Wednesday, August 28, 2013


The voices of not enough will always haunt us- until we say enough. 

"Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to the job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car, and house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it."  Ellen Goodman, as quoted in Beginnings; The Spiritual Life

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


And Jesus said to everyone, "All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me." Luke 9:23 CEB

Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes...the Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved." Acts 2:46,47 CEB

I've always been intrigued with the great addition provided by Luke when he adds "daily" to Jesus' call to take up the cross and follow him. It's the one and only difference with Mark or Matthew in this section they all share. 

It suggests that discipleship can only be daily if it's anything. It's regularly "saying no," (CEB); no to the ever constant ego demands for comfort, convenience and certainty.

Cross-taking can still put our lives very much at risk in the wrong part of the world. But while it can still mean martyrdom, doing it daily means something a little different. It now becomes more about my saying no to the incessant demands of the false self, including what the dashboards of success say I should be and do. 

To say no requires choosing regular practices. Thanks to Luke's second book, the Acts of the Apostles, daily practices are described: meeting as God's people, breaking bread together, and making space. The reality is that to maintain these practices daily requires faith - the kind of that allows us to let go of what is of lesser importance.   

Sunday, August 25, 2013

And Own that Love is Heaven

This isn't a typo in the UM Hymnal. In the 6th verse of O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing, the word is "own" and not "owe." When we receive God's love that is there for the taking, Charles Wesley suggests that "we then shall know, shall feel our sins forgiven." God's love is an anticipation of what is to come.

Owning God's love for myself is life-long, not just once and for all. We are created to love and be loved. It will always be deep source of wonder and joy that God's love for us is at the beginning and the end- and beyond the end.

We will know as we are known, love as we are loved. But not yet. St. Theresa of Avila confessed to God that although she did not love God, she wanted to love God. I cannot love as God loves. The only hope of growing in love to others is in owning God's love. We love because God first loved us. I John 4:19 

The hymn O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing doesn't make sense until we understand that its title and first line come from one of Peter Bohler's expressions, "Had I a thousand tongues, I would praise him with them all!" Bohler was the Moravian spiritual guide of the Wesleys.  This morning's updated rendition sung by the Chapelwood Wesley Choir was outstanding! 

Loving Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, break forth into our lives- heal the world we share and make for others

Friday, August 23, 2013


The problem solver or the "fixer" lives in every one of us. We may be attracted to movies that tell of how things get fixed, like The Godfather or a series like Ray Donovan. Both examples mirror the myth of redemptive violence, where murder and mayhem are a stepping stone to something else- in these cases, career advancement.

Even if we say we reject the myth of redemptive violence, we do like problems solved, don't we?  

Tex Sample, the one-time seminary professor, described whole faith communities of what he termed the cultural middle, where the main function was to offer an "explanatory theology." It explains why everything is the way it is. Upper managers provide the same function for their corporate bosses and shareholders. In their own way, soothsaying managers learn how to explain away anything potentially perceived as a problem.  

If you look on social networks of all kinds, you'll find people who don't really know each other offering all kinds of advice. Although we should know better, clergy are often tempted to fix people in our own image. But parishioners' lives are messy just like our own.

Pastors find it hard to resist being a rescuer or deliverer. A fixer of problems. I do. It's also a temptation to serious codependency. Buying into that role can damage our chance to lead. The drive to fix others' problems, to offer advise, or even to smooth out group differences with fake consensus are all defaults from sharing our lives as we really are.

It's clergy's ministry and mission to create safe places in relationships and in groups where it's possible to share our real selves without fear of being condemned. If we do not do this, the sharing will be superficial at best or at worst, people will be offended and hurt at our attempts to fix them, with all the judgement that implies.     

In the end, fixing is self-flattery and illusion. It's all about us, about our ability, our wisdom, setting ourselves above others. But fixing strains relationships, stresses people out, drains our energy and really doesn't work. At all. Better to be our own best self. Doing our own soul work and respecting the journey of others is a good place start.  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Internet Use Disorder

Should pastors declare internet sabbath?
This week's post at Sacred Space is a sharp reminder that good things can be misused- and can be a hindrance to the spiritual life. The Irish Jesuits are timely in naming the loss of sacred space as one casualty of internet dependency. The many tools of the internet have the capacity to invade our mental and spiritual focus.

We can be described as an ADD culture, which has safety consequences all its own. Beyond the safety concerns, like texting while driving or walking through traffic, the lines between private down time and public work time are almost gone. Employees are beginning to ask employers for the time they spend away from the office working on various projects. An off-the- wall tweet or post can get you thousands of followers, fired, or both.

Like other addictions, the sickness of IUD is a dependency. I don't know about the physical dimensions of the disorder. Like anything we use to mask our pain, a nice convenience like the internet can easily become a life drain very destructive of our health in many facets.

For too many days and nights, I let my fascination with the internet ruin any chance for growing deeper communion with God and others. But I have chosen that. It is a spiritual discipline to turn it off. Just like previous generations learned to turn off the radio, the TV, or the VHS. A friend of mine periodically (she would like it to be every week) practices a phone/internet free morning, all morning. It's called an internet sabbath or fast.   

Oldies but Goodies