Photo by Ralph Barrera @ the Austin American Statesman.
On Friday April 17th the Austin American-Statesman ran a front page article with my mug plastered on it that highlighted how the religious culture of Austin has changed. It is a good article and I felt it deserved as thoughtful of a response as I could produce on a Friday night. So here it is. The original article is here.
In graduate school, one of the few books I read that radically changed my life was a little book by an ethicist and a chaplain called “Resident Aliens.” Its premise was simple, but it pried open a very hopeful window for me and changed the trajectory of my faith. According to one of the authors, the world changed on a Sunday night in 1963 with the Fox theater in Greenville South Carolina opened its doors in defiance of the states traditional ”blue laws” which kept such businesses closed on a Sunday. In that moment, the reign of Christianity as the default-faith of that community had ended. The shocking part about that story for me was how this might be really good news for Christians… and indeed, in a way, it has been. Continue reading
I suppose that it behooves a Christian man, from time to time, to give a plain and simple account of his faith. I can’t tell you that I am feeling particularly inspired to do so in this moment. Frankly, I find myself a little short on inspiration in general tis evening and feel there are, what do we call them, “pressing matters,” to take care of but it seems as good a time as any to say a thing or two about why this Good Friday is such a big deal and why I choose to build my life around the drama we see unfolding this Easter weekend from today and through the next fifty days of Easter. Tonight stands before me a simple and fair question to which I intend to give at least one good answer, “Why, Doug, given all that Christianity seems to have evolved in to, do you bother calling yourself a Christian and carrying on like ya do?”
I plan to start with a short answer and then keep writing till I get something right. I am not promising exhaustive answers to this question or even several. I suppose that is why I keep a blog, There is a lot to be said about the life of faith that just takes time and stories. But, I will start by simply trying to provide an answer that is as short and honest of an answer that I can provide: .
I am a Christian because this is simply the most beautiful story I have ever known, and I want more than anything to be a part of it.
Traditionally, Wednesday of Holy week is a day to think about Judas and his relationship to Jesus. It is often called Spy Wednesday and it commemorates the the night Judas agreed to hand Jesus over to the authorities. This sets in motion the events that result in Jesus’ crucifixion.
What remains so striking about the Judas story is how someone who had sacrificed so much of his life and chosen to follow and live closely with Jesus would ultimately betray him in the worst way. What could possibly have been unfolding in Judas’ mind and heart that made him think that turning Jesus over to the authorities was a good idea? What was the deal breaker for Judas? What, I wonder, would be the deal breaker for me? Continue reading
Have you ever had an “ineffable” experience?… Something that seemed transcendent and important, but left you unable to talk about it or perhaps even see how it connects to the rest of your life? Or would you like to?
Enjoy this first podcast. It is a workshop in which I help people experience how and practice things they can do things to integrate aspects of spiritual or profound experiences into their everyday lives.
This workshop was part of the free day of NLP in Austin TX. It is designed so people of any or no faith can fully participate and learn. Enjoy the workshop and stay in touch.
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There are very few vices I have encountered as much in my own life – and in the lives of the people I have listened to and prayed with – as much as I have encountered resentment. What other of my own shortcomings have I nurtured and even protected like I do my grudges? Ever hear of anyone harboring gluttony or greed? Resentment seems to hold a very precious place in a lot of our lives and after a few years of trying to deal with it personally I think I have finally begun to understand why: It is delicious. Continue reading
Have you ever wondered where the ashes form Ash Wednesday come from? In truth, it actually depends on the tradition of your local church (and how organized your priest or pastor is), but traditionally it is prescribed that the ashes used on Ash Wednesday are the burned up palm leaves from Palm Sunday the previous year. Palm Sunday is the most foliaged Sunday in the liturgical year unless you are one of those churches that goes absolutely nutso with the army of Christmas trees and sea of poinsettias. Even so, Palm Sunday remains the Sunday where Christians go waving flora around the sanctuary. The sight always strikes me as comical, the poetry is intentional: The very instruments we go waving around triumphantly one year become the occasion for our repentance the next. How quickly our hearts turn from high praise to great indifference? Continue reading
In the back of my mind I have very passively been making two very big assumptions about my world. 1) That’ there will one day be a L’Arche community in Austin Texas for me to one day be a part of and 2) That Dianne would probably be the very first assistant at that community and that, like me, she would finally find her true home at L’Arche as well. Dianne was also, without question, the biggest fan of the Outpatient Monk blog and this will probably be the first post since I started writing that wont be read by her letter for letter. Dianne died tragically yesterday and this blog, this world, and my future will always be the lesser for her absence.
I am scattering her virtual ashes here at this place online to which I knew she loved to come. She was indeed a misfit, a lousy joiner and a homesick soul. The best way I can think to honor her would be to listen to her life honestly and pass on her light here so that her death would not be the end of her grace and love on this planet. Continue reading
This year, my experience of the holidays was…. not ideal. In short: I just stayed sick most the time. I ended up in bed on Thanksgiving, on Christmas and again on Epiphany. And while I had to cancel my normal plans to stay by myself in a cabin at the State Park for Christmas, I did have some good friends who at least managed to haul my feeble body to church for Christmas eve services. I spent most of Christmas day with the blankets up to my chin and 30 Rock on Netflix. I could have stayed there in bed all day, occasionally checking for signs of life on FaceBook and otherwise not really needing much more than my Vicks vapor rub and my water bottle. Continue reading
The change of seasons may be slow and subtle in Austin, but the transition from summer to, well, an equally-as-hot-Autumn still inspires making some changes. After a lot of thinking I have decided to cut my job, not quit, just cut. Between working my “normal” 40 hours a week job and doing to personal and freelance work, I find I am busy, too busy, and that busy-ness has become my spirituality. Continue reading
There are few men in the popular media in recent years that have been as easy to hate as Fred Phelps. His tactics and behavior, if not his convictions alone, have been sufficient to offend both right and left and everyone in between. His name has become synonymous with hatred.
The news of his impending death seem to come as good new on the social media and curated media outlets I follow. And without any hint of surprise there are threats, commentary and speculation of returning, in kind, the protests and disdain Fred Phelps inflicted on so many other families.
It is both as a gay man and as a Christian that experience anger with him for vilifying what it means to be gay and outright butchering the Christian tradition in perfect Orwellian fashion, turning itself on its head and turning it into a weapon. I have spent a good portion of my life reflecting on the motivations of people like Mr. Phelps and the answers are complex, but I can at least pull, for our own instruction, a lesson about his odd place in the culture wars…
He wanted to be right Continue reading