Saturday, December 31, 2016

Andrew Harvey on Radical, Divine Passion in Action . . .

. . . Our Source of Creative Wisdom and Purpose
for the Great Adventure Ahead

In a New Year message to its supporters, the Bangarra Dance Company notes the following: "2016 has been an intense year for the company, both emotionally and artistically. But what has challenged us has made us stronger. In 2017 we will continue to evolve, tell stories and connect with audiences around the world."

This idea of choosing to respond to challenging circumstances and events in ways that allow us to evolve and grow wiser and stronger reminds me of the writings of author, scholar and teacher Andrew Harvey.

In particular, in these waning days of 2016, I find myself drawn to the introduction that Harvey wrote for his 2012 anthology Radical Passion: Sacred Love and Wisdom in Action.

In this introduction, Harvey notes that humanity is in an "apocalyptic situation," one which he succinctly describes as follows.

A global financial elite, drunk on greed and desire for total control, manipulates the banks, markets, media, and all political parties. The gap between the tiny handful of the rich and the billions of destitute or deeply struggling human beings widens daily. Nothing real is being done to address the now lethal menace of global warming. Our food and water are increasingly poisoned. Ninety percent of the sea is polluted. Many of our crucial individual liberties have been drastically curtailed that the foundations of a global fascist state are now visible to all those with eyes to see. Hundreds of animal and plant species are vanishing every month, in the largest continuing extinction event since the last ice age. What more evidence should any awake human being need to show that we are in extreme danger and must respond comprehensively and urgently before spreading disaster becomes irreversible extinction?

Harvey wrote these words four years ago. Tragically little has changed for the better since then. Indeed, one need look no further than the ongoing global breakdown of the norms underlying representative democracy and the recent election of Donald Trump as U.S. president to realize that, politically, things are getting worse. With this in mind, Harvey's words from 2012 remain both disturbingly relevant and enlighteningly insightful. The latter makes Harvey's observations and analysis a testament of hope, which is why I share them on this last day of 2016, a year that for many of us has been very challenging.

I definitely resonate with what Harvey has to say. Indeed, I've shared my own similar thoughts previously at The Wild Reed (see, for example, here and here). Harvey's perspective also resonates with me because of my interest in evolutionary spirituality and the Sufi Way. And, of course, the life and example of Jesus. I also have to say that I find much of what Harvey writes reflected in the indigenous wisdom of Buffy Sainte-Marie, a woman whose life, music and activism greatly inspires me (see, for example, here, here, and here).

For all these reasons I share the following from Andrew Harvey's Radical Passion: Sacred Love and Wisdom in Action. May you too find strength, inspiration, and hope in his words.

The reason I still have hope is not because I believe the human race is going to find a technological, political, or economic solution to [the] devastation [facing us]. I do not believe in the potential transformation of the existing corporate nightmare; I do not believe in the magic of technology; I do not believe in the ability of a corrupt and political class to deconstruct its own power. I do not believe in the spiritual depth and sincerity of the great majority of religious and New Age leaders, or in their capacity either to tell the truth about what is happening or to galvanize human beings to react urgently and wisely to it. Our inherited notions of salvation, redemption, and enlightenment are as dissociated and ineffectual in this immense evolutionary storm as our continuing tragic obsession with perpetual growth and technological wizardry. Nothing undertaken from our current level of consciousness will now work. This crisis is the destined graveyard of all human "isms": all religious, political, and economic agendas, fantasies, and projects. The grandiose mask we have constructed for ourselves out of our demented narcissism is being stripped from our faces to reveal us as we are – terrified, lost, and helpless before a global agony of our own making.

The hope I live for and explore in all my work and teachings has nothing to do, then, with the current smorgasbord of fantasies for sale in the corporate bazaar. My hope is grounded in three interlinked truths, derived from a lifetime of mystical and personal search. These truths are: first, that the human race is now in an unprecedented and destined evolutionary crisis – a global dark night. Second, that this global dark night is potentially the birth canal for a new, embodied divine humanity chastened by tragedy and illumined by grace. Third, that the birthing force of the divine human is the force of the Motherhood of God, expressed not only in a new and radically evolutionary mysticism, but also in sacredly inspired, radical action on every level and in every arena.

It is this vision that I have been working on for three decades. It is this vision that works itself out, fugally, throughout [the] collection of my introductions and interviews called Radical Passion.

The passion I'm referring to has nothing whatever to do with emotionalism, theatricality, or even conventional and understandable forms of anger and outrage at injustice. It is divine and sacred passion – a vast, focused love energy – grounded in peace and knowledge of divine identity, increasingly purified of shadow and demonizing judgment and directed like a laser to the radical and urgent transformation of both our inner version of awakening and our outer practice of political and economic reality. . . . It is this steady, peaceful, compassionate passion that fuels the work of all those who now, seeing where we are, are prepared to gamble away their lives and resources for the possible creation of a new world.

In its ultimate divine origin, this passion is nothing less than the power, or Shakti, of the Mother side of God and of Her evolutionary will. Aligned with and inspired by this passion, there is nothing we cannot – even at his late desperate hour – accomplish. Without its radiant, clear, illumining energy, the energy of evolutionary wisdom itself, we will not be able to rise to the challenge of our times, and we will die out, taking a great deal of the already debilitated natural world with us. The word radical derives from the Latin radix, "root." The passion I am describing and trying to live springs from the root of the Divine itself and focuses its wild, pure energy on the roots of our evolutionary nightmare – our abandonment of the authentically sacred and mystical, our fatal dissociation from the glory and healing of the creation, our addiction to technology and science, our separation – so convenient to the elites who dominate our world – of divine reality and justice from active socio-economic and political reality. It is "radical" in the deepest and highest sense, because in order to be born in sufficient power, it requires – even demands – the death of the collective false human self, a total inner revolution that expresses itself directly in a rehaul of all current ways of being and doing everything. Millions of years ago, a group of brave, prescient, and desperate fish left the toxic sea that was killing them. They endured whatever they had to in order to be slowly and gruelingly transformed, in a wholly new dimension, into birds. The radical passion that drove them is the one that will have to drive us if we are to transform in time from our current dark and poisoned narcissism into joyful and humble servants of the birth of a new divine humanity.

Such a revolutionary transformation, although ferocious and extremely difficult, is, I believe, still possible, because it is willed by the Divine and supported by torrential divine grace. Whether the human race will choose its rigors and demands remains to be seen and is not by any means certain. We are as likely to choose the destructive shadow of global fascism and die out in a series of man-made and natural disasters as we are to be galvanized by revelation and heartbreak into sacred action. The very worst and the very best, the rivers of blood and the rivers of milk, as Rumi puts it, now run side by side. Everything now depends on us . . . on our courage in accepting almost unbearable ordeal as the gateway into new life and growth, on our radical passion to put the will of the Divine for a transformed humanity into inner and outer urgent action, on our creativity renewed in and inspired by divine peace, wisdom, and passionate compassion.

. . . When my great teacher and beloved, Father Bede Griffiths was dying, I asked him, "Do you really believe, with all you now see and know so clearly, that humanity will survive and transform?" He withdrew deeply into himself for one long moment and then said, "Yes, i do. What is to come will be harder than any of us can imagine, but a birth will take place." Then he smiled."It will be a great adventure, the greatest adventure of all."

In this great adventure , whose terrors, rigors, ordeals, and amazing possibilities are now becoming clear to those who dare to understand, radical, divine passion in action will be our fundamental fuel and source of creative wisdom and purpose. Anything we have to go through will be worth it in order to realize its power. Nothing we do, inspired by its fire, will be wasted. Whether you or I survive the coming storm of chaos does not matter as much as the peaceful, clear, and impassioned spirit with which we set about, right now, building in ourselves the divine strength and compassion necessary to go on going and building in the world the humble and tenacious structures of action that can weather whatever unfolds. On the rock of these truths we can build a house for a new humanity if we are illumined, fearless, and brave enough to risk everything.

For more of Andrew Harvey at The Wild Reed, see:
In the Garden of Spirituality – Andrew Harvey
Toby Johnson on the Mysticism of Andrew Harvey
A Dance of Divine Light
Remembering and Reclaiming a Wise, Spacious, and Holy Understanding of Homosexuality

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Threshold Musings
Called to the Field of Compassion
Surrender Yourself
Love is an Adventure
Something to Think About – October 13, 2015
"Trajectory is More Important Than the Current Status"
In the Garden of Spirituality – Judy Cannato
In the Garden of Spirituality – Beatrice Bruteau
In the Garden of Spirituality – Ilia Delio
Buffy Sainte-Marie and That "Human-Being Magic"
Buffy Sainte-Marie's Lesson from the Cutting Edge: "Go Where You Must to Grow"
Buffy Sainte-Marie: "Sometimes You Have to Be Content to Plant Good Seeds and Be Patient"
Jesus: Mystic and Prophet
Sufism: Way of Love, Tradition of Enlightenment, and Antidote to Fanaticism
Doris Lessing on the Sufi Way
Doris Lessing and the Challenge to Go Beyond Ideological Slogans
Sufism: A Call to Awaken
As the Last Walls Dissolve . . . Everything is Possible
Clarity, Hope, and Courage
A Kind of Dancing Divinity
Michael Morwood on the Divine Presence
Discerning and Embodying Sacred Presence in Times of Violence and Strife
Prayer and the Experience of God in an Ever-Unfolding Universe
Divine Connection

Related Off-site Links:
Andrew Harvey's Official Website
How to Face a Trump Presidency: Resist, Reconnect, Renew – Sarah van Gelder (Yes! Magazine via Common Dreams, December 22, 2016).
Five Resistance Resolutions – Rob Burnett (Common Dreams, December 29, 2016).
The Great Resistance 2017 – Marianne Williamson (The Huffington Post, December 24, 2016).

Dance images: Bangarra Dance Company.
Radical Passion book cover: Photo by David Sutton, design by Suzanne Albertson.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Resisting the Hand of the Empire

I share today excerpts from two insightful pieces which draw on the Star Wars film series to show how empire is antithetical to everything Jesus lived and taught.

The first is from Mark Davies' December 28 article, "Refusing the Hand of the Empire," a piece that shares a similar purpose to Byron Williams' excellent 2012 Huffington Post article, namely to show how Constantine Christianity is not the way of Jesus. Davies is the Wimberly Professor of Social and Ecological Ethics and the Director of the World House Institute for Social and Ecological Responsibility at Oklahoma City University. Following is part of his recent article.

The biggest mistake ever made in the history of Christianity (and there are a lot of them) is when the Christian Church decided to believe and accept that the Empire was on its side. When Christianity allowed itself to be co-opted by Constantine in the early Fourth Century C.E., it was a bit like if Luke Skywalker had accepted Darth Vader’s offer to join him and rule the galaxy together. The Church reached out and took the hand of the Empire instead of taking its chance with a leap of faith into the abyss, thereby becoming the servant of the dark side for the sake of its own survival.

The Roman Empire fell soon after its takeover of Christianity (a fact not easily explained by Christianity’s defenders), but Christianity re-attached itself to numerous empires thereafter to maintain its hegemony in Europe and beyond. The Christianity of Empire, as opposed to the Way of Jesus, was used to justify crusades, inquisitions, conquests, colonization, slavery, and genocide – often done in the name of Christian mission, but always done for sake of the Empire.

That Christianity became an imperial religion is antithetical to everything Jesus lived and taught. The Empire was never a friend to Jesus, and Jesus was never a friend to the Empire. The Empire executed Jesus with its most public and brutal method in order to display its power and eliminate a threat, and when the Jesus movement would not die, the Empire eventually co-opted the movement for its own purposes. That is what empires do.

Once the Empire co-opted the Christian movement, it focused on the otherworldly aspects of Christianity in order to keep power and control over people in this world. The Empire or State maintained control of the affairs of this world, while religion prepared the soul for the next. Obedience to the Empire’s authority in this life became one of the prerequisites to enjoying the rewards and avoiding the punishments in the next. The Empire made central the peripheral strands of eternal punishment and eternal reward in Christianity as a means to maintain and consolidate power and keep order among its subjects.

Christianity in the United States continues in this long and tragic tradition of serving as the religion of the Empire. The way of Jesus has been mistaken for the American way; including adherence to its social, political, and economic systems. Through increasingly sophisticated and ever present forms of propaganda, a form of Christianity is used to bolster loyalty to and support for the Empire. Every cry that we are a Christian nation is an echo of the imperial voice that seeks to tame Jesus and use the power of the Jesus movement to consolidate power of the Empire through the alienation of the “other,” by highlighting that their way is not our way, that “they” are not us.

I share next an excerpt from a piece which was clearly written by a major fan of all things Star Wars.

It's just a very short excerpt as the full piece contains spoilers about the recently released Star Wars prequel, Rogue One, a film which I hope to see with friends early in the new year.

This particular piece by Malcolm Sheppard is written in the form of a "critical obituary" for the Star Wars character Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan, later known as General Leia Organa. Carrie Fisher, the actress who so vividly brought Leia to life over the course of numerous Star Wars films, died at the age of 60 on December 27. (Her mother, legendary entertainer Debbie Reynods, died the following day at 84.)

Through his writing of Leia's obituary, Sheppard describes the horrors of empire, horrors that can be seen manifested throughout history, including in recent and current U.S. policies and actions, as Mark Davies highlights in his article excerpted above. In the fictitious world of Star Wars, Leia, first as a princess and then as a rebel general, resisted and fought against the injustice, greed and violence of empire. Even if it does not fully embody the non-violent way of Jesus (and many see this as highly problematic), this resistance and, moreover, the longing for justice and peace that inspires it, is nevertheless something that Sheppard and many others recognize and celebrate in the character of Leia.

Ultimately, the best way to judge Leia Organa might be through the same materialist critical analysis that drove her to revolutionary action. Before Leia Organa, the Empire destroyed civilizations to power a war machine for the glory of its elites. Because of her, galactic civilization doesn’t consist of thousands of starving worlds, whose inhabitants gaze into skies swarming with Death Stars built from their stolen productivity. The ideology of the Dark Side never rests, and it might return to reap capital from oppressed planets, but for now, many worlds enjoy a certain amount of peace and freedom.

Related Off-site Links:
Star Wars Has Always Been Political. Here's Why the Alt-right is Claiming Otherwise – Aja Romano (Vox, December 31, 2016).
Rogue One: Does It Really “Stand Alone”? – Matthew MacEgan (World Socialist Web Site, December 21, 2012).
Corruption, Exploitation, and Decay: The Politics of Star Wars – Eric Geller (, November 6, 2012).
Beware Star Wars’ Slippery Politics of Violence – Abraham Riesman (Vulture via Slate, December 16, 2016).
Why the Politics of the Star Wars Universe Makes No Sense – Brett Neely, Scott Detrow and Tamara Keith (NPR News, December 15, 2016).
Carrie Fisher and the Star Wars Phenomenon – David Walsh (World Socialist Web Site (December 28, 2016).
Carrie Fisher and the Amazing Role Model of Leia Organa – Kendall Ashley (Nerdist (December 27, 2016).
Why We’ll Miss Carrie Fisher and George Michael, Both Candid Truth-Tellers – Tim Teeman (The Daily Beast, December 27, 2016).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
John Pilger on Resisting Empire
Rock of Ages
On International Human Rights Day, Saying "No" to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
John le Carré’s “Dark Suspicions”
Tariq Ali Discusses Rudyard Kipling
Chalmers Johnson, 1931-2010
Steve Clemens: "If We Wish to Stand with the Holy Innocents, We Must Stand in Opposition to Empire"
Remembering the "Radical Ethic" of the Catholic Worker Movement
Quote of the Day – July 24, 2012

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

John, the Beloved Disciple

Above: John, in a detail from “Crucifixion” by Christopher Olwage.

Today is the feast day of John the Evangelist, commonly considered to be Jesus’ “Beloved Disciple.”

Over at the indispensable Q Spirit, Kittredge Cherry commemorates John with an insightful post that explores in both word and image the close bond he shared with Jesus – a bond which, as Kitt notes, “has been celebrated by artists since medieval times.” Furthermore, writes Kitt, “the idea that [Jesus and John] were homosexual lovers has been inspiring queer people and causing controversy at least since the 16th century.”

Following, with added links, is an excerpt from Kitt's informative article, “John the Evangelist: Beloved Disciple of Jesus – and Maybe His Lover.”

The idea that Jesus and his Beloved Disciple had a sexual relationship dates back at least to the early 16th century, when English playwright Christopher Marlowe was tried for blasphemy on the charge of claiming that “St. John the Evangelist was bedfellow to Christ and leaned always in his bosom, that he used him as the sinners of Sodoma.”

In 1550 Francesco Calcagno, a citizen of Venice, was investigated by the Inquisition for making the heretical claim that “St. John was Christ’s catamite,” which means a boy or young man in a pederastic sexual relationship with an older man.

Many modern scholars have expressed belief that Jesus and his Beloved Disciple shared a an erotic physical relationship. They include Hugh Montefiore, Robert Williams, Sjef van Tilborg, John McNeill, Rollan McCleary, Robert E. Goss and James Neill.

A thorough analysis is included in The Man Jesus Loved: Homoerotic Narratives from the New Testament by Theodore Jennings, Biblical theology professor at Chicago Theological Seminary. He finds the evidence “inconclusive” as to whether the beloved disciple was John, but it leaves no doubt that Jesus had a male lover.

“A close reading of the texts in which the beloved disciple appears supports the hypothesis that the relationship between him and Jesus may be understood as that of lovers," Jennings writes. "As it happens, both Jesus and the beloved are male, meaning that their relationship may be said to be, in modern terms, a ‘homosexual’ relationship” (p. 34).

An entire chapter is dedicated to John as the bride of Christ in the 2013 book Saintly Brides and Bridegrooms: The Mystic Marriage in Renaissance Art by Carolyn D. Muir, art professor at the University of Hong Kong.

After Jesus died, John went on to build a close, loving relationship with his younger disciple and scribe, Prochorus, bishop of Nicomedia. Tradition says that John was the only one of Christ’s original twelve apostles to live to old age, and the only one not killed for his faith. He died in Ephesus around 100 AD.

To read Kittredge Cherry's article “John the Evangelist: Beloved Disciple of Jesus – and Maybe His Lover” in its entirety, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Remembering the Beloved Disciple: "We Love His Love for the Lovely One"
Terence Weldon on the "Disciple Jesus Loved" as a Role Model for LGBT Christians
Edward Sellner on the Archetype of the Double and Male Eros, Friendships and Mentoring
The Sexuality of Jesus
Why Jesus is My Man
Jesus Was a Sissy
Jesus and the Centurion (Part 1)
Jesus and the Centurion (Part 2)
Jesus and Homosexuality

Related Off-site Links:
Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same-Sex Love: An Interview with Author Will Roscoe – Kittredge Cherry (Jesus in Love Blog, June 5, 2013).
Was Jesus Gay? Probably – Paul Oestreicher (The Guardian, April 20, 2012).
Saint John: The Man Jesus Loved? – Kittredge Cherry (Jesus in Love Blog, December 27, 2010).

Monday, December 26, 2016

Quote of the Day

You can see the way that the influence of these three unique men [David Bowie, George Michael, and Prince] percolated through popular culture and music, especially but by no means exclusively with LGBTIQ artists.

You see it in Troye Sivan master-of-factly coming out in his teens. Sam Smith making clear that his love songs are about men. Frank Ocean declaring that if hip hop has a problem with his bisexuality, that's nothing to do with him. Empire of the Sun's ludicrously flamboyant performances and videos. Conchita Wurst winning Eurovision.

If there are few figures that shine out as bright as Bowie, Prince and George Michael did, it's at least partially because the background of pop culture is so much more colourful now.

That we lost them in 2016 was a coincidence. That we had them at all was a godsend.

– Andrew P. Street
Excerpted from "Bowie, Prince, George Michael:
We've Lost a Triumvirate of Icons
Who Dared to Do Manhood Differently

The Sydney Morning Herald
December 26, 2016

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
David Bowie: Queer Messiah
Remembering Prince, "Fabulous Freak, Defiant Outsider, Dark Dandy" – 1958-2016
Ocean Trip
Quote of the Day – July 7, 2012
With "Around," Russell Elliot Tells It Like It Is

Related Off-site Links:
On the Men Who Rattled Pop's Gender Rules – and What It Means to Lose Them NowNational Public Radio News (December 30, 2016).
How George Michael Became Gay Link Between David Bowie and David Beckham – Mark Simpson (Rolling Stone, December 27, 2016).
Why We’ll Miss Carrie Fisher and George Michael, Both Candid Truth-Tellers – Tim Teeman (The Daily Beast, December 27, 2016).

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas 2016: Reflections and Celebrations

It's a cold and wet Christmas Day here in Minnesota, and although I miss spending this special time of year with my family and friends in Australia, I feel very fortunate to have many wonderful friends here in the U.S. with whom I'm able to celebrate all that the Christmas season signifies.

I share this evening a few images of some of the celebrations I've been part of, starting with my Winter Solstice/Christmas party of December 18 and continuing through Christmas Eve and today, Christmas Day. (And updated with images from New Year's Eve!) These images are accompanied by some reflections on Christmas – its meaning and significance. I also take this opportunity to wish all my readers a very happy Christmas and all the best for 2017.

Christ's birth reminds us of the eternally new beginnings God offers to humanity. The grand irony is that we do not have to travel far to discover the Light that animated the Magi's quest. We have only to embrace our highest Selves, and realize humanity and divinity have never been separated. This is the cosmic truth heralded by Jesus of Nazareth's physical manifestation – we are all divine expressions of humanity; capable of being vessels full of grace, truth, love, joy, and peace.

May we allow the Incarnation to illumine our minds, and awaken to the reality of the marvelous presence of God in all things.

Phillip Clark
via Facebook
December 25, 2016

Above: The Christmas Hare! . . . The hare, as you may know, is an ancient symbol of both enlightenment and homosexuality. No surprise, then, that it has long been something of a totem animal for me.

I've had this particular hare sculpture for eight years. It was a gift from my brother and sister-in-law when they visited me from London (where they where then living with my four nephews) in the summer of 2008. It's usually kept inside, though it's also "lived" for periods of time outside in the garden (see, for instance, here, and the photo at right, which was taken in late November).

On the evening of Sunday, December 18 my good friend and housemate Tim and I hosted our annual Winter Solstice/Christmas party.

Pictured with me above are my friends (from left): Pete, Omar, and Raul. I'm wearing a Buffy Sainte-Marie concert tour t-shirt. I was fortunate enough to see Buffy twice in concert this past summer.

Above: My friend Lisa, holding little Amelia, the daughter of my friends Curtis and Liana – December 18, 2016.

And, yes, that's my Christmas tree. Isn't it something? For my 2014 reflection on how the Christmas tree can serve as an icon, inviting us to contemplate the "One Holy Circle" of both dark and light, click here.

Above: Omar, Brent, Pete and Kathleen – December 18, 2016.

Right: Brent and Kathy.

Above: Joan, John, George and Raul – December 18, 2016.

Above: With my friends Brent and Lisa Vanderlinden. For many years, up until 2015, I served with Brent and Lisa on the board of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (which from 2011-2013 also operated as Catholics for Marriage EqualityMN). CPCSM officially disbanded earlier this year.

Right: The other Brent at my party is the handsome man I've been very fortunate to have been in a dating relationship for over a year now.

Above: Omar, Brent, Javier and Raul.

Left: Amelia loves the piano!

Above: My friend and housemate Tim (second from left) with his girlfriend Colleen and our friends Joan and Matt.

You may recall that my friend Joan accompanied me on a visit back to Australia last year.

Above: Friends (from left) John, Omar, John and George.

Above: Friends Kathleen and Joan – Saturday, December 18, 2016.

The holidays are a time of spiritual preparation, if we allow them to be. We’re preparing for the birth of our possible selves, the event with which we have been psychologically pregnant all our lives. And the labor doesn’t happen in our fancy places; there is never “room in the inn,” or room in the intellect, for the birth of our authentic selves. That happens in the manger of our most humble places, with lots of angels, i.e. thoughts of God, all around.

Something happens in that quiet place, where we’re simply alone and listening to nothing but our hearts. It’s not loneliness, that aloneness. It’s rather the solitude of the soul, where we are grounded more deeply in our own internal depths. Then, having connected more deeply to God, we’re able to connect more deeply with each other. Our connection to the divine unlocks our connection to the universe.

According to the mystical tradition, Christ is born into the world through each of us. As we open our hearts, he is born into the world. As we choose to forgive, he is born into the world. As we rise to the occasion, he is born into the world. As we make our hearts true conduits for love, and our minds true conduits for higher thoughts, then absolutely a divine birth takes place. Who we’re capable of being emerges into the world, and weaknesses of the former self begin to fade. Thus are the spiritual mysteries of the universe, the constant process of dying to who we used to be as we actualize our divine potential.

. . . [T]his is the season when we consider the possibility that we could achieve a higher state of consciousness, not just sometimes but all the time. We consider that there has been one – and the mystical tradition says there have also been others – who so embodied his own divine spark that he is now as an elder brother to us, assigned the task of helping the rest of us do the same. [He] doesn’t have anything we don’t have; he simply doesn’t have anything else. He is in a state that is still potential in the rest of us. The image of Jesus has been so perverted, so twisted by institutions claiming to represent him. As it’s stated in [the book] The Course of Miracles, “Some bitter idols have been made of him who came only to be brother to the world.” But beyond the mythmaking, doctrine and dogma, he is a magnificent spiritual force. And one doesn’t have to be Christian to appreciate that fact, or to fall on our knees with praise and thanks at the realization of its meaning. Jesus gives to Christmas its spiritual intensity, hidden behind the ego’s lure into all the wild and cacophonous sounds of the season. Beyond the nativity scenes, beyond the doctrinal hoopla, lies one important thing: the hope that we might yet become, while still on this earth, who we truly are.

Then we, and the entire world, will know peace.

Marianne Williamson
Excerpted from "Christmas for Mystics"
The Huffington Post

Above: A view of my Christmas tree from the wintry front yard.

Right: Inside by the Christmas tree with my friend Kyle – Monday, December 19, 2016.

On the evening of Friday, December 23, my good friends John and Noelle invited me to be part of their family's annual Christmas tree decorating ritual.

Above: John and Noelle's eldest daughter Liana holding her daughter Amelia – Friday, December 23, 2016.

Above: John and Noelle's second daughter Alicia and her husband Scott – December 23, 2016.

Above: My friend Phil (John and Noelle's son) with his niece Amelia.

Above: Amelia with her Uncle Scott.

Above and below: Two delightful photos of Amelia with her two uncles.

Above (from left): Noelle, John, Phil, Scott and Alicia – December 23, 2016.

Above: Friends Jackie and Benjamin, pictured at the home of our mutual friends John and Noelle – Christmas Day 2016.

Above: With my friend John on Christmas Day.

As a Quaker who believes that “there is that of God in everyone,” I know I’m called to share in the risk of incarnation. Amid the world’s dangers, I’m asked to embody my values and beliefs, my identity and integrity, to allow good words to take flesh in me. Constrained by fear, I often fall short – yet I still aspire to incarnate words of life, however imperfectly.

Christmas is a reminder that I’m invited to be born again and again in the shape of my God-given self, born in all the vulnerability of the Christmas story. It’s a story that’s hard to retrieve in a culture that commercializes this holy day nearly to death, and in churches more drawn to triumphalism and ecclesiastical bling than to the riskiness of the real thing. But the story’s simple meaning is clear to “beginner’s mind,” a mind I long to reclaim at age seventy-five.

An infant in a manger is as vulnerable as we get. What an infant needs is not theological debate but nurturing. The same is true of all the good words seeded in our souls that cry out to become embodied in this broken world. If these vulnerable but powerful parts of ourselves are to find the courage to take on flesh – to suffer yet survive and thrive, transforming our lives along with the life of the world – they need the shelter of unconditional love.

For those of us who celebrate Christmas, the best gift we can others — whatever their faith or philosophy may be – is a simple question asked with heartfelt intent: What good words wait to be born in us, and how can we love one another in ways that midwife their incarnation?

Parker Palmer
Excerpted from "The Risk of Incarnation"
On Being
December 24, 2014

Above: Friends Omar and Kyle – Thursday, December 22, 2016.

Right: With Brent – December 22, 2016.

Let us be at peace with our bodies and our minds.
Let us return to ourselves and become wholly ourselves.
Let us be aware of the source of being,
common to us all and to all living things.
Evoking the presence of the Great Compassion,
let us fill our hearts with our own compassion –
towards ourselves and towards all living beings.
Let us pray that we ourselves cease to be
the cause of suffering to each other.
With humility, with awareness of the existence of life,
and of the sufferings that are going on around us,
let us practice the establishment of peace
in our hearts and on earth.

On Christmas eve I attended a lovely lunch hosted my my dear friend Ken and Carol.

Above (from left): Sue Ann, Tom, Carrie, Carol, Kathleen and Ken.

Left: With my friend Sue Ann – December 24, 2016.

Above: At left with (from left) Carrie, Oscar, Paul, Kathleen and Cass -- December 24, 2016.

Above: Christmas eve dinner with friends Joan and Matt.

Above: My friend Pete on Christmas morning. He braved the icy conditions to come to my home to share breakfast with me! The colorful cushion, decorated with the embroidered image of two male fallow deer, was my Christmas gift to him.

Together we prepared a hearty breakfast, drank mimosas, and enjoyed Loreena McKennitt's To Drive the Cold Winter Away.

Christmas is where Christianity begins, and, as Søren Kierkegaard observes, it is rife with the strange and unexpected. Optimally, then, it should serve Christians as a time to mine tradition and practice not for their most tired applications, but for those that are unexpected and those that lead us in our pursuit of the unexpected.

There is, after all, something revolutionary in Christianity – a tendency to upend, reverse, and radically transform. In Mary’s Magnificat, the song of praise she offers at her meeting with her cousin Elizabeth, she proclaims, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant [. . .] He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” This list of upsets issues from the mouth of a peasant girl who has been promoted to an almost unimaginable status. That the radical reversals of Christmas are enumerated to us by a young woman of no particular social standing is itself an incredible bit of turnabout.

The revolutionary character of Christianity is usually washed out and mostly confined to specific political moments when it’s useful to refer to it. But this selectivity, too, should be upended. Christianity is at all times concerned with the poorest, the most vulnerable, the most oppressed; it is permanently interested in reversing this order, in aiming at and accomplishing the unexpected. Christmas, the moment when time is invaded by eternity, is the moment when the reversal of all oppression becomes not possible but necessary. The unlikeliest upsets of order become, in the moment of Christmas, the beginning of Christianity itself, and remain essential to its character.

There is no Christianity, therefore, that is not revolutionary. It is possible to construe Christmas as another one of those soothingly cozy Christian celebrations, but it is more accurate to construe it as a call to revolution. From this moment on, nothing of the old order can be left intact: Christ has come to uplift the poor and bruised, and his example is Christianity’s command.

– Elizabeth Stoker-Bruenig
Excerpted from "An Unexpected Revolution"
Democratic Socialists of America
December 24, 2014

UPDATE: Pictured above are my friends Liana and Curtis, with whom Brent and I shared a lovely New Years Eve meal at the Good Earth in Roseville, MN.

Seeing the New Year in with (above, from left) John, Matt, Joan, Ian, and George . . .

. . . and (at left) with Brent.

Above: Our New Year's Eve party hosts, John and George.

Above: Cesar, Matt, Joan, and Kurt.

Above: Matt, John, and Stephanie.

Above: Our wishes for 2017.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Christmas 2015: Reflections and Celebrations
Christmas 2014: Reflections and Celebrations
Celebrating the Coming of the Sun and the Son
Christmastide Approaches
The Christmas Tree as Icon, Inviting Us to Contemplate the "One Holy Circle" of Both Dark and Light
Quote of the Day – December 1, 2014
Something to Cherish (2012)
A Christmas Message of Hope . . . from Uganda (2011)
Quote of the Day – December 26, 2010
Christmas in Australia (2010)
John Dear on Celebrating the Birth of the Nonviolent Jesus
A Bush Christmas (2009)
A Story of Searching and Discovery
The Christmas Truce of 1914
Clarity and Hope: A Christmas Reflection (2007)
An Australian Christmas (2006)
A Christmas Reflection by James Carroll

Images: Michael J. Bayly and friends.