Sunday, March 19, 2017

Saturday in Lent 2 - 2017

Here is another prayer from the dot matrix days, the first of two with this theme.
For those with whom we are bound in prayer (1)

Gracious God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical Body of Christ our Savior: Accept our thanks for all who remember us before you in prayer and grant that with your saints in every place and time we may praise your Name, uphold one another in love, intercede for the world, and faithfully await your renewal of all creation, though Jesus Christ, our only Mediator and Advocate.  Amen.

It would be difficult to overstate the comfort I take and strength I gain from an awareness that other people think of me (kindly) and hold me before God in prayer, whatever form that prayer may take.  In times of great physical or emotional distress I have, nonetheless, sometimes felt myself lifted on a buoyant golden cloud of prayer. That awareness shaped this prayer written during our earlier years in the Bay Area.

This is the prayer as originally composed.  I do not believe in passively expecting God to fix everything when we are the agents God appoints to work the divine will, which is why the adverb "faithfully" modifies our method of waiting.  It is not only having faith in a vision of the reign of God but being faithful in our role, doing our part.

It should also be understood that when I use the traditional phrase "our only Mediator and Advocate," I view Christ as the universal and eternal Word by whom all things are made and held in being.  I am not asserting a "Jesus or fry" theology.  In my theological vision nothing and no one exists outside the speaking of the Word, so all are included, none are excluded, and I believe there are many paths up one mountain.

--the BB

Sunday in Lent 3 - 2017

Daily Invocation of the Most Holy Trinity

O Source of all Being, Fountain of Life, and Wellspring of the Godhead: You are the very Ground and Energy of Love; the overflowing of your Joy created the worlds and we are held in existence by your Good Pleasure; mercifully grant that I may this day draw water with rejoicing from the spring of salvation, giving thanks to you and calling upon your Name.

O Savior and Sustainer of all, Bread of Life and True Vine, Light of the world and mighty Word by whom we are named; You give yourself for the life of the world; reveal unto me my own self and the Heart of your boundless Love; deliver me this day from every bond of evil and death that, forsaking all, I may follow you and, by your Passion and Death, come unto Life everlasting.

O Sanctifier and Life-giving Wind, Bringer of Wholeness, Unction and Healing; You bind all things together and renew all creation, cleansing your children and leading them into Truth; pattern my life this day in your graces and strengthen me for obedient service; lift my heart unto the Divine Presence where I may be one with the Fire of your Love.

Most Holy Trinity, you formed me in your image, raising me from the dust to give you glory; I bow my heart before the radiant splendor of your gracious goodness, committing myself wholly to your merciful compassion; draw me unto yourself and conform me unto your will as I proclaim with angels: Holy, holy, holy are you, O God; to you be glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

This is another of the prayers I composed in the 80s.  Some underlying factors were a desire not to use gendered language referring to God; a practical application of faith by repetition of "this day"; and, of course, an affective piety that is intrinsic to me.

Three decades later, I might have phrased things differently but I have no difficulty praying this prayer now.

--the BB

Friday, March 17, 2017

Friday in Lent 2 - 2017

This is one of several prayers that I wrote for a personal Book of Hours back when my Macintosh computer was primitive and everything was printed on a dot-matrix printer.  I find that the prayers hold up well for my own piety.  I plan to share some of them over the next few days.  This one seems apt for a Friday.

For those who suffer and die alone

Merciful Father, whose all-seeing glance and loving concern embrace even the sparrows and yet whose well-beloved Son had nowhere to lay his head and was forsaken by all his friends: Hear our prayer for those whose suffering and death are unnoticed by human eyes or ears and unministered to by mortal voice or touch; in your compassion grant them strength, consolation, and the ineffable grace of your loving presence; deliver them from despair and suffer not your Image to fade in their anguish; may your holy angels guard them from the evil one and lead them at last into that holy city where there is neither sorrow nor crying, but the fullness of you with all the saints; through Jesus Christ our Savior.  Amen.

--the BB

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Thursday in Lent 2 - 2017

An altered look about the hills
A Tyrian light the village fills
A wider sunrise in the morn
A deeper twilight on the lawn
A print of a vermilion foot
A purple finger on the slope
A flippant fly upon the pane
A spider at his trade again
An added strut in Chanticleer
A flower expected everywhere
An axe shrill singing in the woods
Fern odors on untraveled roads
All this and more I cannot tell
A furtive look you know as well
And Nicodemus' Mystery
Receives its annual reply!
--Miss Dickinson
Commentary seems superfluous.
--the BB

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Wednesday in Lent 2 - 2017

All truths wait in all things,
They neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it,
They do not need the obstetric forceps of the surgeon,
The insignificant is as big to me as any,
(What is less or more than a touch?)

Logic and sermons never convince,
The damp of the night drives deeper into my soul.
--Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?"
Matthew 6.25 
At some times and for some things I can wait patiently.  Most of the time I want what i want when I want it, and I usually want it right now. Nonetheless, wanting and fretting, pouting or griping--these do nothing to hasten the ripening of anything.

Whitman reminds us truth is always there.  It will come in its time.

Jesus has some things to say about fretting.

Deep breath.  Hold.  Exhale. Repeat.

--the BB

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sunday in Lent 2 -2017

Today's posting is very tardy. Простите!

Gott spricht zu jedem nur, eh, er ihn macht

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

--Rainer Maria Rilke, Book of Hours,
       trans. by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

I rather like the idea of embodying God by going to the limits of our being.

--the BB

Friday, March 10, 2017

Saturday in Lent 1 - 2017

Beside Each Other

Remember that second night?
We were too tired for lovemaking,
both of us exhausted
(so many nights of unfulfilled yearning).
We kissed, cuddled, and crashed.
That night I did not hold you in my arms;
we lay beside each other—
free, happy, unafraid, content—
and slept
nine long delicious hours.

This morning, recalling
that night of utter peace
I unclasped my arms
from the beloved pillow,
lay beside it, my cheek touching,
and smiled.
Better not to control
the uncontrollable—
none can—
so I rested
imagining you resting
and I breathed the morning air
grateful for the time
our hearts made love
as we slept.
Lovemaking is associated with sabbath, so for this Saturday I thought I would toss one in.  It's my own (© me).  And I think I shall refrain from commentary.

--the BB

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Friday in Lent 1 - 2017


Hay una linea de Verlaine que no volveré a recordar,
Hay una calle próxima que está vedada a mis pasos,
Hay un espejo que me ha visto por última vez,
Hay una puerta que he cerrado hasta el fin del mundo.
Entre los libros de mi biblioteca (estoy viéndolos)
Hay alguno que ya nunca abriré.
Este verano cumpliré cincuenta años:
La muerte me desgasta, incesamente.
--Jorge Luis Borges


There's a line of Verlaine's
       that I'm not going to remember again.
There's a nearby street that's forbidden to my footsteps.
There's a mirror that has seen me for the last time.
There's a door I've closed until the end of the world.
Among the books in my library (I'm looking at them)
There are some I'll never open again.
This summer I'll be fifty years old:
Death invades me, constantly.
We in the West begin Lent with the sign of ashes to remind us we are mortal.  And then, the next day, do we resume our ordinary round of activities, having nodded in the direction of such an ineluctable fact?

By merest chance, an accident when I was fifteen made me aware of my mortality far earlier than happens with most people.  From that moment on, I knew that the next day was never guaranteed.

Mind you, I am not someone who accepts limits gracefully.  While I may not always want everything right now, I do want it all. As an incarnate being, I am given reminders by my body that I have limits. Today is one of those days when I ache in my many spots. Each shoulder in its own way, the span of my back between my shoulders, my lower back, my right leg (the one with sciatica).  Oh, and a headache from late afternoon onward. The skin on my forearms bruises more easily and I now have what I recognize as old man skin.  Although I have long legs and friends used to urge me to slow down my pace, I now find students at the university passing me by briskly as I amble along at a sedate pace more appropriate for septuagenarians.   I have saved money for two years for a trip to Europe this summer and I am acutely aware that, funds being limited, it may be the last trip to Europe.  I want to think otherwise but, realistically, I do not see serious travel funding without raiding my IRA.  You know what these are? First world problems.  I have a home, clothing, transportation, reasonable health, and no food insecurity. I enjoy more comforts and opportunities than most people will ever see.  And, even so, I chafe at limits.

Well, I might was well accept them.  They are not going away.

And I am blessed beyond all telling.


--the BB

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Thursday in Lent 1 - 2017


When a dead tree falls in a forest
if often falls into the arms
of a living tree. The dead,
thus embraced, rasp in the wind,
slowly carving a niche
in the living branch, sheering away
the rough outer flesh, revealing
the pinkish, yellowish, feverish
inner bark. For years
the dead tree rubs its fallen body
against the living, building
its dead music, making its raw mark,
wearing the tough bough down,
moaning in the wind, the deep
rosined bow sound of the living
shouldering the dead.

Dorianne Laux, September 2002

I found this poem in Poets Against the War, edited by Sam Hamill.

The quick and the dead are not so very different.  We all manifest for a while in a certain way and then we do not, but we are all connected in the web of life.

Consider the impact the dead have on us each day?  (I hope you do not struggle with a fresh grief and do not mean to renew the sharpness of loss.)  Only the young can imagine that grief goes away.  It may soften but we always feel the loss of those we love. It is not only grief; there is remembrance.  All those memories that are part of us and the encounters that shaped us once and shape us still.  Genetic code, yes, but also the many facets of our lives absorbed from family, neighborhood, friends, culture.  When we are gone, others will carry the conscious and unconscious memory of us as ripples spread from our lives.

I am intrigued by how Laux describes the dead tree as revealing the inner life of the living one. When a loss tears away our outer skin it shows the raw, living flesh beneath. If our pain is acute, it shows our love.  If we did not feel deeply, we would not be fully alive.

This Lent I am pulling out random poems to share.  I have no schema to follow.  I hope that poetry can help nurture your soul as it does mine.

--the BB

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Wednesday in Lent 1 - 2017

And now for something different, as they say:

Ne me vueilliez pas oublier
Pour tant si je vous suis lontains,
Belle, je vous vueil supplier
Qu’il vous souviengne que je n’aims
Fors vous, et pour tant, se je mains
Hors du païs si longuement,
Ne vous oubli je nullement.
- First strophe of Ballade LXXV
  by Christine de Pizan (1365 – c. 1434)

Do not wish to forget me
For all that you are far away,
My lovely, I would entreat you
To remember that I love none
But you, and for all that I abide
Long out of the country,
I do not, in the least, forget you.

-My quick and rough translation

A 14th century love poem written by a brilliant woman, born in Venice and serving in ducal and royal courts of France.  She was brilliant and prolific.

I am using this snippet as a jumping-off place. I would like us to re-read these lines only in a different context than the one we immediately suppose.

What if this were our own love poem to ourselves? 

How easily we forget ourselves (not merely in the sense of, "Sir, you forget yourself"). We get caught up in the cares of the world, myriad distractions, ephemeral things (some of which demand attention and many of which deserve little or none). Yet wait.  Who is the central actor in our personal drama?  Who has responsibilities, agendas, deadlines, thoughts, feelings? Why, it is I. 

Can I, this Lent, pause and recall myself?  Re-call, call my scattered being back into wholeness again. Remember who I am. (And, if I believe in a deity, Whose I am.)

I should not wish to forget myself.  No matter how often or far I journey (or stray).  I should wish to remember, to love myself.  Me, this rather imperfect, somewhat cracked and broken, definitely unfinished being that I am.  My spirit, that needs refreshing, rest, and nurture.  My body, crying out for the same. All of me.  I should never, by any means, forget. And I should reaffirm my love.

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ 
-Matthew 22.34-40

I know, we are reluctant to love ourselves.  It seems so... selfish. Self-centered. Narcissistic.

No.  It's not. One may indulge those attitudes, but those are not love.

If I am to love my neighbor as myself, as Leviticus and Jesus all taught, then how can I love my neighbor if I do not love myself?  If I despise myself, belittle myself, reject myself, then how can I embrace my neighbor?  Will I not be as uncomfortable with neighbors as I am uncomfortable with myself?

So, here's a nice Lenten (or anytime) challenge for us all: WRITE A LOVE POEM TO YOURSELF.

It can be short or long, in structured verse or free verse, rhyme or not, be filled with rhetorical devices or simply flow as it will. But write it. Look at it.  Read it aloud to yourself.  Listen in silence and ponder. Let some love soak in.

All love springs from Love Eternal and flows back into it.  Love is never lost or wasted. When faith and hope fade away, love abides. The love we lavish upon ourselves will overflow to others.  Really.
--the BB


Monday, March 06, 2017

Tuesday in Lent 1 - 2017

Here is a poem I encountered back in high school and it has always stuck with me.  We citizens of the United States are notoriously lacking in historical perspective.  It is a serious challenge to take a longer view.  We need to learn how to do that.

Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind

The past is a bucket of ashes.
1 The woman named Tomorrow sits with a hairpin in her teeth and takes her time and does her hair the way she wants it and fastens at last the last braid and coil and puts the hairpin where it belongs and turns and drawls: Well, what of it? My grandmother, Yesterday, is gone. What of it? Let the dead be dead. 2 The doors were cedar and the panels strips of gold and the girls were golden girls and the panels read and the girls chanted: We are the greatest city, the greatest nation: nothing like us ever was. The doors are twisted on broken hinges. Sheets of rain swish through on the wind where the golden girls ran and the panels read: We are the greatest city, the greatest nation, nothing like us ever was. 3 It has happened before. Strong men put up a city and got a nation together, And paid singers to sing and women to warble: We are the greatest city, the greatest nation, nothing like us ever was. And while the singers sang and the strong men listened and paid the singers well and felt good about it all, there were rats and lizards who listened … and the only listeners left now … are … the rats … and the lizards. And there are black crows crying, “Caw, caw," bringing mud and sticks building a nest over the words carved on the doors where the panels were cedar and the strips on the panels were gold and the golden girls came singing: We are the greatest city, the greatest nation: nothing like us ever was. The only singers now are crows crying, “Caw, caw," And the sheets of rain whine in the wind and doorways. And the only listeners now are … the rats … and the lizards. 4 The feet of the rats scribble on the door sills; the hieroglyphs of the rat footprints chatter the pedigrees of the rats and babble of the blood and gabble of the breed of the grandfathers and the great-grandfathers of the rats. And the wind shifts and the dust on a door sill shifts and even the writing of the rat footprints tells us nothing, nothing at all about the greatest city, the greatest nation where the strong men listened and the women warbled: Nothing like us ever was.

When we vaunt ourselves as the best, the greatest, the chosen, the first..., we blind ourselves to all perspective.  We fool ourselves and think the world is made in our image. We are the center of creation, the pinnacle of history.

We are not.

This does not mean we cannot rejoice in who we are and what we accomplish, only that we must recognize that everything is in a context, all life is part of a great web, we are part of that greater whole. There are other ways of seeing things, of thinking about things, of doing things, of solving problems, of celebrating what is good.

The gift of studying foreign languages has helped me understand this.  That and visiting other cultures where I could meet truly wonderful people who are just like me, yet who live differently as they meet the same human challenges in their geographic, historical and cultural context.

Life, and any culture, can be amazing and awesome and magnificent without ever being perfect, the best, or the greatest. So can individuals.  So let's chill and allow each to shine in its own way. Light involves the entire visible spectrum, not just one hue.

--the BB

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Monday of Lent 1 - 2017

There were several reasons why I abandoned this practice a few years ago.  One of the most pressing was the theology of conquest and the dispossession of the people of Canaan. So, I propose, once again, to ignore the Daily Office readings.  You do not come here to listen to me rail against the dark sides of our tradition.

Instead, I propose to play with sundry poetry, as things leap out at me.

The Unpardonable Sin

This is the sin against the Holy Ghost: —
To speak of bloody power as right divine,
And call on God to guard each vile chief's house,
And for such chiefs, turn men to wolves and swine:—

To go forth killing in White Mercy's name,
Making the trenches stink with spattered brains,
Tearing the nerves and arteries apart,
Sowing with flesh the unreaped golden plains.

In any Church's name, to sack fair towns,
And turn each home into a screaming sty,
To make the little children fugitive,
And have their mothers for a quick death cry,—

This is the sin against the Holy Ghost:
This is the sin no purging can atone:—
To send forth rapine in the name of Christ:—
To set the face, and make the heart a stone.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Thursday after Ash Wednesday 2017

 Many are the times I have played with this phrase from the Letter to Titus:
To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure. Their very minds and consciences are corrupted. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their actions. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.  - Titus 1.15-16
I would comment, as those who know me might expect, that "to the pure all things are pure" and to the rest of us...."  Well, I have never in my adult life denied having a naughty and dirty mind.

Yet there is something profound here. We know that any given situation has as many interpretations as it has interpreters, each one of them perceiving through their own lens.  The experiences I bring to each circumstance have shaped my expectations, preconceptions, fears, hopes, and filters.  If I enter a room, a conversation, a new day filled with suspicion or dread, I am quite likely to find any number of signs confirming my worst fears.  If, on the other hand, I approach the moment seeking something wonderful, I am far more likely to find it.  It is not that the objective situation (whatever that construct may mean) is any different.  Our responses differ as much by what be bring to the moment as by what we find within it, perhaps even more so.

As I write all this, I should be disappointed to be mistaken for a believer in magical thinking, or positive thinking.  Believe it will be terrific, and it will be!  No, I don't expand from an observation about how we perceive and interpret to some metaphysical "law of attraction."  Wishful thinking does not make it so.  On the other hand, our reactions and the stories we tell of our experiences move into and shape our future experiences and we do participate in the shaping of our lives.

While I do not pretend to purity (though there is a huge part of me that remains an innocent child full of wonder), I do try to look for and nurture the best in others.  This gets much better results than looking for the worst and dwelling on it. Similarly, I choose to live in hope rather than despair.  Even if my hopes are based on illusion, it remains a much better way to live life.

Having tasted depression, I know one cannot simply flip a switch to change one's view of the world and one's mood.  What we can do, day by day and bit by bit, is nurture faith, hope, and love.  It is the ordinary times in which we gather resources for the crisis moments.

So, my fellow travelers, even if we have dirty minds we can still nurture a kind of purity that looks for the good, the beautiful, the true, the holy, the joyous in every moment.  We will not always see them but the more we seek, the more we will find.

Taking a cue from the Psalm, we can also recognize the injustices of life without letting them poison us.  I am not responsible for the ultimate outcome of justice, karma, etc. I am only responsible for what I choose to do, say, and think.

Some folks asked me on Wednesday what I was giving up for Lent.  Heavens, I have not given anything up for Lent in many years.  I occasionally take things on for Lent.  This little essay is only Day Two.  No promises still, but I am trying to do some reflecting and sharing.

I did acknowledge my sinfulness and receive ashes, even though I had not anticipated doing so.

Peace be upon you all.
--the BB

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ash Wednesday 2017

Well, it has been years since I tried any kind of meditation during Lent.  However, I have more time, and perhaps I am more mellow. As of 1 March 2017, I am retired.  Again.  I tried retiring at the end of April 2014 but a trip to Paris that May did two things: it used up my travel funds and it told me I wanted to see Europe again.  So I have worked part time until now.  No more.  Unemployed and not looking to work.  Also, I am curious whether I will engage traditional themes  with less inner conflict.  I have only gone to church a few times in the past few years and my contact with the church year and spiritual themes is mostly through the posts of friends on Facebook.  Eh bien, mes amis, here goes.

All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands.
- Jonah 3.8b

Thus the king of Ninevah in response to Jonah's call to repent.  There is the whole sackcloth and ashes and fasting bit, but those are trappings and the suits of woe.  Do we have that within which passeth show? (Hamlet) It is not giving up food or changing our garb that counts but rather what we do.  How do we actually change our behavior?

I am auditing a course in French poetry from Baudelaire to Mallarmé.  If we want something to sober us up at the beginning of Lent, we can do worse than Baudelaire's "Au Lecteur" which opens Les Fleurs du Mal.

La sottise, l'erreur, le péché, la lésine,
Occupent nos esprits et travaillent nos corps,
Et nous alimentons nos aimables remords,
Comme les mendiants nourrissent leur vermine.

Nos péchés sont têtus, nos repentirs sont lâches;
Nous nous faisons payer grassement nos aveux,
Et nous rentrons gaiement dans le chemin bourbeux,
Croyant par de vils pleurs laver toutes nos taches.
Here is Roy Campbell's English translation:
Folly and error, avarice and vice,
Employ our souls and waste our bodies' force.
As mangey beggars incubate their lice,
We nourish our innocuous remorse.

Our sins are stubborn, craven our repentance.
For our weak vows we ask excessive prices.
Trusting our tears will wash away the sentence,
We sneak off where the muddy road entices.

Those are only the two opening quatrains.  Trust me, it gets worse. As the introduction to a work, this goes against the usual mode of gaining the reader's confidence.  We are not flattered into trusting the writer and siding with Baudelaire; we are confronted by him and the mirror he holds up is like ice water thrown in our faces.  It is an uneasy complicity that develops as we acknowledge the uncomfortable observations of the poet.  He concludes by addressing:
— Hypocrite lecteur, — mon semblable, — mon frère!
Hypocrite reader! — You! — My twin! — My brother!
 Fans of T. S. Eliot will recognize that he uses this line in The Waste Land.

While I have rejected most of the warped Calvinist view on which I was raised, I have never been and still am not someone who believes that if we know the good, we will do it.  Or that human nature is altogether noble until corrupted by circumstances.  My own experience tells me that my namesake, the Apostle Paul, knew what he was talking about when he said, "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." (Romans 7.15).

On the other hand, I do not believe in "total depravity" either in Calvin's view that no part of us is untouched by original sin nor in the extremes of his followers who viewed everything about us as utterly corrupt and deserving of damnation.  Twaddle.  I find it much more sensible to see us all as works in progress. Yes, we are by necessity enmeshed in the web of fallibility, ignorance, brokenness, and just plain willfulness that is the lot of limited, corporeal, social beings.  A blend of limits and, yes, evil.  Oh, I do believe in evil, but I also consider much that is so labeled to be other things. Yet we are also God's creation, and God calls creation good.  At the end, God even said "very good." We are beloved, cherished, and embraced by the Divine, not loathed and damned.

Years ago I preached a sermon on Ash Wednesday in which I did not use these terms but the topic was "the shit and the Shekinah." Lent is a time to deal with reality. Our reality. Ourselves.  We can stop pretending that there is not a whole lot of shit in our lives and that sometimes, and way too often, we act like shits.  We can be real.  And being real also means we should not deny that we are also the dwelling place of God, temples of the Holy Spirit, living tabernacles in which the Shekinah, the glorious presence of God, abides.  Both of these realities are part of who we are and how we live.  Too often we deny one or the other, or both. And much of the time we avoid integrating our scattered fragments by running away, numbing ourselves, staying asleep.  As they say these days (and this makes my grammar sense shudder though I agree with the sentiment) we need to be "woke."

Lent is a call to give ourselves time and space to be present.  To be woke. To be honest. To be unafraid of reality. To let go of pretense and illusion. To become a little more integrated than we were last year at this time. We can dare to do this because, ultimately, we have heard the Good News that we are loved. Maybe we only believe this with a little part of ourselves but we are called to trust that and move into it.  And we are called to express as much of it as we know in our lives and to show it to others.  Together we can grow into it and become more authentic, more whole, more holy.

To my mind, neither Lent nor any other time should be spend in self-loathing.  Facing ourselves and looking at our shadow is not the same as denigrating ourselves.  It is natural to be anxious about what we may encounter but, again, let us try to see ourselves through God's eyes.  Scary? Only if you believe in a vindictive SOB of a deity.  I don't. When a loving parent looks at a child they do see faults and failures as well as amazing wonderfulness, and all is viewed with abiding love.  How much more gracious the divine embrace! When I realize I have a hurtful habit, facing it with the loving encouragement of God--not wrathful judgment--enables me to deal with it and gives me courage to allow it to be transformed.

The day I preached the sermon mentioned above, which made no mention of fasting, prayer, or almsgiving, I realized that I felt a calling to help people heal from bad religion and that I needed to express what I know as the  Good News of God's love in language that was not churchy but worldly and everyday.  I still feel that call as I live my life very much "in the world."

May all who read this be bathed in gracious love and find peace, time, and space to allow the healing power of reality to work in your lives.  We all play false roles; we are hypocrites.  We are siblings and twins, all in the same boat.  But there is grace.  I have always believed that and I still do.  Peace be upon you.

-the BB