On the 50th Anniversary of Thomas Merton’s Death

Monday, December 10th marks the 50th anniversary of Thomas Merton’s death—which has now been confirmed as a martyr’s death by the recent solid and important investigative study, The Martyrdom of Thomas Merton by Hugh Turley and David Marin (as well as by my own encounters over the years with three CIA agents who were in Southeast Asia at the time).

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An evening with Michelle

First Lady Michelle Obama swept into Beantown Saturday as part of the national book tour promoting her memoir “Becoming” that was held at the TD Garden. The evening before the event, my spouse and I were gifted front row seats.

OMG! the event was simply magical. And, the audience was wildly excited.

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Darkness In The Light: Depression During the Holidays

Regardless of whether it is seasonal, situational or clinical, the experience is one of disconnection – from life. You identify as the Outsider, not belonging anywhere. The brain says you “should” feel differently, but you don’t. There is nothing more bleak than being alone “in the cold,” left out, hungry and lost in the dark while you look around and see others are gathered around the fire – the flames of life – sharing happiness, family, joy, peace and friendship.

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Tree of Life

verything is interrelated, and dynamic, in ceaseless change, and anything that seems unchanging is illusory. Those of us who are “good, civil and kind” must lean in to change history’s trajectory. God’s kingdom come!

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Will you join us in this quest to enliven Christianity for the sake of all Creation?

********** Review of 2018 **********

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New Creation with Matthew Fox (Video) + A Community Offering for You This Holiday Season

Hi friend,Are you looking for community on the way to Christmas?

Make Advent Great Again just might be what you’re looking for.

We’re back to compassionately struggle – not against some fabricated ‘war on Christmas,’ but against the steady dehumanization that attempt to desecrate God’s image in the face of each other – the war on Advent.

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The New Science of Natural Spirituality

Lisa Miller, professor at Columbia University, is a leading researcher into the new scientific field of “natural spirituality”, which she describes in her 2015 book, The Spiritual Child. There are now separate neurophysiological metrics for the human relationship with the transcendent, a realm that until recently was folded into psychology and sociology. Miller has popularized awareness of spirituality as a distinct developmental process, to be taken as seriously by parents and scientists as physical and psychological growth.

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Mysticism and Social Action: The Spirituality of Howard Thurman

Activism is at the heart of progressive theology. The way of Jesus is both personal and social. Jesus’ embodiment of prophetic spirituality was reflected in his welcome of the marginalized, affirmation of women, expansion of the scope of salvation and ethical concern to include foreigners and the disinherited, and challenge to narrow purity codes which promoted exclusion. Jesus proclaimed that the “spirit of the Lord” was upon him, and this meant the healing of the social order as well as people’s religious lives.

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Theses Toward a Theory of Generative Death Anxiety: Thesis #9

Thesis #9 – Perhaps the most significant and ubiquitous anxiety-compensatory move is to transfer the urge for continued living from the physical realm to the symbolic realm; the organismic urge for continued living becomes channeled into the urge for immortality in the symbolic realm.

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Grow Your Heart Two Sizes this Season

Whatever you’re celebrating this month, I encourage you to look around in awe at the many ways we connect with something bigger than ourselves. There is beauty in all of it. In embracing the dark of the solstice and the darkness in us. In rededicating ourselves to a sacred path through eight candlelit nights. In celebrating the light of the world being born in the most unexpected place.

I have found expanding my spiritual city particularly helpful when dealing with feelings of grief which seem to surface during the holidays, even if your loss is several years old. In the past two weeks I have borrowed practices from Hinduism, Judaism and Christianity to bolster myself.

Perhaps it sounds scrooge-like to you to talk of needing to buttress ourselves for merriment. Today I think of it as acknowledging reality. Most of us carry a sadness of some sort with us into this season. Most of us don’t always feel joyful and triumphant during December. That doesn’t make us Grinches. It just makes us human.

So how do we help our hearts grow two sizes bigger when they still feel broken? We get still and we listen. We drop the things that make us crazy. Actually, I’ve found I can keep doing the things if I drop my unrealistic expectations about them.

Set some boundaries for yourself and guard them closely.

Christmas cards have always made me crazy—from picking the “perfect” picture to managing to get them in the mail on time (never happens). This year I gave myself one hour. One hour to cull through my photos from the past year, pick a few that had each of us in them, and email them out to my kids for approval (teenagers, if you don’t know, are very picky about the photos parents share). I thought there was approximately a 10% chance that they would both give my draft a thumbs up. Lo and behold, they both loved it. I hit send on the order with 10 minutes to spare. I mailed them all out earlier this week and realized I still had a few people on my list. Without sweating the horror of my mistake (I.e, my humanity), I reordered a few extras, on which I will write “Happy New Year” and send them out after Christmas. I am not at all stressed about this turn of events.

My other crazy maker? Gifts. Well, not the gifts per se, but my pursuit of perfect presents. Again, I set a boundary for myself (inspired by Glennon Melton who did the same). I decided I would be done with all shopping by the end of the first week of December. I visited a couple of my favorite local shops (Pondicheri and Body Mind & Soul) then started ordering online with abandon. As in, my husband sent me a text asking if my credit card had been stolen. I did not let myself obsess over the possibility of the items going on sale tomorrow. I did not hold out for free shipping. I did not second guess myself. I make a list, and I didn’t waste time checking it twice. Like the snafu with the card quantity, I didn’t do it perfectly. I realized I had forgotten a couple of folks and joyfully (and quickly) took care of theirs this week. No sweat.

And the spiritual practices I mentioned earlier?

Two weeks before Christmas, I visited the Houston Ayurveda Center for an abyhanga (hot oil massage) and steam to help myself embody the serenity I hoped to bring to the season. While not exactly Hindu, Ayurveda—yoga’s sister science—was born in the deep spiritual soil of India. Each treatment begins with a Sanskrit invocation, bringing a sense of sacred to the experience.

A week later, I was blessed to attend The Service of the Longest Night at my home church, Chapelwood UMC. Coinciding roughly with the Winter solstice, this annual gathering reminds us that there is hope in the midst of grief. I have attended every year since my sister Angie died almost three years ago, and it’s become a spiritual touchstone of the Christmas season for me.

Finally, a poem from the Jewish prayerbook Gates of Prayer made its way to me via my grief support group. An unlikely companion for holiday inspiration, the words remind me of the constancy of grief. But in the simple repetition of “We remember them,” I felt the bonds of grief loosening their grip on me. In remembering (rather than suppressing or denying) those we’ve lost, we can become freer to celebrate with those loved ones still with us. For those of you also struggling with loss this season, I’m including the poem here.

Wherever this season finds you, whatever loss that is heavy on your heart, there is still much to celebrate. Notice the celebrations around you, both the familiar and the foreign, for they are all reflections of God.

Namaste. Shalom. Merry Christmas.

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PATHWAYS Theological Education

An Online Institute for Progressive Christian Theology

PATHWAYS Theological Education, Inc., is a Progressive Christian learning community seeking to empower transformative leadership for justice and peace within and beyond the church by engaging heart and mind to consider what it means to know, love and serve God in today’s changing world. 

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Terrorism: Playing with Numbers

I was in a debate recently with some friends about the NFL protests over police brutality. Some folks were saying there are no structural injustices in the police force. Rather, they argued there are some isolated “bad apples” who do bad things. The incidents may be bad, but the number of them is not statistically large when you look at a nation of 300 million (I’m paraphrasing a bit here).

Numbers can be funny. You can get them to say all sorts of things.

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The Church as a Christian Tribe

In today’s world, we cannot help but be aware of a number of disturbing trends such as increasing inequality of wealth, threats to the stability of the earth’s eco-system, a rise in populism and fragmentation in politics, and a rising threat of violence from terrorism of one sort or another.  At a time when scientific and technological advances in many fields offer great power, with the possibility of both great benefits and also great dangers, these trends, taken together, represent a threat to the future well-being of both our planet and humanity itself.

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Thanksgiving: The original hate crime

Thanksgiving is an excellent time to give a closer look at the rising escalation of hate crimes in America- its origin and its legacy.

America’s origin of hate crimes can be traced with the treatment of Native Americans and how America celebrates Thanksgiving. For many Native Americans, Thanksgiving is not a cause of celebration, but rather a National Day of Mourning.

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Understanding 500 Years of Colonization, With Thanksgiving

It was our Indigenous compassion for the suffering of other human beings that led to what is today called Thanksgiving Day. After a brief interlude of 54 years of peace with the Pilgrims, the rest of the 500-year colonization process of the Indigenous peoples across the Americas included physical and cultural genocide, and were vicious, cruel, violent, and deliberately carried out to “kill the Indian and save the child.” This phrase refers to the process of completely assimilating Indigenous children so that no trace of the “Indian” was left. This was the purpose of the “Indian” boarding schools in both Canada and the United States.

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Yanny’s Blue Dress. Love Haters.

If you are not familiar with this audio-clip phenomenon, you might not believe that two people can listen to the same sound, yet hear different words. If you’ve not done it, here is a link so you can try it and learn more. Listening to the same clip, some people hear “Laurel” and some people hear “Yanny.”

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One People Living in Two Worlds

My family and I participated in an interfaith prayer and march for immigrant families last night.I had some fear when we started out. Were we putting ourselves at risk? What if some random people saw the march and decided to get violent? Events like this are seldom dangerous as they are in fact protected speech in the Constitution. However, tensions are building in this country and threats are rapidly becoming much more common. It’s worth pondering whether the rules still apply anymore.

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Adultery and Jesus

This past winter, I designed a new course entitled Learning the Art of Midrash (biblical interpretation) Using the Gospel of John. I’m a recent convert to the power of that Gospel (previously it never made much sense to me), and I wanted to use the many stories in John (none of which are literally true) to teach people how to use midrash to dig into a story and find the underlying truth often hidden in the details.

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