Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My continuing passion is to part a curtain,
that invisible veil of indifference
that falls between us
and that blinds us to each other's presence,
each other's wonder, each other's human plight.

Eudora Welty, American author

I think that if Jesus, or the Buddha, or Zoroaster, were here now, they would be teaching us to part the curtain. As a matter of fact, if I were to found a religion, I would definitely teach us to work deliberately to “see each other’s presence, each other’s wonder, each other’s human plight”.

I must admit that I am completely bewildered these days by what so-called right-wing religious folk (of whatever faith) seem to feel is the core of their Founder’s teaching or their Scripture. And even more bewildered that so many political candidates kow-tow to such folk. Can it really be true that Jesus or Moses or Muhammad was all about division, intolerance, judgmentalism, cruelty, even outright hate?

No. Absolutely not. All religions and Scriptures have been shaped by their disciples. All Scriptures have been distorted by the prejudices and the politics and the insecurities and the fears and the power-hungriness of their followers. But, for the true disciple - that one who fully opens her heart to the Messenger - they recognize the truth that lies often hidden.

It has been said that the opposite of Love is not hate, but Indifference. I agree.

See clearly “each other’s presence, each other’s wonder, each other’s human plight”. The Christian story says, in its doctrine of the Incarnation”, that that is what God did. Jesus was a great Master of that Path.

I want to follow that Path.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all.
No [one] can serve two masters.
Your life is shaped by the end you live for.
You are made in the image of what you desire.

Thomas Merton, Trappist monk, author;
he was born on this date, 1915

I agree. Life is a Whole, not a bunch of unrelated compartments that can be conveniently shut off from one another when Wholeness becomes too tough or too inconvenient. Though, it can certainly BE the latter if we choose it to be….. and you end up with a really messy Life.

At some point, we have to decide: Are we an integral part of the Universe, sharing in the Universal Mind and Spirit, or are we outside it all, pretentiously … and futilely … seeking to control it all. There is only one Master to serve if we are to get Life right: Unity with all things. We each have a body, but this too is part and parcel of being bound into the essential “spiritual” reality.

What do you ‘live for”? What do you desire? And what does your Life look like to others?

We are shaped, in all dimensions, “by the end you live for”.

We must Choose Carefully. Bad choices affect our destiny, and slowly destroy the Human Community.

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, January 30, 2012

Pray - period!
Don't expect anything. Or better, expect nothing.
Prayer cleanses us of expectations and allows
holy will, providence, and life itself an entry.
What could be more worth the effort - or the non-effort?

Thomas Moore

“Pray” means “Pay Attention”.

Of course, one could write a million books on Prayer. There are many aspects to It. Personally, I feel that the least “sound” aspect of Prayer is the “asking” part. One of my thoughts is that there is no point in “asking” God for anything, for the simple reason that God knows what we need, and presumably will not give us anything that would be detrimental to our wellbeing. I think that assuming this ought to lie at the basic understanding of prayer. When I find myself “asking for something”, I know that I have lost a grip on the foundational nature of God. There may be one reason to “ask”: to remind ourselves of the true nature of God.

I like the way Moore links together “holy will, providence, and life itself”. Jesus prayed that “we all may be One” with God. That desire lies, I think. at the very core of “Prayer”. It’s like the Buddhist Shakras: our being requires constant “clearing” so that Life can flow through us unimpeded. It’s the same goal as repentance: unblocking what holds us in thrall and opening us to a clear relationship with the Divine.

Another things Moore points out is that Prayer is essentially about Listening. Not about talking. God presumably knows what is in our hearts and minds – we say this all the time when we speak of the Divine. “God knows the very hairs on our head.”

Health and Wholeness (i.e., “Salvation”) derives from there being a clear path from us to God. Our work of Prayer is to “make straight a highway for our God”.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, January 27, 12

. . . .When I am, as it were, completely myself, entirely alone, and of good cheer –
say traveling in a carriage, or walking after a good meal, or during the night when
I cannot sleep - it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best, and most abundantly.
Whence and how they come, I know not, nor can I force them...

- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, on the 256th anniversary of his birth (in 1756)

Here is what I wrote on the Mozart’s 250th birthday in 2006:

God wants us to know and value our uniqueness. To understand and to rejoice in our aloneness. Only then can we contribute fully to the human race. Only then are we free to be enriched and matured by others.

God wants us to be of good cheer. As Mozart experienced, such cheer comes from simple things.

As Jesus said, Good fruit cannot come from a bad tree. When we honour ourselves and the being of others, we flourish ourselves, as a mustard seed bush provides a home and shelter for all.

Having just moved with Dennis to NM and starting a new adventure (and up to my ears in giant boxes!) I thought I would see what I said six years ago. Though I might have gone off on another tangent, and perhaps expressed it differently, I still hold to what I thought then in 2006.

“Alone and of Good Cheer”. I wish you all a solid sense of Who you Are, and a bright optimism graced by Reality.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cauld blaws the wind frae east to west,
The drift is driving sairly;
Sae loud shrill`s I hear the blast,
I`m sure it`s winters fairly.

Up in the morning`s no for me,
Up in the mornings early;
When a` the hills are cover`d wi` snaw,
I`m sure it`s winter fairly.

The birds sit chittering on the the thorn,
A` day they fare but sparely;
And lang`s the night frae e`en to morn,
I`m sure it`s winter fairly.

Up in the morning`s no for me,
Up in the mornings early;
When a` the hills are cover`d wi` snaw,
I`m sure it`s winter fairly.

Robbie Burns, Scottish poet; he was
born on this date, 1759, in Alloway

What can I say!? I am a hopeless Scotophile. My paternal grandparents were Scottish, my grandfather born in Dundee, and my grandmother Elspeth Orrock (whence comes one of my names, and my email address) born in Forfar. But. My paternal great-grandparents were Irish, from County Sligo. It so annoyed one of my great-uncles - known as Edward MacHugh the Gospel Singer - that he changed his name from McHugh to MacHugh lest anyone think he was Irish! My family, when I was a kid, visiting my uncles and aunts, were very Scottish ….. but I never had haggis, or for that matter anything I think of as being Scottish ….. except fabulous shortbread from my Auntie Ann. I made her recipe this Christmas ….. it was superbly delicious! ….. she always made it with brown sugar instead of casting sugar. If she was making shortbread when I went to her house for tea, she would let me score the cakes with a fork.

I’ve been to Alloway, and sat in the garden and pondered Burns, and read his poetry there ….. oftentimes with the guidance of my oldest and dearest friend Martin, whose mother was also from Forfar, and who is a scholar and speaker of Scots.

Burns is simple but therefore elegant, and he speaks with a power that comes from clarity. In this simple poem, he touches me in my heart, with a feeling I can identify with, being born in Canada but with an eternal hatred of cold. “Up in the morning’s no for me” ! I see this as a spiritual principle, believe it or not! It says, “Learn to find your natural place in the flow of Life”. Don’t try to “force” Life; sense it’s movement and be energized by finding your natural place in it. There lies Joy.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It may be that the deep necessity of art
is the examination of self-deception.

Robert Motherwell, artist; he was
born on this date, 1915, at Aberdeen WA.

I often have discussions with others or with myself about the “value” of “art” - and whether something is art or not. I really like the thought that Art has such a lofty essential use! Beauty is highly personal and subjective ….. you can “like” Monet or Rembrandt or Caravaggio … or not. But just think that every piece of Art you see is an invitation to see, to learn, how to detect self-deception. To me, that makes Art invaluable.

Consider Faith/Religion. I think that the faithful practice of Religion is a great Art. And I would say that one of the most valuable things Religion does for us - and is of “deep necessity” - is the exposure of self-deception. I remember a phrase from the Book of Common Prayer that says something like, “we deceive ourselves, and there is no health in us”. We human beings can be masters of self-deception! Authentic Faith challenges self-deception at every step. If we have the courage to submit ourselves to its gaze, we are given deep inner health.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, January 23, 2012

Who is it that can make muddy water clear?
No one.
But left to stand, it will gradually clear of itself.

Tao Te Ching

I think that this “parable/teaching” is about being an integral part of the Mystery of Life, and it is about Stillness.

We human beings can be an arrogant lot! I see this demonstrated in the way that (we) Christians have interpreted the Genesis story of Creation as meaning that “we are in charge and can do what we want”. If one thinks that, it indicates that we have opted out. We have anointed ourselves godlets, controlling things from “without”. I don’t agree with that understanding of our role as humans in the structure of Existence.

We may think of ourselves as “at the top” of the pile ….. but we are a part of the structure of Being. If we reject our part, refuse to contribute as a part of the Whole, everything goes askew.

In other words, our proper “work” is not to make the “muddy water clear”. It is to behave appropriately as an integral part of Life ….. and eventually Life will “clear of itself”.

One of our important actions as intelligent, caring, powerful beings within the Structure of Being, is Stillness. Pray. Think. Meditate. Act graciously, judiciously, compassionately, without arrogance.

Eventually, the water will “clear of itself”. If we try to dominate, the waters will stay roiled, muddy.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I think that making love is the best form of exercise.

Archibald Leach; he was born on this day, 1904,
at Bristol, England.

I agree! When I go for my daily 1/7 mile walk, I apparently work off about 150 calories or more ….. I walk at a pretty brisk rate. I read somewhere that a vigorous “bout” of love-making works off about 150 calories. I vote for the latter.

Mr. Leach was either Gay or Bisexual. So say most of his friends and biographers. He lived with the actor Randolph Scott for 12 years. Stories abound.

“Making Love” is absolutely the best form of exercise towards being a wholesome, healthy human being. For the Body, yes; it helps ….. and is FUN. But much more importantly, for the Spirit, for the Mind, for the Heart. The message of Jesus, of the Gospel, is that if we do not love, we “wither and decay” … on every level. Like everything that humans do, “making love” physically is a sacramental symbol: it points to the truth that loving oneself, “God”, and one’s “neighbour” enhances Life. Not loving shrivels us.

Dare I suggest that one should make physical love with one’s Beloved (which engages of course many other levels) often ….. and then extend it to a deep loving of all human beings, and then further extend it to affirming and honouring every human being whom one is privileged to encounter in Life?



Archibald Leach?? Google him!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, January 16, 12

“Life is change. If you aren’t growing and evolving,
you’re standing still, and the rest of the world is surging
ahead. Most of these people are very immature, They
lead “still” lives, waiting.”
“Waiting for what?”
“Waiting for someone to save them. Expecting someone
to save them or at least protect them from the big, bad
world. The thing is no one else can save them because
the problem is theirs and so is the solution. Only they
can get out of it.”

The character Myrna in Louise Penny’s book,
“Still Life”.

I pondered these words at 1am ….. found unexpectedly in a “mystery” novel that my dear friend Amma Donna gave me (she knew it would engage me because it is set in Montreal where I was born, and in the Eastern Townships).

Now, I have pondered Mystery and Life for a long time now. One Mystery, in the religious tradition I have “followed” nearly all my Life, is that of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. I can’t think how many times I’ve written or preached about it.

And then, at 1am, age 65, a sudden clarity washes over me. And I “see” it. One can “see” the Death and Resurrection of Jesus as “He who came to save you and protect you from the big bad world”. I have to say that in my many decades of priesthood and ministry, I have seen little salvation for those who expected and sat around waiting for Jesus/God to get their lives organized. Or, one can see the Death and Resurrection as a Path for one’s heart, mind, and spirit. Once we make the Mystery a reality in our own Life, once we see that we must “die and rise” – change in ourselves what has brought us to stagnation – then we Live.

The process of Living is a constant for every moment of our days.

And the key is: Change, Change, Change. Change is finding the dynamic God within. No one else – not even God – can change us until we see that God and we are One. We are the problem, and the solution.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Sunday, January 15, 2012

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.
And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.
A man can't ride you unless your back is bent.

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

A riot is the language of the unheard.

An individual has not started living
until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns
to the broader concerns of all humanity.

Martin Luther King, Jr.; he was born on this date, 1929;
he was assassinated in Memphis, age 39

In 1967, age 21, I came to live in the United States to join a religious order. Very quickly I came to see just how pervasive racism was, over 100 years since emancipation; just how profoundly America had been shaped by slavery. And still is. That was 45 years ago and, while some things have greatly changed and improved, I am still shaken by the daily evidence today of how powerfully racism manifests itself. Rarely does a day go by that racist acts are not reported, whether it be a black man dragged to death behind a pick-up, or Republicans (the spiritual/political descendents of the original American colonies in the Deep South and Tidewater) trying to pass laws on voter ID that will clearly negatively affect the African-American community (among others), or the deliberate targeting of African-Americans for sub-prime mortgages, or other more “subtle” insults and discriminations.

Whatever propagandists try to do to distract us, the bottom line is that Dr King died in service of and love for freedom, for the whole of American society, and as a witness to the God of Justice and Compassion.

I am a member, in America and in the World today, of a minority discriminated against, scapegoated, deprived of the equal rights promised to all in the Constitution, and often the victim of violence - witnessed to just today by the falsely-called “Christian Evangelicals”, many of whom head anti-Gay hate groups, and who today endorsed Rick Santorum. With deep personal reverence, I honour Dr. King today and give Thanks for him and his non-violent witness for equality, dignity, and freedom for all.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, January 13, 2012

It began in mystery and it will end in mystery,
but what a rare and beautiful country lies in between.

Diane Ackerman

The Mystery before and after is indeed intriguing. But I have to confess that they have not interested me very much. Thoughts about them are fascinating of course ….. because human beings and the human imagination are fascinating. All the way through reading Joseph Campbell’s tomes on mythology I kept thinking, “How amazing human beings are that they can think up these things!”

“A rare and beautiful country”. I’ve logged those words as the title of a poem I will eventually write. I have never been much interested in “where I came from” or “where I am going”. The Past, and Heaven, hold little attraction. I seem to have sensed somewhere along the way that this “Rare and Beautiful Country” is the test for everything else. I sense that if we don’t take this part of the Journey with utter seriousness, both the Past and the Future are meaningless. To put it another way, if we don’t learn Love here, the Past will have been useless and the future empty.

Each morning, at this time of the year on the beautiful Central Coast of California where we have been privileged to live for 4 years, I awake in the dark and look west towards the Pacific. I see Canis Minor still above the horizon, sitting on top of the Winter Triangle, and the constellation of Cancer above it, and the Sickle above it. Every single morning I am struck dumb with the glory and beauty and wonder and Mystery of the Universe ….. and of my own Life. And yours.

We live in a Rare and Beautiful Country, physically and spiritually. As much as we disfigure it, its beauty and rarity at the heart are not destroyed. It will survive and endure until the human race honours it again ….. and then it will flower with the kind of beauty that only something deprived of nourishment for a long period and then showered can do.

Actually, the flowering exists in my own being ….. for which I am deeply grateful. Each day I am aware of how I have been blessed by Love and Friendship and Adventure. And if I have a “daily prayer”, it is that this flowering be in every human soul.

Just think what a “Rare and Beautiful Country” the World would then be!


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Soul of man is made an article of merchandize
by his fellow man and can such a land be happy?
No! Happiness does not dwell in any land that is
scarred by the blighting curse of Slavery.

Ezra Cornell, educator and founder of Cornell
University; he was born on this date, 1807.

It had not occurred to me until I was pondering the words of Ezra Cornell ….. but we are, in America, in a new age of Slavery. In my opinion, so is most of the World. If I may wax slightly dramatic, it has been a tussle for many decades between the God of Love and Mammon (sometimes known as Filthy Lucre) ….. and Mammon is now winning. The interesting thing is: Mammon has had great skills of wiliness and, as is so often true of attractive deities, has been very subtly able to enlist the partnership of countless human accomplices - many of whom are not really aware of just how profoundly they have been co-opted and duped. Among them, politicians, entrepreneurs, advertisers, religions, and hoards of people who have been seduced into thinking that if they abet Mammon, they too will some day join the ranks of the privileged. They never realize that in the end, they are always pawns in the hands of the rich and greedy.

I suddenly “saw” how most of us have colluded in allowing ourselves to be Slaves, “articles of merchandize”. But as Dr. Cornell wisely said, “Happiness does not dwell in any land that is scarred by the blighting curse of Slavery”. I see America as a very unhappy land ….. where only the 1% see Life getting “better”. In the supposedly richest and greatest country on Earth, tens of millions of children and adults live in poverty, have no health care, are hungry, are poorly educated, and one of our few growing industries is the building of more and more prisons. Meanwhile those who govern are so well off and insulated that their souls have been stripped of all human sympathy ….. and they are so self-deluded that they believe their policies to be “for the good” of the country. Including the majority of our Supreme Court who, by declaring corporations “persons” have set a course for the destruction of “government by the people and for the people”.

This is the character of public life in America today ….. and it is just, in my mind, like the times of the prophet Amos and, later, of Jesus, and in 1789 in France at the time of the French Revolution, and in Russia in 1917 - and in Tunisia and Libya and Syria. Occupying Movements are growing, and eventually rage will set societies alight.

Slavery to Money and all it symbolizes is a blighting curse for America and so many other peoples. Our crisis is a “spiritual” crisis, a struggle for the human soul, a clash between Love and Power. Do not think that if the Powerful win this round, America will grow greater. No, it will slowly be eaten alive from within until it dies in a fetid pool of decay.

If we want happiness in our land, we must reject Slavery. And only Love frees.


Monday, January 9, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, Jan 10, 2012

Every being is an abode of God,
worthy of respect and reverence.

Hindu Scripture

It is interesting, is it not? Almost all religions say that “God is Within”. The Gospel says, “You are the temple of the Holy Spirit”. Hindus (and I think Buddhists) greet each other with “Namaste” – the God in me greets the God in you. Christians, at the Eucharist, greet one another with the words of the Peace: “God’s peace be in You”.

I think that we live in a time of a loss of honour for the human person. Put in the Christian context, each of us is a “Christ”, a daughter or son of God ….. but we have lost the ability to recognize this. In America, this can in part be ascribed to the present inability to teach spiritual values ….. a policy with which I presently adamantly agree, since Christians with political influence insist on playing the “We are right and you are wrong” card. This creates hostility, and a spiritual arrogance at which I believe God weeps.

No one religion is “right”. We are all struggling to understand the mystery of Life. We are all wrestling with the issues of conflict and of personal insecurity and of fear and of alienation. This is an eternal struggle. I am now praying for the appearing of a great spiritual leader, who will transcend all the pettiness and stun the hearts and minds of all the peoples of the Earth and turn us to Love and Mutual Respect, and to an attitude of Reverence for all things.

Oh: we have had many. But they are co-opted for sectarian purposes. I think it is time for Another. And I would prefer a She!


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, January 9, 2012

Praying is like a rocking chair –
it'll give you something to do,
but it won't get you anywhere.

Gypsy Rose Lee, American Striptease
artist; she was born on this date, 1914,
in Seattle

First, Miss Lee is absolutely right! (Read on: there is a “Second”.) She gives me the opportunity to mount one of my favourite hobby horses and expound ….. yet again! Bottom line: There is no “God” sitting somewhere “out there” who listens to all our prayers and makes decisions about “granting” them based on some inscrutable moral or spiritual code. As a matter of fact, there is no “God” without You or Me. Without You or Me, “God” is just a fiction ….. because the second bottom line is that Deity is not possible, except in an ephemeral, fantastical way, without Us. “God” and “We” are One ….. and we can’t Be without Each Other.

If there is to be “answer to prayer”, it’s only going to happen in the love affair between Us and God. God is not a Celestial Autocrat, tweaking Existence to Her delight or whim. The enterprise of Prayer is a child born of a passionate marriage between the Great Mystery called Humanity and the Great Mystery called “Divinity”. Miss Lee, consummate striptease artist, is a grand theologian …. clergy take note!

Second: Miss Lee is absolutely wrong! Prayer, rightly understood, will get you EVERYWHERE! Prayer is essentially the striving to become One with the great Mystery of Life. And learning to Pray is a lifetime Art! I know what it is to pray. I’ve been at it, in my own strange way, for more than 45 years, layperson, monk, and priest. Boy, did I have to unlearn a LOT! Prayer is not Magic. Nor is it the politics of out-maneuvering God. Nor is it the abdication of the glory of being human ….. for, any God who would demand such an abdication is not worthy of worship. Prayer is the art of “coming round right”. And it can be a long process ….. because Prayer demands the rejection of every single delusion and illusion about Self. Suffice it to say, we human beings do not make this Journey easily or for the most part gracefully. Prayer has no “answer” until we stand naked and real, before “God” and before ourselves. Only at that moment is there an “answer to prayer” ….. because the God of Love would NEVER collude in falseness.

To my mind, Prayer is the art of arriving at the moment when there is no differentiation between Us and God. It is hard work! Well, perhaps not “hard”, so much as requiring the surrender of Self to the unimaginable Compassion of Existence. When that happens, it is like being swept into a spiritual Black Hole ….. out of which we emerge into Joy.

The first step is: make no step in Life without Silence.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Sunday, January 8, 2012
[ Epiphany I – Feast of the Baptism of Christ ]

Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."

Matthew 3:13-17; for the 1st Sunday of Epiphany,
Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

[ The full texts can be found at: http://www.lectionarypage.net/YearA_RCL/Epiphany/AEpi1_RCL.html ]

I always wonder ….. with little hope of “fully knowing”! ….. why the shapers of the Gospel (in this case “Matthew”) have John baptizing Jesus, and Jesus requesting it. John baptizes as a preparation for something else to come ….. the baptism of the Spirit. Perhaps this is the reason?: It is not possible to become a Daughter or a Son of God if we have not done the preparation, have not “prepared a place for God to come and dwell”? Personally, I think so. The message seems to be that we can’t become fully human, i.e., infused with “God” ….. which means become fully human ….. unless we have “let every heart prepare Him room”. I “get” this. Because I know how often my heart and mind and spirit and body are not ready to BE a fully human person, as defined by the standard of Jesus. Not that this means that we have to have reached some level of “perfection”; but we do have to be open to growth.

If we are Ready (which is what I think is meant by the image of Jesus coming to John at the Jordan) , the Dove can descend. In the story, Jesus is Ready. He comes to John, the prophet of His Coming, humbly. So, here Jesus is the figure of each one of us who is longing to be made fully human, a person who has looked inside and “cleansed the heart” of things that reject this transformation. As a priest, officiating at baptisms, I have often asked myself, “What are we doing here?”. The imagery is stark; it is put in terms of Death and Life: We “die with Christ, in order that we might live with Him”. In other words, we are ready to enter into something New.

Christian Life IS something New! Oh, it doesn’t mean that we will suddenly become a completely loving, compassionate, just, merciful person! But it does mean that we have heard the call to that Path ….. and that we sense a longing and desire to go that Way. Baptism is not a” perfecting”; it is a commitment of the will towards a destiny ….. and there will be many successes and failures, for that is the human way. And we will depend on many things to keep us on the Path: the Community, the Worship, the Sacraments, the Practice of Love.

At Baptism (and this is a ritual practiced in many religions), the “old way” of selfishness is “drowned”. We rise from the waters hearing a Voice which says, “You are my Daughter, my Son; I am so pleased with you!” In other words, there is great joy for Life when we make the choice to strive to be like “God”: full of Love, Generosity, Sympathy, Compassion, Caring, Unity. I chose to be a Follower of Jesus because He is a living spirit of such a Calling.

It does not matter what inner path you follow in Life. Whether we know it or not, we all are on a Path. What matters is that we hear that Love is the way, and are embraced by something that guides us. That is why Friends are so important ….. and why Jesus insisted that His disciples were, foremost, to be called His friends.

Know this day that YOU are God’s Friends, God’s Daughters and Sons.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, January 6, 2012
[ Feast of the Epiphany in the Christian Kalendar ]

A thorough knowledge of the Bible
is worth more than a college education.

President Teddy Roosevelt; he died on this date,
1919, at Oyster Bay NY, age 60

I mourn for the Bible every day. It died a long time ago, in my humble opinion ….. though there are still some who keep it’s memory alive and vibrant.

Actually, the Bible was murdered ….. by Literalism. Most of the early great Mothers and Fathers of the Church did not take the Bible literally, or at least did not understand the literal (so-called “factual”) level as being the heart and power of the Bible. Augustine, Origen, so many others, delved deeply into the metaphorical and symbolic and mythical meaning, and found there a connection to the great eternal Life-giving stories of humankind. But ….. as if so often the case ….. the lust for power intervened, and the 3rd and 4th C western Church ignored Jesus’ clear statement that His Kingdom was not of this World, and made the Church a worldly political power that still exists today in some quarters (and not just Christian), once described as “the ghost of the Roman Empire on a deathly throne”.

Think of the people in politics in America (and other places) today who profess Christianity. I can only describe their simpering drivel as appallingly shallow ….. as well as mean. If only Teddy’s spirit could arise today like a modern-day Marley and drag them off to garner a deeper understanding of the richness of the Bible by living in a community which strives to live the Gospel of Peace, of Justice, of Compassion, of Self-denial! Perhaps he would have had them Louie Crew’s course at Rutgers on “The Bible as Literature”!

Archeologists and historians have pretty much debunked all the literalist clap-trap of the Hebrew Bible - the factual existence of Abraham, Moses, etc, and the claims of the Jews having been given the Promised Land by “God”. And the same for Jesus and the trumped-up stories of who He was historically. And now we are finally getting back, slowly and only in some places, to the heart of it all: the great understanding that each and every human being in infused with the amazing, “divine” power of that greatest of all Mysteries: LIFE. “Ye are gods, sons (and daughters) of the Most High, all of you”, says the Psalm.

About time we started acting like it, don’t you think? We are all in this together ….. and we sink or swim together. Right at the moment we are on a sinking cycle ….. but I have great faith that God/Love will begin to ignite again in the human heart, in every “tribe and language and people and nation”.

I’m going to try my best to be a living witness of Holy Love. As my bumper sticker says, “God blesses everyone - No Exceptions” !

On this feast of the Epiphany, the Magi remind us that the star comes to rest in every human heart.

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, January 5, 12

Bronnie Ware on November 30, 2011
She worked in palliative care for many years.

When [patients] were questioned about any regrets they had
or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying. It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again. When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Bronnie says: Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.

To which I say: Amen!


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I also believe that government has no business telling us how we should live our lives.
I think our lifestyle choices should be left up to us.
What we do in our private lives is none of the government's business.
That position rules out the Republican Party for me.

Jesse Ventura, former professional wrestler,
he was sworn in as the Governor of Minnesota
on this date, 1999

The Governor of Minnesota said to the people of Minnesota on his election: “Congratulations, you have a sense of humor. And to those who didn't: Go stick your head in the mud. “ And if you look up his comments, he said some pretty crazy and funny things. It would be interesting to be able to look into the corporate minds of the people of Minnesota as they elected Jesse!

I find politics and politicians (and America!) fascinating. And I used to write a “political” blog ….. and might start again, though I already spend a LOT of time on the Internet! But, on this blog my primary concern is “spiritual” ….. our “inner life” and the things that influence it.

On the one hand, I am inclined to agree with Jesse: government has no business telling us how we should live our private lives. But it’s a complicated issue. Like it or not, a people’s “spiritual lives” are intertwined with our common life. Nothing is unconnected with everything else ….. something I have always believed. At the present, the problem in America is that Government is not protecting the rights of all the citizens. It is viciously partisan ….. and “in favor” of a small group of narrow-minded, Biblical literalist (or other-religion-influenced), Puritan-and-patriarchal-influenced, hypocritical (yes, hypocritical) Americans. They profess “righteousness”, but are cravenly against all of the principles of the Gospel as I see it.

As a Christian, I want a government which protects the rights and responsibilities of ALL Americans to whom the Constitution promises “equal rights” under the Law. Government must not kow-tow to any specific form of religion or religious prejudice ….. which is tantamount to “establishing” a religion. Our founders knew better.

Let me say this clearly: I do not see a shred of the Gospel in the political so-called “religious right”. They are invested in power, self-righteous, ungenerous, unloving, uncompassionate, judgmental, bigoted, exclusive. None of which has anything to do with Jesus and the Gospel. And the majority of Christians do not agree with them.

The “religious right” and the politicians who suck up to them for venal political reasons are not interested in a caring, loving, “love thy neighbour” America. They are interested in power for power’s sake ….. usually to the demeaning of their and our humanity. The worst thing is: they have convinced themselves that God agrees with them. They are wrong.

As Walt Whitman said: “Re-examine all you have been told. Reject what insults your soul.”


Monday, January 2, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, Jan 3, 2012

'God's plan' is often a front for men's plans
and a cover for inadequacy, ignorance, and evil.

Mary Daly; feminist scholar and theologian;
she died on this date, 2010, age 81

Mary Daly taught at the Jesuit Boston College from 1967-99. She was denied tenure, probably because of her book “The Church and the Second Sex”. Male students signed a petition in support of her ….. women were not admitted to the liberal arts division at Boston College until 1970. She was reinstated, with tenure.

I could wax eloquent (I hope!) on her words. But suffice it to say, I agree with her. It is my hope that 2012 will be a year in which the understanding that the absolute equality of women will spread like wildfire across the Earth. I am utterly convinced that until this happens, Humanity and Religion will remain a backwater of ignorance and of the diminishment of the World’s potential.

Patriarchy is a mill stone imposed on themselves by men. If they only understood how much their lives would be blessed by renouncing it. I do ….. and I feel immensely liberated.