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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Where is Your Jerusalem?

It's Wednesday of Holy Week. According to the biblical Gospel stories, this is the week Jesus finally went to Jerusalem, the place where he knew he would be killed. During the days (at night he went to safe places outside the city) he taught in the temple, mostly about the corruption of the religious leaders in Jerusalem, and their capitulation to imperial powers. By Friday afternoon he was dead.

I know it sounds cliche (probably because it is always true) but we live in such times. Imperial powers, which include untethered corporate greed, threaten not only human dignity, but also human existence. And religions in which many of us participate prop up these forces with theological acrobatics, but mostly through apathy.

What would happen if all the people who claim to follow Jesus actually did? What would happen if people of all faiths began to live by the basic values of these faiths - love, compassion, generosity, justice, grace, hope...? What would happen if each person of faith was to identify a threatening place in their life, a "Jerusalem," and enter proclaiming and living true values of human dignity? 

Would we be killed? Maybe. But like a man on the news last night who escaped starvation in Northern Africa by crossing the Mediterranean in a small boat when asked, "Why risk your life crossing the water?" said, "What did I have to loose. I was already dead."

There is life and there is the illusion of life. In which are we living?





   

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Space and Time

Thirty-five thousand years ago a human migration began in East Asia and for thousands of years made their way across frozen oceans to what we now call Alaska, eventually spreading east and south into North, Central, and South Americas. My daughter and son-in-law recently flew from Beijing, China to Newark, NJ in less than thirteen hours.

It took only five hundred years or so for European conquests to decimate most of those ancient people. Today a "tweet" can span the globe in seconds and affect millions of lives.

We have always been One Planet, One Creation, and One Human family. Space and time are just getting smaller and faster.

One Eternal Presence still holds it all together.


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Attention!

In our neighborhood brewery recently, the room was filled with sound: conversations, laughter, and not too loud jukebox music.

The guy beside me at the bar and I talked sports until he left. On my other side was a couple engaged in their own conversation so I took a minute to sip my beer and take in the room. But I couldn't help hearing snippets, then more, of the couple next to me. I looked straight ahead pretending not to listen. They were engaged in a fairly common conversation between couples about how he/she "never listens."

He got into a long explanation of how when he first comes home from work he has so much on his mind and that was why he often didn't hear what she was saying to him. In the middle of this rather rambling rationalization he stopped mid-sentence and said, "I've always loved this song."

Of course, my own attention at the time was on the couple's conversation. I had never even heard the music, nor did I recognize it when drawn to it.  He loved it. I had never heard it. And the expression on her face screamed, "See what I mean!" 

Attention. What are we hearing, seeing, feeling? Where is our attention? Is it focused? Scattered? Bouncing all over the place?

Remember the scene from The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and her friends finally come into the presence of The Great Oz?  The "great" oz turns out to be a "little man" who is good at creating illusions. "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" He shouts.

Meditation can be described as the practice of paying attention to our attention. Taking a few minutes each day to sit quietly and let the myriad attentions of our lives settle into silence is perhaps the only way we can begin to cope with the too often chaotic cacophony of attention grabbing noise around us.

The "man behind the curtain" is all around us, but most if all he is us.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Long Time Passing?

What has been is what will be,
   and what has been done is what will be done;
   there is nothing new under the sun.  ~ Ecclesiastes 1:9

Is there really nothing new under the sun? It sure does seem like we humans keep having the same conflicts and conversations about all the same things. How many times have you thought or asked out loud, "Didn't we get all of that worked out back when?"  Yes and No.

The problem may be that we keep thinking "back when" is "now," or that we can somehow go back to "back when." Today's world is inhabited by different people, information, and  technology that have changed "the way we used to do it." Besides, those good old days many people long for never really had things as settled as we thought they were. Some people were always left behind or worse trampled down.

Perhaps the thing that doesn't really change is the human penchant toward cultural amnesia and shortsightedness.  Most of the time, we forget where we come from and have no idea where we are going, which means we don't even know where we are.

So, if what's going on in our lives and the world today seems like deja vu. It probably is. The illusion of change swirls around us, when real change only takes place in the human heart.

So we keep asking the same questions.  When will we ever learn? 






Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Here Comes the Sun!

Today at 5:58 p.m. is the vernal equinox. Below is a slightly adapted reflection from 2013.

Spring Threshold

Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?   Isaiah 43:18-19

Today is the first day of Spring in the northern hemisphere of Earth. At 5:58 p.m. today the tilt, rotation, and orbit of the Earth are such that the Sun is directly over the Equator and moving north.

The wonder and vastness of this mysterious yet predictable moment becomes evident to us as days become longer, the sun rises higher in the sky, and the dormancy of winter stirs awake in countless ways.

The early days of Spring are days of transition not only in the Earth as green shoots appear, blossoms flourish, and foliage comes alive; but also above the Earth as cold and warm air collide in turbulent ways bringing both destruction and nourishment.

Spring reminds us that transition and change in our lives just like the seasons of Earth continually ebb and flow between dormancy and new life. And like the storms of Spring, changes in life produce turbulence as former ways collide with the new.

Today, and everyday for that matter, is a threshold where the "no longer" and the "not yet" meet. To stand in the threshold too long is to endure unnecessary turbulence and even pain.  However, stepping through opens us to emerging possibilities and potential of Life.

Enjoy this from 50 years ago -   Here comes the Sun!  

Happy First Day of Spring!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Reformation? or Transformation!

Many people in religious and spiritual circles think and believe that we are living in a time of reformation similar to time in Western history we know as The Reformation or The Renaissance.

Both The Reformation and The Renaissance were times of great change that involved reshaping and reforming the religion, art, and science of the time. However, this was mostly change in form rather than substantive, transformative change. Such transformation, or dramatic change in form and substance, came later with The Enlightenment when seeds of radically new concepts of freedom, equality, and independence took root. This created a tension that we continue to live with today between the dynamics of reformation, which cling to old substance in new forms, and transformation that seeks new substance and form.

In the broad story of the Bible we see this same tension between reformation brought on by empires and kings, and transformation imagined and announced by the prophets of the Old Testament and evangelists of the New Testament. Kings and empires preserve the status quo with just enough change in form to placate most people. Prophets and evangelists inspire toward radical change that fulfills deep desire for meaning within all people.

The New Testament word for transformation is metamorphosis, the word used to describe the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly. This is the kind of radical change in form and substance called for by not only prophets and evangelist of old, but voices of today calling us into transformation not merely reformation.


Here are some biblical voices of transformation:

Do not remember the former things,
   or consider the things of old. 
I am about to do a new thing;
   now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
   and rivers in the desert.   ~ Isaiah 43


Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transformed before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. ~ Matthew 17

Do not be conformed to this world, but 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.  ~ Romans 12

Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. ~ 2 Corinthians 3

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Several readers have suggested that "Stardust to Dust..." is not just for Ash Wednesday, but also a meaningful contemplation throughout Lent or anytime.  So, I'm keeping the link here for a couple of weeks.

 "Stardust to Dust - A Deep-Time Creation Contemplative Liturgy for Ash Wednesday."

Feel free to share!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Stardust to Dust

Ten years ago I ran across a concept called a "cosmic walk" that had been conceived by a progressive, evolutionary minded nun, Sister Miriam Therese MacGillis.  I adapted her labyrinth walk into a 28 station pilgrimage through creation in deep-time. The first version of my adaptation was the culmination of a study on evolutionary faith by a group at Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. The second and subsequent versions have all been on Ash Wednesdays. We go station to station in a darkened, candle lit sanctuary in a participatory, meditative experience which ends with imposition of ashes. Through the years I have added scripture, tweaked photography, updated some of the readings, and given it the name, "Stardust to Dust."

Tonight at Trinity Clearwater Presbyterian in Clearwater, FL a group of Ash Wednesday pilgrims will again travel through time and space to experience our oneness with the universe, our interconnection with Creation, and the One Eternal Presence in our lives. From Stardust we come and to dust we return. If you are in the Tampa Bay, FL area I invite you to join us in this unique Ash Wednesday observance.

For those in other parts of the country and world, I offer for the first time a video version of "Stardust to Dust," available to One Eternal Presence readers.   Sometime today, Ash Wednesday, or anytime really, find a quiet, darkened place where you can be undisturbed for about 25-30 minutes, light a candle, follow the link, and experience "Stardust to Dust - A Deep-Time Creation Contemplative Liturgy for Ash Wednesday."

Feel free to share!

 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Universal Language

I love music.  Even though I don't identify as a musician,  I enjoy all kinds of music, even music that many don't recognize as music.

Music has been called the universal language. It has been said to bridge the bounds of culture. It can ignite anxiety or sooth the soul. Music stirs our imaginations as well as calms a racing mind. Music communicates in ways that words fall short. Even words themselves are musical.

I looked up online the elements of music and found numerous lists claiming anywhere from 5 to 12 basic elements. Music is not as simple as it sounds. So, tapping into my thoughts last week on "complex simplicity," I've come up with my own simple list.  To me, in order for music to be music, it needs three things: sound and/or silence, combined with pace.  I think all other elements are derived from these three.

This week our church is hosting the the Florida Vocal Association assessments of all the Pinellas County, Florida middle and high school choral groups. What this means is about 2500 teenagers cycling through our building, pouring from buses in the parking lot, warming up in the music room over my study, sight reading in our chapel, and performing in the sanctuary.

There is literally music everywhere in the building, all week long! It's not just in the rooms already mentioned, but on sidewalks, in hallways, and lobbies.  Anxious silence sings as a group files into the sight reading room. Nervous sounds come from the warm up space. Excitement exudes as rapid chatter fills the lobby when all is done.

Our lives are also made up of music. Everything we experience has a sense of sound, silence, and pace, generated from without and within. Our hearts beat. Lungs breath. Minds imagine. Ears hear. Eyes see. Voices speak. Music abounds.

Ancient philosophers, sensing and observing the sounds, silence, and pace of creation itself, described them as "music of the spheres."

Take time to enjoy the music of life. It may not be as dramatic and obvious as a building filled with teenage choirs, but it is always with us, waiting for us to stop and listen - even better to sing, play, or dance with it.

Music really is the universal language!
















Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Complex Simplicity

The amazing complexity of the most simple things reveals the miracle of life. As I write this blog, impulses in my brain fueled by chemicals generated in my gut go to my brain and produce thoughts that generate other impulses into the muscles of of my hand causing my fingers to push particular buttons that send signals throughout my computer resulting in characters on a screen arranged in a particular way and sent through a web of electronic beats and waves so that someone who happens to be motivated through their own impulses to see the characters, understands their arrangement and comprehends meaning. I type in my living room and you read wherever you are.

Similar complexity exists in everything we see, touch, smell, hear, taste, think, imagine, as well as the processes of seeing, touching, smelling, hearing, tasting, thinking, and imagining. Yet it all seems so straight forward that we rarely stop to contemplate the wonder of it all and simply enjoy it.

The wonder of the universe hides in plain sight around us.







 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

SOTU is SOTH

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!  ~Jesus, Matthew 6:21-23


You probably know by now what the acronym SOTU represents. Did you watch it or listen to it last night? I chose not to because on one level I can sense what the state, not only of the Union but the World, is today - FUBAR (look it up).  However, this is looking with eyes that desperately need new vision to see God-given goodness within apparent chaos, to see within FUBAR the seeds of A-OK.

When we do this we begin to see from inside, from who we really are, from our created goodness. In other words, from our hearts. So the real question for us in not "What is the SOTU?" but "What is our SOTH (State Of The Heart )?

The SOTU is in our soul.

The SOTU is actually the SOTH!

It really is this simple, but not always easy.



Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Welcome to Life!

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. ~ an ancient Buddhist teaching

This morning an imaginative meme was shared by a friend on Facebook. It mused about living on a billions year old "spaceship" Earth that hurls through space while sustaining life as we know it.  It ended with, "Welcome to life! It's more exciting when you think on a larger scale."

Then I read the comments and was taken back by the mostly unimaginative cynicism that spewed out. At first these responses made me a little angry because I know my friend is an imaginative, thoughtful person who is on a faith journey open to potential and possibilities beyond static understandings of religion and science. My anger quickly became sadness for people whose imaginations are not open to the amazement of life.

Ultimately, I know I have to accept where these people are in their lives and realize they are not ready to imagine and entertain such thoughts and understandings of life. They just don't know that even cynicism has its own wonder.

Life is exciting and amazing on all scales, or it's not. We see it, or we don't. It isn't, until it is.  But when the moment comes, the universe opens up and we become participants in the wonder rather than observers.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Creation's Nightlight

Moon:
Super,
Blood,
Full,
Fingernail,
Moonshine,
New,
Blue,
Man in,
Man on,
Dark side of,
Crying for,

What is with our fascination with the moon? Maybe it's because we can actually see it, as opposed to the sun that we can only see just as it rises or sets - hence our fascination also with sunrises and sunsets, but I digress.

As we were recently reminded with the lunar eclipse, the moon does not have light of its own. Its illumination is reflected light of the sun. And this reflection is so bright that when it is full and passes in Earth's shadow (cast by the sun) the moon still has a glow, as we witnessed with the recent "blood" moon. 

The reflected light of the moon is comfortable, pleasing, intriguing, restful, whimsical, and harmless. Have you ever heard of anyone suffering from moon-burn or needing moon-screen? Have you ever seen a moon scorched field or had the moon beat down upon you? Of course not. This is because, according to the Bible,  the moon is the "lesser" of Earth's lights. The moon is Creation's nightlight, a comforting presence reminding us the Sun, our source of light and life, is still there, just on the other side of Earth.

“Even 
After 
All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth (and the Moon),

"You owe me."

Look
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.”

~ Hafiz




Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Signs Of The Times

They asked him, ‘Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?’ And he said, ‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and, “The time is near!” Do not go after them...Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.'

There is a street in our neighborhood that has signs, similar to the one above, posted where the street dissects a small lake. I've driven past and mused at these signs many times. Well, yesterday while taking that route to the Post Office, I was annoyed by a car stopped in the middle of the road, before realizing that a big fat duck waddled across the street between these signs, within the painted lines of the crosswalk. This has me wondering how many "signs" of the times are all around us that we muse upon as quaint, take for granted, and otherwise ignore.

Prophesies, parables, and predictions like the one above by Jesus, and found in numerous sacred texts,  are in many ways actually timeless - meaning they can be True in any age and context. However, as we look around our communities, our nation, and the world today there are signs that we live in times of disruption intended to deceive that have us off balance and anxious. These signs, as well as human history, are telling us something - disruptive deception leads to destruction.

The signs of our times are not quaint musings to be ignored. Just as sure as the fig tree yields its fruit and fat ducks cross the road, the chaos being sown in our world today may very well be a sign that the One Eternal Presence of Truth cannot be deceived by disruption. However, when signs are ignored, there are consequences.

To use another metaphor, perhaps we have used the "snooze" on the alarm enough and it's time to wake up.


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

"Before I built a wall..."

It seems appropriate today to share the iconic Robert Frost poem that gets at the truth of current craziness. Unfortunately the most often quoted line is the last one instead of the first one, missing the whole point of the poem by not reading the entire poem. Poetry and scripture are often treated similarly in that we think we know it from often quoted parts without taking in the whole story.

Mending Wall
BY ROBERT FROST

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

A Pic and A Prayer for A New Year

On this second day of a new year I offer you a photo and a prayer. The grainy photo is from this morning's pre-dawn sky, capturing Venus, the Moon, and Jupiter among clouds and palm fronds. (Mercury is somewhere behind the clouds below Jupiter )



Prayer for a New Year

God of time and space, 
known by many names 
sought through many traditions, 
as a new year begins we are reminded  
of the Eternal Presence. 
Beyond this moment and this place 
Spirit bonds all creation 
in a tapestry of interdependence, 
transcending vested interests and personal privilege.

Standing on the threshold of a new year 
may we forgive the discord, mistrust
and disappointment of our past, 
as we are forgiven, 
may we receive a grace-filled future 
of promise and potential that awaits 
nothing more or less than 
our open minds, our loving hearts, and our open arms
stretched out to one another and thus to God.