When I woke up yesterday, I was thinking about your FaceBook posting asking prayers for folks in the Oklahoma City area.  Then I found myself thinking about the recent death of my father-in-law.  Basically, I was thinking about the question “why is there suffering or evil in the world?”

I mean, this wouldn’t be a question at all.  Except we believe that God made the world we live in.  We believe that God is good.  We believe that God loves and cares for us.

If all this is true, then why do bad things happen?  Why do people suffer?  Why do people die?

Mind you, at least in my mind, a good deal of this can be put down to a combination of human free will and human perversity.  But even that is part of God’s creation.  Why would our God make that part of creation?  And certainly the facts of disease and natural disaster and death are part of God’s creation too – even if we sometimes contribute to all of the above.  Why did God make the world that way?

I don’t really have answers.

But I do have thoughts.  There are some things I think are true. (more…)

My clergy writing group resumed this past week, after some months off.  It looks like we will start a blog for the group to share what we do sometime the beginning of next year.  Until then, our prompt was two poems by Emily Dickinson related to facing death (one of which featured a fly).  This is what I wrote:

“I am of an age, now, when limits and mortality are in my thoughts with regularity.

I’m not sure when they were ever absent, mind you. (more…)

It’s been too long since I posted!

Anyway, today (in my supplemental office readings) I read a poem (couldn’t figure out the author, but it’s from Celtic Daily Prayer) part of which goes like this:

Help me to find my happiness
in my acceptance
of what is Your purpose for me …
in the awareness
of Your presence in my spirit.

Then I came across this (from the Tao Te Ching as quoted in Chittister’s The Rule of Benedict):

Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are,
When you realize there is nothing lacking
the whole world belongs to you.

I’m still wrestling with retirement.

I’m doing a lot of (more…)

Some of you will still remember the song, “American Woman,” that still gets some play on classic rock stations.  I like the song fine, though it’s not one of my favorites.  (I prefer the version with the acoustic guitar lead in that then breaks into a harder, electric rock.)  It’s been running through my head for the last several days.  Knowing that we all read into what songs and poems and stories mean from how they connect in our own minds to our own lives, I’ve always heard this as a song about not settling for the standard work hard (at any job that pays well), care for your family and retire well thing that seems to run in American culture.  What’s important is being successful and comfortable.  Very possibly, that’s just me.

I think, if you’d asked me during my college days what the most important thing in my life was, I might have answered ending the (Vietnam) war.  Or I might have answered finding the meaning of life (I was a philosophy major) or figuring out God (I did become an Episcopal priest).  Or I might have answered my writing.  It would have depended when and in what context you asked me.

Did I want a real relationship with a woman?  Sure.  You bet!  But it might well not have been on my list of most important things.  And, in the context of making some woman happy by supporting her living the American dream, it was certainly not on my list of vital things to do with my life. (more…)

Reading Kaufman’s Kingbird Highway.  He’s talking about hitching from Arizona to Pennsylvania, and it brings back old memories.

I did a lot of driving, birding, in college, with Frosh.

But I did a lot of hitching (and some picking up) in college too.

I remember two pickups in particular. (more…)

My friend, Jill’s, father died recently.
Turns out his first name was William. Maybe I knew that once? But he was really just Jill’s dad to me. And he was a character. He worked at Cal Tech, and for a while he was in the Guinness Book of Records as the inventor (builder?) of the world’s smallest working machine. (They eventually did away with this category.) When a group, including Jill and I, were arrested for civil disobedience (in protest of the use of antipersonnel weapons in areas with civilian populations during the Vietnam War) he took (I believe) a still photo of the TV coverage (back when cameras were not digital) as a memento for us. I wonder if Jill still has it — she keeps that kind of thing. (more…)

Again, from the writer’s group; we were working on (the Lutheran’s) Reformation Sunday “If the Son makes you free, you are free indeed.”  Here’s my response:

How free am I in Christ?

What does it even mean to be free in Christ?

I’m clear that I cannot earn and will never deserve my salvation.  It’s simply a gift offered and received.

But maybe something needs to be said about the receiving?

I’ve probably said this before.  But the controlling image in my mind for grace is marriage.

I don’t deserve (and could never have earned) Anne’s love. But the gift of her love was offered and (so far) has been something I received.

But the receiving changes me.  If I love Anne, I live differently.  I choose to do, some things at least, because I know they will please her.  And I avoid doing other things I know will hurt her.

I do this as myself.  A real turning point in our relationship [as I remember it] came when she broke up with me, I think right after I asked her to marry me, and we reconciled (within a couple of days).

What she told me was, “You are not my Prince Charming …” — which was why we broke up.  “But,” she continued, “I love you anyway.”

So I was free to be me, and still be loved.

Maybe God has created me to be someone in particular.  Maybe I am most fully myself as I become that person.  But it isn’t primarily about rules and expectations.  it’s about love and relationship.

And I’m free to be me.

I’m free to become myself.

At my own pace.

Lived out in a loving relationship.

I’m thinking that’s what it might mean to be “free indeed in Christ.”


Just a heads up.  I’m planning in the near future to change the name of this blog.  I had originally thought I might call it The Sunset Juggler.  I have the photo (no, I’m the photographer, not the juggler) to go with the name.  And my sense of life in general, and life with God and scripture in particular, is that we are always juggling and wrestling to find our way.  And, this is more true for me since maybe April of this year, in the aftermath of my gastric bypass surgery, as I see the probability of retirement of some kind approaching (more quickly, I suspect, than I had anticipated), I also see myself as being (at least at the start of) the sunset of my years. (more…)

We have been blessed to have a week in a timeshare (The Sandpiper) in Lincoln City, Oregon these past three years. For me this is really an annual slice of heaven. I’m going to miss it next year. Anne’s school starts too early (or our week runs too late). It’s a nice place, by my standards. A bit shabby, but comfortable. We’re on a bluff above the beach, overlooking the ocean. With the sliding glass door on the balcony open (as it is now, and most of the time we’re home) I can hear the waves breaking and there is a gentle ocean breeze. I don’t think I can tell you how nice this is.

I think I could have a wonderful vacation of we never got out of the house! (more…)

Ok.  So I’m back from my (CREDO 2) conference in Virginia, and trying to get back into the swing of things.  And for me that includes reading the daily offices (out of the St. Helena Breviary).  So I’ve been reading today about Dunstan (who was born in 910 C.E. and died in 988 C.E.).

This morning I read the commentary from Brightest and Best (where it was commented that when clergy travel without their collars they often annoy people who want them “belled like a cat” so that they know their normal, every day lives are being interrupted by an emissary from the spiritual life).  And I’ve been thinking since about the sacred and the profane in Benedictine thought (more…)