Saturday, January 31, 2015

Saturday Haiku: Winter Dusting

a light winter snow
dusting leaf and limb under
the low restful sky

                      ~ CK

Photo by Charles Kinnaird


Friday, January 30, 2015

The Atrocities of War

[This is a re-post of a blog from March 16, 2012. I have not seen American Sniper, I have only heard the discussions and seen a few clips from the movie. All of that reminded me of Bob Dylan's song, "Clean-cu Kid," which is included on the post along with some of my comments about war and the impact it has on those who fight our wars.]

They took a clean-cut kid
And they made a killer out of him
That's what they did.

                            ~ Bob Dylan

The news this week of the massacre of Afghani families by an American soldier was came as yet another highlight of the horrors of war. For over ten years the U.S. has attempted to wage war while hiding the dark consequences from its citizens. That tone was set in the early days when the Bush administration declared that the call to war was an utmost endeavor to preserve freedom and democracy, but we should not worry our little heads, we should just go shopping.

I side with the Quakers’ stance that war is not the answer. This latest atrocity is but one example of why I am not in favor of armed conflict. It is impossible to wage war without unleashing mayhem, madness, and atrocity. It is indeed an atrocity that Afghani citizens were attacked and slain in their homes in the dead of night. It is also an atrocity that the young soldier accused of the massacre suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2010, yet was patched up, dusted off and sent back in to fight another day.

It is also an atrocity that politicians living in luxury and ease take advantage of the idealistic patriotism of our youth by calling them to fight for freedom when they may in fact just be fighting to preserve the economic interests of the elite.

It is an atrocity that politicians living in luxury and ease can take advantage of young men and women who see military service as the best way out of their economically depressed neighborhoods.

It is an atrocity that we have a system in which wounded military personnel are quickly treated and sent back repeatedly into military action because that’s just what needs to be done with our smaller, leaner volunteer forces.

It is an atrocity that hard-working, honest, salt-of-the-earth families bear unspeakable losses when their sons and daughters are killed or permanently wounded in body, mind, and spirit while politicians speak of war in such a cavalier manner.

It is an atrocity that we have more and more wounded soldiers returning who suffer from physical injuries or PTSD and have insufficient support from the government that sent them out to fight.

There can be no war without atrocity. Even the victors of war bear the scars of war into the next generation. This is why war should never be considered lightly.  

                                                                                                                  Charles Kinnaird

Clean-Cut Kid
By Bob Dylan
(From the album, Empire Burlesque)

Everybody's asking why he couldn't adjust
Adjust to what, a dream that bust ?

They took a clean-cut kid
And they made a killer out of him
That's what they did.

They said what's up is down, they said what isn't is
They put ideas in his head that he thought were his.

They took a clean-cut kid
But they made a killer out of him
That's what they did.

He was on the baseball team, he was in the marching band
When he was ten years old he had a watermelon stand.

He was a clean-cut kid
And they made a killer out of him
That's what they did.

They said, "Listen boy, you're just a pup"
They sent him to a napalm health spa to shape up.

They gave him dope to smoke, drinks and pills
A jeep to drive, blood to spill.

They said "Congratulations, you got what it takes"
They sent him back into the race without any brakes.

They took a clean-cut kid
But they made a killer out of him
That's what they did.

He bought the American dream but it put him in doubt
Only game he could play was Russian roulette.

He drank Coca-Cola, he was eating Wonder Bread
He ate Burger Kings, he was well fed.

He went to Hollywood to see Peter O'Toole
He stole a Rolls Royce and drove in a swimming pool.

They took a clean-cut kid
But they made a killer out of him
That's what they did.

He could've sold insurance, owned a restaurant or bar
He could've been an accountant or a tennis star.

He was wearing boxing gloves, took a dive one day
Off the Golden Gate Bridge into China Bay.

His mama walks the floor, his daddy weeps and moans
They gotta sleep together in a home they don't own.

They took a clean-cut kid
And they made a killer out of him
That's what they did.

Everybody's asking why he didn't adjust
All he ever wanted was somebody to trust.

They took his head and turned it inside out
He never did know what it was all about.

He had a steady job, he joined the choir
He never did plan to walk the high wire.

They took a clean-cut kid
And they made a killer out of him
That's what they did.

*    *    *    *

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday Music: These Are the Days

The old folks always tell the young ones, when they see them jaunting about so freely with few cares and no aches or pains, "Enjoy these days while you have them because the time will quickly slip away." But youth never fully understands the brevity of life until suddenly the days are older and passing more swiftly. Nevertheless  whatever your age, wherever you are in the span of life, These Are the Days to celebrate and relish. Now is the time to gather those wonderful memories. Celebrate the life you have today.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

"The World Is about to Turn"

Last Friday morning while listening to NPR on the way to work, I heard Republican governor of Ohio, John Kasich, quoting Matthew 25 and talking about how we need to be feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and helping the poor. Then I came home to hear that a federal judge has struck down Alabama's same-sex marriage ban. These two events were signs that there is some sense in which more people are slowly coming to realize what a just society entails.

"My heart shall sing of the day you bring,
Let t he fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
And the world is about to turn."

                               ~ Canticle of the Turning 

Perhaps we are indeed a step closer to that beloved community where there is an awareness that how we treat the weakest of our citizens matters. Perhaps we are closer to the point that we will no longer intentionally marginalize those whom we see as different. Perhaps we are closer to seeing a society intent on justice and committed to seeing that every citizen shares equally in the benefits of citizenship. 

I am enough of a realist to know that the upheaval sounded in the Magnificat is slow in coming, but some days are lighter that others. Some days we see the turning.

Picture: "The children are asking"
Painting by Mary Southard


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Saturday Haiku: Night Call

the immense stillness
of waters under night skies
potent like the soul

                         ~ CK

Photo by David Borland
Getty Images


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Remembering Marcus Borg

It was quite a weekend when Marcus Borg came to Birmingham, Alabama to deliver the SPAFER Lectures in the Fall of 2003. He spoke to a packed house at Southside Baptist Church. I had not heard of him until that weekend, and I found him to be quite remarkable at bringing the intellectual and spiritual sides of Christianity together. In my opinion he stood out from the Jesus Seminar scholars in the way that he brought deep personal meaning and spirituality to modern scholarship. Some have said that he brought people back to a life of Christian faith who had given up on the church.

Yesterday we lost a wonderful scholar and a kind and gentle soul. When I received word that Marcus Borg had died, my heart sank and I recalled my encounter with him that weekend back in 2003. He had apparently read The Oasis Newsletter that SPAFER produced which provided the details of the lecture series that weekend. In that issue, I had an article titled "Western Zen." During one of the breaks, I approached Mr. Borg to get him to autograph his book The Heart of Christianity. As he was signing the book, much to my surprise he said, "I really liked that article you wrote. I mean every aspect of it was so good." He had recognized me because my picture had been in the newsletter.  He even commented on particular things I had noted in the article. I was amazed that he had taken time to read it and that he expressed genuine interest in what we were doing in our small part of the world -- and he wanted to encourage that. That was Borg's nature.

You can read another remembrance "My Friend Marcus Borg," by Rev. Barkley Thompson here. As I read Rev. Thompson's remembrance, I saw that same kind gentle and wise soul that I had met ever so briefly years ago. He will be greatly missed, but thankfully his books are here with us and many of his lectures can be found online to carry forth the path of wisdom that he called us to. For more information about Marcus Borg, visit the Explore Faith website here.

Photo from


Monday, January 19, 2015

Monday Music: Woke Up this Morning (John Legend)

As we commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, remembering the movement that included "Bloody Sunday" 50 years ago on the Edmund Pettus bridge, thinking of how far we have come and how far we have yet to go, here is John Legend with "Woke Up This Morning" from The Soundtrack For A Revolution. "Soundtrack for a Revolution tells the story of the American civil rights movement through its powerful music -the freedom songs protesters sang on picket lines, in mass meetings, in paddy wagons, and in jail cells as they fought for justice and equality." (See

Photo: On 'Bloody Sunday,"officers await demonstrators
( Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Saturday Haiku: Icicles

                                                               water from the rock
         unnoticed in the summer
         now winter’s curtain

                                   ~ CK

Photo: On the banks of Clear Creek at Camp McDowell near Double Springs
Photo from @campmcd

Friday, January 16, 2015

So Why Do I Go to Church?

The following is a re-posting of a blog entry of mine from August 27, 2011 that was titled, "Are You Soiritual but Not Religous?" I re-post it today as a follow up to Wednesdays post about "leaving church." I list ten reasons why I do go to church.

Rabbi Rami, in his blog on Friday, talks about  a recent Barna Group survey that indicates that while 95% of Americans believe in God, there continues to be a decline in regular worship attendance. This really comes as no surprise since we often hear of more and more people who claim to be “spiritual but not religious.” It is also a trend I can understand as we see more and more spiritual options available to people while so many churches remain stodgy, often stuck in another time. On the other hand we are seeing the rise of evangelical mega churches catering to the whims of the suburban class, and whose services sound to me like just another day at the mall.

The Rabbi makes a very good case in his blog post for being spiritual without bothering with regular worship attendance. He then asks his readers to respond, explaining why they do or do not go to a house of worship regularly.  I took him up on it and responded  with the following reasons I do attend worship regularly:

Why I Go to Church

1. I value sacred places and ritual. I know that a church, synagogue, mosque, or temple are not the only sacred spots, but there is something to be valued in a place that a community holds as sacred.  One of the values of liturgy as I see it in Catholic, Episcopal, and Orthodox Churches is that it is always there. There are some days when I am not particularly into it, and that’s okay because other times I can really step into it and experience the sacred moment.  It is always there for me to either step into or to observe.  One day I may really be “into it” while another is just going through the motions. Another day we will change roles and I’ll be the one going through the motions, but the liturgy is always there and available, nevertheless.

2.  It is a habit. I like the continuity. I like that there is a group to which I can belong, even when I am feeling like an outsider.   I read a research study that claimed that people who gather weekly with others are healthier. That just affirmed to me the value of my habit. (Of course, I also pay attention to those surveys that say coffee is good for you, but disregard the ones that say coffee is bad for you – you know how research goes.)

3. I am stubborn.  I see those surveys that claim that regular churchgoers are more likely to vote conservative Republican.  I am determined that I will be one churchgoer who will skew the numbers by voting for a liberal Democrat whenever I get the chance.

4. Sometimes I hear something that I need to hear. I must admit that I don’t read the Bible like I did when I was a young Evangelical, but at church I will sit and listen to the readings. Each week I’ll hear readings from the Old Testament, the Psalms, a New Testament epistle, and the Gospels. I may even hear something in the homily that is enriching.

5. I know that when I carry non-perishable goods to the First Sunday Food Drive, it will get to people who really need it, and I’ll be helping more people than I could by my own efforts (though I will continue to support liberal government programs than can help even more).

6. I am an introvert, so I have to work at this, but I recognize the need for community.

7. Sometimes programs will be offered that I really enjoy. For example, during the last Lenten season, a study in the English metaphysical poets was offered at our parish – a most inspiring series for one who loves poetry. This summer, our parish took part in an urban gardens project which my daughter participated in, growing vegetables for the local food bank.

8. I’m not saying that I go every single Sunday, so the days I choose not to attend services (when I realize, as Jesus said, "the Sabbath was made for man (sic), not man for the Sabbath") that in itself becomes a restful, nourishing time.

9. I think it is important to keep institutions intact which can convey our spiritual heritage. Even though most people I know who have a vibrant spiritual life must move on from the rote elementary practices found at the parish level, we still need that traditional institution to provide us with some common language and concepts.

10. I like the music. Sometimes the music does more for me than anything else. For me, music is a quick path to transcendence.

*   *   *   *

I would also add that worship attendance would not be as meaningful if I were not open to spiritual experiences throughout the week. Those experiences can arise from a hike in the woods, music, drama, poetry, and interaction with family and friends. On another blog I recently discovered, Spiritually Speaking, Jane "Silver Spirit" reminds us that Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said. “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.  We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The "Leaving Church" Phenomenon

[The following is my response to “Dear Church, Here’s Why People Are Really Leaving You,” by John Pavlovitz.]

Thomas Merton, in Contemplation in a World of Action, speculated that many people experience varying degrees of mystical experience in their ordinary lives. Those “mystical encounters” can lend a personal reality and validity to those things we talk about in church. All of us who seek a spiritual life will find ourselves putting together a practice that fits with our worldview and personal experience. There will inevitably be some conflict – even perhaps some “love-hate relationship” as we sort out our connection with the established church.

A friend recently posted on Facebook the article by John Pavlovitz cited above about why people are leaving church. She invited people to read the article and share their responses. Today’s blog post arose from my initial response to Pavlovitz’ article. (You can read the article here)

Which Church?

Pavlovitz' description of the church that people are leaving seems to be the "contemporary worship" model of bands, TV screens, and shopping mall era entertainment.  I left the Baptists at the time when such Willow Creek style entertainments were coming into vogue. As I saw it at the time, all of those “new forms of worship” were part of the suburban emptiness of which I wanted no part. While I left THAT church before the entertainment lights even went up, I have never left THE church.

Moreover, what he speaks of is the difference between church and Christianity, the difference between an institution and a lifestyle based upon following Jesus. The truth is that no matter what "church" you belong to, "Christianity" cannot be done in an hour on Sunday morning. Even if you break away from your old church to form a group of true committed believers, Jesus cannot be adequately confined to an hour's worship service. No revamping of forms in order to attract people (or to keep them from leaving) will, in my view, be the end-all of authentic faith.

It is not uncommon for someone who is interested in a spiritual path to at some point find his or her inherited religious structures to be inadequate. For my part, I converted to the Catholic Church, which is also losing members* like all other churches, but I have found the ancient liturgy to be a wonderful respite from the religious hype and madness seen on much of the American religious landscape. I have also found it to be wonderfully ironic that at the heart of the Roman Catholic Church is the very Christ whose words would bring all of its wealth and form to a crashing halt if truly heard 
 yet the words and the tradition lie there waiting, readily available for whoever has ears to hear.

The Mystical Element**
How does one handle those tensions that are to be found between staid established religious institutions and personal spiritual experience? Baron Fredrich von Hugel had some helpful things to say in his classic work, The Mystical Element of Religion. He outlined three stages of religious expression after studying the life of St. Catherine of Genoa. These stages, or elements, are often in tension with one another and sometimes difficult to reconcile:
  1. The historical/institutional element
  2. The scientific/intellectual element 
  3. The mystical/experiential element
The historical/institutional element is how most people come to religion. It is the structural support, the conveyer of the tradition.

The scientific/intellectual element is a stage of inquiry to explore the meaning and validity of the received faith. In my Baptist experience, this was often seen as threatening. Some people thought higher intellectual pursuits would “ruin” the faith of a Christian believer.

The mystical/experiential is that poetic, immediate recognition of the spiritual validity of faith. Many who cling to the historical/institutional element see the mystical as dangerous and ungrounded. Those of intellectual bent often see the mystical as too emotional, not feeling comfortable with the non-rational aspects of faith.

Keeping It Real

We live today in a world in which we can build our own theology and seek out the practice that is most meaningful to us. Some will find help in traditional churches; some will seek out other avenues. Most of us, I suspect, will find ourselves grounded in one basic practice while augmenting that with insights from others.  In addition to traditional Christian practice, I have found enrichment in spiritual writings from a number of sources.  Some of the more influential  include Quaker writers Douglass Steere, Thomas Kelly, and Rufus Jones;  Catholic authors Thomas Merton and Pierre Teillhard de Chardin; and Buddhist practitioners Thich Naht Hanh and Jack Kornfield. In fact, Kornfield's book, 
 A Path with Heart,  greatly affirmed my own Christian path of meditation.  Insights from the Gospel of Thomas have also added to my spiritual practice. Here are three of my favorite passages from that work:

(3) Jesus said: If those who lead you say to you: See, the kingdom is in heaven, then the birds of the heaven will go before you; if they say to you: It is in the sea, then the fish will go before you. But the kingdom is within you, and it is outside of you. When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will know that you are the sons of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you are in poverty, and you are poverty.

(70) Jesus said, "If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you."

(113) His disciples said to Him, "When will the Kingdom come?" <Jesus said,> "It will not come by waiting for it. It will not be a matter of saying 'Here it is' or 'There it is.' Rather, the Kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it."

Regardless if how we come by our religious and spiritual truths, we as a society tend to build institutions as a repository for those truths. Carrying it forward from one generation to the next can be a challenge.  A friend told me recently about a large suburban church that spent a weekend strategizing about how to keep people coming. There are, indeed, different reasons why people want to keep their churches alive. Some have had genuine spiritual encounters that were life-changing, and they want to figure out how to convey that reality to other people. Some see the church as an important institution, and they want to keep it viable. Others want to be able to pass on to their children those things that they themselves have found to be meaningful (that's a hard one!).

 One thing we must realize is that every organization that exists  whether corporate, religious, or non-profit  has a back story and an underbelly. Realizing this fact is part of what it means to be an adult. We have to move with what we have while ever striving to make things better. Within that process we will always have people who are coming and people who are leaving; people who are innovative and people who are working to maintain the status quo.  Some will want the church to be a spiritual exercise while others will want it to be an activist organization. There will also be those who find more hope and meaning by making their way in the margins (some of our true prophets and guides have been marginal people moving against the grain).  

My guess is that we will continue to create more up-to-date churches and institutions which will serve us for a time before becoming obsolete themselves (you may want to see my earlier blog post, Living Between the Times, for another commentary on the subject). 

I often remind myself of that quote from the Gospel of Thomas, “the Kingdom is spread out upon the earth” – it is just that real and just that present – yet our awareness of that presence is often lacking. Those of us on the spiritual path are all about finding that awareness.  The way I go about that will not be the way you go about it. We are all on a continuum of faith experience, each of us at a different point, and each of us coming from our own particular life experience. We can take courage from one another and learn from one another, without feeling that we must be on the same exact path. Whether you are leaving church, arriving at church, or moving to new vistas we can all benefit from listening to fellow travelers and pilgrims.


* “Losing members” may depend upon how you view statistics. One the one hand, it has been said that if “former Catholics” were a denomination, it would be the second largest in the country. On the other hand, new figures show that last year the number of Catholics in the world increased worldwide across every continent (see The “Francis Effect,” perhaps?

** The concepts outlined by von Hugel were included in a previous blog post, “More for the Spiritual but Not Religious” 

*    *    *

Addendum: A brief recommended reading list

Here are some of the writings that I have found to be particularly helpful on my journey:

  • Thoughts in Solitude, by Thomas Merton
  • Contemplation in a World of Action, by Thomas Merton
  • On Listening to Another, By Douglass Steere
  • A Testament of Devotion, By Thomas Kelly
  • The Divine Milieu, by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
  • The Jew in the Lotus, by Roger Kamenetz
  • As a Leaf Driven, by Milton Steinberg
  • Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis
  • Mysticism, by Evelyn Underhill
  • A Path with Heart, by Jack Kornfield
  • Peace Is Every Step: the Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, by Thich Naht Hanh

Photo: Church Ruins
Credit: Lesley
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Monday, January 12, 2015

Monday Music: Andraé Crouch (I'll Still Love You)

[This post also appeared on The Music of the Spheres]

Last week we lost a pioneer in Contemporary Christian Music and a legendary Gospel artist when Andraé Crouch died at the age of 72. I'll never forget the morning at breakfast in my college cafeteria when one of my classmates mentioned a new album by Andraé Crouch and the Disciples, Take Me Back. "Finally!" he said, "Christian music is as good as anything you can hear on the radio!"

Andraé Crouch was a crossover artist in many ways. Virtually the only African American on the "Jesus Music" scene in the 1970s, he was recognized as one of the best in the field of what became known as Contemporary Christian music. He was schooled in "Black Gospel" growing up in The Church of God in Christ (which has produced many talented black musicians). Crouch became a Grammy award winner and a mainstay in the music industry, doing music for television and movies, and working with many of the luminaries in the business.

Here is the opening track from Take Me Back, released in 1975, "I'll Still Love You."


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Saturday Haiku: Winter Stillness


winter’s chill will cast
surface stillness on the lake
life will bide its time

                        ~ CK

Photo: "Winter Lake (Birmingham, England)
Credit: Tony Hisgett
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Tuesday, January 6, 2015


January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, is a day to commemorate the realization of the divinity of Christ by the Gentiles as the Wise Men form the East came to pay homage to the Christ Child. It is a day full of light symbolized by the star that dominated the heavens to announce the divine light coming to the world. Today I would like to direct your attention to two masters who have addressed the subject of Epiphany: J. S. Bach and T.S. Elliot.

The tune for “O Little One Sweet” (O Jesulein Suss) is based on an old German melody, harmonized by J.S. Bach. Often sung as a Christmas carol, it serves quite well as an Epiphany hymn (the German text for the hymn was written by Valentin Thilo and translated into English by Percy Dearmer)

Bach's sublime chords lend a palpable grace to the Epiphany story of the Christ Child come to earth's domain, casting divine energy upon the consciousness of humankind, awakening the world. 

To hear “O Little One Sweet” go to The Music of the Spheres.

*    *    *
T.S. Elliot wrote “The Journey of the Magi” after his own conversion and confirmation into the Anglican Church. His poem, in contrast to Bach’s music, takes on a darker tone and a rough-hewn vision as he speaks from the point-of-view of one of the wise men who makes the difficult journey but realizes that the old days of kings and magi must come to an end in light of the new day seen in the Christ Child. The poem is quite rich in symbol and allusion to the wider aspects of incarnation. As fate would have it, Elliot died 50 years ago today on the Feast of the Epiphany.

You can read “The Journey of the Magi” (or listen to Elliot read the poem) at



Photo: Latvian postage stamp depicting Three Wise Men
Public Domain, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Monday, January 5, 2015

Monday Music: Jesus and Bocephus (Kid Rock)

Recently Kid Rock performed this track from his new album First Kiss on The Tonight  Show with Jimmy Fallon. While "Jesus and Bocephus" may be a departure from most videos posted on Monday Music, I think there are two ways to look at it. One, it illustrates the combined role of religion and the arts in society and the close ties of faith and music. Two, it can be seen simply in light of Flannery O'Connor's observation: "While the South is far from Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted." (Scroll down to see the lyrics)

So the Tonight Show version is no longer available, but here is another one that is even more over the top:

Jesus and Bocephus
by Jeff Orr

Sometimes I’ve had too much to drink
Get all stoned and play some Hank
I guess that’s just the way I am
And I love the man from Galilee
Because he died for you and me
I met them both in Dixieland

Cos I got Jesus and Bocephus
They both help me to live my life
I went from Jim Beam, to my Bible
Jesus and Bocephus, right there by my side

When the water all turned into wine
I lost my mind for a time
I felt them both holding my hand
Looking through these bloodshot eyes
Praise the lord I saw the light
And two sets of footprints in the sand

Cos I got Jesus and Bocephus
They both help me to live my life
I went from Jim Beam, to my Bible
Jesus and Bocephus, right here by my side

I was cashing in, I was casting stones
I was lost in sin I was on my own
but now I don’t feel alone
Cos I got Jesus and Bocephus
They both help me to live my life
I went from Jim Beam, to my Bible
Jesus and Bocephus, right here by my side
Jesus and Bocephus, right here, right here until the day I die
Jesus and Bocephus

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Saturday Haiku: Morning Mist

sometimes a light will
guide us through to the morning
shining through the mist  
                             ~ CK

Photo: Kirkcowan Church Sunrise on a misty November morning
Credit: David Baird
Part of the Geograph project, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
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