Pastor Kaye's Blog


We all know how much it means to be made to feel welcome in a new place… or not. hospitalityIn fact, the one thing almost always keeps first time visitors to a church from ever returning is that “no one said anything” to them. We feel unwanted, invisible, awkward, out-of-place. And this one little example is just the tip of the proverbial we-talk-a-good-game-about-hospitality-but-don’t-really-practice-it iceberg.

Over and over again, in our churches, our neighborhoods, our schools, our communities and our country, people are discriminated against, shunned, bullied, profiled, targeted, avoided, slandered and kicked out, for being different.

And yet, hospitality is a Biblical imperative. Do people not understand this? HOSPITALITY IS A BIBLICAL IMPERATIVE!

These are the scripture passages I used yesterday:

1 Peter 4:9 “Be mutually hospitable without complaining.”

Leviticus 19:33 “Do not mistreat the foreigners who reside in your land.”

But then there are so many others:

  • Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.
  • Love your neighbor as yourself.
  • Love your enemy.
  • I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me to drink.
  • Lot welcoming the two strangers.
  • Rahab protecting the Israelite spies.
  • Martha (and Mary, sort of) feeding the disciples.

I could go on and on. Plus, one author I read said there are at least thirty-six warnings to the Israelites in the Old Testament to remember their obligation to the alien, the widows and the orphans.

(For the full audio version, click here.)

So, what is it that keeps us from offering hospitality to others? This is the question I asked the congregation yesterday, and these are some of the answers:

  • Fear of others who look different, talk different, act different
  • Fear of being scammed
  • Inconvenient
  • We need to take care of ourselves first
  • We don’t want to create dependency
  • Fear of being taken advantage of
  • Too busy
  • Scarcity – I don’t have enough to share
  • Greed – I don’t want to share
  • Drill it into our kids not to talk to strangers
  • Don’t know what to do, don’t have enough opportunities
  • Out of our comfort zone

The way of our world these days and all of these issues made me ponder whether hospitality is just impractical these days? Is it just a worn out and outdated concept? Or maybe people of every age have struggled with this, which doesn’t make it impractical, just challenging.

There are many examples out there – in churches, families, and communities – of hospitality. Many have had to fight against opposition, but have done so because they believed in the interconnectedness of all people. They believed in God’s love of everyone and the transformative power of reaching out to help another or be kind to another.

There are many examples of beautiful hospitality inside and outside of the church. People giving of themselves, their time, their resources. People risking, daring to care, getting out of their comfort zones, challenging the doubters and the critics, doing what feels right and good in their hearts. These people and programs inspire me and challenge me to question myself, my own behavior, my own fears. It challenges me to watch for opportunities to step out.

Will we risk showing up? Will we show hospitality without complaining? Will we give of our gifts generously? Will we see ourselves in the foreigners? Will we practice the spiritual discipline of hospitality wherever we are? These are the questions we each have to answer.




Awe, the feeling of being in the presence of something vast or beyond human scale, that transcends our current understanding of things, is a sacred experience which connects us to the Divine and to one another. It is aawen important piece of the spiritual puzzle, or at the very least it could be a tool or path to deeper awareness of the Divine.

Writer and theologian Michael Yaconelli has said that, “Tameness is not an option. Take surprise out of faith and all that is left is dry and dead religion.” I believe that awe, wonder and mystery are some of the surprises that bring vitality and aliveness to faith and spirituality.

(For the full audio version, click here.)

While Christians are apt to talk about an “awesome” God, I’ve found that usually correlates to the power, greatness and majesty attributed to God.  And while many people have tried to equate fear and awe, that is a relatively new phenomenon. In the Old Testament the Hebrew word for awesome is nora, and the Hebrew word for fear is yira. They were not the same thing. When the psalmist said,  “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10) or “serve God with fear and trembling” (Psalm 2:11) they really meant that one should be afraid of God, with an implicit “or else” tied in there. Certainly there are enough OT passages where destruction and doom awaited those who didn’t obey, that fearing God was more than appropriate.

Over the centuries there has been a shift in our understanding of God, and so many have reinterpreted these passages. Rabbi Heschel translates this as “the awe of God is the beginning of wisdom” and the Inclusive Bible says “the reverence of God is the beginning of wisdom.”

Psalm 65 is one of the few places where the Bible emphasizes experiencing awe in God’s creation. Job also has a wonderful passage that does the same thing (Job 37:24). But there is very little scripturally that leads us farther than that to what Wayne Dyer talks about in his book Your Sacred Self. He suggests that by walking an intentional spiritual journey and heightening our awareness of ourselves and our surroundings, we will develop a greater sense of appreciation and awe.

Dacher Keltner, professor and head of the University of California Berkeley’s Social Interaction Lab, has been studying awe for the last few years. Their studies have shown that awe is very accessible in what we might call the ordinary miracles of our days – the generosity of a person, the veins in a leaf, the birth of a child, a sunrise, the beauty in art or music or architecture.

In addition, Keltner’s research shows that experiences of awe transform the mind. After an experience of awe, a person is less concerned with self-interest and more attuned to collective interest; one moves from an isolated sense of self to a more integrated sense of self. And moments of awe begin to break down the “us” vs. “them” mentality.

Keltner said that awe seems to be the antidote to the ills of the world today: self-focus, greed, materialism, purposelessness, stress, narrow-mindedness and under-performing health. Experiences of awe produce: expanded sense of self, generosity, purpose (brings focus to our purpose in the world), perspective, creativity, robust health (good for the nervous system).

Studies show that people experience awe on an average of average 2.5 times a week. But perhaps, as people on an intentional spiritual journey, we could strive to cultivate experiences of awe, to practice wonder, to recognize everyday miracles EVERY DAY. Because those experiences are the bridges to the experience and feeling of connectedness with the universe, with the Divine. The goosebumps, feeling humble, curious, positive, love, joy, peace and concern for others… those are the effects of momentary connections with Something More.

So, how do we cultivate experiences of awe? Take a walk with the deliberate intention of being amazed and awed by something in creation. Or if you can’t get outside, watch a nature show or a travel show. Pause during the day to wonder at your life, the synchronicities, the beautiful relationships, your pets, your children or grandchildren, the very breath you take that give you life. Listen to fabulous music and be in awe of the musicians who create it. Go out and look at the stars or the lake and feel the enormity of the universe or the power of water. Read a beautiful piece of poetry or be amazed at the skill of an artist. There are so many things we can be in awe of instead of passing right over them. Let yourself be moved and filled.

Love & Light!




Our Stories

There is a great deal about “religion” that is about believing the right thing and our-storiesdoing the right thing. But there is a great deal about “spirituality” that has to do with self-awareness and understanding ourselves, because only in this way can we begin to see the masks and barriers we have put up to protect or hide our true selves – the self that is one with the Divine.  This is why some authors claim that the religion of the future will be more psycho-therapeutic.

Yesterday, I ventured outside of our canonical scriptures to explore a wonderful nugget found in one of the Gnostic gospels, The Dialogue of the Savior. Jesus is speaking and says:

“Do you not understand that what you see is what you will become? Therefore seek the Self within yourself, because this is who you really are.”

This does not mean that if you look at an eggplant you will become an eggplant. Rather, I think it means that what we see and believe about ourselves becomes our reality.

(For the full audio version, click here.)

Don Miguel Ruiz and others remind us that we are the authors of our own stories. From the time we are young our interactions with others (parents, teachers, friends, strangers, lovers) create our experiences which we then write into stories. Some are positive stories and some are negative stories. These stories repeated countless times to ourselves and to others shapes how we live and move in the world.

In The Voice of Knowledge, Ruiz states:

“You are the author of an ongoing story you tell yourself. In your story, everything is about you, and it has to be that way because you are the center of your perception. The story is told from your point of view…Without awareness, we give our personal power to the story, and the story writes itself. With awareness, we recover the control of our story. We see that we are the authors, and if we don’t like our story, we change it.

Have you ever thought about the stories that we tell (ourselves or others) about our lives? What do we believe about ourselves and about life?

  • You can be anything you want to be
  • Boys are better than girls
  • Roles of boys and girls
  • I’m not good enough
  • I’m fat, slow, stupid, untalented
  • I’m smart, pretty, better than others, entitled
  • Don’t cry, don’t show weakness, don’t be vulnerable
  • Prejudice, bigotry
  • Political party
  • Religious understanding of God
  • I was dealt a bad hand
  • It’s not my fault

In seminary at the age of 26, one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (aka chaplaincy) was required. So, I spent 16 weeks at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Milwaukee visiting patients and then analyzing, in a group setting, my behaviors and responses.  I was young and still learning that my interaction with people had a great deal to do with the stories I told myself.  For example, there were certain patients who had longer stays at the hospital that I developed a relationship with and then hated to see go. I ached inside to lose touch with. Why? Or I’d be visiting with a patient and the Catholic priest would come in to offer communion and I’d feel put out. Why?

I had to learn that I had “hooks,” as our supervisor called them. Feeling abandoned was one of my hooks. The story I unconsciously repeated to myself was that my mom died… I was “abandoned” by my mom. My dad started seeing another woman a month after mom died and paid little attention to us kids after that… I was “abandoned” by my dad.  A few months later I graduated from high school and my friend group split up and went to different schools… I felt “alone” in the world… “abandoned.” Once this came to my awareness, I was able to better identify when I was getting hooked into someone and not allow my story to have power over my behavior.

My other hook had to do with another story I told myself: “girls are just as good as boys (if not better) and I can prove it.” So, when that Catholic priest walked in, I was ready to try to prove it. I didn’t quite have the self-esteem to step out-of-the-way and accept whatever, or whoever, a person needed for their spiritual needs. I have since worked on re-writing my personal story in such a way as to understand that there are some people who need something different from I can provide spiritually, and that is okay.

I believe the words of the Gnostic gospel are true, that what we “see,” our perspective, our story, becomes our reality. If we are unaware of this process, our stories write themselves and we feel we have no control over them… we give our personal power to the story and believe we don’t have the power to change it. With awareness we see that we do have control over what we tell ourselves and what we believe about ourselves. We do have control over our stories, and if we don’t like them we can change them.

Ruiz offers two suggestions:

  1. Don’t believe yourself – keep your mind and heart open, listen to yourself and your story. Really ask yourself if it is truth or lies. Respect your story, learn to see your story with clarity and then change it if you don’t like it. But if your story is healthy, offers brilliant ideas and possibilities, then go with it. But especially don’t believe your story when the stories are against you and encourage anger, fear, loneliness, jealousy, conflict, separation
  2. Don’t believe others – keep your mind and heart open and listen, but remember that what they are saying is their story, their perception. When their story is told with integrity, you will recognize it and can acknowledge it. We can listen objectively and respectfully, without judging, but we don’t have to take it on and believe it. We can understand that they believe it and then perhaps we come to understand them better and can communicate better, but we don’t have to take on their story.

Then the harder task is to go deeper than all of this to our true selves which are beyond all of these stories. It seems to me that our authentic selves are the part of us that can observe and name these stories we tell about ourselves without judgment. We are the life force behind the stories. That life force is who we really are.

Love & Light!




Prophets Anonymous

Jesus came to visit our service yesterday morning. Well, sort of. Every once in a while I’ve preached “in character.” I’ve been Mary Magdalene, the Gossip of Nazareth, the Holy Spirit and a few others, but never dared to be Jesus, until yesterday.

As is probably true of all of us right now, the elections hover at the edge of everything we do, casting a pall of jesusfrustration and agitation and worry over everything. I’ve been really good at not mixing faith and politics, and I’ve never told anyone who to vote for, nor will I. But, it actually feels weird not being able to say anything about it… like there is this huge elephant in the room. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that everything Jesus said and did was political, which is what got him killed.

So, in an attempt to talk about religion and politics, while keeping things somewhat light, I played the part of Jesus attending a Prophets Anonymous meeting. In my monologue, we find out that his disciples had asked him to stop talking about anything political before it got him killed. But as he talks more, we find out that even those things that didn’t sound political were.

Here’s an excerpt from Jesus’ monologue (for the full audio version, click here):

I’m a good Jew, just like the rest of you, but one day a while back I was in the synagogue on the Sabbath and you know how they take turns reading Torah from the scrolls? Well, it was my turn and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to me and I started to read where they’d left off. Guess where it started… yep…

“The Spirit of our God is upon me;
Because the Most High has anointed me
To bring Good News to those who are poor.
God has sent me to proclaim liberty to those held captive,
Recovery of sight to those who are blind,
And release to those in prison – the proclaim the year of our God’s favor” (Is. 61)

And I knew in that moment that those words were exactly what God was calling me to do, so I said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled.” Here I thought my hometown would be supportive of me. Not everyone gets a call from Yahweh. But they were so angry, or perhaps scared, that they literally dragged me out-of-town and were going to toss me over the side of that hill out there… yea, you know the one, with the rocks all down the back side. Thankfully I was able to get away. But I couldn’t get away from the call.

So, I’ve spent the better part of the last two years doing exactly what was in that Isaiah passage.  I really feel like I’m making a difference to people, giving them hope, connecting them to God who loves them no matter what, whether they follow the 613 laws of Judaism or not. And I’ve had some amazing messages, thanks to that Spirit flowing through me.

I was sitting on the Sea of Galilee with this whole crowd of people, mostly poor and working class folks, up on the hillside and suddenly I felt these wonderful words:

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are the merciful… and the pure in heart… and the peacemakers… and those who are persecuted…

I was on a real roll! That one was so popular they now call it the Beatitudes and they call the place the Mount of the Beatitudes.

Who knew that was political? Suddenly I had the Roman government watching my every move thinking I’m going to start a rebellion. I told the crowds to pay their taxes… give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s… but give unto God what is God’s – their hearts, and minds and souls. “Love God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.”

That one got me in trouble, too. Especially after I told them a parable I made up about a Good Samaritan. You know how well the Jews and Samaritans get along… I hear there is even talk about building a wall between the two. So, now that I’ve pointed out that, in God’s eyes, our neighbors are everyone, the leaders of the synagogue are out to get me, too.  Do people really think that God doesn’t want all of humanity to live in peace and harmony and to love one another?

 I know that is why God sent me out into the world, to bring God’s unconditional love.

I tell you, I get so tired of the judgment and the lack of compassion for the poor, the widow, the outcast, the strangers. I try to tell them to “Do unto others, as you would have others do unto you.” No matter what I say, it doesn’t seem to make any difference. They think God is on their side only… just like the sling shot competition in Nazareth between the Bethany Bandits and the Nazareth Knights.  Both teams prayed beforehand that God would let them win, and then when the Bandits won they claimed it was because God was on their side and caused them to play so well.

Seriously? God may be a sling shot fan, but do they really think God takes sides??

Perhaps we should all try being on God’s side for a while… the side of ALL. Of neighborliness. Of ONE. Of the common good.

Yesterday was what really scared my friends into confronting me. We had just arrived here into Jerusalem and I wanted to go up to the temple to pray. But when I got there it was like entering a marketplace, not a holy place of worship. I saw clearly what I hadn’t seen before, that worship had become a business transaction, an exchange of money, a slaughter of animals… it had nothing to do with the heart being aligned with the love of God. I got so angry I just exploded (still not sure where that came from, I’m a pretty peaceable guy). But I went ballistic… turned over the tables of the money changers and the people selling doves. Then I actually yelled at them, “Is it not written: ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations‘? But you have made it a den of robbers!”

Of course, now word is on the street that the leaders of the synagogue (who, as you know, are in cahoots with the Roman government) are plotting to kill me.

What am I supposed to do? It seems like everything I say, whether I want it to be or not, is too political for someone, offends someone. All I really want to do is help people to see God’s vision for God’s Kingdom on earth; a place of equality, peace, harmony, non-violence, compassion and most of all love. Who knew that love could be so political??

My friends think I can just go greet people at the kosher store down the street and teach in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Stay out of trouble. But then I feel like I’d be selling out. This is who I am and who God has called me to be. It is what I feel deeply in my heart that I try to live and share. 

I can’t do it. I can’t sell out. Come what may, I have to be true to myself and to God. I will continue to preach love, to share love. I guess they can do what they will to me. But I’m on God’s side.

Gee… thanks for all your help! I really appreciate it… I’m going back to work!

Love & Light!



Right now a group of us are studying the book An Other Kingdom by Peter Block, Walter Brueggemann and John McKnight. Basically, this book lifts up the differences between a consumer/market culture and a culture of neighborliness, and concludes that the consumer/market culture isn’t working to make our world better or healthier. It is time to bring back the values and practices of neighborliness for the common good, and the health and wholeness of the people… not to mention that these are the values and practices that are lifted up in our Hebrew and New Testament Scriptures.

(For the full audio version, click here.)

First, let’s flesh out what defines and characterizes the two cultures:neighbors

Consumer/Market Culture

  • Profit driven
  • Competitive
  • Employee is expendable
  • Privatization
  • Scarcity
  • Institutions
  • Progress
  • Contracts
  • Get what we want when we want it
  • Individualism
  • Faster is better
  • Autonomy
  • Marketplace is God
  • Environment is for profit
  • Isolation

Neighborly Culture

  • Buy local
  • We have enough and enough to share
  • Employees are assets
  • Employee/employer loyalty
  • Relationships are important
  • Covenants – your word and a handshake
  • Common good
  • Trust
  • A place for God and Mystery
  • Values the environment as part of our ecosystem
  • Good stewardship of our resources
  • Subsistence farming and eating
  • Be kind to your neighbor! Leviticus 19: don’t steal, cheat, oppress, insult, judge or be unfair
  • Know and talk to our neighbors

We live in what we like to call a Christian nation (this may be arguable)… but the values that Jesus would support are not the values that are important out there today. It feels like people have compartmentalized Jesus into the church box, and conveniently leave him (and his values) there after worship on Sunday morning. I am frustrated that our faith and our lives outside of the churches do not intersect.

We have become a culture obsessed with money, with having more, with being the best and brightest and to hell with everyone else. Everything is about personal gain or making the most profit. Most could care less about the common good. Most could care less if what we do to the environment will affect our great-great-great grandchildren.

But there is a rising tide of people who have a deep sense that there is a different way to live. A way that values all people, a way that respects and cares for others and the environment, a way that builds relationships and connections, a way of neighborliness. We’ll have to step out into the wilderness of the counter-culture to experience it, but for those who do the result is aliveness and vitality, love and compassion, life in abundance.

It feels idealistic, I know, to think we could start to shift the culture. Yet I think it is already starting to shift in many, many small ways and even a few big ways. We can’t change the world, but we can change our little corner of it. It is about asking ourselves the question of how we apply these pieces of neighborliness to our lives, how we raise our children, how we interact with our neighbors, where we buy our food and clothes, how we treat the earth, what we teach and how we act as a community of faith.

Perhaps we could keep asking ourselves and those we work, live and associate with, the question the authors pose:

What would a system look like that built neighborliness and covenantal relationships?



Gifts of Uncertainty

The Sufi mystic Rumi was once asked by a disciple, “What is fear?” He replied, “Non-acceptance of uncertainty is our fear. If we accept that uncertainty it becomes adventure!”

(For the full audio, click here.)

Human beings don’t like uncertainty. Uncertainty causes us hours of worry, concern and fear. We’re uncertain about the economy, our relationships, our God, our jobs, our futures, our health… you name it, there is an element of uncertainty in it. So, what do we do? We strive to take the uncertainty out of everything by planning and organizing and scheduling. But the truth is that we can never completely remove the uncertainty of life.

Our option is to accept the uncertainty in life. We call this all sorts of things… go with the flow, relax, chill out, roll with it, be flexible, be spontaneous. With this acceptance come gifts we may not have imagined. Eckert Tolle has said,

“When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life. It means fear is no longer a dominant factor in what you do and no longer prevents you from taking action to initiate change. The Roman philosopher Tacitus rightly observed that ‘the desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.’ If uncertainty is unacceptable to you, it turns into fear. If it is perfectly acceptable, it turns into aliveness, alertness and creativity.”

I think there are at least three gifts of uncertainty.

GIFT ONE… life becomes an adventure. When we allow ourselves to be surprised, to giftofuncertainty-750x350enjoy the unexpected twists and turns, to live for the moment instead of worrying overly much about the future or the past, everything becomes a wonderful adventure.

Sometimes my wife, Julie, and I will hop on her Harley and ride just to explore. Sometimes we find the coolest stuff when we just go and see where we end up! Instead we have a tendency to go to the same restaurants, the same vacation spots, and the same church (though, that’s ok). We hang with the same people, listen to the same music, make the same food, and play the same games. I understand that we’re creatures of habit. We like easy and comfortable and secure. However, I think we make it harder for the universe to surprise us, to move us, and to use us when we insist on the certainty of how we spend our days.

Deepak Chopra explains, “In our willingness to step into the unknown, the field of all possibilities, we surrender ourselves to the creative mind that orchestrates the dance of the universe.”

GIFT TWOuncertainty creates excitement for seeking and learning.

If we were certain of everything and had the answers to everything, life would be boring. Because we don’t know everything,and aren’t certain about everything, we are excited to explore, to step forward, to theorize and risk and search.

This is true of all things… including God! Sadly, the great religions of the world have done people a disservice by insisting on the certainty of religion. Eric Elnes has said that,

“Religion does us a disservice when it seeks to remove uncertainty from life. Have you ever noticed how the more certainty a religion claims to deliver, the more frenzied and hysterical are its adherents? The fact of the matter is that life is messy and no amount of doctrine or dogma changes this. Faith built upon certainty is a house of cards that falls apart when the “unshakable foundation” shifts even slightly.”

Without uncertainty there is no faith and no creative exploration of life, the universe, God and everything.

GIFT THREE… we learn to fly

“I have come to accept the feeling of not knowing where I am going. And I have trained myself to love it. Because it is only when we are suspended in mid-air with no landing in sight, that we force our wings to unravel and alas begin our flight. And as we fly, we still may not know where we are going to. But the miracle is in the unfolding of the wings. You may not know where you’re going, but you know that so long as you spread your wings, the winds will carry you.”  ― C. JoyBell C.

Accepting uncertainty means we are willing to risk. Risk stretches us to discover ourselves and what we are truly capable of. If we don’t risk, if we don’t step into the unknown, we don’t give ourselves a chance to solve challenges creatively, to spread our wings and realize that we can fly and the spirit will carry us.

THE KEY: Trust is the key to living with uncertainty, and realizing the gifts of uncertainty in our lives. Trust in oneself and trust in the Divine, and the inherent goodness of the universe.

In Luke 12: 22-26, Jesus tells the people not to worry about life or what they are going to eat. His reasoning? Not that there is going to be a good crop or that Rome will stop oppressing the people. In fact, Jesus doesn’t really give any answers, or offer any security for life.  The answer Jesus offers is simply to trust in God.

But how do we do that when most days even God doesn’t feel certain. And if God has some sort of plan, God’s not sharing. So we decide we’ll just take care of things ourselves, thank you very much. Yet, I do find when I relax into trust, even if something doesn’t turn out the way I want, it’s easier to handle.

Trust takes us out of our self-created prison of fear. Trust opens our hearts and minds to the creative power of the universe, to the infinite possibilities that exist. Trust opens us to risk, to step out of the small worlds we create in our heads and lives and broaden them, excited, not scared, about the possibilities of what we might find. With trust, our uncertainty becomes adventure, aliveness, alertness and creativity.

Love & Light!


Prophetic Ministry

Congratulations Sacred Journeys on five years of sharing, caring, drawing in and reaching out. You are an amazing, intelligent, eclectic, fun group of people who have made five years of ministry a joy for me. And I wasn’t sure I’d be able to say that again.

(For the full audio version, click here.)

We began as a rag-tag group of folks who believed that “church” could be something more than it was. We knew it wouldn’t always be easy, or comfortable, but we were determined. The goal was not to form another institution that then had to be preserved. The goal was to create a Christian spiritual community unlike any we could find in this area. A community based on inclusiveness, openness, questioning, social justice, learning and growing in our unique sacred journeys.

In my somewhat warped mind Star Trek music begins playing and I hear: “Spirituality: the final frontier… these have been the voyages of Sacred Journeys Spiritual Community. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

We didn’t know if we’d last one week, one month, or one year… we hardly dared to dream 5 years down the road. And yet here we are… from 7 people around a dining room table to a community of over 120 who consider SJSC to be their home.

These five years have been a time of healing, of exploring, of building our identity, of wandering some in the wilderness trying to find our way. And, as we look back, it has been a great 5 years. We have worshiped, studied, learned, danced, prayed, sung, had fun, done tons of outreach and donated over $45,000 back to the community. But that doesn’t begin to speak to the relationships that have formed, the support and love that has been offered, the personal and spiritual growth that so many of us (myself included) have experienced.

We have entered the counter-culture these last 5 years. It doesn’t always seem like it because we have become comfortable in our community doing things our way. But when I step out of our community, I see how far we’ve come. The conference on progressive Christianity that I attended in May helped me to see that we are at the forefront of this movement, we are the newness in the dry desert of a Christianity that is no longer relevant, but refuses to die.

But we haven’t (in my humble opinion) gone nearly as far as we could have in our movement. We’ve mostly tried to ease ourselves into newness by having one foot in a more traditional model of religion (worship structure, Sunday School) and one foot clawing its way forward with a lack of doctrine and dogma to adhere to, a broader range of music that we consider sacred, using non-biblical readings and alternative Lord’s prayers, and not being tied to a building.

We’ve expanded the Christian box, but I want to keep pushing the walls out. In the coming year I want to take a few more steps forward, I want to look out new windows and see what we can see. I want to explore spiritual topics that we don’t generally hear about in a Christian context. Things like creativity, beauty, art, the four elements, modern-day mystics, and things I’d love to add to Christianity from other religions (if I could).

Personally, I see us as an evolving community that continues to seek, question and keep redefining a spiritual space for ourselves. This is an explorative space. A spiritual lab. So, let’s step forward boldly, expanding our horizons, our understanding of ourselves and the Divine. Let’s release our fears and, with excitement, push the walls of our spiritual boxes farther than we ever thought possible.

Love & Light!


Theology Colored Glasses

glassesHenry N. Wieman once insisted, the issue is not, Does God exist? but, Which of the various realities one encounters functions as God? It is this orienting sensitivity which produces, universally and necessarily, the texture of the unique theological World which each individual inhabits. Selfhood is the process of owning, with conscious commitment, this World which functions as a construct of “convictions which one sees through like a pair of glasses.” These glasses are honed by root metaphors that function together as paradigm, so operating as to “author and authorize the way we think, the way we act, the way we communicate, and the way we judge.                                             (“Theological Worlds,” by W. Paul Jones)

It would be nice if, when people are developing their theologies, they would do so in a neutral, abstract manner, evaluating their beliefs by their fidelity to scripture, context, tradition and internal consistency. However, the truth of the matter is that when theologies live in the minds of people, there are other criteria – how we were raised, what we were taught/conditioned to believe, our baggage, our fears, our culture, and so on.

(For the full audio version, click here.)

So, the pressing questions become:

  • How do our theologies function?
  • What do they keep us from seeing and what do they make us consider?
  • What inner attitudes do they validate or invalidate?
  • What outer behaviors do they encourage or discourage?

Professor, author and theologian W. Paul Jones ran a 10 year study that discovered five clusters of theological worlds each of which orients around a fundamental life posture. Each world is like a different colored pair of glasses through which people perceive and project alternative meaning into common-day experiences.

The worlds themselves seem to flow from an interaction between what Jones’ calls the obsessio and the epiphania. The obsessio is described as one’s defining life question. What is it that one continues to question about oneself or about life? What has so wounded one’s heart and soul that one continues to seek the answer? Everyone has an obsessio, and it is easy to pinpoint as it seems to stem from an early memory that brings back an acute sense of embarrassment. And, we may feel that it is crazy for our very selves to be twisted up in knots by something that may objectively seem like we should be over it. But there you have it. As Jones states, our obsessios seem, in the bright light of day, to be not so much our inner demons, but “mice with megaphones.” An obsession is never forgotten, but invisibly weighs other answers and life experiences into either substantiation for the question, or alternatives for resolution.

The epiphania is described as those moments of epiphany that may illuminate new possibilities for heal for our obsessio. At the very least, it keeps our souls hopeful, searching and even energized by the sense that our question might be worth pursuing for a lifetime.

The five worlds shake out to look like this:

  1. Separation and Reunion
  2. Conflict and Vindication
  3. Emptiness and Fulfillment
  4. Condemnation and Forgiveness
  5. Suffering and Endurance

(Depending on how self-aware you are, you may be able to look at these worlds and know pretty well where you fit. But there is a 60 question inventory that one can take to know for sure. If you’d like to see a brief summary of these worlds, and the inventory, click here.)

As an example, the obsessio for world one briefly looks like this:

  • Sense of abandonment
  • Feel isolated, small, lonely, misfit
  • Life is a quest to understand the mystery of this Whole
  • Long to find our way “home”
  • Yearn for a harmony to all things

Jones tells the story of a woman who shared her obsessio story: “When my mother left me in Sunday school, I always asked to wear her locket. She thought I like the locket. That wasn’t it at all. I knew I wasn’t worth coming back for, but I knew she would come back for her locket.” She was less sure about her epiphania, but her stories had echoes of Jesus’ parable of the lost coin.

This rhythm, this pendulum swing between obsessio and epiphania – whether conscious or not – becomes the set of lenses through which we see God, ourselves and the world.

Part of our spiritual journey, our personal healing, our path to wholeness, is recognizing or remembering that we see things subjectively, not objectively. We see all things, including ourselves and God, through colored lenses. Even if this model of theological worlds eludes you… the key is to become more self-aware, and also to remember that others come from a different place, different experiences and different teachings.



A price tag for happiness?

This last week we read the parable of the rich farmer (Luke 12:13-21) who has a wonderfully abundant crop and doesn’t know what to do with it (clearly giving it away doesn’t even cross his mind). He eventually decides to and tear down his grain bins to build bigger ones so that he can sit back and relax for a few years. But God says to the farmer: ‘You fool! This very night your life will be required of you. To whom will all your accumulated wealth go?’ Jesus goes on to say, “This is the way it works with people who accumulate riches for themselves, but are not rich in God.”

It was almost as if the farmer thought there was a price tag he had just met for being happy, secure and comfortable. He’d just won the lottery. Life was good! And then… psych! All gone!

(For the full audio version, click here.)

Now, we remember that this is a parable, a story Jesus told to make a point. So, what’s the point? Clearly it isn’t that as soon as you’re too greedy with your wealth that God will take you out of the game, or we wouldn’t have so many million and billionaires around! Jesus is clear in verse 15 that we should “Avoid greed in all its forms. Yes, ALL its forms. People are not just greedy with money, but with time, love, themselves and stuff.

Why should we avoid greed? Jesus doesn’t spell it out, but here are a few things I’d suggest: an attitude of greed keeps us from ever being satisfied or happy (there is really no price tag for happiness), it keeps us from living and enjoying the moment, and it is contractive, not expansive for our souls. An attitude of greed buys into a belief in scarcity rather than abundance.

In the book, An Other Kingdom, the authors talk about believing in abundance in the face of uncertainty. But they readily admit that this thinking is a “stretch of the imagination.” We see and hear all around us of people who don’t have enough, the poor, the homeless, the folks of Louisiana who’ve lost their homes in flooding, the folks in California who’ve lost their homes in the wildfires.

Our culture and our commerce has capitalized on the fear of not having enough, the fear of scarcity. In our advertising and our TV shows, in the push to compete with the Joneses, to be the best and have the most. There are time-saving devices, ways to buy love and keep love and find love, ways to live forever, look younger, and nip and tuck until we are beautiful. We’ve been brainwashed to believe that if we don’t have more we fail, we lose. We’re told we should be afraid of running out.

But what if… WHAT IF the fear of running out is not a reality, but a perspective? I know this may be hard to grasp because it feels like a reality. But WHAT IF whether we see our lives as rich and full is a perspective? What if this “reality” of scarcity isn’t really reality, but is simply one point of view, one mindset, one perspective? And we get to choose.

There was a 92-year-old petite, well-poised and proud woman, who was fully dressed each morning by 8 a.m. with her hair fashionable coiffed and makeup perfectly applied (even though she was legally blind). Her husband of 70 years had recently passed away making it necessary for her to move to a nursing home. (Most older people I know rail against this with a huge fear of the future and a huge loss of their independence and home and life as they knew it.)

Well, the day had come and after many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready. As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, the aide provided her with a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window.

“I love it!” she stated with the enthusiasm of having just been presented with a new puppy.

“Mrs. Jones, you haven’t seen the room… just wait.”

“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” she replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged… it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it… it’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away just for this time in my life.”

Many people only see lack and loss in these situations. They see and therefore experience scarcity and the fear that comes with that. But then there are those special people who live with a different perspective and bring light, hope and joy to others.

Being rich in God means living with an attitude of abundance, not scarcity, in whatever situation you may be in. When we have that close relationship with God, a trust in the basic benevolence of the universe, and knowledge that there is so much more than meets the eye, we look at wealth, stuff, love, time and even beauty in a different way. Being “rich” means something completely different when one comes from a deep connection with the Divine.

Love & Light!



Who am I?

In the call story of the prophet Jeremiah, there are two amazing lines:

Before I formed you in the womb, I chose you.
Before you were born I dedicated you.
                                                         (Jeremiah 1:5)

In Jewish, Christian and other religious traditions, the essence of who we are is with the Divine long before we are born. Eternal life is not, as we have been led to believe, about life after death. Eternal life with God has always been and will always be. The very core of our beings has always been and will always be.

(For the full audio version, click here.)

Yet if someone were to ask you, “Who are you?” or “Tell me about yourself?” how would you respond? Would you say, “I have been with the Divine from before I was born, I am part of the Divine now, and shall always be even after I die. I am stardust and moonbeams, dirt and ashes, water and fire. I am love and compassion. I am a piece of the whole. In the deepest part of me I am known and I know and it has always been so.”

Um, no. In describing ourselves we’re mostly likely to tell people about our roles, relationships, work, skills, hobbies, character traits, illnesses or even addictions. But we are so much more!

There is a Buddhist meditation called “Who am I?” that is designed to get people past all of these superficial definitions of Self and help us remember that we are more than. The gist of the meditation is to ask yourself over and over again “Who am I?” until you get past all the transitory pieces and begin to recognize our true selves which are connected to the Divine and everything else in creation. Rabbi Rami Shapiro describes it in a beautiful way when he says, “You arise from God the way sunlight arises from the sun, the way a wave arises int he ocean. The “I” that is your true Self and the true Self of all predates time and creation like an acorn predates an oak…”

James Hillman’s acorn theory suggests that just as the acorn has within it the “map” of its destiny to become the oak tree, so does each human have encoded within him/herself an identity – call it the soul – as part of the primordial instant of all creation. Hillman states that “each person bears a uniqueness that asks to be lived and that is already present before it can be lived.” At birth we forget who we are and our life’s assignment is to remember ourselves and who we were created to be. If we will listen, our souls work to teach us and guide us through our life experiences to become who we were created to be.

Sue Monk Kidd tells a story about being a novice gardener and, not knowing any better, planting her tulip bulbs a foot deep. A gardener friend eventually informed her that a few inches would have been sufficient! Yet, they managed to push through all that dirt to grow and bloom. Kidd draws the connection between the bulb and the true Self. She says, “The Self is already within us, an imprint of our wholeness and divinity.” Seeking realization, our true Selves must push through the dark layers of our false selves to come into the light. Our false selves take many shapes including, the need to please, perfectionism, fear of commitment, emotional distance, anger, negativity, addiction, fear of risk and failure, and the need to be in the spotlight.

Our true Selves, as an emanation of the Divine, manifest as light, joy, peace, compassion, justice, non-judgment, hope and love. The world will try to make us who we aren’t, but our true Selves, the seed planted deep within us, will continue to nudge, annoy and frustrate us to be who we are. Listen!