Thursday, December 27, 2007

Are We There Yet? Advent is Year-Round

So, Advent and Christmas Day have come and gone, and we're left with the somewhat lackluster 12 days of the liturgical season of Christmas. (C'mon - you know it's true - church leaders are just as tired as everyone else, if not moreso, and they're probably ready to stuff away the Christmas bells too. If the 3 Wise Men arrive on January 6th, it's to half-eaten leftovers and cold it were.)

I didn't write any reflections this Advent, or spend too much (read: any) time in prayer and meditation, and by the time it got to Christmas, I was so jaded (I work in retail) that even the amazing cathedral choir just didn't do all that much for me.

(But then, it's not about me, is it?)

Advent did make me realize something, though. Advent is the key to Christmas. I didn't really have an Advent, because I was so bombarded with finals and relationships, and Consumerist Christmas and work and illness and a million other things that I neglected what the Orthodox have rightly called the "little Lent."

If only we could immerse ourselves in the dark midnight of Advent, plunging back into the ancient hills of Palestine, where a still, small something is stirring amidst the desert sands...

Maybe the world has to have itself an Advent before the return of Christ in glory.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Jerusalem, Jerusalem...

This is one of my new favorite songs.


We celebrate the wars we've won
The blood of history's ancient sons
We followed judah maccabee
We fought against iniquity
We saved ourselves with help from One
Who loves His children, everyone
Everyone, everyone
Everyone, everyone

So now Jerusalem, you know that it's not right
After all you've been through, you should know better than
To become the wicked ones almighty God once saved you from

The lessons we should learn from all
The fighting in the days of old
When providence was still divine
The sanctuary purified
Let lightning circle all you hold
And don't uproot the olive grove

So now Jerusalem, you know that it's not right
After all you've been through, you should know better than
To become the wicked ones almighty God once saved you from

So now Jerusalem, you know that it's not right
After all you've been through, you should know better than
To become the wicked ones almighty God once saved you from...

Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

If Only...

"If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere committing evil deeds, an it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?" --Alexander Solzhenitsyn (The Gulag Archipelago)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Rescuing Christmas from the "Holiday Season"

I never thought I'd say this, but...Bill O'Reilly was right.

There really is a War on Christmas.

The Holy celebration of Christ's Mass has become - pardonner mon français - a clusterf*ck of consumerism, globalism, and materialism. If we are complicit in this treachery, we allow ourselves to be transformed into - not little Christs - but little Grinches!

How many people worldwide suffer each year because of Corporate Christmas? How painfully does our only planet shudder and groan as factories belch out countless cheap plastic toys? Is it worth it? Really?

Despite all this, I just can't be depressed around Christmas. I love the traditions, I love the carols, I love the colorfulness and - sorry for being corny - magic of it all.

A friend recently said to me, "You know people feel more holy around Christmas. All those ceramic mangers and carols and Hallmark Christmas movies. Blech!" Blech indeed. There is something about Christmas that is so full of hope and light that even the state of our world seems like it can be made right.

So, here's what you can do:

*Buy only one present for your friends and family. Make it special.

*Or, make one yourself!

*Are you dreaming of a green Christmas?


*Check out Advent Conspiracy. Spend less. Worship more. Love all.

*Christ is the Light of the world. Light a candle and say a prayer for peace.

*Make a Christmas card. Leave it for a stranger to find.

*Write or read Advent reflections.

*It's Christmas. Have you called your mother lately? Pray the rosary. Then tell a mother how much she means to you.

*Recycle decorations year to year. Make decorations!

*Learn the story behind the real Saint Nicholas. See the movie.

*Give. Give, give, give and don't stop giving! Your time, your talents - they were all given to you. Give them back to Christ in the world.

To give is to be liberated from having.

*Add to this list!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Lighting Candles & Waiting




Light a candle for peace.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Become What You See, And See Who You Are

kəˈmyunyən/ (v.):

The divine act of connection between God and human

and human to human

in order to change the world.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Center Will Hold long as Christ is the center.

The Episcopal Church is in Communion with G-d.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Can The Center Hold?

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear
the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere
anarchy is loosed upon the world..."
-William Butler Yeats, "The Second Coming"

This isn't a happy post. In fact, I deleted it last night because I hate offending people. But I've decided to re-post it after encouragement from some good friends of mine. I feel it needs to be said. Our silence is implicit acceptance of the unacceptable.

The Episcopal Church is facing a crisis.

We've tried to ignore it, we've tried to pretend it doesn't exist, but the truth is that our numbers are dwindling, and a bleak sense of apathy has settled over us as Bishops battle Primates over petty, meticulous details which the outside world couldn't care less about. We are so polarized along liberal/conservative lines, and our ideologies are increasingly defined along these false dichotomies. If you're liberal, you're automatically a revisionist. If you're orthodox, you're presumed conservative. Such oversimplified rhetoric is destructive and unhelpful.

At best, this inability to agree on anything has choked our growth to a standstill. At worst, it is tearing our church apart.

Of course, I'm no different than anyone else. Yes, I do happen to believe my progressive/orthodox stance is the "right" one, and I know this probably only contributes to the problem.

But I can't offer any solutions. I don't have any answers. And, it seems, neither does my church - only questions. The only advice we hear is to keep pretending that our "common prayer" has any semblance of integrity anymore, coming from priests and Bishops who think it's so cool that they have a blog and a MySpace account.

Always more questions.

If we are defined by a lack of definition, then we either cease to exist, or cease to be what we once were. Period.

I love the Church -I love this church - despite all its flaws and scars and violent history and yes - sins. The only way it gets better is if we make it better, and I want to see the Church still standing proclaiming Christ is Lord today, tomorrow, and for all the days to come. That's why I simply can't give up and say, "who cares?"

Right now, the question on my mind is can the center hold? Can we agree on something? Is our tent big enough for all opinions, no matter how diverse and complex?


Friday, November 09, 2007

Let Be

After reading Tamie's blog, one of my favorite quotes came to mind, and I wanted to share. It's an excerpt from My Antonia, by Willa Cather:

"I did not believe that my dead father and mother were watching me from up there; they would still be looking for me at the sheep-fold down by the creek or along the white road that lead to the mountain pastures. I had left even their spirits behind me. The wagon jolted on, carrying me I knew not wither. I don't think I was homesick. If we never arrived anywhere, it did not matter. Between that earth and that sky I felt erased, blotted out. I did not say my prayers that night: here, I felt, what would be would be."

- - -

Friday, November 02, 2007

How Long, O Lord?

Thanks to Fr.Rob for this.

The Cost of Being Gay in the World

"How long must justice be crucified, and truth buried?" -Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Cost of Being Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgendered around the globe:

Algeria - A Fine to 3 Years in Prison
Angola - Labor Camps
Antigua and Barbuda - 15 Years in Prison
Bahrain - A Fine to 10 Years in Prison
Bangladesh - 10 Years to Life in Prison
Barbados - Life in Prison
Belize - 10 Years in Prison
Benin - 3 Years in Prison
Bhutan - 1 Month to 1 Year in Prison
Botswana - A Fine to 7 Years in Prison
Brunei - A Fine to 10 Years in Prison
Cameroon - A Fine to 5 Years in Prison
Cook Islands - A Fine to 14 Years in Prison
Djibouti - 10 to 12 Years in Prison
Dominica - 10 Years in Prison
Egypt - 5 Years in Prison
Eritrea - 3 to 10 Years in Prison
Ethiopia - 10 Days to 3 Years in Prison
Gambia - A Fine to 14 Years in Prison
Ghana - Not Known
Grenada - 10 Years in Prison
Guinea - 6 Months to 3 Years in Prison
Guinea Bissau - Labor Camps
India - A Fine to Life in Prison
Iran - Death
Jamaica - 10 Years Hard Labor
Kenya - A Fine to 14 Years in Prison
Kiribati - A Fine to 14 Years in Prison
Kuwait - A Fine to 7 Years in Prison
Lebanon - A Fine to 1 Year in Prison
Lesotho - Not Known
Liberia - A Fine
Libya - A Fine to 5 Years in Prison
Malawi - A Fine to 14 Years in Prison
Malaysia - A Fine to 20 Years in Prison
Mauritania - Death
Mauritius - A Fine to 5 Years in Prison
Morocco - 6 Months to 3 Years in Prison
Mozambique - Labor Camps
Myanmar/Burma - 10 Years to Life in Prison
Namibia - Not Known
Nauru - 14 Years Hard Labor
Nepal - A Fine to 1 Year in Prison
Nicaragua - 1 to 3 Years in Prison
Nigeria - 5 Years in Prison to Death
Niue - A Fine to 10 Years in Prison
Oman - A Fine to 3 Years in Prison
Pakistan - 2 Years to Life in Prison
Palau - A Fine to 10 Years in Prison
Palestine - A Fine to 10 Years in Prison
Papua New Guinea - A Fine to 14 Years in Prison
Qatar - A Fine to 5 Years in Prison
Saint Kitts and Nevis - 10 Years in Prison
Saint Lucia - A Fine to 10 Years in Prison
Saint Vincent and Grenadines - A Fine to 10 Years in Prison
Samoa - A Fine to 7 Years in Prison
Sao Tome and Principe - Labor Camps
Saudi Arabia - Death
Senegal - 1 Month to 5 Years in Prison
Seychelles - A Fine to 2 Years in Prison
Sierra Leone - Life in Prison
Singapore - 2 Years in Prison
Solomon Islands - A Fine to 14 Years in Prison
Somalia - 3 Months in Prison to Death
Sri Lanka - A Fine to 10 Years in Prison
Sudan - 5 Years in Prison to Death
Swaziland - A Fine
Syria - A Fine to 3 Years in Prison
Tanzania - A Fine to 25 Years in Prison
Togo - A Fine to 3 Years in Prison
Tokelau - A Fine to 10 Years in Prison
Trinidad and Tobago - 25 Years in Prison
Tunisia - A Fine to 3 Years in Prison
Turkmenistan - A Fine to 2 Years in Prison
Tuvalu - A Fine to 14 Years in Prison
Uganda - A Fine to Life in Prison
United Arab Emirates - Death
Uzbekistan - A Fine to 3 Years in Prison
Yemen - Flogging to Death
Zambia - A Fine to 14 Years in Prison
Zimbabwe - A Fine to 1 Year in Prison

Monday, October 22, 2007

Morning Prayer

One of the short prayers that I love is the "pre-sermon" prayer that priests sometimes use:

"May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen."

That's possibly the best way to start off your day.

This weekend was nice. I've missed my campus ministry group. They really put things into perspective.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Integrity & Authenticity: God's Holiness

I read this Thomas Merton quote tonight in a post by my campus chaplain about authenticity and being who you are, regardless of what the status quo demands of you. Particularly as that relates to clergy. This rest of the post is here, and I highly recommend you check it out.

Christ was considered a sinner. He was put to death as a blasphemer, as one who at least implicitly denied God, as one who revolted against the holiness of God. Indeed, the great question in the trial and condemnation of Christ was precisely the denial of God and the denial of His holiness. So God Himself was put to death on the cross because He did not measure up to man’s conception of His holiness…he was not holy enough. He was not holy in the right way, He was not holy in the way they had been led to expect….In dying on the Cross, Christ manifested the holiness of God in apparent contradiction with itself. But in reality this manifestation was the complete denial and rejection of all human ideas of holiness and perfection. If, then, we want to seek some way of being holy…we must live by the strength of an apparent emptiness that is always truly empty and yet never fails to support us at every moment.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Scottish Blessing

May the blessing of light be on you
Light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine on you like a great peat fire,
So that stranger and friend may come and warm himself at it.
And may light shine out of the two eyes of you,
Like a candle set in the window of a house,
Bidding the wanderer come in out of the storm.

May the blessing of the rain be on you,
May it beat upon your Spirit
And wash it fair and clean,
And leave there a shining pool where the blue of Heaven shines,
And sometimes a star.

May the blessing of the earth be on you,
Soft under your feet as you pass along the roads,
Soft under you as you lie out on it, tired at the end of day;
And may it rest easy over you when, at last, you lie out under it.
May it rest so lightly over you
That your soul may be out from under it quickly;
Up and off and on its way to God.
And now may the Lord bless you, and bless you kindly.

Friday, September 14, 2007

From East To West: Feast of the Exaltation of the Precious and Lifegiving Cross

"We will see [...] the terrible and mighty second person of the Holy Trinity wrapping himself in flesh, pulling the pain and suffering of humanity about his shoulders. And, though it scratches and burns something awful, that divine being, desperately desiring the reconciliation of a creation that has become estranged, wraps that flesh around him until he begins bleeding in his palms and in his feet.

Because humanity knows the pain of flesh wrapped around you."

The rest of his post is absolutely beautiful - please read it.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bad Theology 101

"Jesus is coming back soon to slay the wicked and remove the righteous from the earth before he destroys it"

"This is all part of God's plan for your life"

"Heaven helps those that help themselves"

"If you do something for God, God will do something for you"

"If you don't believe in Jesus, you're going straight to hell"

"Hell is a place of fire and brimstone, of eternal torment"

"God kills the wicked"

"The Bible is also a history, biology, chemistry, astronomy, physics, and geology textbook"

"God says it, I believe it, that settles it"

"Give your life to Christ and God will take away all your burdens"

"Religion is a comfort crutch for the weak-minded, a pre-conceived paradigm to make decisions more easily"

(If it makes your life easier, you ain't doin' it right.)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Six Years Later

Take me where you want me to go,
Let me meet who you want me to meet
Tell me what you want me to say, and keep me out of your way.
-Fr.Mychal Judge, FDNY Chaplain

Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;

where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Thought for the day

If everyone believed absolutely 100% of what their church/denomination taught - there would be about 6 billion world religions.

"In prayer, come empty. Do nothing."
-St.John of the Cross

Saturday, July 21, 2007


There was a time, when, every Sunday morning I listened to a middle-aged man clad in business suit and tie, surrounded by at least 200 others - men in suits and ties, women in 'modest' dresses. That scene seems bizarre now - yet it will always have an undeniable air of familiarity.

Salt Lake is a long way from Canterbury.

It's about time I shared my spiritual past, and how it looks in retrospect.

I was raised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as "Mormons." (You can read about the doctrinal beliefs and practices in that article.)

My father's side of the family have been practising Mormons since the mid-to-late 19th century - they were Scottish and English converts who sailed across the Atlantic to settle in Utah and Arizona. I'm a 3rd generation Mormon through my mom's side.

It is ironic, then, that my dad is an atheist, while my mom remains a devout member of the LDS church. It is my mother who has been my biggest supporter, and a great obstacle throughout this. I'm grateful for the virtues she taught me, and I'm proud to be her son.

I started having issues with Mormonism when I was 13. I put aside my doubts and struggled to become the best little "Peter Priesthood" I could be. I was the kid who wore an "Angel Moroni" tie tack to band concerts and carried the Book of Mormon around at school ready to "share the Gospel" at any given moment.

Yeah, I was that kid.

Everything came crashing down when I was about 15. I had been praying to God for three years to make me straight. No reply. My problems with the church weren't going away, and I felt like I had no one to turn to. Every day and night was spent paralyzed in terror of the growing suspicion that I was going to burn for all eternity for being gay, cut off from all family and friends, and that I deserved it. I hated myself, and was on the verge of acting out the ultimate expression of self-hatred in the form of suicide, but by the grace of God, I was saved from myself. I experienced an overwhelmingly powerful spiritual transformation that night. It was as though the very arms of Christ were around me. For the first time in my life, I knew that I, along with everybody else, was completely and unconditionally loved by God.

And that's the whole point of it all, right?

Religion, belief, ritual - it all points to the single most important Truth that any human being can and must learn - You are loved by the One who created you.

I had no idea what to do with this new information.

All I knew was that what 'the Church' was saying was different from what God was saying. The two just weren't quite connecting on the level they ought to be if this was truly God's "one true church."

So I researched.

I devoted all my energies to learning everything I could about the LDS faith, and was shocked by what I found. Alternative versions of Joseph Smith's "First Vision" story, shocking statements by church leaders about race and religion, bizarre doctrines taught by early church leaders, especially Brigham Young, temple rituals which remarkably resemble Masonic rites, not to mention the 4,000+ changes to the Book of Mormon - just to name a few.

I was furious! Had I and my entire family really been deceived by a religion scarcely more credible than the Church of Scientology? How could so many people believe these lies? Why didn't most members know these things? How could I be so stupid?

I started exploring different religions - Judaism, Buddhism - even Wicca, remaining an outwardly practicing Mormon but inwardly agnostic. Yet it was Jesus who always held a strange lure. And so, two years after the unexpected collision with Grace, I started attending Christian churches. The United Church of Christ, Lutheran, and United Methodist churches specifically. (I also did the whole Baptist/Non-denominational thing....not my cup of tea.)

Guess what brought me to the doorstep an Episcopal church? Why, that delightfully short-lived series on NBC, The Book of Daniel! I know, it's weird, but there it is. The Lord works in mysterious ways, huh? The Episcopal Church seemed to be the open-minded version of the Catholic church I was looking for. Ancient, apostolic truth, progressive identity. And, the first time I set foot in an Episcopal church, I was (not to get all Pentecostal) moved by the Spirit, completely at peace with the world. I knew this was where God was calling me.

As for Mormonism?

I remained angry for a long time - It felt like righteous anger, and maybe some of it was. Anger can be healthy, even healing, but it can also be destructive. So I've been letting that anger go.

So what do I think about Mormons and the LDS church now?

I don't believe Mormonism and Christianity are the same thing. Perhaps from a secular/dictionary definition they are, but as traditional Christianity defines itself, Mormonism is radically different, and cannot be considered another Christian denomination. The fact of the matter is, the LDS church considers itself the only true Christian church in existence, and is therefore by definition technically opposed to the existence of all other churches claiming to be Christian.

Are individual Mormons Christians?


There are so many good Mormons out there. Who am I to judge whether or not someone is a Christian? There are many whose faith is known to God alone.

Speaking of good Mormons, I'm proud of my mom, who has come a long way. I know this hasn't been easy for her, seeing her son become an "apostate." But she's getting better. We've even prayed Compline together a few times.

You can also read the letters I received from the LDS church: Here and here. No surprises here. To be honest, I was incredibly happy when I received them - freedom, at last.

So in the end, it all worked out. These things usually do.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

You Know You're Anglo-Catholic When... get most of your exercise on Sunday. insist that Jell-O be served in the proper liturgical color of the season. use the words "heresy," "heretic," and "heretical" frequently, but your friends all know you're just kidding.

...sort of. think Methodists are kinda precious and adorable, what with their grape juice. know that if you really want to get through to Jesus, you have to speak with his mother. refer to incense as "Protestant Raid."

...your priest feels as if you are his personal cross to bear. know that if it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing. like words such as, "oblations," "supplication," "succour," "bewail," and "dost."

...if you add to this list because you feel inclined "so to do."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Moral Loneliness

I read this on Joshua Ligan's blog, and rather enjoyed it. Just thought I'd share.

It is by Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI, a Roman Catholic priest and member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and is the president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas.


"Moral Loneliness"

Robert Coles, in describing Simone Weil, once suggested that what she really suffered from and what motivated her life was her moral loneliness.

What is that?

Moral loneliness is what we experience when we ache for a soul mate. We are lonely in different ways: We always feel some distance from others, always feel some restlessness that cannot be alleviated even within our deepest experiences of intimacy, and always feel an inchoate nostalgia for a home we can never quite find. There is loneliness, a restlessness, an aching, a yearning, a longing, an appetitiveness, a disquiet, a nostalgia, a timelessness, and a sexual inconsummation inside of us that never quite gives us easy rest. We are, in the words of Toni Morrison, soul-chained to deep things outside of ourselves.

Moreover this dis-ease lies at the center of our experience, not at its edges. We are not restful persons who sometimes get restless, serene persons who sometimes experience disquiet, or fulfilled persons who once in a while get frustrated. Rather we are restless beings who occasionally find rest, disquieted persons who sometimes find solitude and serenity, and dissatisfied men and women who at times findsatisfaction.

And, among all these multifarious yearnings, one is deeper than allthe others: What we really long for, beneath everything else, is a moral partner, someone to meet us in the depth of our souls, someone from whom we don't have to hide what's truest inside of us, andsomeone who understands and spontaneously honours all that is most precious to us. Someone like that would be a true soul-partner andmore than we long someone to sleep with sexually, we long for someoneto sleep with in this way, morally. What does this mean?

Scripture and the mystics, unafraid of earthy and sexual images,express it best. What we ultimately long for is soul-consummation. Here is an image from the Song of Songs (3, 1-4)

On my bed at night I sought my beloved:
I sought but could not find him!
So I got up and went through the city;
in the streets and on the
squares, seeking my beloved.
I sought but could not find him!
I came upon the watchmen-on their rounds in the city:
"Have you seen my beloved?"
Barely had I passed them when I found my beloved.
I caught him and would not let him go,
until I had brought him tomy mother's house,
to the room where my mother had conceived me!
It is hard to come up with an image that is more intimate than this one: What we most long for is to take someone home, to our mother's room, to the most intimate of all places, to the very bed on which we were conceived. But that is a place in the heart, the ache of moral loneliness.

What exactly is being said here?

Each of us, beyond what we can name, has a dark memory of once having been touched and caressed by hands far gentler than our own. That caress has left a permanent mark, an imprint of a love so tender, good, and pure that its memory is a prism through which we see everything else.

The old myths express it best when they tell that, before we were born, God kissed our souls and we go through life always remembering, in some dark way, that kiss and measuring everything else in relation to it and its original purity, tenderness, and sweetness.

This unconscious memory of once having been touched and caressed by God creates the deepest place inside of us, the place where we hold all that is most precious and sacred to us. When we say that something "rings true", what we are really saying is that it honours that deep place in our hearts, that it coincides with a deep truth, tenderness, and purity that we have already experienced.

From this place all that is deepest and truest within us issues forth - our own caresses, kisses, and tears. Paradoxically this then becomes the place that we most guard from others, even as it is the place that we would most like someone to come into, providing that entry respects precisely the purity, tenderness, and truth of the original caress of God that formed that tender cavity in the first place.

This is the place of deepest intimacy and the place of deepest loneliness, the place where we are innocent and the place where we are violated, the place where we are holy, temples of God, sacred churches of reverence, and the place that we corrupt when we willfully lie. This is our moral center and the aching we feel there is rightly called moral loneliness. It is here that we long for a soul mate.

And it is in this longing that we experience what is deepest inside of us, namely, an unyielding ache that drives us out of ourselves where, like the author of the Song of Songs, we desperately search for someone to sleep with morally.