31 July 2012


When Denise and I moved from Lee's Summit, MO to Sarasota, FL, we gave all our living houseplants away to folks we knew would love and care for them.  It was quite a large selection.  We like to have living, growing things around us.  However, in establishing ourselves in our new townhome, we decided not to have live houseplants...a way to further simplify our lifestyle.

That lasted about two months.  We purchased a Basil and a Chocolate Mint plant in pots that live on our lanai (screen enclosure at the back of our first floor living room).  These herbs are hardy and generally vigorous.  In this  part of Florida, they generally live year-round.

For me, this turned out not to be enough.  My study needed the addition of a living plant...something unique and different from my former choices.  I spent weeks quietly searching and finally came across a list of plants that benefit the air quality and environment of the rooms in which they are placed.  One such plant that caught my eye was the Sansevieria.  It had sturdy, thick leaves that grow upward from its pot and is known to absorb nitrogen oxide and formaldahyde.  While I don't believe these chemicals are present in my environment, with any hardy plant, one gets a reduction in CO2 and additional O2.  Also, this plant has several common names.  Here, it is known as the "snake plant."  You would have to know my background to understand the attraction to that...that's another blog.

I found just the plant I wanted at one of our local Lowe's.  It took a while of exploring the home garden center, but, as soon as I saw it among a number of easy care houseplants, it was like a rescue dog speaking, "take me to your house."  So, on 23 July, the Sansevieria, aka Snake Plant, came to live on the temporary bookcase in my study.

Now...this may be a southern thing...it is important to find a suitable personal name for a plant that will live in close proximity.  For instance, in seminary, I had a very happy varigated red/green coleus that simply screamed the name "Claudius" to me.  It thrived and stayed with me through my first curacy in Springfield, MO...a total of almost six years.  I gave it to a good friend when I made the move back to Central Florida in 1980.

Naming is a sacred act.  Something about a plant or animal emerges...a kind of character...which a name provides a descriptor for that character.  When I got my snake plant settled in my study, I sat looking at it...studying its features...asking what impact it had upon me and what characteristics is reflected in its new surroundings.  Without warning, the name popped into my head.   "Dirksen."   After further reflection, it established itself, and, in a simple gesture of gently placing my hands around the plant, I pronounced that it would henceforth be known as "Dirksen Sansevieria."
Sansevieria (Snake Plant):  Dirksen

Like anyone, I have persons I count as heroes in my life.  People whose lives and work have exemplified what I believe to be important attributes and contributions to our culture.  They have provided me with inspiration for my own growth, development and vocation.  This may come as a surprise from one who has already admitted to being a moderate/progressive Democrat; but one of my heroes is Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen (1896-1969), a Republican from Illinois.

Senator Dirksen's story is like many folks of that period.  The son of German immigrants, he grew up on a farm in Perkin, IL....not far from Peoria.  He attended college and was in law school, when WWI erupted.  He left school to serve in  the Army.  To cut to the chase, he entered national politics as a member of the House of Representatives in Congress in 1933 and served until 1949.  After overcoming a health issue, he was elected to the Senate in 1950 and served until his untimely death from cancer in 1969.

My admiration for Senator Dirksen began in the 1960s.  In Jr. High School I had a teacher in 7th grade who introduced us to daily news through the "Weekly Reader."  This is where I met the rumpled, fiery orator with hair that never seemed combed much.  I learned that, while he stood on the ground of being a "conservative Republican," he was always at work building bridges between where his ideology could meet the ideology of those of at the other end of the spectrum.  He crafted, or help craft, a number of key legislation that shaped the changes and the reshaping of our society in the 1960s.   He is most famous for his role in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Open Housing Act of 1968.  He helped break a nearly deadly filibuster during the crafting of the Civil Rights Act and created a compromise with the hold out southern Democrats that allowed the legislation to pass into law.  Whenever debate in the Senate would become convoluted, he would introduce legislation to make the marigold the national flower.  He was wise, humorous and didn't take himself so seriously that he couldn't find a means to get the important work of the people accomplished.  He wasn't afraid to change his mind, if he found a way to create a compromise that would make the legislative process work.  For all his time in the Senate, he was the Minority Leader.  He could be found consulting with Mike Mansfield or Lyndon Johnson (both Senate Majority Leaders) when legislation seemed stuck or heading for defeat.  I could go on, but I think you get the point.   I so identified with Dirksen's style, that I think I subconsciously adopted aspects of it in my own professional development.
Senator Everett M. Dirksen

Now, what does my plant named Dirksen have to do with the historically significant statesmen Everett Dirksen?   Absolutely nothing.  It isn't my wife's favorite indoor plant, but she knows I have an attachment to it.  Compromise...it stays in my study.  It looks a bit unruly and "rumpled."   Somehow, it inspires me to think outside the box...even in choosing it from among other "handsomer" indoor plant possibilities.  It's intuitive, but that's where most creative energy comes from...our right brain intuition.  I don't know what it is, but when I sit and look at this plant, I begin to get ideas.  It seems to invite that internal journey.

We are in an era of uncommon politics and radical shifting.  A lot of what we see happening in our electoral process is disconcerting.  Pundits and various personalities say simply off the wall, dumb stuff.  Yet, they are coming very close to possibly being elected.  Compromise?  No work is getting done in Congress, because there is no hint of a desire to compromise on the part of radical parts of both sides of the aisle.  We don't have a Dirksen anywhere in sight to help us fashion a legislative process that will lean us forward...into the wind of needed change and growth as a culture and a nation.  We are now becoming the laughing stock of other nations....losing our stature as a wise and advancing culture.

It isn't the fault of one or two people.  When things aren't going well, we immediately want to find someone to blame.   Just look at the campaign ads and the Facebook rhetoric.  It is as much our fault as it is the fault of any branch of state or federal government.  Everett Dirksen helped folks with legislative and governmental responsibility see the need to put aside ideology, roll up their sleeves and create ways to find common language and purpose.

We will continue sliding and stumbling on this slippery slope until we can find a common voice that puts aside differences and looks for the common good.  Jesus told us to look among the poor in spirit to find the blessing of the Kingdom of Heaven.  It is the place of healing and wholeness.  Perhaps all of us are suffering from poorness of spirit at some level.


Fr. Fred+

23 July 2012


I knew, the moment I got the news on Friday morning, that the shootings in Aurora would strike a national chord of pain and grief.  Murders and shootings happen everyday in a vast number of communities throughout the United States.  The ones that hurt us the most are the inexplicable acts of violence that are perpetrated on a number of innocent folks who are simply doing what any of us would do on a given day.  We go to work, to school, to the mall, to the movies and many other events that bring large numbers of folks together. This was one such event that all of us could feel.  Who hasn't been to the movies on any given evening to simply enjoy a good flick and an outing with family and/or friends?

I was sitting in my cardiologist's office waiting room...prepared to have an aortic duplex scan ... a routine ultra-sound procedure to check on the health of my aorta.  I have a genetic condition that makes checking key arteries part of my "routine" medical year (it was fine, btw).  While sitting there, at 8:45am, CNN was on the waiting room television and they were talking about a tragedy in Aurora, CO.  My internal dialogue halted, and I became riveted to the television.  I was dumbstruck!  This can't be happening again....was what my head kept wanting to say.  But, there it was, a sickening and disturbing event at a movie premier....a movie that is popular enough to pack a theatre at a midnight first showing (it actually nearly packed three theatres in Aurora that night).

Like most all of us, I was filled with a string of emotions...anger, grief, and a kind of sullenness that flattened the affect of the balance of the day.  Because of the way I'm "wired," I connect quickly with tragic events.  Something in me attaches to the event and begins to find ways to pray and think through it.  Perhaps it is part of my theological and pastoral training; or 35 years of engaging local tragedies in parish ministry; or simply the empathic character of who I am; or a combination thereof.  I simply wanted to sit and hold all of those folks....those killed, wounded and their loved ones ... in a large embrace.  The only way I could do this was via a contemplative time of prayer.

I cleared my afternoon of planned projects (this is where retirement helps), closed the door to my study, put on a string of chants I use for quieting my mind and began a long period of deep reflection on what came to me as needed support in this attitude.  Channeling blessing and Divine Energy is a process anyone can accomplish with practice.  It allows us to be present to folks...especially when physical presence and hands-on care isn't possible or feasible.  It connects us in a community network for which God has designed us.

CNN, MSNBC and other news networks do a lot to cover the details of national tragedies.  Sometimes, it gets to be a little too much.  I have never been one to "rubber neck" at a traffic accident or where emergency vehicles are gathered.  I know that my best way to help in those times is by being out of the way and being part of keeping traffic moving.  We have a natural curiosity to want to see what has happened to others...sometimes, it borders on the macabre.  I have seen, and do see, enough by virtue of my work as a priest. I have been part of emergency room trauma teams and emergency response teams.  I have blessed the dead, prayed with and comforted the dying and seen things that disturbed me to my core (there was even an emergency room doctor in one of my parishes who would see if he could rattle me or see me look pale at some disturbing situations...I don't disturb easily when in crisis mode).

I have watched the news and put together the story, as it is being told by survivors, the wounded and first responders.  Unlike the people of Aurora, I do want to know about the shooter.  As sick/disturbed as he may be to perpetrate such an act, he is a human being who entered a broken place in his life and did not emerge without a rage that spread like a virus into the surrounding community...an instantly deadly virus.   [Here, I am using the term "virus" metaphorically...to speak of the suspect's yet to be known motivations and subsequent deadly actions].  We need to try to understand the cause and effect level of this tragedy in order to provide guidance for seeing such things before they happen in the future.

More important to me, however, is the pain of losing 12 people...most of whom had only begun to make an impact on the larger community through their vocations and ideas.  No one knows what the world would have been like had they been allowed to continue the journey of life among us.  Their stories and the stories of those who were wounded and directly traumatized by those long minutes of insanity in theater 9, are forever altered or shifted.  I try to wrap my head around what that is like and how to engage it on a larger level...since I am 1500 miles away.

Then, there is the matter of "gun control."  Now, this is something to which I can speak directly and have some affect on the whole.  Up front, I own two pistols:  A Sig-Sauer 9mm, P226 Navy, and a Remington .22 calibre revolver...collector's model.  They remain locked away and only the Sig-Sauer comes out for a trip to an indoor shooting range.  I was a marksman with a .45 calibre pistol in the military.   I consider this "skill" only a part of my life journey and not something a talk much about.   It simply is.

My grandfather taught me how to shoot and hunt.  The Boy Scouts also taught me to shoot.   Both were with rifles.  My grandfather taught me to use a shotgun.  His training came with stern warnings and an admonition:  "Never shoot anything unless to you intend to eat it."  He was damned serious about this.  It was as stern a face as I ever saw on him, when he spoke it.  

Saying all this, I am also an advocate of gun control.   It makes me extremely upset to hear people say stuff like, "Several armed folks in that theatre could have stopped this..."  Let me use as strong a phrase as I can in print to respond to this:  Bullshit!   I was trained to operate under pressure of surrounding fire and tear gas in the Navy.  I would not consider pulling a weapon in a crowded theatre to "go after" someone committing an act of terror. If less trained folks tried that, the death toll would have been higher.  I guarantee it.  Things change instantly when adreneline and the environment get racheted up in a crisis.  With only some exception, the witnesses had no way of knowing that the perpetrator was wearing kevlar based combat gear over most of the "kill shot" areas of his body.  All that would have been accomplished by random folks shooting at him would have been to piss him off even more.  Sick stuff people are saying in general about all this.

Without injury to the constitutional right to "bear arms,"  it is essential that we consider the process by which licensing of weapons sold to the public happens.  It is essential that we consider the reasoning behind marketing high-powered and technically sophisticated combat weapons to the public.  Every modern, advanced country has such laws -- except for the United States.  My point also is that, by virtue of human nature, we are all capable of becoming murderers in a moment of heated anger or irrational emotional reactivity.  We need to prioritize our consideration of responsible gun control laws.  It is a moral imperative... not simply a legal or constitutional matter of "rights."

Finally, moral law trumps civil law.  Our founding fathers understood this and wrote passionately about the moral basis for creating a democratic society.  At the heart of moral law (moral theology) is the principle of Love.  I capitalize this word, because it isn't a manufactured, conditional emotion.  Love is the guiding force of life itself.  It is the ongoing action of an invested Creator.  God is Love, and our basis for life and engaging the world around us is living out of that place of Divine Love.  The bottom line for me in understanding and coping with the tragedy in Aurora is how to be a better vessel of Love. How do I engage my local community in light of what we have witnessed in this past weeks actions?  If Divine Love is not the principle upon which all our actions and interactions are based, we are lost for sure, in my opinion.  The "go forward" from Aurora is to love better and for real!

In the Love of Christ Jesus,


19 July 2012

Who's Child Am I Anyway?

Lately, I have had at least three occasions where I have had to reflect more deeply on biblical theology than I am generally want...especially in retirement.  In all three situations, it has almost come down to "dueling scriptures" in terms of "what the Bible says" and the lack of authenticity if not rendering my conception of what the Bible is actually saying the same as the person with whom I am in conversation.  I have to tell you, that this is frustrating for me.  I have a passion for catechetics (teaching and having community discourse) but I don't enjoy debate...especially the kind where someone "has" to be either right or wrong.  In all three of these situations, the manner of engagement assumes there will either be a winner or a loser.   Yuck!!

I have often told parishioners, during my parochial working years that, "if someone begins a conversation with, 'the Bible says,' simply run away very fast."   I don't mean that to be nasty.  The truth is, the Bible says a whole lot of really important and necessary things.  I have found, however, that, when a conversation begins that way, the person saying it has a pre-conceived, totally cooked and unrecantable position of belief about what they are about to quote from the Bible.  The point of fact is, they want to often beat others over the head with their agenda (or axe, as one of my colleagues suggests) at the expense of "winning souls for Christ."  This is roughly the same thing the Jesuits did in the jungles of South America in the 16th/17th centuries (see the movie, "The Mission" to get my meaning on this...outstanding film!).

Let me be totally up front here.  I read the Bible regularly.  It is part of my daily prayer cycle, which utilizes the Episcopal Lectionary for the Daily Offices.  Reading that two year cycle and the weekly Eucharistic readings, one gets a little over four-fifths of the Bible in a three year cycle.  I think I have now read pretty much all the Bible about 17 times since ordination alone.

Oh, I do hear it.  Someone is going to say, "You read it, but did you believe it?"   Lord, Have Mercy!  There is never a way out of the traps.  YES!  Salvation history is the central theme of all biblical literature.  It is the ongoing and unfolding relationship between the Transcendent God and His People.  It culminates in the fullness of that expression in the Person of Jesus Christ.  I started that journey when I was in my teen years, and it has deepened considerably over the years.  I don't have anything I need to prove.  I DO need to live my journey and experience what that relationship means....each day of my life.  So, no more "yes, but..." kinds of inquisitions....please!

The Bible is also revelatory.  What?   It reveals truths and challenges us in the current moments in ways that call us to see the world more like God engages it.  Not much has changed about being human, in terms of the basic questions of life:  Who am I?  Where am I going?  Where did I come from?  Why am I here?  From the first breathe of the first "inspired" human (I'll explain the quotes), those questions have had to be addressed in each person's life.

Each generation of humans brings new information.  We are an evolving people.  Otherwise, we would still be living in caves, using rudimentary implements and being afraid of everything that was beyond our immediate grasp.  Today, we are (allegedly) highly sophisticated, scientifically adept and technologically skilled humans.  We still have the same questions to answer.  It's like the user name and password of life itself for us.

What frustrates me is that we who call ourselves Christian spend almost more time beating each other with proof-texting  than we do engaging the core of our being and learning how to be a righteous and fulfilling community.  The foundation of faith journey...any faith journey that is healthy...is that it drives us (almost literally) into community.  We don't function alone.  When we do, we get way out in a field of psychoses and neuroses that really does define what sin is all about.  Now I have come to the very crux of this blog post.

Read the first five chapters of Genesis...slowly and deliberately.  You will find that there are, in fact, two creation stories.  Why?  Because, as the oral tradition became written, there were four "schools" of hermeneutics (interpretative renditions).  Oral histories use a lot of metaphors and images to help the mind hold the facts encased in those metaphors and images.  Every seminarian can recite the J E P D lines of presentation in the Penteteuch (first five books of the Bible)....Jewish or Christian.

The God of Abraham is a revealed, transcendent God...beyond the scope of our capacity to comprehend.  Yahweh (Hebrew name...."I AM WHO I AM" also, "I Will Be Who I Will Be")
reveals the aspect of human engagement with the Living God.  The story is told.  At the center of the Creation Narrative is the emergence of a sentient being that God basically says, 'This is the one in whom I will manifest my essence.'  Genesis says the breath (Spirit) of God was breathed into this being and filled with God (the moment of awakening).

One of my challengers skips over this and comes directly to chapter 5 of Genesis and says that we are created in the image of Adam.  Well, sorry to say, the word 'image' used in the creating narrative and the word 'image' used to define the son (Seth) of Adam are different words in Hebrew.  One denotes spirit and the other is flesh.  One superimposes itself on the other so that the Hebrew writer can say, in summary, that all children of Adam had everything given to Adam....flesh and spirit.  Bingo.

Now comes the truly sticky part.  SIN.  I hate this word.  It is troublesome and abused in so many ways to make it imcomprehensible.  What we call sin is not really sin.  Sin is not a separate entity created by an evil being.  Sin is a part of our "equipment" and is actually the result of God's gift to us.  It begins as Divine Prerogative, which is God wanting a relationship with us.  Sin is us refusing to return the desire or respond to the gift.

Sin is not a condition so much as it is a working out of relationships.  To be created in the image of God gifts us with the ability to engage creation at a level of making choices and 'naming' things.  To name is to have some level of authority.  When we chose to misuse that authority, we "bend" the relationships...both with God and the offended person(s) or element(s) of creation.  The Cain and Abel story is a teaching on what happens when we begin to place ourselves in the position of God.  It can get ugly very quickly.

Here's the next part:  Every single human being has the same DNA, which means we come from the same place.  This is now not just a function of biblical creation story; it is a function of scientific investigation.  Read Francis Collins, who, at the completion of the human genome project said, "We have seen the fingerprint of God (in the fundamental genetic formula) in humankind."  There is a homo sapiens "Adam and Eve" in the sense that all humans on earth share the basic gene pattern that marks our beginning.  The Y chromosomes in males is passed from one generation to another without replicating.  Only occasional markers (kind of like "typos") occur that can tell us which path from the root we have been on.  It's the mitochondrial DNA in females.  Good stuff!!

So, yes, we are in the image of Adam; BUT, we are each bearing God in our fundamental Self (true Self)...or soul.  We come from God; we go to God.  Now, we may get caught off the path a little by how we engage God.  We can (and do) minimalize God by trying to make Him over into our image (this reversal is the basis of the sin of "hubris"....spiritual pride..."my god is bigger and better than your god"...that is no God at all...just a rude projection of small "s" self...ego).

All of this is why, as I have grown older and , hopefully, a little wiser, I am far less inclined to make a wall around my conception of who is "in" and who is "out" when it comes to faith journeys.  It is why I cringe deeply when I hear someone say "me and my God" or simply, "my Lord."  God is the God of all creation.  Jesus is the Lord of Heaven and Earth...we are all sons and daughters of God.

If we have gone awry anywhere, it is that we have privatized our spirituality into tight little groups of like minded folks and call it "religion."  Religion is not spirituality.  Religion, at its worst, is a mutual admiration, ego-feeding, celebration of what is "Mine."  Spirituality is the inward journey that experiences the Love, Forgiveness and Joy of God...and the mutuality of that as we look into the face of another human being.  That's at the heart of the worst of us.  Our sin is what we have put on over that Truth.  That can get might ugly as well.

A perfect example appeared in a headline today:  George Zimmerman, who murdered Trayvon Martin in February (Sanford, FL) told reporters that it was "God's Plan" for him to kill Trayvon.    Ooooh my!   It reveals hubris and a self-absorbed definition of God.  It reveals the sin of narcissistic cultism.....NOT faith or spirituality or the humility that comes with encounter with the Living God.

I close by saying that I engage every other individual and faith tradition in a manner that, to the best of my ability, seeks to seek God within them.  I have found God in remarkable places.  How do I know?  Because, when I do that, what I experience is a deep love that is incomprehensible to me.  It just is.  That's because it's God, not me, doing the loving.

My love in Jesus,


14 July 2012

Black, White and Gray All Over

When I wrote the title for today's thoughts, it almost sounded like a visual description of our dog...a 14 yr old Schnoodle named "Duchess."  Alas, such is not the case.  Duchess and I have just completed a long walk, and she is now sleeping soundly just outside the door to my study.  She has not a worry in the world.  On the other hand....

The Episcopal Church completed its triennial work of General Convention with the adjournment of both Houses (Bishops and Deputies) late Thursday afternoon...12 July.  I did not travel to Indianapolis for this convention.  It is the first one I have missed, since I began being part of that element of our Church in 1991.  I was a Deputy at six General Conventions (GC) -- except 1994 -- when I had arrived in Northern Indiana too late to be considered for election to their deputation.  I went as a volunteer for several days that time.  It was, oddly enough, in Indianapolis as well.

As I read the Bible (yes, I read it -- carefully and daily), the Apostles began this Body of Christ with many pressures and concerns.  First and foremost, they were illegal...both to the Sanhedrin and the Roman government.  They met quietly and secretly.  Their first Bishop (those not among the Twelve...called Apostles), James, was martyred in Jerusalem not many years after he was chosen.  Most of the Apostolic core lost their lives to martyrdom.  Nevertheless, the fledgling Church grew.

Acts records what is now called the First Council in Jerusalem to deal with a number of issues.  There was a famine.  How were the followers of Jesus (not yet called the Church) to meet the pressing needs of so many hungry people.  The "thirteenth" Apostle, Paul, was busily collecting money from new faith communities and bringing back funds to help the starving in Judea.  This is clearly a black/white issue.  There is a problem and solution process.

But, other considerations were "on the table" for deliberation.  This new community needed to signify how folks would be recognized as part of the community.  It came down to two choices (or a combination thereof):  Baptism or Circumcision.  Now we are in the arena of what I call "gray."  Moral theology -- whether in its infancy or after 2000 years -- is not a black/white process.  God does know that we try to make it that by believing we speak God's own mind in our pronouncements.  But the Apostles were smarter than that in the beginning.  They knew that no one person had the Mind of Christ or the Wisdom of God.  As far back as Moses, God was firm in telling him that we could not see the fullness of God but only a very small aspect as God passed by (the Hebrew language is more graphic than that...God actually tells Moses to behold his rear-end, as He passes by...English cleaned it up by calling it God's "train").

The Apostles realized that, together, they were more of God's Mind; and that their humanness would get in the way of the purity of revelation.  Their solution?  They debated this issue (rather hotly) for a good, long time.  When it seemed they had all registered an opinion, James stood and gave "judgment."  That was a rendering of the mind of the body gathered.  They had sought the guidance of the Spirit, and come to a place of consensus.

James then announced to the assembled (assumed to be beyond those in council), "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us..."  Circumcision wold not be required of Gentiles.  This was a giant step in, a) making baptism the sole rite of entry into the community, and, b) moved the community beyond Judaism and into the cultures beyond them.  It was now "official."

I unpack this story for two reasons.  First, the Church, at its healthiest, has never been a static entity with a single mindset.  The Bible itself isn't even written that way.  The relationship between God and His People is hugely dynamic and moves all over the place at times.  The gift of human will creates a set of problems that make it necessary to chose the path and seek Holy Counsel.   Thus the Apostles employed the technique that worked best at that time.  Now, we in the Episcopal Church employ techniques suitable for a modern council.

Secondly, some folks always go away disappointed.  Do you think everyone left that first council in Jerusalem a happy camper?  I'll wager a lot that more than one went away groaning that the fledgling Body was already straying from the path by not staying dead on target with its Jewish origins.  Their conflict would have been their version of "my Church has left me."  Note, however, that they went about the business at hand.  No one is recorded as having left the group, or founded their own Church of the True Incorporation (Circumcision).   The same is true in a healthy context of contemporary Church.

The Episcopal Church's model of governance is about as inclusive as a body can be.  It has a bicameral legislative body that incorporates equal representation from each diocese...both lay and ordained in equal numbers.  The Bishops constitute the other House.  Both Houses must agree in order for legislation to pass.  Careful rules of engaging issues are set forth and legislation is enacted by a majority vote with both Houses concurring.  About as New Testament as one can get in a society as complex as ours.

Moral theology is fairly gray all over.  It has black and white parts that are represented by the Ten Commandments.  The rest of what is known as Law, was to guide the people in the conduct of daily life...a life that was lived in the midst of several cultures.  Cultures came and went.  Change in living arrangements shifted and evolved.  The community of the Hebrew people seen in Exodus is very different from the one in which Jesus grew up and in which Jesus established a new and different way of being in relationship ... with God and with one another.  This was a radical departure from the fundamental laws of his time.  That's what led to his crucifixion.

No instructions were left regarding how succeeding generations and cultures were to meet the particular conditions of their time.  A lot of what we now know as science was, to the  folks of the First Century, the work of demons or a punishment from God.  Leprosy can be cured.  In Jesus day, it was a sign of uncleanness and warranted expulsion from the faith community.  Jesus incorporated all kinds of folks into his circle of teaching.  Some of those folks had already been excluded from the Jewish faith community.

The current exclusivity of the Church is part of what one might call its "demise."  I don't see demise.  I see reordering and restructuring.  It's a gray area, because moral theology is a messy business.  Always has been.  Someone always goes away disappointed at the outcome.

Human sexuality is really not much a part of biblical teaching.  The Levitical Code was responding to surrounding cultures who thought it just fine to abuse boys...and girls...treat women as chattel...and engage in activity that was outside that of faithfulness.  That part has not changed.  What has changed is our understanding of sexual orientation.  In early Greek and Roman cultures, dalliances in the public baths with same sex members was an often abusive game.  Now, we understand abuse, can legislate against it and separated being gay or lesbian from that behavior...knowing that orientation to be something that isn't a choice and can lead to healthy, lifelong partnerships.

Do I get it?  No, not altogether.  I am a theologian and pastor by trade.  That does not make me able to know the depth and breadth of God any more than Moses could or did.  I say my prayers and live in community...trusting the Holy Spirit in the greater councils.  The Holy Spirit still speaks and, to borrow from Paul, creation is still groaning toward its full birth.  Things are still unfolding.

No, I am not on a slippery slope here.  Most official moral theologians will say something similar.  I've been reading and studying for years.  There is a "right" and "wrong" based upon both our relationship with God and with one another.  "That's the function of the Ten Words (10 Commandments).  Jesus summed it up thusly:  You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, soul and mind; You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself."  Pretty straight forward foundation for a moral code.  We simply are not doing this very well right now.  We get this right, and I truly believe the rest will come round right.

Love and Blessings,


09 July 2012

Coming Out

I'll bet, when you saw the title to this blog posting, you thought, 'Not another surprise, and after all these years!'   Well, I hate to disappoint you, but this is not about sexual orientation. Though, I will mention that in the coming essay.  There are lots of moments of "coming out" in one's life.  It goes along with transformational and evolving life journeys.  Mine is no different.  I have jumped off one track and onto another.

On 1 July, I celebrated the first anniversary of my retirement.  This first year went very differently than I ever could have anticipated when I left my parish office for the last time on the evening of 30 June 2011.  The thought of making a move was barely embryonic and didn't become conclusive until the end of July 2011.  The processes of selling a home, moving 1300 miles, buying a townhome, and having two pretty dicey surgeries were not even on my mind, as we flew to Tampa on 1 July to look at a single condo that one of my wife's colleagues was selling in Sarasota.  It didn't work out, and we temporarily pretty much gave up the idea of a move.

The only thing that was for sure in the first year of retirement was our younger daughter's wedding.  Even a year before it happened, I knew this was simply a foregone conclusion.  Those two were (and are) seriously in love and seemed to fit together as a couple so well. That was going to be THE deal of the first year...our first wedding.  Of course, it just happened two weeks ago.  The very happy newlyweds have returned from their honeymoon to begin a more settled routine of married life.

During that first year, I let my hair grow down to my shoulders and discovered (to my utter surprise) that I reminded a lot of folks of "The Big Lebowski" character, "The Dude."  I even got a lot of free coffee from Starbuck's to sit outside a cafe for a couple of hours on Halloween in full "Dudeistic Regalia" (yes, even the housecoat).  I loved it!  What I discovered in all of that goofiness is that I really enjoy being goofy....simply doing what comes to mind and not spending my life worrying so much (if at all) about what other folks think.   This was a huge change for me.

Something happens to us Priests when we are ordained.  It isn't God's fault.  It's mostly our own and the (truly) outrageous expectations of our parishioners (for those of us who spend our active working years in that element).  So, at some ultimate expense to our emotional...and, thus, physical...well-being, we hide what we really think and believe in order to keep our parochial systems in balance.

Truth is, we could keep our parochial systems in fine balance and still be up front about what we think and believe about the world around us.  We simply hate the criticism and pain that comes from people who think differently and have nothing much better to do than make the lives of those different from them miserable.   Not many people are exactly like that.  It's a gradient of sorts.  It's hard enough to keep a parish in balance while feigning total neutrality (sort of like the eunuch...a bodyguard or servant to a queen or female royal household member who was castrated to insure the royal women's chastity).  Yes, Priests in the Episcopal Church do undergo something of an emotional or ideological emasculation in order to "keep the peace" in parishes.  I just talked at length with a colleague still in active parish ministry who is suffering grievously as a result of simply "being himself."

This first year of retirement has placed me in an almost required position of having to tend to my cluttered interiority and sort through the places where I have stuck all those parts of who I am.  They are slowly coming to life again.  The nearly four months of intense surgical events, infection therapies and recoveries created a space to "be apart" from what might otherwise have been routine distractions.  I had to remain seated or supine most of the time in order to heal.  That makes for a lot of inner journey opportunities and internal evaluation.

So, what is there to "come out" about?  I named two already:  I enjoy being goofy and a bit "out there;" and I spent a long time hiding most of my real convictions for fear of being branded, ostracized or rendered ineffective in the work I truly have loved.  Here are a few "comings out."

1)  I registered as a Republican when I was first old enough to vote in a general election...while still a student at the University of Florida.  That was not a popular thing in those days, so I kept it quiet.  Why did I register Republican?  Because, all of the folks I called "Florida Rednecks" (rural guys who drove outrageous pickup trucks with shotguns and rifles on racks in the back window) were Democrats...or, as they were then called "Dixiecrats."   Fine reason to register in a party....basing it on a perceived lifestyle.

2)  This was no secret, because my Bishop (William Folwell of the Diocese of C. Florida) knew it:  I hated the Vietnam War and all that had sent us over there...the military, the politicians and the whole structure.  I was...get this...something of a Republican anarchist. They do exist.  They even have a name to this day.

3)  I originally went into the military out of obedience to my Bishop.  He required that his Postulants for Holy Orders work for a time in between college and graduate seminary studies.  He asked me to enter the military, because I needed "to develop objectivity in dealing with the diversity of parish life."  I told him (yes, I really did) that he was crazy.  I repented of this and learned through the process that our vows really were important...and so was discipline.

4)  I only enlisted because the process to become a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy would take longer and require more years of service than my Bishop wanted me to have before ordination.  It was the second (and last) time I told him he was crazy, when he suggested I enlist.  Ultimately, it was a great decision.  He had truly discerned my needs and growing edges...nailing, in the process, how to get me in position to be the most effective Priest I could be.  I almost didn't go to seminary, because the Navy offered me a full commission and career as an officer in a field I found very attractive at that time.

5)  Also, not a secret:  I was very close to entering the Novitiate as a monastic...maybe less than a year away...when I met my future wife.  I had been in a process since 1974.  My spiritual director, in the monastic order, wanted me to date for a couple of years prior to entering the process.  When I wrote him and told him that I had fallen in love and was considering marriage, his response was short, and with his usual charm:  "Why am I not surprised?"

6)  I transitioned to being a Democrat along about the same time I was preparing for marriage.  One had nothing to do with the other.  I was overseeing the resettling of Cuban refugees in the parish where I was Assistant in Orlando.  I began to be intimately in contact with people whose lives had been disrupted, dismantled and rendered worthless.  I loved those folks I worked with, and the parishioners who became the team of caregivers at Emmanuel.  No more simply giving lip service to the poor and dispossessed.

7)  I came to a place of seeing the struggle and pain of those who are LGBT in the mid-1980s.  I will always be grateful to God for my chance meeting with several gay men who, as Episcopalians, were deeply struggling to "be okay" with being who they had always been.  They were so much God's people and so much more Christian than I was at the time.  The Spirit simply opened that door, and I walked in.  I kept that a deep secret to preserve their well-being in the diocese and my well-being as a Priest in that diocese (there were "witch hunts" in those days in C. Florida...and many other places).

8) I met Mother Barbara Brown Taylor at an M. Scott Peck conference at Kanuga (Episcopal camp and conference center near Hendersonville, NC) in August 1984.  She literally saved my sanity through her pastoral care.  In what was the fastest turn-around in my personal life, I became a very strong advocate of women in all levels of ordained ministry (I had not been prior to that experience).  The 1980s were huge for my spiritual growth.

9)  I quietly counseled, gave spiritual direction and encouraged vocations for LGBT Episcopalians from about 1990 onward.  And, yes, I told them to keep quiet about their sexual orientation.  I employed gay folks on staffs.  I expected everything from them that I expected from all staff members...and myself...personal integrity, professionalism, and neutrality.  Had I found anyone violating the standards of conduct in the Church, I would have moved swiftly and decisively to deal with that...regardless of gender, gay or straight.  Fortunately, I always had very professional staff members in every parish.

10)  I wanted Geraldine Ferraro to be the first woman President of the United States.  I was disappointed when that didn't happen.  I wanted Hillary Clinton to be the first woman President of the United States and was disappointed when that didn't happen.

11) I was exceedingly disappointed with President Clinton's dalliances and the uproar/distraction it caused.  But, I do think he has been one of our most effective presidents.  When he left office, we had the first budget surplus in nearly four decades.

12)  In my first general election as an adult voter, I cast a vote for Richard Nixon (1972).  Remember, I was a registered Republican.  I still get disturbed when I think about having done that.  Dumbass!

13)  There have been people in all my parishes that I simply didn't like.  They were folks who were rude, self-serving, demanding, judgmental, and considered themselves entitled either because of their position in the private sector, their wealth or their cultural orientation.  I have never suffered them for very long, and I have watched them nearly kill clergy, divide parishes...all with the claim that they were serving "their god."  This seems harsh, but, if the Episcopal Church is dying, it is more from that than anything folks think is the "real problem."  Trust me on this after 34 years.

14)  If I had not retired when I did, I do honestly and deeply believe I would not have been alive to reach age 65.  I had so deeply buried myself and had become so unwilling to speak my own truth, that folks that love me very much feared for my well-being.  I woke up about two months ago and realized, for the first time in a very long time, that I am real and alive and can think and speak my truth without fear of repercussions.

So, okay.  Here's the deal.  I'm a Democrat.  I am a little left of moderate.  I am considered  a lightly conservative theologian by most of my colleagues but more liberal in my political ideology.  I truly dislike labels.  They don't tell the truth about a person, because we are a lot more than the thin margin those labels actually define.  I am just me.  I will point out readily the other side of an issue in order to provide perspective.  Perspective is something I believe our culture currently lacks...abysmally lacks.

I will continue to advocate full inclusion of partnered gay and lesbian folks at all levels of common life.  It isn't a choice for them to be who they are....of this I am totally and thoroughly convinced.  They are God's folks as much as any of us are and deserve the same love and respect we all deserve.

I intend to speak my truth in love and to give those with different opinions the full measure of respect for where they find themselves at the moment.  I go deep into a well of contemplative silence to become the best me I can be.  It seems to be working.  God is faithful always.  I am here today, because of that.  I have always respected those of all walks of life and ideologies.  That will only continue and grow.

Finally, my Lakota friends and their culture have taught me so much more than I ever knew possible about the pain of rejection and repression.  I love those folks very much, and they have loved me...a big, goofy white man.  The Lakota are truly loving, caring and generous folks...as are all Native Americans.  Most of my life-work (what is given me) will be to advocate for reparations, return of sacred lands and acknowledgment of their culture.  Our ancestors were merciless with the false doctrine of "Manifest Destiny" (invented by a NY journalist to foster hatemongering).  Most of our ancestors left tyranny only to inflict that tyranny on those who were here before us and nearly annihilate them, body and soul.  We, as a culture, have to deal with this...or we will never heal and be truly great.

There you have it.  Let's see how many friends this may cost.  Remember, I am just me...and am "out" now.

Love in Christ,

PS:  I didn't tell everything.  A few things are between me, my family and God.  ;)

06 July 2012

What Really Happened in San Diego, CA on the Evening of 4 July 2012

The Inside Scoop:  Special Report from Journalist F. Montforte D'Hubert

In a shot that was heard around San Diego Bay and for miles farther, a quiet group of physicists managed to pull off one of the greatest subversive experiments in pyrotechnic history.  

No, we are not talking about Higgs boson.  That is old news to be certain.  We speak here of the formerly top secret enterprise of one Dr. Jasper Plank and his team of nuclear physicists working on the (until now) unknown particle they call the "Hickey coson" (pronounced hi-key coh-sun).  In an exclusive interview allowed to me by this secretive group, I am able to bring to light the truth about the alleged fireworks display botch on 4 July evening.  

The photograph captured above looks like no other fireworks display gone wrong.  That's because, it was a carefully timed explosion surrounding sensitive instruments that have been designed to withstand intense heat and flame while isolated sub-atomic particles.  This method of breaking up atomic matter is known by Dr. Plank and his team as Low-level Mid-air Isotope Collision Infuser (LeMICI).  Dr. Plank's LeMICI operations specialist, Dr. Cranston Dimshaw explains:

Dr. Cranston Dimshaw

"Well, sir, I don't mind a-sayin this; we have that Hadron Collider thingamabob over yonder in Switzerland beat all to hell and gone. They had to tear up a lot of dirt and rock..killin' a bunch o'worms and stuff to get that beast a-planted underground.  Now, Dr. Plank and me had this idea a-piece back that we could contain a ball-bustin' ('scuse me, kin I say that in print?) atom smasher in a contained space above ground-- keepin' all the energy focused inward.  I told Dr. Plank that if he'd get me five hunnert pounds of dyneemite, I'd be good for my word, as a pyrotechnic specialist with a doctorate in explosion physics from USC, and get him a big enough blast to show up them lilly-livers in Europe."

Dr. Dimshaw went on to explain in some technical detail the process of bringing five hundred pounds of tri-nitro toluene (dynamite) in the form of a complex fireworks display into such a configuration as to create an infused explosion -- which can be seen at the top of this report.

When I asked Dr. Plank and his team just what it took to get this equipment in place, he pointed to their mobile laboratory, known as "Hotspot," and said, "Thar she be...finest mobile facility on wheels is my guess."
"Hotspot" being loaded by labrats
As a reporter, I was immediately aware of the lack of security around such a sensitive and sophisticated scientific mobile facility.  Dr. Plank explained, "Ya see those two ears  a-peekin over the window yonder?  That varmint is our guard dog, Stewey.  He is the meanest, oneriest and golldarndest cantankerous fox terrier I have ever seen.  He is ten years old and kin tear yer.....(deleted) off afore ya kin whistle the first three notes of "Dixie."  Oh, and don't whistle that tune around Stewey.  He hates that tune like crazy."  I was permitted to climb aboard "Hotspot" for a very brief peek from the front of the bus.  Stewey was right there, as I climbed the steps...showing me the kind of lip that said this dog meant business.  I did as I was told and avoided experiencing his expertise.  I never knew such a small dog could seem so big.
Stewey the Vicious Guard Dog

Up to this point, I had not had the opportunity to have a long interview time with Dr. Plank himself.  He seemed awfully busy cutting and pasting pictures on booklets that looked suspiciously like passports.  He was also supervising what seemed to be a rapid mobile retreat to some place no one would share with me.  

At length, the great Dr.Plank himself, came over with a cup of coffee for me, and we sat on two boxes of left over TNT and chatted for what he called, "a spell."  Here is the substance of the interview:
Dr. Jasper Plank
FMD:  Thanks for this time Dr. Plank.  What is your assessment of this event?
JP:  It beats the hell out of me.  We spent years planning for the right time and place to carry out this experiment.  You mighta guessed that this here was one complex puppy to pull off.
FMD:  Are you suggesting that something went wrong?
JP:  Wrong?  Sheeeit....we been lookin' for Hickey coson for 25 years.  I knowed it was thar while I was still at Berkeley.  One night, while me and Weed was doin' some agricultural research, it came to me...like the opening of a fog bank...that there was a particle inside all this soup we call atoms and molecules that made things all work together and just right.
FMD:  So, early on, you were in agricultural science?
JP:  After a manner o'speakin'...yep.  We was tryin' to learn about the complex atomic chemistry of a product and how it could be enhanced to provide more yield.  My friend and colleague, Weed, was in charge of the operation.
FMD:  Weed?  Who was he, or she.  
JP:  Cain't rightly say.  We just knew him as Weed.  He was a whiz-bang of a feller, but he went to the dark side of science and became one of them theologian guys.  Cain't unnerstand that.  How can you 'splain what you don't see?
FMD:  Isn't that what you are doing with Hickey coson?  And, by the way, how did you arrive at that name.
JP:  Well, we jest knowed that atoms is real and made up of particles of energy.  Now that particle stuff were new to physics.  We had a helluva time tryin' to sell that to our grant providers.  Eventually, we had to go commando to get our work done.  Oh, you asked 'bout Hickey coson.  Well, one morning the (then) agri-team assembled for a research meetin'.  We all had these purple blotches on our necks and found out we had all scored dates the night before with some of the campus ladies....you jest don't know what it's like to be in our line  o' work and try to get dates with real girls.  But here all five of us were.  Weed had two of them blotches....said it was a long night.  He also 'splained that the blotches was called "hickeys" and a sign of a successful date.  We was to be proud of them 'cause they only lasted a few days.  Weed was the man with two o' them puppies.  Weed was also the shouter on an 8 man rowing crew.  They call them coxwains.  Damned if I would like to be called that.  I guess boat folks don't like it much either, 'cause they called themselves "coh-suns."  Long and short of it:  When I started studin' on them particles, I wanted to name the mother of all particles the Hickey coson in honor of that original team, our darin' deeds and Weed's outdoor dealins.
FMD:  Well, that's a heck of a story, Dr. Plank.  A lot goes into a name.  Sure would like to know more about this Weed fellow.
JP:  Cain't talk no more 'bout him.  He's classified.  I do know he's been back busy on some new form of agri-science.  He always liked to brew up a mess o' whatever we was workin' on.  
FMD:  I know my time with you is almost up, Dr. Plank.  Let's talk more about last evening's event (being July 4).  Can you summarize it.
JP:  I'll try to be brief here, so stay with me young feller.  Coming up with enough dyneemite to create a collider infusion event was a problem.  We been knowin' fer years about them boys in New Jersey and their pyro shows.  Well, we was able to set up our lab and turn on the juice to our computers in such a way as to realign both the timing and trajectories of all that ordinance.  I cain't lie; we had a dickens of a time.  Had to call Weed, who keeps up with this computin' stuff, to give us a hand.  Ya' know, that skeester knocked out a big ole chunk o' the power grid here a few years back.  Southwest California folks were mighty pissed.  Didn't find Weed for days..worryin' about him and such.  Finally found him clean under his bed...still hidin.  But I digress.
We finally managed to git all the circuits to respond to our computer engineer's software.  All he needed to do was time his hittin the enter key at the same time as the New Jersey boy clicked his button to start the show.  Damn near worked to.  We was off about 0.5 seconds.  Dammit.  One part fired just that much later than the other.  It was one helluva beautiful explosion.  The infusion worked well enough, and the night was perfect in terms of temperature and humidity (I do love the SD Bay area).  Yep, we missed ole Hickey coson jest a hair.
FMD:  Manoman.  What a story.  How much did that cost you in terms of research dollars?
JP:  Us?  Hmmm.  I'd say 'bout  $119.65.  We had to buy some computer extension stuff and gas to get from where we was.  
FMD:  What?!!  Only about $120.00?!!  How the......?
JP:  Now, don't get jumpy on me lad.  The LeMICI is a work of genius simply because it is not expensive like them hoity-toity curvy colliders.  I do have to admit, those New Jersey boys are out a few bucks...big bucks.  But it was for the sake of science and technical research.  Still they are mighty pissed and such this mornin'.  
FMD:  What about the thousands of SD Bay area folks who bought tickets to be up close and came from miles around to see this annual event?
JP:  Hells bells!  Ain't no one got any sense of adventure and 'preciation fer what took place?  Where else you gonna see power, majesty and pyrotechnic genius like what happened last night?  I understand we extended the San Andreas Fault another 20 miles south.  Now these folks will be part of the Big Island when them tectonic plates start a movin' west in a few years.
FMD:  Simply astounding.  Hey, I see what looks like Fed cars coming up the road.  Are they looking for you or me.  We need to close this for now.  Maybe we can meet up again soon.
JP:  Yep, we need to skeedaddle on outta here.  Pure research cain't be slowed by those federal boys.  Pesky critters.....See ya.

That ended one of the most incredible interviews of my long and unusual journalistic career.  This story is so wild that even The Onion wouldn't take it.  Said it was too hot.  You betcha.  They should have been here.  Some nose hairs were singed for sure.  

I am thankful to Fr. Frederick Mann, fellow ordained Dudeist, for allowing me to tell this incredible, almost unbelievable, story.  Perhaps we can follow up.  Damn, there's another fed car.  I'll just be moving along now.  Chow.

F. Montforte D'Hubert
At Large Reporter/Journalist
Catch all the latest at ifitainthereitaintnewsworthy.aa/bollsgeschicte .  It is the downunder fer shur business (aa =Antarctica)

02 July 2012


[My thanks to Dr. Tatiana Agafonova, DC; a Doctor of Chiropractic and specialist in Somatic-Respiratory Integration (SRI), which she uses in her practice and teaches...based upon the research and work of Dr. Donald Epstein, DC.  The image of the sandbox came out of a conversation that Tatiana and I had at a workshop she did this past weekend].

Just about everyone had a type of sandbox growing up...or at least access to one.  At our childhood home, Dad had a load of yellow sand placed on the north side of our driveway, near the garage and half under a brazilian pepper tree (these trees are no longer "legal" in Florida, and our parents had ours removed during my high school years..another story).  We had the ability to dig tunnels for our sand play gear, create castles and cities and play "army" with our plastic figurines and military equipment.  Fun days!

When our girls were growing up, we created a more conventional sandbox in our backyards.  It was large enough for four our five little people to have a good time and was filled with a load of white sand...heavy enough to be useful when wet for making castles and stuff.  Countless times, we were called to the back end of our backyard to view the latest "make" and experience the latest in creative and imaginative productions.  

My brother and I grew up, and the sand near the garage was spread through the lawn with only the bare traces of the yellow that signified a once active little series of "kingdoms."  

As our girls grew, we sold one of our homes, when I was called to another parish.  We left the next home, which was owned by the parish.  In each situation, we left the sandbox for what new creative energy would occupy that space.  By that time, the girls were away in college and essentially gone.  Our last home, alas, had no sandbox...at least not the kind I have described.  I missed seeing those play areas and what they meant.

As an adult, one of my "sandbox experiences" was the yard of the home we had at any given time.  Creating beds for plants, flowers and vegetables/herbs became an off-work passion. The sculpting of shrubs and the placement of colors and variations of green engaged the creative presentation of "the castle"...our home.  

Denise and I built two homes, owned two homes and lived in a home owned by the cathedral in South Bend...over the space of the 30 years leading to this latest move.  Each one was unique in scope, shape, and eco-diversity.  Each was a fresh challenge -- either to create "ex-nihil" or shift and shape what existed when we moved in.  

We now live in a townhome (a two-story condominium with about 2K square feet) in a development of 24 buildings.  Each building has eight condos -- with a total of four different floor plans.  They are well-built, but every "Ruby" (our particular model) is identical.  There are some variations based upon choices of kitchen cabinet styles, floor tile coloring (stone tiles, btw), upstairs carpet colors, etc.  

The grounds of our condo development -- called Stonehaven -- are the domain of the HOA and maintained by landscapers and a grounds maintenance company.  It's creatively done and contains a lot of bio-diversity.  Sarasota is considered "sub-tropical" so our plants and trees are quite different than the midwest or other parts of the country.  We have a number of palm species, water oaks, Florida Holly, a southern species of maple, cypress and plants and shrubs too numerous to list.  

I have to admit, I miss doing yardwork.  Why?  It is all about the creative "sandbox" that has been the yards I have maintained over the past four decades.  It was hard, sweaty and sometimes downright tiresome work; but the satisfaction of drinking a beer or glass of iced-tea at the end of the day and taking in the vista of my day's labor can't really be described.  Now, as I watch the landscapers plant new trees, shrubs and plants around the final four buildings of our development, I find myself saying things like, "Damn, why did they decide to place those palms in that location?"  Or, "That's a perfect spot for that young oak."  I actually went out and pulled a few weeds last week (after the storm and before the lawn maintenance guys got here).  It actually felt good!  Call me weird, but it was something of a "sandbox moment."  I stood back and admired how that small work had changed the mini-biosphere of that section of shrubbery.  [BTW, discarded biomass in this area is composted by Sarasota County...in our case...and used in a variety of creative ways...a corporate sandbox?]

This past Saturday, Dr. Agafonova and I were not talking about biosphere sandboxes.  We actually got into a post-workshop conversation about the next phase of the Somatic-Respiratory Integration (SRI) development.  It was she who said,  "That would be a very good sandbox in which to play and develop a new part of this technology..."  Her words grabbed all the memories I have just unpacked above.  I am at that phase of my own psycho-spiritual development where key words become icons for a wide play of experiences and new ideas  that greet me in the process and project me forward.  

It occurred to me, as I came away from our conversation, that there is a "sandbox" in which  I have been playing and building for many, many years.  I just never saw it that way at all.  There is a place deep within each of us.  Sadly, it is not visited by many, but it is there nonethless.  It is a space described by theologians like John Sanford, Morton Kelsey; mystics like Julian of Norwich, John of the Cross; psychologists like Carl Jung, Abraham Maslow and physiologists like Dr. Memnet Oz, Andrew Weil.  These are just a few of the many in each discipline that comprise of the full scope of humanity who talk about this space deep within....where body, mind and spirit come together.  It very much fits my description of an "inner sandbox."

From the psycho-physical point, entry comes through the work of our right brain...the area which embraces the intuitive and imaginative neuro-psychological functions.  From the psycho-spiritual point, entry also comes through the right brain; but also engages the unconscious level of the psyche.  From the point of all three elements of our being, SRI helps gain entry...becoming aware of the rhythms of our physiological and respiratory functions.   

This inner sandbox provides lots of opportunities for playful interaction within ourselves, with the Holy and then outwardly with others.  I am not sure how we lose that externalization of our childhood imagination, but I know why.  We are taught somewhere along the line that it is time to quit being a kid and grow up....get serious about the world and what we do in life.  That totally external, ultra-logical and mechanical process (or techological, behavioral...) is the function of the left brain.  As I have said, it is important, but it isn't the controlling or primary aspect of being human.

To be human is to be a synthesis of all elements of our createdness.  I want to submit that synthesizing our humanness is a process that has the outward and visible sign of the sandbox.  It is a modality that is much more playful than it is serious.  It is a place of wonder, excitement and energy.  Today, we might build the metaphorical castle and be knights, kings, queens and jesters.  Tomorrow, we may fashion a city with all kinds of modern elements.  The next day could be a battlefield, and yes, play fighting is an appropriate way of learning the limits of the real self and the depths of relationships.  Watch young animals engage in scrappy wrestling to build strength and learn relational skills.  I am not talking about aggressive dominance here.  In the sandbox, everyone is the same and engagement of the parts of self are mutual and respectful in their play.  Ego is a left brain function and can be domineering, controlling and destructive at times.

I have to find quiet places to get into my "inner sandbox."  I have to drop being "Fr. Fred" or "Honey" (spouse) or "Dad."  I don't reject these in the least, but functionally, they are simply identifiers of what needs to be a state of being and not just jobs or roles.  I am those things, because I am.......I am.

In my inner sandbox, I learned that "you are, because I AM."  The Imago of the Creator has invested in me to make me uniquely who I am.  It is my value to life.  Oh, and it is also the value of every other human on the planet.  Now, it seems, the sandbox theory becomes meddlesome.  But, I don't like some folks.  They are too....(place it in there:  liberal, conservative, rich, poor, educated, uneducated, different skin tone or cultural origin...keep going).  But, when we get in the inner sandbox, all that stuff just doesn't matter anymore.  It doesn't matter to God...never has...otherwise, we would all be the same.  God formed us each the way we are.  

Now, granted, the ego has taken control in most situations, and the expression of our perceived reality creates divisive behavior, the destructive kind of fighting, prejudicial judgements and all kinds of things we can call ugly and hurtful.  That stuff just isn't in the sandbox...not the inner one.  Even in the backyard sandbox, kids playing together in a creative and free-form fashion have remarkable solidarity.  It is the true meaning of community.

Time for me to work a bit on my health at the gym, breathe deeply and get centered.  More will no doubt come later, after I have played a while in my sandbox.

Much love in He Who Loves Us Always,