29 January 2013

Agape Without Isms or Ists

This is the fourth...and final...part of the series "More Love...and Some Civility" that began on 1/18/13.  My goal is to complete the "translation" of images that have been part of daily contemplative discipline for some weeks.  In being as transparent as possible, please know that what I have written is not a "rant" or a personal "crusade."  Some of what I have written is even a surprise to me.  It comes from deep within, and from a growing and abiding love for those of whom I have spoken...most especially the Lakota People.  They have opened hearts and doors to me in a kind of loving way that cannot be expressed.  My mission for the coming years is solidifying on its own...as if I have been born to do this phase of my life as it seems to be unfolding...in spite of me at times.  Thanks for reading and sharing these "showings."

Peter and Paul...

Since birth, I have been part of the Christian Tradition known broadly as Anglicanism, and specifically as the Episcopal Church in this country.  Part of our family history...on both sides...go back to Non-Juror Anglicans in Scotland.  So, growing up, I was "tuned into" the liturgical calendar that drives the Church Year.  In addition to moving through the life and ministry of Jesus, the liturgical year contains a calendar of saints....women and men who have exemplified the characteristics and presence of Jesus in the communities and environments of their times.   This calendar includes the Apostolic core of what became Christianity...eleven of the original twelve disciples of Jesus; Matthias, who was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot; and Paul, who was incorporated into the Apostolic core by that community.

A skeptic, a tradesman (professional fisherman), and one who often engaged his mouth before evaluating the bigger picture.  He was impetuous...and pious...a typical member of Judean life in his day.  Jesus called Peter and his brother, Andrew, who dropped their nets and went with Jesus.  In the midst of being criticized and oppressed by both Pharisees and Sadducees, Jesus asked a straight-up question of his disciples:  "How about you, who do you say that I am?"  Peter blurted, "You are the Christ, the Messiah of God!"
(read this story in Matthew 16 of the Christian Bible).  This confession of Peter is a major shift in the work of Jesus, and the Church celebrates the Confession of Peter on 18 January each year.

It bears note that proclaiming Jesus as Messiah did not "save" Peter. [this word "save" is simply a bad and abused term for what actually happens.  It's the difference between being opened and awakened.  The Greek term "metanoia" means to turn completely...to be healed/restored.  It is a process word, not an impact word].  Not days after making the incredible statement above, Jesus tells his disciples that it is time to head to Jerusalem.  Peter literally gets in Jesus' face and tells him it is suicide...they would all be killed.  Jesus rebukes Peter harshly:  "Get behind me Deceiver...you have no idea how God works!" [literal translation from Greek text].

The most important piece of Peter's narrative is captured in the last chapter of the Gospel of John.  It is the final post-Resurrection gathering with the now eleven.  After a breakfast that Jesus made, he asked Peter twice, "Simon, son of John, do you love me...?"  Peter responded twice...each time more vehemently..."Yes, Master, you know I love you."
Jesus asked a third time, Simon, son of John, do you love me?"  Peter is really distressed and responds, "You know everything there is to know.  You have got to know that I love you."

This scene only makes sense in the original Greek.  The first two times Jesus asked Peter about "love," he used the term "agapeo."  Peter's response each time used the Greek word, "phileo" as "love."  In other words,  Jesus asked Peter if he loved him with the love of Divine Grace.  Peter responded that he loved Jesus like a brother.

The third and final time Jesus asked Peter if he loved him, Jesus stepped down his expectation and used the term, "phileo"... as a way of meeting Peter where he was.  As I said above, Peter's heart had been opened, but he still had a lot of "baggage" to process.

Peter did get to the place of "Agape" as he began his apostolic work.  He finally did wake up.

Passionate and legalistic...both in his upbringing and his zeal to persecute the potentially toxic cult that had arisen in the followers of Jesus (as the Sanhedrin...the Jewish governing body...saw them)...Paul comes on the scene as leading the angry mob set on killing Stephen (read the story in Acts 9).  Paul grew up in Tarsus (now in Turkey) and was considered an Hellenistic Jew.  He also had Roman citizenship along with his birth citizenship as a Jew.  Paul studied under Gamaliel, who was the leading rabbinic teacher of that time.  Paul's zeal was for the Law and its strict adherence.

After the stoning of Stephen, Paul was given the job of leading a militia group to Damascus to "root out" the followers of Jesus and bring them bound for trial in Jerusalem.  It was on that trip that Paul was blinded by a vision of Jesus, who asked, "...Why are you persecuting me?"  When Paul responded with the only possible question, "Who are you?" the response was, "I am Jesus, the one you are hunting down.  I want you to get up and enter the city.  There you will be told what to do next."

Paul was healed of his blindness and disappeared for about three years.  Upon his return, his zeal had completely turned.  THIS was metanoia... a full awakening.  The Christian Church celebrates the Conversion of St. Paul on 25 January each year.

Unity in Diversity...

Peter and Paul take similar paths during their subsequent work in the Apostolic community.  Peter's final awakening opens him to accept and fully incorporate Gentiles (non-Jews) into the faith community.  Paul sees the decimation of famine in the community in Antioch (mostly Gentiles) and returns to Jerusalem to make a case for sending aid.  Peter, a rough hewn fisherman, and Paul, a cultured and educated scholar, bring alive the person of Jesus  in ways that, by the time both were killed, insured that Christianity was firmly planted around the entire Mediterranean basin.

Paul actually became the first theologian of the infant Christian community.  The core of his teaching can be seen in I Corinthians 12 and 13.  Paul did not write esoteric texts.  He wrote letters to the communities he had started...letters that taught, encouraged and sometimes chastised the faithful in their journey.

Basic to Paul's theology is the understanding of community as being like the human body.  The human body has thousands of moving parts...broken down into systems that function in a remarkable harmony (most of the time) to make us fully alive.  Yet, the parts are vastly different.  Eyes, ears, noses, hands, feet, stomach, lungs, liver, etc., are different even in the types of cells that comprise them...not to mention their individual function.  Bill Bryson wondered aloud how 'so many billions of atoms can function in ways that they come together and work in harmony to make a human being' (a summary paraphrase from his book, A Short History of Nearly Everything, Chapter 1).

Yet, Paul not only suggests but outright tells the faith community that it must come to a place of functioning like a human body.  Separate parts but all working as One.  Where does this business of being One come from?

Paul does not wait long to provide that insight.  In Chapter 13 of I Corinthians Paul wrote the famous "Discourse on Love."  What was he talking about?  Agapeo!  

Nothing works without the energy and power of Divine Love.  The Christian Church calls it Grace.  It empowers, binds, embraces and holds together all things.  To be fully present to and motivated by Agapeo is to be awakened.


The coming of Christianity did not save its parent...Judaism.  The legalistic structure of 1st century Judaism did not save Judea.  The temple was destroyed in 70CE (AD) and Judea was rendered open territory in the Roman Empire.  That community would not come together again as a formal state until 1949.

Christianity was at its best in the first 800 years of its life.  The ravages of the Middle Ages shifted our theology in ways that twisted us well out of shape and sent us into several hundred years of fighting governance with abuse of sacred power (so-called sacred in many cases), infighting (the Reformation) and exclusivism (which created the reason, for instance, that folks were leaving England and the continent and heading to the, then, "New World").

Yet, in all this history, the thread of Divine Love continued to move.  We have a string of saints, scholars, mystics and liturgical practices that have kept the fires of awakening alive in the Christian tradition.  Grace abides in spite of us.

Also, this is true of every truly spiritual tradition.  Even while Christianity was emerging in the middle east, so were other expressions of Divine Love emerging in the far east, the Isles of Britain, and in the Americas.  No one gets center stage on this.

As long as there are human beings, we will be tried in the flames of our own egos.  It is the Divine spark that makes us truly human that also provides us with the opportunity to choose:  self or Other....eros/phileos or Agape.  To be awake means that ego has been removed as the driver of our being and has been replaced with Agape...Divine Love.

When we equate the governance of our culture...or the laws that govern us...with the "Will of God," we have employed one of the most ancient and patently absurd acts of hubris known to our human community's history.

When we use any type of Manifest Destiny (read:  God's command to exert corporate or national power) to seek the destruction of other humans, or any part of created order, we have become ourselves The Lie.  Not just liars, but The Lie.

As Peter was taught in his struggle with accepting Gentiles into the Body of the Faithful, adherence to a law of exclusivity is null and void.

Think about this in light of yesterday's (1/28/13) experience of a man grieving the loss of his son at Sandy Hook boldly beseeching state government for changes that would lead to stopping such rampant massacres.  As he did so in tears, dozens of "God fearing" citizens, denounced him and hollered, "Second Amendment" as a chant to shut him up.  Divine Love at work?  No, I don't think so.  We may be getting  a little close to what happened to Judaism in 70AD here.  I wonder what Paul would think in light of his persecution of Divine Love and subsequent experience of awakening.   My heart is troubled.

As long as extreme elements of our political spectrum refuse to turn and face each other (remember, I likened the spectrum to a circle...bent back on itself with the extreme ends back-to-back at the bottom...facing away from each other) there will not be the kind of humility and mutual respect that breeds true progress.

As long as individual and corporate egos exercise bigotry, behave exclusively, and use terms like "fascism," "socialism," or any of the '-ist' derivatives to describe others (not even counting that those terms are regularly used incorrectly and totally outside their origins), we cannot be a nation E Pluribus Unum.

As long as there is a part of our own nation's society that is treated as a conquered, third-world people, we carry the "karma," guilt and responsibility for the near extinction of their cultures.  Here I speak directly about our First Nations peoples.

The words I hear spoken today...bathed in religious rhetoric...that act to vilify, exclude, judge or abuse persons of other points of view mock Divine Love.

What would happen, if every person allowed him/her-self to have a Damascus road experience.  What would happen if every person allowed him/her-self to have a heart opened to the truth of real love...Agape?

There would be hope.  There would be reconciliation.  There would be progress.  There would be peace.  I am yet hopeful.  It is a journey worth taking.  It is a journey that begins with one and is complete in One.

Finally:  Phobos ouk estin en tey agape, all hey teleia agape edzo ballei ton phobos; hoti ho phobos kolasin exei, ho de phoboumenos ou tetelaiotai en tey agape. [transliteration of original Greek...I John 4:18...describes what happened to Peter and Paul...and all who are open to agape.

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; because fear has punishment, and the one fearing has not been perfected in love."

I stand as one also in need of the total centrality of this Love.



[NB:  For persons who do not see Christianity as The Way, what is written above is not exclusive.  I write from my tradition, because that is the point of my origin and the road of my journey.  I can only employ the tools of theology, science, history and social sciences that have been in my education and development.  I know a little about a lot in terms of other spiritual traditions and paths.  To attempt to use those tools to describe a journey would be outrageous at best and abusive at worst.  As I use the original texts of Greek and Hebrew to better employ my craft; I humbly ask that you use my language as one that can be "transliterated" to one that is more comfortable for you.  I think you will find common ground.  I most assuredly have...and give thanks for those patient enough to answer questions and provide compassionate correction when I have "got it twisted" a bit.]


24 January 2013

Repairing the Hoop

This is the third part of the "More Love....and Some Civility" series that I began on 1/18/13.  I am thankful, again, to our dog, Duchess.  Our long walk today gave me "conversion room" for the many images that have been moving through my right brain since about 5:30am this morning.  This bears repeating:  I am not a politician, political scientist or sociologist.  I am a theologian, an Episcopal Priest retired from 33 yrs of parochial ministry...with a strong science background and 6 yrs service in the U.S. Navy. Those are the tools I bring to the table with these writings.  

Yesterday, I saw a very disturbing picture on Facebook.  It came through one of the many special interest group pages that a friend had received and passed along...I suspect fully believing what it represented to the viewer of that picture.  It is something like a 19th century romantic scene...solemn, dark, with light streaming toward a center stage area.  Around the stage were assembled all kinds of folks...presumably American citizens.  Most all were caucasion.  They had that Hans Holbein sort of ambiance...wholesome, vital, and solemn.  They were all staring at the center of the stage.

On the stage stood a tall image of Jesus...the very kind created in the image of the Western European 19th Century mind...light colored hair, bluish eyes and light skin.  Yep, what some of us clergy call "the American Jesus."  What that Jesus was holding in his right hand was a copy of the Constitution.  Here it is:

The caption asked us to "like" if we believed ourselves to be a "God fearing" nation.  It was a group seeking to keep "In God We Trust" on our printed money and "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.  We were to "scroll on" if we didn't believe that.

Uh, I scrolled on...as a matter of principle...not on a basis of faith.  Look at that picture.  America was never like that.  Sorry, but it is total romance.  It has absolutely nothing to do with Faith, Belief, Jesus or God.  Really.

In that picture, I do not see a single Indigenous Person (read: Native American, First Nations), who received the first sojourners; saved them from starvation and then, beginning in that generation, were subjected to nearly 200 years of systematic removal in one of the boldest attempts at genocide in world history.  In there I see but a single African-American, whose enslavement marked nearly half of the nation's population in 1861..and upon whose backs most of the early fabric of this nation was built.  In there I do not see a single Chinese person, who were regularly "shanghaied" from their homes and families; brought into California and subjected to a kind of slavery to build the western half of the first transcontinental railroad.  I do not see the poor, the dirty or those whose labor and sacrifice built the industries who are fronted by "magnates" whom we call pioneers of industry (some of them presumably shown in the picture).

This is definitely not the Jesus of history...the Gospels...or the one that confronts me in the depths of contemplation.  It is the Jesus that we want for ourselves...justifying the work of our egos and our rampant individualism.  It is the Jesus of "Manifest Destiny."

E Pluribus Unum

The Great Seal of the United States was formally adopted in 1782...after three attempts at a design that the Continental Congress believed captured the spirit of our founding as a nation.  Though the designs changed, the Motto did not.  From the first, the national motto has been: E Pluribus Unum.

The direct translation:  Out of Many, One.  The action of that phrase:  Many Uniting Into One.

The founders and framers of this particular nation intended that we would be forged into a people whose hearts and minds would come together.  Incidently, the first rejected seal was not that of an eagle as centerpiece.  It was a shield which reflected the countries who were "landed" and formed the colonies:  England, Ireland, France, Holland and Germany.  Already, in 1782, other nationalities were beginning to arrive.  The clear intent was that strength would come out of the bonding of people into a community with shared principles...those principles would emerge as the Constitution.

"In God We Trust" was never on any of our official national materials until...get this...1956.  It had been tried out twice before, but began officially appearing on all minted/printed monies in 1957.  Why?  It was the age of the Cold War.  It was also the era of Joe McCarthy and the hunt for communists in all areas of our society. Actually, it was an ugly time...I was still pretty young (born in 1950), but I remember our parents using the term "witch hunt" on several occasions.  Great fear was injected into our culture.  Congress wanted to further isolate elements of the cold war with the introduction of "In God We Trust"....distinguishing a supposedly atheist communism of the Soviet Bloc and the (really) nominal Christian stance of the Free World. (sociological note:  the actual population of Russia has been/is overwhelmingly Orthodox...eastern Christian.  It was the ideological tenet of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat that was atheistic)

The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892, by Francis Bellamy, who was a Baptist minister and Christian Socialist.  He was also the cousin of socialist utopian novelist Edward Bellamy (all this makes for some interesting reading).  The original Pledge of Allegiance:
I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Congress adopted the Pledge officially in 1942 and did so with changes that rendered this:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.   

The move to include, "under God," began in 1952 with the Knights of Columbus petitioning President Truman...who took it seriously.  Congress did not.  After some further efforts, President Eisenhower introduced a bill to Congress with the change which Congress adopted.  The current version of the Pledge of Allegiance was signed into law 14 June 1954.

When one finds out what really happened and some of the causal realities of what we currently have, a lot of romanticism is stripped away.

Manifest Destiny

Long before the official seal and the pledge were even thought of, something much worse and profoundly ugly began.  The population of the Native American (Indigenous) cultures, in the part of North America that became the United States, was roughly 30 million at the time that the first permanent settlement in Jamestown and then at Plymouth.  After the Wounded Knee Massacre, near Pine Ridge, in 1890, it is estimated that the total number of indigenous peoples living in the United States was a little more than 250,000.

Please stop and take that in.  In a bit more than 200 years of our history on this soil, over 29 million Native American peoples disappeared...many of the nations disappearing altogether...extinct!    Jamestown:  est 1607.  Plymouth:  est 1620.  St. Augustine (Spanish):  est 1565.

Each of the English settlements began with something of a working relationship with the Indigenous cultures established in their midst.  In fact, the only reason Plymouth colony survived was because the Wampanoag people fed them through two terrible winters.  Jamestown survived with the help of the Pumunkey Tribe of the Algonquan Nation.  Chief Powhatan's daughter, Pocahontas, is a famous part of that history.

Within 10 years of settlement, the English determined that they wanted more land to expand and farm.  When various Indigenous groups pushed back a little to keep lands sacred to them, fighting began.  Thus, we engaged a long and ugly history of simply taking what we wanted and ridding the land of the people in our way.

After the War of 1812, there began a huge influx of population and the push to expand from Atlantic to Pacific.  In 1845 the New York journalist/editor, John L. O'Sullivan wrote an article that appeared in two publications.  In that article he stated, "our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our multiplying millions."

Thus was born what became both a clarion cry and a "theological" justification for the wholesale theft of land and genocide of indigenous peoples. Manifest Destiny.  Sorry folks, it is nothing less than that.


I am writing this for two distinct reasons.

1)  We take pride in our democracy and our freedom.  In large measure that democracy was, in its genesis, exclusive to white, European males who owned land in the colonies.  Those were the only folks eligible to vote.  After the full ratification of the Constitution, it was extended to all white European males.  We are here now, having secured rights for most everyone. But we are mired in a fight about whose statement of rights and freedom is more "traditional."  None of them.  We have romanticized ourselves nearly out of the reality of how we got here today.

2)  I began a project in 2007 that has taken me on a journey that has jarred me to my soul and, along with other encounters, has been transformative to my very nature.  The Rev. Dr. Lyle Noisy Hawk is an Episcopal Priest and Psychotherapist.  He is full-blooded Lakota (Hunkpapa Council).  He spent most of his career on Pine Ridge Reservation (Oglala Lakota Council) and co-founded the mental health facility at the hospital at Kyle.  He has been one of my mentors in the project.  In a conversation with him in 2008, he shared with me these words:  we First Nations people are seen as a conquered people...pushed into small parcels of mostly non-productive land...stripped of both our rituals and our dignity...a depression now exists in our very DNA that must be removed...we are a third world people in a first world country...only citizens in name...and that only grudgingly.

This project is emerging as something NOT from me as a white male of Western European descent.  It is coming from the part of me that is identical to that of every human being on the planet...the Self that is the imago of God...the True Self.

We have a deep wound that continues to bleed.  None of us...nope not one of us...can call ourselves "not a part" of this near genocide.  I own a townhome on land that belonged to the Calusa Nation...a people nearly eradicated by the Spanish.  I owned a home in Lee's Summit, MO that was on land that belonged to the Osage and Missouri.  Our forebears did not buy this land.  They simply took it.

We cannot undo what has been done.  It is history.  We must, however, own its truth.  If we want to share pictures of what it means to be an American, it had better be one where Indigenous People are prominently present.  Our nation is built on top of their blood and bones.  We simply need to admit that and do something about it that begins healing this oozing wound...or we will never truly know freedom.

Done for now.  This one took a lot to speak.

Much love,


http://youtu.be/524Tf0dNRNw .

22 January 2013


This is actually part two of "More Love...and Some Civility," that I published on 1/18/13.  I have surrendered to (and thus become more comfortable with) the reality that I am an intuitive writer. I have always thought in pictures and symbols first and "translated" them into words...either to be spoken or written.  It made creating published material (like sermons and teaching sessions) difficult for mass consumption.  I don't have the usual "sermon library" that clergy seem to collect over the decades of doing that work.  The largest body of written material is contained in this blog site...dating from 2009 (and newsletter articles, and a few articles for professional publications.  I also wrote a devotional commentary on 1,2,3 John and Jude in 1985...which is out of publication).  
I originally had the idea for the first part of this after a long contemplative session early last week (week of 1/14/13).  I did some research to act as a pivot for what I wrote on 1/18.  I haven't gotten to that part yet.  Not sure what today will bring, because, while I did contemplative prayer time early this morning, the imagery shifted.  So, in essence, what you will be reading is what I have "seen" and now assembling in words.  It took me walking our dog a ways to get this "firmed up."  Duchess (our 15 yr. old Schnoodle) is a great assistant to me in this regard.  Onward....


I have been practicing forms of contemplative prayer for about 40 years.  I say "forms," because contemplative prayer mentors have a variety of methods for getting into the center of being.  My three most influential teachers in this prayer form have been Arthur Micheal Ramsey, Fr. Tom Schultz, and Thomas Merton.  I literally walked with Archbishop Ramsey during the three years I was doing graduate studies at Nashotah House Theological Seminary...one of the Episcopal Church's now 10 seminaries.  I literally walked and sat with Fr. Thom Schultz, a monk of the Order of the Holy Cross (OHC)...one of the Episcopal Church's monastic orders.  I almost entered that Order as a novice in the early 1980s...then met Denise, my now wife of 31 years.  My mentor for that vocation, the late Lincoln Taylor, OHC, only smiled and said, "this does not surprise me," when I announced that love was in the air.  I never met Thomas Merton.  He died tragically in Bangkok, Thailand in 1968...the year I graduated from high school.  I have read everything he ever wrote and almost everything written by those who did walk with him...including Henri Nouwen.

Contemplative Prayer is not easy and requires both discipline and commitment.  What I found in parish ministry was not fertile ground to support contemplative life.  As I say what I am about to say, please know that I love the Episcopal Church.  I was born into it, raised in it and truly love being a priest in this part of the Body of Christ.  However, this is part of my imagery from early this morning and hard to say.  The Episcopal Church, on a parish level, is very good at stoning its prophets and spiritually killing its priests.  The ground of parish ministry is fraught with land mines.  I stepped on more than one in the 33 years I did that work.  It does not easily support or tolerate what emerges from deep prayer into the life of the faith community.  Most clergy survive by become "company folks...towing a party line of sorts.  True story:  In one of my parishes (not the one I retired from, btw), I had stepped away from my office to spend some time in the church to collect my thoughts and pray the office of Matins.  While absent (a space of about 30 minutes total), my secretary received a call from a parishioner asking to speak with me.  When told that I was in the church for a time of prayer and would call him back upon return to the office, the parishioner became irate and sputtered (as my secretary told it), "Dammit, we don't pay him to spend time in church praying! Go get him!  I'm a busy man!" She did not, and he then got busy on the phone drumming up some instant hate.  Ultimately, nothing came of it.  No, it was not an emergency (for which I always had standing orders to interrupt me).  He wanted to talk about a maintenance issue.

While that story is an intense sample and does not often happen, it is characteristic of what we call "parish ministry" in this era of societal life.  I did alter my discipline of prayer, and I paid a hefty price for the loss of the most important piece of what brought me into ordained life (see my posting of 1/2/13 to learn of my life as "a total asshole").  Again, I love being a priest, and truly did answer a call and claim on my life by Jesus.  I wouldn't change that journey.  I certainly would like to see the Church be what Jesus intended for it rather than what it has become.  That is another story for whenever.

My contemplative modality includes using tonal music as a background for creating a sensory environment conducive to "letting go."   Here is where science and spirituality have a convergence.  Planetary movement does have a sound frequency.  I learned this from reading several physics books over the years that deal with quantum mechanics and astro-physics (uh, it's kind of a hobby...don't ask).  I further learned by hearing the "sound of our planet" at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.  When we took our daughters on a history vacation in 1997, three days at the Smithonian museums was part of that adventure.  The Air and Space Museum had a room that showed a number of ongoing measurements of planetary movement...including the sound that earth makes as it rotates and moves on it's revolution.  Here it is:  136.10 Hz at C# .  

Don't just trust me on this.  Look it up.  Fascinating research!

About four years ago, I was talking with a Buddhist teacher in Kansas City.  Somehow, we got on the subject of the tonal chant, "Om."  It's origin is so ancient, no one seems to know how or when it started.  It has Sanskrit credentials, but it is more universal than simply middle/far east cultures.  Native American chants often use the same tonal note as a basis for music they produce.  Guess what?!  The "Om" tone starts at C# at 136.10 Hz.

Now there's a kick for ya!!  

Four years ago, I purchased a tuning fork that is set at 136.10 Hz and began creating a tonal chant by striking the tuning fork and placing it gently against my right temple (right side important....right brain....intuitive).  I still use the tuning fork.  I carry it in the bag with my Cheyenne prayer drum...which goes with me (usually) on my trips to South Dakota.

Now, there is music available on iTunes.  My favorite for contemplative music is Ananda Giri's "Oneness Om."  It is 50 minutes, 40 seconds long.  It fit's into the hour I use each morning for this type of prayer.

Contemplative Prayer is a letting go of ego structure.  It is a journey into internal emptiness.  One enters with intention to "hear" one's soul and to "listen" for that still small voice of Divine Love.  The ego fights this kind of work, because it loses control.  Words and true prayer are actually not so compatible.  I'm a Christian.  Do I meet Jesus?  In more ways than one!  It is fundamental encounter.  It does not translate into words.  There is only one word for this encounter.  Love.  Pure love.  It is the essence of what we know as holy.


Now is the moment for some clarity...and the purpose for which I seem to be writing today.  Music folks know that, when one sings in a particular key and at a particular frequency, anything that is outside that key or relative frequency creates sounds that can best be described as being like fingernails on a chalk board.  It clashes...like colors not in the same wave spectrum.

In our faith culture, we suffer greatly from Dissonance.  I quote George Friesen.  He is a "friend of a friend" on Facebook (someone I would really like to get to know), who sums up nicely what a number of us are experiencing:

"I've seen individuals I've known since childhood, filled with anger and rage...What I have concluded is that what I'm seeing in these folks is really fear masquerading as anger.  And what do I think drives this fear?  I believe it's a search for home, a home that no longer exists and never will again.  We see this in some of the communities being built today with the explicit intent of creating a 'Truman Show' environment, if you recall the movie.  The challenge is how to make these millions of lost souls come to accept their new home.  It won't be easy."

I John 4:17-18:  "God is love.  When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us.  This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we are free of worry in the time of Judgment...our standing in the world is identical with Christ's.  There is no room in love for fear.  Well-formed love banishes fear.  Since fear is crippling, a fearful life is one not yet formed in love." (quoted from "The Message:  The Bible in Contemporary Language" by Eugene Peterson.  It is a faithful translation from the original Greek)

I will expand this.  God is Love.  When the ego is suspended, we encounter the Love of God in that form of Divine given to us by God as a means to fully encounter that Love.  We don't make it, or own it.  It is a gift.  Every single person is made in that image...our souls are "tuned" to that eternal tone.  When we hit that tone, everything about the world we live in changes.  There is no room for...or need for...fear (which leads to anger, which leads to hate, which is the source of bigotry, judgmentalism and all kinds of destructive behavior).

The fifteen year old who killed five people in Albuquerqui?  Like the other mass murders of recent time, it ultimately is not about guns (though irresponsible attitudes about firearms allow them to be available to unwell people).  It is about a society that lives on fear that is acted out in ways that are as far from the Law of Love as one can possibly get.  Folks, this is our fault.  We teach our kids to hate and to end that hate in ways that end lives.  That kind of anger and hate course through the veins of social media...especially yesterday.

We are living, in large measure, dissonant lives...calling this normal and healthy.  And we want to return to this?!  It is not our true home.  Never was.

Let's take a break here.

Much love,


20 January 2013

More Love...And Some Civility: Part I

Let me begin with a disclaimer:  I am not a political theorist, a sociologist or a political scientist.  I am, however, well educated and...in that education...familiar with the working definitions of political theory.  Civics and courses in government were required as part of our jr/sr high school education in the 1960s (fellow boomers will remember our "Americanism vs. Communism" courses in high school).  My college education included required courses in history and humanities.  I still read widely...very widely.  You may take issue with what I have to say below, and that's fine.  I don't own it, nor am I a slave to either the terms or their many derivatives.  Even my idea of "circular spectrum" is not new.  It has both theological and physics backgrounds.  It isn't a proof-text or the rantings of a "wonk."  It is my own sense of clarification.  Enough said....movin' on...

I am a Baby Boomer.  Born in central Florida in 1950 and raised by middle-class parents in a city of about 35,000 folks.  It was, at that time, about dead center in the "citrus belt" of the state (that changed markedly by the 1980s).  Post WWII created a whole new investment in what we call "middle class."  Both my parents were intelligent, hard-working folks.  We were not wealthy, but both my brother and I had all kinds of opportunities and experiences provided through the hard work and forward-thinking character of our parents.  We were both blessed with the ability to get college and graduate school educations...the former provided by our parents almost in toto.  Our dad's untimely death in late March 1968 (just two months prior to my graduation from high school) spoke to his love and planning.  Our lives were able to move forward.

My teenage years were marked by the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy....the legislation that led to full civil rights...and the Vietnam War.  It was a decade of chaos and rapid change.  It was also the back end of the McCarthy era, which was basically a witch-hunt for communists in our culture.  It was very ugly at times.  It was deep into the Cold War...bringing with it that constant foreboding of nuclear world war.  One proof-text of that era was the Cuban missile crisis, which caused the "doomsday clock" to read 11:59:50....12:00 being the cataclysm of nuclear holocaust.

Flip forward forty years.

Our two daughters were born in the 1980s....as were most children of Baby Boomers (a fair number also from the mid/late 1970s).  Except for those of the prior decade, children of the 1980s and forward have had none of the experiences of  the 1960s.  Thank goodness!  At some point, I began to believe that civility would actually return to our cultural interactions, and the struggle between establishment (read:  our parents' generation) and anti-establishment (read: us Boomers) was over...the experience leading to a sense of being in this business of life and society together.  It looked as if we just might get there.  It began to look even better after the end of the "Cold War" in 1989 (that date corresponding with both the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet political system).

Alas, today is different.  By "today" I mean the present socio-political climate.  It has been emerging for a while.  The tragedy of 9/11/2001 can be seen as a door into our current historical moment.  Certainly, the financial meltdown of late 2007 and 2008 triggered an incredible shift in socio-political angst and accompanying rhetoric.  We are at an important place.

I have no answers, because, frankly, I have somehow avoided the kind of angst that triggers hugely paranoid statements from television "talking heads" on our cable networks...and the cultural whiplash when that paranoia smacks into daily speech.   I have gotten my share of angry with what gets said and what otherwise good folks say.  In one sense, we seem to be degenerating into a kind of anarchism that says, "every man/woman for him/her-self."  It is as close to the end of our Republic as we can get.  If the doomsday clock could be applied to the American system, we might be at 11:59+.  It is ugly.

I have a Model...

I have been using this model for about 20 years to explain both theological and cultural ideologies.  It is a modification of Hegel's Dialectic.  Instead of a vertical "slinky looking" coil with "thesis...antithesis...synthesis" (the synthesis becoming the new thesis, and we start again), I simply made a circle.  The circle is not quite complete.  There is the tiniest space at the bottom. 

Instead of a spectrum being a linear instrument with left and right axes, the line simply doubles back on itself in the manner I described above.  The radical ends of the original spectrum, therefore, are almost at the same place at the bottom of the circle....back-to-back.  The broad "center" is what bends on the circle across the top.  If one applies some of the nuances of Jungian typology, quantum physics, patristic era (emergent) theology and Hegelian dialectic, this model makes a fine way of  seeing all of life as cyclical.

Oh, by the way, Native American spirituality and world-view is The Circle...The Medicine Wheel...the "Mitakuye Oyasin" ("We are all of one").  Our Western European forebears made an attempt to complete the cultural genocide of American Indigenous Peoples by destroying their "great hoop."  Look this up.  I am working on a book about this particular area of cultural ideology...a healing book I hope.

Butthead Rhetoric...

Social Media has allowed us to say things we really wish we had never said.  Sometimes, it allows us to say what we really want to say but would never do so in the physical company of those to whom we say those things.  Social Media has released the great dragon of Paranoid Delusion.  Something can happen at noon and, by 6pm, that event has morphed exponentially into all kinds of wild, mostly inaccurate and often painfully judgmental rhetoric.  Look, I have sometimes been part of that process.  Here, I am not "just sayin'."

For me, Social Media is a blessing ... albeit in disguise.  I have connected with high school and college friends I never thought I would see again in this lifetime.  It has kept me connected to friends I have made and hold dear throughout my adulthood and active career.  New friends happen regularly.

One personal blessing for me has been surprising.  For all of my active, parochial ministry years as an Episcopal Priest (the years between ordination in 1978 and retirement in 2011), I largely worked on the "broad center" of the socio-political model described above.  My own stated desire was to bring all elements of our culture into the "big tent" of the Church.  Stock statement to every congregation I have led:  "When you come through the doors of this parish church...regardless of race, color, creed, orientation, socio-economic status or any other artificial measure...you are entering a safe place, and you are totally welcomed in this sacred space.  I will never engage a 'bully pulpit' and spew any 'if-then' rhetoric.  We can discuss differences in beliefs and opinions...in the classroom or parish hall environment...WITH ONE HARD AND FAST RULE:   We will respect one another and conduct ourselves by the law of Divine Love." 

I lived by that code, and, in large measure it worked pretty well.  It damn near killed me and made some of the more entrenched folks really angry enough to want me gone ("how dare he invite them here" sort of crap...and worse).  Once I retired, it felt really good to be able to say, out loud and in print, what I really think.  I found that wasn't necessarily well received, and I kicked back...because I am retired and can.  That's not so good, really.  I apologize to those of you who may have been on the receiving end of that.  I think it was like a horse kicking free and bucking a bit in that freedom. 

I am stopping here.  It's Sunday late afternoon.  I think there may be a Scots Whisky downstairs needing my attention.  I drink little enough that, when I do, I want to enjoy it with a sunset. 

I will finish this in a new article.  Some definitions and clarifications are on the way.

Do Love you all!


19 January 2013

Open Channels

Somewhere during this past week...and I am not sure exactly when...I came apart.  This is not a pretty sight to see.  A 62 year old guy suddenly becoming a sodden mass of neurologically and psychologically diffused sensations is not the picture I would want to see of myself, much less have anyone else see.  I learned some deep truths...ones that only fit my circumstances and life path.  However, there is just enough of me left to realize that every human being has circumstances and life paths that are the same in character, though vastly different in content.  Nobody is the same, yet we are all One.  It makes a lot of sense, when we let that sink in.  I am not going to make a theological structure out of it.  Too many folks have, and...truthfully...most of it "just ain't workin'."

After a day of "process" early this week, I found myself literally yelling, "burn it!!!"  No, it wasn't a left over mantra from the 6os (women's lib/Vietnam war/anti-establishment all used that phrase).  I knew exactly what needed to be consumed by fire, and it was in me. It is my ego.   I will say in summary, a lot of crap got burned up that day, but I still have an ego of sorts.  I found myself in a place of pain early this morning...my ego smarting from yet another realization of a lie I let myself live for way too long.  It is no deep, dark, Lance Armstrong-type lie.  It was a lie I perpetrated within myself as a way of keeping myself together at a time when I should have let myself come apart.   Looking back, I would have been much better off.  But, as a relatively new, and very insightful friend told me Monday evening, "You are what you can be, because of what you have been...."  No elaboration on that...it goes on a bit...quite a bit...which started the process I speak of above.  It's going to be a somewhat long process I sense.

One thing I know to be true of all of us is that we are dualistic in nature.  It's not hard to conceive it.  Good-bad, Heaven-hell, rich-poor, smart-dumb, happy-sad....the list goes on  for as long as we can create the images.  We even dualize our sexuality....male-female.  Serious folks:  Carl Jung, Albert Einstein, and a host of others over all generations preceding us have spoken of the external and internal universe being of the same fabric with only one capacity....being.    I should have known this 40 years ago, but, the laws of inertia are hugely strong.  That means that every thing comes to a resting place.  The most comfortable for most all of us is that place where the self (Ego...internal hard drive of our consciousness) can be held together because it can say, "I am me."  Well, then, there has to be a "not me."  Ah, dualism is created...a creature of our own devising.  God didn't make that.  In fact, once we get nestled in that comfortable place of "ultimate" me, we can look around and see either what is similar (and therefore comfortable) for us and, then that which is different....ergo, opposite.

The hard part of this for me is that, when I order my internal universe and create my ego, it becomes a bastion of reality...MINE.  The tendency is to see everything else as entrapped in entropy....disorganized and disintegrating.  God becomes our definition for what holds us together.  Evil is what tears things apart.  Voila, the Universe According to Humanity is born.

In our ego universe, opposites don't much attract.  The ego needs support, encouragement and justification.  Attraction is to those who "think" like we do.  There is no getting around this folks.  Look at the shape we are in...and have been for way longer than anyone currently residing on the planet.

It's our fault, but not our fault.  It's in our DNA pool...a strong force that pushes against, rebels toward a place of individuation.  However, original sin is all about that indivduation becoming a structured and reinforced ego.  Healthy individuation simply creates and maintains the energetic boundaries that knows where I, as a discrete entity, end and the other, as a discrete entity, begins.

There is only one causal force that gives rise to sentient life.  It is the author of reality as we experience it.  We have dared call it God for the past 1800 or so years.  Our Hebrew forebears called this YHWH (Yahweh)...simply "I AM."  The force is called Divine Love, by most traditions.  Regardless of the name or our way of engagement,  Love is the intiative, the beginning, the direction and the end of all that makes what we call Life.

There is no duality in Love.  When we try to subjugate Love for the purposes of self justification (read:  ego enhancement), it becomes necessary to see those who are not like us as "bad" or...."evil."  I am taking this all the way to the end of the limb here.  It is the journey I have experienced.  Here it is:  Evil is the ego in full, active rebellion...an ego that has encased fear in such a way that it has evolved in this pattern:  fear leading to anger leading to hate leading to destruction (in some form).  Anxiety is the early gnawings of fear.  We all have experienced social anxiety as but one of a host of kinds and moments of anxiousness.  It's our natural energy boundaries "sizzling" in a situation that reads "uncomfortable" or "dangerous."  Anxiety is a natural, empathic, warning signal that would give notice of something amiss in our environment.

Anxiety that has taken a dualistic turn quickly can become paranoia.  This is an ugly state of conscious and unconscious construction of stuff outside us that we deem harmful...even though they may be relatively harmless and easily walked through or with.  Phobias are low energy paranoia points.  Psychologists call it irrational fear.

"Burn it" was my cry in distress earlier this week.   I went on and said, "burn the damn thing."  Uh, yep, I was talking about my ego.  Okay, then who was asking for the ego to be burned inside me?  It was Self.  Ah, here is that capitalized word again.  Self is what really connects conscious reality to that reality which is not so conscious but nonetheless essential.  A whopping 96% of who we are lies within the unconscious.  Indeed, only 4% of our nature is working in what we call "conscious reality."  That's a lot of me in this meat sack somewhere.

The character that makes us human is Divine Love.  It is our very essence.  You can call it anything you like.  Some folks who may read this might be jumping up and down, almost yelling, "But...but...but..." and wanting to allocate me to some space.  I challenge you, in doing that, to see that as a dualistic action.  I may have beseeched God to burn my ego, but enough remains to know that I still "go dualistic" fairly momentarily.  An event this morning called for the struggle to justify myself in light of information I encountered.  It was painful...still is a bit.

However, something has been shifting a bit.  That moment is an experience of looking at myself internally and asking, "so, is it true?"  If it is, I join all of my fellow human beings in that truth.  If it is a lie, I can either build something around it (self-justification) or let it go....get burned up.

I have to own what is true for myself.  Lance Armstrong is in some process of doing that it seems.  He is only an example....Not a focus.  The seeming chaos we experience in our historical moment...now...is a complex interaction of supremely fearful egos.  If it ever became possible for all those egos to dissolve their barriers...even a little...the seemingly insurmountable problems would be fairly easily resolved.

NO!  I have no idea what resolution would look like.  It would feel very loving and compassionate...of that I am certain.  I just don't know what form it would take.  If I tried to say what it would be, would that not be my ego trying to justify my own comfort zone?

This is what I am learning this week....the experience of being "remade" as it were.  I almost have no idea what I just wrote.  I will need to go back and read it....after I hit "publish."

Here goes.  Love you all!


09 January 2013

Holding Space

Have you ever walked into a room or a building (not a church) and felt a sense that it was, somehow, a holy space.....or that there was something significantly different about that space that felt comforting and safe?  Have you ever walked into a church building that felt rather cold, uninviting or chaotic (read: confusing to the senses)?  Have you ever experienced someone walking into a room and, somehow, the whole room quickly felt warm, comforting or peaceful?

These questions reflect a level of experience that has little to do with the physical surroundings or anything to which the outward senses can attach themselves.  The experiences are sensations, feeling or intuitive moments of something being "bigger" than simply what appears before us.

I would have to go back a ways to know if I have shared this story, but it is worth repeating.  So, please bear with me, if you have heard or read it.
     When I was stationed at Holy Loch, Scotland with the U.S. Navy submarine squadron (Jan. 1973 to early 1975), I would use my off times to explore Scotland.  It is where both sides of my family came from in the decade of the 1740s. 
     On one excursion to Edinburgh in 1973, I visited Greyfriars Abbey.  It was a Franciscan monastery for 2 centuries and became a parish church community in 1620.  It is famous for the story of Greyfriars' Bobby...the skye terrierdog who, after his master (policeman John Gray) died was buried in the kirkyard cemetery stayed at his grave until his own death several years later.
     On the particular day I was there, I toured the church and grounds and was preparing to leave by the main wrought iron gate...the only entry/exit point...and saw an elderly woman sitting on the ground and leaning against the gate.  She stared up at me and her eyes were like deep pools of compassion.  She was dingy, and her clothes were old and beginning to fray.  I was compelled from somewhere inside to go to her.  Out of my pants pocket, I retrieved all the change I had.  In British coin, it probably amounted to about 4 pounds (ca. $7 American).  I knelt beside her, took her left hand in mine, placed the coins in it and placed my other hand over the top.  She smiled at me in a way that I will never forget.  It was genuine, full of love and deeply compassionate.
     I slowly arose, nodded to her, turned and crossed the street to head back to my hotel.  I took one last glance over my shoulder to see her....AND SHE WAS GONE. I scanned all sides of the street and sidewalks.  She was nowhere to be found.  She looked frail, so she could not have traveled out of sight in the 45 seconds or so that had elapsed.  I ran back across the street.  There was a security guy at the gate, who had been there when I first arrived; and I asked him what happened to the woman sitting in front of the open gate.  He looked at me as if I were completely daft.  "Sir, we allow no one to loiter at Greyfriars Gate...especially indigents."  "But you saw me here just a minute or so ago."  He replied, "Aye, I did.  You knelt down right there (pointing), but I thought you were reading the inscription on the wall.  I'm tellin' you...there was no woman there, sir."  
   I am positive, by this time, that he was certain that I was off my noodle or drunk.  He looked concerned enough that I figured he might be preparing to call for back-up.  I was pretty thoroughly trained in how not to create a scene.  I simply begged his pardon; that I must have been confused or dreaming; bid him a good day and left post-haste.  

There are lots of stories about sightings and events that defy explanation -- often called paranormal behaviors.  That may have been the first one for me.  No, I had not been drinking.  My particular craft, while stationed in Scotland, called for me to be pretty alert and "in my own right head" at all times...even on leave.  This was a two day-off weekend period, and I was training back across the country to Dunoon that evening.  That day's event remains as clear to me in 2013 as it was the day it happened in June 1973.

There are three aspects of any sacramental act in the Christian Church:  Form, Matter and Intention.  As a priest, in order to engage a sacrament...say baptism...I have water that is blessed with a rite of prayer; with that water, there is the person to be baptized; the intention is that the Holy Spirit (promised by Christ Jesus) will act in a way to shift the ontological character of the person being baptized and give the "Gifts of the Spirit."

For me, from the moment of my ordination as a priest, I have moved into places of worship with the intention that that particular space and time would be set as holy and sacred for what worship was about to take place.  I have never entered a space without that "setting of intent" moving through my consciousness.  I never leave without making a conscious "thank you" in some manner.

My seminary spiritual director, and then just retired,100th Archbishop of Canterbury, Arthur Michael Ramsey told me once (paraphrasing), "Remember, Fred, your primary work as a priest will be to hold space and time for whatever it is you and the people gathered will engage in that space and during that time..."  I will forever be blessed that Archbishop Ramsey was on Nashotah House campus all three years of my graduate training and the full year of my final year.  I should have paid even more attention to all he said to me....it would have made me a better priest.

Holding space is simply making an intentional perimeter inside which you invoke all that is holy to be concentrated in that space for a specified time and reason.  No one else knows it is happening (there are no outward gestures or spoken words...maybe a sign of the cross in the area or quietly holding one's hands palms up at waist level...nothing obtrusive).  In the back of my head, there seems to continue a kind of mantra that signifies the space and event...even if I am leading the event.  I don't know how that came about, but I suddenly realized it was happening shortly after I was ordained.   Oddly, I compare it to how a master of the didgeridoo can keep air moving constantly through the didge and breathe at the same time.

Heads up:  One does not have to be ordained to hold space as sacred! 

Be sure to read that again.  I have a number of friends who are deep within their spiritual journeys and hold space for all kinds of sacred events.  Doing that action rather insures that only that which is sacred and good will be part of that time that, for those gathered, can be very vulnerable and transparent.  If you are reading this, then you are at least curious about these kinds of things, so, try this:

As you next enter your home or workspace, pause just inside the doorway.  For just a couple of moments, internally visualize the entire space and sincerely ask that the Divine be present and active to hold that space for the well-being of all who enter that space for the coming (name the time period).    As you move through your day or work time, create a small mantra you can say.  Something like:  Make this space holy by your presence, Lord Jesus (or the Divine you experience).  What works for you that can be part of the edge of your consciousness as you carry out whatever is taking place in the designated space.

It can be as mundane as this (and I am not making this up):  I had our dog, Duchess, at the vet on Monday (1/7) morning for the doc to have a look at a fatty tumor developing just forward of her hip.  Duchess is 15 yrs old, and I had this edginess about this mass potentially being cancerous.  Duchess seemed more than her usual "why am I here" nervous.  She may have been picking up my "vibes" of concern.  For some reason, before the doc and tech came in to do the aspiration procedure, I "created" space...very quietly but very intentionally.  I held my hand, palm open toward Duchess and simply invoked peacefulness, assurance and Presence.  In less than a minute, Duchess simply settled down next to my feet and got very quiet.  I felt a warmth of confident peace.   Some minutes passed, and the vet entered with his tech (they are wonderful folks at this clinic).  The tech looked around quickly and said, "it feels really nice in here this morning."  (turns out, I was their first patient).  It all turned out well.  The tumor, btw, is benign and will cause no problems for the Duchess.

That happened not because I am an ordained person and "know about this holy stuff."  Some of my colleagues might read this and express genuine skepticism.  It's okay.  Anyone can do this same thing, if one is willing to trust and carry the intention to its fullest expression.

The days of dualistic ritual and thinking are over, as far as I am concerned.  What is holy and what is not exist in the same space.  We are vessels for inviting the holy to transform all elements of the space we inhabit.  This is both life changing and life affirming.

Much love,


02 January 2013


The new year rolled in for me in a far different way than I had expected.  A general blog posting is not the environment to go into detail.  It is a process I have been through over the course of about a month that has rather completely altered my "Sitz em leben" (seat or place in life...a phrase often used by biblical scholars to indicate the place one finds one's self in relationship to the experiences of divine and community).   I am the same person known by most who may read this blog, but each person who knows me does so in a different way and within very different contexts.  Suffice it to say, that I have engaged metanoia in a way that, at the other end of the process, I have been significantly turned within my core being.

Being a priest and theologian means that I have known such terms and experiences as aspects of the intellectual and ontological processes that make the disciplines of my vocation and resulting craft.  What brought me into this vocation was a series of profound experiences that reshaped my entire way of seeing the unfolding of my life.  I was 20 years old when the systematic dismantling of what I firmly believed was my "life plan" began.  By the time I entered seminary in the middle of my 24th year, who I was had become quite distinct from who I had been.  That's the nature of vocation.  Vocation (vocare) is not the province of ordained life.  Vocation is the expression of True Self and the engagement of resources that are part of each person's fundamental character.  Someone avowing atheism may well call this "snake oil" philosophy.  Fine.  My rejoinder would be that such a person lives life largely devoid of anything beyond the confines of the left frontal lobe of the brain.  If you insist, by all means remain there.  I didn't.  (subnote:  I am not even mentioning "agnostics" here.  This isn't a philosophical treatise. and I generally refuse to flatten the multi-dimensional elements of interior life journey and its resultant exterior interactions).

I discovered that a person can be an asshole and a good priest ... literally at the same moment of time.  What happens ontologically (one's fundamental character...True Self...soul) at ordination equips one to be a sacramental vessel.  It's a permanent alteration...I am a priest forever.  The Church calls it (along with many other sacraments) and indelible rescripting of one's being.  While I can't "unpriest" myself, I can choose to express my vocation through any number of garden variety neuroses that inhabit every single human ever born and ever to be born into this life.  My neuroses was a particularly intense but illusive self-hatred.

Self-hatred is predicated on any number of experiences that are internalized and used to define self worth.  It is based on fear...usually a fear of failure or a fear of being able to "measure up" to the standards of others.  There is the great myth that folks "out there" know more about who and what  a person should be than the person him/her-self knows from within.  The resulting disconnect from the stabilizing forces of the True Self launches a rickety craft on the internal seas of perceived reality.  What comes to manifestation in such a morass is a projection of anger, perfectionism, and a host of totally unrealistic expectations for those living in the environment with said person.  Parish ministry can be a wickedly cruel environment.  The painful thing is, the Person of Christ...in the Christian community...has nothing to do with the expression of many of the communities using his name on the building signs. I internalized a lot of that pain, and I regurgitated it in the form that I call "emotional terrorism."

I waited until it was almost too late to do something about what was a twisted left brain ego neurosis.  It surely would have alienated me totally from my family.  I would have become a burned out cynic...ultimately embracing my own definition of atheism.  I would have probably died before I retired simply because the body is not equipped for that level of stress and pain.

Don't despair here.  I have been considered by colleagues and most of my parishioners over the years as a "good priest"... effective and professional in my craft.  The Holy Spirit utilizes us in spite of our neuroses.  That's why I could be a priest and an asshole all in the same day...and selective in who saw what aspect of my total being.  It's usually the people who love you the most that see the worst part.  It is where we allow ourselves to be most vulnerable.

The decade of the 1990s was the worst for me.  It stretched into the early 2000s.  I spent five days at Baylor Psychiatric Clinic in Houston, TX moving through every kind of evaluative tool available.  I learned, through that process of being dismantled and reassembled, that I am, indeed, a good priest...a priest with neuroses (as distinct from psychoses) that can be re-wired...with the help of medication and ongoing psychological/spiritual direction to name, isolate and rescript what the left brain, ego system and unrealistic expectations had so effectively twisted away from functional reality.  Effexor XR and I became a working team in late 2004.  My team of a psychotherapist and spiritual director guided me in rewiring my entire system of self-identity....teaching me to love myself as a fundamental element of being.  I will forever be thankful beyond words to Father Ed Whalen...priest and Jungian trained counselor...who was literally a "midwife" for my emotional/mental rebirth.

Along the way, and as a result of my therapeutic journey, my vocational skills opened up more broadly, and I was able to take better stands where it counted.  It is when I was able to own the fact that I don't have to be what others want me to be.  The flagship moment for me was being able to stand in front of my congregation after General Convention in 2009 and state my full support for the inclusion of LGBT persons in the full life of the Church and support for the blessing of authentic LGBT life-long partnerships.  It was also when I allowed myself to move beyond the confines of structured Christian community and explore what others were experiencing as authentic spirituality and relationships with a Loving God.  I tell you this even weeping:  There are many, many folks outside the institutional Church whose love of God and resulting love of others make the Church look like a narcissistic country club.  Frankly, it is one reason I retired early, and the narcissistic element of the Church community that helped "seal the deal."

As a result of  the reframing and rebalancing that has allowed my True Self to emerge to center in my interiority and the ego take on a supportive role (rather than central), I have been able to come off the medicinal support provided by Effexor XR.  What a journey!

In this, my second year of retirement, I am happily assisting (as a supply priest) in a local parish that Denise and I call "home."  Yes, it has all the marks of what the Church has become in this age.  However, it shows signs of hope in the way they have loved and accepted us, others and one another
as part of the faith community.  That is balanced with regular interaction with loving people of faith outside the Christian community...where I see clearly the love and tenderness of God shaping and embracing lives of truly good people.  The Oneness Community is such a group.  It isn't a religion or a philosophy but a lived expression of Divine Love incarnated in a vast array of faith traditions.

I am no longer who I was.  I am becoming the person I truly am....created in the image of God for whom Loving self is central and loving others is the natural outpouring of that Divinely gifted love to others.  For those whose sense of reality must say, "but, is Jesus your Lord."  Oh, for Pete's Sake!!!  Yes, of course he is.  He's never abandoned me.  I ignored him in my pain.  I have a renewed relationship.  But don't expect it to meet your standards.  I don't play in that ballpark any longer.

Here's 2013 for me, as it now begins to unfold:

1.  Forget the definitions you have learned about what a terrorist is.  That definition describes a psychosis environment.  But,

2.  You might be a terrorist (neurosis), if you believe that your experience is the defining principle that everyone else should follow...the result is that you spend an inordnant amount of time manipulating people to see things your way.

3.  You might be a terrorist, if you reject as insignificant anyone who is of a different faith tradition or ideological orientation...resulting in active judgementalism or sabotage of their "Sitz im leben." (this includes telling people they are going to hell because they don't buy your brand of salvation.  That's God's work anyway, and I don't recall any place where we have been given that role).

4.  You might be a terrorist if you internalize self-hatred and then blame the world around you for "screwing up" your life.  This will be manifested most often in making life hell for family, friends and colleagues.

5.  You might be a terrorist if you use position, wealth or political influence to manipulate the lives of others.  Buying, selling or threatening others (sometimes call "influence peddling") via power is as bad as planning and carrying out a physical jihad.  It works to destroy the character and integrity of good, well-meaning people.

I am officially out of that game...by choice and action.  There is a much better way to be fully human, fully alive and fully invested in the world.  I will speak my truth, but it will be a truth spoken in love.

Oh, and for Facebook friends:  if you enjoy passing along those posts that say something like:   If you believe the ass should fall of the universe, press "like."  If you don't care, scroll on.   Those things are such a crock!  I will only "like" things that truly reflect the dignity and integrity of every human being.  For the record:  I cannot tolerate abuse of any kind...to human or animal.  I served my country with distinction in the U.S. Navy.  I don't need to prove my loyalty to country or flag by pressing "like" on some misguided wag's  idea of patriotism....usually never having been in harm's way themselves.  Give it a rest.  That stuff is its own brand of terrorism.  "Come on folks...think like me and legitimize my own anxiety and fear."  Uh, no.

I sincerely love folks...and you know who you are:  family, colleagues, FB friends and people who have prayed for, supported, and encouraged me.  I'm there for you as well!  Trust me on this.

Much love,