Monday, March 22, 2010

The Radical Act of Trust

64% of American adults do not trust others. (Pew Research Center, “Millenials: A Portrait of Generation Next” February 2010: 23). The last four years have eroded the generational gap in trust, and witnessed a steep decline in this necessary political, social, and spiritual component of life. Trust, belief, and faith are synonyms for good reason: with trust, we are open-hearted, open-minded, and generous to others. Without trust, we live with fear and anger, and a very diminished sense of goodness, community, belonging, and empowerment.

Following both the necessity for communities to have trust, and the steep decline in trust, in Unitarian Universalist religious communities, it has become much more common to begin creating a relational covenant or a set of communication ground-rules with the assumption of best intentions. (Relational covenants and communication ground-rules are not synonymous, even if they are frequently presented as such.) What the assumption of best intentions demands is trust (faith): that is, living into this fiercely demanding religious practices of seeking to understand one another, and of agreeing to disagree in love. One who disagrees with me is not necessarily against me. How hard it is to really live that – and how very freeing!

I’m openly gay. Statistically, some of my friends and relatives are not going to believe in marriage equality. (Over age 29, 40% with gay friend or relative oppose, under age 29, 23% - p. 61 same report above). But few of my friends or relatives have told me they don’t favor gay marriage. Perhaps, by writing this, more will feel like they can risk sharing that, and I’m not going to think they’re bad people or stop being friends or loving them. Someone can disagree with me without necessarily being against me. I didn’t come to this practice magically, and some days I find myself struggling with it, in part because a lot of what I hear and see deep around me cultivates deep divisiveness. “For me or against me,” “agree with me or you must be trying to kill me” are spiritually corroding rhetoric and hyperbole. In spiritual life, we are often presented with the easy way, and the other way, the way of faith (trust). That’s the way that calls me back to the fiercely demanding practice of these values I keep saying I believe (trust).

I’ve been in situations where I’ve worked very hard with the two practices inherent in assuming the best intentions, only to become aware that not all of us are practicing quite as hard, best intentions or not. Small talk on safe topics and beaming politely may be one cultural model of conveying best intentions, but they present a challenge for understanding, trusting, and disagreeing in love, because they do not offer the heart of trust: vulnerability. The difficulty with allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is that while painful effects may be experienced immediately, positive results may take more time.

I find comfort in the stories of both Elijah and Jesus when I’m suffering the painful side-effects of vulnerability. Elijah poops out, collapsing from exhaustion and fear and says “please, please, please do not make me go back into that dangerous situation, don’t make me go on.” And an angel shows up and says, “there, there, Elijah, there, there, hush and sleep now.” And the angel brings food and drink, and Elijah gets up and goes on and encounters something truly wonderful and miraculous (1 Kings 19). Same thing with Jesus, who keeps withdrawing after making himself terribly vulnerable, and keeps being called back through the trust (belief, faith) people place in him. Even dogs are allowed crumbs from the master’s table. (Mark 7:25-30) Who touched my cloak? (Mark 5:21-34) Why are you still so afraid? (Mark 4:35-40)

Mossy Seed Bed

So I rest a while. I knit some. I laugh with the angels present. I pray. I dance in the moonlight. I sing. I go back and leave my sword and shield by the riverside. I take in these gifts of God's goodness, grace, and love, because practicing vulnerability is necessary to really practice assuming the best intentions.

When I find myself in the muddle of mistrust, I’m living in fear. To cross into the Promised Land, one needs great courage and conviction (Joshua, Judges). One has to work with one’s fear (Mark, Exodus). In the muddle of mistrust, I’m fearful of being punished for risking myself or I’m fearful of the other not reciprocating. I’m dealing with my lived history, and my heightened worries from the demons of perfectionism and belonging. Human beings are both social and dreaming animals, so ostracism from the group and missing living the highest ideals are sharp disincentives for many of us. And, yes, beloveds, there are people who will break your heart, steal your identity, and deny your reality. Been there. Lived that. But in my book, a society worth living in is one where trust in one’s neighbor is considerably higher than now (for who is not my neighbor?) The way I’d rather live – the way I name redemptive for it redeems me from the hell of cynicism, despair, and bitterness – this way calls me back to this rigorous religious practice of trust (faith, belief).

Cultivating trust can be beautiful, even if it is a fruit that takes some time to come into season. One of the reasons I love multifaith community action events is that when we’re cleaning up waterways or taking care of hungry people, we don’t need to believe alike to love alike. Trust is cultivated through such actions, where we can believe in the shared testimony of compassionate sweat and just caring to help us be a little more vulnerable with our neighbors. Trust is a tender plant, one that needs a lot of support, a lot of singing, a lot of sleeping alongside in our vulnerability, with our fears, with our dreams and into our promises. But oh, how sweet and wonderful to live in trust again.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Social Media Sanctuary

The lovely thing about new communications technology is that people are always creating particular practices and templates that reflect their own communications styles and preferences. People who once felt isolated can, with access to web 2.0, suddenly be connected to others with much in common. They may even find out about the person six doors down who shares an abiding passion in music of sixteenth-century Austria or who can teach a new knitter how to cable. This is also true for those of us who have suspected or known ourselves religious minorities, people who may love one or more houses of worship and still want a wider network of folks who are organizing for immigrant rights (such as passing H.R. 4321) or queering the census (counting lots of different family configurations) or working on interfaith communication and peacemaking or talking about Universalist theology and its relevance.

Another lovely thing is that no one has to master all the different social media out there. Neither do the communities in which we gather IRL (in real life). But we who are involved in such communities can recognize that while we might prefer a few platforms and media, there’s a benefit to reaching out to a wider variety of users. Many of the people who said to me five years ago, “I hate email and can’t understand it” now use email comfortably, as email systems have become easier for people with little programming comfort to use. Most of the congregations I know would find it difficult to operate without email as the backbone of communications with its members, regular visitors, and religious associations. Similarly, congregations are now mid-shift from static html web pages to content management systems that permit decentralized website updating. Once the framework is established, committee chairs and staff can update specific content sections. Many religious leaders are expected to maintain blogs, which adds to their writing workload. I think that’s part of why we’re seeing more clerical blogs with podcasting added on: it reuses the weekly content generated from worship and makes worship accessible in another way. I’m neither comfortable with the copyright issues in podcasting a worship service (they constitute something you can walk away with, so it is analogous to producing a record: one needs to own that content or work out licensing), nor with the limited time most congregations are willing to give to editing that content. But that’s waiting for the culture and media tools to catch up.

Congregations are also using Facebook, Twitter and many other social media platforms. A social media icons design box I recently downloaded included the top fourteen. I can’t follow fourteen social networks. But I can communicate with many of them, through social media network management tools. I think we’ll see even more of that, as free or inexpensive social media network management tools (e.g. TweetDeck, HootSuite) become more widely available and better. As long as what I need to see comes back across at least one of the media platforms I can follow, then I am part of the larger community. These multi-platform management tools assist congregational and community leaders to communicate the same information, across platforms. Since folks only use the platforms they are most comfortable with, information reaches more people.

Somewhere in my seminary education, I was told I needed to communicate over a minimum of five different modalities to be effective: verbal announcement, email, newsletter, telephone, and website. Today, that number is proliferating: blogs, website, newsletter, email, SMS (Short Message System), social media systems (at least 14!), verbal announcement. (SMS, for readers unfamiliar with it, is one of the world’s most widely used mobile phone applications). Let’s remember the widespread accessibility of internet-access computers in the United States through public libraries. I personally know people without permanent residences (a/k/a homeless) who are in the thick of IRL community and on-line communities. That’s a much wider circle of connection than verbal announcements, newsletters, and telephone offer, which depend, respectively, on physical presence on a particular day at a particular time, a mailing address, and a working telephone.

Adapting to social media for creating and reinforcing the sanctuary experience is going to take experimentation, flexibility, and IRL teaching of the tools. For example, I tried a daily inspirational text message, but too few of the people who originally signed on had free unlimited texting. So I switched to Twitter. Twitter permits people to follow by text as well as via the web, and with many new widgets, over blogs and congregational websites (both www.cityofrefugefl.com and The Wonderment show my professional Twitter feed – but not the Twitter feed for my personal connecting with friends).

Not only that, but I’ve been alerted to pastoral care situations because of members using Facebook and Twitter. Even if I missed a status update or post, chances are good that other congregants did not, and I’ll receive a phone call or text message to make sure I’m in the loop when the situation is urgent. That’s good community caring for one another.

I’m a Unitarian Universalist focused on the unity of humanity, the universal love that calls us together. The social media sanctuary widens the circle of inclusion, broadens the dialogue, and offers us a greater experience of empowerment, love, and wonder. In this sanctuary all the same kinds of things can happen that happen IRL: reverence, spiritual practice, devotion, community building, singing, rejoicing, sharing deeply, teaching, learning, recovering, activism, preparing, and growing. Keep the social media sanctuary open, the music on, and welcoming everyone.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Immigration Reform Is A Spiritual Practice

I had another chance yesterday to spend time in the company of some of the most resilient and engaging people I know, almost all of who are immigrants to the United States. Some immigrated for family, some for work, some for political asylum. Everyone wants a better life, one supportive of human worth and dignity, compassion and peace. Spending time with such folks who are very clear about the struggle and very focused on the value and possibilities of this life is like a refreshing swim for me, counteracting the sense of ennui and entitlement I often encounter.

I’m also recalled to what I can do to further practice my Unitarian Universalist values, especially the promises I’ve made to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person, to practice justice, equity and compassion in human relations, and to create world community with peace, justice, and liberty for all. Sometimes religious practice is ethereal and inwardly focused. But right now there are some great ways for me to practice my spiritual promises.

Just before that refreshing afternoon, I passed out cards asking people to sign on to supporting Representative Gutierrez’s bill on comprehensive immigration legislation, H.R. 4321. (Click here to see the card.)There are many things this legislation could accomplish. I’m particularly pleased about the list of places where people cannot be apprehended, including cemeteries, places of worship, legal service providers, assistance agencies, colleges, and health care facilities. Essentially, this extends the practice of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights in the United States, a declaration Eleanor Roosevelt fought to create. I’ve met the anguish and fear in folks who cannot attend the funeral of a loved one or who are afraid to access needed health care. The right to worship freely, to bury one’s loved ones, to access the legal and support systems that are required for the legal immigration process, the right of education, and the right to adequate health care are all rights that need to be enshrined in American law.

I am always excited when the refugees I meet are granted asylum, their Alien Registration Numbers, and the chance to breathe without fear. Once a person of heart has shared in such a celebration, I don’t think it is possible to not want to do more to assist refugees and displaced peoples. It is perspective changing, if you have never had to fight to be accorded basic human rights. After years (and for children born during displacement or living in refugee camps, a lifetime) of fear of governments, torture, and other violence, there is deep relief and joy of finally being granted asylum, of being accorded the space to live as we say every person should be able to live.

I am equally delighted when other immigrants – often, the ranks of undocumented workers – are able to attain documents according legal status. Why? Attaining basic human rights, including the right to a family. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been busy breaking up families (during a time when U.S. rhetoric leans heavily on defending and supporting the family), deporting partners and parents of U.S. citizens. Since work visas are deliberately kept at a fraction of the number of real available jobs for immigrants, we have created the situation for a large number of undocumented workers. And yet, the vast majority of these undocumented workers are paying U.S. taxes and are less likely than U.S. citizens to be involved in crime. H.R. 4321 would create a process to better match visas with the number of available jobs. That will create more security; most of the folks I meet would rather have official papers and permission – who really wants to live in perpetual fear? What family can really afford to wait 7-10 years for a visa application to be processed (the average wait time for employment-based visas)?

Many of the people who immigrate to the United States have experienced government as something to fear. Unfortunately, in recent years, the U.S. government hasn’t exactly created an environment that supports human dignity. H.R. 4321 presents an opportunity for the United States to live on the side of love with immigrant families. There are local rallies as well as the march for immigration reform rally in Washington, D.C. March 21, 2010. Here’s a chance to really support the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

UUA Immigration Social Justice Immigration Information

Friday, March 12, 2010

Impatience & Opportunity

Sometimes, I struggle with impatience.

But living where I live, over the past few years I’ve had lots of opportunities to work on that. I believe that emotions are part of our moral operating system, and key to spiritual growth is identifying how that system is functioning, when to give it a tune-up and in which direction.

Impatience is a sign along the moral highway for failing to achieve our vision of justice. So the first thing we’re assessing when we pause in our impatience is “why am I impatient”? My spiritual journey has been in working with where my sense of impatience is off-kilter, like when I’m impatient because traffic is heavy. I could have taken the bus, but then the bus is slow and I have to walk. I could have left earlier. R-r-r-r-i-i-i-i-i-ght. Impatience in traffic begins in a place that is neither cosmologically sound (I am the center of the universe) or a place of entitlement (I have some right to have things go my way). Either way is a case of privilege, since I even had an option about how I travel, and, often, my choice of destination. When we’re talking about our spiritual journeys, how we get there is the key to reaching our destination.

So when my sense of impatience is connected to a feeling that doesn’t fit with my expressed theology or cosmology, work to release that impatience. Usually that means transforming my framework. I’m impatient because something I expected to happen isn’t. What opportunity am I encountering instead? In the simple case of driving somewhere, I can pause to pray for the people I know who are in trouble, or notice my surroundings, or pay attention to the people in the vehicles around, or sing a song I love to sing. Slowing down can be a chance to work in more spiritual practice time.

When my sense of impatience is connected to my vision of justice aligned with all the promises I make in my Unitarian Universalist religious life, then I recognize that what is showing up is energy to make some change. So I can ponder and commit to some ways that I might be able to make a real difference, ways I clearly haven’t expended all my energy pursuing yet, because I’m impatient for the world in which I really wish to live. My theology is that I’m here to help make that happen, so no being off the hook, back to the joyful labor of making justice. Impatience shows me another of life’s opportunities.

When I read Edwin Hubbell Chapin, a nineteenth-century Universalist preacher, I often think he must have struggled with impatience. His ministry is focused entirely on how to live the good news he understood: God loves this world and every person in it. And yet he has a huge number of daily life examples of the difficulty in living that profligate and amazing love. E.H. Chapin preached a sermon called “Chances in Life”, which is found in his most famous book, Providence and Life (1869) Cincinnati: Williamson & Cantwell, 56-71. This includes a list of reminders to recall us to life’s ever-present opportunities to live the values we espouse, to offer the love and grace Universalists believe God offers all of us. To my ear, it is a litany, and so I added a response, my prayer to the lines: “May I have the courage and strength to be present to life’s opportunities.”

Now I share this with you. May we all have the courage and strength to be present to life’s opportunities today: opportunities to live our religion and our faith.

CHANCES IN LIFE LITANY – E.H. Chapin (1869), response N. King (2008)

WE MAY HAVE VIRTUE ENOUGH – RELIGION ENOUGH – FOR SET-TIMES AND SUNDAYS. HAVE WE ENOUGH FOR THIS CROWDED, THICK-SWARMING, BUSY, EVERY-DAY WORLD?

May I have the courage and strength to be present to life’s opportunities.


THE GREAT TEST OF PRINCIPLE IS TO BE READY FOR CHANCES – NEVER TO BE TAKEN UNAWARES.
May I have the courage and strength to be present to life’s opportunities.

MY FRIENDS, HOW IS IT WITH OURSELVES? HOW DO WE MEET THE CHANCES THAT OCCUR TO US IN LIFE?

May I have the courage and strength to be present to life’s opportunities.


EVERY MORNING WE MAY LAY OUR COURSE, BUT EVERY DAY WE DRIFT IN CURRENTS OF PROVIDENCE THAT BRING US INTO UNEXPECTED CONTACTS.

May I have the courage and strength to be present to life’s opportunities.


IN UNKNOWN EVENTS OUR VIRTUE IS TRIED, OUR SOULS SUMMONED TO THEIR POSSIBILITIES, AND UNCALCULATED THINGS BREAK IN UPON US, AND PRESENT THE TOUCHSTONE OF CHARACTER.

May I have the courage and strength to be present to life’s opportunities.


LIFE’S CHANCES, IF THEY BETRAY NO OTHER FEATURE OF REGULARITY, AT LEAST REVEAL THIS MUCH: THEY SHOW THEMSELVES RANGED IN CONNECTION WITH OUR SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE.

May I have the courage and strength to be present to life’s opportunities.

THERE IS NOTHING THAT OCCURS TO US IN OUR DAILY EXISTENCE, NOT EVEN IN THE SMALLEST TRANSACTION, THAT IS NOT A SOURCE OF MORAL INSPIRATION, AND DOES NOT FURNISH OCCASION FOR MORAL EFFORT.

May I have the courage and strength to be present to life’s opportunities.

LITTLE IRRITATIONS MAY RUFFLE AND INFLAME A SPIRIT THAT WOULD KEEP SERENE IN THE FRONT OF GREAT INJURIES.

May I have the courage and strength to be present to life’s opportunities.


WHAT KIND OF BENEVOLENCE AND LOVE DO YOU EXPRESS FOR THOSE YOU ENCOUNTER? IS IT A SABBATH-DAY AND SPECIAL FUND BENEVOLENCE, A CHARITY SERMON AND FANCY DRESS BENEVOLENCE? OR DOES YOUR BENEVOLENCE SIT ALWAYS IN THE DOORWAY OF YOUR HEART, FULL OF COMPASSION AND MERCY, READY FOR THE BLEEDING, APPEALING, SUFFERING HUMANITY RIGHT BY THE WAYSIDE?

May I have the courage and strength to be present to life’s opportunities.

THE KIND WORD YOU HAVE SPOKEN, THE HONEST ADVICE YOU GAVE, THE HELPING HAND YOU HAVE STRETCHED OUT TO LIFT UP THE WAYFARER, WHO SHALL MEASURE OR LIMIT ITS WIDENING CIRCLE ON THE WAVES OF SPIRITUAL INFLUENCE – ON THE SEA OF TIME?

May I have the courage and strength to be present to life’s opportunities.


WE MAY NOT KNOW THE HOUR OR THE WAY THAT THE OPPORTUNITY TO LIVE OUR RELIGION MAY APPEAR, BUT WE KNOW THAT THE OPPORTUNITIES TO LIVE BY THIS FAITH WILL APPEAR, DAILY, NIGHTLY THROUGH ALL TIME, IN AND OUT OF THE WEEKS AND MONTHS OF OUR LIVES.

May I have the courage and strength to be present to life’s opportunities.


THERE IS NOTHING THAT OCCURS TO US IN OUR DAILY EXISTENCE, NOT EVEN IN THE SMALLEST TRANSACTION, THAT IS NOT A SOURCE OF MORAL INSPIRATION, AND DOES NOT FURNISH OCCASION FOR MORAL EFFORT. WE CARRY THE COURAGE. WE CARRY THE STRENGTH. WE HAVE THE CAPACITY FOR PRESENCE. LIFE WILL PRESENT TO US THE OPPORTUNITIES.

May I have the courage and strength to be present to life’s opportunities.

Amen.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

From Apocalypse to Equity

One thing about growing up in the 1970s & 1980s is that I grew up expecting the world to end anytime soon. The way that calamity would descend changed, but between the public rhetoric that treated each successive crisis as another sign of the end times and a thick field of fiction and film set in post-apocalyptic visions, I wanted to be prepared. From an early age, I cultivated an interest in amplifying skills and gifts for the post-apocalyptic age.

That’s serving me surprisingly well today. I don’t believe that the current economy is the end of times, nor do I see that sweeping around through the continual wars and climate change. Calamities, horrible catastrophes, and a good way to eventually destroy the margin for human life all, yes, I see that. But I also believe in the positive force people committed to a different vision of living can have. Just look at Ela Ramesh Bhatt, the founder of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA: www.sewa.org). When she founded SEWA in 1972, people questioned the power of connecting and mobilizing workers in the unorganized and unofficial working sectors into a trade union. A lifetime later, SEWA continues to change lives and society. I find the eleven questions SEWA asks of its member groups to be very helpful in considering how to name goals to realistically change peoples’ lives in the midst of degradation and enormous daily difficulties.

What does it mean to reorient our vision as a society to one where meaningful work that supports one’s family, health, safe & nurturing childcare, adequate housing, food, and water, personal leadership, literacy, and community life for every person is our definition of success? For me, that means fulfilling two Unitarian Universalist promises: justice, equity, and compassion in human relations and the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.

We’re all in this together. Watch how so many community organizations have and continue to make headway on making real this vision of equity, justice, and compassion. Then get up and consider how you can help make that reality where you live.

A good place to start is for you and the people you know to identify what skills and gifts you have. I’m thinking about Dino Rizzo and the folks at Servolution in New Orleans (http://servolution.org). Pastor Dino realized that several men in his congregation loved to cook for multitude. He looked around New Orleans and saw a multitude that would love to eat, but were, like more than 17 million Americans, “food insecure”. That is, people went go hungry because they can’t afford to buy food. This number is only increasing in the United States at the moment and almost a quarter of them are children. (Don’t believe me, look at the US stats yourself: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/FoodSecurity/). So he found a way to connect these men who loved to cook with people who’d love to eat. And that’s only one of many, many other projects Servolution has sponsored or inspired, through a variety of practices. Check them out for your own inspiration about what you can accomplish, once you know what skills you and your community have.

Skills like raking leaves and cooking chili, reading and writing, washing clothes and painting, listening deeply and building databases, repairing engines and teaching t’ai chi are all potentially ways you can change the community in which you live. Take the time today to pause and write down all the things you know how to do. Then go down that list and star the items that you’d be comfortable sharing with someone else. Over this weekend, enlist your friends to do the same and compare notes. Over the next week, talk about how you might use those skills you have for your community, and name some possible community partners to contact.

I bet you’ll feel a lot better about yourself, your community, and the state of the world through this practice. And the real reward? When you’re out there, offering yourself, and you know you’re making the world in which you really wish to live.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pausing in the Parking Lot

There are very few days I do not find myself going somewhere, whether on foot, by bus, or by car. This means that on any given day I can spend time contemplating traffic congestion, trash, pollution, rudeness, entitlement, and ugliness….or I can challenge myself to find, celebrate, and expand the beautiful, the unexpected wonderfulness, and caring.

Rising Green 3-9-10b

I live in a place dominated by the car. But yesterday afternoon in the space of a few minutes, standing in one place, I saw five different cyclists. These were not people training for a race, but folks who were going to and from work, dining out at a local restaurant, and running errands. Many of the bicycles were truly beautiful, and yet, when I complimented one cyclist, he was surprised, before a smile answered my expression of joy.

One way I train myself to see differently is through the use of the camera on my mobile phone. Having such a luxury device, I try to put it to good use.

Parking Lot Sunset 3-9-10

Since I live in south Florida, and many more people are becoming homeless here every day thanks to continued high rates of home foreclosure and job loss, I’m seeing more edges of where I travel being used for home. I can look around the canal verges and parking lot edges and see more bedrolls and bags of clothes. I won’t say where these encampments are exactly, because that will put the people who need a place to rest in danger. But I am reminded, “let those who have eyes to see, see; those who have ears to hear, listen.” (e.g. Mark 8:17-19, Matt. 13:6)

Holy Ground 3-9-10

When I can, I return to these places later to bring sandwiches and bottled water, and, if the temperatures drop, warm clothes and hot coffee.

Today, what will you see if you pause along your way. Don’t look away from the ugliness, but around the edges of it. Pause. This is where you live. Is this the way of the world you wish to promote? As you go your way, how do you find your world calling you to service?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Why Does This Unitarian Universalist Still Read The Bible?

The question that titles this post may shock some who don’t know Unitarian Universalism as it commonly shows up in the United States.

But to cut to the answer: I read the Jewish and Christian Scriptures for inspiration. I find great comfort in certain passages, and great challenge in others. Take all those passages about what we hold worthy and what God holds worthy. There’s so frequently a vast difference. And while I do care about the widow, the orphaned, the sick, and the outcast, the fact is that I spend a great deal more time involved in charitable knitting than in washing wounds of people I don’t know. But once upon a time, I hadn’t even thought to tithe my knitting time. Growth can happen in little ways, and over a lifetime they add up. I’m working to change that ratio of time; my time daily with the Bible keeps calling me to that.

I didn’t grow up Unitarian Universalist, and I have a Catholic priest to thank for why the Bible is a living inspirational source for me every day. How is that? For several months when I was in middle school/junior high, I was expected to take the daily readings (lection) and turn them into a soap opera. I remember having to tune into some episodes of soap operas to find out how that particular narrative worked. And what do you know? The lection came alive to me, as I wrestled with the stories, poetry, parables, and epistles. I still recommend this method.

Scripture as inspirational soap opera has continued to work for me, and been enhanced as I study the library of texts collected together under the names TNKH and Bible. Literary, structural, and social commentaries enrich my reading, but when I pick up some of those weighty tomes I shake my head with sorrow. If I didn’t already love the texts, I’m not sure these commentaries would have lead me to that heartspring of hope.

I find great wisdom and insight in many world religious scriptures, but I my oldest and deepest practice remains reading the daily lection. Then I study it. Then I try to live it, which is the really hard part. If I couldn’t approach these texts, I know myself well enough to accept that I probably wouldn’t try to live the way I do. I know I would be more suspicious of other world religious writings, less able to draw nourishment and wonder from them. And I know I’d struggle with listening to people who do find this library a vast and amazing spiritual resource, a guide and map for the great journey, a boat in which to navigate the ethical swamp.

So now I try to share with others what this library does for me, the keys it has given me, the doors I’ve been able to open and go through, and the ways I continue to be stretched, shaken, comforted, bewildered, smitten, and overjoyed. Time to go: life’s show is on.