Archive for July, 2009




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OK, I know I’m well into old geezerhood, but it seems to me that “wisdom” is a word you don’t hear much at all in this day and age–not like when I was growing up in prehistoric times (the fifties and sixties).
I used to hear people talk about other people in terms of their being “wise” or having a lot of wisdom.
Old geezers were respected for having lived so long and learned so much and taken on a lot of wisdom in their long life experiences.
Growing up, I thought of certain people as having a lot of wisdom, and wanting that.
I remember walking to Sunday school at First Methodist when I was very young and we had Ms. Greer for our Sunday school teacher, a very old Methodist lady who would get on the floor with us in a circle for Sunday schooling, and she would talk about the wisdom of Jesus and biblical characters.
When have I thought of Jesus as having a lot of wisdom? We take that for granted, but maybe we need to speak that more, to say,
“Jesus was the wisest of the wise,” or Jesus was full of wisdom, or, the great thing about the Bible is that it’s got all the wisdom we need.
Certainly people in the biblical times spoke wisdom and about wisdom and made sure we understood that they were speaking and teaching and telling those wonderful stories out of the wisdom God had given them, and that they had internalized in the deepest corners of their souls.
I’ve been attracted to people all of my life who are what I think of as “old souls.”
One can be an old soul and be 12 years old or 102, but you can be 102 and never be anything like an old soul.
An old soul is one who takes life seriously (which by no means means that they aren’t fun and lively and maybe wild and crazy!), who yearns for wisdom and gains wisdom from every life experience and internalizes it in such a way that one sees the deep sincerity and the genuineness of that old soul upon the first time one meets that person.
Old souls yearn deeply for more compassion and love and peace and grace and harmony in the world. You can feel that in their presence, see it in their eyes and/or faces and even their bodies and body language with the grace with which they carry themselves.
They are passionate, and may be quietly passionate or wild and crazy, but that’s why you love to be around them.
When others are losing their heads . . . the old soul is the one who’s grounded, centered, still comfortable and bring their calming influence to bear.
When I’m called to a chaotic situation in the hospital, I try to find the “old soul.” There can be 50 people in a hospital room, grieving and wailing and arguing like cats and dogs with each other over something like, say, whether to take mama off life support, and that’s one situation that hospital chaplains see a lot, incidentally. As in almost every day in the ICU.
Consider this scenario:
The eldest daughter has been taking care of mama for years, bearing that heavy cross, sacrificing her own time and energy that could and maybe should be directed at her own family, and most of the other siblings are just glad she’s the strong one willing to bear the burden, and she’s told the doctor she’s ready for mom to be taken off life support as soon as the other sibling gets in from New Hampshire or some far-flung place, to see mom for the first time in three years, by the way.
And the sibling comes in and starts hammering the sibling who’s been the caretaker bearing the cross (“we ain’t taking her off life support; she strong and she’ll pull out of this and I don’t give a damn what the doctor says!” the deluded sibling screams) and pretty soon there’s 50 family members screaming and cussing and clawing at each other–just what poor mom needs, all that negative energy in the room for the only time she’ll ever get to die.
Well, what’s a nurse or a doctor to do with this chaotic situation?
Call the chaplain.

“Hi, Paul, we need you in room 214.”
“OK, be right there.”
And there’s the chaplain, walking into a cat fight.
Well, the chaplain wants to scan the room real quick and find the one person in the room who’s got the soul and has had it forever, the one who appears all calm and above the shouting.
It may be the caretaker who’s been taking care of mom all those years, but it may be that she’s so damn mad at the sibling who just blew into town and wants to take control of mom and the family and the situation that she’s not really the one you want to deal with here.
Everybody’s red-faced in the room, angry, or frustrated, or shocked, but there’s going to be somebody else–another old soul like the caretaker sibling–who looks like he or she has it together–and it might be the 18 year old niece who looks to be just as cool as a cucumber amidst all this chaos while all the supposed, alleged “adults” are being childish.
And she’s the one you’ll want to deal with because she’s an old soul, wise beyond her years.
You go in and ask if everybody’s doing OK and you look at the niece because she’s the one doing OK, and everybody else is going to look at her and think subconsiously that they’re maybe acting childishly because look at niece, calm as always, and anyway, this chaplain’s here, and everybody else will stop and pay attention to you, the chaplain who’s come in here to take command and overcome the chaos and remind everybody that mom doesn’t need this crap, she needs some positive vibes in here, she needs to feel the love in here, and not this nonsense, and the old soul’s shaking her head and everybody chills.
A chaplain can restore that kind of order in a room but it helps and helps a lot to go in and know that there’s an old soul to stand next to so that everybody feels the presence of God between the two of us.

Somebody who’s wise beyond his or her years.

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Russian Orthodox at Compline

Russian Orthodox at Compline

Everything praises God. Darkness, privations, defects, evil too praise God and bless God.
— Meister Eckhert

To reach satisfaction in all
desire its possession in nothing.
To come to possess all
desire the possession of nothing.
to arrive at being all
desire to be nothing.
To come to the knowledge of all
desire the knowledge of nothing.
—- St. John of the Cross

True individuality consists in reducing oneself to zero. the secret of life is selfless service. The highest ideal is to become free from attachment.
— Ghandi

Nothing in all creation is so like God as stillness.
— Meister Eckhart

Time . . . can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have people of good will. we must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time always ripe to do right. . . . Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.’
— Martin Luther King Jr.

We are more truly in heaven than on earth.
— Julian of Norwich

It is in God that we live, and move, and have our being.
— Paul in Acts 17:38

The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw–and knew I saw–all things in God, and God in all things.
— Mechtild of Magdeburg

God hugs you.
You are encircled by the arms
of the mystery of God.
— Hildegarde of Bingen

Fear is driven out by perfect love.
— John in 1 John 4:18

Where there is fear, there is no religion.
— Ghandi

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Moon and Stars.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air;
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Water.
— St. Francis of Assisi

Do you have a body? Don’t sit on the porch!
go walk in the rain!
— Kabir (6.32)

You cannot devalue the body and value the soul
or value anything else.
The isolation of the body sets it into direct conflict with everything else in Creation.
Nothing could be more absurd than to despise the body and yet yearn for its resurrection.
— Wendell Berry

The earth does not belong to the people; the people belong to the earth. . . this earth is precious to the Creator and to harm the earth is to heap contempt upon its Creator. . . . Our dead never forget this beautiful earth, for it is the mother of the red people. We are part of the earth and it is part of us.
— Chief Seattle

To be is a blessing. To live is holy.
— Rabbi Abraham Heschel

As a rule, it was the pleasure-haters who became unjust.
— W.H. Auden

Beauty is all about us, but how many are blind to it! People take little pleasure in the naturl and quiet and simple things.
— Pablo Casals

You have made all your works in wisdom!
— Ps. 104:24

The force that drives the water through rocks
Drives my red blood.
— Dylan Thomas

For anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation is gone, and now the new one is here. It is all God’s work.
— Paul, 2 Cor. 5:17-18

A spirituality that preaches resignation under official brutalities . . . and total submission to organized injustice is one that has lost interest in holiness and remains concerned only with a spurious notion of ‘order.’
— Thomas Merton

Christology is creation underlined, concentrated and condensed.
Faith in creation as God wishes it to be.
— Edward Schillebeeckx

The kingdom of God is among you.
— Luke 17:21

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Jan Richardson, an ordained United Methodist minister, is a multi-talented talent who is best known these days for her wonderfully vibrant, colorful and spiritual art. She also gives her take every week on scripture, following the church lectionary.
Here’s her word on John 6:24-35, taken from her Web site at “The Painted Prayerbook,” where you can find her writings and artwork that will lead you to her other Web site and where you can buy her fabulous art and books and stuff. She’s currently at work on a new book.

Reading from the Gospels, Year B, Proper 13/Ordinary 18/Pentecost +9: John 6.24-35
Following up on last week’s reading, the gospel lection for this Sunday offers us another image of provision and plenitude that come through Christ. Last week we saw him turn a couple of fish and five loaves of bread into a feast for the masses; this week he talks about his own being as bread: bread of God, bread of heaven, bread of life.

In the wake of last week’s stunning feeding, John tells us that the crowd dogs Jesus’ trail, with the air of people looking for seconds. When they catch up with him, Jesus tells them they are looking for him “not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes,” he cautions them, “but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”

Jesus is clear in calling them to discern the difference between what fills the belly and what fills the soul. At the same time, he well understands the ways that the hungers of the body and the hungers of the soul intertwine, and how both are at play when it comes to food. This is, after all, the man who so loved to share a meal—with all sorts of companions—that his critics called him “a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7.34). When he wants to convey the essence of who he really is, in word and in action, it is to food, to the gifts of the earth, that Jesus turns. Wheat. Bread. Wine. In his hands, food is more than food; it is an enduring symbol of, and gift from, the one who offers his very being to meet our deepest hunger and our keenest thirst. Yet it is food nonetheless.

The famed food writer M.F.K. Fisher offers a passage that captures the ways that hungers of body and soul, and the feeding of them, are bound together. In the introduction to her book The Gastronomical Me, first published in 1943, she writes,

People ask me: Why do you write about food, and eating and drinking? Why don’t you write about the struggle for power and security, and about love, the way others do?

They ask it accusingly, as if I were somehow gross, unfaithful to the honor of my craft.

The easiest answer is to say that, like most other humans, I am hungry. But there is more than that. It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it…and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied…and it is all one.

I tell about myself, and how I ate bread on a lasting hillside, or drank red wine in a room now blown to bits, and it happens without my willing it that I am telling too about the people with me then, and their other deeper needs for love and happiness.

There is food in the bowl, and more often than not, because of what honesty I have, there is nourishment in the heart, to feed the wilder, more insistent hungers. We must eat. If, in the face of that dread fact, we can find other nourishment and tolerance and compassion for it, we’ll be no less full of human dignity.

There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk. And that is my answer, when people ask me: Why do you write about hunger, and not wars or love?

I find myself thinking, too, of Simone Weil, who wrote, in her book Waiting for God, “The danger is not lest the soul should doubt whether there is any bread, but lest, by a lie, it should persuade itself that it is not hungry.”

What are you hungry for these days? What does your relationship with food have to say about your relationship with God—and vice versa? Are there meals that hold memories of connection and communion? Do you have habits of eating, or not eating, that reveal a soul-hunger that needs God’s healing?

May the Bread of Life, who knew the pleasures of the table, feed you well in these days. Blessings.

P.S. Deep thanks to those offering prayers and blessings as I work to finish writing my book. Know that I am tremendously grateful for every good thought and prayer that comes my way; they are manna indeed on this intense journey!

**** Widely known for creating the popular books Sacred Journeys and Night Visions, Jan Richardson is an artist, writer, and ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. Her distinctive artwork also appears at her blog The Painted Prayerbook, which Gordon Atkinson of Real Live Preacher has called “one of the most beautiful blogs in the blogosphere.” Whether creating her luminous painted paper collages, or laying down the haunting lines of her charcoal drawings, Jan illuminates the landscape of faith with courageous vision and a generous spirit.

To learn more about Jan’s ministry in word and image, we invite you to visit her website at janrichardson.com.

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They rapped him for never doing anything, always playing golf or playing bridge with Mimi and old friends,  but he did everything in his very quiet power and integrity to keep the John Birch Society types from pulling a military coup. (They labeled Ike a communist, then tried to deny labeling him a communist after William F. Buckley and others distanced themselves from crazy zealot Birchers, who, by the way, are still with us, as always.)

President Ike also gave us the Interstate Highways we take for granted every day (no small feat in the face of short-sighted conservatives in his own GOP who dubbed him a tax and spend librul). He also spoke with deeply felt, moral integrity and Christian prophetic wisdom of the need for fewer weapons–a lot fewer weapons–and more social programs for the poor and disadvantaged, especially children. (He coined the phrase “the Military Industrial Complex” and warned us of its threat and it’s a threat still.)

Any wonder they branded him, the ultimate war hero, a librul, a traitor, a communist and a socialist?

He was also smart enough to make walleyed-crazy Richard “Tricky Dicky” Nixon his vice president, ever mindful that the way to stay ahead of your enemies is to keep them close to your vest.

His stock among historians keeps rising as conservatives who aren’t really good, principled, philosophical or morally-high minded conservatives at all keep gaining and abusing their powers.

I think we’ve said enough except to say, “I like Ike.” And always will.


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Paul David Mckay | Create Your Badge
Paul David Mckay

So before I can even get to my second cup of coffee after a soothing morning prayer this morning I go online to find that fear and panic have overtaken the universe, at least for the time being, as a result of the paranoid fearmongers having once again gained fraction with something to take over a few days or (Lord help us!) weeks of news cycles while the country goes a little further down the tubes from the distraction.
This time, the Prez’s health care reform plan has a line on page 425, right there in black and white in fine bureaucratic print, that makes it clear as your old crazy aunt’s Depression glass that Obama is geared up to dispatch government employees out to kill senior citizens (Lo! that would be me, myself and I–all three of us!!!) by forcing them to choose how they’re going to die and then just do everybody a favor and die.
One of my older Old Testament professors in seminary (he needs to die, by the way, as he’s now old and retired too and overpopulating the earth)  used to point out on occasion that the fearmongering zealots and crazies we find all over the Bible are always with us.

Always and forever with us.

When I was a kid, they used to have nuclear bomb drills and alerts and stuff and in case of a nuclear attack, people needed to head for shelters marked with scary black and yellow signs while the kids in schools simply ducked under their desks to be spared being melted down to biological wax or blown back to the Stone Age.
This fear was driven by the same sort of people (See the story of Sen. McCarthy and McCarthyism for fearmongering institutionalized) who claimed that one of the greatest Americans who ever lived and was President at the time–the General and Prez Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower, was a secret communist bent on taking over the universe with his secret librul agenda. (Way at the top of librul jitterbugger’s most admired and still vastly underrated American Presidents and class acts, by the way, is Ike and if he was librul and in many ways he was then I’m proud to be one but proud to be one anyway.)
I kid you not, people who may not be old enough or seriously educated enough to know how weird and wacky conspiracy theorists can get.
These are the same people who insisted that Pres. Bush the Elder, in more recent times, was in cahoots with wealthy David Rockefeller to take over the world with the “New World Order” secret agenda, the same people who to this day think Obama’s weapons of mass destruction are still preserved in a refrigerated cave somewhere, the same people who struck fear and loathing into the hearts of people all over the country (but mostly in places like rural Georgia, Alabama and Florida) that a hospice in Florida was in cahoots with the right-to-die leftists and Terri Schiavo’s husband to torture poor Terri to death by denying her food and water.
What’s bad is that the same politicians encouraged by the usual suspects with names like Limbaugh and Hannity and, so disappointingly this time–Fred Thompson (did we mention rural Tennessee?)–have gained enough traction with this conspiracy plot about health-care reform to detract once again from the serioous debate that needs to be had over health care in this country, which, as a HOSPITAL CHAPLAIN who sees upclose and personal every day how broken the health care system is and how it’s already killing old folks like me and oh …. I just don’t know what to say.
Except, you should know that the whole 911 Twin Towers things was part of a plot by a cabal of twisted architects in New York who were in cahoots with Rudy Gulliana (who’s seeing Sarah Palin when Todd goes to bed–I’ve heard that rumor and I have it on good authority that it ain’t no lie, wink, wink) to get contracts for some towers that were to replace the old with something newer and more dazzling than the old towers, which were really never very pretty.
This is all God’s truth, people.
And I, a minister and man of God, will never lie to you, believe me.
So pray for strength to resist the forces of left wing evil, then call your Congressman or, if in Texas, Rick Perry, who we’re sure is going to be on top of this issue.

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Ode to the Tiffany Lamp, by Rev. Jitterbug




O lamp of Tiffany you are pretty, functional, a trifle mystic and very New Orleans in that nocturnal way . . . .
You endure like . . . .
Joan Baez

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War is Hell on warriors and families

andrew photo
Laura Smith, wife of U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Charles Smith, hugs the father of a fellow soldier after the 293rd Military Police Company deployed to Afghanistan July 28, 2009 in Fort Stewart, Georgia. More than 130 soldiers from the company, attached to the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, will spend the next year in Afghanistan training the Afghan National Police. By Stephen Morton/Getty.

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