Friday, March 24, 2017


She was dying.
We all knew; she knew.
We spoke to one another--
not plainly about it--
but in stilted and shallow
about other things.
I wanted, somehow,

to break the spell of vapidity,
but I nodded and smiled instead.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

"At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will.  This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God written in us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our sonship.  It is like a pure diamond blazing with the invisible light of heaven.  It is in everybody, and if we could see it, we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely." 

-- Thomas Merton

Sunday, March 19, 2017

"Today we see in every religion an inherent danger whereby the faithful are allowed to settle for the trappings...instead of continuing to grow through an intensive searching in one's heart for the wild God of the desert who cannot be put into convenient boxes of concepts and doctrines. Western theology by and large has become reduced to a static form of objectifying God's transcendence." 

-- George A. Maloney, SJ

Thursday, March 16, 2017

"I was hungry and you fed me..."

--Jesus (Matthew 25:31-40)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Scientologists. It just hit me. Trump's spokespeople--Spicer, Conway, Miller, et al--talk exactly like Scientologists. They have that same unblinking aggressive certainty while saying absolutely ridiculous things.


"If your compassion does not include yourself it is incomplete."
--Jack Kornfield

Sunday, March 12, 2017

"Bound by all the trappings of power, the powerful must pass through the proverbial needle's eye if they are to realize the fullness of life and love.  But the outsider's perspective--a precondition of wisdom--is inherently available to the powerless, the excluded, the oppressed, the abused.  Jesus, the quintessential outsider, understood this, which is why he continually points his listeners toward the powerless (children, repentant sinners, women, Samaritans) as exemplars of wisdom." 

-- Fenton Johnson, Keeping Faith: A Skeptic's Journey

Saturday, March 11, 2017

"If you think about it, it’s awesomely, amazingly wonderful just to be alive! It’s a wonderful gift, and especially on a beautiful spring day like today. But it took me several years of meditation practice and a heart attack before I really got it that just to be alive is awesome. As I was walking out of the hospital I thought, 'Wow! I could be dead. The rest of my life is just a gift.' And then I thought, 'Well, it always has been a gift from the very beginning and I never noticed it until it was almost gone.'  I think it is true of many of us that we don’t notice what a gift it is just to be alive."

--Blanche Hartman

Thursday, March 09, 2017

"Never forget that [social] justice is what love looks like in public."
--Cornel West

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

"Recent Pew polls tell us that over 20% of the U.S. population and over 70% of the 19-28 year old crowd self-describe as 'being spiritual but not religious.' That is significant, and it perks the interest of scholars of religion. But what does being 'spiritual but not religious' mean?"

--William B. Parsons, Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University, On Being Spiritual But Not Religious

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

This is very interesting...

In my forthcoming book 'Presence and Process,' I provide an example for new types of religious communities based upon contemplative practices, which "might provide safe and refreshing places for Dones to re-enter community, and perhaps also serve as low-key access points for Nones (particularly those who consider themselves 'spiritual, but not religious')."

Monday, March 06, 2017

On my daily commute to and from the office I drive by both a Home Depot and a Lowes. I've noticed something eerily different in the last two weeks or so. There are no longer men standing on the periphery of the parking lot looking for opportunities to do day labor.

The reason for their absence is pretty obvious: The escalation of detainments and deportations of undocumented people in America has caused tremendous fear among migrant workers in the U.S. Trump continues to refer to them as "bad hombres," but what we've seen in the news are hard-working mothers and fathers separated from their American-born children, detained in ICE facilities (some of which are run by private for-profit corporations), and then summarily deported. ICE officers are "just following orders" as they tear apart families and destroy lives. People are now in hiding; they've gone underground. Parents are pulling their children out of schools. Men and women are staying at home rather than going out to work.

If you're a white Evangelical Christian, maybe you think this is a good thing. After all, Trump is doing exactly what he said all along he would do, and 81% of white Evangelical Christians voted for him, which means they voted for this. But I can't close my eyes to what an utterly anti-biblical and anti-Christian thing this is. There is a golden thread that runs all through scripture, from Abraham to Moses to the prophets to Jesus to the disciples: We are told to care for the most vulnerable among us--the "least of these." The Jewish and Christian scripture are abundantly clear that this includes the poor, the powerless, the stranger who lacks a support system, the migrant living in our midst, children and women with children, etc.

In the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells a parable of "sheep and goats" to describe who is accepted by God and who is rejected by God. To the "sheep" Jesus says, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." To the "goats" Jesus says, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me." When the "goats" ask how this could be, Jesus replies, "Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." The point of this strongly-worded parable is not about heaven or hell; it is about what God's will is in terms of how we look after the vulnerable and marginalized in our midst. Jesus often rebuked--in very strong language--the comfortable empowered religious establishment folks of his day who claimed to speak for God. He called them not just hypocrites but damned hypocrites.

The United States of America once prided itself in being a Christian nation. We printed "In God We Trust" on our currency and put all kinds of God language in our official documents. Presidents are expected to conclude their speeches by saying "God bless America." The degree to which the U.S. was ever *really* a Christian nation is debatable (there's that whole slavery matter and Native American genocide issue), but now the facade has been fully ripped away. And, as in the days when Jesus walked the earth, it is the most sanctimonious among us who are revealed to be farthest from God's heart.

The migrants from south of the border who have lived on the margins in North America (and who's ancestors were here before our ancestors) and who are now trying desperately to be invisible, they are our neighbors. And whether we see them or not, God sees.

Here is an example of how the new immigration crackdown is mercilessly destroying families and lives. This report from Oregon Public Broadcasting is about Roman Zaragoza-Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant with a wife and five American-born children. He has been in the U.S. for decades and worked in a tree nursery in Oregon until he was recently tracked down and taken away by ICE. He has no criminal record. According to the report, "The family relied entirely on Roman Zaragoza-Sanchez’s income from his job at the nursery. They do not have savings. With him gone, the family is relying on financial help from friends and relatives. Zaragoza-Sanchez’s co-workers collected money for the family, and Rosalina’s brother gave her a loan to pay for an immigration attorney. Friends from school have dropped off food and groceries, and a teacher has offered to drive the four oldest children to Tacoma to visit their father [in the ICE detention facility]."

ICE Plans To Deport Oregon Immigrant With 5 Children, No Criminal Background


Sunday, March 05, 2017

"A person who has occasional profane thoughts but does not act upon them is not a blasphemous individual. Rather it is the person who mouths holy thoughts but behaves profanely who is the blasphemer. Blasphemy is the form of compartmentalization that allows some routinely to profess the truth while routinely acting the lie. Any form of behavior that stems from a lack of integration, that represents compartmentalization, is blasphemy. The businessman who goes to church on Sunday mornings, believes that he loves God and God's creation and his fellow human beings, and then on Monday morning has no trouble with his company's policy of dumping toxic wastes in a nearby stream--who is 'a Sunday morning Christian'--is guilty of blasphemy. Regardless of its intensity, regardless of the degree of consciousness or deliberateness involved, such compartmentalization of religion is invariably blasphemous. And the fact that this country, on whose coinage is written the words 'In God We Trust', is the leading manufacturer and seller of weapons in the world means that we are a largely blasphemous nation. The degree of compartmentalization in American life is such that blasphemous behavior is the norm rather than the exception."

-- M. Scott Peck, The Different Drum

Saturday, March 04, 2017

"In character, in manner, in style, in all the things, the supreme excellence is simplicity."

--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Friday, March 03, 2017

"This is. And thou art. There is no safety. There is no end. The word must be heard in silence. There must be darkness to see the stars. The dance is always danced above the hollow place, above the terrible abyss." 

--Ursula K. Le Guin, The Farthest Shore


Thursday, March 02, 2017

"Even in the Apostles' days, Christians were too apt to strive after a wrong unity and uniformity in outward practices and observations, and to judge one another unrighteously in these matters; and mark, it is not the different practice from one another that breaks the peace and unity, but the judging of one another because of different practices. For this is the true ground of love and unity, not that such a man walks and does just as I do, but because I feel the same Spirit and Life in him, and that he walks in his rank, in his own order, in his proper way and place of subjection to that; and this is far more pleasing to me than if he walked just in that track wherein I walk."

-- Isaac Penington, 17th century Quaker

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Blessing the Dust
A Blessing for Ash Wednesday

by Jan Richardson

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

Did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made,
and the stars that blaze
in our bones,
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Epitaph on a Tyrant

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

--W.H. Auden, 1907-1973

Just thinking...  If the way I talk about a group of people or treat a group of people makes them think I hate them, then the problem is probably not with them but with me. 


"A physicist is just an atom’s way of looking at itself."

--Niels Bohr, Nobel Prize winning Physicist

Monday, February 27, 2017

Last night a Muslim actor won an Oscar for his performance in a film about the life of a gay black man. That's what makes America great.


Friday, February 24, 2017

I find it helpful these days to keep these figures in mind:

There are 324,420,000 U.S. Citizens.

In the 2016 U.S. election,

231,556,622 Americans were eligible to vote.

136,628,459 actually voted.

62,979,636 voted for Trump.

73,648,823 voted for someone other than Trump.

That means:

54% of those who voted DID NOT vote for Trump
46% of those who voted DID vote for Trump


73% of eligible voters DID NOT vote for Trump
27% of eligible voters voted FOR Trump


80.6% of U.S. citizens DID NOT vote for Trump
19.4% of U.S. citizens voted FOR Trump

In other words:

80% of your fellow Americans DID NOT vote for Trump. Keep that in mind.

An additional note...

The three states that put Trump over the top in the Electoral College were Pennsylvania (which he won by 44,292 votes), Wisconsin (which he won by 22,748 votes) and Michigan (which he won by 10,704 votes). That means that Donald Trump won the Electoral College, and thus the presidency, because of 77,744 votes. He had 2,800,000 million votes less than Clinton in the total popular vote count. In other words, any way you look at it, he barely eked out a victory and has absolutely no mandate from the American people to do the things he is doing. Truly, he and his administration do not represent who America is.



"It is useless to discuss the peace of the world. What is necessary just now is to create peace in ourselves that we, ourselves, become examples of love, harmony and peace. That is the only way of saving the world and ourselves."

--Hazrat Inayat Kahn (Sufi Teacher)

Thursday, February 23, 2017


I'm an ex-smoker (I quit about 30 years ago), and I recall having the annoying evangelistic zeal of an ex-smoker toward smokers. I'm also an ex-fundamentalist Christian and so I know well the obnoxious evangelistic zeal of trying to convert people to what I believed to be "the one and only true way." And so, I write the following with great trepidation...

A few years ago, my wife and I discovered something which honestly made a significant positive impact in both of our lives. We began to meditate. Here's the deal about meditation: for most of us, so much of our time and attention is spent in our own heads, wrapped up in our own thoughts. We ruminate about the past and create imaginary scenarios about the future. We project our internal thoughts onto the external world and then react, not to what's really going on but to what we imagine is going on. By meditating we learn to step back and observe the thoughts in our head. As we do, we begin to realize that our thoughts are not reality--they are ephemeral. We realize that we are not our thoughts and our thoughts are not us. This means we can choose whether or not to react to a thought, and in what way. We can engage with a thought as it passes through our brain, or we can just let it float on by and disappear. This also means we can spend less time ruminating in the past and in imaginary futures and more time here and now in the present moment--where reality is.

For Carla and I, this has brought about a greater sense of equanimity, patience, simplicity, union with God, compassion for others, moral clarity and general happiness.

I was so profoundly impacted by this discovery that I ended up making meditation--both the Buddhist-derived form often called "mindfulness" and the Christian form typically called "contemplation"--the central topic of my Master's thesis and then my forthcoming book.

It may not be for everyone. Your mileage may vary. Etc., etc. But if you haven't tried it and are interested, I recommend it (for what that's worth). I'd be happy to suggest resources or answer questions, but I'm by no means an expert or guru or Zen master. Sorry if I sound like a salesman or an evangelist.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." 

--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I watched the film Moonlight last night. The thing that has really lingered afterwards is the way that we are at our childish worst (whether we're children or adults) when we single out those who are different from us and treat them as "less than": less worthy than us; less valuable than us; less capable of virtue than us; less deserving of happiness than us; less human than us. When we do this, we are really displaying our own desperate sense of being "less than."


"Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark." 

--Rabindranath Tagore

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Buddha told a parable about a man who was traveling on foot and came to the bank of a wide river.  The only way the man would be able to move forward on his travels would be to cross the river.  So he gathered what was around him--branches and logs and leaves and vines--and built a raft.  He pushed the raft into the water, lay on his stomach on it, and paddled with his hands and feet.  It worked.  The raft got him safely to the other side of the river.  But then, instead of leaving the raft behind now that it had done its job, the man hoisted it onto his back and began carrying it.  And so, the thing which had previously enabled him to move forward now became a burden which impeded his progress, because he couldn't recognize that it was time to let it go.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Seventy-five years ago yesterday, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order which resulted in 70,000 American citizens of Japanese descent--men, women and children--to be rounded up and imprisoned in internment camps.  50,000 non-U.S. citizens of Japanese descent were also imprisoned.

The internment camps were shut down four years later.  Many of those imprisoned lost their homes and businesses while they were incarcerated.

This is looked back upon as a terrible blemish of injustice in U.S. history.  In 1988, President Ronald Reagan issued an apology for it, as did the president after him, George H.W. Bush.  A token monetary reparation was issued to the victims.

During his campaign for president, Donald J. Trump defended his proposed ban on Muslims by saying, "What I'm doing is no different than FDR.  I mean, take a look at what FDR did many years ago and he's one of the most highly respected presidents. I mean respected by most people. They named highways after him."


Sunday, February 19, 2017

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

"We need to define addiction in a new way: addiction is the manic reliance on something, anything, in order to keep our dark or unsettling thoughts at bay. What properly indicates addiction is not what someone is addicted to, for we can get addicted to pretty much anything. It is the motives behind their reliance on it – and, in particular, their desire to avoid encountering the contents of their own mind."

-- Why We Are All Addicts

Friday, February 17, 2017

"In almost any Church one cares to choose there is and has long been an absolute minimum of the teaching and practice of mystical religion.  Even for the intelligent congregations Church teaching and preaching is concerned almost exclusively with a multitude of minor matters having mostly to do with the smaller points of morality or in liberal Protestant churches, with politics and vague ethical principles.  One may go even further and state that the whole atmosphere and attitude of modern Church religion impresses the modern mind as having little or nothing to do with the Reality which controls and causes our universe.  Science has given to our age a most impressive view of this universe, and this demands an equivalently wonderful and splendid conception of God together with an appropriate manner of worship.  In comparison with this view of the universe, which, without the aid of religion, has so staggered man's thought of God as to stop it, present-day Church religion seems utterly paltry."

--Alan Watts, Behold the Spirit

Thursday, February 16, 2017

There Is No Plan

I don't believe God has a plan. That is to say, I don't believe that everything happens according to God's plan, or that God predetermined all that occurs.  

The belief that God ordained everything that happens has its roots in Plato's and Aristotle's speculations about the Monad--the "unmoved mover" of the universe.  A great many theologians and leaders of the Christian church in its first few hundred years (as well as Medieval theologians like Aquinas, Calvin and Luther) were steeped in Greek philosophy and supplemented (or substituted) Yahweh of the Hebrews with the omnipotent, immutable Monad ("the One") of the Greeks.  Yahweh was a reactive deity; he got angry and sad and regretful and joyful and jealous.  Yahweh was interactive: asking questions, making bargains, expressing hopes.  The Monad experiences none of these things; existing in a perpetual state of unchanging detached perfection.  To make God feel or react, the Greek philosophers contended, is to exercise a modicum of power over God, which would be impossible if God is omnipotent (possessing all power).

Among the many implications of an unmoving, omnipotent God who stands outside of time and predestined all that occurs is that our sense of free will is an illusion, and evil--even the most heinous forms of evil--occurs because God willed it from the beginning of time.

My own beliefs tend more toward the Buddhist concept of Contingent Arising: that things happen as a result of the previous things that happened.  There is no plan.

I do believe, however, that God has an intent, and that God's intent is for goodness and beauty and life and, in a word, shalom.  But God's intent only comes to fruition to the degree that we participate with God in enacting God's intent.  This is why the Hebrew and Christian scriptures exhort us over and over to choose the way of compassion, of care, of peace, of fairness,
of generosity, of inclusion, of kindness, of love.  These align with God's intent.

I've been told that a traditional Chinese curse is "May you live in interesting times."  "Interesting" in this case is a euphemism for "unstable."  We certainly are living in "interesting" times at present.  As I watch events unfold I am fascinated by (what I believe to be) the reality that this is not happening according to God's script.  God is not "in control" here, but God is accompanying us on this journey.  Anything can, and might, happen.  That is simultaneously terrifying and thrilling because it means, how things turn out is largely up to us.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

“Christianity stands or falls by its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power, and its apologia for the weak. I feel that Christianity is doing too little in making these points rather than doing too much. Christianity has adjusted itself much too easily to the worship of power. It should give much worse offense, more shock to the world, than it is doing. Christianity should take a much more definite stand for the weak than for the potential moral right of the strong.”

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Monday, February 13, 2017

"I was only following orders." (The defense used at the Nuremberg trials and by immigration officers).


Sunday, February 12, 2017

"To listen to some devout people, one would imagine that God never laughs."
--Sri Aurobindo

"How are the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the ones who hunger and thirst for justice, blessed? Jesus blessed the people on the margins of his culture by embracing them, showing solidarity with them, building a community in which those who had always been shunned were welcomed and loved. As the body of Christ, we are called to be that blessing."

--Lindsey Paris-Lopez, The Sermon on the Mount: A Theology of Resistance