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Wednesday, March 14, 2018


" Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one"
~ Jesus

"Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean." ~ Don Miguel Ruiz

The word and concept of "integrity" comes from the latin word "integer" which means "intact." Integrity is the same regardless of perspective. Without placing any moral or ethical value on integrity it simply means "what you see is what you get."

Common understandings of integrity include moral and ethical values like honesty, dependability, trustworthiness, etc. However, someone could theoretically have integrity in dishonesty and shiftlessness as well. If a scoundrel is truly a scoundrel, they have integrity.

The problem with labeling someone else's integrity is that we never know another person's inner life and intent. However, one way to assume intent is by consistency. If a person is consistent in their words and actions this gives us a glimpse at their integrity.  As Jesus said, we will know them "by their fruit."

The only integrity we can ever truly know and affect is our own. Are my words and actions true to who I really am? Do I act from my true identity and core values?  What is the fruit of my life?

Do I have integrity?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Slippery Slope

There really is a slippery slope. It's not just something our parents, teachers, coaches, and other made up to keep us from doing stupid things.

You can't undo the past or return to it. Once a decision is made and action taken on that decision the consequences create new reality that leads to more decisions that are usually based on previous ones and the next thing you know you're sliding along wondering, "How did I get here?"

Notice in the previous paragraph there is no value on the decision made, even though my guess is that most of us automatically associate the slippery slope with bad decisions.  What if you make "good" decisions grounded in positive values? If so, the "here" of "How did I get here?" is a much more rewarding slide.

Maybe life itself is the slippery slope. Where we land ultimately depends on the choices we make.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


coward : one who shows disgraceful fear or timidity ~ Merriam-Webster online dictionary

Are we all Scot Peterson?

Two weeks ago a School Resource Officer for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida arrived at the school with gunfire taking place. Armed with a hand gun he took up a position outside the building because he thought the gunfire was somewhere outside the building. As we all now know, it wasn't.  The shooter was inside the school.

Deputy Peterson was suspended, subsequently resigned, and is now being called a coward by the news media, most state and national legislators, the NRA, and the President of the United States. Thank God we finally have a scapegoat. The problem with scapegoating is that we are always looking for and placing blame on someone else for our own fear.

Unexamined fear is at the core of cowardice. Fear does many things to us and leads us into dark places, whether physical, psychological, or verbal. Fear causes us to lash out at others. Fear paralyzes and keeps us from doing what we know is right. Fear is used as a call to arms as well as resignation and surrender. Ultimately fear, left unexamined, will lead to violence.

Perhaps our problem in the current turmoil over gun violence is similar to Deputy Peterson's. Are we taking up positions on the outside, looking for anybody and anything to blame instead of looking inside ourselves and examining our own fear and taking action?

Think about it! In one way or another, are we not all Scot Peterson?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Post Parkland

One week ago today seventeen people, most of them teenagers, opened their eyes upon their final day. They went about their morning routines that led them into what promised to be a normal day of learning and teaching. Little did they know the premeditated violence and carnage awaiting them in the form of an assault weapon in the hands of a disturbed, angry white man.

Last night, with some of the students and teachers who lived through the horror in the gallery and others in route, their state legislature refused to even discuss a law to place restrictions on assault weapons, claiming procedural reasons. According to news sources they went on to approve a resolution declaring pornography a public health risk.

This tragic scenario of carnage-rage-inaction bathed in "thoughts and prayers"  has become a mantra, a script of fear, anger, violence, and delusion which we all chant and play our parts.

Last Sunday in my sermon I addressed this bloody quagmire in which we live from a biblical perspective. I invite you to listen.

If you don't take time to hear the sermon, the final charge to the congregation included the following quote from Walter Brueggemann.

The crisis in the U.S. Church has almost nothing to do with being liberal or conservative; it has everything to do with giving up on the faith and discipline of our Christian baptism and settling for a common, generic U.S. identity that is part patriotism, part consumerism, part violence, and part affluence. ~ Walter Brueggemann

However, this is not only true for Christians but for all people of faith from all religions, or no religion, to reclaim our true identities and human dignity.

We are not here to kill each other!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wonder-Filled Wednesday

"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."  ~ Presbyterian Book of Common Worship, Genesis 3:19

"We are stardust, we are golden. We are billion year old carbon. And we got to get ourselves back to the garden."  ~ Joni Mitchell

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Christian season of Lent. Traditionally it is a day of penitence, prayer, fasting, and reflection on human sinfulness and mortality. Countless people will attend liturgies that express these things and then end by having ashes in the shape of a cross smudged on their foreheads.

Several years ago I began observing Ash Wednesday in a different way that has subsequently changed my experience of it's meaning. In short I have moved from Ash Wednesday to what I might call Wonderful Wednesday. The basic, yet dramatic, shift is from a focus on sin and mortality to an appreciation of goodness and immortality. The experience, called Stardust to Dust, is a self-paced pilgrimage of stations that tell the deep time story of creation in readings, photographs, and music in a darkened candlelit room.

Tonight at Trinity Clearwater Presbyterian church, the Stardust to Dust experience is again available for those in our area from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. I invite you to come experience what is a   truly unique, non-traditional way to observe Ash (Wonder-filled) Wednesday.

For those who can't attend I'm providing a couple of links below that include the program and readings at each station.

Have a Wonder-filled (Ash) Wednesday! 

Stardust to Dust Program

Stardust to Dust Stations

Wednesday, January 31, 2018


What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. God has made everything suitable for its time... I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live...  ~ Ecclesiastes 3

What is the purpose of humanity? Humanity's purpose is to love [Life] and enjoy [Life] forever. 
~ Westminster Catechism, paraphrased

There is a young woman I can't seem to get out of my thoughts from a couple of days ago as I checked out at a local grocery store. The two young women at the counter, one checking and one bagging, were in conversation and hardly noticed that I was there. Normally, as a customer this would irritate me. Instead I was drawn into their conversation which continued as they both did their jobs rather mindlessly, and still seemingly unaware of my presence.

"What are you going to do?" The one bagging asked the other.

"I don't know what to do. I just don't have a purpose in life," came the reply in a hopeless tone.

By then I was checked out and could have easily picked up my bag and walked away.  I probably should have resisted what some would call, and they may have perceived as "mansplaining," but I didn't.

"Excuse me for interrupting. I couldn't help hearing." I said.  "Perhaps your purpose is to enjoy life."

"But how can I enjoy my life if it is the same thing over and over. I feel like I'm living in a rerun, the same thing every day, with no way to change it."  She shared with a complete stranger.

"The only thing I really know is you are the only one who can change."

She looked at me as if I were from Mars yet with longing, as another customer came up behind me.

"Things will be better," was all I could manage.

There is a lot I wanted to say, but then I really would have been inappropriate, because I don't know that young woman's experience of life at all.

What I do know is that each and every one of us has purpose. Unfortunately most of us think of purpose as "things" we do when our real purpose is perhaps the manner in which we do the things of our lives. In this sense, purpose is not a job, a profession, or a duty that we have, but rather a deep sense of belonging to and participating in the whole of creation, even when our participation (or as The Preacher of Ecclesiastes calls it our "toil") seems small and trivial.

We also stumble on the word "enjoy." How do we enjoy the mundane and harsh in our lives? The Hebrew word used in Ecclesiastes is "ra'ah" which means: to see, to perceive, to have vision, to give attention to.  "Enjoying" life means paying attention to Life each and every moment and engaging the wonder of it all, even and perhaps especially, in the most simple things.

What grander purpose could there be?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. ~ Vince Lombardi

Everything is practice. ~ unknown

I got a guitar for Christmas. Yes, these aging, sometimes arthritic hands are learning to play a guitar. This means taking a few minutes most days to train my hands and fingers into contortions which are heretofore foreign to them. It means sore fingers as callouses develop. And it means going over and over these things with hopes my awkward efforts will one day be music. It means practice, practice, practice. The wisdom of legendary football coach Vince Lombardi quoted above has new meaning to me as I struggle for good fingering that produces clear chords. Practice is integral to learning something new.

Another understanding of practice is that which describes a person's work, as in a professional and vocational practice. In this sense practice is what one does, like a doctor, lawyer, teacher, mechanic, etc. 

There is still another sense of practice that somehow combines the two previous ones. It is true that what we practice, or do over and over, becomes engrained in mind and body as "body memory" or habit. What we think and what we do is who we are. In this sense, everything is practice. This can be a sobering prospect if our "practices" are not necessarily leading toward the overall good of our lives and the world around us.

Remember the old joke about the visitor to New York City who asked a fellow pedestrian, "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" And the reply was, "Practice, practice, practice!"

How do we get to a more loving, peaceful, caring, compassionate, perfect life and world? You got it - by living this way.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Is All Well?

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” ~ Julian of Norwich

As we look around the world today through various media sources it is difficult to say "all is well." Instead "all manner of thing(s)" seem to be unravelling at an alarming pace.  We barely have time to process the crisis of the day, or moment, before another comes along. Human futility and folly seem to be controlling events in ways that keep us unbalanced and out of sync. An underlying sense of fear and doom permeates much of the world, and rightly so, for lack of food, safety, and security. Even so-called prosperous people are constantly driven by fear and insecurity of loosing our prosperity.  

Mystics of the ages like Julian of Norwich could see through the facades of human futility and folly of their day to see the goodness of creation. Her vision wasn't a denial of injustice and evil but rather that God, or Love, is the ultimate cause and purpose of our existence.

Knowing that we are loved, we are love, and are created to love is our hope. Experiencing and sharing such love is our calling. Taking time to contemplate and process our innermost longings and fears within the context of Love is our path, a path that leads to "all is well." 

There appears to be no other way.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


There is no actual present. It’s just the way reality is. It takes that long for our brains to process the instant. We’re always remembering events, and we’re always projecting some sort of future, and I think that’s that’s how we get meaning in our lives. ~  Christian Wiman

If poet Christian Wiman's statement above is true, which I suspect it is on a deep theoretical level, then where is the present moment that we are encouraged to live in and savor? Much of what I hear, read, and have written myself in the recent past suggests that most of us spend too much time in the mind of remembering and projecting. Could it be that the present we seek is actually that place of eternal transition where memory becomes projection? 

Instead of past, present, and future being divisions of linear time and space, perhaps they are actually part of a continuum much like any given point in a circle. In this way there is no past or future but only an eternal present. 

Maybe what we need is a new word that puts it all together like: "pastpresentfuture."  Better still take a bit of each, and shorten it to: "pasenture." Or maybe we already have the word: "now?"

Whatever we call it, the place in time and space when and where memory becomes projection truly does define our life, or as Mr Wiman says, gives us meaning. If so, then it would seem to me that who we are and will become is greatly determined by how we process our memory. However this is not just the memories of the mind, but also the deep memories of body and spirit that take us back into the earth and even beyond into a cosmic cloud of stardust.

"Pasenture" is a place of becoming who we are and always have been - wonderfully arranged bits of stardust with the amazing ability to be aware of it all.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Is it cold enough for you?

As I look at a weather map of North America on my computer this morning, I see most of the continent experiencing sub freezing temperatures. Televisions, front pages of newspapers, radios, the internet, office chatter, and check out line small talk are all abuzz about how cold we are.

Weather seems to be the only topic that most of us have in common anymore. This can be both good and bad. It's good because at least we do have a conversation starter. It's bad because too often it ends up being the only conversation.

Oscar Wilde once said, "Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative." In many ways this is true. I wonder how many times in my life I have missed opportunity of meaningful interaction and conversation with other people because I defaulted to the weather. On a larger scale, what important conversations in families and communities are not happening at the expense of small talk about weather (and I add sports, but that's another blog)?

However, on a day like today, or when tornados or hurricanes occur, the weather is important conversation because it means life or death for some people. Come to think of it, on a much larger scale, as we experience human induced climate change on our planet, maybe we should begin to take Mr. Wilde at heart by moving beyond "talking about" the weather and into more imaginative conversation about our primary human role as caretakers of one another and the only home we have.

In the meantime, stay warm today. And if you have opportunity, offer someone else warmth, whether literally or with meaningful conversation.