Sometimes I think we are holding that word – saved – too tightly in our fists. Maybe we do that for some form of security we seek, for fear we will lose something otherwise, or maybe to keep it under our control rather than let it loose in the world.

I don’t know why but I have a deep sense that we need to let go and see what can come.

Maybe I am not making myself clear.

Those of us who grew up in Christian communities and congregations and those of us who participate in such can hear that word in a certain way and with a certain firm and often rigid understanding.

When we use the word in the context of our faith communities we think we know what we mean and what the other person means. After all, don’t we all agree on what “being saved” is about?

May I use some “loaded” theological words for a moment?

We often hear only the eschatological, or soteriological or theological meaning(s) of that word. That is to say in another way – it’s about “going to” heaven or hell, about “I’ve accepted Jesus as my personal savior”, or “I asked Jesus to come into my heart,” about “declared righteous by the grace of God through faith.”

Any of that sound familiar? Are you comfortable or uncomfortable with that?

But maybe we need not to hold onto that word – save – so tightly. Maybe it means something beyond our theological take on it.

Maybe it shouldn’t be compartmentalized by us “believers” into such a small sphere of use.

What else is there?

Let me offer a few examples.

When I was a college student I took part in a literacy program my congregation was doing in cooperation with the Salvation Army in our town. Several of us would get on the church van and ride to where children were waiting for us. I did the best I knew how to do but was amazed at what another college student was able to do. He was expanding the kids vocabulary by leaps and bounds. He was respecting the kids and acknowledging their ability to learn when others were writing them off as hopeless. Oh, did I mention they lived in a part of town that I once heard another young person at church say the “poor white trash” lived there?

How do we “save” a child by helping to learn to read? Were we there only to get them to “sign” the “I accept Jesus card” or were we there to bring something to them and learn something from them?

The other day I was invited to speak at a church up the road from where I live. On the way I passed by an empty motel. Empty as in it was closed and had been for some time. I could see it had deteriorated over time.

I wondered if the building could be saved?

Maybe some group could take ownership of the buildings and they could provide temporary (or even more than temporary) housing for folk in need of housing.

Maybe the motel has a kitchen and a place for a dining area and could be part of providing some meals for folk who don’t have access to decent meals.

Maybe the motel has some area for meeting rooms that could provide a place for any number of community services.

Could such a “repurposed” set of buildings be part of saving a child from hunger, saving a family from homelesness, saving someone from unemployment?

But maybe, the first thing is to find out what the town needs, not what someone bent on “saving others” thinks they need.

The other morning I was reading a prayer that in part said,

Help us also in our business and work.
May we have grace to be honest in all our dealings with others, truthful in all our life and conversation, and consistent in our conduct and behavior —
so that all who see us, shall see Jesus in us.

We desire to make this day one of loving ministry in Your name, to others.
Fill us with Your Spirit, so that wherever we go, our faces may shine with the brightness of divine love.
Help us to be as Jesus to those we meet.
Fill us with Your love, Your peace, Your grace, Your compassion —
so that Your life really shall be revealed in us.
May our wayside ministry be one of blessing.

Enable us by simple kindnesses,
by gentleness,
and grace of manner,
and by words of encouragement and comfort —
to be a blessing to everyone we meet today.

How are we to be a blessing to those we meet today and tomorrow?

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}
(my inexact translation = “where true love and passion abide, God is always present”)

After I had drafted the above, two items came to my attention.

First, I received a selection from the writings of Frederick Buechner which included the following:

… the Hebrew view of the human being [is] as a psychosomatic unity, an indivisible amalgam of body and soul in which if either goes wrong, the other is affected. It is significant also that the Greek verb sо̄zо̄ was used in Jesus’ day to mean both “to save” and “to heal” and sо̄tēr could signify either “savior” or “physician.”

You can find the entire reading at –

Second, one of the ministries of Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C., Recovery Cafe, has joined with other community groups to purchase a property which formerly housed a discount store, to be converted to a space for a cafe and mixed income housing.

You can find more information on this at –

And at –

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

Cry, let it all out ….

For the past couple of years, I have been following the International Sunday School Lessons series and each week posting what I call “reflections” for the upcoming Sunday’s Scripture. I have been, for the most part, not interested in posting my reflections and observations but in helping the reader engage the Scripture and offer some pathways for their own reflections.

The Scripture focus for this upcoming Sunday is Lamentations 5.

You can find my most recent post here –

I don’t recall ever paying much attention to the book of Lamentations in the past but having done so in the past days, I now see some of what I have missed.

Maybe the laments offered in the book of Lamentations were encouraged in their honesty by the many laments offered in the Psalms.

If as Bonhoeffer suggests the Psalms are the “praybook of the bible,” I wonder why we do not do a better job of offering our entire selves to God.

We often turn to the Psalms for the words of praise we find there.

Could we also turn to the Psalms and Lamentations to see how we can name the pain we have and give voice to that pain before God. No, that doesn’t express it correctly. Not “before God,” but “to God.”

We hear it in the Psalms, we hear it in Lamentations.

Walter Brueggemann in Praying the Psalms tells us “The Psalms are an assurance to us that when we pray and worship, we are not expected to censure or deny the deepness of our own human pilgrimage.”

And elsewhere in The Message of the Psalms he suggests “[Psalms of lament] express the pain, grief, dismay, and anger that life is not good. (They also refuse to settle for things as they are, and so they assert hope.)”

We call on God to hear our pain, to see our pain, to acknowledge our pain, we ask how long will it continue and we ask God why.

After this year of pandemic, of isolation, of death, of violence, maybe it is time to tell God how we “really” feel about it.

Do you think God can handle it? The Psalmists did. Those voicing their pain in Lamentations did.

Do we?

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

When will we ever have time to relax a bit?

“Why can’t you just relax?”

“You’re just too uptight!”

Ever been told that – thought that?

Have you ever listened to one of “those” relaxation tapes (ok, I know I‘m showing my age, but you get it don’t you? – No? How about a relaxation podcast? Oh, no, I’m getting uptight just thinking about this, i better try to relax)

You how it goes on those relaxation tapes/podcasts – you hear in a soft, almost whisper voice (that is supposed by its very sound to make you feel more comfortable and relaxed) “Let’s start with our toes, wiggle them a bit, now let them just be still, take a deep breath, feel your breath filling you lungs, now feel the sensations in your toes, can you feel the muscle tension going out of them. Yes? You feel it now. Good, Now your right foot ….” (and it goes on for a while then) “Now the crown of your head. Do you still feel muscle tension there? Take a breath, as you breathe out let any tension in the crown of your head leave with your breathing out. Gooood.”

Been there – done that?

Let me ask you – How do you “relax” into this season of resurrection? The Great 50 Days of Easter? Eastertide?

Do you?

Are you uptight by the “let down” after all the build up to Easter egg hunts, Easter baskets, and if you are much involved in “church activities” the churchy busyness surrounding Easter. I have known some ministers in highly liturgical settings who try to take the week after Easter off, just to slow down and unwind a bit.

What about you? Are you still on an Easter high? Do you need to settle into the season of Eastertide?

I receive email from Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. six days a week. The emails are entitled “Inward/Outward.” The weekday mailings offer a quote for the day and the Saturday mailing addresses the lectionary gospel reading for that Sunday.

This came from in Monday’s email –

Guide me,
Holy One,
into an unclenched moment,
a deep breath,
a letting go of heavy expectancies,
of shriveling anxieties,
of dead certainties,
that, softened by the silence,
surrounded by the light,
and open to the mystery,
I may be found by wholeness,
upheld by the unfathomable,
entranced by the simple,
and filled with the joy
that is you.

(from – Ted Loder, Guerrillas of Grace: Prayers for the Battle, San Diego: Luramedia, 1984)

This so captured by attention that I wanted to hold onto it for a long time … and to share it.

“… unclenched moment … open to the mystery …. found by … upheld by … entranced by the simple …”

And, there it is!

I try to “hold onto it” and thereby miss the invitation to let go and rest in the mystery that is Easter.

I want to understand, to explain, when more often I need to let go of the expectations, the anxieties and even the lifeless certainties that blind me to the light of Easter and the silence that just might speak of life.

I’ll be quiet now and go back to Ted Loder’s words. Join me?

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

PS – To find out more about Church of the Saviour you can read this –
And this –

And to subscribe to the mailings –

Well … Easter’s Come and Gone for Another Year

I saw the season was coming to a close the other day when I went to Walmart. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me much. After all, isn’t Walmart a good indicator of the cultural climate?

But, aside from that, I noticed how the employees at the store were rearranging the aisles that had been set aside for items for Easter shopping You know – candy, Easter baskets, candy, plastic grass, candy, Easter themed toys, candy, etc. The shelves had become “picked over” and were becoming empty. Retailers try very hard to avoid empty shelves and as good a retailer, the Walmart employees were consolidating the remaining items to shelves closer to the main customer walkways for better visibility.

By now, the season is almost gone from view.

What Easter candy, baskets, etc are left in the stores are marked down to 50% and maybe even 75% off. Should we “stock-up” for next Easter.

And have our kids and grandkids begun to come down from the sugar high that accompanies the release of so much chocolate and candy in our homes? Probably so.

Stay with me for another moment or so.

I don’t mean this to be an entirely sarcastic rant on the heights of commercialism that has come to accompany this holiday.

Holiday? Or Holy Day? Or Both?

Maybe both?

I don’t remember when I first heard it but several years ago I heard a minister speak of “becoming an Easter people.” And just yesterday, I got an email that used that same phrase, “becoming an Easter people.”

Then there was my minister friend who said that growing up in the church he heard sin preached 51 Sundays a year and Easter/Resurrection preached one Sunday.

Is that the way we should expect it to be?

Maybe we can take a clue from not just the cultural trappings of the Easter season but pay some attention to the “Christian calendar.”

As that calendar takes us through the year it sets aside 50 days for Easter. Some have called it the “Great 50 Days of Easter.” The days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost are looked on as the season of Easter. A time to consider, explore and maybe even practice what Easter people might look like, might behave like and even what they might expect life to be life.

Is there life after Easter Sunday? Probably so.

If Lent has been so often for many a time to “give up” something, what can the Days of Easter be when we take up something to live into Easter Life?

Can I offer one example? “Red Letter Christians Wake Up.” This could come to you in email each day. It offers a Scripture, a brief thought, and a “Now Go and Do …” for your practice.

You can visit past offerings at
And find a subscribe link on that same page.

Here is the “wake up” that came this past Monday –

“No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.”

– 1 Juan 3:9-10

Oscar Romero, a martyr of the church’s struggle in El Salvador, wrote, “I do not tire of telling everyone, especially young people, who long for their people’s liberation, that I admire their social and political sensitivity, but it saddens me when they waste it by going on ways that are false. Let us, too, all take notice that the great leader of our liberation is the Lord’s Anointed One, who comes to announce good news to the poor, to give freedom to the captives, to give news of the missing, to give joy to so many homes in mourning, so that society may be renewed as in the sabbatical years of Israel.

Now Go and Do …
Today, recognize the ways of love of Jesus’ kingdom that you may participate as a faithful and devout resident in the space between a broken world and the coming kingdom of God.

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

It happened again and again!

I really don’t want to say I’m a hoarder … can we say “pack rat”?

Recently my wife and I were beginning to clean out a small storage building we have behind our house and she asked,

“How many times have we moved these boxes?”

I did not have a quick answer and did now want to even consider how many times it was. Can we just say several? Back and forth across four states that’s now counting the several moves within those states.

Can I make it clear that many of those boxes contained books. And who would want to let go of their books?

Oh … yes, it is true some of those boxes had not been opened for several years so I hadn’t gotten much use out of them. Maybe soon?

OK; so maybe I do have some problems hanging on to things, but I’m working on it. I really am!

For instance, just this past week I read an article, “A Pain-Free Way to Cut Down on the Stuff in Your Home.” I even bookmarked it so I can come back to it later.

What? Did you ask how many other articles I’ve bookmarked on decluttering? Well, I haven’t counted lately but maybe more than a few.

And then a couple of weeks ago I came across another free ebook on decluttering, so I added that to my ebook collection. Surely that was a good addition. Don’t you think so?

Did you ask if I have other ebooks on decluttering? OK, this time I did count and there are over 80.

Yes, 80! I can hear you know – when will i start doing something about this “problem”?

I told you my wife and I started working on our storage recently. Did we finish? No, not yet, but we will. Trust me!

In some ways my tendency to collect things and then acknowledge the problem, and then begin to do something about it and then … keep on collecting speaks to my similar approach to a Lenten fast.

I recognize the value a fast, the value of stepping away from some behavior, of devoting the time that behavior would have taken to another more worthy endeavor, and the fast lasts for while then it falls away. More to the point – I fall back to the behavior I had already acknowledged lacked some value for me.

What do I do?

I could fall into a guilt trip. I could “beat myself up” about the failure.

Or, maybe I can acknowledge I did something, but I want to do more.

I came across some words of Basil of Caesarea which drove home to me the “more” that moves us beyond a self-satisfying fast,

“Are you not a robber, you who consider your own that which has been given you solely to distribute to others? This bread which you have set aside is the bread of the hungry; this garment you have locked away is the clothing of the naked; those shoes which you let rot are the shoes of him who is barefoot; those riches you have hoarded are the riches of the poor” (from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro, ebook location 3174)

… those books I have boxed away and left unread and unused … whose are they?

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

It’s on the tip of my tongue

The other day I was reading an article from one of the religion news sources and read with interest a piece about current battles going on in one of the large christian denominations in the USA. It stepped through several aspects of the issues and identified by name one of the leaders the writer of the article took great issue with.

It mentioned views held by Dr So-and-So and others and a few paragraphs later mentioned Dr So-and-So “and his cronies.” While I was somewhat surprised by hearing such folk called “cronies,” I did snicker and enjoy hearing them called such. My sympathies were not with Dr So-and-So but with the writer of the article.

After thinking it over some I came to realize the language should not have surprised me at all. Whether folk are discussing – arguing about – religious issues or political issues, we have become accustomed to name-calling, invectives, and ad-hominems thrown at the “right” and the “left” and all points in between. If you have any doubt, listen to talk radio. It seems we have come to the place where we take this as the normal and expected way we talk to and about one-another.

Later that day, I happened to come across a certain Scripture passage and read this,

You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment. But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matthew 5:21-22)

Should I take Jesus’ words seriously? Maybe the folk on the other side of the argument are not my “brother or sister” but my enemy. Isn’t it ok to call my enemies by insulting names? To treat my enemies with less respect and courtesy than I treat my friends, those of my side of the disagreement?

All, I can say is Jesus’ words struck me with more force and I felt them in my gut and soul more than I ever had before.

Maybe this Lent is a good time for me to begin to think of the words I should fast from and the words I should cultivate.

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

Shall we Fast? or Feast? or ….

For the past several years during Lent I have shared in one place or another the following thoughts about our fasts and our feasts.

I offer this once again and invite you to consider where you might embrace such fasting and feasting.

Fast from emphasis on differences;
feast on the unity of all life.

Fast from apparent darkness;
feast on the reality of light.

Fast from words that pollute;
feast on phrases that purify.

Fast from discontent;
feast on gratitude.

Fast from anger;
feast on patience.

Fast from pessimism;
feast on optimism.

Fast from worry;
feast on trust.

Fast from complaining;
feast on appreciation.

Fast from negatives;
feast on affirmatives.

Fast from unrelenting pressures;
feast on unceasing prayer.

Fast from hostility;
feast on nonviolence.

Fast from bitterness;
feast on forgiveness.

Fast from self-concern;
feast on compassion for others.

Fast from personal anxiety;
feast on eternal truth.

Fast from discouragement;
feast on hope.

Fast from facts that depress;
feast on truths that uplift.

Fast from lethargy;
feast on enthusiasm.

Fast from suspicion;
feast on truth.

Fast from thoughts that weaken;
feast on promises that inspire.

Fast from idle gossip;
feast on purposeful silence.

Gentle God,
during this season of fasting and feasting,
gift us with your presence
so we can be a gift to others in carrying out your work.


{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

Merton Threw Me A Curve!

Well, maybe it wasn’t so much Thomas Merton as it was the folk who edited together the talks on the audiobook.

One of the audiobooks available at Hoopla I mentioned last week was Thomas Merton on Contemplation. I decided to start my Lenten “retreat” with Merton by listening to it and started listening a few days ago.

So there I was, ready to get the “scoop” on contemplation from a master of the spiritual life and one of my heroes of the faith. And what do I hear but Merton talking about Abraham.

No – I wasn’t looking for a talk on Abraham but a talk on how I can “master” the skill of contemplation!

Ok, maybe that highlights the first thing I needed to notice. Rather than dictating what I expected to hear from Merton or trying to “force” his talks into a pattern I expected/wanted from him, I should rather learn to listen and rest with his words.

But what if I don’t want to rest. I want the “answer” right now!

Maybe I need a little humility too. Do I want to listen to Merton and let myself be guided by him or do I want to “be in charge” of my immersion into these talks?

The first talk on this audiobook is entitled “The Spiritual Journey.”

Merton suggests that the metaphor of journey is central to our understanding of the Chritian life and offers a pattern of spiritual life.

In this talk Merton spends time with the Scriptural accounts of Abraham found both in Genesis and The Epistle to the Hebrews.

What held my attention as I listened and still echoes in my mind is God’s call to Abraham to “leave where you are and go to where I will show you.”

Abraham is asked to leave a place of security, to move into insecurity, to become a nomad as he walks into the hope of a promised homeland.

Then it hit me!

This is a great image for our days of Lent.

Walk toward the promise. Live into the insecurities and let the path unfold.

So, while I plan to walk with Merton this Lent, I will listen to what he can offer rather than attempt to “force” my expectations into his talks.

What do you hope for Lent? How do you want to walk into this season that leads us to the promise of Easter?

Don’t hold too tight to your expectations. Allow those moments of grace to surprise you.

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

Why I’m Not Giving Up Hoopla for Lent

A few weeks ago I came across the audiobook 7 Days with Thomas Merton by Fr Donald Goergen, O.P. and was able to download it and over the course of several days listen to it. While at first Fr Goergen’s speaking style did not appeal to me, the retreat was well organized with a good introduction (or reminder) of several aspects of Merton’s thinking. Each day/chapter focused on a different one of Merton’s books with a well chosen passage from Merton and helpful expository remarks from Fr Goergen.

While listening to the retreat, I decided it would be good to spend time with Merton over these days of Lent (which if you have not been watching your calendar begins this coming week on Wednesday, February 17).

And that’s where Hoopla comes in.

Do you know about Hoopla?

My local public library (Mobile Public Library) subscribes to the digital service Hoopla. On Hoopla you can stream or download movies, television shows, music, ebooks, audiobooks and graphic novels. In some cases there is a limit to the number of items you can borrow in any given month but all this is available as a free service from the public library.

While looking around at Hoopla I discovered the audiobook I mentioned above and with only a little more searching (like entering “merton” in the search book) I found 85 items of which about 70 were either audiobooks or ebooks by or about Thomas Merton.

And here is the part that sold me on sending Lent with Thomas Merton at Hoopla – many of the items are recordings of Merton giving retreats or on occasions he was instructing the monks and others at Gethsemani Abbey.

So in Lent 2021, I will be able to hear, not just read, Thomas Merton as he shares from his spirit and wealth of insights.

I think I will start with Thomas Merton on Contemplation and then maybe go on to Thomas Merton on Poetry (want to explore the writings of William Blake, Gerard Manley Hopkins, W. H. Auden, Charles Peguy, and Emily Dickinson with Merton as your guide?).

No, wait! Maybe being a native Mississippian I should go to Thomas Merton on William Faulkner and Classical Literature. The description of this audiobook wants me to believe “Merton demonstrates that Faulkner is a mythological rather than sociological writer; he uses the particular setting of the American South to tell stories of universal significance.”

So many choices.

One more thing – check and see if your local public library subscribes to Hoopla (or maybe a similar service). You might be pleased with what you find.

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

Approaching Scripture

Did you ever hear, “I’m hungry for a good bible study!”

Or, “I just want to do a bible study. It’s been so long.”

Or maybe, “Does your church do real bible study? I’m just not getting fed in our Sunday School class!”

Then again from some church-goers (and even Sunday School attendees) you will never hear such.

Why? What brings on these kinds of questions or even the lack of these questions?

I want to offer some thoughts today about such questions and follow up over the next few weeks thinking about ways we come to Scripture.

First, these questions are provoked at least in part by a person’s getting the idea from one place or another that Scripture is important for the life-style of a Christ-follower. Does that make some sense to you?

Of course the idea that Scripture is important might be so second nature to you and those you associate with that it is not a subject you give much thought to. After all, “Doesn’t everyone know how important it is to read the Bible?”

It was part of the church culture I grew up in.

From preachers, Sunday School teachers, and maybe family also, we got the message to “read the Bible every day.” It seemed every bit of literature we got at Sunday School not only had a “lesson” for Sunday, but a list of Bible verses for “Daily Bible Reading.” Even the small envelopes we put our offering in had a place to mark if you did your daily Bible readings, and you knew it was something you were supposed to do.

So our churches told us Bible reading was a big thing that needed to get done.

And so maybe we did it to “get it done” and maybe even “get points” for being a good Christian.

But, as we read the Bible, and enjoyed the small bites of the Bible we got in “Bible stories” at Sunday School, maybe we saw the Bible was much larger than what we heard about Sunday after Sunday.

That brings us to our second factor that lies behind the questions we started with, “What more is there to the Bible.” Is it more than the few “stories” we hear week after week?

Should I just do my “daily Bible reading” and listen to my church teachers and preachers tell me what the Bible is about or is there a “way” for me to understand more about it?

I have the impression some folk are satisfied with “being told” what the Bible says, but others asking the questions we posed earlier have probably moved from being passive consumers of the Bible to wanting more.

Third, those growing up in a church culture like the one I did (or similar) may have learned that the Bible is the “only” way we hear about God, or from God. To put it theologically, if you will, there is no revelation of God outside the pages of the Bible, or what there might be of “natural revelation” is so limited as to offer only the smallest glimpse of the possibility of God and certainly no path to salvation. Was that too much theology for today?

In any case, if something in your nature has led you to want to know more about God, or to experience God’s presence more directly and the Bible is the place (the only place?) that can begin to happen for you, then Bible study becomes something very important.

One more thing. Maybe you’ve heard of some people who “do Bible study” at their churches that have homework that goes with it, as well as reading a study book that provokes questions rather than just offer pre-packaged answers. So the fourth thing behind the questions we started with is having heard of others who invest time and energy in not just reading the words on the pages of a Bible but have moved from being passive readers of the Bible and passive members of a church class to being actively engaged with the Bible, and dare I add, with the Spirit we from time to time encounter in our reading of the Bible.

Maybe I have gone on too long, but I start here to call our attention to the growing desire of some to find ways to plumb the depths they suspect Scripture holds and find ways that depth can impact and change their lives. And even more importantly, see how that depth leads to an experience of God’s presence in their lives. Could that be possible?

Over the next several weeks, I want to offer a number of ways some have found to help them enter into the depths that await those willing to make the investment.

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}