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Showing posts from 2018

Bringing people together, and transcending our differences

It's become something of a cliché to say "the country is divided," or "people and politics is more polarized than ever."

While those statements may be true, there are other, less headline-grabbing truths.

And those are the truths that Rich Harwood (the facilitator of an interfaith clergy group I belong to) reminds us of:


People are in search of ways to come together.People are tired of the current state of affairs, no matter who they voted for in 2016 or in Tuesday's midterms. People know the challenges we face today will not be erased by this or any other future election.People feel disconnected, pushed out, and impotent, but this does NOT mean they are apathetic about politics or public life. In fact, more people than ever are looking for ways to make their communities and this nation better. Above all, people are asking this question: "what will it take to build a more hopeful society, and what kind of leadership do we need to move us forward?"

Sticks and Stones can Break My Bones, but Words can never Harm Me...?

When I was a child, there was an expression, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me."

That expression was often used on the playground or school hallways as a comeback or response to bullies. It was meant to send a message back to the bully: that while someone can harm you physically with objects (by their actions), they cannot harm you verbally (by only their words).

I think the quote has some value, but in most cases, denies or ignores the reality of the power of words.

Here's what I mean:

If the expression helps you, as an individual person, grow a bit of a thicker skin -- to not to let name-calling or taunting or toxic people to "get to you," but to brush off their unhelpful comments and remain calm, confident, and focused, then fine.

However...

I think in most cases, the expression denies the reality of the power of words.

And here's what I mean by that:

Words matter. "The tongue has the power of life and death" (Pr…

You Can Do Anything. But You Cannot Do Everything

I want to pursue an idea here which I floated to my congregation, because I think it's amazingly good news.

And that has to do with taking seriously Paul's language (in 1 Corinthians 12) that each of us is a particular PART OF -- but none of us IS -- the Body of Christ.There's a line from the book Essentialism that captures this pretty well:

"I can do anything, but I cannot do everything."

I love that line. I love it so much I'm trying to make it a bit of a mantra. Not only for myself, but as a reminder about others, and the church.

Part of the reason I love it is that it contains both confidence AND humility in equal measure.

"I can do anything" (confidence).

"But I cannot do everything" (humility).

It's true, of course, for each of us:

"You can do anything."


Good parents tell their children this: "you can do anything you set your mind to: want to be an athlete? A clarinetist? An accountant, social worker, teacher, doctor? You c…

To fast from serious vices, feast on their opposite virtues...with God's help.

Here we are, just a little more than halfway through the season of Lent. A good time to check in on what difference our Lenten resolutions are making to others in our everyday life.

Some time ago, I realized that "giving up" the customary habits (petty vices) for Lent -- things like sweets, alcohol, and time-wasters like spending too much time on mindless entertainment -- didn't really make much of a positive difference in my daily life to others if I was not also at the same time "taking on" positive habits.
So the past couple Lents, I've tried "giving up" non-customary habits in order to uproot (or at least address) their underlying serious vices.* I've tried "giving up" or fasting from things like snarkiness (cynicism), procrastination (perfectionism), interrupting people (impatience or arrogance) and ingratitude (inattention or entitlement). Because the best way to fast from a vice is to feast on its opposite virtue, this has mean…

Hate is the Proverbial Hare, Love is the Tortoise

I realize I've been quoting this line from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry a lot lately:

"Nothing can stop the movement of God's love in this world. And if we are part of that movement, nothing can stop us."

I've quoted it in (at least) the last three of my sermons. I've quoted it at Adult Forum; I quoted it at the Annual Meeting; used it at our vestry retreat; I shared it during several staff meetings. I'm pretty sure I've brought it up during dinner with my family. I even quoted it to a Lyft driver.

"Nothing can stop the movement of God's love in this world. And if we are part of that movement, nothing can stop us."

Well, it's a truism in life that oftentimes, if someone keeps repeating themselves, chances are they're trying to convince themselves.

And the dirty little secret is, that may well be the case with me, and this quote.

I admit it: I'm trying to convince myself that the claim is factual (and it is factual: as Bishop Curr…

If there's a will, there's a way.

For Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.
But I'm re-thinking that this year.
What I'm fasting from this Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
(Let me be clear: that does not mean giving up news or otherwise burying my head in the sand: it means staying informed while finding ways not to get pulled into a downward spiral of feelings of numbness and helplessness; it means giving up unproductive feelings like hopelessness and resignation and taking on visible behaviors like giving encouragement and taking action.)
It means making visible -- here, on my blog, and even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories…

Fasting from Discouragement, Making Visible the Good

So for Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.

But I'm re-thinking that.
Now one of the things I'm thinking about fasting from during Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
That would mean taking on encouragement: to make visible -- even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories" as being quaint -- they are tossed in at the end of the news as an inspiring story, or put in the style section. But stories of good things happening -- people coming together to do things, is not a touchy-feely, feel-good story, but something affecting real change.
So for starters: I'm inspired by the leadership example of…

Rules and Relationships

On the last Sunday before the season of Lent -- as this Sunday is -- it's the custom of the church to hear the Gospel story of the Transfiguration.

The transfiguration story is the one where Jesus takes Peter and James and John up a high mountain, where they received a stunning glimpse of Jesus' divine glory. There are parallels in the Transfiguration story to the Old Testament story of Moses ascending the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments.

What I find fascinating is that when Moses came down the mountain, he had a set of rules for the community: a civic code, and a list of precise instructions for worship.

When Jesus and his disciples came down the mountain, they had not a code, but a person--and not instructions on how to worship, but someone TO worship: the Living Son of the Living God, Jesus.

God's message in Exodus was, "Love me by obeying these commandments."

God's message in the Transfiguration was, "This is my Son, whom I love: listen to h…