Tuesday, September 3, 2019

As The Fishes, We

We Are As The Fishes

“From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us.
For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,
‘For we too are his offspring.’”
Acts 17:26-28 (NRSV)

We live in God as the fishes live in the ocean. Now I can take this metaphor in several directions but what I mean is this. Just as the fishes-and all associated aquatic life-is enveloped and sustained by water, so we are enveloped and sustained by the presence of God. God is to us as water to the fish-it is no coincidence that the Hebrew word ruwach in Genesis 1:2 is variously translated wind, breath, spirit, and mind. God’s breath (different word) animates and sustains Adam; the air he-and we-breath is as water to the fishes. Life-giving breath. The creation breath, Spirit, mind and presence of God as it were.
Think of all aquatic life moving around it’s watery environs; think how we move about our environment. Most of the time we are no more aware of God’s presence than the fishes are of their water. We mostly just take things for granted (and assume our air and water will be clean and fit to sustain life as well). How often do we assume, or even think about, God’s presence? 
If we were in the habit of considering every breath as God’s breath-God’s gracious gift of presence-would things be different? Would there, for instance, be less violence? Less ‘me-ness’ (and less meanness) and more ‘we-ness’? Less division, more harmony? After all, we all breath the same air, we all live in the same presence. Buddhists call this practice mindfulness. They focus on the breath which I’ve been calling the presence of God. Same thing, right? Try it for a minute. Or a day. Take time to remember the ruwach. Take time to be aware. To be thankful. To simply be, in the presence of God. 


Saturday, February 2, 2019

Darkness and Light

Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

When someone walks into a dark room and turns on the light, where does the darkness go? Does it flee into the hallway? Does it hide under the desk? We could say darkness flees in the presence of light, but darkness really doesn’t go anywhere. Darkness is the absence of light. In the same way, light doesn’t really do anything to drive out darkness. Light does not say ‘I shall strive to eliminate this darkness’ or ‘flee thou evil darkness from the purity of my presence’, or anything. In the presence of light darkness simply ceases to exist. 

Our Gospel passage comes immediately after the Beatitudes-where Jesus describes the heart attitudes of Kingdom people-but before the principles of Kingdom living the resulting interior transformation will produce. I believe His message here is clear: ‘Don’t just keep this stuff to yourself. Go, overcome darkness by being light.’ Jesus intended to start His revolution one ‘light’ person at a time. Later Paul will say ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’. 

We may not all be called to be pastors or preachers or monks or teachers. However, if we claim the name ‘Christian’ we are called to actually follow Jesus. Simply learning about Him-accumulating Biblical facts-is not enough. We are called to interior transformation by actually spending time in Jesus’ presence. Jesus says let your light shine, the light you receive from me. Think of Moses, who had to veil his face after hanging out with God. Jesus is telling us it’s time to remove the veil. 

So go. Be the light. It’s what we were created for. It’s what our country, what our world, desperately needs. 

Thursday, January 31, 2019


This is a response to a Facebook post by a Chaplain I know. If you’ve read it before-I’m old now and can’t always remember what I’ve posted-I apologize but I think it is fundamentally important for us today. 

The first appearance of evil, or Satan, or the Accuser-the force opposed to God-is in Genesis 3: “Now the serpent...said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say...God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’.” He shows up again in Job-considered by many scholars to be the oldest Biblical book-: “Then Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Does Job fear God for no reason...stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face’.”
It seems to me this is where evil begins-God is a liar and cannot be trusted (the first instance of gaslighting?) closely followed by humans are liars and only want God for what we can get (how modern is that?)
And yet we have God’s response-the cross (one time for all) and the resurrection life (on going for eternity). 

I believe these passages ask two of the deepest, most fundamental questions for humanity-Can God be trusted; and is God worthy of our love solely because of who God is? Before the Incarnation, before the cross, before the resurrection, maybe even before there was an Israel, these questions were asked and answered by the Biblical writers. Now it’s our turn. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Steadfast love

In the spirit of prayer, here is a simple breathing exercise, slightly modified from my last post, with apologies to Thich Nhat Hanh 
whose idea I stole and tweaked a little.

In breath: I take refuge in God the Father 
Out: whose way is steadfast love
In: I take refuge in Jesus the Christ
Out: who shows me steadfast love
In: I take refuge in the Holy Spirit
Out: who enables steadfast love in me

Spend some time thinking about how the nature of God is steadfast love, how Jesus’ life was a demonstration of steadfast love, how the Spirit might enable steadfast love in you. Think about what it might mean to be raised with Christ into a life of steadfast life. How might you show steadfast love to those closest to you? To those you barely know?

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins...But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:17

Tuesday, January 15, 2019


“I take refuge in the Buddha, 
the one who shows me the way in this life.
I take refuge in the Dharma, 
the way of understanding and love.
I take refuge in the Sangha, 
the community that lives in harmony and awareness.”
I take refuge in Jesus, the Christ 
the one who is the way, the truth, and the life
I take refuge in God (the Father)
who is the way of steadfast love 
I take refuge in the Holy Spirit
whose fellowship gives humankind harmony and awareness.

I have been a ‘Christian’ since late winter/early spring 1971, 48 years. During those years I have had more than my share of backsliding, falling away, turning away. I have a vivid memory of asking God to go away and leave me alone to enjoy my sin. He did not. I also spent a fair amount of time reading-sometimes even studying-theBible. I listened to just about every radio guy (they were all guys then), listened to ‘Christian’ music, read ‘Christian’ books, became involved in church-one Presbyterian, one Catholic-battled some serious and not quite so serious addictions. Through it all I have come to a couple conclusions which you all may or may not agree with. Either way, it’s fine. 

First, there is a large body of Christianity out there that firmly believes the Bible is the one and only way God reveals Himself to humanity today. I believe without doubt God reveals Himself through the Scriptures, but....I don’t agree that’s the only way. More on that in a bit. My experience with Scripture has been it’s possible-even relatively easy-to accumulate knowledge about God while successfully maintaining a safe distance from God. The dangers here are pride and intolerance, both of which are in evidence in our churches and on social media. I found inner transformation to be difficult, if not impossible, approaching God in this way. There is also the danger of a lot of really bad, hurtful  theology which may appeal to some but damages many others. Theology, meant to help us understand and lead us to God, becomes a point of division. God Himself gets lost in the debate. 

So, while Scripture study is good-probably even necessary, but I’m not totally convinced-my experience is, if you really want to be transformed, prayer is essential. This may seem to contradict Paul’s teaching in Romans-‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind’-but notice here, he does not offer specifics. I believe renewal comes from time spent in God’s presence, through conversation and meditation. We take refuge in God when we open ourselves to His presence. Once we learn that, we begin to see how He reveals Himself all over the place. And how He is much more open, accepting and tolerant than we could ever imagine (in other words, God loves you. Yes you, and He will relentlessly pursue you-yes you, and ever else-for as long as it takes). I hope to revisit and expand on this theme, and share more of my experiences, in the days and weeks ahead. In the meantime, if you only do one ‘spiritual thing’, let it be prayer. And remember conversation involves talking and listening. 

Excerpt From
Living Buddha, Living Christ 20th Anniversary Edition
Thích Nhất Hạnh & Elaine Pagels

This material may be protected by copyright.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Peace in the New Year

Something to ponder as we begin a new year that promises to be anything but peaceful. 

“To work for peace you must have a peaceful heart. When you do you are the child of God...In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God’...When we try to overcome evil with evil, we are not working for peace. If you say [that person] is evil. We have to prevent him from continuing to be evil,” and if you then use the same means he has been using, you are exactly like him. Trying to overcome evil with evil is not the way to make peace.” (p.74-75)

Or, to put it in Biblical language:
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all...if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:17-21.

There’s more. 

“Jesus also said, “Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment . . . whosoever shall say, ‘Thou fool,’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” Jesus did not say that if you are angry with your brother, you will be put in a place called hell. He said that if you are angry with your brother, you are already in hell. Anger is hell. He also said that you don’t need to kill with your body to be put in jail. You only need to kill in your mind and you are already there.” (p.75)

Please think deeply about this. How many times have we-you and me-committed murder on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram (which I do not use) or some other social media platform? What was the immediate emotional or mental or spiritual effect? I have a twitter account. People follow me for all the wrong reasons and I need to deal with that. How ‘bout you? Will you let 2019 be the year of the peaceful heart?
Peace and love my beloved

Excerpt From
Living Buddha, Living Christ 20th Anniversary Edition
Thích Nhất Hạnh & Elaine Pagels
This material may be protected by copyright.