Disturbing Presence

Reflections on the Way of Jesus

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"Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."  Mark 9:37

This has not been the vacation I had imagined.  I had a great get away to Provincetown to start vacation. We’ve had fantastic weather.  I’ve gotten out to swim, run or walk almost every day.  I’ve started a new exercise routine and feel great.  I’ve taken time to pray every day.  I have a pile of books and articles that I am in the process of reading.  And that’s the problem.  My prayer life has disturbed my reading and my reading has disturbed my prayer life.  They both have converged on the spate of undocumented, unaccompanied children migrating to the United States.

I have studied the history of this crisis – going back to the creation of Banana Republics in the early part of the 20th Century, Ronald Reagan and his minions arming rebel groups to overthrow Central American governments in the 1980’s, and trade agreements such as NAFTA and CAFTA-DR.  It all culminated when the Bush administration’s policies made it nearly impossible to deport immigrant children back to their countries of origin (not that they should be!).  

The US government’s policies have caused these problems .  Both Democrat and Republican administrations have had a variety of roles so this is a bipartisan problem and needs bipartisan fixes.  And yet Americans are furious.  We are gathering on the border and in the heartland’s towns and cities to protest and keep immigrating children away.  Politicians have gone off message during their election campaigns to speak to this issue … as if it were just a single issue.  Good Christian friends of mine who readily rescue dogs and cats and who go abroad to do relief missions in Latin American countries are all but advocating for the children to die, which is exactly what is happening in their homelands of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador


What has happened to the American spirit?  Have we forgotten that we stole this land from Native Americans and then murdered them to secure it?  Have we forgotten that most of us who are outside Indian reservations are children of immigrants or immigrants ourselves who likely came when immigrants from all over the world were welcomed with open arms?  Where is the spirit of compassion?  Where is the pride in our nation as a “Melting Pot?”  Where has the foundation of our country gone when we forget the founder’s declaration that all people are created equal and have certain unalienable rights – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? 


Most troubling to me, and what has caused such a disruption in my Sabbath, is the immense sorrow I feel for my Christian brothers and sisters who tout a faith in an ever-gracious God who knows no borders and whose laws are based on compassion, mercy and love, and yet who cannot relate to the most vulnerable children in the Western Hemisphere.  I am grief stricken for the children.  I am grief stricken for our nation.  I am grief stricken for our Christian faith which is no faith at all unless it lifts up those whom Jesus called “the least of these.”

I now return to my Sabbath to pray for our nation, for these precious homeless children, and for our God whose heart surely is breaking as the moral character of the faithful is laid bare and vulnerable. 


Let us do what is right and inherent in the precepts of our faith and the founding principles of this great nation.   Let us undo the wrongs that have occurred due to short-sighted foreign policies.  Let us love as we are loved by Love itself.

Filed under immigrants immigration Central American immigrants unaccompanied minors Christian faith Christian mission American Dream foreign policy trade agreements NAFTA CAFTA bigotry compassion mercy Native Americans national borders ronald reagan

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Ah, but I love to draw beautiful words, like trumpets of light…I adore you, words who are sensitive to our sufferings, words in red and lemon yellow, words in the steel-blue colour of certain insects, words with the scent of vibrant skills, subtle words of fragrant roses and seaweed, prickly words of sky-blue wasps. words with powerful snouts, words of spotless ermine, words spat out by the sands of the sea, words greener than Cyrene fleece, discreet words whispered by fishes in the pink ears of shells, bitter words, tornado and storm-tossed words, being beaten, evil words, festive words, tornado and storm-tossed words, windy words, reedy words, the wise words of children, rainy, tearful words, words without rhyme or reason, I love you! I love you!
James Ensor, belgian printmaker and painter on language. (via beingblog)

In the beginning was the Word…

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When we treat children’s play as seriously as it deserves, we are helping them feel the joy that’s to be found in the creative spirit. It’s the things we play with and the people who help us play that make a great difference in our lives.
Fred Rogers (via beingblog)


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In outer space the sun’s light is invisible,meaningless—until it finds a place to land.Here, first thing, the sunlight touches the tops of trees,then lights up the faces of the houses,wraps its arms around the town.It reaches between things with delight,warms the ground,makes little pools of color in the woods,dresses things, changes the air.After 93 million miles the sunlight finds things,even an old stone wall, to make it beautiful.No matter your state,you are here for a placefor God’s grace to landand not fall on empty ground.Grieving or joyous, sick or well,struggling or at ease, you are where God’s grace needs to cometo be beautiful. Receive it, and give thanks.
- Steve Garnaas Holmes, Sunlight



In outer space the sun’s light is invisible,
meaningless—until it finds a place to land.

Here, first thing, the sunlight
touches the tops of trees,
then lights up the faces of the houses,
wraps its arms around the town.
It reaches between things with delight,
warms the ground,
makes little pools of color in the woods,
dresses things, changes the air.

After 93 million miles the sunlight finds things,
even an old stone wall, to make it beautiful.

No matter your state,
you are here for a place
for God’s grace to land
and not fall on empty ground.
Grieving or joyous, sick or well,
struggling or at ease,
you are where God’s grace needs to come
to be beautiful.

Receive it, and give thanks.

- Steve Garnaas Holmes, Sunlight


68 notes

The Native American triad of corn, beans, and squash together, produce more than they ever could alone. The beauty of this truth can be applied to human communities as well. As I’ve been learning in my Permaculture Design Course, we can create people guilds too. We all have different strengths to contribute, and by carefully building our communities so every individual is able to both give and receive what they need to thrive, we create more than we ever could alone.

Heather Christensen, from this prompting essay on permaculture and polarization.
(via beingblog)


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“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them:  we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them” ― Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

I once served a congregation that had mistrust for our church, the United Church of Christ (UCC).  They refused to share membership information and estimates of their assets in the reports that the state and national setting of the church requested.  At more than a few meetings, people commented that the denomination now “owned” a church in a neighboring town.  In this case, “owning” was a matter of jargon.  One of the independent financial arms of the UCC loaned that congregation money when their oil tank was found to be leaking.  The tank presented an environmental hazard so it had to be extracted from the ground.  Contaminated soil all around it had to be dug up and replaced.  Local wells had to be tested and treated. Other options for that congregation besides borrowing money were to sell their building or disband.  The denomination valued the congregation, though, and lent them money at very low interest rates so they could make repairs and stay open.

I never heard one of the people from the church I was serving claim that local banks were untrustworthy because they held a mortgage on their neighbors’ properties.  If done properly and with affordable interest rates, we consider a loan to be a social good … and the basis of the American dream.  Enabling home ownership is almost considered a sacred trust.  I never did understand the congregation’s mistrust of the denomination.  The reality is that local churches are in covenant with the UCC.  The denomination doesn’t own a single local church and they can’t prescribe church life with dictums or mortgages.  This misinterpretation, though, perpetuated an already well-established mistrust.

There are different reasons for not trusting others.  Past hurts cause us not to trust.  Ignorance and fear cause us not to trust.  When we observe sketchy behavior in others, it rightfully causes us not to trust.  Hearing someone gossip causes me not to trust … and I loathe myself when I get caught up in gossip.  But I also suspect people who generally have difficulty trusting others and wish that they would get counseling.  Most good counselors and therapists will help their patients understand that most people are trustworthy because deep down most people are good and want to do the right thing.


When I offer premarital counseling, I focus far more attention on elements of trust between couples than love.  The fact is that feelings of love ebb and flow throughout all relationships. Therefore, it’s important for trust to be steadfast.  One of the hardest things to recover from in any relationship is broken trust.  The mind literally has to be reprogrammed before trust is restored.   

I once had an acquaintance who struggled with trust. When I first met him, I thought it was odd that he prefaced so many statements with, “Trust me,” or “I swear.”  I was duped a number of times by this man. Recovery from spinal surgery was a breeze compared to forgiving him.  Thanks be to God, I was finally able.  What made the difference was understanding who he was and what caused his behaviors. 

It turned out that he was a closeted gay man who had married a woman when he was quite young.  For more than twenty years, he hid his identity from others and himself – even his so-called friends.  He couldn’t trust himself enough to come out as having feelings for other men.  He couldn’t trust others with his secret.  He cheated on his wife, regularly having anonymous sex with men.  He appeared to be a pillar of virtue and trusted leader in his community based upon the told lies to just about everyone, including himself.  Actually he keeps most people at an arm’s distance so they can’t discover his various alter egos.  Telling half-truths and lies helps him maintain this façade.  More than anything, I feel sorry for this man and others who feel they must live in the closet.

As a gay man, I understand the fear of living “out.”  Especially in religious circles, it is hard to trust that you will be loved or accepted.  As someone who has been fully out for my entire adult life, I also can’t imagine living in closeted fear.  I’d rather experience backlash and homophobia than denying who I am.  I happen to believe that my sexuality is a gift from God.  Denying my sexuality would be like denying this loving God I worship as the source of all goodness and grace.     

Unfortunately, homophobia is still alive and well.  I read an article recently suggesting that a gay politician would have been better off living a life of lies and staying in the closet.  I disagree wholeheartedly.  The only way to live in freedom is to do so authentically. 


As Boston and other communities celebrate Pride in coming weeks, we will do well to celebrate that we have come so far as to commend that women and men of gay, bisexual or transgender identities live true to who they are.  We also must recognize that we have so much further to go until all are free to live the life as blessed and embodied sexual beings created in the image of God. 

Living out and openly means that trust is broadened throughout the webs of relationship that support community.  And when trust is broadened, love expands.  And wherever there is love, there is God. 


Filed under gay pride trust lies sexuality Christianity United Church of Christ closeted coming out of the closet Boston image of god