Sunday, May 27, 2012


I recorded today's sermon at Trinity Episcopal Church (Jeffers, MT).

I used my FLIP camera, so audio and video quality are limited.

Let me know what you think.

You can find it at:

Saturday, May 12, 2012


A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends. Proverbs 16:28

What’s the difference between news and gossip?

It is no secret that I like to watch and read the news; I like to know what’s happening in the world, and I appreciate thoughtful commentary from time to time. But what’s the difference between news and gossip?

I ask because the other day I left church to find cars in the parking lot pasted with flyers casting aspersions against a candidate involved in a local election. I am too new to the community to know the person in question, but I know a hatchet job when I see it. The message was almost literally: Don’t vote for this person because he didn’t tell us something about himself that would have cost him votes!

 How strange, that a person would cast himself in a manner that would attract your vote. It seems that’s how most of us get jobs in life: presenting ourselves – best foot forward.

In any event, I found the flyer offensive because it was, at best, perverse gossip-mongering, and I have seen too many lives destroyed by malicious slander, half-truths, and innuendos masquerading as “facts”, and if one desires to be a child of God, one must put away their desire to hear gossip, and the desire to spread it.

So, what exactly is gossip? It is telling any story that is not yours to tell. That’s how I see it.

It is my prerogative to tell you what I think or what I did and how I feel. It is my right to decide what to tell you and what not to tell you about my life. If I am having a problem with someone, I may enlist your help to solve it, but the focus is not on making the other person look bad (or me look good), but to find a way to build a better relationship.

Where does gossip come from? As best I can tell, there are several reasons people gossip. First, it gives the tale-bearer a sense of power. They are “in the know” and their status rises with the more they know and the better they’re able to divulge the salacious details of the matters to which they are privy. They discover they are able to attract a crowd, and that people trust them; there is little that is more addictive than having the cheers and applause of an audience yearning to hear more (ask any preacher or comedian).

Secondly, gossip provides a platform upon which to stand in judgment of others. At issue is not what the other has said or done, but what it says about their character. Gossip is designed to maim and weaken the other. If we judge one’s actions, then we stand over them. We believe we stand taller, but it is an illusion; it is caused by standing on the necks of those we’ve been able to throw down.

Third, and most importantly, gossip is a symptom of faithlessness. We have been called to share good news, to build God’s kingdom, to lift up those who are down, and to comfort those who are in trouble. People who are busy doing the work God has given them do not have the time to engage in matters of gossip.

Gossip is bred out of boredom, so if one is interested in changing – of no longer being a gossip-monger, there are a few things one might try.

First, if you find yourself talking about someone else, stop. If they aren’t present, stop. If you do not tell a tale, there is nowhere for it to go, so let it stop somewhere between your brain and teeth. Don’t let it out of that ivory cage of yours.

Secondly, when in doubt, ask yourself if the statement or story will build you up, or the other. If it builds you up, stop. No one needs your ego running wild. If it will build the other person up (I saw Jan stop the runaway locomotive!), then feel free to share it – but ask permission first, and honor their desire.

Thirdly, be content doing what God put you on earth to do. Get busy doing your job, and unless you are a tissue, keep your nose out of other people’s business in this, our valley. Shalom.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Things that Matter

"One is glad to be of service."Bicentennial Man

Sitting in the comfort of the living room where I am staying, I find myself mesmerized by the ever-changing weather on and around Fan Mountain in the nearby distance.

I am a city boy through and through. I can’t deny it, and I cannot help it. That is part of my story – a large part – and it is what it is. I have generally been surrounded by the hustle and bustle of city life: honking horns, jostling crowds, sirens wailing, and air you can see; ah, now that’s living!

But the times, they are a changing. The pace of life here is different. It’s slower, quieter, and, generally speaking, more peaceful. There is time and space in which to think, and that is a wonderful gift for one who tends to be more of a doer than a thinker.

In appreciating the natural beauty that currently surrounds me on all sides, I find myself wondering if that appreciation shouldn’t be transferred to all material things. I mean, there is so much we take for granted, like our tools of the trade, household dishes, knick-knacks, fixtures, and the like. We value them when we don’t have them – like when they break or disappear – but do we really appreciate them as the gifts they are?

I know my computer is manufactured, as are the cups from which I drink, and the lights by which I read, and yet are they any less gifts of nature than the mountain I see out my window, or the tree beside the house? Do we treat those things with less reverence because they are “man-made”? Do we treat them well only because there is a cost to repairing or replacing them?

I know a woman who, if she accidentally slams a door, will return, open and close it properly, and apologize to the door for being careless. While many would consider her eccentric, I wonder if she doesn’t have a tighter grasp on what it means to be a godly steward than the rest of us who wouldn’t think twice about a slammed door (except in yelling at our kids to quit slamming the door because it irritates us, and not because it hurts the door’s feelings).

There are some people who perceive everyday objects as manifestations of “the Beloved” and who incorporate acts of devotion to honor the Blessed One, such as kissing the cup from which they drink, or the rug upon which they offer their prayers. They aren’t worshiping these objects (as idolaters), but honoring the One from whom all blessings flow.

Recognizing everything has its ultimate source in the Creator of the Universe, shouldn’t we give more thought to offering thanks in appreciation – not just for all we have, but for all that is?

Perhaps it is not enough to respect the dignity of every person; perhaps we would do well to respect the dignity of all that exists. Those objects provide us with a service, whether helping us in our writing, cooking, or other practical matters, or by beautifying the world in which we live, through color, design, or just plain whimsy.

We are being served, and these objects ask for nothing in return. Does that mean we shouldn’t offer them something – even something as simple as a kiss or nod of recognition?

I tip my hat in appreciation of the beauty of Fan Mountain; I think I will try to appreciate the rest of the world that surrounds me – both the sacred and the profane – and see if that doesn’t please and honor God more over the long haul here in this, our valley.