Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The Dragonfly

 We were floating on a mountain lake, a few steps off the Pacific Crest Trail. That’s when the dragonfly showed up. For most of her life, this exquisite Being is just an aquatic nymph without wings. She lives just below the surface of the water. She breathes out of the gills in her rectum. Most of human life is also stuck on the surface, pursuing legacy projects and building brands. Our ego games make about as much sense as breathing out of our butts. Like Spirit, the dragonfly hovers over the waters. She is adaptable and flexible. What it takes to transform. I think she was beckoning me to lighten up like her. To stop taking myself so seriously. So I, too, can fly.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Keep Breathing

Stop and breathe. Clear your mind. Pay attention. Keep breathing. God is the breath inside your breath. Keep breathing. Express your deepest feelings. Pain. Joy. Wonder. Keep breathing. Let these be held by Something bigger than you. It’s called Steadfast Love. Keep breathing. Lift up those who hurt. Name names. You belong to these. And many more. Keep breathing. Call on Ancestors. They compost new life. Keep breathing. Tell yourself the truth. You are an extension of Steadfast Love. As long as you are breathing.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Undoing of White Centrality


“…for now, how do we aid in the undoing of white centrality?”—Dr. James Perkinson, “The Apocalypse of Whiteness,” June 9, 2020

Jim posed this question for white people in a sermon at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Detroit two weeks after George Floyd was murdered. The question not only remains, but seems to grow stronger by the day and week as white folks of faith and conscience struggle to know what to do with themselves as the movement for Black Lives digs deeper and the election inches closer. First of all, the political platform that Jim offers is radical and simple: work to transform every policy and practice that exploits, excludes and extracts from Black, Indigenous and Immigrant people. This must include (1) decolonization by literally giving the land back to Native nations; (2) reparations to black communities for unpaid labor beginning with slavery and coming forward and (3) amnesty (or asylum) along with practical support for immigrants coming from any of the more than 153 other countries that the U.S. has invaded and colonized to extract local goods into American consumer markets. In other words, reform is not an option. We must work for revolution. Because white supremacy and capitalism are tag-teaming the planet and people of color. As they have been for 500 years.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

The Erotic


“I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 1:8b 


“Recognizing the power of the erotic within our lives can give us the energy to pursue genuine change within our world, rather than merely settling for a shift of characters in the same weary drama.”—Audre Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic: TheErotic as Power” (1978)


The imprisoned apostle is tapping into resurrected energy handed down to him by the crucified Jesus of Nazareth. Compassion (σπλάγχνονwas not just feeling bad for other people or “pity,” a pathetic attempt found in many English translations. Compassion is gripping and gutteral. Literally, σπλάγχνον is a burning in the bowels, where Hebrew people located the most tender affections. Compassion is an intense emotion at the core of the spiritual and political work and teaching of Jesus. He saw the suffering crowds and he refused to blame the victims. They were sheep without a shepherd. He felt deeply and intensely for them. He offered models like the good Samaritan (Luke 10) and the running, crying father (Luke 15) who subverted the chill, cool, indifferent, above-it-all, passive postures of patriarchy.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Bats


The Bat arriving in your life signifies an omen of change. He asks that you pay attention to signs around you. The transition may seem frightening at first, but you must let go of your old habits and patterns that no longer serve your higher calling. They will only hinder your growth.

Last Friday, at dusk, bats flew over our socially distanced circle in Central Oregon. We were a half dozen gathered around the campfire participating in another lectio divina Bible study session. We were chewing on the parable of the sower from Matthew’s Gospel. I resonated with the seed scattered on the rocky soil. It lacks the roots needed for long term growth. Rocky soil is a mile wide and an inch deep. I connected it specifically to my writing. Over the past dozen years, I have written much for public consumption. I have published in magazines and posted online. This type of writing, even when it is self-reflective, tends to be performative. Mass production is the opposite of being present and diving deep.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

The Badlands


Last week, I took a 2500-mile road trip to officiate a wedding in the Rockies and spend a night of precious socially distanced time with Dale and Stacy Fredrickson and our godchildren in Denver. I initially hoped to spend a few extra nights somewhere on a writing retreat, but my heart, mind and body were not into it. I missed Lindsay. Covid-19 was breaking out. So I hauled ass back home. 

Before I pulled into Bend, I pulled off the road for a run in the Oregon Badlands wilderness about 20 miles outside of town. Bend is a biogregon border town. To the west is Cascadia, a mountainous region stocked with lakes, rivers and active volcanoes stretching from northern California to Canada. To the east is the vast Great Basin Desert that comprises portions of Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Colorado. It boasts some of the least populated zip codes on the continent.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The Buck


On the last Sunday in June, an hour before sunset, Lindsay and I were on the banks of Towarnehiooks, an ancient border between land tended by Molalla and Paiute peoples. White invaders renamed the river “Deschutes” in the 19th century. We were tossing pine cones into Towarnehiooks, sipping a local IPA and naming our grief and gratitude for the four months we served as interim pastors of a white liberal church plant in Bend, Oregon. Just as we were finishing our ritual, thirty meters upstream, a buck waded in the water and forded the river to the promised land of the old Molalla nation. When a buck crosses your path, it beckons you to lean into gentleness and kindness and compassion. Lindsay and I both have the capacity for these powers, but we both tend towards intensity and perfectionism—postures on full display as were sipping and naming.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Solidarity

Nonviolent direct action at the Capitol
in Lansing, MI (May 2018)

I think sometimes when we use the term solidarity, we actually mean a kind of saviorism. I see this a lot when people are talking about differences in social power: ‘I’m not queer / trans / POC / undocumented / incarcerated / etc, but I stand in solidarity with them.’ In that sense, people use it sometimes to mean they have politics that are not reducible to the oppressions they experience. Now, of course, I think we need to be showing up for folks across identities, social locations, and experiences. But I think what this understanding of solidarity misses is the ways that we are all affected by systems of domination. We are all created in and through those systems, and we are all worse off because they exist.”—Dr. Ashley Bohrer

The status quo is devastating to the Earth and to Black, Indigenous and Immigrant peoples. However, middle-class whiteness, built on racism and capitalism, dehumanizes me too. It strips me of empathy, open-heartedness and emotional expressiveness. I struggle to be present and playful. It has made me competitive and controlling, fearful and anxious. I feel alone and unknown. Dr. Bohrer goes on to say that there is a difference between the suffering of the most vulnerable and how middle-class white folks are degraded by the system. But the belief that some suffer while others are “privileged” is a white worldview that atomizes everything. It counterfeits the spiritual reality that we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Rooted in Radical Self-Love


Marble, CO
July 4, 2020
"Come to me, all you who toil and are burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my load is light."—Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30)

“I decided to stop being the version of myself that worked for everybody else.”—Dominique Christina (from this compelling podcast interview with Rev. Dale Frederickson)
  
An excerpt from my journal session on Sunday, July 5, 2020 in Basalt, Colorado.

The words of Jesus of Nazareth and Dominque of Denver prod me to confront my addiction to work and performance. The principalities of whiteness and capitalism have hoodwinked me into laboring for love. The white man’s burden is a work ethic that seeks to shatter shame with supremacy. It is counterfeit. The easy yoke of Jesus is an alternative. It is a spiritual training program that moves on gentleness and humility. It is rooted in radical self-love. I am learning to insist on myself, scars and all. I am learning to say “no.” The last thing the world needs is another overworked, exhausted white man who is oblivious to the suffering of others. Spirit is calling for presence and playfulness, intimacy and vulnerability. Today is the first day of the rest of my life.