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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Winter Wonderings

Tomorrow, December 21, 2107 at 11:28 a.m. EST, will be the Winter Solstice when the sun is at it's lowest point on the southern horizon for the northern hemisphere and at its peak for the southern hemisphere. This occurs every year some time between December 20 and 23. Half of the earth has its shortest day and the beginning of winter while the other half experiences its longest day and the dawning of summer. The sun and earth have been dancing this waltz of tilt and orbit for billions of years.

Humans have always lived in relationship with the cycles of nature all of which are in some way derived from the sun. In modern times of climate control, artificial light, global transportation, wide-spread food distribution, and time management we seem to have lost most awareness of these cycles. Nonetheless they are always with us and silently behind our illusions of control.

Unfortunately, along with loss of awareness of our interdependence with creation comes arrogance and complacency that leads to misusing and abusing the very environment that supports us. The truth is that creation will take care of itself with or without we humans. The human challenge is not saving Earth but caring for it so we can continue to live here.

It is no accident that we Christians, and Western culture as a whole, celebrate Christmas near a major solar cycle. The symbolism of light overcoming darkness aligns with the realities of day and night and winter and summer.  The cycles of our lives reflect the cycles of creation. Seasons come and go.

Also, at the center of the Christmas proclamation "Peace on Earth!" is a reminder to all of us that true peace is not simply the absence of conflict but more so living within the harmony of all creation by loving and caring for the world around us, each other, and ourselves.

That's why the angels in the Christmas story sing, "Peace on Earth to all people!" 

May we all have such peace in this season of light overcoming darkness.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Christmas Carol?

Peg and I just spent a wonderful weekend with long-time friends, some whom we haven't seen in many years and others with whom we've maintained long distance relationships with occasional visits. We reminisced, told old stories, shared new ones, broke bread together, and were reminded of why and how we are friends.

There will be and is already a lot of this kind of re-connecting going on during these days we call the Holiday Season as families and friends gather around menorahs, creches, lighted trees, town squares, and dinner tables for religious and cultural traditions.   

These gatherings and encounters are not all merry, happy, or joyful. Sometimes they bring up painful memories, exacerbate strained relationships, and isolate people for whom the holidays are not so cheerful. Many people endure and survive the holidays rather than celebrate them. A lot of people do both.

Regardless of how or why we observe (or not) this season it is a time that reminds us as humans we are connected in countless ways and on many levels. Even when we feel isolated and alone there are others who share our feelings. We all share the fullness of this human experience we call "life."

Whether we say, "Merry Christmas!" “Hanukkah Sameach!” "Happy Holidays!" or "How do you do?" as the old song (or dare I say "Carol") at this link says, "...we're simply saying "I love you!" 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Give Christmas Day A Break

One of the best and worst things about Christmas Day is our anticipation of it.  To a child the weeks and days before Christmas are the longest of the year. To adults rushing about decorating and shopping there seems to never be enough time to get it all done. Whether the days are long or short, one thing is for sure, Christmas Day always arrives to our delight or dismay. All of our anticipation and expectation gets wrapped around one day.

Then the day itself is filled with expectations of just the right gift, a meal with all of the expected accoutrements, a particular kind of weather, the right music, being with particular people, wearing a traditional outfit - the list goes on.  That's a lot to expect of one day.

So, why not give Christmas Day a rest this year. Let's do what the traditional Christian liturgical calendar invites us to do - stretch it out into a "season" of Advent-Christmas-Epiphany.  Christians aren't unique in this approach. Most religions have seasons or days associated with major holy days / holidays.

Experiencing Christmas as a season of days (depending on the year, up to 37) rather than one day allows us to have good days and bad days, met and unmet expectations, reflection and celebration, good meals and bad ones, or exchange the not so perfect gift.

Pacing ourselves through the Season not only allows us to experience its fullness, it also invites us to know and experience the One Eternal Presence in our lives everyday - not just some or one. After all isn't this what Christmas is all about - God's Presence among us? 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Conflicted and Troubled

Let me begin by saying this is where I am personally at the moment within dynamics of our wider culture. I speak for myself and have no way of knowing another's experiences.  I have no answers, mostly questions that lead to even more questions, but am trying to be vulnerable enough to ask.  

I'm deeply conflicted and troubled. 

On the one hand it is about time that women in our world are telling stories, too long in the shadows, of abuse, harassment, indignity, and oppression at the hands of men in their lives. Men are being held accountable for centuries of unacceptable behavior that has been accepted and tolerated.  Men are being forced to examine and re-examine our relationships and interactions with women at home, work, and the wider community. In light of such scrutiny, we are discovering that words and deeds that we once thought innocent, or even playful, and socially acceptable are actually harmful and destructive. Men need to be held accountable. 

What troubles me is how do we find our way through centuries of oppression, pain, and inequality experienced by women that can't even be imagined by most men? How do men begin to relate to women with equity and true respect and shed age old mantles of dominance?  How do we find our way through the quagmire of accusation, denial, and humiliation in which we find ourselves. How do we find paths that allow women the freedom to continue to speak out without fear and shame? How can men own up to our actions and not victim blame and rationalize?

We desperately need to find paths of confrontation and listening that allow full expression of fear, anger, and loss, as well as reparation, restitution, repentance, forgiveness - and yes, punishment when necessary. 

Human experience tells us conflict and trouble are necessary in order to find new ways of living together with equality, dignity, respect, integrity and love. 

We are living in such times. May we have the courage, humility, grace, and compassion to find our way. 


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Day to Remember - And Dream

Today is Peg's and my wedding anniversary.  Each year on our anniversary we spend time remembering and dreaming.  We talk about times past and dream of what may be ahead for us. As the years add up the remembering gets longer and the dreaming seems shorter, but one thing remains constant, whether looking back or ahead it all comes together in the time we have right now. Of course the same it true of every day, but some are more special than others and are naturally days to remember and dream.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Going to Seed

I don't know about you but some days I feel like I'm in the hand-basket, you know, that hand-basket in which our parents always said the world was going to hell.  What is going on? 

For many years I have been repeating a little phrase about the times in which we live - "the individual rationalism of The Enlightenment is going to seed." The revolutionary ideas of Descartes, Rousseau, Locke, Jefferson, and others have been parsed, twisted, and perverted so that individual appetites are consuming the common good of people and planet. The same can be said for the teachings of Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, Lao Tsu, as well as other prophets and sages. 

There also seems to be a toxic convergence of this demise with modern technology that only amplifies the perversion. With the Internet and "social?" media we have created a forum where every opinion, regardless of its origin, is presented and received as fact. Anybody with a computer or smartphone can slander, smear, and deceive with autonomy and, if desired, anonymity. To some degree we are all complicit in this demise. 

Sometimes when I face the empty page for this weekly blog I seem to have no words of encouragement and so I rely on others to encourage and inspire me. Today my wife Peg shared the following from her Facebook feed and I offer it to you:
Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.  ~ L.R. Knost

It's true that when something goes to seed what remains are the seeds. So what we must do in the seeming chaos in which we find ourselves is look for the seeds of love, compassion, dignity, respect, honor, and mutual forbearance that are around us and, more importantly, within us. Once we discover these seeds we need to intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally nurture them into the next Gospel, the next Enlightenment, the next embodiment of One Eternal Presence - one seed at a time. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Same?

A friend from college over forty years ago reached out to me on Facebook.  He asked, "Are you the Andy" I responded, "The same" then went on to give a three sentence summary of my life since we last saw one another many years ago. I concluded quoting a Paul Simon lyric, "Still crazy after all these years."

Upon further reflection, of course I'm not "the same."  I've had many life experiences and relationships that have changed me, first among them 42 years with my wife, followed closely by our two daughters. My wife and I even quip that we have been married to at least three different (but the same) people.

How many times have we said or heard that in our minds we are much younger than our actual age? Psychologists and psychiatrist tells us we each have an inner child that needs nurture and healing. Therapy often reveals unresolved issues that literally haunt our lives. Some religions tells us we can literally let our past go, be born again, and become new people. As with most things each of these approaches have truth in them, but none really completely address the mystical connection we have to the person we each believe ourselves to be.

So, what is it in us that makes most of us think we are the same people we were years ago?

Mystics, sages, and prophets through the eons have revealed, taught, and called people to Truth that hides in illusions of who we think we are and what life is all about. One central teaching of perennial wisdom is that each of us has a "true self" at the core of whatever our illusion, past or present, may be. This true self is given many names such as "Essence," "Energy," "Source," "God," "Divine," "Presence." My own spiritual tradition of Christianity calls this Presence "God with us," "Incarnation," and "Christ." One biblical writer says "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow."  Whatever the name, it is a core awareness of something eternal within each of us.

Regardless of how much we may "change" throughout our lives we really are "the same." At our core we are eternal, mysterious, and sacred. Some who don't see this Truth may say it's crazy. If so, then perhaps I am "still crazy after all these years."

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

All Saints Day

 On All Saints' Day, it is not just the saints of the church that we should remember in our prayers, but all the foolish ones and wise ones, the shy ones and overbearing ones, the broken ones and whole ones, the despots and tosspots and crackpots of our lives who, one way or another, have been our particular fathers and mothers and saints, and whom we loved without knowing we loved them and by whom we were helped to whatever little we may have, or ever hope to have, of some kind of seedy sainthood of our own. 

~ Frederick Buechner, The Sacred Journey



An ordinary one takes longer
than the three-day miracle
but wait — it will come.
There must be time to cancel
the memory of oven doors
closing with soft pneumatic whoosh,
and artificial wreaths fade slowly.
Then there are possessions —
soft hats resembling their owners
and sweater pockets
still bulging with illegible notes.
But after six months or a year at most,
there begins the benign haunting —
familiar hum or whistle,
brush upon clothing, upon skin;
presence, remembrance.
You stand at wintered windows
and catch their images in your face
their gestures in your limbs
spirits reclothing themselves
in your flesh.
~ Shirley Graves Cochrane, Letters to the Quick, Letters to the Dead


My daddy (who died suddenly when I was sixteen years old) had an unconscious habit of hissing a tune. It wasn’t whistling, nor was it humming.  It was in between. Through closed teeth he hissed whatever tune he couldn’t get out of his head.  Most of the time he didn’t even know he was doing it because he was busy doing something else; driving a car, hoeing the garden, sitting under a shade tree. I remember it as a comforting presence, this tune hissing.
         One day…(many years after Daddy’s death), I was working alone in my study when I felt the undeniable presence of my daddy. I knew if I were to turn around, he would be standing there behind me. It was that real. Then I heard it, that old familiar, comforting hissing sound - coming from my own breath.   Resurrection comes in the most surprising ways.
         Dreams stop and memory fades, but some memories never go away. These memories live on; last suppers, last words, last laughter, last pre-dawn shadows of sound and light, last expressions of surprise. These memories live on because they are holy, sacred.  It is in these memories that mysterious, invisible, and absent become real, visible, and present. It is in these memories where the mute speaks, the lame walk, the deaf hear, and the dead live.  Some of these memories are as close as our own breath. 

~ Andrew Walton,  “The Last Supper”

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


Sh'ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Eḥad - "Hear, O Israel: the LORD is our God, the LORD is One." ~ Deuteronomy 6

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

Last week I had jury duty and was called to a court room in a selection pool. The judge first went row by row and asked if anyone had physical limitations that would prevent them from serving. One man raised his hand and announced, "I have a selective hearing problem."

After an awkward pause the the judge asked, "Selective?"

The man replied, "That's what I've been told."

Still not sure if the man was serious but suspecting he was being played as the setup, the judge asked, "And who told you this?"

"Mostly my wife." said the man to much laughter in the room, and from the judge.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how words and what we say make a difference.

The same can be said about hearing. What we hear makes a difference. And, the truth is, we all have selective hearing problems. We have a tendency to hear what we've come accustomed to and expect to hear. Unfortunately our current propensity to live in echo chambers and silos of social media, cable news, and sectarian religion exacerbates the common human tendency toward tribalism.

Maybe our modern challenge is not so modern after all. The "Shema" quoted above is at the center of both morning and evening prayers of the Jewish People. Perhaps the need to hear and listen has always been a challenge for us, but even more so in such a noisy world.

Our challenge to listen is at least two-fold.

First - listen to yourself. Turn off the social media and cable news. Spend some time in silence and reflection on what you, not somebody else, think and feel.

Second - change the channel. Listen to another voice. Put yourself in another person's perspective. Seek common ground.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017


Does not wisdom call,
   and does not understanding raise her voice? 
On the heights, beside the way,
   at the crossroads she takes her stand; 
beside the gates in front of the town,
   at the entrance of the portals she cries out: 
~ Proverbs 8

Most days I take an early morning walk. This time of year with days getting shorter and Daylight Savings Time still in effect it is usually still dark when I walk. There are several stretches of street in our neighborhood that are not well lit. I usually encounter others walking, some like me for exercise and others going to a nearby high school with an early start time.  Many of those I encounter are women.  My practice when approaching someone in a dark area, especially from behind, is to announce myself just to let them know I am approaching.

This morning in a particularly dark block, because the sidewalks are canopied by trees, I was coming from behind upon a young woman.  As usual I said, "Good Morning. Just letting you know, I'm behind you."  She replied, "I know." Without any consideration as to why, I walked on the sidewalk because I could. She intentionally walked in the middle of the street because she felt unsafe.

All of the #metoo postings in recent days, including my wife's and daughters', have stirred my soul and my memory. Regrettably, I remember instances, especially when I was a young man, when I intentionally and unintentionally disrespected women. I could write some of it off as socially acceptable behavior of "the times" but I won't.  Just because something is socially acceptable doesn't make it right. For too long male privilege has hidden behind the innocuousness of  "boys will be boys" while "girls should be who boys want them to be."

We men learn our unearned privilege early. One seemingly innocent memory is of my three older sisters rotating "doing the dishes" after meals while my brother and I only did them when we were occasionally paid by our sisters to take their turn. We were told certain jobs and professions were "men's work" or "women's work." And even though many men, like me, had strong mothers who really ruled the roost there was always the facade of "father knows best." 

There are darker memories of sexual exploits during the so-called "free love" years of my late teen and college years, some carrying over into young adulthood. In therapy I learned such behavior probably came from the repression of sexuality in a fundamental religious culture - still not an excuse. And of course there are the countless unaware and unexamined transgressions of privilege - the jokes, stories, suggestive language, lingering stares, and silent consent.

In my professional life I've readily and unconsciously enjoyed the privilege of higher position, better pay, and more benefits than women colleagues doing equal work. I still do, even though I say I'm for equality.

So the cry of my daughter in a recent #metoo post asking her male friends to "step the f*** up!"  prompts me to step up. Not so much to say "me too" but simply "me" because I am and have been part of the problem no matter how much I try to justify it.

To women reading this, I've never experienced the indignity and pain I hear in your stories and I ask your forgiveness for my part in helping create and sustain it. I'm not sure if I even know how to step up, but I'm at least taking a first step. Perhaps the best way is to sit and listen. All I know to say is, "Just letting you know I'm behind you, and with you." Also, I know that with you I am preaching to the choir, so please share this post with your male friends.

To Men reading - LISTEN! Sophia-Wisdom is proclaiming Her Truth among us.   

#StepUpForMeToo  #MeToo


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What I Heard You Say

Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No”; anything more than this comes from evil.
~ Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 5:37

I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
~ unknown

In today's world of email, tweets, posts, clips, texts, blogs, and bytes I sometimes wonder if anybody is communicating with anyone.

I recently listened to a fascinating interview with Nobel Prize Psychologist Daniel Kahneman.  In the interview he shared the following story:

My wife and I, we had dinner with a couple of friends, some years ago. And we came back, and we talked. We went to bed, and we talked about our experience. And my wife said of the man with whom we’d had dinner, “He is sexy.” And then, immediately after that, she said something that struck me as completely bizarre. I mean in fact, it is bizarre. She said, “He doesn’t undress the maid himself.” And I turned to her, and I said, “What on earth are you saying? What do you mean, ‘He doesn’t undress the maid himself’?” Well, what she actually had said was, “He doesn’t underestimate himself.” And I heard as “He doesn’t undress the maid himself.”...Now, this illustrates how the mind works, and it illustrates how ready you are to produce some interpretations, rather than others. But one of the striking aspects of this story was that it didn’t occur to me, at the time, that because it was such an unlikely thing for her to have said, she hadn’t said it....That did not occur to me, because I heard it. I “knew” what she had said. The only question was why she had said such a crazy thing. And our mind works like that a lot of the time. 

As a minister I've preached a lot of sermons over 25 years. One thing I learned early on is that I preach one sermon but the number of sermons heard is in direct proportion to the number of people in the congregation.

The point of all of this is simply to remind us that words and how we say them and hear them matter, whether emailed, tweeted, posted, texted, broadcasted, or spoken and heard face to face.

Maybe it's time for all of us to take time to speak and listen more intentionally beyond 140 characters at a time and preferably more personally. The old saying "Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me." is not true. 

Words really do matter!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

OEP Anniversary Edition

Today is the sixth anniversary of One Eternal Presence (OEP)!

The Wednesday after the first Sunday which is World Communion Sunday (I'm sure I could work a phase of the moon in there somewhere) of October always marks the first post on OEP in 2011.

I hope my reflections and ramblings continue to speak have value for you. If so, I always appreciate hearing about it. However, the best way to show appreciation for OEP is to share it with others. There are several ways to do this.

If you read OEP on social media take a moment to like, share, or comment. If you want to receive it in your email simply follow this link and sign up! On the blog site itself,, you can also signup for email or become a blog follower.

For those who already receive OEP in your email, you can always forward the email to family and friends.

To my fellow OEP Pilgrims I send a hearty Thank You! and hopes for another year with you.

Iniquity and Steadfast Love

‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,  keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.’
~ Exodus 34

Fourth generation of the fourth generation
visited by Genocide, Slavery, and War
rooted in Racism and Misogyny -
fateful lightning and terrible swift sword
shock and awe, silent deadly drone, fire and fury
Gettysburg-Hiroshima-My Lai-Wounded Knee-Tulsa-Edmund Pettus Bridge-Kent State
firehose, attack dogs, tear gas, profiling cop , nervous trigger finger
quiet neighbor, fellow worker, boy next door, least likely to, stays to himself
the lone wolf is not alone
never far from the pack.

Steadfast love
A thousand generations
Abounding through Grace Compassion, Care, Joy, Hope, Love, Life
before generations
before there was a "Lord"
as long as can be imagined, farther than Hubble can see and hear
timeless - spaceless
as near as breath
behind, around, and through
sunsets, summer breezes, music, laughter, dancing,
fresh fallen snow, ocean spray, majestic mountain
Never Alone
One Creation, One Humanity, One Eternal Presence
from generation to generation to generation to generation...forever

Iniquity visits - the Persistent Guest.
Steadfast Love abounds - the Eternal Host.

Thursday, September 28, 2017


The conference worship service was on the beach in the cool of early morning, looking out across white sand and the Gulf of Mexico underneath cloudless blue sky.  One theme of the conference was "All God has is ours."  It was a perfect setting in the sense that perfect is whole and not without blemish. There were a couple of blemishes including a distant beeping of a service vehicle in reverse. But even that seemed to blend into the wholeness.

When it was time to observe the sacrament of communion, we were invited to walk forward and take bread and wine to remind us of our bond in Christ. The Celebrant broke the loaf of bread and lifted it into the air saying, "All are welcome at this table." At that very moment as if choreographed, a dove (well at least a seagull) descended to accept the invitation and partake of holy food. That's when the Celebrant, instinctively and quickly pulled the bread away saying, "No! Not you!" There was laughter, some I suspect to hide the awkwardness of missed opportunity.

This reminded me that most of the time when we say "all" we really don't mean it. Do we really believe "all men [sic] are created equal?" Do all people have the same rights, opportunities, and resources to live with dignity? Are all people really welcome in our places of worship? Does our version of "God" really love all people? What does it mean to claim that the Divine Presence is in all, through all?

The seagull also reminds us of the missed opportunities we have every day to actually practice the "all" inclusiveness many of us espouse. How many times do we look through people around us, especially those working in positions of service, making our lives more convenient and privileged. When do we stop to take in the wonder and beauty of the planet that sustains the diversity of life surrounding us? Do we even notice the amazing creativity and imagination that surrounds us in the infrastructure and technology that makes our modern lifestyle possible?

How big is your "all?" To whom or what are you and I saying, "No! Not you!"  

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


"The last will be first and the first will be last."
~ Jesus

Now that a "businessman" occupies the  U.S. presidency we seem to hear the term "return on investment" (ROI) more often in relation to governmental policy both domestic and international. The first question to be asked about just about anything is "What do I (we) get out of it?" - America First! Consideration of how decisions affect others and the overall common good of global society and humanity is usually subsequent, if even considered at all.

ROI is probably a good thing when investing money in the stock market. But even then investments go far beyond their dividends for investors. The companies and ventures invested in affect people and environment in myriad ways. Too many investment portfolios grow at the expense of human dignity, peace between nations, and care for our planet.
Religion also has its ROI.  How many religions have "heavenly reward" and "personal salvation" as ultimate goals? Even when something bad happens in our lives we quip, "What did I (we, they) do to deserve that?" as if a watchful god is running a cosmic ticker tape on everything we do, say, or think.

However, within most religions, and usually at their foundational core, are prophets and teachers who tell us that self worth is always found in mutual relationship with others and creation. By investing in other people, regardless of what they can do for us, we experience true ROI. Caring for our planet by using and developing resources wisely is true investment, yielding future returns for which we are not beneficiary.

Wanting to be first while insisting on immediate and personal ROI is contrary to true spiritual wisdom of the ages. Real ROI is long term, selfless, and beneficial to the common good of all.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A Prayer of Small and Great Things

As we go about our daily lives filled with small things, great things swirl about us.

While millions of people struggle in the aftermath of devastation on the coast of Texas, wondering why, where, when, and how their lives will ever find any sense of equilibrium...

As threats and missiles fly across oceans with no regard for their consequences to the world...

When hundreds of thousands of people with dreams of meaning and purpose for their lives discover their fate is held in the hands of capricious, cowardly men who have no respect of basic human dignity and freedom...

As millions more watch seas, skies, and screens in anxiety while fight or flight hormones churn within, many flee, many stay, many have no choice.

In the midst of these great things may we go about the small things of our day - digging out, drying up, saying prayers, getting ready for the worst and hoping for the best.

Regardless of whether we are coming out, headed in, or in the middle of greater storms, may our small things be undergirded with wisdom, respect, courage, compassion, love, and hope so that the great things of our future--those things of which we have influence--will bring the same hope to the world.

Thursday, August 24, 2017


Like millions of other people I watched the solar eclipse on Monday. I was fortunate enough to be in the path of the total eclipse in western North Carolina. The day began at 2:30 a.m. for me and three friends because we had a three hour drive to the path of totality and wanted to beat the heavy traffic that had been predicted.

Before we got in the car we all paused from our mountain top viewpoint and gazed with wonder at the clear night sky. The Milky Way, which most of us don't see too often, seemed so far away and yet we were looking at our own celestial home, our own galaxy, from within it.

As hoped for, our drive was clear sailing and uneventful. Along the way we passed many full motel parking lots. We arrived early at our destination of Cherokee/Bryson City in time to see both little mountain communities awaken to their big day as "totality" destinations.  Cars and campers were already gathering in roped off fields and parks. At breakfast in a local diner everybody was talking about "the blackout." By 10 a.m. the streets and sidewalks were becoming crowded. 

My friends and I had been invited to join one of their son's family at his in-law's place. It sits on a hillside between Cherokee and Bryson City with a clear view of the sky and overlooks a beautiful Blue Ridge vista - the perfect spot.
We spent the morning napping in the shade, tossing bean bags into corn holes, talking, and snacking on smoked chicken, slaw, and beans. Around 12:45 we passed out the "eclipse glasses" moved our chairs up the hillside and positioned ourselves for the show.

And what a show it was! As the moon slowly covered our star from "pacman" stage to tiny sliver the air turned cool and still. It stayed nearly full light up to the final tiny spot of sun and then we couldn't see it through our glasses.

The glasses came off to a chorus of "oooh's" and "ahaaa's" followed by moments of awe-filled silence. I won't even attempt to describe what I saw. Words sometimes fail. It was simply a minute and thirty-odd seconds of wonder and amazement in which I was reminded in a dramatic way of the complexity and fragility of our place in the immensity of the universe.

It is a miracle that any of it exist at all, much more that we have the opportunity to experience it. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Our Way of Life

"Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know." ~ Pema Chödrön

Prophets come proclaiming Truth that threatens the "way of life" we worship. So we kill them. Then we domesticate and twist their Truth into our way of life. We deify them, and eventually build monuments that worship our way of life.

Demagogues come proclaiming lies that stroke our fears and feed our pride in the "way of life" we worship. Lies are twisted into truth. Believing that others, and not them, threaten our way of life, we go to war and die for them. We eventually build monuments to them and worship our way of life.

Whether through Prophet or Demagogue we end up at monuments of cold stone worshiping our way of life. Until we we learn and know at the core of our being that the problem lies in our way of life, the cycle will continue.

We seem to be living in a time that begs for the cycle to be broken. It is time to create a way of life that works for everyone!

When will we ever learn?

Post Script:
I took a walk after posting this and feel the need to say:  In no way am I creating a false equivalency between prophets and demagogues. If there is equivalency, it is in the way we receive and act upon their proclamations. The "way of life that works for everyone" is the Truth of the prophet and mystic which is justice, kindness, peace, and Love.

find weekly sermons at this link

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


…our years come to an end like a sigh.
The days of our life are seventy years,
   or perhaps eighty, if we are strong...
they are soon gone, and we fly away...
~ Psalm 90

I'm thinking about death today.  I went to bed last night after reading about singer Glen Campbell dying.  I awoke to news that a dear friend of many years died early this morning. Another friend died recently. And of course, thousands of lives end every minute of every day on our planet.

When someone I know dies, the first question that usually comes to mind is: "Where are they now?"
Where is the energy, the laughter, the tears, the hopes, the dreams, the imagination, the love that was unique to one person? Where is all that made up that one life? Having been in the presence of death several times, I have witnessed the "sigh" of the psalmist. One second a person is here and the next moment who knows where.

We have our religious beliefs, rituals and myths of afterlife that make the mysteries of death tangible, as good ritual and myth does. However, thinking beyond pearly gates, gold streets and crossing rivers we come to a place of finality that begs the question "Is that all there is?"

One of our daughters once announced to my wife that she "didn't want to go to heaven."  This threw Peg into a moment of existential angst until she simply ask, "Why?" Our daughter's reply was telling, "It just sounds awfully boring!"

In the end we simply don't know what comes after "the end."  It may very well be a new beginning, a new adventure beyond our imagination. Perhaps "the sigh" is actually a gasp of surprise. One thing is sure, every person that lives will one day know.

In the mean time, what we have are "the days of our lives" to fill with laughter, tears, hopes, dreams, imagination, and love.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Nothing's New

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 

The longer I live and more I read the Bible and other sacred texts, the more I realize that Jesus and other mystic visionaries of the ages are mostly telling us to stop our frantic grasping for God in order to experience the Eternal Sacred already present, here and now. In this sense, Jesus comes not to change anything, but to reveal everything as already Holy.

When "the preacher" of Ecclesiastes says, there is nothing new under the sun, this is another reminder that whatever we are presently experiencing has already been experienced by others somewhere and sometime in human history, and will be experienced again. A long view of history shows us that with each cycle of experience adaptions are made creating an illusion that things are getting better or worse when in fact they are simply more or less sophisticated.

The human challenge is not so much to break the cycles of history as to be fully aware of them in order to not get swept away by them. In doing so we begin to experience the Divine Eternal Presence calling us into authentic relationships within Creation in our time and place. 

We look to the past for guidance from those who have already experienced the challenges and celebrations of life. By living with integrity now we offer hope to future generations when they face similar experiences.

Again, "the preacher" says, 

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; moreover, God has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. I know that whatever God does endures for ever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before God. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by. 
~Ecclesiastes 3:9-15

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Life is Holy

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
~ Psalm 118:24 (bold underline is mine)

If we weren't blind as bats, we might see that life itself is sacramental.
~ Frederick Buechner

For the past two weeks I've been privileged to experience a combination of continuing education and vacation that is sometimes called "sabbath." One of the graces of time away from a normal daily and weekly routine is to ease into a more natural rhythm of hours and days. Several days into this sabbath time the hour of the day and day of the week became less apparent, as well as my need to know. This blog is even a day later than usual.

Somehow this awakens me to a timeless awareness that each moment, each hour, each day is holy, sacred, and inspired. So, why then, do most spiritual and religious traditions have "holy days" and "sacred places" set aside for the practice of faith?  Perhaps to remind us that all days are special? 

Somewhere along the way in my life as a pastor I picked up a couple of liturgical phrases that I regularly use when celebrating the sacrament of the Lord's Supper - "Because this bread is holy, all bread is holy. Because this wine is holy, all wine is holy." 

In non-religious life most people "work for the weekend." As a Christian pastor I have a tendency to live and work from Sunday to Sunday. Clergy of other faiths do so with their holy days.  On the surface it may appear that we do this because that's how many people and cultures view religion as ritual practiced apart from the rest of life.  

How would our world change if we began to see and experience any old Wednesday morning as if it was just as vibrant as a weekend and as holy as the highest holy day of any religious tradition?


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Rocks, Trees, Mountains, and Lakes

I'm spending a few days experiencing One Eternal Presence with colleagues at our annual Colorado Pastor's Retreat. Here are a few black and white images from some hikes we've taken.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

I've Heard It All

"Thought, ideology, and philosophy - this can live forever."
~ Iraqui translator for western media and military

In a recent interview with an Iraqui translator for western media and military about the retaking of the city of Mosul the translator expressed fear that his, and his family's, life would never be safe. Regardless of who wins, loses, or controls territory, the seeds of fear, hatred, and violence once sown can have deep, long-lasting roots.  

We are experiencing this same dynamic in numerous ways in the world today. The Holocaust didn't end antisemitism. The American Civil War of the 1860's or Civil Rights Act of the 1960's didn't end racism. The Watergate scandal didn't end political corruption. How many times in recent days have you said or heard, "I thought we had gotten over that?"

I can't help but remember a song from the musical Shenendoah as the father, Charlie Anderson, struggles with his sons wanting to fight in the "civil" war.  Please take a minute to listen.

Yes, we've heard it all before, but that doesn't mean our struggles are over. The eternal tension of our own capacity for love and fear is always with us. Our hope lies in spreading seeds of love, even when weeds of fear are all around us.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The 5th of July - What now?

It's the 5th of July and the question looms - What now?  How do we embrace and live the Liberty, Freedom and Justice espoused in our declaration of independence that turns out to be a call into interdependence?  

Last Sunday, July 2, in my sermon I reflected on the shared values found in the teaching and modeling of Jesus and the words and symbolism of the Statue of Liberty.  The Gospel reading was from Matthew and is Jesus speaking to his and John's disciples. The Liberty reading was the poem "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus, which is found on a bronze plaque inside the statue's pedestal.  

As a way, forward in response to "What now?" I offer the readings below, without commentary, for your own reflection.

Matthew 10:40-42; 11:1-6, 28-30

‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’

Now when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and proclaim his message in their cities.
 When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.’

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

The New Colossus 

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, 
With conquering limbs astride from land to land; 
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand 
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame 
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name 
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand 
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command 
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. 
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she 
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, 
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, 
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. 
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, 
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Bona Fide?

It takes some restraint to try and keep this blog non-political even though the contents often have political dimension, since the very nature of One Eternal Presence is that all things are interconnected. Sometimes this interconnectedness is more obvious than others.

In light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on immigration that speaks of certain immigrants needing a "bona fide relationship" within the United States in order to gain entry, I looked up "bona fide" and found the following definition: genuine; real; sincerely, without intention to deceive.

Many experts in law have already pointed out the legal quagmire this phrase creates. It begs the question: What is a "'genuine; real; sincerely, without intention to deceive' relationship?" 

How we answer this question is at the core of who we are as human beings. As a Christian I can't help but hear the words of Paul and Jesus when they were faced with the same question in their time.  

Paul said to the Romans and the Philippians:   
- Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. - whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Jesus said:
 But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

So, perhaps in the end, "is it bona fide?" is not only a good question but the ultimate question - one we should be asking not only of immigrants but of our leaders and ourselves.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

All, Each, Other, Self = God

"To love another person is to see the face of God."
~ Les Miserables, the musical

We are all, each, someone else's other.  

We are all, each, someone else's self.

I'm convinced more and more that the central teaching of Jesus and so many other sages, prophets, and visionaries "to love the other as we love our self" is the only way to truly know and love the Eternal Presence we call "God."  In doing so we discover that we are "the light of the world" and "the salt of the earth." Jesus teaches us to be fully human and in the process we discover our divine nature.

Author John Philip Newell shares the following story in his book A New Harmony: The Spirit, the Earth, and the Human Soul:

One day as we sat in the Lal Bagh Gardens, we were approached by an elderly Indian gentleman. He greeted us kindly and entered into conversation. After a few pleasantries, in which I learned that he was a retired banker, he said with a gentle sideways wagging of his head, “I have one question for you. Who are you?” I sensed that he was not asking me what my name was, but, wanting to feel my way into the conversation, I said, “My name is John Philip.” To which he replied, still kindly nodding his head from side to side, “I was not asking you what your name was. I was asking who are you?” So I said to him, “I come from the same One you come from.” This pleased him well enough that he proceeded with our discussion, in which he expounded for me the heart of Hindu wisdom. He spoke of the Self within all selves and of true self-knowledge as consisting of an awareness that our selves are rooted in the One who is at the heart of all life. He then said, with an even more emphatic wagging of his head, “I must be going now, but I have one final thing to say to you. You are God. And until you realize you are God, you will not be wise, you will not be happy, and you will not be free. Namaste.”


I recently did an interview about my book "Hidden In His Own Story..." with Ron Way of "Author Talk." 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Dashes and Commas

...more on Religion and Spirituality

Experience is what actually happens in life while belief is reflection on the happening. Unfortunately too many of us spend more time reflecting and thinking about what happened and will happen rather than giving full attention to what is happening right now. We seem to be in a constant state of coming from and going to while, for the most part, oblivious to where we are. 

How many times have you been driving, walking, or going in some fashion only to realize that you've gone from point A to point C and can't remember B? Now think about this same dynamic in larger frames of time. What about yesterday, last week, or last year? Do you ever find yourself asking, "Where did the time go?" 

Because of my current location in Florida, where a lot of older people live, I've held a lot of funerals in the past couple of years. Occasionally a family requests that someone read a poem about this dynamic in our lives. It's called "The Dash" and is about the dash between a person's Born and Died dates. You can read it here.

The Christian religion even does this with Jesus albeit with a comma instead of a dash. The foundational creed of Christianity, "The Apostles Creed" reads, "...was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate..." Jesus's whole life experience is a comma. What a Christian is asked to "believe" is all about the past and the future. Ironically, the comma, or life of Jesus, is about living and loving in the present, which he calls "the Kingdom at hand."

Religion loves dashes and commas, Spirituality prefers run on sentences. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Spiritual But Not Religious

"Religion is believing in someone else's experience. Spirituality is having your own experience."
~ Deepak Chopra

More and more people these days are identifying themselves as "spiritual but not religious." There is also much discussion and consternation within religious circles as to what this really means. The quote above captures, better than I've seen, the essence of this disconnect between spirituality and religion.

Religions, especially those we label as "organized" or "institutional," survive by turning the experiences of others, usually from thousands or hundreds of years ago, into doctrines and beliefs. These doctrines and beliefs then become the basis for morality that governs our actions that in turn create experiences that, not so surprisingly, reinforce those beliefs and doctrines.

Spirituality, on the other hand comes from experiencing relationships with creation through other people, nature, and imagination that spurs morality based on values rather than belief and doctrine.

Another way to say this is:

With Spirituality
Comes Morality

Morality is doing what is right,
Regardless of what you are told

Religion is doing what you are told,
Regardless of what is right

Spiritual people are not God-less
We just happen to honour the
"GOD"  in all of us.

Divinity is in you, as it is in me  

~ source unknown

There is much more to ponder about this whole "spiritual but not religious" movement in the world today.  However, these thoughts may give us some hand holds and anchors to grasp as we grapple with the Mystery.