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“It seems to me that nothing can distract one from God when one acts only for God, always in God’s holy presence, under that divine glance that penetrates to the depths of the soul. Even in the midst of the world it is possible to listen to God in the silence of a heart that wants to be God’s alone.”–Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity

Élizabeth Catez was born in France in 1880. She taught religion to children who worked in factories. In 1901 she joined the Discalced Carmelite monastic community of Catholic nuns. She died five years later of Addison’s disease. Read more about her here.

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ego1“The spiritual journey is a journey into Mystery, requiring us to enter the ‘cloud of unknowing’ where the left brain always fears to tread. Precisely because we’re being led into Mystery, we have to let go of our need to know and our need to keep everything under control. Most of us are shocked to discover how great this need is.

There are three primary things that we have to let go of, in my opinion. First is the compulsion to be successful. Second is the compulsion to be right—even, and especially, to be theologically right. (That’s merely an ego trip, and because of this need, churches have split in half, with both parties prisoners of their own egos.) Finally there is the compulsion to be powerful, to have everything under control.

I’m convinced these are the three demons Jesus faced in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Until we each look these three demons in their eyes, we should presume that they are still in charge in every life. The demons have to be called by name, clearly, concretely, and practically, spelling out just how imperious, controlling, and self-righteous we all are. This is the first lesson in the spirituality of subtraction.”–Richard Rohr

Adapted from Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go by Richard Rohr (pp. 42-43)

Find out more about Richard Rohr here.

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Pastor Bill Wylie-Kellermann tells his story at The Secret Society Of Twisted Storytellers, Friday, March 21, 2014, at The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, hosted by Satori Shakoor.

Videographer/Editor Don Wellman (https://www.248pencils.com)

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Richard Rohr: ‘My Kingdoms Go’

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“To pray and actually mean ‘thy Kingdom come,’ we must also be able to say ‘my kingdoms go.’ Francis and Clare’s first citizenship was always and in every case elsewhere, which ironically allowed them to live in the world with joy, detachment, and freedom.” — Richard Rohr

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Grace_Lee_Boggs_600x400Guernica magazine published an amazing interview with 99-year-old Grace Lee Boggs of Detroit done by Michelle Chen. Bogg’s most recent book is The Next American Revolution. The book is accompanied by a biographical documentary film titled American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs.

Here’s an excerpt from Michelle Chen’s interview:

Guernica: Where do people draw the power that they need to seize in order to start this revolution?

Grace Lee Boggs: I think people look at revolution too much in terms of power. I think revolution has to be seen more anthropologically, in terms of transitions from one mode of life to another. We have to see today in light of the transition, say, from hunting and gathering to agriculture, and from agriculture to industry, and from industry to post-industry. We’re in an epoch transition.

Guernica: Do you feel that talking about power and conflict might take away from that, or distract people from that focus on long-term transition?

Grace Lee Boggs: It does. Because when you think of power, you think the state has power. When you look at it in terms of revolution, in terms of the state, you think of it in terms of Russia, the Soviet Union, and how those who struggled for power actually became victims of the state, prisoners of the state, and how that led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. We have to think of revolution much more in terms of transitions from one epoch to another. Talk about Paleolithic and Neolithic.

Guernica: Given the fact of increasing government intrusion into our lives, it seems like it would be difficult to ignore these power structures.

Grace Lee Boggs: Just think of Obama and think of how powerless he is. I think we have to understand that the nation-state became powerful in the wake of the French Revolution, whereas the nation-state has become powerless in light of globalization.

Read the whole interview.

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Trans Justice: Learning and Listening

BsgtQy0IcAARFzcThis morning I attended a workshop at the Friends Meeting of Washington D.C. on Transgender organizing “Against Police Profiling, Better Jail Conditions, and Against Over-Incarceration” hosted by TransEquality as part of their 2014 Lobby Days. I went at the invitation of some of the young organizers there and was glad to be included.

The two primary speakers were Trans Equality policy expert Harper Jean Tobin (see her HuffPo piece here) and Houston-based Lou Weaver, who is working to launch a model program with sheriff’s department in Texas.

I went to listen and learn and to see where Trans issues cross into other justice avenues, such as protecting civil rights for Transfolks, addressing Trans issues in homelessness work, and especially in suicide prevention, as well as making sure we are including and advocating for and with Transfolks in Mass Incarceration work – especially since the majority of Trans people in the prison system are people of color, primarily African Americans.

One important part of the conversation focused on the history that much of the current Trans organizing and policy work came out of Gay and Lesbian organizing that has been primarily from white leadership groups and white leadership is who gets the primary funding. But, like in many situations, the vast majority of Transfolks who end up in the prison system are people of color. So once again, policy is being created by white leaders without the leadership and expertise of people of color who are disproportionately impacted.

There were some specific resources mentioned that I want to share with others:

A good Bible study here:
TransEpiscopal http://blog.transepiscopal.com/2014/03/transfiguration-transformation-to.html

Community Organizations:
Black Transmen/BTMI
Trans People of Color Coalition

Best practices for supporting LGBT prisoners:
STANDING WITH LGBT PRISONERS: An Advocate’s Guide to Ending Abuse and Combating Imprisonment  (For community-based advocacy)
Policy Review and Development Guide: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Persons in Custodial Settings  (for those working within the corrections system)

Also, in case you missed it, Patti Shaw just won an important case in D.C. that will change (hopefully) police policies.

And Calvary Baptist in D.C. has called its first Trans pastor, Rev. Allyson Robinson. She’s serving as interim in the wake of Rev. Amy Butler moving up to the big pulpit at Riverside Church in NY. See their lovely liturgy here.

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costelloI missed this great op-ed piece by CNN’s Carol Costello that ran in May on the consistent ethic of life.

I find myself perpetually, uncomfortably, and instinctively part of the 8% of Americans who believe that both abortion and the death penalty are affronts to the God of Life and the call to reconciliation.

But there’s a vast ethical and moral difference between the “principalities and powers” of State-imposed execution and the pastoral universe of multivalent forces that may press down on a woman and her family. The ethic is engaged consistently: prophetically against the State, and pastorally with a human being.

Here’s Carol Costello:

Can you be pro-life and pro-death penalty?

It’s a question more than one person I know is asking after Oklahoma’s botched execution of Clayton Lockett. Not necessarily because of the way Oklahoma tortuously executed the convicted killer, but because of the hard-core way some reacted to Lockett’s execution.

Like Mike Christian. The pro-life Oklahoma state representative told The Associated Press, “I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don’t care if it’s by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions.”

He also threatened to impeach judges who dared delay executions for any reason.

This is from a man who is so strongly pro-life he voted for eight bills in four years to prevent women in Oklahoma from terminating their pregnancies, or, as many who oppose abortion say, “killing babies.”

Color me confused. So, Rep. Christian says it’s OK to kill, unless you’re a woman who wants to end her pregnancy?
As I told my friends during a heated debate last weekend, that smacks of hypocrisy.

The only nonhypocritical viewpoint, I argued, exists in the Catholic Church.

Catholics believe in the “Consistent Ethic of Life.” As Georgetown’s Father Thomas Reese puts it, “we are concerned about a person from womb to tomb.”

“Life is something that comes from God and shouldn’t be taken away by man,” Reese told me.

Put simply, the Catholic Church opposes abortion and the death penalty. Period. Except nothing in life is that simple. Especially our collective views on the death penalty and abortion.
If you ask a Southern Baptist, he or she will likely tell you the Catholic Church is wrong.

“There is no contradiction here,” R. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told me, referring to Rep. Christian’s underlying position. …..

Read the rest here.

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Detroit Water Shutoffs from Kate Levy on Vimeo.

This summer, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department announced that it would increase its shut-off campaign to 3,000 shutoffs per week.

Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation says:

“Disconnection of services for lack of means to pay may constitute a violation of the right to water. Disconnection due to non-payment is only permissible if it can be shown that the householder is able to pay but is not paying—in other words, that the tariff is affordable.”

Lydia Wylie-Kellermann, Detroit organizer, sent me this note:

Friends, the watershed in Detroit is crying out. We are working full force against the water department shutting off up to 150,000 homes in the city by September (this is 40% of households). They have already shut off thousands of families. No drinking water, no bathing, no flushing toilets. With no running water, there is a risk of child protective service taking children away from their parents. It is a human rights issue, a privatization of water issue, a health issue, and a watershed issue. The U.N. has responded to the crisis saying that this is a violation of human rights.

For more information:
Detroit ‘must ensure it does not contravene human right to water’ UN official Catarina de Albuquerque says
Detroit’s Water War: a tap shut-off that could impact 300,000 people
UN Declares Detroit Water Shutoffs Violate Human Rights
Going Without Water in Detroit
Submission to the Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation regarding water cut-offs in the City of Detroit, Michigan

Support these groups:
www.mwro.org
www.peopleswaterboard.blogspot.com
www.detroitwaterbrigade.org
d-rem.org
blueplanetproject.org
flowforwater.org

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Becoming the Rebbe, Becoming the Light

zss-celebratory-prayerOne doesn’t mourn the death yesterday of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, one becomes him. Let the Holy Ones dance! Reb Zalman has been one of those great wisdom leaders whose spark has kept ours alive without most of us even knowing it. As one of the most influential “change-makers” of his generation, he gave birth to a worldwide Jewish renewal movement, that often overflowed beyond the cup of Judaism. Communities of commitment and joy sprung up in his footsteps, rooted in the mystical experience of God so rich in the Hassidic tradition.

The ALEPH wrote in their obituary for the Rebbe:

“He was visionary in creating fully-inclusive community, making Jewish mysticism and joyful observance available to several generations of American Jews, and engaging in deep ecumenical relationships with leaders of the world’s religions. …

Reb Zalman was also committed to interfaith “deep ecumenism.” He explored “spiritual technologies” and sustained friendships with many significant leaders, including Ram Dass, Fr. Matthew Fox, Fr. Thomas Keating, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, Br. Thomas Merton, Br. David Steindl-Rast, and Ken Wilbur, among others. Where others saw walls, he saw doors. …

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Columbia Heights Fountain (David Gaines)

Columbia Heights Fountain (David Gaines)


“It’s July when the summer begins to wear even the most dedicated of sun lovers down. Life begins to feel sticky; nights get close; days get long and dry. Everything becomes a major effort; we slow down like rusted cogs on old wheels. Time suspends. Nothing much gets done. Day follows day with not much to show for any of them. Oh, yes, monastics know all about that kind of thing. In ancient monasteries the warning of Evagrius of Ponticus to “beware the devil of the noonday sun” loomed large. Acedia they called it. Spiritual sloth.

July is the month that teaches us, as the Desert Monastics said, to prepare ourselves for the “heat of the noonday sun,” for those times in life when going on and going through something will take all the energy, all the hope we have. Then, July reminds us that on the other side of such intensity, such demanding effort, comes the harvest time of life when we see that all our efforts have been worth it.

The question in every life, of course, is how to keep on going when it seems fruitless. A Zen saying: “O snail, climb Mount Fuji, but slowly, slowly.” If we are to persevere for the long haul, we must not overdrive our souls. We must immerse ourselves in good music, good reading, great beauty and peace so that everything good in us can rise again and lead us beyond disappointment, beyond boredom, beyond criticism, beyond loss.

The prayer from Mary Lou Kownacki’s, The Sacred in the Simple, calls us all to new energy at the break point of every day. It reads:

Let not the heat
of the noonday sun
wither my spirit
or lay waste my hopes.
May I be ever green,
a strong shoot of justice,
a steadfast tree of peace.”

–adapted from A Monastery Almanac by Joan Chittister

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