Saturday, December 12, 2015

We Were Made For These Times

My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn't you say you were a believer? Didn't you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn't you ask for grace? Don't you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these - to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

By Clarissa Pinkola Estes

American poet, post-trauma specialist and Jungian psychoanalyst, author of Women Who Run With the Wolves.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Second Saturday

Second Saturday is sort of like a service of worship with small group discussion. We will meet in small groups to share about the topic of the day, experience guided meditation, share our personal and social concerns, and even sing a bit. The topics will respond to the issues that arise each month but the basic format is this.

January 9: Spirituality without Religion

What is spirituality? What is religion? What does it mean to be spiritual but not religious? What might it look like to be a part of a community of people who were SBNR’s?


February 13: What is Worship?

Why do people gather for what are described as Services of Worship? What would they be doing for us if they were successful? What would such an experience be like for you if it were meaningful?


March 12: Fasting and Feasting: Eating as a contemplative practice

Catholics have long avoided meat on Friday, especially in Lent. Jews have dietary laws for keeping kosher. Muslims fast during Ramadan. Nearly every religion has a tradition around what one does and does not eat and when. The central Christian form of worship remembers a meal of bread and wine. What does what we eat say about what we value?


April 9: Sin and Evil vs. Righteousness: What does it mean to be good?

We all make choices everyday which seem to be a better or a worse way to handle things. How do we differentiate better and worse? How do we know what is moral? And at what point does “bad” become “evil?”


May 14: Salvation: From What and For What?

When we are in trouble we would like someone to save us. We might even pray for help. But most religious traditions seek to transform us as persons, not to alter the course of a particular incident. In this more cosmic sense, what does it mean to be saved?


June 18 [3rd Saturday]: The Purpose of Purpose, Individually and Collectively.

Finding ones purpose is a core spiritual task. When we know what we are about our lives have meaning and as we fulfill that purpose we experience a quality of being some call faith. Not only do “I” have purpose, but so do “we.” How do we find it and live it?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Fourth Fridays

Sacred Soup sponsors a program of cultural inquiry and enrichment we call Fourth Fridays.  Each month we will gather to view and discuss a film.  But we want to be intentional about how we construct the conversation.

Second viewing: We like movies and as there are so many of them coming out all the time we don't have a chance to see most of them once, much less see them again.  But there are some movies that have just too much going on to catch it all in a single viewing.  On Fourth Fridays we are going to view movies we may have seen before.  [If you haven't seen it, that's okay.  It helps those who have seen it before to see with fresh eyes if there is someone present who hasn't experienced it.]

Intelligent talk: A part of the fun of the movie is sharing it with someone else.  We make meaning differently and we are impacted differently.   But talking during the movie will get us thrown out of the theater or cause us to miss part of the show.  So on Fourth Fridays we will pause the movie from time to time and a moderator will guide the discussion.

Deep themes: While all movies convey socially relevant messages, we are going to especially look for implications for our being and our doing.  What does this show us about who we are with regard to our relationship to that which is most real [spirituality] and what are the implications for what we are then to do, both individually and collectively [morality].

We meet at 6454 Alamo, second floor [it is a four-family on the corner of Alamo and Seminary just a block north of St. Mary's Health Center.]  Doors open at 6:30, show starts at 7:00.  Let me know if you are coming so I will know how many chairs to set out.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Inner Life Questions

"Inner-life questions are the kind everyone asks, with or without benefit of God-talk: Does my life have meaning and purpose? Do I have gifts that the world wants and needs? Whom and what shall I serve? Whom and what can I trust? How can I rise above my fears? How do I deal with suffering: my own, that of my family and friends, and that of the larger world? How can I maintain hope? What does any of this mean in the face of the fact that I'm going to die?"

by Parker Palmer from this blog post on OnBeing

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Standing Naked Before God

“Would you rather be an ego or a soul?”
Elizabeth Lesser, Broken Open, 2004

I found this quote in a new book by Molly Phinney Baskette entitled, Standing Naked before God: the art of public confession. In the book Molly illuminates the most central of many things they have done at First Church Somerville to make a struggling church of 35 into a thriving church of 350 over the course of a decade. There is much about what she is offering us that resonates for me as deeply true. But what most excites me is that it offers a way to integrate transformation and worship.

Very briefly stated, what the good folks of First Church [it seems they call themselves Firsties] do most weeks is to invite the liturgist to make a public act of confession as a component of leading worship. This is something they take very seriously and prepare for with great care. The waiting list to get to be the liturgist is 20 weeks long.

I will summarize what I understand the rationale for this to be as;

  • since worship is about coming into a personal relationship with the divine in a corporate setting, and 
  • since we understand that we are not showing up in our own lives in perfect harmony with who God is calling us to be, and 
  • since the way we each experience sin in our lives is probably not exclusive to our personal experience, 

the act of confession is both a way to bring our personhood into greater harmony with God while at the same time making it clear that we all sin and that it is safe to be imperfect in this community of faith.

I don’t think we can just import into Sacred Soup what they do at First Church. We are different from them in too many ways for that to work. But we are a community that is committed to our own transformation by being real with each other. And recently having had a conversation about what we each mean by sin and having come to some consensus that while we are not bad, we from time to time do bad and that we want to clean that up, I suggest we explore ways to incorporate into our own liturgy something like confession.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


This is the season of resurrection.  Not only is that the theme of this recent Christian celebration, it is a feature of nearly every major world religion.  Indeed, the name Easter comes from an appropriation of a pagan festival.

So what is resurrection?  How do we understand what the word means and how do we experience it in our own lives?  This is our question for Sacred Soup this week.  I hope you can join us.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


Here is the video I mentioned in the email and which I hope we have a chance to discuss at the School for Living on Thursday.