Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Saying Farewell to 2019 in a Spirit of Gratitude

This past year has been a rather momentous one for me, with many changes, including some deep and very personal losses . . . along with a number of new beginnings.

As 2019 ebbs, I want to acknowledge and honor all of this . . . but in a way that manifests a spirit of gratitude.

I could lament my losses and wallow in the heaviness of much of what I've been through this year, but instead I want to shift my perspective and look upon these important events with an eye to how I've grown from them and the things about them that I am grateful for.

In her book Tears to Triumph: The Spiritual Journey from Suffering to Enlightenment, Marianne Williamson reminds us that a very elemental way of understanding a miracle is as a change in perspective. I like that.

And so with all of this in mind (and heart), here are the important and challenging events of my life this year miraculously remembered in a spirit of love and gratitude.


I am grateful for my Dad

My dear father, Gordon James Bayly, died on August 5, 2019. Although I wasn't in my homeland of Australia to be with him when he passed, I am so very grateful that I spent five weeks with him and Mum and other members of my family two months earlier. That was a very special time. And when I left to return to the U.S., I sensed that because of Dad's declining health, it was possible that I would not see him again in this world. The time I spent with family and friends two months later in August, remembering and celebrating Dad's life, was also incredibly rich and meaningful. And it brought home to me in a new way just how fortunate my brothers and I were to have Gordon Bayly as our father. He was a man of integrity, compassion, and selfless service to others. We experienced and witnessed these qualities growing up in our hometown of Gunnedah, and they continue to inspire and shape us in ways that well serve us and the world. Thanks, Dad!

I am grateful for my work

Since January 1 I've worked full-time as the Palliative Care interfaith chaplain at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids, MN. It's incredibly meaningful and thus rewarding work, but also very challenging and emotionally draining. I am, after all, with people who are experiencing great challenge, change, loss, and upheaval in their lives and/or the lives of someone they love. I don't enter into the space of such lives to “fix” things, or to provide the “right” answers. And I certainly don't try to convert anyone to a particular way of religious thinking. Rather, I see my work as a chaplain (or spiritual health provider, as I sometimes like to say) as being all about embodying a grounded, compassionate, and listening presence. Such embodiment invites both myself and others to go within and seek, discern, and give voice to our deepest truths and/or to search for new truths in light of situations that may challenge us with honest doubts and new questions relating to faith and meaning-making in our lives. It is holy work, to be sure. And I often find myself amazed when, in retrospect, I realize that all the different aspects of my life have served to bring me to a level of consciousness and compassion whereby people tell me that they see the work of chaplaincy and end-of-life care as a “natural” fit for me. For this, too, I am grateful.

I am grateful for the ways I have chosen to respond to challenges and changes in my personal/relational life

In October I ended a four-year relationship, in large part because I no longer felt I was desiring to bring my whole self to it. I also felt that in some important ways, neither was my boyfriend. And I don't believe I'm projecting in saying this. I finally took the initiative, after months of hesitation, and ended the relationship; or better still, chose to name it for what it had become: a friendship. And we continue to be friends; friends that care for one another very much.

And then there were those other movements and desires of my heart, ones that flowed to another who remains to this day incapable of being for me what I long for him to be. In this situation there was projection on my part. I recognize that; recognize that I fell in love with a vision of a man of my own making; a vision that didn't and couldn't actually exist. And yet I could have gone there; could have used him, as, on one level, he was willing to be used . . . and willing to use me. Such a great temptation, such a sweet invitation. . . . One that I declined, walked away from. Truth be told, when I think of him I can still feel a surge of desire . . . and a profound sense of regret. And yet when I make the effort to intentionally center myself in Divine Love, as I often seek to do now, I know I did the loving thing – for both of us. And for that I'm grateful.

I am grateful for the ways that love is being politicized in the presidential campaign of Marianne Williamson

In this toxic era of Donald Trump, with all its lies and violence and inhumanity, I am heartened by the crop of presidential candidates that has risen up to challenge all that this era represents. I have friends supporting Pete Buttigieg, a good friend all in for Amy Klobuchar, another for Elizabeth Warren, and lots of people I know who are dedicated to Bernie Sanders. However, the candidate that inspires and energizes me most is author Marianne Williamson. She and her campaign are all about recognizing the need to embody our deepest democratic and humanitarian ideals and thus a politicized love, the only thing, she maintains, that can defeat the politicized fear and hate of Trump. Such an insightful call to action brings to mind commentator Greg Korn's contention that “Marianne Williamson has a rare ability to articulate the ethics of the Left in an approachable, graceful, confident, and wildly intelligent way. I truly believe that she's the most intellectually and philosophically sophisticated candidate I've seen in my lifetime.” I do too. Which is why as long as she's in the race, I'll be supporting her and sharing her message. And so, yes, for who Marianne is and for all she says and does in seeking to be the Democratic party's nominee for president, I am grateful.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
This Is the Time
Balancing the Fire
Out and About – Autumn 2019
Out and About – Spring & Summer 2019
Out and About – Winter 2018-2019
Winter . . . Within and Beyond

Related Off-site Links:
10 Good Things About 2019 – Medea Benjamin (Common Dreams, December 31, 2019).
2019 in Review: Ten Illustrations That Sum Up the YearThe Economist (December 30, 2019).

Monday, December 30, 2019

In Australia, “the Land As We Know It Is No More”

Writes Andy Rowell . . .

My heart is bleeding. My heart is angry. As 2019 draws to an end, Australia is on fire. The country is burning. Homes are being destroyed. And brave volunteer fire-fighters are dying.

. . . For weeks, Australia has been suffering from excessive temperatures. For weeks, Sydney has been choking on a toxic soup of air pollution caused by the fires. Temperatures have been hitting record after record. The iconic Blue Mountains are scorched red and blackened. The land as we know it is no more.

The crisis is mounting with experts predicting the country could see 50 C temperatures – over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. . . . [And] as the earth bakes, the sea boils, leading to large numbers of fish being killed.

. . . Whereas [so many of our] young are climate heroes, Australia’s Prime Minister [Scott Morrison] is a coward, a climate denier who loves coal.

This has to change. Everything has to change. Do not get me wrong: much progress has been made fighting our climate emergency. Renewables have been making leaps and bounds. Coal is slowly heading for the history books. But despite the good news, we are still currently heading for 3 degrees C warming under a business-as-usual scenario – put another way, we are heading for a climate catastrophe. We have lost much of this decade to the deniers like Scott Morrison, but this cannot continue.

So we have to act. The next decade will define our collective future. We better not waste it. We have no time to waste. For we have wasted too much time already.

– Andy Rowell
Excerpted from Decades of Denial Have to End:
We Need Radical Climate Leadership in 2020

Common Dreams
December 30, 2019

Related Off-site Links:
Yes, Australia Has Always Had Bushfires: But 2019 Is Like Nothing We've Seen Before – Adam Morton (The Guardian, December 24, 2019).
Nearly 500 Million Animals Killed in Australian Bushfires, Experts Fear – Harriet Brewis (Evening Standard, December 28, 2019).
“Never Seen That Before”: Birds Falling Dead from Trees – Brooke Rolfe (Yahoo News Australia, December 22, 2019).
Thick Bushfire Smoke Blankets Sydney, Causing Air Pollution to Rise 11 Times Above “Hazardous” Levels – Bianca Britton (CNN, December 10, 2019).
We Are a Burning Nation Led by Cowards – Hugh Riminton (10 Daily, November 18, 2019).
Scott Morrison and the Big Lie About Climate Change: Does He Think We're That Stupid? – Richard Flanagan (The Guardian, November 24, 2019).
Climate Denialism Is Bought and Paid for by a Rotten Political System – Bernard Keane (Crikey, November 18, 2019).
2019 Was the Year the World Burned – Laura Paddison (The Huffington Post, December 27, 2019).
Global Warming, Overpopulation and Social Inequality: Three Legs of Climate Crisis Monster – Gilbert Mercier (News Junkie Post, December 28, 2019).
Nature Will Have the Last Word on the Climate Crisis – John Gibbons (The Irish Times, December 30, 2019).
The Bushfires in Australia Are So Big They're Generating Their Own Weather — “Pyrocumulonimbus” Thunderstorms That Can Start More Fires – Jim Edwards (Insider, December 30, 2019).
Australia’s Hellish Heat Wave and Wildfires, Explained – Umair Irfan (Vox, December 30, 2019).
“Unprecedented National Crisis”: Australians Flee to the Water as Fires Consume Coastal Town on Southern Coast in Victoria – Eoin Higgins (Common Dreams, December 30, 2019).
Thousands Flee to the Ocean to Escape Australian WildfiresDemocracy Now! (December 31, 2019).
Australia’s Angry Summer: This Is What Climate Change Looks Like – Nerilie Abram (Scientific America, December 31, 2019).
Global Apathy Toward the Fires in Australia Is a Scary Portent for the Future – David Wallace-Wells (New York Magazine, December 31, 2019).
The Tragedy of Two Australias: A Lament for New Year’s Eve – Danielle Celermajer (ABC Religion and Ethics, December 31, 2019).
We Spoke to 5 Climate Experts About What Gives Them Hope – Kyla Mandel (The Huffington Post, December 26, 2019).

UPDATES: Australian Bushfires: Extraordinary Satellite Images Show Devastating SceneSydney News and Life (January 1, 2020).
Australia Burns: Fireworks, Bush Fires and Denial – Binoy Kampmark (The Australian Independent Media Network, January 1, 2020).
Australia, Your Country Is Burning – Dangerous Climate Change Is Here With You Now – Michael Mann (The Guardian, January 1, 2020).
Call for Royal Commission into Australia's Bushfires as Government Urged to Tackle “Root Cause”SBS News (January 1, 2020).
2019 Was Australia's Hottest and Driest Year on Record – Kate Doyle (ABC Weather, January 1, 2020).
Australia Fires Create Plume of Smoke Wider Than Europe as Humanitarian Crisis Looms – Jane Dalton (MSN News, January 1, 2020).
Australia Fires: Race to Evacuate Thousands Before Conditions Worsen – Rebecca Falconer (Axios, January 2, 2020).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Greta Thunberg: Quote of the Day – September 23, 2019
Five Powerful Responses to the Amazon Fires
Greta Thunberg: Quote of the Day – March 16, 2019
As the World Burns, Calls for a “Green New Deal”
Marianne Williamson: Quote of the Day – August 29, 2017
The People's Climate Solidarity March – Minneapolis, 4/29/17
Earth Day 2017
“It Is All Connected”
Standing Together
Standing in Prayer and Solidarity with the Water Protectors of Standing Rock
Prayer of the Week – April 24, 2017
Earth Day 2015
Rachel Smolker: Quote of the Day – September 19, 2014
Something to Think About – April 22, 2014
The Paris Climate Talks, Multilateralism, and a “New Approach to Climate Action”
Superstorm Sandy: A “Wake-Up Call” on Climate Change
Chris Hedges: Quote of the Day – May 31, 2011

Images: Photographers unknown.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Let Us Be the Wise Ones They're Waiting For

– “Waiting for the Wise Men”
by Lee Kaercher (2019)

My post today on the Feast of the Holy Family opens with Lee Kaercher's painting, “Waiting for the Wise Men.” It depicts Mary and Joseph on one side of a concrete border barrier topped with barbed wire, while on the other side a young Jesus sits alone.

As I'm sure you'll agree, Kaercher has created a disturbingly powerful work of art, one that clearly speaks to the Trump administration's inhumane policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the southern border. In the latest count, the total number of children separated since July 2017 is more than 5,400. I'm thinking that Kaercher is calling all of us as people of conscience and compassion to be “the wise men” and women that the holy families of today are waiting for to help put a stop to their cruel treatment at the border. Will we be modern-day magi and bring to bear on the fate of these holy families our gifts of empathy, compassion, and conscientious action?

At the very least we can speak out, as many have done and continue to do. For instance, Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin, TX and Chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration, issued the following statement in June of 2018.

Forcibly separating children from their mothers and fathers is ineffective to the goals of deterrence and safety and contrary to our Catholic values. Family unity is a cornerstone of our American immigration system and a foundational element of Catholic teaching. “Children are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward.” (Psalm 127:3) Children are not instruments of deterrence but a blessing from God.

Rupturing the bond between parent and child causes scientifically-proven trauma that often leads to irreparable emotional scarring. Accordingly, children should always be placed in the least restrictive setting: a safe, family environment, ideally with their own families.

And finally, here are the thoughts of Joyce Rupp, O.S.M. on this year's feast of the Holy Family.

Matthew's Gospel relates the harrowing story of how Mary, Joseph, and the child Jesus got up in the night and hurried out of the country. Mary and Joseph acted so that their child would not be murdered. They ran toward a land that offered them safety. What frantic concern and sadness must have filled their minds and hearts as they journeyed away from home and into the bleak night.

Similar situations continue today as countless families flee homelands due to persecution, violence, and other life-threatening conditions. As with Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, they leave behind relatives, language, culture, and the familiar surroundings that hold their history.

No matter how we feel and believe regarding the politics surrounding those who cross borders into foreign lands, let us have empathy for what they are going through, extend compassion, and pray for those struggling families who long for security.

Related Off-site Links:
Tally of Children Split at Border Tops 5,400 in New Count – Elliot Spagat (Associated Press via PBS Newshour, October 25, 2019).
Pope Francis Condemns Migrant Detention Camps in Christmas Day AddressDemocracy Now! (December 26, 2019).
Were Jesus, Mary and Joseph Refugees? Yes – James Martin, S.J. (America, December 27, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Demanding Justice and Embodying Compassion for Separated Families (2019)
“What We're Seeing Here Is a Tipping Point” (2018)
Opposing the Trump Administration's Inhumane Treatment of Immigrant Families (2018)
2000+ Take to the Streets of Minneapolis to Express Solidarity with Immigrants and Refugees (2017)
Honoring Óscar and Valeria
Historian: Trump's Immigration Ban is a "Shock Event" Orchestrated by Steve Bannon to Destabilize and Distract
Jeremy Scahill on the Historical Context of the Trump Administration's "Pathologically Sick" Anti-Immigrant Agenda
Marianne Williamson: “Today Is a Day of Shame”
Something to Think About – June 14, 2018
Something to Think About – June 20, 2018
Something to Think About – November 27, 2018
Quote of the Day – February 27, 2017
Celebrating the Presence of God Within All Families
Why This Gay Man Takes Heart from the Feast of the Holy Family
A Prayer for Refugees

Ben Ehrenreich on the Global Uprisings Against Neoliberalism

Before the year ends I want to share author Ben Ehrenrich's informed and insightful take on one of the most significant events of 2019: the ongoing global uprisings against the economic doctrine known as neoliberalism. Ehrenreich shared his perspective in a November 25 article in The Nation magazine. Following is an excerpt.

[Since September] protests have spanned five continents – most of the planet – from wealthy London and Hong Kong to hungry Tegucigalpa and Khartoum. They are so geographically disparate and apparently heterogeneous in cause and composition that I have not yet seen any serious attempt to view them as a unified phenomenon.

. . . The disconnect between elite perception and mass experience [of these protests] is as widespread as it is fundamental: all of the countries recently experiencing popular revolts – and most of the rest of the planet – have for decades been ruled by a single economic model, in which the “growth” celebrated by the pedigreed few means immiseration for the many, and capital streams into American and European accounts as reliably as sewage flows downhill. Chile was a notorious early laboratory: Pinochet’s assassination squads worked in tandem with Chicago-trained economists to create an 'economic miracle' that only the fortunate, the unscrupulous, and the blind were able to appreciate. Should popular mobilizations in Bolivia fail to reverse the November 10 coup, they can expect similar acts of god.

The word gets thrown around a lot these days, but this is what neoliberalism means: a globally applicable method for preserving the current overwhelming imbalance of power. It works microcosmically on a municipal level – think decaying public transit systems with an apparently bottomless budget for racist fare enforcement, while billionaires hop in helicopters from rooftop to rooftop – and macrocosmically on a planetary scale, in which national elites collude with multinational corporations and international financial institutions to keep labor cheap and wealth and resources confined into established channels.

– Ben Ehrenreich
Excerpted from “Welcome to the
Global Rebellion Against Neoliberalism

The Nation
November 25, 2019

Above: An indigenous woman and her child lead a march in Brazil – October 2019. As Anuj Tiwari documents in his December 27, 2019 photo essay, women and girls across the world are at the forefront of movements that are challenging forces opposed to gender equality, economic justice, environmental sustainability, and democratic values.

Related Off-site Links:
Neoliberalism – the Ideology at the Root of All Our Problems – George Monbiot (The Guardian, April 15, 2016).
The Collapse of Neoliberalism – Ganesh Sitaraman (The New Republic, December 23, 2019).
How the Neoliberal Story Infected the World and Strangled Our Economies – Kate Raworth (Evonomics, December 28, 2019).
We Must Overcome Our Atomization to Beat Back Neoliberal Fascism – Henry A. Giroux (TruthOut, December 6, 2019).
If You Look Behind Neoliberal Economists, You’ll Discover the Rich: How Economic Theories Serve Big Business – Dániel Oláh (Evonomics, October 29, 2017).
Seven Ways to Transform 21st-Century Economics – and Economists – Kate Raworth (Evonomics, May 6, 2017).
36 Powerful Images Of Women Protesters Leading From The Front Across The World – Anuj Tiwari (India Times, December 29, 2019).
We Cannot Indulge in the Luxury of Despair. We Need to Engage in the Hard Work of Hope – John Falzon (The Guardian, December 27, 2019).
Only Rebellion Will Prevent an Ecological Apocalypse – George Monbiot (The Guardian, April 15, 2019).
After Neoliberalism – Ganesh Sitaraman (The Nation, December 24, 2019).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Balancing the Fire
Hope in the Midst of Collapse
The End of the World As We Know It . . . and the Beginning As We Live It
See the World!
As the Last Walls Dissolve . . . Everything is Possible
Threshold Musings
The War Racket
Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Medicine Songs
Move Us, Loving God
Andrew Harvey on Radical, Divine Passion in Action
Marianne Williamson: Quote of the Day – June 28, 2017
Making the Connections
The People’s Climate Solidarity March – Minneapolis, 4/29/17
“The Movement of Love and Inclusion Has Just Been Unleashed”
“It Is All Connected”
Presidential Candidate Marianne Williamson: “We’re Living at a Critical Moment in Our Democracy”
This Is the Time
Discerning and Embodying Sacred Presence in Times of Violence and Strife
Thoughts on Prayer in a “Summer of Strife”
Resilience and Hope
Hope, History, and Bernie Sanders

Opening image: The mass mobilization of people in Santiago, Chile – October 2019. The flag at the very top is the indigenous Mapuche flag. (Photo: Susana Hildago)

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Finn and Poe Revisited

You may recall how last year I mused on the possibility of a romance between the characters of Finn and Poe in the Star Wars series of films.

Many people saw the makings of such a relationship in the way the two actors who play Finn and Poe (John Boyega and Oscar Issac respectively) interact with each other onscreen. For instance, in October 2017, shortly after the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Boyega said in an interview that “[Poe] is always looking at [Finn] with love in his eyes, and I guess that the fans saw it.”

Indeed. . . . And many fans were hoping that in the recently-released (and final) film in the saga, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Finn and Poe would be shown to be in a romantic relationship, the first same-sex relationship in the franchise. Alas, it was not to be, as Daniel Welsh explains in the following Huffington Post article.


Star Wars’ Oscar Isaac Blames “Disney Overlords”
for Lack of Romance Between Poe and Finn

By Daniel Welsh

Huffington Post
December 27, 2019

The Rise Of Skywalker actor says he “pushed” for his and John Boyega's characters to “fall in love with each other.”

Star Wars actor Oscar Isaac has claimed that, despite his best efforts, Disney was “not ready” to explore a same-sex relationship in the most recent installment of the saga.

Oscar joined the Star Wars universe as Poe Dameron in 2015’s The Force Awakens, reprising the role in the following two sequels, including the recently-released The Rise Of Skywalker.

Since The Force Awakens was released, one popular fan theory has been the idea that there’s an underlying romance between Poe and John Boyega’s character, Finn, which Oscar has certainly never shied away from.

In a new interview to promote The Rise Of Skywalker, Oscar blamed Disney for the characters’ romance never being made anything more than fan speculation.

Speaking to IGN, Oscar explained: “I think there could’ve been a very interesting, forward-thinking – not even forward-thinking, just, like, current-thinking – love story there, something that hadn’t quite been explored yet; particularly the dynamic between these two men in war that could’ve fallen in love with each other.

“I would try to push it a bit in that direction, but the Disney overlords were not ready to do that.”

The Rise Of Skywalker does feature the Star Wars film franchise’s first explicitly LGBTQ moment, when two women are briefly seen kissing [left].

However, many fans have criticised the fact that the moment is so subtle that some viewers might miss it completely, while the scene has been cut in the version being shown in cinemas in Singapore.


Oh, well. . . . At least in the always entertaining world of fan art the romantic relationship between Finn and Poe is alive and well! (And for more of such fan art, see the previous Wild Reed post, Musings on the Possibility of “FinnPoe”.)

Related Off-site Links:
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Makes History With First Same-Sex Kiss – Katie Kilkenny (The Hollywood Reporter, December 18, 2019).
Why That Star Wars Kiss Is a Step Back for LGBTQ Representation – Shannon O'Connor (The Hollywood Reporter, December 20, 2019).
The Rise of Skywalker LGBT Representation Lasts for Two Whole SecondsGayming (December 17, 2019).
Bad News FinnPoe Fans – Star Wars Actor Oscar Isaac Says He Won’t Be Teaming Up With John Boyega for a Spin-off Series – Will Richards (NME, December 20, 2019).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Musings on the Possibility of “FinnPoe”
Resisting the Hand of the Empire
One Divine Hammer
What the Vatican Can Learn from the X-Men
The New Superman: Not Necessarily Gay, But Definitely Queer
Adam Sandel on the Queer Appeal of Harry Potter
Queer Black Panther

Friday, December 27, 2019

Something to Think About . . .

There is a place where self-awareness becomes self-preoccupation if you don't take what you have discovered and bring it to bear on the conditions of the world. There is a point at which we begin to receive a diminishing return on the accumulation of sacred knowledge unless we use it to at least try to improve the world.

Related Off-site Links:
Holistic Politics: A Conversation with Marianne Williamson – Scott London (1999).
The U.S. Should Listen to Presidential Candidate Marianne Williamson – Olivier Loose (The Brussels Times, December 17, 2019).
The Gospel According to Marianne Williamson – Taffy Brodesser-Akner (The New York Times via Marianne2020.com, September 3, 2019).
Marianne 2020 – The official Marianne Williamson for President website.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Relevance and Vitality of Marianne Williamson’s 2020 Presidential Campaign
Quote of the Day – December 14, 2019
Marianne Williamson and the Power of Politicized Love
Marianne Williamson: “Anything That Will Help People Thrive, I’m Interested In”
Quote of the Day – November 4, 2019
Quote of the Day – November 11, 2019
Something to Think About (and Embody!)
“This Woman Is Going to Win the Nomination”: Matt Taibbi on Marianne Williamson in Iowa
Marianne Williamson On What It Will Take to Defeat Donald Trump
Caitlin Johnstone: “Status Quo Politicians Are Infinitely ‘Weirder’ Than Marianne Williamson”
Presidential Candidate Marianne Williamson: “We’re Living at a Critical Moment in Our Democracy”
Friar André Maria: Quote of the Day – June 28, 2019
Marianne Williamson Plans on Sharing Some “Big Truths” on Tonight's Debate Stage
Sometimes You Just Have to Take Matters Into Your Own Hands . . .
“A Lefty With Soul”: Why Presidential Candidate Marianne Williamson Deserves Some Serious Attention
Marianne Williamson: Reaching for Higher Ground
Marianne Williamson: Quote of the Day – April 24, 2019
Why Marianne Williamson Is a Serious and Credible Presidential Candidate
Talkin’ ’Bout An Evolution: Marianne Williamson’s Presidential Bid
Marianne Williamson: Quote of the Day – November 5, 2018
In the Garden of Spirituality – Marianne Williamson
Marianne Williamson: Quote of the Day – August 29, 2017

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

The Joy of Christmas

[The Divine Source of all that is] did not merely assume a human body and soul [in Jesus]; [It] assumed the actual human condition in its entirety, including the instinctual needs of human nature and the cultural conditioning of [a certain] time. [By emerging within] the human condition [in this way, the sacred through Jesus] introduced into the entire human family the principle of transcendence, giving the evolutionary process a decisive thrust toward God-consciousness. [God in Jesus gave all the power] to know their Divine Source.

The joy of Christmas is the intuition that all limitations to growth into higher states of consciousness have been overcome. The Divine Light cuts across all darkness, prejudice, preconceived ideas, prepackaged values, false expectations, phoniness and hypocrisy. It presents us with the truth. To act out of the truth is to make Christ [i.e., Divine Love] grow not only in ourselves, but in others. The humdrum duties and events of daily life become sacramental, shot through with eternal implications.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Christmas 2018 – Reflections and Celebrations
Christmas in America, 2018
Christmas 2017 – Reflections and Celebrations
Christmas 2016 – Reflections and Celebrations
Christmas 2015 – Reflections and Celebrations
Christmas 2014 – Reflections and Celebrations
Celebrating the Coming of the Sun and the Son
Christmastide Approaches
No Room for Them
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

Image: Mauna Nada (2018).

Monday, December 23, 2019

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Winter Solstice Blessing


Related Off-site Links:
Winter Solstice 2019: 10 Things to Know About the Shortest Day of the Year – Brian Resnick and Brad Plumer (Vox, December 18, 2019).
Magic of Newgrange at Winter Solstice Never Fails to Astound – Kate Hickey (Irish Central, December 21, 2019).
The Winter Solstice: Time to Celebrate Yourself – Iman MacKenzie (Brig Newspaper, December 15, 2017)., December 21, 2019).
The Winter Solstice Begins a Season of Storytelling and Ceremony – Dennis Zotigh (Smithsonian Magazine, December 9, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Brigit Anna McNeill on the Meaning of Winter Solstice Time
Reclaiming the “Hour of God”
Celebrating the Coming of the Sun and the Son
Christmastide Approaches

Out and About – Autumn 2019

Before the winter solstice takes place later this evening I thought I'd take the opportunity to look back at the season of autumn that is soon to pass.

I must admit it's been a rather somber season for me. After all, it has followed a number of momentous events and endings in my life, many of which took place in the spring and summer.

All of which means that I continue to find myself in a place and time when, more than anything, I'm feeling very thoughtful and a little sad.

And I'm okay with that. After all, it's understandable and appropriate. I have, as I mentioned, experienced a number of endings. But also a number of beginnings. . . . and a very real sense that, as Senegalese singer-songwriter Daby Touré sings, this is the time.

I feel it deep within me. . . . Feel that it is not only a time of new beginnings but also of new understandings, new possibilities, a new level of awareness and action.

And I'm not just talking about within my personal life. I'm sure everyone reading this knows that the whole of humanity is currently being challenged by things like the climate crisis and the rise of right-wing authoritarianism. Such things can be paralyzing for some, but I see them as challenging us to evolve our way of being in the world so that we become embodiments of “higher love.”

Is it any wonder, then, that I'm so drawn to the presidential campaign of spiritual author Marianne Williamson. . . . I mean, Marianne and her campaign are all about recognizing the need to embody this higher love in and through our lives, and thus our politics, so as to go beyond the symptoms and address and transform the underlying problems that are causing so much harm in our lives and throughout the United States.

As Marianne said on The Conversation in October:

We need to do some radical truth-telling here. It can't just be a policy fix here and a policy fix there. It can't just be talking about the symptoms. We have to present to the American people a far more holistic, integrated vision of a real fundamental turning – a turning of the heart.

And elsewhere:

The hope for this country lies in the embrace of a politics that does not flow like bile from the power of an amoral economic system, but from the power of deep humanitarian principles at the core of our democracy. This speaks not just to changes in Washington but to changes in our hearts as well. These are spiritually revolutionary times. Rehearsal is over. The time of change is now.

Such an insightful call to action brings to mind Greg Korn's recent YouTube comment: “Marianne Williamson has a rare ability to articulate the ethics of the Left in an approachable, graceful, confident, and wildly intelligent way. I truly believe that she's the most intellectually and philosophically sophisticated candidate I've seen in my lifetime.”

I do too. Which is why as long as she's in the race, I'll be supporting her and sharing her message. And as you'll see, I've been doing so in some very visible ways this autumn as I've been out and about!

Which is a good way to segue into an explanation of this series. Regular readers will know that my "Out and About" series has long been a way of documenting my life as an “out” gay man, seeking to be all “about” the Spirit-inspired work of embodying God’s justice and compassion in both my own life and in the wider world. It's a series I've maintained in one form or another for the last 12 years – starting in 2007 and continuing in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.

So let's get started with this latest installment . . .

Above: My good friend (or "mate" as we like to call each other) Deadre – October 26, 2019.

Deandre's been a steadfast friend throughout this season of endings and beginnings that I'm experiencing in my life just now. In October and November as I was setting up and settling into my new home in south Minneapolis (right), Deadre was a great help, often staying the night and going that extra mile to be a supportive and caring friend. Thanks, mate!

Above: My statue of Cernunnos [KER-noo-nos], the ancient Celtic archetype (or god) which has helped introduce me to a much broader and inclusive understanding of the "sacred masculine," one that welcomes and celebrates queer incarnations of both masculinity and union with the Sacred.

Above: Deadre, relaxing in my new home, an attic apartment in a triplex in the Seward neighborhood of south Minneapolis. It's a very spacious and airy abode, with a large window in the bedroom that looks out onto two beautiful elm trees.

Throughout autumn and now into winter, I find myself liking nothing better than lighting some candles and either meditating or working on my blog while listening to music (usually Daby Touré, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, Rita Coolidge, Kimi Djabate, Habib Koité, Petula Clark, Gil Scott-Heron, Maxwell, Shirley Bassey, and Carl Anderson).

Above and below: Views of the Seward neighborhood of south Minneapolis. My move here at the end of September felt like coming full circle as Seward is right next to the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, where I lived for three years when I first arrived in Minneapolis 25 years ago!

Above: A view of the nearby Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.

Above: At my desk in the office of the Palliative Care team at Mercy Hospital, Coon Rapids, MN – November 12, 2019.

Since September 2018 I've work as the Palliative Care chaplain at Mercy. It's very meaningful work, though often emotionally draining.

Above: Visiting my dear friend Catherine Jenkins, CSJ – October 12, 2019.

Above: My dear friend Carol Masters, reading from her recently-released collection of poetry, Dear Descendent – October 17, 2019. I'm honored to have one of my photographs grace the book's cover.

Note the publishers, Nodin Press:

In Dear Descendent, Carol Masters draws upon her life as an activist and her love of the natural world to fashion thoughtful overlays and wry juxtapositions that can delight the senses or prick the conscience – often both. A master of metaphor, yet she does't shy away from an occasional grand (and whimsical) metaphysical statement: Everything is Made of Everything. There are prison cells and fields of flowers – even her straightforward descriptions of the moon demonstrate that something new and evocative can still be found in its age-old countenance. Gratitude and grief commingle in her poems about aging and loved ones lost. Topping it all off is an intermittently surreal and sometimes almost crazy freedom in the use of images. In the poem “Fly Ball,” for example, sports, physics, and the Second Coming converge as the sacrifice fly approaches the mitt. (Apollinaire would have approved.) The words flow freely, musically, from the page, ensuring that Masters' voice is one that her descendents – and ours – will want to listen to.

Above: Wearing my “Marianne 2020” cap while taking a walk through the woods by the Mississippi River near my home on October 19, 2019.

For more images from that day, along with a lovely psalm by Edward Hays, click here.

My dear friend Kathleen convened a gathering of friends on the evening of Saturday, October 26 to celebrate my 54th birthday, which took place three days earlier on October 23, 2019. (For my special birthday post, click here.)

Above: At right with (from left) friends Jean, John, and Brent.

Above: Jeffrey, Kathleen, Deandre, and Pete – October 26, 2019.

Above: John, Kathy, and Brent.

Above: Deadre.

Above: Jeffrey, Hae, and Pete – October 26, 2019.

Above: On All Hallows Eve, my friends Brent, Sharon, and Cori and I attended BareBones' 26th Annual Halloween Outdoor Puppet Extravaganza at Hidden Falls Regional Park, on the Mississippi River in Saint Paul.

For more images and commentary, click here.

Above: A photo taken on the grounds of the Christos Center at Lino Lakes, MN – Saturday, November 2, 2019.

Here I participated in an outdoors evening retreat entitled “Tending the Flame.” This retreat was a timely and fascinating exploration of Celtic spirituality. I say timely because it took place at around the time of Samhain (October 31), the Celtic New Year.

For a reflection I wrote inspired in part by this retreat, click here.

On the evening of Sunday, November 17, I was the guest of my buddy Raul to the World of Dance Live Show at the State Theater in downtown Minneapolis. And what a great live show it was! Thanks, Raul!

Above and left: The Kings, a hip-hop dance crew from Mumbai, were quite something! 😄

Above: The dance trope known as Unity LA – November 17, 2019.

Earlier that day my friends Joan and Matt hosted a lovely fall brunch at their home in Mendota Heights, MN.

Above: George, Brent, Joan, John, Ian, and Kurt – Sunday, November 17, 2019.

Above: At right with (from left) George and Kurt.

Above: Cree, John, Zach, and Omar – November 17, 2019.

Above: Doing my bit to get the word out about Marianne 2020!

Above and left: Celebrating Polly Mann's 100th birthday – Saturday, November 23, 2019.

Polly is a longtime justice and peace activist and co-founder of Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) – a non-profit organization dedicated to dismantling systems of militarism and global oppression, and one of the most active and influential justice and peace groups in the Midwest. She’s been described as a “relentless speaker of truth to power.”

Polly’s also a very dear friend of mine and a great inspiration for my own efforts in making a positive difference in the world. Thank you, Polly . . . and Happy 100th Birthday!

For more images of Polly's very special birthday celebration click here.

Above: My neighborhood after the first snowstorm of the season – November 27, 2019.

For more images, click here.

Above: Friends Phil and Dee – November 28, 2019.

On the evening of December 16 I was invited to help friends in St. Paul decorate their Christmas tree!

Above: Noelle, Amelia, Dee, John, Phil, and (in the foreground) Liana.

Left: Amelia, having a great time decorating the tree!

NEXT: Out and About – Winter 2019-2020

Autumn 2019 Wild Reed posts of note:
Autumn's “Wordless Message”
Queer Black Panther
Progressive Perspectives on Corruption in U.S. Politics
The Relevance and Vitality of Marianne Williamson’s 2020 Presidential Campaign
A Prayer for a Changed Relationship
The Sweetness and the Sorrow
Arthur Kleinman on the “Soul of Care”
This Is the Time
Autumn Psalm
Resilience and Hope
Balancing the Fire
“This Autumn Land is Dreaming”
Happy Birthday, Petula!
Marianne Williamson: “Anything That Will Help People Thrive, I’m Interested In”
Walking Away
Celebrating Polly Mann's 100th Birthday
After the Season's First Snowstorm, a Walk Through the Neighborhood
Carl Anderson: “Like a Song in the Night”
Remembering Fred Hampton
Marianne Williamson and the Power of Politicized Love
Quotes of Note Regarding the Impeachment of President Trump

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Out and About – Spring & Summer 2019
Out and About – Winter 2018-2019
Out and About – Autumn 2018

Images: Michael J. Bayly.