Friday, March 31, 2017

Chris Logan: Homosexuality & the Church

My latest guest on the podcast is Pastor Chris Logan, a popular speaker (you'll see why!), an advocate of racial, gender and social justice, and a Christian pastor seeking ordination in the United Methodist Church. The only hiccup is that Chris is gay. Today, as the United Methodist Church and many others threaten to divide, or have already divided, over homosexuality, Chris Logan’s story is especially poignant, and his willingness to share openly about his experiences as a gay Christian and clergy is nothing short of courageous. 

In this podcast episode:
0:00 On the labels he wears (black, gay, clergy)
1:58 Trying (just about everything) not to be gay
2:53 What judgment and rejection feels like
4:30 "Coming out" to friends, family and self
7:33 Homosexuality and the near schism in the United Methodist Church
10:12 How "liabilities" can be prophetic calls
13:50 What the Bible says about homosexuality
17:07 The fine line between opinions and bigotry
18:20 The high rate of suicide among the gay community
19:32 Nationalism, white supremacy and hate in America
22:03 "We are not called to respond to sin and hatred with sin and hatred"
24:04 On Chris' faith
27:32 Chris' prophetic encounter at a young age

Monday, March 20, 2017

Visiting Merton's Hermitage

Last week I had the rare opportunity to step inside the hermitage of one of my spiritual (and interfaith) heroes, Thomas Merton - a place that is usually off-limit to visitors. I was visiting Gethsemani in Kentucky to interview Br. Paul Quenlon, who has been at the monastery for over 60 years. Merton was Br. Paul's novice master (his spiritual director).
The drive there took me over miles upon miles of small, winding roads - it feels so hidden among the Kentucky downs. After getting lost, and stopping at a home to ask directions, the monastery finally emerged in the distance.
Merton wrote of Gethsemani, in his Seven Storey Mountain, that he had discovered there "the still point around which the whole country revolves without knowing it." When I mentioned his observation to Br. Paul, he said that Merton had written this fairly early on, and probably regretted it. Merton's writings show a deep love for this Cistertian Trappist monastery, yet also many struggles, not least with his superiors who were always in his business.

I mentioned to Br. Paul in the car that I, too, struggle with a circular passion (Icarus too near the sun?) followed by disillusionment (usually involving wounds) with religion and, particularly, the church. "As you should," he said, remarking that perhaps this is the mark of a balanced spiritual life. Bless him, I needed to hear that.
 Beginning as a postulant on December 10, 1941, Merton would remain here for 27 years until his death, steeped in prayer, teaching and writing, for which he was famous. He would have also participated in the daily hours - a time of communal prayer and singing of the Psalms - with the other monks inside this chapel. Br. Paul invited me to join them for None, in which we prayed Psalms 125-127, before driving out to Merton's hermitage. Because this is a place of silence, the click of my boots produced a pronounced echo off these walls - many people take a silent retreat here to contemplate God.
 This is the hermitage where Merton was permitted to live in solitude, focused on prayer and writing. The place itself is a simple box of cinderblock, sparsely furnished. But Br. Paul pointed out that the magic of this place was, of course, the vast view around it of the hilly woodland.

 Br. Paul pointed out this large cross with a wheel at its foot. This speaks so much to the spirit of Merton, who was of course Catholic and yet had a profound appreciation of the Eastern religions, especially Buddhism - it is, indeed, a symbol of the Buddhist wheel. (My daughter Lorelei calls it the "wheelbarrow cross" - ha!)
 The view!

 I love the "Shalom" beside the door of this place of peace.

I noticed hints of Merton's love of the Far East, as well as the iconography of the Near East.

One of Merton's most beloved books. He, too, found great wisdom tucked within the writings of the early fathers of the church, particularly the desert fathers and, later, St. John of the Cross. Br. Paul pointed out a painting on the wall, somewhat abstract, representing these figures.
 What I love so much about Merton is how deeply human he was, on wonderful display in his writing. Yes, people think of him as a mystic, a spiritual master, a poet and lover of philosophy and religion. A bridge builder. But he was also a man who struggled, and he knew it. And with great vulnerability, he shared his spiritual journey - marked with as many highs and lows, pot-holes and imperfections, as those winding Kentucky roads to Gethsemani - with the world.
At the end of the visit, before our visit to the rest of the grounds and Merton's grave, Br. Paul suggested I play a game of "Merton Roulette." He had me choose one of Merton's journals from the bookshelf, just whichever stood out to me, then opened to the entry for March 15 (the day of my visit), 1959 - Passion Sunday. I only caught a bit of it, which consisted of a sort of disjointed stream of consciousness, bouncing from one topic to the next (with quite a bit about interfaith work and his frustration with his superior's treatment), before my phone ran out of memory. But just this snippet of a much larger entry was oh-so-Merton:

"Same struggle in the depths..."
Br. Paul Quenlon's podcast interview will be featured on TheLift in the coming weeks. I will never forget his generosity, spending hours with me in conversation and touring the grounds (and I can't wait for the end of Lent, when I can finally sample the large stack of homemade fudge he gifted to me)! Thank you, Br. Paul, for this day I will forever cherish.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Prof. Jim Kreider: Mystical Experience

I'm excited to share my latest podcast episode, a fascinating look at the supernatural and mysical experience with Professor Jim Kreider.
Jim Kreider, retired Professor, licensed psychotherapist and student of consciousness, spirituality and energy psychology talks about working with people who have psychic abilities, and how each of us can tune into this heightened awareness for the healing of ourselves and, ultimately, the world.

In this podcast episode:
0:00 Why people are suspicious of spiritual reality
0:30 Introduction to Prof. Jim Kreider
1:13 Jim’s Mennonite childhood
2:40 On God
7:55 Are some people natural mystics?
9:37 Working with psychic & highly sensitive people
13:33 The sacred act of seeing people as they are
14:27 My own prophetic encounters & synchronicity
18:04 Theology of supernatural experience (and its loss)
21:18 Sensitivity = the essential ingredient of psychic experience
22:45 Supernatural terminology
25:07 Energy work and seeing auras
30:05 Dark, dense (toxic) energy
33:56 Religious rituals & energy
35:58 Inviting hard emotions in for tea
37:38 The hope of a shifting generation

Sunday, March 12, 2017


I haven't yet come to my month-long study of Hinduism, but when our friends Chandana and Heman invited us to celebrate the spring festival of colors, Holi, we couldn't wait to join them!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Shelter in the Storm

Just about one year ago, I encountered two hitch-hiking French monks, Joachim & Francis Xavier. More about that incredible blessing HERE. After sharing lunch, they asked me to take them to a spot near the highway, then sang a harmonious blessing over me in my car, gave me a token of the Virgin Mary, and invited me one day to visit them.

So last night, I did just that.
I pulled up to the humble chapel and monastery of The Little Sisters of the Lamb in Kansas City, KS - the only order within the United States. It was beautiful in its simplicity, smelling of cedar and incense, designed by one of the monks who has a penchant for architecture. The Little Brothers are raising funds to build their own monastery in the same style on a small piece of land just one block away, but for now they share the chapel with the Little Sisters.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Aneesah Dawan: The Global Woman

My guest today, Aneesah Dawan, is a public speaker, motivator and Islamic religious leader who focuses on the feminine voice in scripture to the benefit of humankind. Aneesah studied philosophy and religion at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, criminal justice at the University of Houston-Downtown and Arabic & Islamic studies at Abu Noor University in Damascus, Syria. Aneesah's perspective was thought-provoking and still has me pondering the interplay between the masculine and feminine in scripture and the universe.
Link on iTunes:

Link on Stitcher:

In this podcast episode:
0:00: Reading the signs in the world & scripture
1:45 Introduction to Aneesah Dawan
2:29 “The Global Woman”
4:11 Aneesah’s understanding of the masculine & feminine in the Qu’ran
10:28 A reading from the Qu’ran (sung in Arabic)
13:55 Translation of Qu'ranic recitation
18:03 Closing

Month 3: Monasticism (Catholic)

It's month 3 on my Year of Faiths adventures, and I've decided to dedicate this month to monasticism. Because of the area in which we live, most spiritual orders are Catholic, so I'm thinking of this month as a Catholic/monastic hybrid.

To kick it off, I began the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, at a 6:45am Mass, with ashes smeared upon my forehead after a morning of deep reflection and prayer.
My plan for this month is to:
1) Embrace Lent - giving up candy and sweets, going vegetarian on Fridays (and attending the fish fry at the local parish, which is already a tradition), and spending more time in prayer and at a prayer chapel
2) Do the powerful Examen of Ignatius twice each day
3) Participating in Mass and having dinner at a local monastery with the "Little Brothers of the Lamb" who I met HERE
4) Visiting the home of Thomas Merton at Gethsemani in Kentucky (road trip with the kids!)
5) Reading these books (Resisting Happiness was a free gift from the parish on Ash Wednesday), along with scripture