What every one of us shares….

“We are separated by continents
but share the same vast, beautiful, and sunlit sky.”

Some years ago, our daughter-in-law’s family shared images of a funeral outside Tehran. Held to commemorate the life of a grandmother on her father’s side, and as customary in the Middle East, the funeral procession took place outdoors. Surrounded by family and friends, several men, including our daughter-in-law’s father, carried the deceased. Wrapped in linen cloth, the body lay on a narrow platform hoisted on the shoulders of men who brought her to her final resting place.  

The palpable grief of those during the procession and subsequent burial all took place against the backdrop of a vast, blue, sunlit sky. As the funeral came to a close, our daughter-in-law’s father took the body of his mother into his arms and gently placed her in a freshly dug grave. 

Death comes to all of us. Yet the images of these past weeks from the land of Israel and Palestine are saturated with atrocity. There is death that comes after a long life, and then there is the kind of death that is senseless, depraved, and malevolent. No matter what side we may find ourselves on, can any of us justify the annihilation of children and youth? Can any one of us excuse unleashing weapons of mass destruction aimed not at military targets but at whole neighborhoods and cities?   

I ponder these questions in the face of the mayhem that continues in what is also known as the Holy Land. Located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Eastern Bank of the Jordan River, a land of significance for Jews, Christians, and Muslims for decades, it is also a land saturated by war and grief. But lest we forget, every single one of us shares the same vast, beautiful, and sunlit sky.  

Prayer: Divine Maker, when we find ourselves consumed with anger and grief but at a loss for words, compel us to lift our eyes to the hills from whence your help comes. [2] Through your grace, may we have the courage to refrain from violence, instead asking the difficult questions that persist. For just as grief comes to every single one of us, You hold us in the embrace of the same vast, beautiful, and sunlit sky. Amen

[1]  Sunset off the coast of Rhode Island, January 2021

[2] Psalm 121

Turning the Tables on Big Oil

Who would have thought that a handful of Montana youth could successfully win their day in court and against Big Oil at that? But then, every once in a while, the young Davids of this world triumph over behemoths like Goliath. Now, other states are looking to these youth and their strategy as a blueprint.  

Does this mean fossil fuel is on its way out? Hardly. The clash between conservative ideologues seeking to shield fossil fuel industries from climate action and those advocating for renewable energy to limit the amount of carbon pumped into the atmosphere continues unabated. As with Texas, oil is considered the “lifeblood” of Montana’s economy…even though the state has warmed faster than the national average, heating up to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit since 1950. [1] Nevertheless:

Montana has never denied a fossil fuel permit, whether for extraction, transportation, or burning fossil fuels. In a 2022 debate, then-candidate Ryan Zinke, now a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, proudly said he wanted no part of the clean energy transition… During this winter’s legislative session, state lawmakers tried to ban teaching scientific theories in K-12 education. They passed new laws that blocked cities from making policies that would encourage non-fossil energy sources. [2]

What these youths did and continue to lobby for is profound, which makes it all the more imperative that the rest of us support their efforts by continuing to press onward for a healthier and greener world. It isn’t just up to the young. They can’t do it on their own, nor should they. The peril of ecological devastation falls more heavily on them while inflicting future generations.  We all have work to do. We must join hands and do all we can to save our planet and God’s beloved Creation. As it is often said, “This is the only home we’ve got.”

Prayer: In your providence, Divine Creator, instill within us the conviction that the best way to cope with climate grief is to do what we can when we can, despite the obstacles and inevitable setbacks. Teach us to stand in solidarity with our children and youth, those of this generation and the next. Grant us your vision of hope; we pray so as to be faithful till the end. We ask this in all the holy names of God. Amen.

[1] Even a 1.8% increase in temperature spells trouble for our climate: imhttps://www.climate.gov/news-features/climate-qa/global-warming-18%C2%B0-f-1%C2%B0-c-seems-small-so-why-change-global-temperature

[2] https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2023/06/inside-the-unexpectedly-wild-landmark-montana-youth-climate-trial/

[3] On this 9/11 anniversary,  we hold dear the memory of all those who lost their lives while carrying the hope for a saner and more compassionate world.   


  “I want to do my part,” she said with earnest, “but with so much unraveling taking place across the planet, I wonder if I can do anything.”

  The sage nodded with understanding, “Going in with eyes wide open isn’t cynicism,” he said. “Nor is having severe misgivings about doing your part a sign of hopelessness. What if wanting to do your part despite raging wildfires, upending hurricanes, vitriolic conflicts, and violence inflicted on the most vulnerable is evidence of something more tangible…such as an awakening?”

  “Isn’t everyone awake?” she replied.  

At this, the wizened old man shook his head sadly. “No,” he said. “The awakening I speak of asks something of us. To be awake is to ‘wake up in this world instead of waiting for the next.’ [1] It is choosing to do your part, however small and insignificant that may seem at the time.”  

“But what if others resent it when I do my part?” she responded. “Giving lip service to exercising one’s conscience is one thing. But advocating for those on the margins – the poor, the indigent, the migrant, the homeless, and the welfare of our planet – can get you into trouble. Some are so angry they only see things in terms of winning and losing.”

At this, the sage smiled. “My dear child, if you get into trouble for doing what the conscionable thing to do is, what is the just, the compassionate, and the merciful thing to do, then you will be keeping company with the likes of Francis of Assisi, Harriet Tubman, and Martin Luther King, Jr.” He then added, “Their own awakening meant they had to do their part – however difficult their task and misunderstood they were in their time.” [2]

“Besides,” he added, “you won’t be alone no matter the obstacles. For you will keep company with the saints, the prophets, and the activists who have gone before you and those who stand with you now.”

Closing Prayer: Divine Maker, in the face of so much uncertainty and despair, summon me to keep company with the least of these. Teach me that by doing my part, however seemingly insignificant, I will join those who have been let in on the big divine secret.  That to exercise one’s conscience despite the cost – bestows that most paradoxical of blessings – which is to receive the coming of the Lord. [3]   We offer this in all the holy names of God. Amen. 

[1] Center for Action and Contemplation

[2] https://www.ncronline.org/news/rohr-church-needs-awakening-soul

[] Matthew 24:42 


Who were the first immigrants?

Recently, while visiting an art studio with portraits of First Americans, I came across this image. Hung just adjacent to the paintings, the photograph, and its caption abruptly brought the viewer into the furor of the present. With continued outrage from conservatives about immigrants stealing jobs and benefits from Americans, whether legal or illegal, it bears remembering who the first immigrants were to North America. Most were Europeans: be they from the Baltics or Spain, the Netherlands, France, Italy, or England.

So why the anger over current-day immigration? Since, apart from indigenous folk, the rest of us trace our lineage from other shores. Statistically speaking, and regarding the economy, are immigrants that much of a threat to the availability of jobs? Or is it only illegals that concern those vocally protesting their entry into these fair states?

Observes one essayist, “…undocumented workers often assume the unpleasant, back-breaking jobs that [the rest of us] aren’t willing to do.” [1] Found in meat-packing plants, along with gutting fish, laboring in the fields, assuming back-breaking work in construction, mowing and tending to America’s lawns and cleaning her houses, and while found babysitting the youngest of her children, do not their struggles implicate the rest of us? Reminding us that save for the First Americans of these lands, all of us, every single one, is an immigrant.

Prayer: Holy One, teach us to see your children, all your children, as moving towards being a part of the family of God. Compel us to acknowledge that save for the First Peoples of this land, every one of us is an immigrant. We ask that, in your mercy, you open our eyes to see the beauty and wonder of humankind’s rich diversity in all the peoples of the earth and the creatures whom we share it with. We ask this in all the holy names of God. Amen.

[1] https://www.brookings.edu/articles/do-immigrants-steal-jobs-from-american-workers/

[2]  Nor should we forget those brought here forcibly, beginning in the sixteenth century and going forward.    Slaves, however, were not immigrants.  Considered chattel and property, they had no rights whatsoever.https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/03/09/slaves-werent-immigrants-they-were-property/

[3] From Sojourner’s, The Theology of Migration, and as quoted from Immigration Advocate Karen Gonzales, “The story of the Bible isn’t just a story of moving from being lost to being saved, but it’s one of being a foreigner and moving toward being part of the family of God to belonging. And that’s a trajectory we can see throughout the scriptures from the very beginning when we meet Abraham — God is asking him to migrate, and we see he and Sarah’s vulnerability in Egypt. Over and over again the scripture restates some 83 times … that we’re to treat the immigrant as ourselves, we’re to love the immigrant as ourselves, we’re to do justice for the immigrant…”  https://sojo.net/media/theology-migration


“The Slaughter Right in Front of Us”

  A phrase attributed to Jesus states, “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.”  While the never-ending violence comes from guns, not swords, I’ve long struggled with Jesus’ words.  Consider that those demanding or legislating the use of these weapons aren’t the ones slaughtered but the innocent: children in classrooms, young children and families in their homes, and shoppers at grocery stores and shopping malls. They are the ones sacrificed, not those responsible for their proliferation.

  Yet imagine if Jesus’ words weren’t directed solely at perpetrators but at those determined to keep it a way of life.   Those who blindly believe that the slaughter of innocents is a necessary price for freedom.   Those who vigorously dismantle any attempt to limit access to high-capacity rifles because they insist it violates personal rights.   Those whose goal is assuaging their base politically no matter the cost.

  Writes author Clint Smith, “I want to walk past the school where my son will attend kindergarten next year and see a place that will keep him safe. But this is impossible. We live in a country …where legislation is written — and erased — by the gun lobby. Where manipulations and distortions of Second Amendment rights prevent politicians from enacting any semblance of sensible laws that would at least attempt to prevent this. Where claims about what our Founders wanted supersede the slaughter we see right in front of us. Where the cocktail of easily accessible guns and the normalizing of extremist views makes nowhere feel safe.”

  Will there ever come a time when enough is enough?   When truly good citizens will triumph over this madness and make our schools, playgrounds, and markets safe again?   When those for whom the common good is not an alien concept but the ethical framework by which society flourishes?

  Thoughts and prayers are not enough.   Nor will those who continue to prolong this carnage ever change.  We need not “live by the sword,” but as responsible citizens and people of goodwill, we can choose to do all we can to rid our nation of this carnage.

   If your representative is beholden to the gun lobby rather than your child’s safety, the power of the vote is in your hands.  If your news station turns a blind eye or even promotes the use of assault weapons, you don’t have to follow them.   And for those who speak of “constitutional rights” as justification for this slaughter, you can rest assured they lost their moral compass ages ago.

   “Hope is a human virtue,” writes Rabbi Jonathan Sacks,  “…at its ultimate is the belief that God is mindful of our aspirations; [and thus] God has given us the means to save us from ourselves; so we are not wrong to dream, wish and work for a better world.”

  May it be so.  

[1] Credit…Léon Cogniet/Musée des Beaux-Arts, via Alamy

[2] The Gospel of Matthew 26:52

[3] Clint Smith, The Atlantic, No Parent Should Have to Live Like This, May 25, 2022

[4] Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations (London: Continuum, 2003), 207.

Love’s Endeavor

“The endeavor to genuinely love engages all our emotions.” [1]

Imagine if love’s goodness includes facing the obstacle that challenges us?     Which, of course, seems counterintuitive.  If love is genuine, it should be experienced as uplifting, inspiring, or consoling, right?  Any indication otherwise refutes it as satisfying the auspices of love.

Yet what if authentic love insists on not being limited?    What if love means engaging ALL of our emotions?    Those we gravitate to, such as a sense of belonging, intimacy, trustfulness, and tenderness, and those we do our utmost to avoid: raw, fierce,  deeply honest, and fearful emotions.

Loving this way makes a “…personal, spiritual, ethical, and moral demand on us.” [1]  An insistent love, yes, but a wholly inclusive one.  A love not separated from the truth but bound up in it.  A love that is inconvenient and even hurtful at times.   But a love that also moves us beyond sentiment and into the realm of trustful connections, authentic living, and even joy.

Prayer: On this St. Valentine’s Day, Limitless One, we give thanks that your summons to love authentically is not in opposition to living joyfully.  Instead, in your fierceness and fullness, you seek to complete us, humankind, and all Creation.  May we, as your children, incarnate your love, a love not separated from the truth but bound up in it.  We ask this in all the holy names of God. Amen.

  [1]  Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, an author and activist, Rev. Lewis is the Senior Minister for Public Theology and Transformation at Middle Church in NYC



When You Can’t Pray….

“Often the longings of prayer, are diffused and muted longings,
that one barely feels at all.” [1]

How can one pray, when there isn’t the remotest desire or longing to do so?  For that matter, how can anyone fall back on prayer when they’re painfully aware of its insufficiency?    In the face of so much unnecessary suffering, exploitation, and violence, why even suggest this practice (other than not knowing what else to do or say)?

Writes author, James Finley, “There is, it seems, a deal that [our] heart makes with itself, so as NOT to admit that it harbors a longing so deep that it can’t continue…” [2]  What I think he speaks of here, is that ironclad agreement we make with ourselves – often without being consciously aware of it.   For when the mowing down of civilians is routinized; human and civil rights systematically usurped; forests, rivers, and its creatures plundered; institutions routinely violated, and fascism lauded by those in public office – is it any wonder we’ve learned to cope by shaking our heads and doing what we can to get through another day?

Yet when you’re worn out, and you can’t pray or even want to for that matter, could recognizing this be a new beginning?    Yes, the great sages and mystics throughout the ages gifted us with meaningful and beautifully composed prayers, but their stories are incomplete if we forget their own struggles. Perhaps, as James Finley has observed, “…despite their doubt and [disheartedness], through it all they perceived that God continued to love them anyway.”[3]

Prayer: Divine Maker, who knows me better than I know myself, thank you for continuing to hold me in love, even when I don’t believe in you.   Thank you for believing in me, even when I have lost faith in myself.   We ask this in all the holy names of God.  Amen.


[1, 2 & 3] James Finley, from Christian Meditation

Beyond personal salvation


“If we keep recruiting people to evacuate the earth, then every person who gets saved is, in some ways, taken out of the action. It’s like going to the bench of people who want to play in a football game and trying to recruit them to leave the (stadium)…” Brian McLaren

Rest assured, Brian McLaren isn’t suggesting dispensing with personal piety and devotion.   Nor would he advise us to stop praying unceasingly, reading and reflecting on scripture, attending worship, engaging in Bible study, or personal acts of penitence.  So what is, Brian McLaren, former church pastor, the guru of the Emerging Church movement, a leader from the progressive wing of evangelicalism, and acclaimed speaker and author, suggesting?

In the wake of the pandemic and during an interview held last year, McLaren, was asked, “What do you think is the biggest turn-off for young people…who don’t like the way the church is right now or the legacy of the church?”   He responded that aside from many [white Evangelical] Christians becoming chaplains to right-wing extremist politics; is this tendency to define faith as an adherence to a certain set of [qualifying] beliefs…that may well be [completely out of] sync with the Gospels.

Imagine if faith meant focusing on acts of mercy and justice rather than being saved?   For that matter, what if salvation as intended by the Gospels, doesn’t mean being jettisoned off the face of the earth?    Instead, imagine if we perceived our world not as dispensable and without hope, but as beloved and redeemable in the sight of God?  What then?

Prayer: Divine Maker, in the wake of so much terrifying news, be with us in our fear and trepidation.   In your love, turn our eyes outward towards my neighbor, however near or far they may be.    Teach us again and again that religion was never intended as merely a private, benign affair but one that requires each of us to look to the welfare of the other – who is as much your child as each of us is.  We ask this in all the holy names of God.  Amen.










Seeking Refuge: A Reflection & Prayer for the Peoples of Ukraine


“In scenes reminiscent of the Blitz, adults, children, and dogs hide from airstrikes, seeking refuge in bomb shelters and subway stations.” [2]

During World War II, an intense bombing campaign was waged against the United Kingdom by Nazi Germany.    For eight months, the Luftwaffe dropped bombs on London and other strategic cities across Britain, from September 7, 1940, through May 11, 1941.    Remembered as Black Saturday, on the first day of the Blitz alone, 430 people were killed and 1,600 were badly injured.

Wrote organizer, educator, and reformer, Saint Boniface, “O God, you have been our refuge in all generations.”  But what of those fleeing war’s aggression?  Or for those unable to take flight from the encroaching chaos and mayhem?    When wanton cruelty and its destructiveness encroach upon and violate the land, what recourse does the most vulnerable, human and creature alike, have?

Martyred in 754 by an armed group of robbers, the aged Boniface was murdered along with 54 others who accompanied him.     Still, his words attesting to God’s faithfulness in the face of aggression and terror remain: urging us to continue to demand justice and mercy for the oppressed, exercise unfailing advocacy for those distant as well as near, while praying that all of God’s children and creation itself, be afforded refuge’s blessing.

Prayer: God who dwells in places of refuge, be with the peoples of Ukraine, we pray.    Yet for those not in destruction’s path, compel us to be nothing less than fierce advocates and champions of the oppressed.   So that together with those distant and near, all may savor your refuge, under the shadow of thy wings and within the hallowed gates of sanctuary.   Amen.

[1] Image from Daily Mail Online

[2] Adapted from CNN’s Chief International Correspondent, Clarrisa Ward

Treading into the unknown


“And I said to the one who stood
at the gate of the year:
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown…’

This is an excerpt from a poem written in 1908.    Born into humble roots, the poet, Minne Haskins’, father began as a grocer, later acquiring and running a pipes factory.   In turn, her mother took on the management of the factory after her death.   Shaped by what she witnessed and experienced in early life, Haskins became a life dedicated to the care of workers and others on the bottom rung of society.

Yet in 1939, with a country facing the uncertainty of war, King George VI read this poem for his Christmas Day broadcast.   The words, “Give me a light so that I may tread safely into the unknown,” struck a chord in the minds and hearts of its hearers.   Perceiving that the road ahead was fraught with peril and even danger, the words resonated.

And so it is now, as you and I stand at the beginning of 2022.   With even Canada expressing alarm at the perilous state of our democracy, the continuity of weather systems upended due to climate change and a virus that shows no signs of abating, is it any wonder we’re anxious?    But in speaking truth, as poets can, Minnie Haskins continues with these words:

‘And the one replied;
‘Go out into the darkness
and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light
and safer than any known way.’”  Minnie Haskins, 1908

When Epiphany’s Star eludes us and we are plunged into darkness, illumine us, Divine Maker, so that we may tread safely into the unknown.  Amen.