Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Why I bought a Dixie Chicks CD on Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a day to remember all those who have made sacrifices for this country. I remember my uncle who gave his life in the service of country. I remember family members who have served in World War I, II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and Iraq. All have made great sacrifices for their country. Those sacrifices were made for a variety of reasons and I honor those reasons and those who gave so much. I also remember a very special friend who is currently in Iraq (for his second tour) and I remember those others that I know - and I pray for them daily.

On Memorial Day the President of the United States standing before the Tomb of the Unknowns, stated that the nation can best honor the dead by "defeating terrorists....and laying the foundation for a generation of peace."

How does war bring peace? How does more killing honor the lives of those who have died? The world has been at war throughout history. No war has brought definitive peace to any generation much less the next generation. What chance has this war to bring peace more than any other war of history?

Maybe the best way to honor the sacrifice of those who have lost their lives in war is to find a better way to bring peace - a peace that will last - a peace that will be meaningful for generations to come; a solution that will replace killing.

On the eve of the Iraq invasion, Natalie Maines, lead singer for the Dixie Chicks, told a London audience that the Chicks were ashamed that President Bush was from their home State of Texas. The Chicks spoke out against the invasion of Iraq. Their fans and the country music industry responded like fans have the right to do - they reacted by not buying the Dixie Chicks CDs or playing their music on the radio. Some fans, however, decided to do what they do not have the right to do and that was to threaten the lives of these three young women.

The Dixie Chicks risked their careers for saying what they believe. Their risk was great. It cost them a huge fan base. Just last week they released their new CD with the anapologetic song Not Ready to Make Nice. The first CD since 2003. In the first week of play country fans have again responded with rejection which further questions their future careers.

It's one thing to speak out against the war when you know those who listen will agree with you like Bruce Springsteen or Neil Young; it's quite another to have the courage to risk your career when you know for sure your fans don't agree.

I wonder if that's why our churches are not speaking out against the war, this war or any war? Is the church afraid that it fans, those in the pews who pay the preachers salary, will stop buying what the church is selling if they speak the word of peace and pacifism?

It is impossible to justify war using the words of Jesus Christ. To be a follower of Jesus Christ is to promote peace and forgiveness. To attempt to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to strive to find a better way to solve global problems other than by killing one another.

So, to honor my family who has served this country and to honor my friends currently serving in Iraq and to pray to be a follower of Christ I am inspired by the Dixie Chicks and resolve to speak out often and loudly against this war and any other; seeking to find solutions that will bring lasting peace. And I started by buying the Chicks new CD on Memorial Day and I'm going to their concert here in Phoenix. Peace will come at a price but that price should not include a commitment to the shedding of wartime blood. Jesus' life was offered so that we might have peace.

Check out Leanard Pitts, Tribune Media Services, Chicks spoke up, and their voices filled a void, in the May 30 Arizona Republic, "Opinions."

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What's in a name?

Kansas U. Softball shortstop is Destiny Frankenstein. That's her real name. She said she doesn't use her name at restaurants because people don't believe that's her name. Our name can effect our behavior.

When I was born, my dad's favorite baseball team was the Brooklyn Dodgers and he named me after their firstbase man Gil Hodges. I went on to play five years of minor league baseball and I coached college baseball for 20 years. A name can set a course for our life.

I wonder now, what name would people give me? Conservative, moderate, liberal, post-liberal, post-modern, post-Christian, leftist, rightist, fundamentalist, literalist, environmentalists, feminist, separatist, isolationist, nativist, hawk, dove, gay, straight, orthodox, heretic, evangelical, low church, high church, broad church, Christian? What's in a name?

The first people to be called Christian lived in Antioch, 300 miles north of Jerusalem. It was in the earliest days of the new found sect. Followers of Jesus defined themselves as followers of the Way. It was their critics who first called them Christians; more as a term of derision and to probably to set them apart from other Jewish sects of the day. But, there must have been something different about those early Christians to warrant a special nickname.

Those Christians were followers of Jesus. The Jesus who taught his followers to love one another as he had loved them. Sounds pretty tame? But, his message got him crucified. His message of love must have been threatening and dangerous.

Love becomes dangerous when it is more than words. Doing love is dangerous.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught that Christian love means to encounter the love of God in everyone met and to be God for that person. In other words, to meet the very presence of God in the other and to be the very presence of God for the other. Bonhoeffer was preaching a "religionless Christianity." A kind of Christianity that is only concerned with the needs of the person that I am being confronted by each day; not the dogma or teachings of religion.

In preparing to become a priest I took Clinical Pastoral Education from Banner Thunderbird Hospital. The Director of Spiritual Care of BTH is Ss. Sat Kartar Kalsey Ramey. She is one of the few women in the world who is ordained Sikh.

Sat Kartar taught me that in order to really be present to the patients in the hospital I had to realize that I am not the Lone Ranger. First, she said, I had to be present to myself. Second, I had to be honest with who I am as a Christian so that I might be present to God. And then and only then could I be present to the patients. It would take me being a Christian and she being Sikh and the other Chaplains being present to God in their tradition for us as a team to be effectively present to the patients in the hospital. It has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with being present to God.

Being truly present to someone who is in need is difficult. That person doesn't need my theology and religion; they simply need me to be present for them.

So, I ask myself when I with someone:

Am I really present?
Do I see God in them?
Am I being in the place of God for them?
Is my love dangerous enough that others might call me a Christian?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

God? Are you here?

This entry is dedicated to Justin who tragically lost his life as a victim of a hit-run accident while riding his bicycle.

The Peregrini group gathered around the table for a great meal of falafels, lentil and pita prepared by Justin's best friend Tyler. Tyler's grief process included cooking for his friends. We are grateful that he shared his gifts with us.

In the pain though, we all realized that they are times when the presence of God is in question. In fact, a lot of the time we've found ourselves asking, "God? Are you here?" And we're not hearing any response. Why is that?

Why is it at the seemingly worst times in our lives we can't hear God, or feel God or recognize any tangible means of determining that God exists? Tyler lost his best friend to a needless, reckless act, by no fault of Justin. Where is God in this senseless random act? I must admit, I don't have an answer.

But, I still ache for God. I long for God to hear me and respond to me. Where do I find God's presence when I need it most?

Joan Chittister wrote, "The monastic heart in not just to be a good heart. The monastic heart is to be good for something. It is to be engaged in the great Christian enterprise of acting for others in the place of God."

So like monks who believe that the two most important things in life are good food and prayer - we gathered around good food and tried to be present for one another and especially for Tyler. As Chittister wrote, "acting for others in the place of God."

We also found ourselves being present to one another as we were honest with our stories of loneliness, abandonment, confusion, frustration and doubt. The opportunity to ask the honest questions and express real doubt somehow made it comforting and reassuring; we are not on this pilgrimage alone.

Is that good enough? Is that all there is to it? I think that's all we have.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

She's walking 500 miles

Fellow pilgrims, Tamie is walking 500 miles on the Camino. She is on a literal pilgrimage. She started today. While most of us talk about the pilgrimage of life, Tamie is taking her talk on the road - a long dusty road; uphill, downhill, through the 32 days of Spain's weather.

Many of us have committed to pray daily for Tamie while she is on this soul journey. Tamie attended St. Brigid's Community service last Sunday on ASU's Tempe campus and we offered prayers and blessings for her. We will continue to pray for her each Sunday during her trek.

The Lord be with....let us pray.

"Direct Tamie, O Lord, in all her doings and with your most gracious favor, and furhter her with your continual help; this is all her works begun, continued, and ended in you, she may glorify you holy Name, and finally, by your mercy, obtain everlasting life; we also pray that you keep over Tamie with the grace of your Presence through Jesus Christ our Lord." Amen.

Friday, May 05, 2006

God? In this crazy life?

God, it seems the faster I go the more I have to do. Is this the way life is supposed to be? Deadlines, pressure to commit, expectations to perform, demands from those who think they can and intimations from those who I would hope would not - is this insanity or the way life is going to be?

Who dares to answer the question is the one who is left with the possibilities. Our pilgrims gathered to open their souls and share the practices that draw them into "that" space. What space is "that space?" Maybe a place of quiet? The experience of silence floating in a pool with ear plugs in. Taking a long walk to hear your own soul. A good run to clear the head. Yoga, to be. Eastern mystic orthodox worship complete with icons and incense. All are "that" space. Each individually arrived; for one, not necessarily for all.

Is God always in "that" space? You'll have to go there and discover your own story.

Fall back into the soul and rest for a moment - let your eyes flicker and search; see into the dark and the light, both together and one the same. How is it I arrived in this place? Who is walking along this pilgrims path? I thought this my road to be trudged alone? "Oh, no, I don't think so," whispers the singing voice of mist and dream. But, this is no dream. It has connection, palpable presence. Who is this reaching out for my soul? I pray it is you Holy Abba, hear my prayers and know my heart. For in you I fall back and rest.

Our pilgrims of evening came to hear fellow traveler stories. We left with a little bit of shared "that space."