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  • Yesterday afternoon after a full day of a compressed "Holy Week" we traveled to one of the oldest monasteries in the Palestine Desert, founded in the year 455 by the abbot, Gerasimus. While there, Brother Curtis told us this wonderful story of Gerasimus and the lion. And then he invited us to the holy practice of wonder.Each of my trips to this land of the Holy One has been special. All have been intense. I've not said too much in these posts about politics - not because I am afraid to talk about politics, but because the issues here truly are so complex. There are not just two sides. There are many, many sides - and each time you feel you have some sense of where things are, things shift. It would be hard enough if it was just Israelis and Palestinians left to figure this out: but there are the surrounding Arab nations, and all of the global interests (including and perhaps most particularly US interests) in this region that make it so very challenging. Each time I...

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  • Sometimes you lead us on a hard road; may we never weary of doing what is right, but show us how to benefit from sabbath rest, when you lead us beside still waters and make us lie down in green pastures and restore our souls. Lectionary Readings Ps. 92; 149; 23; 114 Lev. 23:23-44 2 Thess. 3:1-18 Matt. 7:13-21 Selected Verses Ps. 23:2-3a [The LORD] makes me lie down in green pastures;he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. Lev. 23:23 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:  Speak to the people of Israel, saying: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of complete rest, a holy convocation commemorated with trumpet blasts. 2 Thess. 3:13 Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.Matt. 7:14 “…For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.  …”  [Jesus to the crowds on the mountain]

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  • May 2016: "Camping Out"Dear Church,Despite my many attempts to enjoy camping in the Cub Scouts and Boy Scout as a kid, as an adult I have had to accept that I am only a daytime outdoorsman. I enjoy the outdoors a great deal when it involves hiking, grilling or cooking out over a campfire, or even simply walking the Oregon and Washington beaches.But at night? I really, *really* love a warm bed, a roof, and electricity.Which means that as much as I may have tried to like the brand of camping people simply more rugged than I enjoy, I really am much more of a creature suited for the type of camp that, say, our Northwest region within the church features up in Lacey, at Gwinwood, where church camp is held every year for our region's children.I got to attend church camp several times as a kid myself, and each chance was a genuinely life-affirming, joyous occasion for me (even the one time when I leaped into the creek on a dare--and then stuffed my soaked clothes into my duffel...you can...

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  • Available Light

    Ordination changes a person's self perception in ways that only those who have experienced it can understand. Urban Holmes says that when the community singles us out and sets us aside we become living symbols. We evoke various archetypes in people, particularly the shaman archetype, and people react to us in ways which often they themselves are hardly even aware of. We are the screen onto which all manner of psychological and psychic stuff is projected and people react to their own projections in ways which are deep and unexpected. I noticed it most markedly a few days after I was ordained deacon, walking through Cathedral Square in Christchurch. I walked past a group of gang member, perhaps a dozen of them, who were laughing and talking and clowning around just outside the Cathedral. As I walked past, wearing my crisp black shirt and shiny new clerical collar, they all fell silent and stared at the ground. With every new ordination, to priest and then to bishop, the ...

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  • John 14:23-29“Do not let your hearts be troubled” might be mistaken for a Jesus “Just Do It” theology if it were not for the peace that precedes the “do not be troubled”. In the same way that “Believe in God. Believe also in me” precedes the same command in the beginning of chapter 14, the “do not let…” does not lead. It follows. And the peace that precedes the “do not let…” is not put on a happy face and the whole world smiles with you because the sun will come up tomorrow bet your bottom dollar solution to real life strife. In the same way, “believe in me” does not mean just get over it. Nor does it minimize trouble because it could be worse even if it clearly could be. That would be worldly peace. The peace of the world is temporary and illusionary as it denies sorrow, medicates pain with costly pleasure, or seeks solace by seeing to it that other hearts are equally troubled. The peace that Jesus gives embraces suffering and dies to destroy the power of death. Called to cling to...

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  • Country Parson

    There is a lot of discomfort over the slow pace of economic recovery, which, nevertheless, has been the longest, steadiest recovery in our history.  Several years ago, as it was just getting underway, I wrote a short piece on my hope that it would be a slow paced one.  It seemed to me that we needed to position the economy to better resist the cycles of boom and bust that have often characterized its performance.  A slow recovery, I thought, might help because it would give time for entrepreneurs, investors, and corporations to investigate long term opportunities rather than jumping on the next bubble, hoping to bail out before it burst. I also hoped that a slow recovery would help Americans begin to recognize that, in an interdependent global economy, we don’t have to be Number One in everything, we don’t have to be the Greatest Nation on Earth, and we don’t have to pretend that we control the ebb and flow of global trade.  We can just get on with the...

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  • "When we experience beauty," writes John O'Donohue, "we feel called." Indeed, the word for beautiful in Greek, to kalon, is "related to the word kalein which includes the notion of 'call' - and that makes sense for that which is beautiful evokes a response from us. O'Donohue continues with insight:(Beauty stirs) our passion and urgency... and calls us forth from aloneness into the warmth and wonder of an eternal embrace. It unites us again with the neglected and forgotten grandeur of life. The call of beauty is not a cold call into the dark or the unknown; in some instinctive way we know that beauty is no stranger. We respond with joy to this call... because in an instant it can awaken under the layers of the heart a forgotten brightness.Early in my work for social justice, I would never have connected the call of beauty with an inspiration for action. To be sure, I loved being touched by beauty - art, music, lovers and nature all fed my soul -...

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  • Musings

    In my high school creative writing class, I learned the power of a first line.The teacher, Mrs. Wilson, assigned us numerous short stories to read and told us to pay attention to the first line. The lesson was simple to learn but difficult to execute. The first line makes you care about what happens next. The first line plants curiosity. The first line is the entrance to a house that you want to explore. Every good story starts with a good first line. The year I was thirteen—1957—my father had a nervous breakdown, my brother had a wreck, and I started speaking in tongues.*Lee Smith's "Tongues of Fire," from Me & My Baby View the Eclipse, made me want to write a great story before I read her whole story. The narrator, Karen, opened wide the door to her life in a confident statement of her past. I wanted to enter her time zone and discover more about an ailing mother, the injured brother, and Karen's apparent visit from the Holy Spirit."Tongues of Fire" was every bit...

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  • “She loved music and perceived nature as a song.” Malidoma Patrice Somé Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/Filed under: creation, Dog Mountain, Kah-nee-ta, Photo Meditations, photos Tagged: Malidoma Patrice Some, nature

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  • Americans can be so small-minded. We can be out of touch with what life is really like in other parts of our land and especially in other countries. We can so easily think that our community and its values are the center of the universe. Or that there aren’t equally good (if not better) ways of doing things in other regions of the world. Or believe that the same level of professionalism we live by is not practiced in other places (especially in Africa, gasp!). For these reasons and so many more, I believe travel is good for the soul. Not only is travel a reality check for our prejudge, but it can be one of the best spiritual disciplines we can build into our yearly schedule. Getting out of town. Seeing something new. Saving our funds for an international trip (if possible).  Why? Because our eyes are widely opened. We can not return from travel being the same people when we left. In our shock we are reminded: Not everyone speaks English . . . Electricity or hot water is not always a...

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  • Beloved Spear

    One of the primary goals of public education is to teach citizenship.  In order for our constitutional republic to function, we need to be taught the values underlying a free society.We need to be literate, historically aware, and capable of grasping our rights, freedoms, and duties as Americans.  It's also a place to begin a sense of vocation, to create art and music, and to explore the joys of human knowledge.  But first and foremost, it should establish our place in culture.That's the goal.Yesterday, at the Fairfax County high school both of my sons attend, there was a security sweep.  The students were told it was a drill, but it was not.  Teenagers were herded out of classes, and told to leave all of their bags, backpacks and purses behind.  Teams of officers with drug sniffing dogs were brought in to search their possessions.Some of the students were singled out for more extensive searches, which were clearly randomized.  Their bags were...

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  • Beloved Spear

    Church.In the Old English, the word for church is Circe.  Or Cirice.  To be healthy spiritually, this peculiar institution needs to have its attention turned outward. Christianity, after all, is an intentionally pan-cultural movement.  Yes, it's a message that rises from one person in one context.  But it transcends that context, spanning language and culture.  It presses out, wild and joyous, like living fire, touching and transforming and moving on.It does not destroy.  It lights up, refining and changing and bending towards the just and the good, but it is always ever pressing outward.Until it doesn't.When it turns its attention inward, to its own interests, its own power, its own self?  It darkens, and grows broken of soul.When it turns its affections towards itself, speaking only its own language and relating only to those within the circle it already knows?  It becomes cynical, pointlessly abstracted from reality, turned away from joy and...

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  • Originally posted on A Pilgrim in Narnia: I am truly pleased to be offering a course at Signum University this coming Spring. This is my first time teaching at Signum, and I love the way they set up their courses:…

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  • I am truly pleased to be offering a course at Signum University this coming Spring. This is my first time teaching at Signum, and I love the way they set up their courses: An inexpensive and accessible online program with credit and audit options. Running from the beginning of May through the end of July, I am teaching on “Mythologies of Love and Sex.” These are the great myths at the foundation of our culture, the moments where stories of love, sex, marriage, fidelity, and devotion have intersected with the hinges of history. It will be a semester of great reading and transformational ideas. Consider joining us this Spring at Signum! Click here for more information. About Signum University Signum University believes education should be accessible, dynamic, and affordable. Signum is committed to establishing a completely virtual campus that will cultivate fruitful intellectual exchange between students and teachers, prolific vocational growth for our staff, and a vibrant...

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  • Snow Day

    A sermon preached on Acts 11: 1-18, on April 24, 2016, at Wesley Memorial UMC. It’s always fun to preach on a passage full of the word “circumcision.” But, let me quickly add, that it could be almost any word. The … Continue reading →

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  • Beloved Spear

    Yesterday, on something of a whim, I spent fifty bucks to buy a book I already have from a seller who doesn't actually have the book in the first place.It was the self-published version of my novel, which I used Amazon's Createspace to pitch to friends and family and a couple of folks who'd expressed interest.  It's cheaper than photocopying, way I figure it.  The English Fall has a real publisher now, which is a cool thing, and as soon as went to contract I made it so's you couldn't actually buy the first effort at the book from Amazon.Which was all well and good.  The novel has benefited from some great, insightful editing, and it's a better story for it.But what got me was that there were resellers out there claiming to have used copies of the proto-book.  I tracked the sales, and I know with certainty that there aren't more than a couple dozen copies of that novel out in the wild.  Most of those are owned by my parents.So these resellers were, well, they...

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  • Allan R. Bevere


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  • Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter, Dearer than eyesight, space and liberty.She doesn't. It's all made up. Don't believe her. They're beautiful words, an unforgettable tribute, but it's plain old stinking bull. The speaker is Goneril, King Lear's eldest daughter, and the stakes at the moment are very high. The old man--think of Donald Trump at 90 or so--is divvying up his kingdom. Not a smart thing to do, by Shakespeare's standards. He's putting his three daughters to the test--"which of you love me more?" he's asked with a smirk on his face. Goneril's answer is simply gorgeous.But not much else. It's a whopper, an ugly one too, so gaudily rendered. What's more, it's even more than a little prophetic since Lear will lose all three--eyesight, space, and liberty-- by tragedy's end.Still, have no doubt, Shakespeare could lay it on: three words--Romeo and Julie. Those two characters have come to embody love in Western tradition. West Side Story backdrops...

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  • If I gaze all day at the sun’s light upon the budding rhododendron, know that it means I love you. If my eyes glisten to see the breaking morning or share the breaking bread, know that it means I love you. If I pause for a whistling lesson from the towhee and the sparrow, know that it means I love you. If I laugh to listen to the gurgle of a spring overflowing in its joy, know that it means I love you. If I fling my arms wide as though to embrace the lake and the jagged mountains, know that it means I love you, O God my Delight and my Creator.

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  • The boy was talking very fast and trying his hardest to impress his six-year-old sister Catherine. He knew it was his job and duty to not only take care of her but to entertain her as they walked back from the home of their older and married sister. Catherine was the youngest of twenty-five children since her twin had died shortly after birth and was a treasure to the family. So, he joked with her and told her stories so that the journey home might be a little easier on her. When he turned to see why she wasn't responding to his best jokes and funniest voices, he noticed that she was no longer walking beside him. Like a good brother, he was instantly terrified that he had lost his youngest sister. He began to look around frantically while yelling at himself for his negligence and carelessness. He was gripped by that horrible combination of certainty that she must be nearby and confidence that an awful mistake has been made that will exact a terrible cost...

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  • Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your son our Lord. Amen. (From the First Station)We went into the old city first thing in the morning today to pray the Stations of the Cross. But it's Orthodox Good Friday; so we were hardly the only ones with that idea. An incredible number of Coptic Christians (from Egypt) seem to be here in particular. As we walked, the city "woke up" - shopkeepers, soldiers, trash collectors (really!) and other pilgrims. Life itself was all around us. It reminds me of that great prayer by George McLeod, posted on this blog on western Good Friday.To tell the truth, I've never been a huge fan liturgically of "The Stations of the Cross." But it most definitely works in the streets of Jerusalem!  (In fact, over the past...

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  • Having pushed students to wrestle with historical methods and their application to Jesus this semester, and the fact that those methods don’t allow them to demonstrate the miracles of Jesus and other things they wish they could, I allowed the last meeting of my historical Jesus class to be completely open, with no questions or perspectives [Read More...]

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  • Five items for April...1. Season 6 of The Walking Dead ended this month, culminating in one of the moments I've been anticipating/dreading since I started reading the comics. Jeffrey Dean Morgan made his big debut as Negan, leader of a threatening group called The Saviors who terrorize other surviving communities. I saw all sorts of complaints online after the finale, which I don't think are as warranted as people think. The primary complaint was that Negan's first appearance includes a brutal killing of one of the longstanding characters, but the end scene shows it from the perspective of the character being killed so we don't actually know who it is. I can see why this is frustrating, but I also think the big reveal at the beginning of next season will help kick off the narrative: how the others react and respond to the threat of the Saviors in general. So I'm fine with it. This is still my favorite show.2. I watched I Smile Back this month, starring Sarah Silverman as an upper-...

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  • A month ago, I'd have been finishing Middlemarch, a reading experience which took much of the month of March.I first read Middlemarch long ago, in grad school, as a young woman, just 24 years old.  It was the last novel in our Victorian novel class, so I read it just after Thanksgiving, in a mad rush to get to the end.  I appreciated many things about it, but I most appreciated being a female in the 20th century, when I wouldn't have to marry to be able to fulfill my destiny.Of course, I read it as a woman who had just gotten married 15 months earlier, but I saw that as a choice.  And I was sure that I would have a wonderful career, because after all, I was in grad school, in full control of my destiny.Oh, the hubris that is special to the young!And now, here I am, having just read Middlemarch at age 50, and seeing my young self in Dorothea, although my marriage choice has been a wiser one.  Honestly, none of the marriages in the book would make me want to be...

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  • Available Light

    Vodafone, who supply my internet connection, gave me a little present the other day: a year's free subscription to Neon. In the unlikely event that I ever decide I want to watch Bob the Builder or  Game of Thrones after all, then all the episodes, every single one of them, are sitting there waiting for me. Also sitting there is a mot bad supply of movies including a few I've always been meaning to see but somehow never got around to viewing.The 2008 film Doubt is one such. I saw it last night and I'm very pleased I did. Technically it's a tour de force with superb cinematography in a suitable limited but highly contrasted pallete, intelligent editing, certain direction,  brilliant casting and some outstanding performances. The central roles of an embittered nun, Sister Aloysius Beauvier, a young and naïve history teacher, Sister James and a popular parish priest, Father Flynn, played by Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Phillip Seymour Hoffman respectively are...

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