Charles LaFond on Spirituality Being Different From Religion

Charles is a friend, whom I adore. We met seven or eight years ago at an Art of Hosting training that I was co-leading. We got involved in a good body of work in Denver with St. John’s Cathedral for about three years. He now lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico raising funds and building community for the non-profit, Heading Home. I enjoy his blog posts. He has a knack for bringing together the serious with a taste of the absurd to make it all seem so natural. Like adding cinnamon to chili. Or mustard to bar-b-que sauce. Charles evolves the edge of knowing in some exceptionally skillful ways.

Charles’ blog is The Daily Sip. If you haven’t signed up for it, do so. I reference it here frequently. I suppose I feel just a bit more human when I welcome his words to wash over me. This includes a recent post, in which he includes this from Vine Deloria, JR, a Native American Activist, Theologian, and Historian, followed by his own reflections.

“Religion is for people who are afraid of hell.  Spirituality is for people who have experienced it.”

Perhaps we are working too hard at spirituality.  Perhaps spirituality comes to us, and is borne within us, simply from the encounters we have with suffering.  With hell.  With pain.  With a desire to learn from our pain.

Religion will try to hand out spirituality like ride tickets at the amusement park.  You have read the Gospel of Mark?  Here….two tickets.  You have decided to get married?  Here…four tickets.  You have made your confession?  Here, nine tickets.  You sinned?  Give me back two tickets…

The serious. The absurd. The evolution.

Head for the sip. And enjoy.


The Daily Sip


Charles LaFond, above, writes The Daily Sip, a blog that I really enjoy. Charles is a friend. He has a lot of superpowers and super skills. He’s a priest, a fund-raiser, and a consultant. He’s a writer, a cook, and a potter. Loaded.

In the post below, copied in whole from his site (go sign on to receive his daily posts — it’s worth it, particularly if you are connected to faith community and a life of search for divine), Charles offers pretty stunning redo of Lord’s Prayer.

I find myself playing and working (“plrking” — thanks Lina Cramer) a lot with faith communities. I love being with those that are calling in new church for these times. I love using participative leadership as a way to support this. There are a lot of people hungry for it.

Enjoy this below, and thank you Charles!

Matthew 6:9–13 (ESV) “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’”

Charles’ Lord’s Prayer

God, you are Our Supreme Existence and being

but Father is not who you are, as much as Cosmos, or perhaps, supreme lover of souls. You exist in what we call heaven because we have no language which fits time outside of time and being beyond life…so we say heaven for the want of some other word.

Your greatness is un-nameable so we call you “hallowed” as a place-holder. It sounds better than “the great and powerful Oz.”

We want your justice and mercy to flow here on earth which is what me mean when we say “kingdom” and when we ask that “it come.” But really we like kings and queens, Archdeacons, Canons and Bishops.  We like royalty because it makes us feel protected, which is quite far from the truth. So forgive our fetish for worshiping power and prestige. Generation X is trying hard to recover from that and the Millennials will recover from it, while at the same time, dismantling The Church and molting a new version.  Church 2.0 with less money, fewer titles, and more kindness..  Which is fine,  But painful to church hierarchy – so love on them please, because their world is crashing in on itself and they are running out of people to bully and dominate and tax.  Maybe the silent generation and some of the older boomers will capitulate but that’s about it for victims.  So they are sad.  Give the church bullies a hug, Please.  Or a scotch.  Or a foot massage.  Or, in some cases, all three please.

We want your will to be done but we know that “will” is not what we mean.  We mean your “desires.” Because we no longer want to be part of patriarchy, edicts and memos. And we want the same desires you have in the Trinity to flow into us and onto our small planet, the way it flows from the members of the Trinity. Freely. We have read about “your will” in the Old testament and we are appalled. But we trust the “new you” we see in Jesus.

Give us enough food and resources for one, small day.  Secretly we want lots more.  We want desperately for you to give us bank accounts, legal assurances of ownership, deeds, 401K savings, real-estate investments and other sources of wealth which make it needless that we ever speak to you again.  We want to be rich and independent of you, but we know that would end in spiritual ruin as it has for so many wealthy people.  So just give us enough bread and protein for today.  And one night of sleep in one bed.  And some warmth when it is cold. And one person to look in our eyes with real love.  And chocolate.

Forgive us for what we have done. But begin with helping us to forgive ourselves for what we have done and to forgive others for the terrible things they have said about us and done to us. Especially those whom we thought really loved us – since that betrayal is the worst pain imaginable.

Protect us from our own reckless desires and disordered loves. We want stupid things. And we will grab them given half a chance.  Help to gently guide our hands and eyes away from the silly things we choose.  And I don’t just mean the big sins but the billions of small ones. And help us to recover from thinking that the human body is evil and that “sins” are what we do with our body.  Go ahead!  Let us have wild and crazy sex! And protect us from leaders who are not getting enough good sex. But help us not to be unkind.  Help us to recycle.  Help us to bring doggie poo bags. Sex is not sin.  “Mean” is sin. “Bitchy” is sin.  “Slander” is sin. “”not being satisfied with what has been given to us” is sin.  But we have made sin about sex in order to deflect our attention (and yours) away from the REAL evil…unkindness. And protect us from the Church when, in her anxiety, she tries to hurt us in your name.  And love Bishops and hug them.  They are in terrible pain and are afraid that their kingdoms are collapsing around them.  Because they are.  So love on them please. They can’t raise money to save their lives.

But good, authentic non-profits are raising money.  That’s because they deserve it. So abandon the church when it raises money for empire or maintenance and instead flood secular non-profits with tons of money if they ease human suffering. If they deserve the money they are raising.  And get in the way of churches and Bishops raising money for the spiritual eaee of upper middle-class white people. Upturn their tables.  Make a big huge mess.

And help us to be kind to ourselves and to other.  And that is enough.  Really.  That is enough.  Then let us live wonderful, sexy, tasty, delicious lives.


Fluent Like Thunder

Over the last five years I have worked with many people from faith communities. Some of it large scale — helping to design and host annual or quadrennial meetings. Some of it wide scale — shifting culture to participation or piloting a learning cohort. Some of it everyday — supporting clergy and lay leaders in discernment and remembering to be kind in tending to themselves while they tend to so many. One of the things that I love in all of that is that people in faith communities have a predisposition to seek out and notice the invisible. The subtle. The stuff that you have to be quiet to hear. To be in community together to help the invisible become more visible, tangible, and palpable together — this reaches in to my belly-level of satisfaction and joy.

Charles LaFond is one of those faith community people that I’ve met — one who sees — first as participant at a workshop I hosted, second as colleague, and soon after that, dear friend. Charles wrote a poem a few years back that he recently republished (with his photo above) in honor of holy week in the Christian tradition. Fluent in Thunder, A Holy Week Poem. Read it below, or on Charles’ blog, The Daily Sip.


Fluent Like Thunder, A Holy Week Poem
Charles LaFond

Nature. She has Her languages too, in which we are not always fluent.

Lest we understand her cries for mercy.

It is hard to imagine what She felt that week.
She quietly covers the planet in green, brown, blue
and every color of the rainbow-reminder.
She waves as wheat.
She swoons as flower.
She bears the massive responsibility of air as tree.
She waits as water.
She paves as grasses.
She feeds as vegetable plants;
growing for the hairless bipeds
whose rich seek to gorge on Her and whose poor
have little access to Her real nutrition.
She lays majestic as sand, making life
even when life seems impossible or unlikely.
She warms as earth even as she warms as sun.

She too was there that day at the cross, and beneath it;
whispering breeze and speaking thunder so fluently.

She provides small holes in which there is birth and metamorphosis.
Only the humans scream – most of Her females animals make life in the
same silence in which God does.
She eats and processes what She eats as billions of
worms, bees and maggots, making mulch.
She makes the world by freezing molecules of ice between molecules of rotting wood,
splitting them apart so that soil may appear over time;
which is Her Great Friend.

It is hard to imagine what She, the natural world, with a body
of green, tan, brown and blue, undulating in the chaord of growth,
felt like,
that week,
in which humans plotted and planned
the destruction of the Loving-Truth-Teller;
the One with soft skin and kind eyes.

The clergy, the climbers, the bullies . The High Priests -they plotted

while we shouted.  Waved palms. Did She feel the pain when we cut the palms branches? Did winds in Asia shift when we waved our palms?

The brash, the loud, the insecure could see He needed to die.
Political leaders of church and state,
afraid of what was tiny in them, and on them, could see He needed to die.
Counterfeit monks and pretend artists could see He needed to die.
Religious competition and ecclesial failure could see that He needed to die.
Thousands of savior-impersonators could see that He needed to die.
Scribes in their book-forts could see that He needed to die.

But perhaps only She, the skin of earth,  could see that part of God which God
implanted in Her and also in Him:
the ability to die and then, after waiting in silent darkness, live again.
Perhaps Nature could see what would be Jesus’ emerging
simply and precisely because She experiences the emerging so often,
so casually, so cyclicly, so naturally.

Nature, She is the stage of this passion-play. She could recognize a being whose nature was life like Hers,
even if occasionally interrupted by being
cut with a scythe
or starved of water
or denied food
or choked on fumes
or poisoned by chemicals or genetically mutated
or left alone to heat up and slowly die.
Planet-nature could see that all would be well, even if hot or stinky.

And yet, as Jesus began this Walk, this week,
navigating prince-bishops, principalities and powers
in majestic silence,
head down pathways and staring down power,
looking at the planet’s crust for his
encouragement,His only companion,
She, the earth-skin, looked back and she wept through
her smile into his eyes with brief rains. “Keep walking on me. I feel your feet on me.” She whispered to Jesus.

And then, in a few steps again, she speaks his language;
“Jesus, King of Kings, show them what We are.” She whispered
in her feminine voice of breeze, missed by unfluent priests and rulers
as male voices accused
in their insecurity; little bully-boys in big togas – soon-  chasubles, punching at the One Who Is. Die.  Die.  Die.

And Jesus, looking down at dirt, saw God there, and remembered the
mountain-side chats they used to have on grasses before the Great Silence of late;
remembered divine encouragement under trees,
inhaled, and allowed the story to unfold by streams, just for the next 15 minutes, and the next, and then the next – the way we must live in those tremulous times.

And so Nature and Jesus let life unfold in
manageable segments, 15 minutes at a time.
when night and day are too long a stretch for the unfolding of our sufferings.

And then, as whips with hooks hit His flesh, the blood-bits spattered onto Her grasses – Her dirt – Her sands.
As the nails hit bone, the blood spattered onto Her rocks,
As the fever-sweat dripped down neck, shoulder, back onto wood and then slid sleekly silently down down into dirt and around the sweet little maggots’ wiggly welcome – messengers from past cross-occupants.
His eyes rolled back into sacred sockets-darkness, alone;
and as saliva dropped from a twisted, gaping mouth onto one lone dessert flower emerging from the rock in that dump of garbage by the city walls.

Every day at God’s agreement, Nature asks for permission to exist at morning’s twilight;

“May We exist?” She says each day.      “EXIST AND BE BEAUTIFUL.” God says each day, with an accent influenced by thunder the way the waitress’ accent betrays her polish childhood.
After mornings and mornings of Her request for life were again and again granted by the One-Who-is, She, the natural planetary-skin, almost died. In Jesus’ last breaths Nature almost died. The planet’s skin held her breath.

And in Nature’s fight to stay alive, God flared up inside Her
and in her revival She clouded over, darkened, moistened
and thundered, thundered blue-black, like His bruises,
just to show Him, even with His closed-eyes, that She was still there. That He was not alone. And with His eyes closed, He felt the brief cold breeze and saw the darkening from beneath his lids and knew, knew he was not alone.  She was there.  She always had been. The Mother Earth impaled by His cross.

He could see Her stormy darkness even under his closed, sticky lids
and felt the chill of the brief desert-night as the Divine feminine swelled, moaned, wept, and commiserated with Jesus.

And His last forlorn question,
about whether or not
God had abandoned Him
was answered.

But Jesus hear the answer.

We think God was silent that day.
But perhaps only because we are not fluent in thunder.




John and Farouk in Advent

This is such a beautiful and thoughtful post by my friend Charles LaFond, a minister in the Episcopal tradition. It is about stuck patterns. It is about wildly different perceptions. It is about common heart. Reading it made me involuntarily stop in my day to be still.

Here’s a snippet. Read the whole thing on Charles’ blog post.

Let’s say that the average, run-of-the-mill guy in Iraq were given a pen and paper and asked to write about the average run-of-the-mill American.  As an American man, I expect that when I read what the Iraqi guy wrote I would disagree.  I would read his writing and I would say “no!”  I would say “That is not an accurate picture of the average American man!”

The Iraqi man, Farouk, let’s call him,  is writing from his perspective.  He is wiring from his cinder-block house half-built and partly exposed to the elements, but with parts covered with metal sheets he found by a road and a blue tarp.  His anger at the death of his two sons and his daughter’s undiagnosed disease would enflame his writing.  His wife’s bent exhaustion from trying to keep his other four children and their parents and his brother and her three sisters fed would further exhaust and enrage him.  His work moving rocks for a local construction company would anger his hard, cracked hands as he wrote his angry words.  This is not the life he wants….