Tag Archives: spirituality

In Memoriam: Marcus Borg

It was back in 2008 that I discovered a book that would forever restore my faith in God: Marcus Borg’s The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith. I had recently made a rediscovery of my own: church. I had been absent from church for many, many years. I had most recently been in attendance at an evangelical mega church, which I stopped attending when I moved out of my parents’ house. The experiences at that church had left a bad taste in my mouth for organized religion (though, surprisingly, the people at that church reject the term “religion” and any sort of organization, even though it is all the same thing).

I had rediscovered church via my neighborhood Episcopal Church. The new rector (priest in charge) of the church had distributed friendly welcome letters to the neighbors, inviting all who sought a deeper relationship with God to join them for worship in a beautiful historic jewel of a chapel with a magnificent pipe organ and a diverse congregation that welcomed all seekers. It sounded perfect. My life has changed for the better since I walked in to that church.

Soon after I began attending the Episcopal Church, my visits to the local book store started to focus more on the Religion & Spirituality section. I remember finding Marcus Borg’s book, The Heart of Christianity, on one of the feature tables. The subtitle (Rediscovering a Life of Faith) stood out to me. I knew nothing of Marcus Borg, but thought I’d give the book a try.

I am forever grateful for the words Marcus wrote in this book. In the book, Marcus makes it quite clear that you can, indeed, be Christian and not believe in many of the things that made me doubt my faith for years. Things like biblical infallibility, and homosexuality as a sin, and not including women in the ministry. Those things just scratched the surface of so many things that made me lose my faith in God. I didn’t want to claim a faith that taught it laid claim to the ultimate truth, and that one had to believe those things in order to be in right relationship with God and to be a true Christian.

In thumbing through my cherished copy of his book, there is one statement that I underlined and noted on the inside cover as particularly meaningful to me. A statement straight from Marcus’s heart. On page 149, Marcus says:

Though of course I would like you to agree with me, I am less concerned with soliciting agreement than I am with provoking thoughtfulness about the way our life together is, and could be, structured.

I think this one sentence really sums up how Marcus Borg did theology. He did theology in a heartfelt, meaningful, genuine way that was concerned more with the dialogue and the questions and the seeking than with answers and certainty and agreement.

It is my hope that the legacy and spirit of Marcus Borg lives on forever in the lives of those of us whom his writings touch. I, for one, will always be grateful to Borg’s witness to his walk with God, and his unabashedly honest understanding of faith, which was never a certainty, and always a journey. Too many conservative Christians have dismissed Borg because of his radical honesty in living out his faith, his rejection of orthodox theology, and his embrace of doubt as an essential part of a healthy faith.

For my and for others’ benefit, I wanted to share a few other meaningful excerpts from The Heart of Christianity that stood out to me, and that I think show just where Marcus’s heart was. I hope that his understanding of God in these words speaks to you like it did to me.

And if [your vision of Christianity] works for you–if it hasn’t become an obstacle and if it genuinely nourishes your life with God and produces growth and compassion within you—there’s no reason for you to change. Being Christian isn’t about getting our beliefs (or our paradigm) “right.” –p. 18

When [the literal versus metaphorical] debate breaks out in my classroom, I say to my students, “Believe whatever you want about whether it happened this way; now let’s talk about what the story means.” The statement applies to the Genesis stories of creation, the gospel birth stories, and the stories of the Bible generally: a preoccupation with facts can obscure the metaphorical meanings and the truth of the stories as metaphor. –p. 54

The Christian life is not about believing or doing what we need to believe or do so that we can saved. Rather, it’s about seeing what is already true—that God loves us already—and then beginning to live in this relationship. It is about becoming conscious of and intentional about a deepening relationship with God. –p. 77

When the Christian path is seen as utterly unique, it is suspect. But when Jesus is seen as the incarnation of a path universally spoken about elsewhere, the path we see in him has great credibility. –p. 119

Marcus Borg, thank you for your honest and radical witness to faith in Jesus Christ. Your witness to honest faith saved my faith in God, and showed me that one’s faith is enriched with doubt and uncertainty. Thank you for your bold words that others shunned, and for your showing me that God and ultimate truth cannot be placed inside of any one religion or definition. Your legacy will live on forever in those of us whose lives you touched and whose faith you helped form. May light perpetual shine upon you.


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Lenten Reflection – Day 24

I recently read an article on NPR news about the death of astronaut William R. Pogue, who was the first astronaut to do something unthought of: he went on strike while in space. In his obituary from the New York Times, it states that while orbiting the earth, Pogue went on strike “to demand more time for contemplating the universe.” When I read that, my jaw dropped. Knowing all of the things that astronauts have to go through to qualify for space missions, and the trust that they are given, and their rigid expectations…and yet, Pogue did something he felt was right: demand for a bit of private time to be able to think about where he is.

What a beautiful gesture. And I think it’s one we can all learn from. I cannot count the days when, after a long, tiresome day, I get home and realize how the day had whizzed by and how I spent little to no time focusing on my mere existence and appreciating the little things. I work with people who routinely work 10 and 12 hour days without taking breaks, taking conference calls and meetings and monitoring email and making phone calls…and not a second thought about quiet or stillness. I think each of us can learn a lesson from this genuinely brave man. Be attentive to your surroundings. Take some time each day to “go on strike” and appreciate where you are, what you have, and the beauty that surrounds you.

May you rest in eternal peace, and rise to eternal glory, Mr. Pogue.

William R. Pogue
January 23, 1930 – March 3, 2014

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Lenten Reflection – Day 14

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”

~ John Muir, The Yosemite (1912)

John Muir has become one of my favorite writers about nature. I first fell in love with Mr. Muir when I watched a Ken Burns special on the U.S. National Parks. The series was intermingled with John Muir quotations, and it spoke about how intrinsic Mr. Muir was in working with the administration of his day to get the National Park system started. He was instrumental in the process, and he received all of his inspiration from the very thing he longed to protect. I shared one of my favorite quotations of John Muir a few years ago on this blog post, and I just came across the one above the other day and wanted to share. I have to say “Amen!” to that! I look forward to an upcoming trip I have planned for later this year to the first National Park in the United States: Yellowstone. With me, I will be taking a collection of John Muir’s writings with me. If what I have read so far of John Muir is any indication, I think I will enjoy the read.

John Muir: April 21, 1838 – December 24, 1914

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Lenten Reflection – Day 8

I have grown a lot spiritually in the last six years. Six years ago, I wandered into my first church service that I had attended in a decade or so. I knew instantly that the church I had wandered into was a place where God had wanted me to be. It’s amazing to have experiences like that.

In these last six years, I have become more attentive to my own spiritual life…and to the spiritual lives of those around me and the world. It’s not an easy thing to do…be attentive to one’s spirituality. I have learned to appreciate the season of Lent as a type of “spiritual training time” that, every year, I use as a timeframe to engage my spirit on a series of training exercises. Sure, giving up something for Lent is something that a lot of people have done for a very long time. But there are a myriad of other ways to challenge and grow one’s spirit. I enjoy finding different ways each Lent to challenge my spirit…writing, reading poetry, playing the piano (something I rarely do), focusing on being present and patient each day and with each person I encounter, finding more moments of solitude where I can challenge my soul to listen to God’s Spirit.

It’s amazing how one’s spiritual life can become stagnant without proper training. I know lots of Christians who try and focus on their spiritual growth all of the time throughout the year…through Bible studies or church attendance or volunteering. But I find that once a year, it is refreshing to find different ways to focus on spiritual growth…finding things to challenge my spirit that I otherwise wouldn’t normally do.

I think it can be likened a lot to training for a marathon. We are training our souls for staying the course…for growing endurance to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us” as the Scriptures say.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. —Hebrews 12:1-2

Just like when one trains for an actual marathon, one must challenge oneself to grow and develop an endurance to perservere in the race. So, too, must we find ways to train our souls to perservere in the spiritual race of life. It takes time. It takes prayer. It takes patience. It takes perserverence. It takes grace and love and the life of God within us to grow us into the spiritual beings we are called to be. And the reward at the finish line is the eternal and greatest reward…life with all the saints in the presence of our Creating, Redeeming, and Sustaining God. May you have a blessed Lent!

PS: This reminds me of how much I hope to train again for another race…I ran my first 5K in 2012…but have fallen out of my running routine. Next on my list: train for another 5K!

My bib from my first 5K in 2012

My bib from my first 5K in 2012

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From Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together”

Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But the one who can no longer listen to his brother or sister will soon be no longer listening to God either; he or she will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and in the end there is nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words. One who cannot listen long and patiently will presently be talking beside the point and be never really speaking to others, albeit he or she be not conscious of it. Any who think that their time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and their brothers and sisters, but only for the self and for their own follies.

…Christians have forgotten that the ministry of listening has been committed to them by him who is himself the great listener and whose work they should share. We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the Word of God.

–This piece originates in Bonhoeffer’s Life Together pp. 97-99, but was excerpted from A Testament to Freedom: The Essential Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, page 356.

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From “The Awakened Heart”

    In all my studies of psychology and spirituality, I have found hope for real wholeness only in the human heart’s desire for love in the present moment. The experience is utterly simple. It exists before any words or symbols are applied to it, and it is who we are. In one silent breath, the love- force in us gives us our identity and draws us toward our home and destiny. We are created by love, to live in love, for the sake of love. Out of this simple ground arise all our beautiful differences; love expresses itself in delicious diversity in our different families and cultures, in women and in men, in the young and the old, and in each human being’s unique personality and history. We are endlessly diverse and unique in our hues and textures, but we are also all one; love is expressing itself not only through us but as us.

    One’s essential identity is not to be found in one’s ancestors or archetypes, one’s gender or race, one’s childhood experiences or adult accomplishments. Such attributes are only expressions of a simpler, deeper truth. They are the tones, instruments, cadences and chords of the human symphony, arising fresh in each moment, sounding through time. The sound may seem harmonious or discordant, sweet or harsh, but it is one song of love.

Gerald May, “The Awakened Heart: Living Beyond Addiction,” (New York: HarperCollins, 1991), p. 16-17.

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LGBT Spirituality

My friend Maria put together this awesome presentation about LGBT spirituality. It is, in fact, possible to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and religious/spiritual!

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