What a Puzzlement

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A Puzzlement Vimeo by Andrew MacGregor Marshall.  The King and I – Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II – Music By Richard Rogers.

In my head are many facts That, as a student, I have studied to procure
In my head are many facts
Of which I wish I was more certain, I was sure
Is a puzzlement ….

Is a danger to be trusting one another. One will seldom want to do what other wishes
But unless someday somebody trust somebody
There’ll be nothing left on earth excepting fishes.  … ( The King and I – Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II – Music By Richard Rogers.

Manosphere cover
Read Mariah Blake’s Mad Men article to learn more about the Manosphere and how men striving to claim their masculinity are harming women and other marginalized persons.

Human behavior ??? What a puzzlement to be sure.  I’ve read articles this week about human interactions and concepts that seem incomprehensible. What the hell is Incel? I mean, I’m gay so I’ve never been hung up about not engaging in physical sex or intimate relationships with women.  I certainly have anguished over not being able to go home with a man for hours of erotic sex when I was single.  We didn’t have Grindr back then and seemingly many gay men’s physical and mental health are still suffering despite being able to hook up as much as they want to daily. (For the record) – Howie and I met online a little over 13 years ago and just celebrated our second year of marriage last week. Honestly, I’ve been plenty frustrated about a lot of things – sexually and otherwise – single and married. Yet, I don’t recall ever considering or carrying out a plan to kill people by running them down with a van.

Tragically, LGBTQ persons, women and men of color, women more generally and especially women who survive in domestically abusive living conditions are targets of misogynistic, mentally unstable men.  Violent men frequently wound or kill their marginalized victims because such men are victims of violence themselves. They consequently become emotionally and behaviorally troubled men who feel sexually rejected, economically deprived, or otherwise disabled. Such men act out their rage by attacking, injuring, and killing people they hate.

The Manosphere is yet another  universe of tumultuous concepts and communities I don’t know anything about nor understand;. There are mad men in these societal galaxies- and their rage is real and terrifyingly obvious. They don’t work out their anxiety by singing musicals or soliciting sex online. They drive their cars down streets, shoot fully automatic weapons in night clubs, theaters, and concerts. They apparently don’t give a shit about the carnage they cause in communities. We, as men more often than not and implicitly/explicitly, promote and prosecute war and violence as we have done through our (un)civilized time on this planet.

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Two thousand years ago, Jewish Temple officials conspired with Roman imperial authorities to murder Jesus of Nazareth along with other zealots, prophets, and martyrs. Today Israeli political authorities and conservative religious officials conspire to murder hundreds of Palestinian prophets, zealots and martyrs.  American Christians such as Robert Jeffress are primarily responsible for initiating this violence.

Naturalist Michael McCarthy recently said, “There is a legacy deep within us, a legacy of instinct, a legacy of inherited feelings, which may lie very deep in the tissues — it may lie underneath all the parts of civilization which we are so familiar with on a daily basis. ….” Our violent masculine instincts and fixations are destructively alive today in Jerusalem as they were about 2,000 years ago.  The author of Matthew quotes Jesus of Nazareth as saying: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You who kill the prophets and stone those who were sent to you. How often I wanted to gather your people together, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But you didn’t want that.” (Matthew 23:37 – Common English Bible)  . He uttered these words as he was condemning Jerusalem’s temple and religious authorities. He laments the carnage they and imperial Roman political officials are causing.  The more things change – the more they remain the same if not worsen.  This week’s violence in Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem is occurring because conservative American, Israeli, and Palestinian men prefer killing one another and exercising their rights in the manosphere of worldly affairs. Who suffers most?  Palestinian children, that’s who.

Jenga
Jenga – a different variety of puzzlement

The Episcopal church that I serve hosted a Spring and Fling event earlier this month. One of our children, who is happy and healthy – thank God, his family, and local community – shared his Jenga set.  Jenga is essentially an architectural puzzle. Individuals or teams (de)/(re)construct wooden blocks. The goal is to not tear down the tower and lose the game.  It’s a lot of fun!  The stakes aren’t particularly high. Reasonable men (and women) can compete with one another without losing their tempers.  Emotionally stable men (and women) won’t fight when they lose. They start another game or find another healthy hobby to enjoy.

Of course, figuring out how to (de)/(re)construct the manosphere and or associated murderous masculine intentions such as historical violence in Jerusalem is a much more difficult, adaptive challenge.  The solution however, is similar in both instances. People. perhaps led by women instead of men, try to restore healthiness step by step. We ruminate over the problems by observing honestly what is going on. We experiment with options. We risk communicating our phobias and vulnerabilities. We hang on with people we trust whose intentions are positive rather than negative. We create physical/wholehearted purposeful communities where we incarnate – seen and heard. We don’t hang out for hours alone in the shadows of virtual “Reddit” or “Facebook” sites where evil adults often lurk and thrive.

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Agent Smith replicates himself in The Matrix Reloaded.

I wish I could say that I’m optimistic. Today, I’m not. I speak with the image of Agent Smith influencing my words. Contemporary life seems more akin to The Matrix Reloaded rather than The King and I.  Humanity often does appear to be a stinky, evil virus with no redeeming values whatsoever. Our systems seek only to normalize hatred.  Our police do more to preserve the status quo rather than protect and care for human rights and children’s rights to live freely and joyfully, Indigenous and racially marginalized people and communities are caught and cast aside by our consumerism and disregard for shared environmental and human connections.

Perhaps, God please may it be so (Amen!) …may there be a Neo and King Mongkut out there for us.  Unknown_painter_-_Resurrection_of_Christ_and_the_Harrowing_of_Hell_-_WGA23499May Jesus of Nazareth’s sacrificial Gospel speak and be true. May you and I find some courage, some wholeheartedness, some faith to say no to thousands of years of masculine, reptilian instinctual bullshit. May we reject the manosphere of false truths, May we profess gracefully and prophetically to be followers of Christ who prefer joy and peace. Let’s  build blocks in our local communities dedicated to eliminating the terror of religiously, politically, based terror playing itself out across our cities and planet. May we say yes to working as men with one another to create communities that Jesus, Buddha, Pope Francis, and other men seek to bring into being.

 

 

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Resurrection – My What for.

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The ASU/AU rivalry is about more than just the Territorial Cup.

I jokingly said one time that you know there is a God when a graduate from the University of Arizona (UA) can be the best of friends with a graduate from Arizona State University (ASU).  This momentous occasion took place at Saint Augustine Episcopal Church altar in Tempe, not very far from ASU’s main campus.  At the time I was serving as the Episcopal Campus Minister at the UA . My Anam Cara, Gil Stafford was the Episcopal Campus Minister at ASU. I was newly ordained and Gil invited me to preside at the Eucharist at his primary altar.  It was a blessed moment, one of many that I treasure with Gil.  He continually blesses me despite his affiliation with the Territorial Normal School at Tempe. Truly, Gil’s work as Canon Theologian, Author, Priest, and Spiritual Director and Teacher is profoundly Spirit-sent and offered. I make progress on The Way because of Gil’s friendship, mentoring, and love.

Thus, I feel like I’m standing on very uncertain and holy ground when I respond to one

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Daniel Jackson, The Resurrection Print – Saint John’s Illuminated Bibl

of Gil’s articles.  Gil blogs at Peregrini.  Usually, I just ruminate over his thoughts. Occasionally, I write a reply on Facebook or in his blog’s comments. This time though, I need to respond.  His “Jesus Go to Hell, Please” piece prompted me to dig deep into my soul .  What do I truly believe about Christ Jesus’ Resurrection?  What is its significance for me? How do I articulate and live it out in my life?  Am I a witness as I preached a couple of weeks ago?   Well, here’s a bit of my “what” Christ resurrection means to me.

First, I believe that The Resurrection is a mystical “meta-narrative” divine and human phenomenon. What does that F!i)kin’ mean? Well, more simply put.  The Resurrection is a transformational event. It happened miraculously with Christ Jesus. It happens with us too – within and beyond our human comprehension. The Divine’s (God’s) Love beckons all of creation, including human beings to live, die, and be reborn . Christ Jesus’ Resurrection was a singular event on that First Easter Sunday morning. And, every human being over the course of this and most likely many life times live into the life, death, and rebirth of Christ Jesus’ Resurrection. Our souls are eternally and profanely engaged in a circular, evolving pattern  of growth – in spiritual, mortal and mystical terms.

 

Origen
Read Origen’s On First Principles here.

Gil refers to Origen of Alexandria the great, Neoplatonist Christian Theologian. Origen was a Christian Universalist. The restoration of all things (Apokatastasis) was absolutely essential to Origen’s theological and moral thinking. (Edward Moore, Origen of Alexandria, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, n.d.). Origen wrote:

 

“For the end is always like the beginning: and, therefore, as there is one end to all things, so ought we to understand that there was one beginning; and as there is one end to many things, so there spring from one beginning many differences and varieties, which again, through the goodness of God, and by subjection to Christ, and through the unity of the Holy Spirit, are recalled to one end, which is like unto the beginning.” (Origen, On First Principles, Book I, Chapter VI. Section II).

Origen believed that our souls were pre-existent and passed through human suffering and sin to reborn life over the course of eternity. (Bryan Rich, Apokatastasis in the Thought of Origen and Gregory of Nyssa, December, 2007).  For Origen , all souls, including the most evil ones in the cosmos (choose the human being you despise the most) will eventually achieve salvation. “God’s love is so powerful as to soften even the hardest heart, and that the human intellect – being the image of God will never freely choose oblivion over proximity to God.” (Edward Moore, Origen of Alexandria, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy n.d.).

Origen got himself into a deep mound of Christian doctrinal manure. His beliefs along with the fact that he lived a very ascetic life and allegedly castrated himself didn’t win him many orthodox ecclesiastical friends. Bishops and fellow presbyters mocked and imprisoned him because of his bold, mystical, and innovative understanding of The Holy Trinity, Eternal Salvation, and yes, Christ Jesus’ resurrection.  And yet, his Christian Catachetical School was wildly popular. (ReligionFacts, Origen of Alexandria, n.d.)

Wise, unconventional, and provocative philosophers and theologians frequently run aground when they stir up controversies, especially when they contest strongly held beliefs about such things as heaven and hell and the nature of Christ Jesus’ Resurrection. I observe that Origen and Gil are both out-of-the-box in systematic Christian theological terms.  They are equally iconic in terms of the brilliance of their thinking about Resurrection and Salvation. Both of them are unorthodox and life-giving Christian scholars and clerics. Frankly, in these times of distress, as in Origen’s time, we need theologians such as Gil to point us and The Church into the rebirthing cycle that The Cross initiates and The Resurrection gives birth to for all of us. I make that comment on scriptural as well as metaphysical foundations.

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Shin-Hee Chin, Breath, Mixed Media Painting. View this piece and other works of art at the Episcopal Church and Visual Arts “Telling God Stories in the 21st Century” exhibition

Origen and Gil alike ask me (and you?): What does Jesus’ Resurrection mean for us today? Well, let me respond with a few of my own questions.

 

Why do we need a one-time Savior?  What do we gain with one salvific moment in human history? Have we forgotten that the Romans crucified thousands of Jews? Does Jesus’ forgiveness of sins and God’s redemption of humanity through Christ Jesus’ Resurrection somehow negate the fact that human beings, especially those persons possessing political and imperial power, have executed hundreds of marginalized prophets, philosophers, and activists, including Jesus of Nazareth.   What purpose does Resurrection have for us today amid the carnage of daily gun-related violence, unconscionable levels of human sex trafficking,   and an opioid crisis killing thousands of Americans in the past 20 years. What does our forgiveness require given these ignorant human tendencies and thbrokenness?

Indeed and in belief, we need an eternally loving God and an eternity of maturity, evolution, and rebirth as a species to discover and receive redemption from sin and evil. Christ Jesus’ Resurrection declares that death does not possess victory over life. Yet, there is no pilgrimage, at least in my experience that does not undertake a process of stasis, chaos, and new order (life, death, and rebirth). Such evolution occurs in all sorts of minute and miraculous ways – on God’s time (kairos) rather than humanity’s time (chronos) .

The Resurrection provides this paradoxical Way, to live as a human being. Resurrection declares God’s Love and Grace through the passage of time on this planet and beyond mortal comprehension. Resurrection – in my Progressive Christian terms demands that there is no Easter without Holy Week – there is no Cheap Grace.  And Christ Jesus  is The Vine from which the branches of our faith and belief in God’s love provides The Way for this mortal and our eternal life – for Sun Devils, Wildcats alike and together.

 

 

New, Neutralized, and Renewed

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The Valley of The Dry Bones imagery and text from The Saint John’s Bible. (calligraphy by Donald Jackson)

I occasionally consider what I believe in and why I believe it.  When I use the word believe I don’t mean to express it as a way of just thinking.  Believing for me is as much as more of be-living. Where, Why, How, Who do I profess and express faith and practice in my daily life. Am I faithfully devoting myself to issues and principles greater than my own free will and best interest.  Do I minimize hypocrisy as much as possible?

I am both a spiritual and religious person.  That is to say that I practice Christian rituals and believe in a triune God. That doesn’t suggest that I’m an orthodox Christian. In fact, my hypothesis is that I’m actually more heretical or universalist than many of my Christian contemporaries. I’ve become less dualistic in my thinking and beliefs. I slowly and steadily am stepping beyond my ego toward engaging the actual and mysterious paradoxes of life.  Such paradoxes are full of koans . For example – evil, vicious actions indeed may lead to renewed life.  The innocent murder of a sinless person possesses the capacity to redeem the world, not in a substitonary fashion but rather in  transformational ways.

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Donald Jackson. The Crucifixion. Preparatory sketch 1.(Luke 23:44-49). Preparatory sketch

This past week, I (and millions of other Christians) traveled through Holy Week.  This story is a religious and spiritual meta-metaphor for not only Jesus of Nazareth but for us as well. The Holy Week pilgrimage proclaims theosis.  God offers in-breaking presence and power in Holy Week. Power in weakness and defeat, then and now, provides means for resurrecting and guiding our steps toward becoming more human and divine.

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and protest at the Jerusalem temple create conditions for tumult.  He accepts these challenges even as he celebrates a first sacramental communion and last mortal supper with his disciples.  He suffers the shame of betrayal. He is falsely accused of crimes. Roman officials, most likely with the assistance of fearful and/or jealous religious leaders, conspire to murder Jesus. All of these events provide the passionate stew for something miraculous to happen.  Jesus dies a horrible death. Then, amazingly – three days later he appears in a wounded yet transformed being to demonstrate loves power over hate, grace’s victory over evil.

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“It’s just pure support, love, and compassion for every single person who is an American citizen… We need love.” (David Hogg, March, 2018). Check out the values and visions that were and are #BehindTheMarch.

 

All of this “greatest story” is a dramatic representation as well  as a demonstration of Divine, in-breaking manifestation for transforming our abilities to become more human and divine. Do you want a current example today, here and now in America.  ‘Consider the activities of the Parkland High School Students before, during, in front of, and “Behind The March.”

Richard Rohr OFM, describes human development in a couple of coincidental ways.  First, he (along with Carl Jung) suggests that God offers people of faith opportunities to mature in two halves. These two segments do not have to be equivalent in time. Some, perhaps many of us (and the communities they live in) never reach the second half. We spend the first half of our lives building up our senses of individual and tribal powers, security, and ego-based (false) identities. Rohr, October, 2012).  We construct laws, rituals, and structures to support these values. It’s therefore important for children to learn quickly that God and their families love them as well other people different than them. Children who feel safe, beloved, and connected to God, themselves, their communities, and the creation more broadly develop healthy ego structures and boundaries. (Rohr, March, 2018). As we all know, or discover, this process isn’t easy. We live into the harsh and often perplexing realities of being human. This is the stage for the first portion of Jesus’ Holy Week as well as our own.

In life’s second half, our egos and we along with them come to understand that life isn’t all about us and/or the groups we belong to in this world. Our egos and souls emerge to claim what is our truest being. We adopt a holistic sense of who we are and why we are here, now. We have a shadow side as well as a bright side. Psychotherapy, and authentic religious, spiritual experiences unleash us from the bonds of our disbelieving what we understand about ourselves and the world we live in. Living in this half of life redeems us from selfishness, elitism, consumerism, and a host of other ego-based vices we are witnessing today. Peter begins this process when he betrays Jesus three times on the night of Jesus’ trial.

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Regrettably, we can’t just leap-frog from the first stage of development onto the second stage.  We require a bridge. Often, it is a treacherous one. Moving from life’s ego-based into life’s soul-based domains typically requires us undertaking and accepting deep loss (death), shame, and wholehearted love.  People living with the disease of addiction(s) encounter the Divine through a vital spiritual experience. Victims of trauma and grief receive God’s Grace from unexpected encounters and unexpected healing circumstances.

Witness how the two halves of life and the bridge between them happens between Palm Sunday and Easter Day. Jesus’ followers and enemies alike believe that he is a king.  Victims of the Roman Empire seek a Messiah. Political, imperial, and religious authorities observe a threat. A clash happens leading to chaos, confusion, and death.  And then new life happens in The Resurrected Jesus Christ. Women  witness The Lord on Easter Sunday morning. They set set aside their fears. They had possessed an understanding of how their world was supposed to work. It didn’t. Powerful religious and political officials collaborated to execute their King. He died …. And then rose again. Thus the disciples who encounter The Christ cross over from the first to second half of life. They choose to adopt new beliefs, regardless of the costs. They remain in Jerusalem accepting the possibilities of being slain as their Messiah had died just a couple of days before them.  They were, as Jesus was, reborn and willing to offer new life to other people too.

M12This process of “order, disorder, and reorder” is what life, death, and resurrection should be all about as followers of Jesus Christ.  Every day provides each of us moments to contemplate and act upon what half of life are we living in. Who are the people transformed by their soulful, sorrowful, and life-giving experiences who inspire us?  What stories from scripture remind and redeem us? How does Christ’s compassionate life of offering sight to the blind, food to the hungry, and peace to victims of violence.  Have we picked up on our crosses and struggled up Calvary’s hill to die as one of the men who hung on crosses next to Jesus? What may we do to live with him now, forever on the other side of Easter’s empty tomb? How was your Holy Week? How is it going today on this side of Jesus’ and your own potential resurrection.

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):

Metanoia
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.

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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

 

 

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.

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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.

ZenLifeRelax
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.

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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?

Apocalypse – the costly cement of racism.

Michelangelo
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.

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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

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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.

Amen.

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

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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.

Amen

 

Shadow Living

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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

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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)

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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“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?

 

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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).

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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