I have long said that forgiveness is gift, trust is earned.

Sam, my Red-tailed Hawk, flew free in the orchard yesterday. So far, he has only flown in the back yard where his vision is blocked by our yard wall and the house and shop. Now he could see the horizon again. I wondered how he would do. He came quickly to the lure, a small leather packet that I tie meat to. He thought about flying to my gloved hand a bit longer, but always did so. He took his time looking around, but the trust we have been building since he came to live with me 10 days ago gets stronger with each interaction. He really likes the lure and has taken to attacking it as if it were prey. He’s not sure about my glove because once in a while I grab his jesses, and when he wants to jump to a perch he finds he cannot. There are sacrifices one makes for trust on both sides. He finds his mobility impeded sometimes, and I find my late afternoons committed to spending time with him.

Soon he and I will be out in the Burros Mountains. I will send him up to the top of a tree on the top of a ridge and the dogs and I will rummage around down below him trying to get something to run for him to chase. The hunting partnership will begin to form, and another level of trust will be forged. He will look to us to flush game for him, making hunting with us more efficient than on his own. He’s a practical kind of bird. If it works, he’ll do it again. If his human makes it work it’s worth trusting him.

What will it take for trust to become the common coin in society at large? In business? In government? Maybe it will be that practical sort of human being who can sacrifice for the sake of a relationship that benefits both parties, who will commit to building trust, first with friends and family, then with business associates, and finally in the person for whom that person votes.

There’s a crazy sort of wisdom in the Golden Rule.


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The Cross

I have a collection of crosses on my office walls. Directly above my desk are four, each with its own character. One is made of trash and it is incomplete. The artist explained that God took him when he was trash and made something beautiful of him—but that God’s not finished with him yet. Another is made of welded steel. My son gave it to me and it represents the relationship we have. One is a simple wooden cross with metal decorations on it. In the center is a representation of the bleeding heart of Mary. The last one is covered with little silver “Milagros,” that represent benefits obtained through appealing to God through a favorite saint. Each one is unique, and yet at the core of each is a profound truth. The work of God in our lives, relationships, the suffering of those close to the dying Christ, and the benefits of that death as known in the lives of people. It’s like they come full circle, from benefit to relationship to suffering to benefit. At the core of them all is the paschal mystery of death and resurrection, the silent center around which the others dance. Other religions also teach the great mystery, but in Christianity it is THE central anchor-point. Without this you have no Christians.

For the Christian it is the center around which all of the cosmos dances. It gives sacred due to every created thing, whether or not we call it living. It gives purpose and meaning to the beginnings and endings of all things. It lifts self-giving love to its rightful place as the truest energy of the universe.

And it gives me a reason to love my neighbor as myself.

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Quiet is only a moment away.

As I sat in silence this morning thoughts kept drifting through my head. I did what the Zen masters tell us to do, note them and let them go to drift downstream and out of awareness, and return to counting your breaths. The fact is, your breath is always there, as is your body and the immediate experience of what is around you. Your thoughts take you away from that immediacy to other places in your head, places you imagine are in your past or your future. But these thoughts are not quiet. If you seek quiet let them go. What is here, now, is real, immediate and infinitely wise in its non-doing. Your breath, your body, is the portal to quiet.

These things, the immediacy of what is here, is never far away. Your breath is never far away, only your consciousness is. To surrender that which is distant is to be exposed to what is here. When you stop thinking about what is on the other side of the mountain you finally get a glimpse of the mountain itself. Herein is joy enough for the moment.

Quiet is only a moment away.

Fret not about anything (quiet), but in everything, by prayer and supplication (surrender) with thanksgiving (joy), let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God(quiet), which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6,7, KJ21)

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The Only Side

When the Red-tailed Hawk, Samwise Rodtree, came to live with me last week I’m sure he thought that this big animal with smooth skin and strong hands was going to reduce him to a quick meal. He was working on a binary system: eat or be eaten. For the predator everything is food or scenery, including oneself. Outside of reproduction, there is no third option (and for some critters, that doesn’t even count for long!) Slowly over the last five days this hawk’s fear has surrendered to trust. Last night he jumped from his perch to my gloved hand for food—twice. Chances are that by the end of the week he will be flying across the yard to me. The one who sought to flee is now seeking to approach. There IS such a thing as a third option.

William Ury is an anthropologist who talks about this third option in his book, The Third Side.1 In it he describes how, when we get polarized, the way forward is a third voice that draws on the important elements of both sides and transcends them both. Though the extremists on both sides of the Government Shutdown over the weekend are both crying foul and pointing fingers, there were about 20 senators who took this third (and I would say, high) road. I am not at all convinced that those who made promises will keep their word, but the voice spoke from the third side nonetheless. I would hope that future dialogue will have the same capacity to resist the temptations to scapegoating, finger-pointing, fear-mongering and other forms of power-politics, and get down to the real American way of compromise and finding the third side.

Last night the President framed the polarization in terms of DACA vs. The Wall. I think what FDR said to the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1938 must be kept in mind at this point, “Remember, remember always that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”2 The revolution we need is a revolution in thinking. We must awaken to the nature of the issue. The reduce the issue to a choice between the good of a few undocumented foreigners vs. the good of the masses of citizenry is simplistic and false. Not only does it fail to consider the actual facts about those foreigners and those citizens, but it forces us into a binary choice between eating or being eaten that loses the wisdom of the third side. The high school in Benton, KY, is showing us once again where polarization without the third side’s voice ultimately takes us.  We can and must find a way to be compassionate with everyone.

The essence of true spiritual awakening is to discover that binary systems are always penultimate—there is always a unity, a singularity, that undergirds and gives sense to our diversity and multiplicity. At first it looks like a third side, but it ends up being the only side.

1Ury, William. The Third Side: Why We Fight and How We Can Stop. New York: Penguin books, 2000.


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A Rock

Another Maxwell Parrish sunrise cut the rock of Cooke’s Peak out from the orange sunrise in velvet black. As the shining disk tipped above her she took on texture and color, but she was still the same rock. I sit with my back to the back of the chair, looking out and pushing each colored thought back out of my head. I am a rock. Like Cooke’s Peak, I am. What I was yesterday is unimportant. What I will be in 10 minutes is of no consequence. I am here. She is here. We are.

Government shut-downs, show-downs and play-downs rise on warming winds and blow away. Economic booms and its victims drift eastward and out of sight. City street repairs I heard about last week, how we are to get enough Sunday School teachers, and when the Vestry retreat will be sink into the shadows at her—that is—my feet. What I will write in my blog will come in good time, but not now. I am a rock. I am. A moment is all that is needed, for a moment is all eternity.

“To be” is an active verb.

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Fear and Faith

The opposite of faith is not doubt, it’s fear.

Last Thursday we acquired a new member of the family. Samwise Rodtree, an immature Red-tailed Hawk, is learning the difference between faith and fear. When I first took him off the trap he acted like he was in mortal danger. He flared his feathers out to look as big as possible and gaped his beak menacingly. By now he sits on my glove rather calmly while the dogs wander underneath my chair and Karisse comes and goes from the room. He still has a ways to go—he’s not eating yet. Putting his head down near his feet means he can’t keep an eye on what’s going on, and that’s a bit too much. Within a month he will be out in the hills with me learning to work with the dogs to chase rabbits. It’s quite a transformation, really.

The spiritual life will always corner us between security and fear. Backed into a wall of our own making, the only thing in front of us will be what constitutes to the rule of our ego a mortal danger. The only way truly to move forward is through the fear. Oh, we can retreat, flair our feathers and hide ourselves in the corner, and we may be able to go quite some time this way, but sooner or later we will have to turn around and there will be the same menace as before. Sometimes with time it doesn’t seem so scary, or smaller challenges strengthen us for the big one, but there is really only one way forward, and it’s not fear.

Faith means trusting that the breaking of the rule of the ego is not really death after all, but the path to life.

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Mary Magdalene

We have a questions box at the church, and one of the questions has to do with the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, sparked a lot of speculation. Wikipedia says the following: “The Da Vinci Code provoked a popular interest in speculation concerning the Holy Grail legend and Mary Magdalene’s role in the history of Christianity. The book has, however, been extensively denounced by many Christian denominations as an attack on the Roman Catholic Church, and consistently criticized for its historical and scientific inaccuracies.”1

The biblical texts are far from clear. There are a number of Marys in the New Testament accounts. One of them is labeled “Magdalene,” which means, “from Magdala.” The Gospels of Mark and Luke refer to her as someone from whom Jesus cast out seven demons. In Luke 7 the story is told of a sinful woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and is forgiven. However, the woman is never named, and to assume that “sinful” means being a prostitute, connecting this profession with the seven demons and deciding that this is Mary Magdalene is unfounded, in spite of a tradition to that effect. April DeConick, in her excellent book, Holy Misogyny2 cites this tradition as evidence of suppression of women in the early church rather than reflective of any real biblical tradition. Conversely, Mary Magdalene is named as one of the women at the foot of the cross and the first witness to the Resurrection. Again, to assume an intimate relationship between Jesus and her on the basis of these events reads into the text ideas that are just not there. Any decision about the nature of the relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus has to be based on other considerations, which are often colored by theological presuppositions. If your theology requires that Jesus be celibate then Mary was just a devoted disciple. If your concept of Jesus would allow him to be married, then Mary Magdalene might have been widowed on that first Good Friday. Our current preoccupation with human sexual intimacy tempts us in this direction, but we must be careful about projecting our own neuroses back onto the past.

Personally, I don’t really care whether or not Mary Magdalene and Jesus were married. (Being unmarried lovers runs afoul of some of Jesus’ recorded sayings and the cultural context of the time.) I do not believe that any children they might have produced would have been any different in nature than you or I. The passages about the woman from Magdala inspire us with the image of a devoted disciple who was willing to buck the social conventions of the day to follow Jesus through death to resurrection. God grant that I be so brave.


2DeConick, April D. Holy Misogyny: Why the Sex and Gender Conflicts in the Early Church Still Matter. Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2011, see especially chapter 8.

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