Living a Lenten Life

ashwednesdayI invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the
observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word….
(Book of Common Prayer, 1979, p. 265)

…. What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.
To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance. …
(David Whyte, 2014 – What to Remember When Waking – retrieved 1/30/2018)

I started Lent in January. ‘Might as well get an early start. Honestly, I have resolved to adopt different ways of being this year.  Some of my resolutions have to do with my diet and physical wellness. Other resolutions are more spiritual and vocational in nature.  Each of them, individually and in concert with one another have to do with making progressive and healthy changes in body, mind, and soul. In other words, I am striving to repent.

A priestly friend and colleague introduced me a few years ago to David Whyte’s work. Whyte is a poet and speaker whose thoughts and words provoke thousands of other fans to view life through the lens of their day to day experience in this world. Whyte’s wisdom considers lessons of ancestry and spirituality.

Some years ago, David offered a presentation at Seattle University’s School of Theology. In this talk he offers this wonderful definition of repentance (metanoia – in New Testament Greek).  David Whyte said (beginning at (9’:55” in the video):

Change your heart and mind by reading Samantha Kielar’s great blog post about metanoia.

“There is a lovely etymology (meaning) to the word repent in the Bible because in the Greek the word repent was actually metanoia which simply meant not to go over your past sins and lash yourself on the back … which you can do and enjoy if you like. Make yourself a very nice cup of coffee before you do it. But metanoia literally just to change your mind and to think differently.”  (Whyte, 2012)

The way that we think shapes the way that we speak. How we speak shapes the way that we live. Early Christians came to be known as people or followers of The Way.(Wiener, 2017). They claimed and received this title because they adopted powerfully their Christian disciplines and exhibited their Christian faith. Fasting, devotional prayers, silence, and acts of generosity were evidence of these newly baptized Christians’ changes in heart, mind, and body.

Lent remains about resolutely changing who we are. It is an intentional season of transformation. We go with Jesus into the Wilderness We follow him into Jerusalem to confront persecutions and prejudices. We witness the intimate and vulnerable time he shares with his disciples.  Lent beckons us to confront our own internal and external temptations. Such repentance invites us to reject cravings separating us from God’s love and our neighbors’ needs and desires. Once again, Lenten repentance gives us space to choose what ways we will think, speak, and walk upon moment by moment.

You can begin your Lenten practices early too, if you like. The Wilderness is as far away as your willingness to meditate. Are you willing to allow God to speak silently to you. Try going into a trance as my friend Gil suggests. You may further elect to fast from a habit or ritual that focuses your life more on yourself than God. You should find time on a daily basis to pray and interact with Christ.  Sacred Space offers a daily examination from the Jesuit tradition.   Sign up for Richard Rohr’s Daily Mediations.  There are lots of additional options to choose from on the Internet.

Read Bill Plotkin’s Soulcraft Musings and open up to your soul’s true purpose.  Visit Animas Valley Institute for more details about Soulcraft quests.


We may enter Lent wholeheartedly. Such personal devotion, reflection, and thinking requires courage.  Our Christian faith is sacramental and sacrificial. This holy work wholly offers pathways to join Jesus at the foot of the Cross as well as at the opening of Easter’s empty tomb.  Christianity doesn’t own the desert of contemplative and transformational life, not by a long shot. Let your soul guide you if your religious or spiritual bent is different than mine. I’m yearning to go on an Animas Valley Institute Soul Initiation quest. Maybe you’re supposed to go rather than me.


May our pilgrimages through Lent’s wilderness and wild places draw us nearer to God, provide awareness of God’s angels, and offer us more trust in Jesus our Lord and Christ. May we claim our truest, very best Christian inheritance. Let us carry our divinely offered gifts with humility.


Blessings along The Way, Jim




Star Wars Spirituality – Why the Last Jedi bugs some people and attracts others.

Luke and Rey in the Last Jedi
Celtic Monastic Imagery anyone?

I haven’t seen The Last Jedi yet.  Don’t spoil it for me! I’m going tomorrow.

My spouse and I decided to watch The Force Awakens one more before going to see this movie. This seemed like a wise thing to do after reviewing the Rotten Tomatoes Last Jedi webpage.

What I find fascinating is this: Why is there such a difference of opinion between critics and movie-goers?  9 out of 10 critics like the movie whereas only 5 out of 10 people who paid to get in enjoyed it. My limited research suggests that audiences who hated the money think it diminishes the legacy of the episodes preceding it.  Rian Johnson has, for haters, written and directed a movie that is incoherent and epically unsatisfactory. The plot doesn’t hold together. The characters viewers expected to love and hate are dumb and simplistic.

Conversely, critics like MaryAnn Johanson relish that Johnson creates a disturbance in Star War’s 40-year long cinematic relationship with The Force. This movie takes the story in a different direction. Johnson assaults Star Wars orthodoxy. Critics appreciate his originality.

[Most everyone agrees that the movie is too long.  Try sitting through the Oberammergau Passion Play if you think a three hour movie is too long.]

My inference is that there’s a reformation going on with Star Wars’ spiritual, psychological, and narrative midi-chlorians. Some people enjoy having their expectations and foundational views of the world, scientific fiction or otherwise, jumbled up. Some don’t.  Thus the movie is getting its mixed reviews.

I live in the realities of paradoxes and uncontrollability; so, I expect that I’ll enjoy The Last Jedi. I think this will be true despite the series’ ongoing messianic message and dualistic cosmology (Manichean/Confucian dualism).  Is the universe inherently designed upon a battle between good and evil, dark and light? Or, is the universe religiously pluralistic and morally relative? This argument provides some basis for people’s difference of opinions. Maybe it just sucks or excels.  I’ll see.

Kylo Ren idolizes Darth Vader

For me, the Star Wars is a spirituality saga. I spend lots of time contemplating the nature of  why and how universal creatures make choices. Theology means a lot to me. One of the factors that I admire most about these movies abides in the characters’ psycho-spiritual depths.  Why do they (we) decide to go to the Dark Side? What motivates them (us) to recognize and acquiesce to imperial and carnal desires. Why do Darth Vader and Kylo Ren for whatever evil reasons choose to surrender themselves to their deities: Snoke and Palpatine (Darth Sidious). On the other hand, why do the protagonists elect to abide in The Force’s panentheistic truths? Luke Skywalker and Rey seek The Force and learn its values?  The course of their life channels them toward Yoda and Obi Wan Kanobi.  Why? Is destiny singularly relevant? It doesn’t seem so because the characters are constantly striving to persuade one another to make different choices. “There is still good in him.”  “I will show you the Power of The Dark Side.”  Conflict continues in The Last Jedi. Rey must fight Kylo Ren again….unless there is a deviation in the epic’s typical narrative trajectory.   Why?

George Lucas – making heroes while contrasting good and evil.

Well, because human beings tell stories, strive to make meaning of the world, and often don’t have a frickin’ idea why the universe works the way it does or why we do the illogical and emotionally unintelligent things that we do. We are emotional more so than we are rational. We don’t unplug from anxiety or passions particularly well.  Heroes like Hans Solo and villains such as Jaba reveal these truths.

George Lucas created, composed, and crafted a spiritually pertinent and heterodox religious myth whether or not he intended to when he began this work back in the 1970s .  He suggested in a 2014 interview w/ Charlie Rose that he created Star Wars as a vehicle for exploring psychological motifs. He pondered whether or not modern people worried and wondered about mythical and oral beliefs in the same manner as ancient people did.  Why do some people make heroic sacrifices while other people don’t? What does it mean to be someone’s friend? Why do we make enemies knowing that our wars will perhaps kill us and others?

Lucas furthermore explained that, as an 8-year-old he asked his mother why there were so many religions if there is only one God.  His inquiry may be the basis for the reason that the Star War movies blend so many spiritual and religious themes.  Myths shroud whether or not The Force (God exists).  Believers and sages of both The Dark Side and The Force gather in temples, sit in councils, and contemplate their relationships with nature and other beings. For goodness sake, The Force Awakens ends on Skellig Michael. 6th Century CE Celtic ascetic monks chose this sea crag as the best destination to pursue greater union with God. (World Heritage, nd) These monks, like Luke Skywalker in a galaxy far, faraway during a time long, long ago before them, withdrew from civilization. They isolated themselves to yoke themselves to the Divine following conflict with spiritual and secular foes and frustrations.  In sum, George Lucas and his disciples have sought to do the same thing that Moses, Jesus Christ, Buddha, Lao Tzu and other spiritual-religious prophets and mystics have done. They creatively use myths and beliefs to explain the universe and humanity’s place in it.

Star-Wars-Last-Jedi-Rey-Dad-Leaked-SceneI’m going to head to the movie theater tomorrow for the same reason that I will sit silently in Centering Prayer tonight.  I will worship God this weekend in church as well as learn more about God at AMC Classic Bloomsburg 11 because all of these endeavors will provoke me to think about life and death.  Evil things happen every day. I am evil sometimes. Other times I am very good. Grace occurs  when we least expect it Why do I make the choices that I do?  Why do you believe what you believe? Why did Luke abandon his friends? Why didn’t Darth Vader return to The Force before mortally dying? Seemingly, some of the characters in The Last Jedi are going to make choices that their predecessors didn’t make.  The course of universal constructs may change because Rey or Kylo don’t make absolute choices as their mentors did before them.  One reason that some people like this movie and others don’t is that not everybody possesses the same fears and anxieties. Neither do we all have the same genetic composition for managing trauma and/or health. Some of us need deities that are molded in stone. Others of us need ethereal, malleable gods.

I’ll let you know what I gained from seeing the movie in my  next post.


Maturing – Soul-fully

P.D. James
And any writing, if it is worth doing, requires care.” – from P.D. James’ prologue to “Time To Be in Earnest.”

“Grow up!”  I can’t remember how and when someone said this to me. I’ll blame my mother and my older brother because she isn’t mortally alive to defend herself.  He and I have reconciled our relationship after years of strife and mistrust.

I find it to hard to yield to authority figures. I especially fight back or flee when they call me out for my undisciplined or childish behavior. in Jungian terms, I’m living out my “Rebel” and “Child” archetypes. I push back when I myself or someone else bumps into my behavioral buttons.

Wounded Child
Waking up and healing our wounded child.

Actually my wounds are deeper than that assumption. Aspects of my psyche cling to difficult childhood experiences and adolescent coping mechanisms.  My maturation, as Caroline Myss suggests depends upon paying particular attention to and resolving my childhood memories while not rejecting appropriate authority figures. (Myss, Appendix: A Gallery of Archetypes)   . I’m not the only person working through this maturation process.

Last week I carefully meditated over and selected a card from my School of Life Know

Know Yourself Prompt Cards.
Learn more about yourself at the School of Life.

Yourself Prompt Cards. The card read “What happened to you in your childhood?”

Whew!    Well, alot quite frankly. I’m spending precious, meaningful therapeutic time these days. I’m answering that question, honestly, compassionately.  I’m reacquainting myself with the two-year old boy who didn’t know that his father was dead. I’m standing in the hallway  of my home as a 4 year-old boy pondering why my mother is in bed crying. She is not taking care of me. I’m sad and confused. As an 11-year old  boy  I’m riding away from home at night on my green three-speed bicycle. I’m fleeing home. I don’t like what is happening there. I’m frightened about what I’m learning about my human sexuality.


Here I am again. I’m 17 and sitting on a sandy overlook in La Jolla, CA looking at the Pacific Ocean. There are guys hang-gliding over Blacks Beach.  As I sit there, I’m learning that my oldest brother is an alcoholic. His addiction explains but doesn’t solve why he verbally and physically assaults his spouse, children, and me.  I’m wrestling with how much I’d like to be wandering around comfortably on the nude beach below this cliff. Instead I’m figuring out how the hell I’m going to get on with my life safely and joyfully.

I’m still doing that work. Except now, I’m equipped with the beauty of viewing life with the wholehearted wisdom I’m gaining from the books I read and beloved friends I adore and who support me. Fortunately, I’m writing this with an eastern Sun shining on my face in the comfort of a well-heated home. My cat Bono purrs comfortably next to my laptop. My eyes and soul are turning westward as I age. I’m entering into the latter days of my life. I am no longer the child that I was in the 60s and 70s. I became 60 years old in September. It is indeed time for me to live earnestly. I am not alone. I walk this path with men and women alike who should mature with me if our planet is going to flourish.

The back of my enlightenment card informs me that just about everything taking place today in life is a consequence of patterns that we formed or were imposed upon us in our childhood. We’ve usually forgotten those patterns and/or sought to squish them down. If we wish to mature, we must return to those experiences as an adult and reinterpret them – compassionately and with a sense of letting them go. At least we can  adopt them and our inner children with lots of love rather than more abuse. Our egos hate this work so it is essential to have mentors, guides, and honest brokers around us.

Listen to ZenLifeRelax to calm your mind and awaken your true being.

ZenRelaxMusic soothes my anxious demons. I’m opening up to the possibilities of allowing myself to wake up and become a full-fledged adult.  As Bill Plotkin describes, such a wake-up call requires a new form of becoming grounded in one’s soul. To mature in such a way is to to die, psychologically and spiritually. We are then reborn firmly rooted in the mystery with which we came into this life. Our eternal souls guide this work through recognizing, forgiving, and restoring what was wounded and using it as balm to become more whole. This pilgrimage opens open God’s eternity in this world to one’s self, one’s communities, and into as well as beyond our shared humanity.

Jan Richardson – End and Beginning

In between Matthew and Mark’s apocalypses is today. In Christian terms, dying to self and the woes of this world offers renewed and resurrected life, This is true for now as well as for some unknowable time in the future when Jesus the Christ returns in great glory. The Triune God travels with us if Christians believe what we say each Sunday.  I’m coming to understand that deepening my faith in God’s love is not just about being good. It is about coming to terms with the entirety of the mortal life that The Creator has endowed me with for the relatively few years that I am human, for now.

Psychologist Rick Hanson suggests that people, especially those of us who struggle with difficult childhood memories and depression, should work especially at “taking in the good.” Some research indicates that our human brains permit bad experiences to stick like Velcro to our psyches whereas good memorials slip away like they are on Teflon. Positive emotions doesn’t transfer as easily as negative emotions to long-term memory. It is crucial then I and, and you too, dedicate ourselves taking in all that is good and being present to it.  Be alert. Keep watch for more than a few seconds! (Rich Hanson, Take in The Good)

Earth's History
Take a couple of minutes to be in awe of the fact that our presence here is just a filament’s moment on the planet’s timeline.

“Grow Up!” Ok, ok, I’ll try. I’ll admit it. I’m a human being. I’ve got psychological baggage. My childhood wasn’t great. It wasn’t the worst experience on the planet either.  Presently, I have a good therapist, a worthwhile vocation, a bountiful safety new. I own two cats who drive me crazy for just a small percentage of the day.

My mortal life, along with yours, has been 4.5 billion years in the making.  I’ll treasure the moments that my soul, mind, and body are blessed to experience. By God’s Grace, with a fair amount of patience, and terrific friends and therapists alike – I’ll learn to let trauma go so that it teaches me what I’m here to learn, today. Carefully, at least occasionally, I’ll mature into a better spiritual being living a human existence.  Are you going with me?


Presence in Prescott

Prescott_2016I find it easy to wake up early when my circadian rhythm is in Pennsylvania while my body is in Arizona. Thus, I was awake by 4:00 am this morning. That’s early for me even by my standards back home on Eastern Standard Time. I’ve journey Westward to the state of my birth and the source of my complex spirituality.  The Southwest is home for my wandering mortality.

I am joyous to be in Arizona as I will be spending time with beloved friends and family in the Phoenix area over the weekend and early next week. For now though, I’ve sojourned to the cool pines and aspens of Prescott. This Yavapai region is becoming one of my most favorite places on Earth.  I first came here as a young boy. More recently, I’ve visited Prescott to participate in a variety of camps, retreats, and conferences at The Episcopal Diocese of Arizona’s Chapel Rock Camp and Conference Center.  I am very fond of Chapel Rock. It nourishes my being. Everything from the small, solemn chapel to the woodpeckers banging away for bugs on the pine trees close to the cottages.  The cooler temperatures and Spirit’s breath on the constant breezes balances me between sky and earth.

On this occasion, I’m retreating at a dearest friend’s family cabin about 10 miles outside of Prescott. The refuge is tucked away in the trees.  A close by resident seemingly feeds the deer as they wander carefree around the property with curious eyes and attentive ears. They weren’t yet awake when I was. At least, not where I could see them.  I threw some clothes on an traveled over close to Chapel Rock for a short and favorite hike of mine.  It begins at the camp and travels up a trail toward a rock formation that borders a golf course. The tops of these rocks provide an outstanding vantage point to view sunrise over the somewhat distant Yavapai Hills.

Spectacular – all-ways spectacular.

This morning there were a few clouds turning brilliant red as dawn came into being. Birds woke up and began their quest for life.  For the most part though, I relished in silence.  The cathedral of sacred space I woke up in was filled with cool air and solid ground.  I imagine that it is for occasional transcendent moments such as this morning that my soul chose to be human.  These beauties balance out despair.

20171019_071627I remained on the watch tower for some minutes then returned to the trail to visit another favorite spot of mine. It is a spot back toward Chapel Rock not far off of the path.  The summer rains and/or snowfall melt frequently create streams and a small pool of water. Hummingbirds love to dart in and seek bugs. They perch themselves on the mesquite trees, often battered by the elements.  Other creatures come and go from this minute watering hole too. There were no hummingbirds today.  There was no water either. Yet, the spot remained ever so solemnly beautiful.




Presence in Prescott

Just Before Sunrise – The Hawk was here

Brilliant Red Clouds transforming into Grey wisps as the Sun ebbs into the horizon.

Above the Hills the Morning transcendence occurs.

Leaves are Turning Red – The Summer rains and their shimmering pools are gone – replaced by footsteps where fleeting slender streams once were.

20171019_071634The Hummingbirds must be south of here now. Perhaps elsewhere as the warmth and water they seek are gone – replaced by chuckling quails hunkered down in the bushes – not easily found.

So it is that I again pray. In all of it – all of this moment – here … the hard dry wood, the dusty trails, the calls of unknown fowl, the breeze blown grass, seasons transiting from one day anext – the joys of observing beyond my body – God and I abide as One



Apocalypse – the costly cement of racism.

Michelangelo’s Last Judgment

I believe in an apocalypse. I actually think such revelations happen in small and large ways every day.   I’m not one of those fundamentalist Christians who believes that Planet Earth is about to crash into Planet Niburu. Conversely, I am re-creating myself as a 21st Century millennialist.  A sense of emerging humility is guiding me to accept the world as it is. New ways of being human are unfolding and dying is part of such a universal and apocalyptic process.

We should desire to live in a safer, healthier, more compassionate world. But, tribalism kills us.  Fear prompts us to blame some external force that is imprisoning us or murdering us. It is who we are as a species. We fear people we don’t know. We objectify others for our problems rather than accept our own faults. We claim to be better than someone from another culture. We wouldn’t act as they do. Yes, we mostly would.

We hope that God or the president or something will make life better. We lack responsibility, creativity, or power to design and enjoy Sabbaths in sacred time and space. We dream of living in a new millennium but  our “thoughts and prayers” are insufficient on their own. Another transformational apocalypse unfolds on our fragile island Earth. Its impact mostly crashes upon impoverished, marginalized people who don’t have the time, money, or access to yoga classes, this week’s diet, or fresh kale.

Screenshot (13)We as a species are frequently willing to deny rational truths about what is taking place in our world. We neglect or deny such rational truths based upon what we value. We are unwilling to give up, power, possession, or property even when such things do not give us the happiness we seek. We refuse to accept some fact or principle even when it is blatantly and factually untrue. We fight or flee from other people when they confront, and especially attack us with their different truths.

Why? Because we are who we are because of what we feel. Our identities are most important to us. Who we are in this day and age is actually much more lethal than it was in Jesus’ day. And, we haven’t matured all that much since the time when Romans crucified thousands of Jews including Jesus of Nazareth. In evolutionary terms, we remain adolescents. Like many teenagers, we think we will live forever and our actions have no consequences. Wise elders among us know such falsehoods are dangerous and tragically risky. We cling to our egoistic, childish, and self-centered attachments – often irrationally. If we desire to bring a new age into being, we must grow up and die daily in uncomfortable ways.

Thus, we indeed find ourselves on the brink of catastrophic consequences. One way of understanding our apocalypse is to see it through the lens of ancient prophets. They were  not just oracles who forecast a future imperial utopia. Instead, they viewed stark realities though the paradoxical presence of widespread despair & irrational hope. They spoke and wrote with confidence because of an unshakable faith and trust in a divinely engaged God who was witnessing and responding to all human cruelty.

coates interview
Watch Ta-Nehisi Coates’ interview with Stephen Colbert.

Such prophets abide among us today. Ta-Neihisi Coates prophetically writes and states that we who live in the United States are living and participating in An American Tragedy. One aspect of this tragedy is that our president, in Coates’ words, “who is effectively conducting diplomacy with a nuclear rogue state via Twitter. … We forget how far gone we actually are.” This state of affairs and results are happening because we elected the country’s first Black president. A significant number of white people in the United States resent that reality. Power dynamics are consequentially shifting in the waters of American whiteness.  President Trump seeks to reverse initiatives that President Obama brought into being  according to Coates. Later on  The Late Show, Stephen Colbert asked Coates if he has any hope about  us becoming a better country, creating better race and political relationships. (h/t to Constance Grady on Vox.) Coates’ answer: “No, but I’m not the person you should go to for that. You should go to your pastor. Your pastor provides you hope. Your friends provide you hope”

Really? Not at the church where I serve – at least not authentically. I’m kinda like Coates in one way.  I don’t want to make up bullshit when I don’t believe what I’m teaching or preaching. I have a hard enough time convincing myself that God is present in the continuing suffering and oppression of black and other people of color in the United States. And yet, that is precisely where God is as God was with Jesus.

I am convinced too that our economic and social ways of being are tragically unfair to millions of white people.  That’s not the main thrust of this blog post though. I and millions of people participate in seen and unseen racist ways and motives as a white people.  Thus, I question whether or not I am hopefully dismissing my own racial prejudices by mentioning Coates on my blog. My intention is to become more responsible for addressing the absence of manifest hope for “overcoming the racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. (Sen. B. Obama, Philadelphia, 2008). Racism is one integral chemical in the apocalypse that is revealing itself to me. I learning how to cope with suffering that is and isn’t within my control.

cornerstoneDespair haunts my apocalyptic thinking.  Perhaps I’m reading too much into scripture. Today’s Gospel suggests that Jesus was quick to point out what happens when religious peoples, especially pastors’, priests’, and theologians’, actions are hypocritically inconsistent with God’s yearnings for humanity’s peace and prosperity. He quickly and rudely points out how powerful authoritarians act quickly and violently to harm and execute God’s prophets.  Matthew’s Parable of the Wicked Tenants‘ analagous assault on the vineyard owner’s of course includes Matthew’s conclusive context to the parable. Such an interpretative ending also runs through all other readily available gospel writers’ narratives too, including the Gospel of Thomas. If we don’t like those endings then it is up to us to faithfully elect how to redact and revise them. This is resurrection and reordering work. Jesus the Christ provides a source and cornerstone for such miracles.

Human beings, then and now, choose to observe what is going on in the world and reject it. Our mortality is established upon love/hate relationships with the world we live in and the people we live with each day. We cement ourselves and our stories upon truths that we are attached to and their presence becomes the foundation for our own destruction. Unacknowledged or racial prejudice is one such cornerstone. Will it be that our blind eyes and anxious hearts will cause us to lose the vineyards we live in. This message is especially pertinent for people with significant degrees of racial, political, economic, social, and historical power. Let anyone with ears listen.


This Morning’s Prayer

I support and join with the Episcopal Bishops Against Gun Violence

I have composed and sent this prayerful letter to the Senators of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – Sen Pat Toomey  and Sen. Bob Casey.

Dear Senator,

I pray today that dozens of people will not die or be wounded today because of someone who converted his or her legal semiautomatic weapon or abused his 2nd Amendment rights to own a gun.

I intercede, as a priest of The Church and as a citizen, to you and our nations’ senators to prevent an angry person who is perhaps living with a mental illness or unresolved despair to inflict mortal carnage upon people living in Pennsylvania or elsewhere across our nation.

I ask you in the name of Jesus Christ, for repentance (a change of heart and direction) to manifest wisdom in making it more difficult for someone living in the Commonwealth to convert the weapons they own into battlefield weapons.

cross with gunsI yearn for God to mercifully receive the souls of those people who will die and be wounded today. I pray that God’s angels will indeed be close to people who will lie perilously close to death on our nation’s streets and in countless hospital beds because someone else shot them. I will ask God and you why there are so many guns in our nation when our bodies are so fragile when rapidly fired bullets impact us.

I pray that God will abide with doctors, nurses, counselors, pastors, and first responders who will provide aid to victims and will need pastoral, spiritual, physical, and mental support themselves.

May God grant you the wisdom, courage, and grace as my Senator to do something to make the lives of your constituents safer and more joyous today. May God’s Holy Spirit guide and direct you to act and legislate so that our shared thoughts and prayers for victims and their families will become more than words and manifest the truest and most compassionate love of Jesus Christ.


The Rev. Jim Strader-Sasser – Christ Memorial Episcopal Church – Danville.



As God’s Spirit Leads you – please visit – The Episcopal Bishops United Against Gun Violence’s webpage. They have compiled a useful list of liturgical resources and objective facts.

I encourage you, on behalf of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania’s bishop, The. Rt. Rev. Audrey Scanlan, to visit and resourcefully use the Smart Gun Laws website.

May our words and become more than words and may we have the courage, patience, and compassion of Jesus the Christ.




Shadow Living

Read this morning’s Daily Mediation from Richard Rohr

I highly encourage my blog readers to subscribe to Richard Rohr‘s Daily Meditations. Rohr founded the Center for Action and Contemplation. The center offers a variety of program and resources to guide spiritual seekers and activists to join in an interfaith, Gospel-based and cosmic mission . They are “encouraging the transformation of human consciousness through contemplation, and equipping people to be instruments of peaceful change in the world.”

Rohr writes about many themes including forgiveness, love, prayer, and hope. For me, he is a mystic who provides pathways and tools for living more deeply into my life.  He focuses on the intersection of contemplation (mediation and prayer) with action (discipleship, education, activism). Much of his writing is built upon what we learn from addiction recovery such as Alcoholic Anonymous’ 12 Step Program. “Stinking Thinking leads to Stinking Living.” Developing and practicing Mindfulness (contemplation) offers addicts and sober people alike sacred space for finding their soul’s truest desires, skills for accepting reality as it paradoxically is, and accepting (un)expected suffering and joy.

Falling Upward is about living into life’s two halves.

Today, Rohr focuses on what is a basic reason for why people are struggling with contemporary and complex realities. We don’t know how to abide in shadows of suffering, doubt, and grief. Life is hard and we want it to be easy. In Christian terms we look for joy and new life (resurrection and re-birth) without encountering or enduring injustice, and pain (Good Friday’s Cross) and/or uncertainty, death, and silence. (Good Saturday’s Tomb and Divine Intervention).

Rohr writes: “Mainline Christianity does not seem to be giving people access to God, to the soul, or to the joy and freedom promised in the Scriptures. Christianity is not doing its primary job well—moving people from the first to the second half of life.” (Rohr, Entering the Dark Wood, Sept. 4, 2017, para. #1). Life’s Second Half is all about becoming Easter Christians True soulful and spiritual living requires us, like Jesus, to discount the certain happiness of the world’s superficial allures and pleasures.  Most of our economic, political, relational, and religious platforms are built upon the successes of being wealthy, safe, secure, and innocent.  These are all good and desirable expectations. And, they present only the most comfortable and superficial realities of being fully human and truly soulful.  Is it any wonder that the prosperity gospel is so attractive? Those persons who seek to live into their deepest dreams and their souls’ desires must descend and encounter the shadows and unsafe boundaries of our existence.

People, beginning with myself, are ill-equipped and unprepared to live into the second halves of our lives. Rohr and other wisdom teachers inform us that abiding and holding such suffering is the truest pathway for journeying into our truest means and reasons for being. One only look at our nation’s difficulties, especially racism, xenophobia, addiction treatments, and healthcare policies, to observe how we do everything we can to avoid suffering, encounter darkness, and set aside our presumed innocence. We are beholden to life’s first half even as the world around us calls us into second half realities.

We cannot live as spiritual or emotional adolescents anymore. Secular living appeases and allures us to remaining in search of seemingly life and light giving possessions in and of themselves. Well, we can choose to live in any number of ways. We can continue to consume too much food. We can elect not to observe how we treat one another across the planet. We can allow our egos to dominate our thinking. We can continue to believe that our political, religious, and economic leaders will take care of us. We can decide that we have no say or control over what is happening with us in our primary circles of control and influence. Essentially, we can remain in life’s first half and refuse what is necessary to become spiritually and humanly whole with God’s Grace and Blessing.

We will then assuredly continue to encounter all of the (un)intended consequences of such behaving and believing. Churches, communities of faith, and neighborhoods possess capacities for growing one’s and other persons’ faith in God, one’s self, and one’s neighbors. Doing this work is to live into Jesus Christ’s resurrection as he defines and establishes it. It is also through such sacrificial prayer and acts that we will experience love God graciously offers. To do so, spiritual, religious, civic, and healthcare leaders initiate these opportunities by demonstrating their faith and trust in learning and living in the shadowlands and moving into and beyond them moment by moment. Oh, my inference is that the world is going to move along these unfolding pathways with or without our involvement.

What does in mean to truly love God, neighbors, and ourselves? What does such love look like in days such as ours.  For me, it is learning to gain a deeper sense of humility. Life is as it is and it is always evolving. I am who I am, just this for this moment. I possess a capacity to be more mature, aware,  and honest about my own sins, wounds, and shadows aspects of my personality. Encountering these realities in God’s presence is a significant process. I can’t simply love the light or spend all of my time in the depths of my darkness. New narratives will emerge from dreary despair commingled with slivers of light as they merge with one another.

I wish it were as easy as to say – let’s all grow up. That is not the best solution. However, we can seek out teachers and companions to join us in the descent into the truths of writing second-half life stories – informed from our maturity and life experiences. We can pay attention to ourselves and note when our thinking is unhealthy and immoral. We can pray without ceasing in the manner that is most true to God and our spiritual pilgrimage. We can honestly & decisively decide to accept, enjoy, and engage soulful and secular shadows. To do so, we will hear our soul’s yearnings, become vulnerable to The Divine’s blessings and burdens alike, and re-create the world willing to come into being.


Saturday Chores

Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash

Mohave-Pyracantha-(Firethorn)-450w“You’ll get your allowance when you trim the Pyracantha bushes and pick them up.” That’s the way my mother invited me to get going on my Saturday chores when I was a kid.  Some Saturdays were easier. Mow the lawn. Pull some dandelions in the backyard. Those weren’t such bad tasks.  The Pyracantha though. They were a pain!  I had to get the ladder out.  The clippers were electric but I had to use an extension cord.  I also needed hand clippers for some of the tougher parts of the bushes.  Cutting the branches was bad enough.  Getting them into the trash cans was a whole different deal.  The branches all have thorns.  Thorns that are long and sharp enough to penetrate the garden gloves I used.  Suffice it to say, I have lingering and unpleasant memories of Saturday chores.

Mom isn’t around to make me do my chores anymore. I’m accountable for giving and receiving my allowance.  I don’t own any Pyracantha bushes. In fact, I don’t have to do too many outside tasks anymore.  I’m lazier than I was 45 years ago. Someone else mows the lawn. It rains more in Pennsylvania where I am now in contrast to Arizona where I grew up.  No one can make me weed the gardens or prune the roses.

Such freedom opens portals to lethargy or complacency. It is leisurely to watch ESPN. Pulling weeds isn’t as much fun. Yes – and – the current human narrative states that a person cannot accomplish great things without putting in the labor necessary to achieve beauty.  One evidences a beautiful yard because the gardener, homeowner, or someone chooses that they enjoy gardening. They and other neighbors around them delight in their yard being beautiful. The same rule applies for living a beautiful life as well.


Chores are different for me now. I exercise time and energy in something when it inspires me. I’ll move dirt around when I believe such an endeavor will bear good fruit. Putting the work in needs to amount to more than a $5.00 allowance. And yet, setting my expectations too high also keep me on the couch rather than outside with trimmers or a shovel in my hands. The trick is to find a rhythm in something that seems worthwhile beyond the mundane.

I’ve been getting dirt under my fingers and spending time on my hands and knees spending time with monarch butterflies.  I blogged about this initiative a few weeks ago. Tending to butterflies and milkweed plants has become something of an obsession for me.  My neighbors may wonder why I’m looking on the underside of milkweed leaves. (Because I am searching for butterfly eggs).  I’m watering the zinnias and the butterfly bushes in late August because the Monarch Migration to Mexico is underway. I’m interested in sending a few more monarchs on their way south in a healthy way.

There’s more to it though.  I am getting a lot out of it. It is pleasurable to observe a butterfly transform itself from a speck of an egg to a clumsy caterpillar to an emerald green chrysalis to a orange and black butterfly. The process takes less than a month and it seems like a lifetime.  There are heartbreaks in learning how to accomplish this chore. The caterpillars will die if I do not keep their cage clean.  I have to be extra careful what I feed these insects because they are very susceptible to viruses.  The fact is that I can’t keep all of them alive, especially the ones living on my milkweed plants in the garden.  It is wild out there, even in the midst of the beautiful lawn that the church’s volunteer mows for me.

Simply put, I care for the butterflies because it is meaningful to them and even more meaningful to me.  Somehow in this simple, routine, and meticulous labor, I feel closer to God and to myself.


I suppose that many people, like me, view spiritual disciplines to be something of a chore. Few people I know love to meditate. It is soooooo pleasurable to observe one’s mind flirt back and forth when gazillions of thoughts and feelings leading to absolutely nowhere.  (NOT!) Other people, including myself, pray or intercede to The Divine because they view such a practice as a religious obligation. Praying is believing some say.  Yes and….who, what, or why is more shaped and formed by such prayer? God or us?

Read Parker Palmer’s 5 Habits of The Heart


Quaker, speaker, writer, and educator Parker Palmer offers all of us a valuable purpose for undertaking such daily spiritual practices. Palmer writes: “Our lives are filled with contradictions—from the gap between our aspirations and our behavior, to observations and insights we cannot abide because they run counter to our convictions. If we fail to hold them creatively, these contradictions will shut us down and take us out of the action. … We are imperfect and broken beings who inhabit an imperfect and broken world. The genius of the human heart lies in its capacity to use these tensions to generate insight, energy, and new life.”  (Palmer, 2011, para. 5)


My spiritual discipline for now is hardly representative of orthodox Christianity. I’m fairly faithful in saying the Lord’s Prayer at least once a day. I actually am spending more time looking after insects and accomplishing sun salutations. Once again, I am the only responsible for punishing or rewarding myself on most days.  I discern that what matters most is to undertake something and to stay with it. Experiment – probe your limitations with curiosity rather than complacency. If one particular meditative chore isn’t working, find something else.

The world is too complicated a place to take on all of its uncertainty and tragedy without completing daily spiritual chores. So, we all might as well find something that is not just tolerable. It is fruitful.  There are many alternatives to checking in with one’s ego and anxieties to be sure. And, if you want to know God and yourself more wholly, you have to get your hands dirty and your soul renewed in the grittiness of silence and breath – observation and hope. Be mindful of the thorns though. They can be really hard to get out from underneath your skin.

Blessings along The Way,


Telling the Canaanite Woman’s story today

Learn more about sexism and racism in modern-day Canaan (Lebanon) here.

10 Jesus called the crowd near and said to them, “Listen and understand. 11  It’s not what goes into the mouth that contaminates a person in God’s sight. It’s what comes out of the mouth that contaminates the person.” … 25 But she knelt before him and said, “Lord, help me.”26 He replied, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs.”  (Matthew 15: 10-11, 25-26)

Perhaps we should memorialize our victims rather than our military officers. Read Maggie Penman’s comparison and contrast to memorials and statues in Germany versus the United States.

I have read dozens of articles, tweets, Facebook posts about last week’s protests in Virginia.  Sean Patrick HughesThis is Us blog post is excellent. David Brook’s Op-Ed, How to Roll Back Fanatacism is also outstanding. They both suggest that U.S. citizens, especially those of us who are white, are wrestling with the realities of our nation’s history and socio-economic/racial hierarchies. Brooks writes: “I’m beginning to think the whole depressing spectacle of this moment — the Trump presidency and beyond — is caused by a breakdown of intellectual virtue, a breakdown in America’s ability to face evidence objectively, to pay due respect to reality, to deal with complex and unpleasant truths.” (D. Brooks, Aug. 15, 2017, para. 7)

Many of us possess a culturally scripted and approved nature of life in America. We don’t like it when a black woman, a Latino child, an Asian Man, or a Native American teenager disturb us with facts about who is on top of the cultural pyramid in our country. Many people demand someone with more power, authority, and control to fix these inequalities or just leave us alone, NOW!  Well – one way of taking on some responsibilities for the world we live in is to do something about it, beginning with ourselves.  Both Ignatius of Loyola and St. Augustine are attributed with the ideal of praying as if everything depends upon God while acting as if everything depends upon us.  Regardless, this principle resonates with an even older Greek ideal – God helps those who help themselves.

Watch Bishop Michael’s Curry’s “Where do we go from here” video

Closer to my spiritual home, The Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop urges Episcopalians to act.  Bishop Curry points to Jesus Christ’s loving example of moving through chaos toward becoming God’s Beloved Community. Bishop Curry says: “Through his way of love, he has shown us the way to be right and reconciled with each other as children of God, and as brothers and sisters. ” (M. Curry, Aug. 17, 2017, 2:00) He concludes with providing purposeful resources for Becoming Beloved Community Where You Are.

Walking toward justice is not privately praying for a solution.  Walking toward racial/cultural reconciliation is not sitting in the couch and watching today’s protests and counter protests. Crap, being a member of Christ’s beloved Community is not writing this blogpost. Walking faithfully is interacting with people as Jesus did. Dare I say, Jesus learned something about practicing and repenting from racial discrimination himself.


Bazzi Rahib, Ilyas Basim Khuri – The Canaanite Woman asks for healing for her daughter – learn more about the Canaanite Woman and her interaction with Jesus here.

Many Christians will not suggest that Jesus of Nazareth erred  sinfully in his human life. Consider then his interaction with a Canaanite woman pleading for the well being of her demon-possessed daughter. The cultural backdrop for this setting is in Canaan, the land that the Israelites – Jesus’ ancestors entered and occupied.  1st Century Jews viewed Canaanites as idol-worshiping enemies. (I. Russell Jones, 2013).  Male Jews who would have observed a Canaanite woman publicly seeking assistance from one of their religious leaders as culturally inappropriate. The Canaanite’s woman’s protest is out of bounds because she screams out loud in daylight for her daughter’s healing. Jesus’ first response – silence. His second response, following the woman’s desperate plea for help while kneeling before him is: “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” (Matthew 15: 25).  Equating a Canaanite woman to a canine is equivalent to calling a contemporary woman a “dyke” or a “welfare queen” in our own day.

Parse that lack of hospitality on Jesus’ however you wish, theologically or otherwise. Dwell on the implications of God’s Son publicly pronouncing that God’s mercy is prejudicial and restricted.  Thank God that the story doesn’t end there.

What is remarkable, more enlightening, and most transformative for Jesus and his immediate and contemporary disciples resides in the Canaanite Woman’s ultimate rhetorical reply.


“Yes Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” (Matthew 15: 27)

When does a protest become more than a display of public outrage? How does an overt statement of discrimination become the lever for life-giving compassion? What does an ultimate act of faith from a marginalized person who confronts courageously God and humanity mean. This scriptural encounter between God incarnate and a marginalized woman provides the impetus for us to continue praying even as we take further steps to live as God’s believers and doers of the The Word?


The world responds to Charlottesville and our nation’s President’s inadequate and prejudicial response.

Brene Brown told Krista Tippett and their (Becoming Wise) listeners this objectively and idealistically true fact.  “I can tell you as a researcher — 11,000 pieces of data — I cannot find a single example of courage, moral courage, spiritual courage, leadership courage, relational courage, I cannot find a single example of courage that was not born completely of vulnerability. We buy into some mythology about vulnerability being weakness and being gullibility and being frailty because it gives us permission not to do it.” (Brene’ Brown, March 18, 2016, para. 3)

The Canaanite Woman classically typifies such vulnerability. She’s willing to confront public shame and humiliation because the life of her daughter matters more than anything else. Consider how people of faith and their religious leader initially react to the Canaanite Women. Then, gaze upon Charlottesville and the millions of time before last weekend when marginalized people in our nation cry our for justice.

Open our hearts O Lord.

Contemplate the dozens of times we as people of faith remain silent, or bark back at people unlike us when they question our discriminatory habits and beliefs.

Kyrie Eleison (Lord have Mercy).

Ten Ways for Communities to Fight Hate

Protests are awesome when they transform people to confront the often unspoken and undesirable truths of our world. Protests often do not in and of themselves manifest transformation because such interactions frequently become violent and exacerbate more hatred.  You and I can and should do something beyond protesting though. As Jesus did, we must offer mercy. Being Jesus’ disciples, we must proclaim the Gospel beyond worship and charitable acts.  The Southern Law Poverty Center suggests that collaborate, creative, compassionate responses are numerous. The Center for Courage and Renewal provides resources for creating Circles of Trust. Episcopalians can connect with one another through dozens of racially re-conciliatory opportunities.

All of this work begins where we are, what we believe, who we interact with, and whether or not we possess the vulnerable, repentant, cognitive and spiritual hope to accomplish life as Jesus Christ did and commands us to do.

Blessings along The Way







Dara Lind explains the Charlottesville White Supremacist Rally

…. But I have no faith myself
I refuse it even the smallest entry.

Let this then, my small poem,
like a new moon, slender and barely open,
be the first prayer that opens me to faith. … (Faith – from Where Rivers Meet – David Whyte – available on

People wonder why other people are so hateful.  We witness a group of young white men march on streets of a wealthy, college Virginia town. They wield guns. They shout anti Semitic, racist statements.  They are incensed by counter-protesters who arrive in greater numbers. Consequently a reckless, young white domestic terrorist from Kentucky now living in Ohio chooses to drive his car into the crowd. He kills one woman and injures 19 other people.  The person occupying the Office of the Presidency of the United States quickly identifies Radical Muslim Terrorist activities. He neglects to call out radical white terrorism. Shameful and not surprising.

Such racially-drive violence has happened in our nation since slavery’s first days.  President Lyndon B. Johnson is quoted as saying“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.” The problem with this past weekend’s events is that many of the white supremacists were not poor. They were led by men who graduated from the University of Virginia. @Yes,You’reRacist  identified participants who are college students and gainfully employed men who flew from across the country to ‘protect Western civilization’ and seek ‘peaceful ethnic cleansing.’ If this had been a Black Lives Matter protest many participants would be convicted of violent crimes and awaiting trial. Almost all of Saturday’s White Supremacists got into their cars or boarded airplanes and went home – pistols, rifles, guns, Nazi flags, and KKK symbols all intact.

Kudos to the Isaiah 6:8 Group Members and other folks who attended a Peace Rally in Lewisburg, PA yesterday

Yesterday, many faithful clergy and laity denounced the violence and racism that occurred in Charlottesville. The Diocese of Central Pennsylvania’s Bishop issued a public message.  Bishop Audrey Scanlan wrote: “Pray for the dead and injured and their families, pray for those who witnessed the viciousness, pray in thanksgiving for those who came to control the chaos, and pray for the perpetrators.   And then, commit to work in your own sphere of influence for change.

Yes, what can we do within our own spheres of influence. As Amy Walter said yesterday on Meet the Press: ” What I really worry about is that we are going to move from this conversation very quickly because some shiny object is going to get thrown in front of us and we’re going to miss the opportunity to have this conversation. There are very few people who are leading this conversation beyond just the violent piece of this. And I just fear that by Monday, we’re going to be moving on to something else.” 

Human beings, including me, despise admitting to our shame.  We rationalize why bad things happen to good people so as to negate any role that we might play in allowing tragedies to happen. The harsh fact is that everyone who is an American citizen who is white male, straight, gay, bi, or otherwise sexually orientated inherently possesses large amounts of social capital and cultural benefits because we are male and white. This is true for economically poor, middle class, and wealthy white guys. We rarely if ever pay the same costs for committing the same crimes as our black and brown brothers do.

And, feeling guilty about these benefits really doesn’t change much. What changes the culture and changes me is doing something righteous, courageous, and loving because of my faith. My faith is not some simplistic recitation of a creed on Sunday mornings. My  faith isn’t just about claiming Christianity as my tribe.  If I’m to live as a follower of Jesus, I must get out of the boat as Peter did. I sure as heck don’t have St. Paul’s courage and I can’t just nod my head when he writes that there is no distinctions between Jews and Gentiles. The same Lord is Lord of All and generous to all who seek God. (Romans 10: 12-13)

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

In seminary, I recall that there is little value in shaming or blaming anyone about what is taking place around us. What  creates conditions for spiritual and social change is advocating on behalf of oppressed and marginalized persons. Those of us who are fortunate to live in this nation who possess educations, jobs, families, good health, and white skin need to step back from time to time and consider how we may best serve the people around us – beyond our usual boundaries.

Take some time this week and listen to Patrisse Cullors and Robert Ross as they explain OnBeing the “Spiritual Work of Black Lives Matter.” Dr. Ross , of the California Endowment, invites all of us to actualize our faith when he says: “This is powerfully spiritual, important work upon which the future of this nation rests, and I think it calls upon us to bring the best of the total experience of our best selves to the table. It’s not — we can’t mail it in on addressing inequality in this nation. Each of us is going to have to bring the best of ourselves to the equation. Not just the best of ourselves, but the best of ourselves in unity and in coalition.” (Robert Ross, May 25, 2017)

As an Anglican Christian, I most realize my faith in actions on life’s common grounds.  That is, I treat the young African American girl at the communion altar in front of me with special respect.  I meekly speak in my elementary Spanish to the Hispanic server at the Mexican restaurant I enjoy. These are but small kindnesses. The more profound baptismal work happens when we observe evil and do not avoid or become paralyzed by it. Rather we exercise compassion as Jesus did. We go out each and every day and allow God to transform sin into good through our lives.  Our meditations, words, and actions radiate the story of God’s reconciling work around us. (Brother Aidan, Order of The Holy Cross, <OHC>, A Prayer for Charlottesville, August 13, 2017)

Christianity is more than a spectator sport. Today’s world requires Christians to profess to more than the job of offering next-world salvation to other people. This world requires plenty of healing now – especially as such redemptive work applies to racial and cultural tribalism. The deeply wounded, racially biased white supremacists around us require prayers for repentance and wisdom. Thank God for the people who stood up to them non-violently in Charlottesville.   Now, on Monday, truly religious work begins on the streets where we live, the community centers where we learn and play, and especially in our churches where we profess to love a God whose merciful and eternal love knows no boundaries. We will convert minds and win hearts through acts of justice, kindness, and abiding love as God presents such opportunities to us nearby.

Blessings along The Way