Showing posts from 2019

As For Me

Psalm 73 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
Book III: Psalms 73–89
73 (0) A psalm of Asaf:

(1) How good God is to Isra’el,
to those who are pure in heart!
But as for me, I lost my balance,
my feet nearly slipped,
when I grew envious of the arrogant
and saw how the wicked prosper.
For when their death comes, it is painless;
and meanwhile, their bodies are healthy;
they don’t have ordinary people’s troubles,
they aren’t plagued like others.

So for them, pride is a necklace;
and violence clothes them like a robe.
Their eyes peep out through folds of fat;
evil thoughts overflow from their hearts.
They scoff and speak with malice,
they loftily utter threats.
They set their mouths against heaven;
their tongues swagger through the earth.

10 Therefore his people return here
and [thoughtlessly] suck up that whole cup of water.
11 Then they ask, “How does God know?
Does the Most High really have knowledge?”

12 Yes, this is what the wicked are like;
those free of misfortune keep increasing their weal…


Vivid grace

Bent from vase

Toward my face—


Time gone—

What’s going on?

Gaze kept—

Heart leapt—


Chimney Rock

(This story was originally a dedication in a foreword to a book of poetry that I gave my Dad, Robert S. Sanford, for his birthday.)
I can only think of one thing I can give you on your 70th birthday that might be adequate. Yesterday I went hiking in the mountains with friends and we had a conversation about courage. We were delighted by our discovery that we like to be scared. We found ourselves describing to each other the instant just before the leap into danger, and we described to each other what happens in the mind at that instant. We all agreed that one has to stop thinking at that crucial instant in order to able go forward into the danger. That was when I realized that it was you who taught me about courage, and so I told my friends a story about you and a place called Chimney Rock:
My love of adventure has a beginning place in my memory— A place in the eastern mountains where a great platform of rock juts out over a valley brimming with trees, and two turkey vultures circle in …


It can’t be described. It might be possible to demonstrate it to someone who was interested in the idea. Presence is being in the moment. Awful, trendy phrase, I know. I recognize presence by its absence, and learn its benefits by rediscovering it. Presence is easy when it comes to beauty, serenity, and solitude. When the air in your lungs is the same air that blows upward from the mountain top, presence is like the dancing kite of which you are the tail: effortless.

Presence is not so easy when it comes to people. Toxic people who batten on to others in their need and can’t recognize ease or comfort when it comes to them. Busy people who never stop to look or listen, and insist on chattering like monkeys. Pushy, domineering people who have hidden feelings riding their backs with whips. Sick people who spread misery like a stain in the air around them. Angry people who carry invisible weapons in both hands, loaded and cocked. Sad people, floating silently by on a dark greasy river wi…

My Dog

My dog is not a “fur-baby,” and I am not her Mama.

My dog is not a human being; she belongs to another species called Canis Lupus Familiaris. She comes from an ancient lineage of pack hunters that somehow managed to domesticate human beings and teach them how to cooperate and co-exist with an alien species.

My dog has a name that I gave her: “Tully,” and she recognizes it, but she doesn’t give a shit about names, or politics, or money. She barely gives a shit about the weather, although she loves to lie in the sun.

I am glad my dog is not a human being, because she helps me forget about all the awful things that human beings do to each other. She doesn’t even think about global warming, immigrants, real-estate prices, LGBTQ rights, poverty, or anti-vaccers.

To her ‘social justice’ means that her expectation of being fed in the morning is perfectly justified.

She knows things that no human being knows. She sees things that human beings can’t see, and smells things that human beings c…

Maundy Thursday

From 'Celtic Daily Prayer - Prayers and Readings from The Northumbria Community'.

“I was dreaming that I was treading the streets of the Holy City, pottering about like a tourist. In my wandering I came upon the museum of that city of our dream. I went in, and a courteous attendant conducted me round. There was some old armour there, much bruised with battle. Many things were conspicuous by their absence. I saw nothing of Alexander’s, nor of Napoleon’s. There was no Pope’s ring, nor even the ink-bottle that Luther is said to have thrown at the devil, nor Wesley’s seal and keys. I saw a widow’s mite and the feather of a little bird. I saw some swaddling clothes, a hammer, and three nails, and a few thorns. I saw a bit of a fishing-net and the broken oar of a boat. I saw a sponge that had once been dipped in vinegar, and a small piece of silver. But I cannot enumerate all I saw, nor describe all I felt. Whilst I was turning over a common drinking cup which had a very honorable pl…

One Sparrow

Psalm 102

I am like a great owl in the desert,
I’ve become like an owl in the ruins.
I lie awake and become
like a bird alone on the roof.

Tao te Ching -Twenty

Give up learning and put an end to your troubles.
Is there a difference between yes and no?
Is there a difference between good and evil?
Must I fear what others fear? What nonsense!
(But) I alone am drifting, not knowing where I am.
Like a newborn babe before it learns to smile,
I am alone, without a place to go.
Oh, I drift like the waves of the sea,
Without direction, like the restless wind.

Hafiz – Effacement

Is a golden gun.
It was not easy to hold it against my head
And fire.

I needed great faith in my master
To suffocate myself
With his holy bag
Full of truth.

I needed great courage
To go out into the dark
Tracking God into the unknown.

And not panic or get lost
In all the startling new scents, sounds,

Or lose my temper
Tripping on those scheming
Night and day around me.

Effacement is the e…

Hold The Light

John 12:27-36 (35)

Then Jesus told them,

“The light is among you for a short time.

Walk as if you hold the light, so that the grasping darkness can’t get a grip on you.

Walking in company with darkness,

you do not know where you are being led.”

The above is the result of pondering the meaning of the Greek words, in Mounce’s Reverse Interlinear translation.

I don’t have a whole lot more to say, except that I really like the images of ‘holding’ the light, and of ‘grasping darkness.’

Take It Back!

Jeremiah 15:10-21 The Message (MSG)

You know where I am, God! Remember what I’m doing here!
    Take my side against my detractors.
Don’t stand back while they ruin me.
    Just look at the abuse I’m taking!
When your words showed up, I ate them—
    swallowed them whole. What a feast!
What delight I took in being yours,
    O God, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!
I never joined the party crowd
    in their laughter and their fun.
Led by you, I went off by myself.
    You’d filled me with indignation. Their sin had me seething.
But why, why this chronic pain,
    this ever worsening wound and no healing in sight?
You’re nothing, God, but a mirage,
    a lovely oasis in the distance—and then nothing!

19-21 This is how God answered me:

“Take back those words, and I’ll take you back.
    Then you’ll stand tall before me.
Use words truly and well. Don’t stoop to cheap whining.
    Then, but only then, you’ll speak for me.
Let your words change them.
    Don’t change your words to suit them.

Take it …

It's Not Okay

I am tired of self-help memes on social media. I do not need validation. I do not need strangers to tell me “You are loved,” or “You are beautiful,” or ”You’ve got this.”
I can’t stand it when people trivialize and dismiss genuine pain by saying, “It’ll be okay.” How do theyknow? How could they possibly know? Why doesn’t it occur to them that what they are really doing is using a shallow platitude to shield themselves from the reality of another person’s pain?
The world is a hurty place, it really is! But it’s a happy, agreeable place too.
The truth is that the world is an incredible, astounding, absurd, wonderful place filled with beauty, horror, love, joy, hatred, violence, healing, triumph, grief, and the ego-shattering realization that it’s not just about you.
It’s perfectly fine for us to adjust our feelings, and to do our best not to descend into self-pity or negativity, but shouldn’t it be obvious that it’s not a good idea for anyone to maintain an internal monologue about …

Eternal Life

John 6:27-40

Don’t work for the food which passes away but for the food that stays on into eternal life..

Everyone the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will certainly not turn away. For I have come down from heaven to do not my own will but the will of the One who sent me. And this is the will of the One who sent me: that I should not lose any of all those he has given me but should raise them up on the Last Day. Yes, this is the will of my Father: that all who see the Son and trust in him should have eternal life, and that I should raise them up on the Last Day.

Suddenly the meaning of this familiar passage shifted in my mind—

What if Jesus was talking about his Last Day?What if “raise them up” meant raising us up on the cross with him? That idea makes trust the central focus of the entirety of the Good News! It’s not just ourtrust in Christ, but Christ’s trust in us, and in God; culminating in God’s trust in all of us.

Imagine what it would be like to not on…

A Slice of Grace

My friend said,

“I think I’ll cut myself a slice of grace…”

and I thought, “What would grace taste like?”

Sour cherry pie?

Buckwheat pancakes?

Eggs and bacon?

Tuna salad?

Single malt scotch?

and then I thought, “What would grace smell like?”




Baking bread?


Oh, and then there’s this question— “What would grace sound like?

Wild geese overhead?

Friendly laughter?

Wind in the pines?


Fire crackling?

Last but not least, “What would grace look like?

Sunset from the freeway?

Birds in the bird feeder?

A sleeping dog?

Falling snow under the porch light?

Moonlight on a mountainside?

A familiar face?

Stories About God

This is the homily I preached this morning in church. The texts were 
Joshua 5:9-12; Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32.
I read somewhere, a long time ago, that the most important reason we go to church is to tell stories about God to one another. I believe that’s true. When I was thinking about standing up here and telling you a story about God, I suddenly felt the urge to describe to you a way I have of imagining that the Bible is reading me instead of me reading it. I believe that this way of reading or listening to Scripture has the power to change our perspective. The Celtic peoples, who were great storytellers and poets, called certain places “thin places.” They were trying to describe places where the veil between heaven and earth is worn thin; places where the holy and the ordinary brush up against each other. When I visited the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, many years ago, I felt something like this as I looked through the window of my room at the inn. This is …

Let's Wake Up!

Jeremiah 11:1-8; Jeremiah 11:14-20
I’m back on my soapbox about censoring the Bible. We only do it to the Old Testament, and it’s usually the result of squeamishness about the way the ancient Hebrews characterized natural consequences as punishments from God. I still get annoyed by it (the censoring, I mean). The O.T. reading leaves out verses 9-13 in Jeremiah 11. I’m fairly convinced of the futility of complaining about it. Still, it fits in with the logical error I noticed relative to the other two readings, so I’ll include my thoughts about it anyway.
Jeremiah is a Prophet. He believes that he was given the courage to speak the truth of God for a reason. (You see, I don’t think a prophet is a person who hears God’s voice, because I think we all hear God’s voice. No, a prophet is simply someone with the courage to speak up and say the things that no-one wants to hear. It doesn’t mean they are always right, but it does mean that they are willing to be unpopular.)
Anyway, here are the mi…

My Tree

Do kids still climb trees? I never see kids in trees these days. Maybe kids never climbed trees all that much, even when I was a kid. I climbed trees all the time, though. It was my passion. I could climb the hard ones, too. My Dad would never help me get up into a tree when I was little; he’d say it wouldn’t be safe for me to climb it until I could do it all by myself. So I suffered in jealousy watching him up in a tree; and me down below, salivating and imagining the feel of the bark under my hands, the high wind cooling the sweaty roots of my hair, the wedged balance of the swaying view below me. Of course, now I think of it, most kids’ Dads didn’t torture them by climbing trees in front of them and refusing to help them up, either. Anyway, I was an expert by age eight in technical tree climbing. Freestyle, of course. I was a bookworm, too. I know, because I was told so repeatedly by my mother and my grandmother. So, to me there was an obvious and immediate synchrony between trees a…