Living with a Story

For most people, the church year consists of Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter. However, for me, being a minister for over 50 years, the church year became a frame for my life and work, although my congregation was probably unaware of the significance of the church year except for the change of colors and certain holy days.  As my Evolutionary Christian perspective developed, I saw the church year as a paradigm for the unfolding story of creation. The scriptures are the human memory of how God is present in every place and stage of life. The Christian story is not stagnant–already cast in stone. It is an evolving story in which all of us are participants, decision makers and influencers who shape our destiny–a destiny that is not decided yet.  So, this year I chose to live into the seasons in a contemplative way. From the hanging of our Moravian star in the dark days of COVID, to Jesus’s words to the remnant disciples after the resurrection, I discovered it is still the story which gives my life vision and purpose.

Advent claimed me right away with the word Hope.  In the ninth month of being defined and confined by COVID 19, the question “What is the hope you are living with?” became my leading light for Advent and for this whole church year. My Advent Blog explains this in more depth. 

Continue reading
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Hanging onto Hope

It’s now been a year living with COVID 19. Every month there is a new perspective, new information, adjustments to my thinking, new questions about life as we have been living it, variants, looking forward to vaccine, and wondering what’s next. In light of a myriad of invitations to attend on-line studies, discussions, friend’s on-line visits, concerts and church groups, I have chosen to follow the church year beginning in Advent and explore the meaning and influence my faith gives to me in this time.

Hope seemed to be the theme that jumped out at the beginning of Advent and stayed with me as a way of “living through”.  I have usually been a pretty positive person, a born optimist.  But I must confess that after a year this has become a trying time.

The shape of hope was being more present to my own reality of retirement in a pandemic; deciding what is really important to focus on, and what beliefs and actions I need to let go of. My wife and I did more cleaning out and throwing stuff away. In the process, finding things like our Moravian Advent star which we hung in our living room window for the first time in several years, and my father’s retirement watch which I am now wearing.  Hope is connecting with the traditions and memories that are really connected to my identity.

No matter how positive I tried to be about the value of darkness, the gift of reflection, the place of spiritual connection; it cannot replace the value of a hug.  The face on a screen is not the same as a face in my living room, sharing life in a much bigger way.

Hope, for me, always emerged as the new year arrived. The new year was not so much about looking back, as looking ahead and dreaming about tomorrow.  I am looking forward to a time that will be more full of life, and maybe some travel again.

Following Advent, the season of Epiphany is the wise person’s journey — the inner experience of meeting the sacred and wondering what this means for personal futures and the future of the world.  The biblical instruction to go home by another route seems the basis of hope.  It is no longer enough to just meet the Christ, nor to merely recognize the Christ; it is now necessary to live in unity with the Christ. What does going home by a different route, living in a new way mean for me, for my church community, and for the world I live in?

Huge divisions in our world have come into focus with Black Lives Matter, the invasion of the Capitol building in the U.S. and the long transition of power in the White House — leaving a huge divide between the conservative right and the progressive left.  And not to forget the COVID 19 vaccine rollouts in the midst of economic challenges that will stress governments around the world for years to come.

Climate emergencies continue to remind me that the clock is ticking on the future of human life on our planet.  Hope is hard to hang onto in the midst of a whirlwind where there are too many issues and too little agreement — wondering if there is enough time to make a difference. And still I carry on with new initiatives and actions: we put insulation in our attic and are now talking about solar panels for our house. I have joined with a few others wondering about the future of the church and how we can focus the energy of hope and love to make a difference.  HOPE is Having Other Perspectives Emerge. Or Helping Other Perspectives Emerge.

Commanding Hope by Thomas Homer-Dixon has been a guidebook on hope for me.  He talks about hope needing to be honest, astute and powerful. It is the movement from “hope that” to “hope to”.  The former phrase is passive, and the latter phrase needs a verb, an action. The Evolutionary Spiritual perspective is not that someone or something is going to come and save us.  That is a passive approach to life. Waiting on Jesus, or a vaccine, or some new technology to get us out of our predicament so we can get back to being the same people who caused the predicament in the first place is not an active approach. Continue reading

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A Thought on Telling the Truth

My wife, Sylvia, and I usually sit and talk while we have our morning coffee.  Of course, we have been talking about the events of the last two days with the counting of the electoral college votes and the invasion of the Capitol Building by Trump supporters.  She made a comment which really stopped me, and made me reflect on the situation in the United States, being a former citizen of that country. 

Joe Biden said in addressing the current situation, “This is not who we are as Americans; we are better than this”.

Commenting on Biden’s words, Sylvia said, “And this belief is a big part of the problem. The American people believe they and their country are better than everyone and everyplace else in the world. And they are not.  It is time for Americans to look realistically at their history, their past and current values, and the current hatred between the two political parties. Someone needs to step up and help them begin to see themselves accurately as a country that has accomplished much, and also promoted and benefitted from terrible racism, self-centeredness and inequality. What we see today IS who they are as a people. Pretending otherwise just stifles self-awareness and change.”

And my thinking went further afield: we have a similar problem here in Canada as we address our relationship with Indigenous peoples.  We have to come clean by not just apologizing for past behaviour but acknowledging how past behaviour has made us blind to who we are today.  We are still not taking responsibility for the way we treated indigenous people and the way we continue to treat them.    

Another friend sent me a written post about the current U.S. situation viewing it from a Jungian perspective.  When people do not admit who they are, they have an internal conflict.  If that is ignored long enough, it is acted out in the outer world so they can see who they really are.  And that is difficult to face, so we continue to justify bad behaviour or minimize it. When we do this, friendships are destroyed, ugly comments are made, violence often happens, like in spousal abuse, and others get to see us as we really are. 

We need to have serious conversations about how our past behaviour has not been acceptable and how who we are is not healthy.  We need to discuss ways of reconciliation that lead us toward accepting each other and living together to build a city or a country we want to live in together.

I appreciate those around me who continue to engage with me, listen to me and also speak their truth.

PS. Just ready to post this blog and saw this commentary in Broadview Magazine.  At is an expanded comment about what I am posting.

Posted in Indigenous Relations, Justice, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Who Doesn’t Dream of This Year Being Different?

Trying to write a blog for the new year, my thoughts have been all over the place. We’ve just been through a pandemic Christmas – a Christmas with restrictions about how we can gather with other people. As I was wondering about the meaning of Christmas (which I do every year) I was struck by the dichotomy of having to stay away from people, while celebrating Jesus’s birth as an invitation to draw the world closer together. The themes of Advent, Hope, Peace, Joy and Love, still help me explore what life is about. A line from O Little Town of Bethlehem, “The hopes and fears of all the years, are met in Thee tonight”, has always defined Christmas for me.

Because of COVID-19 we chose to send Christmas E-cards rather than meet people in person. We needed to express our love and connection to those who matter to us. We reached out with zoom meetings and phone calls. We decorated and baked cookies to share on doorsteps. I realized that hope is not in a vaccine that will allow us to get back to some way of living that was pretty good. The Christmas celebration is inspired by a sacred presence that came into our world and gave us a calling/purpose to draw the world together in love.  

On the doorstep of 2021 I reflect on the pandemic year behind me that made me more cautious, more reflective, and more concerned about my family, my community and my world. It has drawn me deeper into my faith where I find support and a path for going forward. My hope is that we have recognized destructive patterns of behaviour which caused division and conflict, and will begin to adopt a new vision for working together to create a more welcoming and caring community for all people. Now, that is a big dream! The question for me to answer Is,  “What am I going to do to play a part in creating this new normal”? Continue reading

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Entering Advent With Hope

Every Advent I return to my ritual of asking the question, “What does Christmas mean to me this year?”

Richard Rohr’s book, The Universal Christ, helped me put words to the celebration of the coming of Jesus.  In Rohr’s view, Jesus’s birth was the second incarnation.  The first incarnation was when God entered the physical world in the creation of the universe.  The work of Advent is to open my heart to the Universal Christ who calls me to celebrate this connection with the divine mystery. Sometimes it feels like the movie, Groundhog Day, where the main character begins the same day over and over again, learning something each time, until finally he gets the message of how he is to live that allows him to break free and live his new life.  This is the moment of transformation which, I believe, is the second coming of Jesus we are waiting for.  Here I am back at the beginning of Advent another time but not the same person I was last year.

The atmosphere of this pandemic, which just keeps getting worse, seems to give this Advent a new  meaning.  There is a lot of reflection these days, indicating that this is a time to rethink everything – capitalism, democracy, the imbalance of the rich and poor in our economic system, racism and the mission of the Christian church.  This is a short list of problems that are surfacing for a serious re-think.

I led a Listening Circle just before Advent began and used a poem, Old Maps No Longer Work by Joyce Rupp, as an invitation to share what life is like for them right now. (The whole poem is printed in my last post.)

Creating a sacred space for about eight other people to listen to their heart and share what they find, is a deeply spiritual experience.  I felt the idea of pilgrimage in the poem was “the hope in the midst of uncertainty and darkness” when we realize that many of our old ways are now dead ends.  Advent seems to be a pilgrimage of faith and reflection. A pilgrimage –walking on purpose– begins with a call, requires preparation, then a commitment to walk, until the arrival at a destination.  And then returning home again with new insight. Continue reading

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Poems and Prayers and Promises

I haven’t stopped thinking but I have not been able to share it lately.  Beginning with COVID and Black Lives Matter and the U.S. election I have been oppressed by negative thinking.  However, today I realize that I have been having a senior moment – not a moment of forgetting, but a time of remembering and reminiscing. Spurred on by some friends this summer, my wife and I began looking at the decades of our lives – 77 years in 7 weeks.  That, coupled with the additional help of two book studies this fall, The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr and Living the Examined Life by James Hollis, helped me to do a review of who I am and what I believe.  Finally, I have something I want to share in my blog.

Poems and Prayers and Promises is a song by John Denver that came back to me just a day ago.  It is a summary of my time of reflection.

I’ve been lately thinking
About my life’s time
All the things I’ve done
And how it’s been
And I can’t help believing
In my own mind
I know I’m gonna hate to see it end

I’ve seen a lot of sunshine
Slept out in the rain
Spent a night or two all on my own
I’ve known my lady’s pleasures
Had myself some friends
And spent a time or two in my own home

And I have to say it now
It’s been a good life all in all
It’s really fine
To have a chance to hang around
And lie there by the fire
And watch the evening tire
While all my friends and my old lady
Sit and pass the pipe around

And talk of poems and prayers and promises
And things that we believe in
How sweet it is to love someone
How right it is to care
How long it’s been since yesterday
And what about tomorrow
And what about our dreams

And all the memories we share
The days they pass so quickly now
Nights are seldom long
And time around me whispers when it’s cold
The changes somehow frighten me
Still I have to smile
It turns me on to think of growing old
For though my life’s been good to me
There’s still so much to do
So many things my mind has never known
I’d like to raise a family
I’d like to sail away
And dance across the mountains on the moo

This sums up weeks of thinking … It’s been a good life – actually its been a great life – all in all. And there is still so much to do. 

Our church had a service on poetry and politics last Sunday that ended with the fisherman’s prayer.  “Be merciful to me, O God, because my boat is small, and the ocean is wide.”  It is a poignant poem prayer that expresses how I feel so often.  Poetry can do that.  But my mind flew off to, “but where is the politics here?” Continue reading

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Synchronicity, Fantasy or the Spirit of God?

It seems like I am in a movie, or life really is stranger than fiction.  It is now October and I am back inside, mostly self-isolating, wondering who I am in the midst of a pandemic, U.S. election, Black Lives Matter, and racism protests.  My struggle is to reimagine retirement.  Or is it to reimagine life and where we go from here?

I am reading three books (two for on-line book clubs), Living the Examined Life by James Hollis, The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr and Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. In my recent reading and experience I’ve been aware of a fascinating synchronicity that supports my evolutionary belief system.  Sapiens traces the development of Homo Sapiens from primitive beings to becoming the most developed and dangerous species on Earth.  In the beginning there were six types of Homo people (including Neanderthals) that existed for 2.5 million years. About 10,000 years ago Homo Sapiens were the only ones left.  How is it that we are the one surviving species?

Harari identifies the changes that led to our evolution.  In the beginning early human groups were only about 30-50 people in size.  This was the number of people one could intimately relate to and trust.  These large extended families had limited capacity for growth, but they did survive this way for millions of years. Then Homo Sapiens developed a peculiar ability – the ability to believe things that could not be proven. Harari calls these fictions. They were fictions known as myths and religious beliefs that described a world of known and unknown connections.  Now people could organize around common beliefs and trust others who held similar beliefs about the world/reality.  They did not have to know everyone personally.  This enabled groups of 150 people to gather for common tasks like hunting.  A larger group using strategy and cooperation could hunt larger animals, or herd groups of animals into mass slaughter.  This led to food security, less time needed for hunting and eventually to a better lifestyle than other human groups who were unable to do this.  This development in consciousness allowed trade to develop, where information, tools and different foods were shared across distances with their new connections.  Continue reading

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I Am Tired ….

Poem: I Am Tired, July 2020

I am tired of searching for meaning
And reading about letting go

I am tired of preaching the meaning
Of proclaiming Yes and getting No

I am tired of reaching for meaning
In the jumble of feelings and yearnings, though


Being Tired, I have all the time I need
To ease into the web of life

Being Tired, I have all the rhyme
The desires of my heart to midwife praise

Being Tired, I am still in my prime
Of life, believing hope is still rife

This poem emerged from meditation time, the first week of July, when encouraged to reflect on who we are and how we feel. Continue reading

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I Don’t Know How the Angel’s Woke Me Up This Morning Soon

Here I am again at 5:15 am, an hour later than I first woke up.  This has become a regular wake up call and I can’t get back to sleep.  What am I thinking?  Why can’t I stop thinking?

These are the words going through my mind today – a song from Sweet Honey in the Rock.

I Believe

I don’t know how my mother walked her trouble down
I don’t know how my father stood his ground
I don’t know how my people survive slavery
I do remember, that’s why I believe

I don’t know how the rivers overflow their banks
I don’t know how the snow falls and covers the ground
I don’t know how the hurricane sweeps through the land
Every now and then
Standing in a rainstorm, I believe

I don’t know how the angels woke me up this morning soon
I don’t know how the blood still runs thru my veins
I don’t know how I rate to run another day
Standing in a rainstorm, I believe

My God calls to me in the morning dew
The power of the universe knows my name
Gave me a song to sing and sent me on my way
Raise my voice for justice, I believe

It started with the death of George Floyd.  And the eruption of anger.  The marches. The violence. And the spread of these protests all over the world.

I have been through this before in the 60’s civil rights movement with Dr. Martin Luther King and the relentless demonstrations and push back, and finally the killing of Dr. King. White students and activists from the north going south to sign up black voters.  The federal government finally weighing in to open up schools and begin to dismantle the systematic racism in the segregation system that kept black people out of the mainstream promise of equality, and the possibility of a good life.  That opened the door – but only a crack.  It was a beginning.  It was almost 50 years later that a black president was elected.  Twice.  The door opened another crack, a little bit wider but so did the strength of those holding the door.  The opposition almost shut down the president’s ability to get legislation passed that would guarantee health care for all.  Too expensive. Communist.”

Old fears were not old, they were and are still alive and well, hiding in the system.  2020 and COVID 19, a worldwide pandemic began to lift the veil of oppression that kept an economic system alive and well, mostly benefiting the rich.  Slavery under a different guise. And not only people of colour and minority groups. All of us slaves to the system. Until it became apparent it was not working for all.  Not even for many.  It had gotten out of control.  And the death of another black man, blatant, on camera, 9 minutes of smug pressure on George Floyds neck as he was saying, “I Can’t Breathe”.

Very quickly we became aware that these words were our words. Those who seek equality and justice.  We can’t breathe.  We can’t breathe in this system of oppression and violence.  Not just oppressed people (indigenous people, blacks, minority groups, poor people) but many of us privileged people–white people of privilege–woke up to the fact that the time has come, the opportunity is here to right the wrongs, expose the racism, and change the world.

Powerful voices. Young voices. And some Christian voices.  At a Spiritual Nurture meeting Monday night, they showed a 23-minute sermon, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, by Rev. Otis Moss.  My reaction was, “The white church is so tame.”  Where is our passion?  Where is the Spirit?  We are in the season of the Spirit.  I am involved in three groups at the church and they are all about connecting with God, each other and our soul.  I get it.  We need to find the voice of the Spirit speaking in our heart.  But we seem to be blind and deaf.  The voice is loud and clear.  The agenda is obvious.  But we struggle to see and hear.  Who said that 2000 years ago?  Most of us white people at Spiritual Nurture Monday night were at a loss as to how we can be involved.  What can we do? Wake up now. Listen now. Act now.

Another Pentecost sermon ( by Bishop Michael Curry at the Washington National Cathedral was about the pandemic of selfishness that has infected human nature. In the Bishop’s words, “…this pandemic is not of the viral kind, but of the spiritual kind. It is a pandemic of the human spirit, when our lives are focused on ourselves, when the self becomes the center of the world and of the universe. It is a pandemic of self-centeredness. And it may be even more destructive than a virus. This pandemic of self-centeredness, if you will, has been the root cause of every humanly created evil that has ever hurt or harmed any child of God or even the earth itself.”

Will we have a sustained response to address inequality this time?  Can we open that door all the way to freedom and equality?  There is a new energy.  There already has been a quick response with local governments promising reform for the police system.  But what about an attitude adjustment for all of us?  Repentance for our own self-centeredness?  In the first civil rights movement it was necessary for white people to march and act along side black brothers and sisters to get things done.  White lives also matter here, not in opposition to black lives but in support of black lives–in support of indigenous lives.  We need to share our world and use our power to invite others into our privileged world.  We can do this.

That’s what I was thinking at 5:15 this morning.  Now I have said it out loud.  But I can’t go back to sleep. There is another day and it is not all about me.  The power of the universe knows my name.  Your name too.  And gives us a song to sing, a task to do, a call to fulfill.  The Spirit is moving, and we let it move us.

This is not a victory dance.  This is going to be a long and unpleasant experience, but we are not alone. We do not have to be alone.

Posted in Black Lives Matter, Evolutionary Thinking, Indigenous Relations, Justice, Spirituality | 2 Comments

The Way to Emmaus and Back Again: Reflections on 41 Days After Easter:

I am wondering how you are as we move into the third month of self-isolating. Sylvia and I look out the windows of our sun room and say to each other, “It doesn’t look dangerous out there.”  And then we remember the news and tell each other that we feel safe on our own property and in our own home.  And we continue to self-isolate.  With the nice weather, we are out in our garden daily and so are our neighbors.  So that gives us an opportunity to meet with people over the fence.  Our family dropped by with flowers for Mother’s Day, respecting the 6-foot distancing, and we enjoyed face to face conversations.

I spend a lot of time reading, attending Zoom seminars, and reflecting on my place in a changing world. I have begun to live into the Easter and post-Easter Christian scriptures.  In my imagination I think this must be similar to the disciples in the upper room after they experienced a world-shattering event (the death of Jesus and then rumours he was not dead).  Confusing information and personal experiences led them to believe that waiting together was the right thing to do. This would lead to the fulfillment of the promise that the Spirit would come to them and lead them out of their current situation.  I am sure they did not have a clue what that would look like, as they wondered, waited questioned and encouraged one another.

Coincidentally (are there really any coincidences?) I was reminded of Mark Nepo’s book, The Exquisite Risk, and read a few pages from the chapter by the same title.   A portion from the first paragraph says, “At any moment, if quiet enough and open enough, we can drop into the fabric or existence in which everything, even pain, has its vivid signature of energy that we call, at different times, truth or beauty or peace.  It is from this ground of being that we know and feel the unseeable web of connection between all life…. The exquisite risk that St. John speaks of is twofold: the risk to still our own house so that Spirit can come through, so that we might drop into the vital nature of things, and the risk to then let that beautiful knowing inform our days.”

The pandemic is the backdrop of our life right now, wherever we are in the world.  I find more people writing about this time with hope that this just might be the way our life is re-shaped and renewed.  If we can still our lives long enough to be in the moment, if we spend time contemplating what our lives are about and what is wrong with us as a society, and the ways we can be different, it might just be the catalyst for the emerging of a more just society.  I read an article (but I didn’t keep it unfortunately) about how the plagues of the 13th and 16th centuries changed the social and political order of the day.  The question now on the lips of many people is “How do we make our world more equitable and how do we make the changes that seem so needed yet so impossible?”  And then, all of a sudden, our world is torn apart.  And there is an opportunity to create a new normal.  There is more awareness of us being in this together, and about caring for each other rather than fighting with each other.  I hear more people saying they appreciate the slowing down.

I am part of a group in Calgary called The Calgary Alliance for the Common Good.  We have become an influential alliance of 39 agencies, spiritual communities and unions who are working for solutions to community concerns in the areas of social isolation, seniors staying in their homes, indigenous relations, mental health and addictions.  And now we have a task force working toward encouraging the federal government to establish a basic income in our country.  There is a growing movement of political, social and business groups that understand how a basic income would save governments a lot of money and improve the lives of many vulnerable people.  The end of this pandemic may be a long way away, which gives us time to embrace changes in the way we show up in this world.

Waiting for the Spirit is waiting for the energy for a new life that will send us out the door in a new way with a new message of love and understanding.  It is not something that we can invent, it is not cobbling together the hopes and dreams of yesterday.  Rather, it is a light coming from the future showing us who we can be, along with an energy to be a part of what is to come.

The disciples waited for 50 days and I am sure on day 37 and 49 some of the disciples were complaining and getting restless, “How long are we going to wait for something to happen?  This is boring and we are tired of waiting.”  I’m sure the disciples got on each other’s nerves living together in a small area, yet I am also sure they took time to pray, reflect, and talk about important things, preparing for the time when they would be moving on.

Posted in Covid-19, Justice, Progressive Christianity, Spirituality | 1 Comment

A Template of a Spiritual Journey

Using Lent as a time of contemplation has been a long tradition for me, in which I commit to a daily time of reflection and prayer. My current question is, “What does this season mean to me this year?” Usually my discipline wanes over time. But this year the universe conspired to see that I had plenty of free time for contemplation, prayer and meditation.  The pandemic has my wife and me self-isolating for the past month. Zoom allowed me to visit with friends and attend seminars at our church, which all helped me in my time of reflection.

My first significant awareness came after a Spiritual Nurture evening three weeks ago. The theme was reflecting on being and doing. The presenter used Cynthia Bourgeault’s 20-minute video Being is Not Something You Are.  Cynthia teaches that, “Being is life experience beyond words, it is visiting the energetic centre of presence, the heart space” —the place in us where we experience the unity of all things.

After the presentation I talked with two other participants about missing physical touch which Is so important to all of us. As we do many things on-line these days, including church, we are missing physically being with people. I commented that I missed the passing of the peace at our Sunday on-line church service. The touch, the experience of connection was absent. Another woman in the conversation suggested that we use chakra balance, a type of energy balance, to bring us into unity.

The place of touch in this time of physical distancing raises the question, “How do individuals experience touch when we are at a distance? I suggest that passing the peace on-line could include putting your hand over your heart, closing your eyes, visiting the energetic heart centre, where all are connected. Maybe you heard a prayer request that moved you; remember that person, bring them close to you in your heart centre where all is one. Allow yourself to be with them. Perhaps you then think of someone you are missing, a friend, a neighbour, a colleague. Bring them close for a moment, touch them with the invisible hand of love. Do this by remembering your experience with them and the gift that they are in your life. We often share the passing of the peace with people we do not know; we welcome the stranger. Let your heart be open to the unknown person who comes to you (perhaps it is a first responder, a medical person, a refugee). Finally, as you feel the touch of your hand on your heart, hear the words “Lay your hands gently upon me, may their touch render your peace.”  Take it in.

Continue reading

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What’s Going On?

A question that has come up consistently throughout my ministry is: “Do we always have to go through trouble to learn and grow”. My answer has always been: “Yes, it seems to be the only way we really learn what we need to learn”.

The belief that if we really were faithful enough we would not get into trouble is not biblical.  Trouble is not a punishment, but it may be a consequence of a bad decision.  Richard Rohr recently posted: “We are not punished for our sins, we are punished by our sins”.  Life has its ups and downs but we are constantly told that if we are good life can be just a movement from one good thing to another.  And if life is complicated and difficult it’s our fault and someone has a product or a course that can fix it.

The place of good religion is to keep us centered and hopeful when life gets hard and the challenges threaten to overwhelm us. The place of good religion is to help us keep moving to deeper levels of consciousness and understanding of our place in the universe.  I want to share with you Richard Rohr’s blog that came two days ago. He talks about the patterns of life that lead us through the valleys and show us the path to new life.
Continue reading

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What Was I Thinking! Mostly About COVID-19

It seems I have become obsessed with numbers, movement, self-isolation, symptoms, etc. etc. Watching the pandemic spread around the world and now to Alberta with 70 cases in Calgary.  We have done well here in preparing for the arrival of the virus, but it is here now.  I am 76 and my wife and I have decided to nearly self-isolate.  Our church, Hillhurst United Church, has cancelled all in-house services, meetings and activities and we had our first on-line worship service Sunday, March 15.  I have attended two zoom church groups: one on spiritual nurture and the other a 7am group meditation.  It’s a good way to stay connected and still stay at home.

I went from thinking “This is still far away and I am a healthy person; it won’t happen to me” to “It is now around town and maybe around me and I am still a healthy person and I want to stay that way”.  It has finally sunk in that my immune system can not protect me from catching COVID 19 because it is completely unfamiliar to the human body. None of us has built up any immunity to it.  Depending on our health we can, of course, recover from it easily or not so easily.  I am not panicky, haven’t bought toilet paper yet; nor am I fearful.  But I want to be careful, take this threat seriously and do my part to flatten the curve and keep hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. Continue reading

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A New Time and Place: Transformation

Lent has always been a special time for me because I use it to reflect on my time and place in this world and prepare for the experience of Easter.  When I was putting together a two-minute talk to advertise a Lenten program at Hillhurst United, I read the first chapter of Terry  O’Reilly’s book, This I know, a delightful book about interesting stories of successes and failures of various marketing plans by this CBC host of Under the Influence.  For instance, what is Molson Brewing’s product?  It’s not beer; it’s partying.  Michelin Tires doesn’t sell tires; they sell safety: “Someone special is riding on your tires.”  So, I asked myself, What am I selling?  Is it a program for lent?  What business is the church in?  Some would say salvation but, being an evolutionary thinker, I would say transformation.  So, I began my two-minute announcement like this:

Wow, what a week: Alberta budget, rail blockades, stock market correction and the threat of the Coronavirus.  I wouldn’t be surprised if you missed the other big event that happened in our lives this past Wednesday when we slipped into another time and place in the rhythm of the Christian year. We are in the season of Lent, the 40 days before Easter.  It is a time to reflect on our values of spirituality and social justice.  It is a time when we Christians choose some particular discipline that will help us grow in our relationships of love – with God, with each other, with ourselves and with the Earth.   Give It Up for The Earth is a discipline that can help us focus on what it means to live in a world where a climate emergency is real, and our response is difficult. There is a brochure in front of you that is an invitation to be a part of Give It Up for The Earth.

After connecting lent and this program I needed to connect the program to the listener. Continue reading

Posted in Climate Change Controversy | 2 Comments

A Crisis Made In Canada: Here’s What I Was Thinking

We are experiencing an Indigenous blockade of our rail lines.  The Conservatives want to use force to open up the line and the Liberals are taking another path – negotiation.  What do the indigenous groups want?  Do they want Canada to starve?  Do they want to destroy the country?  What is the solution here?

I think Trudeau should tell this story to help us understand.

The Indigenous people came to this land a long, long time ago and they built a house and lived on this land, in this house for a long time until white visitors came.  It took a while, but these visitors were eventually invited to stay in the house and share the land.  But the visitors brought more family and friends –more people until there were too many for the size of the house –not enough room for everyone.  So the white visitors threw out the indigenous people and gave them a shed in the back yard to live in.  No running water and few amenities and not enough land to make a good life.  As many years went by the distance between them grew, and the white people tried to get them out of the shed as well.  But that didn’t work.  And here we are.  So, if you are mad about the blockades then you understand how indigenous people feel about someone else restricting their lives and threatening their livelihoods.  And here we are.

The issue is not just about a piece of land to build a pipeline on, it is about building a bigger house so indigenous people can have a place In Canada.  It is about respecting the land and the people. Even bigger than that, it is about respecting the whole Earth as a sacred place that will support us if we use it properly.  It is about an understanding and a respect for other each other.  We have to elevate the conversation and we white people must be willing to share the abundance if we hope to have a future here.

We don’t just need the permission of the indigenous Chiefs; we need to include them in making decisions that effect all Canadians, and open a door that allows them back into the house.  Show them, not just tell them, we respect their right to manage the land.  That is hard for us because we think in terms of contracts, not relationships.  “When will we ever learn?” (Pete Seeger)

Posted in Indigenous Relations, Justice, Spirituality | 1 Comment

Awe and Wonder

I was preparing to write my first blog for the new year on “2020, the Year of Perfect Vision”. I have been saying this as we approached 2020 because it seems to me that faith gives us a different perspective – a new vision to guide our life. Humanity needs a new vision to save us from chaos and destruction. Jesus often talked about blindness being a problem for human beings.

However, two days after we got back from two weeks in Mexico my wife and I went to church to begin to re-connect with our life back in Calgary. One of our ministers, Don McLeod, chose Awe and Wonder as the theme for the service. I could feel myself wondering and anticipating as the service began. It felt different. There was no pulpit. The usual pattern was altered slightly. It was even more informal than usual, yet connected. Mary Oliver’s poem “Instructions for Living a Life: Be Aware, Be Astonished, Tell Someone” was read. And the choir anthem was “Everyday Miracles”.  The scripture was from the Gospel of Thomas, second teaching: 2) “Jesus said, If you are seeking, continue seeking until you find it. But when you find it you will become troubled. And your troubling will give rise to astonishment. Being astonished, you will have power over all.”

Don began his sermon with a conversation with a young boy with whom he has been having conversations about God for over a year. The conversations began when the boy asked Don, ”Is it illegal for someone to come to church who doesn’t believe in God?” The conversation continued about the boy’s belief in science and there being no proof of God’s existence. It was about a seven-minute conversation that ended with the thought: Science is a new tradition that is introducing us to the universe we live in and are a part of. In this new way of looking we discover the everyday miracles of the sacredness of life. The universe really is a part of us, in and around us, and the more we pay attention to it the more we understand that it is a sacred body where we live and breathe and find our being (my summary).

Then Don told us the purpose of the sermon: “I want you to leave today with an inkling of awe and wonder; to be on the edge of your seat enough for you to be able to re-connect with the sacred in all things. Is that too much to ask?” My first response was “Yes it is”. This reaction surprised me and when I explored it, I realized that I felt that this focus on only the positive was too easy. Awe has both a negative and a positive side. Continue reading

Posted in Evolutionary Thinking, Progressive Christianity, Spirituality | Leave a comment

The Christmas Story, Santa, Carols and the Ones I Love

Christmas messages have come to me again this year as I spent time reflecting on the story that has directed and supported my life for 76 years.  In my early years my parents introduced me to the Christmas story and church.  Parents play an important role in what a child comes to believe.  Not only by what they say but also what they do – how  they model or live the Christmas story or the gospel story.

For most of my life as a Christian minister I asked the question, “What does the Christmas story mean to me this year?”  I knew the story was not factual; but I knew it was true!  So how do I share this story and make it come alive for people this year.  I use Advent as a way of listening for the answer. It is my contemplative practice.

This year I used the prayer which I shared in my last blog that begins: “Now, O Lord, calm me into a quietness that heals and listens…”  In the carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem, the words and music draw me into this prayer space of reflection and connection.

1. O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light.
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

3. How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is giv’n!
So, God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of his heav’n.
No ear may hear his coming;
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him, still
The dear Christ enter in.

At a recent family gathering an anxious mother brought up the dilemma: What do we tell our children as they get older and want to know if Santa is real?  Her dilemma was, Will they still be able to trust me when they discover I have lied to them for 10 years? This mother also put it in the context of a previous experience with her children’s discovery that the Tooth Fairy was not “real”. It was just their parents. Continue reading

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The Great ADVENTure

The cycle of the Christian year begins again.  I like beginnings.  It is a sign of hope and new possibilities.  At the beginning of the Christmas season, Advent gives me the opportunity to explore the depths of the mystery at the foundation of my life.  There is the literal story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus.  Then there is the bigger story of spiritual connections that embrace my own story and how I participate in the life of the universe.  My journey has been a long road of continuing to find meaning in the religion I grew up in.  And there have been challenges all along the way, as new information (other religions) and new traditions (science) have showed up to be included in my big picture of life.

As I dig deeper into the meaning of this sacred season, I have sometimes created poetry.  For a few years I selected a poem form and let my heart and mind freely associate around the question:  “How do I express the deep truth of the Christmas story this year?”  These are two of my poems from previous years. Continue reading

Posted in Justice, Progressive Christianity | 5 Comments

White Privilege and Retirement

The first weekend in November I attended a workshop led by Brian McLaren who wrote the book, The Great Spiritual Migration, noted in an earlier blog.  He first addressed the question, “Should I stay in the church or should I leave?”  It was ground-breaking and foundation shattering to me. I have never thought about leaving the church.   His assessment is that many people cannot stay in the church because it does not support their integrity and does not offer them a future that has hope.  His reasoning went a lot deeper than the fact that some people get hurt by the church or the church is not keeping up with the times for young people.  He offered us a history of oppression that began very early by establishing a male domination system, and then cited a 1452 Papal bull ( that gave the kings of Europe a mandate to go into the world and kill or capture (as slaves) anyone who is a Muslim or a pagan (all non-Christians) and seize all their goods (wealth) for their own profit.  This was the ”Age of Discovery”, the beginning of the era of colonialism that continues to today.  The control of the interpretation of Christian scripture by the educated elite allowed a misinterpretation and a misuse of scripture to undermine the gospel message of what loving one another means.

The Christian Identity should be one who stands against violence and stands for the building of community (the Kingdom of God) where all people have a place.  McLaren cites white privilege as the most insidious power to plunder the earth because we have the most guns and money to do it – and it was sanctioned as a divine right by Christianity.  We are waking up to this truth today, but this belief has become the operative way of life in the western world. Continue reading

Posted in Evolutionary Thinking, Justice, Progressive Christianity | 7 Comments

Random Thoughts and Rants

My last post was August 26th.  What was I thinking in the past 7 weeks?  I have been stuck in a negative rant about how bad things are in the world and what can one person do anyway!  When I say stuck, I mean going over actions by Donald Trump like pulling U.S. troops out of Syria so fast that they had to bomb their own bases there to prevent others from getting the equipment they had to leave behind.  Pulling out so Turkey could bomb their allies.  I get so angry when I read news like this that my mind goes on a tirade for days. Where is the sanity when he gets no push back from world leaders?

Then there is the Canadian election. Where is the good thinking?  Where is the leadership?  Trudeau seems to have lost his edge, my total dislike for Sheer, and living in a riding where a conservative win is a foregone conclusion, pushes me to search for an alternative way to send a message to Ottawa to do some new thinking.

I ruminate about stuff.  I want Trudeau to pull the liberal candidate from the riding where Jody Wilson  Raybould is running as a sort of apology for the way he treated her.  I want someone to speak about issues that matter – which means I want some candidate to treat me as a person who can think and understand big issues.  Instead I get a tax break or drivel or name calling.  Elizabeth May is one bright light who has a history of intelligent debate and is calling for doing politics differently. I will probably turn Green this election. Jagmeet Singh has shown good leadership but I want radical. Continue reading

Posted in Climate Change Controversy, Justice, Science and Religion | 2 Comments