Archive for April, 2018

The Template of Reality

April 30th, 2018

The Template of Reality
Sunday, April 29, 2018

God is love. —1 John 4:8

The physical structure of the universe is love. —Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) [1]

If a loving Creator started this whole thing—the Big Bang, the evolution of diverse and beautiful life forms—then there has to be a “DNA connection,” as it were, between the One who creates and what is created. The basic template of reality is Trinitarian, it’s relational. God is relationship.

“Let us create in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves,” the Creator says (see Genesis 1:26). The Hebrew writer used the plural pronouns for some wonderful reason.

St. Bonaventure (1221-1274) called the Trinity a “fountain fullness” of love. [2] God is unhindered dialogue, a positive and inclusive flow, an eternal waterwheel of self-emptying and outpouring love—that knows it can completely self-empty because it will always be filled back up. This is the very definition and description of divine love; all human love merely imitates, approximates, and celebrates this same pattern.

The energy in the universe is not in the planets or in the protons or neutrons, but in the relationship between them. Not in the particles but in the space between them. Not in the cells of organisms but in the way the cells feed and give feedback to one another. Not in any precise definition of the three persons of the Trinity as much as in the relationship between the Three! This is where all the power for infinite renewal is at work:

The loving relationship between them. The infinite love flowing between them. The dance itself.


Made for Love
Monday, April 30, 2018

It is an entirely relational universe. If, at any time, we try to stop this life flow moving through us, with us, and in us, we fall into the true state of sin (and it is much more a state than a momentary behavior). What we call “sins” cannot really separate us from God, because Divine Love is unilateral and unconditional and is not dependent on our receiving it. Rather it is our lonely and fearful illusion of separateness that makes us do sinful and selfish things. Try to make that switch in your understanding, and it will send you on a much more authentic spiritual path.

Love must flow both toward us and out from us, or we do not experience or enjoy its full effects. The Law of Flow is simple, and Jesus states it in many different formulations, such as “Happy are the merciful; they shall have mercy shown to them” (Matthew 5:7).

Sin is a refusal of mutuality and a closing down into separateness. In his classic book, The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis has a ghostly soul in hell shouting out, “I don’t want help. I want to be left alone.” [1] Whenever we refuse mutuality toward anything, whenever we won’t allow our deep inner-connectedness to guide us, whenever we’re not attuned to both receiving and giving, you could say that the Holy Spirit is existentially (but not essentially) absent from our lives.

Toxic, psychopathic, or sociopathic people cannot maintain or sustain relationships. They run from connection and commitment. Usually they are loners in a foundational way or they at least make interactions with them very difficult.

I once met a psychiatrist who said something to me that initially I thought was an overstatement: “Richard, at the end of your life, you’ll realize that every mentally ill person you’ve ever worked with is basically lonely.”

“Oh, come on, that’s a little glib, isn’t it?” I replied.

“Oh, I admit, there are surely physiological reasons for much mental illness, but loneliness might just be what activates it. Every case of nonphysiologically-based mental illness stems from a person who has been separated, cut off, living alone, and has forgotten how to relate in one way or another.” I still wonder if that might be true.

That’s probably why God created the sexual drive—the instinct for personal intimacy and mutual giving of delight—to be so strong in most humans. (Sexuality is a much broader experience than genital intercourse for the purpose of reproduction.) When you allow yourself to be separated from self and others you become sick, toxic, and can do some very evil things—and not even think of them as evil.

If God is absolute relatedness, then any notion of salvation is simply the readiness, the capacity, and the willingness to stay in relationship (which almost always involves forgiveness). When the French philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, wrote, “Hell is other people,” he was, at least momentarily, in hell himself.

We—not you alone, nor me alone, but we—are intrinsically like the Trinity, living in an absolute relatedness of self-emptying and infilling.

This is love. Outside of this flow and communion, we all die very quickly.

Love, Sex, and Cosmic Evolution

April 27th, 2018

Gender and Sexuality: Week 2

Friday, April 27, 2018
Sister Ilia Delio, a Franciscan professor and theologian, has a wonderful way of making the brilliant writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin accessible. Teilhard (1881-1955) was a French philosopher, Jesuit priest, and paleontologist who brought a scientific and mystical perspective to his faith. In her book, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being, Delio writes:
Sexuality presumes that we are part of a whole and have been separated from the whole. Hence our incompleteness makes us long for wholeness and union. . . .
Teilhard speaks of the “creative role of erotic attraction” not only on the level of the individual but the universe itself is erotic. [1] Passion is the true stuff of the universe; “the whole creation is groaning in the pains of new birth” (Romans 8:22). Every star, cell, flower, bird, and human person yearns for wholeness and completeness. Sex is not a mere continuation of the species; it is the energy of love by which this universe is in the process of personalization, becoming more spiritualized, energized, and conscious. . . .
Modern culture’s preoccupation with the physical body and the exploitation of the body as soulless matter reflects the deep human disconnect from self, neighbor, earth, and God. Sex has become more like a video game with the goal of winning rather than part of the deep religious core of cosmic evolution. . . .
Evolution continues through humanity only when there is consciousness of love as the integral wholeness of love that includes a healthy sexuality. Awareness of our desires and attention to our deepest longings must orient us toward a unified heart and consciousness. Love is more than a survival mechanism; it is the fire breathed into the fabric of the cosmos that enkindles life, rendering life more than biological function. Love turns passion into transformative power.
One might say that evolution depends on healthy sexuality. The love between persons creates a thread of passionate energy that winds around the embrace of persons and enters into the heart of the cosmos, contributing to the energetic movement of universal convergence. Love is what “makes the world go ‘round.” It is fundamental to the forward movement of evolution and cosmic personalization. It is the whole of every whole, the open, dynamic field of energy that seeks greater wholeness within every star, leaf, plant, and galaxy.
By the sheer power of its energy, love draws everything into an endless depth of greater wholeness. On the level of human consciousness, the core energy of personal/sexual love must reach out to the wider realm of humanity that includes love of neighbor, friendship, and love of the stranger. Love, sex, and cosmic evolution are intertwined in a field of integral wholeness; to deny, avoid, or negate any of them is to thwart the process of deepening life.


April 27, 2018
Away from the Crowd
Amod Pramanik (Odisha, India)

The psalmist wrote, “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.” – Psalm 62:1 (NIV)

My niece and her two young daughters were visiting us when the baby — about a year old — suddenly started crying. With her tiny fingers, she reached for her mother, urging her to take her away from the crowded room. When my niece took the baby to the bedroom, she discovered that the baby needed to be nursed. As I was thinking about this loving mother stepping away from the family gathering to nourish her child, I remembered that sometimes God also calls us away from the crowd to a solitary place. Many times we do not understand what the call means or why God is calling.
Making room in our busy schedules for solitude and time to be alone in prayer nurtures a vital relationship with God and equips us to meet the challenges and struggles of life. When we encounter sufferings — hardship, heartbreak, temptation, sickness, broken relationships — or even when we encounter new and exciting challenges, God calls us to be present as Christ teaches us to take his yoke upon ourselves and learn from him how to find rest for our souls. Spending time alone with God helps us to grow spiritually more and more into the likeness of Christ.

Today’s Prayer

Dear Lord, help us to be alert to your “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12, KJV). Amen.

April 26th, 2018

Mary Magdalene
Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Today I’ll offer a glimpse into Cynthia Bourgeault’s deep study of Mary Magdalene. Cynthia draws from the unfortunately named “Gnostic” gospels of Mary, Thomas, and Philip. Even though these texts are not part of the biblical canon, I believe they offer wisdom deeper than the merely factual level. I encourage you to read Cynthia’s book, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity—with an open mind and heart—to discover even more about this woman.

I’d like to reclaim Mary Magdalene as an apostolic partner of Jesus, as one who ministered in a tradition that was not just about male/female equality. Certainly it was about that, and Jesus was way out in front of the pack; equality was the starting point for everything else. But Mary and Jesus took it a step further, including and transcending the opposites and birthing a new form of person who lived, ministered, and saw out of a new and nondual consciousness. Mary can help us recover Jesus’ teaching and live in holographic unity, the kingdom of heaven here on earth.

In the simplified version of the [Christian] story . . . [these are the] tenets: Jesus came to earth to found a religion called Christianity, called his male-only disciples to be its apostles and priests, and gave them the sacrament of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. The obvious anomalies are overlooked—why Mary Magdalene, who was specifically given the first apostolic charge by Jesus himself to announce the news of his resurrection, was not included among the apostles, and why Paul, who was not at the Last Supper and never met Jesus in his earthly life, was. But such is the power of blinders.

While [Mary Magdalene] has often been sentimentalized or sexualized, there has not until recently been the slightest threat of her being divinized, and her intact humanness is her saving grace. Now that a new generation of Bible scholarship has corrected the glaring inaccuracy of her earlier portrayal as a prostitute and is steadily laying the groundwork by which she will sooner or later be able to fully reclaim her role as Jesus’ spiritual partner and [wisdom] lineage bearer, what presents itself to us is an accessible and entirely believable portrait of “one who got there.”

Applying the teachings that Jesus showed her, [Mary] did her inner work and emerged through the eye of the needle into singleness. If Jesus shows us what the completed human being looks like in male form, she models it for us in its female version; together they become the Christosophia, the androgynous archetype of human wholeness. And because her human heart and lover’s passion are so central to this transformation, she teaches us that we need not be afraid of these things in our own spiritual striving; the path to the fullness of being lies through human intimacy, not away from it. She binds the icon of the human heart to the angel of Holy Sophia.

Franciscan Feminism

April 26th, 2018

Gender and Sexuality: Week 2
Franciscan Feminism
Thursday, April 26, 2018

While my religious order is far from perfect, I appreciate how Franciscanism has in so many subtle ways honored and embraced the feminine side of things. One scholar rightly says that St. Francis “without having a specific feminist program . . . contributed to the feminizing of Christianity.” [1] French historian André Vauchez, in his critical biography of Francis, adds that this integration of the feminine “constitutes a fundamental turning point in the history of Western spirituality.” [2] I think they are both onto something, which creates the distinctiveness and even the heart of the Franciscan path. In so many ways, we were not like the classic pattern of religious orders.
St. Clare (1194-1253) is clearly the Franciscans’ archetypal symbol of the feminine, and yet the very male St. Francis (1182-1226) almost supernaturally exemplifies it—as a man. In my view, Franciscanism integrated the feminine element into a very patriarchal and overly masculinized Roman Church, the harsh male spirituality of the desert, and an overscheduled spirituality in most monasteries.
Franciscanism integrated the feminine both on the level of imagination and in practical ways too. It created new “softer” names for roles and functions, a more familial structure than a hierarchical one. We do not make our decisions top down, but communally in chapters (as do most communities now). Francis forbad us to use any titles implying up and down, like prior, abbot, or superior.
Happy and healthy Franciscans seem to present a combination of lightness of heart and firmness of foot at the same time. By this I mean that they do not take themselves so seriously, as upward-bound men often do; they often serve with quiet conviction and personal freedom as many mature women do.
I see this synthesis of both lightness and firmness as a more “feminine” approach to spirituality, beautifully exemplified in both Clare and Francis in different ways. It is a rare combination, so much so that it might seem a kind of holy foolishness. Androgyny is invariably a threatening Third Force if we are over-identified with one side or the other.
Clare asks from the papacy that she be allowed to found her community on her privately conceived and untested ground that she calls a “privilege of poverty.” Then she waits patiently on her deathbed for the papal bull to arrive. She knows she will win, even though there was no precedent for women’s religious communities without dowries or patronage systems being able to sustain themselves.
As to Francis, he twirls around like a top at a crossroads to discern which way God wants him to go, and then sets off with utter confidence in the direction where he finally lands. Neither of these ways are classic Catholic means of discernment, decision-making, or discovering God’s will. Yet I believe the lightness of heart comes from contact with deep feminine intuition and with consciousness itself; the firmness of foot emerges when that feminine principle integrates with the mature masculine soul and moves forward with confidence into the outer world. These are just my interpretations, and you might well see it differently.


April 26, 2018
In Tandem
Karen Brown (Mississippi)

Jeremiah prayed, “Lord, I know that people’s 
lives are not their own; it is not for 
them to direct their steps.” – Jeremiah 10:23 (NIV)

As a young couple, my husband, Don, and I enjoyed riding bicycles. Later, because of my declining vision, we sold our bikes and bought a tandem bicycle. Since a “bicycle built for two” isn’t a common sight, we got lots of smiles and waves — especially when we would put our child in a seat on the back and all three of us would ride through our neighborhood.
The person in the front seat on the bike is known as the captain or pilot. As the captain, my husband controlled the bike — steering, balancing, and calling out instructions to me in the back, in the position called the stoker. My primary responsibility was to trust the pilot and provide as much power through the pedals as possible.
Using the tandem bike as an analogy for my spiritual journey, I understand that life works best when I give up control and trust God’s guidance to steer and provide balance. I admit that sometimes I forget this truth and try to take control. Then I remember that just as the stoker listens for the instructions to lean into a turn or prepare for a bump in the road, I need to remember that God is in the pilot’s seat. As Jesus assured his disciples, God assures me that I am riding in tandem and am never alone. God is always present on the journey.

Today’s Prayer

Dear God, help us to let go and trust you as the one who is with us in every circumstance and moment of our journey. Amen.


April 19th, 2018

Gender and Sexuality: Week 1
Richard Rohr
Thursday, April 19, 2018

What is marriage and what is its purpose? As a priest, who has tried to be faithful to my vow of celibacy, I may not be the most qualified to comment, but I feel a responsibility to clarify some of the confusion and misunderstanding that have led to pain, exclusion, and often abuse.
Again, I’m borrowing from Diarmuid O’Murchu’s insights on gender and sexuality within a historical context. For a full explanation (with rich footnotes), please see his excellent book Incarnation: A New Evolutionary Threshold. From the Aristotelian perspective, “human sexuality is defined as a biological capacity for the procreation of human life. It is a biological imperative, existing solely for one purpose, namely human reproduction. And it seems to belong primarily to the male . . .” [1] as we saw yesterday.
O’Murchu continues:
The ensuing sexual morality considered all other forms of sexual expression to be contrary to nature and sinful in the eyes of God. And since procreation was the primary goal, any suggestion of pleasure or human fulfillment from sexual intimacy was considered an aberration.
From a Catholic perspective it is worthy of note that marriage was not elevated to the status of a sacrament till the Council of Trent in the 16th century. Going back to the time of the Roman Empire, most Christians were married in the same way as pagans, in common-law or “free” marriages. Christians were usually married in simple public ceremonies without any license or written agreement. Later on, after the reign of the Christian Emperor, Justinian (527-565), Christians were married in more formal civil ceremonies . . . ; though prayers and blessings were sometimes added to the ceremony, marriage was not a sacrament of the Church and it did not directly involve the Church. . . . Only after the Council of Trent was a ceremony compulsory for Roman Catholics. [2]
During and after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the Catholic Church seemed to realize the inadequacy of the Greek view of marriage—solely for procreation—and began to recognize another obvious element to the definition of marriage: intimacy and mutual support. Unfortunately, institutions have a hard time keeping up with such an evolution of thought, even though this is rather obvious. O’Murchu sees this time characterized by “the paradoxical mix of breakdown and breakthrough”:
Sexual abuse flared on several fronts, often involving children, adolescents and vulnerable adults. Sexual deviancy, promiscuity and the extensive spread of pornography were deemed to be the primary culprits. Virtually nobody named—and still fail to do so—the explosion of sexual repression, buried deep in the human psyche over several previous centuries. It is the legacy of that repression that still continues to haunt our contemporaries, and particularly those of a religious background. Responsible incarnational redress will not be forthcoming till that deep psychic woundedness is acknowledged, named, and subjected to a more discerning and compassionate analysis. [3]
Conservatives are so afraid of false expression (and they are right), and liberals are so afraid of unhealthy repression (and they are right), that it is going to take us a while to discover our sexual center and balance.


April 19, 2018
Under Construction
Jenny Calvert (Texas)


Unless the Lord builds the house, those 
who build it labor in vain. – Psalm 127:1 (NRSV)

Our home has been under construction for quite some time now. We have taken down walls and ceilings. But many of the changes have been internal improvements that do not show, such as replacing pipes and electrical wiring. We know that the internal changes, although not seen, make for a better, stronger, and safer home.
This reminds me of Paul in today’s reading. He writes about being persecuted, afflicted, and struck down, but not destroyed or forsaken, so that the invisible Christ within us — and the promise in his resurrection — can become visible to the world. Ever since the day I claimed my faith in Christ, I also have been in a reconstruction period. Little by little, Christ has molded, replaced, and made new my spirit. Because he loves me enough to do this, I am able to hold up under the pressures of this world.
Reconstruction is hard, messy work. But the finished product will be well worth it all. If we are willing to let Christ renew us day by day — painful as it may be at times — we know that in the end we will become better, stronger, and more effective witnesses. In God’s care we can feel secure that God wants only good for us, not harm, and that we can look forward to a bright future with hope. (See Jer. 29:11.)

Today’s Prayer

God of hope, help us not to fight the changes we need to make as we are transformed into Christ’s image. In his name we pray. Amen.

Gender and Sexuality: Week 1

April 18th, 2018

Gender and Sexuality: Week 1

The Essential Self and the Passing Self
Wednesday, April 18, 2018

As I shared in my meditations on human bodies the last two weeks, Western Christianity owes our separation of body and spirit to Greek philosophy much more than to Scripture or Jesus. Social psychologist Diarmuid O’Murchu suggests that Plato and Aristotle are primarily responsible for our binary view of gender and the idea that gender and sexuality are “biologically ingrained, and determined by God, the creator of the natural order.” Over the next few days, I’ll summarize some of O’Murchu’s helpful insights from his recent book, Incarnation: A New Evolutionary Threshold.

O’Murchu outlines the “norms” with which we are all no doubt familiar:

Men are supposed to be rational, assertive, tough, and focused on material success; women are supposed to be more emotional, modest, tender, and concerned with a nurturing quality of life. According to that same philosophy, the male is superior in strength, wisdom and fertility; the woman provides the passive, receptive incubator to fertilize the male seed and assure the continuance of the human race. [1]

This was not always the case. Many ancient peoples treated men and women in a much more egalitarian way. Our current binary roles can be traced back to the Agricultural Revolution. These gender stereotypes are socially constructed behaviors and attributes that differ by culture, rather than absolute truths or tenets of the Judeo-Christian tradition. [2] Many cultures identify a third or even fourth gender. The Bible often refers to “eunuchs” (see Isaiah 56:4-5 and Matthew 19:12, for instance) which may or may not have included people that today might identify as transgender, bisexual, intersex, gay, or lesbian.

Modern scholars tell us, O’Murchu writes, that “how we experience ourselves as male or female is largely the result of learned conditioning.” Our different biological features are “secondary to our identity.” Both sex and gender are “fluid concepts that exist along a spectrum, rather than as fixed binaries determined by biology or genetic imprinting.” [3] In spiritual terms, gender is an attribute of

the “false” or passing self, and is thus not one’s essential identity in God. The “True Self” or “Anchored Self” is beyond gender, which is probably the point Jesus is making when he says in heaven there is no marriage or giving in marriage (Luke 20:35).

Several weeks ago, in the Daily Meditations, I explored Evolution, a concept many Christians tend to dismiss or fight. [4] A view of Creation as static and unchanging has not served us well when it comes to our own bodies and the way we treat others. An evolving universe gives us the freedom to be surprised and change our minds when reality doesn’t match our preconceived notions. It allows growth and change.

Aristotle believed humans were superior to all other life forms because we are capable of rational—dualistic—thinking. And he thought that men had stronger rational abilities than women, thereby making men more important and powerful. Yet rational thinking is not the only or even best way of knowing! While it’s certainly helpful, the critical mind can’t fully comprehend the most meaningful issues in life like God, love, sexuality, grace, suffering, and death. For that we need contemplative, nondual consciousness, which is much more like intuitive knowing.

As we become more aware that arbitrary categories of male and female don’t fully describe human experience (for example, that of transgender people), we must look at reality with more compassionate eyes. The Gospel skips over gender and sexuality as arbitrary and passing. Gender is not the essential self, but merely a pathway to wholeness. The Gospel says I am a precious, beautiful being created in God’s image and likeness—and we all share this identity equally and in common. This totally levels the playing field of humanity. This is why I cannot give up on Christianity.


April 18, 2018
Called by Name
Colin Harbach (Cumbria, England)

I have called you by name; you are mine. – Isaiah 43:1 (CEB)

The day’s news brought another image of refugees. I had seen many scenes of distraught people huddled together on their perilous sea journey or their long march to safety and new life. This time it was an image of a crowd pressing against an impassable razor-wire fence. Then, over the commentator’s voice, I heard someone call, “Zaria!” Suddenly I no longer saw a crowd but a group of individual people. Like Zaria, each one has his own personal story, her own experiences of horror, fear, loss, pain, and sacrifice, as well as hopes, faith, and loves.

Jesus taught us that while God’s love is for the whole world, it is also very personal. In today’s reading Jesus likened God to the perfect shepherd who knows each sheep by name. God will suffer for and with each one to ensure no one is lost.

From that day on, my prayers have changed. I no longer pray, “Lord, help refugees,” but “Lord, take into your loving care Zaria and every other refugee and asylum-seeker like her.” No longer do my prayers come from impersonal concern, but from intimate compassion — closer to the way God loves
each of us.

Today’s Prayer
Lord Jesus Christ, give us your compassion to share the pain and joy of individuals in a crowded world of injustice until all our prayers are acts of love. Amen.


Gender and Sexuality

April 17th, 2018

Gender and Sexuality: Week 1

Reuniting Our Separated Selves
Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The body is a sacrament . . . a visible sign of invisible grace. . . . All our inner life and intimacy of soul longs to find an outer mirror. It longs for a form in which it can be seen, felt, and touched. The body is the mirror where the secret world of the soul comes to expression. The body is a sacred threshold; and it deserves to be respected, minded, and understood in its spiritual nature. . . . The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. [See 1 Corinthians 6:19.] —John O’Donohue [1]

How we relate to one thing is probably how we relate to everything. How we relate sexually to ourselves and others is a good teacher for how we relate to God (and how we relate to God is an indicator of how we will relate to everything else). Religion, as its root re-ligio (to “re-ligament”) indicates, is the task of putting our divided realities back together: human and divine, male and female, heaven and earth, sin and salvation, mistake and glory, matter and spirit. This is the task of every human life.

The mystics—including many faithful lovers, parents, friends, and artists—are those who reconnect what has been separated and experience deep intimacy and union with God, self, and others. “Sinners” are those who keep everything divided and never enjoy things in their wholeness. When we only relate to parts instead of wholes, we can make terrible mistakes, and we all do this in one way or another.

The Muslim mystic, Shams-ud-din Mohammad Hafiz (c. 1320-1389), wrote Persian poetry with such intimacy between human love and divine love that the reader often loses the awareness of which is which. Consider this poem inspired by Hafiz, “You Left a Thousand Women Crazy”:

Last Time
When you walked through the city
So beautiful and so naked,

You left a thousand women crazy
And impossible to live with.

You left a thousand married men
Confused about their gender.

Children ran from their classrooms,
And teachers were glad you came.

And the sun tried to break out
Of its royal cage in the sky
And at last, and at last,
Lay its Ancient Love at Your feet. [2]

Yes, the poet is talking about God’s abundant presence walking through the streets, but his images come from human fascinations and feelings. Yes, he is talking about seething human desire, but he is also convinced that it is a sweet path to God.

Why has this integration, this coincidence of seeming opposites, occurred with relative rarity within Christianity? One would think that if there were any religion that would have most welcomed this connection, it would have been Christianity. After all, we believe that God became a living human body through the Incarnation in Jesus.

If we don’t recognize the sacred at the deep level of gender identity and sexual desire, I don’t know if we will be able to see it anywhere else. When Christians label LGBTQIA [3] individuals as inherently sinful or disordered, we hurt these precious people and limit ourselves. Fear of difference creates a very constricted, exclusive, and small religion and life—the very opposite of the abundance into which God invites us.


April 17, 2018
Every Good Thing
Pam Manners (New Jersey)

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. . . . Those who fear him lack nothing. . . . Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. – Psalm 34:8-10 (NIV)

Over the years, my neighborhood has become home to a rather large stray-cat population. Several of us within the community provide clean drinking water and fresh food for these cats daily so they’re well fed and not tearing apart everyone’s garbage in search of a meal.

It has worked well, with the exception of one cat we call Smokey. Though I’ve seen Smokey eating from various food bowls often enough, he continues to tear through trash bags and to drink dirty water from gutters and puddles.

Once, in frustration, as I caught him feasting from a neighbor’s trash, I yelled out, “Smokey! Why are you messing with that garbage when I’ve got something so much better for you here?” Not long afterward, I wondered to myself how many times God has asked me that very same question.

God has so much better to offer us — the best there is! In Psalm 34:8, we’re invited to “taste and see that the LORD is good.” Yet for various reasons we keep picking through life’s garbage. Maybe it’s time to leave the trash where it belongs and joyfully come to the table where God has every good thing waiting for us.

Today’s Prayer
Faithful God, help us to joyfully receive every good thing you have prepared for us. Amen.

Bodies on the Line

April 13th, 2018

Bodies on the Line

Richard Rohr
Friday, April 13, 2018

Your body is not an isolated, separate entity. We are our truest selves only in community—with our ancestors (carrying their stories and DNA), our natural environment, and our neighbors. We hold the mystery of transformation, “making up in our own body what still has to be undergone by Christ for the sake of the larger body” (Colossians 1:24). We are not in this alone, and our unique gift is essential to make the Body of Christ whole.
Today Barbara Holmes continues reflecting on the Black Lives Matter Movement (BLMM) and their evolving, embodied way of fighting for justice:
As the millennials will tell you, “This is not your grandmother’s Civil Rights Movement.” They are right. Although both the CRM and BLMM seek the betterment of life for black people and their communities and both resist oppression with contemplative practices and activism, they use different strategies and leadership models and seek different goals. . . .
The BLMM is a decentralized network of local organizations. . . . Patrisse Cullors, a founder of the BLMM, says, “We are not leaderless, we are leader-full.” [1] . . . It is difficult to infiltrate, undermine, or disrupt an organic movement that draws its power from regenerating communal cells. . . .
During the CRM, the blindness of dominant culture to the plight of the African American community meant that the message had to be delivered by one voice in language that white Americans could understand and support. Lives were at stake, and [Martin Luther] King’s biblical and patriotic references combined with his soaring oratory ignited the nation and inspired the movement.
Now, fifty plus years after the CRM, another approach is needed, and the BLMM like the LGBTQIA justice movements are updating the art of contemplative confrontation and noncompliance with the status quo . . . oppression and violence against black bodies. Today, the most respectable image that young protesters can offer is their authenticity, resolute voices, and pride in community and culture. . . . The BLMM uses disruption for transformation rather than the predictable politeness and political compromises that were part of the ordinary negotiations of social activists. . . .
They block traffic and refuse to allow “business as usual.” The response is not riot or violence, it is the twenty-first-century version of the sit-in. CRM activists got parade permits and stayed along the side of the road so as not to interfere with traffic. BLM activists “shut it down” with song, putting their bodies on the line. . . .
BLM activists are not singing “we shall overcome,” they are not saying “I am yet holding on” or “making a way out of no way” like the church mothers and fathers of old. They are saying “we ain’t gonna stop ‘til our people are free” and “I can’t breathe,” as they shut down malls and highways to stop the killing of young black men and women. [Far too often, by the very officers who are supposed to “protect and serve,” I might add.]


April 13, 2018
The Spirit’s Voice
Anne Kayser (Oregon)

Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 
This is the Spirit of truth.” – John 14:16-17 (NRSV)

The divisions at our church’s denominational conference mirrored the divisions in my own household. I saw good people on both sides of contentious issues.
A few days after the conference, I took my son to hear the Oregon Symphony perform one of his favorite works, Mahler’s 3rd Symphony. On the heels of the tension we had both experienced, the music became a visceral reminder of the Holy Spirit’s still, small voice. In one of the later movements of Mahler’s work, the principle trumpet was offstage, barely audible at times, but supplying the main theme for the piece — a sweet, longing melody calling to all who would listen. At times some of the other instruments picked up on the trumpet’s gentle theme and harmonized with it; at other times they almost drowned it out in a frenzy of dissonant notes.
I wondered, Which kind of instrument am I? At times I am so eager to voice my own opinions and positions that I nearly drown out God’s Spirit of truth, not to mention other people. But when I calm down enough to listen, that Spirit is still there, singing softly and tenderly. In fact, the Spirit is sometimes echoed by those I may be trying to verbally out-maneuver. Becoming an instrument of peace starts with listening for the Holy Spirit.

Today’s Prayer

Gracious God, thank you for sending your Holy Spirit to us. Give us ea

Black Bodies

April 12th, 2018

Richard Rohr

Black Bodies
Thursday, April 12, 2018

Until the killing of black mothers’ sons [and daughters] is as important as the discovery of white mothers’ sons, we who believe in freedom cannot rest. —Ella Baker [1]
As I wrote in last week’s meditations, the early ego creates itself by comparison or negation, by how we are not like others. [2] It likes to differentiate. The ego then holds onto this falsely created sense of superiority at all costs. Last year when I shared about coming to recognize my own white privilege—the unearned benefits I receive simply because of the color of my skin—I wasn’t surprised that the Center’s Customer Service team received more than the usual defensive and angry emails. [3] Many people think “white privilege” is liberal propaganda, a made-up idea to seed more division. After all, the United States had a black president! Surely, we’ve moved beyond racism.
And what about “reverse racism,” some whites say? Anyone can be prejudiced. But racism is all about an imbalance of power. In the United States today, most of the power still lies with people who are white. The very nature of oppression makes it hard for those of us who are comfortable to see this problem. [4] Perhaps subconsciously we know that systemic inequality serves our own ego’s interests and so we resist change. We still define ourselves by differentiating and comparing (dualistic thinking) and not by “similarizing” (which is unitive thinking).
As Jewish poet Emma Lazarus wrote, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” [5] If we are all made in God’s image, if we are all the Body of Christ, then treating black and brown bodies with love and respect is the only way for our country, our communities, and our Christianity to be whole. Our love must be active and embodied. We cannot just preach peace and justice in a theoretical way; the rubber of justice needs to hit the real road.
One of our CONSPIRE 2018 presenters, author and professor Barbara Holmes, explores how some young people today are working hard to dismantle systems of oppression:
Ella Baker [1903-1986], civil rights activist and organizer, reminds us of the reason that we continue the struggle for justice. It is for fairness, equal treatment under the law, and the cessation of violence against innocent black and brown bodies. Another generation is on the rise, and they are confronting police brutality and advocating for black lives through the Black Lives Matter Movement (BLMM), its contemplative activism and deeply spiritual resistance. . . .
One cannot help but wonder why the same battles for justice must be fought by every generation? Certainly, there were enough sacrifices, martyrs, and legislation during the ’60s to ensure justice for all. Yet . . . “we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities and the rulers of darkness in high places” [Ephesians 6:12]. The powers or systems do everything they can to resist change. In response to the demand for justice, systems morph and adjust while maintaining the status quo.
So public hangings end and the murders of unarmed black folk rise. Slavery ends, but the mass incarceration of minority populations increases. Jim Crow practices are no longer openly discriminatory; they reappear as educational and economic disparities, voter suppression, and aggressive police actions against people of color. [6]
Power never surrenders without a fight. If your response to today’s meditation is to retort, “All lives matter!” I invite you to take a closer look at your own fears and biases. Of course, all lives matter! Yet until black and brown lives matter, no lives truly matter. Jesus spoke into specific lives, into particular circumstances of oppression, saying, “You, an outcast Samaritan woman, you matter. You, a leper rejected by society, you matter.”


April 12, 2018
A Better Way
Ann Stewart (South Australia, Australia)

[The Lord] said to [Paul], “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

At times, when I look at my schedule for the weeks ahead, I wonder how I can possibly fit everything in. At other times I worry about how I will manage to cope with all of life’s challenges. At these times I can choose to become anxious and think about the worst-case scenarios, or I can choose a different way. I can stop worrying and start praying. Usually prayer calms me — reminding me to trust God one day at a time. God’s grace is sufficient for each moment of each day. I can choose to trust in God’s strength and be thankful even for my weaknesses. I can choose to live in the present and open my eyes and ears to enjoy the blessings of each day instead of worrying about tomorrow and the next challenge. I can choose to take negative thoughts captive (see 2 Cor. 10:5) and think instead on the truth in God’s word.
I cannot say that I always find it easy to do this, but with practice it has gradually become the norm for me. From experience, I know that I can trust God to meet all my needs. I’ve seen God give me strength exactly when I need it. So I choose a better way to live — one day at a time — confidently relying on God with a thankful heart.

Today’s Prayer

Loving Father, give us confidence to trust you in every situation. In the challenges of life, help us to rely on your strength, not our own. Amen.

God Loves All Bodies

April 11th, 2018

God Loves All Bodies
Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Barbara Brown Taylor, one of our CONSPIRE 2018 presenters, shares her experience of falling in love with human bodies, her own and others. She writes in An Altar in the World:

Our bodies are prophets. They know when things are out of whack and they say so, although most of us welcome their news about as warmly as the people of Jerusalem welcomed Jeremiah’s. We would rather lock up our bodies than listen to what they have to say. Where Christians are concerned, this leaves us in the peculiar position of being followers of the Word Made Flesh who neglect our own flesh or—worse—who treat our bodies with shame and scorn.

I came late to understanding that God loved all of me—not just my spirit but also my flesh. Like many young people raised in the fifties, I grew up with a lot of questions and unearned shame about my ripening body. . . .

When understanding finally came—not by reason but by faith—the first thing I understood was that it was not possible to trust that God loved all of me, including my body, without also trusting that God loved all bodies everywhere. God loved the bodies of hungry children and indentured women along with the bodies of sleek athletes and cigar-smoking tycoons. While we might not have one other thing in common, we all wore skin. We all had breath and beating hearts. Most of us had wept, although not for the same reasons. Few of our bodies worked the way we wanted them to. The vast majority of us were afraid of dying. . . .

My body is what connects me to all of these other people. Wearing my skin is not a solitary practice but one that brings me into communion with all these other embodied souls. It is what we most have in common with one another. In Christian teaching followers of Jesus are called to honor the bodies of our neighbors as we honor our own. In [Jesus’] expanded teaching by example, this includes leper bodies, possessed bodies, widow and orphan bodies, as well as foreign bodies and hostile bodies—none of which he shied away from. Read from the perspective of the body, his ministry was about encountering those whose flesh was discounted by the world in which they lived.

What many of us miss, in our physical dis-ease, is that our bodies remain God’s best way of getting to us. . . . Deep suffering makes theologians of us all. The questions people ask about God in Sunday school rarely compare with the questions we ask while we are in the hospital.


Upper Room Devotional for today

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. – 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)

Before I came to faith in Christ, I was hopeless and without joy. I knew I did things that were wrong, but I was unable to see how life could be better. Then I met some people at my high school who seemed to have something special. Their lives were different and meaningful. As I watched them, I realized they weren’t just happy but joyful. That was strange to me yet also very appealing. I asked them many questions and appreciated their kind responses.
When people ask me how I became a Christian, I always point to the significant impact of those joyful Christians who demonstrated purposeful living in God’s presence. No matter the difficulties they faced in life, they truly praised God. They even thought it was important to share this reason with me, letting me know that the path of true life and everlasting joy can be found only in Jesus. I give thanks for their joyfulness that showed me the way to new life in Christ.

Dear God, you alone are our greatest joy. Thank you for giving us new life in Jesus Christ. Amen.