Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr

In these dark days of fear, hatred, intolerance and every injustice in the name of religion…In these days of believers killing one another in the name of their Gods…
In these days of Evil pretending to be Good…

I honor the faith, wisdom and leadership of one Christian minister who changed the history of the United States of America.

Reverend King had the courage to show us what faith in action looks like. He is one of my heroes.

MLK2

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr

NonTraditional Spiritual Wisdom

It seems like the older I get and the more I listen to those seeking spiritual healing or a change of mind and heart, the wisdom within the visions and voices of children’s literature is so relevant. Imagine:

“Then he said, In truth I tell you, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.” – Matthew 18:3

NonTraditional Spiritual Wisdom

Winter Solstice 2014

A Yule log
A Yule log

Snuggled in with the winter holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa,
pagans celebrate Yule to coincide with the Winter Solstice.
Pagans (Wiccans and Druids) believe in the oneness of the divine in all that exists frequently associated with both male and female – gods and goddesses.

Interfaith ministers embrace paganism as another path to the Sacred as we seek to coexist with all genuine paths and traditions seeking the truth.

This holiday marks the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere (Sunday, December 21, 2014 this year) and celebrates the rebirth of the sun and the onset of the season of winter.

Culturally, it is one of the oldest winter celebrations known with deep roots in the tribal Celtic, Scandinavian and Germanic earth-centered religions.
Pagans gather across the globe with friends and family celebrating with rituals and ceremonies that are, in fact, quite familiar to some of us of Christian heritage. Indeed, many Christian Christmas traditions are traced back to ancient Yule rituals.

To my pagan friends, near and far, Blessed Yuletide! Light up the night and enjoy the love with hearty food and celebration drink.

http://www.ibtimes.com/winter-solstice-2014-3-things-know-about-pagan-yule-celebrations-1763756

Winter Solstice 2014

Georgia O’Keefe Speaks to Me

Poppy, Georgia O'Keefe, 1927
Poppy, Georgia O’Keefe, 1927

In previous posts, I have written about the Sacred, art and communication. I believe that God speaks through both the artist and the art. Sacred art – painting, Gregorian chant, sculpture, religious architecture, symphonies, stained glass windows, Greek Orthodox icons or Zen gardens – art speaks to me of the Sacred beyond my senses.

To share another’s vision or to hear another’s voice can also be a Sacred and profound experience.

I’ve shared Van Gogh and Monet. Today, meet Georgia O’Keefe (1887-1986). She is known as the “Mother of American Modernism.” Her bold, frequently huge canvases are as nontraditional as her life and her lifestyle. I honor what she saw and her courage to share it with us.

Georgia O'Keefe, Jimson Weed, 1936
Georgia O’Keefe, Jimson Weed, 1936
Black Mesa Landscape,New Mexico, Georgia O'Keefe,1930
Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico, Georgia O’Keefe, 1930

“I found I could say things with colors that I couldn’t say in any other way-things that I had no words for.”

Red Canna, Geogia O'Keefe,
Red Canna, Geogia O’Keefe, 1924
Red Hill and White Shell,Georgia O'Keefe,1938
Red Hill and White Shell, Georgia O’Keefe, 1938

“I said to myself, I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me — shapes and ideas so near to me — so natural to my way of being and thinking that it hasn’t occurred to me to put them down. I decided to start anew, to strip away what I had been taught.”

Two Calla Lillies on Pink, Georgia O'Keefe,  1928
Two Calla Lillies on Pink, Georgia O’Keefe, 1928
Light Iris, Georgia O'Keefe, 1924
Light Iris, Georgia O’Keefe, 1924

“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not.”

Yellow Calla, Georgia O'Keefe, 1926
Yellow Calla, Georgia O’Keefe, 1926
Georgia O’Keefe Speaks to Me

Hope = Compassion + Forgiveness

Photo courtesy of NPR
Photo courtesy of NPR

As a minister, I’m on the lookout for moments of contemplation into action within my personal and professional encounters throughout the day. Finding the Sacred (or Divine or God or The Holy or Buddha or the goddesses or Jesus or Allah) is not always easy. I teach myself to look more carefully; listen more intently; and touch more intentionally. I have much to learn.

Amidst the despair, fear and revenge of the tribal war between Israel and Palestine, this NPR story by Ari Shapiro, a Jewish journalist, offers glimpses and whispers of hope, compassion and forgiveness… the mission of my interfaith ministry.

The forgiveness moment is soft and subtle… but it’s there… a gentle reminder that just as there are many paths to God, there are also many paths to reconciliation. Can you help me find forgiveness?

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/07/09/330160839/what-happens-when-israeli-mourners-visit-a-palestinian-family

Forgiveness
Forgiveness
Hope = Compassion + Forgiveness

Monet Speaks to Me

Water Lilies, Claude Monet, 1919
Water Lilies, Claude Monet, 1919

Here’s another installment of art that speaks to me: Impressionism by Claude Monet.
I sometimes wonder if Monet saw God in the shadows between his brush strokes?
A friend used to sit and stare at Monet’s paintings and pray. She said Impressionism nourished her soul.

The ability to create through artistic skills and the appreciation of what’s been created – both can be spiritual practices in search of the Sacred in our lives.

Do you have art that helps you pray?

Impressionism,Sunrise, Claude Monet, 1873
Impressionism,Sunrise, Claude Monet, 1873
Water Lily Pond, Claude Monet
Water Lily Pond, Claude Monet, 1883
A Seascape. Shipping by Moonlight. Monet
A Seascape. Shipping by Moonlight. Monet, 1864
Arm of the Jeufosse in Autumn. Monet
Arm of the Jeufosse in Autumn. Monet, 1884
Red Boats at Argentueil, Claude Monet, 1875
Red Boats at Argentueil, Claude Monet, 1875
Beach and Cliffs at Pourville, Morning Effect. Claude Monet. 1882
Beach and Cliffs at Pourville, Morning Effect. Claude Monet. 1882
The Customs House Morning Effect, Claude Monet, 1882
The Customs House Morning Effect, Claude Monet, 1882
Path through the Forest, Snow Effect, Claude Monet, 1870
Path through the Forest, Snow Effect, Claude Monet, 1870
Irises in Monet's Garden, Claude Monet, 1900
Irises in Monet’s Garden, Claude Monet, 1900
Monet Speaks to Me

From Contemplation to Action


The challenges of maintaining balance between the introspection of contemplation and the extroversion of social action… being both thinker and doer…architect and builder… prayer/meditator and server… has been a recurring theme for me since my first philosophy course in college.

I choose to honor and work to safeguard a middle way. Contemplation + Action = Sacred Activism.

Thinking by itself and for its own sake can easily become solipsistic, self-centered and self-serving. Action by itself can be impulsive, reactionary and chaotic. I have increasingly less tolerance for theological debates and pompous rationalizations in the name of God.

In response to the Ferguson, MO grand jury announcement recently, Rev. Tony Lee, minister of The Community of Hope African Methodist Episcopal Church in Hillcrest Heights, MD invited Prince George’s County Police Chief Mark Magaw and law enforcement senior managers to a special service on Sunday, November 30, 2014. The service was his response following the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for killing 18-year-old Michael Brown.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/02/hope-ame-church-ferguson_n_6254304.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000051

I do not know Rev. Tony Lee and I am not a member of the AME religion but I respect and honor what he appears to believe, his understanding of Christianity and his proactive, faith-based and community-based response. His ministerial action demonstrates that he chose to take the New Testament’s thoughts and transform them into a message of hope rather than despair, rage or destruction. Rev. Lee’s leadership style speaks volumes about his prayer life, his understanding of the Christian message and his community’s need for social conversation, understanding and healing… not to mention the powerful role model this man is for every Black adolescent male in his congregation.

Effective ministers reflect the Sacred while watching and listening to the sights and sounds; visions and voices of their faithful… and sometimes they facilitate timely social work.

Sacred activism’s time has come.

Thank you, Rev. Lee for your leadership. Some of us are following.

As always, I welcome your respectful feedback and comments. Blessings!

From Contemplation to Action

Van Gogh Speaks to Me

The Starry Night, Vincent VanGogh, June 1889
The Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh, 1889

In college, I took two Humanities courses that turned me on to classical music and fine art. I was not raised to appreciate art nor did I understand it. Both courses opened a new world to me as I began to see, hear and feel the transformative power of human creativity. I, myself, am not so artistic… but I have evolved to honor our shared, cross-cultural and trans-historical heritage of art, architecture, music and ritual.

I respect that the creative arts are shared common elements across all of the 5 major world religions. I also believe that they can help provide expression for interfaith meaning, understanding and communication. In fact, the appreciation of religious art is a hallmark of interfaith celebration worldwide.

Art has a revered place in my sacred garden.

Visually, I’m attracted to Impressionism and the visions of Monet and Van Gogh. (I’m also attracted to what Georgia O’Keeffe saw… another post for another day). Their color and texture choices speak to me. I am in awe at how thousands of individual and seemingly unrelated brush strokes can melt together into symphony of color that portrays a scene. From chaos to order… is the beauty on the canvas or in my eyes? Impressionism keeps me asking… is what I am observing subjective or objective? I keep coming up with “its both!”

I must also admit that I kind of like that these Impressionists were rebellious souls… the “bad boys” of art in their day. Breaking with tradition, they created a whole new dimension within the heart of the 19th century that thrives and inspires today. These guys also excite my Pantheism.

I invite you to listen to some of my favorite Vincent Van Gogh paintings. Can you feel the Sacred? Does he invite you to pray too?

Irises, Vincent VanGogh, 1889
Irises, Vincent Van Gogh, 1889
The Red Vineyard, Vincent VanGogh, 1888
The Red Vineyard, Vincent Van Gogh, 1888
Starry Night Over the Rhone, Vincent VanGogh, 1888
Starry Night Over the Rhone, Vincent Van Gogh, 1888
Wheatfield with Crows, Vincent VanGogh, 1890
Wheatfield with Crows, Vincent Van Gogh, 1890
Field of Poppies, Vincent VanGogh, 1889
Field of Poppies, Vincent Van Gogh, 1889
Wheatfield with Cypresses, Vincent VanGogh, 1889
Wheatfield with Cypresses, Vincent Van Gogh, 1889
Van Gogh Speaks to Me

Strength

strength-quotes

I’ve grown to believe that by following the Buddhist Eight-Fold Path of right view, intentions, speech, action, livelihood, effort, concentration and mindfulness… what is true for me emerges from within my thoughts, feelings, intuitions and encounters.

If I am sincerely following my own path of righteousness, my ego and judgement get smaller and smaller. Compassion and acceptance of myself and others – those that agree with me and those that disagree with me – gets larger and larger. This is my evolution of personal conscience and consciousness. This is my mindfulness awakening. This is why I meditate/pray. This is why I have chosen to be a minister.

Some family, friends and acquaintances seem to be a bit suspect of my new ministry. I honor their suspicions and accept them under advisement. Frankly, I pray about their concerns. I have not particularly been a fan of organized religion since my Roman Catholic days studying to be a priest in the 1970’s. Religion has been and continues to be a huge part of the cultural, social and political struggles of human history (think: The Crusades, Creationists and ISIS). I get it and I get their concerns. Most of their observations are quite valid. Religion has had a not so good track record and more often than not has been part of the problem… instead of the solution.

I aim to be different and to make a difference. Genuine self-confidence, personal and vocational convictions, inner strength in the face of hate and fear and death – everyday I am called to master who I am and what I strive to become. My ministry: HOPE = Compassion + Forgiveness keeps me centered and also keeps me real.

Daily, I recognize that I am in need of the gifts of diplomacy, patience and discernment. I frequently get into my own way. I am stubborn. I am opinionated.

Yet I am sure, without a doubt, that now is the time for me to have faith in myself in the presence of all that is Sacred to me. I am called.

Almost everyday, current events can easily contribute to my erosion, doubts and wanting to revert back to declaring war against all that is not right with my world view. I pray for the ability to tame my beasts within and respond with compassion and forgiveness. Sarcasm, cynicism and despair is toxic.

Can I deceive yourself? Absolutely. Deception of myself and others, working my own agenda and taking detours from my path – we can create… or we can destroy. The choice and the responsibility is ours.

My best friend died quite unexpectedly 6 weeks ago. Just 2 years older than me with many miles – we all thought – still left on her warranty with hopes that we’d retire together and host a bed and breakfast/retreat/sanctuary in a tranquil place. Trust me: I am reminded daily that every single moment counts. We find the strength when we have to… and it seems, we are always stronger than we think.

If I have the strength to find my bliss and follow it… you do too.

Strength