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!