Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, July 1, 2010

What a wonderful life I’ve had!
I only wish I’d realized it sooner.

Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette
Quoted in “Age Doesn't Matter Unless You're a Cheese”,
by Kathryn and Ross Petras

But FIRST! It’s CANADA DAY! (I was born in Canada, in Verdun, Quebec.) So, Blessings and Greetings to all my Canadian Family and Friends! It’s the 143rd Anniversary of the formal establishment of the Dominion of Canada.

I am happy to say that I realized that I have had a wonderful life some time ago. I’m trying to write a book about it, so Stay Tuned!

Friends, adventures, intellectual growth, learnings and teachings, inner journeys, fun, laughter, art, singing, drinking good wine and cocktails and eating good food, my life as a monk, as a priest – what an amazing Life for a kid from Verdun, Quebec, Canada!

I have to say, though, that most of it came from choices I made to Be Myself. Some conscious choices, some Unconscious – such is the Mystery of Being. If there is anything that teaches me that there is a kind of “guiding spirit” in the Universe, this being drawn out by intuitive comprehension is it!

Oh, I’m well aware that I am an exceedingly privileged person, probably in the top 5% of the people on the Earth. That was a Gift. How bewildered and saddened I am when I see on the TV every day the 95% of the human race who have nothing close to what I have been blessed with. Why can’t we see in our hearts that it is our responsibility and privilege to lift all Humanity to a wondrous Life?

Jesus did. That is why He is such an honoured and beloved “son” of a loving and caring and compassionate Deity – of that divine figure we human beings have created as the symbol of who we are meant to be.

Most of you reading this have been as richly blessed as I have. Think about that today!

There is only one way to honour that Blessing.

Make it everyone’s Life.


p.s. By the way. Age does matter if you're not a cheese! Aging is what brings taste and subtlety and nuance and wisdom and complexity!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Life's under no obligation to give us what we expect.

Margaret Mitchell, author of “Gone with the Wind”;
it was published on this date in 1936

Well, I have no idea if Margaret said this personally, or in something she wrote. Anyway: there it is.

My thoughts are succinct. We make up what we expect. It comes from all the nonsense that we are taught – which I think basically tells us that we should think that we are in control, and can manipulate the Universe.

What arrogance.

Life is really in control. Life wants us to cooperate. Life is a grand Mystery that calls to us and offers to teach us how to participate in the Mystery. And what we need to learn is, how to “go with the Tao” – BE a part of what we are a part of, not try to conform It to our expectations. It doesn’t work. And it’s how we create so much grief for ourselves.

Perhaps today we could practice: Give up the pretence of thinking we are Life’s Master. Be a servant, a handmaid to Life.

That’s when we give birth to the Holy.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single [person]
contemplates it, bearing within .. the image of a cathedral.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author [“The Velveteen Rabbit”]
born on this date, 1900, in Lyon, France

Some people just have, or create, the best metaphors! Rock pile to cathedral – or mosque or temple or whatever. Love it!

Once, I was sitting meditating and gazing about in Ely Cathedral, a “pile” I like. One of the cathedral clergy came by and said, “Are you enjoying the beauty of our cathedral?” I remember saying – and God knows why! – “Yes – and the human soul it represents.” God I can be icky pious! But I hope I’ve gotten better as I’ve gotten older.

Each of us can be thought of as a “pile of rocks” when we start off in Life. But someone – our mother or father hopefully, or a teacher or a friend of relative, or a “God” we are shown – looks at us and sees a “cathedral”. A being of great beauty and mystery and innate value.

I would say that any “great” society – let alone any great religion - would be one that holds this vision of each human being and works to shape and maintain it.

I’ve been “lucky”. I know myself to be a “cathedral”.

I hope you do too.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, June 28, 2010

Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh
desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for
these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you
are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious:
fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Letter to the Galatians 5, apparently by Paul the Apostle
[ epistle for this Sunday just past, RCL]

Sheer and utter nonsense. And very destructive thinking.

Unless you understand that Paul was writing to a group of Christians, in his own contexts of culture and thinking and experience (as a Jew and then a follower of the Christ), etc. We don’t really know what Paul meant by “Flesh” and by “Spirit” in the context of his time. Many of course have offered their opinion – and I am about to do the same. Not surprised, right!

A. The “flesh” is not opposed to the “Spirit”. This is non-unitive thinking, sometimes known as dualistic thinking: the separating of us human beings into various bits and pieces in terms of what makes us Human. Reality is, we are One: formed of whatever dimensions and dynamics and attributes we identify as making us Human. If there are such differentiated things as “flesh” and “spirit”, they simply are part of our attempt to understand the Whole which we Humans are.

B. The “works” that Paul identifies as of the “flesh” or of the “spirit” are just part of being Human. All those things flow from the Wholeness of who we are. And we have to deal with them all, understand them all, and integrate them all. Then we have to make rational decisions and exert our will over them – by Reason that is aided by such things as “Grace” and Love and Compassion and Truth and Justice.

C. We Humans have desires. They are perfectly normal and understandable, if one understands anything about being human. Some of those desires should rightly be gratified, and some not. We have to judge which are appropriate. That includes the desires of what are sometimes called “spiritual” and “fleshly”. Meeting some desires are necessary or enhancing to our Humanity, and some are not. Our work is to learn the difference.

Let’s not vilify any dimension of our Being. Let’s not exalt any one aspect. Let’s see ourselves as a Whole. Let’s work on all levels to comprehend what makes us most beautifully Human – and nurture those things.

Let June 28th be the start of a new appreciation of our Humanness. Honour and embrace what is lovely, and put aside what is not.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, June 25, 2010

Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love.
There's nothing you can do that can't be done.
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung.
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It's easy.
There's nothing you can make that can't be made.
No one you can save that can't be saved.
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you
in time - It's easy.

All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love.
All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
There's nothing you can know that isn't known.
Nothing you can see that isn't shown.
Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be.
It's easy.
All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
All you need is love (all together now)
All you need is love (everybody)
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.

John Lennon & Paul McCartney; the Beatles
performed this song for the first time, 1967

Repetitive. Yes.

But you get the point? Jesus – and all religious and philosophical teachers, are usually repetitive.

Till we get the point.

I’ve often said in sermons: Understanding Love is the main work of a human being.

Go to it!

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, June 25, 2010

Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love.
There's nothing you can do that can't be done.
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung.
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It's easy.
There's nothing you can make that can't be made.
No one you can save that can't be saved.
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you
in time - It's easy.

All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love.
All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
There's nothing you can know that isn't known.
Nothing you can see that isn't shown.
Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be.
It's easy.
All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
All you need is love (all together now)
All you need is love (everybody)
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.

John Lennon & Paul McCartney; the Beatles
performed this song for the first time, 1967

Repetitive. Yes.

But you get the point? Jesus – and all religious and philosophical teachers are usually repetitive.

Till we get the point.

I’ve often said in sermons: Understanding Love is the main work of a human being.

Go to it!

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, June 24, 2010

He must increase; I must decrease.

John the Baptist, Hebrew prophet; the feast day
of his Nativity is today (in the Christian faith).
He is honoured as the “announcer” of the coming
of the Messiah, and recognizing Jesus as that.

Things get intertwined. I like this! It gives me the inner sense that all things are connected – and in the deepest level I believe this, though it often seems not so. In terms of religions, they develop and change, flowing in and around each other, letting go of some things, adding other insights. Ultimately, I believe that all religions were developed by the human community to meet some need or to try and explain some Mystery. Some parts were helpful, some not.

There is a charming Umbrian tradition still kept today. It has its roots in ancient Solstice celebrations. Both summer and winter solstices are “sacred moments” pointing to passage between the world of space/defined time, and the world which is timeless and spaceless. Also, in ancient Rome, the fertility festivities in honor of the goddess Fortuna ended on June 24th. In Umbria today, on June 23, the women gather cento erbe – 100 “wild” greens and plants, and flowers. The primary scents are roses, yellow wild broom, and walnut leaves. The cento erbe are soaked overnight in a basin. The basin must not be brought into the house. It must be left outdoors so the guazza, dew, will enter the waters. It must be done this way because “this is the way our ancestors did it”. In the morning, everyone in the house washes their hands and face with the acqua di San Giovanni. In some families, a ladle of the water is added to the bath water of adults and babies. (Thanks to Anne Robichaud for the story!)

Washing in the water is purifying and protective. That part is ancient. Centuries later, the Roman Church set the birthdate of Jesus on Dec 24/25 to counter the Roman Saturnalia celebration. Then they set the John the Baptist’s birthday on June 24/25 to match the Biblical story that John the Baptist was born 6 months before Jesus. On the Solstice! So, the traditions got intertwined.

But even though the date was in a sense “arbitrary”, there is a nice connection! (Am I surprised!!?) Water! John baptizes Jesus. Jesus accepts the baptism as a sign of purification through repentance; and He is “protected” by the Holy Spirit, who “descends” on Him. The waters of the Jordan may not have been as lovely as the acqua di San Giovanni, but their effect was as sweet and lovely!

There’s the message, from ancient Rome, and from the Festa di San Giovanni Battista – and the Tao says the same thing:

The Mystery of Being, if we enter into it and understand it rightly, pours down upon us like dew a blessing that purifies us daily; and a Spirit which makes us One with all Being washes over us. Our human frailties “decrease”; our sacredness, our wholeness as persons, "increases”.

What a great day!!



Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The only unnatural sex act is
that which you cannot perform.

Dr. Alfred Charles Kinsey (American zoologist;
headed Indiana University's Institute for Sexual
Research); born on this date, 1894

What can I say? What do I need to say!!

Feel squeamish in any way? Get over it. Sexual pleasure is perfectly natural, divine, essential to being Human.

I recommend chocolate syrup (warmed). And I leave the rest to you.

Think God has any problems with Sex? She doesn’t. Silly prudes made that up.

Enjoy being fully human. That’s what “God” planned!

Remember: Sex is infinitely more than orgasm.



Monday, June 21, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How strange when an illusion dies.
It's as though you've lost a child.

Judy Garland, waif and musician;
she died on this date, 1969, age 47

Oh, Illusions have power! In Christian mythology, Satan is called “the Prince of Lies”. “He” is the one who plants the seeds of falseness, who convinces us that all the illusions we have about who we are and what Life is about and what the “truth” is are Reality. Most times, She has an easy job of it! You know how complicated we are, we human beings. We can be such Wimps! So easy to take the Road of Least Resistance. To avoid confronting Reality. So easy to convince ourselves that this will give us a comfortable, pleasant Life. And you know something? If we content ourselves with the pap that such an approach to Life offers, we can very easily lull ourselves into the Illusion that this is what Life really IS.

We have only to have heard a whisper of the “words of Life” to know what we have settled for is abject poverty. I often think of that amazing moment in the Gospel when Jesus turns to the Disciples and asks, “Do you too want to leave me?” And Peter, bless his often confused heart and mind, amazingly says, “Lord, where would we go!! You have the words of Eternal Life!!”

Rejecting Illusion is often painful and full of grief. We can be so comfortable in Illusion! Banishing Illusion brings us up against some really challenging, painful, realities. It takes real courage and – even more important – self-belief and self-esteem to throw ourselves against Illusion and embrace the Truth! We feel vulnerable and weak. But the Gospel says that embracing the Mystery of “Christ Within Us”, surrendering ourselves to union with “God” generates within us the true power of being Human. This “Grace” permits us to reject Illusion and embrace What Is.

This is Power. Real power for Life. Judy is reported to have said, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” That’s the first step. Alas, Judy didn’t make it.

But she is a powerful call for US to make it!

Having “faith in God” means knowing we are “of God”. When we know this, we know we can make it. Illusions fall away like autumn leaves.

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, June 21, 2010

Evil is the product of the ability of humans
to make abstract that which is concrete.

Jean Paul Sartre, philosopher,
born on this date, 1905

Governments or organizations or corporations tend to make policies based on abstraction. Churches and religions do too – though I would say that hopefully churches and religions lose sight of concrete individuals less than governments, organizations, or corporations. Alas, I am not so sure of this in our present World situation.

Prejudice is, by the way, a form of discriminating by making an abstraction of persons or characteristics. In terms of Humanity, all human brings are concrete ….. and I suppose everything is, right? Abstraction, generalization, caricaturization – all permit us not to “see” the horror of suffering inflicted, and to commit Evil more easily.

Here, I think, is one good reason for seeing suffering. No body bags shown returning from Iraq – to me a sign that the Bush administration understood the evil they were perpetrating. They understood that seeing the concrete results of aggressive militarism would diminish the ability to ignore Evil by abstraction. While I disagree theologically with the overplaying of the suffering of Jesus, Who is reported to have undergone the gruesome death of crucifixion, this powerful symbol of the Suffering Christ does challenge us not to fall into the sin of Abstraction, not to forget that every individual is uniquely and equally loved by God, that causing suffering (as the Buddhists understand) is contrary to “God’s will”, that is, contrary to a fundamentalist Principle at the heart of the Mystery of Being.

You can think of loads of examples that illustrate Sartre’s principle. I would say that this principle is at play in the BP oil spill disaster. In pursuit of (needed) energy and of Mammon/money, we/BP have abstracted Mother Earth, and the sea creatures and the birds and the wetlands and the people who fish, which “allows” us to commit Evil by avoiding the concrete potential suffering. It is good therefore that we can see the dead porpoises and the devastated seabed and the oil-socked pelicans and chicks and the depressed and angry people. Abstraction allows Greed to inflict suffering – which is why Greed has long been considered a “mortal sin”.

We do, in making decisions, often have to think in “broad terms”. That is the challenge at the heart of the ethical puzzle often posed, “If you could destroy one terrorist-hijacked plane so that only a few would die rather than thousands, would you?”. As the Bible posed the question, is it “more expedient that one should die for the people”.

This dilemma will be with us until the end of Time. I wonder if Truman ever morally and emotionally reconciled with the decision to drop the atomic bomb.

Sartre is, I believe, correct, morally speaking. Once we being to abstract, begin to ignore the suffering we can cause, we are on the path to Evil. We must live with that Truth, and not seek to avoid it, at our peril.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Jesus healing the “Demoniac” –
and pigs “flying” !!

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat, June 19, 2010
[ Proper VII, Year C RCL ]

I have had only one icon “written” for me: this one. As you can see, it is the Gerasene “demoniac”, “sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind”. And the pigs, now infected by the demons, are rushing over the cliff to their watery death. Isn’t it charming!! (Naturally, the Orthodox minders told my friend that this was not a “proper icon” since it did not portray “traditional themes”. Oh well. Prigs are so boring! Especially religious prigs – and we have a lot of them these days, alas.)

I had this icon done because (a) I love the imagery, and (b) because I always wanted to donate a stained glass window on this theme to a church, but I knew I would never be able to afford it (let alone get a church to accept it!). Did you know that the illustrious diocese of New York is about at the bottom of the list in the Episcopal Church for paying the clergy?? As a priest in the category of over 20 years of ordination, and pastoring two congregations at the same time (which is supposed to be two half-time positions and is really two full-time positions) , I never made more than $37,000 a year – and meanwhile the minimum in Los Angeles was over $60,000!! Wish I had known THAT – not that money is the Be All of course. Anyway, glad to get that off my chest!

Here’s my take on the story – which is in my opinion not a factual story but, in the tradition of great mythological story-telling, one devised to make certain important “teaching points”. We human beings are inhabited with killing delusions about the nature of Life and about the Path to Truth, Wholeness, Freedom – however these “demons” come to us. These “demons” are ubiquitous, “legion”. The core purpose of Faith and of it’s servant Religion is to show us the true nature of Life, and to point us to the Path of Truth, Wholeness and Freedom. The consummate “answer” to all that is “God”. Human beings are not stupid – though watching modern politicians might give us pause big time. We know what we need: Wisdom, Compassion, Justice, Tenderness, Faithfulness, Beauty, Kindness, Humility. We have it in Jesus, in the Buddha, and in countless other Teachers.

Everything that Jesus stands for drives out the demons – and in the story, they go into pigs which, to Jews then, were the Utter Darkness. When that happens to us, “Jesus” doesn’t want us to sit around being pious. He wants us to share the Good News! By being all those things we know make us truly Human.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, June 18, 2010

If something has never been alive,
it also cannot die. Death awaits us
only because we are, at this very
moment, gloriously alive. Without
death, it is not possible for us to
have this life that we cherish so
much. Thus, life and death are but
two sides of the same coin.

Derek Lin, in “The Tao of Daily Life”

The Tao. I hope it isn’t outlandishly presumptuous to say that I think I get it! “The Tao”, I mean. Of course, like every path to Life, the proof is in the pudding – in the Doing of it. Taking action. One can “get” the Gospel message of Love intellectually, but it is useless unless one loves.

I think Derek is bang on about the Mystery of Life & Death. Take that first sentence and turn it around. It basically says, If you can’t die, then you can’t ever live. It’s both ….. or neither. I like that! The corollary to this is, of course: I embrace Death, so I can live.

The point being, we are then Free. And THAT in my opinion is what’s behind all the business, in every religion or Path, of overcoming death, of Salvation, of an Afterlife, etc. It’s so we lay aside, as much as possible, all the fear, and get on with becoming Gloriously Alive.

What we want then is the courage to Act. The minute I step out the door (if not before!) today, possibilities for Life will come rushing at me. A yellow hibiscus to be thrilled by. A homeless person to somehow connect with (we have lots in San Diego!). A dog to pat. An espresso to enjoy while surfing the net (free!) on Dennis’s iPad, a bit of my book to write (I’m on page 3), a friend to talk with on that wonderful invention the mobile phone. And a thousand other things.

Sadness and Delight. Creativity and Destruction. All go together. All part of Life.

Death be not Proud! In the Tao, your power, like John the Baptist in relation to the Christ, is to decrease, while the power of Life is to increase.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, June 17, 2010

Don't worry, spiders
I keep house


Issa , Japanese haiku poet

The perfect haiku as a metaphor for being a welcoming person to all who come to share in our lives!

I don’t like spiders, so I had to do a little work to suppress the “ick” factor re spiders. But even that was a helpful part of the haiku. That’s the reaction we so often have to those persons who generate a negative feeling in us – well, they don’t generate it, we generate it within ourselves because of some conditioning. There’s a lot of that that happens in our early lives (or later): we are “taught” by others to react in certain ways. One of the very important “works” we have to do in later Life is readjust these teachings, or simply get rid of them!

Most of us, alas, enter into adult Life somewhat rigid. Most of us are not raised by people who help us to approach Life pliable, open, flexible, welcoming of others and their “different” ways. Any Philosophy or Religion or Path worth its salt will crack us open, break down the walls of prejudice and fear that most of us are brought up with, either by our families or by our “culture”. But usually we have to reject the one wee were brought up with and either choose another or reform the one we know.

Though there remain some places I’m stuck (presently have problems with Republicans, fundamentalists of all stripes, Mormons, J’s Witnesses), what I have learned and am constantly learning to say to the World, to Life, to others is:

Don't worry, spiders
I keep house


If it’s not a Black Widow, I’ll try to cohabit!


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Everything on the earth has a purpose,
every disease an herb to cure it, and every
person a mission. This is the Indian theory
of existence.

Mourning Dove Salish (Christine Quintasket),
American Indian, first American Indian to write a
novel (“Cogewea”)

I understand her words this way:

Everything on earth has a unique gift to offer to Being.
Nothing has the power to demean Life.
Everyone must find their True Self and Be that.

Why have I written these Reflections for over 5 years now, over 1200 of them? Mostly to try and discern my Path to Life. My hope is that for some of you out there, they will encourage you on your Journey too. There is such Wisdom in the World! This is what I would expect of human beings – for I have a very “high doctrine” of human beings – a belief that has weathered all the hideous human behaviour of my 64 years! If anything is a miracle – or a witness to the power of the Gospel and to the Wisdom in the World – this is!

You have a unique gift to offer to the World – and the World is wounded without it.

So many things seek to keep us from giving strength to the wonder of Life. God bless you if you have confronted these powers and, like Gandalf confronting the Balrog, said “You shall not pass!”

The Great Journey is a Journey into the Inner Landscape. Finding One’s True Self. Rejecting the false Self that so many try to make us into. I think there is no greater accomplishment than being one’s True Self – the person you were created to be – and without which the World is incomplete.

I am so grateful to all of those who have broken down those barriers - and especially those I have come to know in my Life! What a blessing you have been! Thank you!


Monday, June 14, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Your task is not to seek for love,
but merely to seek and find all the
barriers within yourself that you
have built against it.

Rumi, poet, 13th C Sufi

Just like a hammer. Truth often comes like that.

There are so many excuses “out there” not to Love. “Out there”. Someone, something else’s fault.

But as is true of almost all barriers to acting as one might wish, the fault is not “out there”. The fault is “in here”. In fact, this is true 95% or more of the time for our failure to be whom we wish or long to Be. Our Self.

We have to want to know ourselves, what we are really like. It can’t be forced upon us; we just rebel and reject. Jesus knew this. He held up the mirror. Either his disciples chose to see or not. The “Rich Young Ruler” is a perfect example of His gentle offering of the Truth. But more important, it is God’s offering of Freedom once the Truth is accepted and embraced.

Few things are more exhilarating that seeing and accepting the Truth about oneself. The barriers to Love fall fastest when they are being removed by the one who put them there, for whatever reason.

And no person is easier to love than one’s true self. One’s false self is always a distant stranger.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, June 14, 2010

At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say
that the true revolutionary is guided by a great
feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a
genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.

Che Guevara, revolutionary, born on this
date, 1928

“Re-volvere” – late Latin. To “roll back”, or “to turn upside down”. Hmmmm.

We tend to associate revolutionaries with violence. That is a mistake. Jesus and Gandhi and the Buddha were non-violent. Guevara (who was killed with the direct assistance of the American CIA, as is publicly acknowledged) used violence. As have many other revolutionaries. It is a question of temperament, and of political situation, among other things. Khomeini is an example of a revolutionary who turned everything upside down but, in my view, in a completely negative way – though that is my prejudice. It is interesting to look at the World today and see the “revolutionaries” – and what motivates them, and if we think it’s a good or a bad thing they have instigated. Depends, I guess, on whose ox is being gored. Harvey Milk and Bishop Gene Robinson are two of my beloved (non-violent) revolutionaries! You are not surprised, right?! (Oh Brian! So self-serving!)

In matters of the human spirit, all Lovers are revolutionaries! To themselves and to others. Love is by its very nature revolutionary. Nothing rolls back selfishness and self-preoccupation and self-absorption like Love. When Love flows it’s like a great flood; the heart and the mind and the spirit are swept away, turned upside down. And to be the recipient of Love does the same for the Beloved – turns you head over heels.

A wonderful moment of that happened today at St. Paul’s Cathedral, San Diego, where Dennis and now live. Bishop Gene Robinson (a seminary classmate of mine), the Bishop of New Hampshire who was, as a Gay partnered man, elected overwhelmingly by the Episcopalians of NH, was the preacher. After the Forum, the Dean pointed to a young couple with a month old tiny baby named Ellie. This was Ellie’s first day “in church” – and the Dean noted that her parents had become Episcopalians because, they said, “they wanted to be part of a church that had the courage to elect a man like Bishop Gene”. The parents’ lives had been revolutionized by the love and courage of the Episcopal folk of New Hampshire, and it was clear at that moment, as Gene went to talk to them and hold Ellie, that he had been touched by Love!

What the World needs is a band of Revolutionary Lovers. People who are amazed and delighted by human beings. Who see and honour the image of the God of Love in all people.

I’m in. Join me?


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, June 12, 2010

I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she
has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.
You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not
stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil,
but she has anointed my feet with ointment.

Jesus, talking to the Pharisee who had invited Him to dinner, and
who judged the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them
with her tears. (Luke 7; Gospel for Pentecost III, RCL)

Do you not have to love Him!!?? Such wisdom. The Pharisee who invited Jesus to dinner – we might wonder what his motives were – did none of the things that his religion required of him for Jesus as his guest. And he was obviously oblivious of it. This is the problem: religious people lose touch with Compassion, often DO lose touch with the heart of religious practice, and just become heartless, self-righteous prigs. Such people invite nothing but disgust or sadness.

The problem is: we have a whole lot of people in the World today who fall into this category. People of every religion. The heart of Compassion has been lost, and Religion has become a matter of being Right, of having Power, of feeling Justified. All of which are completely destructive to the Soul. And ultimately destructive to the Human Community.

Today Jesus speaks directly to us all. Do not lose the Heart! Every single one of us is the woman sinner who comes to anoint Jesus’ feet – including all those who consider themselves “righteous”.

Once we all claim and acknowledge our Sinner status, the better off the World will be.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, June 11, 2010

If we go on the way we have, the fault is
our greed; and if we are not willing to change,
we will disappear from the face of the globe,
to be replaced by the insect.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau, French naval officer
and oceanographer, born on this date, 1910

I hope so. The insects would do a much better job that we have in respecting the Earth. I don’t have much hope that we will change – but then, you never know. Sometimes when human beings won’t change, other forces come into play. I would call them, mythologically speaking, Deities. Mother Nature. The Fates. Cause and Effect. Etc. This is, of course, a theological issue.

The “issue” is, to put it in a Christian context, “oneness with all Creation”. The whole business is interconnected. We human beings like to think that we are superior to it all. We’ve taken the misinterpretation of the Biblical story to heart – because we human beings are by nature arrogant and self-aggrandizing. We think that we control everything – which is wrong. And we think that we can manipulate everything to our own purposes – and that is also wrong. Look at the BP oil spill. Look at Katrina. Look at the tornadoes in Ohio. Look at the killing fires in Santa Barbara. The evidence for our helplessness is all around us, but we blithely disregard it.

Yes, I hope that the Insect will soon replace us. Our beloved, beautiful planet will rejoice. I think I’ll have myself frozen – and hope to wake up as a new Adam/Eve, and hopefully get it right then: a real servant to the Planet, not an exploiter.

Think about it my friends – and perhaps we can begin to take up a new role in the Life of our Home.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, June 10, 2010

I can live without money,
but I cannot live without love.

Judy Garland, a singer, a mystery,
a wonder, born on this date, 1922

What is there to say? What do you think of when you think of Judy? I think of deep deep sadness. You saw it on her face onstage, trying to pour out her heart, dealing with booze and drugs. Such talent. Such brilliance. Such vulnerability. This is why she is such a “Gay icon”. Gay men especially saw their own longing for love, but they also saw their own vulnerability – strong men who saw no hope in a viciously homophobic culture for being a normal human being. I resonate with that. And I thank God that I lived just beyond that time, when Gayfolk began to reject their dehumanization, when we learned to stand up for who we are with pride, and to reject the self-hate that had been imposed on us. Judy laid it right out there – her desire for Love – and her despair at not finding it, and the self-destructive behaviour it drove her to. She gave us the power to say No.

All of us can live without piles of money – but we can’t live without Love. ALL of us. ALL of us. Whatever our sexuality. And none of us, none of us, can be deprived of it. Should be deprived of it.

I see America on the path, religiously, politically, socially, of rejecting Love – and therefore rejecting the God so many claim to follow. I don’t know how long it will take – but like Judy, it will destroy us.

And I think that will be blessing. New Life usually arises from the ashes.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, June 9, 2009

The beginning of divine wisdom is clemency
and gentleness, which arise from greatness of soul
and the bearing of infirmities.

St. Isaac of Ninevah

What interests me is that the soul which is growing in Love slowly but surely – or sometimes abruptly! – edits the “received knowledge” of the Mystery we call God.

Does God kill? No. Does God hate? No. Does God send people to a Hell? No. Does God prefer one group of people over another? No. (Even St. Peter said that!) Does God “lead us into temptation”? No. (That’s why I like “Save us from the time of trial” over “Lead us not into temptation”.) Did God create any human being inferior to any other human being? No. Did God make a mistake when She made homosexuals? No. The List goes on and on.

Once we human beings have been honest in looking at ourselves, truly seen our frailty and our weaknesses and our failures in Love, we lose the arrogance of judging others, which is after all just a way of trying to deflect notice of our own deserving of judgment. We gain the “greatness of soul” which grants us Compassion above all things.

“Clemency and gentleness”. Let them pour over us today, and through us to all around.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Entrenched scriptural literalism is, in my
opinion, completely out of touch with reality.

Malcolm Boyd, Episcopal priest, author
(“Are You Running with me Jesus?”),
born on this date, 1923

Elizabeth Taylor has more chins than
the Chinese telephone directory.

Joan Rivers, comedienne, born on this date, 1933

What a choice today! Muhammad died – but I didn’t dare say ANYTHING about him lest a fatwa was issued to murder me! (Just kidding; if I wanted to, I would.) It’s Episcopal priest Malcolm Boyd’s birthday; he was born in 1923 and is still going strong at 87. It’s Joan Rivers birthday – she’s 77 today! The great poet Dante was born (at least according to some calendars) in 1265. Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect, was born in 1867. So, you can see who I chose!

So-called “facts” about people like Jesus or Muhammad or the Buddha or Zoroaster or Confucius (or George Washington, or my grandmother, for that matter) – in so far as such “facts” are accurate or knowable – are at best a two-dimensional picture. Flat, no depth. They acquire the depth, the richness, over time, as stories are told and experiences related by their followers or loved ones. As their greatness and wisdom unfolds, their Reality becomes more so. Jesus has certainly become more “real” to me as He has informed and shaped my Life. Malcolm is right, in my opinion. Alas, much of World religion has fallen into a fearful Literalism – and the state of the World reflects it.

I’ll bet – at least I hope that – Elizabeth Taylor had the class to laugh when she heard Joan’s joke!! One reason Joan could “get away with it”, of course, is that she dished it out to herself as well. She said, “I knew I was an unwanted baby when I saw that my bath toys were a toaster and a radio.” And: “I wish I had a twin, so I could know what I'd look like without plastic surgery.”

Joan reminds us that we need to be able to see the truth about ourselves. That we are human and need to give ourselves a lot of slack. And not to take things so “seriously” – especially other people’s opinions. Being able to laugh at ourselves and our foibles is a much quicker path to well-being than anger and self-hate.

Today’s “holy work”? Reach into Mystery and Myth. And laugh at yourself at least three times!


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, June 7, 2010

Time doth flit;
oh shit.

Dorothy Parker, author, critic, poet;
member of the Algonquin “Roundtable”;
died on this date, 1967, age 73

I absolutely could not resist! Dorothy said a lot of very pithy things. She got fired for her famous review of Winnie the Pooh: “Tonstant weader fwowed up.”

It would probably be rude to say that Dorothy Parker and God had things in common. Yes? Well, I think they did. They were (God still is) – shall we say – succinct. This was the way that Dorothy expressed her own unique “Made-in-the-image-of-God” nature, so we can’t judge her!

But, I have to confess that her epithet has become my own as a description of a very important spiritual virtue – namely Surrender. I do try not to use it too loudly in public, unless I am with friends. And I have only uttered the word once from the pulpit in over 40 years!!

Life throws a lot of stuff our way. There isn’t a whole lot we can do about that; we aren’t in control. We must just surrender and accept the situation. The only thing we are responsible for is how we respond. I have a metaphor for this: when I break a Limoges 100 year old teacup or plate, I just say “Oh shit!” and let it go. That’s a metaphor for the discipline of Self-examination and Repentance. You sin, you sin. The best thing is to acknowledge it as soon as possible (for me that’s “Oh shit”!), accept forgiveness, make amends if possible, and Get On With Life.

As I said in my sermon today – Life is about Life. No use in wasting time wallowing in “death”. You’re turn-around time should be as short as possible!


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, June 4, 2010

True freedom comes when every speck
of the Known collapses into the Unknown,
not just for a moment but continually.


Freedom is rarely if ever found in the status quo. The status quo – the “known” – is usually a trap, a prison, a death.

Oh, I know. We tend to feel that the status quo is security. In one shallow sense it may be. But Change is a given of Life. If we are not changing, not learning new things, we may feel secure - but we are not growing. And Growth is a necessity for human maturity, on every level.

What is “known” is indeed only a speck. A very distorted view of Reality. In order for the Big Picture to come into view, the Known has to collapse – every moment, every day, continually.

This is what the Holy Spirit is. She is the pusher off of the edge of the delusionary Known into the astonishing Unknown. She is the leader into All Truth.

And if we want to come to the fullness of our Humanity, we must invite, long for, desire being pushed.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, June 3, 2010

Follow your inner moonlight;
don't hide the madness.

Poetry is the one place where people can
speak their original human mind. It is the
outlet for people to say in public what is
known in private.

Allen Ginsburg, poet, born on this date, 1926

Parables are a kind of poetry. Jesus understood this, and He used them extensively – even though St. Paul mentions none of them.

There was nothing in the parables that people didn’t “know in private”. The same is true for the stories that the Buddha told, and the rabbis in the Talmud. But we human beings know a lot “in private” – in our hearts and souls – that we can’t or won’t talk about in public. Too intimate. Too threatening to communities, or urselves. We don’t like to talk publicly about Death, about Sex, about Fear, about our failures, our prejudices, our misconceptions, our shallowness. About so many things.

But Jesus knew that we had to deal with these things. Parables were His way of making that point – and of opening up the issues. His disciples were “avoiders”; and we are too. That’s why a spiritual path can be so challenging. And Jesus certainly challenged his disciples to grow up.

Poets are God’s instruments. They offer us the opportunity to grow in our humanity. To be honest.

I’m going to read more poetry – and be more bold in public about what I “know” in private.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, June 2, 2010

We certify to you that he has satisfied the requirements of the
canons, and we believe him to be qualified for this order.

The Ordination of a priest – Book of Common Prayer

On this day, 37 years ago, I was ordained a priest in the Church – I was ordained for the Anglican Church of Canada by Bp. Hugh Stiff of the Diocese of Keewatin, while a member of the Order of the Holy Cross, and became a priest in the Episcopal Church when I became a parish priest in 1982. It is hard to imagine it was 37 years ago. I remember it as yesterday! It was in the beautiful, simple, St. Augustine’s Chapel, Holy Cross Monastery, West Park NY.

All my life I have had SO many questions. And that has not changed. In fact, my questioning has increased since I retired from full-time ministry over 2 years ago. The questioning is exciting! I feel that I am entering deeper into the Mystery of Being, of “God”.

To be honest, I feel that I was, am, qualified! I have felt in my being that I was called to be a priest since I was a little boy. But you know, being in a monastic order then, I “escaped” all the things that I would have had to go through as a diocesan priest. And I rather suspect that this was a “dispensation” from a loving God – I would have shocked too many people on a Commission on Ministry then! “God” works in mysterious ways.

What has been my criterion for judging my call? Simply this: if I have companioned anyone to a knowledge of an unconditionally loving, compassionate, affirming, welcoming God, I followed the “right” path. I am happy to say that many have had many confirmations!

On this day, I just want to thank all the many wonderful people who helped me on this path. I am deeply deeply grateful!


Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ashes of Life

Love has gone and left me and the days are all alike;
Eat I must, and sleep I will,—and would that night were here!
But ah!—to lie awake and hear the slow hours strike!
Would that it were day again!—with twilight near!

Love has gone and left me and I don't know what to do;
This or that or what you will is all the same to me;
But all the things that I begin I leave before I'm through,—
There's little use in anything as far as I can see.

Love has gone and left me,—and the neighbors knock and borrow,
And life goes on forever like the gnawing of a mouse,—
And to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow
There's this little street and this little house.

Edna St. Vincent Millay (winner of the Pulitzer prize for poetry)

Last August, with friends on our way to Tanglewood, we came across a sign pointing us to the home, called Steepletop, of Ms. Millay in Austerlitz NY – so off we went to explore! We found a delightful little “museum”, with an enthusiastic keeper, and Ms. Millay’s house, 191 acres of property (originally 700), and gravesite, all left “as is” when she died at age 58 in 1950 after falling down the stairs – including the (then) ultra-modern kitchen that was installed for her by some food company I think. She was a recent widow when she died, and I wonder if this poem is an expression of that, or of a greater deeper reality? Probably both.

I don’t know about you, but I can certainly feel the emptiness in her poetic voice. And the loneliness – if that’s the right word. The absence of Love is a terribly deep wound. Some of the most wrenching stories I have ever seen/read are about that loss or deprivation. It seems to leave the deepest scars, and generate the most violent feelings. And somehow, the fact that one just goes on eating and sleeping and days go by and other people get on with their lives and one’s own life is just duration powerfully enhances the isolation of the lack of Love.

There should be no surprise then that Jesus said that Love is the highest character of humanity and of “God”. The Buddha said it is Compassion, that ability of Love to care deeply for another/others that transcends preoccupation with the Self – or better, knows that the Self is most deeply blessed in loving others.

We human beings are not complete fools. We see the Path to happiness, and we invent deities embodying Love. But I do wish that, having divined the Reality, we’d be braver in living it. Myself included. The World seems today (to me) to reflect Millay’s poem – lonely for Love. Maybe this is a time then in which Love can blossom. If we can try to love the Israelis and the Palestinians, and all the other these-those, it will make a difference.