Archive for February, 2016


Memo to political messiahs desperate to be Pastor in Chief of the United States from a Christ-loving, America-loving, Bible-loving blogger who yearns for America to genuinely be a shining city on a hill:

    God was not made in the U.S.A.

    God is not an American. God is not a provincial nationalist.

    America doesn’t even get an honorable mention in the Bible.

    God did not write the Constitution. America was settled by indigenous peoples and then by immigrants fleeing oppressive church Pharisees across the pond.

    God frowns on zealous American patriots who love America while hating half the people in it.

    (Extreme) patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels and a “safe space” for the sort of Christians who want to wield power and control over people using Bibles as their weapons of choice.

    God is not an old man with a long, flowing, gray beard and arms bulging with muscle definition.

    Stop using God and the Word as American-made weaponry.

    May the God of endless love, extravagant grace, tender mercies and peace with justice shed his/her healing grace on thee and the broken, hurting world, America included.


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It's everywhere.

It’s everywhere.

Meanwhile in today’s news:

— Bernie Sanders (Feel the Sand) promised every American 40 acres, a turkey in every oven and, for good measure, the moon.

— Hill considered firing Bill in a shakeup of her staff but her focus group balked.

— Donald Trump attended an Ass Wednesday service.

— Ted Cruz came dangerously close to not telling a lie but quickly corrected his course and swerved back into the Liars Club.

— And Marco Rubio picked up an endorsement from Robotics. From Robotics. From Robotics.

And in sports . . .

— Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware of the Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos ran up to Quarterback Cam Newton’s house in Carolina and combined to sack him another five times each just to watch him cry.

And in weather . . .

Folks in New Hampshire went back to suffering winter in silence.

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Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession . . . .

“Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. . . . .

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.”

— From “The Cost of Discipleship,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer


For those unfamiliar with the name Dietrich Bonhoeffer, it’s enough to say, in a capsule of words, that he was a giant of a Lutheran priest and theologian who willingly returned to Hitler’s Germany from the safety of Union Seminary in New York to face sure death.

Sure enough, he was hanged after a long imprisonment by the Hitler regime days before the prison that held him was liberated by Allies.

I’m hanging on to this prayer during Lent this year, when my aim is to make prayer part of my breathing.

Help me to pray, Lord, and to concentrate my thoughts on you.

I Cannot Do This Alone

O God, early in the morning I cry to you.

Help me to pray

And to concentrate my thoughts on you;

I cannot do this alone.

In me there is darkness,

But with you there is light;

I am lonely, but you do not leave me;

I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;

I am restless, but with you there is peace.

In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;

I do not understand your ways,

But you know the way for me….

Restore me to liberty,

And enable me to live now

That I may answer before you and before men.

Lord whatever this day may bring,

Your name be praised.


More on Bonhoeffer, one of my faith heroes, here.

And here’s more of his famous take on “Cheap Grace” in the opening of his classic book The Cost of Discipleship.

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Faith, my dears, is the readiness to change in order to follow the truth.”

— Anthony deMello

The late Anthony deMello (1931 –- 1987) was a Jesuit priest, mystic and psychotherapist in India. His teachings on spiritually were so interesting that the Vatican investigated them–11 years after the man’s death, for God’s sake–and found some of the teachings “incompatible with the Catholic faith.”


Of course, the one man in the Vatican who got so shook up by DeMello’s work was a hardline Catholic cop, of sorts–Cardinal Prefect Joseph Ratzinger.

He went on to become Pope Benedict XVI. He was no Pope Francis. I can’t see Pope Francis going back 11 years after the death of a priest and condemning the priest for his theology.

But far be it for me, a United Methodist to criticize a Catholic (too much), since we United Methodists have more than our share of doctrine-and-dogma police, they who are always on the lookout to blow the dog whistle on somebody they deem as “incompatible” with (rigid) Christianity.

With my abiding interest in Christian mysticism and contemplative spirituality, I’m in a mellow mood after reading some of the notes that Father Tony deMello included in preparation for what turned out to be his last seminar to 300 priests.

I like deMello’s books a lot, which are actually quite orthodox Catholic–even Ratzinger had to concede as much after doing his post-mortem on the writings and teachings of the great Indian priest.

I could quibble and pick apart some of the stuff that follows from deMello’s last seminar, but I don’t buy anybody’s theology wholesale. That said, most of what follows resonates with the contemplative in me, the part of me that knows that there is no box big enough to contain God.

Try as we might, and try as we all do, to box up the mystery of Love, the great, big magnificent mystery that is God can’t be stuffed into anybody’s little box.

With no further ado, here’s deMello:

    “If you really enjoy life and the simple pleasures of the senses, you’d be amazed. You’d develop that extraordinary discipline of the animal.

    “Think of your body and compare it with the body of an animal that is left in its natural habitat.

    “It never eats or drinks what is not good for it. It has all the rest and exercise that it needs. It has the right amount of exposure to the elements, to wind and sun and rain and heat and cold.

    “That is because the animal listens to its body and allows itself to be guided by the body’s wisdom.

    “Compare that with your own foolish cunningness. If your body could speak, what would it say to you?

    “Observe the greed, the ambition, the vanity, the desire to show off and to please others, the guilt that drives you to ignore the voice of your body while you chase after objectives set by your ego.

    “Religion is not ritual, not intellectual, but purification. From that purified heart and mind, action will come.

    “You do not possess the wind, the stars, and the rain. You don’t possess these things; you surrender to them. And surrender occurs when you are aware of your illusions, when you are aware of your addictions, when you are aware of your desires and fears.

    “Faith, my dears, is the readiness to change in order to follow the truth.”

    "We are like bears pacing in a cage. Even if the cage is removed, we keep pacing in the same timid limits. We are afraid to get out. And we think that the only way out is by endless striving and thinking." -- From "The Heart of the Enlightened"

    “We are like bears pacing in a cage. Even if the cage is removed, we keep pacing in the same timid limits. We are afraid to get out. And we think that the only way out is by endless striving and thinking.” — From “The Heart of the Enlightened”

    “We humans have scriptures and all we do is feed on words. It’s like going to a restaurant and eating the menu.”

    * * *

    “The finest act of love you can perform is not an act of service but an act of contemplation, of seeing. When you serve people, you support, alleviate pain. When you see them in their inner beauty and goodness, you transform and create.”

    * * *

    “In a conflict between Nature and your brain, back Nature; if you fight her, she will eventually destroy you. The secret therefore is to improve on Nature in harmony with Nature. How can you achieve this harmony?”

    * * *

    “When you drop your illusions, you get a sense of space and time. Mystics get this sense of timelessness; of eternity, of everlasting joy; because they have dropped their illusions.

    “Once a projection is screened before us, we make it a concept–-static. When we create concepts we bring out our paintbrushes. We paint things good or bad, according to the concepts we have created.

    “The Mystic does not paint it. The mystic sees everything with a clean slate and experiences what he sees in present moment freshness each and every time.”

     we need people who are charged with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit works through people. Salvation comes through people. "There was a man sent from God whose name was John," we read at the dawn of Christ's coming. A person, not a plan, not a blueprint, not a message. "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given"--God saved us, not through a "plan of salvation" but through a human being, Jesus Christ, a man who was mighty in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not come down upon buildings but upon people; it is people he anoints, not blueprints; he circulates in the hearts and spirits of human beings, not in the latest machinery.

    We need people who are charged with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit works through people. Salvation comes through people. “There was a man sent from God whose name was John,” we read at the dawn of Christ’s coming. A person, not a plan, not a blueprint, not a message. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given”–God saved us, not through a “plan of salvation” but through a human being, Jesus Christ, a man who was mighty in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not come down upon buildings but upon people; it is people he anoints, not blueprints; he circulates in the hearts and spirits of human beings, not in the latest machinery.”
    — Anthony deMello

    “Reality cannot be known through concepts; much less, this reality we call God. He is not virtue and not vice. He is not light and He is not darkness. What is wrong is the use we make of the Bible.

    “Don’t believe that reading the Scriptures will do you any good, unless you start working on yourself. You will not understand the Bible unless your mind, heart and eyes are clean; or else, you give it all sorts of interpretations to suit your own fears.”

    * * *

    “I often hear, ‘I have no time to meditate.’ This is like saying ‘I have no time to breathe.’ Are you awake the entire day? Are you aware of your being, your surroundings?

    “Are you aware of the sounds around you? The colours of nature which beautify this earth we live in? Of the melody of birds singing in the early hours of the morning or late evening? Of the sound of the breeze rustling through the branches of a tree?

    “Staying ‘awake’ and being ‘aware’ for the entire day is meditation. Then you will realise that life is useless, worthless, not worth living without consciousness.

    “When walking in the jungle, you keep your eyes open to keep your feet from getting hurt. Likewise in life, in your relationships, find time to take the blindfold off.”

    * * *

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Belize it or not . . .

Here’s a sneak preview of Toyota’s futuristic “Street Crumbs” economy pickup truck, to be produced
right here in old San Ignacio Town, Belize.


Remember when Drew Carey discovered just how cool the mid-sixties vibe was?

Music by The Vogues, ca. 1965.

The Vogues today. Unfortunately, they weren't in vogue long what with "the British Invasion."

The dapper Vogues today. Unfortunately, they weren’t in vogue long with “the British Invasion.”

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Why pray?

Here are 5 pretty good reasons from prayerful people. . .

1. “Prayer deepens our intimacy with God and transforms us into our truest self, humbling us and creating us anew.”

St. Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi

St. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi at age 16 by Santi di Tito (1583)

St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi at age 16 by Santi di Tito (1583)

Let us pray because . . .

2. “Prayer is the bridge between our conscious and unconscious lives.

One of Henri Nouwen's many classic books on spirituality.

One of Henri Nouwen’s many classic books on spirituality.

“Often there is a large abyss between our thoughts, words, and actions, and the many images that emerge in our daydreams and night dreams. To pray is to connect these two sides of our lives by going to the place where God dwells.

“Prayer is ‘soul work” because our souls are those sacred centers where all is one and where God is with us in the most intimate way.”

Henri Nouwen in Bread for the Journey

We should pray because . . .

Her Greatness Anne Lamotte

Her Greatness Anne Lamott

3. “[Prayer] is certainly not what TV Christians mean. It’s not for display purposes, like plastic sushi or neon. Prayer is private, even when we pray with others. It is communication from the heart to that which surpasses understanding. Let’s say it is communication from one’s heart to God. Or if that is too triggering or ludicrous a concept for you, to the Good, the force that is beyond our comprehension but that in our pain or supplication or relief we don’t need to define or have proof of or any established contact with. Let’s say it is what the Greeks called the Really Real, what lies within us, beyond the scrim of our values, positions, convictions, and wounds. Or let’s say it is a cry from deep within to Life or Love, with capital L’s.”

Anne Lamott in Help, Thanks, Wow

N.T. Wright: On everybody's short list of greatest living theologians

N.T. Wright: On everybody’s short list of greatest living theologians

4. We pray because . . .

“The new life of the Spirit, to which Christians are called in the present age, is not a matter of sitting back and enjoying spiritual comforts in a private, relaxed, easygoing spirituality, but consists rather of the unending struggle in the mystery of prayer, the struggle to bring God’s wise, healing order into the world now, in implementation of the victory of the cross and anticipation of the final redemption.”

From Evil and the Justice of God by Anglican theologian N.T. “Tom” Wright

Words of wisdom from Mother Theresa, who was wealthy in wisdom.

Words of wisdom from Mother Teresa, who was wealthy in wisdom.

Because . . .

5. “God has created us to love and to be loved, and this is the beginning of prayer—-to know that He loves me, that I have been created for greater things.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta

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“Compassion is not sympathy. Compassion is mercy. It is a commitment to take responsibility for the suffering of others.”

— Sister Joan Chittister, “Seeing with Our Souls”

Regarding abortion (yes, I’m going there, again, at the risk of getting my head chopped off by some fanatical pro-lifer with a hatchet by his computer ready to hack on me):

I saw Dr. Ben Carson on TV the other day, pontificating about how ridiculous it is to do so much “hand-wringing” over the killing of innocent people in war and bombing.

Ted Cruz and Trump and Dr. Ben Carson–a baby surgeon, of all people–and like-minded Republicans hate abortion and speak out once a minute against it and its legal status: with one massive exception:

Abortion by indiscriminate bombing, which, like Dr. Ben, they favor absolutely.

Their casual attitude about it comes across to me as, “So what if babies in the womb get killed (not to mention babies out of the womb)? Sanctity of life–sympathy for children in the womb or concern for any innocents–that just doesn’t count in war.”

They seem to think concern about the indiscriminate killing of innocents in war is in fact some kind of silly, mushy-liberal, “hand-wringing” notion. (And then there are the massive miscarriages surviving mothers suffer from the trauma of bombing, of which no one ever addresses in politics or anywhere else.)

Where is a hint of Christian compassion in that, the empathy for the suffering of innocents?

I never hear one of the political-posturing abortion foes (who never let us forget FOR ONE MOMENT IN TIME HOW MUCH THEY LOVE THEM SOME JESUS!!!!) say anything like, “God knows, I hate that innocent people–including so many babies in the precious wombs of mothers –have to pay the ultimate price for our freedom and security. I pray God will have mercy on us for what I believe is a necessary evil to ensure our liberty and the safety of us and our children.”

Is this hardcore political position on bombing pregnant women and other innocents a “pro life” position, or a kind of pro-abortion position? Would Jesus bless such a remorseless position?

Myself, I don’t think he’d approve that political message.

If war is a necessary evil, it’s still evil, requiring at the very least remorsefulness.

As it is, presidential wannabes grin and brag about how they will “bomb the hell” out of our enemies to cheering Christians who admire their strength.

But such saber-rattling–especially from people who’ve never so much as served in the military, much less in combat–is not a position of strength. It’s not a position of grace or Godly humility or remorsefulness.

It’s not even a Christian position.

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