The City of God


“He took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city coming down out of heaven from God.” Revelations 21:10

At dusk – when light lowers over the City,
the City sparkles –  pink, soft, shining.

From my own kitchen window I witness this one magnificent moment.

I call it the City of God.
That one moment the City sparkles,                                                                                                            not grimy, gritty, full of grief,
but beautiful, always, always, always.                                                                                                  Then, then –
I am in that mysterious place
between worlds,
where we live – and don’t live.
At once.

The sun drops into the vast Pacific,
lonely place;
the City of God

meb, 1/2015


Our Little Worlds



We all grow up in Little Worlds, Little Worlds that begin with our families – for better or worse – and gradually expand into the world that surrounds us, that Big World, that foreign place.  For some of us, that foreign place intrigues, and so we spend our lives widening and widening the boundaries of the Little World where we began.

For some of us, Big World is a frightening place – which it surely is – and so we use our precious energy to make sure the boundaries of our  Little World are never broken.  We live within the confining – and supposedly safe – shell of Little World.  We take our Little World with us, wherever we go.

Our minds hold our Little Worlds, embrace our Little Worlds, surround our Little Worlds.  If we think we have open minds and still, our world does not embrace the wideness of the world and its varieties of thinking and people and ideologies and practices and dresses and rights and wrongs, then our minds are not open at all.  We are locked in our Little Worlds, the only worlds our minds can hold.  Whenever we think:  “how can they be that way?” or “how can they think that way?” we are living within the limits of Little World.   That’s how our minds think; that’s what keeps us in Little World.   Often our Open Minds are not Open at all, they are only the Little World, unable to give way to Big  World.

Experience teaches us – hopefully – that our Little Worlds are not big enough for life.  We try to control our Little Worlds, keeping the Big World away; sometimes we are startled awake, startled alive,  have our minds broken open.  When our minds break open the edges of our Little World gives way to  Big World.

Our minds are broken open when our hearts are broken open – by failing, by submitting our privilege, by addiction, by depression, by the truth that whatever rules we learned in the Little World cannot carry us in Big World.  Our minds are broken open when we realize we do not know, we cannot know what is right or good for another.  We learn that we don’t even know what is right or good for ourselves.  We learn that the rules we learned in Little World don’t work in Big World.  The rules we learned in Little World are meant to keep us small, and safe.  Big World is not safe; Big World is an adventure.

We – those of us who have  had our Little Worlds broken, are grateful for those things that have broken us, for they break the Little World.  And this, this alone makes the world a safer, kinder, gentler place, for all.  Big World is a place of love, of limit-less love.

When Little World is broken, Big World appears.



It takes a community


Hands on a globe

It takes a community.

As long as I’ve been an adult I’ve been reminded, again and again, of how individualistic Western society is. Surely, individualism is the seed of entrepreneurship. Each one of us has gifts, talents, smarts that we cannot contain within ourselves. Our talents are necessary for the whole community to flourish.  However, when we allow our individualism to isolate us, to deprive us of the creative ideas of others, to turn us into combative souls, vying for space and resources and goods, then we have allowed individualism to destroy us.

As the leader of a faith community for many years, I learned what community can give. Community breaks isolation. Community is a place where others know your name. Community is the place where you are asked: “how are you?” and the question is for real. Community is the place where folks are genuinely concerned for “the other.” Community is the place where transitions – death, loss, change – are honored. Community is the place where it is safe to come when you are lonely. The people in community are the ones you call when you are sick and need a ride, or when you have a question to ask about some practical matter. Community is the place where an idea may arise that you didn’t have – an idea that solves your problem.

It takes a community to break down the barriers of individualism, those high walls we have so often built around ourselves. I expect that there is a “feel” to community – a “feel” of safety, of boundaries, of being connected, a feel of being solid. That “feel” comes from the presence of other people, other people who look out for you – just as you look out for them.

Sometimes, a neighborhood is a community. A neighborhood where others know what’s going on, a place where folks come out from their homes onto the street when something happens. A place where people know who lives here and who doesn’t. A neighborhood can be the place where the owners of the shops are also part of the network of relationships.

It takes a community. If you are isolated today, then I invite you to start – NOW! – to look for a community. Find a place where others have your interests. Find a place where you meet like-minded people. Find a place where people are having fun. Find a place where someone thinks to ask your name, to extend a hand. Next time, you can be that person for someone else.

As the world gets smaller through technology, travel and changing populations, our own community gets bigger.  The folks we are in conflict with are across the globe.  What used to be turf protection in one place involves the politics, economics, histories, and conflicts of many places.  Your community, and mine – for better or for worse – is the world.  Can we live in community with one another?  It takes a community.




“Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what’s going to happen next.” – a tweet

Mostly, we like to be certain, don’t we? When I was in a leadership role, I often found myself in situations where folks expected me to know. I was expected to know the next step, the right thing to do, what not to do, and I was expected to know what would save us. Certainty would save us, and others would look to me as the leader to be certain, to know, to have the answer, to understand. Sometimes anger was expressed toward me, the leader, for not-knowing.

What do we really know? Do we know how this day will turn out? Do we know how we will feel, this afternoon? Do we know what our loved ones need from us? Do we know when we’ll feel better, or feel whole, or feel like ourselves? Do we know what will work, in any given situation? And do we know what “will work” looks like?

There is a kind of wisdom in not-knowing. Every day, we are confronted with situations that expect us to know. Every day, it is wisdom to not-know.

A friend of mine with young children posts on Facebook about funny conversations she has with her 3 little ones.
“We’re not going to MacDonald’s,” she says.
“Why?” her children ask. “Because.”
“Because why?” they ask.
“Because I said so,” she answers.
“Why?” they ask again.
“Because I’m the adult,” she says.

When we refuse to live in that state of not-knowing, we are like little children, asking “why, why, why” to every assertion. When we refuse to live in not-knowing, we refuse to accept what is true in every moment: we don’t know.

Our minds, our thinking, analyzing, always-knowing minds, expect to know. We expect to know the outcome of our actions, as if we were in control of others affected by those actions. We expect there’s a “right answer” to every question. When we take action, we expect everything to line up, like a squadron of soldiers, to have the outcome of that action be what we expect.

We think we are in control.

Finally, life is not like that. As much as our thinking-minds want to know, we can’t know. We can take action, and we can accept – or not accept – the result of our actions. We can live with the feelings of uncertainty, or we can do everything in our power to stay ahead of those feelings, to numb those feelings, to ignore those feelings. We can blame others when things don’t work out as we’d planned, or hoped, or dreamed.

Not-knowing requires a certain trust. Not-knowing requires us to set aside that constant, ringing question: “why?”
Sometimes, we just don’t know why. Like my friend and her children, as the mom, we simply get to decide. And then, we enter again through the gate of “not-knowing.” There it is again, and again, and again, and again…

Living in “not-knowing” is like a dance, a crazy, wonderful, energetic dance that whirls and whirls and ends up sometimes, across the dance floor, where we didn’t expect the dance to end up.

“Not-knowing” requires a certain trust, a trust in what is, and a trust in what is-not.
We can take an action, but when we do, everything else is out of our control. We don’t know how others will react. We don’t know if we will decide, now, or the next moment, or this afternoon, or tomorrow – that there is another choice we could have made.

To accept that life is “not-knowing” is to move into the dance, to be surprised, to live free of expectations, to know that we can do the best we can, and we will still receive gifts we didn’t know were there.  Feelings will still arise, unexpected events will occur.

We are not in control, as much as we want to be.  We simply – don’t know.  We live in a sea of uncertainty.


I suppose one way to understand is that to be an adult means we don’t know.