September 6, 2020

    FOLLOWING THE SCENTED GRASSES A Meditation on Beginnings and Endings and What Happens in Between James Ishmael Ford Here we are at an ending. And of course, as such things are, it’s also a beginning. As to the ending. I thank you for welcoming me into your community, and with that welcoming our Zen sangha to use the church. I love the particular manifestation of liberal and rational religion that is Unitarian Universalism. And you all are the… Read more

September 5, 2020

A PILGRIM’S PROGRESS  Zen, Maps of the Spiritual Life, Miscellaneous Traps, and, of course, the Fat Guy James Ishmael Ford   People take up Zen for any number of reasons. But those who stay find they’re on a spiritual quest. Words like enlightenment and awakening become the holy grail of that quest. Images shift. And we can feel we’re crossing deserts in quest of an oasis with life giving waters, only to find a shimmering mirage on the horizon that… Read more

August 30, 2020

  Well, it’s official. The webpage for the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles announces to the world: “While the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles is a lay led congregation, we value the wisdom of elders, and have engaged the Reverend James Ishmael Ford and Dr. Ignacio Castuera as our consulting ministers. They bring with them knowledge and experience in several different religious traditions. They each take the pulpit once a month and assist the smooth flow of church… Read more

August 29, 2020

      Recently I’ve seen a couple of memes wandering around my corner of the interwebs publishing a list called “John Wesley’s Manifesto.” If you’re not familiar with the wondrous Reverend John Wesley, you’ve missed one of the more interesting figures in Anglo American religion. Born in 1703 (and died in 1791), Wesley was an Anglican priest who while remaining an Anglican accidentally started the Methodist church. As to the manifesto, it is a remarkable document. Sadly, he never… Read more

August 28, 2020

      The other day someone cited something Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote in his novella, “Chronicle of a Death Foretold.” “Everyone has three lives: a public life, a private life, and a secret life.” I found it sticking in my head. Now I am cautious about categorical assertions. But. Well. We have three lives. The public one is obvious. Nearly everyone can talk about the difference between it and one’s private life. Those who assert otherwise, frankly, I find… Read more

August 23, 2020

      My dreams are populated by those figures out of the ancient near east, completely mythical ones like Abraham and Sarah and Moses and Miriam, and those with some historical bones upon which myth has been layered like Jesus and the Marys. I know their stories. Their stories inform my own life and give it the color and shade of our common humanity. We’re not just apes with good thumbs, although we are apes with thumbs, we also… Read more

August 16, 2020

  How time flies. It was on this day, the 16th of August in 1930 that Ub Iwerks released the first color and sound cartoon. Ninety years. On the one hand a blink of the eye. And on the other, well, its looking hard at a hundred and that’s quite a while ago… Fiddlesticks featured Flip the Frog and would be the first in a series made by Celebrity Pictures and distributed in theaters by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Iwerks was the principal… Read more

August 14, 2020

    AN INTRODUCTION TO THE ZEN KOAN James Ishmael Ford The Case Zhaozhou visited a hermit. He asked, “Is anybody in? Anybody in?” The hermit lifted up his fist. Zhaozhou said, “the water is too shallow for a ship to anchor.” Later he went to a hermit, and asked, “Is anybody in? Anybody in?” The hermit also lifted up his fist. Zhaozhou said “Freely you give and freely you take away. Freely you kill and freely you give life.”… Read more

August 11, 2020

  Once, the poet Mary Oliver was invited by some friends to visit Walden pond. Instead, she wrote a poem. “It isn’t very far as highways lie. I might be back by night fall, having seen The rough pines, and the stones, and the clear water. Friends argue that I might be wiser for it.They do not hear that far-off Yankee whisper: How dull we grow from hurrying here and there! Many have gone, and think me half a fool… Read more

August 9, 2020

    DREAMS OF WALDEN POND The Way of Liberal Religion James Ishmael Ford While the majority of my time these days is focused on the Zen project, Unitarian Universalism is a big part of who I am. One of the ways I keep in touch is through social media. In particular I belong to a large Facebook group for clergy. The other day one of the members of that august body asked the not quite rhetorical question, “Why should… Read more

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