Tuesday, January 27, 2009


i know, i know, i'm grading doctoral dissertations and working on lots of stuff for journey and writing a book, but a brother's got to have a few minutes of sabbath. and i heard from judi that there was this website that would take a picture and make it look like the iconic picture of then-candidate obama created by shepard fairey -
well, paste magazine has created a webpage where you can upload a picture and it turns into an obamicon! i made the ones at the top, and here are a few i've found that i like -

you can go make your own obamicons here

love - according to father zosima

i'm reading dostoevsky's 1880 masterwork the brothers karamazov. i've read parts of the novel before, but for months now it kept calling to me. i bought a copy at half price books, and i'm reading it now and it's blowing my mind. dostoevsky was a man who went to some of the darkest and most terrifying places a human being can travel emotionally and physically - and then he had a conversion experience and it wasn't cute; it was a mess; and it is transcendent and mystic and practical and earthy and real.
here's a quote from Father Zosima, an elderly church elder and healer overflowing with wisdom and peace in the midst of the chaos of the world. a woman has come for a blessing and she's overwrought with guilt and sadness. she confesses what to her seems to be something unconscionably bad that she's done. here's his response.
It's pretty much Jesus. get ready.

"Don't be afraid of anything, ever. And do not grieve. As long as your repentance does not weaken, God will forgive everything. There is not - there cannot be - a sin on earth that God will not forgive the truly sorry. Why, a man cannot commit a sin so great as to exhaust the infinite love of God. How could there be a sin that would surpass the love of God? Think only of repentance, all the time, and drive away all fear. Have faith that God loves you more than you can ever imagine. He loves you, sinful as you are and, indeed, because of your sin. It was said long ago that there is more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ten righteous men. God now, and fear nothing. Do not be offended if people treat you badly. Do not hold it against them. And forgive your departed husband all the harm he did to you. Become truly reconciled with him. For if you repent, you love, and if you love, you are with God. Love redeems and saves everything. ... Love is such an infinite treasure that it can buy the whole world and can redeem not only your sins, but the sins of all people. So go, and fear no more."

Monday, January 26, 2009

a little more creepiness from mikeyl

a little creepiness to start the week

and now, ladies and gentlemen, here are some advertisements from the past that are just ... wrong ... ENJOY!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

today this is my favorite phrase from the president's speech:

"Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

a poem for obama.

i watched the inauguration this morning, and the parade this afternoon, jaws agape, tears-in-eyes, amazed, humbled, in a daze, proud. i had no idea what to blog about it. too much.
this isn't politics. it's beyond that. and it's not that the man is black; hell, the man is half white; and i claim all of him. i am a mutt, like him, with native american and slave and european immigrant ancestors. i claim all of what he is about: a new way to see what is possible.
bob c sent this poem by derek walcott. it brought it together. yes.

Forty Acres

Out of the turmoil emerges one emblem, an engraving -
a young Negro at dawn in straw hat and overalls,
an emblem of impossible prophecy, a crowd
dividing like the furrow which a mule has ploughed,
parting for their president: a field of snow-flecked
forty acres wide, of crows with predictable omens
that the young ploughman ignores for his unforgotten
cotton-haired ancestors, while lined on one branch, is
a tense
court of bespectacled owls and, on the field's
receding rim -
a gesticulating scarecrow stamping with rage at him.
The small plough continues on this lined page
beyond the moaning ground, the lynching tree, the tornado's
black vengeance,
and the young ploughman feels the change in his veins,
heart, muscles, tendons,
til the land lies open like a flag as dawn's sure
light streaks the field and furrows wait for the sower.

oh my, oh my.

it wasn't until the 2nd time through that i saw the furrows of the field like stripes in our flag, and saw the scarecrow insisting that change cannot come, and heard the crows cawing. we must ignore them.

we are the sowers. we have the seeds of promise. the young president is plowing the field.

to my soul i say, "Get up, mule. Get up."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

the man cave

a number of you have asked about my man-cave. it's half my garage. some dear brothers from journey ifc came a few summers ago and we built a wall down the middle of the garage, and hung a window-unit a/c unit (an absolute must in texas), and they hung lights and a ceiling fan. it's wonderful.
my spirit-animal is a black bear. bears, in native american archetypology, are keepers of dream-time. it's the bears-hibernate thing; bears go into the cave and dream. a person with bear energy is a dreamer, someone whose imagination can travel in time and space, someone who can act as shaman or interpreter. (bears can also appear slow and laid-back, but don't push them or corner them, or threaten their cubs. they're fast and strong.)
i didn't know all that when i did my spirit-work at a men's retreat a few years ago - all i knew was that in the visioning process, a big black bear appeared to me. who knew? my soul knew, and the universe knew.
i've always been a person who needed a desk to work at, like george bailey in "it's a wonderful life," with drawings and models and toys and quotes. (george's desk in the corner of the living room on sycamore street in bedford falls has a picture of abraham lincoln above it; george is a hero who helps set people free; mr. potter has a bust of napoleon. mr. potter's a dictatorial asshole.)
anyway, i have a man-cave. my wife named it that as we were building it.
here are some pictures:

Friday, January 16, 2009

love and hope

wednesday i drove to houston and back. i was asked to speak at a theology graduate program to some doctor of ministry students. i was part of a panel introducing information and perspectives about the emerging church.
i didn't prepare anything; i didn't want or need anything from them. does that make sense? i just rolled in and answered questions.
(it is a beautiful thing to be at that place in my life.)
anyway, the d.min. students in this program are, as pretty much all d.min. enrollees i know are, professionals in the field of organized religion. they are practitioners in the arts and sciences of church. they run churches, work for churches, do the best they can with what they have.
i felt absolute crushing, heavy, love-drenched compassion for them. i mean, it surprised me.
i suspect that's what god feels - as much as a spirit/force/ineffable presence-beyond-all-comprehension "feels."
yes. compassion and love. i just wanted to tell them all, "you're alright. even if you don't work for 'religion' all your life, you'll be alright. even if you DO work for 'religion' all your life, you'll be alright."
i just told them what we're experiencing as journeyers, and what i've learned from working within organized religion and outside organized religion, about myself and about following jesus. 
i loved 'em. i have no idea if anything i said made sense to them but i'm quite confident god had the whole thing figured out. it's an ongoing journey of discovery, after all. and there's no hurry. unless of course the denomination's district superintendent or whatever bureaucratic tool, is coming at you. and even then, there's no real hurry. just breathe. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

... and, breathe

i've been feeling a bit overwhelmed the last few days.
important stuff happening at work.
ordination process behind schedule with folks ready to start.
journey 2.0 visioning/dreaming process to start.
new worship unit starting.
new bible study unit starting.
lots of phone calls to make re paperwork, accounts, doctor/insurance stuff at home.
errands that need running - returns, mostly.
a root canal to schedule.
journey men's retreat to work on some more.
friends i've missed talking to over the holidays plus a week with the flu.
doctor of ministry students who are turning in chapters that need reviewing as they finish their first drafts of their dissertations.

we did manage to get the christmas decorations shit put in the garage. so, there's that.

and then ... this morning ... getting back from dropping my daughter off at school, walking to the curb to bring in the emptied-yesterday trashcans, i looked up above the houses on our suburban street, into the part of the sky that isn't quite blue yet, and there was the moon, hanging low, and clear. bright.
it hit me - i am on this planet in the universe, and there is a ball of rock, and it's not floating above me in the sky; it's rolling, spinning, around this bigger ball i'm standing on, and it's a very small part of the billions of other balls of rock and clouds of gas and scatterings of debris from explosions and collisions from an unimaginable time ago. and what i do right now matters, but not so much that i can't just stop and breathe and post something on my blog and have a cup of coffee, and breathe.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

what i know now, by jan lemen

carl at simplegestures sent me a link to this blog entry by jen lemen. beauty.

she calls it "what i know now" -

Love is fragile.
Friendship can last a long, long time.
Sitting under the tree to solve your problems African style is as close to magic as it gets.
Nothing heals a wounded soul like an open listening heart.
You can skip to the front of the line, but it only really works out if you’ve already done your work.
Everybody needs kindness and respect and love.
The wisdom of someone who has suffered greatly is a kind light you can trust to show the way.
Most of the limitations you feel are (more often than not) a crisis of imagination.
Dreams can be treasure maps.
Even grownups need blankies sometimes.
Stories are powerful medicine.
Being cracked open is very, very painful but it is not without purpose.
This is never the end of your story.
The problem is not wanting too much; it is not having the courage to want enough.
Desire is a great teacher.
We each have the power to create new possibilities that have not existed before.
In acceptance lies peace. Thinking someone else is in charge of your happiness is sure and certain death.
You can’t learn something quickly or any faster to avoid pain.
The process is the master. Surrender now. Or as best as you can, while screaming.
Breathing into each moment really does help.
Thinking is highly overrated.
Music can be a mentor; movies can be gentle friends.
There’s a certain kind of love that does not let you go.
The sisterhood of friendship is like manna from heaven; it can make you new every morning.
Shame is a killer; kindness is the cure.
You can be okay without knowing.
It’s really good to believe in something, even if it’s how happy you feel standing in a quiet open field.
Being seen, truly seen, and loved just the same is what everyone on this green earth is hoping for, even if they act like they don’t care.
Real privilege is when you are invited to serve and you do it, even if it’s incredibly hard or annoying and not at all the picnic you had planned.
Your heart knows the way through the wilderness; the only thing to do is follow.

What do you know now?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

happy new year mr. obama

here's something i wanted to share. it's kind of long but it's worth it. it's a letter from the brilliant writer alice walker to barack obama, about what is important for some of us as we look forward to the future together. not just for african-americans, not just for progressives, not just for poeple who voted for obama. for all of us.

Dear Brother Obama,

You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear. And yet, this observation is not intended to burden you, for you are of a different time, and, indeed, because of all the relay runners before you, North America is a different place. It is really only to say: Well done. We knew, through all the generations, that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was part of our strength. Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about.

I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on. One gathers that your family is large. We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become juiceless and as white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they remind us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family deserve this fate. One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to them that success is truly an inside job. That it is within the reach of almost everyone.

I would further advise you not to take on other people's enemies. Most damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those feelings occur in all of us, not just in those of us who profess a certain religious or racial devotion. We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise. It is understood by all that you are commander in chief of the United States and are sworn to protect our beloved country; this we understand, completely. However, as my mother used to say, quoting a Bible with which I often fought, "hate the sin, but love the sinner." There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as a means of ruling a people's spirit. This has already happened to people of color, poor people, women, children. We see where this leads, where it has led.

A good model of how to "work with the enemy" internally is presented by the Dalai Lama, in his endless caretaking of his soul as he confronts the Chinese government that invaded.

Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

In Peace and Joy,
Alice Walker