Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Friday, January 26, 2024

Beyond comfort

There is nothing more confusing to the postmodern personality, to the millennial sojourner, than to have to exist between the strange life of dealing with your Blues and Gospel all the time. Madness and ministry, chaos and Christ. My father heard an elder in Georgia say it this way. When he asked her, “How are you doing, Mother?” she said, “I’m living between Oh Lord and Thank you, Jesus.”

          Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III



I have never been oppressed

I have been treated unfairly,

And accused of things that are not true


But most of my pain has been of my own making

And most of the flaws and errors attributed

Have been real


As a white male

Raised in relative affluence by decent parents

As a person with tons of privilege

A great education

Degrees and influence


Whatever obstacles I have faced in life

Have been minimal

I don’t know how it feels to be black, or indigenous

To deal with systematic oppression

Or with transgenerational trauma


I have been


For lack of a better word


And then along comes Jesus

Not the Jesus I met in the Sunday School classroom

In the basement of the Presbyterian Church in Lakeview, Oregon.

The Jesus introduced to me by my youth group leaders

Or those ministers who influenced me in college

Not even the one sliced and diced by my seminary professors at Princeton


Not a Jesus who is a ticket to heaven (get me out of here God!)

Not a Jesus who wants me to pull away from a sinful world

And huddle in fear

Nor a Jesus who wants me to grab power and wealth and control the world

(still out of fear)

Not a Jesus who is about exclusion, and piety

And, if truth were told, retribution not grace


The things I was taught about Jesus which no longer seem true

Could fill a book


But along comes Jesus


A Jesus who says (Mark 1)

“The time has come, the kingdom of God has come near.

  Repent and believe the good news!”


A Jesus who calls me to let go of everything

To die!

So that I might be raised to newness


A Jesus who is real, powerful,

Who fills me with a little bit of everything that is Sacred

Joy, hope, peace, kindness, forgiveness,

And yes, pain


Pain over the pain I see

Anguish over the injustice and inequity

Over poverty




A Jesus who wants me to change

To turn from all that is not love

To become the best self I can possibly be


Not to escape wrath

But to become a person who touches the people around me

With Sacred Love

And works to change the world into the likeness of heaven

Who strives to bring the kindom of God nearer


So here I am

Living between

Oh Lord and Thank you, Jesus.


Seeing the world

Being stunned by the greed, the hate

The lust for power

The lies

The distortion of the Gospel

The malignancy


Seeing myself in the mirror

Still a mess

Still so full of confusion and fear

Still making mistakes that hurt others, and me


And yet being so thankful

For Jesus

For resurrection

For newness

For the power I am given to work for Love


O Lord, help!

Thank you, Jesus, for all good things


The time has come

The kindom is near

I need to change

The world needs to change

I am called to change

I am called to participate in creating change


Not by insisting on dominance and control

But by loving, forgiving, caring, sharing


Oh, Lord!  (Help!)

Thank you, Jesus,


Friday, January 19, 2024

I can only believe

It haunts me

Lingering in my mind

Like the foul stench of something dead that I cannot find


It sticks to my clothes

My mind, my heart

And I cannot wash it away


With good thoughts

Or good theology


It is the smell of hate, fear, resentment,

And vindictiveness


My four horsemen of the apocalypse


We live in a world dominated by malefaction

These profane powers eat away

At the fabric of decency like a cancer


Until people believe the lies

Support the unsupportable

Abandon not just truth but compassion




And all that is love and light

Seems overwhelmed




Ezekiel like I am looking out on a valley of dry bones

As 30% of those around me believe a proven lie

And people of “faith” worship a vile person

Who, fists clenched, face and voice distorted

Ridicules, dehumanizes, and incites


We are stripped clean of wisdom and decency


Can these bones live?

Can these bones live?


I have to believe

I do believe

Lord, help my unbelief


This is what faith is about

Faith in a God of creativity and love

A God of justice and compassion


A God who cares


I do not know how

I do not know when

I only know


That this God is turn to

This God who is as close as my breath

This God who came, and lived among us


Three and one

Human divine

Power and humility


This God can and will

Bring these bones to life


There has been evil before

There will always be evil

Foul souls will always seek and sometimes gain power



But always God is present


Working through weakness and humility

Through kindness and grace

Working, working, working


Until in the driest, most lifeless moments

there is “a noise, a rattling sound,

and the bones come together, bone to bone…

and tendons and flesh appear on them and skin covers them,

and the breath of God

breathes life


and love wins

in ways small, ways large

ways obvious, ways hidden


I do not know what happens

To those people of the lie

To those who hate and destroy

And wallow in resentment and retribution


I cannot (yet) wish them well

But I cannot wish the hell


I can only hope for transformation

For restoration

For the light to shine in the darkness


I can only believe

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Bless the echthroi

The echthroi are those who would separate us from stars and each other, un-Name, annihilate.  The fallen angels are echthroi, and so are disease and famine and hate nad vanity and a host of other little nasty things.  The echthroi would teach us despair, indifference, would have us believe that unmerited suffering is deliberately inflicted on the creature by an angry Creator.  The echthroi are forensic. They are powerful.  But love is greater

          Madeleine L’Engle


Oh that you would kill the wicked, O God, and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me; those who speak of you maliciously, and lift themselves against you for evil!

Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise against you? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.

Search ME, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

          Psalm 139



The world, it seems

Is filled with echthroi

With those who would separate and divide


The echthroi are everywhere

These fallen angels perhaps

This fallen humanity


Sometimes, it seems, they are people

We know their names

Those who stir up hate and enmity

Those who use fear and lies to manipulate and divide

To create violence


Sometimes they are bigger, more pervasive

Poverty, War, Disease and Dis-ease

And that lust for power and wealth


They can be anything

Even our own families (Mathew 10)


Anything that becomes more important than Sacred, than Love

Anything that hardens the heart and blinds us to others

And blinds us to ourselves


We feel the enmity

It lingers in our souls

That creeping hate, that foul malignancy


It eats away at us

And it separates us from ourselves

And it separates us from all that is Sacred

The stars, the moon, the sun

The planet


From Love


It feels as if the world is full of these “monsters”

These Echthroi

As if we are powerless before them


And so we lash out

We become violent in our souls

We become violent with our words

We become violent


And we hate

We hate the hate

We hate the haters

And in hating we become what we hate


But hear the good news of the Gospel

The Echthroni are powerful

Love is more powerful

Humility is more powerful


Love can say to hate,

“This stops here”


Let’s hear it for “hate interrupted”

For that moment when we stop and breathe

And become open


When Love stops us in the middle of our rant

“Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise against you? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.”


And takes us to that new place

“Search ME, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”


These are troubling times

It is easy to despair

It is easy to slide into the abyss of hate


But this I believe

The more we resist the Echthroi with their own weapons


The more powerful they become


But the more we open ourselves up to love

To our “better angels”

To hope, and joy, and peace


The less room there is for the Echthroi

The less power they have


So bless those I love

Bless those I hate

Bless the echthroi


Let me hold them all out to the love of God


This is not easy

It is not soft, cozy, shallow love

It means stepping into the fear, the hate, the blind animosity

And holding it

Carrying it


As Jesus carried it all

To the cross


So bless the bullies

Bless the haters

Bless them so that they may turn

From anger, resentment, and violence


Into the light of God’s love



PS  This I know to be true.  I am not there, yet.  But I am trying


Saturday, January 13, 2024

Time to stand

The hate is terrifying

The anger is terrifying

The lies are terrifying


Pour out of a person who would lead us

Into the abyss of hate, anger, and lies


More terrifying still

Is the adoration, the allegiance to the contagious hate

More frightening is the way

We are all affected


How some follow and some resist

But own in all of us

‘the worst ‘ emerged

How such horrible things are drawn out of us

And into the world


Hate begets hate

Violence, violence

And lies trap us in a circle of deception

From which we cannot escape


This is not new

It has happened over and over again

This slow slide into cruelty and violence

Into control and punishment


Into domination

In those attempts to oppress, suppress

Even eradicate

‘the other’


Jesus came into such a world

And he taught a different way

He gave us the antidote



Love and the fruits of love

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control


But when I look at many of those who claim to follow Jesus

When I look at many of those who say they are Christian

I wonder if Jesus would want to be one


Tony Campolo once said,

“If we were to set out to establish a religion in polar opposition to the Beatitude Jesus taught, it would look strikingly similar to the pop Christianity in North America”


When we look at much of Christendom today

We don’t see much love

We see people who hate gays

Who hate “liberals”


Who side with abusive power







Shane Claibourne suggests

That what we see is “Christian extremists who have declared war

In the name of the lamb”


And in this war, they have aligned themselves

With an ideological movement

And a person

That is antithetical to Jesus


We need extremists

But we need extremists for love and grace

Not wealth and power


Our problem is that the way of Jesus

The way of

Love your enemy

Bless those who curse you

Turn the other cheek

Walk the second mile

Give up your life


Seems so defeating

As if we are being asked to masochistically let others

Walk all over us


I don’t think we are asked to give in to the terrorists

Walter Wink suggests that the option is not

Violence or abject passivity

That it is neither assault nor submission


But a third way

The way of standing up

Being present

Looking the other person in the eye


This is not cowering or running

It is confronting in a way that forces

The other to see (at some level)

Your humanity (which they try so hard to deny)


We ask them to “see” us

And we attempt to “see” them

Their poverty, in the midst of their wealth

Their fear and weakness, amid their attempts to hold power


We have two goals

To resist!  And we must resist

And to resist in a way that does not mirror, does not emulate

That which we resist


Our goal is to neutralize the oppressors

Not destroy them

Our goal is to interrupt the violence and oppression in

A way that seeks redemption and restoration


I cannot seek the destruction of Trump

Or I will lose even if I win

I must somehow seek his restoration and redemption


Much of me rebels, even as I say that

For there is a side of me (there is always that side)

That wants retribution


But I cannot become him

I cannot devolve into name-calling






Or I lose

And the Kindom of God loses


And in a way

All that is hate and violence wins


And I cannot go down that path

With those who in their fear and pain and emptiness

Follow the way of fear and pain and emptiness

Which looks like domination and exclusion


We are in terrifying times

We could lose our country


We could lose our planet to greed

We could see the end of





So we have to stand

As the prophets of old stood

And with prophetic imagination challenged the people of Israel

(who rarely listened)

As Martin Luther King Jr

And Gandhi

And Nelson Mandela

And Desmond Tutu

And Dag Hammarskjold



And look hate in the eye

And say

This stops here


We need to become extremists for love

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

redemptive love

Ironically, most violence comes from a deep desire for justice.  No one likes weeds in their garden.  And no one likes evil in the world.  We all would like to rid the world of evil, which is probably why all the talk of good and evil so is attractive.  But the problem, says Jesus, is that if we try to pull up the weeds from the garden we will rip the wheat up too…The big question comes to be what to do with evil.

          Shane Claibourne



What do we do with evil?

It’s complicated!


What is evil?

Everyone has their own idea!


Evil are the LGBTQI+

Evil are the pro-choice people

Evil are those liberal (godless) socialists

Evil are


Evil are the authoritarians

Evil are the gun lovers

Evil are the greedy

Evil are


Evil are “they”

Those people


The fact is, there are a lot of ills in this world

A lot of people do things that harm other people

And damage the planet

And harm themselves


All up and down the spectrum

All means all


There is nothing wrong with understanding that this world is a mess

That we human creatures are not living out our full potential

As Sacred children


But there is a problem when we affirm our own purity

But labeling the rest of the world as dirty

And decide to weed the garden (Matthew 13)


The problem is when we move to redemptive violence

That is not the way God works

(even though we have insisted it is for so long)


The birth made it clear

The Beatitudes made it clear

The cross, above all, makes it clear


Redemptive violence is not the way

Dominance.  Control.  Coercion. Punishment



Not the way

Violence doesn’t save; it only destroys in both the short and long term.


For every Muslim extremist killed, another is birthed

As one peacemaker once noted:

“Drones, creating enemies faster than they can kill them” (Benjamin Corey)

Gaza is not redemptive violence

It is just violence, creating another generation of people with a reason to hate


As Claibourne and others have noted,

Violence begets violence

Hatred begets hatred


And love begets love


“Jesus replaced the myth of redemptive violence with the truth of redemptive suffering. He showed us on the cross how to hold the pain and let it transform us, rather than pass it on to the others around us.” (Richard Rohr)


When we seek to destroy all that is not pure in the world,

We end up destroying everything and evil flourishes

It is only when we seek to love our enemies

That evil will diminish


It seems illogical

And everything in our system screams against it!


Yes, but…

Yes, but…


But what if liberals instead of demonizing conservatives

Had sought to love them and listen to them?

What if those who prize fetuses sought to love the women carrying them

And listened to their fear and pain?


What if?

I know

I know


It is complicated.

I am not saying I could do what Jesus did

Accept the injustice and cruelty

Look hate in the eye and say

“God forgive them”


I am not saying I know what to do with

The racists

Those who believe violence is the answer

Authoritarians who would destroy everything for their egos


I am not saying I know what to do with those

Who lie, hate, horde, promote violence,

Those who harm


The pedophiles, the murders, the sexual predators


But I know that I am challenged to see them

The way Jesus sees them

To see that a spark of the Sacred still remains

And to enter into their fear and pain

And try


As best I can to love them

Hoping to help them into newness even as I see newness for myself


One of my favorite groups is the Dollyrots!


And they did a cover of Auld Lang Syne

In which they ask everyone to do two things every day in the coming year


First, get up every morning and do something that makes one’s self feel better

And then, second, do something for someone else that makes them feel better


Not a bad way of living



Love God

Then love self (in a healthy way)

Then love others


That is how redemption happens


Monday, January 1, 2024

New Years

Come to Me/ Goo Goo Dolls


Come to me my sweetest friend

Can you feel my heart again

I'll take you back where you belong

And this will be our favorite song

Come to me with secrets bare

I'll love you more so don't be scared

When we're old and near the end

We'll go home and start again

Start again



2023 comes whimpering to an end

It has been a year

I come to this place tired, dealing with pain

Angry, at times

Sad, at times


I also come to this place understanding in a way I never have before



Which is perhaps the same as saying we are dust

But is mostly a way to remind ourselves


That we are constantly connecting with life

With others

And with the Sacred in such a way


That we constantly let go

And hand in hand with Love

Start again

And again, and again


New Years is a pale shadow

Of a reality we are to live each moment of our lives


Letting go of what was

Dying, so to speak

And being born again

Into whatever is next


There are many “whatever is next” moments in our lives

And in those moments we feel fragmented and vulnerable

Tumbled about


But there is a next

And if we let the Sacred ‘feel our hearts’ again

Then that next can be transformation

A starting over, and over and over


It is not just change

“Change of itself just happens;

spiritual transformation is an active process of letting go,

living in the confusing dark space for a while,

and allowing yourself to be spit up on a new and unexpected shore.” (Rohr)


So on this last day of 2023 join me in looking back, but only briefly

Look back, as much as is possible with gratitude

Then let of the anger and guilt, disappointment and frustration

Let go even of the comfortable, if there was any


It is a time to celebrate endings

And yes, there are endings

And yes, perhaps every thing shall come to an end at some point

My life

Your life

This country (that seems like a real possibility)

This world


But each ending is a beginning

And faith is trust

It is trusting Love enough to let go of the past

And with eyes wide open, move into newness

whatever it might turn out to be.”


So take that Kierkegaardian leap of faith

Take the hand of the sacred

And step into what is new

Start again

And again