26 October 2013

What Now?

"Sign, sign everywhere a sign; Blocking up the scenery,
Breaking my mind.  Do this don't do that; can't you
read the sign?!"
--Words by Les Emmerson of the Five Man Electrical Band.
The group released the song in 1971 in the album, Good-byes and Butterflies
(NB:  The link above is filtered via Google Gmail and Norton scanned)

(Editorial Note:  This post began during the second week of October as a series of thoughts following two very good conversations with colleagues.  The final paragraphs of this post are also reflected in the work I published just ahead of this ... "Beyond Ideologies."  I apologize, in advance, for the repetition.  Also, I am publishing this just prior to suspending computer work for the coming nine days, while traveling)

Tom Brokaw authored the 2007 bestseller book, Boom!  Voices of the Sixties:  Personal Reflections on the '60s and Today.  It was a follow-up to his first social reflection, The Greatest Generation.  I read both books, because the complex global and social issues surrounding the Great Depression, WWII, post-war industrial/marketing shifts, Civil Rights, a series of shocking assassinations, and the Vietnam War changed the entire function of our culture...not to mention our standing in the emerging global community.  Plus (just to mention it), I like Tom Brokaw a lot.  He is an example of well balanced and thorough journalism.

I know I am a dreamer...and I know I am not the only one (to provide a twist of phrase from John Lennon...a musical voice of the Boomers).  I am a dreamer in both the psychological and mystagogical definition.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) classifies me as an INFP....Introvert, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving type.  Jungian typology seeks to help one understand how one engages internal and external realities.  There are four "spectra" in identifying types.

  1. Extrovert..........0..........Introvert
  2. Sensate.............0..........iNtuitive
  3. Thinking...........0..........Feeling
  4. Judging.............0..........Perceiving
The measure is how much energy is required for one to experience one or the other end of the spectrum from the zero, or center, point.  The MBTI was developed in the late 1940s and is one of the most realiable research and evaluative tools in the field of behavioral and analytical psychology.  Each person finds it more comfortable being somewhere on each spectrum.  There are sixteen possible combinations, and each of those combinations tells a descriptive story about how we tend to engage our realities.  

Without a painstaking exploration of each of the four spectra, I will simply summarize.  
  1. An extrovert is more comfortable and energized by being with others.  An introvert is more comfortable and energized by being more alone or in his/her own space (or with just a few others in "short spurts").
  2. A sensate person gains creative energy by engaging his/her senses and is, thus very pragmatic.  An intuitive person is energized by the "creative juices" of ideas, possibilities and insights.
  3. A thinking person relies upon concrete, logical and objective (outside) data in responding to others or reaching conclusions. A feeling person "goes from the gut" and processes data through the internal, emotive field.
  4. A judging person tends to go by stated or published standards and work at a pre-determined pace.  A perceiving person will often "read between the lines" to find alternative methods and works at a less planned pace to complete a task.
From the zero center, the spectrum goes to 49 on either end.  The higher the number, the more natural is the function described at the extreme of the spectrum.  I am a 37 on the Introvert side; 32 on the intuitive side; 22 on the Feeling side and 11 on the Perceiving side.  Thus, I am very introverted and intuitive; moderately emotive and lightly perceiving.  

Folks who have worked with me on a daily basis can see my "type" in action fairly easily.  If there was commotion in the outer offices, I would get up and shut my office door (true mark of an introvert).  Being highly intuitive is a good trait for a theologian/pastor/educator.  Since my first response is often "from the heart," dealing with conflict that directly involved me was always more painful than for a person who is a strong thinking type.  Because I am a "light" perceiver, I can work well at deadlines and can "think on my feet" in critical moments...thinking often "outside the box."  I tended to know the rules, but I also knew where they can be bent or stretched when necessary.

Mystagogy is the practice of what is called the "mystical arts."  Every kind of spiritual tradition has a mystical element.  It is the part that seeks the experiences of the deeper Presence.  The Christian tradition is replete with mystics:  John the Divine, Columba, Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and the list goes on.  

My best kind of experience:  A week with a monastic community with four daily gatherings for the Prayer Offices and Eucharist:  mostly silence with reading, writing, contemplative prayer time: and several one-on-one chats with a spiritual director.  As a parish priest, doing that twice a year was pure fuel for doing my parochial work.  On a daily basis, spending an hour early in the morning -- half an hour with the Daily Office and a half hour of contemplative prayer -- has been a major part of my Rule of Life.

I share all this for a reason.  Now in my seventh decade of life (60s), I have been spending some time adjusting my journey and engaging the world in ways very different from the 33 years of being a parish priest.  As a "child of the 60s" my typology was well suited to imagining possibilities and dreaming of ways that humanity could be brought together in healing and creative modalities.  It is what shaped my character as an adult.

I read a recent Facebook quote from Billy Graham:  "'Hope and change' has become a cliche in our nation, and it is daunting to think that any American could 'hope' for 'change' from what God has blessed." (Newsmax.com, dtd 9 October2013, article/interview by David Patten, dtd 6 October 2013).

It may seem presumptuous of me to disagree with an American icon of civil religion, but I honestly do disagree...with vigor.  God has blessed our nation in any number of ways, but we risk grave moral error by making the "American experience" a mystagogy of its own.  We have made terrible errors in our history.  We, as a nation, have sinned boldly at times.  The framers of our Constitution did not, in large measure, use the bible as a founding tool...many of them were Deists or adherents of Rousseau's "noble savage" concept of civilized man (see The Social Contract, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, published in 1762, which was a foundation for both French and American revolutionary governmental platforms).  

What has made us a more Godly nation (if that is applicable as a title), is that we have had leaders, on all levels of societal life, who embodied hope and the possibilities for change.  It is what emancipated slaves, created opportunities for the common citizen to experience a safe environment and earn a living wage, placed all persons on equal terms and protected civil liberties.  Where God has been most present is when the Beatitudes have been best lived.  There is much discourse in our culture that flaunts the Great Commandment (Love God and Love Neighbor as we love Self...to summarize).  Yet, we continue to dream.  In our dreaming, we imagine a time when we might reconcile with those who were displaced by our ancestors' greed for land ownership...when we abused mystagogy by proclaiming that God had manifested a destiny for the European to conquer and own this land.  

This is not a sermon, but it is an extension of the feeling I had in the 1960s, when we were asked to dream big; when Martin Luther King shared a dream; when hopes long held became a true reality.  After the 1960s, other shifts happened, and the pragmatics of making a living narrowed our dreams to the scale of "me."  

As I was driving around on errands about three weeks ago, I was listening to a BBC broadcast on Sirius-XM radio.  A British journalist was interviewing a British economist.  Because I was driving, I cannot quote this exactly, but here is the gist:  The current shifts and rancor in American politics and social rhetoric might suggest that we...the rest of the world...are witnessing the beginnings of the breakdown of the Great American Experiment.  The United States has provided hope to many fledgling societies making their way toward equality and representation in a free, electoral government.  America, of the past 25 years has become quite ragged around the edges I do think.

The commentator said more, but, again, I was driving and had no way to capture what was about five to seven minutes of reflective Q/A format.  I present this as one aspect of how our society is being viewed from a distance by well educated and thoughtful folks.  

I am hopeful and, in my deepest times of reflective prayer, long for the kind of change that will bring wholeness and balance to what is a great experiment.  We will fail, if America itself becomes our definition of God rather than a society whose very heart is centered in Divine Love.  When balance is achieved, we will...in our diversity...with one voice...be able to proclaim that this grand experiment has, indeed, succeeded.

Love and Blessings!

Fr. Fred+

Beyond Ideologies: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

I think there was a time when, for me, belonging to something provided a unique sense of both personal identity and place in the larger social structure.  To be sure, belonging to a group is a natural human trait (as it is with almost all known biological species).  It not only insures survival but creates structure and order within a given system.  However, belonging in that manner is not my point here.

Beyond familial and human culture infrastructure, there is a kind of "belonging" that acts as a means whereby we can classify our behaviors, beliefs and thought patterns.  For instance: I was born into a family whose ancestry is Northern European...in my case, mostly Scottish.  My parents were Christians...as it seems my ancestors had been for as far back as I can verify at this time (16th Century).  My parents were Episcopalian Christians.  This further identified/defined a particular methodology and doctrinal stream of belief.  I was baptized into this tradition and raised in that micro-culture of the larger community.

I was raised in a small town environment in Central Florida.  The population of Winter Haven, FL was roughly 30,000 during my growing up years.  Further, it was a community with a mix of retired folks and families with post-World War II children...the Baby Boomers.  There were several elementary schools, two Jr. high schools (as they were known at the time) and one high school.  So, in the final three years of education, 430 (or so) of us were educated by the same teachers and in the same environment.

The defining membership duality that occupied our parents (and, thereby, us) in the 1950s and 60s was "Americanism vs. Communism."  I vividly remember "A-Bomb Drills," fallout shelters, and the rampant cultural paranoia known as "McCarthyism."  It was named after Senator Joe McCarthy, who spearheaded a relentless hunt for "Commie spies" along with individuals and cells of communists.  Because mass media was still young, we weren't inundated 24/7.  Yet,there was a palpable paranoia and anxiety about communism.  There was also the dualism of race....being an "integrationist" or "segregationist" defining part of our teenage years.  It was the only truly intense argument my dad and I ever had.  I was 14 yrs old and supported integration in a paper I wrote in a Jr. high English class.

Somewhere during all of this (not even speaking of the rapidly intensifying Vietnam War-that-was-not-a-war...as we were often told), I decided that political ideology was a dirty game.  For me, the one, truly safe group of my teenage years was the Boy Scouts.  I lucked into a great group that included many of my childhood/neighborhood buddies.  I immersed myself in the rugged outdoor activities that defined our particular scout troop and became an Eagle Scout just prior to my 14th birthday.  I remained very active until my college years.  Boy Scout Troop 122, St. Paul's Episcopal Church and Winter Haven High School shaped the critical teenage years of my life.

My vocational path emerged from the confluence of the above groups.  Fred the "science guy" ultimately became Fred the Episcopal Priest.  Early in my graduate studies leading to ordination, it became clear that one got defined by, a) the seminary attended; b) the theologians studied; and c) the collegial friends made.  Without any effort on my part, I became known as a "High Church Anglo-Catholic" within the Episcopal Tradition.  Even though my reason for going to my particular seminary had a whole lot more to do with my working through a potential call to monastic life, the ecclesiastical ideology brand got imprinted and stuck.  My seminary graduating class may have been among the most culturally diverse group of folks to move through Nashotah House up to that time.  Our average age  was 28, and we ranged the whole gamut of socio-political and ecclesiastical orientations.

My growth path from high school was:  college-military-seminary-priesthood.  That path began in 1968 and culminated with ordination in 1978. Of the 33 persons in my seminary graduating class of 1978, only three of us had military service prior to graduate studies.  That was not a popular time to be a military veteran.  It took time to overcome the prejudice and judgment leveled on us in the seminary community...by a small but vocal group.  It was during this time that I made a decision.

As far as it would be within my skills, craft, resources and leadership position to do so, I would create space in my working environment so that any person would feel comfortable and welcomed.   That decision became a passion and defined how I conducted 33 years of active parochial ministry.  While I remained true to this passion, I must report that I failed to create a truly inclusive community in any of the four parishes where I was the Rector (read: canonically in charge).  Systems tend to not like diversity, because differences are used to define grouping.  I like the word "glom."  We prefer to glom onto others who think and behave like we do.  It is the essence of Dualism.  There it is....the central "-ism" that, in theological parlance, is the nature of sin itself.

It is true, in large measure, that we so much want to identify with something -- or someone -- that we end up belonging to...that is, being possessed by...that group or person.  It has been my experience, as a parochial priest, that the term "demonic possession" has a great deal more to do with what or who we belong to than an actual malevolent, cosmic entity.  Journeying with folks through the pain of deliverance from such possession occupied a great part of my pastoral work.

I am reminded of the story of Jesus and the rich young man.  The young man questioned Jesus regarding salvation (wholeness).  Jesus countered (as usual) with his own question about keeping the law.  After the young man reflected that he had done all those things from his youth, Jesus simply said, "sell all you own and come, follow me."  At this, the young man turns (sadly it seems) and walked away...."for he had many possessions."

Bishop Michael Marshall, an English theologian, did a teaching on the above story at a conference I attended some 25 years ago.  As he reflected on the outcome, Bishop Marshall simply said:  "He longed to belong, but he belonged to his belongings.  He was possessed by his possessions."

Ultimately, Jesus was not equating wealth with discipleship.  The request reached for something much deeper:  Upon what is your ultimate value based?   For the young man in the story, it was what he owned.  For someone else, it could have been the group to which he belonged, or the position he held or the knowledge that he held.  Think, for instance, of another encounter.

Jesus had an evening visit from a Pharisee, Nicodemus.  Pharisees, as part of the local Sanhedrin, were both highly educated and carried great weight in council as teachers of the Law.  Along with the Sadducees, they formed the Judean "political parties" of Jesus' era.  Nicodemus asked what was necessary for salvation.  This time, Jesus responded with, "you must be born anew."  Nicodemus was considered one of the wisest of the Pharisee party, but he could not wrap his head around re-entering his mother's womb and starting the life process over.  Jesus ultimately became frustrated with Nicodemus' inability to get past the practicalities of knowledge and into the deeper wisdom of Truth.  My image is of Jesus throwing up his hands and saying, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and you do not understand these things?!...If I have told you about earthly things, and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you of heavenly things?"

In our age, we take great pride in how much we know, how many degrees we own, how many factoids we have ready to hurl at those with whom we disagree.  Nicodemus is a person with whom we might readily identify.

One of the things I don't like about living in Florida is the necessity of declaring one's political party affiliation as a prerequisite to eligibility to vote in a primary election.  One of the things I quit doing many years ago was defining my political ideology, and I did that based upon the automatic judgment from others that being a member of a political party invites.  My ideology simply isn't that "clean," meaning it depends on the issue or the particular political theory attached to an issue.  Yet, a huge amount of money and rhetoric is thrown into partisan politics.  Such terms as "doing battle" or "go to war" is common, and abusive, language in speaking of opposing ideological stances.  The arbitrary lines of being either "in" or "out" of these groups creates a duality that has great potential for a kind of near demonic possession.

It is highly unlikely that anything I say here will cause a shift in our currently toxic political and socio-economic rhetoric.  The division between wealth and relative poverty; the "hostage taking" involved in partisan legislative process; the cultural and racial biases that are much more obvious than folks will admit within our decisions on who is in and who is out (e.g. state voter registration); the constant finger pointing and abusive language within all classifications of social media; the extremes of dualistic thinking that leads to "all or nothing" and "win or lose" behavior....all of these paint a grim picture.  None of it reflects anything that I have experienced in my study of cultural and political history, regarding the hopes, dreams and intentions of our founders and those who articulated the great "American Experiment."

I am not, by nature, a cynic.  Nor am I, in any way, a "doomsday prophet."  Most of the time, I am both hopeful and optimistic.  Most of the time, I am simply able to ignore abusive language, paranoid rantings, and opinions that obviously lack grounding in thoughtful or well researched investigation.  My way of "doing business" has almost always included having some depth of knowledge or insight.  Because I am emotive in my personality type, I know that the first level of response to anything is going to be "from my gut."  With years of practice, I automatically do a "gut check" when faced with almost anything....and simply refrain from response until, and unless, I can apply my thought processes to the information being received.

I am not always successful in any of this.  A person shoves an RNC or DNC card in my face....I know that that person is feigning a blow (a boxing term...throwing a fake punch to distract an opponent and get them flustered).  That person is also insecure enough to believe that showing others that "I belong to this group" will somehow empower them; intimidate those who are not in that group; and set up some level of "I am in and you are out" rhetoric.

Actually, my response to someone, who "flashed" me with a political card, surprised them into speechlessness, when I pulled out my wallet and flashing my health insurance card.  I simply said, "I'm covered, are you?"

There is an emerging level of spirituality and healing that is bringing people together in ways not seen in our history.  I think the Great American Experiment will extend itself, but it will shift.  It will not be fully what it could be until we get our own house in order.  It means healing some very deep wounds:  with indigenous peoples and peoples of various ethnic and cultural origins who are part of the tapestry of life but still marginalized by fear, bigotry and negligence.  One essential component of any true democracy/republic is compassion.....the ability to "walk in solidarity with".... all creation.

Meanwhile, I practice the advice given in Desiderata:
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.          -- Max Ehrmann
(In the Public Domain, No copyright)

Love and Blessings!
Fr. Fred+

09 October 2013

A Journey Begins With.....

-- Claude Debussy, "Claire de Lune for Flute," featuring James Galway

Looking at the title of this reflection, the majority tendency might be to complete the sentence with the words, "A Single Step."  We have heard this any number of times, and it is part of the public domain of sayings.  However, it is not what I had in mind.  

I am suggesting that:  "A Journey Begins with a Possibility."

To take a step is to engage an action that purports a destination or intention.  While not a universal truth, most journeys have marked intentionality.  My thesis is that, before the first step is ever taken, one must go deep enough within to perceive a possibility from which...at a later time...a step can be taken whose destination may turn out to be very different than the possibility suggested.

I know.  Again, this might sound like some philosophical mumbo-jumbo.  It's okay.  Should you bear with me, I'll work though this a bit.

Hi, I Was A Rigorist

When I was doing graduate theological studies, I was in my mid-20s and had moved through a great many shifts and changes in the seven years leading up to entering seminary.  Our dad had died suddenly (heart attack) just two months prior to my graduating from high school.  I made a shift in college locations to be closer to home, so that I might be more present if our mom needed me.  After spending several years preparing for a potential medical career, I suddenly (and literally) awoke to the realization that I did not want to spend the rest of my life doing that.  A struggle ensued internally... and with my suddenly chaotic academic career...from which I emerged with the vocational track that I had least expected.  In fact, it was the farthest possible track from anything I had imagined in my life to that point.  

If that was not enough, the interlude (or creative three years) between college and graduate studies was occupied as an enlisted specialist in the U.S. Navy...doing the kind of work I would never had expected that I (of all people) would be doing.  Thus, when I found myself at Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Nashotah, WI (27 miles due west of Milwaukee), I had developed a highly managed style of being who I thought I was becoming.  Make sense?

In other words:  Being an Episcopal Priest surely meant that I had to be a very "put together" and disciplined practitioner of the theological and spiritual arts.  I took this emerging craft very seriously.

I embraced the fundamentals of biblical, theological, liturgical and prayer disciplines so tightly, that several of my classmates would quip, "you are such a rigorist."  I didn't take those words too seriously...until about ten years later.

In early December 1987, our mom died.  Her death was relatively sudden.  Three weeks earlier, she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Her death was from a pulmonary embolism that doctors believed originated in the area of the pancreas.  I was certainly not prepared for the avalanche of both emotions and resultant chaos of events that shattered my highly "disciplined" interiority.  In essence, I crashed.  With two exceptions, no one around me realized this was happening.

In all of that, I did manage to have the good sense to, a) have a very good spiritual director, b) talk with my bishop about my spin-out, and, c) seek help from a very gifted psychotherapist.  The latter actually was one of those Grace points that gets sent at just the right time.  

It was in the psychotherapist's office that a whole new journey began.  On my second visit, she was running a few minutes behind schedule.  As I waited, I was browsing their resource room, which was full of books and materials.   My therapist came to fetch me to her office and, as we ambled down the hall, she said, "When I entered the resource room to get you, you appeared to me like a solitary eagle...unsure of your destination or purpose."  Nothing more was said until we sat down in her office.

Her first question to me, in her office, was, "What do you most want to be in your life?"  To my utter shock and amazement, I blurted out this response:  "A saint!"  She was silent for a moment...a twinkle in her eye and head tilted in amusement.  "How is that working for you thus far?"  My second response was more of a surprise to me than the first: "Frankly, Marian, the whole thing sucks!"  (the exclamation marks in my responses correctly emphasize that I was both fast and forceful in those responses).  I was very close to tears in that moment.

I cannot rehearse the year that followed that office visit.  Several major events reshaped me from my core outward.  I had an encounter with the Holy that almost literally spun me around and shifted my internal orientation in a way that made my theologically rigorous style unworkable.  It reshaped how I prayed, how I studied, how I did my entire craft as a Christian and Priest.  The theophany type experiences (two) can't be described, but they were powerfully experienced...opening a door I never knew truly existed.  

Hi!  I Was Obsessive-Compulsive

I actually do not know which is more problematic:  being a rigorist or being obsessive-compulsive.  The latter is a term used by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (known simply as the DSM with the edition number behind it.  The DSM5 has just been recently published).  What came out of my therapeutic journey was a clinical diagnosis of "mild OCD."  It manifests as anxiety regarding the ordering of my environment and having everything in proper order.  It's that low-level anxiety I spoke of in a former blog posting...like a nervous energy.  If one would look at my desk, one would not think OCD.  Look a bit deeper or know what projects I have going, and the drive for order, surety of accomplishment and having operational details fully arranged becomes obvious.

One of the effects of retirement is that I no longer have charge of a large system that engages a diverse and large number of people on several levels simultaneously.  My mild OCD made it possible for me to do that without generally seeming rushed or harried.  It was like the juggler spinning a row of plates on sticks.  I could do that in my vocational craft and make it appear relatively easy.

There is a toll exacted in ongoing obsessive activity.  Like an engine running at constant overdrive, parts will begin to deteriorate over time.  Even though I could have gone longer, something deep within clearly engaged me by saying, "Shift now!" The possibility emerged, and the journey began.  I retired.

Retirement is not a shift into neutral.  I suspect it could be for some.  We certainly have that image in our cultural imagination.  The Bishop of Southwest Florida (who has known me for about 30 years, and this being the diocese in which we now live) said this to me at lunch in early June, "I know you well enough that you simply can't park yourself on the sidelines..."   Though I hadn't given it much thought, I immediately knew he was correct.

Hi!  I Am Simply Me.

Remember the tune, "Me and My Shadow?"  Part of growth is recognizing that we have a "shadow self." It is that part of us capable of doing the things that we might normally find distasteful or ethically & morally objectionable.  For instance: speaking a lie, being hostile or angry, death wishes, cheating, stealing, etc.  If we are attempting to live a balanced and "upright" life, we may deny that those parts of us even exist.  If we are able to admit they exist, we may spend a huge amount of energy trying to will them into total submission.  We tell ourselves such things as, "I can't let myself think this way, or feel that way..."  Our definition of ordered spirituality may engage such methodology as "doing battle with my anger or prejudice."  Ultimately (and unfortunately), the more we try to do battle or deny even having these shadow parts of our self, the more they will literally sneak out and be projected onto others.

Observation exercise:  The next time you find yourself really angry with someone or casting judgement, try to stop long enough to observe where that is coming from.  Better than 90% of the time, it is something inside us that needs to be owned and really has little to do with anyone else (beyond the fact that we begin by disagreeing on some issue).

I have a very good friend with whom I talked at length via phone yesterday.  He has a lot of wisdom and experience.  We were simply catching up with each other...having not chatted for quite some time.  In the course of our conversation (covering many topics), he simply asked me, "Hey, Fred, have you been able to dance with your shadow self yet?"  Almost without thought, I responded, "You know what, I really have been able to do that.  It doesn't happen as often as I'd like, but, yep, we are getting to that place."

Earlier this year, from deep within, a possibility for a new experience of wholeness began to emerge.  The parts of me that I have found either most objectionable, or least attractive about myself, over my entire lifetime, began to simply pop up.  At first -- kind of like the "whack-a-mole" game -- I would try to knock them back into the subconscious.  For some reason, after a time, I simply invited them to come out and introduce themselves.  Just this morning, in the predawn quiet, I had an internal conversation with a person who caused me great pain in my junior high school years.  That included a conversation with a strong root of anger and self-esteem issues.  This went on for about 90 minutes.  Then, as I arose and made my first cup of coffee, I simply imaged all that and asked, "Care to dance?"  What had been a dark place in my life suddenly became much lighter.  I spent about five minutes simply laughing at the spectre.

If you read the New Testament, you will find a story in Luke of Jesus healing a group of lepers, telling them to go wash and show themselves to the priest to "certify" their healing.  One of them, who happened to be a Samaritan, recognized the possibility that this healing was much deeper than a skin disease.  He turned around, went back to Jesus and gave thanks to God for making him well.  To this, Jesus replied, "Weren't there nine of you?  Only you have returned....your faith has made you well."

In the original language, the first word for healing (making the skin well) is a different word than the one used for the Samaritan being made well.  That final healing was the knitting together of his True Self and making the Samaritan God Realized.

All journeys begin in possibility.  That is what puts the wind in the sails and motivates us to press forward toward a destination.  But the wind of the Spirit will bring shifts, and each new horizon a clearer sense of purpose.  This new time of life, for me, brings a new kind of wholeness and new possibilities for engaging creative energy.  Creation is still happening.  The Spirit still hovers.  Love is all around us.  Care to dance?

Love and Blessings,


06 October 2013


--Cosmic Voyage, Narrated by Morgan Freeman, IMAX/NASA

--Powers of Ten (1977), EamesOffice, LLC for IBM

Today (Sunday, 10/6/2013), I was asked to assist at St. Boniface Episcopal Church in their 9:00am liturgy.  It was a more than usual special today, because there were two baptisms as part of the Eucharistic rite.  The Rector, Fr. John Hall, presided at the portion of the worship that included the baptismal rite.  I was asked to preside at the Eucharistic rite itself (at the Altar), which goes to the end of the worship.  For whatever reason, I was aware of the special experience of both the space and the time of this worship.

I was also in for a surprise today.  The Rev. Charles Kiblinger, Episcopal Priest and retired faculty member at Virginia Theological Seminary began a four part adult forum series entitled, "The Gift of Life:  Its Mysteries and Responsibilities."  As a way of coming at his topic, he utilized the YouTube presentation of Powers of Ten, which is the second of the two links above.  I have added the first link, Cosmic Voyage, because it is an updated and technologically advanced version of the original.  Both are excellent and worthy of watching before going further.  Each YouTube presentation is about 9 minutes long.

Because I was already mentally and emotionally captured by the sense of space, being part of Charles' class caught me up in the wonder and awe of what space means.  Whether we step back in chunks of 10x from a 1 meter frame, or go inward in chunks of 10x magnification below skin level, there is an almost overwhelming sense of space.  It shifts one's perspective regarding how we fit in the scheme of things.

At "platform level" (our daily reality), we see ourselves as individuals, or units, within a particular environment.  Our frame of reference is based upon the input given us by our senses.  If all senses are in working order, I can, for instance, be a fair judge of my distance from an object or another person.  If one eye is not working, the lack of parallax will make it more difficult to determine depth distance.  If I can't smell, my capacity to taste and to experience that depth of my surroundings is diminished.  

At "platform level" I look up at night and see a panoply of stars, a few planets, perhaps the moon.  There is a sense of vastness -- especially on the Great Plains at night and away from any city lights -- when looking into the night sky, but there is so much I do not see by the limitation of my sensate capacities.

On the other side, if I experience a leg cramp while exercising, I can immediately feel the pain and, in many cases, see the muscle knotting under the skin.  In the morning, when I check my fasting blood glucose, I stick my finger with a special lance device and draw a drop of blood.  The strip that absorbs the drop will then give me a glucose level in mg/dl (milligrams/deciliter).  A good microscope might show those glucose molecules, but what about the insides of the red blood cells...the atoms that make the cells and the quarks that are the building blocks of protons and neutrons in the cell nucleus?  How about the center of a carbon atom within the double helix strand of a DNA molecule...the foundational substance of what formed us as a human being?

We are held together (literally) by forces at the atomic level.  While our bodies and objects appear and register as solid to our senses, there is actually a vast amount of space between those particles at submicroscopic levels (measured in angstroms).

The universe is held together by similar forces on a cosmic scale, which is ultimately measured in light years  -- each light year equaling the amount of space traveled by light in one year, or about 5.878625 trillion miles.  We have an extremely limited (if not impossible) capacity to grasp those distances and space.  Yet, they exist.  What is a human that anything beyond us should count us as significant?  Or, what is a human that the subatomic building blocks that make us should continue to do so with such reliability?

Yes, that is where my thoughts were going this morning.  Even the reading from the Gospel of Luke conspired to challenge me regarding space.  "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed...," said Jesus.  The kind of plant that Jesus used produces pods, inside which are seeds, each of which is no larger than a grain of standard table service pepper.  That's pretty small.  But, we are told that our capacity to trust something as vast as Divine Love starts at the level of something smaller than a grain of sand.

As Charles Kiblinger began is class this morning, he made an almost off-handed remark about his goal for the parishioners gathered in this session.  He said, "It is not the priest who does ministry.  The priest simply creates and holds the space where folks can experience God's Love and be equipped to accomplish what they have been ultimately created to do."

The profundity of that statement almost stunned me.  My work has been to make sacred space possible and to "hold" that space for others to engage a Love of immeasurable breadth.  What I experienced, as I entered the parish church this fine, fall, Florida morning, was a single "platform level" cellular community functioning in a manner for which it has been uniquely designed...as such spaces have been created since we first appeared as uniquely human.  I don't know about you, but the shear scope of that is daunting for me...and I have lived and moved in it for a fairly long time.

Perhaps because I am retired, I can step back from the intimacy of sacred space and see it on a more "macro" level.  Perhaps, also, because I am not fussing with the details of operation so much, I can catch glimpses of the more "micro" aspects of such space.  

Perhaps, because of my background in, and love of, science, I have very little problem engaging both science and spirituality as a single experience...without the boxes that have been called things like "evolution vs. creation."  Perhaps, because I came to experience the great expanse of Divine Love by going deep within, it has become more comfortable for me to expect to find vastness in very small spaces...and vice-versa.

So, we move at incredible speeds.  We rotate around an axis at about 1040 mph (at the equator).  We move around the sun at a mean velocity of 66,600 mph.  I will not even quote the speeds with which the solar system moves through the galaxy or that the galaxy hurls through space in universal expansion.  I won't even begin to describe how quantum physicists and cosmologists are beginning to understand our universe as something like a single cell.  My mind gets a bit achy when I do that kind of math.  

All this continually draws me back to the space I currently occupy and the time I am given to be in this space.  One of the great, but often overlooked lessons of biblical revelation is that I am but one very small part of a single cell called the human community.  My holding this space makes it possible for the cellular community to function at its most viable.  That is true for each of us.  Don't sell yourself short.  At the same time, don't try to expand your importance to override the essential function of others.  See the vastness of God's Love that rests in the deep interior core of your being.  Yet, see the smallest exterior space as an essential part of the universe.  Function in ways that enhance the capacity of others to function at their best.  Allow Divine Love to do the work...seeing yourself as the space through whom that love will work...if we simply invite our ego to step aside.

Science and Spirituality?  It occupies the same space and created with the same breath that brooded over the chaos in the beginning.

Love and Blessings,