Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Blessing of the Kindling

I awoke to a cold, drizzly, blue, misty morning here on Bear Mountain. I was immediately reminded of two things. We have entered into that “blue time of the year” in terms of not only the church calendar but also in respect to the depression that haunts many folks during the holidays.

Every now and then the fire within weakens and we are left with a cold hearth and a fading memory of warmth and happiness. Please take the time to make a difference in someones life, take the time to care, and take the time to let them know you care. Help kindle their fire anew that the flame of love my grow and radiate within their lives and then spread its warmth to those around them.

Blessing of the Kindling

From the Carmina Gadelica

I will kindle my fire this morning
In presence of the holy angels of heaven,
In presence of Ariel of the loveliest form,
In presence of Uriel of the myriad charms,
Without malice, without jealousy, without envy,
Without fear, without terror of any one under the sun,
But the Holy Son of God to shield me.
Without malice, without jealousy, without envy,
Without fear, without terror of any one under the sun
But the Holy Son of God to shield me.

God, kindle Thou in my heart within
A flame of love to my neighbour,
To my foe, to my friend, to my kindred all,
To the brave, to the knave, to the thrall,
O Son of the loveliest Mary,
From the lowliest thing that liveth,
To the Name that is highest of all.
O Son of the loveliest Mary,
From the lowliest thing that liveth,
To the Name that is highest of all.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Glassblower's Heart

The Glassblower's Heart
By Sarah E. Skwire
It is not stable. It has never been.
It's fifteen thousand brittle, jagged shards
Which impersonate a whole. Innately marred,
It could explode at any time--just when
You least expect it, like as not.
The threat of loss and injury is all too real.
You have to heat it. You have to anneal
The work you've made.
If you don't you might get
By for days or weeks, but destruction looms
Unavoidably. Make the choice yourself--
Place it in the fire. Leave it on the shelf.
Cause pain and save it, or spare it for doom.
I am not stable. I am not entire.
Heal me. Anneal me. Thrust me in the fire.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Open Doors

Again I find myself coming back to the theme of returning home and whether returning to a place is actually going backwards or rather a forward movement from another direction.

Eureka Springs was not my childhood hometown, that was Springfield Missouri, but I spent enough time there that I feel a kindred spirit to the funky, quaint, artsy alpine hamlet of queers and fundamentalists alike.

I spent much of the day there today and realized that feeling of belonging still hasn't left me. It's one of the very few places or perhaps the only place I have ever felt like I belonged.

I started the morning making my rounds peddling hummingbird suncatchers to several wholesale accounts. It was a beautiful day but offered the promise of getting very hot. My first couple of stops were on Bear Mountain, the mountain I lived on while residing just outside of Eureka when I made the great exodus from the netherworld called Branson Missouri.

My day was a little off kilter simply because I had planned to meet someone for lunch and when that person canceled I planned to take someone else with me on my journey but sadly that wasn't to be either. Fate or folly intervened and I was on my own, footloose and fancy free. Good enough.

I thought I'd stop for brunch at a restaurant favored by another friend of mine who has since abandoned me and moved to the great Pacific Northwest. While there was a certain familiarity there and thus some comfort, the food had changed and not for the better. Oh, there was plenty of it, just not the quality I was use to in times gone by. Be that as it may, it was sufficient and my sufficiency was fully surrensified.

If it's one thing I can't stand it's selling myself. I would not have made a good male prostitute. I have been a rep for various wholesale lines in my life and never had a problem asking for business but for some reason, when it comes to my work, it's like pulling teeth to get me to walk into a shop and offer them my artwork. Perhaps I am uncomfortable about rejection. Who knows?! So as a result I eagerly finished my chore and sold all of the hummingbirds I had with me. I laid the ground work for some follow-up orders and then went off exploring a town near and dear to my heart.

Now for me, exploring Eureka Springs is like someone exploring the back of their hand. I have been all over that town over these last forty years. Sometimes there's a new shop to see and sometimes someone has painted their house a different color. However, other than those two situations, things seldom change in the little town. Yet again, I wasn't disappointed.

While my outward exploration seldom offers anything new I guess I go there for the inward exploration that Eureka Springs offers me personally. It gives me a place from which to gaze backward and then to gaze forward within the realm of familiarity. I did a lot of that while I was there today. I visited many of the springs, spending time at each one in thought and in prayer and visit two of them at least twice before I packed up my doll rags and headed home to Fayetteville.

Living in Fayetteville and spending a lot of time on the bike trails I take a lot of pictures. Few are ever inspiring to me, though I try and I try. I have spent two years in Fayetteville trying to get a "sunbeam" picture and have yet to do it. In Eureka today, the opportunities were limitless and I took advantage of several of them. What I ended up with were some pretty inspiring pics, for me anyway.

My only frustration in the whole day was when a family visited my favorite spring. They were loud and very out of place visiting an underground spring. They cried about spiders, the cold, the dampness, and they poked fun at the sacredness of the space by blowing out the candles that usually burn twenty-four seven, lights that shine in the darkness, lit by loving folk.

As if that wasn't enough, they lit up and smoked cheap cigarettes in the spring. I had to spend some time praying down my wrath. I hope they had a pleasant visit but in the words of Forrest Gump, that's all I have to say about that.

While I was visiting, I was also calling about various shops for lease, partially out of habit and partially out of simple curiosity because you never know. I was just heading up Mountain Street to where I had parked the Blackbird when my phone rang. It was a shop I had called about earlier in the day. The landlord was a venerable shop owner in Eureka Springs with whom I have spent several hundred dollars in years gone by. He wanted to show me the space I had called about. I trotted back down Mountain Street to Spring Street and made my way over to the shop for lease.

Not only was the shop space perfect but the landlord was very gracious and solicitous of me and my artwork, thinking we were a natural for the little burgh. I have to admit that it was and indeed is tempting. The space itself is perfect in many different aspects. I couldn't ask for a better space for the money. What's perhaps even more important, I couldn't ask for a better landlord. A door has definitely been thrown wide open for me and all I have to do is walk through. The temptation is great.

So now I ponder on what direction my future is to embark upon. My dear mentor, Fr. Martin, told me to always watch for open doors and so I have. This last year I have had door after door slam shut in my face, many of them personal, a couple of them ministerial, and some of them professional. Much of my life has changed as a result but I have yet to experience an open door in the last two years. Today's experience was a clear and present open door invitation and I don't take that lightly. I don't yet know what it means and I don't quite know what I'm going to do but I am definitely paying attention. As I always say, time will tell the story and indeed time is a great tool of discernment.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Feel the Heat

This morning everything was so clear in my mind. There was a gentle cooling breeze and the day was fresh and so was I. Not long after that, the heat hit and it’s been all downhill since. It’s amazing how working out in one hundred degree heat can rob you of your strength and even, in my case, my wits! I suppose I complicated matters by working with a torch burning somewhere right around three thousand degrees give or take a little. It’s a hot job I know but someone has to do it.

I have been trying to start my day by blowing glass in the cool hours of the morning, hours that had previously been reserved for riding Dominic, my Globe Vienna hybrid bike, on the bike trails of Fayetteville. Today as the temperature rose I pushed myself further and further into the heat of the day wanting to make one little glass hummingbird suncatcher after the next.

I have set up my glassblowing studio in the garage and while that offers some cover from the elements, heat is not one of them that it protects me from, in fact, it acts like a little roasting oven and I’m the turkey. With the torch, lights, and oxygen concentrator I create a generous amount of heat to contribute to global warming and I have yet to install and fire up my little woad blue kiln.

As I sat there making hummingbird after hummingbird and listening to the Carolina Chocolate Drops, my mind raced over my next few blog posts. It was like a manic attack of creativity. I was in the zone. I must have composed at least eight of my next one thousand word posts and indeed mapped out the rest of the year. The juices were flowing and if I had been set up to dictate from the torch I would have had it made.

But no and as a result, as the temperature continued to rise, the creativity started to sweat out of me…

As the heat rose my brained hazed over and my body complained until eventually, sometime this afternoon, I dripped into the house to the sanctuary of a darkened air conditioned room and drifted off to find refuge from a pounding headache.

As a child I was always out and about. It didn’t matter the weather conditions hot or cold, wet or dry, whatever. I was almost always off on my bike somewhere doing something. One summer day, not unlike today, I had spent the greater part of which pedaling around my hometown of Springfield Missouri. I didn’t have sense enough to come in from the heat as it never really bothered me, that is until it did.

On this particular one hundred five degree day when I must have been about nine, I had pushed myself just a little too hard. I remember being about a mile from home when I thought I might be getting into trouble physically. My head started to pound and then, even though I knew I was hot, I began to get the weirdest cold chills and start to shake. I made it home on my bike but at a price. I had a heat stroke.

I’ll never forget the pounding relentless headache and the odd sensations in my body, the dizziness and the nausea. I lay on a couch and didn’t move for hours that evening. I finally found the strength and presence to climb into bed and sleep it off. I haven’t been the same since. After that day I’ve been particularly sensitive to heat and never allow myself to in be a position of being too overheated. As a result when the thermometer reads 90 degrees I no longer ride my bike.

Today wasn’t nearly like the experience of my childhood. I knew I was getting to hot and I shut down. I was just a little taken back by how much it drained me mentally and creatively. I joked with a good friend of mine earlier in the morning about being in a manic creative state and I was just waiting for the crash. Well the crash came.

So now all of those outlines are a jumbled mess in my mind. My outline for the year all but a forgotten memory. This was not even my planned blog post of one thousand words today but I refuse to give into writer’s block so early in the game.

This whole event has helped me to plan for better cataloging of my ideas, thoughts, and inspirations. It also offers the occasion for me to pursue a new piece of technology that I’ve been wanting for some time, a smart watch, and no not an Apple, gack. As I spend more and more time on the torch, a “smart watch” or “wrist computer” as a friend likes to call them, could be a very convenient wearable piece of technology for me. Of course Google glass could be even better but that’s a whole other level of technology for this one eyed person to embark upon.

It’s interesting. My first smart phone was a purchase to augment my glass business. My foray into bluetooth ear buds was also an aid to my glass work. Once again my glass work drives my need and new technology is explored. Fascinating.

Speaking of new technology and the glass business, I’ve also been thinking about investing in a GoPro camera with which to do videos for glassblowing lessons on my YouTube channel. I realize I could accomplish the same thing with my phone, laptop, or even my Samsung NX300 camera but somehow I feel the need for a more professional and or dedicated piece of technology to do the job. And then, it could simply be an excuse to buy a new toy but that’s okay too!

We’ll see. At the price of hummingbirds these days, ten dollars apiece, to purchase these new devices I would have to sell at least fifty of them retail and twice that amount wholesale. I better get back on the torch and stop spending time on this at the keyboard typing.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Can You Ever Go Home?

Can you ever go home? Conventional wisdom seems to say no, you can never go home. Such wisdom would suggest that once you leave, things change and try as you might it's awful hard to find your way back to that which you left. Such is the state in which I find myself...

I visited Eureka Springs Arkansas today, as I had an order of blown glass hummingbird suncatchers to deliver to a shop over in that neck of the woods. It was a gorgeous day, even it it was a tad bit on the sultry side and the drive through the Ozarks Mountains was refreshing and inspiring as always. I concluded my business in the afternoon and headed to Eureka Springs to try and entice a few shop keepers and gallery owners to purchase some of my art work. 

Eureka Springs is a little Victorian oasis nestled on the side of Crescent Mountain in the Ozarks of Northwest Arkansas. Now, truthfully, Eureka encompasses more than the historic loop which winds its way up to the top of Crescent Mountain but that's the heart of the hidden little hamlet.

It's rich in history, eccentricity, art, crafts, Christian fundamentalism, commercialism, beautiful geography, magical springs, Pagans, Wiccans, Faerie, hippies, nudists, and it's as queer as a three dollar bill! It has been called the San Francisco of the Ozarks and rightfully so, what's more, it flies its colors with pride. We even have our own version of the Golden Gate Bridge!

Eureka has been a tourist town since, well, forever I suspect, and over the years the demographics of the tourists that visit, as well as those folks who call it home, have changed as the times have changed but it's always been a melting pot of sorts. The factions have lived in civility for the most part and blended nicely to make a flavorful soup. We are, after all, Southerners, and that counts for something. And like that statement, Eureka isn't always what it appears to be at any given glance and you have to peel layer after layer to sometimes get to the heart of the artichoke. Are we talking about artichoke soup?

What's more, with perhaps one exception, I have always taken the loves of my life to Eureka Springs, of which there have been several. It's like some sort of romantic rite of passage for relationships of mine. I've been married in Eureka Springs and I've honeymooned in Eureka Springs, not with the same spouse both times. The one exception to this eros-sian rendezvous was a wonderful girl who lived in Michigan and with whom I fell madly in love one frigid evening in downtown Chicago. We were teenagers at a high school journalism conference, loose in the city, looking for adventure, and we found one another. It was teenage love but alas we never made it to Eureka Springs together. Who knows what would have happened had we made that pilgrimage of the heart?! Probably charges of kidnapping and transporting a minor over state lines or some such nonsense but that's another story.

I think I've explored every square inch of Eureka Springs and most of it multiple times. It's my go to place when life is being life and not what I think life should be. It's my place to regroup, to rethink, to re-purpose, to reevaluate, and somehow I always manage to find myself again when I visit. Perhaps it's because I left a little part of my heart there forty years ago when, as a child, I discovered the magical place of my dreams.

The Eureka of today is somewhat different than the Eureka of my childhood. The "dragon trees" are still there and the candy store where we would procure the giant jawbreakers is still there - with a taffy machine in the window working on the same pull of taffy it was working on all those years ago. I've had a love affair with that city for perhaps forty years. The Eureka today though has become a mecca for the motorcyclists and not just a couple of them, all of them. Of all the different folks who have taken up with Eureka Springs, the motorcyclists are my least favorite. Not that I don't care for them as people, though there are some who try my inclusive little heart, but I hate the noise pollution. The noise alone shatters the sacred and unhinges the heart.

Anyway, I ventured back today, partly because I wanted to hit up the shops and galleries for some business, partly because it was a beautiful day and like a homing pigeon on such days, I just head that direction, and partly because life has been kicking me around a bit lately and I needed some time to be there. I didn't spend nearly enough time there and plan to go back in two days to spend more time.

A couple of years ago I fulfilled a dream to move to Eureka Springs. I had always wanted to live there and just knew that if I ever did, I would be in heaven. I really did love it and maybe more than I realized at the time but for several reasons, none of which I'll go into in this blog post, after a year of living in Eureka Springs on Bear Mountain, I moved on to Fayetteville Arkansas, a place I call the Promised Land.

Since that move I have toyed with moving back to Eureka Springs. It always calls to me and has always done so. I suspect it will never be silent, being a place that resonates with my soul on some deep level. Today when I was there I kicked around where my old studio use to be and to my surprise it was empty - my heart fluttered! Could it be? Could I move back and have my old studio again? Really? Oh, it seemed too good to be true and it was. 

The complex where my studio had been is now owned by Harley-Davidson. Across from where my quaint little Victorian studio was now sits a big fat in-your-face Harley-Davidson shop flanked by a smoke shop, a tattoo parlor, and Bud's Beers and Brauts. What's more, half the parking lot was dedicated to "motorcycles only" and had been sectioned off with gates and warning signs. Hardly the neighborhood for me. The noise alone with drive me to fits.

My heart sank...and I left...I really couldn't go home after all.

After that rather shocking discovery I made pilgrimage to the Holy Hill where I visited some dear friends at a delightful place called Hillspeak, an Episcopal retreat center of sorts with books galore. I was blessed with the most delightful conversations and I had a particularly wonderful conversation, as is always the case, with one very dear friend. She is perhaps one of my most favorite people in my beloved little alpine village and we laughed and carried on as only we know how to do. By the time I left I had almost forgotten about the motorcycle scourge that is spreading throughout Eureka, almost.

I'll return in a couple of days and I plan on giving the Harley people a wide berth. I'll wander the Carthage stone streets, climb the hills, and visit the sacred springs. I doubt I could go back to live but I will go to visit my heart.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Writing One Thousand Words a Day

The other night at a party I was throwing I struck up a conversation with a neighbor friend who had just graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Literature from the University of Arkansas. After the compulsory congratulations and "thata-boy's" I leaned back in my chair, took a long drink of my homemade sangria and asked,

"So, now what are you going to do with the rest of your life?"

Knowing my friend wished to be a writer, or more accurately wished to become a better writer, I had a pretty good idea of what his answer might be. Writing.

Indeed, he didn't disappoint. He launched into his hopes and dreams, his daily routine of becoming more of the writer that he knew he could be; he shared with me his plans for the not too distant future and eventually we got down to the nuts and bolts of it all. He was going to write. Already he had embarked upon a personal challenge of committing to write one thousand words a day for at least the next year. Notice I wrote the words one thousand because I learned that numbers don't count.

I thought to myself, wow! One thousand words a day! Ambitious!

I have always had a challenge with depth perception because I was two months premature and my eyes developed poorly. I was subsequently diagnosed with Lazy Eye, a condition where the eyes do not align to a single focal point, robbing the person of good depth perception, a condition I would have all of my life until finally I would go blind in one eye. That's a story for another one thousand words. I said all of that to say this, I also apparently have an issue with judging the depth of words when strung together in sentences that pile one upon another. I thought one thousand words a daunting amount to write day after day.

So I pressed him for more information...

Apparently he was going to, or already had, counted anything he had written from personal correspondences to blog entries, to perhaps even grocery store lists I assume. I jest but you get the picture. I began to think of the emails I write for the my dealings with Christ Catholic Church, my own personal corner of Catholicism, or for Whithorn School of Theology, and began to do some mental calculations. I quickly came to the conclusion that, by George, I think I normally write one thousand words or more a day by accident even if I don't count Facebook or other social media posts! Wow!

So then it occurred to me that I wasn't the best judge of depth historically and so I thought I'd give it a whirl by means of a single blog entry and see where my word count landed. Luckily I utilize a blog platform, Word Press, that counts your words for you as you compose. I suppose that comes in handy for folks who write for a living. This was something my friend, remember the one I mentioned earlier, was hoping to do, to eventually get paid for his writing. Anyway, according to the count at the bottom I'm over half way there!

Interesting. I haven't broken a sweat, nor, on the other hand, have I said anything of any import. I suppose its the dedication to the art of writing as much as anything. If you write enough surely something you write must be worth something right?! After all Fox News is a money making empire!

This was my friends attitude and a healthy one I suppose. He offered that writing one thousand words a day made you a writer. He extrapolated that over a single year and then working with a life expectancy actuary table, figured out how long he had left to live and multiplied the two numbers coming to an ungodly amount of words he will have written if he sticks to the plan. Giving him the benefit of the doubt that he'll live to be over one hundred years of age and given that he is now maybe thirty-eight that would mean that he has sixty-two years left. So let's run the numbers...

One thousand words a day for three hundred and sixty-five days a year, excluding leap years, would obviously add up to three hundred sixty-five thousand words a year. Now take that and multiply that by sixty-two years remaining of his life and you come up with twenty-two million six hundred thirty thousand words he will have written before he kicks the bucket. It was his opinion that somewhere in all of that writing someone would find something that they wanted to publish, if for no other reason than novelty.

I just don't know. Let me see...

I'm older than my aspiring writer friend by a few years, having just had my forty-sixth birthday. Let me break for a moment and share with you that my forty-fifth year was rotten, rotten to the core. One shouldn't wish one's life away and I didn't at the time but I was so very glad to see the earth orbit the sun around to the location of my birth again. I have hopes for forty-six being much better although it's off to a rocky start but again that's a story for another one thousand words.

Anyway, I 'm sure that I wrote one thousand words a day last year when you add them all up but I have no proof of that. So I figure I should live to be at least one hundred years old and why shouldn't I? On Facebook it says eating cheese, devouring chocolate, and drinking wine is akin to exercising and it's surely not wrong if it is on Facebook is it?! That coupled with the fact that I returned to being a vegetarian two years ago and gave up everything I like to eat except for cheese, wine, and chocolate and not to mention, oh wait I am mentioning it, that I bike fifteen to twenty miles a day in reasonable weather - I should live forever.

If all that is true and I live another fifty-four years, again not accounting for leap years nor for the twenty-seven days since my last birthday, I should be able to write another nineteen million seven hundred ten thousand words in my lifetime. And maybe even say nothing of import.

Oh look, I'm already at one thousand seventy-five.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Word Painting

Word Painting
By Brian Ernest Brown

It is often said,
a picture paints a thousand words.

It is also true,
that words can paint a vivid picture.

Albeit sometimes,
the phrase, fuck my life, says it all.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Anniversary: Consecration to the Episcopacy

On the Feast of St. Kevin of Glendalough, nine years ago today, June 3, 2006, I was consecrated to the episcopacy and made a bishop in the Free Catholic Movement.

It was a day of little but hard work, frustration, and ultimately disappointment. In retrospect that was a foreshadow of things to come, though not yet realized.

Consecration was not something that I sought out and in fact I had turned it down several times before. If truth be told, I’m not so sure that it was something that sought me out either, though several bishops had tried to consecrate me.

There were always hidden agendas attached to the deed and somehow I managed to wiggle my way out from under their hands before they uttered the magic words and poof, I was turned into a bishop, which is infinitely worse than being turned into a frog – there’s more dignity and authenticity with being turned into a frog and you don’t have to wear a silly pointed hat.

No, this was something that was sought out for me by someone else, someone with an agenda of their own, and sadly for all the wrong reasons. Which is a story for another time. Be that as it may, this is the anniversary of the day it happened.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Good Intentions

Good Intentions
By Brian Ernest Brown

11 March 2001 

Oh, how my good intentions
swirl around me throughout the day.
Like ghosts they seem to haunt me,
but they never fly away.

Those gossamer threads they lead me,
down a well worn path in life.
A path I've taken too often,
a course that’s wrought with strife.

Oh how they do collect,
Until I don’t know where to start.
And my strength they seem to bleed,
like leaches on my heart.

Too many things I mean to do,
Too many people I need to see,
It’s so very much to accomplish,
Maybe today, I’ll just leave them be!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Who Does God Hate?

I was thinking about the quote from Anne LaMott I posted the other day on my Facebook page. I noticed folks copied and pasted it all over the place.
Here was the quote:

“You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” -Anne LaMott

It really started some good conversation and such. I then happened upon something dealing with that atrocious group, Westboro Baptist Church and their GodHatesFags website. I see now they’ve branched out into selling t-shirts and other things online. In fact I saw something that just broke my heart. They’re selling t-shirts that are children’s size that say “God Hates Fags.” How would you like to see a child wearing such a thing?

Their hate speech isn’t limited to “fags” but all kinds of folks whom they see as different and falling outside of not only Christianity but also God’s love. I have seen this hate group grow over the years due to power of fear, ignorance, and hate and or people’s apathy. I don’t know how many hate filled websites they have but others include GodHatesIreland, GodHatesAmerica, and the list goes on. I’ve seen them speak out about Jewish folks, political leaders (usually democrats), being publicly thankful for dead soldiers, thinking 9/11 was a blessing, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Surely this is just a fringe group you say. Well, no, it’s a pretty large well coordinated group with deep pockets. Unbelievable. But it all stems from the preaching of hate. Remaking God in their own image and transposing that image on the world around them.

God hates this, God hates that. This person or that group of people are an abomination to the Lord. God can’t love you because he loves me and besides, you’re a sinner because I say so.” Blah-da-blah-da-blah. And through the machinations of preachers and churches who preach things like this, the Christian church slips further into irrelevancy and idiocy and the Gospel Message of love and inclusion meant to heal this broken world is lost.

That’s the slippery slope when we preach hate and intolerance of a person or a group of people and sadly our churches are full of that kind of anti-Christ type of message.

We’re tempted to look at Westboro Baptist Church as a vocal extreme and certainly not like the average Christian church in this country but I would say that any church or preacher that preaches hate is just as culpable of distorting the Gospel Message and harming the universal church even if it is a single topic of hate they’re preaching on. Lest someone think I’m picking on the conservatives here, I am not, would be liberals do the same sort of thing when they seek to exclude folks who don’t believe exactly like they do from God’s love, care, and fellowship.

Another quote I posted on my Facebook the other day:

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” -Elie Wiesel

As Christians I think it’s our duty to stand up against such hate speech, bigotry, fear mongering, and evil. As followers of the Prince of Peace it’s our duty to stand with the meek, help the suffering, come to the rescue of the thrown-aways, and love those who have been labeled by others as unlovable. To do any less is to spit in the face of Christ.

A dear friend of mine, Fr. Sean Lotz of the Celtic Catholic Church penned an excellent paper in response to the Westboro Baptist Church’s stance of GodHatesFags. Fr. Sean asks the question: Is It True That God Hates Fags?

Fr. Sean Lotz in his article while discussing the protesters signs of “God Hates Fags’ and “Matt Was a Sinner” (referring to Matthew Shepherd, a gay young man who was viciously beaten to death and whose funeral was picketed by members of the Westboro Baptist Church) says:

“Fortunately in the midst of this wrongness and cruelty was one small glimmer of humor. One of the protesters carried a placard that proclaimed, “Matt was a sinner.” It may as well have said, “It’s cold out here in the snow.” We already knew that. Of course, his sinfulness resulted not from his being a homosexual but from his being a fallen human like all the rest of us.

Except for that last self-evident statement, none of their theology is right, none of it is the Gospel. None of their behavior can be called the will of God. But it seems to me that the most evil sign of all was the one that read “God hates fags.” This is the theology of hell, and the author of this sentiment, a prophet of Satan himself.

To understand that such a sentiment could not possibly have come from God, consider Matthew 5:22.

But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult [say raka/ (rah-kah) to] a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool [mwre/ (moh-re)],” you will be liable to the hell of fire. (New Revised Standard Version)

Now the Aramaic word which is transliterated into the Greek as raka/, and generally translated into English as “fool,” carries with it a whole equipage of Aramaic connotation and Jewish thought. To the Jews, the concept of “fool” did not mean someone of limited intelligence, but rather a person of deficient morals.  
And the word raka/ was, please notice, a word of derision, an insult, not a technical term. The same with mwre/. Although a Greek word, it had been used by the Jews of Jesus’ time to indicate a fool, but with added overtones of “traitor,” especially a traitor to the generally accepted moral code. And it too was a term of contempt and derision.

It is impossible not to see the similarity to the English word “fag.” And it is impossible to believe that the same God who, through his Son who died on the Cross for us, taught that those who dismiss God’s creatures with stereotyping words of contempt shall be liable to judgment, would approve of his sacred Name being used in the same sentence with such an ugly word of derision as “fag.” This sign was not just rude, not just wrong, but a direct violation of a clear principle taught by our Lord.

But there is more. What reveals this statement as not just non-Christian, but actually anti-Christ, is the word “hates.” Saying that God “hates” any of his humans is to deny the very activity of Christ and the basic nature of God. It is blasphemy of the highest order.

Certain Christians are fond of finding isolated verses of Scripture that they use to prove almost anything. Doing this, it is quite easy to show that God hates individuals or groups of persons. But Scripture must not ever be read this way. Nothing in it makes sense unless considered in the total context from Genesis to Revelation. ”

I recommend you read Fr. Sean’s entire article. You can catch up with him at the Celtic Catholic Church. It’s certainly well thought out, well written, and if you’ll pardon me, the Gospel Truth.

No, hate, vindictiveness, fear mongering, bigotry, self-righteousness, spiritual terrorism, and evil have no place in the Christian Church nor should such things come from “ministers” of the Christian faith. Such things are anti-Christ.

I am glad that our communion, Christ Catholic Church, and specifically our little ministry here in the Ozarks is a little different than the norm out there. I’m thankful that our little group of believers in Archdiocese of the Prince of Peace is committed to a message of Love and inclusivity regardless and we hold firm on that message of welcoming love. On our website you can read:

“We Are Inclusive: Believing as Saint Isaac of Syria, “Do not try to discriminate the worthy from the unworthy, but let all people be equal in your eyes for a good deed,” we do not discriminate and hold no regard for a person’s race, color, age, gender, sexual orientation, preference, nationality, socioeconomic class, nor a person’s state of grace. We are fully committed to inclusivity and our support for the LGBTQIAPP (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersexual, asexual, pansexual, polyamorous) and anyone who would seek to find a spiritual home within Christ Catholic Church is unwavering and unapologetic.”

If you feel like discovering a kinder and gentler way to express an authentic Christian faith of hope, love, inclusion, and reconciliation won’t you give us a a try? Visit Christ Catholic Church We welcome not just some of you, but ALL OF YOU!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Betrayal: That Cold-Hearted Kiss

I had written this several years ago after Holy Week and Easter. And I thought it appropriate to post it here at this time. I hope you find it as illuminating reading it as I did writing it. Blessings upon your head, your heart, your home, and your own loved ones!

“Jesus was still speaking, when Judas the betrayer came up. He was one of the twelve disciples, and a large mob armed with swords and clubs was with him. They had been sent by the chief priests and the nation’s leaders. Judas had told them ahead of time, “Arrest the man I greet with a kiss.” Judas walked right up to Jesus and said, “Hello, teacher.” Then Judas kissed him.” -Matthew 26:47-49

Betrayal, ah that cold-hearted kiss.

This time of the year, Lent, Holy Week, and Easter, always makes us take a look at our lives or at least it does with me. I usually get somewhat introspective and hopefully a little intuitive during Lent often bringing home the message during Holy Week and Easter.

I often ask myself, “what has God been trying to teach me or show me this last year?” Sometimes I can recognize his hand at work in my life and get it but as likely sometimes I simply get in the way of myself and of God and I miss the point all together. The good news is that God is patient, the bad news is that God is patient and, as it were, when I don’t get it, I get to experience the lesson all over again, sometimes from the very start.

Such has been the case with betrayal, one of the more darker lessons we’ll learn in our life. As I read the Passion narrative the other day on Palm Sunday I was slapped in the face with the betrayal Jesus experienced at the hand of one whom he loved dearly, no, at the hands of many he loved dearly. You see, while Judas was the one we think of most, there were more. The Passion Narrative is rift with betrayal, complete in heart break, and seemingly adrift in hopelessness, that is at least until the bitter-sweet end.

As I read aloud the story, the deeper I went into it the harder is was to continue. When the priest had asked me to please read it for the service I thought to myself, oh dear Father, you have no idea what you’re asking nor how hard I’ll sob before the task is finished. But he asked and dutifully I read…and sniffled…and wept…and snorted…and sobbed.

There are so many issues one could deal with in this passage, so much truth, beauty, and love which is echoed by pain, sadness, deceit, and betrayal but it’s betrayal, that bitter, bitter cup of tea that we all must sip from, that God has been working with me on. And so it was the utter betrayal of our Lord Jesus that struck me that morning. How his dearest and closest friends betrayed him and how we are still betraying him today with our actions or in-actions.

The thought that Jesus WILLINGLY allowed himself to be in that position, WILLINGLY loved enough to be betrayed, and was WILLINGLY faithful to his betrayers to the bitter end and beyond is what blows my mind. I’m sure there are better theological ways of explaining it but mind blowing is a phrase that fits what I felt, what I feel. What is even more mind blowing is what Jesus did after the whole crucifixion! What is even more mind blowing is how much Jesus still loved his betrayers and how much he still loves us in spite of our own betrayal of him and one another! Wow!

Here’s the question though… Here’s the hard part… He calls us to follow his example! He calls us to love enough to be betrayed and then he asks us, no he really commands us to LOVE AGAIN ANYWAY. How on earth?! Well exactly, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!”

This is the lesson God has been working with me on over the last several years. Betrayal after betrayal and still I must love, and still I must forgive (and be forgiven I might add) and still I must risk it all again for Love’s sake, for Christ’s sake!

Overwhelmed by love once I sent an email to my mentor, the priest who first offered me Holy Communion and really taught me what it meant to be a Christian. I had been so moved by the love in my life at that time that I confessed to him in an email that I found myself waiting for “the other shoe to drop.” He told me then that if I spent all my time waiting for that other shoe to fall I would miss out on the gift that had been given in the present, the PRESENT OF LOVE if you will, and he reminded me that love always requires that we take the chance of getting hurt!

I think of the love in my life, my family, my friends, my church and many other fleeting instances of love too numerous to mention and I have to count myself loved abundantly, generously and overwhelmingly. It is precisely in these loving relationships, person to person, that we can begin to experience, get into touch with, and make real God’s love for us. It is in being open to and loving one another that God’s love becomes real to our understanding and we can run into this broken world safe in the knowledge and experience of true love.

You see, the betrayed loved enough to be betrayed and so it is the betrayer who is the ultimate victim, it is the betrayer who ultimately loses out, it is the betrayer who has rejected love to his or her own detriment. The betrayer has ultimately betrayed him or herself. It is their heart which is broken and it is they who must live with the loneliness and humility of what they have done. It is they who deserve our pity and our prayers.

I feel sorry for Judas. The very short amount of life he had left was no doubt spent in misery, loneliness and regret. He betrayed Jesus for his own agenda, not understanding or wishing to force change upon the Messiah’s ministry. It is Judas who went into that “dark night of the soul” and who may have never emerged from that self-consigned hell.

We pray for the lonely during the canon of our liturgy and so too we pray for those who have betrayed us, just like Jesus prayed for us and prays for us even still. Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Hoping For Resurrection

Hoping For Resurrection
By Brian Ernest Brown

on the back of an ass
riding into town
faint praise
turns to criticism
all too often

in a garden of woe
lies are the seeds
and betrayal
is the perennial bloom
thorns are treacherous

hanging betwixt
heaven and earth
suffering and forsaken
lost and alone
crying out

love and grace
the only gift to give
dying to self
and hoping
for a resurrection

Gift of Love

Gift of Love
By Brian Ernest Brown

it's all
i have to give
i made it for you and you alone
it was created from my image and experience of you
it's an original work of art crafted by me for you alone
i'm sorry it may not be what you want
i'm sorry it may not be what you need
it's all i have to give
accept it or not
it's yours

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Seal of Confession

Confession is such a spiritually important and often over looked and misunderstood sacrament of the Church. And while I’d agree that most of the traditional seven sacraments are misunderstood and often overlooked it has been my experience as a priest that the Sacrament of Confession tops such a list.

A friend and mentor of mine once said,”you can pay $100 for a visit to a psychologist or for a nickle in the collection plate you can get the counsel of a priest, confession, forgiveness and reconciliation. While my mentor was not trying impugn psychologists in any way nor was he trying to sell the sacrament of a nickle, he was in fact making a rather astute if not cute observation. That for the Cure of our Souls we need turn only to the the Sacraments of the Church and God’s infinite love and confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation are a constant requirement to live a balanced and grace-filled Christian life.

Enter the priest.

It is through the priest that the penitent comes seeking understanding, counsel, guidance, and ultimately forgiveness for the sin in his or her life. It is through the priest and the Sacrament of Confession that a penitent’s sins are absolved by God. This is one of the sacred acts that sets us apart from the Protestant church and this relationship between priest and penitent must be held to the highest standard and strictest confidence.

When a priest violates this sacrament, violates the Seal of Confession, he or she throws away his or her priesthood, by breaking sacred vows, and by breaking the intimate trust placed in him or her by the penitent. What would the world of the church be like if the Seal of Confession was simply a quaint custom and the confessor free to spread around shared confidences as he or she saw fit? Who would ever trust such an irresponsible and heartless “priest” with anything again? No one would of course and the Sacrament of Confession would be useless, and the offending cleric’s priesthood simply make-believe.

One of the older catechisms taught that the lowest level in hell was reserved for the priest who broke the Seal of Confession and I believe this to be so. though perhaps in a metaphorical sense. I hold the Seal of the Confession inviolable and I hold the priests under my episcopal protection subject to do the same as should all bishops and priests worth their salt.

Let’s see what the catholic encyclopedia has to say about the subject…

From New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia

Seal of Confession

Regarding the sins revealed to him in sacramental confession, the priest is bound to inviolable secrecy. From this obligation he cannot be excused either to save his own life or good name, to save the life of another, to further the ends of human justice, or to avert any public calamity. No law can compel him to divulge the sins confessed to him, or any oath which he takes — e.g., as a witness in court. He cannot reveal them either directly — i.e., by repeating them in so many words — or indirectly — i.e., by any sign or action, or by giving information based on what he knows through confession. 
The only possible release from the obligation of secrecy is the permission to speak of the sins given freely and formally by the penitent himself. Without such permission, the violation of the seal of confession would not only be a grievous sin, but also a sacrilege. It would be contrary to the natural law because it would be an abuse of the penitent’s confidence and an injury, very serious perhaps, to his reputation. It would also violate the Divine law, which, while imposing the obligation to confess, likewise forbids the revelation of that which is confessed. That it would infringe ecclesiastical law is evident from the strict prohibition and the severe penalties enacted in this matter by the Church. 
“Let him beware of betraying the sinner by word or sign or in any other way whatsoever. . . we decree that he who dares to reveal a sin made known to him in the tribunal of penance shall not only be deposed from the priestly office, but shall moreover be subjected to close confinement in a monastery and the performance of perpetual penance” (Fourth Lateran Council, cap. xxi; Denzinger, “Enchir.”, 438). 
Furthermore, by a decree of the Holy Office (18 Nov., 1682), confessors are forbidden, even where there would be no revelation direct or indirect, to make any use of the knowledge obtained in confession that would displease the penitent, even though the non-use would occasion him greater displeasure.

These prohibitions, as well as the general obligation of secrecy, apply only to what the confessor learns through confession made as part of the sacrament. He is not bound by the seal as regards what may be told him by a person who, he is sure, has no intention of making a sacramental confession but merely speaks to him “in confidence”; prudence, however, may impose silence concerning what he learns in this way. Nor does the obligation of the seal prevent the confessor from speaking of things which he has learned outside confession, though the same things have also been told him in confession; here again, however, other reasons may oblige him to observe secrecy. 
The same obligation, with the limitations indicated, rests upon all those who in one way or another acquire a knowledge of what is said in confession, e.g., an interpreter who translates for the priest the words of the penitent, a person who either accidentally or intentionally overhears the confession, an ecclesiastical superior (e.g., a bishop) to whom the confessor applies for authorization to absolve the penitent from a reserved case. Even the penitent, according to some theologians, is bound to secrecy; but the more general opinion leaves him free; as he can authorize the confessor to speak of what he has confessed, he can also, of his own accord, speak to others. But he is obliged to take care that what he reveals shall cast no blame or suspicion on the confessor, since the latter cannot defend himself. 
In a word, it is more in keeping with the intention of the Church and with the reverence due to the sacrament that the penitent himself should refrain from speaking of his confession. Such, undoubtedly, was the motive that prompted St. Leo to condemn the practice of letting the penitent read in public a written statement of his sins (see above); and it needs scarcely be added that the Church, while recognizing the validity of public confession, by no means requires it; as the Council of Trent declares, it would be imprudent to prescribe such a confession by any human enactment.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Desires of the Heart

Desires of the Heart
By Brian Ernest Brown

What do I desire?

I desire freedom, the kind that encourages unconditional love and self-expression.  

I desire intimacy and by that I don't exclusively mean sex.  For me intimacy, begins with small shared experiences between people - a touch, a whisper, an embrace, a kiss, a caress, a breath, a knowing glance.  

I desire honesty, the kind of honesty that is respectful of everyone involved but which also allows for individual privacy and self-concern.  

I desire passion, not just between the sheets but for life itself.  Passion that fuels a zest for life and the diversity which it offers.  A passion that makes someone search for the end of the rainbow, knowing with an intense certainty that they'll find it.  

I desire exploration and adventure. Exploration not only of the world around us but also of the world within us. To discover who and what we are and to live that truth bravely and unapologetically. Adventuring and learning about different cultures and people as we go. Celebrating the beauty and diversity we find along the journey.

I desire intelligent conversation, the kind that keeps you up late at night because you just can't control the thoughts being stimulated in your head, where people experience an intellectual intimacy shared through thoughts and ideas.  

I desire grace, the grace and forgiveness to be fully human and fully alive and to share the same with another.  

I desire forgiveness and compassion because I'm only human too but not just for me but a forgiveness and compassion shared with others because only then can we experience it ourselves.  

I desire love, the kind of love that endures and is shared.

I desire whimsical spontaneity that encourages impish delight.  

I desire sex so hot that you drench the sheets and so tender you never want it to end.

Those are some of my desires but most of all, I simply want to be part of the happiness, joy, and love of other people's lives on whatever level they will allow.

These are some of the desires of my heart.