REPLAY of the LIVE class (on Periscope)! with notes!

I was a sweaty, nervous wreck on my first periscope.

It’s comical…did anyone ever see Broadcast News (the movie)?
I needed two tissues for my sympathetic nervous system.

(Some technical difficulties threw me just before broadcast and I talked SO VERY fast.)

If you didn’t get to see it here you go!
(Twitter pulled the plug on this feature – sorry everyone)




THE #1 Myth about the SOUL…

is that we have one.

But first….we should get on the same page…


(what are we talking about?)

This is how I’m describing it:


In the Old Testament the Hebrew word for soul is nephesh. We might use it this way, “1,517 souls were lost in the Titanic disaster.”

SOUL ≠ dead BUGS BUNNY …like a floating ghost and that sort of stuff.

Not a faint rendering of bugs bunny leaving his body to play a harp on a cloud with Porky Pig. Not something that is ghosty and haunting a house or helping Demi Moore on a Pottery Wheel. (Patrick it, young people.)


Ancients thought of the mind and heart differently (the will and the emotions)…

Maybe these verses come to mind…but you’ve been thinking about them in your own context instead of the ancient context from which they were written.


Remember this one?

The heart is deceitful and wicked above all things JER 17:9

(Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life)

or Proverbs 4:23 

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

….The writers of these scriptures were not talking about emotions and feelings when they said “heart” (like we associate the heart today…they were talking about the HEART as one’s will and control center of a person…(the thing we now associate with the mind.)

For them, the emotions (the heart for us in our context) were associated, instead, with the bowels. Perhaps a bit gross..but there is some

MEDICAL TRUTH/correlation : anxiety and stress are closely associated with disease and problem that happen in the intestines…like….ulcerated colon, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (bloating, constipation, gas, and other fun things), digestion issues, food sensitivities and problems in that part of the body. These are extremely related to one’s emotions and levels of stress.

The GEM MODEL of the Soul (my version)


Think of the SOUL as a gem and the facets are ways to see the soul.

You can go as far as saying other things beyond these are facets:

family of origin, social economic situation, skin color (if that has been a defining factor in your life)

education, the country you live in,

Even Christianity is a facet. A worldview is a facet that we can gain a kind of look at who we are.

Grace is central to Christianity, for instance. We can look at our soul through the facet of grace.

When light is added to a stone you can see its flaws and imperfections and you can see its quality (color, cut, clarity, caret)

UGLY soul? Is that possible? what do you think?

In his book Care of Souls, David Benner writes, “We can define soul care as the support and restoration of the well-being of persons in their depth and totality, with particular concern for their inner life. Soul care is done in the context of community.”

The vantage point of Soul Care views struggle or failings not as fatal flaws or illness to be “cured”. Not therapy or self-help. 

It’s a sustaining endeavor for our interior lives and our relationships, like water and food is for the body. Incidentally, caring for the body falls within the bounds of Soul Care.

Ten Signs that You Need the Renewal of Soul Care 

1. Fruitlessness. Are there observable deficits in the enacted your Fruit of the Spirit? That means, is there any lack or slack in the


areas of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, and self-control? (If not, I think E.T. went home without you. Phone again. You might want to text, and retweet as well.)

2. You find yourself perceiving things others say as personally offensive, or as direct attacks. 

3. You are “venting” more in person or online.
4. You feel unloved.
5.You feel increased frustration, restlessness, or desolation.

6.Your fears and anxiety are more prevalent.

7.You have increased tension in relationships.

8. You struggle with one or more of the “seven deadly 

sins”: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. 


9. You have problems sleeping or bad dreams.

10. You’re in a creative slump. 


THE #1 myth about the soul is that…. you have one. You don’t have a soul you are a Soul. You have a body. George MacDonald, in 1892 (C.S. Lewis quotes him and the quote is mistakenly attributed to him sometimes)

Think of the Soul as “the real you” the essence of you. contained in a body, yes, but made up of everything about you in a pure sense.

Some might say the soul gets extinguished or goes to paradise or gets absorbed into the great Life Force (God) …but in terms of what you need…you always need Soul Care, because you are a soul and that include both the visible and the invisible.

All this more and much more is available in my book. Shame-filled plug.

2nd Sunday of Advent-Peace

cropped-90_05_20-Christmas-Lights-Regent-Street-London-England-_web.jpgA short Advent reflection today!

At my church we light Advent candles during the four Sundays before Christmas. It’s a tradition I’ve embraced and enjoy.

The first week stands for Hope, the second stands for Peace, the third for Love, and the fourth for Joy. (Various places do it in different ways.)

I’ve been thinking about peace. How to get it. How to keep it. Does it exist in a way that matters?

Advent is literally about a pregnant pause. We think about what is not yet here, like the girl Mary waited for many things expecting the Christ baby. Waiting.

It’s amazing how un-peaceful this time of year can be. There’s a lot to do, there’s bad weather to get around, there’s extra cooking, baking, and wrapping. And plenty more. The blitz from media alone is enough to get you ornery and want to opt out.

We’re are watching various Christmas themed family movies lately on the ABC Family Channel and the 8 minutes bombardment of commercialism propaganda in the commercials after every ten minutes of movie time gets me pretty frustrated!

So what about PEACE?

The peace that comes from the Spirit of peace really is inclusive of many others words, isn’t it?

The word peace is closer to Shalom which is a full-bodied concept. It included a fullness, a well-being, an “all will be well” over-arching attitude and sense. Provision. Rescue. Comfort.

Shalom is not contingent on circumstances but endures and carries an abiding joy (sturdy happiness).

It’s a lack of discord too.

There is a generosity to the word. There is a mercy there.

When Jesus offers peace to his followers in troubling times, he says the words, “Peace be with you”. It’s to bring comfort and stillness–ease of breath. Relief and placidity. Peace feels like coming home to a home you somehow remember but have never quite found.

“Peace on earth, goodwill to [humankind].”

It’s something you buy into. It’s something you put on and do things with.

Carry a bit of that with you today. Better yet, do something with it, and spread it, too!

(Start by spreading this article)

A Blessed Advent to you.

Now a question to ponder or reply to here: What else is peace (to you)?

Something about a Labyrinth and Surprises


This time the weather was the coldest I’ve ever experienced in Wernersville. Until now, my times of retreat at the Spiritual Retreat Center were during Spring or Summer.

Stripped of leaves, color, and warm weather, the place seems monochromatic outdoors, but is still restful and precious to me. There are many prayer room options, a beautiful chapel, plus rooms for things like creating art, music, reading, or for meeting with others. Each place seems to wait for your arrival. Anyone can go there for the day without notice. I love that about it. That’s true hospitality. You are always received and welcome. You don’t need to be Catholic either. God is there in a special way and it’s a sacred place created solely for the purpose of divine communion and renewal. To me, that sounds just like Heaven.

Unless you get run over by a jet-powered lawn mower, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

The Center has recently added a prayer labyrinth (shown above). Many people aren’t familiar with labyrinths–their purpose or their gifts. They create the opportunity for reflection and spiritual awareness. Some (Evangelical) Christians bristle at the copious statues, candles, prayer mazes, and other unfamiliarities about a Catholic environment. I suppose I’m post-Evangelical: the richness of the Christian history and the solidifying sense of the sacred draws me toward the transcendent in a place like this. Every time in an unexpected way.

That’s what happens when you go there. You find God. You find God at the center. The center of you…in your core where he’s always been, because he’s everywhere-present and boundless in love. He’s been whispering things of love to you and smiling but you thought it was just bad pizza leftovers or something you made up to make yourself feel better.

Life is like a puzzle. A labyrinth is a puzzle. It’s a tool too. You can study a labyrinth before you walk the path through it, but while you are walking through studying it can make it far more confusing. Usually, you stop being stupid and cease trying to decipher the pattern precisely and just follow it like a child might do. This way, a labyrinth can be a lovely stilling and spiritual experience, not because of its own woo woo mystical powers (it doesn’t have that), but because it invites a traveller to concentrate and focus–to place her steps carefully. Most importantly, it forces one to slow down.

We don’t realize how fast our thoughts buzz until we get these sorts of opportunities to be careful. If you walk a labyrinth things mentally wind down and simplify to, “Stay on the path. Follow this narrow way. Pay attention.” Some enjoy walking very slowly and praying as their heart grows hushed.

Searching for the puzzle
I saw a photo of this newly constructed prayer walk inside the Center and I started to search for it outside. It was actually in plain sight but I hadn’t been looking for it, so I didn’t see it. (In case you haven’t figured it out by now, this true story doubles as an allegory.)

When I spotted it, a man driving a zero turn radius lawn mower was zipping and roaring around it, back and forth; expertly, but fast enough for me to wonder about his judgement. Crisp leaves shot into the air and the wind whipped them into little showers of bullets.

“That won’t work,” I said. “What am I suppose do? Have a peaceful prayer time as Zippy here shoots me with leaves and the mower engine drives me to distraction?” I crossed past the paved puzzle a small stretch to a gazebo with park benches set in a circle.

It was still noisy there, but the mower sounded duller. I would wait him out. I tried to settle my mind. Maybe I could do some warm-up praying. No. My thoughts swam. “Who’s Zippy now?” I thought.

Instead of waiting, I went on a short walk in the wood nearby over a little ridge. The path looked to have been crudely bulldozed recently and massive tree parts and 4 inch thick vines were crammed in piles. It was other-worldly–so many thickets covering whole sections like umbrellas, even though most of their foliage was missing. Surreal yellow leaves on the ground seemed day-glow bright. I felt like a zombie putting one foot in front of the other as I made my way around the wet earth and wild terrain. The humming mower served as a beacon to orient me. It was comforting and ironic.

Then a church bell snapped me back. It chimed 11, and I recalled how church bells were auditory calls to prayer and attention. It felt like a call to go home…to something. I immediately wanted to get my bag from the gazebo and look at the church more carefully in a peaceful and maybe prayerful environment. I managed a shortcut straight up a bank after a brief bout with prickly plants. I got my things and trekked toward the church. When I got there, guess who was on the grounds too? Zippy, or some other diligent lawn guardian, was tooling around the church grounds. The noise was worse now because it was bouncing off the stone structure and echoing off the parking lot asphalt.

I decided to double back and sit on a bench near a garden path that featured the Stations of the Cross. (If you’re wondering about the Stations of the Cross, visit again soon, because I’ll be detailing that in a future post.) I munched on some snacks, journaled a few things, prayed some (kinda-sorta), and enjoyed a few sunbeams that momentarily bested the clouds. It felt nice to be there, but, then I started to feel really cold. My nose had a ice cube quality and the sun had ditched me.

I headed toward the large main building. An ancient woman was being rolled toward the main entrance in a wheelchair. Rather than getting in their way, I decided to walk through the covered colonnade and flank out to the door on the right. I passed the prayer garden on my left. It was filled with statues, fountains, and newly manicured hedges and remembered how pretty it had been in full bloom that Spring. It was much warmer then too. I was getting colder by the second. But, then I got to the door–relief.

Except that it was locked. The metal handle sent a shiver to my backbone straight through my arm. But, “No matter,” I said to myself. I’ll just continue around the building and try the next door just around the corner. There are probably no fewer than 25 exit doors to the place. I’ve exited a number of them and try to find a new one to some surprise new part of the grounds whenever possible. It’s all part of the fun.

No. Locked too. Things were getting interesting.

It turns out that there’s just one way into the place. There are plenty of ways to exit outdoors, but the main entrance is referenced on each locked door. I came to this realization by the 5th door. I’m not sure if the cold was my dulling my mind or if I was too distracted laughing to myself. I had just realized I was literally following a footpath around the structure. It wasn’t just  a path but a puzzle. I could have turned back and saved myself a lengthy walk, but I thought, “Oh! Okay God, this is the labyrinth you wanted me to take.”

Then out loud I said, “Stop being so funny.” At that exact moment, a black helicopter hummed overhead and I briefly thought the things were going to end in waterboarding or an unpleasant government website experience and arbitrary fees. Maybe, I was on the psycho path. I pushed my icy hands into my coat pockets, stopped trying to open locked doors, and made my way counter-clockwise to the main entrance–the long way around. This was probably the intended journey in the first place so I might learn something. I was starting to pay attention. Finally.

No, it wasn’t the labyrinth I set out to do. It wasn’t the one I picked to walk or the one studied as I walked by with Zippy swinging his mower wildly nearby, but eventually it would get me inside if I kept going around and circled the place.

As I got most of the way around the complex I could smell lunch cooking from the kitchen. “The kitchen help probably don’t have to go through the main entrance,” I thought. (It was my first useful notion all day.)

Sure enough: I spotted an inconspicuous point of entry, sheltered with an overhang and a coffee can full of sand and cigarette butts sitting outside the door. Maybe it would be open. It was. As I pull the door a blast of warmness greeted me and behind it the smell of comfort food. I was back. I had almost gone full circle, but I had an insiders’ access point to put things to rights.

Just before I left the place for home I took my friend–who had carpooled with me there that morning–to see the new prayer puzzle up close. I walked through slowly but it wasn’t prayerfully. The symbolism had already done its job. I was just canvasing the design and saying my goodbyes. I got to the center of the circle and I knew I was ready to leave for home.

I did a little spin with my arms out because I think if it was a movie that’s what would have happened right at the point, and then I stepped straight through the center to get back out.

The surprise is that you don’t get to ever really pick your own labyrinth. It is picked for you. You can decide how to walk it and how meaningful it will be. You can be frustrated by it and worry about the turns or you can slow down, put one foot after the other, and get to the center. Then you’ll be home.

# # #


Heaven is For Real, but is it as silly as they say?

On the recent topic of Heaven (and soon, Hell) here at the old blog, I must bring up the baffling and sappy rendering of the heaven that we hear about quite a bit in conservative North American Protestantism.

If a boy nearly dies, and then tells you details about heaven exactly as you have taught him, what’s next? I’ll tell you what, a best seller (for people who need a spiritual vitamin B12 shot for their excruciatingly literal translations of biblical passages, and who pay no mind to historical context, linguistic idioms, let alone Hebrew and Greek).

Now, I realize young children tell silly stories. That’s part of their job. The trouble comes when the stories get massaged and coupled with a near-death tragedy to elicit a faith response from the more gullible among us. I do want to think the Burpos are on the up-and-up, but something stinks.

I heard Pastor Burpo and his little boy on a television program. What a cute kid. Some of the story seemed amazing, if not miraculous, but I got a bad whiff of something when Colton (really his dad) detailed heaven as, well, super lame.

People get around on their huge wings. Okay, I hope that’s not how it works. Boobs have been bad enough. The proverbial pearly gates make an appearance. The word “wicked trite” comes to mind, but maybe I’m just too cynical. A blue-eyed Jesus wears a purple sash over his white robe, and rides a giantic rainbow colored horse. Okay, bad wardrobe, and how could the genuine biblical Jesus from the ancient Semitic region possibly possess a double recessive gene for blue eyes? (And don’t say, because both Mary and the Holy Spirit had blue eyes, ’cause I’m not buying it.)

I don’t think Jesus rolls like that. But, I give the kid credit: An elephantine rainbow horse is pretty cool. Of course, I would have to know if it pooped rainbow too. That’s awfully critical info. God (the Father) has a body and sits on the throne, with Gabriel serving as a kind of right hand angel man on his left side, in a smaller throne…as we might expect, right? It all sounds like a bad Star Trek episode. Well, sort of.

Reader reviews often complain that only 3 pages of the book speaks of heaven in any details. But the book has done well. Very well. It spent 52 weeks on the bestseller list, and the family has since produced a children’s picture book, and you guessed it, and movie rights have been purchased by Sony. Pretty sweet deal!

Possible movie title: “Heaven is for Reel: One Boy’s Near-death experience as re-told by his literalistic dad”

When the parents are asked about authenticity, their answers center on referring to the hope the story brings. This begs the question, is the point of the book to create hope in a plenty of people already know what they want heaven to be, instead of a faithful depiction of God (who, by the way, is non corporeal) and the Bible? (Which would be far more confusing.) Both can’t be true.

If you want to read a copy for yourself, and decide, here it is.

But, I offer you some thoughtful reflection on the the topic from arguably the foremost New Testament scholar alive today.

I modified this tube sock… (courage)

Ash Fox

Ash: You should probably put your bandit hat on now. Personally, I- I don’t have one, but I modified this tube sock.  (Fantastic Mr Fox, 2009)

If you feel ill-equiped, you are not alone.

I’m not sure that anyone really feels like they fit in.

Today, is a day to take courage. Modify your tube sock, and take on the big things that matter. No, you probably won’t look the part. But, that’s not what’s important.

What matters is using your talents and skills for the things you are passionate about, that also make your effort part of something bigger than you. If you’ve lost your passion, remember the lesson of the humble tube sock. It can be modified.

Remember too, that the “big things” won’t be the same for everyone…or maybe anyone. Give yourself permission to have your own “big things” (read: unique ideas). Courage and passion are inextricably linked.

What have you needed courage for lately?

Inspire us: What gives you courage?

Highly Recommended Viewing: Fantastic Mr. Fox