Saturday, March 17, 2018


Here's a poem used by the UCSD Center for Mindfulness.... and seems like a good thing to practice during Lent.

Take time with this poem…
Take time to listen to its secret message for you
to discern the hidden message left there in plain view.

All the True Vows     by   David Whyte

All the true vows
are secret vows
the ones we speak out loud
are the ones we break.

There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.

Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don't turn your face away.

Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.

Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made
nor the work they have chosen

nor the one life that waits
beyond all the others.

By the lake in the wood
in the shadows
you can
whisper that truth
to the quiet reflection
you see in the water.

Whatever you hear from
the water, remember,

it wants you to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips.

in this place
no one can hear you

and out of the silence
you can make a promise
it will kill you to break,

that way you'll find
what is real and what is not.

I know what I am saying.
Time almost forsook me
and I looked again.

Seeing my reflection
I broke a promise
and spoke
for the first time
after all these years

in my own voice,

before it was too late

to turn my face again.

Thursday, March 15, 2018


A Psalm of Life   
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream! 
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest! 
And the grave is not its goal; 
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way; 
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle! 
Be a hero in the strife! 

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant! 
Let the dead Past bury its dead! 
Act,— act in the living Present! 
Heart within, and God o’erhead! 

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time; 

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate; 
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


Life has cycles. 

There are the micro-cycles, like the normal up’s and down’s of life, up’s and down’s we become more and more familiar with as we age.   These micro-cycles are present no matter where we are in our life stages… everyone has “Happy” days, and “Please Lord, Let this day be over” days, days, for example, where things go swimmingly, and on the other end, days that Murphy must have thought about as he (an assumption) wrote his “Law”.       

These do count as “cycles”.  But I’m also counting the “seasons” of our lives as cycles as well. 

These seasonal, spiral-like parts of our journey of life we come back around to every 20 (plus or minus) years or so.   These cycles take longer to come around… but indeed cycles of human existence they are.   They bring us around to view a particular part of our lives from one vantage point to another.    

For example:  Having the perspective of a child… as a child… is one thing.  Having the perspective of a child… of one’s own childas a parent… that’s a whole other thing.  Having a mother or father… being a mother or father… and perhaps having to be a mother or father to our own mother or father – viewing the same thing but from a different perspective. 

And some cycles bring an entirely new experience.   I’ve never been in my 50’s before… and yet I’ve been experiencing things over these last 7 or 8 years that I’ve never felt before.  I’ve been in a place of “assessment” – sometimes consciously (but mostly not) assessing my life… my choices, my journey, etc.   

This is probably something I would not have done as deeply in my 30’s.  And especially not in my 20’s.   And yet, while I don’t think I have done this as deeply before as I am doing now, it still feels right.  It feels like what’s happening in my life now is appropriate, it feels right.   It feels like I am following the “cycle” well.  

In these cycles, we “remember” differently.   Seems these cycles can add seasoning to our memories. 

I remember first watching the movie “Forest Gump” when it first came out back in the mid ‘90’s.   What a classic movie.   It’s classic because it touches on the various cycles of life.  It speaks to the various seasons of our life-journey.

I first saw it when I was still in the Army.  I was 28 years old, married five years, and one year away from starting seminary.   As I look back now, 24 years later, I wonder what I knew about life back then!   But I knew I liked the movie!  

I knew, in its simplicity, it spoke to life in a way I may or may not have experienced, but perhaps in a subconscious way, I think I was aware enough to know this movie addressed – among other things –  that deeper cyclic nature of life.   The movie addresses “human-ness”, life, in its up’s and down’s, in it’s seasons and cycles, in its spirals and awarenesses.    

It touches on what it means to give ones-self wholly to life, a call we all feel at one point or another.  It addresses the losing of oneself in an activity.   As a runner, I sure know what it means to be in that place where your body is doing one thing, and your spirit is doing another… and your brain is pretty much taking a vacation.   You just run… and things sort of sort themselves out as they need to sort themselves out.  Forrest is right – when you need to run, you run.   And when you need to stop, you stop. 

The movie is about love.   But not just about loving a partner, a mate, but a friend too.   I do think Gump loved his friend Bubba.   And he for sure loved and respected Lieutenant Dan.   And the whole story with LT. Dan is its own story – the story of needing to make peace with one’s creator, and with life.  And of course Jenny had her own issue to work through.   Wrap all that up in one movie and you sure do have a story about life- in all its facets and challenges and ups and downs! 

It’s a story about growing up… about a boy that becomes a man.   But what makes him a man?   Any man with any depth will ask themselves this question too – on more than one occasion, and in more than one way.  And yet he seems to never lose his “boyhood”.   In all his experiences of life – up’s and down’s – Forest Gump never seems to lose his innocence.  He grows to be a man… but seems to always be a boy though too.  And then he becomes a father – you can just hear the record skip at that point in the movie when Jenny tells him the little boy he just met is his son.  

I remember the day I saw my daughter for the first time.   I somehow knew something would happen… that that little girl in the orphanage would be part of our lives and we would be part of hers.    I remember the day my son was born.  I remember that evening, seeing him being born, then hearing his voice for the first time just 2 seconds later.
And I have been “meeting” my kids again – anew, as they also go through their seasons and cycles.  Same kid for sure, but… different.  And I’m different too.       

There sure is a lot of loneliness in that movie.   There’s a lot of struggling and fighting… and lot of redemption, too.   And pain of loss, and peace.    And now, 24 years later, I can relate to these things a whole lot more.   It was a good movie at 28.   At 52, well, it’s a down-right classic!       

I can see the cycles, the seasons, a little more clearly now than I could decades ago… and they seem more real… more right.   I can see the “human-ness” a lot more clearly in all this now… and it too seems right.  In its classic-ness, “Forest Gump” reminds us of all this.   And it reminds us to be aware… aware of the depth of the seasons and cycles.  And even if we’re not always fully aware of what they might mean… they ultimately mean we’re here and alive!


Tuesday, March 13, 2018


What’s “salvation”? Like most people, we probably have a general notion that it’s something we’re “saved from” (like Hell)… or “saved into”… (like Heaven). And more specifically, it’s a blissful place people go after physical death.

The Jewish tradition never really had a very developed sense of the after-life. Even still today, Judaism is more concerned with behavior in this life more than what gets us into the next life.

The ancient Greeks however – the Hellenists – had a desire to intellectually investigate concepts and thoughts, such as the varied possibilities of the next-life potentials and how one gets there.

Salvation… how does one “get saved”?

For many generations of Christians, “Salvation” is based on subscription to a particular theological premise. For example, “Jesus is Lord”, or saying The Sinners Prayer. The doors to heaven are open to you if you say particular words based on some kind of heart-felt conversion. Well, whether heart-felt or not, it’s my understanding that just the saying/praying of the words alone evidently open the doors to you. This is more of an exclusive view of “Salvation”.

There are other expressions of “Salvation”, other beliefs in how one gets to the blissful after-life we might believe in. For example, there’s the notion of Universal Salvation… that we are all “saved” regardless of our beliefs/thoughts/actions in this life.

I do indeed believe in an after-life. I believe in God’s love extending to us not only in this life, but also in the here-after.

I’ve seen and felt enough, peeked behind the veil a few times, to not doubt there’s something rather wondrous waiting for us in the next expression of our lives. And I also indeed believe the Grace of God in the next life – like in this one – comes from God first. When it comes to the next life, God is just as much the “Prime Mover” there as here.

But to the question of how one gets to heaven… well, I guess I'll have to just leave that to God. That's ultimately God’s business, not ours.

What is our business, however, is not so much an issue of “getting in” to heaven… as much as “living out” our faith. It’s an issue of being faithful to our call here in this life. I distinguish “Salvation” from “Getting to Heaven”, and I don’t think it’s an issue of semantics.

“Salvation” is a journey that starts here. It’s our challenging journey of wholeness, of seeking and working to restore… to rebuild… to bring together again. If you’re familiar with the 12 steps, it starts with the Searching and Fearless Inventory (#4) through to Making Amends (# 9).

This journey of “Salvation” is a journey of healing. “Salve”, Latin for “be in good health”, on through to “salve”, an ointment used to heal… these words relate to “healing”, to restoring to health.

“Salvation” can indeed be viewed as doing the work of becoming better people, of working through our “stuff” so we can become – as best we’re able – people of healing… people of light!

Salvation can indeed be related to doing the work of applying the healing salve of awareness, of patience, of grace and mercy and compassion.

Many years ago I used to do Prison Ministry. At the time, I’d go to five prisons a week leading and conducting worship services in the evenings. In that time doing this ministry, I’d met many people – some striking in their faith, in their desire to connect with God, some striking in their “story”; of life, of their views of people and the world, and their pasts. One of these striking people was “Sonny”. My memories of him still impact me – particularly today as we nationally still deal with racism and its impact on our corporate psyche.

I met Sonny one evening after a worship service in one of the prisons. He came up to me and wanted to talk. Sonny was a probably in his mid-forties back then, already greying around the sides, some wrinkles visibly present around his eyes and cheeks.

That evening was the first time I’d seen him. He told me he struggled in deciding whether to come to church that evening or not. He said he’d been raised in – steeped in – the racist mentality of supremacy. In a nut-shell, he’d been gleaning over time that this mentality of hate was wrong, and he wanted to leave it. He just wasn’t sure how to go about removing himself away from that White Supremacist tradition. He wanted to leave this, he wanted to change… he just didn’t know how.

He shared that he’d prayed before coming that night, asking God for guidance. Seems I said something that evening he needed to hear. While I can’t remember after all these years what I may have said during that evening worship service, I’m sure we spent some time after church that evening talking about how my words related to his situation in life.

He said he was raised to be a White Supremacist, a racist. He was raised believing that any non-White, non-Christian, was inferior to Whites. He told me he didn’t even like having dark wood furniture in his house. For many years, he embodied this life-style in both figurative and literal ways… in fact he had the tattoos to prove it.

But he said he was done with all this. He wanted to leave this tradition. As part of this process, he became a regular at our prison ministry worship. He came faithfully, including himself in the life of the community, helping in our liturgy, etc.

He heard the word of grace for sure. He also heard the “call” to live better, the call to live a life of salvation. “Salvation” for him was indeed a struggle for wholeness, for integrity, for bringing his life back together into a healthy whole.

Salvation – not in the sense of “getting to heaven”, but in the sense of “doing the work of healing” – is a struggle. It is a struggle that many broken people see as a struggle worth entering into. It’s a struggle to choose healing, for themselves and others. It’s a struggle to choose light. It was one that Sonny found worthwhile.

At one point, though, he stopped coming. He was absent for over a month. This just wasn’t like Sonny. I’d ask about him, but others weren’t sure what happened.

Then after about five or six weeks, he came back. And he said he had to talk! So after church that evening, he pulled me aside and told me his story.

He got a new cell-mate… a Black Muslim from Egypt. And this guy brought up in him all his past issues. His past, his understandings, the beliefs he was trying to change… all this came flooding back! And he had to figure out a way to deal with it!

He finally figured out he had to talk with his new cell-mate. He told me the two of them had serious chat. He told his cell-mate how he (the cell-mate) brought up in Sonny all his past “stuff”. It wasn’t hard to miss this past, he had this past on his body – the plainly visible tattoos. He shared with his cell-mate that, while this was his past, he was in the middle of a struggle to change his future.

So, he said, they ultimately came to an arrangement; if his cell-mate would teach him about Islam and the Koran, Sonny would teach him about Christianity and the Bible.

For Sonny, the “work of salvation” was indeed really work. This process of healing falls on us not just in the next life, but this one… it’s no less real here! It’s no less “salvation”!

The author Dean Koontz writes many contemporary popular books, many addressing fictional elements of the very real archetype of the cosmic struggle of dark and light. Through his characters and stories, Koontz describes some ways in which this struggle of dark and light affect people, affect our lives, how we struggle in our view of the world and each other.

There’s a set of lines in one of his books (“One Door Away From Heaven”) that I heard many years ago that has stayed with me all these years. In the book, one character says to another – “If you want to change your life, you have to change how you think. If you want to change how you think, you have to change what you believe.”

In the process of changing what we believe, if it moves us to health, to wholeness… it’s part of the process of salvation – salvation in this way!

When a person seeks a better course – when a person seeks to more consciously follow the light… to act on the light…

When a society seeks a better course – when it is moved to become more attentive to its most vulnerable… when it is moved to more humanely treats its most marginalized… it is doing the work of Salvation!

The struggle for salvation is hard!  It’s not easy!  It’s not easy to change our ways of selfishness, of self-centeredness. It’s not easy to change our ways of fear; fear of change, fear of difference, fear of “the other”!  if we give in to these fears… we can end up moving away from the light!

We – all of us – are right smack in the middle of life… of making choices that will either bring more light or more darkness… bring more healing or more brokenness.

This process of “Salvation”, a process of living as best we are able… is a process of creating the Kingdom of Heaven here among us… of being the people of God right here.  It is not a perfect kingdom.  It is a fallible kingdom, reflective of who we are.  But it comes from our choices… from the choices we make towards healthy living, towards light.  It comes from the hard work of identifying the darkness in us, as individuals and societies.  It comes from the hard work of identifying the light in us all… and walking the path of this kind of “salvation”. 

Monday, March 12, 2018


Here's a story from a number of years ago of Franciscan Friars travelling across portions of the US as they also symbolically travel their faith-journey as well.

As you read this story, may this help your faith-journey as well.

It's lengthy, so here's the link if you want to check it out for yourself...

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Saturday, March 10, 2018


A story of Light and Dark

Once upon a time there lived people who loved the light. As soon as the sun rose every morning, they were up to welcome it, singing songs of celebration for the light. And when the sun went down each evening they sang other songs, sad songs, songs of missing the light of the sun. They loved the light so very much.
They did not love the darkness. Once darkness fell every night, they would hurry to bed, since they could only bear the darkness when they were asleep. Even then, total darkness was frightening to them, and so they always kept a fire burning in every room.
The people’s dearest wish was that the sun would not set in the evening, that darkness would never fall. But every day the sun set and they sang their sad songs and they endured the fearful, sad, strange darkness until they could greet the sun again the next day.
Now in this land were born two remarkable children. They were twins. One was a girl, and she seemed to shine from within. Whenever she entered a room, everything seemed to get a little brighter. And the people loved her very much.
The other was a boy, and he seemed to bring darkness with him. Whenever he entered a room, everything seemed a little dimmer. And the people did not like him. They feared him because he reminded them of the great darkness of the night.
But although the people loved the girl and did not love the boy, the twins loved each other very much. And because the girl loved her brother so very much, the people mostly let him be even though they were afraid of him.
Now, as they grew, it became clear that these children were, in fact, magical children. The girl had the power to bring life back when it was harmed or lost. When she was a very small child, she could heal small cuts and bruises. When she grew a little older, she could heal broken bones and other larger hurts. And by the time she was a teenager, she could make the crops grow faster and larger and fuller. She could bring plants and animals that had died back to life. The people suspected she could even bring people back to life, but they were a little afraid to ask, and she did not offer.
The boy, on the other hand, had the power to calm and quiet anything. When he was a very small child, he could help his family go to sleep more quickly, thus saving them from the fear of the darkness. When he was a little older, he could calm animals when they were frightened and make them still. Sometimes, he would go first to an animal or a person who was hurt and help them to be calm enough for his sister’s healing magic to work. And by the time he was a teenager, he could calm storms and winds and rains. He could bring anything to stillness.

The people’s love for the light and fear of the darkness only grew with time, perhaps more strongly with the twins always before them to remind them. And so one day, they decided to ask the girl for a favor. They asked her to see if her magic could hold the sun in the sky and stop the night from coming. The girl was reluctant, but after many, many months of being asked, she finally decided to try, just to get the people to leave her alone. One day, just as the sun was at its highest point, she went out onto the top of the highest hill in the land, and she threw her arms up into the sky, and she asked the sun to stop, to stay right there at the top of the sky forever.
She wasn’t immediately sure that anything had happened. The sun usually moves so slowly. But before very long it became clear that something had happened. The sun had stopped in the sky.
The people were overjoyed. There was a big celebration. They sang all of their songs celebrating the sun. They loved the girl even more—at least at first. For the first week or so, everyone was happy and content.
But soon they began to get tired. Although they had always slept with a fire to ward off the darkness, sleeping in the full light of the sun was another thing altogether. They tossed and turned and woke up constantly. Some of them remembered that the boy could help with sleep, and asked for his aid, but his power of bringing sleep seemed to have disappeared along with the darkness.
After about a month, the exhausted, frustrated people began to see that this constant sunlight was a problem. Though they still loved the light, they began to wish that the sun would once again move in the sky. Each person at first thought that they were the only one who thought this. And given the people’s love of the light and fear of the darkness, everyone was afraid, at first, to say anything about this growing longing for nighttime. But slowly, softly, as they began to confide in each other, they discovered that everyone felt this way. And they finally decided that something must be done.
They went back to the girl and asked her to get the sun to move again. It was her magic that had stopped it, and they figured her magic could make it move again. So, she went back up onto the top of the highest hill, threw her arms up into the sky and asked the sun to move. Nothing happened. She tried again. And a third time, but the sun stayed still. Sadly, she turned to the people and told them there was nothing she could do. There was a long moment of growing panic before the boy stepped forward. “Let me try,” he said softly. Everyone thought about it for a moment and then decided this was a good idea.
So, he took his sister’s place on the top of the highest hill, threw his arms up to the sky, and asked the sun to move. The sun began moving at once, rushing toward the western horizon. Within ten minutes, it had set, and within fifteen, it was full, dark night.
The people were caught off guard. They had all come out to the hill to see if the girl’s magic would work. They had no fires lit—they hadn’t needed them in weeks. They had nothing with them to light their way. They had never been outside at night before, and they were terrified.
At first, they tried rushing home to get away from the darkness, but they soon discovered that rushing when you can’t see where you are going is a bad idea. They slowed down, but still peered at the ground, trying to get home as soon as they could. But then, one of them looked up. “Oh!” she exclaimed. “Look!” Everyone looked up, and then they all saw the stars for the first time. They had never been outside at night before, and had no idea of the incredible beauty of a sky full of stars. They all stopped hurrying toward their homes and stood and stared in wonder. And then they realized how very tired they were, and so slowly now, and with more reverence, they started home again. They all slept for a very long time.
The people rested and were glad, and appreciated the darkness for the first time in their lives. Eventually, the sun rose again. As it did, the people got out of their beds and sang their songs to celebrate the coming of the light. But at the end of the day, as the sun began to sink toward the horizon, they did not feel like singing their sad songs. Instead, one of the musicians began singing a new song, a slow, quiet song of thanksgiving for the night. And soon the others joined in. It became their new sunset song.
And the boy and the girl grew up to be a man and a woman, and both of them were now much beloved by the people. Looking at them, still the best of friends as well as siblings, the people remembered that light and darkness are best in balance.

From here:

Friday, March 9, 2018


These are more  

       (borrowing from the Daily Show)...
            "Moments of Zen"

Some paths     

    reflecting the Lenten Journey

--Peace to you--

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