Monthly Archives: June 2008

A Place to Lay Your Head

Matthew 8: 18-22

“The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

Have you ever felt that way before? Have you ever felt like your were homeless and there was no place where you could relax and simply be yourself? Certainly as a gay man, I have yearned for a community of faith where I could lay my head and a society where none of us had to hide.

If we are to truly follow the way of the Christ we will at times feel homeless. We will find ourselves rejected at worst and uncomfortable at best in the presence of some people, even some religious people. As we push the envelope of who is welcome and who is not, we will increasingly feel out of sorts and homeless. As we break religious law or practice in favor of love and compassion we will increasingly find ourselves unwelcome in our own homes. Truly following the way is not easy, and at times it can be a lonely journey. I have wondered and still wonder at times if there are others like me out there? One of the reasons why I began this blog is to provide a sense of home for those who feel themselves to be outside the walls of the religious norm and a point of connection with others who feel the same. It’s my “shout” out in cyberspace to others like me. I hope that this is and continues to be a place where people can find comfort in knowing there are others like them out there; a place where those of us who live “outsidethewalls” can find home.

Instead of concentrating on how I am feeling homeless, how am I myself making a home for others to lay their heads? How am I providing a space and a heart where others who feel homeless can find the bread of compassion and wine to warm their hearts?

 


Do Great Things? You? Really??

Today some churches celebrate two icons of the Christian tradition: Peter and Paul. Two very different men. Two very different perspectives. Peter, a staunch traditionalist, clinging to his Jewish traditions and Paul, the great Jewish fundamentalist turned Christian progressive! Peter, who thought the Christian message was only for Jews. And Paul, who opened the doors for the message to be spread to and lived by all. Two very different men. But two very similar men in that both were quite flawed and both were men of great passion.

Paul ruthlessly persecuted early Christians and could oftentimes be a braggart . He had an ego the size of the planet! And Peter could be a fumbling idiot at times, shooting off his mouth before speaking. In the end he even denied knowing Jesus and he wept bitterly over his lack of courage. Yet, he became the rock of this new movement, going from a frightened man behind a locked door to one who openly and boldly told his truth! And Paul, after being knocked of his high fundamentalist horse, saw the blindness of his ways and went so far as to insist that ALL were welcome, even those “pagans!” Two flawed passionate men who did not allow their flaws to stop them!

How often we think “who am I to do great things?” We look at our shortcomings and perhaps our lack of education, experience or resources. We look at the mistakes we’ve made and continue to make and, because of this, we muddle through life idly, hiding somewhere on the periphery, afraid to come front and center. Yet who is the one without flaws? What leader is without “sin?” What leader has not made mistakes? Perhaps the biggest mistake we could possibly make would be to allow our flaws to stop us from stepping up to the plate.

Or sometimes society holds people down, keeps them in their place. Imagine years ago when a person of color, a woman or an openly gay person wouldn’t have dreamt of being a leader! And today, slowly, ever so slowly, precisely because people have had the courage to step up to the plate and not be held down, people of color, women and openly gay people are increasingly taking positions of leadership and letting their light shine!

Instead of concentrating on our flaws, instead of allowing ourselves to be held in place by societal, cultural or even religious norms, think instead about the gift that we are and the light we have to share and . . . step up to the plate. And when people start knocking us down, as leaders are, let the one who is without a flaw cast the first stone!


Holy Sexy Men

This past week I have been with the religious community that I left some 10 years ago. I had spent about 20 years of my life with this community. I had been asked to come and help them with their bi-annual Assembly. I accepted the invitation to help, but to be honest, I was nervous about being there with them. What would they think of my presence? How would they treat me?

I cannot tell you what a wonderful pleasure it has been to be with these men again! They welcomed me with open arms and many told me how much I was missed, how much I was loved and how very happy they were that I was there with them. And these men knew me, my gifts and my flaws and they know and cherish me as a gay man. It was a very affirming experience. It was wonderful to be around this group of wonderful, holy, sexy men for a week. It reminded me of the type of man that my heart seeks. These men are holy men, spiritual and open, yet very much down to earth, to say the least! Such a combination in a man has seemed difficult for me to find since I’ve left. Of course they, like me, are not perfect and there are some pretty screwed up men among them; but I sat back and observed how those who were screwed up were treated. I found a lot of tolerance. The grace of community is that it is a witness to the possibility of different types of people and personalities, viewpoints and political philosophies coming together and respecting one another in love. And in the world in which we live, such a witness is needed!

This experience reminded me of the importance of community, specifically a community of faith. This has been missing in my life. I yearn to be a part of a community of faith where I can worship in spirit and in truth. It reminds me again how alone the journey feels sometimes because I don’t have a community of faith where I can lay my head and feel at home. Work circumstances prevent that right now; or perhaps it‘s just fear. Maybe this experience was meant to beckon me to search and seek again; to examine my willingness to leave all things and follow – to give up house, home, financial security, geography, friends and family. Am I willing? Am I willing to risk without guarantee in order to follow? It reminds me of Eckhart Tolle who left his native land of England to move to California because something within him felt compelled; and he only had $1000.00 to his name! Perhaps if we risk life becomes more of an adventure than the stayed feeling that pervades my living now. Believe me, there are many advantages of this “stayed feeling,” a beautiful home in a beautiful neighborhood, a good paying job doing when I love do to. But I increasingly do not believe in the direction of the church in which I serve and my home isn’t there.

Am I being called to sell everything? To risk? Are you? Anyone know of a good community of faith?


Clean Your Own Street

Matthew 7: 1-5

“Why look at the speck in your brother or sister’s eye when you miss the plank in your own.”

How often we harbor judgments toward others, especially if we have been hurt or betrayed.  This judgment can turn into a huge resentment, sapping any semblance of peace within us.  Perhaps this statement of the Christ holds a key to freedom.  Don’t keep passing judgment.  Don’t keep looking at how you have been wronged.  Look instead at your own shit.  In 12-Step programs they talk about keeping your side of the street clean; that is, don’t be taking other people’s inventories all the time.  Keep the focus on you and on the path that you’re walking.  Take your own inventory, not that of others.  This process yields greater insight than when we are focused on what someone else is doing or not doing.  “Remove the plank from your own eye first; then you will see clearly to take the speck from your brother or sister’s eye!”

When we keep the focus on ourselves and simply work our spiritual program, when we keep the focus on making sure our side of the street is clean, then we will be given the insight we need to deal with others.


Be Not Afraid

Jeremiah 20: 10-13
Matthew 10: 26-33

There is so much to be afraid of.  Terrorism, fundamentalism, the economy, the future for our children.  Fear of being rejected, fear of being killed, fear of dying.  I think my biggest fear these days is the fear of dying with my music still inside me.

Wayne Dyer, in one of his talks (I can’t remember which one) said “don’t die with your music still inside you.”  All of us have a song inside that we are meant to sing.  Those of us whose “song” sounds a little different (or maybe a lot!) need some courage to sing the song in the midst of those who would want that song silenced.  In the Scripture readings of this past Sunday found in the common Lectionary, we are beckoned not to be afraid.  That is the theme that comes forth like waves on the ocean in this Liturgy . . .

Be not afraid.

Be not afraid.

Be not afraid.

Don’t die with your music still inside you.  Sing your song and in so doing live not in fear, but in courage and freedom.  But,  . . . . we MUST be willing to pay the price!!  That’s the key.  Like Jeremiah, those who have sung a different song have had to deal with much rejection.  But imagine what our world would be like without those who dream and without prophets who lay before us a vision of what might be beyond the seeming confines of “reality.”


Smile and KISS!

Matthew 6: 7-15

“In your prayer, don’t rattle on!”

Why is it that we have a tendency to complicate the spiritual life or religious practice? And why is it that we have a tendency to take it all so seriously?!

Last night I continued to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love. She describes her first lesson with her Balinese Hindu teacher named Ketut, an elderly, toothless Medicine Man. He asked her if she’s studied yoga. She says yes and he responds: “Why they always look so serious in Yoga? You make serious face like this, you scare away good energy. To meditate, only you must smile. Smile with face, smile with mind, and good energy will come to you and clean away dirty energy. Even smile in your liver. Practice tonight at hotel. Not to hurry, not to try too hard. Too serious, you make you sick. You can calling the good energy with a smile. All finish for today. See you later alligator (p.231).” . . . And that was it. That was the extent of her first spiritual teaching from this man. No long treatise, no book, no long retreat, just this: sit, smile, and don’t get too serious!

I LOVE that image! Perhaps because I tend to be serious in my spiritual journey at times. I was going to title this entry “Smile for God’s Sake!” And then I thought, God doesn’t need our smiles, WE do! And then I thought again, . . . Maybe God DOES need our smiles after seeing and listening to all these glum looking “spiritual” people everyday! Who wouldn’t want a good laugh after a day of that!!

In 12-Step programs they have a phrase with the acronym KISS, meaning “keep it simple stupid!” I’m not sure I like the “stupid” part, but you get it. Keep it simple, don’t complicate it! And like Ketut said, just sit and smile while you’re meditating and walking through life!

By the way, another good read on lightening up in the spiritual journey is a book by Julia Cameron entitled: God Is No Laughing Matter: An Artist’s Observations and Objections on the Spiritual Path. A good read indeed!

Maybe today and in the days to come we could just smile and KISS and watch the dirty energy get cleared away!


Save the World! You Can Do It!

Sirach 48: 1-14

“By God’s word Elijah shut up the heavens and three times brought down fire.”

OK, I don’t know about brining down fire, but what do you think about us humans having the power within us to affect nature? Some spiritualities claim that by our thoughts and the energy we give off, we can literally affect things around us. I have heard that quantum physicists have said that at their smallest levels, particles behave differently depending on who is observing them! Is it such a leap then to say that larger things could be affected depending on who is observing them?

I’m not sure what I think about all of that. I am certainly not opposed to the notion and actually find it fascinating. It is the stuff of “miracles.” I am, however, convinced that we do give off energy and affect situations around us. It is thus important that we need to do what we need to do to stay centered. The past few days I have not taken the time to meditate and exercise. I am surprised how very quickly I begin to get off base and how my energy shifts when I am not taking this time. And my life, and the lives of others are affected by this shift in energy!

Last night I was reading again from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love. She was describing the people of Bali and their way of life. She said this: “Religious ceremonies are of paramount importance here in Bali. . . . Life here is a constant cycle of offerings and rituals. You must perform them all, in correct order and with the correct intention, or the entire universe will fall out of balance (p.226).” I don’t know about such a strict adherence to rituals, but when we look around, doesn’t it seem like the world is falling out of balance? Poverty, global warming, severe weather patterns, energy crises, religious extremism, etc. And sometimes our own lives seem to fall out of balance! I wonder, . . . if more people turned to peaceful spiritual practice would the imbalance would shift? I am not speaking of strict adherence to religious rituals, where, as I have said before, we have a tendency to get caught up in the right practice of the ritual itself instead of the ritual as a means to spiritual growth. I am speaking of a religious/spiritual practice which centers our spirits and gives us an energy that is peaceful and focused. Would this not have an affect on our world, one person at a time?

Am I doing what I need to in order to stay balanced and in good spiritual energy?