Saturday, June 10, 2017

Good-bye, Good Luck, and Godspeed

All of our praise rises to the One who is strong enough to make you strong, exactly as preached in Jesus Christ, precisely as revealed in the mystery kept secret for so long but now an open book through the prophetic Scriptures. All the nations of the world can now know the truth and be brought into obedient belief, carrying out the orders of God, who got all this started, down to the very last letter. All our praise is focused through Jesus on this incomparably wise God! Yes! - Romans 16:25-27 (The Message)

       “Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.”  J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
       “Remember me and smile, for it's better to forget than to remember me and cry.”  Dr. Seuss
       “Good bye may seem forever. Farewell is like the end, but in my heart is the memory and there you will always be.”  Walt Disney Company
       “Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth. Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”  J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
       “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP”  Leonard Nimoy
       “It's the emptiest and yet the fullest of all human messages: 'Good-bye.”   Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Bluebeard
       “And then they bid their final goodbye which marked the end of their story. And beginning of two new stories.” 
Crestless Wave
       “I Salute to our journey's end.”  Jerhia
       “It's important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go. Otherwise you are left with words you should have said but never did, and your heart is heavy with remorse.”  Yann Martel, Life of Pi
       “Even as I hold you, I am letting you go.”  Alice Walker
       “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying Goodbye so hard.” – Winnie the Pooh

So many years, so many thoughts, so many brain droppings, some good words, some bad words, some words that just hung there. This Musing thing has been quite a ride. I don’t really know how to say goodbye in some way that speaks to the depth and intensity I feel about the years we have spent together. Most of you don’t comment. Most of you never see me and we never communicate. In a lot of ways this has been a one-way relationship and yet it hasn’t been. Occasionally someone will comment, will see me someplace and speak to me, will share how one of these touched them or came at just the right time or in some way was meaningful. That’s one of the reasons I have done them. But the main reason is quite selfish, I wanted to wrestle with me, my thoughts and feelings and reactions and short-comings but felt that I could not, nay should not do it alone. I needed a community to listen and to be there. I didn’t need advice or well-wishes I needed to know someone was there, that they cared and that I was being heard. It is a lot like prayer, not many responses but I feel a whole lot different when I am done.

So, thank you. Thank you for reading these Musings. Thank you for caring about me. Thank you for letting them touch you in some way. Thank you for being a community of love and support for me. Thank you for the comments you have shared with me. If I have touched your life in some way that made a difference, I am pleased. If I have been a voice speaking from the wilderness that has assisted you in your journey, it was the Spirit at work in both of us. If you have deleted these with a shrug of your shoulder, thanks for letting me get it out.

I will be starting something new. I will have an entirely different job and therefore perspective beginning in July. I am not sure where the Spirit will lead me but I know I will need to share with a community and you will be welcome to find me and join in. So, until we meet again, goodbye and God bless!

God, thanks for this ride and those who took it with me. Amen.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Best and the Worst on Display

 "Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.” Matthew 12:33 (NRSV)

Last week the best and worst of humanity was on display. A racist bigot traumatizes a couple of teenage girls on a MAX train…three people come to their aid…two die from the bigot’s violence…one victim says, “Tell everyone on this train I love them” … a bystander steals one of the dying victims backpack…a man grabs some cloth and tries to stem the bleeding in one victim. The best and worst of humanity in a single tragic event.

I cannot imagine how the best in humanity came to the fore in such a terrible and dangerous situation just like I cannot imagine how someone could take advantage of the situation for their own greedy gains. I cannot imagine how someone justifies hatred and violence against others just like I cannot imagine people rushing in to help. That’s really not accurate, I can imagine it all and that is both a blessing and a curse.

 I try to be hopeful. I have said before I am a pessimistic optimist or an optimist pessimist, not sure which describes me best and I may vacillate between the two. I want to believe that when a terrible situation arises people will respond with the best parts of their humanity. I have seen it and heard about it happening over and over and over again. This gives me hope. This makes me feel that no matter what, humankind can find a way forward that is right and good and just. That we can evolve out of our baser instincts and into a more enlightened state of being. Those who stepped forward to confront bigotry and racism and assist victims on that MAX train are shining examples of this.

But time and time and time again I see the worst of humanity on display. Random acts of vandalism, racist rants, homophobic, Islamophobic, misogynistic rhetoric and actions directed at so many powerless people (usually by white males). Scenes like the one that played out on the MAX train. When this happens, I worry that humanity is slipping ever closer to a point of no return where our society will crash in on itself and we will revert to cave dwelling.

But just when I feel that all hope is lost I remember what Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” I remember that if I take the long view I see that human culture has progressed in our evolution toward a common humanity, toward a more just and fair world. There have been many fits and starts. Often it seems that after great progress we slip back a bit. Sociologists will tell you that this is a natural reaction. When great change and progress are made there are some who get so afraid of that which is evolving that they react in nationalistic, tribal ways hoping to stop the arc, knowing deep within that they can’t.

So, I look upon the events on that MAX train and other things happening around our country – pulling out of the Paris Accords, fake news accusations, travel bands, inappropriate sharing of sensitive information… and I see desperation. I see mostly white men trying to stem the flood of change and progress for humanity that seems to be redefining reality in ways that frightens them. They are trying to halt the arc of the moral universe and will not be able to succeed because there is only one direction it can go, forward toward a transformed humanity and a transformed world.

It is sad that we must suffer through such tragic events as the one on that MAX train. It is horrible that Rick Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche had to die and Micah Fletcher had to suffer such terrible wounds. It is unconscionable that the President of the United States waited three days to condemn such actions. It is heartbreaking to realize that people think the things that hateful man thinks who would do what he did on that train. But we cannot let events like this, no matter how tragic, blur our vision of what is slowly, painfully emerging as we walk the moral arc to justice and peace for all.

Hang in there you loving, peaceful, accepting, humble, righteous people. You are faithful partners of God and Christ and your efforts – our efforts, prayers, and support are helping bend the arc. The world is being transformed even if we cannot always perceive it.

God, listen to my heart. Hear my anguish. Hear my concern. Hear my plea for strength. Hear my weak prayer for those I claim as enemy. Hear my commitment to love and justice and peace. Amen.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

When Nothing Seems to Come to Mind

Don't sit there watching the wind. Do your own work. Don't stare at the clouds. Get on with your life. - Ecclesiastes 11:4 (The Message)

I am worn out today. My mind doesn’t seem to be able to hold onto a train of thought for any reasonable length of time or for a coherent path. It is so much so that even trying to think up a word or phrase to put in my Bible search software to come up with a passage for this Musing seems nigh impossible. As an introvert, I have reached my limit and can tell that my tank is empty and even the reserve that is meant to get me to the next fill is dry. When I’m feeling this way the voice of duty and responsibility and even shame seems to shout in my head things like the above passage.

I know you have felt this way in the past. I know that I am not a bad person because I feel this way. I know that everyone at some time needs to pause and stare at the clouds or watch the wind. I just want to be able to do the things that I think are needed, necessary, important or that I know bring me life. These Musings fall into that category. That’s why I am doing this today, because it does help me, it energizes me and even though it may seem counter intuitive it really does help me recharge.

I bet you always thought these Musings were for you, the people who receive them and might read them. In fact, they are for me. They allow me to share some of who I am and what I believe and how I see and interact with the world, God and all that. They help me to organize my thoughts and feelings and give me an avenue to express myself without worrying to much about blow back. This is far different than a sermon or teaching a class. It is just me, my reflections that I just happen to share.

I am struggling to figure out how this might fit with the new position I will be taking on July 1. I have been doing these since June of 2005. 12 years of my reflections and, as George Carlin often said about his reflections, brain droppings. I think that it is time to let this expression of myself come to an end. It is time to find a new way of sharing what I think and feel and believe and muse about. What that will be is still a mystery to me. I do know that whatever it is it will be on that immortal and eternal medium known fondly as the internet. It will likely take the form of a blog but the subject or the point of it is still what is in flux.

I plan to do two more Musings. One the week of June 4 and the last one the week of June 11. I hope to have whatever I will be doing up and running the second week of July. There will be a link on the Cascadia District website when it is up and running if you happen to want to see what I will be doing, you will find it there.

I want to thank you for taking the time to read these Musings. For the replies you have sent. For the times you have shared with me how they have sparked something in you. Thank you for allowing me these opportunities to drop on you my frustrations, worries, joys, concerns, mental and emotional and spiritual failings. I truly believe in these often emotionally disconnected times, when we are more connected than ever to the world but seem so lost and disconnected from others, that honest and open sharing is important. I encourage you to muse and share your musings with others. Take the risk and be willing to just let them be without apology or defensiveness. If you get nothing else from these past 12 years please take with you the critically important reality that connections with self, God and others are what give and sustain life.

Dear God, thank you for giving me a mind to think, a heart to feel and a spirit that seeks to connect with all creation, myself and you. Amen.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Worth the Cost?

For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. - Mark 14:7 (NRSV)

The Lord said to Moses: 2 Tell the Israelites to take for me an offering; from all whose hearts prompt them to give you shall receive the offering for me. 3 This is the offering that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze… 8 And have them make me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them.  - Exodus 25:1-3, 8 (NRSV)

I saw that a congregation completed a new sanctuary. It cost them $90 million. This got me to thinking about church buildings and their cost and what they signify. So, to give some perspective I Googled “How much would it cost to build a medieval cathedral today?” Here are two of the answers I found:

 St. Peter's is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and one of the largest churches in the world.  the Great Construction of the present Basilica, replacing the Old St. Peter's Basilica of the 4th century AD, began on 18 April 1506 and was completed on 18 November 1626, almost 120 years to built so knowing the fact this project can take a lot of money according to my estimate around 600 million Dollars or may be more.

My guess would be in the neighborhood of $3/4 - 1 billion.  The National Cathedral in Washington DC was built from 1907-1990 and cost $65 million.  Figuring the cost of living during these years versus today and assuming an equal amount of work was paid for each year.  Add on the increased cost for more stringent building codes and the much higher cost of land.  Of course, the National Cathedral is one of the larger cathedrals.

We Christians, and I believe most of the world’s great religions, spend vast amounts of money and other resources to build our temples, cathedrals, shines, and places of worship. We have done so for, I would guess, as long as we have had any sort of organized religion. The question that haunts me is why? Why do we feel we must spend vast resources to build edifices for our faiths? What motivates us and what do we hope to gain from them?

Before I go any further I must confess a bias. I believe that buildings built for the sole purpose of worship are a relic of the past. If I were starting a community of faith today I would not build a building unless it was to serve a particular ministry in the neighborhood to those who live there. I would only build if the campus were to be used every day to serve and minister to those around it. A part of the space could be used for the purpose of worship when that was to happen but it would not be its sole purpose.

I understand the need to invest time, money and resources into the campuses we already have when it makes sense to keep those assets for mission and ministry with, to, and for the people who live near them. If we have no such ministries and missions then those campuses need to be looked at from the vantage point of how they might be utilized for service of the area where they are located. But to keep a campus just because it is a place of worship is bad stewardship and I think unfaithful.

I believe that in the past people funded and built these places of worship for reasons that no longer apply. They were seen as honoring God. They were ways to profess your faith. They were seen literally as the “house of God” on earth. Funding them was a way to earn indulgences (an indulgence is "a way to reduce the amount of punishment one has to undergo for sins") for yourself or those you love. And they were ways to sanctify a place considered holy. They were meant to create a space where the presence of God was felt and the faith honored.  Most if not all of these reasons no longer seem relevant or even theologically sound. God doesn’t seek an elaborate space for honor or housed or as payment for sin or need a special space to be felt. God wants us to be inspired by creation and one another. God is honored when we accept and love each other. God is housed in each part of creation and is celebrated when we protect and preserve creation. God loves us as we are and does not expect a payment for us to earn favor or receive forgiveness.

$90 million or $1 billion or even a modest $1 million seems like a lot of resources to expend just to have a building to sit in to worship God. Don’t get me wrong. I love to walk into a massive cathedral. To stand in the muted glow of a glorious stained glass window. To hear a grand organ, belt out a Bach mass. I have felt God in sanctuaries and shines and am thankful for these glorious spaces. But I have also had those same feelings and experiences on the lakeshore at camp, standing by the ocean celebrating communion, sitting under the stars in a Taize worship experience, listen to a concert in the park, and when a community of faith gathers for worship in a gym or a restaurant or a hotel ballroom. Faith communities always should have spaces but not spaces for the sole purpose of worship. James says: The very moment you separate body and spirit, you end up with a corpse. Separate faith and works and you get the same thing: a corpse.  - James 2:26 (The Message) which I think applies to what I am trying to say. A building just for worship is faith without works, a body without spirit.

I hope that we can come to the place where we can see buildings like a Christian community that formed in the Arlington, Virginia after World War II known as the Church of the Savior did. They never had a church building for the sole purpose of worship. In fact, they really were a network of specific ministries addressing specific needs in the greater Washington, D.C. area. They had a coffee house before Starbucks, they operated a bakery, they ran a children’s home, etc. Each place focused on a specific ministry and when they worshiped as a community they did it in the coffee house, in the bakery, in the dining hall of the children’s home. I think this is the model for a faith community. So if we want to invest $90 million in a building let’s build apartments for low income families, a coop and training day care campus for single parents in a poor urban area, a farm that uses the best sustainable practices and teaches others how to use them, a manufacturing plant in West Virginia that uses old plastic to make bricks for building low cost structures, or as a loan pool for micro loans to poor people throughout the world to start small businesses for themselves, their families, and their villages.

Doing these things honors God, shows how faithful we are, inspires people, houses God, and are places where the holy can be known and experienced and they can also provide space for worship!

Dear God, help me to see all that I have and know that you call me to be the best steward of it that I can be. Help me to experience you in all places. Help me to honor you with all I say and do. Help us all to realize that you love us as we are and that you don’t need a grand façade because you live in each act of love and compassion. Amen.

Friday, May 5, 2017


"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? - Matthew 6:25 (NRSV)

Today I am sitting in the waiting area of our car dealership as they do the routine maintenance on one of our cars and it got me musing about the common, everyday things we all need to do and how they can consume so much of our time and energy. On an average day, 85 percent of women and 67 percent of men spent some time doing household activities such as housework, cooking, lawn care, or financial and other household management activities (from: According to the DailyMail: Americans spend $140,000 in their lifetimes and 30 days every year on boring household tasks like cleaning and laundry. I couldn’t find a quick answer to the question about how much time the average American spends on car care but I think you get my point, a lot of our time is spent on routine care and maintenance of our homes, cars, and families.

This got me thinking about the time and effort I spend on the maintenance of other aspects of my life: my health, my spiritual self, my intellectual side, etc. I would guess that it isn’t what it needs to be for me to be the healthy, happy, satisfied person I want to be. It is easier to see that the dishes are dirty and need washing or the pile of laundry needs doing or the check engine light is blinking and take care of those things then it is to see the atrophy in my spirituality or the lack of muscle tone in my brain.

But you and I are both aware of the fact that regular time, attention and effort spent on our spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual health is just as important to our lives as prepping for dinner or cleaning out the lint trap. And the fact of the matter is that regular attention and maintenance of our spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual selves can be a whole lot more fun than cleaning the bathroom or changing the litter box. And I think it is just as important!

I try to take advantage of those moments in my day where I have some unexpected time. Waiting in line, sitting in traffic, even washing dishes. I will use those times for a quick breath prayer or to reflect on a passage of scripture that I am working with. I will take the time between finishing my chores and watching one of my regular TV shows to surf the channels and seek out the National Geographic or Smithsonian or Science networks and catch a few minutes of some nature or exploration show. When I am working on my computer (like now) and feel I am stuck or need to take a break I will often click on Google Earth or the NASA site and surf around. My daughter plays a game with her family that when they get change from a purchase they all guess something that happened in the year the change represents and then when they get home they search the date and see who might have been right but also learn what happened on that date (both CE and BCE are acceptable in your guess😊).

Given the way life goes we all need to take advantage of the moments we are given and use them in ways that feed us, mind and body and soul. Sometimes it means just breathing. Other times it may be a game or an internet search. And sometimes it will be meditation or prayer. And maybe even spend some of those moments just relaxing, listening to music or taking in the scene outside the window. This is called living an intentional life and I believe that it makes for a healthier, happier life. Now I’m going to finish this up and see what I can find to work my brain or deepen my spirit or help with my wellbeing.

Dear God, help to see all the moments of my life as a gift. Help me to use that gift in ways that make me a better person and in ways that make the world a better place. Help me to know that working on me is as important as any other activity I engage in. Amen.

Friday, April 28, 2017

We All Are Loved

I think that the words of this Psalm (except vss. 19-22 which are out of step with the rest of it and are not helpful to me today) are what we all need to be Musing on this day:
Psalm 139 - NRSV
The Inescapable God
To the leader. Of David. A Psalm.
1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,"
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you,
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven
in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—
they are more than the sand;
I come to the end —I am still with you.  
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
24 See if there is any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

God be with us all.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Using the Lord’s Name

No using the name of God, your God, in curses or silly banter; God won't put up with the irreverent use of his name. Exodus 20:7 (The Message)

I’ve noticed something recently, Christians of good faith and spiritual maturity aren’t using the term “God” very much or even Jesus Christ when talking about why they think, feel, believe what they do. Now it may be that I just am not listening closely enough. Amy will tell you that I can be sitting there looking like I’m paying attention but really, I’m not catching anything that is being said. But I don’t think this is true in this situation even if it is true in some others.

I think that we shy away from “God” talk because we don’t want to offend or put people off. But if we fail to mention God then we lessen the impact of what we have to say. I think some folks feel that it is to presumptuous to say that “God has shown you” or “God has led me to” or some such phrase. I also think many of us (maybe me included) are worried that if we say things like this we will be ignored because it sounds like the language of those Christians that try to speak for God or those that use their religion to separate.

I was involved recently in a lot of conversation about why I am a pastor, why I believe what I believe, why I feel strongly about how the world works. It was conversation so I was listening to how others answered the questions, how they talked about the vision they have for life, the church, faithfulness, etc. In a lot of that conversation God was not claimed. People would hint at the holy connection – my faith tells me…in my pray life I have come to see…we have discerned a particular direction… these types of statements hint at the presence and influence of God but fail to name God directly.

I must tell you that I sympathize with this hesitation. To bring God or Christ or the Spirit into the picture is to take a great risk of being misinterpreted or misunderstood or dismissed entirely. But to refrain is to dismiss the source of your revelation, insight, or discernment. I think it is all in how you say it. It is in the way you present it. It is how humble and honest and authentic you are that will help you be heard.

To say, “God has shown me the way!” and do so with force, intimidation and an obvious air of superiority is to bring that declaration into question. To say, “Through my prayer, study, and reflection I sense that God is wanting us to head in this direction.” Is to be honest about how you came to your conclusion without the baggage of “divine revelation” to you and you alone. When talking about your personal vision for things or your mission in life or the vision you have for an institution and your concept of its mission it is not only appropriate but I think necessary to bring your God given insight into the conversation. But you can't do it as if yours is the one and only true and real revelation. I think God reveals things to us but because of our basic human nature we only grasp pieces and parts and it takes others to construct the whole. To own that God has been a part of your position is not to exclude the input of others. It is to honestly state how you have gotten to the place you are and can free others to share what God has shared with them.

I think as faithful people we need to speak the name of God when it is appropriate. Instead of being afraid we are using the Lord’s name in vain maybe we should fear not naming God at all. To have a faith is to be in a deep and meaningful connection with God but to refrain from naming that connection is to lessen that relationship. If you are authentic in your life others will not be put off when you use the name of God.

Dear God, help me to name you when it is appropriate. Help me to share with others what you share with me and to make sure and give you the credit. May I use your name correctly to its glory. Amen.