Sunday, January 31, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, February 1, 2010

He who would travel happily must travel light.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery [author of The Little Prince]

I could tell you countless stories about my travels! “Travelling light” is an art I have learned well over the decades. I’m glad I did. It has made space for wonderful adventures! And, of course, there is travelling light physically, and travelling light “in mind and spirit”.

When I first left my family home, age 21, to join the Order of the Holy Cross, I had one small valise. A few clothes, and several books. During the fifteen years I was in the Order, one valise is all I ever travelled with.

In 1986, travelling from Ohio to MA to be Interim Rector, I had a Rabbit convertible – very small trunk! On the Pennsylvania Turnpike I was rear-ended in an ice-storm. I had two bags of clothes and “personal effects – mostly things of emotional value. Amazingly, the small Limoges tea set I always traveled with was unscathed! There is a Goddess! Many a rest-stop traveler was nonplused to see me heating boiling tea water at a picnic table, 1890 individual Limoges Teapot, cream, sugar, and cup & saucer neatly set out with a proper linen serviette! Also, I always carried a small beach chair and a towel – many are the lakes I’ve swum in and read by in the summer sun!

In 1989, I spent three weeks in the Greek Isles. Leaving my luggage at a lovely little hotel back-room in the Plaka in Athens, I set off. I wore a T-shirt, cargo shorts, Tevas, and had a base-ball cap. I had a fanny-pack with my ID, and sunglasses, and a Swiss Army knife, and sun-tan lotion. In a small back-back, two other T’s, an extra pair of shorts, and a very light rain jacket from L. L. Bean. With that, I made it through the islands and to Istanbul and back. The Greek sun is perfect for drying things washed in a public fountain somewhere!

More important: I honed a light “spiritual” backpack. It has been refined over the years, and still serves me well. It’s something like this:

The “Golden Rule”.
Sit still and wonder at some part of Nature.
Be interested in others and Listen to their story.
Within reason, take offered opportunities for Adventure.
Get rid of what you haven’t needed for a year.
Accept love offered, and give back.
Be as generous as you can be.
Trust the Universe.
Have fun.

I’m a miserable failure at times. But “simple” has definitely been better. Keep evolving.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat, January 30, 2010

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious
or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist
on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it
does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the
truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes
all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

1 Corinthians 13 [Epistle for Epiphany IV C_RCL]

OK. I’ve pushed the line that “Love is what it’s all about” for a few decades now. For humans. For philosophy. For theology. For “God”. And I can’t think how many sermons I’ve written, how many retreats I’ve conducted, how many “Schools of Prayer” I’ve led, on this subject. I’ve said that, if there is anything “special” about the Gospel Message, it is that “God is Love”. And that we humans are “made in God’s image” – i.e., Love. And all this in the face of (a) the failure of people (especially Christians, and myself) to take this seriously and radically, and (b) crushing discouragement that we have advanced 2000 years beyond the proclamation of the Gospel and are yet on the brink of barbarism.

I still believe it that Love is what it is all about.

But it’s understanding what Love IS that’s the real work.

I know why Love doesn’t go down in America. Because real Love – as not perfectly but very soundly characterized by the writer of the 1st Letter to the Christians in Corinth - is about two essential things. One: Deep and anchored self-appreciation and self-understanding. And Two: the honouring of and blessing of and living for the Other – only possible when we as a person are secure and whole, psychologically, “spiritually”, emotionally, physically. Much Religion, Christian and other, has in fact worked against its principles.

It is my opinion that the vast majority of human beings are – for a myriad of reasons – not capable of Love. Certainly as Jesus – as I understand Jesus – was capable of Love. Americans (and there are others) are particularly vulnerable, centered as we are in Individualism. We are, culturally, still too infantile.

Read what 1 Corinthians has to say about Love. Think about what the World’s Great True Lovers have been able to do to heal and bring Peace to the World. Ponder it.

I am recommitting to reconnecting to the “Christ” within me. So I can advance a little in the Path of Love.

Love must never end. Or we are headed to even greater suffering.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, Jan 29, 2010

Why should we honour those that
die upon the field of battle? A (wo)man
may show as reckless a courage in
entering into the abyss of him/herself.

William Butler Yeats, poet, born
on this date, 1793, age 73

I had a flare-up on Facebook the other day with the son of dear friends. He insisted that killed soldiers were “heroes”.

His argument: They gave their lives “doing their “duty”, and are therefore automatically “heroes”.

I profoundly disagree. Why? Each situation must be judged by its own circumstances. I reject any such blanket stereotyping. And my conviction is, “God” disapproves of all militarism and war. It is a failure of the essence of being Human.

I agree with Yeats. And with, for example, the sensible and just understanding of Qur’anic “jihad”. The heroic journey of the human being is Self Understanding, and self mastery.

Let us not glorify the killing of other human beings – for any reason. Nor the instruments of the Killing, human or otherwise. Each of us is a “battlefield”. In Yeats’ words, an “abyss”. How amazingly complex we all are!

The journey that produces the greatest heroes is the journey of self-understanding, and the ability to act out of deepest divine compassion and love.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, January 28, 2010

Peoples are made of hate and of love,
and more of hate than love.

Jose Marti, revolutionary, artist; he was
born on this date, 1853 (died 1895, age 42)

Marti was a Cuban national hero and an important figure in Latin American literature. In his short life he was a poet, an essayist, a journalist, a revolutionary philosopher, a translator, a professor, a publisher, and a political theorist. His newspaper Patria was a key instrument in his campaign for Cuban independence. After his death, one of his poems from the book, "Versos Sencillos" (Simple Verses) was adapted to the song, "Guantanamera," which has become the definitive patriotic song of Cuba.

His words pose an interesting “theological” issue. Are we human beings essentially “hateful”, or “loving”?? Christians seems to hold that human beings are essentially “good” because they are “made in God’s image”.

Like so many of such issues, for me it comes down to Choice as to what we believe and why. Choice is the central demand of human freedom. There is so-called evidence both “for” and “against”. Personally, I think, along with Marti, that the evidence is on the side of “hate” rather than “love”. I have become more either cynical or realistic in my advancing years. The Bible seems to lean towards “Good”. That is because the Bible is not about “reality” but about Hope.

“Religion” is a thing devised, – at its best - I think, to thrust in the face of “Hate”. To give it it’s best interpretation, it is because we human beings are so aware of our capacity for Hate that we have invented the God of Love, Justice, Fairness, Compassion. We know all too well our capability for Evil – but we also descend into our innermost hearts and know also our yearning for Peace, for Compassion, our desire to live together in unity. We human beings can “find” that center that longs for this Calm.

Marti certainly knew from experience the human capacity for Evil. Deep down, most of us long for Peace and Tolerance.

I can buy into that.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor
imagination nor both together go to the
making of genius. Love, love, love, that
is the soul of genius.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, genius, born
on this date, 1756 [ his 256th Birthday ]

Oh, I am looking forward to XM Classics tomorrow! I get to be home, and get to listen to my satellite radio station all day! Mozart! I can’t stand The Magic Flute” (I like Il Sogno di Scipione”). But the orchestral works in all their variety – lovely, most of them.

I wonder if Mozart considered himself a genius?? We all know a lot about his musical talents. But what do we really know about his Loving?

Anyway. I agree with Amadeus (“Beloved of God”) . If anything makes a genius of a human being, it’s the capacity for Love. Jesus and a multiple of great “spiritual” leaders would agree, I think.

Love is the greatest of the Arts. To Love is to Create, in every form. Many artists pour their love into their creations – and it shows. I have stood many times in the Bargello and looked at the statuary, and seen the radiating passion that makes them “genius”.

The lovely thing is: we can all do it. We can all be Great Artists. Artisti di Amore.

It’s the basic, Divine-given tool for being a human being.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Nothing says holidays ………. like a cheese log.

Ellen DeGeneres, TV host, comedienne, born on this
date, 1958

A cheese log. A cheese log. I LIKE that!

What is – symbolically – a cheese log???

Remember: “holidays” are Holy-days. That’s the origin.

And what could be more ….. “normal” than a cheese log??!!

Metaphorically – at least to me, being the weirdo I am - a “cheese log” is Basics. This is Theology!

Thoughtfulness. A phone call. Chicken soup. A favourite ice cream brought over. An E-card. A text message.

“Prayer” is not a message to the Deity.

Prayer is a message to Oneself.

And the message is: “Do Something!”

Do whatever you can.

Incarnate (used as a verb) Love.

As an act of the Will.

Lifting up each other – whether we know the “each other” or not.

By a simple act, Peace will come.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, Jan 25, 2010

Ye Pow'rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o 'fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

Robbie Burns, Scot, born on this
date, in Alloway, Scotland, 1759

[ This is the last verse of Burn’s “Address to the Haggis”;
you can read the whole poem at ]

Well: here’s a test for you if you’re interested! Google Robbie Burn’s words in his poem “Address to the Haggis” and see if you can figure out the Scots bits! If not let me know, and I will email my oldest friend and ask him to supply an “explanation” !

Today is Robbie Burns Day! I LOVE Scotland. I love my Scottish heritage. And I – and now Dennis – love Scotland. I’ve been there many times – and love it, walking the Highlands (though alas I have to admit that my paternal grandparents were Lowland Scots – but then Bums was too!( The generation before my grandparents were Irish. (I have, though, discovered that there is an Orrock tartan – and if I can lose enough weight at this advanced age, I will get a kilt in it! I “took” Dennis to Scotland on my 60th Birthday – what a wonderful time we had.

Stories. My dear friend Martin knows the “Address” by heart. Gathered round the Haggis on a Burn’s Night, I heard him recite it with great passion – a wonderful moment in Life.

When I was a boy in Verdun – which was filled with Scots immigrants – my Mum would take me every Saturday morning to Main’s, a Scottish bakery. We would buy all sorts of Scottish goodies. Wonderful. But, though my father’s family were from Dundee, we never had haggis at home. There was another Scottish bakery – Muir’s – where my oldest friends mother shopped. Muir’s. They are no longer in Verdun – but they moved to Maxwell, Ontario. When I am there, we go to Muir’s (run by the daughter of the man who owned Muir’s in Verdun) and we load up on Scots meat pies (made with ground lamb), Empire Biscuits (renamed after the War, previously called German Biscuits), Eccles Cakes, Fern Tarts, and Oat Cakes. Heaven!

How I remember one lovely Burn’s Night, when Martin recited, with great passion, the Address to the Haggis – and stabbed it with his dirk. What a feast!

One day, staying on Loch Awe, at a B&B, the proprietor asked me what I wanted for breakfast. I said “Haggis”! – ignorant of the custom. She said that it was “odd” for anyone to want it for breakfast – but had some and would produce it. I had it, with Blood Pudding (yum) and eggs. Wonderful.

Do I have a “spiritual” point to make? Yes. All Humanity has these customs, cultural and ethnic and religious. I can’t help but think that we would all benefit, in many many ways, from knowing and appreciating and respecting each others’ valued traditions – and the meaning behind them all. It is my conviction that they all speak to the same thing – to the myths/traditions that “explain” us.

In the end, they point to the same longing to express our origins and our self-esteem. When honoured, they deepen our appreciation of each other, and our shared anchoring in the Mystery of God and Being Human.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, January 22, 2010

I would to heaven that I were so much clay,
As I am blood, bone, marrow, passion, feeling -
Because at least the past were passed away -
And for the future - (but I write this reeling,
Having got drunk exceedingly today,
So that I seem to stand upon the ceiling)
I say - the future is a serious matter -
And so - for God's sake - hock and soda water!

George Gordon, Lord Byron, born on this date

Lady Caroline Lamb described Byron as “mad, bad and dangerous to know". If I had never read anything about Byron, or read any of his poems, I would have loved him immediately! Byron served as a regional leader of Italy’s revolutionary organization, the Carbonari in its struggle against Austria. He later travelled to fight against the Ottoman Empire in the Greek War of Independence, for which Greeks revere him as a national hero. He died from a fever contracted while in Messolohghi, in Greece. He was 36 years old. How Romantic! Almost as Romantic as Rupert Brooke!

I understand Byron’s hesitancy about “the future”. It’s scary. I have a deep sense of foreboding about the World, and about the country I live in, these days. The future looks pretty bleak – specters arise of conflict, militarism, nuclear devastation (yes, we’re back to that after a few decades), ethnic and religious hate and animosity, class and race wars. More.

But. Cowering in a hole isn’t a good or acceptable plan. So, I’m with Byron. Let’s enjoy each other, our friends and loved ones. Let’s sop up as much intoxicating fellowship as we can – perhaps even to the limits of standing “upon the ceiling”. Let’s knock back a little material and spiritual “hock and soda water” to keep ourselves relaxed and limber.

And get on with transforming our surroundings and neighbours one heart-felt kiss at a time.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, January 21, 2010

During times of universal deceit, telling
the truth becomes a revolutionary act.

George Orwell, author; he died on this
date, 1950

It’s been over four years and more that I have been writing these Reflections. I’ve learned many things. Most, I’ve learned that people say entirely contradictory things. Do they forget? Or do they change? Both, I suppose.

I think, “spiritually”, that Orwell is dead on. We might call this the “Theological Principle of the Emperor’s Clothes”. Or, more correctly, the Un-Clothes.

In my view, people who “tell the truth”, especially in “times of universal deceit”, are very often murdered. We’ve just, in the so-called “United” States of America (a falsehood if I ever heard one; “America” is anything but united), celebrated (at least in the Episcopal Church Calendar) one of our murdered “saints” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Christians can go right back to Jesus, who definitely falls into this category. Many other faiths and religions have “founders” who were killed for telling the Truth. Especially to “Power”. That’s when the rubber hits the road: people in power do not take kindly to hearing the truth if it calls into question their values – or their Greed. America has murdered many whom they felt challenged their right to live on top of the materialistic heap.

Our problem is, we now live in a World in a time of “Universal Deceit”. On a massive scale, people lie to themselves and to others. People deprive other human beings of Justice and Fairness and Equality and call it Love. The Inquisition did this. People profess to act out of their Gospel faith who basically have perverted the Gospel - like the man who is claiming that he could kill a doctor who performed abortions because God wanted him to prevent what he considered theologically acceptable. Does he not remember (he who is a Biblical “fundamentalist”) “Thou shalt not kill”? Many Americans (seemingly a majority) claim we are a “Christian Nation,” when they espouse completely un-Christian principles of intolerance and un-Love and “not considering themselves as better than others”, and “Love your neighbour as yourself”. On and on it goes.

Need I say anything about the recent vote in Massachusetts? Ponder this. What does it say about caring for the 6th of our citizens who have no health care? About 30% of our children hungry while we spend nearly half of our national budget on the machinery of war??

Be a Revolutionary. Tell the Truth.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Realism is a bad word. In a sense
everything is realistic. I see no line
between the imaginary and the real.

There is no end. There is no beginning.
There is only the passion of life.

Federico Fellini, film director, genius, born
on this date, 1920

This is why I say that Fellini is a “genius”. And wise.

As to the first quote: I have preached this for decades. Thinking that there IS a difference between the “real” and the “imaginary” has been the curse of religion for a very long time. The human imagination is, in my view, the Sacred Fountain of Divine Wisdom. It is God’s primary instrument of self-revelation – since God and We are indivisible.

The Imagination is a Holy Language, originating in the deepest wells from which human character rises. That there has developed a huge gap between the two is, to put it in apocalyptic imagery, the “work of the Devil”. America, in particular, has fallen for it hook line and sinker. We suffer deeply and live in deep anguish and unreality because of it.

“There is only the passion of life”. Truer word was never spoken. To deny this truth is to give ultimate power to the demon of Death. Most religion has led us to pay over-attention to either the “beginning” or to the “end”. We ask: Will we be punished for our sins? What must we do to get to Heaven.” These are both paths leading only to Death. Love demands that we live in the Present. And I believe that this is the core message of the Death and Resurrection of the Christ.

Christians call the events of the Christ’s crucifixion, death and resurrection His “Passion”. The word “passion” means “to suffer with”, to “be joined with another in their struggle”. Fellini is, I believe, correct. Life is experienced fully only in embracing our connection with others. Especially with those “not like us”. This is, I believe, why Jesus spent His life with “outcasts and sinners”. Life reveals itself for us when we share the struggle and joy of our fellow human beings.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, January 19, 2010

All religion, my friend, is simply evolved out of
fraud, fear, greed, imagination, and poetry.

Edgar Allan Poe, poet, was born on this date, 1809

Well, I would disagree – at last with half of what Poe says. That all religion is evolved out of poetry and imagination, I agree. That “all religion” is evolved “out of fraud, fear, greed”, I disagree. I would say that all false religion is evolved out of fraud, fear and greed. And I would add out of some others things – like guilt, powerlessness, ignorance, a failure to appreciate the sheer wonder of being Human and the glory of human intellectual and imaginative character.

“Faith” is to be distinguished from “religion”. “Faith” is a choice to believe in certain theological or philosophical principles which allow us to navigate Life with some strength and courage and wisdom. “Religion” is the multitude of things we do to support the Faith we have chosen, including worship, ritual, practices of all sorts.

My Faith and Religion are definitely a matter of my imagination and poetic understanding of Life and my needs. I have rejected all aspects of religion which are counter to thriving in Life. I think that Moses and Jesus did the same thing. They let go of prevailing ideas about “God” and rejected aspects of religious practice that were contrary to their understanding of God’s good purpose for Humanity. My Life has been a constant path of such winnowing out things which denigrate Life in all its beauty and holiness.

I would encourage you to examine your faith principles and your religious practice. If they don’t affirm the sacredness of your self as the ontological being you are, if they do not support the centrality of Love as the core of successful humanity, if they encourage the demeaning of other persons who are not “like you” or who follow different paths, let them go.

You will then be free to become the extraordinary being you were destined to be, and a healer of the World’s pain.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, Jan 18, 2009

A people always ends by resembling its shadow.

Rudyard Kipling, British author; he died on
this date, 1936

I wonder. I wonder. There is a part of me which, after decades of Life, has to acknowledge that this is true. In America, our “shadow” has emerged with enormous power. And it is true of the whole World. We live in an age of the Shadow. If I were an 8th century Hebrew prophet, I would be raging to the people at the peril of my Life. Martin Luther King Jr., whose life is celebrated today in America, spoke to our Shadow – to our violent, racist culture. He died by assassination. Many prophets do.

Look at America today. I am appalled, as a human being and as a Christian, by what we seem to have become. I see the reality, but I am stunned by the viciousness, the mean-spiritedness, the vitriol, the hate, the murderousness, that has come to be so prominent in American society. To the point that I feel as if all reason has escaped us – as well as any rational concept of the spirit of the Constitution or any even vague sense of the heart of any Faith tradition, be it Christianity, Judaism or Islam. I put this down primarily to Fear, and to Covetousness, and to Arrogance – and to a profound loss of Identity as human beings.

Our Shadow – the negative side of our identity – is ascendant now. This is not because we, as Americans, espouse the separation of “church and state”. This position has been and remains a good thing. It has held back mainly Christians from imposing their position on the country – and alas a radically negative and essentially anti-Gospel view that seems endemic in American religious culture. But the Shadow is still among us – and we are being torn apart by it – deliberately, I believe by extremists on all sides.

We definitely, as America, resemble our Shadow at the moment. If we persist, we will destroy ourselves. I can only say that if the choice is to persist to live out of our negative Shadow dimension, destruction is our only hope for salvation. It has happened in many societies before us.

But there is a hope. We can choose to reject the Shadow. Religion, and non-religious thinkers, can reject capture by forces destructive to human community.

Kipling can be wrong. It is our job to prove him wrong!


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, Jan 15, 2010

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military
defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward
the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless
exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.

Martin Luther King Jr., born on this date, 1929

I think that human experience and History proves that MLK is correct. Justice does not happen automatically. If it did, there would have been no reason for “God to send His only begotten son”. Or to send the prophets. Or for the reincarnation generation after generation of the Dalai Llama. Etc. The Christian Myth says that Jesus” gave himself for us”, that he “suffered for us”. That he “died for us”. The primary meaning of this is to remind us: WE must sacrifice, suffer, and struggle for Justice, for Life, for Love. This is the only way that Justice shall come among us.

The ratio of money spent on militarism as opposed to “programs of social uplift” is profoundly a sign of injustice in any society. Ponder then that the money spent on militarism in American society is almost half of our national budget. Is it any wonder that people die in American society because they cannot get health care? It is a symbol of our chosen values. But, perhaps of out misguided representatives? We must oppose them.

Do you care that our government spends our tax dollars supporting militarism to the vast extent we do? If you do, then we are “approaching spiritual doom”. No – we have arrived there.

Only we can change that.

Rebel. Say No. It is a way of “conforming to Christ”.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, Jan 14, 2010

Pale sunlight,
pale the wall.

Love moves away.
The light changes

I need more grace
than I thought.

Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks)

Ah Rumi. Such elegant poetic imagination. Such insight of the mind and spirit and imagination. But remember: we all could have this if we wanted to invite it into our lives.

“Grace” is a fascinating concept, isn’t it?! What is it? We think of it as “something” that comes from “out there”, from “God”. Like a vitamin supplement to our weakened human immune system.

I don’t think so, after all these decades of pondering. “Grace” is an integral aspect of being Human. It is the insight and energy that rises up for us when we are able voluntarily to let go of our earth-bound Ego and open our Being to who we actually Are. And what is that? A flame of the Universe manifest through the exquisite mystery of Flesh.

We human beings are – as the Biblical Pentecost story reveals – flames of God dancing in Time and Space.

Being Human, we consume the fuels of Life and come close to spluttering out. We are tempted to think – until we learn better - that replenishment will come from Without. No. It will come from Within, from where Jesus said the “Kingdom” lives. Walking our Path – usually a precisely defined one in terms of faithfulness – leads us to the Well of Fire.

“Grace” is like the nourishing sustenance that flows to us through the umbilical cord in the womb. Only now that “cord” connects the Universe to our hearts. We keep the channel open from our Center to our fingers, toes, genitals, skin, mind, senses. “Grace” bathes us in a liquid love. It illumines the pale wall, gives vibrancy to the Son-light. It revives Love.

We forget about so many things. It is the primary failure of being Human. Especially we forget about Grace.

Write that Word on your heart, on the inner retina. When “sleeping or awake”, seek it etched Within.

The Great Prayer is, “I need more Grace that I thought”.

Whisper it often.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, Jan 13, 2010

There is no heresy or no philosophy which is so
abhorrent to the church as a human being.

James Joyce, Irish author. He died on this date, 1941

Joyce was talking about the Roman Catholic Church. As an Irishman, he knew little else, as far as I know. But he might well have been speaking about much of Christianity these days.

The Christian Church in many places and manifestations despises the human body. Considers it and all its desires and needs as against God and Nature. The contempt that oozes out of Joyce’s words are deserved, in my opinion. Much of the Church’s opinions and theology of humanity is “agin it”.

Most of Christianity remains what is theologically called “dualistic”. Holding that humankind is split between “body” and “spirit” – with the “body” being intrinsically “bad”. In my estimation, this is not only utter nonsense, but contrary to the doctrine of the Incarnation and to the Bible. It has caused perhaps irreparable harm both to human self-comprehension and to any kind of true understanding of “God”.

Much of the Christian church has tried for two millennia to deny the true nature of being human. It has tried to twist, coerce, manipulate, threaten, condemn human beings into a concept of our human nature that is not, frankly, Godly. And to punish us for it, threatening us with Hell and Punishment. Needless to say, out of this the Church has gained wealth and power. But it is contrary to Jesus’ explanation of the nature of His Kingdom.

We must forcefully reject this false teaching. We must insist that the “church” embrace and affirm the reality of being human. Especially the beauty and importance of our bodily nature, with all its dimensions, especially including sexuality. At present, many Christian denominations are trying to make their followers deny their true humanity. This only results – as we scan History – in estrangement from both the Body of Christ and from God. And it destroys any possibility of human beings rising to our true glory and possibility.

We are who we are. Flesh and Blood and Spirit, Heart and Mind and radically Free.

Be yourself. Embrace all that you are as human. Bow to the call of Love. Only then can we become the beings God intended,


Monday, January 11, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, Jan 12, 2010

This arrived from a dear and valued friend yesterday afternoon. I’m an “opera buff” (ignorant mostly of the sophisticated details, but enjoy all efforts). So I listened. And I had to keep wiping my eyes with my hankie.

Why? Because the World is so bitter these days. Filled with such anger and viciousness. Even if perpetrated by a small minority, it affects all of us – limiting us, causing fear and hesitation.

I have no idea if this video was “spontaneous”, or “staged”. To me, it doesn’t matter. It is a kind of parable of how easy it is for us human beings to create community, smile and laugh, rejoice in the sense of being together.

We need to start multiplying such moments! In whatever simple little ways we can.

Viva Valencia!


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, Jan 11, 2010

Compared to what we ought to be,
we are half awake.

William James, philosopher, psychologist,
Harvard professor; born on this date, 1842

Why? Why are we, thousands of years into being and religion and science and culture and art, “half awake”? This bedevils me, frustrates me, depresses me, shocks me.

Our little (7 this morning) 8am band of worshippers at St. Benedict’s, listening to the readings, were extolling God’s great, enormous, boundless love for the human community. We few 8am-ers love this “service” (why is it called that?). We sit in a circle. We begin in Holy Silence. We “collect” around the Collect. We listen to the Readings – with two to three minutes of silent reflection between readings. We pray for each other, the World, our parish community, and offer our Thanks. We take the Body and Blood of Christ, tingling with the vast mythical implications. We “retire” to drink coffee and visit. Perfect for Dennis and I. After fifteen years of monastic life and work, and twenty-five years of parish ministry, I love this Sunday rite! Kudos to Caro, our Priest-in-Charge, for having this worship experience available.

I asked: why do we know this great unfathomable Love of God, and yet fail so much to live this Reality, this Truth, this Call, to make a difference in the World, to change the suffering and hate and extrangement? Why do I not do it? We shared our thoughts. (I love this part. People are amazing! So wise! So honest! It is wonderful as a priest to hear this from faithful Christian (perhaps condescendingly called) layfolk!

Of course there were no “answers”. No solutions. There are not nor will ever be. We just struggle with the facts, the realities. In the midst of a World that is so wounded at this moment in history. We affirm our belief in the “vision” – a whole Humanity, Love, Grace, possibility, acting locally, self-transformation. We “buck ourselves up”, encourage “keeping on keeping on”.

“Religion” is, for me – especially in this wonderful time post-“retirement” – an amazing time of re-assessment – about Everything. My understanding of the Gospel and “God” has expanded faster than the Cosmos! I’m lurching around, off-balance, stunned, thrilled, scared. But I’m also caught in the utter joy of being taught the Wonder of Life. It’s a grand time.

I doubt that I am anyways near half awake! I feel no shame or guilt at age 63 and near 37 years into priesthood at being on a new threshold. Rather, I feel ….. renewed. Given a new Life. Reborn.

I want to move beyond “half awake”. I’m engaged by it. It makes me see that I am alive, that Life is one glorious adventure after another if you can say “Yes”.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, January 8, 2010

When we encounter the family from the point of view
of the soul, accepting its shadows and its failure
to meet our idealistic expectations, we are faced
with mysteries that resist our moralism and sentiment-
ality. We are taken down to the earth, where principle
gives way to life in all its beauty and horror.

Thomas More, “Care of the Soul”

My deepest inner “soul” pushed me. I fled “family” – on various levels of the understanding of “family” – when I determined to go to university at age 16 against my father’s wishes (this was my intellectual and spiritual preparation, having left the Presbyterian church and become an Anglican at age 18), and then in a more radical way when, at age 21, I left home and country to join the Order of the Holy Cross. I knew, at a profound level of unconscious understanding, that if I was to survive as a Gay man, I had to find another Family. My heart and spirit knew that the Order of the Holy Cross was 95% Gay – and that I would find support and a loving God – and I did.

I have no regrets. Over the last 43 years, every time I hear the words of the Gospel – “there is no one who has left home and family and country for me who shall not receive ……” – I see the hand of a caring Mystery/God calling me to “safety” and to “family”. I have been deeply nourished.

But. More’s words present a challenge. I have chosen my family – those who accepted me for who I was as a Gay man. And church communities that did. And friends who did. However, there have come times, with friends and church, when they have rejected or hurt me. Then the challenge has come, from the “point of view of the soul”. There have been times when I chose to leave those “families”. I’ve left friends. Over the years I have been tempted to leave the “church”, and the Episcopal Church in particular – even now after 45 years, as we contemplate whether or not to remain part of a Communion which seems to want to force the Episcopal Church to reject Gayfolk.

I’ve worked my way – grudgingly - to “accepting its shadows and its failure to meet our idealistic expectations”. I have little peace with it. I accept that it is a “mystery”. I reject that I am moralistic or sentimental about it. But I do feel “taken down to earth”. I see its “beauty and horror” – but I do not let go of my principles.

“Beauty and horror”. That is earthly life in the human race. I guess I see that engaging with the Beauty and the Horror is Reality. It teaches us to mature – if we find the wisdom and peace and courage to do so. I am grateful for the Path I chose. May yours serve you well.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, Jan 7, 2010

The Bible shows the way to go to heaven,
not the way the heavens go.

Galileo Galilei, genius, scientist. On this date,
1610, he sighted four of Jupiter’s moons

That’s because “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims His handiwork”. The opening line of Psalm 19, I believe. And someone famously set it to music – I can hear it ringing in my ears!. Who? Handel?

In other words, Nature has its own character and way of “behaving”, showing the “way the heavens go”. But it is a rich metaphor for “rising to be with God in eternity”. The two relate – but they connect two different realms. When we leave Nature’s heaven, we are guided to a home for our enduring Spirit.

Religion’s “Heaven” and Science’s “Heavens” are not synonymous. They do not contradict each other. They serve each other. As Dennis and I were driving to Vespers last night, the sunset, from Santa Maria all the way to Shell Beach, was one of the most spectacular we had ever seen. We rejoiced in this glory of our earthly existence. We also understood it’s message. Appropriately, it being Jan 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, it “manifested” the great Mystery: “We are gods, sons/daughters of the Most High”.

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, January 6, 2010

……. were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had
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
But no longer at ease here, in the old
With an alien people clutching their
I should be glad of another death.

from “The Journey of the Magi”
by T. S. Eliot, on this Christian Feast
of the Epiphany

Whoever imagined the story of the journey of the Magi to Bethlehem was a master story-crafter. Eliot scuffs it up some – making us aware of the difficulty of such a long journey, even for wealthy people, in those days. That’s ok; he makes his point. I prefer the shining, brilliant, magical Biblical story – a star-filled sky, three fabulously arrayed Wise Men, the sound of camel bells jingling in the clear night, the golden caskets filled with exotic rich gifts of Gold, Frankinsense, and Myrrh with their mysterious meaning.

As I have come to understand it, this Story of the Magi is about each of us “coming to” our true full Selves. A story about discovering the core of who we are as human beings, and as the unique individuals we are.

Our humanity is glorious and brilliant enough – rich and wise and noble and beautiful like the Magi. This is an important aspect of the story: it is important not to denigrate the wonder of being human, or of personhood.

What we need to know about who we truly are is manifested – an epiphany! – in the little child in the manger. For the Biblical storyteller, the child Jesus is the Divine One. Emmanuel - God With Us”.

The Story of the Magi tells us that we will become fully human when we recognize the Divine within us, when we know that we are one with the great Mystery of Being that some call “God”.

Eliot is right. Once we know who we are, we are “no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation”. We must die and be born anew. This is the Journey we are all on. We are led to our simple humanity to discover that we are of royal birth.

[ Eliot’s poem can be found here in full: ]


Monday, January 4, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, Jan 5, 2010

If you love it enough, anything will talk with you.

Our creator is the same and never changes despite
the names given Him by people here and in all parts
of the world. Even if we gave Him no name at all,
He would still be there, within us, waiting to give
us good on this earth.

George Washington Carver, American scientist,
botanist, educator, inventor; who died on this date, 1943

I am stunned to realize that Carver died only 3 years before I was born!

One of the great challenges in my Life came to fruition after I “retired”. It has made the last 20 months very “tumultuous”! The process had been going on for a very long time, of course. I know that. I look back over the sermons I preached over 3 decades. They clearly show the flow of my Journey.

I understand, and remain “centered”, in the Christian religious tradition and faith. I was “raised” in it, and it is the most vibrant path that has formed my human development. But through the decades, I have come to see what Carver speaks to: that there is only a Life Force, “even if we give [Him] no name at all”, who is “within us, waiting to give us good on this earth”.

I have come to see that “reality” is essentially connected with the human heart and spirit and mind – that “God” is real because we have “created” the God we need in order to navigate this great Mystery we call Life. I see the great problem we have: God has put Herself at the mercy of human need – and there are so many portrayals of God that may be, and are in my opinion, inaccurate.

Carver says that “God” is there to “give us good”. I agree wholeheartedly. Any other God is useless. We would be stupid to worship any other God. Knowing such a God, I thrill to Carver’s thought: “If you love it enough, anything will talk with you”. I am beginning to experience this. When I stand and look out over the Pacific on Grover Beach, the Creation “talks to me”. It says what Carver says: God is within me, waiting to me good on this earth. I know the greatest Peace and Unity. I am challenged to live up to this truth. And – I believe this truth.

It is late in my Life. But I am urged to try more faithfully to live up to this core Truth. God is within me, offering Good. I must learn daily to accept it – and to manifest it around me.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, January 4, 2010

Humankind cannot bear very much reality.

T.S. Eliot, poet, Nobel in Literature 1948.
He died on this day, 1965. Known for
“The Four Quartets” & “Murder in the Cathedral”

Well. How people so very often reflect – as we should expect – the deliberate hiddenness of their own lives. I have no idea in what context Eliot said these words. But they (only perhaps unconsciously) reflect Eliot’s inner conflict. He was certainly Gay, as can be seen in his friends and behaviour. He was “closeted” – or so he thought. But most of those who knew him knew the “reality”. Eliot was – alas, as with most of us – unable to apply his wisdom to himself.

However, he was certainly a brilliant poet, and thinker. And I support his words. They illuminate a sad reality about us human beings. We live a great deal of the time in fantasy. We seem to have a very minimal capacity to face the truth. I see it in every era of history. I see it today vividly – the cancer that lies behind the base and hideous way that human beings are treating and thinking about each other – often resorting in horrifying violence and cruelty to our fellow human beings. This includes Islamic suicide bombers, so-called “Christian” (I see no resemblance) murders of abortion providers, Israeli bombings of Palestinian people, American status as the biggest supplier of arms in the World, and the Taliban – and a host of others.

We can’t bear Reality very much. We can’t admit how fearful and hateful and greedy we can be – individually and corporately. And so we resort to lies. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and many others in every land and culture and religion and state have done it. It has only fostered both increased cruelty and destructive behaviour, and an entrenchment in the pattern of lying.

All great spiritual leaders, including Jesus, espouse Reality. Jesus was relentless at demanding that people look at the truth, to stop pretending. To own up to Reality and be set free by it. I know of what I speak. I have been taught by the Gospel to look at my own Reality and to repent of those things that have marred my humanity. I know how hard it is to do, believe me. Our pastor preached a fine sermon today that highlights this point, and I hope to share it with you tomorrow.

We are trapped in lies and an addiction to Unreality in our World these days. As an example, just listen to the nonsense we tell our young people about sex and violence these days and expect them absurdly, to be responsible – especially when we expose them to hours of both on television. Reality may be hard to embrace. But unless we do, we will all continue to live in a Hell of our own creation. One of the great messages of the Gospel (and other faiths) is that there is a simple path out of the Hell.

Repent, and go and sin no more.