Thursday, May 26, 2011


My "spiritual discipline" this year has been to be home at 4 PM to watch Oprah because I knew that this was her last year. Actually, what i would do is check who the guest or topic was and make sure that I could see the shows I wanted to see.

This week I faithfully watched the LAST 3 SHOWS

And I remain awed by what she has accomplished through her 25 years of hosting her television show. On the last show she shared that she always wanted to be a teacher and she certainly was that - but she was also a confidant, comforter and truthteller.

I read a blog by Stiffelman about the last show and she wrote this:
"There was no ugly cry. No over the top sentimentality calculated to tug at our heartstrings. It was simple. It was clean. And she was elegant."

This is so true. It was her final "class" in this venue and here are some of my notes from watching

1. Be responsible for the energy you bring into this space.

2. You are responsible for your life

3. There is a common thread through our lives of a feeling of unworthiness. There is a difference between thinking you deserve to be happy and knowing you are worthy

4. We often block our blessing because we don't feel worthy enough

5. You are worthy because you were born - you alone are enough

6. Everyone wants to know - do you see me? do you hear me?

7. I wait and listen for the guidance that is greater than my meager mind

8. God is always speaking to you - first in whispers and then louder

9. Gratitude is everything

10. To God be the glory

I end with the words Susan Shiffelman used in her blog
Thank you, Oprah, for not just offering inspirational words, but for living them out loud, in front of us all. Your willingness to share your gifts motivates me to step further into sharing my own. Your willingness to stand in your light inspires me to stand more fully in mine.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

About Books

I am reading my very first book on my I Pad and I am not sure whether I like it or not. I am reading "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" for my book group. When I was reminded today that we have to read it for Tuesday, I immediately went online and checked it's availability at the library. I am #76 which is problematical. So for $10 I downloaded it onto my I Pad and started reading. So far, so good. I even found out how I can highlight an interesting or memorable phrase. And now, 70 pages in, I am still not sure whether this is the beginning of a new way of reading for me. We will see.

I am not preaching for 2 whole weeks which gives me time to read. And I like to read several books at once.
Monday I read the novel "Faith" by Jennifer Haigh which I could not put down. It is about a priest accused of molesting a child. The characters were so well drawn and the plot was layered and really thoughtful. I totally recommend.

Last week I read a guilty pleasure book "The Politician" about John Edwards which again was engrossing - not because of the writing, but the subject. t the same time I preached about how we are like sheep and vulnerable to "thieves and bandits.". This book was written by the man he got to pretend to father Edwards love child. Which sounds crazy - but i really do understand how a charismatic person (and your own greed and grandiosity) can get you into a place where you lose all common sense. Certainly have I seen people make some really poor personal choices trying to win the affection and esteem of unscrupulous people. Anyway, it made me think about a lot of things as I was reading it. (Like Maybe Arnold Schwarzenegger)

I am also reading "The Prodigal God" by Timothy Keller which is a meditation on the prodigal son story and basically says that we have been thinking that the youngest son was the subject - when it is really the resentful older son that is the main point. Certainly food for thought - since churches are full of "older sons."

Two more books I want to mention that I "read" in the last 2 weeks first person accounts of people who work with the public. The one was called "Malled" (can't remember who wrote it) written by a journalist who needed some steady employment as she was laid off and worked for about 16 months in a store in a mall in NY. And the second, "The Waiter" Chuck and I listened to on tape as we drove to and fro Lynchburg. It was written by a waiter at a high end restaurant in NYC who also has a blog "WaiterRant." Both of these were fascinating to me in helping me to see how easy it is to not see servers or clerks as people. Too many of us live so unconsciously and with a certain sense of entitlement. They are both jobs that require hard work and a lot of tact and patience.

Last book I am "reading" is actually another book on tape - "The Tin Roof Blowdown", A Dave Robicheux novel by James Lee Burke. Set in Louisiana immediately following Katrina and so well read. I keep bringing the tapes in and listen when I am in the house and then in the car. It is great.

So, fiction, non fiction, mysteries, crime, theology, people stories. When I became a minister my father said that "I got paid to read." And he said that in a very positive way. That was his model as a Presbyterian elder in the church. He had had a minister who asked people if they were reading John Updike and he told them - that they were reading theology.

And that really is it - all kinds of books - telling us about the human condition and the meaning of life and sometimes (directly and indirectly) the presence of the holy one in the midst of the ordinary and the mundane.

Reading - A blessing in my life.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Abundant Life

"I came that they might have life and have it abundantly."
John 10:10b

That quote is on a wall in the dining room at Our Lady of the Pines retreat in Fremont and that is what i am preaching on this week.

And that is what I am experiencing.

Last night was the my graduation from the wellstreams program and now I am officially a licensed spiritual director. And I have very mixed emotions about it.

There is certainly a sense of satisfaction and amazement that the program is over and that we have accomplished what we set out to do. I have read many books, prayed, sat with people in direction, processed with my supervisor, been part of peer groups and triads. And written reflection papers and evaluations. And now it is over. Completed. And I know that i have been changed by this experience.

At the same time, it is over and I would do this all over again in a heartbeat. I loved going to class and sitting with other spiritual seekers and having wise teachers and mentors teach me and care about me. And it is over. And there is certainly a sense of loss.

But this is all part of that abundant life. To take a risk, to learn, to love, to grow and also to leave, to grieve and wait for the next thing.

This verse from John has been an important one for me for over 15 years - I came that you might have the ABUNDANT life. And because the abundant life spiritually is so different from abundance materially it is hard to capture in a sermon.

It is all of what i mentioned above - risking, trusting, learning, growing, loving, leaving, grieving and waiting.
full and rich

My life.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

2 Colleges

I am visiting Audrey in Lynchburg Va and yesterday we went to 2 very different colleges.

The first was Randolph College where CaroLine, Audrey's partner is a professor of psychology. It is the former Randolph Bacon least 100 years old, beautiful red brick buildings and a liberal arts curriculum for the most part. We visited their art museum which housed some beautiful older and new paintings. What was interesting was it's value on contemporary art which after a hundred years from purchase is no longer contemporary but literally (some paintings, at least) almost priceless. I was interested in reading some students poetry on the paintings which brought them to life and made me want to appreciate art more and enjoy creativity. A beautiful campus and a real sense of history, tradition and learning. MThere were large signs throughout the campus that said "Be an Original.". There are about 800 students enrolled in this college.

And then we went to Liberty College which is exactly 40 years old and was founded by Dr Jerry Falwell ( honorary doctorate) and has 15,000 students.Obviously newer buildings and very modern and clean. We went first to the church and the school. There was a coffee shop in this place where we purchased blueberry flavored coffee and some delicious chocolate chip cookies. Then we went to another museum....the Jerry Falwell Museum which was very interesting. on the one hand, his career is pretty impressive as he built it all....the mega church, schools, college, law school. The had videos of his life through the decades and I have distinct memories of seeing him interviewed by people like Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, Phil Donahue and Larry King.

On the other hand his theology is radically different from mine. There is a big article about the day in which he was saved. Audrey tells me a story about when someone of his acquaintance joined her liberal open and affirming church (First Christian Church) and he called them and told them they were going to go to he'll. We see advertisements for courses on creationism. Different from my theology of a loving and inclusive God.

Audrey lent mea fascinating book "The Unliklely Disciple" by Kevin Roosevelt, a description of his semester as a student at Liberty College. It is fascinating because iit tells about the good parts to this place as well as the rules and regs for these students,

Anyway, I am still pondering much of this. It is a great trip and time to be with Audrey and Caroline.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Working Together

Last night was our annual Nehemiah Action Team meeting for BREAD. BREAD is an organization of faith communities (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) who are "building power to do justice."
This is from their website:

"Millons of dollars are being wasted every year in avoidable hospitalizations, misdirected treatment of ex-offenders, and the sell-off of tax liens to private investors.

Adding to the shame of wasting tax payer dollars is that dollars are being spent on programs that are counter productive. Using dollars wisely will not only save money but improve lives."

At this meeting every one of the 52 organizations brought as many people together as possible so that the elected officials who were invited might understand that there is a real concern about these issues.

So last night 37 members of Karl Road Christian Church drove down in the rain and joined about 2800 other people. We learned about the latest research on crime and violence, health care, and neighborhood blight and saw some elected representatives promise to work with us. It is always - ultimately - a very meaningful time for me.
I learn about issues that in my own self involvement I am so prone to ignore or just not see. I may not care about crime and violence until I am affected, about neighborhood blight until there is a house on my street that is empty, about health insurance until it is me or my family. That really is the human condition - but BREAD forces me to think about these things and then be part of a group that works together to do something. This is all good.

Some of the invited participants could not quite say YES to everything that BREAD wanted them to do - but they were for the most part willing to work with the organization. Throughout the meeting the crowd was encouraged to repeat together:
Stop Wasting Money!
Stop Wasting Live!
Bread Rises!

Not everybody likes this kind of thing - but I do. It is good to learn, to work, and to witness TOGETHER

After that Chuck and I joined Nicki at the Crest Tavern for jazz. The Crest Tavern is a pretty nondescript place - there is a bar on one side and a larger room with a pool table and couple of tables for sitting and then folding chairs for the musicians. There are white Christmas lights all around to make it festive I suppose. But also dart boards and beer signs. Not exactly homy place like Cheers - BUT the jazz is pretty cool.

Apparantly anybody can come and play. This was my second time - there were three trumpets, one keyboard, three guys on percussion, 2 guitars, a flute. They came in and out and passed the melody around and kept the beat and played together. Jazz - working together.If there is any regret to my life - as one who loves all kidns of music - I wish I could play jazz - play loose and free. I can only play the notes on the page.

But that is not the point - the point is the music that is made when people work together. Much more interesting. But less control.

You never quite know what is going to happen.