Sunday, December 22, 2013


Bound, I am bound like the knots in a string,
Eager to be where my life can begin.
Out of the shadow and into the sun,
So many things that I should have done.

I will untangle myself, so that I can see.
I will untangle myself, everything will be
Loving and free.

– "Loving and Free"
Written and performed by Kiki Dee

Friends, this post is to let you know that I'm taking a break from blogging here at The Wild Reed. To be honest, I'm not sure how long this hiatus will last – perhaps 2-3 months. Maybe longer.

Basically I need to be very intentional about creating time and space so that I can discern the guiding voice of the sacred as I sort out a number of things in both my personal and professional life.

Blogging – and being "connected" online in general – can so easily become an entangling and exhausting experience, especially when one is immersed in those types of issues that elicit strong responses from oneself and others. Last year's "marriage amendment" battle took a lot out of me. Even though we were successful in defeating that terrible amendment and securing marriage equality in Minnesota, I'm only now feeling as though I'm recovering from all that it took to ensure these accomplishments.

I'm ready now to move on in ways that I'm still trying to discern and, in time, enact. And as crass as it sounds, I need to start making more money! It's been a real struggle financially these last two years and, as I'm sure many reading this can attest, that's something that gets very wearisome, to say the least. The time and energy I've been putting into this blog needs now to be directed toward mapping out my future. Whether that future is here or back in Australia is one of the important things I hope to discern, as is the shape and form of my vocational/professional life as I journey on from this point. I hope there's a place for The Wild Reed, in one form or another, in whatever future I forge. I'm pretty sure there will be.

Thank you for your support of me and all I've created through this blog, which hopefully has been many informed and creative invitations and opportunities for deeper understanding and the transformation of hearts and minds that make for a world of compassion, beauty, and justice.

– Michael

Bound, I am bound like a rope on a swing,
Up in the air and then down again.
Sure for the first time, so clear in my mind,
Wise to the feeling, I gently unwind.

I will untangle myself, so that I can see.
I will untangle myself, everything will be
Loving and free.

For a live 1976 performance of "Loving and Free" by Kiki Dee, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Seeking Balance
In the Eye of the Storm, a Tree of Living Flame
The Soul of a Dancer
Michael Bayly: Changing the Church from Within
Doing Papa Proud
National LGBTQ Catholic Organization Honors Role Played by Catholics and Other Faith Groups in Securing Marriage Equality in Minnesota
Journeying Into the Truth . . . Valiantly, of Course!
The Sufi Way
As the Last Walls Dissolve . . . Everything is Possible

Related Off-site Link:
The Power of Time Off – Stefan Sagmeiter (TED, October 2009).

Image: "Grace of Wild Things" by Nick Wroblewski.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmastide Approaches

Loving Creator, help us be people of ceaseless hope.
Help us live this moment – really live it, not just endure it.
Because this very moment, for all its imperfection and frustration,
is pregnant with all sorts of possibilities,
is pregnant with light, is pregnant with peace,
is pregnant with Christ.
May we give birth again to a love that has no conditions.
May we bring to birth more light within us
so that we can illumine and transform the world
with compassion, justice, and peace.


Yes, it's upon us! That wondrous season of the Christian liturgical year in which we celebrate in a particularly mindful way God's gift of transforming presence in and through humanity; a presence most resolutely and beautifully embodied in Jesus of Nazareth.

Specifically, Christmastide refers to the time from Christmas Eve to the feast of the Presentation of Jesus. It's a period of time also known as the Forty Days of Christmas, with the first twelve days known as the Twelve Days of Christmas or Yuletide.

The spiritual significance of the season predates the overlaying of Christian terminology and mythology that began 2000 years ago. Theodore Richards, in his book Cosmosophia: Cosmology, Mysticism, and the Birth of a New Myth, reminds us of this with both insight and eloquence. With added links, here is what Richards says:

I write as the winter solstice and Christmas approach. The days have become short and cold. . . . Sunlight, abundant only a few months ago, is scarce. But soon, just after the solstice, the days will begin to grow long. Many of the religious cosmologies [or worldviews] of the West have celebrated the solstice as a return of the Sun, the birth of the divine at the darkest hour. It is, for each of us, at the darkest hour that we must be able to find our inner light. Christmas is celebrated on December 25, the mythic date of Horus' birth, not because there is any evidence that Jesus was born on that date, but because it makes sense that the divine should come to be present among humanity at the time of our greatest feelings of fear and disconnection. . . . [T]he winter solstice or Christmas is the perfect time to celebrate rebirth because it serves as a moment to unify the paradox of individual and the Universal. It represents both the birth of the Universe itself and the rebirth – a recognition, really – of our own divinity, our divine spark, the fullness of the cosmic wisdom we each possess and express in our own way.

In the wisdom traditions which, like a great subterranean river, undergird and nourish the religions of humanity, this recognition and embodiment of our divine spark is understood as an awakening, a breakthrough, a path of liberation and transformation. Catholic writer Angie O'Gorman reflects all of this when she notes:

Christmas can help us readjust, help us see the Divine more transparently in life, in places where we would least expect. A barn, for example, a baby. The Incarnation we celebrate at Christmas is a call, our belief in it a commitment, to seek awareness of the Divine free of the impediments of culture, class or even catechism. That process calls for a degree of openness most of us rarely embrace or even know as possible. Yet I have a feeling the Divine is so imminent, so within the essence of things, that it is only a matter of learned blindness that keeps us from seeing. It is not something natural to us to be so dense. We can do better. We can break through.

Indeed! And Christmastide serves as a powerful and beautiful reminder of the sacred's call to "breakthrough," and thus our potential to embody in the all-too frequent bleakness and brutality of our world the same spirit of transforming love and justice that Jesus embodied.

A longing to celebrate this wondrous spiritual truth inspired my friend and housemate Tim and I to host a small gathering of friends for a Holiday/Solstice/Christmas Party on the evening of December 13, 2013.

We invited our guests to bring something creative to share – a poem, a reading, a song, a favorite photo, or maybe even an interpretive dance! – that was somehow related to the wintry weather, the winter solstice (which takes place tomorrow, December 21), Advent and/or Christmas. Not surprisingly, one of the best parts of the evening was when we shared our "party gifts" of beauty and wisdom.

Above: My dear friend Kathleen, leading us all in a rousing rendition of a song celebrating the winter solstice.

Winter solstice, the longest night of the year.
Together we gather.
There's nowhere I'd rather be than with you
on this winter solstice,
the longest night of the year.

Above: Friends Kate McDonald, CSJ; Brigid McDonald, CSJ; Kathleen Ruona; Mary O'Brien, CSJ; Theresa O'Brien, CSJ; Sue Ann Martinson; Rita McDonald, CSJ; and Darlene White – December 13, 2013.

Left: With my friend Jane Arens, CSJ – December 13, 2013.

Since angels are part of the traditional Christmas story, I opted to share a scene from the TV mini-series Angels in America as my "party gift." It was that beautiful scene when the two seemingly very different characters – the gay, AIDS-afflicted Prior Walter (Justin Kirk) and the Mormon mother Hannah Pitt (Meryl Streep) – find common ground in both their gentle challenging and their supporting of one another. It's also the scene in which Hannah offers the following definition of an angel, one which I find very meaningful.

An angel is a belief, with wings, and arms that can carry you. It's not to be afraid of. And if it can't hold you up, seek for something new.

Above: With my friend Mike – December 14, 2013.

On the afternoon of Thursday, December 19, 2013, I attended a holiday party with colleagues associated with my part-time job with a meals-on-wheels program in south Minneapolis (left).

This gathering took place at a colleague's home in an apartment complex on the eastern edge of downtown Minneapolis. As you can see from the photos above and below, the views from this apartment are quite something.

The season of preparation for Christmastide is, of course, that of Advent – the "season of blessed paradox!" Over at Bondings 2.0, the excellent blogsite of New Ways Ministry, a special Advent series of posts is currently underway (see here, here, and here). I close this Advent/Christmastide post at The Wild Reed by sharing New Ways Ministry's Associate Director Matthew Myers' beautiful (and challenging!) reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent.

“Slay the wicked.” ”Crush the oppressor.” ”Coming wrath.” ”Unquenchable fire.” In today’s readings, Isaiah and John the Baptist use some strong language about God’s impending judgment and wrath. And I like it.

I would not mind seeing some hardcore divine judgment fall upon people who perpetrate evil in our world. I am tired of reading in the news about hungry children, homeless families, corrupt politicians, war-torn countries, and corporate greed. I am angry that the strong and influential exploit the weak and unknown. How long, O Lord, until the oppressors are crushed and the wicked are slain?

However, contrary to Isaiah, John the Baptist, and my own deeply flawed heart, judgment and wrath are not the way of Jesus or the God he proclaimed.

Through Jesus, we see that “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). God overwhelms all of us with love that exceeds our ability to sin – that is mercy! It is not asked for or deserved, but freely and lavishly given. Judgment and wrath bring only sadness and death into our world, not life – and our God is one of abundant life. Mercy brings true justice and wholeness into our world.

What does this mean to us? As Catholic LGBT people and allies, we can create a more inclusive Church by welcoming God’s abundant mercy into our own hearts, and then by sharing that love with others–particularly with those fellow Catholics who may say disparaging things or create discriminatory policies against LGBT people. It is our own experience of undeserved mercy that compels us to generously extend mercy to others.

For example, if a bishop or pastor condemns marriage equality, I think denouncing him as a bigot who hates lesbian and gay people is not consistent with what Jesus taught. Our culture encourages us to attack those who disagree with us, but angry words and vitriol will only magnify and perpetuate the mistrust and rancor in our Church. Instead, perhaps we should focus on building relationships – invite the bishop or pastor to have coffee or lunch to share our stories. Send him a Christmas card with a family photo. If he keeps us at arm’s length, we should keep the doors open by periodically reaching out to him. Our task is to build bridges rather than throw stones.

Our loving witness and patient invitation to dialogue will give others the opportunity to experience God’s mercy – and possibly change their hearts about LGBT people. We pursue justice for LGBT people by changing hearts through showing mercy in personal interactions, not through judgment and wrath.

There is power in mercy. As we continue our Advent preparations, perhaps we can reflect on how God’s “mercy triumphs over justice” in our own lives – and how we can show mercy to others.

– Matthew Myers
"Choosing Between Mercy and Judgment"
Bondings 2.0
December 8, 2013

Wishing each and every one of my readers
a deeply meaningful and transformative Christmastide!

– Michael

12/22/13 UPDATE: For the fourth and final reflection in New Ways Ministry's Advent series, click here.

Related Off-site Links:
Advent Now – Roger Karbam (National Catholic Reporter, December 14, 2013).
An Advent Reflection Inspired by Pope Francis – Sarah Christian (Millennial, December 19, 2013).
Advent: The Light is Coming – Thom Curnutte (Faith in the 21st Century, December 18, 2013).
A Friend's Advent Journey to the God of Peace – John Dear (National Catholic Reporter, December 17, 2013).
Preparing for Christmas: Giving First to Those in Need – Tony Magliano (National Catholic Reporter, December 9, 2013).
Christmas Calls Us to Be Present – Jamie Manson (National Catholic Reporter, December 23, 2013).
Queer Cheer for Christmas: Making the Yuletide Gay – Kittridge Cherry (Jesus in Love Blog, December 18, 2013).
Winter SolsticeThe Leveret (December 21, 2009).
Eight Enlightening Facts About the Winter Solstice – Todd Wasserman (Mashable, December 20, 2013).
Yule: Winter SolsticeThe White Goddess (December 21, 2013).
Sol InvictusThe Leveret (December 21, 2012).
46 Most Iconic LGBT Moments of 2013 – Elizabeth Plank (, December 18, 2013).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Advent: The Season of Blessed Paradox
Advent 2012: Rejoice?
Advent 2011: Thoughts and Reflections (Part 1)
Advent 2011: Thoughts and Reflections (Part 2)
Advent 2011: Thoughts and Reflections (Part 3)
Advent 2011: Thoughts and Reflections (Part 4)
Mystics Full of Grace
Thoughts on Transformation
Thoughts of Waiting . . . and a Resolution
Advent: Renewing Our Connection to the Sacred
The Centered Life As An Advent Life
My Advent Prayer for the Church
Advent Thoughts (2007)
Letting God Loose
Something to Cherish (2012)
A Christmas Message of Hope . . . from Uganda (2011)
Quote of the Day – December 26, 2010
Christmas in Australia (2010)
John Dear on Celebrating the Birth of the Nonviolent Jesus
A Bush Christmas (2009)
A Story of Searching and Discovery
The Christmas Truce of 1914
Clarity and Hope: A Christmas Reflection (2007)
An Australian Christmas (2006)
A Christmas Reflection by James Carroll

Photography: Michael J. Bayly.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Guesthouse

This human being is a guesthouse
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,

Still treat each guest honorably.
He maybe clearing you
out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

– Rumi

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Something We Dare Call Hope
A Dance of Divine Light
The Soul Within the Soul
Rumi and Shams: A Love of Another Kind
Ramesh Bjonnes on Rumi and Shams as Gay Lovers
Sufism: A Call to Awaken

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

Quote of the Day

[Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson] can think and say whatever he likes. He has freedom of thought, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech. I firmly defend his right to say what he said.

I also firmly defend the rights of others to respond, whether to criticize his choice of words or the theological basis of his claims.

When you speak publicly, you are inviting everyone who hears you to respond. Different responses carry different weights. It’s a fact of life, though, that actions have consequences. So if you speak publicly and people respond negatively, that’s a consequence. If you speak publicly and your employer terminates you, that’s a consequence, too. Freedom of religion and freedom of speech remain intact. It’s simply cause and effect.

When you say something publicly that is as vile, crude, and offensive as what Robertson said, you probably ought to expect strong and swift reactions. I defend your right to think it and say it, but you have to put your big boy pants on and deal with the consequences.

– Thom Curnutte
"In Case You Didn’t See It Today"
Faith in the 21st Century: Musings of a Millennial on Faith, Life, and Spirituality
December 19, 2013

Related Off-site Links:
Duck Dynasty Star Phil Robertson Makes Anti-Gay Remarks, Says Being Gay is a Sin – Cavan Sieczkowski (The Huffington Post, December 18, 2013).
Duck Dynasty Star Rants Against 'Homosexual Behavior,' 'Islamists,' and 'Shintos' in Epic Interview – Hunter Walker (TPM, December 18, 2013).
Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson Suspended for Comments About GaysChicago Tribune (December 19, 2013).
Duck Dynasty Family and Fans React to Phil Robertson's Hiatus After Offensive Comments – John Rogers (Associated Press via Huffington Post, December 19, 20123).
Sarah Palin, NOM, and Westboro Baptist: Right Wing Furious Over Duck Dynasty Dad’s Suspension – David Badash (The New Civil Rights Movement, December 19, 2013).
Conservative Christians Rally to Phil Robertson's Support – Sarah Pulliam Bailey (The Huffington Post, December 19, 2013).
The Creator of Duck Dynasty Played a Gay Porn Star in the Movie The Fluffer – Kate Arthur (BuzzFeed, December 19, 2013).
Five Things to Remember When Discussing This Duck Dynasty MessThe Boeskool (December 19, 2013).

UPDATES: There Are Two Americas, and One is Better Than the Other – Josh Barro (Business Insider, December 20, 2013).
Phil Robertson's America – Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Atlantic, December 20, 2013).
Duck Dynasty Fallout: GLAAD Reeling from Biggest Backlash in Years, Says Rep – Jethro Nededog (Yahoo! TV, December 20, 2013).
Dear Phil Robertson, You Can't Group Homosexuality With Terrorism and Bestiality and Then Use the Bible as Your Defense – Michelangelo Signorile (HuffPost Gay Voices, December 20, 2013).
Duck Dynasty and Quackery – Charles M. Blow (New York Times, December 20, 2013).
When You Defend Phil Robertson, Here's What You're Really Defending – Josh Barro (Business Insider, December 21, 2013).
Let Me Explain ‘Freedom of Speech’ to All the Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty Supporters – Allen Clifton (LGBTQ Nation, December 22, 2013).
Duck Dynasty Fans Are Sending Me Ridiculous Hate Mail – Josh Barro (Business Insider, December 22, 2013).

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Time for a Fresh Start in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis

In the wake of news that Archbishop John Nienstedt is under police investigation resulting from an allegation that he inappropriately touched a boy in 2009, I think Mike Tegeder, local priest and longtime critic of Nienstedt's leadership style and focus, says it best:

I feel very sorry for the archbishop. I hope this is just a misunderstanding or some misinterpretation. It's certainly very sad for him. These things can't be very pleasant, and I think it would be good for him to have a fresh start, and it would be good for our archdiocese to have a fresh start and just allow things to move forward here. This is not the way that I would hope that it would come about.

According to the chancery, Nienstedt has "stepped aside from all public ministry" for the duration of the investigation. Tegeder, however, is pushing for Nienstedt's resignation, regardless of the results of the police investigation. This is because Tegeder, like many area Catholics, is, as Minnesota Public Radio puts it, "troubled by the way the archbishop has handled the clergy sex abuse crisis, his stance on the recent marriage amendment battle and some of his financial decisions."

To be honest, I'm highly skeptical of this accusation of inappropriate touch being made against the archbishop, especially given its alleged circumstances – a very public group photo session following a confirmation ceremony. I believe Nienstedt when he says, "this allegation is absolutely and entirely false."

Yet it's painfully clear that we need a "fresh start" in our local church. My prayer is that the archbishop, like Pope Benedict XVI before him, will find the courage to step aside for the good of the community and, in so doing, help open the way for the Spirit to bring about healing and reform. We're seeing this on the global level with Pope Francis. Who's to say that with a new archbishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, one who is hopefully selected with input from the laity, this same healing and reform could not also be experienced within our local church?

Related Off-site Links:
Under Investigation for Allegedly Touching Boy, Archbishop Nienstedt Steps Aside – Tom Scheck, Laura Yuen and Mike Cronin (Minnesota Public Radio, December 17, 2013).
Allegations Cause Minnesota Archbishop to Remove Himself from Ministry – Brian Roewe (National Catholic Reporter, December 17, 2013).
Police: Archdiocese Not Cooperating with Clergy Abuse Investigation – Tom Scheck and Madeleine Baran (Minnesota Public Radio, December 17, 2013).
County Attorney: Grand Jury Not a Likely Option in Archdiocese Investigation – Laura Yuen (Minnesota Public Radio, December 16, 2013).
In the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, "Regime Change is Not Enough"The Progressive Catholic Voice (November 10, 2013).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, the Unravelment Continues
Progressive Perspectives on Archbishop Nienstedt's Anti-Gay Activism

Image: Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune via Associated Press.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Out and About – Autumn 2013

I first began my "Out and About" series in April 2007 as a way of documenting my life as an “out” gay Catholic man, seeking to be all “about” the Spirit-inspired work of embodying God’s justice and compassion in the Church and the world. I've continued the series in one form or another every year since – in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. This latest installment continues this year's series and covers September thru early December, 2013.

Right: By one of my favorite spots along Minnehaha Creek in south Minneapolis. If I recall correctly, this photo was taken on the first day of autumn – Sunday, September 22.

Left: My good friend and housemate Tim.

I can't tell you how fortunate I am having Tim as both a friend and housemate. He's just a great all-round guy whose integrity, thoughtfulness and generosity I find incredibly inspiring. Here's just one example of what I mean: Months ago I mentioned to Tim how I'd like to gather some friends together for my birthday and attend the James Sewell Ballet's retrospective show. I soon shelved that idea due to lack of finances. But Tim didn't forget it. He secured tickets for the October 25 performance for myself, him and our friend Joan. Needless to say it was a memorable night of celebration and dance – and one for which I have Tim to thank!

Above: Standing at right with (from left) Council of the Baptized members Carole Kastingar, Karin Grosscup and James Moudry, and Synod of the Baptized 2013 keynote speaker Sister Gail Worcelo. This photo was taken at a pre-synod reception on Friday, September 27. For more images and commentary, see the Progressive Catholic Voice post, A Pre-Synod Get-Together.

Right: "Co-Creating the Living Church" was the title and theme of the 2013 Synod of the Baptized. Sponsored by the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR), of which I'm a co-founder and current board member, Synod 2013 took place on Saturday, September 28, at the Ramada Mall of America Hotel in Bloomington, MN.

This year's synod built on previous synods which focused on "Taking Our Place at the Table" (2010) and "Making Our Voices Heard" (2011). The latter launched the Council of the Baptized within the local church of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

Approximately 300 people came to hear an inspiring keynote address by Sister Gail Worcelo, a practitioner of evolutionary spirituality and co-founder with Thomas Berry of Green Mountain Monastery in Vermont.

In addition, Synod 2013 offered participants a number of afternoon breakout sessions that explored topics and ideas such as "Integrating the Universe Story with Our Christian Story," "Envisioning an Integral Church," "Moving Beyond Alienation with the Church," "Building Alternative Models of Church," and "Developing a Healthy Perspective on Sexuality." One breakout session looked at how we can have a voice in the selection of our next archbishop, while another focused on the purpose, achievements, and next steps of the Council of the Baptized.

As editor of The Progressive Catholic Voice I compiled and published a series of posts leading up to Synod 2013. This series is comprised of the following posts:

Save the Date: Synod of the Baptized, September 28, 2013
Countdown to Synod 2013 – Part 1: When, Where, Why, What!
Countdown to Synod 2013 – Part 2: Sister Gail Worcelo
Countdown to Synod 2013 – Part 3: Evolutionary Spirituality
Countdown to Synod 2013 – Part 4: Media Coverage of Synod 2013 and CCCR
Countdown to Synod 2013 – Part 5: Synod 2013 Break-Out Sessions
Countdown to Synod 2013 – Part 6: The "New Story" at the Heart of Evolutionary Spirituality

Above: Standing with friends (from left) Pat Whalen and Eileen and Bernie Rodel at Synod 2013, at which I served as emcee.

Left: Friends Paula Ruddy and Tom Smith-Myott with Synod 2013 keynote speaker Gail Worcelo.

Right: With my dear friends Marguerite Corcoran, CSJ and Rita McDonald, CSJ at Synod 2013 – Saturday, September 28, 2013.

Rita and Marguerite were my “companions” during my two-year-long candidacy program by which I became a consociate of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet – St. Paul Province in 2008.

Above: Calling for the resignation of Archbishop John C. Nienstedt – November 9, 2013.

Close to 200 people gathered outside the chancery for the November 9 action – one spurred by revelations in local media of an on-going cover-up of sexual abuse by priests and possible danger to minors in parishes where they have been appointed to minister.

For more about this ongoing crisis in the local church, see the previous Wild Reed post, In the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, the Unravelment Continues.

The following Progressive Catholic Voice posts are also recommended:

Catholic Coalition for Church Reform Votes No Confidence in the Leadership of Archbishop John C. Nienstedt
Healing Can't Start Until the Knife is Removed
In the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, "Regime Change is Not Enough"
New Disclosure Practices? Healing?

Above: In this image by Star Tribune photographer Kyndell Harkness I'm standing third from right and listening to Bob Schwiderski (center right) and Shawn Plocher of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) address those gathered outside the chancery on November 7, 2013.

For more images and commentary on this event, click here.

Above: It was great to see one of our Catholics for Marriage Equality MN 2012 yard signs re-purposed for the 2013 call for Archbishop Nienstedt's resignation!

Above: My friend Dan Raphael (right) is a gifted artist. On the evening of October 13, 2013, a collection of his original oil paintings was premiered at the Galleria in Edina, Minnesota. The exhibition runs through December 31. For more information, click here.

Left: My friend Brian with two of Dan's oil paintings.

Above: Enjoying a meal with friends (from left) Joey, Mary Lynn, Tom, Kathleen and Mike. Kathleen and her son Joey hosted this lovely evening of good food and good company!

Earlier in the year I traveled with Kathleen, Joey, and another friend, Will, to Pahá Sápa (the Black Hills of South Dakota) for a truly memorable experience.

Right: With friends Tom and Mary Lynn.

You may recall that Tom and his wife Darlene feature in the 2011 video series I helped produce, Catholics for Marriage Equality.

Not only do I have a great housemate in my friend Tim, but I get to share with him a truly beautiful home in south Minneapolis!

As you can see from the photo above, it's a home of elegant simplicity. We don't even have a television!

Lately I've enjoyed nothing better than lighting some candles and mindfully unwinding while coloring mandalas and listening to the music of artists such as Rosanne Cash, Loreena McKennitt, and Claude Chalhoub. Simple things, I know – but meaningful . . . and just what I need at this time.

Writes Susanne F. Fincher, artist and author of Coloring Mandalas for Balance, Harmony, and Spiritual Well-Being.

A mandala is a circular design that grows out of the urge to know oneself and one's place in the cosmos. Some scholars derive the word mandala from the Sanskrit syllables manda, or essence, and la, or container. Mandalas express completeness and invite us to experience ourselves as a whole being. The womblike structure of a mandala creates a feeling of safety and protection. At the same time, mandalas distill the complex rhythms of the universe – and human consciousness – into patterns that are manageable and comprehensible to human beings.

. . . A recurring theme in mandalas is an awareness of the passage of time and the realization that human life is in constant flux and flow. Mandalas are used to find meaning in the ongoing stream of human experience.

Left: Something else I've been doing these past few months is slowly collecting all twelve Poldark novels in the Pan Macmillian edition of the series. To date I have six of the twelve – Ross Poldark, Demelza, Jeremy Poldark, Warleggan, The Stranger from the Sea, and The Miller's Dance. (The beautiful dancing hare bookends are a birthday gift from my friends Rick and Brian. Thanks, guys!)

Written by acclaimed author Winston Graham between 1945 and 2002, the twelve novels that comprise this series are set in Cornwall, England, from 1783 to 1820 and are centered on the lives and loves of two generations of the Poldark family. I think it's fair to say that the Poldark saga is widely considered to exemplify historical fiction at its best.

Earlier this year I re-read all twelve Poldark novels back-to-back. I either found them at used bookstores or borrowed them from the public library. Becoming re-aquainted with these novels and their various characters and stories was a very enjoyable experience and made me realize that I'd like my own copy of each of the novels. Hence my collection of the series as published by Pan Macmillan in the U.K. One reason I particularly like this edition is because of the art design of the books' covers. It's clear that whoever designed these covers has actually read each of the Poldark novels as there are all sorts of relevant little details and references within the artwork. Plus they just look good!

Since May I've been sharing my enthusiasm for the Poldark novels in a number of Wild Reed posts. In recommended reading order these are:

Passion, Time and Tide
A "Useful Marriage" for Morwenna
Time and Remembrance in the Poldark Novels
"Hers Would Be the Perpetual Ache of Loss and Loneliness"
Demelza Takes a Chance (Part 1)
Demelza Takes a Chance (Part 2)
Captain Blamey Comes A-Calling
Rendezvous in Truro
Cornwall's – and Winston Graham's – Angry Tide
A Sea Dragon of an Emotion . . . "Causing Half the Trouble of the World, and Half the Joy"
Into the Greenwood
"I Want You to Become a Part of Me – Each to Become a Part of the Other"

Above: I've endeavored to extend the simplicity of the downstairs area of the house to my upstairs bedroom.

The poster above my bed is of the 1994 film World and Time Enough by Minneapolis-based filmmaker Eric Mueller.

The icon on the wall at right is by John Giuliani and depicts the "Compassionate Christ." As I note in the sidebar, The Wild Reed is dedicated to the Compassionate Christ, who, as I like to say, "yearns to be embodied through our loving actions of body, speech, and mind."

For three other views of my room, see Photo of the Day – October 7, 2013 and images 2 and 4 of Interiors XVIII.

Above: Giuliani's "The Compassionate Christ" serves as the focal point of my prayer shrine. This shrine is in the meditation room that Tim and I created in one of the upstairs rooms.

Some of the books I find helpful in cultivating my prayer life include Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness by Nan C. Merrill, Prayer of the Heart in Christian and Sufi Mysticism by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Prayers to an Evolutionary God by William Cleary, Practical Sufism: A Guide to the Spiritual Path by Phillip Gowins, Sitting with Sufis: A Christian Experience of Learning Sufism by Mary Blye Howe, and A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life by Parker J. Palmer.

I've often utilized these texts when sharing various posts, including installments in my "Prayer of the Week" series. See, for instance, here, here, here, and here.

The prayer I pray the most is a version of the "Our Father" which, in large part, is Neil Douglas-Klotz's translation of the Aramaic words of Jesus. Douglas-Klotz's version can be found in his book Prayers of the Cosmos: Reflections on the Original Meaning of Jesus' Words. It can also be found online, here.

Compassionate Creator,
within and beyond all things,
holy are your names.
Grant what we need each day
in bread and insight.
Loose the cords of mistakes that bind us
as we release the strands we hold of others' guilt.
Do not let surface things delude us
but free us from all that holds us back
from our true purpose.
From you radiates all life and love,
the song that beautifies all.
From age to age it renews.
May your compassion be the ground from which spring
all our actions of body, speech and mind.


Above and below: The autumn colors this year were quite lovely. I've mentioned before how fortunate I am to live by Minnehaha Creek, and the beauty that these photos convey will always remind me of that.

For previous Wild Reed posts celebrating the beauty of autumn, see:

Autumn Dance
"Thou Hast Thy Music Too"
O Sacred Season of Autumn
Autumn Hues
The Beauty of Autumn in Minnesota
Rainy October Afternoon

Above: I have absolutely no idea who these guys are but, with sonic screwdrivers in hand, they were present at a special November 24 screening of the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who at the Parkway Theater in Minneapolis. Doctor Who fans would recognize that they are dressed as the Third Doctor (left)and the Fourth Doctor.

For more about this event, see the previous Wild Reed post, As Doctor Who Celebrates its 50th Anniversary, Sarah Jane Smith is Voted Number 1 Favorite Companion.

Above: My friends Curtis and Liana – December 1, 2013. I had the honor by officiating at Curtis and Liana's wedding earlier this year. The couple is expecting their first child on December 30!

Left: Celebrating my friend Rick's birthday – December 10, 2013. From left: Rick, John, me, and Brian.

Above: Tim putting the finishing touches to our Christmas tree, which we set up and decorated on Saturday, November 30.

Above: And what a lovely Christmas tree it is!

For more images, see my Advent 2013 post: Advent: The Season of Blessed Paradox.

Above: Meanwhile outside . . . most of the trees have lost their leaves and Minnehaha Creek has begun to freeze over.

Above and below: Our first substantial snowfall took place on December 4-5. For another image and for links to news stories about the "arctic blast" experienced across Minnesota following the snow, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Out and About – Summer 2013
Out and About – Spring 2013
Out and About – Winter-Spring 2013
The End of a Very Long Winter
Threshold Musings