Monday, September 30, 2013

Give Away

I am on a "give things away" kick.  It is rather self-serving, but then again, someone is getting something they can use, and I don't need or use much at all.  I am downsizing my stack of "stuff."  Isn't this the way many of us make changes?  We get to the point where we cannot live with things as they are.  Because I live in small spaces I seem to have clutter.  It is good stuff clutter, but it is still clutter.  If I had a large space in which to live, believe me, I would not be so generous with my stuff.  How does it happen that I have 11 pair or running shorts?  Well, I guess there were 11 different sales.  Anyway, I may not be the most giving person, but God finds a way to get me to be useful to those who are without.  Do the poor jog?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Rich Man

Unlike the USA sailboat, the rich man in the bible story about poor Lazarus, could not change his ways.  It is not a problem of being rich.  It is a problem of being so self-centered that you do not see the need of the poor person at your doorstep.  Jesus is not about the distribution of wealth, or its redistribution.  He is about those who have helping those who have not.  It is a personal responsibility.  The Hebrew Scriptures tell the rich that it is their job to care for the poor.  The rich fellow just could not change, and so he ended up in torment after his death.  Change is hard.  For people like me it only comes when all else has failed, that is, all my programs for happiness based upon self.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

America's Cup

For those of you who are sport challenged, this award is for sailing.  The Americans were down to the Kiwis from New Zealand 8 to 1 in the first nine races in the San Francisco Bay.  It takes 9 wins to get the Cup.  The Americans won the next 8 races.  They made some changes.  Often we don't change until we have to.  But what strikes me as uplifting is to never give up.  They could not change boats or crew for that matter.  But the seeds of victory were all there.  They just had to find it.  They did.  So often, what we need to turn our lives around is right within us.  Seek and you shall find.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Same Page

Some bishops and cardinals don't seem to be on the same page as the pope.  This is all new territory for me.  It makes me sometimes wonder who is in charge and what is what.  Nancy Pelosi got dragged into this over abortion and receiving communion.  One bishop says she says this or that and should not receive communion and another bishop says he would not refuse her.  What are we to do?  To think?  Well, actually, most Catholics have been thinking for themselves for sometime now.  Seems the bishops are just catching up.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Around this time each year I remember my Dad's birthday and then my Mom's death the day after his birthday.  I was with them.  Mom asked me to go out and buy Dad something for his birthday.  I found a pillow with a lovely saying on the pillow case.  Dad cherished it.  He would not let it go from his side for the months that he lived after Mom died.  Things that we can touch and feel are powerful ways to hold onto the memories, and presence of some one who has died.  Catholics are good at that.  They have the Eucharist.  For many Catholics this is no big deal.  They can do with an Easter and Christmas remembering.  I am more like my Dad.  Jesus is to me what Mom was to Dad.  Actually, I don't yet love Jesus as Dad loved Mom.  I am working on it though.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

French Kissing

In our all boys Catholic high school class we sensed that the priest was waffling on the topic of "french kissing."  Up till then it was thought to be a mortal sin, period.  We started to press him.  "Father, how long can the french kiss be, before it is a mortal sin?" Ladies, I am not making this up!  Our objective was to french kiss, but not go to hell.  This is how morality was taught back then.  It was all private actions, rule breaking, that I had to avoid. What was missing in this teaching?  The girl.  There was nothing about the girl we might be kissing.  What was her interest?  What were her feelings?  Morality, in sex anyway, was not about the common good, or relationship.  It was between me and the church's rules.  For many people today, sin, wrong, has nothing to do with the common good, or social justice, or communal relations.  Yes, we should give alms, care for the less fortunate, but we won't burn for ignoring them.  We will burn for french kissing.  As many a young girl would say to the boy, after the deed is done, "I feel like you do it as if I am not even here."  If the boy is still into guilt and confession, he will confess this as breaking a rule, but never as offending another person.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ain't No Good

When I grew up in the 50s and 60s, the way morality was taught is that things were right or wrong, every time and always.  It made sin very clear, and there was no need for me to think things through.  Why? Because the basic premise is that we are bad.  If  given any chance to make our own decisions, we would do wrong because we are selfish, sinful people at the core.  That is why priests yelled from the pulpit and talked about hell.  Fear is the only thing that would make us avoid bad behavior.  

Jesus was not like that, nor was any other truly God-filled person.  The newer way of teaching morality reflects this.  We are given norms that take into account our differing experiences.  From these norms, we make an informed and conscious decision.  We are graced filled people who can make such decisions.  In the first example above, birth control is always and everywhere wrong and you will burn.  In the second example, we get norms and then make an informed decision.  Our life experience counts.  There is a big difference between the college student who just wants to "hook up," and the mother of several children whose health is endangered by another pregnancy or a couple who are financially struggling to make ends meet in this economic downturn.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Narrow Focus

Often, when people focus on contraception, abortion and gay issues, they are coming out of a moral tradition of individual sins that should be avoided in order to be good.  E.g. don't do certin sex things and you are good.  Moreover, in this tradition, people who do these things are bad, and should be condemned and excluded from the "acceptable group," who can of course receive communion, go to heaven, and so on.  Much is missing from this tradition.  There is nothing about the common good, mercy, love, a community of imperfect people striving for social justice, equality, helping the poor.  The so-called conservatives who focus on the sex stuff, generally are not at all concerned about social justice, or the common good.  Their morality is all private.  It is about avoiding certain "sins" and then God has got to take you to heaven, while you are meanwhile in the good graces of the church hierarchy.  I don't think they are very happy with the current Pope.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Civilization of Love

An American Catholic Cardinal says that we need to build a civilization of love.  Well, why does he not start with giving communion to believers who want it, and not worry about rules which say "no communion" for various situations including being baptized but not being Catholic, or being remarried without an annulment?  Lots of people want more love in the world, but what they usually mean is they want someone else to be more loving.  Rules of exclusion generally do not promote love.  I don't know Jesus all that well, but I wonder if he really would care all that much about whose tongue receives him.  Now he was a person who was all about love.  Seems some of the religious officials did not much care for him.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Strangers In The World

In the First Letter of Peter, chapter 2, we are exhorted to live as strangers or pilgrims in the world rather than as citizens.  I get the idea of detachment here, but I find a problem with it.  We can get into this mentality that, "It is not my world" and feel no demand to care for the world.  Peter did not have ecology in mind.  Who did back then?  People who might tidy up their own living area, might just leave things a mess if it is not their place. Someone else will clean it up.  I try to think of those who will come after me, or those others who will also use this space in which I find myself.  In Boulder right now, there is a lot of cleanup.  Get out the work gloves.  Put on the face mask. Easy for me to say.  I am not there!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Women Deacons

I was reading First Letter of Paul to Timothy, 3:1-13.  It gives the qualifications for a bishop and then for a deacon.  Then it says, "Women, similarly," in the section on deacons.  It goes on to say what qualities they should have.  Then it continues with more on deacons.  Seems to me that women were included in the deacon section.  So what happened?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

20% Chance

When the weather forecast says "20% chance of rain," the monastery seems to be wherever that 20% is going to fall.  Actually, the forecast showed clear sky for us all day.  It just rained.  We were without hot water in one wing where the monks live.  We just got a new water heater installed today.  Our fields cannot dry out.  We cannot hay.  No hay=no income from hay.  Then I think of Boulder and the whole front range of Colorado.  I don't like to see other people suffer, but we need to keep our misery in perspective.  I guess that Boulder residents could compare their misery to a third world country's sufferings.  But at the moment, Boulder is looking kind of third world.  I hear that Albuquerque is not doing so well either.  Lots of mess.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Equal Opportunity

Global warming is an equal opportunity destroyer.  Just look at Boulder.  Living on a hill in a gated community did not do much for you.  Living next to the babbling brook did even worse.  Now for the future.  If you are thinking of living in Boulder because your friends are here, then you will stay for your friends.  If you are staying for the outdoor lifestyle, you might consider another running and biking/hiking venue.  Outdoors here is full of canyons and mountains that are messy for living in global warming.  There is no global warming?  OK.  Have your life turned upside down for some other reason you choose.  I have always stayed in Boulder and come back to Boulder for the people, my friends and church congregation.  There are better places/weather for running.  The restaurants and culture are a bit minimal.  I don't like cold weather.  I can get used to running on a soft trail in the rain, but I never get used to the cold.  I don't bike.  The scenery?  From downtown Boulder, I would take San Francisco anytime, and I prefer the ocean to the mountains.  No, it is people that keep me coming back.  They leave for safer places?  I leave too.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Enough Pictures

I found myself looking at disaster photos of Boulder on the internet.  Wait. What am I doing?  I found myself becoming more sad and inert.  Forget the disaster photos.
The nation is looking at the mess and saying, "Wow!  Glad that is not me."  We need to get out and do something practical to get our lives going.  Like what?  Get in your car when you can and drive around.  Can I get from A to B as I used to?  Is a road closed because it has water, that will go away, and mud that can be plowed away?  Or is it destroyed for a long time?  This is practical help.  What are the hardware stores out of that we all need?  How hard is it to get a new water heater?  Are the running paths and biking paths in need of a little drying out and then we can use them again in a week, or are they gone? What institutional buildings are destroyed? A church, library, bus terminal, school, supermarket,  and won't be good for eons.  Can I still get my ice cream on the Pearl Street Mall? Why should twenty of us have to find this out separately?  Find out and then get the word out.

Monday, September 16, 2013

God At Work

Today, with yet more rain falling outside, I gave a workshop on the 11th step (prayer and meditation) to 60 people.  We did not even have 60 chairs in our retreat center room at the monastery.  But they stayed, all 60.  When I give a talk on recovery issues, I realize that the people have come not to get a bit more spiritual than they are, but rather to stay out of the disaster of a life they do not forget.  The first 10 steps pulled them out of drowning in the raging waters of their addiction or living with an addicted person.  Now they wanted to learn how to live on the dry shore.  They hunger for an inner healing, a transformation, if you will.  They are more than simply "interested" in the topic.  This could put a lot of pressure on someone like me who tries not to practice bad behavior each day.  Some people try to do good.  I try to avoid doing bad.  I fall into good!  Anyway, I did not feel much pressure, because God is at work in bringing us all together this day.  How do I know?  Well, I had a five page outline for my talk, but in reviewing it beforehand, I had left page four as the opening page.  A mistake? Maybe not.  I began my talk from page four, from the middle.  It should have proved an illogical mess.  The talk and the progression of thoughts were just what they wanted, as I was told later.  That is God at work.  I just have to stay connected to the Power of the Presence.  It is the 11th step.  

Sunday, September 15, 2013


The Vatican's new Secretary of State said that we can discuss celibacy, but that the church's efforts to keep it must not be seen as a thing of the past.  Ah, it is a thing of the past.  Make it optional.  That way, parishes that cannot afford to even support one celebate priest, do not have to close.  Married guys get the rich parishes and the celibates get the poor ones.  Well, that is one reason a lot of priests won't want a change!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Jesus in Syria

Jesus says to love your enemies.  If someone takes something from you, just let it be.  Turn the other cheek, and so on.  This is more than radical in the Middle East world where he lived.  There, it is all tribal and clan.  One side gets all and the other side gets annilated.  Syria is about tribal and clan warfare.  It is only a country because the European powers carved it up to be so.  Jesus might be admired, but not followed in that world.  For some of us, he did reveal God's view of things.  We are all equal, but only a very holy person could see and act out in this way.  Love does not drive the clan mentality beyond the clan.  Baptism does not seem to be able to trump tribal loyalties in that part of the world.  Not sure it does here either, but our tribe is more often money, or skin color.

Friday, September 13, 2013


I was on a bus going to this mountain scene wedding.  The bus was filled with wedding guests.  We were chatting with one another.  I met the groom's side of the family, and we were having a delightful time.  The bus driver was giving a talking tour of the scenery as we drove along.  Sitting next to me was a yound lady and her dog.  She looked too dressed up to be out for a hike.  She never said anything. She rarely looked lfet or right.  She just looked straight ahead.  I thought this a bit strange, but thought to just let her be. When we got off the bus, I realized that she knew the driver.  I was then introduced to her among other wedding guests, and just moved along with no more thought about her.

After the wedding, I went to get back onto the bus.  There was one every half hour, and I sensed it was going to rain.  The young lady and her dog also stood in line.  We got to talking.  At 70, I have learned how to talk to a girl.  Would that I knew this when I was younger.  We had a delightful visit, waiting for the bus and on the bus.  I gave her a ride to somwhere so that she could meet some friends.  It turns out that she was a driver on this very bus for some years.  The tour was old hat to her.  She is a published author, a book about walking.  She had heard nice things about me.  My friends lie well.  What a delightful young woman, and I almost missed her.  Timing can be everything.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Nature God

I went to a wedding recently.  It was at the base of the beautiful Maroon Bells mountains in Colorado, near the monastery where I live.  There was no God in the Eucharist, the bread and wine, at the wedding.  But there was God in the wonderful scenery that surrounded us.  Catholics believe that once God comes into the food at the worship ritual, God stays there.  Well, once God makes those mountains, God stays there too.  Out of compassion, and love, God will spend time on crowded, noisy urban streets.  But for pure pleasure, God hangs out at the Maroon Bells, and other lovely nature sights.  The best of nature can be harder to get to than dropping in at your local house of worship.  But the Maroon Bells?  You can take a bus.  Sometimes it is easier to find God than other times, but God is always around somewhere.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

World Series

It is amazing to me how many things that were important to me as a boy, are still important now.  Is that your experience?  I grew up with the World Series, that is baseball, for those of you who are sport challenged.  Every October I was glued into the radio.  So was my Dad, and lots of my friends.  It helped that my teams were playing.  It was a best of seven series.  Today, I still look forward to the World Series even though my teams all stink or are too mediocre to get to the Series.  The boy is in the man.  I still like chocolate cake.  My Mom made sure that I had this from time to time.  Sadly, it is difficult for me to find someone to make me a chocolate cake.  Make it myself, you say? You miss the point.  The cake was gift.  That was part of being a boy, the giftedness of life.  I still cling to hope.  For that matter, a God who is no longer gift, but earned by my good behavior or belief, well, what is the point of that?  That  Earned God was not part of being a boy in the Bronx.  My God was a gift.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

High Cost

Jesus says that you have to be willing to give up a lot to be one of his followers.  He offers the image of a fellow who wants to build a tower.  The fellow first calculates what it will take, and if he does not the what he needs, then don't start to project.  If you don't have what you need, but begin anyway, then you bail out before it is finished.  Any major change/effort takes a lot of giving up of stuff, be it things, lifestyle and even relationships.  I find a lot of young people who commit to Rah Rah fundamentalist religious groups, who say that they are giving up lots to go in this new direction or take on this new way of life.  They have no real job, beyond some part time thing.  They rent  and don't own much furniture.  Their parents cover a lot  of expenses.  They might be giving up some crazy young people weekend choices, which is a start.  Check with where they are in 10 years.  They won't be in the Rah Rah groups.  They did not have what it takes to deal with the big world out there.  My own shortcomings have shown me how hard it is to change.  That was Jesus' point.  Once the cross came into view, everyone pretty much scattered.  Oh, the women hung around, but my church won't give them much official power.  Well, Jesus could not ordained either.  He was a Jew.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Twice fooled?

Seems a nun in Syria, living there for 20 years, says the nerve gas footage is a hoax. Weren't we told that Iraq had bad weapons requiring us to invade? Never found those weapons, did we?

Beyond the Building

Since Jesus could not teach inside the offical religious buildings, he had to go outside.  This has a plus side.  Now he can talk to people who might never darken the inside of a religious building.  It would be a little like talking from a soap box in a mall or outdoor plaza, or street corner for that matter.  God comes down on earth and talks on street corners.  Would you stop to listen?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Outdoor Preaching

Jesus was teaching in the synogogue.  Then he begins to teach outdoors, by the lakeside. What happened?  Well, the religious officials did not like what he said, so they would not let him talk in the synogogue.  Sound familiar?  Talk about ordination of women, or gay unions, and see if you can get into a church building to talk.  Some things don't change.  We all seem to have selective listening.

Saturday, September 7, 2013


We are supposed to pray and fast on a particular day so that Obama does not go to war with Syria, or do anything of a military nature because of nerve gas useage over there.  My church has very specific plans for the praying part, but says nothing much at all about the fasting.  I struggle to get enought to eat each day so I can have energy to do what I need to do.  Fasting is not a very good idea for me.  Many people are in my shoes, or have no shoes, for that matter.  Fasting for them is kind of off-putting.  Many others eat too much and are not about to stop.  There is a reason they eat like they do.  Fasting won't appeal to them at all, nor make much headway.  I wish that my church had said something specific about a fasting plan for this one day.  Make it a suggestion.  It would give people a benchmark, something to reach for or ignore, but at least it is specific.  I don't think my church is very much into fasting.  We gave up the no meat Fridays a long time ago.  No one confesses that they failed to fast on Lenten days spcifically given over to fasting.  Food is power!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Venture Capitalist

God is a venture capitalist.  God invests in people in the hope that they will be successful and God will get repaid with a profit.  In a parable that Jesus told, a rich man gives five talents to one fellow, two to another and one to a third, depending on the level of ability each one has.  Point one.  We are not all equally gifted.  The rich man goes on a journey.  One fellow, with five talents goes and makes five more.  The one with two makes two more.  This is capitalism.  Expand the wealth in this case by trading.  Each has to have something to trade. the venture capitalist invests in a person after the person shows something of value.  Point two.  This is capitalism.  You can borrow money to make money.  Venture capitalists lend money to make money for themselves.  The successful entrepreneur makes money for self and the lender.  The third guy, who got one talent, buries it.  This is the third world.  You pretty much tread water.  You maintain at best.  You survive.  In the story, fear held this fellow back.  Fear is useless.  The world is a very uneven place.  We like to blame someone, someone else.  I don't doubt that it is an unjust world.  But it is not always or only someone else's shortcoming.  Point four.  Anyone who thinks God does not like investing in people ought to go find this story in the bible.  Giving someone something for nothing and expecting nothing, that is what goevenments do.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


A priest in England, in defence of men only ordinations, says that the priesthood is not about position, power and status.  It is apparently not about brains either as his argument is weak.  Many a bishop/cardinal is all about power, status and position.  Few of them have any pastoral background.  Many are beauocratic climbers.  There are a few men who would be uninterested in ordination if it were NOT about position, power and status.  Some want to escape poverty, or move up in a class society, or get a better education that would be otherwise denied them, or just have damaged egos.  This English priest says that if priesthood were about position, power and status, we would ordain women.  Go figure.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Square Knots

I learned to make a square knot in Boy Scouts.  It was the first and easiest of the knots they taught me.  I never learned much about why I wanted to make a square knot.  So I stopped making them.  No need.  Now there is a need, and I am a dummie who needs instruction again.  Why?  It is another skill a baling rancher needs to have.  When one ring of baling cord runs out, the end of that cord is tied to the beginning of a new baling cord ring.  It is done by a square knot.  Only square knots, properly done, can get through the baling machine.  Who knew in Boy Scouts, I would be an ordained hay rancher some day?  

I think of prayer.  You learn it when young.  Then no need, so you say.  You stop.  Live life self-propelled.  Mess up, or life just happens without your approval.  Now you are in a bit of a mess and want to pray.  But you forgot.  Ask for help from someone who prays.  Read a book on prayer.  Start simple, like making a square knot.  I need hands and fingers to make a knot.  You need faith that someone is listening.  My God even listens to whining.  It is a prayer, sort of.  It is a start.  Eventually, even you will be bored by your whining, and you will move along.  God is at work.  It is called Grace.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

School Lunches

Schools are losing money serving healthy foods, as in whole grains, fruits and veggies.  Children make up their mind pretty early on what they like, prefer, and will eat, given a choice.  Someone gave them a choice early on before they got to school.  I had a choice of whole wheat or white bread when I was little.  Dad said white bread was no good.  He ate whole wheat.  It had no taste.  It was boring.  I ate white.  I ate Wonder bread.  I never had to cultivate the taste for whole grains.  Over the years I have tried all kinds of "healthy" breads, including home baked.  They take a lot of butter and suggery jam to make them eatable.  I know people who eat only the healthy stuff.  They got brought up that way or got scared they were going to die/suffer/get fat if they ate what they like.  I run and eat white, enriched of course. Ever try potato white?   My dad lived to be 89 eating his whole wheat.  I may not make it on white.  Choice has a price.  Give a kid a choice, they go white bread.   Don't blame the school.  By then it is too late.  Whatever happened to lunch boxes?  With the thermas?

Monday, September 2, 2013


Chuck Hagel, our Defense Secretary, says we have moved "assets" to the area around Syria.  I don't think these assets moved by themselves or by remote computers.  Assets is a new way of saying "persons," as in human beings.  This way the government tries to keep us from questioning why we are sending, say, 20,000 human beings to intervene in a war in Syria.   Is the new term for a dead person to be "loss of assets."  Do we say to a grieving family, "Your asset is lost."  Join the military.  Become an asset.  When the church starts saying that Jesus came to save all assets, I know the end will be near!

Sunday, September 1, 2013


I jsut saw a 1966 movie staring Paul Newman, called "Hombre."  It is a Western, and a morality play, a Christ story.  A bunch of people are on a stagecoach, all pretty much concerned about themselves.  Turns out a Government Indain Agent has swindled the Reservation Indians out of food and supplies, and pocketed $12,000.  His wife does not think much of Indians.  When she finds out that Paul Newman has Indian in him, she wants him out of the coach and riding up with the driver.  Newman thinks little of white people, though he is one as well.  He sides with the Indians.  

OK. Now they get held up and the bandits get the $12,000.  Newman gets it back.  Everyone thinks he wants it for himself, but he wants it for the Indians.  Now the bandits, led by the evil Richard Boone, pin them down and have the agent's wife captive.  They tie her up out in the hot sun.  They will give her up for the money.  Newman says no.  He seems to have no empathy for her.  He knows that the bandits will not let anyone out alive one way or the other.  

Though his fellow stagecoach riders develop some concern for the plight of the woman, no one will do anything.  Then Newman acts.  He saves her life and loses his own.  He gave his life for a person who did not respect him or Indians.  For someone who is suffering, even if they are wretched persons, empathy and concern will not help them.  Nothing changes until someone acts.  The price can be quite high.