Archive for June, 2014

What is true power?

Friday, June 27th, 2014

I remember in my public school teaching days running across students in various locations.  It was always startling in a way to be seen outside of the high school’s “habitat.”  Odd no doubt for the student as well.  Seeing a teacher in civilian garb, one person noted, was as odd as seeing a dog walking on its hind legs.

Maybe part of it was being separated from the normal structures of power, or what I supposed to be “power.”

I think power though is far different now than the formal structures that sanctioned my ability to discipline students within the confines of the high school’s walls.  Power, simply put, is more subtle and more profound than the ability to give a student a detention.

Emanuel Swedenborg captured it in these words.  “Spiritual power is to desire the well–being of another, and to desire to give to another as far as possible what is within you.”

That is big.  That is universal.  That is humanity.

A friend on finishing up cooking at a Franciscan Homeless Shelter felt that power. “At the end of the dinner I thought WOW they will do this all again tomorrow and every single day…. 365 days a year. An amazing place!!!”  That is spiritual power worthy of celebration.

God’s Life And A Simple Place To Stand

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

What is God’s life in us?  Simply put it is the where “the life of love and charity dwells.”  When we stand in that space, a place beyond the normal tensions of our human existence, I think we can often sense the wider and settled leading that is God.  The cosmos, a word derived from what is orderly, harmonious, systematic, shines down.  Nothing profound.  Just a simple acknowledgement that God is and maybe within our deep longing, that all is right in the world.

Excommunication in the Mormon Church and Notes of Caution for what Religion Can Become

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

From the New York Times, June 23, 2014…

“Kate Kelly, who unsettled the Mormon Church by founding a movement to advocate opening the male-only priesthood to women, was excommunicated by her bishop and his two counselors in Virginia on Monday….

Bishop Mark Harrison informed Ms. Kelly by email that she had been excommunicated “for conduct contrary to the laws and order of the church,” according to a partial text of the decision shared by an Ordain Women spokeswoman.

The bishop said in the email that Ms. Kelly may not take the sacrament, hold a voluntary position or give a talk in the church; vote for church offices; contribute tithes; or wear the sacred Mormon undergarments.

To be considered for readmission to the church, “you will need to demonstrate over a period of time that you have stopped teachings and actions that undermine the church, its leaders and the doctrine of the priesthood,” the email to Ms. Kelly said. “You must stop trying to gain a following for yourself or your cause and taking actions that could lead others away from the church.”…

Mormons believe that excommunication breaks the eternal ties to one’s spouse and other family members who were sealed together in temple rituals.”

What is written above can be true not just of Mormonism but of many faiths who come to view themselves and their ordained as gate keepers.  From outbreaks of unspeakable violence between Sunnis and Shiites on down these kind of events should signal a caution about the dangers of organized religion when it comes to no longer value an inclusive humanity but instead holds that there is but one path and one way.  Something then as incredibly beautiful and helpful as organized faith can degenerate rapidly in such a toxic environment.

And how do we know when faith has crossed that line?  How do we support religion in holding to the necessary bonds on human conduct that actually allow for a healthy flourishing while at the same time being appropriately wary of the extremism that a fundamentalist approach can engender?  Some ideas.

In this denomination, we believe that the greatest of evils grow out of a love of power for selfish reasons.  We flip consequently from seeing ourselves as servants to instead seeing ourselves as entitled to be served.   We are no longer embedded in a world of fellow travelers on life’s journey but instead become band leaders knowing both the tune and the formation in which all should march.

That kind of narcissistic orientation works it way out into both distorted reasoning and distorted action where we come to truly believe that “killing” in its various forms somehow serves God.

And God’s Word is co-opted by that whole process, a process where the Bible, The Book of Mormon, The Koran is used to legitimate and rationalize behavior that falls far from the clear spirit of a loving God.  The wisdom of revelation is “recruited” and then “distorted” as Emanuel Swedenborg noted.  (Divine Love and Wisdom 274)  It can be”transformed step by step into something false.” (275)

So truth, if it is distorted, no longer serves as the protector but instead serves as a way to mask what in not of God.

Love then remains the ultimate answer.   But this is not sloppy love.  This is not “anything goes” or “nothing matters” or “everything is relative.”  This is agape love …. “an intentional response to promote well-being when responding to that which has generated ill-being.”  (Thomas Oord)   Agape love creates a wisdom that returns religion to its best self and in so doing turns us towards God and each other.

Part of the Covenant

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

God’s covenant with humanity – a promise of love, of faithfulness, a holding – is easy to project as “out there,” some distant document as it were propped up as a hoped for or dreaded contract.  But ‘covenant’ settles far deeper than the legalism we, not God, remain prone to.  The biblical book of Isaiah spoke to that several thousand years ago….

I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.  (Isaiah 42:6-7)

The meaning of these words … subtle and unsettling.  God’s desire for you … to see yourself as part of the covenant, as a living embodiment in some small way of the agreement between the divine and humanity, humble carriers of a life giving heart song.


Pockets of Meaning

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

We were not created to be busy.  We were not created to live in fear.  God created us for purpose, for use, for service, for love finding its way into action.  He created us for happiness.

And we know that place don’t we, those pockets of meaning, that place in our lives where purpose happily breathes, where actions grow not from an inertia-tainted pushing but from a heartfelt pull, a longing as it where.  Such a place feels like home.

That place in many ways places our lives as running against cultural trends of speed, self interest, and consumerism.  The math … far different.  Calculations, qualifications, credentials of a new sort.   A gentleness, a more wide-eyed wonder settles in.  Conviction and voice focus and grow.

These words in the Bible from Isaiah speak to that place….


“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,

my chosen one in whom I delight;

I will put my Spirit on him,

and he will bring justice to the nations.

He will not shout or cry out,

or raise his voice in the streets.

A bruised reed he will not break,

and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.

In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;

he will not falter or be discouraged

till he establishes justice on earth.

In his teaching the islands will put their hope.” (Isaiah 42)


Beautiful!  A place where we sing.


What is God’s Point?

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

“The Lord’s end in view and inmost joy … the salvation of the human race.” (Secrets of Heaven, 2034)

Simple and profound.

God’s goal and God’s joy  is captured in salvation.  And that salvation could be captured in words like ‘awareness’ and ‘connection.’  If we are fully aware, awake to our raucously living connection with God and others, and willing to do the disciplined work that clears that space, we are saved, saved from fear, anger, jealousy, vengeance.  That is heaven here. And that is heaven in the next life.

The poet Mary Oliver captured it well….

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

A Beautiful Task List for NewChurch LIVE…. Find the Courage and Open to Hope

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

One of the many hidden gems of NewChurch LIVE is the Sermon Writing Team, a group that meets once a week to help with Sunday’s message.   This past week the group shared some thoughts on the auspicious occasion of our 5th Anniversary!   Beautiful Thoughts ….

Our Task

  1. Keep shining a light on what is beautiful
  2. Loving action
  3. Living faith
  4. Primacy of experience over achievement
  5. Free to follow our call, to be part of humanity, to love God and others
  6. See God’s image and likeness everywhere
  7. Be emotionally fearless
  8. Create a spiritual home
  9. Approach life with an assumption of good will
  10. Speak it, show it, and live it
  11. See where God is showing up in the world
  12. Decision to sit with disappointments that are part of the death and resurrection cycle
  13. Hold the brokenness that God can act into
  14. Enjoy variety, allowing others to contribute
  15. Celebrate fearlessness
  16. Find the courage to show up and open up to hope


Institutions and Movements

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

A simple concept … institutions form to gather gains made by movements.  Movements form to propose gains to institutions.   The tension remains obvious.  Institutions want to stay put, to reinforce, gather, solidify gains.  Movements want to move, to expand, push boundaries, discover growth.  Movements then tend to court institutions, proposing gains to institutions that often have, in turn, little desire for courtship.  Institutions, after all, love home.  Movements love travel.

Yet God’s plan clearly takes of both institutions and movements.  There is as Emanuel Swedenborg noted, “Living energy in us.”  The energy, God given, connected to love, does not accomplish anything by itself.  That creativity gains embodiment however as the energy moves and “… motion becomes the final stage of energy.”  (Divine Love and Wisdom 218)  And that motion rests in service, act, deed or practice … in the composite space and time thing itself , aka the institution!

The above is complicated … and not.  Institutions need movements.  Movements needs institutions.   Destroy a church or any institution and the first question will be, “How do we build a new one?”  Leave a church or institution in one place long enough, and some who love it will ask, “How do we get this thing moving?”





This is so true ….

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Seth Godin wrote…

Sometimes you can have both, sure, but often, being crystal clear about categorization, topic sentences and the deliverable get in the way of actually making an impact.

If you can make change with a memo containing three bullet points, then by all means, do so.

The rest of the time, you might have to sacrifice the easy ride of clarity for the dense fog of telling stories, using inferences, understanding worldviews and most of all, engaging in action, not outlining the details. of a hypothetical interaction.

It turns out, humans don’t use explanations to make change happen. They change, and then try to explain it.

He is spot on.  We live in world that seeks the super simple list, the bullet point, the step-by-step.

Something about life refuses to be hemmed in that way.  Trees naturally refuse right angels and straight lines.  So do relationships.  So does God.  As Mother Teresa put it, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust.”