Wednesday, October 21, 2009

U2 in Arizona

Thanks to my children I was privileged to experience the U2 360 Tour. Okay, U2 may be on the cusp of an aging band, but they still can get 60,000 people to sing along for two hours, standing a lot of the time.

One critic asked if U2 had moved from a band with a cause to cause with a band. Bono spoke with courage to an Arizona crowd, encouraging them to be the best part of America and support the poor in Africa and around the world. I pray many listened to more than just the music.

It was, for the most part, an intergenerational crowd, not something you experience at many concerts. The appeal of U2 across generations is the hope for possible change that not only Bono, but many in that crowd, pray to see in their lifetime.

One of my friends was privileged to be on the stage in one of the final numbers. She represents ONE, as a participate and as a leader in the Church, she represents some of our best efforts. Thanks to ONE and U2 for their efforts on behalf of the needy. Something considering supporting.

Great music - most worthwhile cause - profound experience - and the best part was I experienced it with my family.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Open letter to DBACKS manager

This is an open letter to the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, A.J. Hinch.

Dear Skip (I use that term because that is what the players are supposed to call you, however, I wonder if yours do. Of course some of the young players on the Dodgers call manager Joe Torre, “Mr. Torre.” I’m pretty confident your players don’t call you Mr. Hinch.)

You were quoted in the Arizona Republic on October 5, 2009 that you have two weaknesses you want to work on during the off-season. First, you feel you need to work on manager-player relationships. Second, you recognize you need to improve your in-game decision-making. It is very commendable that you would be so transparent. I would love to be a fly on the wall when your players read those quotes. While your relationships with the players have been well hid from the public, your in-game decision making, well, has been hanging out there for all of us to see.

When you took over the Diamondbacks they were in fourth place and the Rockies were trailing the Dbacks in last. Shortly after the Dbacks turned their team over to you, the Rockies also made a change. Yesterday, at the end of the regular season, I couldn’t help but notice that the Dbacks finished in dead last. The Rockies, on the other hand, who hired a seasoned manager in Jim Tracy (who spent 13 years managing in the minor leagues before taking a major league job), are in the playoffs. That speaks enough of your lack of in-game decision-making. For your information, of course, I realize you have never even managed a Little League game, but in-game decision-making is also known as making managerial moves.

Interestingly enough, Sunday, in the same newspaper, Hall of Fame second baseman Ryan Sandburg was quoted as saying that he has aspirations of managing in the Big Leagues. Of course, he has spent the last three years successfully managing in the Cubs minor league system. My hunch is when he does get the chance to manage, he will be prepared in areas such as manager-player relationships and managerial moves, sorry, in-game decision making.

Here’s a suggestion for you. Instead of making us watch you slog through another season of learning on the job while we pay a lot of money to watch you do what you should have learned at a lower lever, why don’t you volunteer to manage in the Arizona Fall League. A lot of your colleagues honed their skills there first.

I realize you did not hire yourself. But, now that you have the job, and you realize that you have deficiencies, do something about it besides spending the winter playing X-Box baseball with your best friend and general manager buddy.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Secular mets sacred

Today, for me, the secular met the sacred. I was called to jury duty and for the first time since being a priest I was called to a jury panel. The judge and the lawyers asked a battery of questions determined to allow anyone who might be prejudice in the case to recuse themselves.

Despite the fact that the defendant was an undocumented immigrant and despite the concerns regarding the use of force, I thought I could rise above all those questions and serve my civic duty.

Then the question was asked if anyone, who for religious reasons, felt they could not be a judge of someones actions - I had to raise my hand. At that point, all of my internal bias' came to the surface and I had to admit that, I indeed, have reason to be prejudice in this case. The judge released me from my duty this day.

I wanted to believe that even given the circumstances and allegations, I could be objective - I had to be honest, because of my own personal convictions, I could not. I wonder what I'll learn about myself tomorrow.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Congratulations to the ELCA for their willingness to allow congregations to choose ministers or lay leaders who may be in "lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships." Episcopalians are in communion with the ELCA and now we are in solidarity with their wisdom.

In response to their action, the President of Fuller Theological Seminary, Dr. Richard Mouw, said, "For those of us who have opposed this on biblical grounds, it is bound to reinforce the sense that we are no longer welcome in the mainline."

What? Because the Lutherans and the Episcopalians want to be inclusive that means that in reality they are exclusive? Dr. Mouw, you are the one who is a Calvinist. By the very nature of your theology you are exclusionary and suggest that the non-elect are hopeless and while they are welcome to hang around the door, they are without the hope of ever getting in. Okay, I know you hedge your Calvinism with what you call common grace, but when all is said and done, you are a Calvinist.

I have heard this argument recently from a colleague in the Episcopal Church - he said virtually the same thing - meaning, because the Church, and I, don't agree with him, thereby the Church, and I, are not making room for him. I apologize, but I don't understand. How can inclusive be exclusion?

I wonder?

Monday, August 17, 2009


This is one of those blog entries I have told myself all morning not to write - I know I am going to regret this - but, I guess that's never stopped from doing things before, now has it?

Last night I watched my copy of Woodstock. Unfortunately, I can't recapture my youth, but hey, at least once in awhile, especially on anniversary events, I can relive it for a few hours.

No, I didn't go to the Woodstock Music Festival. I would have if we lived anywhere near there - but, alas, we lived in Phoenix, I was fifteen in 1969. The documentary was released the next year. I had just gotten my driver's license. Good thing the ticket teller didn't ask me for my ID to get into the "R" rated movie - they did those things back then.

I was transfixed. Three hours, only broken by the interfuckingmission. The music gave shape to my inner life - because my outer life was being pounded into form by church and sports. None of those hammers had matching rhythms. The expected outcomes of each was dramatically out of tune. What to do? Live different lives and don't let anyone see the inner world. Worked for awhile, well sort of, actually not really.

Oddly enough, as I watched the film last night it dawned on me that my incarnational spirituality was being played out before me on the screen. No matter how hard the external pounding, the inner vibrations eventually will ooze out. Mystical experiences need no words - sometimes though, it helps to having something to dance to.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I’ve had the joy of walking in Ireland from Dublin to Kildare, a pilgrimage of about 120 miles. The second day of our journey we walked almost sixteen miles. Six miles of that was spent walking across White Hill in a blinding rainstorm and a sixty-mile an hour wind. One of our fellow pilgrims suffered from severe blisters and we had to travel at a very slow pace, ensuring that person wouldn’t get left behind.
On the third day we headed to Glendalough, about a seven miles up and down through the Wicklow Mountains. The rain was steady and hard that day, even for the Irish. The day before our map had gotten trashed in the downpour across White Hill. Without a good map, well, at one point we were pretty sure we were lost.
One of the many things I learned on our pilgrimage was, before you think you’re really lost, stop and ask directions. Its one thing to be driving around in a car and be lost and unwilling to ask for directions, it’s quite another to be walking and carrying a forty-pound pack. You don’t want to go a mile out of your way because that means you’ve really gone two miles out of your way because you have to turn around and go back.
While walking lost we came across a couple sitting by the side of the trail having a cup of tea. They both had packs so we figured they were fellow pilgrims. I asked them if they were walking the Wicklow Way.
“Ah,” the man said.
“We are walking the Way as well, but I think we’re lost,” I told him.
“Where are you coming from?” he asked.
“From Roundtree.”
“Well you’re going in the wrong direction,” he said.
“Ok,” I said.
He said, “Where’s your map laddy.”
I pulled out our map. It was a useless wad of soaked paper. The lines bled together in an indistinguishable mess.
“That’s not a map laddy,” he reached in his bag, “this is a map.”
He produced a detailed topographical map sealed in zip lock bag. He proceeded to tell us we were walking in the wrong direction, though somehow we had actually made it the correct turnoff point in the trail. Oh, one small point, we had walked about two miles past the turnoff point. On his map he showed us where we should have turned and what we should look for. We thanked him and started to walk back down the road we had just come.
“Laddies, we’ll walk with you a ways, just to make sure.” He said.
He and his partner walked the next two miles with us explaining in detail how to make our way to Glendalough. I have no idea how far we would have walked out of our way if those two people had not helped us.

At the end of the Gospel of Luke we hear the story of two of Jesus’ disciples walking the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Jesus has been crucified and buried. On the third day some of the women disciples went to the tomb and found it empty. These two disciples had left Jerusalem and were on their way to Emmaus.
They were filled with grief. Their beloved rabbi is dead and now his body is gone.
A stranger joins them on their walk. He asks them why they are so sad. Shocked, they ask if he is the only person in Jerusalem who had not heard about the tragic slaying of Jesus.
While waking along side these two disciples the stranger begins to share the scripture of the promised Messiah.
Eventually, the three travelers arrive in Emmaus and the stranger bids them farewell and starts to walk on his way. But the disciples implore to spend the night with them. The stranger relents and joins them for an evening meal.
As the three sit at their table the stranger takes bread, blesses it, breaks the bread and shares it with his friends. The scripture says their opens were opened to see Jesus Christ in the breaking of the bread.
The scripture tells us that immediately they left Emmaus and returned to Jerusalem to witness to their friends what they had heard and seen.
As Episcopalians this is our three-part story. We walk together sharing in the Liturgy of the Word, trying to gain a deeper understanding of the scriptures. We gather around the Liturgy of the Table. We take the bread, bless the bread, break the bread and we share the bread, expecting that Christ will be revealed in the Holy Eucharist. Then we are sent into the world by the Deacon to be witnesses to what we have heard and what we have experienced.
We do not walk this road alone. We cannot hear nor understand the word outside of community. We break the bread in community and communion because that is where Christ is revealed to us. And together we are witnesses to the world of the sacrament of the Word and the Table.
This lifetime pilgrimage of Word, Table and witness is also a lifetime of discernment. Discernment is done in community with the community.
Discernment is the process of hearing the Word as it is revealed in the lives of the community. We listen deeply to our own Emmaus stories. We are vulnerable in sharing these stories because we know that we are safe as we gather around the mystery of the Table. It is in the community of discernment that we can hear what the Spirit is saying.
The process of discernment is the gift we have to offer. We walk along side one another, listening to the word, sharing our stories, praying for the Spirit to point each of us in the right direction. It’s not an easy process. It takes humility, vulnerability and a willingness to listen to what the Spirit is saying.
Discernment communities that are listening to the Spirit will be transformed collectively as well as individually. The community of St. Augustine’s and the Episcopal Campus Ministry at ASU also known as St. Brigid's Community consider one of our gifts to be that of discernment. In less than three years we have had eleven discernment committees. Listening to the Holy Spirit in community forms the community.
It’s not an easy pilgrimage. Answers are sometimes “yes,” or “no,” or “not yet” or “we are uncertain.” Yet, the Spirit continues to provide a safe environment to walk along side one another. We continue to share our Emmaus stories, breaking bread together and witnessing to others what Christ has revealed to us.
I encourage you as you continue the life long process of discernment to ask questions we are often afraid to ask. If we don’t ask the tough questions we may find ourselves walking miles out of the way to discover the path. I encourage you to walk along side one another especially those whom you may not know very well. These are the ones who you may help the most. I encourage you to be vulnerable enough to share your rain-drenched maps with one another. Someone else may have the map you are looking for. I encourage you to walk the pilgrimage of discernment because if you don’t take the risk for sure you’ll never find your way.
Finally, I encourage you to walk side by side, listening to the Word, breaking the bread together and to be witnesses to what you have seen and heard in community.

Friday, May 01, 2009

After sermon writing ramblings

Do I really have to tell people to not shake hands at the sharing of the peace? Do you think Jesus used hand sanitizer before feeding the 5000 or before breaking bread at his last meal?

"I have guarded myself more carefully against contented people than against contagious diseases." Victoria Wolff (quoted from The Sun magazine)

I wonder if Jesus would want to be confirmed as an Episcopalian? Or be ordained as a deacon or a priest? What would his discernment committee say? Would his vestry approve his request? Would the parish support him financially at seminary? Would his homiletics professor approve of his preaching style? I guess he did have the gift of gathering, but was he entrepreneurial enough?

After sermon writing ramblings -

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Neo-monastic community

In a recent Christian Century issue, Holy Nativity, an Episcopal Church in Los Angeles was featured by writer Amy Frykholm. "Church as Hosting Community" offered some very thoughtful ideas for consideration.

Episcopal priest, Peter Rood has worked at offering as many entry points in their neo-monastic community as possible. "Church is a place where people should be able to pursue religious paths that have meaning for them personally. Doctrinal agreement is not an issue. Rood says that he does not worry who will stay, for how long or for what. Membership he regards as largely an outdated concept."

Rood is using the model of a monastery for the parish. Hospitality is the main function of Holy Nativity. Everyone brings a gift he says and he hopes everyone takes a gift with them.

The parish has a community garden, offers cooking classes, has a jazz mass with young musicians, and teaches classes on meditation. His goal is to "provide a place of hospitality and discernment."

The neo-monastic model is unique to its location, what is possible in Los Angeles is a challenge for Tempe - but what is authentic to Tempe would be dis-ingenuous to anywhere in California. The important thing about the neo-monastic model is to find ways for each community to to make a gift, an offering, to the community in which they live and hope to serve out the calling of the community.

I am encouraged by Peter Rood and Holy Nativity. To hear that the community of God is being nourished and is growing around Benedictine precepts in the confines of parish life is inspiring.

Too often our specific communities have been given a discouraging message, one which offers little hope, in other words, the ship of the Episcopal Church is sinking. Even our own General Convention is spending time looking at Emergent models in hopes of finding a way of survival.

Rood may have the best answer - look at our past as our strength. Episcopal Church stop wringing your hands and instead put them together to pray and work, like the monks in LA.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Transitions are often scary. We are leaving one space, often comfortable if only because we know our way to the places we need to go. While we are going to a place where we might have trouble discovering the things very critical to our survival, like the el bano.

The frightening place though I think is the liminal space, the place of transition, that often holds me back. Those are the places that scare me. Several of my good friends are in those transitional places, the place in between the old and the new. Each has willingly taken the risk to go beyond what was to move into the what could be. These are inspirational people.

My grandfather was a truck driver most of his adult life. While working he traveled the main highways, trying to make good time. Time meant money and he needed it to care for his family.

But when my grandfather was not driving his truck he always took the back roads, the roads that took him through small towns with tiny cafes. He knew the dinner with the best lunch, the one with the blackest coffee and the little six seat pie shop with the sweetest apple pie in the county. It seemed we traveled for the sake of eating. Of course, as I grew older I realized he stopped at those places because of the people who he knew who lived in the area or worked in the cafe. We traveled for the sake of fellowship and community.

We traveled a lot of miles together, always in transition, going from one place to another - the best part though was being in the in between places, that was where my grandfather told me the stories of his life. Without the linimal spaces, I wouldn't know my grandfather or our family history.

To my many friends in transition, my prayers are with you - prayers that you may find your stories somewhere in the in between space.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Being present

A few of us from our campus ministry group had a border emersion experience this past week. On Tuesday we drove to Douglas and participated in the weekly prayer vigil, remembering the over 300 people that have died in Cochise County since 2000 trying to cross the border into the US.

As we walk along a mile stretch leading up to the border each person holds up a cross, speaks the name of the deceased and says “presente” or you are present and we remember you. As the line of persons praying walks by you lay your cross on the curb and continue walking to the border repeating the names until all the crosses line the street. At the border Pastor Marc Adams, the Presbyterian border missioner, led the devotion. The hour-long vigil is a moving experience.

That night we had dinner with four migrants at the Catholic Church in Aqua Prieta. The parishioners from the Church cook a meal every night for whoever shows up. If the people need a place to spend the night the church has beds set up for them.

We listened to these men’s stories. They were simply looking for work. Hoping to find some way of taking care of their family. They had heard that they could pick tomatoes near Aqua Prieta. One man had ridden his bike over 3500 hundred kilometers in 59 days hoping to find work. Their stories were filled with compassion and pain. All they wanted was to be treated with some dignity by being given a chance to work. They weren’t looking for any handouts. They don’t need anyone to take care of them. They just want to work.

On Wednesday we traveled across the border again into Aqua Prieta where we visited two projects that are designed to give people in Mexico a chance to control their own destinies and to stay in Mexico.

“Café Justo” or Just Coffee is an agricultural cooperative of farmers from Chiapas in southern Mexico. Once the coffee beans are harvested they are shipped to Aqua Prieta where Café Justo roasts the coffee, packages it and then ships to customers in the US. The five-year old project is a success because the middleman is eliminated and the farmers are paid a fair price for their coffee. Everyone benefits.

For lunch we visited PermaCulture, the vision of founder Jose Gonzalez. We ate the best chili reinos I’ve ever tasted. The homegrown chilies were stuffed with chiuaua (Chihuahua), Mennonite cheese. The flavor was earthy and rich. The only thing that could have made the meal better was a cold bottle of Dos XX. We had to settle for soda instead.

Jose shared his vision of creating a place where people could grow their own vegetables; do wood working, do marketable sewing, and other creative crafts. His vision is to teach people to be self-sustaining. His vision is to change the culture of poor that live in Aqua Prieta.

Jose spoke through our interpreter. We needed the interpreter not Jose. He understood what we said and knew much more English than the four of us knew Spanish. But I didn’t need the interpreter to be swept up in the charisma of this man vision. Jose was fully present to us as he communicated more than a dream or a hope – he was glowing with vision.

It was in this moment that I got of glimpse of my relationship with God. I pray that God hears me and knows what I say. I pray for the confidence to trust that God hears me. But I struggle with hearing and understanding the words of God. However, the vision of God is communicated by the power of God’s presence. For a moment, God was present, communicating a new vision to me.

When I hear the gospel of John this morning I am struck how the work of resurrection seems impossible for the world to understand. The work of resurrection, the rebuilding of the Temple that the world has torn down, is so hard. It has taken the community 46 years and they still haven’t finished with the Temple. Jesus statement that he will rebuild, resurrect, the Temple in three days seems preposterous.

But the vision of God always seems outlandish – totally impossible. The work of resurrection is a vision for rebuilding the lives of the suffering. That’s what Jesus is showing us – resurrection work, a rebuilding of the dignity of human life is always possible – even in the face of disbelief. That’s Jose’s vision as well.

Taking the suffering world off the cross of despair and offering them hope – that is the work of resurrection.

Sometimes when I start thinking about the big issues of the world, like immigration, I get overwhelmed, almost frozen. I ask myself, what can I possibly do to solve this problem? But then I remember the words of Jesus, feed the hungry and clothe the naked.

So, our group took jeans, shoes, jackets, socks, medical supplies and money to the migrant center in Naco. And these items of mercy were being given to men sitting at the center hoping and praying to find their sister. Instead of being deported, she was randomly chosen and arrested, awaiting prosecution. The men hoped against hope that she would be deported. But, they had no idea.

I believe we are called to join Jesus in resurrection work – rebuilding the community – one pair of jeans, one bottle of water, one can of food, and one handshake at a time.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The demon of fear

My heart is breaking over the destructive slashes to our universities, public education and services to the poor. Our State legislature is acting out of fear. They are afraid to raise your taxes because they are afraid you want re-elect them and if you don't re-elect them they are afraid someone else will be in control - the biggest fear of all, losing control.

And what has their fear driven them to do - when they gutted education and social services - they have given more money to Sheriff Joe? Why? Because they are afraid - or they think you are afraid - actually they think you will love them because the toughest sheriff still lurking the earth is so popular - more votes.

Stop the cycle of fear! Call your representatives and cast out the demon of fear - or at least those in power. And pray for Sheriff Joe; I don't know what else to do.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The special day of inspiration

Thankfully today has been a day that many of us can proclaim that we are proud to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, including our country. President Obama's inauguration speech caused us to pause, reflect, re-commit and dedicate ourselves to the common good.

This is also a day to remember those who have displayed courage in the face of oppression and great opposition - and while I could recall historic moments and defining characters, all that has meaning to me is those who have personally touch my life.

Clyde Cunningham's family was the first African-Americans to live on the block. Clyde was straight forward, kind, gentle, at times unsure, and always a friend.

Dick Davis, from Compton "crime capital of the world" he always said, taught me that different backgrounds, families and cultures meant nothing when as teenage
professional baseball players we talked about the fear of failure and the expectations to excel.

John Shumate, former Notre Dame and Phoenix Sun star, came to Grand Canyon University as its first African-American coach and in spite of outright racism thrust his way, he stayed true to himself and his players. He taught us all that courage means being honest.

Leighten McCray, the next African-American basketball coach at GCU, taught me that taking risk on your players entrusted them to their own obligations.

Dr. Barbara Dickerson continues to hold education as the most meaningful way to teach us to love one another in a common goal.

Janet Beason and John Saunders have taught me that the Church is the place where we gather to worship the God who loves us as one.

Judith Conley has taught me it takes continued courage in the twenty-first century because, sadly, racism still exists in our world, country, state and town. She and her husband are truly strong and inspiring people.

Mr. President you have my daily prayers, support and admiration. May God be Present to you in a way that you know God's power throughout each day. Thank you for your courage and inspiration.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Community supports those in need

Thanks to all who supported St. Brigid's Community in the collecting of food and clothing for the homeless today, the celebration of Martin Luther King's life. St. Brigid's Community collected over 1000 pounds of food and nearly 500 pounds of clothes. That's a hell of lot of clothes and food that will go to care for those in need. The majority of the items will go either IHELP, the Tempe Interfaith group to which we belong that feeds and houses the homeless or to St. Matthew's Crossing that provides food for those in need. Some food also will be distributed by St. Augustine's for those who come to our door daily seeking assistance.

Blessings to all who volunteered and all who donated. Truly we have come together to form community and to serve the community.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sticking it out

Congratulations to the Arizona Cardinals for winning the NFC and heading to the Super Bowl! Wow, just plain awesome. The best part is to watch the tears of the players who have suffered through the really bad years and now can enjoy along with young and new players the bliss of hard fought victory against many odds.

And to the fans, especially Chris and Eddie, you guys have been there with the Cardinals from the beginning. You have suffered with your team and you have never given up on them. You deserve to be honored along with the team. To the Bidwells you have endured. And to the City of Glendale, you deserve congratulations for your risk and sacrifice - thanks for bringing something so awesome to the great West Valley.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Why? Ok I know the answer I guess

Rick Warren has formed "solidarity" with dissident Episcopal parishes

Why? OK, I guess I know the answer, it's apparent that he's homophobic and must be a Biblical literalist - of course he is a Southern Baptist, something he doesn't publicize, but that's the world he lives in - too bad President-elect Obama didn't invite Bishop Gene Robinson and Rick Warren to pray on the same podium. Curious question, I wonder if Warren would have been willing to pray on the same platform with the Bishop? I doubt it.

Well, I stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers who are denied access to the Lord's Table in Rick Warren's church and that of the parishes who have chosen to walk apart from the Episcopal Church who include and provide open access to the Church to all who will walk the Way and even those who know nothing of the Way. Rick Warren is welcomed to the Lord Table's in our community - would our brothers and sisters be in his?