially

Love lived out among those most in need of love

(not those most easy to love)

 

You were permeated with Sacred

Filled with a Sacred love that spilled forth

Bubbling

Like a spring of living water

 

And you asked those who loved you

To love the way you loved

 

Yes, you asked people to give

To give all

You asked people to love

to love to the point of dying

 

But you knew

And you tried to teach us

That this kind of generosity and love

Comes not through guilt, shame, or fear

It is not implemented through rules

It is not imposed by foul and often cruel legislation

 

It comes from Sacred Presence

It comes out of a love of Love (God)

It comes when our hearts are filled to overflowing

It comes when people fall in love with each other

 

No, Jesus

We do not get you

 

But you get us

Which is why you told us the poor will be with us always

 

Dear God!

We are a mess!

Help!

 

Fill our hearts we pray

until they are full

until your love oozes from our souls

 

fill our hearts until capitalism is not possible

and forced re-distribution is not necessary

 

gather us together

around a table where all are equal

and all is shared

and all are protected

and all are loved

 

we do not get you, Lord,

but we want to