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Equinox full moon rising behind the haze in New Mexico.
Photo by my friend Trudie Barreras. Used by permisson.

On this week’s 50th anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing, I invite us to consider, what are we—you and I—putting “out there” in the universe?

Week before last Wade and I were fascinated watching The Farthest, a documentary about Voyager I and II, still travelling through interstellar space with a “golden record” intended to depict earth and its inhabitants to extraterrestrial sentient beings. It’s amazingly diverse—amazing given the seeming narrowness of our vision these days. It includes audio greetings in more than 50 languages and pictures of numerous plants, animals, places and actions to give the recipient a sense of life on Earth.

And I thought of each of us, what would our golden records be? What would we put out into the universe to represent our individual and communal lives? How would we summarize our life experience in images and words, tastes and aromas, touches and sounds, thoughts and feelings?

I considered St. Ignatius’s self Examen as a possible process to choose what best represents our individual experiences and choices, particularly Jesuit Anthony de Mello’s accessible Testament. Briefer still is my adaptation of his effort for a contemplative retreat, which I share with you in hopes you find these prompts useful in articulating what might be on your golden record:

1.These experiences I have cherished:

2.These ideas have brought me liberation:

3.These beliefs I have outgrown:

4.These convictions I have lived by:

5.These are the things I have lived for:

Numbers 1 and 5 could include images as well as words, though, with a little imagination, images could be included in any category. For example, liberation could have been felt hang-gliding, and conviction could have been the result of a baby’s smile. Outgrown beliefs could be pictured in a stack of books.

Another thought that came to me is that personally, my whole life could be summed up in the mantra that Jesus spoke to Lazarus: “Come out!” Come out of the closet, come to life, come out of your fear, come out of other’s expectations and even your own, come out of shame, come out of “resting in peace,” come out of isolationism, come out of narrow concepts and beliefs, come out and join the party, help the neighbor, enjoy abundant life!

So what is your life’s mantra(s)? And what are the contents of your golden record that you are putting out to the universe?

Only a handful of us may land on the moon. More vitally, all of us have landed on this oasis named Earth. So the question is, to what purpose, to what pleasure, to what hope, to what love?


The link on The Farthest is to the original trailer on PBS. For info on its present venue on Netflix, go to: https://www.netflix.com/title/80204377. It is also available on Amazon Prime. (I receive no remuneration for these links!)

Progressive Christian Reflections is entirely supported by reader donations. To support this blog: http://mccchurch.org/ministries/progressive-christian-reflections/
Scroll down to the donate link below its description. Thank you!

Copyright © 2019 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved. Photo copyright © 2019 by Trudie Barreras.
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A recent selfie!

The day I write this, I realized during my morning prayers that they are my entrance to “my” monastic community. I put “my” in quotes because the community in which I’ve been blessed to participate has never been mine alone, but that of generations of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Native peoples, Celtic peoples, and more—past, present, and future, from every people and culture.

And, in my heart, I join you who read this or who have read anything I’ve written, because you are a part of me as I am a part of you. And you too enjoy the same contemplative community whenever possible.

I guess this all began yesterday afternoon as I went through “Mom’s box” of my life’s souvenirs. Mom saved things that I had forgotten I had written and published, as well as articles about my work and announcements about presentations I had forgotten. And she included a file of my stuff labelled “Chris” in Dad’s handwriting, indicating he had done likewise.

Reading and writing words has been my way into a spiritual community vaster than I ever imagined when I was a child. And it has been my way into discovering a God grander than could ever be “captured” by mere words, even those of the Bible.

As happened this morning, my morning prayers are often a means of continuing conversion and more comprehensive understanding, providing continuity to my (and our) disparate experiences. I continue reflection begun several weeks ago on Benedictine John Main’s Letters from the Heart. He writes of the monastic experience:

More and more it will fulfill its prophetic role by living in the cities where the experience of community and of spirit are all but lost. There, in these modern deserts, it will bloom by the proof of the power of faith and absolute generosity to achieve the impossible in liberty of spirit. “Let the wilderness and thirsty land be glad; Let the desert rejoice and burst into flower” (Isaiah 35:1). [ p 75]

I thought of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, the early Christian monastics who went off into the wilderness to pray. Now we, in our own “deserts,” may hear the call to take what I call in my retreats “monastic moments,” opportunities to look inward, to listen to our own hearts, undistracted.

Of visitors to his monastery, Main writes,

They think they will find God in the terms they have imagined until then. But instead they first find themselves—recognized, known, and inexplicably loved. And because of that experience their expectations begin to change. They no longer seek a God of their own imagining. Instead, they begin to expand in the presence of the God they know to be beyond thought or image. [p 72]

And, he adds, “They now realize that God is seeking them. They must simply be still and allow themselves to be found.” [p 72-73]

We are called, Main says, to shape a community where others may also find their way, at the same time recognizing it is not “ours” but God’s. He correctly cites Bonhoeffer’s warning that an idealistic view of community leads only to disappointment, either in God, in others, or in oneself. The Rule of Saint Benedict describes the essence of Christian community as loving people as they are.


I will again be co-leading a 5-day contemplative retreat April 27-May 1, 2020 in Cullman, Alabama, through the Spiritual Formation Program of Columbia Theological Seminary. It is open to the public.

Progressive Christian Reflections is entirely supported by reader donations. To support this blog: http://mccchurch.org/ministries/progressive-christian-reflections/
Scroll down to the donate link below its description. Thank you!

Copyright © 2019 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.
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Our group at Creative Camp.

This past Sunday I stumbled offering the Moment for Mindfulness at Ormewood Church about the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. I had originally planned to do it from notes, but decided to write it out so I would say precisely what I intended briefly. But I momentarily lost my place, I guess because I rarely do public speaking these days.

But I did get in my thought that the several-day-and-night 1969 resistance of drag queens, people of color and LGBT folk to the harassing bar raids of New York City police officers served as a “foundational myth” of our present-day movement. As such, it’s been useful for political and, I’d say, spiritual organizing and mobilization.

Yet our contemporary movement did not begin there. In the U.S., it began long before when Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin founded the Daughters of Bilitis in 1955, a lesbian activist group. It began in 1964 with the foundation of the Council on Religion and the Homosexual in San Francisco. It began nine months before Stonewall when the Rev. Troy Perry and 12 brave souls founded Metropolitan Community Church in 1968. It began with the work of people like Bayard Rustin, Christine Jorgensen, Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny, and many more, as well as multiple social, political, and religious groups building an activist base. This is true in other nations as well.

All resistance movements, however, can trace their roots to ancient times, to yes, even biblical times. Our pastor, Jenelle Holmes, gave an artful sermon on Rizpah’s resistance, protecting the bodies of her dead sons (2 Samuel 3:7; 21:1-14), drawing parallels to Matthew Shepard’s mother, Judy Shepard, creating a foundation that helped pass hate crimes legislation, Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Till, insisting on an open coffin so the world could see his battered body, lynched after he was falsely accused of flirting with a white woman, and last week’s photograph of a drowned Salvadoran migrant, Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter, Angie Valeria, on the shores of the Rio Grande River.

I can’t recall Jenelle “losing it” in a sermon, but tears came as she approached its final page. And she wasn’t the only one. She turned it into an occasion for lament, and instead of our usual small group discussions, provided three holy spaces for our responses: one with candles to light for lives lost to injustice, another with prayers for justice we could read silently to God, and one for writing cards to legislators expressing our grief for lives lost in our country due to injustice. Many visited more than one of the three stations.

A few weeks ago, we held a “Creative Camp,” Ormewood Church’s version of Vacation Bible School, for our own and our neighbors’ children. I helped with the 2-4-year-olds, all boys, and I saw where notions of “Original Sin” as well as “Original Innocence” came from! Yet I was moved by their willingness to buy into the program, so to speak, though our most prolonged conversation was about farts, ha!

The experience no doubt prepared me to be moved, at the end of the service honoring the ripples of Rizpah’s resistance, when Jenelle’s nine-year old daughter, Darcy, presented me with the artwork to the right, depicting my partner and me. I learned later she had done the same for a lesbian couple in the congregation, Ceej and Cathie. I lost it. Tears of grief, of gratitude, of hope.


 She represents for me the children of Stonewall and more broadly, the children of the Kingdom of God.

Progressive Christian Reflections is entirely supported by reader donations. To support this blog: http://mccchurch.org/ministries/progressive-christian-reflections/ Scroll down to the donate link below its description. Thank you!

Copyright © 2019 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.

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West Hollywood Pride, 1979.

Meditations selected from my 1994 book, The Word Is Out.

This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to [God], throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance. 
Exodus 11:14

As Jews celebrate Passover in remembrance of their deliverance from Egypt, so we celebrate gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender pride month, week, and day, as a remembrance of our deliverance from spiritual and societal bondage.

A straight minister invited to deliver the sermon at a gay pride worship service approached me for advice. “I’ve always been taught that pride was a sin,” he said, perplexed.

I explained that I believe shame, not pride, is more of an issue for people today. False pride, or hubris, may itself be an expression of deeply felt shame, the need to puff oneself up because of low self-esteem. Current theories link shame to many of our personal and social ills. Then I told him that one cannot apply a concept of the sin of pride to a marginalized people like us who have always been taught that we should be ashamed of ourselves.

Isak Dinesen (nee Karen Blixen) wrote in her book Out of Africa, “Pride is faith in the idea that God had when [God] made us.” Lesbian and gay pride simply expresses “faith in the idea that God had when God made us.”

We celebrate our faith in your idea in making us, Creator God. 
We pray others will share our faith and our pride.


Atlanta Pride, 2005.

“Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” Mark 11:9

What a day of pride! Yet a day of humility, too, for Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and was heralded by everyday people, not local officials or dignitaries. But it was a moment of kairos—a spiritual turning point. And it was so powerful that, as Jesus said to the religious fundamentalists objecting to the revelers, “If these were silent, the stones would shout out” (Luke 19:40).

“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” This is how I praised God for my first encounter with a gay Christian minister, Bill Johnson. This is how I praised God for my first encounter with a lesbian and gay Christian church, Metropolitan Community Churches [founded nine months before the Stonewall uprising]. This is how I praised God for my first Christian boyfriend, Stan Schobert. If I had not cried out with joy, church walls would have screamed!

That’s why the religious organizations get extra applause and shouts in lesbian and gay pride parades, so the pavement beneath them doesn’t bellow!

Hosanna! Blessed are all those who re-present you, God!


Atlanta Pride, 2009.

But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 
Acts 16:28

Paul and Silas are beaten and jailed for delivering a young female slave from those who were exploiting her psychic powers. Midnight finds them praying and singing hymns to God, when an earthquake opens the prison doors and unfastens all the prisoners’ chains. The jailer awakes. Knowing the penalty is death for allowing an escape, he intends to take his own life. But Paul shouts, assuring him no one has escaped.

Paul’s generosity of spirit prompts the jailer to ask about the gospel, and he is converted, caring for their wounds and feeding them.

The chair of the committee guiding my preparation for ministry opposed my ordination because I was gay. Years later, on a visit to the church I served in a non-ordained capacity, he asked more about the gospel we proclaimed. His son had come out to him. In our dialogue that followed, I invited him to serve on the board of my ministry.

Our liberation is not complete until we free those who imprison us. Through prayer and singing, God will give us the grace to prove redemptive even to our captors, and proclaim the gospel of the integrity of spirituality and sexuality.

God of Mercy, we pray for the liberation of our captors rather than their harm. 
Grant us grace to be gracious.


The above meditations for June 25, 28, and 30 are from my 1994 book The Word is Out: The Bible Reclaimed for Lesbians and Gay Men, re-subtitled for the 1999 edition Daily Reflections on the Bible for Lesbians and Gay Men. Each month of the year-long daily devotional has a theme. The theme of June is Liberation.

Also see last week’s post: A Prayer Quartet for Pride

Progressive Christian Reflections is entirely supported by reader donations. To support this blog: http://mccchurch.org/ministries/progressive-christian-reflections/
Scroll down to the donate link below its description. Thank you!

Copyright © 1994 and 2019 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.
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In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising

Mary,
you conceived more than a child.
You conceived a vision of God’s intentions:
scattering the proud,
putting down the mighty,
exalting those of low degree,
feeding the hungry.

Your vision led you through
the pain of giving it birth,
the anguish and joy of assisting its growth.
It led you to the cross,
and, finally, to an empty tomb.

Your vision has conceived more births,
more anguish and joy in growth,
more crosses,
and yet more empty tombs.

Your vision has
scattered the self-righteous,
brought down those who would judge,
exalted the marginalized,
and nourished us with hope.

As we conceive your vision in our own communities,
may we remember those who have gone before us in the dream,
and may we also be blessed with kin who greet us with joy,
and prophetic voices who offer thanks to God.

Our soul magnifies our God,
our spirit rejoices in God our deliverer,
for God has regarded our oppression.
Generations to come will call us blessed,
for God has done great things for us,
and holy is God’s name.


Holy Trinity,
divine and blessed relationship,
bless the ecstasy of these lovers
as their faces kiss,
as their bodies touch,
as in their lovemaking
they overcome the fear and the hatred
and the garbage heaped upon them
by the church and the culture.

Bless their adoration of each other
as they worship the holy imprint
of your divine beauty
and enjoy the communion
of a loving covenant.
May such sacrament
bring them ever closer to you,
Lover of us all.


 As you called the paralytic to walk,
lift us from the paralysis of low self-esteem
so we may walk into your commonwealth
with the power you have given us:
a power we do not need to prove
by lording it over others,
a power we do not have to sacrifice
to love you or others.

Resurrect us, God; call us to rise and carry our pallets,
and let religious and political leaders and friends alike
stand amazed at our healing,
and with those of long ago who witnessed the paralytic walk,
may they witness in us your power and glory:
a power which seeks not to dominate but to serve,
a glory which seeks not itself but others.

Then may they also glorify you, saying,
“We never saw anything like this.”


 From lack of trust and faith
in ourselves as individuals
and ourselves as community,
O God, deliver us.

From lack of commitment
to lover, to friends,
to our faith, to our community,
deliver us.

From denial of our integrity
as spiritual-sexual creations,
deliver us.

From rejection of others
because of their body-state,
whether gender, race, age,
sexual orientation,
appearance, or disability,
O God, deliver us.

Free us to live your commonwealth, O God.
Clarify our vision,
purify our motives,
renew our hope.
In the name of you who create us,
of the Christ who calls us,
of the Spirit who empowers us,
we pray, O God. Amen.


The foregoing prayers are excerpted from prayers for days 17, 24, 47, and 59 in my 1991 book, Coming Out to God: Prayers for Lesbians and Gay Men, Their Families and Friends. The graphic combining the Celtic cross with the rainbow flag was devised at my suggestion by cover designer Kathy York for my 2001 book, Reformation of the Heart: Seasonal Meditations by a Gay Christian.

Progressive Christian Reflections is entirely supported by reader donations. To support this blog: http://mccchurch.org/ministries/progressive-christian-reflections/
Scroll down to the donate link below its description. Thank you!

Copyright © 1991 and 2019 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.


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Me speaking at Long Beach Pride decades ago.
That's straight ally Rev. Peg Beissert in red.

As a child who loved the television series Superman, I was stunned when the actor who played him, George Reeves, committed suicide. Speculation was that he did so because he had been typecast and thus prevented from playing other roles. Though subsequent conjectures have been made suggesting other causes of his death, including murder, the notion has stayed with me as I became typecast as a homosexual candidate for ordination in the Presbyterian Church.

Presbyterians as well as other Christians usually focused on my sexuality, failing to see me as a spiritual person, a minister, even as a Christian. I insisted on talking about spirituality, viewing the failure of the church to welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people as a spiritual rather than sexual problem.

The occasion for writing of this now “in my latter years” is having just watched the 2018 HBO film My Dinner with Hervé, about the actor who played the character Tattoo on the TV series Fantasy Island. Earlier he had played a character in a James Bond movie. As a little person or dwarf,* he coped with being seen as a freak by family and society. Of course I identified with him as a gay man. His story of struggle, missteps, and seeking his due is obviously familiar to most older members of the LGBT community.

Toward the end of the film, based on British journalist Sacha Gervasi’s account, a crowd in a hotel lobby recognize him and encourage him to replay his famous Fantasy Island announcement of incoming guests: “The plane! The plane!” By then the pathos of the limiting expectation is clear, and though Hervé Villechaize appears to gladly comply, viewers know that he wanted to be known as more than that character.

“My name is Chris and I’m a homosexual,” is a mantra I’ve never said but plays in my mind occasionally, having been expected to play that role for congregations, church bodies, and secular audiences. Watching the film, I recognized the parallel to being expected to repeat, “The plane! The plane!”

After giving Gervasi what Villechaize ominously describes as his “final interview,” Gervasi’s editor tries to force him to cut it down to 500 words with a humorous slant, even after the actor’s suicide. Pathetic. Tragic. Wrong. The film and the book it is based upon is Gervasi’s retort. He also directed the movie.

Rather than have my own life cut down to 500 words in church history, rather than only be credited with my sexuality and the activism it required, throughout my life I have tried to contribute spiritually to the church and the world beyond. Part of my motivation for writing this blog has been to make clear that I have something to give the Christian and broader spiritual community that yes, grows out of my experience as a marginalized gay man, but also reflects my own passion for spirituality, Christian faith, Jesus, God, justice, the church, and the spiritual life.

What I offer here in this blog the Presbyterian and broader church largely tried to ignore all my decades as a non-ordained minister, activist, and writer. I am grateful to Metropolitan Community Churches for ordaining me when I began serving as an interim pastor toward the end of my professional life, years before the PC(USA) changed its polity to permit it. And I am grateful to God and all of you who welcome me to have this voice in our tradition.


*Dwarf, little person, LP, person of short stature, or having dwarfism, are now all considered acceptable terminology by that community according to Little People of America.

Progressive Christian Reflections is entirely supported by reader donations. To support this blog: http://mccchurch.org/ministries/progressive-christian-reflections/
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Copyright © 2019 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.
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Most readers know Christian writers’ penchant for trinitarian points, but that’s not why I am following “Be Still!” and “Listen Up!” with “Be Careful!” Rather, I am making the point that it’s not enough to practice silence and mindfulness in the spiritual life. The practice of love is required. “Love is the spiritual life,” Thomas Merton summed up in The Wisdom of the Desert.

“Now faith, hope, and love abide, these three, and the greatest of these is love,” the apostle Paul wrote of the spiritual life to the Corinthians. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus quoted Hebrew scriptures. And he told us to “love your enemies.” All of this takes practice.

My mom seldom let us leave the house without her admonition “Be careful!” But here I am not using it as simple self-preservation, though it also means care of the self, care of one’s own soul. The spiritual life means being “full of care,” care for others, care for our community, care for our environment. That requires stillness and listening and practice.

Stillness so we don’t project our own needs, anxieties, and desires onto others. Listening so we are better able to discern what is truly needed in a given situation. Practice so we remember “one size does not fit all,” in other words, one solution does not fit every circumstance. And, I would add, we are not the solution to every problem. Better yet to consider ourselves only a part of every solution.

I’m aware how common-sensical the foregoing is, but spiritual direction is often the practice of common sense.

I felt compelled to add this post about care because too many Christians view the contemplative life as a form of self-absorption, little better than the me-me-me narcissism too prevalent in our time. The opposite is the case. Christian contemplation is about one-ing oneself with God, with Jesus, to open their floodgates of love and compassion into the world. It affects how we view the migrant, the homeless, the sick, the indebted, the marginalized, and more. It prompts our help and directs how we vote.

Intimacy with the God of all means intimacy with all those from whom we might want to keep a safe distance. Being full of care in many ways is the opposite of being careful.

To conclude with Benedictine John Main’s description of a meditator’s spiritual growth in Letters from the Heart, p 20:

When people would ask how they could tell if they were making progress in meditation, since they were not supposed to analyze or assess their actual periods of meditation, the answer would usually be self-evident. A greater rootedness in self, a deeper emotional stability, a greater capacity to center in others and away from self were the signs of spiritual growth. To the Christian this could be expressed more simply as becoming more loving and more aware of love as the essential energy of life.


I took the above photo of a caution sign we passed while entering a mill in South Africa last summer. Think of all the places a sign like this could come in handy!

I will again be co-leading a 5-day contemplative retreat: April 27-May 1, 2020 in Cullman, Alabama, through the Spiritual Formation Program of Columbia Theological Seminary. It is open to the public.

Progressive Christian Reflections is entirely supported by reader donations. To support this blog: http://mccchurch.org/ministries/progressive-christian-reflections/
Scroll down to the donate link below its description. Thank you!

Copyright © 2019 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.

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For fun, I asked Wade to take this staged photo 
of me "meditating" in South Africa last August!

Benedictine monk John Main has reminded me of something I first learned reading one of Gore Vidal’s historical novels. Reading to oneself became a thing only in recent centuries. “The spoken word is the essential medium for the communication of the gospel,” Main wrote in 1982, the year he died. He explains:

…To meditate is to listen to the word. In the early days of our literate culture, the link between the book and the spoken word was not broken—St. Benedict warns his monks not too read too loudly while at their private lectio; and St. Augustine was reading aloud from his Bible when his great awakening occurred. Today our books are too private experiences that rarely communicate themselves to others. --Letters from the Heart: Christian Monasticism and the Renewal of Community, p 19.

I did not intend to offer two spiritual imperatives in a row on this blog. Last week’s “Be Still!” was a reflection on another book of Main’s. I ran across both books on my shelves, having no idea how I came by them and why I haven’t read them till now. This second one has a bookmark from Newman Bookstore in Baltimore, so maybe I purchased them on a speaking trip there, one of my favorite cities. If someone gave them to me, I thank them!

In a conversation about speed reading with fellow English majors in college, I remember now retired Episcopal priest Gary Hall commenting how we needed to “hear” literature at least in our heads to get the full effect intended by an author, as we were not reading simply for information. Tom Boomershine has argued the same for scripture, coaching readers in the art of re-telling rather than simply reading a text. Oral transmission was the original way many of these stories and teachings were “traditioned,” or passed on, after all.

John Main suggests “that tradition becomes just a historical memory when it is not one with personal experience.” That’s why I often invite listeners to hear a biblical text as personally addressed to them.

One of my novice mistakes was asking the brothers at Mt. Calvary Retreat House not to read to retreatants from my then congregation during mealtimes, explaining that one of the reasons church members go on retreat is a chance to talk among themselves. I had no idea I was denying those church members the monastic experience of listening.

I’ve written that the most challenging monastic vow for me would be that of “obedience,” thinking little of how the word obedience comes from a word meaning “to listen,” to attend to what another is saying.

We use the phrase “listen up” when we want to convey something vital, something important, possibly urgent. How true this is also of things spiritual.

For Main, in his other book, Word into Silence, silence is needed to catch the deepest cries, ahas, and awes of our hearts, of our world, of our universe. He writes, “The qualities we need in this fundamental encounter between ourselves and the ground of our being are attentiveness and receptivity.” [p 34] Main later adds:

The understanding of prayer that makes it merely a matter of telling God what we want or need and reminding God of our sins of omission only compounds our alienation from reality. For this was the liberating message Jesus came to bring: “I bid you put away anxious thought about food and drink to keep you alive and clothes to cover your body. Surely life is more than food, the body more than clothes (Matthew 6:25).” [p 65]

Main writes that the Lord’s Prayer was “a series of rhythmic phrases in the original Aramaic,” thus memorable. I have found each phrase can serve as a centering word, a mantra. Mine lately has been “Thy kingdom come.”

Along with other centering prayer advocates, Main believes such a mantra can quiet the mind and welcome a “reverential silence.”



I will again be co-leading a 5-day contemplative retreat: April 27-May 1, 2020 in Cullman, Alabama, through the Spiritual Formation Program of Columbia Theological Seminary. It is open to the public.

Progressive Christian Reflections is entirely supported by reader donations. To support this blog: http://mccchurch.org/ministries/progressive-christian-reflections/
Scroll down to the donate link below its description. Thank you!

Copyright © 2019 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.
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Seattle waterfront. (crg)

Our mothers’ admonition to us as children is the first step of contemplation.

During my prayers the morning I write this, it occurred to me that, if we are still enough, we can sense the world breathe.

Doesn’t matter if we are under trees or skyscrapers, raining skies or starry nights. We can see or hear or feel the world breathe, and that breath is the breath of God.

God is not on a faraway planet, but within this planet, offering the breath of life to all creatures, to all creation. And to you, specifically and particularly.

Meditation aligns our breathing with God’s breathing.

To allow that, we need truly “free time.” Scholar comes from the Latin “schola” which means free time, or leisure time for learning. Free time allows us to become “scholars” of the spiritual.

Free time means letting go of all claims on us—in the words of the Lord’s Prayer, released from debts, trespasses, and sins, as well as those indebted to us, trespass our space and time, and sin against us. Also, we are free of obligations, expectations, and the day’s agenda. It requires an act of the imagination to do this, to offer the welcoming, existential prayer “thy kingdom come” and to believe Jesus’ words “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” and “this day you will be with me in Paradise.”

“It is because this kingdom is established and is present within us that we can be made free of the limitations of language and thought,” in the words of Benedictine monk John Main in his 1980 book, Word into Silence. He explains of most Westerners,

We tend either to be alert or relaxed; rarely are the two states combined in most of us. But in meditation we come to experience ourselves as at one and the same time totally relaxed and totally alert. This stillness is not the stillness of sleep but rather of totally awakened concentration. [p 8]

I can’t find what translation of Romans 5:2 that Main is using, but I love the turn of phrase, “we have been allowed to enter the sphere of God’s grace.” [pp. 2-3] (I did an internet search for this translation and only found this wording in interpretations of “we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand.” NRSV)

The “sphere of God’s grace” releases us into free time. It forgives the past, and, in a sense, “forgives” the future. It allows a truly existential moment to bask in God’s presence, which is not other-worldly but here and now. We are Adam and Eve naked in the garden. We are Jesus, children being about our “Father’s/Mother’s business” in the Temple and beyond. Holy Spirit inspires us, overcoming divisions and dualities with unity and harmony.

As such we know ourselves, even as we yet puzzle over knowledge of God.

“Monks are essentially people whose first priority is practice rather than theory,” Main writes, “Such a monasticism…will be an inclusive rather than an exclusive movement in the Church. It will know that the experience has only to be really lived to be communicated. … It is the silence of monks that is their true eloquence.” [xi]

Be still, and attend to God breathing in your world and in your life.


I will again be co-leading a 5-day contemplative retreat: April 27-May 1, 2020 in Cullman, Alabama, through the Spiritual Formation Program of Columbia Theological Seminary. It is open to the public.

Progressive Christian Reflections is entirely supported by reader donations. To support this blog: http://mccchurch.org/ministries/progressive-christian-reflections/
Scroll down to the donate link below its description. Thank you!

Copyright © 2019 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.
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The Karnak Temple Complex in Luxor, Egypt, 
in which Ramses II is depicted as the god Osiris.
1981 (crg)

Watching the evening news recently, “Ozymandias” came to mind. Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poetic rendering of the transiency and impotence of inflated egolatry of the kings of ancient times speaks to the would be “kings” who dominate the 24/7 news cycle of our own time. I was thinking of one in particular, but there are many around the world who qualify.

So I looked up the poem in my good old Norton Anthology, whose footnotes explained that a first century B.C. Greek historian reported that the largest statue in Egypt had the inscription: “I am Ozymandias, king of kings; if anyone wishes to know what I am and where I lie, let him surpass me in some of my exploits.” The anthology explains, “Ozymandias was Ramses II of Egypt, 13th century B.C.”

Decades ago, when I visited Egypt as part of a religious studies class, it was pointed out to us that Ramses II had his name carved deep into the stone of structures he built so that a later Pharaoh could not scratch it out, which sometimes happened. In the poem below, the anthology further explains that “the hand that mocked” refers to the sculptor’s representation and derision of his subject, and “the heart that fed” refers to the king’s heart that served as the source of such mockery.

Ozymandias

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

“Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, / And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command” reminded me of the frown, wrinkled lip, and sneer of a cold and callous politician that I frequently see on the nightly news.

It also made me think of my recent reading of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, whose familiar story has been told in multiple productions: offering his soul, Dorian Gray’s portrait takes on all his sins and aging so he can remain unblemished, untouched, unmoved, and unreformed. Dorian keeps the painting covered and hidden in an unused, locked room. He occasionally checks on it, finding it uglier and more distorted with each viewing.

Dorian finally decides he needs to change his way of life and he does something he considers good and unselfish, hoping to reverse the process, but in the end,

He could see no change, save that in the eyes there was a look of cunning, and in the mouth the curved wrinkle of the hypocrite. … Had it been merely vanity that made him do this one good deed? Or the desire of a new sensation, as Lord Henry had hinted, with his mocking laugh? Or that passion to act a part that sometimes makes us do things finer than we are ourselves? Or, perhaps, all these?

Ozymandias could be said to practice the power of positive thinking, thinking of himself and his work in superlatives, but the sands of time are a great leveling field, Shelley makes clear.

Dorian Gray was above it all, privileged and pampered and proud, without good promise or purpose. Wilde’s implication is that conscience is necessary for the soul to survive.

“What does it profit a person if, in gaining the whole world, loses the soul?”


Progressive Christian Reflections is entirely supported by reader donations. To support this blog: http://mccchurch.org/ministries/progressive-christian-reflections/
Scroll down to the donate link below its description. Thank you!

Copyright © 2019 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.

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