Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Three days after a dreadful loss at home to a mediocre team, the local college basketball team won convincingly over the best team in the conference. What happened? The same players that were so dreadful, played brilliantly yesterday. They learned from their mistakes. Cannot we all? A defeat, or a messy time in our lives need not be the end. These times can be our teachers. Sometimes we need to be knocked down, to suffer, to lose, in order to become awakened. Awakened, we can reach for our potential. The team had taken some things for granted. Do you? Now they know that success is not a given. We cannot just show up, even if Woody Allen says it is 80% of anything.

Yesterday's success or good day is no guarantee for today. Yesterday's prayer was for yesterday. The kindness you showed in the past for someone close to you is past kindness. Today is a new day. Do you mope or learn from mistakes? Do you take today for granted based upon the past? If the past was messy, do you expect today to be messy too? If so, you might ask yourself if misery begins with you today.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

One Game

Had I judged the local college basketball team from the one game I saw last week, I might want to fire the coach, cancel all scholarships, and disband men's basketball since the team was so dreadful. Well, would I like to be judged or categorized based upon a one time look? Don't we all have bad days, times when we have no energy, can't seem to get it together? I do. Maybe if I saw the team over a period of time and events, I would have a different opinion. God looks at our whole life and not just a one time moment. Am I a basically overall good and caring person? I don't have to be perfect for God. The basketball team won't win every game nor lose every game. Do the best that I can and don't look back reliving those messy moments. Living in self-blame, shame and guilt leaves no place for gratitude that we still have time, and life to live, and that someone loves us always. That someone is God.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Jesus and the Beasts

Why did the beasts in the desert not eat Jesus when he went out there for forty days? Go back to the Noah story. Wild, flesh eating beasts were taken onto the ark. What did they eat? During the storm, the Spirit-filled Kingdom of God ruled in the ark. Everyone, including the animals, sensed a bond with one another. No one hungered for food. I mean, where would you get food for all those animals for 40 days? Certain "natural" tendencies, i.e. to destroy one another in order to survive, was suspended. With sin being destroyed in the storm outside, grace ruled within the ark. The wild animals remembered. Humans forgot. God gave the rainbow to remind all that even when the storm might look at its worst, the sun will shine on everyone.

Now Jesus goes into the desert, driven there by the Spirit. The Spirit is with him and the Kingdom once again reigns. The wild beasts remember instinctually. No one needs to eat. All sit in peace with one another. Jesus experiences the Kingdom in what is thought to be the home of Satan, the scary desert. Jesus went into the desert with a world view focused on his people. In those forty days, he experienced a sense of the kingdom that is for all, even the wild beasts. He comes out of the desert a Son of Man for all people. No one is outside the promise of the covenant Love of God. And we say beasts are dumb animals!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Desert

Why do we always start Lent with Jesus in the desert? Why not start with a story about Jesus and fasting? After all, we gave up chocolate, coffee, movies, or something else for Lent, so why not talk about giving stuff up? Well, Jesus seems to have run into people who did fast quite well, but they were not very kind, loving, and compassionate with their neighbors. They fasted but were prejudicial. They fasted but were narrow minded. They fasted but were envious of power and control.

The desert is where we deal with all this stuff. Jesus did. Plus, he fasted there too. It is a both/and.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mix Up

Some preachers mix up conformity with transformation. They think their job is to transform you by telling you what to do, the rules and rites. The idea is that if you obey, you will be transformed. That really is conformity. We have been into conformity since Constantine. Before that, we were more edgy, more prophetic, because we Christians were in love with Jesus Christ. Would you really burn at the stake for a rule on fasting? Generally, these preachers of conformity who are celibate priests, focus on issues that are not much struggle for them, such as birth control, and divorce.

Transformation, on the other hand, is the work of God. The fertile ground in which God works is our failures and sufferings. Failure can reveal our need for God. We cannot become transformed on our own, nor by following a rule. Rules can knit us into community, but cannot transform us. Humility can come only with our mistakes, done over and over, I have found. "Where sin abounds, Grace aboundeth more." Transformed people become prophetic voices if they stay within the community, but challenge it. These are the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures. If you leave the community because you don't like anyone telling you what to do, or you think they are stupid and you wise, then I suspect you are moving toward narcissism rather than transformation.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Spiritual Development

Last night I attended the local college men's basketball game. We were dreadful. The visiting team "plays long" which means they are very tall on the court. We are not. When our whole team stood up I noticed that we had some very tall players, but they did not play. They sat on the bench the whole game. Why? They are not developed enough. They are tall enough for sure, but maybe too thin yet, or don't know enough of how to play the college paced game. In time they may develop enough physically and mentally to play well. They work on those aspects of their body and talent that need work. Who knows how much talent they still have, that just needs time?

The spiritual life of the soul needs time to develop. We have a soul, like a tall player has tallness. It is a given. We seem to develop early on the talent for talking to God, if we are a believer, and asking for things, or maybe thanking or praising God. If we work on the soul, we can later develop other talents, such as meditating on a passage in scripture, watching a sunset in silence and stillness. Eventually, we can even learn to develop the ability to sit in stillness believing God is present even if we feel nothing. But we have to work at all these layers of our soul. It won't come naturally, any more than a tall person will learn to play the "complete skills" of basketball. It takes daily effort with ups and downs. Soul work has a lot of temptations in the modern world with our gadgets and infinite capacity for diversion. What aspect of your spiritual game are you working on today?

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Why come up for ashes if you have no intent on changing your heart? I ask this question of myself. I am supposed to be repenting my faults, bad attitudes, and stinking thinking. These all begin from the insides. So I need to spend Lent working on the insides. What good is it to do some outside change if nothing is going to happen on the insides? The reason for an outside action such as fasting or spending more time in church is to "remind" me on a daily basis that it is Lent. Giving up sweets is a reminder. It does not change my interior self. People in recovery programs can go to more meetings. They probably won't drink, no small thing, but they won't change the insides either.

So what to do? For me, it is the daily grind, or restful moments, of some meditative reading, silence, stillness, quiet time with myself. Maybe keep a daily journal. God will do the rest. And I probably will become a more pleasant and useful person.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Cantor

In the Jewish Worship the job of the Cantor is to convert a plurality of individuals into a unity of worship, that they might become a company of witnesses. They are not the mega-church giving a concert that entertains us, or at least moves us beyond boredom. The cantor is to be a master of prayer. They are not giving a recital, but are worshipping God in their song. If the cantor is doing this, worshipping in song, then our armor of indifference is pierced.

When you go to a concert and listen to the "Messiah" being performed, it may sound beautiful. You might be uplifted, and entertained. But did you experience the Holy, the Glory of the Unseen? Probably not. The performers might have no particular experience of the Holy. They sound notes and words. They perform. When a cantor is praying in song, you sense it. You are moved to sing too. You begin to feel a bond with others in the place of worship. Do I say mass or do I pray mass? People know. I know. God knows. When I am not praying the mass, I wonder if God is as bored as the people must be?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Seize the Moment

I went out for my morning run before dawn in San Francisco. I had planned to do some speed work on a wooden boardwalk. The Bay Bridge is closed for a few days for some construction. Streets I avoid because of traffic were empty of vehicles. I seized the opportunity to run on these streets. Hills were included. I powered up the hills, legs on fire, knowing I was getting a good, but unplanned workout in new neighborhoods. I will not get to do this particular workout again for some time.

In prayer, I have a plan when I begin. Then something is offered. I was going to meditate on a reading, or read some psalms. I stop my plan. There is a Presence. I seize the moment and rest in the quiet. I did not read the book or psalms. I did not do the speed workout either. I did get a wonderful workout and a wonderful prayer. Are you flexible today?

Monday, February 20, 2012


I was walking along the street in San Francisco one day and a fellow dressed in black including his helmut, came riding by on a big, noisy motorcycle, with a boom box blaring out. Everyone stopped and looked. He was the center of attention. I suspected this was his intent, as he circled the block and passed us all by a second time. He will go back to where he lives and face loneliness. Self-absorbed people end their day lonely. Why? No one really cares to spend time with people focused upon themselves. If the fellow had put aside his ego and been helpful to someone, unselfish, he would have had a possible answer for loneliness that evening.

Whenever I get absorbed into fantasy, I am the center of attention doing heroic and marvelous things. I am self-absorbed. At times I find this followed by a bout of loneliness. It is a way the psyche seems to get me back into balance. But it is so painful a return. Better to live in the present moment and not focus so much on me. Meditation, contacting a friend, taking out the garbage, the list is endless once you get into the moment. Plans, hopes flow from present reality, not from virtual reality, or self-absorbed fantasy. I don't think God lives there. No wonder you get so lonely!

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Do you floss your soul? I floss my teeth each evening before I go to bed. I get rid of mess that a brushing cannot reach. It keeps me from losing my teeth so I am told. Then I floss my soul. Religion calls it examination of conscience and AA calls it a tenth step. I look over my day and ask where I have messed up either in action or attitude. I ask what I could have done better and did I cause hurt to others that need attention. This helps me to get at some messes in my life that might not be readily apparent or that I already forgot about. I ask God for forgiveness and help to do better. Then I go to sleep. If you don't floss your teeth you lose them, right? Well what happens if you don't floss your soul?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Broken Heart

"Arriety" is a wonderful movie. A boy has a weak heart. Doctors, science, says it is a physical thing. He is lonely, and without hope too. He is accepting "fate" that he will die soon. He meets someone very different from himself. The punchline is, "My heart will be OK because you are in it." Relationship changed him. He did not isolate, condemn, judge or ignore this very different person, and it made all the difference in his life. See the movie.

A broken heart is one that seems to have no one at home. At that moment you simply cannot believe that anyone cares. Alone, hopeless, no energy to go on, expecting nothing good, are some of the experiences of the broken heart. God is the experience of being loved. God is very different than me. But very close too. I had a broken heart. I still have scars, but was stitched whole by Love. Just because someone does not show me love, or ignores me, or rejects me, does not mean that I am NOT Loved. I have come to realize it is simply their opinion. God is a second opinion. I am Loved with my wounds.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Purpose

Running is good for living. Every run should have a specific purpose, not a general purpose such as good health, or ability to fit into your clothes. I have to listen to both my body and my mind each morning. Today, my body was ready to go and do interval speed work. My mind, my spirit was bored with running. Today's goal changed from intervals on my usual course, to a focus on enjoying my run. I ran a steady pace, but in a new direction. I explored a route that I had not run in a long time. I ran out onto a long pier and when I turned back toward the city I saw the skyline all lit up in the early morning dark. Later in the run I saw the dawn sky beginning to show some colors ahead of a rising sun. When I finished, I was refreshed. It was a "good" run.

When you make plans for your day, do you listen to all parts of yourself? Who won out in your decision to do what you are doing today? If you are restless, irritable and discontented, I suspect you are ignoring some signals. Plus, you may not be very likable today. If you do not like you why should anyone else?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

False Perfect

What if your parents tell you that you are wonderful and perfect or at least shower you with praise on how well you are doing, while all the time you are trying to hide imperfections so as not to burst their bubble? What if your teachers give you good grades when you know that your work is mediocre? By the time you are into your late teens to mid-twenties, you sense that your life is a lie. Who knows the real me? And who would love me if they knew me as I know myself, warts and all?

God gets a bad rap too. The preacher says that God loves you if you are good, and punishes if you are bad. Your problem is that you know that you are imperfect and don't really have any models to tell you, (a) God loves you as you are, and (b) How to move from you character faults, bad habits, mediocrity, to become all you were made to be. No one teaches a life of transformation in all this.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Treadmill Life

Did you know that when you run on a treadmill you do not use all your leg muscles? It is a good anaerobic workout. Plenty of calories are used up. You are doing physical exercise. BUT if the ground is moving for you, then the leg muscles that you use when running on the road to propel yourself forward, are laying dormant. It is not a full running workout.

A treadmill life is where you develop one part of yourself but leave another part undeveloped. For a while you might feel good, but eventually you will see the imbalance. Some people spend a lot of time on physical exercise and zero time on developing their inner life. They may think they have no inner life, but it is there. We are body, mind and spirit you might say. I know people who read or pray a lot, who are physically a mess. They ignore their bodies. So what is ignored in your life today?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

I remember when this was an important day for me in terms of relationship with someone. When I was rather immature, I would do special things for my beloved. Why? So that I would get something that I wanted. I never saw it then. People who are self-absorbed usually don't know it. I said that "I was in love." But with whom? I was in love with me getting, having, being something that this person could or should provide me. This person did not know it was their job description. I would never admit it.

You say, "Shocking!" Well, why are you involved in religion or God-relationship? You want to please God? You want to sacrifice your wants, comforts, priorities, for God's will? What about those dark times, "dark nights" as mystics call them, when God seems to be absent, or not caring about your predicament. Do you stay in the relationship, continue to show up, stay committed? Let's wish God a Happy Valentine, and ask for nothing but God's will.

Monday, February 13, 2012


I read something recently about seeking perfection. It was suggested that I seek God rather than perfection. "Come to me all you who are wearied and burdened," says Matthew 11:28-30. So I find it a bit less daunting to seek God with all my faults instead of working towards perfection. At my age I don't think perfection is going to happen. Even my friends will tell me that. So why exhaust ourselves with trying to do everything perfectly? Leave somethings alone, and undone, and spend time with God, in all your mess. My God does not mind. Does yours?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Soul Breath

When I think God, not about God, just God, as an awareness, it is when I am noticing that my soul breathes, apart from my lung's breathing. When I go outside at 3:30 AM and look up at the sky, moonless, no street lights, I see all these stars, and say, "Oh my God!" At that moment I am simply aware. Once I begin to think about God, with my mind, that is, to critique, ask for things, question cancer and war, I have moved away from that simple soul-breathing awareness.

Now if I can just rest in this awareness, say with a cup of coffee or tea in my hand, still in the middle of the night, this resting is what can be called "vibrating" with the Presence, the Awareness. Jacob Needleman might be worth reading in this area of thinking God.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Dwelling Place

King David said that he would not rest in his own palace, while there was no permanent house or temple for God. God was OK with no permanent house built by our hands. God already dwelled in each of us. God is the uninvited one. When I wake, God is with me. Do I bother to tidy up God's place within me? Or do I postpone this while I fix up and tidy myself for the day's activity? Prayer would be a way so saying, "Hello, welcome." Then God becomes the invited One. At this moment of your day is God still the Uninvited One?

Friday, February 10, 2012


I sometimes run in shoes that have very little substance to them. The theory is that less is more. The feet have to do more work and the balance of the body is better is these "thin" shoes. I believe they are good for running for my body. But do I do the same thing for my soul? Minimalism in the spiritual life is not a good thing.

"How little do I have to do" for the exercise of my soul? If I am asking this question, then more is better than less. If I run for an hour, and pray, read the bible, for a quarter of that time, and occasionally pick up a book about the interior life, then I am out of whack. My body will deteriorate with age, but the interior life will never grow much in the first place. Get a balance, no?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Alone Or Together

Today I saw dog walkers in the park. Each had six dogs all walking together. These are dogs who would not get out much with their owners, who might be old, busy, or lame. So owners hire out people to walk their dogs. A dog who does not like to be around other dogs would not make it into this group. Such a dog would be left with a minimal life around the house, neighborhood or backyard.

These dogs I saw had to like or at least be patient with their kind because they walk right up alongside one another in a pack, smelling the same smells each day. These are communal dogs. I have met people who would rather isolate and be miserable, than join a group and maybe get out of themselves. I see it in churches all the time. They put in minimal effort to the communal worship service. They would be just as happy if no one else were there but them. A community of one suits them fine, or at least the misery of one is better than the fear or effort to become part of something bigger than themself. They are part of the body of Christ, but it is a stretch. They prefer the outer extremities. Do they think no one else will be in heaven but them?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Gift of Time

The first gift I can give God in the morning is time. It is really a return of God's gift to me. I woke up. I did not die in my sleep. It is the gift of another day. If I take a few minutes to thank and be in the presence of God, I am giving God "My" time. During the day I can give more of this gift now and again. God has given me this day. It is a gift. Return a bit of it to God. To do it with Love is a double return.

Monday, February 6, 2012


If you are crazy, you really don't know it, right? I mean that is part of being crazy. You think you are making good decisions and you are not. Crazy people tend not to ask for second opinions. They think that they know what they are doing. Example: you decide to marry someone. Your friends say, "Are you crazy? That guy is all wrong for you." You don't listen. After the marriage, you say to yourself, "What was I thinking? This guy is all wrong for me." In fact, you were not thinking. You are crazy when you decided to marry the fellow.

The people I have met who are aware of their craziness, are people in recovery, in therapy who have accepted a diagnosis of their craziness. I always know when I have passed through a period of craziness. When I come to the realization that I made a dumb decision that at the time did not seem so dumb. Had a asked for some advice from someone who knows me, I would have heard a second opinion that turned out to be correct.

When I told my friends that I was going into the seminary, they did not say I was crazy. They said I would not last, because they knew me and my wildness. I needed to grow up which is an issue of maturity and not so much of craziness. Being wild is not the same as being crazy. Crazy is making decisions that have no chance of working as you think. So, if you have an inkling that you are crazy, get some friends and listen to their opinion when you are "thinking" about "making a change".

Sunday, February 5, 2012


In the Hebrew Scriptures, Job becomes a whiner, filled with self-pity. He sees himself as someone who kept the rules, but his life is not working out free from suffering and misery. Isn't it the good people who become whiners? I mean if you are really rotten then you would not expect good things to happen, so you would not whine when misery comes. You expect misery as part of the payoff for being a rotten person. But good people, those who think themselves good, expect God to pay up for their being good. God owes. Whining comes for these people when God does not seem to pay up.

I am sure this happens a lot, but I never hear people confess whining or self-pity. It is so embarrassing to admit that you are a whiner. I am a whiner! No one gives whiners much sympathy. If you lie, or gossip, or are impatient, or disobey authority, people might find these faults acceptable in the sense that they might still accept you with your faults and encourage you to keep trying. But whiners are just told to grow up or shape up. Being a whiner is lonely. You have no friends. Even whiners do not like to be around other whiners.

What to do? Well if there is good news in all this, it is that God knew Job was a whiner filled with self-pity, but God loved Job anyway. Nothing, even embarrassing and shameful whining could turn away God's love. I like that.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Saying and Doing

I hear people speak about what politicians say versus what politicians do. We tend to look at their actions. When actions contradict words, we believe the actions really define the person and their viewpoint more so than what they say.

Now look at Jesus. He says that he did not come to break rules. Keep the smallest letter of the law. Then he goes and heals Peter's Mother-In-Law on the Sabbath. She gets up and waits on him, on the sabbath. All this rule breaking contradicts what Jesus says. I look at what he does. If he is really human, then he lives a contradiction. It is part of the human condition. It is not a sin. It just is. What Jesus says, are things that work in a perfect world. We don't live in a perfect world and neither did he. What he does, his actions, are a response to an imperfect world. Do as he does until you come into a perfect world. Of course if the Giants win the Super Bowl we will be moving into a more perfect world!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Map For Living

Maturity means that we know how to live as adults. Some of us need a map for living. We do not know how to move from birth to adulthood without doing a lot of silly, destructive, useless, hurtful things. Religion ought to give us a map. Does it? Well, if the religion is all about sin, guilt and rules, I doubt that we will have much of a useful map.

Think of getting into a car to go someplace. Suddenly, you are focused on all the possible things that could go wrong, or that you might do wrong while driving. "I might go through a red light, and get a ticket." "Someone might hit my car." "The car might break down on the highway." So you decide to not go anywhere in order to avoid all this possible calamity. It seems silly right? But if religion is so full of sin, guilt, and rules, we are focused on all that could go wrong if we do anything. A good map is to take us from where we are to someplace else.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Full Cup

If I am holding a things or two all in one hand, I tend not to add a full cup of coffee to carry. I might take a half cup so as to limit the possibility of tilting the cup and coffee pouring out onto me or the floor. If I were cold and shivering, I would not pour a full cup of hot beverage so as not to spill some.

A full versus half cup is a good metaphor. If I have too many things going on in my life all at once, an overflowing calendar, you might say, I am likely to make a mess of my life. So I try to keep my schedule as if it were a cup. Don't fill it up all the way. There might be "more" things I could cram into a day, but I would just make a mess of the day. Why should I become a mess? Jesus already saved the world. Leave a bit for the Holy Spirit to do unaided.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


I am back in San Francisco as of this afternoon. I flew in here from Vero Beach, Florida. Am I home? Just the fact that I have to ask myself this question tells me that life is getting complicated. One of the Paulists said, "Welcome Home" when he saw me.

It seems that it takes me a little while to feel "home" here, but it comes. I have been away. Is it not like this when I pray? If I have been away from prayer, then it takes a bit to feel at home, comfortable in the prayer space. This tells me that I have been traveling away from prayer. Not good. What about you?