Reflection from the July 2015 Board meeting:
SONG OF PRAISE TO CREATOR [Inspired by Tobit 13]
O Most blessed One!
Before the first spark of the Big Bang You are there!
In the smallest quark and meson You are there!
In the singing of the string to the 10th dimension and in multiverses beyond imagining You are there!
Behind the mysterious flow of dark energy and dark matter, in the dance of nebula and in the power of pulsars You are there!
You are there when the earth was a boiling cauldron yet
You are also there when the first single celled amoeba were formed from the ocean’s soup of amino acids. You have been there throughout this great cosmic dance — both the without and the within of things!
You are there when the first primate’s gaze heavenward brought the birth of wonder and when the first tools were forged and the fire found. You are the Mystery beyond thought! You are the spark of artistic creativity. You are the Tao, the Spirit, Prana, the One beyond all names Who Is love’s face incarnate!
In the face of fear and separation You lead back in a communion of bliss toward unity!
All that is, both on the earth, under the earth, in the mighty oceans and cosmos beyond reflect your glory! You call us to a grand purpose, to share in the Divine Dance and in the Symphony of the Song of the Stars! You call in the depths of my heart — to dream, to risk as did You and do You in Incarnation!
To that grand purpose of blessing, of joy, of exploration of new horizons of the Great Mystery You continue to inspire! This Grand Adventure calls to me even in the midst of my fears of the future and fixation on the past.
In this wondrous weave I have been given choices of dyes and thread.
O let me sing this song anew! Let me weave with you your tapestry with its cornucopia of colors!
For there are many discordant, cacophonous ones who would dare dash that dream,
Who would reflect the venal smallness and deadened entropy of their own damaged spirits.
Let not the reified stiffened voices of institutions drunk on their own pretentions of power drown out the song of the soul! Let not those ancient voices of fear, whether echoed in family memories or the pronouncements of peers quiet Your Voice! Let not the distractions of the day and the ministrations of ministry lead me down dull dead end pathways.
Let me recognize Your Voice and behold your handiwork in Creation’s mysteries, in the stories of Your Visitation, in the babbling of a baby, in the warble of a robin, and in the incarnated graces found in the faces of those sent as guiding angels who open eyes to Reality’s wonders!
Yes, all is in your hands!
Oh, to be a note in that grand concert of creation!
Thank you, Most Holy, that I exist!
Thank you, Most Holy, for Your revelation at this privileged Moment!
Thank You, Most Holy, for I have been chosen to hearken to Creation’s ongoing call!
May I sing and dance to Creation’s Concerto!
May my heart, where Love’s Mystery dwells, direct me toward the future you choose for us, free from fear and want, fertile and fecund found in the Foundation of Resurrection’s Face.
And I may dance in the depth of desire’s dream.
Reflection from the July 2015 Board meeting:
Guide the decisions and planning that we are about to undertake, keeping before us always the implications of our ideas for Creation, for the real, living persons that our institution is comprised of, and for the real, living persons that our institution serves.
Let us pray today for the gift of being able to recognize the changes that are needed in our organization; the gift of being able to discover the opportunities that lay before us; and the gift of being able to welcome and embrace these opportunities with courage.
Give us insight to lead with integrity, that our decisions may reflect what is right and good. Keep us from shortsightedness and pettiness. Help us to make decisions that strive to be for the good of all and guard us from blind self interest.
Finally, grant us the humility to always seek your will in all that we do and say.
Reflection from the June 2015 Board meeting:
In preparation for release of Pope Francis’ Papal Encyclical (or teaching letter to the churches) re: Climate Change’s Impact on the Poor, Pope Francis wrote:
“Humanity is called to take note of the need for changes in lifestyle and changes in the methods of production and consumption to combat… [global warming], or at least the human causes that produce and accentuate it. The attitudes that stand in the way of a solution, even among believers, range from negation of the problem, to indifference, to convenient resignation, or blind faith in technical solutions.”
In his book, Original Thinking, Glen Aparicio Parry, who has been given the Ojibwe name Kihze Naabe (which means “Kind-hearted man”), writes:
“It is my prayer that the people be awakened in a deep and profound way—that they don’t simply make climate change the enemy. For it is not a war on climate change I desire, but a deep realization of how human beings are embedded in the natural order. The changing climate is an opportunity to reassess our relationship with the natural world and our own past. It is an opportunity to pause from our frenetic pace in pursuit of “progress” and to remember that humanity only imagines that it can chart its own course independent from nature, but that we can’t.
“… We have the ability to make choices… [W]e can choose to move in a way that is in tune with what wants to happen in nature rather than resisting what is already unfolding. It so happens that many of the ways to mitigate climate change are also restorative of the earth. Reducing or eliminating fracking, which tampers with the fragile groundwater of Mother Earth, is essential, as well as reducing or eliminating fossil fuel extraction and making a real commitment, as Germany has, to switching to renewable energy sources.
“The reason for doing this, however, is beyond any results we may achieve in slowing climate change. Climate change is not the enemy. It is our thinking that has created this world we live in. If we “attack” climate change with more of the same thinking, we will only repeat our past mistakes, and especially our tendency to imagine that technological intervention is the solution to everything. Technology is good only when it is in service to the people and all our relations on the planet. The core issue, as I see it, is to restore our understanding of all of life as a sacred hoop, and to remember that humans exist not for ourselves, but for the whole of creation.
“We speak of geologic time as if it is an anomaly, as if human constructed time were more normal, more real. The opposite is true. The rhythms of the earth are real time, or the real timing with which we should concern ourselves with. In pondering what it means for New York to be a canyon, I realized that a natural canyon takes millions, even billions of years to form. New York, on the other hand, was made in just over 200 years. This made me realize how young, how vulnerable, and now fluid, New York is, in ways that I ordinarily wouldn’t consider.
“…Great cities come and go. Humankind reaches, then overreaches, and eventually collapses, only to rise again. Linear progress is an illusion. The only real progress is an unfoldment of the seeds of imagination that were already planted.
“The seed I would like to see planted is that it is possible for humankind to live again in accord with the rhythms of the Earth. The human heart can once again beat with the heartbeat of Mother Earth—and this has nothing to do with returning to the past and everything to do with awareness of the fullness of the present moment. Life need not be seen as a progressive movement away from the Earth, as something that requires heroic effort to maintain or repair. It is far better, in my view, to align ourselves with the larger forces of nature than to attempt to conquer her. Go with her will, and willingly.
“Ultimately, the circle of life and the circle of geologic time prevails. The streets of today return to the grassy plains of yesterday. Look – there’s a piece of grass coming up through a break in the concrete now. It is already underway.”
Reflection from the May 2015 Board meeting:
Al-Faith ah-The Opening is a liturgical chapter of the Quran read more than 25 times daily by devout Muslims-the word compassion (rahmah) read more than 100 X; 1200 verses deal with love expressed as rahmah.
We pray for an opening of our minds, hearts, souls, and will so that we cultivate Optimism of the intellect, optimism of the will, an openness to the creative imperative, an audacity of authenticity, and openness to all types of diversity including biodiversity.
We seek asylum in God from pathways that are decadent and peripheral or not centered and pathways take us far away from radical compassion and radical peace, humility, truth, and charity.
The path of the arch Evil Satan- the real axis of Evil- and Satan’s minions; demonic fear mongers, war mongers, and hate mongers.
Every manner of praise to the God and Sustainer of all worlds of angels, jinn and all human beings regardless of race, class, creed, or geography.
In the name of God who is continually and continuously compassionate.
Ever benevolent and always magnanimous.
God the source and fount or ocean of empathy, loving mercy, and beneficence.
God who self defined as the Most Merciful (Al-Rahman)- not as the Wrathful or Revengeful (Al-Jabbar and Al-Muntaqim); God’s mercy supersedes God’s anger.
Owner and sovereign on the day of the settling of all scores and debts we owe God, humankind, and Creation.
To Thee alone we dedicate and offer our acts of piety, righteousness soulful and prayerful worship.
From Thee alone we ask for assistance.
Coach and guide us onto the straight path of horizontal and vertical faith and horizontal and vertical God-consciousness/taqwa.
Gently escort us on the blessed path of those who live the beatitudes thankful of the gifts of life, the gifts of life love, learning, and companionship-the dynamic horizontal path of a living faith.
Guided by the headlights of wisdom propelled by the engine of the Rolls Royce of love.
The privileged path of unceasing prayer in which prayer is not a spare wheel used only in times of trouble but a steering wheel.
Not lukewarm path of those who don’t get it: the theophobes, Islamophobes, Judeophobes, Christophobes or those who hates all those who are not or think like them.
Nor the zigzagging path of those who go astray: those who embrace life with tunnel vision, civil disharmony, and compassion- and dignity deficits.
Aameen!!!! O God, hear our prayers.
Reflection from the March 2015 Board meeting:
Stars and the Moon
by Jason Robert Brown
I met a man without a dollar to his name
Who had no traits of any value but his smile
I met a man who had no yeahrn or claim to fame
Who was content to let life pass him for a while
And I was sure that all I ever wanted
Was a life like the movie stars led
And he kissed me right here, & he said,
“I will give you stars & the moon & a soul to guide you
And a promise I will never go
I will give you hope to bring out all the life inside you
And the strength that will help you grow.
I will give you truth & a future that is twenty times better
Than any Hollywood plot.”
And I thought, “You know, I would rather have a yacht.”
I met a man who lived his life out on the road
Who left a wife & kids in Portland on a whim
I met a man whose fire & passion always showed
Who asked if I could spare a week to ride with him
But I was sure that all I ever wanted
Was a life that was scripted & planned
And he said, “But you do not understand
“I will give you stars & the moon & the open highway
And a river beneath your feet
I will give you day full of dreams if you travel my way
And a summer you can not repeat.
I will give you nights full of passion & days of adventure,
No strings, just warm summer rain.”
And I thought, “You know, I would rather have champagne.”
I met a man who had a fortune in the bank
Who had retired at age thirty, set for life.
I met a man & didn´t know which stars to thank,
And then he asked one day if I´d be his wife.
And I looked up, & all I could think of
Was the life I had dreamt I´d live
And I said to him, “What´ll you give?”
“I will give you cars & a townhouse in Turtle Bay
And a fur & a diamond ring
And we will be married in Spain on my yacht today
And we will honeymoon in Beijing.
And you will meet stars at the parties I throw at my villas
In Nice & Paris in June.”
And I thought, “Okay.”
And I took a breath
And I got my yacht
And the yeahrs went by
And it never changed
And it never grew
And I never dreamed
And I woke one day
And I looked around
And I thought, “My God…
I will never have the moon.”
Reflection from the November 2014 Board meeting:
by Bob Blue
A small thing once happened at school
That brought up a question for me,
And somehow it brought me to see
The price that I pay to be cool.
Diane is a girl that I know.
She’s strange, like she doesn’t belong.
I don’t mean to say that that’s wrong.
We don’t like to be with her, though.
And so, when we all made a plan
To have this big party at Sue’s,
Most kids in the school got the news,
But no one invited Diane.
The thing about Taft Junior High
Is, secrets don’t last very long.
I acted like nothing was wrong
When I saw Diane start to cry.
I know you may think that I’m cruel.
It doesn’t make me very proud.
I just went along with the crowd.
It’s sad, but you have to in school.
You can’t pick the friends you prefer.
You fit in as well as you can.
I couldn’t be friends with Diane,
‘Cause then they would treat me like her.
In one class at Taft Junior High,
We study what people have done
With gas chamber, bomber, and gun
In Auschwitz, Japan, and My Lai.
I don’t understand all I learn.
Sometimes I just sit there and cry.
The whole world stood idly by
To watch as the innocent burn.
Like robots obeying some rule.
Atrocities done by the mob.
All innocent, doing their job.
And what was it for? Was it cool?
The world was aware of this Hell,
But how many cried out in shame?
What heroes, and who was to blame?
A story that no one dared tell.
I promise to do what I can
To not let it happen again.
To care for all women and men.
I’ll start by inviting Diane.
Reflection from the October 2014 Board meeting:
From hostility to hospitality
The founder of The Muslim Observer was still a physician in Gujurat, India where he helped many people for free. One night at 10 pm, prior to a flight scheduled for 3 am the next morning, his brother answered a knock on the door. A heated argument ensued. When the door closed, Dr. Nakadar asked his brother what the argument was about. “You will not believe me. The leader and chief instigator of the many communal riots against Muslims came to ask for help for his daughter who is ill. I told him to go elsewhere.” “Go call him back. I still have time to see the girl”. The father came with his daughter at midnight. After 15 minutes he left with a prescription and medical advice. One day, Dr. Nakadar returned from a trip overseas. A Hindu man stopped the car and insisted that he accept an invitation to a cup of tea. Recognizing their hesitation, the man suggested that it was time for the Maghrib (post sunset) prayers. “The invitation is an open one. Hopefully next time, when you pass this way, you’ll be able to honor it”, the host suggested. Dr. Nakadar politely declined the invitation but promised to accept at another time. As their car drove away, his brother reminded Dr. Nakadar that the person who just offered to host him was the father of the girl he tended before that flight. After she recovered he changed his rhetoric. As a wealthy manufacturer he now employs many Muslims. Dr. Nakadar’s 15 minutes turned hostility into hospitality. People cannot argue against contribution. Every tragedy could turn into triumph and meanness into meaningfulness. Killing hostility softly with loving care, just mercy, and gentleness works almost always. The Prophet of Islam noted, “If gentleness is found in anything (human or non human) it beautifies; harshness and violence despoils”.
The Quran uses the word masih for Christ, the messiah. The Arabic word masih, from its root radicals m.s.h., means to touch or be touched. The Arabic pattern fa’eel such as hameed combines haamid (subject) and Mahmood (object)-the eulogist (maadih) and the eulogized (mamdooh); maseeh shares the same pattern. Lepers during the time of Christ were not allowed to come within 30 cubits of a non-leper; Christ allowed a leper to approach and touch him. He in turn touched the leper and healed him along with countless other lepers. Healing is a Christ-like virtue. Touching the lives of the marginalized, demonized, and dehumanized is Christ-like. Every society has its own version of lepers or bogey persons. Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, Muslims, etc. Fifty to 100 years ago the list included many other groups. Championing their causes is Christ-like.
God’s children in search of dignity, peace, opportunity, and security are treated as aliens, and Muslims are terrorists. Prejudice has different forms; at times it is a racist monster. At other times it involves distortion, subterfuge, deception, conflation, and inversion. The Arabic word masikh (the name for the Anti-Christ) is an equally polysemous word. Interestingly, a single dot differentiates the Arabic word masikh (Anti-Christ) from masih-the Christ. Distortion, deception, and conflation are so easy. Rather than heal, the Anti-Christ hurts; he, she, or it replaces hospitality with hostility, havens and heavens on earth are turned into T. S. Eliot’s veritable wastelands, and communities in covenant with each other find their rich civilizations reduced to ruins and rubble. The three monotheisms had revolutionary principles to live and fight for peace, advocate for the poor, and embrace rules that govern harmonious living. We are Christ-like when we live to love.
Allow me to share a hauntingly beautiful poem by the late Maya Angelou:
TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL
We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free
Reflection from the September 2014 Board meeting:
Stream of Life
The same stream of life that runs through our veins night and day runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.
It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in countless blades of grass and breaks forth into waves of leaves and flowers.
It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth and death, ebb and flow.
We feel our limbs made glorious by the touch of this world of life.
We take pride in the life-throb of ages that dances in our blood at every moment.
Reflection from the March 2013 Board meeting:
Who’s excited about Passover? I know I am! Because my family comes together and we remember!
Passover is a Jewish holiday about the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. Led by Moses and followed by 40 years of wandering in the desert. Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) is the oldest continuously celebrated Jewish festival. It is a celebration of dignity, hope, and freedom. Knowingly, prayers said on Passover call on us to be kind to those who are now oppressed and to deepen our commitment to liberty today.
Passover can be celebrated for 8 days The first nights include a Seder – Pesach dinner(s),
Every Seder is unique — every family does it in their own way — but in general we immerse ourselves in this story of our history. We re-narrate the Exodus story, and we find ourselves in the story in order to open up a vision of a possible world redeemed. That is really where the journey is meant to take us. At the end — if you don’t fall asleep before it’s over — you ceremonially open the door for [prophet] Elijah, which is opening to the future and to hope.
Today, we remember that:
There are 27 million slaves on the planet today. As we are speaking, people are being sold into servitude, into forced labor. When you take in the reality of human suffering in the world, you either have to harden your heart, like Pharaoh, or you have to become an activist, like Moses. So every year on Passover we read the story and hopefully make it relevant to the world today, and we think about where on the planet are people still not free, and what can we do about it?
The one great lesson of Passover
I think the great lesson is that change is possible, that how things are now is not how they have to or will always be. It’s about the idea that things can change, and that we are obligated to take steps now, no matter how small, and to contribute to the slow working of redemption in the world.
Standing over the parted shores of history, we still believe what we were taught before,
Ever we stood at Sinai’s foot;
That wherever we go, it is eternally Egypt
That there is a better place, a promised land;
That the winding way to that promise passes thru the wilderness
That there is no way to get from here to there
Except by joining hands
Barcuh atah, adonai, ham’vareich et amo Yisrael bashalom
(Blessed art thou, Adonai, the Source of peace for Israel and all the world)