Monday, October 7, 2013

Something new is happening inside of me.  Im not sure what it is, I just know I am at the edge of a precipice. We are having a baby, the church is healthier than ever before, yet more broken than ever.  Art mimics life. Or informs it?  Sinner and simultaneously Saint.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Hints of Transcendence

“Moses attentive to what he sees, names the revelation, makes it conscious and in turn is named by the Transcendent. From that moment, Moses himself is changed.

He still lisps, he is still a misfit of sorts, he is still ordinary, but he allows his vision to affect the very purpose of his existence.  His worldview is changed and his life takes on new meaning.  He becomes a prophet and leader amongst his people” (17)

Are we attentive to what we see in our day? With our smart phones, constant communication, and wired existences would we even see or smell a tree on fire?   Moses was attentive.  He stopped to take notice.  Part of why I like the concept of  “Dancing with God” is because we cannot dance without intention.   To dance as a verb requires that we take part in moving ones body rhythmically (or at least trying to be rhythmic). 

Dancing doesn’t happen by accident great dancing requires great intention and attention.   Moses paid attention to what was occurring around him, and then took another step and chose to name what he was encountering. 

The process of naming things gives us power.  Naming something claims at least we have limited understanding of that which we are encountering or that which is encountering us.  Moses, simply calls it a burning bush.  That was the depth of his insight.  Sometimes this is the best we have.  I frequently tell my students that sometimes I feel the most honest way to identify myself is as agnostic, simply out of humility of not knowing enough about that which I encounter.  I know it is greater.  I know it brings me peace.  I know that in the presence of the Other I find meaning. Yet there is so much more unknown.   (I understand if this makes others uncomfortable, I’m not asking you to do the same I am simply trying to name my experience as clearly and honestly as I can.)  Yet notice that Moses at first is not afraid.  The text says he saw a burning bush and he moved toward it, he wanted to know more. 

Do you move toward the burning bushes in your day or do you ignore them?  To you allow your sense of wonder to guide you toward a hint of the Transcendent or do you walk away and as SIRI to explain it to you?

When we walk toward the Transcendent the Transcendent speaks.  And unlike us the Transcendent knows our name.  The Transcendent knows the deepest us.  The us that we cant even see.   Moses when he ‘looked in mirror’ visulized a broken, afraid, stuttering, weak rancher.  The Transcendent saw a wise, bold, empowered prophet and national leader.

In meeting the Transcendent, in taking notice, Moses is transformed.  This is the beauty of walking toward hints of the transcendent: Each time we walk toward the hint, we are changed. 

How can we make room for the Hints?

“Could it be that God speaks to us as he always has, just that we have forgotten his language or gotten distracted in ways that human nature has always gotten distracted and wandered out of earshot?” (18)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I started a great book today called To Dance with God by Gertrud Mueller Nelson.  In the second chapter she professes “Since the beginning of time, humankind has centered and located itself in the sacred.”(11)

“Without Conscious rites to close the day, even the enlightened adult can come up against some curious compulsions, habits, or superstitious behaviors which are an attempt to close the day and guard against the powerful and unknown elements of the unconscious.”(15) 

I wonder how our lives would be different if we still practiced the hours. I know for me personally I consistently desire to find the grace of the sacred in my day. Yet, amidst the want, I do not intentionally ingratiate my day with intentional divine moments.  How much of our personal neurosis comes from not intentionally opening, maintaining and closing our day with the sacred? 

Do we need to find a new way (or embrace and old way) for our communities to find the sacred within the space of their day?  Anyone got any good ideas? 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Día De Los Muertos & All Saints Day

Día de los Muertos is one of my favorite seldomly celebrated holidays in the US. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. Like all saints day it is a day where we remember those who have come before us. Who has impacted your life and moved on to the "other side"?

Walter Fancher- My grandfather. A railroad engineer. A creator of churches and faith communities. Papa taught me that nothing should be wasted because someone out there could need it. I saw him continually provide for his family, his community, and his church.

Juanita Fancher- My Grandmother. Taught me about suffering. From the time she was in her late thirties she suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis. To move, to function normally, caused her deep pain. A seamstress, lover of high heals, lover of fashion, and family. By the time she was just a bit older than me, she suffered daily. She lost her ability to sew, her ability to work, her ability to wear heals, and her ability to dress in the clothes she loved. Yet in the midst of daily pain she was deeply loving. She was honest, bold, daring, and visionary. She wouldn't allow pain to stop her.

Jessica Sachs- A dear friend. Jessica was a beautiful woman, a dreamer, and a bold apostle for the way of Christ. She taught me how to love God boldly and out in the open. She was strong and straight forward. She knew how to speak her mind and wasn't afraid, impressed, or wowed by my position, She believed deeply.

Thomas Merton OCSO- a saint in his own right. When I was going through my first major depression and could not find a way out Merton showed me beams of light that lit the way to life and healing. It was in reading the journals of Merton that I met a multitude of saints. The reading of merton and his brother and sister saints led me to my graduate school (Weston Jesuit School of Theology), taught me how to think, created a deeper foundation for my life and theology, and continues to lead me to a deeper sense of wonder, and questioning. It was through Merton that I found a way through many of my darkest nights.

Stanley Marrow SJ- A brilliant Iraqi biblical scholar and mentor who taught me to love the Bible again. He taught me how to be a better writer and gave me the opportunity and the power to question. He taught me not to fear being a heretic, but to question and sin boldly.

These are just a few of those I will be remembering. Who would you add to your list?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Kingdom of God is Like Fine Wine.

Today I have been reflecting on the kingdom of God. The lectio divina I do at, asked to what common element in my life would I compare the kingdom of God. Jesus compares the kingdom to a mustard seed and a pinch of yeast. (Luke 13:18-21)

I think I would compare the kingdom of God to a fine wine. Each drink awakens my taste buds. As I drink fine wine it makes the food around it more alive, tasty, it awakens food to a new day. Good wine makes the community we share more alive, more open, free, and uninhibited. The kingdom of God is like this once we taste of its goodness, we see the goodness of everything else around us. As we drink of the Kingdom our community becomes enlivened. Laughter and joy abound. The kingdom creates new freedoms, it breaks down the wall of fear we build up around ourselves. The kingdom becomes intoxicating.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Funeral: A True Expression of Church

I did another funeral this week.

As a pastor, (really as a human being) funerals are difficult. In writing my homily for this funeral I read about 75 sermons of funerals, especially funerals for people who are not considered "believing." (Why I would read these, I do not know). As I read the sermons I got very frustrated and angry. I feel like pastors were capitalizing on peoples grief. I know that is probably an unfair observation but none the less its what I felt. The process of preparing for the service, like every funeral I have done in the last 15 years, has left me in a state of wander. Below is a list of my curiosities:

  • Why would we use the passages of Lazarus's resurrection for a funeral... it is not hopeful at all... Lazarus actually rose from the grave. As far as my experience no funeral I have preached has any one risen. Can we not find a more hopeful possible appropriate passage.
  • As pastors, why do we spend our time considering who is in and who is out of God's kingdom. Is not a memorial actually more about the people still walking the planet
  • Relationally funerals are odd. The real memorial seems to occur at lunch following.
  • What do we as pastors really know about the people whose funerals we officiate. Sometimes we know a lot but most often we know very little.
  • Why do we think funerals are a great place to share "the plan of salvation." People are mourning and we chose that as a time to tell them why people are "in or out"?
  • Is it not similar to the old "hell house" routine?
  • I find it interesting that we so rarely share the reality that Jesus experienced a ton of loss. Loss of his father, loss of cousin, loss of one of his best friends Lazarus, and then his personal experience of death.
  • Something profound happens as we choose to grieve together. I think this is one of the truest expressions of the church.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

God will Give you Cavities: But only if you eat enough :)

I seek to be especially careful in how I engage children and their relationship with God and the church. I long for children to grow up and become wonderful adults that have fantastic memories about their religious experience. That way when they grow up and walk away from the church, (which I think most of us do at some point) they wont have to struggle through being hurt by a people that are suppose to be the embodiment of love.

Truth is, in my own experience I have been hurt by way more "christian" people than "non-christian."

One of the ways we try to show love to Children in the church office is by our candy bowl. Our preschool kids love the candy bowl. It is the highlight of their day. For the parents, it is evil (little exaggeration). All a parent wants at the end of the day, directly before supper, is to have their child hyped up on sugar! Even as a non-parent I totally get it (Although we still have a candy bowl.)

To help resolve the issue once every few months the candy bowl disappears. One day it's there another day it has miraculously gone. The funny thing I have begun to notice, is that as humans we very rarely look up. These beautiful little children are only 3 feet away from the miraculously disappearing bowl. It is literally on the counter just above there little heads. But, they don't look up. The object they want most is actually within their reach but they cant seem to find it.

As I thought about this today (honestly while standing at the urinal.. TMI!) I thought "Man that will preach."

It's not just children who forget to look up, We all do. I can't tell you how often I will be sitting at my desk and thinking about difficulties others and I are facing then all the sudden like a candy bowl to the side of the head I am reminded, ... "Why am I not talking to God about this?"

God is all around me ready to listen to absorb my concerns, to awaken me to new realities and I forget to look "UP." I forget that the creator, sustainer, and redeemer, is at my side wanting to listen, wanting to be heard, wanting to be present with me. The Creator of all is wanting us to taste and see that he/she IS GOOD.

May we be aware, awakened enough, for God to give us Cavities.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sin turns us inward.

I was reading a blog this week by Tullian Tchividjian. He makes a few brilliant statements that I have to share. He says that sin turns us inward and the gospels points us outward. Sin is about me... My wants, My will, My happiness. Like a little child, sin causes me to cry out Mine! "Martin Luther picked up this imagery in the Reformation, arguing that sin actually bends or curves us upon ourselves (homo incurvatus in se)"
The Gospel on the other hand points us outward. The gospel draws us to the other. We are designed to be drawn to God and our neighbor.

"Many of us, in other words, think about spirituality exclusively in terms of personal piety, internal devotion, and spiritual formation. We focus almost entirely on ourselves and our private disciplines: praying, reading the Bible, and so on. That, we conclude, is what spirituality is first and foremost…The gospel causes us to look up to Christ and what he did, out to our neighbor and what they need, not in to ourselves and how we’re doing. There’s nothing about the gospel that fixes my eyes on me. Any version of Christianity that encourages you to think mostly about you is detrimental to your faith–whether it’s your failures or your successes; your good works or your bad works; your strengths or your weaknesses; your obedience or your disobedience.”

One of my favorite professors, Jim Keenan say that Sin is the "failure to bother to love." Love is outward it moves us out of ourselves. Love is gospel. To sin then is to fail to live Gospel

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Stanley Marrow 2.

The gospel is not a series of don’ts. It is a call to live life, following G-d.. each convert has a unique faith. And each Convert follows G-d uniquely"

Stanley Marrow

I was going through my old notes and found this.... Stanley you will never know how profound your classes were to me. Even more you will never know how profound you as a person were to me.... "Our love remains"....

I’m sitting in my Thessalonians class with another real, authentic person Dr. Stanley Marrow SJ is a 80 something, Iraqi born, Jesuit, profoundly intelligent, professor. He is one of the people in my life, who if he were to ask me to follow him, like Jesus did the apostles, I would say… Absolutely

Stanley never forces his beliefs or his ideas on us. He just speaks and gives all that he is. If we choose to go where he is going, then great; if not, he is fine with that too, because it is part of us that is keeping us from going with him. And unlike most of humanity Stanley Loves people as they are.

He has given me a security that it is ok to just spout one’s beliefs. In actuality by spouting them just don’t try to force people to accept them. If they do, they do. If they don’t, they don’t. It is all Grace.

He has taught me that we have to realize our theology says more about us than it does about G-d. Thus when we talk about G-d don’t force Him (sic) to be who our neo-Platonist ideas are trying to make him to be.

G-d is G-d. Let him(sic) be.