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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Indubious Video – See Sharp

“We call upon the tonal vibration of the Earth to bring us clarity, vision, and a broadened perspective. We humble ourselves to the power of the planet and ask for guidance through these trying times. As we gather in greater numbers as gentle shepherds of the Earth, and cultivate of our birthright of inner magic, we heal our ancestral wounds and usher in a brand new way to See Sharp.”

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The Shape of Christmas

My mind is a maze with the turns of the journey

The wise men wandered while aimed at the star

Their ears had the form of the wings of the angels

Attuned to the music they sang from afar

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I Pray Anyway PLAYbook

Discussion and Workshop for I Pray Anyway: Devotions for the Ambivalent

PLAYbook for I Pray Anyway: Devotions for the Ambivalent is a creative, thought provoking guide/curriculum based on the book I PrayY Anyway: Devotions for the Ambivalent by Joyce Wilson-Sanford.

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St. Nicholas Is Too Old and Too Tired to Defeat the Selling Power of Santa Claus!

Today: the Feast of St. Nicholas, the ancient precursor to the modern Santa Claus, will pass without much ado. Some will try to encourage us to resurrect St. Nicholas to save us all from Santa’s powers for we have gone astray.  To those well meaning souls who would rid Christmas of its flagrant consumerism, I can only offer up a feeble, “Baa Humbug!”

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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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The Resistance Bible Study Podcast

Friend and frequent contributor to ProgressiveChristianity.org,  Rabbi Brian, has compiled conversations with 12 of his Biblically literate friends in a series of podcasts that both delight and educate.

Join Rabbi Brian as he talks to Reverend Jim Burklo, Dr. Tracy Hartman, Rev. Irene Monroe, Pastor John Pavlovitz and more as he seeks to find out what the bible is and how to use it to fight oppression.

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Tao Te Ching: The Book of the Way and Its Power

The Tao Te Ching was written 2,500 years ago, yet it speaks directly and powerfully to our contemporary lives. Why are our lives so difficult? How can we return to a place of harmony and balance? What is our true and essential nature? Who are we really? These are the kinds of questions the Tao Te Ching asks—and answers.

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Three Deadly Sins of Public Discourse

The USA is suffering a partisan divide that now rivals the years of the Civil Rights Movement and the protests of the war in Vietnam. In order to heal our divided nation, conservatives and liberals must learn to both talk to one another and to sincerely listen. But mere civility will not save us unless we avoid logical pitfalls in our public conversation. This sermon outlines three: the problem of epistemology, of false equivalence, and what-about-ism. Take this as a short course in philosophical reasoning.

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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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Kissing in the Chapel, Praying in the Frat House: Wrestling with Faith and College

Wrestling with Faith and College

College is a time to learn, explore, and grow, but what does faith have to do with it? In this collection of essays, gifted writers in their twenties and early thirties reflect on their college years by telling stories—some hilarious, some heart-wrenching—on the intersection of faith and college.

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Gratitude in a Time of Grief

A sparrow was in her tree singing to the dawn. But before the song was complete, a spark somewhere flashed and a tree somewhere ignited. Because the forest was dry, the fire spread from tree to tree faster than though. The whole forest seemed to explode in flame.

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God, We See in Sacred Story

God, we see in sacred story women suffering silent pain,
Living at the whim and mercy of the ones who troubled them.
What does history know of Dinah? Was she bold and smart and strong?
We just know her as the victim of a most horrendous wrong.

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Starting Spiritual Direction: A Guide to Getting Ready, Feeling Safe, and Getting the Most Out of Your Sessions

Rev. Dr. John R. Mabry can help. He has been a spiritual director for nearly twenty years, and is the director of the interfaith spiritual direction certificate program at the Chaplaincy Institute in Berkeley, California.

Starting Spiritual Direction is one of the first books on spiritual direction written for people who are receiving spiritual direction, rather than giving it. In a friendly, easy-to-read style, Dr. Mabry tells you everything you need to know to make your spiritual direction sessions a sacred and fruitful time.

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