Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Terrible Beauty

Advent is "a terrible beauty," to use Butler Yeats' immortal description of Ireland, a land racked with so much pain yet overwhelming beauty. This season invites us to open ourselves to the humbling mystery of the Incarnation with its awesome ramifications, yet, intense pain,

for this child will be the falling and rising of many
in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so
that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed,
and a sword will pierce your own soul too (Lk 2:34-35). 

So many want "Happy Birthday, Jesus" and a blond boy with blue eyes blissfully looking over his adulating fans.  Funny scripture doesn't support this. Some, more than many think, in fact want to coo over this baby and keep him right where he is, in the manger. Such as these accumulate their own thirty pieces of silver to betray their Lord when the time comes, and it ALWAYS comes.

The prophet, Simeon, speaks to those of us who walk with Christ as much as to Maryam, his mother. The signs of the present time speak ominously. Many talk nice. Those who do seem to rise to the heights as a result, but if we listen beyond the rhetoric, we hear what they really say: and it is evil, for evil uses the language of it's enemy, but is a cheap imitation. Many who act like Jesus, on the other hand, well, they look around, go to the low places, and see what's what.

The late archbishop, Dom Helder Camara, laments that when he feeds the poor, he's called a saint. When he asks why they are poor, he's called a communist.

Contemplatives stand on the margins and look with the eyes of the Ancient of Days--not a political party or economic theory--and ask why things are they way they are. They do this out of self-emptying love. Compassion pierces one's very being. Grace may be offered freely, but it is never cheap.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Rosie's Rant

Sparks flew recently when Rosie O'Donnell responded to David Letterman's tasteless lines from his monologue referencing her recent engagement. Rosie's response was rather boisterous, which is no surprise.

Now, could Rosie have chosen to respond from her heart and simply say on the air how his stereotypical comments hurt her feelings and those of her fiancee?  Could she have also mentioned that language like he used actually contributes to young GLBT folks killing themselves? Yes, she could have.

Humor at another's expense hurts those joked about, and insults the genre itself.  This is unacceptable. Life is funny enough without having to cut someone else down for a cheap laugh. Someone who has the need to do so either was never funny or has lost his or her touch.

It seems to me that Rosie's response comes from anger and hurt. Perhaps she's tired of having to be "nice" all the time, smile, and accept the jokes and the use of the word "gay" as something negative.  Maybe she's a bit yanked at being called "sensitive" for reacting to such hate, for that's what it is. I get that, because, frankly, I know the taste of bile that burns my throat after repressing, yet again, another slur, however couched, and, like her, am damned tired of it.

Let's get one thing clear: those who know me, know that I do not wear my sexuality on my sleeve as it's a deeply integrated part of who I am. Quite simply, I am a man who happens to be gay, but this is among many other aspects that make me, me. The anger is justified, but the response is up to me (and to Rosie).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Blooming in the Cold Night Air

Now the slightly out-of-focus picture above might not seem sensational, but the story behind it's pretty cool, to me at least.  Read on...

In the last week or so, temperatures dipped below freezing several nights.  The beautiful rose bushes still had several buds on them ready to burst, yes, in December.  I just assumed after the cold, the buds were dead, but I got an idea.

Instead of cutting them off and dropping them in the garden to fertilize the ground, I decided to bring them in the house and put them in some water, fully expecting nothing to happen.  Well, within a day, the buds opened a bit; I was happy with that.  Over the next few days they really opened and are exquisite.  The yellow ones, which were my late Mom's favorite, have such a lovely aroma.

All Creation manifests the work of the Master, even in freezing December.  God is present and we stand on holy ground.

Friday, December 9, 2011

O Root of Jesse, come!

What joy that the semester is now over.  Phew!  It was actually a wonderful time, but draining nonetheless.  I have deep gratitude for my professors and those with whom I shared classes.

It's been interesting this Advent that I have been able to remain almost completely oblivious to the hustle and bustle of carols and decorations, intense focus on gifts, and the like.  I am aware of it, but only as a gnat in the ear: it's there, you know it, but it doesn't really affect you much (or at least in my case it doesn't). 

Blessedly, this has been a year in which I can immerse myself in the pregnant possibilities anticipating the coming of Jesus Christ.  It is at once realizing that Incarnation is already reality, God pouring out in deep humility, yet, looking for the coming of Christ within each one of us who profess to follow him.  We are called to imitate "not in a literal mimicking of Christ, rather, it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation...we are to become vessels of God's compassionate love for others" (Franciscan Prayer, Ilia Delio, osf  68).

By emptying ourselves, we make room for a relationship with Christ, hence, the Triune God, that allows us to realize God in everything, everything in God, and to allow compassion to grow within us.  Advent is a time to ponder that, and to dwell in the hope of shalom, wholeness, within God's embrace.  This includes all Creation, which is not God, but made by God. God becomes fully human out of a deep love for what God has made.

Like awaiting our lover, we groan and yearn in anticipation.  If we focus on bargains and baubles, artificial lights that fill the skies, we miss the One True Light, who can be seen shining in deep darkness.  He comes for us.

Maranatha!  Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Occupy "Occupy"...Oy!

The Occupy phenomenon inspires me greatly, as many who read this blog know.  While I may not agree with how they do everything, I do agree with fighting against greed in the form of corporate personhood, dehumanization, and the curtailing of our civil rights when we truly begin to assert them. 

The protesters' commitment to nonviolent direct action and "leaderless" governance through General Assembly is nothing short of amazing. The harsh actions of the police in many cities against the them, speaks to the power and truth of this movement's goals. But "Occupy" has pretty much become a brand name now.

Pretty soon, we will have to occupy Occupy to reclaim it!  Whenever a word gets overly conceptualized and repeated, it loses its force and its power. We need to avoid making it an idol, when it should be an icon, pointing beyond itself.

I am guilty myself, in that I coordinated "Occupy Eucharist." Simply "Eucharist" would have sufficed.

Let us focus, then, on occupying the hearts and minds of our brothers and sisters here and around the world, making compassion and justice flow.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Yup, I'm Pissed!

Eston William Nelson, II

The world's madness seems much more prevalent to me these days. We live in a society that, among so many other insanities, allows innocent children get bullied to death. Have we lost our bloomin' minds? Yup, looks like it.

Eston Nelson, II, was one of those innocents; he died by his own hand. Apparently his school had anti-bullying policies, but these didn't save him. 15 years old, dead. All his dreams and talents lying in the ground. What the hell?

Evil exists. The more we feed it, the more it grows. The more we avoid exorcising our own inner demons, the more they fester. Yes, any one of us can be the bully or the one who does nothing to stop it. Both live within us.

Right now, however, I simply need to be pissed off. Will I remain so? Of course not, because as a person of faith, hope lives in my heart and spurs me to be compassion. This leads me to strive toward realizing the Beloved Community.

This darkness will pass but never be forgotten; for right now, though, I am pissed, grieving the death of still another bright light gone out for no damn good reason. Ya can't let it go until you walk right through it!

And when I do let these emotions go, then I can pray for those who hurt this beautiful child, for their conversion to wholeness.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Having Fun

What joy last evening to have a laid back dinner with some very close friends, and then head over to an Irish pub to drink and sing. Between pursuit of a Masters degree, working with Protest Chaplains Chicago, jointly running a household, and co-nurturing a relationship--all wonderful things--it's easy to forget to just have fun.

It is, likewise, tempting to think one shouldn't have fun due to all the problems in the world, too much to do, or any one of a million excuses for avoiding it.  But this is wrong. We cannot lose our capacity for play, or we become spiritually stagnant. Would that more of it existed in our work lives and our worship. Letting one's hair down gives us chance to get over ourselves and our feelings of self importance. It is humbling without being sickeningly pious, and gives the Beloved the chance to dance with us, perhaps unawares.

Play, furthermore, allows us to touch the timeless capacity of life, to truly dance in the fields of the Lord. While it is true that "we don't have time, time has us" as I believe Heidegger says, we need to transcend it to touch our deepest real selves.

We are way too serious these days. Yes, we have much on our minds, collectively and individually, but we must let go from time to time. It clears the mind and frees the heart.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Within the Many, One; Within the One, Many

The Ven Thich Nhat Hanh tells us that "the Buddha of the future will be the sangha," which is the spiritual community; Jesus tells us that when two or three gather in his name, he is present (Mt 18:20). Those among us who've opened to the Beloved's beckoning know this and feel it intimately, not only with all humans, but sentient and non sentient Life. It just IS.

As sure as mountain streams roar back to their source, so, to, do we. When we let go, completely, in surrender to That Which Is, we enter into that mysterious embrace totally, only to emerge, changed, yet the same, not same. But we "return" to the love found in community, and, thus lead others to surrender and, who thus find themselves changed irrevocably as well.

Being holy, however, is not the same as being perfect. Because we are individuals, we each have likes and dislikes, character facets and flaws. Holy community smooths the edges, allowing the good to shine in each member, and the whole body. But the roughness rarely gets completely polished out. Perhaps the shadow side remains because the Beloved somehow works through that too (If you don't believe me, read the Hebrew Scriptures and see how true this is). If nothing else, it reminds us who we are and Whose we are.

It seems to me, too, that these weaknesses bring us together. We compliment each other, filling in the other's lack, thus only working well together, for even when we're doing something "alone," if it is good, it benefits more than ourselves ultimately. Buddha, Dharma, Sangha; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Love, Lover and Beloved: the Divine Dancing keeps going, and we're a part of it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Eye of the Storm

hellacious tempestosity whipping about,
topsy turvy sychophantic drivel
dripping microphonage,
unarmed innocents droppingness

stormy winds blow fierce,
soul within glows, Eye-- center maddening
clouds gathering, menancing's lair,
yet, radiance untroubled that...

seeing seven circles dance indigo waltz,
golden-white flowosity, candle igniting
squalls angers crushing not,
but Thee beyond me, within

four-chambered synchronicity's happenstance,
beats timbre rouse, complementariness stand,
consume, diamodine erase edgeness rough,
coal's seed's potentialities, always within, without

steps carry high-low wandering, mountanous valleying sameness see,
but stop, Thy feet but carry, jesterish Beloved,
coquettish divinity alooking out my eyes others back me,
deciding not surrender's hope, it happens mind looks away

turbanically inclined greeness, agarmented whiteness blazing,
being's likeness emblazoned One without being, yet realness abounds,
embrace consumation's yearningness, transfigurations bloometh,
waterfll's clapping delight, mountains laughter resounding whole

look at him, look at her, look at me, look at Thee,
all is One illumination's drag falls,
Thine eyes look out from within in all places blest,
Thy womb births forth compassion's justice mercy kind, drumbeats home...

Yossi Lopez-Hineynu, Copyright 2011~All Rights Reserved

Semper Fi

American pieta...

mourning-beat cadence
tear-gassed memories weep,
no toy bullets these,
strike down United States Marine

young man dodges bullets, Iraqi style,
only to stand on his own soil embracing,
gaping, bleeding,
brain-swelling madness, countryman trigger pulls

only-following-orders cop,
oligarchian stooge, sees notown rape, dispensibility's bitch,
modernity's masochism sadistically smacks

when inanimate breath given,
people suffocate, dungscent choking,
cranial-recto symdrome's governance,
zombie land macabria serenade, spilt-tea runneth over...

drumming hue raise,
new day hope's a blazing,
peace full abundancian determination,
claiming self's wholeness, society's reality

justice peace kiss dew's blissian truth,
that which of, for and by
PEOPLE asleep no more, greet morning dew's benediction,
changing times trajectory

clouds shan't disperse immediacy's urgency,
Truth's quaking rousing wrath, Ozian mirage fierce,
strike swift-snake fangosity rip,
biter bitten becomes

Yossi Lopez-Hineynu, Copyright 2011~All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The backlash begins


The last time I checked, Americans still had the right to free speech and peaceful assembly. That is, until it affects the status quo. Then, apparently, all bets are off. What hubris for our government to decry the abuse of human rights in other countries, when it allows it to happen here. No wonder so many in the world despise our hypocrisy.

First we had mounted police pushing into groups of protesters in New York City's Times Square, then nurses and others not allowed to make their phone call, given something to eat, and generally harassed while in the custody of the Chicago Police Department, and now rubber bullets and tear gas in Oakland. Seems a bit much considering the protesters are unarmed and nonviolent, dontcha think? Hmmm, let's see now...

The protests are working, people!

The response continues to get even more heavy handed, and will get more harsh, count on it. The status quo is getting nervous because the Truth makes tyrants shake. As a person of faith, I love the police, the mayors, the corporate tycoons and pray that their hearts might be opened: but their actions can never be condoned.They must be held accountable.

"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win."


How amazing that images of the brutality against the occupiers goes around the world in an instant, and yet it continues. Now is the time to keep faith and remain strong. It's not going to be easy, but we can't get to a more just society without going through it.

Let justice roll down like the waters and righteousness like an evenflowing stream!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Let justice roll down

This week at Occupy Chicago seemed to find even more energy and urgency. From what I gather, the Jackson "L" stops on the Red and Blue lines were temporarily closed, right before the march from the financial district to Grant Park. Yes, the voices of this principled group are being heard, indeed.

It takes time, but this Movment's growing because Americans know that coporations are NOT people and that they should not have so much power influencing our government and rolling in profits while laying off folks. As people of faith wallking with the Beloved, we, too, know that the greed so prevalent today harms not only us as people, but all Life. It must stop.

Some might object to my participation, and that of other clergy, reasoning that we should "tend to our flocks" or our ministries, that we should not be so "partisan". They would prefer that we fulfill our duties by pacifying folks to accept their lot in life by never questioning authority. Religion has colluded in this manner for far too long, and it's time for it touch people where they are by recapturing its prophetic voice.

Jesus loves all people, but there exists absolutely no doubt in my mind that he would place himself right among the occupiers. He would certainly attempt to challenge those in power, hoping to melt their hearts of ice with the fire of compassion. He would call them to wake up. But if all attempts failed, he would continue loving them, but would shake the dust from his feet (Lk 9:5; Mt 10:14) and, yet, not be adverse to driving the moneychangers from his father's house (John 2:13-16). The world is the Creator's house and it needs cleansing.

This needed change will not happen over night, nor should it espouse violence on the side of the occupiers. It's about maintaining faith during the long haul, which will, most likely, see violence on the side of those in power as it becomes more apparent to them that those occupying are not going away.

Those of us who serve as "Protest Chaplains," as some call us, open ourselves in deep availability and spiritual presence, serving any and all whom we encounter, no matter what they believe or don't believe about God. We challenge all to remind mindful, for by such focused awareness, we literally change others, and the world. While we are part of the 99% ourselves, we live in the tension that calls us to be in but not completely of the Movment, so that we can raise prophetic voices to the occupiers when necessary and keep vigilant watch for their safety as the response to their witness gets stronger and potentially more violent. 

These are deeply sacramental times, if we allow ourselves to remain completely open to them. The Holy Spirit's speaking strongly to a bold expression of compassion, justice and peace. Let us bow in humble awe to the God who makes all things new, serving as midwives to this new birth...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Occupy Chicago

What an amazing experience to join Occupy Chicago this past Saturday. As a provisional (soon-to-be ordained) minister, OUnI encouraged me strongly to wear a clergy collar and the OUnI pendant. The intense energy and nonviolence of this occupation moved me deeply.

Amazing conversations took place with folks; they all appreciated a clergyperson's presence, particularly one who stood with them, without an agenda other than radiating God's love. I spoke with two young men who had worked in the financial industry until realizing how ruthless it was. They each lamented the lack of compassion within; they know economics, so are not chanting merely to hear their own voices. Things need to change, now.

Another man spoke to me of being blessed to own his house and have security, but being alarmed that so many do not have the necessitites of life. He said that more folks needed to come out and occupy. A woman spoke to me of how her faith, expressed through the United Church of Christ, inspires her to work for justice and peace. Her late grandfather founded Protestants for the Common Good; seems that apple didn't fall too far from the tree!

The diversity of the occupiers struck me as well: men and women of various ages and economic classes, African-Americans, Asians, Caucasians, Latin Americans.  I saw some young Muslim women wearing hijabs occupying as well. A Presbyterian pastor spoke at the General Assembly. Yes, the Communists and Socialists were present, and in a democracy should be, but the majority of people were there due to righteous anger at the greed so prevelant today which causes so much suffering. The energy was palpable.

A country that bails out banks whose CEO's whine having to go without a pay raise on the $10 million salary they already receive, has its priorities screwed up. Likewise, when some of our fellow Americans applaud allowing the death of an albeit hypothetical man without insurance, boo a solider who happens to be gay, or seem to have no problem with the mounting ranks of homeless people in a land with empty houses, we need to take a moral inventory.

When young gay and lesbian youth take their lives due to bullying and officials in some places don't care, those officials need to be held accountable and the parents of the bulliers held responsible, along with the bullying kids themselves. Likewise, we need to learn from the Vietnam Conflict, and get out countries in which we don't belong and in which the people don't want us. We as a nation have lost our soul.

My hope is not only that the occupations continue around the world, but that real change results as a result of the pressure, particularly at the ballot box. Injustice reigns. Rooted in the power of the Holy Spirit, we need to reach out in love to each other, whether 1% or 99%, and come together 100% in Beloved Community. When we do, compassion and justice shall kiss and our priorities shall be made straight; I shudder to think what will happen if we don't.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Occupation to Beloved Community

What absolute brilliance of folks from Catholics United recreating a universally known symbol and galvanizing the religious presence at Occupy Wall Street. The Golden Bull brought representatives from many religions together in universal witness against the greed and hatred experienced today in our society. Christianity, in particular, usually seems to be ignored in movements like this, but not anymore.

We Christians speak of the Beloved Community, and that needs to be our paradigm here so that we may witness for the long haul, and inspire others to do the same. Sustained by prayer, sacrament and Word, we carry on, carrying on. We can do no less.

Part of our witness as those who walk with Jesus, as difficult as it can be, is to remember Christ loves all, even the corporate CEO whining about not getting a raise on his $10 million salary or the politician who sees the occupiers as somehow unpatriotic. Loving those who agree with us is easy; loving those with whom we don't, and seeing that of God within them as people, not so much. But doing anything less renders us false witnesses.

We need to be the Good News! Occupying Wall Street and participating in partner occupations in cities around the country give us the opportunity and place to do so, reaching thousands who'd never darken the door of a church. And we do this by being open vessels, holding ourselves in vulnerability for others, simple presence. We do this by participating in the Cross, laying down our lives for our friends (John 15:12-13).

This movement needs to be about conversion of all our hearts, regardless of religion or non, not merely realignment of assets or defeating candidates. It compels us to make the collective and personal, spiritual, not just political. We need to come together as One with the Beloved and make for compassion and justice.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hip Jesus or Christ Among Us

An empire being forged, great wealth in the hands of a few, power the name of the game, and winning at all costs co-opting Jesus as supporting one's righteous (sic) cause over another's--the more things change...

"Right" or "Left" doesn't matter. Jesus drips nice platitudes of individual salvation, blessing greed along the way for the Right; he becomes the great social revolutionary to the Left, speaking only of corporate sin. In their quest to make Jesus hip, both "sides" strip him of who he is: the humanity of God.

In the poetic subtlety of the Beloved, Jesus radiates Triune Light and Love, because he participates therein. How that happens, I do not know. That it expresses reality in my heart challenges me to surrender, to walk with him and touch those needing the Good News.

But a big part of such blessed tidings involves letting Jesus and his Way challenge us to the core, not just those whose views we do not share. It means dropping the caricatures, the idols, we have of Jesus, this garden-statue niceness, and allowing the flesh-and-blood Lord transform and transfigure us. Doing anything less renders him impotent, which is where too many of us really want him, but that's not Who he Is.

Ya, there have been thousands of god-men in various cultures, fine. Name one who has ever been described as fully human and fully divine, NOT some half god, half man spawn of capricious gods having their way with some hapless mortal female. Jesus is simply not the same, being born of a woman who says 'YES' to God.

But even saying that, it seems to me that God weaves a tremendous tapestry in different colors and textures.  It is not for me to force anyone away from his or her religion or to judge what they believe.  Two people can disagree about the specifics, but, when they transcend those differences below the surface level, they find a deep unity, even when their respective traditions don't agree. Let us come together where we can, rooted, however gently, within in our respective traditions.

None of what I have written thus far changes anything much in my previous posts regarding 'disorganized religion' nor does it invalidate my calling as an interspiritual minister. I still stand by the assertion that the Church, (and organized religion in general) needs to learn some genuine humility.  Keep the doctrines and teachings, but do not cling so tightly to them that they kill Christ all over again and destroy his message by becoming the most important thing. But don't water down EVERYTHING to the point that it's meaningless either.

But let those who call ourselves Christians, begin with the laying on of hands, the prayers and the breaking of the bread, and let us know Christ among us. Peace and all good.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

So Much Death

In memory of Troy Anthony Davis, who was innocent, and Lawrence Brewer, who adamantly
was not, both of whom died of lethal injection...
I also remember Jamey Rodemeyer, who took his own life as the result of bullying...

All three of these men were on death row, in a manner of speaking. Yes, two were in prison physically, though only one, Brewer, justly. Jamey was imprisoned by internalizing the hate flung at him by heterosexists and homophobes, who decided for themselves that he should go to hell simply for who he was...a young gay man.

It's easier for me to feel sympathy for Troy and Jamey, but as a person of faith, I at least have to forgive Lawrence Brewer, even if he doesn't want it. I want to hate him for what he did to James Byrd. I want to hate him for not repenting for his crime. I hate that part of myself that has the potential to be him. 

I also want to hate those who taunted Jamey, and while I am Jamey, I am also his taunters. We cannot defeat evil within us until we acknowledge its presence, even if not active. Troy Davis prayed for God's mercy on his executors and called down God's blessing upon them; how can I do any less?

But enough with hate. It is time to forgive, for ourselves, and to love, all of which make for a deeply rooted compassion leading to justice. Let us not give up the fight for LIFE in all its manifestations. We have a responsibility to make this world a better place with God's grace, so let's do it, so the executions, all of them, may stop and boys like Jamey don't have to kill themselves because no one at school is listening. Let us choose life...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


The Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, one of the foremost Buddhist teachers alive today, who is regarded by many as a living Buddha, teaches about mindfulness practice.  He speaks of being aware of the breath, being present to Now. He teaches about mindfulness leading to peace: transforming self leads to touching others.

"Being aware of being aware and paying attention to one's intention" forms the basis of mindfulness, Dr Daniel J. Siegel, psychiatrist and author, points out in his talk to Google employees and in his books: Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation and The Mindful Brain.  His research puts a scientific foundation to this 2500-year-old practice.

Many practices can bring one to mindfulness.  Centering prayer, mantra chanting, walking the labyrinth, reciting the Jesus Prayer, meditation--but whatever practice is used, it must be so consistently and must be done for at least thirty minutes a day. Both Dr Siegel and Thay (which means 'teacher' in Vietnamese) point out that the resulting transformation renders great health benefits, such as reduced blood pressure and less stress, but also a change in the person, allowing him or her to be deeply attuned with another's emotions and feelings.

Watch the video and/or get ahold of one or both of Dr Siegel's books for a full explanation of how mindfulness changes self and others (his work on mindfulness and significant decrease in bullying is astounding). You will also learn that the brain changes physically as the result of such a longstanding practice, leading to whole-brain awareness and thinking. While contemplatives have been aware of this for millenia, the science now explains and supports it fully.

We have work to do! Such transformation is not simply for mystics locked away in a cave or at the top of a mountain, though it's for them too, but for each of us. According to Jesus, the Reign of God is within us, so let's get busy realizing it, truly making for peace.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

An Instrument of Thy Peace

An American-born Muslim man finds a drawing of the World Trade Center towers with a plane flying toward them and the words "Have a Happy September 11th" scrawled on his take out. A gay North Carolina college student is branded and burned, and a courageous and honest Roman Catholic priest, Fr. Roy Bourgeois, is getting booted from his order for speaking his conscience while almost forty bishops have not been punished for crimes against innocents. This is but a small sampling of the insanity that's going on today. What the hell?

The level of nastiness seems more apparent now more than ever.  Self-righteous hatred spewing forth its venom tears supposedly civilized people apart. Who needs hell post-mortem, when it exists right here, created quite well by humans?

Everything is turned upside down. Sometimes I'd like to say "the hell with it," and go back to sleep and it will all go away. Uh, not. No, a contemplative must go right into the evil, knowing he or she will come out bloody and perhaps, scarred, perhaps dead, but transformed nonetheless. But he or she must do so completely surrendered to the Beloved. 

True humility acknowledges that I, myself, can just as easily be the hater. In reality: I am the hater, the hated, the one who is silent looking the other way, and, hopefully, the one working for justice in the hopes peace might break out.

Truly "the answer my friends is blowing in the wind" if we but listen deeply. The ruach, the Beloved's holy breath, Holy Spirit, stings our eyes and whips our cheeks, demanding compassionate justice, which includes a call to conversion for that which hates within ourselves and others. Talk is cheap and pious platitudes cannot carry the day: it's time to walk the walk, people!

Like Saint Francis, let us surrender all, even our cherished identities, as he shed his clothes in Assisi's town square, in his case (and mine), giving it all to walk with Jesus. Change will not happen over night, but it continues, and love triumphs.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

We Remember...September 11th

One of the things I promised myself I wouldn't say in a post about the events of September 11, 2001, was that we lost our innocence then. We did not. That was lost long before that terrible day when over three thousand Americans--Atheists, Buddhists, Catholics, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Protestants, Sikhs, those without a religious tradition yet still believers in God, and others--died together.

I mourn for all those who died in the Towers, the Pentagon, and in rural Pennsylvania. I mourn the First Responders, like Fr Mychal Judge, ofm, above, who died attempting to save others. I mourn the countless thousands who have died in the 'fight against terrorism,' civilians and soldiers alike. May their memories be for a blessing.

There's a subgroup within those casualties I'd like to remember especially: those that jumped. Many seeing no other recourse chose to take the situation into their own hands rather than allow collapse, fire or smoke kill them. It's easy to moralize, but until anyone of us is in a similar situation, it seems prudent to remain silent.

A few years ago I saw a news story in which a man spoke of searching to see if any photographic evidence existed showing his wife jumping, as opposed to falling or being sucked out a window. He was actually relieved when he, indeed, found two pictures of her: one of her standing on a very high floor in a window frame that had been blown out and no way to be rescued. The second showed her after she had just jumped and was midair. This man said it actually comforted him that she made the decision in light of the odds.

I also wish to remember those heroes, largely unknown, who reached out to others, without thought to themselves. I think of the Orthodox Jewish man who had a good chance of making it out but chose to stay behind with a gentleman in a wheelchair whom he came upon in a tower stairwell, the latter telling those trying to help him to leave him and save themselves.

Fr Mychal Judge, the saintly Franciscan deserves mention as well. He was an earthy saint: no fake piety about him. He died doing what a priest does in such a horrific situation: administering last rites to a fallen firefighter. Mychal was being the chaplain he was. He's certainly one of my patrons as a Franciscan and future chaplain.

So much horror that day, so much death  and injury, yet so many acts of grace and love, too. My prayer is that we demand peace of our leaders, and that we embody compassion and love to others, no matter what. Hatred spewed from those who flew the planes that clear morning, but it cannot, must not have the last word. Lord make us instruments of thy peace...

Salaam, shalom, namaste, peace...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Some Sites of Interest

Every once in a while, I will suggest a few sites to visit. This doesn't mean I agree with everything that's contained therein, but it's always good to be, to that end, check out sites of some friends of mine:

Jack Stafford's site

Theodore Richard's site

Barbara Flaherty's site

Community of St Francis, Chicago

Ecumenical Franciscan Order

Mercy of God Community

Andrew Cort's site

Patience With the Little Things

Patience, particularly with "little" things, is not always at the top of my list of virtues, LOL! For whatever reason, the bigger things in life don't bother me when I have to endure, wait, but some of those little ones...not so much.  My Franciscan heart, however, would certainly find me, like our friend above, stopping traffic for Mama duck& Family waiting for them to cross the street, because that's the thing to do...but I digress!

Recently, my ordination as interspiritual clergy was postponed essentially due to a communication glitch from my ordaining body (which resulted from technology issues mostly). Things happen.

When learning of the postponement originally, it hit me like a football in the gut. I also didn't know that I would be ordained with others, which is in itself not an issue, other than I won't be able to plan the whole liturgy. In the words of a dear friend: "You must be so disappointed since you are so ready..." Yup, she was right. While I didn't allow my emotions to control me too much, I was angry and a little hurt, and not feeling so patient. But part of maturity involves experiencing the emotion without getting too entangled, and letting it flow away.

Thankfully, dear friends reminded me that the experience, when it does happen, might just be even more, we wait, together, for that day. And, another pointed out that nothing is preventing a separate celebration liturgy at a later date.

These are good lessons learned, and re-learned. We all need to continually slow down and look for the signs from the Beloved, and follow them. We need let things BE...

So, whenever I am ordained to the ministry and however that takes place, it will be a day of great joy. It will be a YES moment! And, either the next day or the next week, I will preside at a Eucharistic liturgy, at once deeply Christian, and interspiritual, planned with friends.

On a separate note: I have joined the Tau Community of Interfaith Franciscans USA, which is affiliated with OUnI and the Community of the Mystic Heart. (I'd like the name to drop 'interfaith' and add 'interspiritual', but I digress). Walking the razor thin line between the Christian roots of Francis and Clare and the interspiritual witness is a profound challenge. May the Beloved so bless this endeavor...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

This Fragile Beauty

The Great Smoky Mountains

What a lovely range of mountains. A bit worn over time, but they feel like an old pair of jeans, a perfect fit. Water, weather, wind, have whipped these majestic beauties over millennia, but they are regal beyond description. Nothing random in that, methinks. 

Terrifying to believe that in some places, companies have purchased mineral rights, which means they can destroy a mountain to get to what's beneath. To attack Grandmother Earth is a form a rape and must be stopped.

We humans have done a number on Grandmother Earth the world over, and it's those of us in the so-called First World. We seem to think we're entitled, rather than listening to the Earth's voice. We must treat our Elder rightly and tread softly upon her, using what we need, and giving back to replenish her bounty.

The Beloved Community not only includes the People of God, but also Granny Earth and all that she contains, from animal life to minerals. Justice is pointless if it's not all embracing. It is up to us to begin listening again by getting closer to her.

If God is in all things and all things are within the Ancient of Days, we must honor the sacrament that is the earth, for it manifests the Divine, though the planet itself is not God, of course. We need our hearts to beat in resonance with the hum of Life in order to take action to protect our home.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Holy Instinct

What a deeply beautiful and profound picture. A mother bird shielding her young; she doesn't even have to think about it. She simply does it.

How much more with the Beloved who embraces and enlivens us! Being at a place in life where concepts have fallen by the side of the road, as it were, does not stop me seeing God in this action. What Greatness to have caused mother bird to have evolved to a point of protecting her young. How much more so that we humans, who have a mind to know and heart to love, though we certainly have the same instinct, can choose to love and protect those not as strong, whether our children, the elderly, the oppressed.

For people of faith, though still a choice, this empowering and protective action becomes second nature. It really becomes instinctual if we surrender humbly to the power of God, and let love guide us. Let us encourage each other to do so!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Back to School...

Well, classes begin for my second semester in grad school. I am so excited as I love this program and Loyola University. God has blessed me with phenomenal professors and great friends. How can that be beat?

Tomorrow: Rahner and Tillich with Fr Thomas O'Meara, op; Tuesday: 1st: Psychological Development of the Human Person and 2nd: Liturgy and Sacraments. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, I work in the Institute's office from 1-5pm. Life is good! Lots of reading this semester, which rocks as always.

Loyola is known for training chaplains well; it doesn't matter what faith tradition, or none, from which you come. No doubt in my mind that this is where I need to be, thanks be to God.

It is also a good place to dialogue and witness to the interspiritual path. This is the calling of the Beloved for me. May I, by the Beloved's love, do it justice and light the world on fire!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Beloved Community

Flower of Life

I experienced the Beloved Community last night. This gathering to celebrate returning to a new semester coming up this Monday happened to coincide with my birthday. Three folks I had never met before joined us, but what a blessing. We shared conversation, cupcakes, fellowship, and wine--ritual, yet somehow transcending ritual.

Just about all present were about half my age, but even that was transcended. We shared concerns and joys, got giggly and silly; the present, now, sacred moment. Each person just was himself or herself, allowing his or her own light to shine without pretension.

What joy to be present in a group of people who embody compassion and justice within their religious traditions and the world. It was the ordinariness of this gathering that made it holy, transcending space and time. No forced piety here.

Yes, this gathering was sacramental: an outward and visible expression of Divine indwelling and grace. Those present made it so in union with the Beloved whose presence radiated from all hearts present. Like any well done ritual, we left with warmed hearts, refreshed, renewed, going out in service to the world.

Friday, August 26, 2011

L'Chaim! (To Life)

The Yoster at 4 yrs of age

Life is a BLESSING! It is not to be taken for granted. During the last 46 years since my birth on this day, I have seen ups and downs, like anyone else. I have tried to learn from all, realizing that life is what it is at any moment. Underlying the challenging and the good lies That Which Is, the Beloved who upholds. God connects and permeates everything, if one opens ones eyes.

One thing I refuse to do is cave to cynicism and nihilism. Yes, a lot of evil has taken place since August 1965. Living life means staring it all in the face and still, somehow, saying "YES" without denying the existence of the evils. A lot of good has taken place since 1965's Summer as well, all of which bless us.

If I have leaned anything in my life thus far, it's to strive continually for balance, the center, and root myself in the Ancient of Days, my Beloved, in whom I live, move and have my being. It involves continually emptying myself to allow the Lord of the Dance to whirl me into the Divine embrace, alhamdulillah!

So, this anniversary of my birth, I say THANK YOU to my Beloved, my biological parents (Harry and Mary Anne) and my adoptive parents (Carl and Mary, both of blessed memory) for giving me life. And thanks to all those dear folks who have blessed my life as friends and relatives, especially my beloved, Jim.

So dance, dance, DANCE, and radiate the Light!

The Yoster today

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Flight to Whole(holy)ness

Fifteen percent of the US population now lists "none" for choice of religious affiliation. Stories running in The Huffington Post recently indicate that folks simply are not going to church like they used to do, including the less educated and women. A Pew Forum Study indicates that young people are not drawn to organized religion, but believe in God and continuing life after death. 

Time to panic? Not at all, unless you're vested in the institution surviving exactly as it is. Yes, some of these so-called unaffiliated are agnostics or atheists, but not the majority. It seems to me the spiritual impulse is alive and well among many of today's folks choosing to affiliate directly with That Which Is, God-as-verb. 

This movement out of the pews among some people who do, expresses not disdain for the Beloved or community, but, in fact, a new way of expressing and relating to timeless Mystery. Many are simply walking the Way as the noisy, honking goose-like Spirit leads them. 

So, do we padlock churches and other houses of worship? Hmmm, a sabbath year from religiosity might not be a bad thing, challenging the People of God to experience spiritual transformation in all they do, not compartmentalize it to Sundays or whatever day for their tradition's worship.  But, perhaps nothing so drastic is indicated as many religious folks already allow the transforming action of That Which Is to transform them within, yet beyond, organized structures.

It does seem, however, that religions need to get over themselves and learn some humility. People demand authenticity; their experiences matter, deeply. They are not sheep called to keep silent unless spoken to nor will they blindly accept all that is told them. Where dissonance fractures, people flee to wholeness. Ah, the Buddha giggles with delight!

Quite simply, as the Latin American saying goes: "You can cut the flowers, but you can't hold back the Spring!" 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Lantern in a Dark Night

Amazing how Life keeps flowing and pulsing, being no respecter of persons. Whether a Summer garden bursting and pulsing or a desert baking and parching, for those enjoying a picnic at the beach or those wasting from malnutrition, wanting but some food and water, Life doesn't stop. It simply is, almost mocking humans' illusion of control.

Eventually, everything shall be overturned in the great compost heap of existence, nurturing new life that follows. But this doesn't let us off the hook for trying to right the wrongs in this world,quite the contrary. We should be so aware of this life's finite quality, that we love it that much more and wish to make it better for others and all Creation. 

What's so sad is that many in the so-called First World suffer from Cranial-Recto Syndrome, which prevents them from seeing the light, and, hence, the suffering of others. These folks truly think life's parade is about them in their Mad-Hatter delusion.

Taking a step back and simply listening and looking at the politicos, religious leaders, and various and sundry folks, no longer floors me like it once did. Now all I can do is shake my head, pitying them. It doesn't matter that it's heterosexism or racism, blaming the homeless for their lot in life or women for getting raped, hating atheists or Christians, Jews or Muslims, not to mention Church leaders defrocking priests who stand for justice: hatred of the others so often seems to be the world's oldest profession.

But it needn't be. We need to become aflame with love, not the saccharinized version so prevalent today among the various self-aggrandizing modes of "spirituality" but rather the love that comes with great cost and sacrifice. It's up to each of us to plumb to the depths of our souls, opening ourselves to penetrating transformation at the hands of the Beloved, whether or not we are religious. 

The more of us who do, who are so transfigured, can change the world. I don't know about you, but the God of my being does not do Cecil B. DeMille productions, but, rather, works so silently among and through us, lighting each heart as a lantern in the dark night.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Putting Away Childish Things

How does one become a butterfly? You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.
~Trina Paulus, Hope for the Flowers

Change is not easy. The naysayers in our lives try to throw us off course because they're too terrified to exercise their free will and do it. Letting go of the familiar causes pain; let's face it: it's comfortable. But is it fulfilling?

Often, others are "concerned about you" because you've departed from the established path. Buddha did that. Jesus did that. Hmmm, funny that.

God's Reign supposedly dwells within our hearts. Seems to me, that letting go and following that compass, gets us to where we need to go. Creeds, dogmas, and prayer books get us part way, but each of us needs to grow up 
and trust That Which Is.

On this Journey,we need to be childlike in our awe of God and all that God has made, which, thus, opens us to experiencing the Ground of our Being more fully.We need not, however, remain childish, being fed strained beliefs and mashed metaphors, throwing tantrums when Santa Claus god fails to give us what we want and Vengeful Father god fails to smite our enemies. We need to get over ourselves and let go of that which hinders spiritual maturity.

If we choose to partake,ritual, when celebrated well, can help us approach God as adults with our awe and intelligence intact, opening us more fully to God's work among and within us. Far less words, and much more of the experiential, it seems to me, can lead us more fully into our compassionate hearts,wherein the Ancient of Days dwells.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Removing the Box

Sometimes stepping out of something leads you more deeply into it. It's one of those delicious and lovely Zen-like realities. It's a paradox of the Path, which is paradox itself.

By going beyond ordinary boundaries, I find that "the icon and the idol determine two manners of being for beings, not two classes of beings" (God Without Being, Jean-Luc Marion 8). Getting out from under the crushing weight of regular religiosity, allows truth to flow, unimpeded, all pointing to the One. Lights do not belong under bushels of any kind (Mt. 5:15).

Quite simply, this way of being permits seeing so much as if for the first time. Taking anything for granted, particularly faith, is not good. It becomes moribund and rank. This is not a matter of always wanting something to fresh and exciting for its own sake, but, rather, a deep sense a getting to the bottom of things, the Real. 

This movement in my life presently is not against anything, but rather for or toward something. Where this dance shall lead, I don't know, but dance my heart wishes to do, always in the embrace of the Beloved.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Losing My Religion

Losing My Religion by Billyboy
Now, don't anybody go gettin' your knickers in a knot. Read before reacting, because it's probably not what ya think, okay? Okay.

The Beloved remains nearer to me than my own breath. Wherever I am, God IS, for the Ancient of Days dwells in all things and all things rest in God. She, like a mother, nurtures and empowers us; she's not about conquest and domination. Perhaps she grows with us.

Note, too, that I am not anti-religion, though I despise what too many folks do in its name, hiding behind its power. Personally, I have no use for any faith that's more interested in shoring up control, doctrine, and/or trappings than compassion and justice or one that's so caught up in spiritual pursuits that it neglects this world.Perhaps we're all called to be Rahner's "anonymous Christians" or live Bonhoeffer's "religionless Christianity". 

It's just that religion, which at its root means "to bind" does just that, and gags, too, often enough. Some discard religion because they've never really engaged it, for sure. Others run after some "spiritual but not religious" light and fairy dust routine which neglects the dark (which is not always negative), and, hence, reality; it's a religion unto itself. Some Evangelicals like to pretend that they're religionless Christians, when nothing could be farther from the truth. Far too many use religion as a place to hide and uplift themselves, without looking around them.

Soup kitchens and shelters are needed, for example, but the roots of society's problems must be exposed and handled. Heaven's fine to think about, if you so care to do so, but not when Lazarus sits on your church, mosque, or temple doorstep without any food or shelter (Luke 16:19-31); all too few ask why.

Granted, a goodly number of religious folks do ask. They bless the world immensely. But this goes far deeper than that for this contemplative. Sometimes one senses a call to the desert, no matter where he or she finds himself or herself. It compels the contemplative to stand at the crossroads of here and now, just at the edge of the Real, which allows reflection and speaking to the stuff of life. Some, like Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, did that within a religious framework, but others of us find themselves called to do so beyond it, though rooted in its interspiritual insights. Monastic mentors confirm this call in my case. This in no way makes me holy, that's for damn sure. For some, dropping the concepts allows the truly Real to bloom.