been in the works...

I believe God is in everyone, and to know God, we must find the divine within ourselves. Jesus said "The kingdom of heaven is within you." (Luke 17:21) John calls it light. Relating to each other, and walking in light IS our spiritual act of worship AND it is the means of our salvation. Walking imperfectly in the light of the blood and flesh of another, and yet recognizing the divinity within each of us, cleanses us from our toxic shame and guilt and the hell we create for ourselves on our own. 


To love God is to Love yourself. That is not an invitation to narcissism - it is an invitation to care enough about yourself to better yourself, to care for yourself, to feed your soul, to nourish your body, and train your mind. AND then you must love your neighbor AS yourself


THIS is following Jesus, forget the doctrine and tradition, there is no other way. 


I never would have learned any of this had it not been for someone who met me where I was - Joyanna Margo. 

Love is a thing...

Love is a choice insomuch as you water
the grass that you want to be green.
Most of life goes by with us trying
to be whole before we can love.
The unexamined life is not worth living,
but life without love is life without beauty.
The key to intimacy is to plough through difficulty
and emerge together.
That is not neediness or lack of boundaries
it is divinity in me and you recognizing
the divinity in the other.
Namaste.

 Joy


Tears, Heart broken 

For the pain of another. 

And they push away 

The love that intends
To find a way. 


The ache makes you heave 

As you try to breath

Gasping for air, why 

If not for some cosmic purpose

Are we compelled to care


We say all kinds 

of stupid things

Defending our pride

Grasping for love

Hoping to be seen


Real Beauty hurts

It burns and brands 

The beholder

There is no escape 

But to sear off the heart. 


I will not do that

I will feel and I will falter

I will grasp and cling

Ache and burn

Because someday love will claim me. 

Meditation of the heart

Broken hearts destroy 

the good people 

that we in more naive times 

romanticized we’d grow up to be


We numb ourselves 

protectively from love’s sting 

forgetting all the while 

that we did not choose our feelings 


penitent for the crime 

perpetuated on us 

by our own heart 


love 

could never live up 

to its own reputation 


but heartbreak 

more than makes up 

for the slight 


and we in isolation 

long for other 

that longs for us 


passion interrupts 

and we call ourselves fortunate


-JDMJ

I and Thou...

There are things in life that beat you
leave you feeling less than whole
some of them don't kill you
they just take away your soul
If you try to stop it
you'll do it to another
and if you let it happen
you may not e'er recover
Is God there at all?
Is there grace for me?
I am "god" to others
Is there "god" for me?

You showed me quiet waters

Brought joy into my pain

inspired me from weakness

helped me trust my name

You walked with me a while

I may have been too bold

your heart belongs already

and I am in the cold

Is God there at all?

Is there grace for me?

I am god to others

Is there god for me?


You are a goddess

Your smile is beauty

You paint the world in colors

And I can but be me…

Is God there at all?

Is there grace for me?

I am god to others

You were god for me

Impermanence

One of the last things my father told me before he lost the ability to think and speak theologically, was how interesting impermanence is. As a young man he had been an actor in the play “Teahouse of the August moon” and he remarked to me how the teahouse was designed to be impermanent - disassembled - and reassembled in a different time and place. He went as far as to suggest that if, as I had been hoping - I started my own construction business, that I name it August Moon Builders.

Now I have yet to see the movie or play, alas it isn’t on Netflix or Amazon - but this idea has stuck with me - about impermanence. 

When my second born son was barely two I began reading philosophy books to him, as a way to settle him down and get him to go to sleep. One such book was a book I remember seeing on my father’s book shelves as long as I can remember entitled “Thales to Dewey”. It’s yet another attempt to summarize the history of philosophy, and I could never have guessed my little toddler would take an interest in Socrates of all people. 

I prefer the ancients - because in them you can see the incipient forms of all later philosophies. Likewise they were so simplistic in their views that it is often hard to reconcile their views with the world in which we live - “How can they say that, can’t they see…” has escaped my lips on more than one occasion; and yet there is a beauty to the elemental dialectic of thought itself. 

One philosopher who has always troubled me is Heraclitus. He was was firstly a material monist - drawing the connection between all things as being of the same essence (for him fire). Secondly and most famously Heraclitus insisted that "No man ever steps in the same river twice” believing  that ever-present change was the fundamental essence of the universe. 

As I’ve wrestled with this, Ive struggled to accept that the idea of the water changing, is not the same as the course of the flow of water - nor is the fact that some of the water molecules may in fact transpire through cycle and flow through the course of the same river ad-infinitum. I understand Heraclitus’ point, and at the same time I see a need for two expressions of river - the one that is not the same because it is constantly changing, and one that practically speaking depicts the geography for useful purposes. These two different expressions cannot therefor be the same as the thought “river” nor as the reality of “river” because they are at odds with each other - and yet they must simultaneously exist. 

Which leads me back to impermanence… and the church.

Jesus says “on this rock I will build my church” and we see a history of saints and sinners connecting us to Christ and the gospel over the course of two thousand years. And yet the church is not the same… it has changed. 

I worked for some time with churches struggling with their existence, deciding to reinvent themselves or not… struggling with the concepts of what was and what is to be. I also know models of church which focus only on the present. Jesus said that wherever two or three were gathered, there he was in their midst - the real presence of the body of Christ, not in a eucharistic element, but in the gathering of unique individuals, unique to a time and place - never the same.


So I look at the church, a dying institution - I look at my profession - a dying career, and as I’ve thought over the past 15 years, there must be a new way forward. While we need an expression of the church that is geographic and orienting to our place in the progression of saints and sinners, we also need to express that the church is never the same; no-one ever goes to the same church twice. 

Death... And Intimacy

I’ve performed more than a hundred funerals, some were for people I knew, some were for important people, some had committed suicide, some had overdosed on drugs, others were for people who didn’t have a church, or a home, or even a family; all deserved the decency of a proper burial, and a prayer of blessing as they face the great beyond, the end and beginning. 

This is why I shy away from traditional imagery of heaven and hell: because all good theology comes from pastoral concern, and if in pastoral concern for a grieving family and the soul of a deceased individual, my only thought and aim is the steadfast love of the Lord which never ceases, I will myself only declare a blessing, since “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Practical confessional theology is the opposite of what we do in theological forums, seminaries, and papers: Diabolical theology (thank you Helmut Theilicke for that language). Practical confessional theology is the basic thoughts and constructs of the average person as they relate to things beyond themselves. Religion is not necessary for a practical confessional theology, but certainly in the absence of Practical confessional theology, (certainly in the presence of Diabolical theology) religion will and should decline. 

But something still joins us together at the hip, we are at the graveside, I have discovered, despite our differences, unwillingly at times, united in our joint humanity - or at-least our joint mortality. And at the grave we realize that nobody goes with us through that dark gate, no friend can hold our hand beyond its threshold, no guide comes over and carries us across, and the image of the river Styx becomes deep dark, rough and very very lonely.

A colleague and friend nicknamed me “Papa Defunto” because of all the funerals I had done, but being around death has lead to some profound realizations about life. We as human beings are lonely. We long to not be lonely, and we at the same time face our existential loneliness constantly in our relational failures, our attempts at intimacy, and ultimately in the news of another death. 

Death steals our hope of ever not being alone.

Being “born again” or saying the “sinners prayer” may be what “Christianity” is about, but that’s not what Jesus was about. Jesus said “Lo I am with you always” “If you remain in me and I remain in you” words that indicate not only communion, but that we cannot ever truly be alone. 

I have yet to find widespread evidence to contradict my personal thought that most people have this; that Jesus is with everyone whether they know it or not, and in thinking that - I then have to act and suggest to people that he is, and that they learn to listen and feel and act, like one who has the power of deity within them, that they too are the incarnation. 

I’m not afraid of heresy, the long tale of orthodoxy leads us down a path to the institutionalization and decline of a faith that once made lepers clean and blind men see. Instead I start my own theology with the heresy of orthodoxy, and the necessity for personal faith to be heterodox to some degree - giving people encouragement not to settle for being alone, but to learn how to be alive. 

My funeral meditations are short and I’ve mixed and matched them to the point that I’ve got all the talking points memorized - beyond the occasional mistake saying the lords prayer or the hail Mary, the themes that we turn to from our own hearts at death are probably the themes we should live our entire life by:

Job: God is my friend and advocate, he will not turn his back on me.
David: God does not despise me, his love is unfailing, and I cannot do anything to be separated from his loving presence
Jeremiah: The Steadfast Love of the Lord never ceases and his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning, because of his great faithfulness to me. 
Paul: We frail broken pots have a treasure which is God’s presence within us, it is the light God called for on day one of creation, not he sun, not the stars, but the presence of God in our hearts
John: God wants to be where we are, and while he requests we trust him, he tells us that we already know the way
David: Even though I walk through this dark valley overshadowed on one side by doubt and despair, and on the other side by presumptuous traps, I walk through the valley, because it is only there that the streams of life giving water nourish the meadows and feed my soul, refreshing me and giving me strength to move on. 
Hebrews: We have a great cloud of witnesses who watch our every step, cheering for us to do what they could only dream of, so lets not put it off any longer.
David: I can’t help, but lift my eyes up to the source of my help, because deep down I know that I could not have made it if someone had not been with me.
Paul: Love never fails/ends, every other thing we do or try will eventually be silenced, but love transcends death, and cannot be silenced. 

And so the “Other” that takes away our loneliness is accessible, but identifying “others” will only distance ourselves and make us more alone - perhaps that is the ultimate outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

John lays out a very interesting prescription in 1 John 1: 5-8 - its not about prayers or religiosity, its simply about being real: If we are real and walk in the light of our realness, displaying to others that which we are afraid they might think we are, and if they do this same thing, THEN we will enjoy a sort of intimacy, togetherness, fellowship with both them, AND with God, and it is only in this intimacy that we can understand the cleansing that takes place, where our dark dirty spots are cleaned, forgiven and overlooked - and we are ultimately not alone. 

Intimacy is the one thing that most acutely threatens us. Sexual intimacy having the potential to be the most intense and transcendent experience of this between consenting adults, and so we are most threatened in our own security by the notion of sexuality, and our participation. We have invented ways to demonize its expression, and as highlighted by the worlds oldest profession, it has always been the bridge between our constructed reality and our loneliness. 

I believe in ethics, and so in our search for intimacy, our quest to not be alone, I believe we MUST do only that which we would permit all others to do, and I believe in situational ethics - that in some places and times circumstances would permit all people to act differently than at other places and times. We thus do not copulate in public, not because of a moral obligation, but an ethical one. We do not force ourselves upon the objects of our desire, not because it is immoral, but because we would not want to be forced upon by another.

The Pedophile is the example then, of someone who by profile seeks intimacy but unable to find it in adults, in violation of the ethical reasonableness of their actions seeks to construct a false intimacy with someone who cannot comprehend the issues of intimacy and ethics yet. Pedophilia, is the gravest form of ethical abuse, because it doesn’t take away the right of the other, but pre-empts it. 

During the priest abuse sex scandal much was written about the profile of the pedophiliac, and their modus operandi. In my own experience and from studying criminal justice, I understand the basic fact that sexual arousal patterns are moldable and fluid. At some point we cement ourselves in our loneliness, seeking objects rather than “others,” for any offer of intimacy is an irresistible grace. 

I’m not above irresistible grace, beautiful objects of desire, intimacy implied or imitated draws my eyes and anyone else who is honest. While ladies on a screen scream intimacy to our dopamine receptors, it is only true intimacy that we really seek. Sexual experience is no guarantee of this as evidenced by the rise of groups like the Oneida colony in the nineteenth century. Depriving ourselves of sexual experience likewise is no cure: It’s a declaration that sex, and its accompanying intimacy and relationship are too dangerous because of the risks that they will not fulfill our expectations.

And herein lies the issue of sexuality: it will always disappoint, because it is temporary at best, it is flawed, and we are bad lovers. But only by practice can we get better, and in getting better can we find our faults, and in finding our faults and nakedly writhing in the light of another, do we find that shred of dignity and intimacy that says: “Real intimacy exists, and you are on the path.”  

Physical gratification at the expense of another rapes us of our own souls; but in the angst and anger and passion of need, this is often how we fulfill ourselves, no better than the criminal we condemn. But withholding beauty and vulnerability, putting up our shell perpetuates the lie in our minds that we have to take what we want, because nobody will give us what we need. 

Luther said “sin boldly” and forgive my short reference, but he meant this very point. Peter tells us Paul is difficult to understand, because Paul himself was a tormented soul. He knew that the thorn he had was put there by God, and he knew he was the worst among sinners, but he also knew that there was a freedom. We can guess at Pauls freedom, or his thorn, but that is our hurting pornographic tendency - rather we have to identify our own thorn, our own freedom, and struggle through the torment - pressing on as if to win the prize.

I believe that sexual ethics and morality have been forever distorted by the people who were supposed to be its guardians and champions. St. Augustine, the Church, the Reformers, the Puritans, and especially Evangelicals. Our reaction against the propagation of a lie is to swing in the other direction. We are hurt by strong women so we seek weak ones. We are hurt by men, so we avoid them. We were told our appeal to another brought us our pain, so we hide behind habits of frumpiness, or make ourselves inaccessible and undesirable. We find ourselves hurt and rejected as social outcasts, so we find a way to come out as an insider of a different caste. For whatever reason that drives us to where we end up, our task remains the same - and it is not to become some idyllic Adam and Eve - but to honestly and ethically pursue the intimacy that is in front of us where we are. 

That’s harder than it sounds. And some readers are flinching. Some readers are angry now that I’ve seemingly endorsed abhorrent behavior. And right now every reader is envisioning in their head some pornographic vision of a sex act - wipe the smirk from your face, the indignation from your voice and rise up to join the human race. 

I’m coming out as a human being, deeply flawed, and wanting intimacy - I don’t want to be alone anymore. Forget what you’ve been told, what you believe, your notions of history and morality - and walk with the one who calls you by your true name.

An ode to the old discontinued Stanley Powerlock 16’ tape measure.

(A silly poem I actually sent to Stanley tools)

Always ready to give a dimension
with tables and conversions to save aggravation
Lightweight and small it won’t hurt your back
32nds of an inch help keep accurate track
8 foot stand-out and plastic coating thats smooth

the only drawback is its easy to lose. 

For Rich... who asked if I still write.


The pointy end of things you get
with helical blades adjacent
engineering feats that men forget
the humble pencil sharpener

screwed upon a workshop wall
always roughly four feet tall
a handle crank for use by all
the humble pencil sharpener

Self feeding holder so adroit
at gently carving the sharpest point
graphite lubricates its joints 
the humble pencil sharpener

A marker is great and so’s a quill
I type and write with little skill
but there’s a place in the world for this one still 

the humble pencil sharpener

broken

I’ve been broken at the foot of the cross so long
I’ve forgotten how to walk
and opening up my mouth is apparently an invitation
for “His followers” to mock.
Their blind faith in the system that prospered them
causing the misfortune of others
I’m not sure that I can continue at all
to call these people brothers.
They use the book I love - and hate
[and I used to say] “and twist it”
But I’m beginning to start to understand
the point of life, I’ve missed it.
Jesus was crushed by a rolling wheel,
and all good will be too
Choose your side, but know full well –
“Light” it seems to lose.
There is no more peace from doing right,
or sweating from the brow
And there can be no heaven later
if there is no heaven now.

Current musing

(Originally in response to a Facebook quote of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison)

I'm beginning to have my doubts about the theologians of the early 20th century... statements like "Evil always carried within itself a germ of its own subversion in what it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease." (Bonhoeffer) seem to not play out in the modern world... Did they take for granted a definition of Evil that we don't share, or have we become seared in our consciences against those artifacts of unease?

I've been working on this recently - I'm leaning toward "wickedness" - taking delight in the misfortune of others, "Evil" - actively planning or causing the misfortune of others... I think they stand apart from "sin" especially in their biblical context (think Psalm 1:1) could we in fact have lots of evangelicals who have "sin avoidance/mitigation" down to a science while actively participating in wickedness and evil.