Showing posts from April, 2016

Jazz Life

I’ve always loved jazz. I’m sure it started with my obsession with the Art Deco era and Big Band music. But the swing music of the Big Band Era was still pretty strict, from a jazz point of view. The arrangements were complicated, so everyone pretty much stuck to the music on the page, with an improvised solo thrown in here and there.

Improvisation is the heart of jazz.

Improvisation is what happens when a musician stops looking at the music on the page and starts playing with her or his heart.  It’s when, if you are a spiritual person, you let go of your ego and open your mind to the endless creativity of God. When the flow is on, it’s a supremely worshipful and transcendent experience.

Improv is what makes us curious and creative, whether we’re playing jazz or inventing something to protect us from being eaten by wild animals. Improv reminds us we are One with God in profoundly meaningful and creative ways. Improv isn’t easy. This underlying jazz concept is difficult because it require…

Monday Meditation

I close my eyes and
a tunnel of light envelops me.
The light is warm and tender,
alive with awareness.
My mind is opened
to a larger reality.
I float through the tunnel,
lifted high
into a state of

I am suddenly aware
of all beings,
all places,
and all times
right here and now,
yet also beyond, me.

My senses explode.
I smell the ocean
and the Redwood forests;
I feel the rush of the wind
against my face
as I soar high above
snow-capped mountains,

I dive into a lake and
close my eyes as
I crash through
its idyllic, glassy surface.
My body tingles
with the bracing snap
of winter’s chill on my skin.
I am awakened.

When I open my eyes
I see pinpoints of light
surrounding me.
Stars, winking at me,
as if they know my secret.
I float through the universe
and see it
pouring out from my fingertips
and I am suddenly—
And everything.

I am no longer physical,
yet I feel.
I feel love and hate;
hope and despair;
hunger and fulfillment.
All these things ar…

Prayers for Disaster Relief

I’d like to take a moment today to offer a prayer for all the people who have been affected by natural disasters recently: People in Japan, Ecuador, Bangladesh, Oklahoma, and Houston, in particular our Houston friends Pastor Bruce, Donna and Zach Frogge. Please forgive me if I have left a place off this list and perhaps add names of countries, cities and people in the comments section.

Graceful and comforting God,
bring hope and peace
to the thousands of people
around the world
who have lost loved ones.
Let everyone displaced
by these disasters
find shelter,
and a nurturing touch
while their homes,
and lives
are rebuilt.

Touch our hearts
and inspire us
to come together
in support of one another—
and spiritually.
Make those who still have much,
generous and willing
to provide aid to those
who have lost everything.

Protect all the aid workers
as they work in dangerous conditions
to rescue people and animals.
Help our governments and leaders
be considerate of the needs o…

Monday Meditation

Dearest and most Holy God,
it is almost impossible
for us to describe
our deep and abiding
love for you.

Our hearts burst
when we think about you.
When we are faithfully
tuned into your presence,
we act like schoolchildren
whose first crush
fills every waking thought
and every lucid dream.

You make us giddy, sweet God.

[pause and feel God vibrating throughout your being]

We long to be with you
every moment,
daydreaming of you,
yet so often never really
touching you,
never acutely aware of your nearness.

We often grow frustrated
because we yearn for your presence,
and fail to realize
you are already right here with us,
as near as our own breath.
We forget that you
constantly smile at us
and through us,
from within our hearts
and the glistening eyes of others.

If we could only remember
to pause from our busy lives
and allow your smile
to break through the
walls we build around ourselves;
if we could only remember
to smile your sweet smile
at everyone we meet,
then we would feel you
pulsing through us,
and see you
smiling back …

Resurrecting Christianity: Overcoming Augustinian Myth

As we continue our Easter journey, I think it’s important for us to take a look at one of the most important figures in Christian history: Augustine of Hippo, or as I like to call him, the guy that ruined Christianity for 1500 years.

Augustine’s ideas have nothing to do with Jesus Christ, yet they have formed the basis for almost all Christian thinking since the late 4th Century. Augustine’s hypothesis is that humans are worthless pieces of garbage. Augustine made the doctrine of Original Sin foundational to his theology (what we think about the nature of God) and Christology (what we think about the nature of Jesus). The doctrine existed before Augustine—the first mention is probably by Irenaeus in the 2nd Century, but nobody had ever taken it to such lengths as Augustine.

His thinking is along the lines of the following: Adam committed a horrible crime against God by eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for which humans were kicked out of the Garden of Eden. We can neve…

Monday Meditation

God of glorious manifestation,
we are eternally thankful
for your constant presence
in our lives.

We are especially thankful
for the way you provide us
hope for tomorrow;
for the enjoyment of friends;
the joy of families;
the wonders of universes
too numerous to fathom;
for those who have gone before us;
love from our parents, sisters and brothers;
love from our spouses and children;
our faith and our church.

[pause and make space for the quiet presence of God]

In the quietness of this moment,
matchless God,
speak to our hearts.
We long to know you
completely and fully,
so we might be carriers
of light and love to the world.
Give us the vision and faith
we so desperately yearn for
to trust your greatness
and know,
beyond doubt,
that we are One.

[pause and make space for the quiet presence of God]

Human words and thoughts
cannot explain you,
fully understand you or limit you,
but we strive to understand
our understanding,
and then we say in faith,
"We believe."

Honor us in 
our attempts
to share your love,
to spre…

Seeking Golden Threads

I’ve always found it useful to look for common threads weaving throughout the world’s religions. It seems that if a spiritual idea is common to a multitude of belief systems, then there is probably some great wisdom there. At the very least, religious commonalities reveal that in our quest to understand our place in the universe, we quite often come to the same conclusions. One such common thread is “The Golden Rule.” Every religion, theistic or not, includes some variation of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Check out the chart below (click for a larger version):

If most religious systems agree that we should be good and fair to each other, why then do we so often attempt to annihilate each other, ostensibly in the name of our religions?

I have two theories about that: First, many of the wars fought for “religious” reasons were (and perhaps are) political wars. On the ancient world stage, many of the states were theocracies. Emperors and kings were seen to be, if no…