How do I process my grief?
Does suffering have any meaning?
Do we live in a random chaotic universe?
Is it time to re-evaluate my understanding of “God”?

This book is for anyone who has suffered a loss – of safety, of one’s home, of health, of a loved one or a relationship, or of one’s faith … and found themselves asking, “Why?” And then wondering, “Who am I asking?” and hoping they were not alone.

traces of hope

As a progressive Christian I …

1.  Believe that following the path and teachings of Jesus can lead to an awareness and experience of the Sacred and the Oneness and Unity of all life;

2.  Affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey;

3.  Seek community that is inclusive of ALL people, including but not limited to:

  • Conventional Christians and questioning skeptics,
  • Believers and agnostics,
  • Women and men,
  • Those of all sexual orientations and gender identities,
  • Those of all classes and abilities;

4.  Know that the way we behave towards one another is the fullest expression of what we believe;

5.  Find grace in the search for understanding and believe there is more value in questioning than in absolutes;

6.  Strive for peace and justice among all people;

7.  Strive to protect and restore the integrity of our Earth;

8.  Commit to a path of life-long learning, compassion, and selfless love.

Today’s Gospel was from John chapter 12. One verse caught my attention.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”



In the homily we were reminded of the process whereby a seed grows. It has to be in the right temperature and level of moisture. Then its protective shell has to soften and crack open. Only then can the seed send out a root and a shoot and make food and grow. The hard shell has to be broken.

Two things came to mind as I listened. The first is the obvious prophecy of Jesus’ death and the beginning of the church. Without Jesus’ death would his words have taken root? Without his death would others have been willing to die for their faith? Secondly, I reflected on what happened to bring about his death? He became vulnerable, he let down his defenses, he opened up and spoke the truth that was within his heart.

I recently re-watched a TED talk by Sociologist Brene Brown. She spoke about her discovery that vulnerability is the basis for living a whole life, for being what she calls a whole-hearted person.

“And I know that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.”

According to Brown in order to be whole-hearted people we have to live with authenticity, “we have to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee, to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, “Can I love this much? Can I believe in this this passionately?”

Let us hope that as we learn to become more vulnerable, more open, more whole-hearted, we will not be asked to die for the truth the way that Jesus of Nazareth, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Oscar Romero and so many other martyrs did. But in this season of Lent let us at least stretch enough, and soften our shells enough, to allow growth to happen.

Over the past few years I have used the opportunity offered by this blog to reflect on many questions about Catholicism – my faith home. Along the way I have left my career as a Catholic religious educator and more recently I have left my home in the Catholic Church for a new faith community in the United Church of Christ. It would be inappropriate to continue to comment on the Catholic Church as if I were a member, and so I will be changing the blog’s name to Christianity in the 21st Century.

I have a new book coming out that tells the story of my faith journey and my journey through grief and loss, if you are interested in my full story.

A Mother – protecting her children (the membership) from historical truth and theological insight, and the responsibilities of independent thought. Trying desperately to keep her babes from leaving the nest.

A Lioness – protecting her cubs (the clergy) by hiding them from attack, redirecting attention away from them, retaliating against their attackers.

A “Uriah Heep” – whose only concern is to protect and gain control over the moneys taken in by the business. Motivated by greed, and putting on a face of insincere humility.

A model of the Church of “Bishop” Francis? – I remain hopeful.

“Why do we call God THE Place, HaMakom? It’s a metaphor. As physical beings, we sometimes best understand difficult concepts from a physical frame of reference. If you think about the meaning of a “place”, you may agree that it is more than just a geographical location. A place is a space which is capable of containing something else. When we call God HaMakom, we mean that everything is contained within God, while God is not contained in anything. As our Sages say: “God does not have a place, rather God is The Place … of the Universe” (Genesis Rabba 68:9).” Rabbi Paul Kipnes

God is the place…

Despite my recurrent atheistic leanings, born out of profound personal issues with Catholicism, I seem unable to escape God. My mind rejects the concepts of God proposed by Christian theology and other varieties of paternalistic theism, but I continue to encounter God. As Rabbi Kipnes suggests, we have to come out from behind our climate-controlled barriers, and when we do we can’t help but discover that there is something more than, greater than, deeper than, older than, human enterprise and human achievement. And I’m not talking dinosaurs!

I travelled to New Mexico this summer – it had been a wish of mine since moving to the States over thirty years ago. I wanted to see deserts and mountains and pueblos and I was not disappointed. I even saw the Rio Grande River Gorge. Not quite the Grand Canyon but just awesome to me.

I admit to an overly romanticized view of the culture of the Native Americans. I want to believe that every long-haired Native American man is a Shaman and can impart wisdom about life and finding God; I want to believe in the spiritual power of burning sage. Truth is, the man may just be old. Nonetheless, in the Taos pueblo I discovered that the community there, though baptized Catholic, still maintained the ancient religious traditions of their people. And these traditions demanded regular attention to, and respect for, nature. For the families whose turn it was to prepare and lead the ceremonials that year, a certain amount of time had to be spent living in the pueblo itself, with no electricity or running water, reliant on the river and on oil lamps and wood burning stoves. These conditions meant that there was an intimacy with nature not usually experienced in modern living.

So I come back to Rabbi Kipnes’ point again, that to meet God we must be open to nature…the place of God, the place that is God. And in fact in New Mexico I felt myself to be in God’s place – every day we drove out into the desert and through the mountains. One day we visited a Trappist monastery in Abiquiu and we joined in afternoon prayers. When the monks stood up after prayer was over and placed their hoods over their heads my stomach lurched and I felt panic rising – too much black, too many men in black. But I raised my eyes to the wall of windows in the front of the chapel and the mountain rock face it revealed, and I focused on that beauty and solidity and breathed slowly until the chapel cleared.

God was present to me that day, not in the chapel, not in the monks or prayers, but in the mountain. God shared the strength of that mountain with me as I struggled with a panic attack and with tears and with a throat threatening to close up on me. I breathed and prayed in thanks to God for simply being there and helping me breathe.

God as that place, God in that mountain – that is a God I can believe in.



John’s description of his “revelation” is at once brilliant and breathtakingly painful in the way that Truth has of striking us in the heart. John has witnessed some changes for the better and acknowledges those, but these are changes in the hearts of State Legislators not in the hearts of Catholic Bishops. I recommend you read the entire article and share it with others. Then I recommend you research the Statute of Limitations in your own State. We have the power to bring about change through the legal system, power that we don’t have in the Church. This is one arena where there is indeed “Hope for the Future.”

Originally posted on Catholics4Change:

Click here to read: “I Was Once a Victim,” by John Salveson, class of ’77, ’78 M.A., Notre Dame Magazine, Summer 2013


Slowly, eventually, I figured out the reason for the lack of progress within the Church. It really was simple. I had long believed the Roman Catholic Church considered the child sex-abuse crisis to be a moral issue. So I expected clergy to care about the victims and to do the right thing.

But the simple truth I had learned over time was this: Much of the Catholic leadership does not view this as a moral issue. They view it as a risk-management issue. The focus is on managing settlements, keeping the topic out of the media, telling the faithful everything is taken care of and, most of all, doing everything humanly possible to ensure none of these cases ever make it into a court of law.

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The latest blog post at “Another Voice” reminds us of some basic historical truths about the papacy that very few Catholics seem to know, and very few Church officials would be comfortable admitting. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Pope Frances gave a statement on the history of the hierarchy that incorporated these facts.

When thinking about the history of the papacy in the Roman Catholic Church, we need to be clear about a few historic realities.

The historic Jesus did not appoint anyone pope. He did not appoint anyone a bishop nor did he ordain anyone. Contrary to what one often hears, flowing unctuously from episcopal lips, no one at the Last Supper was ordained by Jesus nor designated a bishop. Ordination came much later in the early Jesus Movement as a kind of quality control mechanism: to protect Christian communities from incompetent or deceptive leaders. So the plan, anyway…..

And Peter? Contemporary biblical scholars and historians give us a rather clear picture of the young man. Peter and his wife belonged to the group of young men and women (probably in their late teens or early twenties) who were Jesus’ close disciples. Jesus recognized Peter’s leadership qualities and designated him as the leader of the Christian community in Jerusalem. Peter could also be stubborn and head-strong. Jesus and his friends called Peter by his nickname “Rocky.”


Read some suggestions for a positive, constructive, courageous and potentially healing church council.

Originally posted on Catholics4Change:

Click here to read and watch: “Cardinal George Pell admits Church covered up cases of child sex abuse,” by Brigid Andersen, ABC News, May 27, 2013

Excerpt: Australia’s top-ranking Catholic has admitted to a Victorian parliamentary inquiry that some members of the Church tried to cover up child sexual abuse by other members of the clergy.


Please Sign For Christ’s Sake Initiative

by Tony Biviano for Bishop Geoffrey Robinson

Sexual abuse within the Catholic Church has been nothing short of an epidemic of catastrophic proportions. The devastation of victims, the ruination of priests and religious, the damage to a major world religion and its faithful are horrendous and incalculable.

Australian Bishops – Geoffrey Robinson, Bill Morris and Pat Power call on the new Pope to seize the opportunity of his appointment to not only sweep the Church clean but to put His/God’s house in order for all time.


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I wrote this for the victim of Fr. Fugee, whoever he is. Because his pain will last a lifetime longer than the headlines, and people need to be reminded of that.


Touch creates communion
through a language all its own.

A mother’s strokes and caresses
tell her newborn he is wanted and loved,
her eyes tell him he is, he exists.
A father’s arms firm and strong
tell him he is safe and protected.

Being bathed and changed
tells him his body deserves care;
being made clean is being loved.

Caring hands pick him up
when he cries,
when he’s hungry,
when he’s tired.

Arms around him rocking
against a safe warm body.
The world is a warm and gentle place.

A Father blesses his forehead
anoints with oil.
He is named,
he belongs.

His child arms exploring his body
knowing, learning
this is me, this is mine.

Feet touching the floor
hands held then let go
he is strong and stronger now.

He feels the air on his skin
the rain on his tongue.
Holding a bat, wearing a glove
throwing a ball
casting line
skinning fish.

High fives
You’re never too old for hugs
his mother says
mussing his hair.
His father pats his shoulder.

Life is good
his body is his ally
he is safe
he is loved.

Then a Father’s hand on his shoulder
like his dad’s touch
but with different eyes
looking where they don’t belong,
hands following the eyes.

Let’s wrestle, the Father says
and then the touch.

His body’s momentary
unbidden response;
betrayed by his own skin.

Feeling sick, afraid,
dirty, shamed.

He is helpless and alone
with his hate
for his body,
his pleasure,

One touch
and everything changes
from safe to lost
happiness to despair.

He lives with strangers now
his parents
who think his frame
is solid
but he is empty.

Who he was
has gone forever,
all he wants is
to peel away
the skin
that makes him vulnerable
to the cruelty of touch.

Pray it Forward 24-7

Faith is a practice not an idea. Bringing together yoga, art, pop culture, social media and the church. All in one blog.

Random Acts of Faith

a blog about faith and life by Rev. Cindy Maddox

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Reflections about Contemporary Christian Belief and Practice

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Where theology meets politics, culture, economics and history


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