Search This Blog

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Practice (encore)

originally posted on October 23, 2013

"…be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Paul's Letter to the Romans, 12:2


"…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness…" 
Paul's Letter to the Galatians, 5:2

Surely just about everyone has heard the old joke attributed by many to Jack Benny:  The hurried visitor to New York City asks a person on the street:  "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" To which the person replies, "Practice, practice, practice."

We become who we are through practice and who we are right now is the outcome of previous practice. Take for example two common things among most humans, speaking and walking.  Both actions are developed through repetition, trial, and error over course of time in the first years of our lives.  Both then become part of who we are to the point of being perceived as natural.  There are so many other things we have practiced as well such as attitudes, emotions, intellect, and myriad skills and talents.

Much of my personal experience and understanding of "practice" comes from participation in athletics and theater.  In both cases practice and rehearsal are the precursor to performance.   Can we imagine a basketball player playing a game without repetitive drills, shooting, and running; or a baseball player hitting a 95 mile and hour fastball without hours in a batting cage? Or how about actors just spontaneously creating a fully polished play or musical.  Even improvisation requires practicing the art of improvising.  All great performing artists and athletes spend countless hours practicing and rehearsing.

The same is true in our emotional, social, and spiritual lives.  We can be just as intentional in developing what our religions and faith traditions call "spiritual practices" as athletes and artists are in developing skills and talents.   Gifts, or fruit, of the Spirit such as love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control do not come to us fully developed, or ripe. Just as delicious fruit needs water, sun, nutrients from soil, and time to ripen on a tree, our lives need nurturing and developing through practice.  

The Good News is that wherever we are, whoever we are, or whatever our circumstances we can literally transform our minds and our lives through practice.   Of course the first step is to take intentional, regular time off stage and away from the arena to read, listen, look, meditate, and contemplate who we want to be. 


The alternative is to constantly remain on autopilot and haphazardly make our way like an actor without rehearsal or an athlete without practice and training.


So, when do rehearsals begin?

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

All The Difference (encore)

Originally posted on July 10, 2013


When you come to the fork in the road, take it.
-Yogi Berra

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both         
And be one traveler…                              
…Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—             
I took the one less traveled by,            
And that has made all the difference.
- Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken"


Even though the directions from Yogi Berra make you scratch your head and "say wha'?" there is a context in which they make perfect sense.  I've been told (without verification) that Yogi himself was giving directions to a house with a long driveway that became circular before reaching the house.  In which case, taking either prong of the fork led to the same place.

Perhaps there is a meta-metaphor for life here - regardless of the choices we make in life we all end up at the same threshold. What lies beyond this threshold we call "death" is and always has been a mystery.  Every human being has this destination in common.  However the vast variety of paths along this journey offers as many "forks" to take as there are individuals on the pilgrimage we called "life."

It seems to me if we're all going to end up in the same place, then "all the difference" of which Robert Frost writes is the stuff of our lives created by the choices we make and the roads we take.  Another way to look at it is that wherever we are today is the results of yesterday's choices, while tomorrow will grow out of today's decisions.  The decisions and choices we make really do make all the difference.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Theodicy (encore)

originally posted on July 23, 2014

Sometimes I am asked if I really do believe in One Eternal Presence of God that encompasses all of Creation, then how do I understand and experience the fear, hatred, and violence in our world?  I must confess that in recent days I've asked myself the same question.

Very little seems to make sense when innocent people are shot out of the sky, communities and families bombarded and destroyed, children seek safety only to be met by  military troops, and a man is murdered on a city sidewalk by those who are supposed to protect.

The truth is there are no logical, reasonable answers to the age old questions of theodicy, or the problem of why a good God would allow evil.  Every religious tradition seems to have its particular perspective and teachings some of which include elaborate mythologies of cosmic, spiritual battles between good and evil forces, with the good always winning out in the end. But these mythologies and theologies seem to always fall just short of a truly satisfying resolution.

Another truth is that regardless of our ideological or theological explanations of evil; fearful, hateful, and violent acts still persist, and as a result we experience suffering.  Humanity has a knack for causing ourselves and the natural world pain.  It is true that when we harm another we equally, if not more so, harm ourselves.

When I get caught in this paradox of good and evil I am reminded of how the teachings of the world's religions continually call us back to a simplicity of living in love that Jesus says is "Loving God with our whole lives, and loving each other as we love ourselves."  To me this means recognizing that God "Is" eternally present throughout all of Creation, in every person I meet, every flower I see, every molecule of water I drink, and every breath of air I take.

Does this make pain and suffering go away?  Of course not, but it does allow an ember of hope to glow within the most seemly hopeless situations.  It reminds me that the worst things in life often contain the seed of the next good thing.  It also reminds me that when we fail to recognize the God in each and every fellow human being and the entire created order we open the door to fear, hate and violence.

So, perhaps in the end the ultimate question of theodicy is not really a God problem but a people problem.  And the answers lie within our own actions. 
Love God (God is everywhere).
Love neighbor (Everyone is our neighbor).
Do unto others as I would have them do unto me (We are all in this together).

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Summer Reruns

I’m taking a summer break today and the month of August. While away I’m sharing some Summer Reruns of past blogs. I hope you’re having a great summer! Here’s one from Summer 2013.   Enjoy!

http://oneeternalpresence.blogspot.com/2013/07/slip.html?m=0

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Credo Novum

Today's offering is a reimagining of the ancient Christian creed known as the Apostle's Creed that I wrote several years ago but had forgotten until a couple of months ago. It was hiding in plain sight on the One Eternal Presence home page. 

Credo Novum (New Creed)

I trust
One Eternal Presence,
God of Scripture,
the I am and I will be,
Creative force of the universe, the Source of life.

I trust
Jesus Christ,
As a complete human expression of
One Eternal Presence

I trust
the life of Jesus
begun in sacred mystery;
born of common, innocent, human origin,
lived in open yet humble exhibition
of companionship of empowerment
in the One Eternal Presence
among us, around us, and within us.

I trust
the death of Jesus
persecuted by imperial powers;
publicly executed and buried,
experiencing ultimate despair and hopelessness;
yet exposing the false power of death.

I trust
the resurrection of Christ,
revealing life and death as one in the same,
transcending time and space
with the One Eternal Presence.

I trust
the Living Spirit
of One Eternal Presence
revealed in
the unity of the universe;
the sacred connection of humanity;
the reconciliation of falseness;
the regenerative energy of creation;
and life unending.

I received an email yesterday notifying me that Credo Novum has been accepted as a resource by
ProgressiveChristianity.org  Check it out - they added a beautiful graphic.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Fear and Wonder

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. ~Psalm 139~

The biblical psalmist says that humans are "fearfully and wonderfully made." It's a phrase that seems to adequately capture the paradoxes of humanity we see in the world today, as well as human history.

  • We live in a world of wealth and plenty while poverty and scarcity abound. 
  • We see imagination, skill, tenacity, and bravery rescue a soccer team and their coach from a flooded cave, while lack of imagination, cruelty, prejudice, greed, and cowardice keep hundreds of children imprisoned because they and their parents seek freedom. 
  • No telling how much money and resources went into fireworks displays around our country last week while much of Peurto Rico remains without power from a storm nearly a year ago. 
  • We buy meals at drive through windows, some of which equal an hour's wage of the person serving the food. 
  • We can send rovers to Mars, but can't seem to figure out adequate housing and health care for all people. 

The list goes on.

We have the capacity to marvel and terrify, create and destroy, love and hate. Most importantly we have the capacity to choose between fear and wonder.


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Celebration and Lamentation

...From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.  ~Jesus~

I have started and discarded several drafts of today's blog because I find myself conflicted and perplexed on the mother of all national holidays.

On the one hand I celebrate the freedom we enjoy as citizens of the United States of America and offer to others in the world. And, on the other hand, I lament the increasing escalation of the loss of freedom in our country, and our isolation from others in the world.

I find myself less proud, and more privileged to be an American. Pride is easy and carries very little responsibility while privilege is difficult and heavy ladened with responsibility. 

Have a happy and grateful Independence Day. 





Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A Parable For Our Time

Two days ago while on my early morning walk I came upon an amazing event. As I approached a street intersection I saw and heard on the perpendicular street ahead a group of small birds flying in a straight path as if on a mission. Right behind them were two large crows. At first I thought the crows were chasing the birds, but then realized the smaller birds appeared to be leading them somewhere.

When I turned the corner, I heard what sounded like hundreds of birds chirping frantically, some were perched on utility lines, most were unseen in the trees. The crows then led my eyes to the source of all of this commotion. They were diving at an enormous hawk that was sitting stoically atop a utility pole. A predator was in the neighborhood.

At least four crows that took turns, two at a time, diving down at the hawk. Occasionally one flew away as another took its place. The chorus of alarm from the other birds continued. Some even joined in the diving process. The hawk appeared annoyed but not threatened.

After watching for a few minutes, I walked on, but about fifty yards down the sidewalk I turned back to watch again. The hawk was gone and nowhere to be seen. One crow circled the area. The cacophony of fear subsided into the beauty of normal morning birdsong. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Pause


Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life... can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? ...do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. ~Jesus~

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling kind of trapped in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" Catch 22 of wanting to be informed and relevant, but also needing to disconnect from the day to day information frenzy that is consuming us. To turn away from the worries of the world seems irresponsible, but staying engaged is exhausting.

So right now I'm going to step away from this keyboard and screen and take a walk. I suggest you do the the same. Whenever and wherever you are reading this, in whatever manner you can, pause for a few minutes. Step away from the screen. Go outside if you can. Look up at the sky. Take a deep breath. Tend to your soul.

Do it now!

It will all be here when you get back.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Newsworthy?


"Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe." ~ Jesus

In order to be "newsworthy" in today's world something or somebody has to be spectacular or outrageous. Then as soon as the lights fade and glitter settles we anxiously await the next spectacle or outrage. As we become more and more accustomed to this vicious cycle the outrageous becomes common and the common becomes boring. All the while, things that really matter, go unnoticed and unattended.

The same can be said about much of religion. Many people approach religion and spirituality seeking the supernatural or un-worldly. We go to churches, temples and mosques wanting miracles.  And why not? Our scriptures are filled with such stories. Unfortunately, these stories often times leave us feeling lacking and unfulfilled because we are not seeing burning bushes, walking through parting seas, and jumping up from deathbeds.

Jesus experiences this as the crowds that come to him are there mostly because of his "signs and wonders."  At one point he even says in exasperation "Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe." All the while, he is teaching and caring for people in need, loving others as he is loved, and teaching people to know the Presence of God.

The Good News, the Gospel, of Jesus is at it's core a way of life that knows the Presence of God in everybody and everything, and especially the unnoticed and unattended people around us - the non-newsworthy.



 



Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Push? or Pull?


Last week we took a few days of rest and recreation in Key West, FL the classically funky town where one motto is "Key West - where weird goes pro," and every other car or bike displays a sticker proclaiming "One Human Family." It is truly a unique place in various ways.

The inn where we stayed was typical Key West - an arrangement of two story frame structures that were probably all single homes once, but were now sub-divided into rooms and connected by decks, walkways, and common lounging areas. It was located on a short, narrow cross-street in the old town area with a European village feel. Upon arrival we pulled on the street entrance gate to no avail. It had an electronic lock that our room key would eventually open "after 10 pm" - the sign said. But it was mid-day so we called the number on the sign.

While waiting on the phone (and pulling on the gate a few more times) a woman's voice shouted out from behind us, "It's open!" On the other side of the street was an open second story window with two arms on the sill and no face visible. "It's open. Push it open! Push hard!" Then the two arms closed the window. 

How many times in our lives do we pull when we need to be pushing, or push when we should be pulling? How many times do we assume a door of opportunity is locked when in fact it simply needs to be opened in a specific way?  Maybe the key is a kind word or a smile, or encouragement instead of reprimand. Perhaps anger, expressed healthily, is the ticket. Sometimes we do hear a voice of a friend, or our own inner voice. But do we listen?  Or we can keep pushing or pulling to no avail except to increase our frustration.   

Sure enough, we pushed the gate. It opened. We looked at each other, laughed and said, "We must be in Key West."

Weird? You bet! One member of the human family helping out others? Absolutely!


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Lies,Truth, and Facts



"The story I tell may not be factual, but it is True."  ~ indigenous wisdom

Lies have become the norm in today's world. To many people, especially those in power, facts are inconvenient obstacles that get in the way of vested interests and personal gain. When they do get in the way, facts are either manipulated or ignored. Sometimes new "facts" are created to replace what is real in hopes of creating a alternate, reality.  In this way lies become facts, facts become lies, and illusion becomes reality. Lies are temporal illusions.

Truth, on the other hand, is an outlier in today's world. Truth also threatens the powerful because it cannot be manipulated or ignored. Truth also relates to facts, but rather embraces them with curiosity and imagination to express what is actual and eternal. Truth accepts facts yet explores, often times in non-factual ways, what lies within them.  Truth is eternal reality.

Facts are just facts. One either picks up a stone or doesn't. The "why, what, where, when, and how" of picking up the stone determines the Truth or Lie of the action. The stone, once in hand, can be thrown at another person, admired for its beauty, used to build a barrier or made into a shelter. Regardless of how the stone is used, the fact is - it's still a stone in hand.

So, what is the difference between Lies and Truth? Put simply - Fear and vested interests are at the core of Lies.  Love and common interests are at the core of Truth.

And, I ain't lyin'!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

From Pentecost to Trinity and Back

In the Christian tradition it is midweek between Pentecost and Trinity Sundays, which to many people is either hocus-pocus of magical thinking or ho hum of religion as usual. Perhaps it is both, a movement from one to the other.

In the liturgical calendar it takes only a week to move from freedom and possibility to confinement and certitude, from spiritual potential to doctrinal dogma, from Holy Spirit to Holy Trinity, from who we can be to what we should believe. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - nailed down once and for all.

The actual journey from Spirit to Trinity, took about three hundred years. The Empire first feared and persecuted, then tolerated and tamed, and finally domesticated, dominated and captured the Wind, Fire, and Tongues in cages of imperial religion.

But the Spirit won't give up. It finds the loop holes in doctrine, dogma, and institution. The Spirit seeks out places of possibility and potential to create and re-create in our time, our place, our imagination.

Some say the Wind of Freedom is blowing again. The Fire of Freedom is burning once more. Tongues of Truth are again shouting in streets.

Perhaps what was once nailed down is being resurrected.



   


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A Night At The Opera?

It is time for us all
To decide who we are
Do we fight for the right
To a night at the opera now?
Have you asked of yourselves
What's the price you might pay?
Is this simply a game
For a rich young boy to play?
The colours of the world
Are changing day by day
~ Les Miserables, (the musical), Claude-Michael Schonberg   

We are living in times when long held social norms, religious beliefs, political ideology, and spiritual values are being challenged, tested, ignored, and negotiated.  Human history show us that every few hundred years established cultures must adapt to the very advances in knowledge, technology, and institutions that they themselves bring about. In short, our strengths become our weaknesses, and we become our own worst enemies. 

Such times have always inspired people of vision and imagination to ask the questions, "Who are we? And, how do we be human in our time and place?" Of course these questions lead to other questions. The responses become the foundation for a period of adaptation that leads to new knowledge, technology, and institutions.

Such times are also usually filled with tension, fear, and violence as many people fight against any kind of change and desperately hold on to the familiar, not realizing that this dynamic is inevitable and adaptation leads to survival.  As Jesus once said, "New wine does not fit into old wineskins." 

Another thing history shows us is that how we respond to the questions of transformative times (Who are we? How do we want to live?) determines who we become. 

    


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Coming Apart At The Seams

Sometimes, like right now, I feel like a scratched record or a defective replay key that keeps playing the same tune over and over. Maybe it's because I am stuck right now. Maybe it's because everyday another stitch pops in a seam of my perceived reality. The world as I, and perhaps you, know it seems to be coming apart at its seams. 

So today, my inner record needle hits a scratch and jumps back. My replay key is shorted out, prompting me to search my own thoughts and words to rekindle some hope. 

What I find are, not one, but two previous blogs titled "Going to Seed." (links below) So you see, it's not the first, or last, time this old song gets repeated. I have a tendency to do that - repeat myself. 

To use another metaphor for the same dynamic, remnants from torn or burst seams can become beautiful, functional quilts and imaginative fabric mosaics.


Going To Seed #1

Going To Seed #2


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Skin In The Game

"... the human body is the preeminent arena for God’s revelation in the world, the medium through which God’s Holy Spirit is most clearly expressed." Luke Timothy Johnson, "The Revelatory Body: Theology as Inductive Art" 

"I believe there is no path to God. A path to God implies that God resides somewhere and that getting there takes time as you move from where you are to where God is...For me, the key isn’t to walk a path toward God but to 'be still and know' that God is already here: in you, with you, and as you."Rabbi Rami Shapiro

"Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it." ~ Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 12:27

There is an old chestnut of a prayer that goes like this:

Prayer - "God, why don't I ever win the lottery?"

God - "Help me out a little and buy a ticket!"

The Christian doctrine of Incarnation has been traditionally confined to Jesus as The Christ (Messiah). However a close (and sometimes obvious) reading of the wider biblical text presents a much more universal understanding of Divine Presence throughout all of creation and especially in humanity. The God of the Bible continuously described by a string of prepositions indicating incarnation - with, in, around, above, below, through, beside..." In short - everywhere!

The great challenge of current religious endeavors is not to believe in disembodied doctrine, but rather to live embodied values that recognize and respect true Incarnation.

One way the community of faith where I serve is being incarnate is through something we call "Sermons of Service."  When a month has five Sundays (four times a year) we forgo our regular Sunday morning worship, have a brief worship of 10-15 minutes, then engage in prearranged service projects like assembling hygiene kits for homeless ministries, picking up trash in neighborhoods, cleaning apartments for transitional housing organizations, and providing meals for shelters.

The unofficial motto of our "Sermons of Service" is the quote often attributed to St. Francis, "Proclaim the Gospel, and if necessary use words."

This is not bad advice, considering we actually are the embodied Gospel! 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Whole Lot of Nothing?

Anything is possible.
anything is everything,
everything is nothing,
nothing is something,
something is anything,
anything is nothing.
Is everything nothing or
nothing everything?

Where you are matters.
my here is your there,
both are somewhere,
somewhere is anywhere,
anywhere is everywhere,
everywhere is nowhere,
nowhere is somewhere,
here, there, everywhere, nowhere.

When?
Now or then?
then is now,
now is when,
when is then,
now,
not yet,
already.

Anything is possible.
nothing becomes something,
anywhere or everywhere anytime,
depending on who you are,
you are me,
I am you,
you and me are we,
We are possible!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Attention

People mostly did not know enough when they were living life that they were living it. ~ Olive Ketteridge

It's life's illusions I recall. I really don't know life at all.  ~Joni Mitchell

Wonder what I missed yesterday,
or last year, or way back when,
or even five minutes ago.
Were birds singing and I didn't hear them?
Did you say something?
Sorry, I wasn't listening.
Wish I had paid more attention.
It was right in front of me.
Never saw it coming.
If it had been a snake...
Wish I had that to do over again.
If I had only known.
Lost sunrises and sunsets.
Missed moments.
A smile changed my life.
"Please"
"Thank you."
"I love you."
A touch.
A smell.
It's always happening
-Life -
gone before we know it.
Better pay more attention.
"What was that again?"





Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Made-up Day

This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!  ~Psalm 118:24

Yesterday, as numerous Facebook posts would have me believe, was Siblings Day. Many of those well wishes to and memories of siblings described the day as a "made up day." This made me think, aren't they all - "made up?" Mother's and Father's days were created by greeting card companies. Even the big ones like Christmas and Easter co-opted existing "days" and evolved through cultural and religious influences. 

Perhaps the most "made-up" day of our time was created by a television show. Does anybody remember (or celebrate) "Festivus for the rest of us!?"    

There are anniversaries, including birthdays,  that celebrate dates of actual events, but even these have a sense of made-up-ness because we as individuals and communities decide which days are to be remembered and which are not.

The truth is a day is just a day until we give it meaning through the attention we give it or the memory we have of it. Each day is (to use a few cliches) a blank canvas, an empty page, a path yet made. As the psalmist above says, each day is a gift to become what we give it, what we put into it, how we react to its events. 

"The sun comes up and the sun goes down." Whether a day is fully lived, remembered, commemorated, or celebrated is up to us.

So, go out and make up a day! 



Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Dreams and Fears

...your old men shall dream dreams,  and your young men shall see visions... ~ Joel 2:28

...Do not be afraid... ~Luke 2:10

Fifty years ago today a black man with a dream of human equality and dignity was murdered by an angry white man who feared human equality and dignity as a threat to the prevalent lie of white supremacy. The black man's dream as well as the white man's fear continue to comfort and haunt the  American psyche.

Somewhere in this struggle is the ultimate hope that the dream is our true destiny and the fear a distorted illusion.


 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Right To...

The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.  ~9th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

There are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. ~ John 20:25

A man hears what he want to hear and disregards the rest. ~ Paul Simon

Amidst the cacophony surrounding certain "rights" given in our constitution's Bill of Rights, I decided to pick up my pocket copy of the constitution and actually read it. My first reminder was that we tend to "cherry pick" those parts that serve our vested interests and emphasize those over others. Our selectivity even goes so far as to focus on short phrases without keeping them in the complete sentences and thoughts of which they a part.

Our selectivity is nothing new or unique. We approach our holy texts in the same way. We also choose literature, music, art, recreation, religion, and so many other things in our lives according to our needs and desires, often reframing them as "rights" or "truth."

The 9th amendment in the Bill of Rights comes at the end to remind, or warn, us that the previously stated rights are not exhaustive.  The final verse in the Gospel of John does the same. What we know from scripture about Jesus, his life, and teachings is not exhaustive.

The beauty and truth of much law, art, and religion is that within their particular perspectives and prescriptions lies an expansiveness that extends beyond individual needs and desires. They reveal rights, beliefs, and values held by all people that embrace the fullness of human dignity. In order to know this we must be open to this expansiveness and not "hear what we want to hear and disregard the rest."

Perhaps a simple way to say all of this is that even though individuals have needs and desires, true "rights" extend to all people.

I may need or desire to say something harmful, own an assault weapon, and make exclusive religious claims, while disregarding others' needs and desires, but is it really my right to do so?

Maybe the only true "God given right" we have is the last breath we took in. 


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Wrinkle In (Our) Time

We shall not cease from exploration, 
and the end of all our exploring 
will be to arrive where we started 
and know the place for the first time.  ~ T. S. Eliot

Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man, That he didn't, didn't already have... ~ Dewey Bunnell (America)

All time travel whether real or imagined is about discovering where you already are.  Our church book group just finished reading and discussing the classic tale of time travel, A Wrinkle In Time.
Even though the book was written more for adolescent readers its themes are universal:  overcoming fear and darkness with love and light, succumbing to and resisting the temptation of comfortable conformity, and discovering one's true identity and self-worth.

Because the story is universal, it is also relevant today as individuals, nations, and humanity struggle with who we are and how we are to live. Dark forces have come into prominence through "populist" movements obsessed with security and conformity. Leaders motivated by greed for wealth and power and led by amoral values exploit the insecurity and fear of the masses through propagandized media that also amass wealth and power.

Predictably enough, just as the resistance of Meg in A Wrinkle in Time overcomes the darkness (IT),  the youth of our country and the world are taking to the streets against the darkness of our day! Unfortunately, many of my generation have forgotten the passion, hope, truth, justice, and love that took us into the streets of our youth. Too many, like Charles Wallace, have been hypnotized by the IT of our time.

Perhaps the call of today's youth to the "adults" of the world is again a "wrinkle in time" to what really matters in this life - love!

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
   the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
   and a little child shall lead them.      ~ Isaiah 11:6

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Integrity

" 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

Cowards?

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

Purpose

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

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

"Pasenture"

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.