Thursday, December 29, 2011

Promise Keeping

All of us have moments when life is wonderful and inviting, magnetic with promise. But, of course, there is also the other foot, life of trouble and pain. How do we move from one to the other? What drives us onward, even in the worst of times, to get up and keep going or perhaps if life is really bad, to even just live. This New Year’s I want you to promise to keep living and striving onward.

Life itself keeps us going. When we were born we had little choice in the matter. We were pushed into existence. Life lives us. Something drives us. Call it spirit, will, or fate, we are moving forward because we must move forward, as if some unseen hand - perhaps God? – wants us to go on. Sometimes it is even an obsession. I am reminded of the farm family who had to climb on top of their home to escape the coming flood. “Where’s grandpa?” asked one of the children. There was a straw hat floating around the water in front of the house. Grandma replied “Grandpa said he was going to cut the grass today, come hell or high water!”

Baring high water, hell is a very real problem for most of us who want to get on with our lives but we don’t know how. Not the hell of the afterlife but the hell of the present. Just recently someone outside of our congregation told me that her mother had died, her husband left her and she had been diagnosed with cancer! What do we say to that? Gee, I’m sorry? Some days it really does rain frogs; borrowing a wonderful metaphor from the plagues of Egypt in the Hebrew Bible. And then what? What do you do? Come on, you all know the answer. You get up and start again. Driven still by the promise that today is a new beginning.

Twenty five years ago when my religious life began in earnest, I thought I would change the world. As I finished my graduate training I thought “well, at least I can change the congregation I serve.” After putting a few churches behind me, I thought, “O.K. at least I can change a few lives.” Now I say, perhaps with a bit too much cynicism “At least I will change myself.”

I met Tan, my Buddhist teacher almost 25 years ago during a retreat. My life was more of a mess than it is now. I learned to “sit” from Tan. Not sitting in the sense of putting my posterior down on a chair. But cross-legged, on a cushion, quieting the mind, save for my breath. It wasn’t easy. The Buddhists say that the mind is like a drunken monkey on a hot tin roof. Always filling up with new ideas. After the second day, my legs were cramped, my behind sore and I was really wondering what in the world I was doing there. And I was getting really tired of Tan barking at me to sit up straight. Finally, I snapped. “Stop yelling at me.” Tan dismissed the group and then sat down across from me not saying a word. My temper had once again made me a fool. I was regretting the moment immensely. Finally, in a whisper he said “Your life is a mess. All life is a mess. Sitting for half an hour a day may be the best it gets; like a new beginning in the midst of a continual journey. You think I don’t know how to sit? When I was in Vietnam, the Vietcong came to our village. They raped the women, and shot the old men. My mother and father disappeared. Only my grandmother survived holding me in her lap inside of a large basket. We survived because she had taught me to be very still – to sit. We sat for our lives. My grandmother brought me to a monastery and they took me. I was scared and angry. It took me 30 years to learn to let go of the images of that day in the village. Each day I reminded myself, today is a new beginning. Sit and be with this day. Keep that promise.” He stopped, he closed his eyes. I closed mine. And a new beginning was before me.

My 2012 be the year of keeping the promises which truly matter.
With Grace and Grit, John

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Brave New Roads of Thanks

The story is told of the first few years of the pilgrim’s residence in the wilds of New England. Camped precariously on the edge of the great woods, this little band of white settlers had lost much to find their new home in North America. Battered and decimated by the long journey across the ocean, the Pilgrims set up their small settlement at Plymouth Rock. We all know the legend of that first Thanksgiving. Short of food, unfamiliar with the crops of the New World, they were saved; it seems by the generosity of the Native Americans whom they would someday make war upon.

Several years into the new settlement, the Puritan fathers had exhausted their resources, even with planting by the shore. The proposal was made to build a road into the interior to bring wood and other resources to the settlement. Much was said at that meeting but in the end, the fathers voted to not build that road. One young woman stood up after this decision and asked to address the meeting. Reluctantly given permission she said: “Here we have traveled thousands of miles over the most dangerous seas, fleeing a mighty persecution on account of our religion; facing savages not all of who are friendly, and staving off starvation only to be afraid to build this road several miles into the wilderness! Why would God give us such a magnificent creation if not to be seen and used? Wherefore that same courage good gentlemen that carried you here, cannot carry you on?” The assembled voted to build the road.

We can argue, of course, as to whether or not such a road was ever a good idea. After all, these Euro Americans would build a great many roads at a great cost to the environment. We would come to exploit all that the land had to offer and we would, most tragically, come to decimate the native peoples of this land. But the salient message in this apocryphal story is not the road but the courage to create something new. Ours is a world rent and ravaged by war and injustice, this great land for which we give thanks is a torn by sectarian and political divisions. The rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer. And yet, we have the power to create something new, the power to build a new road into this wilderness of despair and bring people together as we are doing this evening, if only in our own small way. We have the power if we have the courage to speak our mind, and be who we are destined to be like this powerful young woman.

As we journey through the holidays consider the gift of courage for yourself and those you love.  We are destined to change our world.

With Grace and Grit,    John

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Need What You Have

Perhaps the first act of living a temperate, balanced life is to realize that you need most of what you have; the love of a family, the love of friends, food, shelter, comforts, this church. As we approach a season filled with consumption from things to food, ask yourself what do you really need? I will admit I ask myself this question all the time and it’s not easy to answer. Certainly I don’t need seconds of anything, from food to cars. We live with one car between us; it helps to focus your life and plans. We think about the food that goes into our bodies, it helps create justice for those poor of nutrition and spirit. We think about what we buy, almost always for someone else. We have all we need and then some. There is a distinction to be made though between having enough for your family and having enough for a community. Because a community is made up of people who need as much as they want and giving generously allows the community to respond to real needs such as shelter, health and spirit.

The harder part is needing what you don’t want. None of us wants to get sick but it teaches. It teaches all of us. I had a little reminder of this last week. It had been a full weekend. Frances and I were looking forward to getting home. As we were packing our bags and preparing to leave for the Denver airport, I felt a sudden twinge in my back. No, I thought. Not this. I know this. Within minutes my back was in spasms. Painful spasms. The kind that wrap all the way around your rib cage and with each contraction take your breath away. I laid down on the hotel bed. Now what? How was I going to drive in a car, manage a bus, get through security? There is nothing like pain to sharpen your options. Frances found some painkillers. She drove to the airport. She arranged for a wheelchair. She carried all the bags. She got me home. I laid there for two days. I realized that while I didn’t need the pain, the pain needed to teach me a lesson. To let go, to let God, or at least to let Frances do what she was always capable of doing. None of us is completely alone. Even those who travel alone, have kind strangers to help them along the way.

May we learn to truly want what we truly need,

With Grace and Grit,  John

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Finding the Hallowed in Halloween

I ran across this piece by Maria Semple in the New Yorker which I want to share with you. I speaks to the essential angst so many of us feel about Halloween, the Day of the Dead and Autumn festivals. It is a series of emails from a pre-school teacher to her parents.

"Dear Parents: The Mountain Room is gearing up for its Day of the Dead celebration on Friday. Please send in photos of loved ones for our altar. All parents are welcome to come by on Wednesday afternoon to help us make candles and decorate skulls. Thanks! Emily

"Hi again: Because I’ve gotten some questions about my last e-mail, there is nothing “wrong” with Halloween. The Day of the Dead is the Mexican version, a time of remembrance. Many of you chose Little Learners (preschool) because of our emphasis on global awareness. Our celebration on Friday is an example of that. The skulls we’re decorating are sugar skulls. I should have made that more clear. Emily

"Parents: Some of you have expressed concern about your children celebrating a holiday with the word “dead” in it. I asked Eleanor’s mom, who’s a pediatrician, and here’s what she said: “Preschoolers tend to see death as temporary and reversible. Therefore, I see nothing traumatic about the Day of the Dead.” I hope this helps. Emily

"Dear Parents: In response to the e-mail we all received from Maddie’s parents, in which they shared their decision to raise their daughter dogma-free, yes, there will be an altar, but please be assured that the Day of the Dead is a pagan celebration of life and has nothing to do with God. Keep those photos coming! Emily

"Hello. Perhaps “pagan” was a poor word choice. I feel like we’re veering a bit off track, so here’s what I’ll do. I’ll start setting up our altar now, so that today at pickup you can see for yourselves how colorful and harmless the Day of the Dead truly is. Emily

"Parents: The photos should be of loved ones who have passed. Max’s grandma was understandably shaken when she came in and saw a photo of herself on our altar. But the candles and skulls were cute, right? Emily

"Ok Parents: It’s late and I can’t possibly respond to each and every e-mail. (Not that it comes up a lot in conversation, but I have children, too.) As the skulls have clearly become a distraction, I decided to throw them away. They’re in the compost. I’m looking at them now. You can, too, tomorrow at drop-off. I just placed …. Finally, to those parents who are offended by our Day of the Dead celebration, I’d like to point out that there are parents who are offended that you are offended. Emily

"Dear Parents: Thanks to their group e-mail, we now know that the families of Millie and Jaden M. recognize Jesus Christ as their Savior. There still seems to be some confusion about why, if we want to celebrate life, we’re actually celebrating death. To better explain this “bewildering detour,” I’ve asked Adela, who works in the office and makes waffles for us on Wednesdays, and who was born in Mexico, to write you directly. Emily

"Hola a los Padres:  El Día de los Muertos begins with a parade through the square, where we toss oranges into decorated coffins. The skeletons drive us in the bus to the cemetery and we molest the spirits from under the ground with candy and traditional Mexican music. We write poems called calaveras, which laugh at the living. In Mexico, it is a rejoicing time of offerings, picnics, and dancing on graves. Adela

"Parents: I sincerely apologize for Adela’s e-mail. I would have looked it over…For now, let’s agree that e-mail has reached its limits. How about we process our feelings face to face? 9 A.M. tomorrow? Emily

"Dear Parents: Some of you chose to engage in our dialogue. Some chose to form a human chain….So we’re all up to speed, let me recap this morning’s discussion:
—Satan isn’t driving our bus. Little Learners does not have a bus. If we did, I wouldn’t still need parent drivers for the field trip to the cider mill. Anyone? I didn’t think so.
—An offering is just a thing we put on the altar. Any random thing. A bottle of Fanta. Unopened, not poisoned. Just a bottle of Fanta.
—We’re moving past the word “altar” and calling it what it really is: a Seahawks blanket draped over some cinder blocks.
—Adela will not be preparing food anymore and Waffle Wednesdays will be suspended. (That didn’t make us any new friends in the rest of the school)
—On Friday morning, I will divide our Room into three groups: those who wish to celebrate the Day of the Dead; those who wish to celebrate Halloween; and Maddie, who will make nondenominational potato prints in the corner.

"Dear Parents: Today I learned not to have open flames in the same room as a costume parade. I learned that a five-dollar belly-dancer outfit purchased at a pop-up costume store can easily catch fire, but, really, I knew that just by looking at it. I learned that Fanta is effective in putting out fires. I learned that a child’s emerging completely unscathed from a burning costume isn’t a good enough outcome for some parents. I learned that I will be unemployed on Monday. For me, the Day of the Dead will always be a time of remembrance.

Happy Halloween!

Emily ♦"

Halloween is a big deal in my family. In our last church we had a huge party for the entire church and community which we called ghost town. Our entire two acre farm was devoted to the festival. Each year had a theme, one year it was Aladdin and we had live camel rides! Most of our more conservative neighbors politely declined our invitation, one neighbor, a fundamentalist, told me he was considering forming a prayer circle around our property to protect them from evil spirits.

So inflammatory is this holiday that most schools don’t try anything as creative as poor Emily our preschool teacher. Most call it a Fall Festival. Which is really too bad. It’s too bad that Halloween has been hijacked by the gruesome and satanic. A little scary is kinda of fun, clowns that eat children, not so much. It’s too bad for another reason. That this scaring little kids and forming prayer circles to keep the devil at bay are not what Halloween or the Day of the Dead are about. What they are about is honoring the dead while affirming the living. What Halloween is about is scaring off the bad and making fun of the suffering that gets in the way of living. Like Christmas, another great pagan holiday, the eve before all Saints or Souls Day on Nov. 1st and 2nd is about preparing for a celebration of life. On Christmas eve we sing of the coming of prince of peace, and new hope for the world which arrives Christmas morning.

All Hallows Eve is the night of mischief and laughing at the ills of our world preparing a way for the re-affirmation of life the next morning.

For the past three Wednesday afternoons we have been standing on Hawthorne Blvd in Torrance with a large coalition of ordinary people who want their fellow citizens to know that the system of this country is broken, and pretty scary. We were all a bit conscious that there had been bloody clashes with the Occupy movement in Oakland and Atlanta. Still we were there, “looking ridiculous” as one motorist called us, dressed up as ordinary people protesting a corporate world. There were over fifty people, the most ever. A newspaper reporter was there. One motorist made a veiled threat about our rainbow flag, many waved, one woman told us to "get a life".

It was that last comment that made me pause. If anything, we were there standing on the side of love and compassion so everyone can “get a life”, so that everyone can celebrate the life we have been given, to stand up for those who can’t stand, the hold those hurt by the scary evils of this system in our hearts. We stood there on the eve of a new beginning to do precisely that, “get a life”, not just our lives but the lives of those being shattered around us. We are holding the hallowed in our hands, so that others may know the dawn which breaks upon even the most frightening of nights. Happy Halloween.

With Grace and Grit,  John

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Challenge of Compassion

Last Wednesday about a dozen of us stood in front of the Wells Fargo Bank on Hawthorne across from the Del Amo Mall protesting that banks treatment of American Vets returning from our wars to get relief on their mortgages. We were protesting under the Occupy Wall Street movement the fact that 99 per cent of us are being held hostage by a system of government and business that concentrates wealth in the hands of few fed by taxpayer dollars while 20 per cent of this country is unemployed.

We were protesting the fact that lives are being destroyed by a system that is broken and unjust and that needs to be fixed by either huge taxes on the very rich and their corporations or seeing these same corporations, who seem to have piles of cash, use that money to train the workers they claim they need. We were protesting because the system is morally bankrupt and this makes it our religious concern. We were there to stand on the side of love, to stand, at the very least, on a sidewalk in front of one of the most corrupt banks and let people know they are not alone. We didn’t expect to change the world that afternoon but we did want to witness our faith that people, ordinary people, of all colors deserve better.

Many of the motorists who drove by honked in support. We noted that they were mostly Priuses, old cars and public buses, which says a lot. At least one motorist gave us the finger. To which I and others among us felt like giving him one back. As I reflected on that obscenity and my reaction to it, I came to heart of our challenge as religious people. If we stand on the side of love and want to show compassion to those in need, how can we do it when some of those in need either don’t know they are in need or are fearful of what they think we stand for. Compassion is all well and good when the person you are showing it to wants your help. Quite a bit more challenging when they don’t want your help.

I still remember working in a soup kitchen when one of the clients threw the food back at me. I remember how angry I was at his ungratefulness until Frances reminded me that I had the privilege to think receiving a free meal was worthy of gratitude since it only reminded the desperately poor how dependent they are on the largess of the rich. A more compassionate response to either the finger flipper or the homeless man would have been to step away until my anger released its deadly grip. And to realize that it is more likely fear and her sister anger that force others to attack us, just as our reaction is naturally to return that anger and fear.

Compassion begins when we remember our own pain and then realize that anger and hurtfulness are expressions of that same pain in others.  I am not saying we let people walk all over us.  What I am saying is that we give people, even strangers, victims of injustice, the benefit of the doubt.  What I am saying is that if you sat down with them and were able to hear their pain you might be able to judge them in a different light.

With Grace and Grit,   John

Friday, September 16, 2011

Butterfly Kisses for Buddha

My granddaughter Iris was delighted when she discovered what a Butterfly kiss was. “Come closer Grandpa” she said as she fluttered her eyelids against my check. “Now it’s your turn” We went back and forth for ages. She was completely lost in the joy of the moment and I thought of the Buddha’s teaching that happiness resides only in the present. Do not dwell in the past; do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. By living in the present we are so much more likely to be happy than in the past or the future.  Happiness then depends on living as much as possible in the present and in showing compassion with to others.

In my last congregation one of my members was a postal carrier. For his entire life he had carried the mail on the same route. He brought letters (remember letters?) bills and checks, good news and sad. He knew his route so well that they would chat with them if they were home, sometimes opening the mail right in front of him and sharing their lives. But his personal life was a mess. His wife died years ago and he had struggled to raise their children. He took care of his mother as she battled Alzheimer’s until she died. He was looking forward to retirement; to spending time with his grandchildren, being able to volunteer at the church, working on his garden. Several months before he was due to retire he asked to see me. He told me he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, it was inoperable and terminal. He only had a short time to live. He wanted to know why God did this to him. I told him I wasn’t sure that God did. But more importantly I asked him what he wanted to do with the rest of his time? What would make him happy? Without hesitation he told me that he thought he would keep working. That doing what he did best for as long as he could would make him happy. And so he did. He never told his postal patrons he was dying. He just kept working and living in the present. More than three hundred people came to his memorial service. It was a testament to his life.

Ultimately we are only drops in the great ocean of life. And when we die, the Buddha teaches, we become the drop in the ocean, no longer cognizant of us as being but only one with the ocean. Compassion is the fastest way to realize in this life that you are already that ocean. Several years ago there was a terrible incident in Belgium of a man who kidnapped and tortured six young girls. Three of them died before he was captured. A Buddhist monk by the name of Claude Thomas went to visit the mother of one of the dead girls. For hours she spoke with anger and vengeance. Finally Claude asked her “how can you best acknowledge the meaning of your child’s life by killing her killer or working to change the world in which such crimes happen?” What a challenge! Claude was connecting the mother’s suffering to the suffering of all people. He was connecting her happiness to the happiness of others. Those who take refuge in the present must not ignore the suffering but accept it and seek to change it. Ultimately we are only drops in the great ocean of life. And when we die, the Buddha taught, we become the drop in the ocean, no longer cognizant of us as being but only one with the ocean.

Living in the present. Needing what you have, being who you are, doing what you can. I go by the same coffee shop every morning, and there are the same old men talking about the way things were. Are they happy? It seems to me that the ones who are happy are the ones who talk more about what they are doing now; sharing their stories and their time. I thought to myself, what if each of them, turned over just three hours a week to helping others whether in this church or with an agency instead of watching television, the great teat of consumerism? I am sure some of them do volunteer. But what if we all did. What if we all gave ten percent of our tine and income to making the world better than it is; whether feeding another or building a home for a family in need? What if we saw the world through the eyes of a child? Wouldn’t that make us happy?

With Grace and Grit, John

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Beyond 9/11

The 10th anniversary of the tragedies of 9/11. On a Sunday. A friend asked me if I would preach about 9/11. Why? I asked him. Why re-live the horror of that crisp and clear fall day, why rehase the squandered opportunity to change the world when everyone on this planet was with us, but instead we turned it into a war on an enemy that could never be seen, leaving the devastation of two countries, millions of lives and trillions of dollars in its wake. Why re-visit a horror that has left a culture of fear, and distrust, not to mention the political theatre of the TSA. Why?

We remember this tragic day in passing so that we can first eulogize the fallen, internationals all. I thought it no small irony that the funding for the twin beams of light that shine up from ground zero in NY will go dark tomorrow from lack of funding. Perhaps it is time we buried the horror and came to account for what we have before us now. Beyond 9/11. Right now. I run the risk of course of sounding political here, and I am, a bit. But what we all need to do, our president leading us, is to lean into our reality, not keeping pushing it back like it wasn’t our fault. What did the psalmist say, all is forgiven but many are responsible?

There are conditions to finding happiness: The first is to determine what matters most to you, whom or what do you ultimately serve. Serve that before yourself. The second is to learn optimism, especially in the face of adversity. Most of my children are under if not unemployed, all of them are working hard to make ends meet, and still we laugh. Finally, adopt an attitude of gratitude. Realize that only by being thankful for what is right can we face what is wrong in our lives.

And yet, ultimately we have to face what is wrong. I contend that we have the same potential for happiness today as we had on Sept. 10, 2001. The potential to find happiness hasn’t changed, it’s just harder to realize. And perhaps that realization will be all the more powerful if we can find it in the face of tragedy.

With Grace and Grit,  John

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Freedoms Call: A Tribute to Dr. King

Although hurricane Irene postponed the dedication of the new Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial on the Mall, I am reminded that today is the anniversary of Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” speech in his march on Washington. Dr. King ended that speech with the gospel cry, “free at last, thank God all mighty, we are free at last”. If there was every an oration that spoke to power of being called to the freedom that every person so justly deserves, this speech was it. The irony of the remembrance of this event and the unveiling of Dr. King’s memorial with the calls for a return of our country to some private republican ideal is almost too much to bear. Literally in the shadow of his statue, Tea Party activists are calling for a rescinding of affirmative action, governmental oversight of civil liberty and, while flawed, a health care act the brings health insurance to millions of poor people. All this done under the banner of freedom; freedom from government, freedom to earn as much as you please, and freedom to ignore those less fortunate than yourself. Somehow I don’t think this is what Dr. King had in mind by freedom. As Cornel West put it in the NY Times, King would "want a revolution not a memorial" (NYTimes 8/27/11).

Freedom is not just a freedom from what we think oppresses us, freedom is a freedom to practice our religion, care for those in need and live a life of economic dignity. Freedom is not just liberty, freedom entails a responsibility. We are called to freedom as much as we are called out of freedom to change the world.

The question now is and has always been “will we answer the call to freedom, not just for ourselves but for those less fortunate than us?” Will we be able to answer the call to freedom by permitting such hate mongering to be displayed openly for all to see, or would we be better off driving that hatred underground where it won’t get any traction?

Freedom is not freedom to say anything we want or express any truth that comes to our minds. Civil society does not exist to permit just any freedom. We don’t allow child pornography, why would we allow hatred to be so expressed? Will the truth set us free? It depends on which truth.

One of our principles as Unitarian Universalists implores us to affirm and promote a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning.”  Of all of our principles, I find this one the most difficult. Just who is it that decides what truth is? Is truth relative to each of us or is there an absolute truth? How do we even know where to look if truth is located only within our own hearts?

We live in a world, post 9/11, wherein freedom is seen to be more complicated than it once was. Charles Black, a Yale law professor asks his first year law students: Suppose a man has planted an atomic bomb in New York City and has been apprehended by the police. Are the police allowed to torture the man to learn the bomb’s whereabouts? Is torture ever morally correct? Most students respond no to the first question, the constitution prohibits torture but surprisingly they say yes to the second, that is torture is morally correct, even torture to death, if it saves millions of lives. When asked about this moral inconsistency, most replied that there is a difference between our laws that protect our freedoms and our individual conscience to save lives at any cost.

I would argue that the two cannot be separated. That the very laws that protect our freedoms, such as freedom from unlawful search and seizure, are the same laws that guide our moral conscience. That the act of torture, regardless of the ends is categorically wrong. Not so much because it denies the worth of the evil doer but because of it denies our humanity as torturers or supporting torture. It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who proclaimed that to deny another’s worth is to deny our own worth (see the Divinity School Address). If we deny the freedoms of others so entitled we deny our own freedom as human beings, whether it is the right to freedom, jobs, health or shelter.

Freedom calls us to protect the freedom of all, because we are a part of that all. This is what the Jewish theologian, Martin Buber, called the I-Thou nature of God. As soon as we start treating others as objects, as "it’s", as means to an end, we deny our essential humanity. We are an “I” because you are a “Thou”, and God lives in the relationships between us. Our freedom calls on us to help those closest to us. Our freedom calls on us to protest, to witness against injustice. How soon we have forgotten the lessons of 9/11 and Dr. King. Now is the time to respond to the freedom calling.

With Grace and Grit,  John

Monday, August 15, 2011


Classism is a failing of a community to find and hold its soul. We seek to create material, professional and educational status because we are so desperate for recognition from communities too large to care. Status is not the same as role. Some higher status comes with certain roles, doctors for instance. But holding that status as a marker of exclusivity is the disease rooted in a lack of community.

All oppression is about dominance, and keeping people down economically is a core component of this. Dominance is a result of unchecked capitalism, but not a necessary component of it. As Adam Smith, the very father of capitalism wrote “Wherever there is property there is inequality….By having the minds constantly employed on the arts of luxury, people grow …dastardly” (As quoted in How Much do We Deserve by Richard Gilbert, Skinner House 2001) My mother, who came from the upper class used to say that class is the greatest divide. Of course this is from the same woman who, when her grandchildren asked her what a household convenience was in her day, she replied “servants”

We hardly deal with the economic realities that affect each member of our society as whole. Viewing class changed with the financial meltdown and subsequent aftermath. In fact, we have been in this position twice before, during the gilded age of the robber barons and the roaring twenties. Now the real question in the press is the middle class disappearing? (see The Atlantic Sept. 2011 “Can the Middle Class Survive?”

While that is important, the deeper question is what happened to the soul of our communities that has fostered this new unbridled classism?

The question is, how can we counter this growing classism which is deeply symptomatic with the growing economic disparity this recession has wrought? Creating jobs, which ought to be the job of our government is too large an issue for my topic today, but creating community so that we can counter the growing classism of our little corner of the world is something we can do.

With Grace and Grit,  John

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


When I first entered the ministry it was customary for Unitarian Universalist ministers to take two months each summer to travel, read and reflect on their work. In fact, Unitarian churches were often closed for the summer in New England. There may be good reasons for this: before air conditioning it was hot in those old meeting houses, ministers drove ice cream trucks in the summer, God gave us time off for good behavior. Even when it was expected I never managed to be gone that long. It just didn't seem right to be away from the people whose lives were so intertwined with my own.

So these days I take time off throughout the year but in smaller increments, often combining it with other denominational duties. I will be leaving Sunday evening for a month of Sundays. I will first go to Chicago where I have some work to do on my doctorate (and Frances can visit her family who all live there), then onto New England to visit my family and spend some time in our little cabin off the Maine coast. I will go to read, write and generally relax. It is a great privilege to do so.

I look forward to this journey every year. There is something quite renewing about journeying away whether for a month, a week or even a day. I commend journeying to you this summer.  Summer is a special time, a time to be more at ease from our daily lives. What surprise awaits your summer journey?

With Grace and Grit,  John

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Our Fathers, Our Mothers, Our Lives

All of us said Carl Jung have a mother and father in us. We live our lives in one or the other, but the soul speaks to both. If we are rule bound and respectful of authority (the father) the soul will call us to be compassionate. If we dismiss pain and struggle as o.k. (I’m ok you’re ok, the mother), the father side of our soul calls us to admit we have fallen. The motherly side says “be careful you might fall”, the fatherly side says “go for it”. Recognize that your soul speaks to you out of your discomfort.

While the mother side of our soul gives us our depth, the father side of our soul gives us our breadth. Perhaps that is why it is so fitting to start summer with father’s day, a fitting time to wander, to explore, to be on a journey, an adventure with the soul. I often bless our family’s meal with the phrase, “We give thanks to mother earth and father sky” Like the sky, and the father within us encourages us to use our freedom, the first cycle of the soul. This fatherly dimension is the true meaning to the ancient understanding of destiny That following, that wandering, like the rest of summer before us, is the father of our soul. We will be good at what we love to do. And love has both a motherly and fatherly dimension. Motherly loves us no matter what, in spite of our failures, fatherly love wants to see some results from your wanderings. What did you learn? What would you have done differently? The rest of summer is the time to learn and grow, and try the new. The motherly is more likely Christmas, a time to come home, the fatherly the time to go out.

Sometimes these live in tension. Should I risk a secure livelihood to become an artist? The motherly side would say, “yes, there might be risks, you might fail, you might get hurt, be careful here” while the fatherly side might say, “go, on, give it a try, how will you know, if you don’t try?” Remember the little cartoons with the devil on what shoulder and the angel on the other debating with the character in the center trying to figure it out? Replace the angel and devil with a mother and father to your soul. That tension is at the heart of who we are. What the Taoists call the Ying and the Yang of all life. One needs the other to be in balance.

With Grace and Grit,   Rev. John

Friday, May 27, 2011

Life Needs An End

Memorial Day was originally a day to honor those who died defending our country.  It has expanded to become a holiday welcoming summer and remembering all those who have passed from this life.  Recently I have been pondering the wisdom in extending human life indefinitely.

There are real virtues to mortality. We feel the urge of time upon us and it makes us more productive. We strive to give our best knowing that we only have so many chances. We make room for the generations that follow so they too can bring beauty and comfort into the world.

For those who argue that human life is better without death, I would counter that life without death isn’t human or at least not much fun. Vampires never die but they don’t seem to be happy about. In fact, there isn’t any literature to suggest that immortals are happy (except the vague harp strumming immortality of Christian heaven which sounds pretty painful to me); the Greek gods were always fighting, Vampires are like parasites, even science fiction immortals live with a certain tragic sadness.

The power of life is in the living. Life needs an end, just as it needs a beginning. Finitude is good. Mortality makes life matter. To be mortal makes it possible to give one’s life to those who need it most; to the ones we love and the gifts we give.  I will be happy to use up my body and give all I have away, sliding into home plate satisfied and exhausted.

With Grace and Grit, John

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Osama Bin Laden Had a Mother

Much has been written this week about the death of Osama Bin Laden. It saddened me, of course, to see people celebrating his death. Blood vengeance is not becoming to our better angels. Jessica Dovey, a grad student living in Japan said it best, encapsulating some words from MLK: I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. "Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." MLK Jr.

(The first sentence is Ms. Dovey's own, followed by a quotation from King's 1963 book, "Strength to Love.")

Osama Bin Laden had a mother. We don’t know what she dreamed he would become but we can be fairly certain it was not to cause the death of thousands of innocent lives at his command and in retaliation for his actions, be the cause of many thousand more deaths by our own forces. We don’t know how hard she tried, but we can be fairly certain that she did all she could to raise him to be a righteous and noble man. I want to believe that if Osama Bin Laden had written a letter to his mother he would have asked for forgiveness. Perhaps. But at the end of the day, our mothers, our fathers, our friends, don’t determine our lives. We do. Heredity is not destiny. Mothers can only try to set us on the course. For better or worse, they have done what they could. The rest is up to us. May the peace this day truly proclaims remind us to hold love in our hearts, because of our mothers, indeed for all living beings.

With Grace and Grit,  John

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Life Renewed

There are two sides to living and dying. What once was dead will be renewed to life again. Norma Lindbergh, a long time member of our church and our newsletter editor died at Torrance Memorial last Monday. The family had decided to take her off the ventilator, and make her as comfortable as possible. Teri, our Pastoral Care Director, called me about mid-morning to say that the family needed us as soon as possible. She was at least an hour away. I, oddly enough, was right around the corner at Lowes, where Frances and I were picking supplies for the work party at church. I said I would go even though I was still in my workout shorts from the Y. By the time I got there, Chaplain James Kim, a wonderful man who has known his own share of loss was already holding the hands of the family around Norma. I came in, joined the circle and we prayed. The next few hours as Norma slipped slowly into the light were some of the most intense I have ever experienced at the side of someone dying. We took turns stroking her forehead, the family crying, and my singing (can you believe it? Singing!) Spirit of Life into her ear, urging her on to the light.

Teri joined us at the very end. We cried, we prayed and we said goodbye. I got back in my car, picked up Frances from Lowes and we continued on with our errands. About an hour later, I pulled the car over. I started to cry. I just couldn’t go on with life as it was. A friend had died, a great being, a corrector of my bad grammar. My heart felt like it was breaking. Frances drove me home.

Later that night, her death began to renew me again. I remembered how Norma would remind me that every bad sentence deserves a second chance. So too, I thought, does every life, every failure, every mistake deserve a second chance. Easter was working on me that night. Easter was renewing my life even in so deep a loss.

We learn again, that beyond the stones of our struggles lies a new life of grace and giving, life renewed again.

With Grace and Grit,  John

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jesus Was An Immigrant

As the issue of immigration heats up again in Washington, I wondered what Jesus might have to say about all this.  So on this Maundy Thursday before Easter I offer the following reflection.

Jesus was an immigrant like we are all ultimately immigrants. He was and remains a “spirit person”, a demi-god like figure like the Greek God Dionysus and the Egyptian God, Osiris who came to earth to bring completion and wholeness to humanity. The so- called Gnostics believed that the end of the world Jesus spoke of was only a death unto the suffering of life, believed that Jesus was part of a complicated myth of redemption. Once we find our way home, once we stop our wandering we will cast aside our immigrant status and become whole. Jesus claimed that he was sent by God as an immigrant to be a spiritual bridegroom to resurrect the marriage between the Goddess earth and the God father sky in the guise of love for humanity. The cross references to language of the gospels with the imagery of Greek, Egyptian and Near Eastern religions is startling. Some of the symbols such as the chalice, used for the Last Supper come right out of the goddess cults of Canaanite Mesopotamia two thousand years before Jesus was born.

The essential message of this myth is that Jesus was himself a Jewish version of the mythological “savior” which pagan religions had recognized for thousands of years and that he came to symbolize the initiation and transformation of the sinful into a cult of love. A myth which claims that Jesus never really died, because he never really lived. And that his relationships to the immigrants – to the marginal in his society and to women - was meant to deepen the spiritual understandings of patriarchal Judaism.

There really was a man named Jesus who had tremendous charisma and power, who wandered in search of the lost and lonely, those seeking refuge to find a new home where they could be fed. I really don’t care if he lived or died or even if he ate his Wheaties each morning. What I care about is what he means to me and to you and to millions of others who are looking for a hero, a symbol to give their life meaning.

Who was Jesus? He was a healer. The one who defied expectations and laws to simply touch and heal those in need. One of my favorite stories is when he healed the blind man on the Sabbath. Or the chronically menstruating woman on the Sabbath, or the lepers all on the Sabbath, why? Because compassion for those who are suffering knows no conditions. Beyond the laws, the customs, the prejudices, and the national hatreds, Jesus represents the Buddha heart of love, just do it! Just love. Jesus as healer holds great meaning for me personally. I reminded of him each time I give a wino five bucks.. I know he will spend it on drink, so what? For a moment there is peace.

Who was Jesus? He is the redeemer, not for our depraved nature but for our brokenness, which is really all the word sin means. We are all broken. All in need of forgiveness. Jesus taught us though that we need not follow the laws and make a submission to some “higher power” but simply believe that we are worthy in and of ourselves and that no fault, no mistake is so great that it cannot be forgiven. He called it faith. A faith that we can always be made whole again. And yes, while he called for a reversal of the world order, was he not also calling for a reversal of the human condition. Even the richest amongst us suffer, how can they find forgiveness. The real power of Holy Week is for me, not in the orthodox sense of payment for guilt, but in the transformation from triumphant life, to falling down, to even the death of my ego, and the grace which gives me life again. I have fallen, you have fallen, we all we stumble, but a new day will come and we will start again.

Who was Jesus? He is the one who suffered. The Roman cross was the most barbaric form of death imaginable. But its symbolism is powerful to those who ARE suffering. Not because they have good company in Jesus, but because they understand that God suffers with them. The shortest line in the entire bible is in Luke: He wept. Here was a man who understood what the Buddha had understood. Life does hurt. There is pain. But there is a way beyond that pain. Here the feminine side to the mysteries of Jesus come through in shining glory. Jesus was the first world prophet to truly welcome women into his community. Why? Because women understood the essential nature of suffering as something we go through not around. The feminine archetype of Jesus, claimed the great Carl Jung, was in his acceptance of suffering, not in resignation, but in recognition.

Who was Jesus? He was an immigrant reminding us that we are all immigrants of one sort or another, searching for our home. Jesus reminds us that we all wander but we need not be lost. That those who are suffering, the poor, the undocumented, the unjustly imprisoned, need our help. We are all immigrants of the soul, searching for that deeper meaning which gives our life purpose. There is a little bit of Jesus in each of us, wandering in search of meaning and hope.

I met Sister Mary Alice over 20 years ago working for a credit union. She had come in to take out a personal line of credit to help someone with their medical bills. Part of my job was to ask her why she needed this money. I mean, didn’t they have other means? She had one of those truly brilliant faces, she smiled and her eyes twinkled. It was the first time I have heard what has become a rallying cry for universal health care “Without insurance, life turns out differently. This was her insurance for this family. ‘This family’ were Salvadorian refugees. The father had diabetes and she was paying for dialysis so that he might live a few more years. I was not as sensitive back then “But sister” I asked, “Why are you paying to help them? They aren’t even legally here.” Still smiling, she touched my hand “Because young man, Jesus would want me to do it, I am called to do it.” I shook my head and approved the loan.

Only recently have I come to understand which Jesus she was speaking of in this story. It’s not about reason or certainty, it’s about faith. And faith, a faith in life and life’s promise, is what Jesus is really about. We are all immigrants, looking for the kingdom of love again. Jesus is calling on us to remember who we really are.

With Grace and Grit,  John

Saturday, April 2, 2011


I have begun to focus my ministry each month around spiritual themes. In March I explored the theme of brokenness and how we might begin to find healing. In April we consider the theme of renewal. Spring only reminds us of what is an immutable law of nature; life will always find a way to return. Even in our darkest hours, there are seeds that lay dormant waiting for a little warmth and rain to spring again. It might seem sentimental at best, trite at worst, to proclaim hope in a world as beset with trouble as ours. But consider this: how is that children keep being born, even though their parents know the odds they face. There is something undeniable about wanting to go on, regardless of your circumstances.

The trick is finding a way to go on. Ultimately, all theology (that is, the study of ultimate matters) is pragmatic. What we believe has to make sense to us most of all. When we proclaim that we believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all, we mean, first and foremost, that we believe in the inherent worth and dignity of ourselves. Once we accept that, it is but a short step to loving our neighbor, even when we disagree. In other words, the path to renewal begins with each of us. If we are worthy of living, so are those with whom we share our lives.

Despair begins when we have lost the faith that we are worthy of change. The hardest part of the journey is the first step. We exist for the dual purpose of  reclaiming our worthiness as human beings and then, once attained, going out and helping to heal the world. As our bumper stickers tell it: Nurture Your Spirit, Help Heal the World. At either end we are here for each other, ever loving, ever accepting, ever hoping.

With Grace and Grit, John

Friday, March 25, 2011

Holes Everywhere

Throughout the month of March, I have been speaking and teaching about the spiritual power of brokenness.  Despite a thriving stock market, there seem to be holes everywhere. It almost as if we have a cross between an elephant and a kangaroo, a giant beast of misfortune, stomping big holes around the world. The Middle East is on fire with protest. Totalitarian governments are responding by shooting their people. And we are of course ever mindful of our sisters and brothers in Japan, so many thousands who have died in the Tsunami and the dreaded cloud of radioactivity that threatens the very life of the Rising Sun.

What amazes me most about the Japanese is how courageously they are living their lives even as they stumble from one hole to the next in their brokenness. Hanging on a stand in the chancel of our church are a thousand paper cranes, once folded by our children for our partner church in New Orleans, which now stand as a silent prayer of strength for our Japanese brethren.

The Japanese know, as the Buddha so long ago taught, that our brokenness is our first reality. The many holes these brave people are falling into and climbing out of is life. And yet, we live our lives not in the holes, but around them.

The Buddha would agree. Reality is an illusion. What we suffer is only a momentary sensory hiccup in the true emptiness of the universe. If we see the holes we fall into as illusions, we are suddenly free from trying to get out. The holes will vanish in time.

All of this is true in a sense. As the medieval mystic Julian of Norwich reminds us:

"Whatever we inherit from the fortunate
We have taken from the defeated
What they had to leave us—a symbol:
A symbol perfected in death.
And all shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well"

We live and die, and eventually we cease suffering, we cease from falling into the holes of our lives.   Falling gracefully, we are released.

With Grace and Grit,   John

Friday, March 4, 2011

Further Brave Living

Much has changed as we live farther into this new millennium. The revolution in Egypt made possible by social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, was a hopeful sign that technology can aid us in our dreams for a better world. But technology can also work against us as evidenced by such threats as identity theft. Ten years is a long time in a world of accelerating change. Gone for many is that sense of buoyancy, the faith in our ability to change the world for the better, even the security of our homes and investments, if we were lucky enough to have them seem threatened. In its place is an all too familiar litany of woe: unemployment well over ten percent, a post-terrorist world that makes us fearful to travel, a new sense of frugality born out of disaster, world hunger, violence as real as ever and a planet that is growing ever warmer.

While it is true that for many of us our faith in what we held most dear has been shaken, there is still much to believe in. The difference is that we have to believe with more courage than we did before. I still believe that we are created equal even if it seems our economy has made some more equal than others. I still believe that God calls us to act with compassion and justice, even when it seems that our actions are thwarted by institutions too large to care. I still believe people want to do the right thing, even when instant news tells us continually about those who do wrong.

As Angela Henderson our intern minister so bravely reminded me, all of our nostalgia about how great it was a generation ago, she reminded us that it wasn’t so great if you were a woman, or gay or African American. It took courage to live in those simpler days as well. The world may have been simpler but there were fewer opportunities for entire classes of people to make a difference. While the world is faster and more complex than ever, individuals can make much more of a difference. The revolution in Egypt began with a handful of people sharing their dreams through the internet.

However, it wasn’t the internet alone that made the revolution in Egypt possible. It was people going into the streets with other people. Hopeful change may begin with social networking but, ultimately, it takes the courage to go out and be with others that creates a better world. Now more than ever, we need to exercise our faith by joining with others in community centers and places of worship. We need to look into the eyes of those we first met online.

It takes courage and effort to create good in this brave new world. I am reminded of what an elderly Buddhist monk once told me: “Life is hard. Stand up straight. Breathe deeply. Walk with courage. And touch others with love.” This is what it means to live bravely with faith in a world ever new. Be ever brave. Walk on together.

With Grace and Grit, John

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Love's Glitter As Well

When I was in India many years ago, I visited a Buddhist shrine. Now there are not a lot of Buddhist shrines in India despite it being the homeland of the Buddha. I watched as devotees, placed garlands and fruit at the feet of the serene and solid Buddhist statue. But the truly amazing was when a young woman opened up a small vial of what looked like paint and brushed it on the face of the statue. It was gold leaf. As one Buddhist put it “The Buddha’s statue is our refuge , but the gold is our adoration”.

The statue is our refuge but the gold is our adoration. Let us ponder that a bit. Think of all that you rely on in being with the ones you love. They bring you a certain sense of peace on good days, and annoyance on bad days. I can rely on my children to call me on my birthday. I can rely on them to call me when they need something. There is an understanding, a connection there. Not always what we might hope for but a connection none the less. Love is most often not the miraculous but the reliable. It is the basis for the day to day relationships we have. Ellen Goodman one of my favorite columnists once wrote: “We are told that people stay in love because of chemistry, or because they remain intrigued with each other, because of many kindnesses, because of luck. But part of it has got to be forgiveness and gratefulness in living day to day.”

The statue of our love is what we truly married to. In any relationship, it’s the little daily acts that hold a relationship together. And it entails, reciprocity, forgiveness and gratitude. Honestly, we are not married to love when those we love are never returning the favors of our love. It’s not a bank balance sheet but it is a feeling that you could rely on that person if you needed them. What is your best friend? The person you call in the middle of the night to bail you out of jail.

But we need the glitter as well. We need the amazement. It is the glitter that amazes me. It needs to be a little unusual, a little edgy even, but don’t ever be afraid of surprising the ones you love. Every year, my father would throw a surprise birthday party for my mother. Now she could count on him to throw the party but she was almost always surprised in how he did it. She would make him promise to never do it again, but he would. He would because he understood that amazement was necessary to love.

I try to carry love's glitter forward as well.  Frances and I just celebrated 26 years together in the beautiful vineyards of Santa Ynez.  We all have our struggles, but a bit of glitter, helps us be an inspiration to those we love. It’s not always so. We shouldn’t stay with people who are not treating us well, or where it’s all one way and not another. No amount of amazement will make that right. But even the most fragile relationship can be made better by a little amazement.  We all need a little glitter as well.

With Grace and Grit,  John

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Hero in Us All

At the memorial service for those killed by the gunman in Tucson, President Obama said “Our hearts are broken by their sudden passing. Our hearts are broken - and yet, our hearts also have reason for fullness…heroism is here, all around us.”

If ever there were hero’s among us, these six brave people, and the 13 who have survived including Rep. Giffords, earn that accolade. A hero is not someone who lives an extraordinary life; a hero is someone who does something extraordinary with their life. And these brave men, women and a little girl were doing something extraordinary by living out their faith in our country and democracy. They did something extra-ordinary, when they tried to shield others from harm. The survivors did something extraordinary when they tackled the gunman to the ground, while other’s rushed in to help. Ordinary people doing something extra-ordinary in times of great peril. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it: “A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer.”

This is the heroism we are called to live for. This is the sort of bravery we need to face the struggles of our brave new world. And all of us have been doing it for some time. I have a box full of stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. When serving as the chairman of the Human Rights Commission in Frederick, MD I met Sheryl, an ordinary woman working at an office job. Sheryl is white, a middle age mother of six, but, when one of her co-workers who was African American was clearly being harassed by a racist boss, she stood up for her. Her co-worker had a sick child, and she often would have to make arrangements for his care. This was all in keeping with the company’s liberal time management policy but the boss kept threatening her co-worker with losing her job. Sheryl had a child about the same age who was also often sick. She wasn’t treated that way so, with a great deal of courage, she walked into her boss’ office and complained about how her co-worker was being treated. At first he just listened perhaps a bit stunned, that she would do this. But then he became indignant and threatened her with her job. She didn’t bend, although she wanted to. She stood her ground and told him she would have to report the harassing behavior. He didn’t change and she reported him to his superiors and to the Human Rights Commission because this was clearly “on the job discrimination”. Sheryl was suspended but not fired. We went to work on her behalf and with time and patience, she and her co-worker were restored and the boss moved to another location. Heroes in our midst. There are so many other stories closer to home. As one of us wrote me this week there are so many workers today that are very afraid of losing their jobs, especially when there are six more people waiting to fill their shoes. And still there are heroes that stand up for fellow workers, take furlough days and unpaid vacations so that their fellow workers can go on. Not always with relish, but going on nonetheless.

When Martin Luther King was first asked to be the spokesman for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, he was anything but thrilled. King, like so many heroes, was an introvert by nature, and quite conflict adverse. But he sensed God calling and responded accordingly. He gave the rest of his life to racial justice. Several months before his appearance in Memphis TN in support of the sanitation workers strike, a friend asked him “how would this end?” King, answered softly, “with my death”. Like so many heroes who have been too long in the field he knew his time was coming to a close.

Just as Moses would not enter the promised land so too with Dr. King and so many heroes. Like Moses, King was a “freedom caller” who led people across the desolate landscape of hatred and bigotry. Like Moses, King reminded us that there will always be a struggle for freedom, who after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, turned his attention to the rights of the poor and ending the Vietnam war. And like Moses, King died in sight of the promised land, but not able to enter it. We are still waiting at its borders today. True, we have elected our first African American president, but freedom is still denied our GBLT brothers and sisters, the disabled, the poor and immigrants. The truth that is our American ideal has not yet set them free.

The heroism of Martin Luther King inspired heroism in those he came in contact with. Ordinary people like Rosa Parks who decided not to give up her seat for a white man. Heroes like Viola Liuzza a young catholic woman who drove civil rights workers to Selma and was ambushed and killed by the KKK. Heroes like our own Unitarian minister, the Rev. James Reeb, who along with two others was killed by a white gang after trying to desegregate a lunch counter. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

With Grace and Grit,  John

Monday, January 3, 2011

Brave New World

We welcome a new year very much different from where we were ten years ago. In January 2001 "google" was not yet a verb and the horrors of 9/11 and two wars in unequal retribution had not yet happened. We were full of hope at beginning of a new decade and a new millennium. Much has changed as we face the next decade of this new millennium. Gone for many is that sense of buoyancy, the faith in our ability to change the world for the better, even the security of our homes and investments, if we were lucky enough to have them. In its place is an all too familiar litany of woe: unemployment well over ten percent, a post terrorist world that makes us fearful to travel, a new sense of frugality born out of disaster, world hunger and violence as real as ever and a planet that is growing ever warmer.

It would be easy to look at this new world and decide to hunker down into a bunker of self interest. It would be easy to say, "I will look out for me and mine and forget the rest of the world". It would be easy and it would be wrong. Because we do not believe in some afterlife that will save us, we are compelled to do all we can about the life we still have before us. This is the heart of our liberal faith: we can make a difference, however small.

In years past I would spend the waning days of the year's calender resolving to make my own life better next year. Diets, financial stability, more time for relationships. Somehow those resolutions seem trite to me now; more like common sense than something worth resolving to do. My resolutions this year are more relevant to this new world we face. I resolve to give ten percent of my income to helping others, including my faith. I resolve to work more forcefully for interfaith and international understanding. I resolve to give voice to the plight of those marginalized by our society. These are my resolutions this new year. They are impossibly large and hard to measure but they are brave. What are yours?
With Grace and Grit,  John