Archive for October, 2018

With patience, we must bring together the sparks and rays.

“This is an age of spiritual blackout, a blackout of God. We have entered not only the dark night of the soul, but the dark night of society. We must seek out ways of preserving the strong and deep truth of a living God theology in the midst of the blackout.

“For the darkness is neither final nor complete. Our power is first in waiting for the end of darkness, for the defeat of evil; and our power is also in coming upon single sparks and occasional rays, upon moments full of God’s grace and radiance.

“We are called to bring together the sparks to preserve single moments of radiance and keep them alive in our lives, to defy absurdity and despair, and to wait for God to say again: Let there be light.

“And there will be light.”

— Rabbi Abraham Joshue Heschel (1907-1972), Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity
More on Rabbi Heschel here.

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Rembrandt’s masterpiece The Return of the Prodigal Son, inspired by a parable included only in the Gospel of Luke.

Today is the Feast of St. Luke, by far my favorite biblical writer.

A physician who happened to be an excellent writer, Luke gave voice to women and all the powerless people like no other author in the New Testament.

Along with his history of the early church in Acts–which reads like an adventure novel–Luke left us the most full-bodied portrait of Jesus.

Only the compassionate Dr. Luke gave us the tender stories of The Prodigal Son (read it here) and The Good Samaritan, the stories of the rich man and Lazarus and the widow who wouldn’t give up in seeking justice.

In all, Luke provided us with a whopping 16 parables included in no other Gospel, most all big on social justice.

(All that said, I don’t want to diminish Matthew’s Gospel where social justice is concerned. Only in Matthew do we get the chilling story of the separation of the sheep from the goats on judgement day. Read that here.)

Luke’s gospel is big on liberation because he saw the crucifixion and resurrection as ushering in a second exodus comparable to that led by Moses. We see this in Luke’s account of the transfiguration, where Elijah and Moses talk to Jesus about the exodus Christ is mightily determined to complete in Jerusalem.

Let us now praise St. Luke with this prayer from The Book of Common Prayer:

    Almighty God, who inspired your servant Luke the physician
    to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of your
    Son: Graciously continue in your Church this love and power
    to heal, to the praise and glory of your Name; through Jesus
    Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity
    of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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In my book The View From Down in Poordom, I have an entire chapter that was my response to a newspaper column my dear friend the Rev. Christy Thomas had written when she was an active church pastor.

My dear friend and clergy colleague, the Rev. Christy Thomas, is a brave and superb writer. She recently shared with the world that she was a rape victim who, as is so typical, remained silent about the traumatic event.

Like me, Christy is a now-retired minister in the United Methodist faith tradition. She’s also an excellent writer. That’s why the aforementioned newspaper column she wrote years ago, which was about her turning down a jobless mother’s request for church charity, stimulated an idea for that chapter in my book.

Today, I’m sharing another column Christy wrote for The Denton-Record Chronicle in Denton, Texas, in which she revealed to the world that she is a rape victim.

She writes in part:

    I don’t remember where. I don’t remember when except I was 19. There were no witnesses. No one can support my account. I do remember being raped. And I am 100 percent sure who did it.

    I never said a word. As a perceptive columnist in The Washington Post noted, one reason was that I didn’t want to hurt my father, who knew the young man in question. I didn’t want to see his anguish or experience his anger. I didn’t want him to go out in a murderous rage and bring disgrace on our family.

    I buried it. It stayed buried for 20 years, my hidden trauma, my hidden shame.

Now. I hope you’ll take the time to read the entire column, at the link below, about Pastor’s Christy’s traumatic life event. It of course was written in response to the recent reactions to the Senate testimony of a woman whom I have precious little doubt was a victim of the new Supreme Court Justice.

That woman, the studious professor Christine Blakey Ford, is still being raked over hot coals for daring to share her story with the world.

Which of course is the reason victims of all kinds of sexual abuse suffer, and suffer deeply, in silence. Some for their entire, long lives.

I know, because I know rape and harassment victims who confide their stories of quiet suffering with trusted friends and family only. (One woman I know lives with the double pain of having told her husband years after they were married, only for him to tell her it was a long time ago and she just needed to get over. She’s never brought it up again. She never told her parents but confided in a sister and a couple of friends after the rape. She told me after we became close. She, by the way, is also a pastor.)

Repeat after me: men are not being targeted by hysterical, radical women.

If you’re a man or boy and don’t want to be accused of sexual abuse or harassment, treat women and girls with the kind of respect you treat your moms and aunts and your own daughters–or daughters-to-be.

It’s not hard.

Please go here and read Pastor Christy’s powerful story.

Repeat after me: men are not being victimized by hysterical women who make up stories of harassment and rape. Why would they want to make it up, knowing they’ll be crushed by bad guys and the women who empower them?

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Watching the news yesterday, I saw a state official in Florida standing and talking in the middle of utter destruction–his voice cracking with emotion.

For the victims of Hurricane Michael, with gratitude for blessings.

He was talking about how so many of his fellow Floridians who had everything they ever wanted have been robbed and rendered penniless by Hurricane Michael.

“They had homes and cars and boats,” he said. “They had no flood insurance and the places where they made their livings have been destroyed. Even the places where they kept their money and savings are gone.

“They’re never going to recover from this. They’re going to be sleeping under bridges.”

What an arresting word picture of the untold numbers of Americans who’ve been dropped like stones into the Valley of Poordom.

What a stark reminder that so many untold millions of the poor and homeless in America are not lazy bums or moochers.

I always have prayer candles around the house, but keeping a special one for the victims of Hurricane Michael, who’ve been abruptly dropped into Poordom, temporarily or perhaps permanently.

I’m keeping a special candle lit to remind me to keep praying for all the victims of wicked Michael, those who have the ways and means to recover and those who don’t.

I have intentionally chosen a lifestyle based on the value of simplicity. I have a humble house with all the creature comforts I need, complete with a wide-screen TV and a good fridge and oven and a lot of books and a beautiful big mahogany desk my Belizean landlord and dear friend gave me for my office for as long as I want it.

I am writing this on the sort of wonder that only a free-market system that rewards incentive could produce: a MacPro Apple computer–what may be the most valuable tool-and-toy I own. Probably the one possession I would hate to lose the most.

Not counting, of course, certain family mementoes and certain Bibles and sentimental valuables that money can never replace.

When we weep, he weeps. When we suffer, he suffers. He’s been there.

Many of those victims of the storm are torn up today by the divisions within their very souls. By turns, they are angry even at God (and perhaps feeling needlessly guilty for anger at God) and thankful to God for being alive and for the opportunity of hope.

Like every other American, I am extremely sad, as we all have to be, over all the loss of lives and the ways of life lost in Florida, Georgia and other states.

The special candle I have flaming every minute that I’m home is also to remind me to be grateful to a God for all the many blessings I take for granted every day.

Lord in your mercy, hear it all: our confusion, our tears, our anger, our pain, our suffering, our gratitude.

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Texas novelist and essayist Larry McMurtry, no slouch in writing sharp prose, once opined that “poets are the thoroughbreds of writers.”

All my life I’ve embraced God’s grace by lying on my back and floating, letting the water and that grace bear me up. This is my favorite floating spot, where the Belizean water is extremely soft and healing.

Throughout my life I’ve turned to poetry for relief when the world is too much with me. In 2018, I’ve been turning to poetry–reading and writing it–more than ever.

One of my favorite poets is Denise Levertov (1923-1977).

A devout Christian who became increasingly outspoken as an anti-war activist in the sixties, Levertov’s poetry grew evermore political–and was always high-minded. The body of work she left us deals with matters of personal conscience on social issues like war and environmental destruction.

Still, Levertov, the daughter of an Anglican minister who moved from England to the U.S. at age 25, frequently waxed eloquently about the most commonplace things in life. Things like a man walking two dogs in the rain, or sunlight glittering on trash in the street.

Everything she penned flowed from her wellspring of faith in the God she loved.

In her typically perceptive poem “The Avowal,” Levertov makes us feel and see how easy-breezy it is to let God’s “allsurrounding grace” hold us up.

Pictured with the iconic American monk and poet Thomas Merton (right) at his hermitage in Kentucky are fellow Kentucky poet Wendell Berry and another of my favorite all-time poets Denise Levertov.

I especially like the first three lines of “The Avowal.” I love nothing more than to lie on my back in a still body of water and allow it to bear me up, to float like a boat and watch the birds and clouds do their easy-breezy thing.

Enjoy “The Avowal” by Denise Levertov and remember: God’s grace is everywhere and extravagant.

As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that allsurrounding

Learn more about her greatness Levertov here.

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Raw Anger Management

I only pick the best people.”

— Donald J. Trump

Judge Kavanaugh’s Attitude: How dare you question me: I’ve been an elitist all my life. I’m entitled to a position on the Supreme Court. I drank beer. Sometimes too much beer. Who hasn’t? Kiss my privileged preppie-Yale Law School ass.”

Judges have sent criminal wrongdoers to Anger Management classes for far less than Brett Kavanaugh’s historic nervous breakdown.

Considering that knuckle-dragger Mark Judge, jittery Kavanaugh’s good buddy back in prep school, wrote a book about how out of control he and all the boys were with alcohol and drugs and girls in their teen years, I have no doubt in my mind that Kavanaugh got drunk out of his bucket with Mark Judge and dragged Christine Blasey Ford from a bathroom to the bedroom.

The title of Judge’s book at the school where he and Kavanaugh were close: Wasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk.

Interesting that Judge hid out for a week hoping nobody would find him to question him about that allegation by Professor Ford that Judge joined Kavanaugh in assaulting her back in the boys’ raucous days at the Catholic Animal House.

That said, let’s lay aside the issues with Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual and alcohol abuse.

Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination is now opposed by:

1. 1,200 law professors and legal scholars

2. the American Bar Association

3. former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens

4. the Catholic Journal

5. the National Council of Churches

The opposition is not so much on grounds involving sexual abuse or an alcohol problem he clearly once had and may have to this day considering his sadly comical emphasis on his romance with beer.

Trump this week made some weird comments about his warm-and-fuzzy “love” of the pudgy, cuddly leader of North Korea.

Kavanaugh talked about beer in his Senate testimony as if beer was the love and soulmate of his life.

He’s opposed by the aforementioned parties because of the complete lack of judicial temperament he demonstrated toward U.S. Senators when questioned about his problem of drinking to the point of blacking out.

He has since conceded in a Wall Street Journal commentary that he let his emotions get away from him, but attributed his meltdown to frustration.

Well of course he was frustrated.

The problem is that he was so frustrated that he was verily frothing at the mouth.

His total lack of grace under pressure in the Senate pressure chamber was something to behold.

But I fully expect him to make it to the Supreme Court. Sadly, the Republicans have been doggedly determined to get him railroaded to confirmation, by hook or by crook, from Day 1.

Kavanaugh, who proved himself to be a seriel liar and dodge-ball artist in his testimony before sexual impropriety or alcohol abuse ever came up, will probably be approved for the Supreme Court, under Republican leadership, for two reasons:

1. He wasn’t nominated by Obama or any other Democrat.

2. His name’s not a Clinton.

He could have shot somebody on Park Avenue, drunk out of his bucket on beer–which he really, really, really likes a lot–and Trump and Trump supporters would give him a pass.

If there is any justice, Kavanaugh will get rejected by the Senate.

Not only that, the legal community will bring him up on code-of-conduct charges to answer for his combative behavior under questioning by senators.

Call it what you will: judicial temperament, grace under pressure, sober inner strength.

It’s what we expect from any judge.

To settle for less would be a settlement that only a desperate, ambulance-chasing lawyer would feel good about.

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