Monday, February 28, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, February 28, 2011

Death, they say, acquits us of all obligations.

Michel de Montaigne, philosopher; he was
born on this date, 1533

[ Note: Dennis and I are “on the road” this week, so the Reflections may be a little sporadic! ]

As the wonderful cartoon in the New Yorker once said, “Wrongitty wrong wrong!”

MdeM is in one sense “correct” if he is talking about the death of our material bodies. But not when we think about Life and Death in a “larger” way. [Yes, I know, I know; since teaching a course on Cynthia Bourgeault’s book “The Wisdom Jesus”, I’ve become a little “obsessed” with trying to puzzle out the challenges she offers in the understanding of Life ….. sorry!]

So-called physical death is but a step in the process of Life. If we want to understand the much larger dimension of Life, “dying” needs to become a daily if not more frequent activity. Let me put it very simplistically: we can live a Little Life (where we are each separate little beings living in a small circle of Love), or we can live a Big Life (where we are at One with all Existence, Being, Reality, and living as best we can in an infinite circle of Love).

You’d think that the Little Life might be easier? I don’t think so; that’s just fear. The Big Life is far more “wild and precious”! (Mary Oliver) And once we wade in, fear and anxiety dissipate, and it gets more fun! And infinitely more satisfying.

So, MdeM is wrong. Every moment we die to the Little Life (and that can be like a constant orgasm!), we are called to new “obligations” ….. but of course, on the Yellow Brick Road to the Big Life, “obligations” become blessed desires!



Thursday, February 24, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, February 25, 2011

Pope Pius V excommunicated
England's Queen Elizabeth I ;
on this date, 1570

As people on Facebook would say: WTF!?

Very “Christian” of Pius V, don’t you think?? Not only did he excommunicate her, he stated that any person who killed Queen Elizabeth would go straight to Heaven. Pius V should be grateful that Jesus “died for his sins” too.

Well: it’s Feb 25th. On this date, 1836, Samuel Colt patented his revolver. Now, hasn’t that been a lovely addition to our civilized development! If Jesus had been alive, I’m sure He would have cheered. Ya, right!

In 1913, on this date, The 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving Congress the power to levy and collect income taxes, was declared in effect. That allowed us, we Americans, to use, at present, more than 1/3rd of our tax dollars to maintain the by-far-largest military complex on the planet – meaning that we have no money to care for our people. Charming. Very Christian, in this nation which many claim us to be. I spoke to Jesus the other day and asked Him about this. He could only manage a wan smile.

1943: Beatle George Harrison was born on this date, in Liverpool. Dead now. And he would have been today only three years older than I. Makes one sit up and take notice!

1964: Cassius Clay (who later changed his name to Muhammad Ali) became the world heavyweight boxing champion by defeating Sonny Liston in Miami Beach. So tell me: just how much has boxing advanced the humanity of human culture? How much did it make us more like the God of Love??

In 1991 on this date, an Iraqi Scud missile hit a U.S. barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 28 Americans during the Persian Gulf War. War. Is this the behaviour of evolved human beings ….. after 110,000 or more years of development of homo sapiens?? Do we just go in cycles? Is there any actual forward advancement?? (Listen to the daily news.)

1999: A jury in Jasper, Texas, sentenced white supremacist John William King to death for the dragging death of James Byrd Jr., an African-American man. Twelve years later, he is still on Death Row. Whatever you think of the death penalty, what does this say about American justice, and about our commitment to eradicate racism?

1965: Dame Myra Hess (b. 2/25/1890), English pianist, died. Has music actually in any way “soothed the savage beast”?? What has rap contributed? Come on folks! What do we really stand for in America??

Many folk like to claim that we are a “Christian” nation. I don’t see it much. Do you? Is there much evidence to support our claim?

1870: Hiram Revels, a Mississippi Republican, was sworn in as the first black member of the U.S. Senate. Today, how many African-American senators do we have? None.



Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, February 24, 2011

All this hurrying soon will be over.
Only when we tarry do we touch the holy.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Ah Rilke. I am so grateful that this poet existed! Well, first of all, what’s the “holy”? I have lots of friends who would never think of using such a word, or acknowledging such a concept. Personally, my thinking has changed over the decades. I used to think in terms of “holy” and “profane”. I don’t anymore. I’ve come to that inner place where everything is holy ….. or profane: - there is no difference. The Universe id what it is ….. and one can either see it as cut up into diverse pieces, or a Unity. Theologically, philosophically, emotionally, psychologically, it seems more sane to me to think of the Universe as a Whole ….. just as I think about myself.

As to “hurrying”. I hurried for decades of my life. And all that hurrying - never leaving enough time for the things to be done in the day, raging when my timing was scuttled by traffic or phone calls, and a million other things - shredded my life and, I think, contributed to my various illnesses. Dennis gets a little edgy because, now that I am “retired”, I don’t “hurry” anymore. I’m not in that mode. I basically drive the speed limit; I don’t do too many things in a day (two at the most). You know what I mean - if you are retired and somewhat hear my age. I am an avid birder; I used to grab twenty minutes to see a migrating bird and be frustrated when it “didn’t appear”. Now, I leave three hours, and just “hang out”; and shrug if the bird had other things to do.

“The holy” has to do with Wholeness, from the Old English “halig”. With not being fragmented, in pieces, torn. It’s very easy to be un-Whole, especially in our modern World where living Life at the upper end in order to have as many goodies as possible entices us with such power.

“All this hurrying will soon be over.” Indeed it will, indeed it will. A friend of mine at age 44 and in “good health” keeled over and dropped dead of a heart attack. Friends’ daughter-in-law died of lung cancer with 3 young children. Seventy-five or more people died in a powerful earthquake in New Zealand. And even if you live eighty years, it will seem short.

Tarry. Tarry. Touch the holy.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Perhaps all the dragons in our lives
are princesses/princes, who are only
waiting to see us act, just once, with
beauty and courage. Perhaps everything
that frightens us is, in the deepest
essence, something helpless that wants
our love.

Rainer Maria Rilke – “Letters to a
Young Poet”

I am kind of stunned by this quote. Why? Because it does two things. It proposes that the “negativities” we find within ourselves we create ourselves! That we look at aspects of our Humanity, and we assign them, often, negative values. But. Why, when we recognize these things about ourselves, do we reject them? Why do we dismiss them as without value? Rilke proposes that they are “Angels”, calling us to manifest ourselves in beautiful and courageous ways. I like this! It says that everything we are draws us towards being beautiful creatures. Is that not a wondrous way of understanding ourselves?

We often experience Fear. It is so easy to brand what brings us Fear as evil. Thinking this way divides us against our Self, and against each other. Rilke suggests that whether it comes from within or without, whatever frightens us need not be seen as the “enemy”. We can see it as our helpless Friend, reaching out in Love, for Love. And Love heals all.

We all have a shadow. Enfolding it is the only way to deny it power to destroy us.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, February 21, 2011

Power concedes nothing without a demand.
It never did and it never will.

The life of the nation is secure only while the
nation is honest, truthful, and virt

Frederick Douglass, prophetic witness; he
is remembered in the Episcopal Church
Kalendar of “Holy Women, Holy Men”
on February 20th

Frederick Douglass was born a slave, in 1818. He experienced a conversion to Christ in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and his recollection of that tradition’s spiritual music sustained him in his struggle for freedom: “Those songs still follow me, to deepen my hatred of slavery, and quicken my sympathies for my brethren in bonds.” A strong advocate of racial integration, Douglass disavowed black separatism and wanted to be counted as equal among his white peers. When he met Abraham Lincoln in the White House, he noted that the President treated him as a kindred spirit without one trace of condescension.

Power without Love is death-dealing, both to those who wield it and to those who are it’s victims. Think about the story of the Israelites created by the Hasmonean dynasty between 167-67BC. They portray God as “on their side”, leading them out of bondage.

What a few weeks this has been in our World! Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Wisconsin. We are seeing, I think, a spiritual awakening along with the politics. Douglass made it clear that people will be oppressed by Power to the extent that they will permit it. Many people have had enough. Many people in America are watching and experiencing oppression by the moneyed, the privileged, the powerful. Many may be realizing the corrupting influence power has to gain power under false pretenses and then enslave those without power.

What has become obvious over the past several years – at least to me - is that our nation is not by any means “honest, truthful, and virtuous”. And this is true of many many nations in the World. Hence the turmoil we are in.

Frederick Douglass spoke Truth to Power - a former slave to an American President. God, the God I know in Jesus, in my understanding is never “on the side” of Power that oppresses and denies the Humanity and freedom of Her people.

I think we are in for a long siege of conflict in the World. I doubt I will live to see a peaceful resolution. But it will come. There will always be people like Frederick Douglass, who know in their heart their intrinsic value and dignity. And they will fearlessly speak Truth to Power. It is my sincere hope that those who voted in the present House of Representatives will soon realize with a shock that they have engineered their own enslavement. Power, once given, enslaves both the rulers and the ruled.

Happily, God cannot be co-opted by the rich and powerful. Stones are rolled away from the tombs in which they have tried to bury Love ….. and as St. Paul said, Love and its companion Justice have the greatest power.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, February 18, 2011

Death and love are the two wings
that bear the good man to heaven.

Michelangelo, visionary genius; he
died on this date, 1564

Even Jesus courteously put down someone who tried to corner the market on deciding who was “good”. He wouldn’t even accept the accolade for Himself! Point being made? Who is “good”? The Bible makes it abundantly clear that it is not for us human beings to judge. And that if we do judge, we will be judged in return. Secondly, let’s be clear: “man” is the patriarchal clap-trap of the time; to “God”, there is “neither male nor female”, as Paul the Apostle wisely said.

That having been said: on Death as a “wing to heaven”, Il Beatissimo (the divine Michelangelo) was correct. What else, right? You die, you die. You are off onto the next stage of the Journey. And let’s face it: for all the speculation and hope, none of us knows what that next part of the Journey IS ….. if any. It seems perfectly clear to me that the “promise of Eternal Life” is, like the Next Part of the Journey, Unknown. And may I say, I think it is perfectly OK for us to speculate as to the character or nature of the AfterLife based upon what we “know” (or choose to know) about the Mystery we call God.

And “Heaven”. Well, Heaven. We have lovely visions of Heaven, created by the minds and feelings and imaginations of people who have applied their poetic skills to a description of Heaven ….. but that is their speculation, and who really knows? Everything said by “God” in the holy books is said by people who have taken upon themselves to act as God’s mouthpieces ….. and who really knows the state of their Unconscious or their mental health??

“Love bears the good “person” to heaven”. Yes. I have pondered the principles of Christian theology for many decades. In terms of the “revelation” of the nature of God/The Christ, I choose to believe that God is Love. I am sustained in this by many statements in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and other religions. Human Love is the other wing that bears us to Heaven. To me it is simple: Heaven (be it beyond death or in the Consciousness) is the homeland of Lovers, and one enters The Homeland not by goodness, but by surrender to the God of Compassion and by God’s Forgiveness, thus embracing our own”larger mind”, or “full Humanity”.

Have you loved? Guilty …..or Not Guilty??


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, February 16, 2011

All literature is political.

LeVar Burton [ Geordi, in Star Trek];
he was born on this date, 1957

Hello. My name is Brian, and I a Star Trek-aholic. [ I hope you all responded enthusiastically, “Hi Brian”!]

When Star Trek is on, I ignore all phone calls. I even lie to people to get back to the show.

Look. Star Trek understands Life - just as the New York Times does not: it has no cartoons!

Now. LeVar’s comment applies to the Bible. Yes, the Bible – and a lot of other “Scriptures”, including the Tanakh and the Qur’an. They are Literature, composed for various reasons by various people to promote various political views or agendas. The Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures) were composed in their present form by the Hasmonean dynasty, founded by Judas Maccabeus, which ruled in Israel from c.167-37 BCE. The Gospels were composed, more accurately “redacted” or edited, by post-apostolic Christians in the 2nd to early 4th Cs in order to support the Literalist Christian Church against the Gnostics. And the Qur’an was composed in it’s final form as late as the 9-10th C by editors from the various collections of texts and “hadiths” (sayings of the Prophet). None of these texts were dictated to humans by God. So a large number of scholars agree.

And, as LaVar says, they are political in essence. They are being used to establish, or try to establish, one group in political and ecclesial power over another. It would horrify you to know what was done to destroy the Gnostic Scriptures and peoples, as would a reading of the meeting of the Council of Nicea in 325 CE.

Yet, the workings of the Mystery we call God is, I believe, at work in these Scriptures. They are the record of the experience of human beings struggling to find the meaning of Life within the confusing politics of the community, and of the community in conflict with others. The Holy Presence manages to seep through and, when it meets a heart open to the Truth, takes up residence. But it takes work! Hard work. It has to fight its way through enormous barriers, in the World and in us; and a Seeker has to work hard to open to the Mystery.

As you read, try to see through the politics. Discard all the political agendas. A glimmer of the Holy One and of the Peaceable Kingdom will reach out to you.

Embrace it.


Monday, February 14, 2011

"Foggy Firs", Nana's Cottage (blue roof)

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, February, 15, 2011

For God’s sake Madge! You
couldn’t even fit a fart in this car!

Jim McHugh, my father; he was
born on this date, 1917; and died
age 79. He would be 94 today.

I told this story at my father’s funeral, at which I presided (as I did three years later at my mother’s).

My Grandmother Angell, sometime after 1939, bought a cottage on a Laurentian mountain lake, about 100 km north of Montreal. What a blessing that was for my brother and me! Until I was sixteen, we went there on the weekend after school let out, and we left on Labour Day weekend. Weeks of freedom, the water (cool but refreshing, and a rowboat, sometimes with a small motor), lots of sun, long days, wonderful food. Who could have a better childhood?

It was only 100 km ….. but the weekend and summer traffic was intense, before the Laurentian Autoroute was built. It could take hours!! It didn’t help that my brother and I both got violently sick in the car.

My Dad had bought a cute little Austin, our first car. It had fabulous turn signals that were an amber yellow, shaped like short arrows, that flipped out from the side of the car. It was a pale blue, I think. And the truck lid pulled down from the top. Mt father would have taken my grandmother up to Montfort in April or May. Come school’s end, we would pack the whole car with everything we would need (made easier by the fact that my brother and I squeezed into the front because of getting sick in the back). One year, I remember my father packing the car – and it was finally jammed. He was trying to close the trunk lid, and it wasn’t easy. Just as he was trying to force it shut, my mother appeared at the top of the stairs with one more thing. It was then that my father uttered his memorable remark, his voice raised some, and tense.

It was so uncharacteristic of my father, whom I remember (having left home for good at age twenty) as quiet and not normally talkative – a slightly “dour” Scot with little sense of humour – that I recall laughing that he would say “fart”. And I have remembered that moment for now nigh on over 60 years. That moment has also been a reminder that I would like to have known my father better ….. but Life has its paths, and mine took me away for now over 44 years.

My Dad took risks – moving to Toronto, buying his family a home on a small salary – to provide our family with a home and some of life’s then modernities, like the Fridge that replaced our icebox, the TV, and that little Austin in which we visited Ausable Chasm and my aunt in Connecticut ….. and the cottage on the lake. I came to Canada little, and we talked little. But I remember him as faithful, and fair, and honest, and hard-working.

I raise a glass to his memory!


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, February 14, 2011

America is the only country that went from barbarism
to decadence without civilization in between.

Oscar Wilde, author, playwright, poet, wit. On this
date , 1895, his play “The Importance of being Ernest”
opened at the St. James’ Theatre, London

Oh yes, dear fellow Americans. This is a “spiritual” issue. Just like Jesus, Oscar Wilde uses hyperbole pointedly to make a point ….. and I think the point is elegantly made.

Don’t get defensive. If you feel your gorge rising, it only heightens the truth of Wilde’s waspish, campy, but accurate observation.

“Civil” points to “citizen” ….. and it assumes that a culture of citizens has achieved some particular characteristics. Usually it indicates that a society, based upon ethical, moral, cultural, artistic, and religious wisdom, has risen to a state which – at a minimum! - sincerely values heartfelt respect for all individuals, demands compassion for the disadvantaged (who are usually disadvantaged so that those with power can lead an advantaged life), lives according to the principles of its founding documents (in our case, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights), and vigourously rejects double standards in support of the principle that all are equal and should be accorded equal rights regardless of public prejudice - which prejudice is, alas, normally supported by American popular religion.

Sound like our America? Not to me! America is an oligarchy of the rich and powerful (not that there is anything intrinsically wrong with riches or power), and equality is only won by powerful allies or by blood. If we lived in ancient Israel, prophets would be at the gates of the Capitol every day and their tombs would litter the landscape.

America is not a civilized nation. It is a decadent nation of an extremely small minority, of a dwindling “middle class” willing to live on hopes of “rising” to decadence, and of a self-suppressed poverty class too depressed to protest, kept in subservience as they are by bureaucracy and by over-dependence on an insidious ploy of “charity”.

If Jesus were here on the Earth today, He would be challenging the oppression - the “skipping of civilization” - and His cross of crucifixion would not be long in appearing on Capitol Hill.

Do you think I am exaggerating? Think again.


p.s. It’s Valentine’s Day. A day of the celebration of Love. How many Americans are denied God’s love today in our land?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Saturday, February 12, 2011

Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said to
those of ancient times, `You shall not murder';
and `whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.'
But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother
or sister, you will be liable to judgment.”

Matthew 5; Gospel reading for Epiphany VI
(Revised Common Lectionary, Year A)

[ You can view the complete readings for this Sunday at: ]

Don’t even be angry. Don’t even look with desire at someone who arouses you. Don’t abandon your spouse for any reason as an excuse just to pander to you own sexual longings. Don’t break your world, for any reason; your World is sacred.

There is nothing that Jesus says (or God, or the Buddha, or Muhammad, of Zoroaster, or any llama, or any spiritual teacher) that we should accept uncritically. To do so is an abrogation of our Humanity. It is required of each of us that we, like Mary, should “ponder” every aspect of our Life “in our hearts”. We cannot escape our responsibility as creatures made of the stars and One with all Beings.

The Gospel Message is simple. We are created, called, to live our lives as reflections of the Divine Nature. Problem? There are MANY concepts of what the Divine Nature IS. Just look around at the World today; God is being created in “our own image”, for all kinds of political and social reasons. But ignorance is only possible if we have renounced our Heart. Our Heart knows the Truth. When God is defined as anything but LOVE, we have succumbed to the promptings of the dark side of Existence.

If we think that Jesus is just a moralistic guide, we have been seduced. His guidance is radical. He is always reminding that we are in danger. His teachings don’t contravene fairness or justice in any way. He is just saying, clearly: “Don’t think that you and we will get anywhere on the journey to Full Humanity (i.e., “enter the Kingdom of God”) without having our hearts and minds cracked open, without having “died to our” lesser Selves and embraced our Larger Selves. What’s that? It’s the understanding that we are One with God and all Being. That to harm another is to harm ourself.

Jesus’ teachings sound extreme. But if we are “ready”, they are but the gentle sound to the Beginning of a whole new Life. A life that will transform the human community, by the unstoppable power of Compassion, of Love.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bishop Barbara Clementine Harris

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, February 11, 2011

I certainly don't want to be one of the boys.
I want to offer my peculiar gifts as a black woman
...a sensitivity and an awareness that comes out of
more than a passing acquaintance with oppression.

Barbara Clementine Harris; she was ordained as
the Suffragan Bishop of Massachusetts, and the
first woman bishop in the Anglican Communion on
this date, 1989, in Boston

I know that, like Woodstock, everyone says they were at Barbara’s ordination to the episcopacy. But I was, I was!! I was serving as Rector of St. Peter & St. Andrew in Providence – and there was no way that I wasn’t not going to be there for this historic event.

There were thousands of people there. I was up in a balcony to the left of the altar, and about on a line with it. The excitement in the crowd was palpable. The Presiding Bishop was the Chief Comsecrator, and I would guess there were about 40 other bishops there. I remember three thrilling moments.

First, when the Presiding Bishop asked the congregation if it “was our will that Barbara be ordained a bishop”. The one voice of thousands of people thundered in response, “It is!” – and you literally felt the sound in your body.

Second: the consecration: the PB and the co-consecrators were gathered around her in a circle, the PB in cope and mitre, and the bishops in red rochets and chimeres. From my perch it looked like a great blossoming flower, with Barbara at the heart!

Third: Barbara was vested with ring and cross, and then a cope. She was given a pastoral staff. And then the mitre. Her voice came over the microphone as she said to the PB, “Shall I put it on?” Ed Browning nodded, and Barbara put the mitre on her head – the first woman to wear one. The congregation erupted into clapping and shouting and yelling and cheering that went on for many minutes – it was terrific!

Barbara is a great blessing to the Episcopal Church and to the Anglican Communion, in my estimation – a “perfect choice” at that time to take that leading role. She serves with great distinction. She is now 80 and retired.

Cheers Bishop Barbara!


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, February 10, 2011

Man is born to live and not to prepare to live.

Boris Pasternack, author, born on this date, 1890

Have you noticed, at least in the Western so-called developed World, that the time it takes to even approach being “prepared” to live takes longer and longer – including among the poor, whom the more wealthy placate with welfare so they can feel less guilty?? I have friends all over who are still living with their parents at age 30 or more. And friends whose children aren’t getting out of university until their 30s ….. AND being a hundred thousand or more in debt! Granted, we are living longer. But soon you won’t be able to retire and enjoy some leisure [ what a concept!] until 80 or so.

Christianity (and other religions) has followed the same pattern. In my opinion, it has for centuries upon centuries loaded people with rules to follow and “spiritual practices” to perform … all to get us ready, to be prepared, to live - and the time for preparation has gotten so long for God’s sake that we’ve practically had to skip this Life and set our sights on the next! To me, this is just plain stupid. And what it has to do with the Gospel I can’t imagine. Jesus comes to my mind, saying to the Pharisees, “You whited sepulchures (i.e., empty tombs full of deadness)! You load burdens on peoples’ shoulders and you do nothing to help them bear them.”

What Christianity needs is a crash course in Living. Look, I could organize such a course that would be about 3 months long and would prepare people in the “spiritual” principles for understanding, coping with, and being successful in Life. And I’d be happy to “coach” or mentor them online for a modest fee!

Anyway, Boris makes the point: Life is for Living, not for Preparing. I rather suspect that loads of people get to the end – and it can happen suddenly! – and feel they never even got started.

Anyone remember the old hymn (though I don’t care for the imagery), “Fight the good fight with all thy might”? And the line in it, “Lay hold on Life, and it shall be / Thy joy and crown eternally”?

Lay hold on Life ASAP. You only need a few basic tools to be reasonably prepared. If you need a supporting hand, email me!


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise.

Alice Walker, author [“The Colour Purple”];
she was born on this date, 1944, in Eatonton GA

“Expect nothing.” This is the other side of at least three coins. One is Love. Another is Generosity. A third is Self-appreciation.

From experience, I would have to say that certain characteristics are either given to certain folks, or that all of us have the capacity for everything in our makeup and it’s up to the genes and to Life what “appears”. Perhaps a Christian would say that it is a “grace”.

I was born, I am convinced, with the grace of Expecting Nothing …... in return. Since I was little, I have been willing to do things for people, willing also to give away my things to people, without expecting something in return. My mother finally told me that she would give me birthday gifts – and that I should choose them myself – only if I promised not to give them away. I accepted the condition to honour her ….. but it was hard!

Later on, in my 20’s and 30’s, I discovered that some Mystery was afoot. I discovered that authentic Love demanded “Expect Nothing”. I discovered that Generosity demanded “Expect Nothing”. I discovered that Self-appreciation demanded Expect Nothing. Love and Generosity were their own reward; and Self-appreciation could only come from within. All three had no Truth otherwise.

But for me it has been “cheap grace”, because I didn’t have to learn this, and it has never been difficult. Oh, I’ve had to struggle to choose to love, to be generous, and to value myself! But I’ve never had to struggle to Expect Nothing. I have often wondered why. And, it's made it easier by far!

I think it has to do with the Mystery called God. I heard a lot about God when I was young and through the years. A lot of it was “negative”. I never believed it. I have always thought that God gave freely, and Expected Nothing in return, though was delighted if there was. More Cheap Grace? How did I know that God was Love, Generosity, Compassion, Showerer of Blessings, Kindness, Always There for me? Because of the pre-condition of Self-appreciation? That was a surprise.

I for the most part – except when I’m feeling sorry for myself – live frugally on surprise. Except that I often am able to live above frugal!

I hope there are many like me. That you are one of them.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A person cannot approach the divine by
reaching beyond the human. To become
human is what this individual person has
been created for.

All journeys have secret destinations
of which the traveler is unaware.

Martin Buber, Jewish religious philosopher,
born in Germany on this date, 1878

What a freeing blessing to hear these words from Buber!! Think about all we have been told in 2000 years about “becoming like Jesus”. But in the heart. all humans have heard these words with dread or sadness or disappointment. We can’t become like Jesus! Given the machinations of the 4th C church which made Jesus “God”, there was no way that we humans could “approach the divine”. We were being bullied into being something other than Human in order to “approach the Divine” ….. and it can’t be done.

There is only one way to “approach the divine” ….. and that is to “become human”. Fully human. Aye, there’s the “rub”; it begs the Great Question for which all the great religious paths have been created by human beings. And that is: “What is a fully Human Person?” What are the qualities of such a person? Who shall we believe from among those who propose to tell us What we are meant to be and How we shall get there?

I agree with Buber. First and foremost, we must be Human. And that means that is nothing we can reject of what we have found to be part of our human experience ….. including sin, mortality, frailty. Buber said of sin: “For sin is just this, what man cannot by its very nature do with his whole being.” Correct. BUT. That begs a Question as well: What IS the “whole being” of a person?? By what criterion is “whole being” defined?

Christian “theology” would say that to be a “whole being”, we must be transformed into the “Christ Consciousness”. (Well, this is what non-literalist, non-dualist Christian theologians would say! More on this in later Reflections.) We must, as St. Paul says, “Put on the mind of Christ”. We must become fully Human. Human is what we are ….. and we are not called to anything that excludes being fully Human. Needless to say, “fully Human” and “One with God” are NOT contradictory!

One thing that holds us back from evolving into the fullness of Humanity is that we arrogantly, ignorantly, think we know where the Journey is leading. Believe me, we don’t ….. and it is a killing thing to think we do. All the great teachers/rabbis (including Jesus) tell us this. “God” is the Journey’s End ….. and they all tell us in some form that “no one can know God”. So, all of us travelers must honour and cherish the unaware “secret destinations”. We must believe in them, open to them, accept them as an integral part of the Journey to being Human.

I reiterate: we cannot be more than Human! To be completely Human is our destiny.

But. We must learn never to diminish, to demean, to underestimate being Human. When the Psalmist says that we are “only a little lower than the angels”, she did not know by half what that makes us!

Friends, let us train our inner sight on the “secret destinations”.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, February 4, 2011

Drinking beer is easy. Trashing your hotel room
is easy. But being a Christian, that's a tough call.
That's rebellion.

Alice Cooper; the original shock rocker;
he was born on this date, 1948, in Arizona

Yep. Renouncing evil. Emptying yourself in Love. Seeing God and yourself in all other persons. Doing Justice. Loving Mercy. Seeing that power is Service. Loving everyone as yourself. Pushing the bounds of compassion to the ultimate (“Turn the other cheek”). Loving your enemies and praying for them. Knowing you are One with God. Accepting death as part of Life. The List is far longer!

G. K. Chesterton is reported to have said, “Christianity isn’t a failure; it’s just that no one has tried it.”

If you think that the Gospel path is for you , find out what it really is, and give it a try.



Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, February 3, 2011

A vegetable garden in the beginning looks
so promising and then after all little by
little it grows nothing but vegetables,
nothing, nothing but vegetables.

Oh how often in our lives we limit our vision, limit our choices, limit our loving, limit our respect ….. and then, rather absurdly, we are surprised that all we get is ….. a limited Life.

Everybody gets so much information all day
long that they lose their common sense.

Am I living in a time warp? Or was Gertrude? Dennis and I listen to almost no news. We know there are troubles in the World (we’re cheering on the various rebellions of people against their oppressors!!), but we don’t need to know the gory details over and over again. And we certainly don’t need to know the comments of the pols. Lots of things are TMI. And you know, Gertrude is right: things make more sense!

Generally speaking, everyone is more
interesting doing nothing than doing anything.

True. I have found that people are much more interesting when I just appreciate them for them, and not for what they do, make, believe, etc.

It is funny that men who are supposed to be
scientific cannot get themselves to realise the
basic principle of physics, that action and reaction
are equal and opposite, that when you persecute
people you always rouse them to be strong and stronger.

Witches. Catholics. Blacks. Gays. Hispanics. Muslims. America better pay attention here!

Gertrude Stein, author, poet, thinker, art critic; she
was born on this date, 1874, in Allegheny PA. Lived
and died in Paris.

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Good gossip is just what's going on.
Bad gossip is stuff that is salacious,
mean, and bitchy; the kind most
people really enjoy.

To deny we need and want power is
to deny that we hope to be effective.

Liz Smith, “Gossip” Columnist and
wit; she was born on this date, 1923
(still alive, I believe; age 88)

The first quote is just to get you laughing – always a good thing, yes? But. Do take note of the little barb in it. Most of us really do enjoy hearing the “bad gossip”. Come on now, be honest! We do, we do. Liz is reminding us that what we think or “let in” shapes us. Jesus also reminded us of this. Hopefully most of us don’t want to be “salacious, mean, and bitchy”. Yes? So ……

Liz’s second quote is profound. It points up something fundamental about us human beings. As a seminary professor of mine used to insist, “We all have power!”. It’s how we use it that is critical. If we want to be “effective”, as probably most of us do, then HOW do we want to be effective? Do we want to be “salacious, mean, and bitchy”, abusive, or tyrannical, or manipulative, etc? Or do we want to be caring, compassionate, kind, generous, etc? God, in most peoples’ conception, has power - but a prayer (Collect) in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer makes it clear how God “uses” power: “O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity.. “ (Proper 21)

I think my professor was correct. We all have power ….. and it is important that we know it. The challenge to the definition of our humanity is how we use the “gossip” – we know “what’s going on” so we can support and help and care, or the opposite. The challenge is: we have Power – do we use it to destroy or to “build up in Love”?

Thanks Liz!