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

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Those who make us blossom

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

                               Marcel Proust



It is easy these days to be churlish

From the moment we wake up (in the dark)

To the moment we go to sleep (many hours after dark)


We are assailed by annoyances and aggravations

Some minor, some profound


From the cat scratching at the bedroom door at 2am

To the dog growling at mythical beasts at 4am


From the empty shelves at the grocery store

To the myopic and thoughtless responses on Facebook


From the latest political polls

To the hate filled, lie filled venom of some political rallies

Where there is no plan for the future, but only promised retribution and cruelty

(cheered on by people caught up in the hate)


From the stark pictures of humanity’s inhumanity to humanity

The devastation in Gaza, the horror of Hamas

The warming world,

To the hard reality that your family will not be with you this Thanksgiving


We are assailed by the negative

and if we are not careful, soon find ourselves sinking

into the ooze and slime and old decay

into the swamp of our own resentments


and yet

we are Sacred children

gifted children

beloved children


we have something that, if we can stop

and breathe

go deep and settle,


will lift us up


Paul says it well in Philippians (4)

"I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me."


I am not suggesting some sort of simplistic piety

Sometimes life sucks and we are brought low


But we can rebound

And even in the face of need and want

We can find abundance


As Mary Oliver so beautifully puts it

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”


This day as I struggle with many things

(I will not list them for they may not be your “things”)

It is time, is it past time

To be grateful


and this day I am grateful for people

I am grateful for my family who love me

I am grateful for friends, who seem to be able to look past my flaws

I am grateful for the dedicated people I work with, for their determination and compassion

I am grateful for those people who grace the pews and (these days) the computer screens on Sunday morning

I am grateful for those I agree with

I am grateful for those I don’t agree with (they keep me honest and humble)


I am grateful for all those who, in so many ways

Till the soil of my soul

And make me a better person


Blessings to those charming gardeners who make my soul blossom

You may not know who you are (although I hope you do)

But I do


Thank you

Saturday, November 25, 2023

like a mighty wind

And Jesus

When he had cried again with a loud voice

Gave up the Ghost


The nephesh,

The pneuma

The breath of God which had filled him to overflowing


So that God poured out of him like a mighty wind



Ah, Holy Spirit

Breath of God


It makes sense to me

To think of the Presence of the Almighty as breath

It makes sense to think of it filling Jesus




Until he was the Son of Man

God with us


But there were others who also

Who inspired Sacred Presence

Breathed it in


People who were mostly good

Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob

People who had their issues

Ananias, Sapphira, Herod


All we are told “gave up the ghost”

Which meant, they all had it.

It was there, in Jesus and Herod


It is there in me and in you

We all, this is the mystery of life and grace

Have inspired Sacred


God is in us

As close as our breath


When we were born

God became a guest

Incarnate if you will


When we were born

We became the cradle into which Christ was born


And we carry the Sacred with us

Throughout our lives

The more open we are to that Spirit

The more we breathe God in

The more our lives are shaped by God’s presence


But all of us

From Jesus to Herod

From a person like Rosemary Carter

To the worst person you can think of


Carries the pneuma

In Spiritu


And that presence will not leave

Until our time on spaceship Earth is done

Only then

Do we give up the ghost


Today I am going to look for the “ghost”

The nephesh/pneuma of God


I am going to look for it in the wind that bends the trees

In the frosty breath of the horses


I am going to look for it in each person I meet

Each person I see on the news


In the rise and fall of each chest

I am going to seek God




And I am going to know

That as long as there is breath, there is God


And there is hope

For change, for transformation,

For goodness

For love


Monday, November 20, 2023

What have I (we) become?

it is dark
too dark, too early
there are a plethora of things
"not working"
a myriad of things unfinished
a today I got a look in the mirror
one of those moments when someone special and honest
laid it on the line
and what i know is that I don't like what I have become
it is not just the age
and the chronic pain
and the mind that no longer remembers appointments
its not just the voice that is no longer clear
or the house, which after 20 years, is showing its age
it is not vendors who don't come through
it is me
it is what those forces that I see as negative
are doing to my soul
I have to admit
A lot of what is going on in American hits me hard
And I am confused and pained by trends I see as
But those movements I disagree with
those people I find difficult
are winning
they are winning because they change me
they make me fearful
angry, yes angry
and all of that seeps out of my soul
it is not that i think I am wrong about what values and priorities
we need to hold
it is that I think my response is wrong
There needs to be challenge.
A calling out
But it is the “how”
and i have allowed those things that are problematic
those people I think are problematic
to change me
and make me, fundamentally
the same as them
In all faith I say, we have to fight hate with love
but functionally I slip into hate myself
I lament judgementalism and exclusion
and I get sucked into judgementalism and exclusion
We can overcome
Love can overcome
I believe that
But that will not happen
if we become what we resist
There is plenty of room for mea culpas here
maybe maxima mea culpa
But all one can do is look in the mirror
do some repairs
say, "I was wrong"
and keep walking
trying to be the change

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Be yourself

In his book Seeds of New Hope Thomas Merton observes that “a tree gives glory to God by being a tree.”  I often recite this phrase like I mantra in my head as a reminder that my only job is to be my most authentic self.  I’ve discovered that the more I embrace the person God made me, the more I’m able to love God.  And, really, that’s the only thing I can offer to God and to the world.

          Ann Kansfield, Be the Brave One



Here is to the weird ones.

The skinny late bloomer ones.

The quiet ones

The loud ones

The confused ones

The Lost ones


Here is to the macho ones

Roaring down the road in their pickups

Here is to the musical ones

The creative ones

The queer ones*


Here is to all those who are different

And are trying so hard not to be

All those who feel as if they are not enough

And are trying so hard to be


Someone others value


Ah, yes, and love


You are a child of God

Just as you are!


Try, yes try

To be your authentic self





Not someone else’s


Just be who you were born to be

Quiet and shy

Loud and confident



It doesn’t matter


You are

You might never have been,

But here you are!


And the world would be incomplete without you


You are loved

You participate in the love

The love that brought all into being


And you are here for a reason

Not sure what that reason is?


Then stop


Be your self

That is your one job




Look around

“The place God calls you to

is the place where your deep gladness

and the world’s deep hunger meet.”  (Frederick Buechner)


Not your greatest guilt

Your greatest joy


In all joy take your authentic self

And touch the pain with the joy of you


“Where your feet take you

That IS you” (Buechner again)


So don’t hide

Don't try so hard

Don’t live in fear

Don’t be led into evil by people

Who hate everyone (and probably themselves too)


Be your authentic


One loved by God

And thus able to love yourself

And those around you.


It is as simple and complex

As that


For you give glory to God

Simply by being you



*The word queer is used intentionally in this post to refer to people whose identities are outside of heteronormative, binary gender or sexuality. Queer was once a pejorative term used in ridicule, but today the word has been reclaimed as an expression of LGBTQIA+ pride.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

extended beyond

Rebirth is about being adopted into a new family – without borders…  Jesus is using some strong language to stretch our vision of family and kinship, extending rather than stifling our love. 

          Shane Claibourne



I once read (Tony Campolo) about the principle of least love.

The one who loves the least, has the most power!


Scary idea, that!

The idea that if I don’t care about you, but you do care about me,

I have more power over you than you do over me.

Because you will try not to hurt me (after all you love me)


But, as for how I treat you?

I just don’t care!  I can treat you poorly, because you don’t count (unless I can use and manipulate you)


I’ve been thinking about Christmas.

Yeah, I know, it is not even Thanksgiving!

But I have a Christmas Eve Service to prepare, and so I have been pondering


What can I say in this time of darkness!

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined?”


Yeah!  But…


It doesn’t feel as if those words are real!

I believe that they are, or will be.

But we still seem to be sliding into darkness

Into one of those episodic dark moments when hate has the upper hand


In such a time how do we make Christmas real?

I keep thinking about Jesus

And I think perhaps the key is keeping Christmas Weird

And keeping Jesus Weird


We can’t domestic Christmas, nor the One who came

(although we try)


If anything is obvious about Jesus

It is that he came to tear down walls.

He came to tear down the wall between people and God/the Sacred

He came to tear down the walls between people


Paul makes this perfectly clear when he writes

“For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us”  (Ephesians 2:14)


We see it from the beginning!

Where is Jesus born? Among the animals! 

Who attends his birth? 

The poor.  The dirty. The rejected.  The unimportant

Strangers, immigrants, heretics (The Magi)


When he does this ministry, who does he gather around him?

With whom does he “break bread.”

Pretty much everyone!

Fishermen.  Farmers. Tax Collectors. Soldiers

Pious prigs.  The entitled rich.


And what does he teach?

He teaches, in so many ways, love

Sometimes he just says it.  “Love your neighbor!”


But Jesus also realized that we are experts

At narrowing our love down.  Or to put it another way, building walls.

That we define our “neighbor” in such a way as to exclude.


So sometimes he said things that shocked and confused.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”


Wait! What?


Love your enemies!

Bless those who curse you.

Does Jesus really expect us to hate our own family

And love people who want to destroy us, or deny our reality?

Those who want to harm us or control us?




What Jesus is saying (I think)

Is that when we are reborn, we have a new family

The family of God

And (as Claibourne insists) this new kinship EXTENDS our love to include everyone

We have a new family

That includes everyone!


But we can’t get to this new extended family unless

At some level, we die to our old definition of family


So I have a family.  My biologically family

But I have to die to the idea that is my true, my primary family

I have my faith family, my ideological family, my tribal family (nation, party)


But all those definitions of family

Are limited

They limit my family to those like me, or those I like


And we must let them go, in order to embrace a family that is “broader than biology… deeper than nationalism”


Right now, we have people, a movement

That is pushing us toward division, toward defining our “family” along hard lines

Toward a narrow, tribal, fearful definition of family that calls on people to hate.  To exclude.  To reject. To control. To suppress. To use and manipulate

To dehumanize


This is the antithesis of what Jesus taught


Unless one hates one’s (let’s count this down here)


Tribe (nation)

Political party

Political leaders

Personal rights and wealth

Church (religion?)

Extended family

Biological family

One’s own life….


Unless one is willing (to put it another way)

To let go of all those allegiances and have one allegiance

To love

And one family, the family created by Sacred love


We have no part of Jesus


The bottom line is this

Our earthly allegiances create a narrowness that stands in the way of God’s vision and justice and denies the Kin-dom of God


This Christmas, in this pluralistic time

We are called to die to the divisions we embrace (and even cherish)

And become born again

Into a new family

A messy family

The family of God

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

messed with

The universe is immeasurably vast. God only Out There, looking on does not help me.  I seek and know a closer God.  God not only within all that has been made, God not only within during the lifetime of Jesus of Nazareth, but God within, right now, within me, in the salt of my tears the beating of my heart.

          Madeleine L’Engle


The reality of our rebirth should mess with us.

          Shane Claiborne



The universe is immeasurably vast

Each sunrise and sunset gives us a mere glimpse of this vastness

In the black of night

As the stars go on, literally forever

Into the vastness


We understand, as Sagan reminded us

That this planet

Our home

Is “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”


It is easy to get lost in this vastness

And frighteningly easy to be afraid


And yet

I believe, however foolish it might seem

That there is a force behind all this

A reality that creates beauty

An entity that not only loves but is love

That is beyond my capacity to understand


That there is something “beyond” that is woven

Into the trees that surround me,

Into the mountain that glistens gold in the fall sun

Into me

And into all creatures great and small


A reality that when it touches us

When we are open to it





And, importantly

Because it is our common DNA

Binds us together


We are Sacred Children


And that Jewish person, who is terrified by the brutality of Hamas

Is my family

And that Palestinian mother, hugging the tattered remains of her child

Is my family

And that person who wants to Make America Great Again,

Is my family


So is that vegan who wants to protect all sentient beings

And that environmentalist

And that radical capitalist

And. . .


There are no exceptions


Messes with my mind


It messes with my celebrations when my side “wins”

And with my anger when my side “loses”


It messes with my desire for retribution

And with that fear that wants to exclude

And with my need to accumulate and hoard


Jesus suggested that unless we “hate” our own family

We are not ready to be his followers (Luke 14:26)



Some see that as weird, even wrong!

Jesus!  What were you thinking?


What Jesus was thinking was that unless we can extend our concept of family

Beyond our actual family, beyond our political party

Beyond our country

Beyond our religion

We cannot love people the way we are called to love

We cannot extend our love

To the other members of our “family”


We cannot sit in the dust of a destroyed house in Gaza

And feel the pain of those whose lives have been shattered by war

Because we can only see things from one side.

The side of “our’ family


We cannot feel the fear of a nation in fear of its existence

We cannot understand the despair of a person whose world is changing

And who is being told by people he/she trusts, that those who are changing it

Are evil


We cannot love our neighbor as ourselves


Instead, we are driven into factions

We are divided and polarized


And our world, this tiny speck of dust

Is filled with hate, not love


We need God

We need Love

We need that presence to be as near as our next breath

And we need that presence


To mess with us