Saturday, December 31, 2005

Bells chime into solid cold. Firewood catches in kitchen stove.

If you understand the first word of Zen
You will know the last word.
The last word or the first word,
Is not a word.

- Wu-men

Ice collars stone in brook, pushes land at edge of pond.

He sends hailstones like crumbs -- who can withstand his cold?
He will send out his word, and all will be melted; his spirit will breathe, and the waters will flow.
(from Psalm 147)

This 7th day of Christmas is New Years Eve.

Mostly, it is Saturday night.

It is a matter of faith that waters will again flow.

Today we watch ice. In time, watch water.

Happy New Year!

Not a word.

Be, as is, is.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Chimes pause. Wind takes a breath.

Cold night, no wind, bamboo making noises,
Noises far apart, now bunched together,
Filtering the pine-flanked lattice.
Listening with ears is less fine than
Listening with the mind.
Beside the lamp I lay
Aside the half scroll of sutra

- Hsu-t'ang Chih-yu

I prefer mountain streams rather than mountain tops. Tumbling down Ragged Mountain, water dances just ahead of clutching cold fingers forming ice.

Watching what passes where you pause to be what is passed.

This 6th day of Christmas.

Water seeks lower ground.

Tonight, low ground.

Lowering water.

Chants in dark.



Thursday, December 29, 2005

They're not only words.

Woman from Bangkok visiting shop said she wasn't going to convert to Christianity. Her friend wants her to. She'll remain Buddhist, she says. She likes the shop. Her companion says to her on way out, "I guess I know where you'll be spending time tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow morning I'll be in prison, God willing, meeting with sixteen students in final interviews.

One glance at the morning star,
And the snow got even whiter.
The look in his eye
Chills hair and bones.
If earth itself hadn't
Experienced this instant,
Old Shakyamuni never would have happened.

- Daito (1282-1334)

It is the 5th day of Christmas. Rain drenches Maine. Snow trickles away.

The Lord has sworn, and he will not repent: "You are a priest for ever, a priest of the priesthood of Melchisedech".
The Lord is at your right hand, and on the day of his anger he will shatter kings.

(-- from Psalm 109 {110})

Thomas Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral by king's men carrying out what was perceived to be the will of Henry II. Edward Grim, a monk, observed the attack from the safety of a hiding place near the altar. He told, finally, what he saw and heard. In this country, we long for someone who has seen and heard to come out of hiding, tell from the inside the intrigue and hushed tones that have brought us to such a awkward resemblance of who and what democracy and republic longs to be.

Kings kill Archbishops and Bishops. They are killed in large English cathedrals and small Latin American country churches.

Becket, once close friend of King Henry, fell afoul averring he was now God's servant first and foremost. Kings don't like such standing. It sounds disloyal to them not to have their will first and foremost.
He had to take refuge in a French monastery for six years, and when he returned to his diocese four knights, inspired by careless words from the king, assassinated him in his cathedral on 29 December 1170 (St Thomas Becket, 1118 - 1170,

Playwright Jean Anouilh is quoted to say: "The only immorality is not to do what one has to do when one has to do it." And, "Propaganda is a soft weapon; hold it in your hands too long, and it will move about like a snake, and strike the other way."
These are things kings must take into account.

Some in America worry that a king has insinuated himself into the nation's capitol. This king starts wars, orders torture, overlooks illegalities, assumes to himself whatever power available, has a fawning court, brooks no disloyalty, and carelessly uses words to rid his domain of troublesome opposition. At this year's end he busies himself cutting brush, riding bike, and putting into awkward words the 27th new explanation of exactly why he took us to war, why he expects all rights to be predicated on his discretion rather than on law or will of the people.

Novelist William Gaddis said, "There have never in history been so many opportunities to do so many things that aren't worth doing." It is troubling that so many are so distracted allowing this insinuating careless user of words the forum to say so little of value with so many foolish words.

Words are dangerous when spoken carelessly by kings and insinuation of king.

We pray for defusing sanity and sacredness to find voice.

We pray for new wording that will sound clear new perspective.

We pray for gathering of wise and visionary men and women who actually love the earth, love people, and love God -- who put their bodies where words are. Poet Daniel Berrigan said that, "Bodies belong where words are."

Let kings and rulers, pretenders and patronizers -- fade away as fades this year end.

No longer try to be rid of opposition. Rather, practice becoming free by entering words with care.

Words are that which fall from Word Itself.

Retrieve them.

Serve their origin.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

We still kill innocents. When they are children, it breaks the heart.

To those with power to bring death -- it is a 'king of the hill' game they play. Except the game has taken on a different tactic since as children we played it on city street or farm mound. Now the game is not to care who is destroyed or killed. Those with power, guns, or bombs spray destruction on anyone in their way as they play their awful games of "This is mine" and "We are more pure" and "God has chosen me to kill you, because you are wrong."

From the Office of Readings:
Why are the nations in a ferment? Why do the people make their vain plans?

The kings of the earth have risen up; the leaders have united against the Lord, against his anointed.
"Let us break their chains, that bind us; let us throw off their yoke from our shoulders!"

The Lord laughs at them, he who lives in the heavens derides them.
Then he speaks to them in his anger; in his fury he throws them into confusion:
"But I -- I have set up my king on Sion, my holy mountain".

(from Psalm 2)

This 4th day of Christmas we remember with sorrow those innocents killed by kings who court visibility and adulation; and we watch with wary worry those who would repeat, endlessly, torture and destruction for ends they can measure and store away in vaults.

If we are to understand holiness, we have to come face to face with innocence. The metaphor of Christ the King feels awkward. Especially king of an invisible kingdom. And what do we make of innocence?

Mindful innocence (that is, aware unknowing) is not the same as willful ignorance (that is, arrogant certitude). To be certain, and not to question the point of view held -- is a recipe for prolonging suffering. Alternately, to be and remain open to the spirit of unfolding reality taking place right in front of us -- is to not know the direction we are being asked to follow until it is presented (suddenly, surprisingly) for our response.

Why remain open?

Why? This is everyone's favorite question. No one ever says:
Because our bags are always packed and we hear footsteps
on the stairs. Because the dark feels unwashed and incomplete
and Maimonides said, "When the Messiah comes war will end,
God's blessings will be on all men." Because we have a God
who never dies and never comes and it's three in the morning
and I'm walking a crying baby around, singing lullabies Grandma
sang to me. Because I expect nothing and what I expect defines me.
Because the world exists without us but without us it is nothing.
Because all my life I've been afraid of the next page. Because
nothing is explained and my old bedroom shadows are thriving
and the floor tilts west toward Lake Ontario where all the snow
comes from. Because it's getting late and I'm in bed, waiting
for Mother to come kiss me good night, like she promised.

(from "Poems No. 1, 56 and 80" by Philip Schultz from Living in the Past.

We remain open to honor the innocents who have gone before and those that will follow.

The kings of this world vie for hills and vaults. The king of that mysterious place called heaven dwells in open inner receptivity -- that is, within aware unknowing presence.

Heaven helps those who help their selves enter true Self.

Nan Merrill's transformational companion to the psalms words Psalm 2 in the following way:
Why do nations and people plot against
one another,
setting themselves apart and conspiring
against the Beloved and those
who follow Love's way?
They say to themselves, "We are free
of Love's law;
humility and service are for others."

The Beloved, who is ever present, can but
smile at their foolishness,
knowing that one day, they will
fall to their knees in regret.
They do not hear the Beloved's firm and
steadfast voice:
"I have set Love in your hearts,
my dwelling place."

(from Psalm 2, in Psalms For Praying, An Invitation to Wholeness, by Nan C. Merrill)

So much depends on wording.

So much, on where we dwell.

Love the open inner heart.

Broken, open.

Be innocent.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

John says God is light.

If so, every drop of water carries God.

Evening mountains veiled in somber mist;
One path entering the wooded hill:
The monk has gone off locking his pine door.
From a bamboo pipe a lonely trickle of water flows

- Ishikawa Jozan (1583-1672)

And every sky narrates God's story.

The skies tell the story of the glory of God,
the firmament proclaims the work of his hands;
day pours out the news to day,
night passes to night the knowledge.

Not a speech, not a word,
not a voice goes unheard.
Their sound is spread throughout the earth,
their message to all the corners of the world.

--from Psalm 18 (19)

Creation conspires to breathe life through and through.

John is worth listening to:
Something which has existed since the beginning,
that we have heard,
and we have seen with our own eyes;
that we have watched
and touched with our hands:
the Word, who is life --
this is our subject.
That life was made visible:
we saw it and we are giving our testimony,
telling you of the eternal life
which was with the Father and has been made visible to us.
What we have seen and heard
we are telling you
so that you too may be in union with us,
as we are in union
with the Father
and with his Son Jesus Christ.
We are writing this to you to make our own joy complete.

This is what we have heard from him,
and the message that we are announcing to you:
God is light; there is no darkness in him at all.
If we say that we are in union with God
while we are living in darkness,
we are lying because we are not living the truth.
But if we live our lives in the light,
as he is in the light,
we are in union with one another,
and the blood of Jesus, his Son,
purifies us from all sin.

If we say we have no sin in us;
we are deceiving ourselves
and refusing to admit the truth;
but if we acknowledge our sins,
then God who is faithful and just
will forgive our sins and purify us
from everything that is wrong.
To say that we have never sinned
is to call God a liar
and to show that his word is not in us.

I am writing this, my children,
to stop you sinning;
but if anyone should sin,
we have our advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ, who is just;
he is the sacrifice that takes our sins away,
and not only ours,
but the whole world's.

We can be sure that we know God
only by keeping his commandments.

(1 John 1:1 - 2:3)

Let's settle sin for today. Sin is refusal to let light be seen in one another. Sin is the way we turn from works in the light to deceit in the night. Sin is intentional unawareness and willful unacceptance of what is of another.

God's commandments are simple. Only this: love transparency, serve transparently. Be alone what is true; only see with undivided heart, undivided mind.

John has always had a way with love and light.

Now it's ours to wake and wander with clear sight.

This third day of Christmas.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Stephen was murdered.

Some political religious group wanted their way -- and he was in it. Stephen was marked as traitor and terrorist by men who were really zealots and terrorists. It is considered good form to label others what you are and punish them while you stand aloof and behind their suffering. Anyone working to relieve poverty and equalize inequities -- then and today -- is considered unpatriotic, enemy, and dangerous. Trumped charges and false witnesses rendered him a doomed man. Rendition works.

Dissatisfaction concerning the distribution of alms from the community's fund having arisen in the Church, seven men were selected and specially ordained by the Apostles to take care of the temporal relief of the poorer members. Of these seven, Stephen, is the first mentioned and the best known.

He is a man for our time. He is a man for our country. His story should haunt Americans.

As should the Christmas story.

That the Christmas story is a protest against empire may not be noted much among us not only because of the blinding familiarity of the story, but also for another reason. We are the empire, the world's sole and reigning superpower, whose military and economic power stretches to every land. The American empire is, I hope and believe, more benign than many of its predecessors, but for Americans today, the Christmas story brings not only comfort and joy, but caution and challenge.

Our American story, whether told as the story of political freedom or of free markets, is not the only story. There are other cultures and peoples whose stories bear their own truth and power -- and which deserve our respect. Moreover, God has a story, too, and this story tells us that things are not always what they seem to be. Most of all, the Christmas story warns against the Achilles' heel of every empire, pride and pretension. In her song of ecstatic praise, the Magnificat, Mary sings of God who "has scattered the proud in the imaginations of their thoughts." "He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly." If the Christmas story once again warms our hearts, as I hope it does, it is also a story that sends a chill upon every empire.

(--by Anthony Robinson, a pastor of the United Church of Christ, Published on Monday, December 26, 2005 by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "A Story to Warm Hearts and Chill Empires," by Anthony B. Robinson)

The sweetness of the manger scene, shepherds, livestock, and angels is winsome story. The underlying power -- the poignant story that the surface story masks -- is told by master story tellers, with an eye to preserving the truth for future understanding, tucked away in plain sight.

I'm unsure Christians know what it means to be Christian.

Here's Stephen at end:
7:55. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looking up steadfastly to heaven, saw the glory of God and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And he said: Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

7:56. And they, crying out with a loud voice, stopped their ears and with one accord ran violently upon him.

7:57. And casting him forth without the city, they stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man, whose name was Saul.

7:58. And they stoned Stephen, invoking and saying: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

7:59. And falling on his knees, he cried with a loud voice, saying: Lord, lay not his sin to their charge: And when he had said this, he fell asleep in the Lord. And Saul was consenting to his death.

(--from Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 7,

On second thought, maybe those who really understand the Christian vocation know that they are at odds with the political powers of this world, and they will not be assimilated. Rather, they hide. Sometimes, in plain sight.

Meanwhile, those who play at Christianity -- who conjugate political power with religious pretense, whoop up their faith and ready their ammunition to take out threats to single-minded belief in assimilation and moral superiority -- remain very visible, professing, and doctrinaire.

To long for the kingdom of heaven today is to long for the Jesus born to Mary -- to long for peace beyond understanding, and to long for reality that dwells in the midst of, but not subject to, mendacity, cynicism, and ruthless ambition.

It is the second day of Christmas.

Stephen's day.

Celebrate his warning!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

"Becoming One-Like, Us"
(from prayer, Christmas liturgy, punctuation added)

Near (ness)
Love (ing),

This day

Near (ly) accomplished;

Stranger) --

We are...


(What a sight to

And so it is...

(-- Poem for Christmas, 25December2005, by Bill Halpin, with gratefulness for each and all)