Thursday, December 29, 2016


        It's  almost ironical that our usual 'Christmas' stuff is based on tradition, sentiment, nostalgia and family, while the stories in the two gospels warn precisely against these things, shouting out to us that all these things keep us from finding the newness that God has to offer us.
       I love the family and traditional as much as the next person and rarely search for anything new at Christmas. I was lucky this year, lucky to be in an unusual spot (for me) and so 'something new' was hard to ignore.
       Judy and I were in Toronto for the Christmas weekend,  bouncing around between family and friends. It so happened that for a few hours on Christmas morning we were 'between' engagements so, of course, we went to the only place opened in that part of town, the local Tim Hortons. We had books along, naturally, so we went in and took our coffees to a table and spent a couple of hours reading and people watching, sitting next to a window which looked out on the Drive Through.
      It was fairly crowded inside - fairly young adults to seniors. Two women with a child each, several languages being spoken and a very accepting and laid-back atmosphere. Many of these people knew, or at least had seen each other before. They were probably on their own and this was their Christmas morning 'out'. It was NOT a depressing picture. At one time I rose and led the people in giving the staff a hand in thanks for them being there to serve us all and to wish them a Merry Christmas.
      Meanwhile, just outside, there was a steady stream of cars driving in for a quick fix, The cars, as far as I counted, had only one person each, and there were no smiles. They were all in a hurry to go somewhere. To a family gathering? To pick up a 'shared' child? Who knows? At any rate, there was a huge difference, it appeared, between the attitude of those outside in their cars (mostly quite new and expensive) and the much poorer and supposed 'lonely' people inside. Sitting where I was, I was greatly gifted with the understanding that the story in Luke was right, that the poor shepherds are much more likely to hear the angels than are the rest of us. We who supply the meals for the poor, whether at Christmas or throughout the year, rarely in our business and 'good works' even come close to the realities that God has for us. We're just too busy driving around, grabbing our coffee on-the-go. We may feed the poor, but how often to we eat and live with them, really sharing our lives?
       In this culture of ours what is based on material wealth it is nearly impossible to hear this truth. I hope and dream of some people starting to intentionally trying to live in a Way that we know brings us life. It will be such a huge step of faith. But so much needed. Until then, the angels sing in vain.

Yours in hope and love,

Friday, November 25, 2016


         Christians, you can't have it both ways. Either God is one of power or might, or of love. You can't have it both ways. That's what screwing you up so much. One minute you pray for this and that, with the assumption that God will make your dreams come true (If you are worthy? If God wants to? If you pray for it 'hard' enough or long enough?) The next minute you're claiming to follow Jesus who, it seems, didn't even get his wish when he prayed to be shown a different ending than death by the Romans.
        Can't you see that in real love there is no power? How can there be force and control in love? Any parent knows that in raising children in love, you are constantly giving away power until it is all gone. Only love remains. Yet, we continue in word and song to insist on a God that is all-powerful and mighty. It's no surprise that we've not grown in love and churches are dying. They deserve it.
       Let's look again at the Way of Jesus of Nazareth. There was no power there. Time and again he refused power of all kinds. Yet, we make him into our 'Messiah'. We may admit that that was the way of his 'earthly' ministry, but that he is still all powerful up in heaven. How terrible! When we do this, he truly did die in vain.
      Christmas will be in another four weeks, a time when we hear Jesus referred to as our king, messiah, and many more terms of power and might. How terrible. We ignore all the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke, stories that try to tell us all of how powerless the Word of God is, of how we must put aside our worship of Power and Control.
     Maybe, just maybe, this year we (Christians) will begin to hear. When we do, perhaps we will begin to find new life. If we don't, we'd better die off as soon as we can and encourage others to find God in the poor and powerless.

Just One Disciple,

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


    Six more days until the USA election. Trump says everything is wrong and  he will bring back the good old days. Clinton says everything is fine and she will see that it gets even better. Even though Trump scares me and I'd vote for Clinton if I could, Donald is more right in his basic story than is Hilary. There is a truth that very few politicians care to admit: Each of the next generations, taking the world as a whole, will have less material goods than the previous one. "Winter is coming!"
    Having based our worth and value on the amount of material wealth we have accumulated or used, this fact is most difficult for us to accept. Even in The Economist this week, most people in the 'west' know this fact is true. 'Success' for most of us is to beat the odds, to keep accumulating or just to break even in the next decade or two, to retire or die with as much we  as have now, to not have to change our lives or expectations, to not have to share in the general fate of the world and accept the results of the way we and others have lived.
    The success of Donald Trump is dependent upon those who take that path, hoping that using violence and isolation, the inevitable will be delayed for a while. In some ways, they are more honest than are the 'everything's OK' folks.
    Both, as are all leaders who side with either, need to be challenged with a greater reality and vision. Only if we replace our measure of success and 'The Good Life', will we survive. Only a true rebirth, a true renaissance of life and spirituality, will lead us through the crisis in which we are entering. No other path has any hope. Any leader that does not take this into account is not worthy of our support. I seriously doubt that either of the candidates in this election have that depth.
    It is most sad that there are few 'spiritual' leaders that have the depth, courage and love that can meet our needs. Our 'religious' institutions have long ago abandoned their relevance. A new paradigm is needed. Nothing short of a political/spiritual revolution will suffice.
    The fear of those to our south (and so many other nations) will, hopefully, awaken more of us to see the larger picture and to enable us to see that our beliefs and actions simply can not remain separate. Only in having the betterment (and survival) of humanity can be our goal from this day on. All 'would be' leaders who don't know and display this in their actions must be rejected.
    From all faiths, and those without 'religion', this must become our one purpose.  Hilary and Donald, who ever wins, open your eyes wider. Both of you will have to be truly 'reborn' if you are to be any good for the world.
     Still in hope,


Tuesday, July 19, 2016


    In the summer months Jude and I often 'church hop' to share in Sunday worship with congregations that are new to us. In our Kingston area there are plenty from which to choose. There's always a chance, however small, that we will find one that will feel like home. We left the island on the nine o'clock ferry so we had lots of time.
    The first two we tried, the Unitarians and Quakers, apparently had closed for the summer, without putting anything about it on their web-sites. (Isn't it interesting that what-ever is offered in most places of public worship, somehow decreases in importance with the onset of warm weather?) We still had time to swing by a United Church that we had some connection with through their  music staff.
     I'm sorry to say that the experience was too predictable. They are 'modern'; there's a screen up front so the worship bulletin and hymn book(s) are redundant. The sound system, even assuming that many of the people have some hearing troubles, was WAY to loud.(The gentleman sitting in front of us took out his hearing aid.) The sixty or so seniors were very friendly in the 'greeting' part of the service. Everything was well planned and professional. The 'skin' of the experience was so very acceptable. And, for me, so very lacking in any deep spirituality.
    But what is needed in community worship? It is obvious that the people there, who have been coming there for generations, are getting what they need, at least, in some very important ways. But what do I need? Obviously, something very different. What might others need who are coming for the first time? I need a place to give and to receive, a place to share, a place where I see others sharing, being close enough with others to risk even a bit of close and personal stuff. Did I see any indication of that being even a small possibility? No.
    As is to be assumed in any clergy-driven church, all was directed from the top down. The music was hired help as well. There was no time for any inter-action. Not even coffee-time afterwards. You came, were entertained, and left.
    This 'church' style is hurting our spirituality. It gives us the impression that this shallowness is all that Christianity offers. If this is indeed the case, it needs to die. What we all long for is a place/time/community in which to share, question, be quiet, yell, laugh and cry. We need to live.
    At least, I need it. Most of us, I suspect, don't know we need it because we haven't experienced anything even close to the possibility of a loving community. We have no idea of what power and joy is available in real shared spirituality. And by this I certainly don't mean a group of people who are identical in their beliefs, but who, instead, can share their different realities and questions with each other, learning and growing in the process.
   In leaving that United Church congregation, the thought that remained most with me was that of all the gifts, knowledge, experiences, hopes and dreams of all those people. And of how all that pure WONDER was being lost by not being shared. How the very structure of the church, especially the assumptions of the need of control by the ordained clergy, was limiting and killing God's Spirit of Love and Life.
    Viewing the average age of the congregants, it was obvious that in another six or eight years, the church would die. Good. Maybe then, by then, there will be  enough wisdom and need for something new to be born. I hope I see that day.
    I need that day. For I know that there are mighty things that can only happen when people join together in love. We believe on our own. We need times of solitude and reflections. But the important things happen when we are together. We only grow when we are with others. That's how God and love work. "When two or more are gathered...." is fundamentally true. In leaving ourselves alone and isolated in our spirituality, we are limiting our growth and our futures. A real shame.
   So I'll keep searching. Maybe I'll have the nerve, some day, to try again and invite others to just join with me in sharing. Anyone interested?

Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Watered-Down Mother's Day

      I love Mother's Day, don't get me wrong. It's great to have a time that smartens us up and encourages us to give thanks and attention where it's due. The perspective of mothers is the best and most whole and holy thing we have. The world would be much better if women ran it and men just did the heavy lifting, doing what they were told.
     Mother's Day has a great history, but I doubt if many know of it. It had nothing to do with flowers or having breakfast made. After the Thirty-Years War in Europe, over two hundred years ago, thousands of women of all backgrounds organized in the first women's movement of its kind. It was an anti-war movement in hopes that men in the future would not make war on each other. The women were sick and tired of losing their husbands, brothers and sons over the whims of other men. It shook the establishment but obviously had little long-term affect.
    After the Civil War in the U.S. a similar movement was attempted. Nothing happened. But finally, fifty years or so later, a Mothers' Day was recognized by the federal government, watered down, of course, to lack any resemblance to the meaning of the original wish of mothers.
   But it sells a lot of flowers and cards, a great way of gathering in our most loved grouping. It is, however, a shame that we've been bought off by the 'powers-that-be' as we most often due, allowing our deepest needs ( peace and understanding) to be supplanted by the cute and nice.
   Mothers, we so need you to again put the truth before us. No one else is, not churches and certainly, not the governments. The wealthy in all nations is against real justice and peace and we men are just too easily brain-dead and led astray. We need you to find your  mother instinct and lead, to not be bought-off by the mundane. Don't let us get away with it.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Earth: I Fear We Are Doomed

Earth Day was this last week. As I have written, I have all but given up on the validity and future of present Christianity. Is doesn't make sense and is doing nothing. This week brings up a  major example. A main belief of the churches, supposedly, is that the earth is holy, made by God, given to us to protect. Are any churches doing anything about our habit of killing and disrespecting the earth? Where are there churches that are leading the way in life-styles that attempt at faithfulness in this regard? If churches are not being honest and faithful in this most pressing need, why should they be given any respect? They are obviously not about life and the doing of God's will. We are better off without them.
   Apart from them, does the Earth have a chance. Not from our culture. In our present way of thinking, dirty, or anything from dirt or the earth, is bad. How many children, urban or rural, in the last two generations, have enjoyed and have been encouraged to play in dirt? "Don't get dirty!" "Get out of that mud!" "Look at your clothes!"
  We've all heard it so often. What children learn is that the earth is bad. And we are paying dearly for it. We now know that many of our diseases are caused by children not getting the anti-bodies from the soil that are so needed in our system.
  We are truly from the dirt and need it. Yet we are rejecting anything that is 'from the earth' that hasn't been re-formed into our limited image.
  If we don't learn, and change (repent) we are doomed. This will be nothing short of a transformation on our part, something that can only be called Spiritual. Will this happen? I hope so. I doubt it, for there is just too much money and power going the other way. I doubt if we will have the collective wisdom to choose another path.
  The path, however, is there for us. In all the old understandings, from the Jewish path to the many others, the way of wholeness and love is there. This current ignorance is leading us to an unnecessary crisis. I hope others will start to challenge it, to band together enough to become active and lead toward a tomorrow of hope and joy.

Monday, February 8, 2016

WHY CAN'T THE MEANING OF WORDS STAY THE SAME? 'Spiritual' but not 'Religious'?

          Remember when we had 'problems' and not 'issues', when an 'issue' was the topic to be discussed, some item on the agenda?  Luckily for me, most of the younger people in my life use the 'older' usage for words when in mixed company. I have this self-image of one who is not threatened by change. But keeping up with the new meanings for old words is tiresome. Why don't they make up new words and leave the old ones as they were?
         Take the word religious. It used to mean someone who was spiritual, who had motives for action and life that were beyond themselves, someone who was deeply connected to a philosophy and/or belief that involved other people, someone whose actions were apart from the norms or values of much of society, in a good way.  These were thoughtful people, and the word was generally a positive one. Now, for many of  my friends, and no doubt, much of our society, religious has come to be a bad word, synonymous with being close minded, argumentative, judgmental and un-fun.
         The sad truth is that we can see several of the world's religions shifting toward this kind of fundamentalism, or worst. If we know our history, (sorry to say, few of us have given this any time), we know that Classical Christianity was created (in the 300's and 400's) in precisely this non-thinking, believe-what-you-are-told understanding. At last, many of us are questioning this concept of our past religion and rejecting it wholeheartedly. I certainly agree in that I am not a Christian in that doctrinal way. I call myself a Post-Christian Disciple. I know that God was and is in the teachings and life of Jesus of Nazareth, but I in no way limit the Holy, however named, to this one expression. But, am I among the growing multitude that claim to be 'spiritual but not religious'? No.
         Sadly, in relegating all 'religious' to the negative, we are literally "throwing out the baby with the  bathwater." It's similar to allowing ourselves to be against being healthy because of obvious bad experiences and needs for improvements in our 'health system'. Are you then, 'spiritual' but not 'religious'? Of course, all people are 'spiritual'. We're born with this aspect of our humanity. This 'being spiritual' is a singular thing, an awareness with which we can do as we please. There's no need to brag about it. It's a given. This is the very thing that so long ago started to separate us from other animals.
        Now that you've become aware of your humanness, what are you/we doing with this awareness? This ability to question, to think, to see ourselves alone but part of the whole, and to question about that 'whole', 'beyond' or Holy?  How we answer those questions determines if we are 'religious' or not. If we choose to remain alone, as many of us are, we are limited to ourselves and will grow very little, limited by our need to be safe and to not risk anything meaningful. Being aware of our spirituality and choosing to remain alone and stingy, may be something to publicly acclaim, but I fail to see what good it does. It's like a person shouting to the world how much they have to give others and yet who decide to keep it all to themselves.  When we chose to share our questions/answers/lives with others, that is where 'religion' is born. 'Religion' is a risky thing, all right. Growth and change is always a risk.
        Certainly, many of us have been hurt and turned-off by the narrowness of Classical Christianity, but does that mean that any and all shared spiritual sharing/growth/community is evil or unwanted? Why can't 'religion' be based on understandings that are open and accepting? Why can't debate and real giving/receiving be known as expressions of the Holy and that actions be even more important than words? Why can't an understanding be that the opinion of some, no matter their education, are of no more importance than others, that there be no 'clergy' class to dictate and limit others?
       The above was the way the Jesus Movement started. Only due to the lack of (oppression of) education in churches, do we not know this. People coming together, in their variety of thinking as well as their common experiences, is the basis of what we are. Let us all urge and help each other to share our thoughts, taking each other seriously, no matter if we agree or not.
       Words change. Even more, then, we need to listen, for the words, even when they change, tell of things that never change. We are all spiritual, but called to become 'religious,' able to share and to grow. We may need to let a lot of the traditionally 'Religious' die for this to happen, to let the 'churches' die a well-deserved end, but let's not let the needed 'death' to hinder new life. Let's  praise the new 'religious', the need for real communication/life/love on this earth that so desperately needs us to get our priories in line with the realities of our present existence.
         Thanks for allowing me to share this.
         Anthony Gifford