Thursday, May 21, 2020


Dear All of Us,

So, how's it going?
As John Wesley used to ask:
"How is it with your soul?"

Let's extend that outward 
from soul center 
to your social life,
your moods and emotions, 
your finance, family,
work, mental health.

All of the above, 
and our whole social order,
have been hammered by
the Pan Problem.
That varies for us 
who gather here weekly at
"frankly speaking". 
We live all across the USA 
and around the globe.
The current, 
and likely recurrent crisis,
has and will reach 
most all of us
to one degree or many.

In some regions 
people are moving out 
of quarantine.
In other areas the pandemic 
is just ramping up.
Whatever the current mood and mode, 
we are in danger and it is not going away.

The hard fact is that 
we have not defeated the enemy.
We have dodged the enemy.
We have hidden from the enemy 
by separating from each other.
As that ceases
the enemy will strike, 
the pandemic will increase.

So it's separation no matter what.
Either separate from each other 
or separate from safety. 
Yes, someone has to milk the cows,
bake the bread, deliver the goods.
We sure are straddled 
in the horns of a dilemma.
It's a Pan Problem.
It means a significant
degree  of separation
no matter which way we turn,
painful separation,
with lots more to come.

So, how's it going?
Not only how are you doing,
but how are you "being"?
How are you way inside
and then all the way out 
to doing the dishes
and paying the bills?

We hear a lot that
"We're all in this together".
We also know that 
so many feel 
so terribly isolated,
painfully alone.
Both deeply effect 
our spiritual lives 
right now.

So, over the next weeks and beyond,
let's take time and soul with the
recourses and reflections
that follow in 


They build on the paradox that


Grateful for support from you
and committed to support for you,
your brother,

              John Frank



The goal here is to clarify and to encourage,
"to equip the saints" Ephesians 4:12

Alone or with others in spiritual focus
we ask 
         - what's the inner meaning,
           the deep truth in what 
           we ponder here?
         - how do I/we deal with it?
         - how do I/we pray it?
         - what does it look like
           as we live it out
           in the pain to ecstasy of 
           our right now, right here  
           spiritual lives?

There's a plentitude and variety of offerings here.

One way or more we are in for a lot more separation.
Let's see and accept how we can be

              Separated But Not Alone.


She's a twenty five year old elementary school teacher 
now full time in a Master's of Counselling degree program.
She is at home quarantined with her parents.
Monday through Friday she goes live with a fifteen minute 
online experience for little children.
With great exuberance and feeling she reads a story to the children 
while showing them each page. Then there is a picture to draw,
or a song to sing, a dance or craft. The segment is called "Sparkle".
It is, she is and the kids do!
Separated but not alone.


The very last recorded words of Jesus:
      " And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
                                                                        Matthew 28: 20

     What kind of openness and soul sensitivity does it take to hear this
     all the way inside, to take it to heart - better, to let it give us heart?

    "Always" is a stretch of time, to the very end of time. 
     It is also a promise of presence in ALL WAYS?
     What "ways" in me right now crave the presence and power promised?

    What are some non-preachy ways I can incarnate, 
    put some felt flesh on this for others? 
    Separated but not alone.


What do you make of this:
    "What you need most is what you should give most."
                                                             John Frank

    What does that have to do with being 
    Separated but not alone?


How About:

   every day connecting with one or two people on our Christmas Card List,
   especially those with whom we only connect at Christmas?
   Separated but not alone.


"I, Paul, the prisoner for Christ..."  Ephesians 3:1 

    Paul was isolated in jail a lot of times 
    They were his 
                 "Sheltered in place"
                 "COVID - CONFINEMENT"
     Rather than go stir crazy, he wrote a lot of letters.
     They were so inspired, they became part of the Bible.
     Rather than go stir crazy, what can I do in my COVID - CONFINEMENT 
     for others?
                  - paint them pictures
                  - write them poems
                  - record our family history for future generations
                  - video "How To" segments for YouTube.
                  - catalogue our family pictures
                  - be a weekly pen pal for a senior adult living alone
                  - learn a new skill I can use for others, if not now, when...
                  - develop a Call Care Line for my neighbors, 
                    co-workers, church members
                  - sew garments for children in refugee camps
                  - organize a ZOOM Reunion with schoolmates, 
                    distant relatives
                  - invite others to a weekly book discussion 
                  - use Zoom for a small Home Church
                  - add five more possibilities here:
   Separated but not alone.

 "If you want the light to come into your life, you need to stand 
  where it is shinning."
                              Guy Finley
                   - where is "the light" shinning right now?
                   - what kind of move do I need to make to stand there?
                   - how be in  the dark but brightened, 
                     Separated but not alone.


If you're given a lemon, rather than go sour, make lemonade.

Johannes Quasten sure did. He was a an outstanding theologian.
Part of his standing was to stand up to the Nazis in his native Germany.
That forced him to emigrate to America in 1938, thus separating him 
from his homeland, family and friends. He joined the theology faculty at 
The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC,  
teaching there (and me) until his retirement in 1970.
In his exile he wrote the classic four volume series "Patrology", 
the standard text in the field to this day.

                       -in whatever way The Pan Problem exiles me from 
                        the accustomed, how do I make lemonade here for others? 
                        Separated but not alone.


                     "Friends, life is short, 
                      and we do not have much time 
                      to gladden the hearts of those 
                      who make this earthy pilgrimage with us. 
                      So let us be swift to love 
                      and make haste to do kindness!"
                                                Henri Frederic Amiel

In this Pan Problem we have been shorted in time and a lot of other ways.
Given the diminishments and separations of the times,
                          - what are ways I can "gladden the hearts" 
                            of others short on such just now?
                          - who are those for whom I really need to get a move on, 
                            be swift to love?
                          - how can I make haste to do kindness 
                            so that those suffering the pain of isolation 
                            may know that yes they are
                            Separated but not alone?


Bishop Francis X. Ford was an American missionary 
put in solitary confinement by the Chinese communists 
in the late 1940's. Rather than go mad, he made love.
He would escape the aloneness, the confines of his cell and time, 
by picturing wonderful people and events in his life, 
moments and occasions of goodness and grace. 
He not only pictured them, he noticed every detail 
he could to be present to them and the timeless goodness of it all. 
An example was his First Mass as a newly ordained priest. 
He would notice the time of day, the weather, the church, 
the music, his family and friends, the vestments he wore,
his awe at the consecration of the bread and wine, 
the joy of offering his first priestly blessings, 
the meal that followed, tasting still the goodness 
of all that was served, seeing the children playing outside, 
the cars parked near the hall.
He felt, he was present to all the love given him, 
all the love that he gave, 
all this a sharing in God's Timeless Lavish Love
Separated but not alone.

                                       - what people and events 
                                         can I be with in my enforced isolation 
                                         and experience the timeless love of God 
                                         in it all?
                                         Separated but not alone.


"Abide in me as I abide in you...I am the vine. You are the branches."
                                                                                John 15:4-5

                           - Jesus invites us in, into Him, into his life,
                             asks us to live with him, to share life, 
                             to "abide" in Him and tells us He "abides" in us.
                           - in this time of so many and much separation 
                             are we "right at home" in and with Jesus?
                           - how do we feel about "staying home" with Jesus
                             in times of isolation?
                           - how intimate are we with Jesus sheltered in place?
                           - better yet, how intimate are we allowing Jesus 
                             to be with us - how much intensity, intimacy 
                             are we prepared to accept  from This Great Lover??
                           - does the sense of separation we experience
                             cause us to feel like a branch "cut off" from Jesus,
                             or do we sense security in our adhesion to Jesus, the vine?
                           - while feeling all sorts of separation from others, 
                             do we feel that in Jesus we are not at all alone
                             in the deepest sense and at our Center?


  "Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it."

                                                                           I Corinthians 12:27

This body of Christ has often been co-opted, 
encapsulated, in denominations.
At times denomination predominates over 
the "body", the church -  
the container more valued than the contents.
Denomination and Church get flipped and confused.
A denomination is an organization.
It is not the Church.
Denominations at best are delivery systems 
for the church and way too often    
not the best or close to it.
Our current Pan Problem is purging denominations.
It's not business as usual.
That's good because it should never be a business 
in the first or any place.
Rather tellingly and sharply 
Richard Rohr in a recent podcast noted 
that the Jews had a direct experience of Jesus.
The Greeks got a hold of that and philosophized it.
The Romans took it and formed it into a tight organization.
The Europeans turned it into a culture.
The Americans have made it a business.
No business doing that!
Back to and forward with a more direct experience of Jesus.
I love great cathedrals for their beauty and majesty -
classic  art in stone and glass.
For the life of me, though, 
I just can't see Jesus "pontificating" there.
The Love Who Is God, 
was incarnated as a lower class workman,
taught and lived the Sermon on the Mount,
gathered a group of simple, 
rather ordinary people, 
modeled a profound union with his Abba,
concentrated on the needy and hurt,
and mentioned that 
"The son of man  has nowhere to lay his head."
                      Matthew 8:20
Jesus definitely wasn't into real estate or finance,
elaborate rituals, compounded doctrines,
or policing a polity.

I don't doubt, though, that we can find Jesus right now
and touch the Body of Christ in a lot of local "churches",
in a Syrian Refugee Camp, in a young adult Bible Study, 
in a poor black church in rural Mississippi, 
in prayer groups, with disciples coming together 
as Home Churches, as neighborhood churches 
that have more disciples than members,
that are seven days a week hubs 
of spirituality, community and social service. 

Our current Pan Problem has disconnected 
a lot of the current (and currency)
in contemporary "churches".
It is forcing us to go spiritual or go.
Trying to put together a hot shot Sunday Service 
and live stream it doesn't really enliven all that much.
Its' like trying to squeeze orange juice through a toaster.

We are forced and blessed to use media.
Performance no!
Experience yes!
Simple, sincere sharing of Jesus yes!
Address felt needs as Jesus did 
and respond as he did and needs us to do.
Share his word.
Apply it, contextualize it.
Do people prayer -
few, slow, sincere sentiments from the heart,
not running at the mouth as the Pharisees did
and too many pastors still do ( this one included!!)
Find ways that separated people can be
united to God, as the Body of Christ,
sharing a real Holy Communion.
Don't fuss over concept.
Jesus used what was available at the Last Supper.
Do likewise.
Let Jesus make it a real presence.
Even though limited, often in lockdown, 
find ways to connect and personally support and help.

A gripping, pleading prompt for that
would be prayerfully viewing together
the mutual suffering and life giving
of a group of teenage boys "separated"
and yet not alone in a Greek Refugee Camp.
It is part of an article and video published 
Saturday, May 16, 2020.
It is available on YouTube.

"We Are Kids Who Remember Only War",
The agony and anxiety of living in a migrant camp

"Container" produced by Concordia Studios for 
The New York Times Op-Docs, 
Daphne Matziaraki, documentary filmmaker,
Josephine Livingstone, writer.
The boys are church without the name 
and probably awareness, but "livingly" so.
Separated but not alone.
Many levels of meaning.
Grist for prayer, common cause and action.

Well, all this is m
ore than a bit intense I know.
But I'm an old man.
I don't have a lot of time.
I care a heaven of a lot.
We need a lot more of a Reformation 
than we got in the 1500's.

So, may this Pan Problem purge and free.
It is separating us from a lot 
we should have jettisoned long ago.
May it be the time and way 
to let The Holy Spirit free us up to be, 
not a preferred or privileged denomination, but 

               THE BODY OF CHRIST

                  a very and truly 

               LOCALIZED CHURCH

               May separation unite.

                    Let Us Pray

            in the words and rhythm 

            of a simple folk hymn

            of our time and for our time.

            WE ARE the CHURCH

             I am the church! 
            You are the church! 
            We are the church together!
            All who follow Jesus, 
            all around the world! 
            Yes, we are the church together!

            The church is not a building, 
            the church is not a steeple, 
            the church is not a resting place, 
            the church is a people.

            We're many kinds of people, 
            with many kinds of faces, 
            all colors and all ages, too, 
            from all times and places.

           Sometimes the church is marching, 
           sometimes it's bravely burning, 
           sometimes it's riding, 
           sometimes hiding, 
           always it's learning.

           And when the people gather, 
           there's singing and there's praying,
           there's laughing and there's crying sometimes, 
           all of it saying:


               I am the church! 
          You are the church! 
          We are the church together! 
          All who follow Jesus, 
          all around the world!
          Yes, we're the church together!

          At Pentecost some people 
          received the Holy Spirit 
          and told the Good News 
          through the world 
          to all who would hear it

      The United Methodist Hymnal   


Words and music: 

Richard K. Avery and Donald S. Marsh, 1972

Hope Publishing House 1972


This past week we were joined by new participants
from the USA and from Malawi. Welcome to

                 frankly speaking

            spirituality for the street

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              HAVE A BLESSED WEEK