Category Archives: Peace Shalom Hesed

simplistic binary thinking

In modern western thought, we often express ideas in terms of binary opposites. We Christians seem particularly susceptible. We like our world tidy and imagine that God is on our side.

Male/female. Black/white. Gay/straight. Saved/unsaved. Christian/unbeliever. Citizen/foreigner. Liberal/conservative. Conservation/economic progress. Jew/gentile. Patriot/traitor. Democrat/Republican. Abled/disabled. Heaven/hell. Right/wrong. Us/them. Good/evil. One side of the binary historically holds power. Patriarchy, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and antisemitism result. 

The gospel destroys all our divisions. All are loved equally. All are welcomed and accepted. All are gifted and important. The ground at the foot of the cross is flat. The universal church, the body of Christ on earth, is a multinational, multicultural, multilingual, multiethnic, inclusive group of people who have renounced other allegiances in order to be citizens of the Kingdom of God. 

Anything that disrupts that unity in creation is nullified by Jesus.

Everything in the Universe Changed. Audio on Mark 15:38-47

Gently Drawn By Love

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any wish to come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24 NRSVUE)

I hear the gentleness of the call. “If you wish to follow me…” No pressure. No coercion. No psychological or emotional manipulation. The call to spiritual formation, to discipleship, to true worship (which is simply doing what Jesus said to do, as unpopular as that may be) is given in freedom.

Deny yourself – I think Jesus means the false, egocentric self, the false personas, the superficial images we try so hard to maintain so others will accept us and so we can feel good about ourselves. Deny, set aside, the ego-driven self that cares about success, achievement, reputation, legacy, and honor.

Denying ourselves feels like a pouring out. At first, the pouring out feels like loss, a death, a loss of identity, but it actually makes space for to embrace the true self, which is who I am as defined by God. 

The true self is soul-drawn. It is not driven. It is beckoned by grace. It is invited into wholeness by Love. It is free. It cares nothing for accomplishments or prestige. Drawn by divine love, it loves to serve, to take up the banner of justice, to be identified with the weak, rejected people on the margins. It cannot be offended because it has no ego to offend. It joyfully takes up the way of the cross, the way of cruciform self-sacrificial love. 



Mark 12:41 [Jesus] sat down opposite the treasury and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (NRSVUE)

Such amazing freedom this impoverished widow had – 

Clinging to nothing, but rather,

Freely giving all to God, knowing

God would take care of her.

As free as the birds of the air and

The lilies in the fields.

In times past, I pictured her old, bent, in rags,

Walking with a cane; but now I see her as

Ageless, happy, joyous, stepping lightly with

Sparkles in her eyes, full of peaceful contentment.

I like to imagine the women who were always with

Jesus rushing to her with love, embraces, and joy – 

Taking her into the fold – this widow now joining the

Disciples at Jesus’ feet, learning and loving; with

Him at the Passover Seder, aghast at the mock trials,

Weeping at the scourging post and the cross;

Dancing with the risen King,

Aflame in the upper room.

Bipolar Disorder

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 4.4% of Americans are affected with bipolar disorder sometime during their lives. PhD level psychologists and psychiatrists (who are MDs) are the most qualified to make a diagnosis. Similar symptoms can be induced by certain drugs (including alcohol), or caused by a medical condition like Cushing’s disease, multiple sclerosis or stroke. So, you need a qualified person to make the diagnosis.

Bipolar disorder was previously called Manic-Depression, or Manic-Depressive Psychosis because the illness is characterized by wild mood swings. All of us have days when we’re up and feel energized, as well as days when we feel down in the dumps. That’s normal. People with bipolar have extreme manic phases when they have so much energy, they work nonstop without sleeping, sometimes for days, followed by episodes of deep depression where they may become suicidal. Their highs are higher and their lows are lower.

Medication is needed for anyone who is bipolar because the disease is caused by an imbalance in chemicals in the brain. A psychiatrist is by far the best person to prescribe medication for any mental illness, and will also want to follow up regularly to adjust the dosage. Too much can be toxic. Too little won’t do much good. It’s very likely that you’ll need to take medication the rest of your life. That’s ok.

But medication is not a cure-all. The medicine will knock out the extreme highs and the extreme lows so that you can work with a therapist to balance and integrate the lows and highs. 

Bipolar disorder is currently classified in two types. Bipolar I Disorder is the designation given to people who have episodes of depression followed by episodes of mania or hypomania. Mania and hypomania are the same thing, except hypomania is milder and lasts for a few days, whereas mania can go on for weeks or months. Hypomania and mania are periods of over-active and excited behavior that can have a significant negative impact on your life.

Bipolar II is the designation given to people who have had at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode, but never had a manic episode. Just to confuse things further, there is also cyclothymic disorder, which is the same thing only milder still. 

The depressive stage of bipolar is dangerous because it can lead to suicide. Like any deep depression, you are sapped of energy, feel hopeless, sluggish, disinterested, and disconnected. People in the depressive phase want to get out of it.

In some ways, the manic (or hypomanic) phase is even more dangerous because you feel on top of the world. You feel highly creative, full of almost supernatural energy; you are over-confident, feel invincible, are full of swagger. You might even feel like you’re a genius. You may get narcissistic. Some people are also be highly angry and irritable. 

It is in the manic phase that people spend themselves deeply into debt, ruin their credit, destroy good relationships, are attracted to highly toxic relationships, and create a plethora of marital, familial, financial, interpersonal, and legal problems for themselves and others. People in the manic phase often love the high and won’t listen to warnings until they crash and burn.

And then the cycle repeats. 

There’s no more shame in being bipolar than there is in having high blood pressure. It’s genetics and neurochemistry, not sin or choice. You can’t just snap out of it. 

Bipolar Disorder is very treatable.

First, you (or your loved on) need a qualified person to make an accurate diagnosis.

Second, you need a psychiatrist to find and prescribe the right medication at the right dosage for you.

Third, you need a good therapist skilled in helping you recognize your triggers and bring your highs and lows into balance.

And finally, I’d highly recommend spiritual direction with an elder in the faith. Spiritual direction and therapy fit nicely together – the latter addressing emotional issues, and the former drawing us deeper into the ever-loving heart of God.

God loves you. God wants you to be whole.

The Grand Divine Plan

The Big Picture

God is love. God was always complete. Father, Son, Holy Spirit, three in one, living in perfect harmony and mutual love. Divine love spilled over. Because God is love, God desired living things to love. So, God created. 

Originally, the realm of nature, the cosmos, and the heavenly spiritual realm were one. 

The oneness was disrupted, torn apart, by two deliberate rebellions – one by some angelic beings, the second by humans. 

Immediately, God began the great divine rescue project of reuniting heaven and earth, i.e., the natural cosmos. God is doing so without violating any creature’s free will. 

God chose a person named Abraham, and through Abraham raised up a nation called Israel. God’s purpose in doing so was to draw all people, all nations, back to the Divine self – to bring all humans into harmony with heaven, the realm of God, the realm of perfect love. 

Israel, like the first humans, failed to live out the love-relationship with the divine, so the other nations were not attracted to YHWH. But God did not abandon the divine rescue project. God became a human being. Jesus claimed to be God. He forgave sins, said he always existed, and asserted he was coming to judge the world. This Jesus did things only God could do – walked on water, transformed water into wine, rebuked storms, raised the dead. 

Was he deluded? Insane? Lying? Or, is Jesus God incarnate? Nice guy, helpful prophet, great teacher, fine ethicist, or model human are not logical options. 

This Jesus, this God-Man, ushered in a new kingdom unlike any other. This kingdom has no military, no politicians vying for power. The citizens of this kingdom love, are nonviolent, inclusive, gracious, forgiving, compassionate. All are invited and welcome in this kingdom. In this kingdom, there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, bond nor free – all are one in King Jesus. This kingdom is multiethnic, multicultural, multilingual, multinational. In it, the last are first, the servant of all is the greatest of all, the way up is down, and the meek inherit the earth. 

Jesus initiated this kingdom on the cross. When he allowed himself to be crucified by the Romans, Jesus absorbed into himself all the sin, evil, rebellion, and wickedness in the entire cosmos. Sin and evil imploded as it killed him – evil not realizing that a sinless one freely offered in love cannot remain dead. 

Jesus rose again. Alive. Alive in a real physical body. He appeared to hundreds. Then, he ascended into heaven. That does not mean he flew away to some distant place. It means that now a fully human person is not only living in the realm of God, but is seated on the divine throne, ruling all that is. 

His plan is to spread the kingdom of love to all. How does he spread the kingdom of love? He breathed into his apprentices and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” He poured out the Holy Spirit on 120 followers on the day of Pentecost. He breathes his Spirit into, pours his Spirit upon, all who receive him today. Why? So that they (we) would be equipped, enabled, empowered to love as he loved, to give their lives for others, to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, forgive the unforgiveable, and nonviolently resist hatred with love. 

The incarnation means God became human. 

The crucifixion means God has absorbed all sin. 

The ascension means there is a human king ruling in heaven. 

Pentecost means God indwells humans on earth, giving voice to the inarticulate praises of nature, living out the cruciform love that washes feet, soothes wounds, visits the incarcerated, houses the homeless, feeds the hungry, heals the sick, and loves the unlovable who live on the margins. 

The realm of heaven, the realm of perfect love, is overlapping with the realm of human destruction. It is overlapping through those of us who seek to follow Jesus.

When Messiah Jesus appears, all will be like him, heaven and earth will be one. Perfect, divine, cruciform love will saturate all that is. Forever.


Depression can make your body so heavy it’s nearly impossible to get out of bed. It can rob you of interests, ambitions, the motivation to do almost anything. It can cause you to be irritated with everyone around you and upset by any circumstance, no matter how inconsequential. 

Depression kills – obviously by suicide, but also more slowly. It can exacerbate any illness, lower your immunity, contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle and bad habits. It is impossible to will yourself out of it, to simply buck up and be happy. 

There’s a lot of helpful stuff out there on depression – stuff researched, studied, written, and broadcast by very caring and knowledgeable people, but unless you’ve been through it, you cannot imagine what it is like to be clinically depressed. 

I’ve been there. And not just briefly, nor only a long time ago. It’s an ongoing struggle, like sobriety is for the alcoholic. One day at a time. Because I’ve been there, I know what it feels like and what it can do to you and those around you. 

I also know there’s hope, a light at the end of the tunnel. 

Often, healing begins by finding a good psychiatrist who will eventually (often by trial and error) find the right medication and dosage to enable you to do the hard inner work of uncovering the causes and cures. Depression either causes neurochemical imbalance in your brain, or neurochemical imbalance in your brain causes depression. Either way, there’s a physical element to it and you need medication just like a diabetic needs insulin. Medication won’t make you happy or solve the problem, but it will assuage the symptoms enough so you can attack the core issues.

The depressive feelings – the heaviness, the lack of energy, the cloud of isolation – is on the surface. Under it is a cognitive layer of negative thought patterns. Deeper still, in the core of your being, are childhood wounds that lie buried in your unconscious. 

Medication, diet, exercise, and relationships counteract the top layer of feelings. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy slowly peels away the middle layer of thought patterns. Most people stop there. Please don’t. 

Depth psychology and spiritual guidance dig into the deepest level, the inner core, to expose personas, integrate the true self, connect us with the divine eternal, and bring about wholeness, shalom, spiritual maturity. 

Be patient. It takes a long time. There are no quick fixes. You don’t want to simply remove the symptoms. You want to be healed in your innermost being. 

Start with the psychiatrist and the right medication. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor.

Connect with a good therapist who will help you over several courses of therapy to deal with behavioral and cognitive issues. Psychotherapists are either Ph.D. or Master’s level clinicians.  

When you’re ready, find a spiritual director to whom you can relate over a lengthy period of years, and dig deep into the realm that only your spirit knows. This will likely either be a Jungian psychoanalyst or a certified spiritual director. 

As your spirit becomes more open to the Spirit, transformation will occur.

In Those Days

We love sentimentality, especially at Christmas time. 

Syrupy movies with bad acting. 

Teach the world to sing.

Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by

That’s a lie.

The cattle are lowing
The Baby awakes
But little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes

I very much doubt it.

It came to pass in those days…

What were those days really like?

·      Israel-Palestine was occupied.

·      Caesar Augustus was on the throne.

·      His name was Gaius Octavius.

·      His great uncle was Julius Caesar.

·      Augustus is a title indicating that he was a son of the gods.

·      Everyone was required to worship him as divine lord.

·      He was an absolute despot who ruled by terror.

·      At the slightest hint of protest, Roman troops swept into town, randomly rounded up a bunch of innocent people and crucified all of them on a high hill nearby. 

·      There was no freedom. Everyone had been bludgeoned into submission.

·      Poverty and oppression reigned.

·      Judaism was corrupt. Its leaders were rich off the backs of the ordinary. 

·      The Temple was a den of thieves. 

·      Racism was prominent – Jews, Samaritans, and Romans, all hated each other.

·      Women were property to be used, abused, and discarded at will.

·      Unwanted children were left outside in the elements to die.

·      A father could order his wife or children killed.

·      There was no social safety net. Widows, orphans, and the disabled begged or starved. 

·      Life was brutal, unjust, and short. 

Into that world God came.

Not as a conquering king, but as an infant.

Completely helpless and dependent. 

The infant son of a poor teenage Jewish mother, displaced from home.

No generational wealth; no advantages.

No room in the kataluma, the caravansary.

Outside everything.

Perhaps in a cave or grotto, no one knows for sure.

Dirt, filth, poverty, exposure.

Hailed by shepherds. Being a shepherd was the lowest, most despised job you could have. Shepherds are dirty.

At the age of eight days, he’ll be circumcised.

Pagan astrologers from Persia will visit and adore.

Soon, because of this birth, all the baby boys in the region will be brutally ripped from their mothers’ arms and slaughtered.

Inconsolable wails will fill the air.

The baby’s parents will flee to Egypt with him – displaced refugees. 

We don’t much like this kind of Messiah, this kind of God.

What kind of Messiah is this?

What kind of God is this?

We don’t want a God who forgives, turns the other cheek, eschews violence, includes women, embraces children, who proclaims good news to the poor, freedom to the incarcerated, recovery of sight to the blind, sets the oppressed free, and proclaims YHWH’s favor.

“True worship of God consists quite simply in doing God’s will, but this sort of worship has never been to people’s taste.” – Søren Kierkegaard

No, we want a warlord, a conqueror, a king who will crush our enemies, marginalize those with different opinions and beliefs, put minorities in their place, make us victorious, powerful, and wealthy. 

What’s all this nonsense about denying self, washing feet, serving others? We all know where that stuff leads – rejection, death, Golgotha. 

Ah, but also Easter.

God’s Business

Luke 2:49 is most often translated “in my father’s house,” as if Jesus is referring to the Temple in Jerusalem where, at age 12, he was discussing theology with the elders. The passage is variously translated:

“Didn’t you know that I had to be concerning myself with my Father’s affairs?” (CJB)

“You should have known that I must be where my Father’s work is.” (ERV)

“Do you not know that I must be about my Father’s interests? (NRSVUE footnote)

Luke 2:49 literally says: 

“Do you not know that I must be in, or about, the ______ of my Father.” 

There is no verb and the grammar insists that whatever goes in the blank be plural.

Perhaps the best translation follows the Disciples’ Literal New Testament: 

“Did you not know that I must be in the things of My Father?” (DLNT)

“I must be about the things of my Father.”

“I must be in the things of my Father.”

What are the things of God the Father? What is God’s business?

Certainly not a building no matter how magnificent. The Almighty does not dwell in temples made by humans. God is not in need of being housed and fed by enslaved people as were pagan gods. Jesus later refers to this very temple as being abandoned by the God of Abraham.

The things of the Father include all of creation – the worlds, planets, stars, quasars, bunny rabbits, elm trees, red-bellied woodpeckers, humans, ideas, emotions, longings – the entire cosmos, the whole universe, all multiverses if such exist.

The things of the Father: nature, environment, plants, animals, climate-care.

The things of the Father: the broken, sick, dying, homeless, displaced, refugee, incarcerated, mentally ill, sad, depressed, addicted, lonely, starving, war-torn – the least of Jesus’ siblings.

The things of the Father: justice, peace, reconciliation, forgiveness, nonviolence, grace.

The things of the Father: spiritual guidance, healthcare, psychological care, safe affordable housing, wholesome food, safe neighborhoods, an end to violence.

The things of the Father: honesty, compassion, lovingkindness, mercy.

To follow Jesus is to join Jesus in being about the things of the Father. 


Soft, warm, gentle, long-lasting,

First rain of Spring, soaking, softening the

Hard and cracked soil as 

Earth takes a long, slow, deep

Drink and her flowers, grasses,

Bushes and trees absorb water and minerals.

Life. Soon, leaves, buds, flowers, fruit.

So comes the good spirit.

Blasting wind, icy torrents slicing, biting,

Snapping weighed down branches.

Shingles fly, villages lose power,

Topsoil washes away as

Creek banks cave in and 

Basements flood.

Death. Destruction, chill, ruin.

So comes the evil spirit.

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