Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

Tag Archives: Spiritual Practice

Is This Really Where We Are? — A Psalm of Lament

Oh Lord, Is this really where we are?  A man once said, “I believe, but help my unbelief”. I’m not sure I ever understood, until I myself had to cry out to you, Is this really where we are, oh Lord. Are we really as far from the Kingdom of Read more →

To Write or Not to Write… A Systemic Theology Book

One of the aspects of a Clinical Pastoral Education Residency that was most valuable to me was spending a year with ministers from other religious traditions, being required to have deep discussions about theology, about pastoral care, and about our life experiences.  It not only helped me to broaden my Read more →

What Would a UU Religious Order Look Like?

One of the first essays I ever wrote in seminary, and the first essay I ever had published, was on the need for Unitarian Universalism to develop integrated spiritual practices that can be shared and engaged by large groups of Unitarian Universalists.  In that essay, I make the case that Read more →

Introspection and the “Set Apart” Life of Ministry

There are times where the internal shifts necessary to be in a life of ministry in our liberal faith tradition are more obvious than others.  As Unitarian Universalist ministers, we often emphasize a radical leveling in our ministries, and many UU ministers react against the classical understanding that ministers should Read more →

The Fluidity of Identity and the Created Self

There are many amazing aspects about the process of meeting a new church.  Of course there are the challenges of moving into a system that is already well established, of becoming subject to traditions and power-lines that are long established, and to engage congregational dynamics as they flow and shift.  Read more →

My Seminary Graduation Gift: A Year with Honor Harrington

I was determined to give myself a gift at the end of 5 years of seminary, church internship, military chaplain basic training, hospital internship and hospice residency… and I did not know what I wanted.  Could I be craving a vacation on a beach in the Caribbean?  Well, always… but Read more →

General Assembly Day 5: Passionate Arguments for Our Faith’s Center

I want to say on Celestial Lands what I said in person to many people about the overall “theme” for this General Assembly.  In my most humble opinion, the overall theme was not the 50th Anniversary of the UUA.  It was not where we will be as a religion in Read more →

General Assembly Day 4: Universalism, Compassion, Spiritual Practice and Salvation

My experience of the fourth day of the 2011 General Assembly in Charlotte, NC, was framed around two lectures… the Murray Street Address by the Rev. Bill Sinkford… and the Ware Lecture by Karen Armstrong.  For me, these two lectures swam in my personal pond through waters that have been Read more →

The Purpose of Religious Communities

I always know I’m onto something when I can get a congregant to look at me cross-eyed. A few months ago I was having a conversation with a dear congregant from a corporate background about how our Fellowship here in Midland “did things”. How our committees and teams function, how Read more →

Church Life, Alcohol, and Me

Every year at this time of year I end up having the conversation with someone (usually a congregant) about church life, me, and alcohol. There is a familiar flow to the conversation, and I thought this year, after having one conversation with a friend and ministerial colleague along these lines Read more →

We Give Thanks, For this Blessed Day

As is customary on Thanksgiving morning, I woke up thinking of all the things that I give thanks for. All the things in my life that I am grateful for… and I thought I would share a few of them. I give thanks for my wife, and for the fact Read more →

Decline, Denial, and an 8K Ruck March

This weekend was a military drill / Battle Assembly for me, and it taught me something… that I’m not as young as I once was. Nor am I as young as I would like to be. Nor am I as young as I like to think I am. I was Read more →

Worship as Emotive Experience

This past Sunday, I became emotional in the pulpit… again. Ok, truth to be told, I’m always emotional in the pulpit. It’s part of why I never schedule anything for Sunday afternoon, because preaching a good UU sermon will wipe me out, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I usually maintain enough Read more →

The Liminal Space of Intentional Not-Knowing

The last month has been a liminal space for me, as I have intentionally stayed in a space of not-knowing when it comes to what the next few years will bring. Perhaps there is a key to understanding our faith tradition in such liminality. Read more →

Standing on the Side of Reflection and Practice

I want to be very clear at the beginning of this article that it applies to the religious right, the religious center, and the religious left, and I’m going to focus on the religious left. This is something within human nature, not within specific religious traditions. If there is a difference Read more →

Self-Forgiveness and Zazen

For Christmas this year, my wife and I took a trip back to the closest thing I have to a hometown, Knoxville Tennessee. It was good to see my mother, and to visit some places that have deep meaning for me. We then went on to spend Christmas Eve and Read more →

Realizations from Sesshin

Now that I have been home from my first Zen Sesshin for about a week, I feel I am able to write about the experience. I have tried to stay out of my discursive mind as much as possible this week, although that is challenging when you have final academic Read more →

Ways that Zen Sesshin is Like Military Basic Training

During the Zen Rohatsu Sesshin (7 ½ Day Zen Meditation Retreat in honor of the Buddha’s enlightenment day) that I attended this past week, I began to notice some eerie similarities to my multiple experiences of Military Basic Training. Though this was my first Sesshin at the Zen temple where Read more →

Blogging Best Practices

I would like to thank Shelby Meyerhoff and the UUA Blogging Resources Project for the effort to put together a survey and report on “best practices” in Unitarian Universalist Blogging. It was an honor to be asked to participate in the survey behind the report. It was also useful for Read more →

Not Misusing Intoxicants

A year ago, inspired not only by my Zen practice but also by wanting to better understand a friend, I made the commitment not to use alcohol for one year. Now, alcohol has never been a large part of my life, but I have enjoyed both a professional and personal Read more →

The Inherent Worth of Terrorists

In 1992 I saw a set of pictures of a village in Peru that had been massacred by members of the Sendero Luminoso, the “Shining Path”. It is hard for me even today to describe the brutality of those images. Hate is not too strong a word for the emotions Read more →

Writing and Spiritual Practice

As I begin this endeavor of actually keeping a blog (on top of writing regular essays, sermons, and contributions to the Celestial Lands Journal) it struck me just how much writing is a part of my personal spiritual discipline.  I use the word discipline on purpose, because it is more Read more →