Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Holy Innocents: We can do something

“Blessed are all 
who take refuge in him.
Psalm 2:11b

The Christian calendar today holds one of grimmest of markers for the year: The Feast of the Holy Innocents. The day was transferred to today because of the clogging of the Christian calendar with other feast days that take a backseat to Christmas.

Marla Ruzicka, right, with a family in Iraq
shortly before she was killed
This may seem like a very odd day for a feast. It is, after all, the day we commemorate the slaughter of innocent children at the hands of  King Herod, as told in the Gospel of Matthew.

Herod murdered all of the first born boys in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill Jesus, the one who the Magi had told him would grow up to be a king. Jesus and his family escaped, but the carnage and anguish in Bethlehem was great.


What to make of the Holy Innocents? Should we turn away from the awfulness of this story?


What comes to mind is that the world is full of Holy Innocents – children who are killed or maimed in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Libya, Syria. Children die as pawns of the powerful. Children die in Gaza and the West Bank, and children die in Bethlehem. And children die from gunfire in their own classrooms in the United States. We don’t need a King Herod to feel shame for the deaths of millions of innocent children in our world.

As I write this, millions of Syrian refugees are fleeing from ISIS, and millions of them are children. Rather than giving them safe refuge, we are letting only a trickle into our country. Instead of showing them our compassion, they have become sound-bites in our presidential politics.

A friend of mine says we should meet them at the airport with balloons and signs saying welcome. It would drive ISIS nuts.

There is something more we can do.

For several years I have been supporting the work of CIVIC – The Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, an organization that documents the plight and advocates for refugees and victims caught in the cross-fire of the world’s conflicts. Its purpose:
“Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict works on behalf of war victims by advocating that warring parties recognize and help the civilians they harm. CIVIC supports the principle that it is never acceptable for a warring party to ignore civilian suffering.”
CIVIC was founded by a very brave young woman, Marla Ruzicka, from Lakeport, California, who in the months after 9/11 went to the frontlines herself to document what she saw, and then bring that information to the doorstep of decision-makers in Washington.

Marla was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2005. She was only 24.

It was my privilege to say prayers for her in the California Senate after she died, and I can tell you some very hardened politicians shed tears that day.

CIVIC has not only continued her work, but expanded it, going to Libya, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan, Lebanon and Israel. CIVIC works on a shoestring budget but it has had a huge impact by getting Congress to allocate funds to compensate war victims in Iraq and Afghanistan, and bringing the stories of real people caught in warfare to the media.

CIVIC has gone everywhere it can go, working with officials from the United Nations, and with governments in Israel and Lebanon, Russia and Georgia, and everywhere there is warfare. To read a summary of CIVIC’s accomplishments, click HERE.

I know that all of us are inundated this time of year with appeals for funds. But what better way to remember the Holy Innocents than by giving to CIVIC? I will be giving today as my devotion to this Holy day. Please join me. You can make a donation to CIVIC by clicking HERE.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Greatest Christmas Story ever told: Get the kid his peaches

Christmas blessings and greetings!

I have not posted much here during the chaos of our getting resettled in Northern California and starting a new position. I have not had the mental bandwidth for it. But it seems to me this Christmas season is a good time to start once again.

On my old blog, Fiat Lux, I posted once a year the Greatest Christmas Story Ever Told, at least I think it is. Here it is again, by the great Al Martinez of the Los Angeles Times, and many years before that, the Oakland Tribune. We lost Al in January on this year.

A Christmas Story
By Al Martinez

IT happened one Christmas Eve a long time ago in a place called Oakland on a newspaper called the Tribune with a city editor named Alfred P. Reck.

I was working swing shift on general assignment, writing the story of a boy who was dying of leukemia and whose greatest wish was for fresh peaches.

It was a story which, in the tradition of 1950s journalism, would be milked for every sob we could squeeze from it, because everyone loved a good cry on Christmas.

We knew how to play a tear-jerker in those days, and I was full of the kinds of passions that could make a sailor weep.

I remember it was about 11 o'clock at night and pouring rain outside when I began putting the piece together for the next day's editions.

Deadline was an hour away, but an hour is a lifetime when you're young and fast and never get tired.

Then the telephone rang.

It was Al Reck calling, as he always did at night, and he'd had a few under his belt.

Reck was a drinking man. With diabetes and epilepsy, hard liquor was about the last thing he ought to be messing with, but you didn't tell Al what he ought to or ought not to do.

He was essentially a gentle man who rarely raised his voice, but you knew he was the city editor, and in those days the city editor was the law and the word in the newsroom.

But there was more than fear and tradition at work for Al.

We respected him immensely, not only for his abilities as a newsman, but for his humanity. Al was sensitive both to our needs and the needs of those whose names and faces appeared in the pages of the Oakland Tribune.

"What's up?" he asked me that Christmas Eve in a voice as soft and slurred as a summer breeze.

He already knew what was up because, during 25 years on the city desk, Reck somehow always knew what was up, but he wanted to hear it from the man handling the story.

I told him about the kid dying of leukemia and about the peaches and about how there simply were no fresh peaches, but it still made a good piece. We had art and a hole waiting on page one.

Al listened for a moment and then said, "How long's he got?"

"Not long," I said. "His doctor says maybe a day or two."

There was a long silence and then Al said, "Get the kid his peaches."

"I've called all over," I said. "None of the produce places in the Bay Area have fresh peaches. They're just plain out of season. It's winter."

"Not everywhere. Call Australia."

"Al," I began to argue, "it's after 11 and I have no idea . . .”

"Call Australia," he said, and then hung up.

If Al said call Australia, I would call Australia.

I don't quite remember whom I telephoned, newspapers maybe and agricultural associations, but I ended up finding fresh peaches and an airline that would fly them to the Bay Area before the end of Christmas Day.

There was only one problem. Customs wouldn't clear them. They were an agricultural product and would be hung up at San Francisco International at least for a day, and possibly forever.

Reck called again. He listened to the problem and told me to telephone the secretary of agriculture and have him clear the peaches when they arrived.

"It's close to midnight," I argued. "His office is closed."

"Take this number down," Reck said. "It's his home. Tell him I told you to call."

It was axiomatic among the admirers of Al Reck that he knew everyone and everyone knew him, from cops on the street to government leaders in their Georgetown estates. No one knew how Al knew them or why, but he did.

I made the call. The secretary said he'd have the peaches cleared when they arrived and give Al Reck his best.

"All right," Reck said on his third and final call to me, "now arrange for one of our photographers to meet the plane and take the peaches over to the boy's house."

He had been drinking steadily throughout the evening and the slurring had become almost impossible to understand.

By then it was a few minutes past midnight, and just a heartbeat and a half to the final deadline.

"Al," I said, "if I don't start writing this now I'll never get the story in the paper."

I won't forget this moment.

"I didn't say get the story," Reck replied gently. "I said get the kid his peaches."

If there is a flash point in our lives to which we can refer later, moments that shape our attitudes and affect our futures, that was mine.

Alfred Pierce Reck had defined for me the importance of what we do, lifting it beyond newsprint and deadline to a level of humanity that transcends job. He understood not only what we did but what we were supposed to do.

I didn't say get the story. I said get the kid his peaches.

The boy got his peaches and the story made the home edition, and I received a lesson in journalism more important than any I've learned since.

I wanted you to know that this Christmas season.

Al Martinez is a former reporter and columnist for The Oakland Tribune, from 1955 to 1971, The Richmond (Calif.) Independent and Los Angeles Times to now. Born in Oakland, he also has written several novels, for television and the movies. This article first appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Dec. 25, 1986.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Simon Schama is among the most prolific and fascinating writers of our time. He has written sweeping histories of the Jewish people, Great Britain, and the slave trade of the 18th and 19th centuries. He's written and produced sweeping documentaries for publish television. He wrote this for the Financial Times. 

And lest we think this has nothing to do with our faith, I would point you to the biblical commands in Deuteronomy to welcome the stranger, and care for the poor, the widows and the orphans. 

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National perceptions swept away by the flow of humanity

Before our eyes, as drowned children are washed up on the shores of our shame, two great nations are undergoing historic role reversals. The mass movement of peoples lies at the heart of both American and German history. But faced with immigration crises they have responded in ways very different from what those histories might have predicted.

In the U.S., Emma Lazarus’s lines, which transformed the Statue of Liberty, originally designed as a symbol of international republicanism, into a beacon of hope for “the wretched refuse of the teeming shore” still face New York harbour. And yet today the country’s activist president is uncharacteristically quiet on the plight of refugees. Meanwhile Republican contenders to succeed him in the White House, including those of immigrant background, compete to denounce illegals, issuing proposals to “secure” a border already defended by some 20,000 personnel, a budget of $3.6bn and hundreds of miles of fence.

In Germany, on the other hand, where a mere three-quarters of a century ago the most pitiless campaign of dehumanisation and extermination was executed in the name of racial purity, the chancellor has been a tower of moral decency. The country’s people have, by and large, responded to the plight of refugees with heartwarming humanity. Across the Atlantic, the talk is all of walls and mass deportations (in Donald Trump’s case of fully 11m souls) in Germany it is of making arrangements so that 800,000 desperate people might find asylum.

Our world is facing three overwhelming problems. There is the relentless degradation of the planet’s ecosystem; then the monstrous, ever-widening inequality between rich and poor. And then there is the big one, which those of us born at the end of the second world war did not see coming and which has proved intractably murderous. It is the division between those who want to live with people who look and sound pretty much like themselves, and those who think differences of skin colour, faith, language are no bar to sharing the neighbourhood — provided that newcomers subscribe to the same tolerant principles which brought them there in the first place.

Though since its foundation America has celebrated its exceptionalism as being the first nation of immigrants its attitude has long been fickle. One of the great eulogies of American life, Hector St John Crèvecoeur’s Letters of an American Farmer, published in 1782, lauded the young republic for being the only place in the world where, regardless of one’s origins, race or language, subscribing to the common democratic ideal was enough to make a citizen out of an immigrant. But a century later, with hundreds of thousands pouring in from Italy and eastern Europe, the New York Times sounded a proto-Trumpian alert. In May 1887, seven months after the dedication of the Statue of Liberty, on a day when 13 steamers landed 10,000 immigrants on a single day, its editorial writers fumed “shall we take Europe’s paupers, her criminals, her lunatics, her crazy revolutionaries, her vagabonds?”

Yet millions continued to come, laying down the rich loam of ethnic diversity from which 20th century America drew its cultural and economic nourishment. This changed after the first world war. In 1924 the aptly named Ellison DuRant Smith, senator for South Carolina, in a speech to Congress insisted that “we now have sufficient population in our country for us to shut the door and to breed up a pure unadulterated American citizen.”

Sure enough a brutal quota system, based on tiny percentages of populations already in the country, began to close the gates. During the 1930s they slammed tight against Jews desperate to exit the Reich dooming them to destruction. In the same decade, violent attacks on Mexican workers in California persuaded them to flee back home; tens of thousands of others were deported. Worse still the US sponsored two conferences on “the refugee problem” in Evian in 1938 and Bermuda in 1943 (when the horror of the holocaust was known) in which the wringing of hands and the shedding of crocodile tears was followed by stony inaction.

How remarkable, then, that it is Germany which has been most receptive to the plight of Syrian refugees — not just through the forthrightness of Angela Merkel (who was also exceptional in tackling resurgent anti-Semitism) but the generosity of its people. Perhaps it is precisely her demonisation as the tormentor of the long-suffering Greeks which has made Ms Merkel realise that if it is to survive at all the EU is in need of some other raison d’être than as the superintendent of fiscal rectitude. Or perhaps this moment of truth has just come to her and to Germany and for that matter to all 28 states of the EU inadvertently.

Either way it is this issue, not the question of sovereign debt that will decide whether Europe lives or dies as something other than a fine tuner of the business cycle. Doubtless there will be a conference. Pray it is not an empty charade like Evian and Bermuda. Pray again that it might be the moment when Europe — including Britain — finally discovers that long lost item of its political anatomy: moral backbone.

The writer is an FT contributing editor

Friday, August 28, 2015

Open the windows of your imagination

Steven Charleston is the retired bishop of Alaska and the retired dean of our seminary in Boston, Massachusetts, and much more.

He lives in Oklahoma where he is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation. He is also among the most powerful, insightful and inspiring preachers in the Episcopal Church today. He posts a daily reflection on his Facebook, and I like to pass these along from time-to-time. Here is the one for today:

“Open the windows of your imagination, for a new wisdom is about to fly into your life. It will be coming unexpectedly. It will appear like a revelation, even though the threads of this story are old and tangled. Like a watchman, you have kept the issues and the personalities before you, considering them over and over. Now they will fall into place, connecting the dots of your hope, showing you for the first time what tomorrow will look like. Be up and moving. Be prepared. A new wisdom is about to fly into you life: stand on the edge of what you know and look for the light just beyond.”

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Grant us a wise and discerning mind

In this morning's Daily Office reading 1 Kings 3:1-15, a young King Solomon has a dream wherein God says to him, "Ask what I should give you." Solomon does not ask for riches or power, or a long life, or the destruction of his enemies. Rather, Solomon asks for wisdom and discernment.

God is very pleased with Solomon's request, and so grants him a "wise and discerning mind" to govern his people. And he assures Solomon that much abidance will follow.

This past weekend, our Vestry (the governing board of our parish) went on retreat with me and our consultant, Caroline McCall. We did not talk about church business, but instead shared our stories and talked a great deal about discernment and respectful communication. It was my first opportunity as the new priest at Incarnation to hear the stories of our Vestry members and their perspective about Incarnation.

St. Andrew's Mission, Monte Rio
We met at St. Andrew's Mission, in the stunningly beautiful Russian River valley in Monte Rio about 45 minutes from our parish. St. Andrew's is a mission of Incarnation, and I will write more about this on this blog at a later date. It was good for us to see the mission and be in its space.

Over the years, I've worked with several Vestries and talked a great deal about discernment. What does it look and feel like? I've wrestled with the question, prayed about it, listened to others talk about it and read a few books.

What I've learned is discernment begins with a recognition that the head of the Church is the Risen Christ of Easter who dwells within each of us – and a recognition that Christ is able nudge us and guide us. That means that the church governing board is not just any non-profit governing board, but is a circle of spiritual leaders using all of their gifts to discern Christ's direction for the parish.

Discernment must be practical or it isn't really discernment. Let me share with you a few guidelines I've developed over the years about discernment. I shared this with our Vestry. I believe these guidelines are useful not just for a governing board, but for our own personal discernment as we walk through life. Please let me know what you think...

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Discernment decisions

Signs of discernment can include (but are not limited to):

·      Sense of peace about the decision. “All shall be well.”
·      Sense of joy – an interior sense that this is right.
·      Disorientation or perplexity followed by calm and serenity.
·      Sense of clarity.
·      Strands of experiences that seem unrelated now converge and fit together.
·      Persistence – the message keeps recurring.
·      Follows God’s timetable, not our own.
·      Fruits: “You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16); It furthers the mission of the parish and the test of our baptismal covenant.

Discernment in community:

·      God is capable of reaching us individually, and we are capable of experiencing God. But Scripture makes a major point that God reaches us especially when we are gathered as the Covenantal community of Abraham/Jacob/Moses, or the “Body of Christ.”

·      God is capable of giving us more than one right answer. We might hear more than one.

·      When we consult with each other, something happens that is larger than the sum of our parts. We can see/hear more widely by listening to each other, and speaking from our own perspective.

·      In diversity is strength: discernment is the opposite of group-think. We need all of our perspectives to have a chance at discernment. Sometimes the “ah-ha” moment will come from an unexpected corner.

·      Requires trust: None of us has a monopoly on truth, but all of us possess some of the truth; we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to each other so that we can hear that truth each of us has. We behave in ways that build trust with each other individually and as a community.

·      Mutually supportive: When I don’t see it, you will. When I falter, you will be there for me. When I cannot pray, you will pray for me. I will support you in your ministry and you will support me.

·      The group tests our discernment together, helping to protect us from our individual bias (and arrogance) and any false sense of knowing God’s mind. “Mutual listening” might slow us down, but might bring a more profound and lasting change.

·      Not consensus: Not everyone needs to agree, but no one feels obligated to resist. There are no protest votes; everything that needs to be said is said before we make a decision. Consensus takes us to the lowest common denominator where we can agree; discernment holds the possibility risk and taking us to the edges.


Discernment requires we support each other in the decisions we make and the tasks we undertake. We cannot carry this load alone. Undercutting our decisions inside or outside the Vestry damages discernment and is toxic to trust. We bring our ideas and concerns to the Vestry; we don’t have side caucuses. We support each other by:

·      Being there with each other in worship and immersing ourselves in the life of the parish.

·      Making it a personal priority to attend meetings and Vestry retreats.

·      Praying for the parish, the Vestry, and the life of the wider Church.

·      Tending to our own spiritual, mental, and physical health.

·      Being honest with ourselves and with the group.

·      Speaking supportively inside and outside the Vestry about the decisions we make and the work we do. We don’t gossip or undercut each other with snide or negative comments.

·      We support with our time, talent and our money the ministries and mission of the parish. We have skin in the game. We don’t use it as leverage to get our way.

We might still get it wrong. We are unafraid to try again. When it is clear we have missed the mark, we analyze, understand, discern once again, and move on without blame or handwringing. We move forward in faith.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Incarnation's Open Table

The Church of the Incarnation has a remarkable ministry called "The Open Table" on Sundays.

I’ve had the privilege the last couple of weeks of being here early enough to see it.

Dozens and dozens of people who live on the streets come through our doors to get breakfast. They come early and are gone before our worship begins.

I am hugely inspired by the commitment and outpouring of love by our volunteers who feed people every Sunday morning.

Many of the people who walk through our doors are struggling to get by, one day at a time. Some have worn the same clothes for days on end. Some have mental health issues, and some are down on their luck. What would Jesus do?

Feed them.

Somehow there is enough food for all. God provides.

I also know that managing the crowd presents challenges for our volunteers. There are some edgy people who walk through our doors. There are risks involved in this effort and it takes creativity – and courage – to meet these challenges.

Yet here is one thing to remember: By feeding people, we are surrounding hate with love and forcing it to surrender. We are showing this community a different way to live than greed and selfishness.

This church is a beacon of hope and love to this community and the world beyond, and that is worth celebrating and strengthening.

At some point, we also need to ask why so many people live on our streets. What is missing in our larger society that causes so many people to have nowhere else to go? Why does the city of Santa Rosa seem so indifferent?

And what is our role as a church in changing the structures that cause poverty and leave people living on the streets without decent care for their bodies and minds?

I was once asked the difference between ministries of mercy and ministries of social justice. Think of this as like a river. When you see someone drowning in the river, you pull them out. That is a ministry of mercy, like Open Table.

But at some point, we need to walk up the river and find out why people are falling in the river. Who, or what, is pushing them in? That is the ministry of social justice. We need to walk up the river in Santa Rosa. We may not like what we see, but we need to go there.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Black Lives Matter and the Episcopal Church

Lately there is much conversation and soul-searching in the Episcopal Church on the topic of race and our national legacy of slavery and segregation (in which our church shares).

It is a long overdue discussion.

Our church history includes bishops who owned slaves and parishes that were very much a part of the system of racial oppression.

We even had a bishop, Leonidas Polk, who resigned his holy orders to take up arms as a general in the Confederate army. As a church, we've never have wrestled with our history and the meaning of these events.

Much of our recent conversation has been prompted by the cascade of racially-charged incidents from Ferguson to Florida. In the Southern church where I've served for the past seven years, our University students pricked the conscience – and memory – of an older generation that lived through the civil rights era of a half-century ago. "Black Lives Matter" has become a mantra not just in the streets but in our pews.

Let us also remember that our history as a church has bright spots worth celebrating. Last week we honored the martyrdom of Jonathan Daniels, an Episcopal seminarian who was shot down protecting an African American child from bullets in Alabama in 1965. I am also mindful that the bishop who confirmed me, James Pike, marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma.

My parish in Charlottesville Virginia stood publicly against segregation in the 1950s when it really counted – and withstood the wrath of its bishop.

Bishop Michael Curry
I am also mindful of several amazing developments just in the last few weeks. Our national General Convention, our highest governing body, just elected the Right Rev. Michael Curry as our next presiding bishop. He will be the first black presiding bishop in the two-centuries-plus history of our church. Currently the bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina, Bishop Curry will begin his nine-year term at the helm of our church in November.

Bishop Curry is a dynamic preacher and a courageous leader. He will doubtless zero-in to those places and practices where we are the most uncomfortable and in need of change. He will challenge us not only to bring people of color into our pews, but will push us to get out onto the streets and into the fields where people are desperate to hear the gospel of hope that Jesus brings.

A day after his election, Bishop Curry marched in Salt Lake City with other several thousand people to protest gun violence in our country. I was privileged to also be in the march. At the end of the march, he addressed the crowd: "Do you know why black lives matter?" he said. "Because ALL lives matter."

Many of our current bishops recently went on a pilgrimage to Alabama to the milestones of the Civil Rights movement. A new wind is blowing in our church.

Finally, the death of Julian Bond is much on my mind in recent days. He was a young, thoughtful, and courageous civil rights leader in the 1960s. Many thought he was intellectual leader of the movement. Decades later he taught history at the University of Virginia, and touched the lives of thousands of students.

I made his acquaintance in 1993 when I was working on a biography of Willie Brown, who was then the Speaker of the California Assembly and arguably the most powerful black politician in the United States.

Bond gave me his perspective on the differences and similarities of the civil rights movement in the West and the South. He was unfailingly polite and patient with my many questions. A friend of mine recently observed that he might have been our first African American president had the country been ready for that in his era.

In the weeks and months ahead, I hope to offer a few other thoughts on these topics and I hope you will join me in this conversation.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Fig trees, passings and new growth

We've arrived.

Our journey across the United States was relatively easy though tedious. We had good weather most of the way except through Indiana. The big monster summer storms in Kansas were in our rearview mirror. We covered 3,077 miles and nine states.

Alas, my mother died while we were on the road. I am so blessed that she phoned me on my birthday. She died in her sleep two days later. She was 90, very frail, and she very much wanted to join my dad. Regretfully I did not get to California before she went.

The Daily Office gospel reading this morning Mark 11:12-26 is about a fig tree no longer bearing fruit, and it sounds a bit harsh (curses and all). The gospel writer doubtless meant this passage as a metaphor for institutional and spiritual atrophy, but it is also a reminder of the cycle of life. Life has a way of thriving, surviving and yet life eventually becomes fragile and frail. Trees no longer bear fruit and die.

And yet life does find a way. Resurrection comes. Life begins anew. Wounds are healed, hurts forgiven. Life and love wins.

“So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Friday, July 31, 2015

Welcome to the Table at Emmaus!

This is my new blog, marking the opening a new chapter in my life and ministry. Some of you might Fiat Lux, which I used for conversation when I was rector of St. Paul's Memorial Church in Charlottesville, Virginia for seven years.

Fiat Lux was a great way for folks to get to know me, and for all of us to know each other.
be familiar with my blog

Soon, we will be heading across the prairie for a new position, at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa, California. It seems like a good time to open a new blog for the new journey. So whether you are from Charlottesville or Santa Rosa, or somewhere in between, welcome to this blog.

Why a table? Why Emmaus?

For those unfamiliar with the story in Luke 24: 13-35, two disciples are on the road to a town, Emmaus, which many think was a Roman army hospital camp outside of Jerusalem. The disciples are disheartened – Jesus had recently been crucified.

Along the way, they meet a stranger who enlightens them about Scriptures and many other things. When they reach Emmaus, they invite him to dinner. When he breaks the bread, they realize they are dining with Jesus.

It took breaking bread – sharing a meal – for these followers of Jesus to realize he had been with them all along. There is something about sharing a meal, being at table, that opens eyes and ears in ways that are remarkable.

So I'd like you to think of this space as an open table, and not just with each other, but with the Holy One who is always with us. Let's share a meal, get to know each other, have a conversation, and watch and listen for the holiness that is surrounding us.

I hope we will talk about many things here. An open table suggests an open conversation – and a respectful conversation. We might talk about God or we might talk about baseball, and certainly we will talk about food. We might even ask my wife Lori to contribute once in awhile on culinary subjects. Let's see where this goes, but let's also do something out of the ordinary on the internet – let's take care of each other, respect each other's viewpoints, and learn from each other.

By the way, the photo above was taken by Lori during our pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2011. The photo show me walking on an old Roman road in the suburbs of Jerusalem. A number of archeologists believe this was the road to Emmaus that the disciples and Jesus walked.

In the days ahead, I will post my reflections, a picture or two, and keep you posted about our journey.

Welcome to the open table!