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Wednesday, June 29, 2016


Gratitude is not a passive response to something we have been given, gratitude arises from paying attention, from being awake in the presence of everything that lives within and without us…Thanksgiving happens when our sense of presence meets all other presences.  
~ David Whyte

I’m writing this blog while sitting in the waiting area of a small locally owned auto service center. My laptop computer is connected to the Internet via the hotspot on my phone.  It’s only 8:00 am but already hot outside so the air conditioner in the window and the fan in the corner of the room are keeping the room cool.  The coffee pot on the table in another corner fills the room with familiar morning aromas.  The service tech asks me what kind oil to use and I don’t have a clue. He quickly adds that it’s no problem he’ll look up the recommended type online.

Sun streams through the window at a low morning angle as it continues to wake up our part of the world, including tens and hundreds of thousands of commuters who have filled streets and highways with their radios on and are learning of more violent death in an airport on the other side of the world.  Somewhere others are learning that people they know and love are among the dead and injured. My thoughts drift to those closest to me and my heart sings with joy, anticipating being with them to celebrate love and marriage this coming weekend.

Sitting alone with my thoughts I feel as if the whole world is with me.  Connected by the sun of a new day, power grids, world-wide webs of data, physical senses, streets, highways, flyways, oceans, radio waves, human pain and suffering, and human joy and love – I am truly grateful in this moment!

The quote above comes from one of the best statements on Gratitude and Thanksgiving that I’ve encountered. Please take time to read it. Then take moment to pay attention to the gratitude all around us.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

And Don't You Forget It!

"There is a huge difference between 'I screwed up' (guilt) and 'I am a screwup' (shame).  The former is acceptance of our imperfect humanity.  The later is basically and indictment of our very existence."
~ BrenĂ© Brown, Rising Strong

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself!" "Shame on you!" "You're a bad boy/girl!"

I don't know about you, but these are some phrases that rattle around in my memory and occasionally surface when I've made a mistake or disappointed someone else or myself.  Sometimes such phrases were followed with, "And don't you forget it!"  It's even more difficult to admit actually saying these or similar things in thoughtless moments. Add to this, the institutionalizing of such sentiment with religions teaching things like original sin and total depravity, and it's no wonder so many of us walk around with clouds of shame hovering over us.

For so long humanity has been conditioned to believe we are inherently "no good rotten sinners" that we believe it.  Then, we turn around and ask incredulously, "Why is there so much evil and violence in the world?"

Several years ago I had a neighbor who would yell across the yard at me on Sunday afternoons, "Hey, Preacher, what did you preach on this morning?"  Just like an old vaudeville routine I would yell back with the straight line, "Sin!"  Then came his punch line, "Were you for it or agin' it?"

At the center of our little comedy routine is what I have come to see as the crux of our human and personal dilemmas.  We spend so much time focusing on "sin" (either for or agin') that we forget our basic, inherent goodness.  Please repeat after me, "I am created in the Divine Image and have within me the Divine Eternal Presence.  I am good!"

I attended a community vigil last week for the victims of the Orlando tragedy and after all the prayers, candles, and songs we sang one final and familiar phrase that captures it all, "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin in me."

A good place to begin may be in trashing some audio files in our minds and guts, and replacing them with new ones -

"You can do better than that." "Pick yourself up and do better next time." "You ought to feel good about yourself!"  "Peace on you!" "You're a good girl!" "You're a good boy!"

"And don't you forget it!"

"We are all walking around shining like the sun!"
~ Thomas Merton

"Don't be afraid to know who you are. Don't be afraid to show it" 

~ Amy Grant

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Say Their Names

I'm not going to even attempt being original today.  In the middle of all the media madness surrounding the tragedy in Orlando I've been thinking more and more about the lives lost and shattered by a few minutes of madness.  Then this morning I read the following post on Facebook from my friend Bruce Reyes-Chow.  Thank you Bruce!

Say their names...

There are many ways that we will respond to the killings in Orlando, the homophobia, the racism, the hatred, the gun violence, the politics, and the pain — but forgetting that each was a created and loved human being is not something that we can ever forget, in this instance of death, or any other. 

Say their names...

Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old
Amanda Alvear, 25 years old
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old
Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old
Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
Cory James Connell, 21 years old
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old
Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
Frank Hernandez, 27 years old
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old
Kimberly Morris, 37 years old
Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old
Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old

Say their names...

Now the really difficult part. There is one more name - Omar Mateen. As abhorrent as it may be to say it, he too was a created and loved human being, tortured and consumed by fear and hate. However, if we are to begin to grasp our aching need for Oneness in the Eternal Presence we must, as Jesus said, love our enemies.      

For anyone reading who is in the Tampa Bay area there will be an opportunity tonight at 7:00 p.m. to gather and "say their names."    Community Vigil for Orlando Tragedy, Trinity Presbyterian Church, 2001 Rainbow Dr. Clearwater, FL.  7:00 p.m.   All people and all faiths welcome.

If  you can't attend, wherever you are - Say their names!  

Names we taken from the Orlando City Posting

Here is meaningful story done by National Public Radio telling a bit of each person's story

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

In Life and Death...

Along with many fellow pilgrims of faith, I am sad, reflective, and surprisingly moved by the deaths of two colleagues with whom I have had sporadic contact over the past 25 years. It was 27 years ago this month upon beginning summer Greek School at Columbia Theological Seminary that I met both Kelly Allen and Ben Johnson.  Kelly was a classmate and Ben was a professor.

As I entered a new phase of my life that summer, I had no idea how transformative and often painful my journey would be.  An elderly lady in my home church at the time, told me "Don't go off to seminary and lose your religion!"  With all due respect to that lady, thank God I did! Many people played roles in coaxing, cajoling, challenging, and inspiring me toward a more open, inclusive, and mystical experience of God.  As I have often said through the years, I went into seminary with all of the answers and came out with awe inspiring and penetrating questions.  It was the beginning of a journey from certitude about God towards possibility with God that continues today. Both Kelly and Ben were instrumental in ways they never knew.

Kelly was part of a cohort of women, some freshly out of college and others, like me, embarking on what was a second or even third or more career.  Within this cohort of women Kelly emerged as a leader, even though she was among the youngest.  It was this group of women who insisted upon something strange to me at the time called "inclusive language."  They led the way in modeling the Presence of God and God's call in their lives by challenging and inspiring the entire seminary community, especially men like me with narrow, white, male dominate world views.

Ben, by sharing his story of evolution and transformation from southern fundamentalism to mysticism showed me that old dogs can learn new tricks.  His teaching, writing, and mentorship truly modeled for me an openness to the movement of the Spirit in our lives.  He always seemed to be content where he was in his own Spiritual journey, while at the same time exploring new perspectives and new ways, which he often found in ancient and forgotten traditions and practices.  His "mile posts of life" analogies helped me begin to see the Spirit working in my life long before I ever knew it, in the present, and into the future.

There are and will be many words written and said about both Kelly and Ben, and I simply want to add mine - Thank you, my friends!  Your lives meant more than you ever knew and your deaths have touched me and many others profoundly.  You are and will be missed, but not forgotten.    

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Concentration and Excentration

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.   ~Jesus, Matthew 22:37-39

"The deeper we move within our souls, the closer we come to the heart of all life." ~ J. Philip Newell, Christ of the Celts

"Uniting oneself means...migrating, and dying partially in what one loves. But if,... being reduced to nothing in the other must be all the more complete the more we give our attachment to one who is greater than ourselves, then we can set no limits to the tearing up of roots that is involved on our journey into God."   ~Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu

The above quotes describe what Teilhard de Chardin calls "excentration," which means to move something outside of the center.  This is the opposite of concentration which is exclusive attention to one object.  One focuses outward, the other inward. 

The great irony in our experiencing the Presence of God is that both work together. The more we concentrate on God with all our heart, soul, and mind, the more we experience God as Present within us. Then as Teilhard says "the more we give our attachment to one who is greater than ourselves," the more we begin to experience God's love in our lives but also in others and eventually in all creation.  Our concentration leads us to excentration.

I wonder if perhaps this is the "way" of which Jesus speaks when he says, "I am the way, the truth, the life, the only way to God." Perhaps Jesus is saying, "Concentrate on truth and life and you'll excentrate "self" until self and "neighbor" become One (aka God).  Exclusively following Jesus becomes the path to ultimate inclusivity!