Saturday, January 31, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Saturday, Jan 31, 2009



Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out,

"What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know

who you are, the Holy One of God." But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come

out of him!" And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came

out of him.  They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, "What is this?

A new teaching--with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him."


- The Gospel called “Mark”, Chapter 1 (for Epiphany IV, Year B)


I can’t say about every faith or religion, because I don’t know them intimately enough. But I can speak from my experience of the Gospel. Every one of us has within us “unclean spirits”. These represent the inner forces that are destructive of Who we truly Are. And we also have the “spirit of the divine”; this is the message of the Incarnation. In the Gospel, Jesus represents that Divine Spirit that is an integral part of our Self, of every human being, and which represents a human being soaring to the height of “being made in the image of God”.


That/those “unclean spirit(s)” are powerful, and Legion. The Gospel (and the “soul” of the Hebrew Scriptures) presents God as Compassionate, Unconditionally loving, Just, Merciful, Kind, and Caring, and desirous to give Life and crush the power of “Death” and all the death-dealing powers the fear of Death can wield. Jesus is the symbol, having been “born of Mary”, of the Divine power in us.


To “put one’s faith in Jesus” is to claim the Divine Character for ourselves, and to acknowledge its power to confront the “demons” within us, and to say to them, “Be silent, and come out of her/him!”


At times in our lives, those “demons” have a tight grip. And when we allow “Jesus” to confront them, the engagement can be violent  -  but the “demon” must leave when confronted by Love and Truth.


You can see that we have a responsibility. We must honestly confront our “demons”. Rightly understood, this is what “confessing our sins” is all about. It is about honesty about ourselves. Believe me, the clash between our “demons” and our honest self-awareness is explosive  -  but the “demons” have no chance, even though their “leaving” can knock us on our ass.


Divine – and human – Love casts out all sorts of demons. This reality is at the core of Existence. This is what the Gospel teaches. Let us accept the gift.



Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, Jan 29, 2009



Excellence is the best deterrent to racism or sexism. 


- Oprah Winfrey, media mogul, one of the richest women

  in the USA, born on this day, 1954, in Kosciusko, Mississippi

  I’ve read many of the things that Oprah has said, and many of them I agree with. (I have never seen her TV show, by choice.) But, I chose this comment of hers in order to disagree with her.

 “Excellence” is someone else’s criterion for acceptance. But:  acceptance, the recognition of one’s humanity, the accordance of respect, the recognition of equality, the granting of equal justice  -  these are things that are due to every human being by virtue of their humanity. My own experience in the path of the Gospel of Jesus the Christ has unequivocally taught me this. As well as my understanding of all the great teachers of the World’s history or of Mythological reality.

 No human being must be “excellent” to ward off prejudicial or discriminatory treatment, be it racist or sexist. You just have to “be”. The Gospel teaches that all are “God’s Children”, that “God” has no favourites.

 In my opinion, most religions have lost their way. They have been corrupted by the “World”, by Evil, or by Ignorance. It is time – and I call adherents to it  -  for the rank and file followers to take back their original principles from those who have seized it and twisted it to their own desires for power and control. Disciples, arise!

 The best deterrent to racism and sexism is for each human being to live proudly, authentically, self-respectfully, and courageously as “themselves”. It has nothing to do with wealth, with talent, with education, with “class”, with status of any manner. If your religion or your culture or your nationalist “teaches” you differently, you have been seduced by the Evil One.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, January 28, 2009



Painting is self-discovery. Every

good artist paints what (s)he is. 


- Jackson Pollock, artist, born on this

  day, 1912  (brackets mine)



Human being-ness is “self-discovery”. Prayer is “self-discovery”. Failure is “self-discovery”. Community is “self-discovery”. Partnership/marriage is “self-discovery”. Solitude is "self-discovery". It goes on forever.


The artist/painter has a canvas of some sort. They are projecting their journey of self-discovery onto something that they can see  -  and adjust, and re-do. So do all of us. We are all artists, either beginners or masters or in between, of the art of Life. We have Life, and our environment, and our relationships, and our work  -  in fact, everything we get involved with.


For many, Life is just a matter of doing what has to be done. Some choose this way; many – far to many – have no choice, even in our supposedly “improving” World. And some, privileged, can indeed make a choice to project the painting of their Life our from themselves into all they do. Most can’t stay focused enough to keep but a hesitant grip on it.


Well:  don’t be discouraged! This is normal. It takes some concentration and effort. Religions, philosophies offer methods of keeping focused. But – I think it is built into being Human! Self-discovery will “out”, no matter what!


We all must “self-discover”. And what a wonderful thing if we help each other!



Monday, January 26, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, January 27, 2009



Man has no claim upon God. Even Moses came

before God only with an appeal for grace.


- Rabbi Johanan, Deuteronomy Rabbah



Why did humankind conceive of a God of infinite and unconditional love, who forgives and frees upon the honest acknowledgment of failure in compassion or justice? Because, simply, there are things we can’t forgive ourselves for, or justify  -  things from which we can’t rationalize our guilt. We need such a God, to be free and to move on. The only cost is honesty.

 We call it Divine Grace. It is essential for our liberation. Human beings are capable of such meanness, such self-deception, such arrogance towards our fellow human beings. Things which outdistance our ability or our gall to justify.

 The “true” God is always about Life. As President Obama said, there are times when we must just pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and move forward. Otherwise our soul withers.

 The God of Grace is a gift we have given ourselves. We hold the gift to a rigorous standard:  it cannot be deceived. The freedom only comes through unflinching self-awareness.

 It would be very good if more of us could make use of Grace in it’s full demands and gift.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, January 26, 2009

A better world shall emerge based on faith and understanding.

Could I have but a line a century hence crediting
a contribution to the advance of peace, I would yield
every honor which has been accorded by war.

- ???

With regret, I must disagree with one half of the first quote. I do believe that “understanding” will bring forth a “better world”. But if by “faith” is meant religion, I sadly must disagree, given the present state of things - though ….. I would like to believe that it could be true. If, however, by “faith” is meant hope and longing, and a determination to work towards this hope and longing, my heart and spirit can rise a little. Essentially, I see many faithful layfolk yearning for a better world. Alas, I see the “hierarchical”, institutional leadership engaged in exclusion and in power politics and in issues of control – with very few possible exceptions - which, to my mind, only generates hate, ignorance, contempt, and worst of all, the limitation of God’s desire for unity in love.

I shall be watching the pope’s YouTube forays with interest. If I see anything that indicates a real concern and interest and understanding of young people today, and not a desire to indoctrinate, I shall cheer.

Would that this man had been listened to by the recently past American administration. And by most of the so-called leaders of the World today. To my mind, war is an abject confession of the failure of human understanding and decency, and one of the most searing confessions of human sin. This is true whatever the cause of war, even so-called “justifiable” resistance to evil. There are people who misunderstand certain of Jesus’ words, like “I come not to bring peace, but a sword”, and enlist Him (and God) on the side of war. They are guilty of blasphemy, if you will excuse such an archaic phrase. It is abundantly clear, from the centrality of such words as those of the Beatitudes like “Blessed are the Peacemakers”, what God cherishes. Would that every warmonger had paid attention.

The man I have quoted seems to have come to understand this, despite his military background. I’m with him. May each of us “yield every honor” which is “accorded by war” - be it personal or national antagonism and lust for domination - for the crediting of a “contribution to the advancement of peace”.

Quoted? General Douglas MacArthur, born on this day, 1880


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Saturday, January 24, 2009

For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.

- Psalm 62, from the readings for Epiphany III

What, Who, is God, that we should wait alone for God, and all our hope be in God?

We human beings have painted various pictures of “God”. Every religion, faith, philosophy has done the same. And those pictures come from every age and era and culture. And, fair People, we have choices to make!

“God” is the true projection of what every human being, every People hopes for their destiny. Some, many alas these days, have hoped for a vile one. Some have hope for a beautiful, glorious one – and often this has been the Remnant! In many ways, the “Faithful” of all religions based on Love, Justice, and Truth are those who have struggled to be true to the heart of the Mystery they are heirs to – in the Christian Mystery, to Compassion, Freedom, and Service in Love, in a human community that includes all.

“God” is , therefore, what our best heart desires to be. We have many visions of what that is.

Yours, and mine, to choose.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, Jan 23, 2009

Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers.
Pray for power equal to your tasks.

- Phillips Brooks, Episcopal bishop, author of
“O Little Town of Bethlehem”, whose feast
day in the Episcopal Calendar is today.

For many years now, I have prayed a prayer which I believe to have been written by Bishop Stephen Bayne, based on a prayer by Archbishop William Temple. It is called “The Prayer of Abandonment”. (It is attached.) Now, suddenly, I discover that it MUST have been based on Bishop Brooks! Aint’ Life interesting!

Have you read “The Shack”?? One of its main principles is that all human woes began in “the Garden of Eden” when we chose “Independence” - , i.e., thinking that we were without a source of power and strength and discernment “beyond” ourselves, and must “make good” on our own.

However you think this Power came about, It is REAL! It has characteristics - read the Gospels if you want to know what those characteristics are (not just what people have to say about them, which is usually tainted by self-need).

The Life of each of us hands us a pretty demanding Path. We need to learn that we aren’t likely to manage the Path on our “own”. This is simply because we are not ON our own in this granted Life! We are meant to live not - as the Bible says - by “bread alone”, but by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”, and be surrounded and upheld by companions. Bread and Water keep our bodies alive, but this is 5% of being a living human being. To live fully, the Spirit must descend into us as it did to Jesus. And we must know that this has occurred - that this is a Given of Life.

We know/discover that we have hard tasks to do. If we are aware and realistic, we understand immediately that we require others to walk with us; this is the theological basis of “family”. And of the “trinity”. What we need is power. God offers it.

If we discover that we have strengths for tasks before us, they will get done. If we discover we don’t – then perhaps the task is not ours?

Not every task must be lifted to our shoulders. Discernment in prayer of this distinction is one of the critical dynamics of praying. If the task IS ours – the power is forthcoming, from the “God” who lives at our core.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, Jan 22, 2009

Great events make me quiet and calm;
it is only trifles that irritate my nerves.

I think people really marry far too much;
it is such a lottery after all, and for a poor
woman a very doubtful happiness.

- Queen Empress Victoria, who died on
this day, 1901, after 63 years on the throne
of Great Britain

Boy, can I testify to the business about trifles “irritating the nerves”! Every year, when I was in a member of the Order of the Holy Cross, we would hold “Chapter”. All or most of the Life Professed would get together to discuss “business” and the life of the community. Huge issues would come up – involving the survival of the Order, or the founding of a new ministry and house, or giving up of a long-held one. Usually the discussion was calm, profound, quiet, and prayerful.

But! Change the Calendar that we followed?? Pandemonium!! I remember the time we had to decide to add (the Episcopal Church having done so) Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley (bishop martyrs “murdered” by Queen Mary) to the Calendar for commemoration. A huge fight erupted between the Anglo-Catholics and the Anglo-Romans in the community. In the end, after rancorous discussion, we had to compromise by adding a feast day for a Roman Catholic someone “martyred” by the Reformers. People on both sides didn’t speak to each other for months!!

My point? Don’t sweat the Small Stuff. And most of it is Small Stuff. Oh, we think most of the issues in World are “great events”. They aren’t. They are just petty tribal or cultural issues. Issues about dominance and power. It’s the issues about Love and Respect and Honour that we should be paying quiet and calm attention to.

As to Her Britannic Imperial Majesty’s views on Marriage? One hundred and fifty years later, I agree with her! Let’s have a half-century of re-thinking!


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, Jan 21, 2009

I laugh when I hear that the fish in the water is thirsty.

You don't grasp the fact that what is most alive of all is inside
your own house; and so you walk from one holy city to the next
with a confused look!

Kabir will tell you the truth: go wherever you like, to Calcutta or Tibet;
if you can't find where your soul is hidden, for you the world will never be real!

- Kabir, Sufi sage

What is Kabir’s point? That we human beings like to blame others or something else for our difficulties or unhappiness. We don’t like to stop and consider that “we” are the problem! That we are starving ourselves of the “oxygen” that we can only find in our own “water”!!

So many of us spend all kinds of energy and money going from retreat to retreat, from guru to guru, from church to church, from religion to religion. But, as Jung said, insanity is defined by thinking that doing things the same way will bring different results.

Let’s nurture our own soul. With the inner resources we already have, resources we were given by our creation. “What is most alive of all is inside your own house”. Let’s get to know ourselves. That’s how the World will become real!!


Monday, January 19, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, January 20, 2008
The Inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States

We need somebody who's got the heart, the empathy, to recognize
what it's like to be a young teenage mom, the empathy to understand
what it's like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old –
and that's the criterion by which I'll be selecting my judges.

- Barack Hussein Obama, inaugurated this day as the 44th President
of the United States of America

I searched many places for President Obama’s words – the first time in eight years that I have been able to place the word “President” in front of the name of the person in the White House. Finally, I chose these – because they reminded me of Jesus and of the Gospel.

All of Yahweh’s judges denounced those in power who ignored the poor, the outcast (meaning the powerless), and all those who challenged the comfort of the privileged. This includes all the great Hebrew prophets. Jesus too held the poor and the ignored and the outcast close to His heart – and made it clear in many ways that these were the people who represented God’s heart, God’s desire that every human being be treated with dignity as Her child, created in Her Image.

I have had tears in my eyes since Nov 4; and I most certainly will today as Barack (meaning, Blessed, and representing us all) Obama is inaugurated to represent my chosen land among the peoples of God’s World. Not because I think he will change instantly what I experienced as the callous inhumanity of the last eight years. But because President Obama represents sublimely – certainly to me as a Gay man who has served the God of Love and Justice and God’s people for over 40 years - the poverty and the outcastness and the indignity under which so many of us suffer at the hands of uncaring political and moneyed and false religious leaders.

May he indeed choose judges who will uphold Justice for the young teenage mom, the poor, the African-American, the Gay, the disabled, the aged – as well as every citizen who is held in bondage and unable to access their God-like humanity, amongst whom I include all held in bondage by hate, prejudice, fear, and by the deep ignorance and spiritual deprivation that underlies these conditions.

May this man, Barack Obama, be held in safety and honour. May he be upheld and nourished by Grace and Love and Respect – not only personally, but as he represents the Hope of us all that we can indeed be a people and individuals characterized by Justice, Compassion, Kindness, and – more than tolerance – by the Reality which sweeps away all threat, and opens every heart to the diversity of being Human.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, January 19, 2009

Free yourself. Let yourself do what you know is right,
and it will be all right.....Don't think beyond the first
step; just take that one, and maybe the next one will be
a little easier. That's been my experience.

- Molly Rush, member of the Ploughshare Eight

Freedom is a matter of the heart, of the mind, of the spirit. No one, not even God, can free us. Freedom is an innate characteristic of being Human. We can be offered ways to reclaim our Freedom. But I believe that Molly is correct: we are never Free until we free ourselves. People or governments can take away our freedoms, but we remain free unless we cede or abdicate our Freedom ourselves.

This is true in every way, including “spiritually”. We can enslave ourselves by acting against our core capacity to love, to be just, to honour and value the dignity of every human being. God offers us our Freedom back, not by forgiving us unilaterally, but by calling us to reclaim our true nature. It is up to us.

I see the inauguration of Barack Obama as a choice by the majority of American people – and I pray that it will soon be recognized and embraced by all of us - to take the first step in doing what is right. The first corporate step of reclaiming our national Freedom. Of freeing ourselves, which is the only Way there.

May the next ones be easier! Until it is true that we are a land where all are indeed equal and so treated, and where liberty and justice is equal for all.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Saturday, January 17, 2009

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom
Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from
Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

- from the Gospel named “John”, for the second Sunday after Epiphany

Eugene Peterson, in his paraphrase “The Message”, renders the last line “Are you kidding!”

The story of Jesus and Nathanael is perfect! It’s about you, and me, and I hope that you see that – especially if you are baptized into the Way of Jesus. If I say to you, “You are a part of that Mystery called “God”; you are made of the “stuff” of Creation and the Creator – however you may understand “Creator”; you are “of God”; what would you think?? You would probably think exactly what Nathanael said to Philip: “Are you KIDDING!”

If you did think that, then think about what you have been taught. Or what you think your experience has taught you. Or your self-image. In many ways, the “World” works against us. It “teaches” us, in a myriad of ways, that we are worthless, delusional, self-aggrandizing. There are so many times in our lives when we are tempted to look at ourselves and say, “Are you kidding!”. Can anything Good come out of ….. ME?! Is there anything of the Beauty and Wonder and Loveliness that we believe “God” to Be to be found in ME?

The answer, from the perspective of the Gospel Message, is ….. YES! Too much of Life, even of Faith and Religion, is organized to keep us from knowing who we really are, despite words to the contrary. Religion too often wants to control us, limit us, prevent us from blossoming into full flower, extinguishing our uniqueness and our gifts.

But this is not the purpose of “true religion”. True Religion longs for us to be our “Christ-like” Self: Loving; Caring; Giving of our self for others; Free; Joyous; Spontaneous; Abandoned in Generosity.

Jesus says to us, to each one of us, as He said to Nathanael: “Before even you were summoned into Life, I SAW you!” Or, better put, “I AM who YOU are! I see your guilelessness; you are a true member of God’s family!”

Read Psalm 139, the psalm appointed for tomorrow. It reminds us that we are “in God”.

Jesus is not kidding. You and I are “of God”. Believe.

Choose Life. Live It as your true Self.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009

Let us go forward with the heart completely attentive and
the soul 
fully conscious. For if attentiveness and prayer
are daily joined 
together, they become like Elias' fire-bearing
chariot, raising us 
to heaven. What do I mean? A spiritual
heaven, with sun, moon and 
stars, is formed in the blessed
heart of one who has reach a state 
of watchfulness, or who
strives to attain it. 

- St. Philotheus of Sinai

“ ….. with the heart completely attentive and the soul fully conscious.” Yes. This is way to live fully. And I love the beautiful imagery of both the fire-bearing chariot of Elias and the spiritual heaven within the “blessed heart”. As well as the clarity of the metaphorical truth of the understanding Philotheus shows. He knows that the Chariot of Elias is a symbol of the human heart swept up into Joy by God’s Love.

Philotheus touches on one of the core reasons for human suffering, namely an inattentive heart and an unconscious soul – “heart” and “soul” both being symbols of the wells of human essence. Most of the time, we human beings are simply not paying attention, either to what is going on around us or to what is happening within us. That is what the parable of the “Wise and Foolish Virgins” is about – as well as the many Gospel calls to “Watch”. The World, God, ourselves, are constantly spewing out Wisdom and Truth and Wonder and Mystery - and we are NOT paying attention! We are so easily distracted. As I have often said the whole purpose of “Religion” is (by definition) to “keep us tied” to these life-giving sources of Being. It doesn’t matter if it’s worry beads or constant deep meditation – we NEED things to keep us focused.

“Be watchful, for you do not know the time or the hour”. This has nothing to do with being caught and punished for stupidity. It simply has to do with being ready to receive and accept every gift that the Universe offers in order to be fully alive.

And It’s gifts are infinite!


Monday, January 12, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, Jan 13, 2009

- Largest Moon over the Alps in 2009, by Vincent Jacques

Just enjoy this! Dennis and I were driving to the Eucharist at St. Benedict’s on Sunday morning, about 7:15am. The Moon was 12 hours past full – and stunning in the pre-sunrise sky over the ocean of the California Central Coast. That mesmerizing ivory colour! Huge. And finally the God Ra rose in the East – and we thought of the “Joshua Sun and Moon” – both balanced against each other, one in the East and one in the West. We both felt that we had become part once more of our human History.

I am convinced – no, I know! - that the Earth and the Galaxy are Holy. I just feel it. And I feel that I and all of us are part of the Holiness. To be candid, while I have certainly “felt” the holiness of things in many different places, I have most felt it held in the exquisite beauty of Nature. And then of course in me.

“God” is in us. And God is certainly in the World. That Presence is not eradicated by our pollution, by our abuse of the World. It deeply comforts me that this will always be true.

I can quite understand why peoples think of the Sun, the Moon, the Mountains, the Seas as Gods and Goddesses. They vibrate with the Holiness of Creation.

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, January 12, 2009
[ A Late Offering! ]

Let change be your guiding star. We ought to love
the turning point. Whenever you want to complain,
remind yourself, “I’m at a turning point. What is it
turning to now?” And be enthusiastic for it.

- Rainer Maria Tilke, poet, (translated By Br. David Stendahl-Rast

Being enthusiastic for it is the “hard part”, especially as one gets older, and as one has a spouse and others to deal with in entering into Change! But the principle holds, I believe. I have found that Change keeps me on my toes. I contemplate a lot of change – but of course not all change is right or necessary. One has to choose carefully and lovingly and thoughtfully and prayerfully. And often in synch with others.

But I have also found that being willing to contemplate all kinds of Change keeps one fit in the head and heart!

Change can run us, or we can use it wisely. I like the latter!

Brian’s Reflection: Sat/Sun, Jan 10/11, 2009

I have baptized you with water; but he will
baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

- from the Gospel named “Mark”, the reading for
the first Sunday after Epiphany, January 11, 2009

“Baptism with water” fulfils a legalistic requirement. Though, we can affirm the “baptism of John” as a positive thing – the “sacrament” of drawing people into the promise of God’s love and “salvation”.

The “baptism of the Sprit”, which John says Jesus brings and offers, is a different thing, It transcends legalism, transcends the “meeting of the requirements of the Law”. “Baptism of the Spirit” is a gifting of Grace. Of God’s Grace.

What does this mean? “Baptism in the Spirit” re-grounds us in the central proclamation of the Gospel: that we are loved unconditionally. That the death of Jesus, willingly accepted, “take away the Sin of the World” – by which is meant simply that Separation from God (Sin) is not possible. We are always redeemed sinners in God’s Heart. Which means that we are always free – if we choose – to become “as Christ”, to be fully connected with the Mystery that Gives Life.

Baptism in the Christian Church is always a joyful proclamation of the potential of our becoming fully human – flesh and spirit. It is always a proclamation of our Belovedness.

When we grasp that we are Beloved, we rise “to the Life immortal”. The “Kingdom” has come. And now we are called to assist others in finding the Life of Grace.

ALL others. For we are all God’s offspring. “Full of Grace and Truth”. God’s “favour” rests on us.

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, Jan 9, 2009

Angels have no physical voice, but mentally never cease to sing glory to God. This is their sole
occupation and all their life is dedicated to this. So … when you enter your closet and close
your door, that is, when your mind is not darting hither and thither but enters within your heart, and your senses are confined and barred against things of this world, and when you pray thus always, you too are then like the holy angels, and your Father, Who sees your prayer in secret, which you bring Him in the hidden depths of your heart, will reward you openly by great spiritual gifts.

- St. Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonika, b. 1296

Well, that is about the first sensible thing I have heard said about “angels” in a long time, and we had to go back about 700 years for it! Gregory Palamas depicts “angels” as, in a sense, symbolic enlarged personifications of ….. US! And in doing so, he beautifully illustrates what it means to “go into your closet and close the door” when we pray/meditate/talk with God.

As usual with all manner of things in sacred writing, “closet” here is a metaphor - in this case for an uncluttered, focused, loving heart and mind. Like the angels who have no physical voice (according to Palamas - what about the angels who “speak” in the Bible??), the most intimate form of prayer is voiceless. It is simply giving as much of ones attention as possible to God. The implication is that we, like the angels but in our own human way, are called to live lives dedicated first to “praising God”.

Of course, there are infinite ways to “praise God”. Authenticity of Self. Good works. Evangelical virtues (kindness, compassion, mercy, etc). All these connect us to God. But a mind and heart offering ceaseless (well, the best we can manage!) praise to God in all we are and do – this is when we are most connected to the source of our Being. And the most open to Blessing.

We know that certain “closets” are unhealthy! Most of us need to “come out” of some “closet” or other. But “Prayer in secret” - a healthy place!


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, January 8, 2009

I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something
about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is
purely destructive. We've created life in our own image.

- Stephen Hawking, physicist, philosopher, born on this day, 1942

Well, some of my friends (and perhaps “enemies”!) will be glad to hear me say I don’t agree with Hawking that “the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive”. I only say such things when I am on a rant. However, I do think that we human beings can be pretty destructive - look around, in any era. The word I disagree with is “purely”. I do not believe in the concept of “purity”. No one, no thing perhaps, is “pure” anything. Good or bad. Gentle or violent. Etc.

Nor do I think that computer viruses should count as “life”. And it would take too long to explain why. However: we (well, at least some of us) produce babies. Perhaps Dr. Hawking meant to say produce “other” or “different” forms of Life?? Many babies do grow up to be pretty destructive.

One of my favourite bumper stickers is “Oh, Evolve”. And here is the problem that Hawking raises, in my mind. Can we? Evolve, I mean. At the moment, we are doing a pretty good job of “creating life in our own image”. Prejudice; hate; fear; xenophobia; power-madness; materialism; tribalism; militarism - the list is long.

I would say that, in some essence, Faith or Religion or Philosophy is about Evolving. That is why human beings have created these paths, and the Gods/Goddesses/Ideas that personify (in most cases) the desire or hope of evolving away from destructive forms of life – especially the evolution of ourselves. I can’t think of any Faith, Religion, or Philosophy which tutors us towards destruction (except some fringe ones, which I shall have the grace to refrain from identifying).

In the Christian tradition, the Incarnation (birth of God in/among humanity) tells us that – yep, you guessed it – the evolution has to be first of ourselves. WE, not “others”, have to evolve. So it is little use going off to “missionize” others; they will only emulate their teachers. As we see in spades these days.

So: to paraphrase the “old song” , “Let Evolving begin on Earth ….. and let it begin with Me!” And You! If any of us want Peace or Justice of Kindness or Compassion, WE have to at least begin becoming living examples of these things.

I suggest we do it “Alone and With Others”. Evolving needs support! And one small step at a time - as one wise person once said, the longest journey begins with the first step. Nourish Creation, not Destruction.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, January 7, 2009

World, we live and die on your lap.
On you we play out all our woes and joys.
You are our home, old ancient one.
Forever we cherish you; we could not bear your loss.
We wish to transform you into the pure realm of our dreams,
into a field where all creatures live without prejudice, all equal.
We wish to transform you into a loving warm gentle goddess.
Our wish to embrace you is unchangeably steadfast.
To that end be the ground which sustains us all.

Do not show us the dark side of your character.
And we too will transform you,all your corners
into fertile fields of peace and happiness.
May the harvest of joyfulness and freedom’s sweet scent
fulfill our limitless infinite wishes.

So we pray.

- His Holiness the Seventeen Karmapa, Ugyen Trinley Dorje
who fled Chinese-occupied Tibet on this day, 2000

His Holiness is now 22, I think. He was 14 when he fled his brutally subjugated land. It would be good to know about the Karmapa tradition: “Karmapa” means "the one who carries out buddha-activity" or "the embodiment of all the activities of the buddhas." In the Tibetan tradition, great enlightened teachers are said to be able to consciously arrange to be reborn as a teacher who can carry on the teachings of a predecessor in a prior life. Pursuant to this tradition, the Karmapas have incarnated in this form of manifestation body (Skt. nirmanakaya), for seventeen lifetimes, as of the present, and all have played the most important role in preserving and propagating the Buddhist teachings of Tibet.

I am struck – and delighted – by the gentle and loving sense that the 17th Karmapa has of our relationship with Mother Earth. “You are our home, old ancient one.” He is so aware of the abuse and damage that we humans have inflicted upon Mother Earth, a “loving warm gentle goddess”. Our home. Needing to be transformed “into fertile fields of peace and happiness”.

This certainly resonates with the Gospel. With the Hebrew Scriptures. I completely disagree with the popular interpretation of the Genesis creation story that grants to humans the “right” to “have dominion” over the Earth. As if it was our “right” to destroy our Mother for our own short-sighted, selfish ends! Rubbish!

Ponder His Holiness’s prayer. Remember: “We live and die on your lap.” The Earth is as much our Mother as our biological mother. It is our sacred duty to honour Her, sustain Her, to plant and bring in the “harvest of joyfulness and freedom’s sweet scent”.

Soon may we see Her rise, healed and whole!

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Feast of the Epiphany/Twelfth Night (Christian)

….. were we lead all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt.
I have seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

- from “The Journey of the Magi”, by T.S. Eliot
(who died Jan 4, 1965, age 76, in London)

(The whole poem can be found at )

What an interesting thought! Birth and Death ….. the same in some fundamental way! (Baptism is about the same thing.)

Whatever else Eliot was trying to communicate, I believe he got the power of the myth right. The Feast of the Epiphany is traditionally the “revelation of the God-Presence to the World”. Implying that what the story of the Birth of Jesus is about is “for all people” (as the angels say in the Gospel called Luke). The essential meaning of both the Incarnation and the Epiphany is this: that when we human beings recognize that we fully come to Life by the Mystery of the non-material “spirit” indwelling us, we both die (to a Life defined simply by “flesh”) and are “birthed”. And it can be both “hard and bitter agony” ….. and ecstatic!

Every birth to some new aspect of Life is a death. Human Life is always about both. A lot of “how it feels” depends on your attitude, your perspective, your choices, your “faith”/path. I suspect this is at the core of every religion.

Epiphany. Manifestation. The Feast invites us to “manifest”, as God does, as our full true Selves in the World.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, January 5, 2009

True love cannot be found where it truly does not exist.

- Jahan Shah, builder of the Taj Mahal, born
on this day, 1592

This is what “God” is all about. “God” is about finding, “locating”, the place where “true Love” exists. Human beings are superbly brilliant, as is the human brain and heart and “inner spirit”. We discern what we need to Live – and we seek it out, ranging over the Deep Mysteries of Being.

We need, crave, long for Love. Human beings understand – except for the nuts of the World, of which there are alas many, who seem to get the media attention – that only authentic Love makes us happy, and gives us Peace.

This is why Jesus is so compelling – at least as He is “revealed” when you filter out all the nonsense that people surrounded Him with as they sought to establish their own positions of power in the World, especially “the Church”.

People who deeply understand Jesus understand that they are discerning, seeing, the core nature of Love. If we can grasp it, we see that we have found the nature of “true love” where it truly exists. If this were not true, then Christianity is useless nonsense.

A glimpse of “true love” can be found in many places. I know and believe and have experienced that. And I profoundly believe that all the truly “great” religions of the World have such a revelation at their heart. Jesus, His life and teaching, is a superb example. Love exists in the mythological person of Jesus. If this were not so, Christianity would never have survived for 2000 years.

Love is what we need. Do not look for it where it does not exist.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Sat/Sun, Jan 3/4, 2009

Not all who wander are lost.

- J.R.R. Tolkien, mythologist,
born Jan 3, 1892

… a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. They asked around,
"Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn ….. the star appeared
again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until
it hovered over the place of the child ….. they opened their luggage and
presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh.

- Matthew 2 – from the Gospel for the Second Sunday after Christmas (Episcopal)

They have come to you, to me, to every child that has been born since the human race came about. The birth of every human being is “announced” by a “star”, noting that the deep Mystery of Existence has been added to. To every one of us “Gifts” are brought: the gold of majesty, the frankincense of divine presence, the myrrh of the wonder and mystery of the Journey of the Mortal Ones.

“God” has been born in each of us. We are made fully alive by that Presence. The Universe wheels on, and we have joined the Journey on this exquisitely beautiful speck of a planet sailing through the galaxy.

We have been granted but a few years to sail the seas of time. We have all the gifts we need to shine in the firmament. To bless the World and each other with Love and with Compassion and with Justice and with Kindness.

Follow the star that announced your birth.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, Jan 2, 2009

What in heaven's name is strange about a grandmother
dancing nude? I'll bet lots of grandmothers do it.

- Sally Rand, actress and fan dancer, born on this day, 1904

I hope that Sally is right! OK all you grandmothers out there, you can verify this! Let me know if Sally is right, at least when it comes to you. (I won’t sell this information to anyone, I promise! Nor, if you are a churchgoer, will I email your clergyperson.)

I’ve been to several nudist encampments and beaches in my interesting Life. They both embarrass me and they encourage me. They are, in my view, very helpful. First, they get us over the dreadful grip that modern advertising has on us – where “we” have to be trim and gorgeous and buff etc., or we feel bad. That is, if you have enough background teaching that sensibly reminds you that you don’t have to look like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to be “beautiful”.

Secondly, they remind us that we have bodies, that “God” gave them to us, and that bodies are both to be revered and to be treasured with a certain amount of humour!

Thirdly, the body is a very helpful reminder of our mortality. It gets too fat or thin; it has scars (at least mine has plenty) from the repairs that have had to be made; it quits on us at the most inconvenient times; it stops being able to do the things it used to do; it hurts - and it also reminds us of the joy of simple pleasures, like food and sex and sunshine and jojoba oil and the feel of Egyptian cotton next to it and the warmth of the hot tub ….. etc. Sensual pleasures are a great blessing, if not over-indulged to the point of detriment (I am having to have my face and ears scoured by some meds that take off all the pre-malignant cancers ….. sheesh!)

But my principle point is this: our body comes with the territory of being human. It may be temporary, but it is to be treasured and appreciated and loved and treated well. Even Sally said, “If you love living, you try to take care of the equipment.”

So get out those metaphorical fans, boys and girls ….. grandmother/father or not. Flaunt being flesh as well as spirit! God will be amused ….. and entertained!