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

Monday, October 30, 2023

Ordinary time

It is ordinary time
a time I have been told
for growth and maturation,
a time in which the mystery of Christ is called to penetrate
ever more deeply into history
until all things are finally caught up in love
As such, ordinary time is far from ordinary
And yet in the sameness of each day
We trod
So caught up in the ordinary
In the work
The drudgery
In the asphalt and concrete of this life
That we fail to see the extra-ordinary
That makes us whole
Worn down we trod
Tired and hopeless
While malignant souls
Plot and lie
Selling their wares of wealth and power
Stealing freedom in the name of freedom
Leaving us carcasses
Picked clean
Of life
We wander into the buildings of faith
Hoping to find that spark of life
That fire that consumes
That wind that moves us
Come Holy Spirit
We wander into buildings hoping to find
Love and hope, peace and joy
And instead, find all the miseries of humankind
Fear and hate
Guilt and exclusion
For we have turned faith into collusion rather than rebellion
Maintenance rather than transformation
Power rather than service
Wealth rather than radical generosity
It is ordinary time, again
And in the shortening days
There is a message
About how the darkness grows
And how things grow cold and hard
But even as the darkness grows
Even now
As things foul and deadly
Seem to grow
There is the sunrise
That moment when the darkness is shattered
There is the frost on the trees,
The glittering mountain thrusting into startling blueness
There is God
There is love
I stand some mornings in the cold
Staring in awe at the mountain
Embraced by Sacred love
There are moments when
The ordinary is shattered
By the advent of love, the surprising arrival of grace
And even as the darkness grows
I wait
For the advent of Love
And God’s extraordinary new thing

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Faith and politics

My faith can drive to me to be (gasp) political

I am not by nature interested in the necessary structures that order our life together

But I respect the power of our systems

For good or for ill


And I respect the fact that my faith should shape my choices

About what I support

And who I vote for


It's not a simple matter

We can easily ignore faith, tear it in an unnatural way from faith

Separate faith and our political stances to the point

We ignore the very tenants of our faith in our political choices


Or we can blend them together in such a way

That our faith does indeed shape our political choices


And the problem is this

Faith should impact our relationship with the systems of power

And should shape how we approach them


And both separating our faith from our politics

And merging our faith and our politics

Can lead to the same toxic place


If we ignore faith we can embrace wealth and power

(after all, Mary wasn’t serious when she predicted that Jesus would bring low the mighty)

But if we merge faith with our politics, the expediencies of power

Can end up conquering our faith (not the other way around)


It seems we must make these assertions.

We cannot allow politics to use our faith

(as is happening with the American right, where bad people manipulate people of faith and get them to support things decidedly not Jesus).


But we must engage in politics from the perspective of faith

Faith in what?


A friend posted this quote

America doesn’t need Republicans

It doesn’t need Democrats

It needs Jesus


Sounds good! Right?

But which Jesus?

The Jesus of the American right, who is about power and wealth

About winning and controlling

About coercion and punishment?


That is a Jesus who has been re-created in the image of toxic individualism

And greed

And dominance


That is a Jesus who listened to the tempter in the wilderness before his ministry started

And coopted the systems of power of his day

To become “King” 

Who took over the Sanhedrin, collaborated with the Pharisees

And somehow made the Romans his tools.


But that is not the Jesus who came

That is not the suffering servant who, as Isaiah reminds us

‘was so marred, beyond human semblance… that we should look at him…

He was despised and rejected…”


This is the Jesus of Mary

(I am so glad I am related to Jesus on his mother’s side)

The Jesus who stood against the politically powerful

Stood against a misguided faith system that burdened and excluded

And did not welcome and affirm all


The Jesus who came was about love

About taking care of the vulnerable

Comforting the hurting (and afflicting the comfortable?)

Healing the wounded


Jesus came bringing love

He died speaking words of love (Father forgive them)

And the rule of Jesus thus will always be about love

Not about controlling women

Sending people to hell

Taking over political power (as our current Speaker of the House would like to do)

In the “name of Jesus.”


Using faith as a political pawn


Even what is called the “Second Coming” is about love

As Madeleine L’Engle puts it

“The Second Coming is an action of Love.  The judgment of God is the judgment of love, not of powerplays, vindication, or hate.  The Second Coming is the redemption of the entire cosmos, not just one small planet.”


Or as Paul puts it,

The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God… the creation itself will be set from its bondage of decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans)


For me then, my politics must always be guided by love

Not about power

Not about control

Not about retribution

Not about hate

Not about (even) winning


So I ask these questions when I make my choices

Who is functioning from the perspective of love?

Who is taking care of the vulnerable

Whose policies are more about the “common good” than about privilege


I can’t make my decisions based solely on my

My power and privilege

My bank account or retirement account

My comfort


Who takes care of the poor

Who supports food security

Who promotes peace

Who is willing to fight for gun control

Who is looking out for the planet

Who is about welcoming the stranger (functional immigration policies)


That is the person I am going to support

That is the person I am going to vote for



No one does it totally right

(Sadly such a person could never get elected in America)


But who leans toward love and compassion

Who leans away from coercion and retribution

Who leans toward the common good

Who leans away from economic inequity

Who protects the planet (which is an incarnation of God)

Who is not willing to plunder it for profit


The GOP is antithetical to most of my values

They would benefit me.  I am white and reasonably well-off

My retirement is not at its best right now



People are hurting

And that should not be

We have enough wealth to take care of all

But not enough to satisfy the greed of the wealthy and those on the right


The Democrats fall far, far short as well


There is no one (especially no politician?) who really lives out a faith in the

Jesus who emptied himself and gave everything for everyone


So I will go with those whose policies, words, and actions best fit my faith

However imperfectly

And speak out against those who clearly do not

Those are greedy, liars, cruel, hypocritical


People ask me why I a liberal politically

That is why


I simply do my best to let the Jesus of the cross

The Jesus who welcomed all

The Jesus who forgave and healed and fed the strugglers

Shape my agenda

And determine who I support


Knowing I will sometimes be wrong

But believing that I must side with love.


Friday, October 20, 2023

Time to stop

“Who are the pagans?” A child, asked this question in Sunday School, replied, “The pagans are the people that don’t quarrel about God.” 

          Madeleine L’Engle, A Stone for a Pillow



Isn’t it sad,

That we use that power that is all Love

All unity

All wholeness

All peace

And creativity


And use it as an excuse for




And destruction?


We with our sacred tomes that we use

To batter each other

We who take the Bible, the Torah, the Koran

(or whatever)


And turn words written by seekers

Into the end of the search. 


How dare we!?


Jesus made it clear that our old






That our old literalism

Miss the mark


And is it missing the mark that is Sin

And is it turning around and going another way

That is redemption


That is why he told us to die to the old

Perhaps even murder it?

In order to find the new


That is why he spoke in absurdities

That if rightly understood

If seen from the perspective of love

Are not absurd at all


Blessed are you when you are poor

When you mourn

When you fight for just


Not blessed are you IF you are poor

But even if you are poor, sad, lost, confused, angry

You are still blessed by the power

That pours out blessing on us all.


And knowing that we are always blessed

We are free



Free to walk the second mile

Turn the other check

Love our enemies

Bless those who curse us


And we can say with the great Nez Perce chief

Chief Joseph (the mountain I see every morning is named after him

And this was his land, before we stole it)


“I am tired; my heart is sick and sad.

From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.”


We can join in those words

While we are sick, and sad (again the beatitudes)

Because we are loved by Love

And we are free to do life another way


The Jesus way


On the cross, Jesus said, essentially,

As he forgave and blessed,


This hate

This violence

This division

This exclusion



Stops here


We need to join him

We have seen enough

We have experienced enough strive

Created enough pain


It is time to stop


Wednesday, October 18, 2023

The Nature of God

What is the nature of the Sacred?

Or if we must be anthropomorphic, what is the nature of God?

And thus what, if we are the bearers of the Sacred or those created in the image,

Should be our nature?


Is the power that brought all into being

And sustains it, one way or another,

Restorative, or Retributive?


It is I think, an important question.

Is nature restorative or retributive?

After all, we abuse our planet!


Is it the nature of our planet to restore itself,

And thus bring gifts of plenty to us?

Plenty of water, grain, and fruit.  The warmth of the sun.  The refreshment of the rain?


Can we sing the words of the old hymn (yeah, I know, Godspell too)

“All good gifts around us are sent from heav’n above.

We thank you, God, we thank you, God, for all your love’


Or is nature retributive

Paying us back for our “sins’ with hurricanes,







Is that mystical force that is in nature

And in us (I believe)

Woven into the fabric of everything

Retributive or restorative


Or to use more classical terminology

Does “God/Sacred/Love, who is we insist, all about justice

Use retributive justice or restorative justice.


We know all about retributive justice

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

Or, as we in America still, sadly practice it

A life for a life.


Seems reasonable at first glance.

That person who killed that child ought to die.

Those people who caused 9/11 should be destroyed

Hamas, those bloody perpetrators of terror should be eradicated


Make them pay!

Our souls scream


But it seems that all too often we do more than get even

We battle evil, using the tools of evil, and evil rubs off on us

As Nadia Bolz-Weber puts it,

“we can actually absorb the worst of our enemy and on some level

 even become them.”


When I hold on to hate.

When I lust for revenge.

Something bad happens to me (and you)

And I don’t end up reducing evil, I feed it.


Think about what America did after 9/11

Over 20 years now of a destabilized and increasingly violent world

We did not make it better with our bombs, and our invasions.

We made it worse


I worry about how we respond now.

On so many levels

We see the right engaged in the rhetoric of retribution.

They promise that if they get back in power people will pay!!

And on the left, we see a lust for vengeance

And rejoicing when those on the far right pay the price of their extremism


Jesus said, (Matthew 5, Sermon on the Mount)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.


“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[b] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”


Seriously, Jesus?

What about accountability?

What about protecting ourselves?

What about…?


How far do we go!?

Jesus says, “As far as the cross”

(Or so it seems to me)


Mind you, I believe in justice!

But justice should be restorative in nature

Jesus responded to violence by dying and refusing to be retributive

Instead, he turned that event into something restorative


This is how you live, the cross cries

This is how you die

For others!

Father forgive them

Today you will be with me in paradise.

This (the violence and the hate stop here)


I know, it doesn’t seem to work!

Or does it?

That mystical difficult faith Jesus taught is still around

And people have changed the world with a restorative approach

Martin Luther King Jr.  Gandhi, Mandela… more


This is why I can’t go with the classic view of hell

The way it is presented it is retributive

Turn or burn, for all eternity


I believe God’s dealing with us, even when they might hurt

For a moment

Are always about restorative

About bringing us back to the way of love.


I have no answers for the complications

I understand the “practical” issues with the way of Jesus

I am not sure how I would respond to Hamas, the “Jesus way.”


I believe in accountability

I just struggle with what that looks like.


However, we respond to violence

To hate, and racism, and all the ills of humanity

Our goal cannot stop with accountability and retribution

We must always look past those to restoration


What would the world look like today?

If we had sought to bring restoration of prosperity and peace to the Middle East

After 911


If Israel had sought to truly bring peace and hope to the Palestinians after the conflicts there?


If the GOP or the Democrats truly wanted

ALL people, even those on the other side to find peace and hope and healing?


I have no clear answers

But I do believe that God is restorative, not retributive

And that God loves all


And I believe that I should reflect

The image of God


God help us all


Tuesday, October 17, 2023

love and power

Both love and power are necessary building blocks of God’s peaceful realm on earth. Love utterly redefines the nature of power. Power without love is mere brutality (even in the church), and love without power is only the sentimentality of individual lives disconnected from the Whole. The gospel in its fullness holds love and power together, creating new hope and healing for the world.

          Richard Rohr

Preface to Near Occasions of Grace (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1993), xvi.    


Ah, those who hold power as the ultimate end

Who seek it.

Grasp it,

Abuse it.


Who wield power without love.


Love cannot be the servant of power

Power must be the servant of love


Power without love is expressed in cruelty and control

It is violent.

It is an old landlord, one of great zeal for his religion

Stabbing a 6-year-old boy to death

It is Christians rejoicing a border wall

It is Christian leaders lying, and committing fraud, and promoting violence

It is a candidate for President claiming all Palestinians are anti-Semitic and do not deserve our compassion.

It is Christians excusing the violence of Hamas because of the oppression of Netanyahu


When power is the servant of love

Children are embraced and nurtured, not stabbed.

Immigrants are welcomed

Politicians tell the truth, are ethical, and above all else,

Seek to enact policies that benefit all, that promote the common good.

People who lie, are dishonest, abusive, and promote hate are not even considered as a viable candidate for President

Compassion is for all


When power is the servant of love

We feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house those without homes

Pay for good medical care for all

Educate our children

Provide adequate mental health care

Take care of planet Earth


We see the faces of those who are in danger

And in need

And we use power


To heal

To restore

To reconcile


I am tired of war

I am tired of lies

I am tired of the greedy rich becoming richer

And the poor being neglected

I am tired of our planet being wounded by our need for profit

I am tired of CEOs who make more in a day than their workers,

Saying they “can’t afford to pay more”


We need to let love redefine power

Redefine greatness


The leaders of the American right

(you know their names) are, if power serves love, is not great

Their vision of America is not great

The other side is better (but frankly not much)


It is time we listen to the prophets of old

Who as a person decried the worship of power

And the failure of love


That is what sin is.

It is the failure of love

Salvation is when love goes to work

And life is healed


Hope, as Norman Wirzba suggests

Is when love is “all in all”

And heaven and earth meet

And life is heaven


There is a time to love, we are told

And a time to hate


We have tried hate

Perhaps it is time for love


Wednesday, October 11, 2023


Following Jesus is moving away from fear and toward love

          Henri Nouwen


Breathe it all in, love it all out

          Mary Oliver



This is a world of looming fear

The Middle East is in chaos

Factors within America are seeking to create chaos


There are wars and rumors of wars

It seems as if all the miseries of human-kind are on the rise


I sit, thousands of miles away from home

Thinking of friends in trouble

Thinking of a voice I do not know, barely holding it together

Asking for help, when I have no practical help to give


I have no answers

I have no extra housing to offer

I cannot bring sanity to a political party

That has lost all semblance of order and propriety


We live in a world full of what we call “sin”

But what is sin but wrong choices?

What is sin but the denial of love?


And all I have to work with, really

Is love


Do I believe in love?

Do I believe that when love goes to work, healing happens?


Which may be the same as asking,

Do I believe in God?

For God is love

Do I believe in Jesus, love become flesh?


Do I believe that Love is present?

And love has the power to touch

Hamas, Netanyahu

Trump, Biden, Jordan, Jeffries

That pained voice on the phone


To touch and transform the power-hungry

The greedy hoarders

The abusers and users


To touch that angry, empty, scared place within me?


Can I hope again hope?

And believe love will win?


Grace  Ji-Sun Kim (as quoted by Diana Butler Bass) puts it well


“The Christian faith is not ‘seeing I believing,’ but rather

‘believing is seeing.’”


Love can win if we can see Jesus, love

“in the places that we dare not look and dare not think about.”


Can I see love in the face of that person I struggle with?

Can I see love working in the struggles of a family to survive mental illness?

Can I see love in a relationship that is not working and is cracked by fear and anger?

Can I see love in the posturing proud souls so desperately seeking power?

In the person frantically gobbling up money and turning a blind eye to the poor?


Can I see?

Can I move far enough away from my own fear to see?

Can I breathe it all in

And love it all out?


Can I?


The day I will breathe in

Left foot, right foot, left foot, breathe

And I will do my best, my very best

To see love

And be love

Friday, October 6, 2023

keep it simple

I don't know what word in the English language I can't find one that applies to people who are willing to sacrifice the literal existence of organized human life so they can put a few more dollars into highly overstuffed pockets. The word evil doesn't begin to approach it.

          Attributed to Noam Chomsky



Sometimes there is not much one can say

Sometimes it is better to keep it short

And simple


The Gospel is all about relationships

The relationships of human creatures to that creative power that

Lies behind all



The relationship of people

As expressed in systems of power

To justice, and equity


Do the systems we create and perpetuate

Side with the common good

With love and compassion


Or are they systems of dominance and oppress

Serving the cause of greed?


And, I think, the relationship of people to power and money

(which go together, often)

is at the heart of the Gospels.


If Jesus did anything he challenged people about their attachment to both

Teaching de-fusion from systems of power that dehumanize

And from greed that blinds and poisons


And demanding, not suggesting, but demanding

re-engagement to the world with a focus on service,

common good,

and the transformation (to use a nice word) of those systems that perpetuate the abuse of power and greed


into systems that promote justice, equity, peace, and compassion


His mother said it all, even before he was born

“God has shown strength with God’s arm;

God has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

God has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly;

God has filled the hungry with good things

and sent the rich away empty.”



Monday, October 2, 2023

Certainty or Faith

Paul Tillich once said, “Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith.“


Anne Lamott built on Tillich’s quote, “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.”


What does this say to us, in terms of faith?

Actually, it creates a mess, if we are honest


I keep thinking about those foolish virgins, who certain of the bridegroom

Saw no reason to take extra oil for their lamps, and lost their light (and their place)

Just ugh


We might see them, actually as having faith,

But they are not the role models in the story

The ones who want to be a part of it all,

But with some degree of unknowing take along some extra oil

Are the ones who are lit up.


Certainty can certainly do a number on us.


I am not a fan of anthropomorphizing either the Sacred

Or the anti-sacred

Although God and Satan (who is really just the voice of dissent, the tempter)

Make it all easier to talk about


But I think that if that “other voice” does anything,

It makes us certain

Certain of our place, our views, our stance

Certain we are right, and others are wrong

Certain that we have the right to impose our beliefs

(after all, they are correct) on everyone else.


I am reminded how Thomas Merton claimed that the devil makes most of his true disciples not by his preaching in favor of sin but by preaching against it hoping those who listen will then spend the rest of their lives meditating on the intense sinfulness of others


When we are certain we are blind to our own messes

And all too aware of the problems of others.


“There but for the grace of God go I”


One of the huge issues here is that our perceptions are often off

We are pretty much always just guessing

Doing the best we can


But when we are certain?

Then we get into a weird place



How often are we deceived into thinking the wrong side is the right side

And the right side is the wrong side


When we are certainly wrong.

Isaiah suggested this is not a good place!


Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,

who put darkness for light and light for darkness,

who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!


There are people I am certain have done this!


But as certain as I am that “they” have done this,

I am just as certain that I have too


And I am certain that I have to let go of certainty

And, as Merton suggests,

Live in faith, not certainty

Noticing the mess (mine and theirs)


I need to notice the emptiness and discomfort,

Accept my unknowing

Embrace the questions

And keep turning, turning, turning

To the Spirit


until some light returns

resisting what I see as evil, if necessary

but doing so with humility

and the awareness that it is I who might be wrong

Doing it with grace, love, and kindness



Who knows?


Faith is not for the faint of heart.