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From the “I’m just saying….” Department: Next Level Trolling aka Trump’s cabinet picks

In Uncategorized on December 9, 2016 at 7:13 am

DT, what one friend has named “the orange disgrace” seems to be doing his best to select a fully unqualified cabinet for his incoming administration. Not only are his cabinet picks unqualified, to a one, they’re the folks that most rational people would *least* want in an administration – a fast food magnate for labor secretary, someone who’s in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry and is suing the EPA to head up that same agency, a pro-voucher, anti-public school advocate to head up the Education department.

I have to say, this is some next level trolling by our President-elect – the left is busy getting all up in arms imagining all the countless phone calls, protests, etc that we’ll need to wage just to keep somewhat even with where we are, while the right is sitting back watching the left loose it’s mind and thinking “well, well, well, isn’t this some shit….”

And that’s exactly what we’re supposed. It’s a long-con, where the prize is the enrichment of DT, family, and cronies, while we’re all so busy watching the government side of things that we fail to pay attention to real travesty that will likely happen right in front of our eyes.

I hope I’m wrong.

Light in Darkness

In Uncategorized on November 13, 2016 at 10:04 pm

candle-light-1372261233njq

This sermon was prepared and preached for my Unitarian and Universalist Theologies class at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.

“There is in human nature a deep-seated and universal tendency for both individuals and groups to ignore the demands of mutuality and thus to waste freedom or abuse it by devotion to the idols of the tribe, the theater, the cave, and the marketplace. It cannot be denied that religious liberalism has neglected these aspects of human nature in its zeal to proclaim the spark of divinity in humanity. The practice of shunning the word “sin” because “it makes one feel gloomy and pious,” has little more justification that the use of the ostrich method in other areas of life”

-James Luther Adams – The Changing Reputation of Human Nature

“One discovers the light in darkness. That is what darkness is for. But everything in our lives depends on how we bear the light. It is necessary, while in darkness, to know that there is a light somewhere, to know that in oneself, waiting to be found there is a light. What the light reveals is danger, and what it demands is faith…I know we often lose…and how often one feels that one cannot start again. And yet, on pain of death, one can never remain where one is. The light. The light. One will perish without the light…For nothing is fixed, forever, and forever, and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have…The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. And the moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.”

— James Baldwin – Nothing Personal


Did the light go out for you for a moment, or two, or more this week?

For James Baldwin, light is found in darkness. A shard of creation that glows within each of us and that propels us. Yet Baldwin’s light is not unlike the light of truth which enables us to see reality for what it is. That which illuminates us also shines a light on the world.

For some of us, earlier this week, we might have understood light as the beacon we were moving toward. A hoped for result in a hard-fought election, a result that called us like a beacon toward a vision of a people we hoped we were, or that we might become.

By Wednesday, that beacon was extinguished. And on Wednesday morning, I wept. As soon as the kids were out of the house and I was able I wept, and wept, and wept. For my daughters, for all of those who look like me – terrorist poster boy – who have the visceral sense of being unsafe in my own country. I wept for all of us, for what this all might mean.

The truth that was illuminated for us on Wednesday morning is a truth that, depending on where you stand, was either deeply shocking and surprising, or was such a foregone conclusion that you almost had a hard time understanding why so many seemed so shocked.

The truth I refer to here is not that Donald Trump won or Hillary Clinton lost or that the polling or the pundits or the predictions were so wrong or that the Senate and the House were both in the hands of the Republicans.

The truth I refer to here is that roughly half of those who voted, voted for a candidate who is openly racist, sexist, misogynist, anti-gay, and an admitted sexual predator.

Strongly suggesting that roughly half of those who voted are not just accepting of racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, and sexual assault, but they think its Presidential.

Now, it is isn’t totally fair to say that – we can debate the extent to which Trump supporters *actively* support those things versus tacit support or even mild disapproval. But that does not change at all the truth that was revealed: America is still deeply, deeply racist, deeply sexist, deeply in the grips of a toxic masculinity that has spilled like a pipeline into all our water sources poisoning the entire landscape.

This election has held a mirror up for us, and what I’m seeing, what you may be seeing, isn’t pretty.

We want to look away, but the light is too bright, the truth too awful to look away from. Particularly since we are people who pride ourselves on seeing reality for what it is – and many of us did not see this.

When my father passed away, I arrived home just hours after he’d passed, and was able to sit with him. In the hours that I sat with his body, I swear that I saw him move. Even though I could reach out and touch his cold hand, kiss his cold forehead, the light and the cries of my heart played tricks on that long fall afternoon and I swear I saw this hand move, his chest rise.

It was good to sit with his body that day because being with him, surrounded by family, started to rewrite my whole being – beginning a new chapter in the story of my relationship with my dad, this one titled, “After His Passing.”

From everything I’ve seen on social media, from everything I know of talking with some of you, I think we all might be feeling a little bit like I did that afternoon, sitting in the lengthening shadows of fall along side the now-extinguished beacon and our story of how things were supposed to be. Perhaps seeing a slight movement, a small breath, even while we know that the hoped for story is over.

Maybe, even now, our beings are starting to write the next chapter of our collective story, one that we might title – bear with the working title –  “We didn’t see that coming, We’re starting to see how deep the Toxicity Goes…..”

In and through our grieving, I feel we are awakening to this new and hard reality; we are integrating it into our bones, and starting to see it for what it is.

It may have felt like things were getting worse – grieving pretty much sucks after all, but as my friend and writer adrienne maree brown recently wrote: “things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. We must hold each other tight & continue to pull back the veil.”

And isn’t that exactly what our tradition calls us to? To hold each other tight, as we continue to seek truth, even if and when it means pulling back the veil of things we’re not totally sure we want to see in ourselves or in America via the reflection of this election.

And wow, what a reflection!

We are staring in the face of what James Luther Adams wrote about – ignorance  of community and coexistence, the waste and abuse of freedom in the pursuit of a toxic ideology. It is a painful and deep taproot of America, one that caught many of us unaware.

Yet there is also some light. The paradox is that what illuminates right now is itself the darkness – the toxic ideology, the racism, the sexism – the light is that now we see more clearly what was previously obscured. America really is this racist, this sexist, this misogynistic.

It is a revelation, and like any experience of revelation, any “opening of what is hidden,” this light breaks us open to a new reality, a new relationship with ourselves and the world around us. The danger revealed demands faith, and our faith calls us to follow the light.*

The beacon we follow now points us to gift of a clearer picture of reality. America has revealed to the world its racist and sexist side in a big big way, and if you can, I invite you to join me in a sigh of relief that we now know more clearly than ever exactly what it is we’re working with and who we are as a society. But this beacon does not direct us toward a path of unity, not yet, perhaps not ever.

Friends, what if, even as the calls for healing and reconciliation and unity grow louder – and we are already hearing them – we got clearer and clearer about our vision for humanity. This is a time when our historical impulse to accommodate the culture is strong, and it is exactly the wrong impulse to follow. America has just told us how racist and sexist and homophobic it really is – it has told us that roughly 1/2 believe in denying the right of people of color, women, LGBTQ folk, and immigrants to their humanity and existence. When someone tells you who they are – believe them! This is not a time to accommodate to the larger culture but a time to stay deeply rooted in who we are and what we will not tolerate, in our communities, or in our society. It is a time to draw moral and ethical lines and not be lured away by the false hope of understanding. Basic existence and respect for our humanity is not a question for debate – not for me, not for you, not for any of us.

Rather than jump into the temptation to accommodate, heal, or reconcile, it is time for us to stand still. To live into the liminal space between polarities and false equivalencies and hold fast to what we know is true. Human worth and dignity are non-negotiable, our interdependent web of existence must be protected for all of us, and justice, equity, and compassion are are guiding stars for our individual and collective lives.

May it be so.


*Paraphrase of Rudolph Bultmann on revelation.

A reflection from Wednesday’s Black Lives Matter action

In Uncategorized on December 28, 2015 at 3:06 pm

[A version of this reflection was first shared at First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis on Sunday December 27, 2015.]

I was there on Wednesday, at the Black Lives Matter protests at the Mall of America, at the airport, and on the light rail.

I was there on Wednesday with my 12 and 7 year old daughters.

I was there because we were there a year ago – our first visit to the mall with 3,000 of our closest friends. As my older daughter pointed out when I was wavering on my decision to go, “it’s our holiday tradition dad! On Thanksgiving we protest Walmart, at Christmas, we go to the Mall with Black Lives Matter!”

And, I was there because in this season of Christmas, I believe that there is almost nothing that is more in the spirit of the man whose birth Christmas celebrates, than standing for justice with people at the margins who are fighting for their freedom.

It was the most Christian thing I could think to do and I’m not even Christian (though as a seminary student, I’m spending a lot of time with the teachings of Jesus and find them to be deeply inspirational).

So in the wake of those protests at the mall, at the airport, at the light rail, and not just here in the Twin Cities, but in 6-7 other cities around the country I’ve seen and heard that folks have some responses, some feelings about the tactics and the like.

This is what happens when Black Lives Matter shuts something down – a road, a state fair, a precinct, a highway, a city hall, a mall, an airport. People have feelings.

I share this reflection with you because on Wednesday I found myself sitting in a number of different places physically and metaphorically. I had some feelings myself.

This concern about tactics is not unfamiliar to me.

You see, when I showed up at the mall on Wednesday with my kids I did not know what we were going to do – what we would be asked to do, and there were moments during the action on Wednesday when I felt uncomfortable and uncertain and uneasy. Particularly when we were doing things that were directly confronting the authorities and power.

I felt uncomfortable when we confronted the police officers blocking us from walking up from the light rail station into airport. I felt uncomfortable when we took over the intersection across the light rail lines, when it became clear that we were going to occupy that intersection, and prevent trains from running. I felt uncomfortable, uncertain, and uneasy because what we were doing was very clearly confronting authority, and my tendency is to not confront authority. Confronting state power is sometimes scary for me.

Those feelings of discomfort and tension in confrontation were all telling me at a visceral level that what we were doing was wrong, and dangerous, and that I needed to stop.

But I didn’t stop. I stayed in there, and stood with Black Lives Matter and the hundreds of other people who were there with us – it is always easier to stand with when you are not standing alone.

And later that evening, a friend reminded me of Martin Luther King’s words from “Letter from a Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963.” King writes “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

I returned to those words Wednesday evening and felt convicted.

I felt convicted because in his writing I saw aspects of myself. In my discomfort and my dis-ease, in my tension, I saw my capacity, tendency even, to paternalistically believe that I could set the timetable or the tactics for another person’s freedom. Earlier that day, when it became clear to me what we were going to do, there was a part of me that felt “not today, don’t disrupt traffic today.” A part of me wished for a more convenient season.

It isn’t easy for me to share this. But I do because I believe it’s important that we think about where we stand. I certainly am. Some of you may be as well.

I am not black. I cannot know what it is to live as a black person in this society. But my brownness has taught me enough to know that the racism that I experience – heightened right now in the climate of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim sentiment, (thank you very much Donald Trump), the racism that I experience is minor compared to the racism experienced by black folks in this country.

As such I know that my understanding is woefully inadequate and incomplete. That any criticism I may have about tactics is more my own internalized racism and fear than it is about anything else. As King notes, I cannot and must not set the timetable for another person’s freedom. It is simply not something that I can do.

I also know that solidarity is our only hope for creating the world I want my kids and grandkids to live in; solidarity with each other, with this planet, with the whole beautiful catastrophe.

What that means for me is that when Black Lives Matter or any other group that is self directing its efforts toward liberation, puts out a call for support, a call to stand with them, and a call to put my time and energy to work to work of freedom – I show up, I stand with, and I follow directions; uncomfortable, uncertain, and uneasy as I may be in the moment.

Those opportunities are opportunities for me to feel the practices that we’ve been taught to live out – the stories of “this isn’t my fight, I’m not involved” or “this isn’t the right way,” or “wait for a better time,” “use nicer tactics,” “don’t get in the way.”

I’ve internalized all those stories. Those practices are a part of me. And, what I’ve been reflecting on since Wednesday is how the tension and unease that I felt in those moments of confrontation was a small price to pay for what we did on Wednesday, which was to take one more step toward freedom.

Grace, with a little help from my friends….

In Uncategorized on February 26, 2015 at 10:48 am
grace word cloud

graphic via www.personaltao.com

I want to tell you a story that isn’t finished yet, but might be in about a month.

It’s a story about grace. It’s a story about finding grace, with some help.

Yesterday, I put a request out to the Facebook world asking “Friends who are musicians, choreographers, artists, or just have a love of music: what songs make you feel a sense of grace?”

The question was born of a homework assignment for my UU Worship class and an upcoming call to worship. In both cases, I was writing for my congregation, and our theme for March is Grace.

“I have to write about grace?” I thought, a wave of displeasure washing over me.

“What the heck is grace?”

“I don’t know what grace is!”

I may have sworn.

This happens to me fairly often; the questioning of a faith term or concept that many take for granted. Growing up in a dogmatically anti-religious household, we simply didn’t use terms like grace in our daily vocabulary, and so when I encounter them, I am often at a loss.

So I went to the dictionary, and found definitions wholly unsatisfying for this Unitarian Universalist:

  • “(in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.” (Google)
  • “. . . the divine influence which operates in humans to regenerate and sanctify, to inspire virtuous impulses, and to impart strength to endure trial and resist temptation; and as an individual virtue or excellence of divine origin. (Wikipedia)
  • and more from Wikipedia: “Grace in Christianity is the free and unmerited favour of God as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowing of blessings. It is God’s gift of salvation granted to sinners for their salvation. Common Christian teaching is that grace is unmerited mercy (favor) that God gave to humanity by sending his son to die on a cross, thus delivering eternal salvation.

I know. I claim to not know what grace is, then argue with the definitions.

But still. I may not have grown up with this language, but I am pretty sure that my UU congregation doesn’t hold this understanding of grace. At the very least, the notion of grace as “unmerited favor,” “manifested in the salvation of sinners,” and “unmerited mercy” just wasn’t going to fly at First Universalist, or, to be honest, in my own slowly clarifying theology.

Yet the prayer and call to worship still needed to be written, and so as I have on other occasions, I reached out to my community with that question posted on Facebook.

And as sometimes happens, you have the luck to ask a “fertile question.”

My question went viral – at least in my small Facebook friend list, and the responses were overwhelming. By the end of the day, 30 some people had posted song suggestions, and the “Grace, with a little help from my friends” project was born:

I created a Spotify playlist of all of the suggested songs that I could find. You can check out the list here: Grace with a little help from my friends

And from today until I deliver my call to worship on March 29th, I am going to listen to some part of the playlist, everyday, and do some writing on grace, however it is that I understand or experience it through the music and/or the course of the day.

My spiritual direction work has taught me that I need to be familiar with terrain in order to accompany someone else through it. As a seminary student who aspires to ordained ministry, knowing something of the terrain of grace feels important. My hope is that by the end of the month, I’ve traveled a path that brings me closer to grace.

One more thing.

I’d like to invite you to come along:

If you want to join me in this month of reflections on grace, I would love your company! Share your writings, share readings or prayers, share what you like. Know that your company will honor me.

#Mindfullness Chapel Service at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities

In Uncategorized on February 4, 2015 at 5:57 am

It was a pleasure to help Jack Gaede lead our #mindfulness chapel yesterday at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities:

48 hours without Facebook

In Uncategorized on January 3, 2015 at 8:05 am

Well, it’s been just about 48 hours without any significant interaction with Facebook – no reading, no posting, no commenting, etc, only messaging with my gratitude practice buddies and posting for the work related page I manage.

And, the good news is that I’m still alive, and the FOMO (fear of missing out) is slowly subsiding. I’m sorry to say that as one stops interacting with Facebook, Facebook stops interacting with you 🙁 How quickly we’re forgotten in the great tubes of the interwebs!

But seriously, taking a break was a great idea. I’m on vacation with family, and being able to disconnect from all that distraction and be present with spouse and kids is really lovely.

one thing to feel less alone?

In Uncategorized on June 10, 2014 at 8:19 pm

In the last several days, I’ve heard or read about how alone people feel in their lives and in their work, particularly people in leadership. I’m no stranger to this, having been in various organizational leadership positions over the years. So over the last few days, a question has been percolating on the back burner of my heart:

what one thing could you share that would help you to feel a little less alone?

A particularly irksome challenge at work? A parenting struggle? A problem with a friend? Concerns about money, about health, about the world?

Who would you share this with? What do you need to ask of them so they receive you as you need to be received?

And perhaps most importantly, what would it take for you to commit to do this – identify one thing that you’re not sharing, that if shared, would help you feel less alone, figure out who you need to share it with, and actually sit down and have the conversation? Put differently, what would it take for you to step into interdependence?

ponderings

In Uncategorized, writing on December 1, 2013 at 7:12 pm
Pondering the Universe

“Pondering the Universe” courtesy of Natashalatrasha via Flickr.

So, I went shopping today. That may have been my first mistake, but nevertheless, I went, and at somewhat crowded big box store, I couldn’t help but notice something:

How unhappy everyone looked.

How out of place I must have looked, with a soft smile on my face, a spring to my step, a pace that felt totally out of pace with the folks around me.

Now, to be clear, I’m not always that way. I’ve been the frowny faced, quick stepping shopper, but today, I wasn’t, and in that out of phase place, I couldn’t help but wonder:

Are all these folks actually unhappy? Or have we perhaps allowed that frowny faced pace to infiltrate our public space, and can we perhaps reclaim that space for a few more smiles, a bit more connection, a bit more kindness, and dare I say it?

love?

like I said, ponderings…..

musings on Acornology

In Uncategorized on October 8, 2013 at 8:38 am
from http://www.flickr.com/photos/kaktuslampa/

photo via kaktuslampa

Acornology:
Once upon a time, in a not-so-faraway land, there was a kingdom of acorns, nestled at the foot of a grand old oak tree. Since the citizens of this kingdom were modern, fully Westernized acorns, they went about their business with purposeful energy; and since they were midlife, babyboomer acorns, they engaged in a lot of self-help courses. There were seminars called “Getting All You Can out of Your Shell.” There were woundedness and recovery groups for acorns who had been bruised in their original fall from the tree. There were spas for oiling and polishing those shells and various acornopathic therapies to enhance longevity and well-being.

One day in the midst of this kingdom there suddenly appeared a knotty little stranger, apparently dropped “out of the blue” by a passing bird. He was capless and dirty, making an immediate negative impression on his fellow acorns. And crouched beneath the oak tree, he stammered out a wild tale. Pointing upward at the tree, he said, “We…are…that!”

Delusional thinking, obviously, the other acorns concluded, but one of them continued to engage him in conversation: “So tell us, how would we become that tree?” “Well,” said he, pointing downward, “it has something to do with going into the ground…and cracking open the shell.” “Insane,” they responded. “Totally morbid! Why, then we wouldn’t be acorns anymore!”

from http://ecumenicus.blogspot.com/2011/04/acornology.html
Originally devised by Maurice Nicoll in the 1950s, Jacob Needleman popularized this metaphor in Lost Christianity and named it “acornology.” I am reprinting the story from Cynthia Bourgeault’s The Wisdom Way of Knowing

I heard the “Acornology” story on Sunday and haven’t been able to get it out of my head.

“we… are… that!” said the interloping acorn, pointing up to the mighty oak tree above it.

Isn’t that what every prophet has said? That we are that; that oak tree?

Maybe it’s a bit more like those SAT word analogies: acorns are to oak trees as we are to what…

That.

Acorns are to oak trees as we are to THAT.

And don’t we respond with “but we’d stop being acorns!” in fear and loads of discomfort turning back to our self-help seminars, burnishing our acorn shells, caring so much for the shell that we forget that it’s meant to break open, that we are made for transformation.

Like the acorn, we each contain the seeds of transformation, though not all of us realize our full potential.

And I can’t help but wonder, what was going on with the acorn who indulged the crazy interloper? The one who kept asking, kept drawing out the rough and tumble visitor with the wild, crazy story?

I like to think that curious one was a seeker like many of us. Doing what some of us do in church or other spiritual communities, gathering in community to hear someone do their best to shake us up, to crack us up and open, all the while pointing up, saying some version of “we… are… that!” and inviting each of us to break our shells open, to dig down, dig deep, to stop being acorns and perhaps to become oak trees?

 

simple pleasures

In Uncategorized on September 3, 2013 at 12:37 pm

image

It is the time of year for simple pleasures. Some good homemade bread, fresh heirloom tomatoes from the garden. Olive oil, salt, pepper. And, a few unhurried moments to savor it all.