Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, Dec 31, 2009
[ New Year’s Eve]

“Still Life” by Henri Matisse,
born on this date, 1869

It’s New Year’s Eve. The end of the decade, of the “Naughties”. what a decade it has been.

I have no “message”. Except this. American stands on the edge of destruction. We have chosen militarism and imperialism. It leads only to Death.

In the calm of Matisse’s calm simple still life, ponder this moment of our history and the World’s history. Ponder – on this eve of a new decade – what you want our nation to be.

Resolve to work for it.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, Dec 29, 2009

Sometimes I wonder if suicides aren't in fact
sad guardians of the meaning of life.

Playwright Vaclav Havel was elected president of
Czechoslovakia by the country's Federal Assembly,
becoming the first non-Communist to hold the post
in more than four decades, on this date, 1989

Oh. I agree. Suicide is not only a sign of a person’s personal sadness or depression. On a mythical level, it is indeed a sign of a great sadness about human existence, about a lose of meaning.

I am thinking about suicide bombers. They are a mythological sign writ large. I think that they have been misled. Definitely. Suicide bombers have been co-opted, in a horribly cynical way, horribly manipulated by politically and theologically twisted people. By people who have disgustingly betrayed and misrepresented “God”. In the worst way – by lying about “God”.

Suicides point to a collapse of the human spirit. Either on a personal or, more importantly, on a global level. We are now, in the World, in a time of the collapse of humanity.

So, those of us who have a sense of both human capacity for evil and for startling compassion and generosity are now called even more to be authentic. To be, in a simple, clear free way, oneself. Oneself in the way one knows oneself when gazing into one’s deepest beauty. That is what “God” wants.

Simple, yes? Just love. Just do Justice. Just care. Essentially, this is to be human.

Just understand that preserving one’s own Life detached from others is a sign of as lose of true self-identity.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, Dec 28, 2009

I was not looking for my dreams to interpret my life,
but rather for my life to interpret my dreams.

Susan Sontag, artist, philosopher, who died on
this date, 2004, age 71

In some very profound way, to my mind, Ms. Sontag’s thought is the baseline of religious life. Of “being religious”. She has gotten the proverbial horse before the cart.

I dream a lot. I read what people say about dreams. They tell us that dreams are our unconscious working through the events of our life. And, while we may not understand the symbolism, that we must dream because it is the making sense of our experiences. Dreams reveal our engagement with Meaning. If we did not dream, we would go mad.

I do in fact think that dreams, if we pay attention to them as our Scriptural ancestors did, help us to interpret our lives. But that is not what is ultimately important and critical. It is only Step One. Just as “practicing religion” is only Step One. There is a reason for both. And they are related.

Dreams and Religion structure the Vision we develop and eventually choose as the pattern for our Life. It may seem that Religion does this is a more orderly and comprehensible way than dreams – but I do not believe this to be so. It is only so when we have emasculated our religious Life, when we have boxed ourselves into a desperately poor understanding of the vast dimensions both of Life and of “God”. We would do well to remember what many mystical theologians have said: that when we have said everything we can possibly say about “God”, we have only minutely scratched the surface.

Sontag is, I think, absolutely correct. The critical point to reach in Life is to understand that, once or as we have “learned” something about Life, it is of no value whatever until how we live becomes an “interpretation” of that learning. Dreams, Theology, are useless until they become the power of the active living of who we are.

What have you learned about the beauty of who you are – about the “dream” that was implanted in you? How, tomorrow, will you “interpret” it in Life? How will you be authentically You? This is what makes us alive.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat, Dec 26, 2009

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.
All things came into being through him, and without him not
one thing came into being. What has come into being in him
was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines
in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

From the Gospel story called “John”, Chap 1

The four Biblical versions of the story of Jesus were finally chosen to be considered what became “Scripture”. Many other versions were rejected – primarily because there was one “political” power that dominated and “won out”. It is important to remember that the many other versions of the Jesus story reflect truthful dimensions of the Mystery of the “Eternal Logos become Flesh” – but that in human community, accumulated power “wins out”. That does not mean that you should not read the other Gospels and mine them for their Truth. If you look at human history, it is clear that the “victors” write “history” – but! One should always be suspicious of the version of Conquerors.

At least we have four versions of the story, put into written form from four different Christian communities from between about 60-70 BCE to about 90-110 BCE, according to most recent scholarly determination. “John” is interesting, despite its anti-Jewish bias. It is the “youngest”. It is clearly NOT “factual”. It is “mystical”, reflective, dreamlike, “theological”, imaginative. It wants to make clear that Jesus is God. This position became “orthodoxy” – “right thinking”.

“Orthodoxy” is a way of limiting that indefinable Mystery we call God. It is important to remember this. Elites that gain the upper hand always want to limit, to box things in – and that is always a sign of the desire and determination to control. But! God will not be controlled. Or limited. Not by human fears, human short-sightedness, human small-mindedness, human prejudice. God “will out”, will always find ways to reveal God’s true nature.

That is the role of the “Remnant”. Those who no, are not better than others, but are those who have broken free of those who would control access to the infinite Mystery that is “God”, and have opened their being to deeper, wild, glorious Wonder.

The Word. Made Flesh. In us.

Think what that says about you and me.

Can we rise to this Truth?


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Christmas Day, 2009

Here are some good thoughts for the Feast of Christ-mas. Ponder when you have a moment …. or make a moment. We are, I think, called to fashion a world community of Compassion, Justice, Joy, and Pleasure! May your Life blossom with these things!


I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. ~Charles Dickens

Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart. ~Washington Irving

This December,
 love weighs more than gold!
~Josephine Dodge Daskam Bacon

Only in souls the Christ is brought to birth,
 And there He lives and dies.
~Alfred Noyes

I can understand people simply fleeing the mountainous effort Christmas has become... but there are always a few saving graces and finally they make up for all the bother and distress. ~May Sarton

Fail not to call to mind, in the course of the twenty-fifth of this month, that the Divinest Heart that ever walked the earth was born on that day; and then smile and enjoy yourselves for the rest of it; for mirth is also of Heaven's making. ~Leigh Hunt

[I]t is the one season of the year when we can lay aside all gnawing worry, indulge in sentiment without censure, assume the carefree faith of childhood, and just plain "have fun." Whether they call it Yuletide, Noel, Weinachten, or Christmas, people around the earth thirst for its refreshment as the desert traveller for the oasis. ~D.D. Monroe

Except the Christ be born again tonight
In dreams of all men, saints and sons of shame,
The world will never see his kingdom bright.
~Vachel Lindsay

The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn't for any religious reasons. They couldn't find three wise men and a virgin. ~Jay Leno

O Christmas Sun! What holy task is thine! 
To fold a world in the embrace of God!
~Guy Wetmore Carryl

People can't concentrate properly on blowing other people to pieces if their minds are poisoned by thoughts suitable to the twenty-fifth of December. ~Ogden Nash

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, Dec 23, 2009

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

Clement Clark Moore, author of “The Visit of
St. Nicholas”, first published on this date,
1823, in the Troy NY Sentinal

Here’s the “legend” of Nicolas, who is, of course, “Santa (Saint) nic-clause – Nicholas.

"The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships."

I have a lovely personal connection, on two levels. One: I went to the General Seminary. It’s in Chelsea, Manhattan – the land of the seminary belonged to the Moore family ,who were Episcopalians. It was between 9th and 10th Avenues (then).

Two: I include a lovely picture, taken at my ordination with my mum, Madge, of Bp. Paul Moore, then bishop of NY. He was a direct descendant of Clement Clark Moore.


Like so much of “religion”, this poem became beloved. And I think it pleasantly expresses some of the virtues of the original “Santa Claus”.

Just remember: the original “Santa Claus” was a Christian bishop know for his deep love of the poor and the orphaned.

The meaning of the story of the Incarnation is that the core of our human being-ness is the Divine Mystery. Love, Compassion, Justice, Mercy, Forgiveness, Truth.

May all these things be renewed in you in the year ahead! Have fun in 2010.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, Dec 22, 2009

You can't let yourself be pushed
around. You can't live in fear.
That's no way to live your life.

Guess Who? (I’ll tell you later)

This raises some interesting questions, yes? As I understand “pushed around”, if that means that you should not let others demean you, I guess I agree. Because of the dynamic of oppression or force. No human beings should use whatever power they have to oppress or control others; that’s what I think. Jesus never did that. He shone a “light” on issues – but His nature was to lead others to see what would or would not enhance their humanity positively, and then to make a choice.

But should one use “violence” to prevent being “pushed around”? I don’t wish to be a violent person. Would it surprise you to know that I own a gun? I do. For two reasons. One, I was threatened by gaybashers on 7th Ave near the Village in NYC years ago. After that, I purchased a gun as a symbol to myself that I would not allow myself or anyone to be the victim of homophobic violence. And, in a perverse “stance”, two, I thought, “If it’s American to have the “right” to own a firearm, then I will”. Owning the gun is purely symbolic. It remains locked up and I would never carry it ….. at the moment - though if I had to live in Texas, I might!

Not “living in fear” is a big issue for me. “That’s no way to live your life”. And in America, we live in a very violent society. People live in fear around most of this land. The Gospel is clear, in my view: fear is one of the primary things that deprives one of Life. Christian theology says that the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus is primarily to “free us from the power of sin and death” so that we are free to Live. The alternative to fighting those who would deprive you of Life is to live without resistance to violence and to accept death rather than violence. I’m not there ….. yet. But think I would like to be.

I firmly believe that it is not loving of oneself or others, nor faithful to God in whose loving “image” we are made, to allow people to disrespect our common humanity. Love demands that we not enable others’ hate or indifference or (false) sense of superiority or value above others. The Gospel is clear that we “ought not to think of ourselves more highly than of others”.

It was Bernhard Goetz whom I quoted. It was on this date in 1984 that he shot four black youths on a Manhattan subway whom he felt were going to mug and rob him. I make no claim to know what really happened that day, or what assumptions were real. But my point is this: we should not have to live in a society of fear.

We need to work to change America, or wherever we live.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, Dec 18, 2009

"We're charged with wanting to get rid of the Japs for selfish reasons.
We do. It's a question of whether the white man lives on the Pacific
Coast or the brown men… If all the Japs were removed tomorrow,
we had never miss them in two weeks, because the white farmers
can take over and produce everything the Jap grows. And we do
not want them back when the war ends, either."

Austin E. Anson, managing secretary of the Salinas Vegetable
Grower-Shipper Association, told the Saturday Evening Post in 1942.
On this date, 1944, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the wartime re-
location of Japanese-Americans

Think about this today. It has so much to say about human fear, about the ability of the powerful to destroy the lives of their fellow human beings. About the willingness of citizens to act against their fellow citizens – and I don’t think it is just because of fear. It’s about the innate deep zenophobia we are capable of. Given a moment of societal anxiety, the dominant majority’s racism, hate, fear, distrust comes out in spades. Shameful – and deeply against the then prevailing Christian allegiance of Americans, who should have known more about the Gospel and about the amazing ethical radical life that the Gospel calls people to.

We live in such times. It would be easy for the same thing to happen again. We see evidence of it throughout our American “culture” all the time. McCarthy played on this thread in the American psyche. The Republicans are doing it now, and their minions in all the right-wing movements that are proliferating like crazy in our country. Don’t believe me? Read the magazine of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Are you a follower of Jesus and His great commandment of Love? Of the Buddha, who calls upon all persons to do no harm to others? Of the Prophet, who demands fairness justice for all persons? Keep a close grip on your heat, on your fears and anxieties. Mostly, on your commitment to honouring and respecting your fellow human beings.

Jesus says there are no “Japs”. No “brown” or “whites”. Just human beings who are all equally God’s family.

It’s time we started living up to this standard.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, Dec 17, 2009

Instead of being presented with stereotypes by
age, sex, color, class, or religion, children must
have the opportunity to learn that within each
range, some people are loathsome and some
are delightful

Margaret Mead, anthropologist, born on this day, 1901
[ Sorry; one day late! ]

Oh! God bless Margaret! I have been thinking about this issue for a long time. Here’s a story.

As a lead-in, a story from my AIDS chaplain days. We were having a training session for “Buddies”, those who volunteered to be a friend to persons with AIDS. Our trainer said, “Remember: a bastard before AIDS, a bastard after AIDS”. Boy, was he right!

I arrived back in the United States from Italy. I had become an American citizen – so I was in “our” line. As I approached the booths, a young African-American woman was giving directions. She was barkingly rude to almost everyone, but especially to those who were not light-skinned, and amazingly to those who were “black”.

As I approached the front (happily quickly, as one carrying an American passport) , she was busy “abusing” various people. Her tone of voice was like a Nazi soldier. And here I was staring at a poster saying something about how these people were servants of the American people, and bound to courtesy! Suddenly she got even more abrasive to one Indian-looking family.

I was horrified, and incensed. And, I was wearing my clerical collar. I said loudly to her: “You know; you are a representative of me, and all Americans. You are an employee of mine; I help pay your salary. I find it unacceptable that you are being rude to these people. What will they think Americans are really like, based on you? The sign says that you are committed to represent American values”.

Her head dropped; she looked a little chagrined. And she toned down.

Servanthood. It is critical to the Gospel, and to the “path” to becoming fully human.

That moment taught me something important, vis a vis our “politically correct” time. There are many “loathsome” people in the World, who live out of there own sense of inferiority and low self-esteem. They think that “power” means that they can belittle people, belittle their humanity. I hope that we get beyond that very soon ….. but this being America I doubt it. I hope that I am wrong.

There is no need to tolerate bigoted or prejudiced or socially limited people, like that little self-important gate-keeper. We must confront bigotry gently, firmly, but kindly, with love.

Delightful people. There are many of those in the world.! Remember : Advent is a time to assess just how committed we are to the Kingdom of God. To giving of ourselves to “build” that Kingdom.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, Dec 15, 2009

Formula for success: rise early, work hard, strike oil.

J. Paul Getty, “robber baron”, philanthropist,
born on this date, 1892

BAD formulas for success! And certainly in the materialistic sense, unless one is speaking from hind-sight. “Striking oil” is fairly rare – a matter of luck (perhaps with a little of scientific thought). But it hardly seems “business acumen” to me if you count on luck – but then I might be very naïve on the subject of economical philosophy.

I am personally grateful to J. Paul Getty for just two things. One is the Getty Museum in Mailbu – fabulous – even if most of the things there were “stolen”. But perhaps even more, for the restaurant at the new Getty Museum in LA. They did it right! The restaurant is glass on all sides, looking out over surrounding vegetation and “distant” hills. Usually in sunshine. The tables have white linen tablecloths and napkins. Best of all, the wait-staff wear white aprons that touch the top of their shoes. Perfect! The food and wine are excellent. What more can one ask for on a Tuesday afternoon?

However, as a formula for “spiritual” success, Getty’s aphorism is AOK. Rise reasonably early (Merton said you can’t pray if you don’t see the sunrise); Work “hard”, that is, keep focused; it has nothing to do with how “long” you work from the World’s point of view at Worldly pursuits. “Strike Oil”: this is the Grace of coming in touch with the Divine! From a Worldly point of view, one has to work for it and be lucky. Not so in the “spiritual quest”. We are anointed with the “oil of the spirit” when we open our hearts to the Mystery of God – “unknowable”, etc., but “glimpse-able”. Striking Oil in the earthly Life is a matter of hard work and earning rewards. In the “spiritual world, it “falls our way”.

Giftedness. How do we get “gifted”? By wanting it and asking for it. The God I know is just waiting for that request! That is God’s “purpose” of being and God’s nature. As soon as a human prayer goes up seeking enlightenment, God pounces.

And we are graced. Go ahead. Be bold and trusting (as in “cra do: I trust). You will be blown away!


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, Dec 14, 2009

A (wo)man may have never entered a church or a mosque, not
performed any ceremony; but if (s)he realizes God within
him/herself, and is thereby lifted above the vanities of the world,
that (wo)man is a holy (wo)man, a saint, call him/her what you will...

Vivekananda [parentheses mine]

One night in the Brazilian diocese of Recife (Episcopal), around 1992, I went with a priest on his rounds in the favela (slum). The heat was oppressive (for me). Hundreds of thousands of folk lived in cardboard and tin shacks. A few places had “stolen” electricity (the neighbourhood store). Mostly there were candles, and a few kerosene lamps, and wood or charcoal cooking fires. There were no toilets; human refuse ran through gutters in the street. Amazingly, a TV here and there, with hoards of kids and adults glued to them. If there was any meat for the rice, it was, I was told, cat or rat or dog.

We went to a tiny two room house – concrete blocks donated by the Episcopal church. Eight people lived there. The mother passed her infant to a five year old, and brought us one beer – a fabulously generous offering – to share. She took the infant back to breastfeed, her face and the baby’s highlighted and glowing by the flickering yellow light. She and the priest talked quietly in Portuguese.

Suddenly I “saw” where, mythically and in reality, I was. In Bethlehem, in the stable. There was Mary suckling God Incarnate. I was she, a human being, like every human being bearing within me the Divine Life. Made to give birth to God in the human community. This woman had never been in a church or mosque – but I could see she “realized God within” in a completely unselfconscious way. She was full of love. I was among saints.

There was no vanity of the World. Impossible in that favela. But that moment became for me an icon of Life, reminding me to look for the Holy everywhere.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat, Dec 12, 2009

... one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not
worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize
you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork
is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather
the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn
with unquenchable fire."
(spoken by John the Baptist)

from the Gospel called “Luke”, chapter 3
(for Advent III, RCL Year C)

What is the “point” of this story, with John calling his people to a “baptism of repentance”? Of his counseling each group (taxpayers, soldiers, the “crowds” representing all the normal folk) in the specifics of their ethics, recalling everyone to their ancient standard of behaviour in the Ten Commandments? Of his declaration of One Greater coming with firey, unyielding power – heightened by the language of End Times - to baptize with the “Spirit”?

It is to tell of the shift that is coming! It will no longer be a matter of following rules imposed from without. Of “being good” or just in order to avoid punishment or to receive reward or to deflect the anger of a coming Messiah. No. To be drawn into the life of “God” is infinitely more powerful and transforming. This “winnowing fork” arises from within, from our own heart. This winnowing fork can’t be resisted, because we are wielding it ourselves. We are speaking of a time when loving behaviour has been embraced by all, when each has recognized we are “of God”, when our deepest longing is to be a “Spark” of God in the world. When we are Free.

The Christ comes essentially to free us – freely to choose to be our selves: "to love justice, and do mercy, and walk humbly with our God” ….. because it is the true essence of Us.

So we are being led to next week’s Gospel, when Mary will say “Yes” to God’s invitation to bear God’s likeness in the world.

As Thomas Merton said: “The Advent mystery is the beginning of the end of all in us that is not yet Christ.”


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, December 11, 2009

Religion always remains higher than everyday life.
In order to make the elevation towards religion easier
for people, religion must be able to alter its forms in
relation to the consciousness of modern man.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Russian author, political activist,
born on this date, 1918

In essence, I agree with AS. If I understand what he is saying. He is saying that “religion” is that part of Life that holds out the vision of what Life can be despite the abysmal reality. And he says that “religion” should continuously adjust its vision in order to touch contemporary people in such a way that we will continue to understand the vision and be drawn into it. Jesus was a good example of such a person. He held out a revised version of the Torah which He believed would clarify Its heart and help people to see its original purpose.

The problem is that “religion” does NOT always remain higher than “everyday life”. At least not in my experience. Religion in America has very often gone the opposite way – pandering to the very worst vision of what Life can be. This really annoys me – and I am being cautious here! In my view, “religion” should always be “higher that everyday life”. Always hold to the highest principles of its founder. But, usually, “religion” doesn’t do that.

“Religion” normally resists change. Religion normally evades contemplating the “conscious of modern man”, and, instead of taking the lead by “altering its forms” in order to make its authentic principles heard, it entrenches itself in the status quo in order to preserve its power. Very very sad.

Christianity (and most other religions) embraces Peace. Sisterhood/Brotherhood. Love of the Earth. Universal connection as a human family. Openness to “new truth”. Compassion. At its best that is, when it is not being subjected to perversion.

Our own religious vision should always “remain higher that everyday life”. Our actions ought to reflect that commitment.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, Dec 10, 2009

We may be surprised at the people
we find in heaven. God has a soft spot
for sinners. His standards are quite low.

You don't choose your family. They are
God's gift to you, as you are to them.

Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
Nobel Peace prize laureate, on this
day, 1984

Well, if anything would “prove” that “God” is a projection of human need, Desmond Tutu’s words would be good evidence! And personally, I am delighted – and not surprised – with the idea of a God who has low standards about sinners and the qualifications for “Heaven”.

Jesus is a perfect representative of the God of Low Standards! Look at the people he hung out with, chose as followers, and chose to spend most of His time with. Whomever the posh people of His society held dear, Jesus confronted and criticized. This is a characteristic of compassionate, loving, forgiving people – who recognize themselves in all these folk, who recognize their own need for grace and a “break”.

As to Tutu’s words about family. I spent most of my life “alone”, not sharing my Life intimately with anyone. Then Dennis came along. Indeed a “God’s Gift”. In the context of commitment and attraction, I have learned (and perhaps we learn together) that he is “family” at it’s best, and learned what critical lessons one learns about the life-giving paths of Life. Gayfolk have learned this abundantly in our struggle – because not only have we been graced with partners that many would deny us, but with Family that in fact we did choose, only to discover that God had already chosen for us. Lots of people other than Gayfolk have discovered this Grace.

I think it would be a real blessing for the World and for persons to heed Bp. Tutu’s wisdom: We are all “inadequate”. God has a soft spot for the Inadequate. We imagine such a God because we know deep down our deep need to be embraced and accepted in our inadequacy.

The more we can, as a human community, affirm and embrace one another rather than reject those upon whom we project our own sense of inadequacy and its attendant fear and anger, the more Life will blossom.

I’m looking forward to entering the Pearly Gates - to the huge belly-laugh all of us will enjoy when we see who is there waiting for us!


Monday, December 7, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, Dec 8th, 2009

It is better to have loafed and lost,
than never to have loafed at all.

All [persons] should strive to learn before they die,
what they are running from, and to, and why.

James Thurber, author, satirist, born on this date, 1894

Now that I have “retired”, I can say this: I absolutely agree with Thurber’s thought about loafing. [ I am trying to learn not to overdo exclamation points; it is ….. hard! ] I have never wanted to “work” – that is, do stuff that didn’t make me happy. Even through the many years when I had to do things I didn’t enjoy, I structured in a lot of time to loaf. Admittedly that was one – and few - of the benefits of being “in charge” of a congregation: structuring one’s own time. It is a great gift in our age. It kept me sane and balanced.

As to what we need to learn before we die, again I agree. Thurber says: “to learn before they die, what they are running from, and to, and why”. This could very sensibly be one’s Life motto – and it certainly wouldn’t be, I think, inconsistent with living the Gospel Life, or the Buddha’s teachings, etc. The only thing I would add is, “to know how we can lay aside the mistakes and start afresh”.

It is Socrates’ “Know Thyself”. It is what Jesus always challenged folk to in the parables: knowing the “truth” that will set you free.

Distress is usually “blamed” on someone or something exterior. But most distress is “interior”. If we are responsible about examining our life-distress, we see that we can’t usually change others, we have to change ourselves. People like me get worked up about this because we lapse into thinking that this means we have to compromise our principles. It doesn’t. What it does mean is that we have to accept the consequences of our decisions and choices. As long as we are willing to do that, we are “off to the races”.

We will have to let go of lots of personal idiosyncrasies. Learn to be flexible on all levels of Life. Be willing to change our minds and our point of view – though we should not do so without consulting our brain, hearts, and conscience.

“Religion” offers – if it has integrity – lots of helpful guidelines for doing this or, more, for being a certain kind of person. It would be a worthy meditation exercise during the day, once or twice, to ask the question and take five minutes to ponder; or better, to listen to what the Universe has to say:

What am I running from, and to, and why?

If we can be open and honest to the “answers”, it will help a lot!


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, December 7, 2009

When kindness has left people, even for a few moments,
we become afraid of them as if their reason had left them.
When it has left a place where we have always found it,
it is like shipwreck; we drop from security into something
malevolent and bottomless.

Willa Cather, author, born on this date, 1873,
in Back Creek Valley, Virginia

Were some children ever terrified by Grimm’s “fairy tales”? I suppose there were some; but I would be interested to know what percentage. I always understood that they were stories, so they didn’t disturb me. It never occurred to me that one of those monsters would catch me in the “real” world, my world. Similarly, I can watch “Star Wars”, which has some pretty nasty characters, doing some pretty horrible things, and I’m not afraid or repulsed. I understand they are “tales”, meant to teach me something.

But when I think of Matthew Sheppard’s killers, trapping him and leaving him to die bound to a fence in the Wyoming cold, or of the Nazis calculated extermination of Jews, Gays, and others in the camps, with meticulous “cold” records of their gold teeth, my skin crawls. I sense the “something malevolent and bottomless”. I’ve had to leave certain movies when cruelty appeared. I just can’t bear it. More than anything else, “when kindness has left people”, I have to flee.

I feel it in my gut in the way some slave owners treated their slaves. In ethnic cleansing. In genocide. In religious fanatics blowing apart their victims. In men brutalizing their wives or girlfriends. In tortured animals. In waterboarding by our own government. Alas, there are countless examples of the absence of Kindness in our World today. In my view, it can never be justified nor must ever be condoned. Cruelty always reveals a collapse of human decency.

Willa Cather’s words remind me to pay attention to my behaviour. It is so easy to be unkind. It doesn’t take much to wound another – and we can be so cavalier and unaware of the power of our unkindness.

May we remember the Buddha’s words today: “Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion”. And the reminder of 1 Corinthians 13 about the greatest of the three things that last: “Love is kind”.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, December 4, 2009

One of my favorite philosophical tenets is that
people will agree with you only if they already
agree with you. You do not change people's minds.

- Frank Zappa, musician; he died on this day, 1993, age 52

Well, I would say for myself that this is true ….. politically, and theologically (with 90% of American religion). With a deep sense of mixed emotions, and a desire to be honest, I will admit that I (a) know of no Republican who could convince me that (s)he was speaking the truth or had anything to say that would enhance my understanding (or desired to), and (b) trying to change peoples’ minds never succeeds. This is America and much of the World today, alas.

But: let’s get to the “spiritual” dynamic. I agree: You can’t usually “change peoples’ mind” by intellectual argument or by persuasion. In America, the Mind has taken bottom rung to Emotion. Experience proves this, except perhaps for a “few” who are secure enough in their being to “hang loose”.

You can only help others – and yourself - towards transformation by your action. By loving people. By listening to their hopes and fears, even if you make it clear that you don’t agree with them. We all want to be understood, to be taken seriously. Then we can let go of some adversarial defensiveness.

These days, perhaps we should give up trying to change peoples’ minds. It is counter-productive.

Let’s just focus on the Wounded Soul of all human beings. Our own included. Let’s try to reach out and place a soothing hand on each others’ deep wounds, in hopes that such caring will break down the Berlin Walls that fence us off from each other.

What “changes people’s minds” fundamentally is Understanding and Acceptance. Once we learn to do this for each other while accepting our disagreements, we can move forward. The “grace” is in the cessation of assumed hostilities.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, Dec 3, 2009

Who promised you that only for joy were you brought to this earth?

- Anna Freud, born on this date, 1895

Nope; or, Yep. People who promise “rose gardens” should be steamrollered into the tarmac without a second thought (metaphorically speaking) – which you get to by diligent practice of your “spiritual” path.

Life is Joy and Sorrow. Life is always a balance between the lovely and the painful, on various levels.

If you “believe in” a God who will promise you only Joy, you are (a) delusionary (b) have no real concept of what “God” is for.

No legit “God” offers Perpetual Joy. It just doesn’t jive with Reality and Experience. As a matter if fact, the Deity I know requires us to live with Reality and Experience. And, by the way, most of the Episcopal clergy I know are basically a happy lot. They know that in the throws of suffering, the God of compassion and healing will walk with them, be there for them.

I think that God actually has promised us all that “only for Joy” were we brought to this Earth. It will never come from amassing enough “stuff”. Or whatever the “World” gives, etc. It comes from living simply; from listening to the voice of Holy Silence; from emptying oneself in Love; from understanding Compassion and calling oneself to it minute by minute. This requires a daily “path” that we take up every day.

No one – not even God – can promise Joy. That is up to you and to me. We must choose, moment by moment, to live "Christ’s" life.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ah, the Seine! I’ve walked it several times, both in the outskirts and in the City of Lights! One morning I set out about 8am. Walking, sitting, watching people. At about 9am, having sauntered by St. Chapelle, I found a superb Café where sitting at a table on the sidewalk I had a large bowl of coffee and hot milk, with a fresh baked mini-baguette which I dipped into the large “breakfast cup”, as gazed out over the river and the Isle St. Louis. There are few things – at least to me – more conducive to soothing the human spirit than such a morning.

Later, I strolled the banks of the Seine, taking a long time to peruse the bookstalls that line the river. There it was that I found an unopened slip-boxed edition of the works of Allan Seeger (yes, related to Pete). For $4. Delight.

And that is what, essentially, Life should be about. Delight. It deeply disturbs me that so many of us in the human community have no delight, that Life is so full of pain. Why is it that we can’t empathize? That we can’t rise to changing this? I have both been offered and myself created the opportunities to enjoy the delights of this World – often to the jealous harping of my acquaintances. My giftedness for delighting in the World has overridden the harping of others. Well I remember the tribute offered to me by Helen Greven, Junior Warden at St. Anne’s in the Fields, Lincoln MA, when I left them after eighteen months as their Interim Rector. At the luncheon following my last Sunday there, she thanked me for showing her how to delight in receiving, in how to enjoy Life. I felt that I had fulfilled my calling – for our God is always inviting us to fullness of Life. And might I add: this more than any other thing has taught me to work to extend this to others. It opened my heart, not closed it. Feeling blessed fires a desire that others may share in it.

Tomorrow, I hope to find an opportunity to extend Delight to another. Perhaps the World would change a little for the better if we all did?

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, December 1, 2009
World AIDS Day

I have learned more about love, selflessness
and human understanding in this great adventure
in the world of AIDS than I ever did in the cut-throat,
competitive world in which I spent my life.

Anthony Perkins, actor

So did I. People often ask me what stands out in all the decades I was privileged to minister as a servant of God’s love. It was the years I was a chaplain to those with AIDS, especially in my years in the diocese of Rhode Island. There was a lot of horror, and some pretty nasty people, as in every situation. But towering above all the political neglect and parental rejection and suffering was the courage and selflessness and human understanding of both those with HIV/AIDS and those reaching out. I’m sure that without the latter, my life would have been consumed with bitterness.

I’m not going to pontificate about AIDS, which still afflicts tens of millions of us around the World, or about the continuing neglect. We know the horrible extent of it, and the continuing ignorance. I just want to remember and honour those who were friends, colleagues, and those I had the privilege to assist pastorally. [ Those with just initials are for pastoral reasons of mine, but they and all live in my heart, and I cherish them all. ]

* Tony Felix * Bruce Natke * Art Lamoureux * Fr. Mike Koonsman * Fr. G. W. * Fr. A. B. * Fr. P. P. * Fr. Geoffrey Skriner * Fr. Mills Omaly * Fr. C. H. * Sasha Andreevitch * James Arcaro * George Barros * Roger Boyd * Chris Burke * John DeCosta * Brian Del Pape * Chris Johnson * Jimmy Lipscomb * Richard Metivier * Sara Paneto * Marcie McClane * Ron Reniere * Courtland Roach * Gerald Taupier * David Arruda * Harold Mikelson * Lee Bruner * Gene Tyrus * Fr. Bernie Healey * Paul de Tora * Roger Tetreault * Anthony deRosa
* Richard Dobbing * Jimmy Black * Vern Seidler * John Tobin * Fr. Karl Laubenstein * Normand Olivier * Gordon Stoddard * Jon Jones * Paul Monnette * Richard Vasseur * Terry Robinson * Jim Hayes * Gerry Toupin * Chris Burke * The Rev. Chris Lee * Bill Collagan * Richard Rachiele * Fr. John Emerson * Joe Borges * Gary Hogan * Teddy Remiere * Richard Corrente * Fr. Sanford Smith * Earl Becker * Stephen Carter * Dr. Dennis Tishlias * Fr. Bob Kettlehack * Keith Dailidenas * Tom Bradley * Nure Risho * Bobby St. Jean * Brian Bigney * Bill de Fusco * George Harrington * Tony Prezioso * Paul Curtis * Chris White * Br. Adam Fifer * Michael Callen * Bruce Haller * Fr. Jim LeSage * Brian Orme * David Farland * Julie Renegaldo * Br. Bernie Fessenden, BSG * Eric Lotring * Jim Kie

I am in awe of all the “Buddies”, caregivers, and friends, then and now.

AIDS taught me about the wonder of Love.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, November 30, 2009

Most sorts of diversion in men, children and
other animals, are in imitation of fighting.

- Jonathan Swift, author (“Gulliver’s Travels”),
Anglo-Irish Anglican priest, born on this date, 1667

This worries me. I have thought for a long time that the issue Swift raises is true. I am not intrinsically “against” sports. Except when – as I think is true in our American culture - they have stopped being “sports” and been absorbed into the “Do anything and take any drug you need to take to make a gazillion dollars” category. If we support “Sports” because it diverts human aggression from the battlefield, I guess I am in favor of it. Ritualized war is better than actual mass murder. After all, it seems a fact of Life that human beings have a destructive vicious aspect of their nature. It would seem good to deflect that.

Dare I say that it seems to me that “sport” (as the Brits say) is, in my opinion, a way of dealing with our inability to deal with the powerful driving dynamic of Sex and Aggression and Fear? Ponder this. Think about the supposition that one scientist postulates that even smiling is a way of disguising teeth-bared aggression.

I would have thought that humans would have gotten over this by now. Wouldn’t you, given our propensity for self-preservation? Especially given the fact that “religion” – even religions that are centered in Compassion and Forgiveness and Love – should have had more effect by now?

Here’s what I think. Let’s put it this way, metaphorically: “God” has been trying for a very long time to get us to “hear” the Message. Love One Another. Live together in Peace. Value Gentleness. Value self-giving. Etc. There is only ONE reason that this has not happened. Our human choice. No other reason. Period. We can’t blame this on anyone or anything else, most foolhardily on our claim to righteousness – though we constantly try to. What venial creatures we are! Or, if we want to shine a better light on it, What fools we are to continue to behave in ways which make us utterly miserable in mind, body and spirit? Only self-deluding fools would continue to inflict the kind of suffering on ourselves which we have done for millennia, in the face of the Mystery of Love, Grace, Compassion, Forgiveness and Unconditional Love. Only fools.

As a Christian, the season of Advent is upon me. Once again I am offered the opportunity to “repent” – to turn around. To change my life, my attitudes, my choices, my perceptions, my prejudices, my fears. To act upon the hopes and longings for Freedom and Peace that have been offered. Every authentic religion offers us this, over and over again.

I think, as so many great souls have said, that we humans tremble at assuming such responsibility for our behaviour. And yet, in the Bible, we are told unequivocally that we are heirs of the Christ, made in the “image of God”, equal in nature as a scion of the Great Deity.

Time for us to step up to the plate friends! “God” is waiting. The longer we hesitate, the more misery we choose, for ourselves and for all our fellow human brings.

We do not need another, a “Christ”, to do this for us.

We ARE Christ.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat., Nov 29, 2009

And may the Lord make you increase
and abound in love for one another and
for all, just as we abound in love for you.

- 1 Thessalonians 3 (Epistle for Advent Sunday)

The awakened subject is not merely to perceive
transcendent life, but to participate therein; and
for this, a drastic and costly life-changing is required.”

-Evelyn Underhill, 1875-1941 Mysticism p.195

Don’t get seduced by “eschatological” (end-time), by “apocalyptic” (“hidden”) language, some of which is put in the mouth of Jesus in the Gospel reading for this Advent Sunday. It expresses itself in basic literal formulation. As with all “scripture”, the text points to more complex meaning.

My priest colleague Suzanne Guthrie expresses the “point” of the use of this language – as does Evelyn Underhill – beautifully and cogently: “The church year begins with the shock and disorientation of apocalypse, if only to help us topple down into living a transcendent life. Then, parallel to and integrated with the struggles of daily life, the soul begins the greatest adventure of the human person – the journey of the growth of consciousness, sanctity, compassion.”

This is what Jesus was ultimately concerned with: that we human beings should get on with the business of maturing in the journey of Life: “the growth of consciousness, sanctity, compassion”.

What a mess we have made of Jesus’ message – and the message of so many of the great spiritual leaders of human history. “We” (meaning essentially those who have appropriated to themselves to control the spiritual path by imposing a stultifying institution aimed basically at controlling human freedom and growth, either consciously or unconsciously) have laid a pall of death on the great life-giving proclamation.

But we must hear the Message that God desires we hear. We are called into “transcendent life” – by participating in it passionately. Yes, it will change our lives, as Underhill says. What our teachers must remind us is that this change is what will give us the Life which we most profoundly desire deep within!

Much more could be said, but this is all that needs to be said to set and keep us on the Path: “… abound in love for one another and for all”. Oh, I know that the web of love can be challenging and demanding. But its heart is simple, as Jesus said. “Love one another”.

Lets start there again, on this yet another Advent Sunday. As we always can.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, Nov 27, 2009

If a bullet should enter my brain, let
that bullet destroy every closet door.

- Harvey Milk , the first openly Gay
San Francisco City Supervisor, was
assassinated on this date, 1978

My prayer? May every religion, prejudice, cultural bias, or any attitude which refuses to recognize the intrinsic worth of every human being, and which chooses to dehumanize or “bear false witness” against any other person, be eliminated from the human mind and heart.

Only then will America and the World be truly great.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, Nov 26, 2009
[ American Thanksgiving Day ]

"If the only prayer you said in your whole
life was, "thank you," that would suffice."

- Meister Eckhart, Christian mystic

Eckhart says it all.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I wish you ultimately only one thing.

May saying “Thank You” as intensely as possible transform your whole Life. Thankfulness liberates. It catapults us out of our entrapments, those that stunt our growth.

Feast today on the bounty of the Earth. But more: feast on the honey that is the Compassion which defines Being.

You. Me. Us all.

May your day be flooded with Abundance.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, Nov 25, 2009

I resolved to stop accumulating and begin the infinitely
more serious and difficult task of wise distribution.

- Andrew Carnegie, industrialist (ruthess) & philanthropist,
born on this date, 1835

In many ways, Carnegie redeemed himself (as I see it). Either he had a change of heart, or he “bought” his salvation. All those libraries – they exude civil responsibility and perhaps ….. caring.

I think I learned the lesson about stopping accumulation and wisely distributing a long time ago. Oh, not that I stopped accumulating! I am fatally attracted by beautiful things (Limoges china, etc) and by fetishes (bags of all sorts). Sigh. What can I do?! However, what I learned, by “studying Life” in the monastic life, is that accumulated beautiful things bring more pleasure when they are given away than when hoarded. Either things possess you or you possess them. Many of my friends have some of my “stuff”. I have always felt personally more blessed when giving someone something of mine (especially if they have admired it) than keeping it for myself. Besides the object, there is the joy of connection and love.

One of the great “spiritual tasks” - i.e., of maturing as a person, is, I think, to make a short as possible the time between accumulating and giving. This I believe: there is nothing more freeing and blessing that a parent can do than to teach their child (a) to understand how gloriously they are blessed, and (b) to long to lavish that abundance on others.

If I ran a Sunday School, here is where I would focus: I would work to teach the blessing of Abundance as soon as possible, and then teach the child the wonder and thrill and pleasure, by experience, of “wise distribution”.

Spiritually speaking, this is the critical lesson to learn if one is in search of freedom and happiness. And Peace.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelli-
gent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.

- Charles Darwin. His “Origin of Species” was published on this date, 1859

Jesus is a good example – of a being open to change. Specifically, a human being who understood that greatness was in “service to others in love”. It is one of the chief reasons that I can relate to Jesus. Tyrannical control simply does not make for great human beings. Vulnerability, I was almost stunned to understand, is the Path to Greatness. The early Christians edited a lot out of the story of Jesus of Nazareth – I’m glad this thread persisted! It sounds of truth to the listening ears of the Intuition, of the Heart.

A smile often comes to my face when I think of “the church”. Why has the church not learned the “important lesson”? The truth is that spiritual maturity eschews “worldly” power and embraces Gospel vulnerability. Is it because we are not able, or not taught, to bear the suffering that will inevitably come our way as we oppose the World’s System? But friends, rejecting the World’s power is what all the great religious teachers have taught! Are we not able to hoist this truth in because of our Greed, our Insecurity? I think of all those things Jesus is reported to have said, about “winning the World and losing our Soul”.

The “church” (be it Christian or Jewish or Islam or other) finds it very difficult to change. Look at the situation between “Rome” and “Anglicanism”. Rome has not forgotten the stinging rejection of the Reformation, nor has it gotten over the collapse of the Roman empire, choosing to live as a ghostly shadow of that earthly Kingdom. And Anglicanism has never transcended its sense of inferiority. Rome is now “getting back”, and Anglicanism is slowly choosing further to embrace a deep inner sense of inferiority, rejecting it’s gift from the Spirit of Change.

The spiritual lesson is clear: Change! Change is a given of Life – and we can either be a part of it or resist it. Yes, of course, we have work to do. We have to think and pray and meditate. We must accept the responsibility of being human. And we must make the decisions we are challenged to make. We must commit to discerning to what we think is Truth. And then Act.

It is true in the material world that only those who change survive. It is even truer of the Heart.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, Nov 23, 2009

The monster was the best friend I ever had.

- Boris Karloff, actor, born on this date, 1887

Spiritually, this is true. Unfortunately, general modern “religion” has taught us to reject or marginalize the “monster”. Bad advice. Jung never did that. Early Christianity never did that – but their problem was that they over-emphasized it, to the point that our innate human beauty was obliterated, leaving many of us unable to rise to the call to grow in Love.

The “monster” is a part of each of us – the “dark side”. (Can you hear the Jedi Obi talking to Luke Skywalker?) Ignoring the Dark Side is a big mistake – always. The choice to ignore the Dark Side means we are refusing to learn from our choices for un-love in all its dimensions. And that only leads to “death” on many levels of the meaning of that Myth. We stop growing, stop transforming into our destiny as a part of the Divine.

I have learned. Being with my partner has encouraged me to let go of all sorts of behaviour that breaks down Love. If only “marriage” would focus on this “discipline”!!

Embrace your “monster”. Each of us will more quickly understand our complex nature, be freed to let go of things that stunt us, and blossom!

What a nice thought!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat, Nov 21, 2009
[ In the Christian calendar: Feast of Christ the King ]

….. God, whose will it is to restore all things in your
well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords ….

- from the Collect for the last Sunday before Advent, called
the feast of the “Reign of Christ”, or of “Christ the King”

Ambrose of Milan (c.337/40 – 397) is recorded as saying:

When we speak about wisdom, we are speaking of Christ.
When we speak about virtue, we are speaking of Christ.
When we speak about justice, we are speaking of Christ.
When we speak about peace, we are speaking of Christ.
When we speak about truth and life and redemption, we
are speaking of Christ.

This states it from the anthropomorphic, specifically Christian perspective. But that always points to the infinitely larger reality that is “God” – to that which is beyond the grasp both of the human intellect and of language. (see the Cappadocian Fathers)

In that case, when we ask: “What does it mean that God wishes to “restore all things in your well-beloved Son”? Does it mean that is this accomplished by all human beings becoming “Christian”, institutionally speaking? I do not think so. Best to turn Ambrose’s words around:

When we speak about Christ, we are speaking of wisdom.
When we speak about Christ, we are speaking of virtue.
When we speak about Christ, we are speaking of justice.
When we speak about Christ, we are speaking of peace.
When we speak about Christ, we are speaking truth and
life and redemption.

Ambrose might have gone on: Compassion, Kindness, Gentleness, Respect, Generosity, etc.

I personally do not think that “God” cares what religion anyone is (or not) part of. Including non-religion. What God cares about are Wisdom, Virtue, Justice, Peace, Life, Redemption, Compassion, Kindness, Gentleness, Respect, Generosity.

St. Patrick is reported to have said (and which I read after my earlier comments), “The Kingdom of God is so full of light, peace, charity, wisdom, glory, honesty, sweetness, loving-kindness and every unspeakable and unutterable good, that it can neither be described nor envisioned by the mind.”

Well, maybe that “Platonic form” Kingdom of God is somewhere – but not here yet! Religion is essentially about living the Journey and the Message. When we – anyone! - pursue and commit to these characteristics and live and seek them boldly in the World, then are all things being restored in God’s “well-beloved” Son.

We find these “children of the Kingdom” in every culture and faith. May such citizens increase!


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, Nov 20, 2009

Equipped with his five senses, man explores the
universe around him and calls the adventure Science

- Edwin Powell Hubble, scientist, born on this date,
1889, after whom the Hubble telescope is named

Science is a glory of Humanity! Of the mind as part of being “made in the image of God”. I see Science as a “Handmaiden of God”. I am in good company. Many of the best of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim thinkers. Maimonides. Thomas Aquinas. Ibn Sina (Avicenna).

My feeling is that the more we understand “science”, the more we understand the “Mystery of God”. “God” is not a Meddler. “God” is the “Totally Beyond”. Beyond what we can understand rationally. But the important thing to remember is this, guided by the great practitioners of Mysticism: to “know” God, we must live the Message. To put it simply, we must Love if we want to understand “God”.

Religious Life is about “Practice”. And Practice is very simple. We Love. We help. We support. We pray. We bring food and drink and company. We advocate. We console. We encourage.

We are “in the Body”. We live by the Five Senses – and by Intuition. We are magnificently equipped for Compassion.

And there we find our fulfillment.

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, Nov 19, 2009

There is no happiness for people
at the expense of other people.

- Anwar Sadat, President of Egypt,
became the first Arab leader to
visit Israel, on this date, 1977

If this be true, then we are I think a long long way from happiness.

As I cast my gaze in meditation around the World, what is see is people seeking power and dominance and the improvement of their lives (as they see it, usually wrongly) “at the expense of other people”. The epitome of this is what we call “ethnic cleansing” – an act of grasping for “happiness” in what is to my mind clearly the height of ignorance - thinking that security and ethnic contentment and a “good life” can be accomplished “at the expense of other people”. This is an hopeless persistent delusion amongst the human community. It may take hundreds of years, but eventually violating the integrity of “other people” wreaks its inevitable retribution.

I have seen a persistent theme enunciated in most religions, and I think it is a reverse corollary of the Golden Rule: That indeed there is no happiness for anyone when happiness is denied to or withheld from others. It just works that way – and that tells me that Karma and “What goes round comes round” and “What you do to others will be done to you” (paraphrasing the Golden Rule”).

It’s been 2000 years for Christians, over 3000 for Hindus, same for Buddhists, near 1500 for follower of the Qu’uran. In my humble way, may I suggest to my fellow Christians (and to us all in the human community: we need a transformative revolution, especially in “religion” and in cultural/ethnic awareness, or suffering will only engulf us.

Again I remind us of Gandhi’s words (and they apply to us all, including our understanding of “humanity”): “I think Christianity is a wonder religion. I hope someone tries it sometime.”


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, Nov 18, 2009

Too many moralists begin with a dislike of reality.

- Clarence Day, writer, born on this date, 1874

Do you remember (if you are old enough) the TV program “Life with Father”? It ran from Nov 1953 to July 1955. It was based on a Broadway play written by Clarence Day about his father, Clarence Day Sr., and his family, first printed in the New Yorker magazine. Leon Ames played the Father (he was perfect!) and Lurene Tuttle played the Mother, Lavinia. It was a picture of upper middle class life in Manhattan in the 1880’s. “Father” Day was a total stuffed shirt. I loved it! The father’s “stuffed-shirtedness” was parodied – but the nice thing was that his family loved him in spite of it. And their love helped him to see his behaviour and – somewhat gruffly – to see his folly. (In 1955, I was 9 years old; I don’t remember if I saw the originals or reruns.)

Clarence Day Jr.’s quote is right on. People who get on their high moral horse, railing against whatever “vice” they disapprove of, very often “begin with a dislike of reality”. That dislike completely erases any sense of compassion and sympathy for their fellow human beings. Once compassion is gone, so is basic humanity. Morality degenerates into self-righteousness, which is always callous and un-self-aware – the basic ingredient in the inability to understand the Golden Rule.

Take anti-abortion supporters. In my view, they claim high moral religious ground. But they ignore, “dislike”, reality. They ignore the reasons why many women seek abortions. They ignore the continuing subjugation of women in patriarchal American culture, and the many ways in which women are denied equality. They ignore the woman as a person and the hardships many must suffer. No one, including myself, likes the fact that abortions happen. But harassing women who seek abortions and even murdering doctors who perform abortions without trying to understand why so many women feel they must have abortions will never resolve the issue. Only looking reality in the face – the continuing oppression and inferiority of women – will result in a resolution of the abortion issue.

Ignoring reality always leads to treating persons as abstract objects. It demands that we suppress our hearts. The inevitable result is the infliction of pain in the service of a desire to dominate and control masquerading as morality. You know the consequences. We live in a World suffering terribly because of the choices we have made to “dislike reality”.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, Nov 17, 2009

There have been many rebels who have chosen to defy their gods.
Without this option, there can be no true devotion to a holy concept.
For devotion is only valuable when a conscious decision is made to Bold
follow that course, even in acknowledgment of the difficulties ahead.
Choosing to be a devout person is good. Choosing to defy the gods is
also good, for it reaffirms the basic ability of human beings to make
choices. We cannot support religions which say there are no choices.

- Taoist thought

“Gods” must always be “defied”. No religious institution which rejects this power should be given any allegiance. And you all know what those institutions are. They stand out like the proverbial sore thumb. They view their devotees as slaves, their desire is to control, and they range over every dimension of religion.

I feel that we must be able and free to choose our Deities, because yes, “devotion is only valuable when a conscious decision is made”. We must be free to affirm those qualities of Divinity that we know in our hearts to be consistent with Compassion and Truth – and to reject those that are denigrating of authentic Divinity. God is Love. Genuine Love is centered in deep desire that others lives be blessed.

Defy everything about yours or anyone else’s God that does call us to live in Divine Compassion. It’s simple.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, November 13, 2009

The word translated as “faith” in the New Testament is the Greek pistis …..
which means “trust loyalty, engagement, commitment.” Jesus was not
asking people to “believe” in his divinity, because he was making no such
claim. He was asking for commitment. He wanted disciples who would
engage with his mission, give all they had to the poor, feed the hungry,
refuse to be hampered by family ties, abandon their pride, lay aside their
self-importance and sense of entitlement, live like the birds of the air and
the lilies of the field, and trust in the God who was their Father. They must
…. live compassionate lives ….

- Karen Armstrong, “The Case for God”

You never know, do you? And it is amazing the things that don’t come to your attention until the time is “right”. Here I am, 63, and a priest for 36 years, and finally Karen Armstrong simply and clearly enunciates what I have always “known” was the truth.

The 3rd century church, and the emperor Constantine, decided to make Jesus “God”. But as Dr. Armstrong says, “he was making no such claim”. And my heart knows that Jesus wasn’t. Fr. Tom Harpur made the case for this so plainly in "The Pagan Christ" – using Augustine and Kuhn – but Armstrong crystallizes it perfectly and so sensibly.

I didn’t know, either, that Jerome used “credo” from the root “cor do” – to “give the heart”. “Belief” was a giving of the heart, as Jesus asked, not an intellectual assent to questionable theories – a 17th century change of definition. (“Belief” is related to the early German “belieb” – offering Love.)

Think about it! Now we are on a different path in thinking about Jesus. I urge you to read Armstrong’s book. It will give you endless reams of material for meditation and prayer and contemplation. Here is an opportunity to grow and deepen. (Yes: you can download it to your Kindle!)

Wishing you fruitful Journeying!


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, Nov 11, 2009

Disapproval of homosexuality cannot justify invading the houses,
hearts and minds of citizens who choose to live their lives differently.

- Justice Harry Blackmun, born on this date, 1908

We Gayfolk chose – if we have not been tyrannized by religion or culture or family - to live our lives differently because we must. We must be authentic. We must “listen to God”. We must listen to our hearts and spirits. In the end, to deny our reality is to deny all that makes us authentically human. And, I might add, faithful to “God”.

America is a lie when it comes to (1) separation of church and state (2) equality under the law and (3) respecting the humanity of ever human being and (4) the Christian Gospel which many Americans claim as its moral foundation.

We confirmed that slavery was wrong; but we continue to organize society prejudicially. We confirmed that men and women were equal, at least under the law, though we continue to discriminate in society and business. Will we not learn? When will we eradicate judgmental prejudice against Gayfolk, when all experience belays its basis in fear and prejudice??

More and more, Gayfolk choose to live their Truth. God rejoices! We pay the price - more than the legal system is willing to admit.

Bless all of you who are willing to have your “homes” invaded.

It makes our society more loving, more caring, more just, nore compassionate.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, Nov 10, 2009

Turn off the spell-check. It can't replace what you
learned in Woodland Public School.

- Allan Joseph McHugh, my estimable and only
brother, born on this date, 1947 (he is 62, I am 63;
we are now both “retired”.)

My brother is a good person. He is fair, just, thoughtful, kind, introspective, sensitive. We are, at least in my perspective, very “different”, as brothers often are. We ran in different “circles”. And, I left home, really, when I “went to college”. And then I left Canada to become a monk, age 21. I would guess that I have seen my brother in the last 43 years about 40 times, for very short periods. So, I can’t say that I know my brother very well. My estimation is based on what I have seen him “be” over the decades, from afar. What I can say is this: he exhibits qualities that I admire and value in a person. He’s a much more irenic person that I am. Not religious in the institutional sense. He’s the kind of person I think blesses the World.

Yes, we went to Woodland School. And he’s right. We sat in rows of 8, 40 to a classroom. And we learned solid, useful, valuable things about how to deal with Life. How to grow up. The most memorable moment for me was Grade 1. We were all ushered into the Library at a strange hour, and we got to watch the coronation of Her Britannic Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Wonderful – surrounded by glass cases of stuffed birds! Woodland School was organized, in the Quebec of the 50’s, around teaching good basic human qualities – for which I am grateful.

I’ve been an Episcopal priest for over 36 years – I think that my brother is the proverbial ”salt of the Earth” –the kind of person from which the Earth greatly benefits, far more than from me.

Happy birthday Al!


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, Nov 9, 2009

God has a brown voice, as soft and full as beer.

- Anne Sexton, poet, born on this date, 1928

God how I love poets! How grateful I am for them! Especially when one speaks of “God”. I get SO sick of all the talk of “God” by theologians and clergy, and especially by the religious nuts of our weird land. The religious atmosphere of America is getting more and more toxic as the weeks go by. I literally wept when I heard that the House vote on Health Care required an agreement on an abortion clause which clearly relegates women, as far as the government is concerned, to the status of slavery to men and to less than second-class inferiority. It made me sick to my stomach. So much for Government constitutionally not partnering with any particular religious tradition.

This is shameful. Utterly shameful. That people in this land can only get the right of health care by agreeing to the subjugation and inequality of women and to the denial of their equal rights! My mind reels at what feels like the political and theological Fascism of this country. As much as I want health care justice, I hope that if this issue comes to the President with that abortion clause attached, he vetoes it. And I shall urge him to. He won’t, of course. I sense that even Barack Obama – whom I SO hoped was different - is willing to sell his soul “to gain the world” for corrupt political prestige. As the Biblical writer pointed out: “what shall it gain a man” – and it is always men and politically seduced wo-men like Kay Bailey Hutchison and Margaret Thatcher who choose the acquisition of corrupt power over Just Compassion.

Out of the mouth of Anne Sexton’s brown-voiced, soft, “full of beer God” revealed in Jesus the Christ, lies the revelation of True God, to my sense, as poet Anne sexton rightly has experienced “God”. This is the God who would never make such a bargain with the Devil.

May the God of the soft brown and beery voice prevail.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat, Nov 7, 2009

Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands,
a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven
itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.

- from the “Letter to the Hebrews”, chap 9, by an unknown author

What/Who is “Christ”? “Christ” is the outpouring of the energy of Life into each of us. “Christ” is the assurance, spoken into our longing hearts and minds, at the moment of our “awakening”, that we have been invited into a glorious, magical, ecstatic Journey.

What is the “sanctuary”? It is the sacred metaphor or symbol for that “place”, mystically speaking, where our flesh and our spiritual energy meet and live/join together. This “place” is a place of power, of wonder, of amazement, of “leaping forward”.

What is “on our behalf”? What is its meaning? It tells us that there is no negative energy which can rob us of Life. Nothing which can defeat our arriving at our fullest humanity. Christ is the Promise of Liberation, of Freedom, of Renewal, of the rising from “Death” to “Life”.

All that is required is for us to say ….. Yes. To embrace Death in order that we may Live. To embrace the Mystery.

I see all of us rejoicing at the loveliness of Life and singing to “God”.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, Nov 5, 2009

We human beings are tuned such that we crave
great melody and great lyrics. And if somebody
writes a great song, it's timeless that we as humans
are going to feel something for that and there's
going to be a real appreciation.

-Art Garfunkel, musician, born on thus date, 1941

There is the theological problem! We human beings need/crave a “great melody and great lyrics” “God”. And we don’t have it. We rather have a “God” that is a puny, diminished, manipulated, co-opted version of “God”. A tyrannical God. A venial God. A God made in the image of basically grasping, selfish, loathsome levels of the human species. It really is appalling that such a version of “God” has been allowed to dominate Christianity and other faiths in the USA and other cultures. I ask myself every day: why are people who have such a tribal, limited view of “God” given the power to represent the Gospel in America?

Where are the people who sing “the great melodies and great lyrics” about “Divinity”??? Or do we just think that if we ignore the singers of a despotic, vindictive, exclusive, nasty God, they will just fade away?

I wonder every day, as I awake, “Why does America foster a “God” that creates such hate, such division, such social ugliness, such bitterness?” Why do the Majority – and I think there IS a majority who do not think this way – not rise up and counter this View of God?”

I know why. Persons of Compassion and Love have an intrinsic disposition not to believe that other human beings can possibly be so unloving. I only have to watch the TV to see every day the image of this selfish unlovingness: every Republican I see speaks against caring for people, against compassion, against justice, against generosity, against the kind of government which supports the basic needs of Americans as against the appalling graspingness of those who desire only to gather as much loot as possible, everyone else be damned.

Jesus wrote a “great song”. I call upon the Christian Church, the Islamic Ulema, the Jewish Covenant People, and all other people of Compassion, to confront the Perverted with Firm Love. Say NO. I call upon Americans to keep a “long distance” view. Do not vote by what you selfishly feel is promising a “quick fix” today, because you feel threatened at the moment. Keep your eye on the Image of the God of Love, on a community which reflects that Truth.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, Nov 4, 2009

American politician Nellie Tayloe Ross (1876-1977) gained fame in the 1920s
when she was elected governor of Wyoming, becoming the first woman in the
country to hold such a post. After leaving that office, she had an active career in
national Democratic politics and was named director of the U.S. Mint by Presi-
dent Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s, a position she held for nearly 20 years.

A good moment in USA history, as far as I am concerned! I raise a cheer at one of those moments that break down the male domination of culture.

But. I shall use this opportunity to segue to an important “spiritual” issue. Which is: I reject those religions which have excluded the Feminine from the so-called “godhead”. Including Judaism, Islam, and Christianity – which, since I have retired and begin to think about things – I reject completely! (Not that I didn’t preach this stuff when I was a parish priest.) I simply can’t and won’t live with that nonsense anymore. What male tyranny! And what a diminution of the glory of the Divine.

Let’s get a grip here people. We simply can’t go on allowing male power to reduce the nature of our conception of “God”. For Heaven’s sake, even the first of the Anglican Articles squashes that Lie! “God is a Spirit, without body, parts, or passions”. It is ridiculous to go on thinking of God as a “man” – and then blasphemously using God to justify all sorts of violence, hate, oppression, dominance, and exclusion of the Feminine from the full understanding of the nature of Life!

Unless we want to use “God” as a justification for denying the Gospel call to Love, respect for all human persons and for the Universe, compassion for all living things.

I don’t. Do you?


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, Nov 2, 2009

“The fact is I am guilty of sexual immorality. And I take
responsibility for the entire problem,” Haggard wrote.
“I am a deceiver and a liar. There’s a part of my life
that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring
against it for all of my adult life.”

- Former evangelical pastor Ted Haggart; on this day, 2006,
he resigned as the president of the National Association of
Evangelicals, after he was revealed as a man who had sex
with men.

It isn’t “dark and repulsive”. Except to him – at least in public statement. He was only a “deceiver and liar” essentially and most fundamentally to himself. And he was the “victim” of our culture and of American twisted evangelical and other manifestations of Christianity - so homophobic. But you know, “What goes around comes around”. It’s called karma. Or, the consequences of the Golden Rule. For me, like so many others, Haggart becomes a symbol of the balefulness of Lying about “God’s truth”. One’s sexuality is “God-given”, part of the mystery of being created in “God’s Image”. We could reject this in the past; not now.

Lying about the truth about oneself only inhibits the coming of the “Kingdom of God”, of the inner reality of human diversity. Think of how many mens’ and womens’ lives have been destroyed because we have allowed religious bigots to define the Gospel! Including their “own”. Ted Haggart. I can only suppose that he had some charism, to lead a congregation of 14,000 people, and the so-called “Evangelical” community.

But let’s be clear: Truth sets us free, Jesus says. Lying enslaves us and all society. Which only creates Hate and Sin and and Fear – all of which Jesus, according to “traditional” Christian theology, died to “save us from”.

Haggart says that the responsibility is his. But. He continues to lie. He continues to believe that with God’s help he can be heterosexual. That being Gay is a perversion. Well folks, if he persists in this denial of reality, he will arrive at the Pearly Gates only to find a saddened St. Peter (or whomever, depending on the religion) saddened by Haggart’s self-delusion and offering him the chance to embrace the Truth.

My advice Ted – and all you represent, on all so-called “moral” and “ethical” issues? Embrace the Truth. Only that will set you free. Meanwhile, you and your ilk continue to deny American culture its greatness, religiously, politically, morally, ethically, and socially.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, Oct 31, 2009
[ La Dia de los Muertos ]

Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave.

- Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India.
She was assassinated on this date, 1984,
by trusted Sikh bodyguards.

You never know, do you. The World is full of Politics, Disgruntled People, Fanaticism, Tribalism, Grudges, Religion, etc. One chooses one’s friends, one’s allies, etc - but you never know what hides in their hearts, what motivates their later actions. Can you imagine being a “suicide bomber”? I can’t.

I think Mrs. Gandhi is insightful. As I look back over my own Life, I have “known” by what I was taught as a Christian and as a monk and as a priest that Forgiveness is critical first in order to free oneself from the power of anger or hate, to have the gate opened to Love and to “redemption”. But it IS hard! Christianity tries to provide a path to that freedom, through “confession and absolution” – but most of us are not “brave”. We draw back from confronting our own willingness to harbour hateful or angry thoughts/behaviour. We reject the insight of dear friends or spiritual advisors. We continue to think that, if we are “revealed” as people subject to “the doers of sin and death”, we are somehow diminished.


We all must learn to look at ourselves with unflinching honesty. It is the only path to Freedom; the only path to growth and peace and the deepening of our Humanity.

Time to be Brave.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, Oct 29, 2009

"There may be a recession in stock prices, but not
anything in the nature of a crash."
- Irving Fisher,
leading U.S. economist , New York Times, Sept. 5, 1929

- The stock market crash happened on Oct 29, 1929


But it happens, despite the confidence, the bravado, the “hope” of people. Crash.

To survive crashes of whatever sort, we have to have a strong inner Life. Resilience. Adaptability. St. Paul famously said that he had lived in every sort of situation, and was able to manage it. I don’t think I could manage Darfur, or double leg-amputation, or blindness. (I told my colorectal surgeon that I could NOT manage with a colostomy bag over festering fissures that never healed; he said the only thing I would accept. “I can fix it.”) We need to know our limits to the quality of Life, or anyway ….. I do!

Life throws a lot of things at us. Most religion is not helpful to a lot of people because most religions lie to us. They will tell us anything to get us to support them ….. but they often then will not tell us the truth. And when the rubber hits the road, we are without resources.

I think about my “inner path” a lot. I’ve been revising it quite a bit lately. Fine-tuning it. I smile when someone tells me that the World is going to be OK, or that I will survive to 80. I now have a path and a “God” that brings me serenity and peace and courage to face Reality.

What more does one need?


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, Oct 28, 2009

Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our
lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life
to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say.
Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only
so many tomorrows.

- Paul VI, bishop of Rome, who, on this date, 1965,
issued a decree absolving Jews of collective guilt for
the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

What strange, amazing creatures we human beings are, regardless of the “status” we have achieved in Life! Paul VI is reported to have once said: “Failing to be there when a man wants her is a woman's greatest sin, except to be there when he doesn't want her.” Even giving him the benefit of the doubt, this is in my opinion a pretty stupid thing to say theologically if one is supposed to be centered in Gospel and not in one’s limited social culture. This is a huge problem with Religion: so often religious rules do not reflect their core principles or “founders”, but the manipulation of human beings with power in that Religion. The Hadith in Islam is a good example – a collection of sayings not in the Qur’an which various people “remember” the Prophet saying, and then used to control people.

Paul VI is also reported as saying: “No more war! Never again war! If you wish to be brothers, drop your weapons.” And yet, what has the papacy really done to live that truth over the millennia? Very little.

And as to issuing a decree “absolving Jews of collective guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ” – if he was attempting to eradicate the hate that his Church had shown and engendered falsely against the Jews, he might have just said plainly they were wrong. But if he was saying that the Jews were indeed collectively to blame for the death of Jesus Christ and were now being magnanimously “forgiven”, he deserves to be shamed for his ignorance and arrogance.

However, we humans are a mystery. We have so many contradictory facets! I agree wholeheartedly with Paul’s words about being told we are dying right at the beginning of our lives. So much about Life and society and religion tends not to support Life and the living of it. But certainly the Gospel is all about Life and not “death”. Paul is right: anything that reminds us that Life is fleeting, that there are only so many tomorrows, that we should do what we want to do now, is on the proverbial money.

“There are only so many tomorrows.” Love extravagantly, now.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, October 26, 2009

My advisers built a wall between myself
and my people. I didn't realize what was
happening. When I woke up, I had lost
my people.

- Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, tyrant (and
unfortunately not the last), of Iran, born on
this day, 1919

The Gospel of Jesus is about Reality. An example? Jesus confronting the apostle Peter with those chilling words, “Get behind me Satan!”. IMHO, the present and all popes of the Latin church, which claims to be founded by Peter, would do well to meditate on this moment. They should awake every morning hearing those words of the Christ in their ears. As should ALL faiths and religions as they reflect on their “founders” teaching. Jesus was constantly confronting His followers with their misguided understanding of His Message. It hasn’t changed. If Jesus were here today, He would be having the same problems with us.

My assessment of Shah Pahlavi as a tyrant may sound harsh – but I think it is accurate. It is, IMHO, true of all the subsequent “rulers” of Iran, and of many present World “rulers”, including our own in the USA.

I do not accept the Shah’s words as accurate. They are delusional. He chose to live in a fantasy World. He was ignorant and deliberately in denial, as many World “leaders” are, of his inner self and motives and reality. Somewhere deep inside, he knew that he was a tyrant, torturing his people, rejecting of their humanity, living in indecent luxury while most of his people suffered horribly. George Bush did the same thing as he deprived us of our constitutional rights. All World “leaders” run the risk of being so subverted. Power corrupts. I was not moved by the interview with the Shah’s wife, living in luxury in New York. She too was delusional and self-justifying.

Shah Pahlavi and so many others like him in power delude themselves. They put the blame – seen in these words of the Shah – on others for their cruelty, their inhumanity, their lust for power and riches, their renunciation of their humanity, their total lack of empathy for the suffering of others. Personally I don’t believe in Hell – but I do often hope that Justice will ultimately be done.

Somewhere, I hope that the Shah “woke up” and was forced to confront the consequences of his own choices, his own responsibility for suffering and deprivation. The same with George Bush and Robert Mugabe and Bill Clinton and various popes and other religious leaders and Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas and right-wing American “Christians” and Islamic and all religious militants and all others who should be in a position of concern for the well-being of others.

Such people lie to themselves. It’s the only way they can live with themselves. Jesus, and Christianity at its best, boldly confronts such lying and self-deception: “Get behind me Satan!”

None of us should be complicit in such self-delusion. In such callous cruelty. In such disregard for our brothers and sisters. It’s time to examine our lives. To look at the sometimes subtle ways in which we participate in the self-delusion and the karmic infliction of suffering of others.

I believe that such self-truth will amaze us (and I include myself in this) with the ecstasy of the discovery of our unity with the God of Love.