Showing posts from 2019

The Lovesong of Humanity

Throughout my life, I have been blessed with jobs that required a lot of travel. Soon after I graduated from the University of Utah, I was a b-list touring musician regularly working with “classics” groups like the Drifters/Coasters/Platters (always on the same bill), the Classics IV, the Marvelettes, and even Herman’s Hermits, once, in Hong Kong, entirely coincidentally (as things tend to happen in Hong Kong, for better or worse).

Now, you have to understand that at this time—somewhere in the 90s, I guess—there were no longer any original members in groups like the Coasters/Drifters/Platters. Sometimes, there was a loosely associated cousin or something singing tenor, but usually, the tribute acts were comprised of talented musicians who could faithfully recreate not just the songs, but the dance moves and the whole vibe of the acts they were memorializing. Watching them effortlessly interact with the audience was a master class in performance.

To maximize revenues, the agency that own…

The Lotus Blossom Revisited

Bhagavad Gita 5.10:
Those who dedicate their actions to God, abandoning all attachment, remain untouched by sin, just as a lotus leaf is untouched by water.

Psalm 131 (LEB)
My heart is not haughty nor my eyes arrogant,
and I do not concern myself
with things too great and difficult for me.
Rather, I have soothed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother,
like the weaned child ismy soul with me.
O Israel, hope in Yahweh
from now until forever.

One day long ago, when life was less distracting, and we all spent more time outdoors, a little Hindu boy named Arujani was playing outside, seeing what he could see. He danced along the trails outside his village, which was nestled by a lake in the crook of the Himalayas.  He giddily stopped every now and then to poke a bug with a stick or watch it do its thing. He chased flying insects until they were just out of reach and finally, exhausted, he fell on his back into the wheat fields, surrounded by a colorful patchwork of blossoming, abundan…

Living Our Religion

I’ve been reading about the remarkable history of Islam in the book, Islam,by Karen Armstrong. It’s a terrific, concise narrative about the formation of a community based not on borders but beliefs. It is a story strikingly similar to that of early Judaism, with its revelation of divine law as a blueprint for the way we, made in God’s image, are to behave in this world.

Almost in passing, Armstrong remarks that while Christianity is based on dogmas, creeds, and things you must believe,both Judaism and Islam are ways of life.Judaism and Islam ask us to entirely submit ourselves—mind, body, and soul—to God. In so doing, we are naturally compelled to work for the good of the entire community.

On first reading, I agreed with Armstrong. Yes, Christianity does seem to be obsessed with Jesus as the repayment for the debt we could never repay. Yes, the majority of Christian denominations, both Catholic and Protestant, ask congregants to recite some sort of creed that testifies in some way to Je…

Entering the Kingdom of Heaven

Isaiah 43.18-19 (CEB)
Don’t remember the prior things; don’t ponder ancient history. 
Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? 
I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness. 

Psalm 118.19-20
Open the gates of righteousness for me so I can come in and give thanks to the Lord!
This is the Lord’s gate; those who are righteous enter through it.

On Palm Sunday most Christian churches tell the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem for Passover. Usually, going to Jerusalem for this High Holy Day wouldn’t be significant. Jesus would have gone to Jerusalem for Passover many times, perhaps even every year of his 30 or so spent in this spacetime.

This year, however, Jesus is popular among the masses, and the Romans are already on edge because there have been sporadic Jewish rebellions all over the Judean territory. So, the Romans decide to put on a military parade, no different from those of contemporary despotic regimes but for advances in technology. These para…

By the pricking of my thumbs, something wonderful this way comes

Psalm 126 (CEB)
When the Lord changed Zion’s 
circumstances for the better, 
it was like we had been dreaming. 

Our mouths were suddenly filled with laughter; 
our tongues were filled with joyful shouts. 
It was even said, at that time, among the nations, 
“The Lord has done great things for them!” 

Yes, the Lord has done great things for us, and we are overjoyed. 

Lord, change our circumstances for the better, 
like dry streams in the desert waste! 
Let those who plant with tears reap the harvest with joyful shouts. 
Let those who go out, crying and carrying their seed, 
come home with joyful shouts, carrying bales of grain!

Isaiah 43.18-19 (CEB)
Don’t remember the prior things; don’t ponder ancient history. 
Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? 
I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness. 

This is our last week in the desert, and for some reason, I’ve been thinking about Shakespeare’s Macbeth.Hey, after five weeks the mind starts to do funny things, oka…

How to Become Jesus

Like Jesus, we began our Lenten journey in the desert confronting ha-satan: the ideas, people, habits, influences, and uncharitable actions (to both others and ourselves) that falsely convince us we are not God’s beloved children.

Satan’s desert challenges force us to reconnect to God, if only in fleeting visions that leave our hairs on edge. The solitude of the desert reminds us that we are not alone. Every human is connected through universes of cells in the all-being of God. And we are amazed, and we are changed.

Awareness of God as the metaphysical fabric of everything is transformative. Remember, the term meta refers to a thing's underlying structure, not the supernatural. The desert and Satan’s temptations awaken us to the idea that God is perfectly natural! Don’t underestimate the power of recognizing God as natural instead of supernatural. St. Francis loved that idea.

Natural God is the total sensory beauty of changing seasons. Natural God is the gently wafting hint of salt i…

Escaping the Cocoon

1 Corinthians 13.12 (NRSV)
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.

2 Corinthians 3.18
And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformedinto the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. 

Last week, we talked about Jesus’ transfiguration into pure, loving God energy as an example of all humankind’s potential. In the revelation of his true nature, Jesus shows that we, too, are conduits for God’s unconditional love. We talked about reaching a new, transcendent human potential by following Jesus into utter submission to God. In the transfiguration we see anindividualawakening to God. Jesus understood that it would take a billion individual awakenings to change the world.

The idea of individualawakening isn’t discussed much in the Roman Christianity of Paul and Popes. Most Christians have been taught (or intimidated) focus on thankfulness to Jesus f…

Transfiguring Into Jesus

Luke 9.28-36 (CEB)
About eight days after Jesus said these things, he took Peter, John, and James, and went up on a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes flashed white like lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, were talking with him. They were clothed with heavenly splendor and spoke about Jesus’ departure, which he would achieve in Jerusalem. Peter and those with him were almost overcome by sleep, but they managed to stay awake and saw his glory as well as the two men with him. 

As the two men were about to leave Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it’s good that we’re here. We should construct three shrines: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—but he didn’t know what he was saying. Peter was still speaking when a cloud overshadowed them. As they entered the cloud, they were overcome with awe. 

Then a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, my chosen one. Listen to him!” Even as the voice spoke, Jesus was found alone. They…

A Quantum of Surrender

Mark 1.9-13
About that time, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. While he was coming up out of the water, Jesus saw heaven splitting open and the Spirit, like a dove, coming down on him. And there was a voice from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.” 
At once the Spirit forcedJesus out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among the wild animals, and the angels took care of him.

After the Holy Spirit descends upon him, Jesus makes a beeline for solitude. Look closely at Mark’s language. “AT ONCE the Spirit FORCED Jesus out into the wilderness.” It’s as if Mark senses that as the heaven’s opened and the Holy Spirit descended, Jesus underwent a fundamental change of being

Mark is, of course, playing a bit of a literary game here. By sending Jesus out into the wilderness, he reminds his Jewish readers of their people’s own time in the wilderness. He is also not-so-…

Swing Away!

Luke 6.27-38
27 “But I say to you who are willing to hear: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other one as well. If someone takes your coat, don’t withhold your shirt either. 30 Give to everyone who asks and don’t demand your things back from those who take them. 31 Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you. 

32 “If you love those who love you, why should you be commended? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, why should you be commended? Even sinners do that. 34 If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, why should you be commended? Even sinners lend to sinners expecting to be paid back in full. 35 Instead, love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing in return. If you do, you will have a great reward. You will be acting the way children of the Most High act, for he is kind to…

Spirituality Trees

After our discussions about postmodernism and cultural relativism, I’ve been thinking about the roots of faith, both my own and in general. What I am discovering is that personally, a few core beliefs form the roots of my current spirituality tree, the trunk of which is simply love my neighbor. 

Over the decades I have also pruned many ideas to make space for new growth. That’s a pretty natural part of any spiritual journey, I think, but it’s occurred to me that postmodern faith is like a spirituality tree.

Subjectively (see what I did there?), trees are one of the coolest lifeforms in the universe. From a tiny seed, these majestic beings spend their very long lives constantly embracing the sky. Yet, the boughs of leaves we see outstretched to a welcoming firmament only exist because of the root structure mostly hidden underground.

Without a secured root system, the tree might wither and die. At the very least, an insufficient root system will stunt the tree’s growth, because roots not o…