Homily – The Shepherd

Readings:  1 Peter 5:1-4, Psalm 23, Matthew 16:13-19

In today’s readings, the ongoing theme tying each passage is Shepherd.  Peter and King David are key figures, with Jesus as the Chief Shepherd.  It’s beautiful how our faith tradition has put together passages like this so that we might see the coherence throughout the biblical narrative.  Two men–King David and Peter–experience God not as an angry, petulant image, but as a loving shepherd who guides and leads us.  These two figures were shaped and formed by the rod and staff, learning to become as their shepherd.  In later years, both figures became shepherds of flocks, attending to them and caring for them, not out of obligation but out of willing hearts.

During this lent season, I reminded of the need to be shepherded.  I need to be guided, led, healed, fed, and restored.  I am prone to deceive myself, become lax in my devotion to God, and to think more highly of myself than I ought to.

When do I sense God’s rod and staff comforting me?  In prayer, scripture reading, and spiritual community.  No matter how out of control the world (or my inner world) seems, in these disciplines, I find how God desires to be near so that He might heal, mend, guide, discipline, or gift us as He sees fit.

I see a difference in my devotion when I engage in rod/staff disciplines.  I’m not “problem-less”, as if I don’t have difficulties BECAUSE I enact these disciplines.  But I do feel more grounded and sober in mind and heart.  The Shepherd helps me to focus, rest, and trust.

May we experience the rod/staff of disciplined love of God today.

A Reflection on Death, Abundance, and Compassion

Today’s scripture readings have a few themes:


  1.  Death
  2.  Abundance
  3.  comfort/compassion


In my late 20’s and early 30’s, I struggled with panic attacks.  I had an immense amount of anxiety about dying.  This manifested itself in different ways, mostly through a fear of getting sick or having a heart attack.  A few factors contributed that I could think of.  One, I was a new father.  We had Christopher and David a year apart and I was pretty nervous about not being present or available to them.  This had symbolic meaning to me as a fear of abandonment.  I didn’t want to abandon my kids and see them struggle without a father and I also had to cope with my own fears of being left fending for myself.  Two, I was just starting to work as a corporate chaplain and the stories I was hearing were very overwhelming.  Three, lack of self care.  I wasn’t eating, sleeping, or exercising very well.  The result?  Panic attacks.  

Here’s what helped me:  

  1. Talking with a therapist.  I was able to talk about the pain of being abandoned and how much it hurt.  It helped me realize that, while I felt abandoned, I could learn new ways of parenting myself so that I’d know that I can handle whatever life might throw my way.  In spiritual terms, I learned that I was never alone and that the Higher Power (Jesus) would be with me.  Growing up latino and in a pentecostal home, seeing a therapist was a taboo because we were taught that we really didn’t “trust God”.  That was nonsense!  🙂
  2. Self-care.  For me, this meant getting 8 hours of sleep, staying away from fast food and greasy food, and cycling.  I took up road biking, lost 20 lbs, and felt great. I also started making time to take regular retreats throughout the year.  I have to plan them in advance and then stick to them.
  3. Community.  I needed more friends in my life that I could go to eat with, go to concerts, and just be silly and laugh.  I needed connection and deep friendships.  


We grew up with not a lot of money so I developed a fear of not having enough.  It’s driven many of my financial decisions.  But as I think about life and God, the scripture is clear that God thinks in terms of abundance, not scarcity.  I’m not talking about or promoting a “prosperity gospel” where abundance is the sign that God loves you and that you are more special than others.  But God does care about abundance and wants to lack no good thing.  I’d be very wary if someone used this to try and make a case for materialism or consumerism.  That’s just bad theology.  I’m talking about being able to have an attitude and heart that is at rest with what we have and isn’t ruled by “stuff”.  Fear of not having can be very costly.  And it usually doesn’t get us what we really want. 


In each reading, there is provision and comfort for the hungry, the needy, and the sick.  Death is overcome.  Sickness is healed.  And there is a feast of table for all people.  Jesus has compassion on the crowd.  Some are sick.  Others are hungry.  We read about a God who cares about the daily stuff, about the burdens that we carry.  He is not a god who sits by idly.  Jesus is engaged with the people and is about making wrongs right.  

I’m not sure I wholeheartedly believe that God is that compassionate.  I feel like have to earn his abundance and comfort.  I feel like if I don’t perform well as a disciple, I will be mistreated.  When I feel this way, I look at a picture of my sons or a picture of “little Roy” and imagine how much God loves us.  I want to trust that love from a Heavenly Father who is in heaven, and yet breaking into my world to transform my heart and mind.  This the concept of grace at work.  This energy, favor, love that God bestows is His hearts’ disposition.  

Questions for Reflection

*What are you most afraid of these days?  Can you tell God about it?

*Where do you feel like you are lacking?  Ask the Great Shepherd to lead you beside still waters and restore your soul.  

*How might God want to comfort you today?  Tell him where the pain is.

Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name.
May your new life fill us afresh.
May you cause to see how you are abundant in our lives.
May you have compassion on us.


A Prayer of Desire by Thomas Merton


A Prayer of Desire by Thomas Merton

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”


Don’t Waste The Pain

“Revolution might sound a little dramatic, but in this world, choosing authenticity and worthiness is an absolute act of resistance. Choosing to live and love with our whole hearts is an act of defiance. You’re going to confuse, piss off, and terrify lots of people— including yourself. One minute you’ll pray that the transformation stops, and the next minute you’ll pray that it never ends. You’ll also wonder how you can feel so brave and so afraid at the same time. At least that’s how I feel most of the time… brave, afraid, and very, very alive. Rising strong is the final piece of this transformation.”

– Brene Brown

I’m thinking of the young man (it could easily be a woman) in his 20’s (maybe even 30s) who is trying to get his life together after making a lot of personal mistakes.  He feels like a failure, alone, and abandoned.  He may even be angry at the world for the bag he was given.

What you’ve been through is not fair.  The upbringing was rough…it wasn’t your fault.  And yet this is what you have to come to grips with.  You’ll need a lot of support, care, and love.  There will be days when you can’t make sense of the deep pain you feel in your heart.

Your greatest choice today is to live as one who is willing to rise strong, WITH all the anxiety and stress.  The gift of strength is for you to reclaim who you long to be.  It’s unsettling, uncomfortable, and necessary.  You must remember that you are the beloved!  That is your real identity and at the core of who you are.

You’ll need community, care, and courage.  You’ll need a power bigger than you.

And as a friend once said, don’t waste the pain.  I’m not sure what exactly that means.  But I’m starting to understand that with each set of waves (of pain), there is an opportunity to keep rising, growing, and being transformed.


Current Theological Heritage and Values

I have to write a paper and think through my “theological heritage/tradition”. I feel a bit lost trying to think through what it is.

  • I grew up in a pentecostal (apostolic assembly/latino) church until my early twenties.
  • In my twenties, I was part of a small congregation that was in part getting influenced by the “shepherding movement” in a charismatic setting.
  • Late 20s to early 30’s, I was part of a non-denominational church that was in part connected to PCUSA.
  • We did a stint with the Vineyard.
  • We’ve been most consistent at North Coast Calvary Chapel for the last 6-7 years or so.
  • I studied theology (spiritual formation) at a Catholic University and did my masters at a baptist seminary!!!

So how does someone like me begin to name their theological heritage and tradition?! aaackk!!!  LOL!!! At this point, I feel like I have a strong “ecumenical/theological” heritage and tradition.

I also feel like it’s important to name movements, beliefs, and people that have influenced me:

  • Henri Nouwen (catholic)
  • NT Wright (anglican)
  • Walter Brueggemann
  • Stanley Hauerwas
  • Lesslie Newbigin
  • Justo Gonzalez
  • Miroslav Volf
  • Ronald Rolheiser (catholic)
  • Eugene Peterson (Presbyterian)
  • Vineyard Movement
  • InterVarsity
  • Gifts of the Spirit for present day
  • Kingdom of God (here/not yet)
  • eschatology: a redeemed and renew creation (literally)…heaven coming to earth/not taken out of creation
  • world of psychology (brene brown, john gottman, hargraves, harville hendrix, and more)
  • Dallas Willard
  • Leadership theory

And the list goes on. I wasn’t sure how to capture all of this as a heritage until a friend gave me some advice.  He said to “make the same list focusing on the practices of faith (both personally and corporately) that you actually embody and the intersection is likely your actual theological heritage.”

So here’s an initial try at listing the practices:

  • wholeness:  learn from different disciplines and streams to integrate principles for flourishing.  I support therapists, learning from different theological streams (i.e. Catholic church, charismatic movement, etc)
  • integration:  I know this sounds like the first one, but I try to learn from each discipline and pull ideas together.  I read something from each discipline every week.
  • mission:  I deeply care to participate in God’s mission for this world.  I care about the stranger being included and invited to the table.  I believe that God is deeply hospitable, making room for the destitute, misunderstood, and excluded ones.  I engage in God’s mission for the world by serving the marketplace.
  • formation:  we are all shaped and formed into the person we envision.  Our upbringing, beliefs, mentors, influential people, habits and practices, and God all contribute to the person we’re becoming.
  • Holy Spirit:  reliance on the Spirit to guide, heal, transform, empower
  • wisdom:  we seek insight from the God who knows all things.
  • incarnational presence:  being in the daily life of the people we serve, making a home where they live and work.
  • worship:  the full expression of praise to God, expressing gratitude to God, confessing to God, fellowship with one another, communion, and proclaiming the word of God.
  • community:  serving and being in relationships with one another for the sake of encouragement, growth in Christ and for Christ.
  • justice:  seeking the justice of God’s heart in this world.
  • multi-ethnic/cultural expression:  seeking how to incarnate the gospel in the setting of the people–who they are (racial/ethnic profile, cultural practices, etc).


My heritage is a composite of the journey I’ve been on to serve Jesus and be a disciple.

Thanks to all of these people/movements/ideas for helping me on the journey.

Keep Calm and Quiet


Psalm 131

My heart is not proud, Lord,
    my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
    or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.

In my 20s and 30s, I often daydreamed of being “great”.  I think we live in a culture that praises heroes and greatness.  We concern ourselves with matters of greatness and big wonder.  We might have thoughts of how we’d run the country, a company, a local city, or implement reform on a national scale.  We say, “Well, I’d do it like this!” and walk off thinking we know what’s best.

It seems that the people who truly effect these great changes are those who have learned to keep calm and quieted their restless hearts.  They’ve learned to listen, observe, and take small steps and actions towards a possible reality/goal.  It’s a slow process.

How do we cultivate a calm and quiet presence?  There are two movements.  The first is to abstain from certain patterns of thinking.  One habit might be to think that we have all the answers and don’t need others to resolve issues.  That’s “haughty and ego proud” thinking.  The second movement might be to practice times of silence and solitude.  I find that it slows me down and helps me to be present to any anxieties or fears that are causing me to be reactive and frenetic.

Reflection Questions

*In the workplace, what might it look like for us to develop practices of calmness and quietude?  Would the company culture allow for it?

*Our culture says to make our voice heard for issues of injustice–and we should.  When are times that we ought to practice calmness and listening?

God Catching Our Attention

Everyone has a view of God.
Everyone has a theology of God.

One view is that we reach out to God.  We go to church, pray, read the bible.  It feels like we have to do all the work.  My upbringing was filled with this view.

Another view is that God is trying to get our attention, “trying to draw us into a reciprocal conscious relationship” (William Barry, Finding God in all things).

St. Ignatius believed that every moment of our lives, God is initiating relationship with us.  In doing so, God is attempting to introduce Himself to us, shaping and reshaping our views of who God is, that we might become aware of his existence and presence.

If safety and trust are key elements in a relationship, and if God is love, then we can presuppose that God is attempting to communicate to us, in every aspect of our daily living, an awareness of who God is.

We don’t read the bible to get close to God.  We read the bible to discover how close God has already been to us.  John 1 says that God became flesh and made his habitation among us.  He moved into the neighborhood and into our homes.  This view of God assumes a longing for humanity.  Discovering and deepening our awareness of God’s nearness is the purpose of prayer, table fellowship, study.

How is God present to you this moment?
How is God trying to catch your attention today?

Father/Brother/Mother/Friend/Savior:  Grant us eyes to see and ears to hear how you are among us today.

A Good Definition on Legalism

A good definition on Legalism (also described as superstition by Dallas Willard):
Legalism: [a ]claim that overt action in conforming to rules for explicit behavior is what makes us right and pleasing to God and worthy of blessing.   Dallas Willard
I grew up in a system that perpetuated conforming to rules that I might be pleasing to God.  It damaged how I felt, thought, and lived.
The dynamic power of God’s love shapes and reshapes my inward devotion, remaking my external habits and practices.  Basically, His love leads me to transformation.  🙂

Human Development through Scripture

To say that this is good would be a slap to the face.

Human development/stage development/stages of faith serve to help us name experiences and inner movements of the heart and mind.  They seem to be perennial and travel throughout generations and history.  They’ve help me to face my own inner angst and longings.


The Hebrew Scriptures are divided into three major sections: the Torah, the Prophets, and the Wisdom books. Theologian Walter Brueggemann observes that these three excellently represent the development of human consciousness itself. [1]

The Torah (the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) gave the Israelites the Law and a sense of their chosenness. For natural and healthy self-development, any culture or family follows a pattern of first providing structure, which develops identity, boundaries, and self-worth as beloved and special. It is easiest to start with an initial sense of “order,” as even educators now recognize.

The books of the Prophets represent the birth of good and necessary critical thinking. Without it, we remain far too self-enclosed and smug. The lack of healthy self-criticism within both Judaism and Christianity shows how little attention we’ve paid to this part of Scripture. (We read the prophets as if their only function was to “foretell Jesus” which is really not their direct message!) The Roman Catholic Church did not allow prophetic/critical thinking for almost 500 years after the Reformation, nor did the United States for most of its 200-year history (slavery and segregation are the most obvious examples). When the floodgates opened in the 1960s, there was no stopping critical thinking, and then it became widespread in postmodernism. Finally, Evangelicals are going through the same process on many levels.

While critical thinking typically arises in human development in the teens and early adulthood, it is usually oriented outwardly, in criticizing others. But honest and humble self-critical thinking is necessary to see one’s own shadow and usually well-hidden narcissism. Only when I encounter my shadow do I realize that my biggest problem is me!

The Wisdom section of the Hebrew Scriptures includes the books of Job, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, and many of the Psalms. Wisdom literature reveals an ability to be patient with mystery and contradictions—and the soul itself. Wise people have always passed through a major death to their egocentricity. This is the core meaning of transformation.

We have to go through interior deaths to reach the third stage of wisdom. Only here does contemplation and nondual thinking become possible; we can begin to learn to live with mystery and paradox and to develop true compassion. If stage one is order and stage two is disorder, then stage three is the final goal of reorder. There is no way around stage two! It is what Paul calls “the folly of the cross” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Conservatives tend to stop at stage one, liberals tend to get trapped in stage two, but only stage three is the full risen life of Christ.

Gateway to Silence:
Do not be afraid.


[1] See Walter Brueggemann and Tod Linafelt, An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination, 2nd ed. (Westminster John Knox Press: 2012, ©2003).

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Way of the Prophet (Center for Action and Contemplation: 1994), audio, no longer available;
Prophets Then, Prophets Now (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2006), CD, MP3 download; and
Scripture as Liberation (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2002), MP3 download.

The Unhurried Life

My friend JT and I talk a lot about the subconscious.  So if I were to say to him that the other morning, the first thing that popped into my mind was the phrase, “The unhurried life”, he’d ask me to sit with the phrase and see how it might be speaking to me.

I’d respond and say that I’m too busy to do that (two snare drum hits and a crash hit).  😉

I sat with the phrase.  Why did my mind and heart lead me to this phrase?  What might it mean for my current life context?

The God of creation worked for 6 metaphorical days (God did create but the Creation story seems to be rich with poetry and I don’t subscribe to a literal 6 day-24-7 narrative, although I believe God can do that!).  He framed the world with earth and sky, sun and moon, water and land, plants and animals, humanity.  And then He rested on the 7th day.

The creation account has an unhurried tempo to it.  As a musician, I understand the value of tempo.  A song too slow can drag.  A song too fast can feel disjointed.  The right tempo is needed to express the feel of the song.  It can’t be rushed.  The song needs to stay in the pocket in order to convey the feel and spirit of the melody and rhythm.

God’s work has a tempo.  It’s unhurried.  God’s work in creation has a rhythm to it and it feels like a beautiful song that has great feel.  God was in the pocket.  Deep groove.

God continues to work in our midst.  We call this prevenience:  God taking the initiative and working redemptively, salvifically, and strategically before I’m even aware of it.  It’s the God who initiatives goodness into the ground, into our souls.  He initiates the work, we respond to it.  That’s what we call worship.  God sets the tempo and feel of the song.  We jump into the song and respond.

The unhurried life leans into God’s active work in our lives. We can listen and see what He’s up to, especially, when we are unhurried.

The temptation is to believe that I have to make things happen.  I have to hustle.  I have to work hard.  Nothing comes easy in this world!  Even typing this I start to rush the tempo.  I’m not opposed to hard work and effort.  Heck, sometimes I’m working a 12-14 hour day.  But what I’m learning to be opposed to is a reactive tempo that speeds up or slows down beyond/below the gracious work of God in this world.  My compulsive disease to be about the “next thing” prohibits me from being attentive to the work God is initiating in my life.  And today, the work meant listening to the phrase “the unhurried life”.

Redemption, healing, renewal.  These are the acts God initiates.  This is the good tempo.