My Old Stomping Grounds

The Merry Mystic Goes Home

After weeks of packing, driving, and unpacking—you wouldn’t believe how many U-haul truckloads it took!—my family and I have moved back to my old home town of Princeton, Illinois. This is the town where I went to high school, and where my wife and I met and married, so of all the places I’ve lived, this is the one that feels most like home.

And, well, moving is hell! I’m sore all over, we’re still something less than half unpacked, and I haven’t had time to write anything new for you all. Nevertheless, it’s good to be back on my old stomping grounds. On Sunday, I didn’t go to church—my own work as pastor of the Open Prairie United Church of Christ here won’t start until December. Instead, I went to pray at a little park where, in former days, I spent a lot of time talking to God.

In this issue of The Merry Mystic, I wanted to share my old stomping grounds with you.

Samhain Song

A Merry and Mystical Message for Halloween

Samhain is the old Gaelic festival that lies behind many of our modern Halloween customs. In this video, I talk a little about Samhain, and I share a new song about it.

Here’s the text of that song. (It’s actually from the last chapter of the fantasy romance I’m working on, The Pastor and the Priestess.)

Samhain Song

The anxious fear, the fevered dream,
The ghostly moan, the primal scream,
The cold that grips us in the night --
The dance around the fire’s light,
To banish fear from hill and dale.
   For love can see beyond the veil,
   And glimpse, behind the graven gloom,
   A hidden heat, a hopeful beat,
   The fertile darkness of the womb.

The foolish, haunted, hating heart,
That tries to tear the world apart,
And plans and plots to bitter ends --
The circled power of our friends,
That over evil will prevail.
   For love can see beyond the veil,
   And glimpse, behind the graven gloom,
   A hidden heat, a hopeful beat,
   The fertile darkness of the womb.

The doubt that steals away the will,
The gloomy fears that self-fulfill,
The wariness to take a chance --
The spirit pleading, Come and dance,
And never be afraid to fail.
   For love can see beyond the veil,
   And glimpse, behind the graven gloom,
   A hidden heat, a hopeful beat,
   The fertile darkness of the womb.

The memory of days gone by,
The falling tear, the heavy sigh,
The burden of the loss we bear --
The new adventure waiting there,
Where love-light leads us down the trail.
   For love can see beyond the veil,
   And glimpse, behind the graven gloom,
   A hidden heat, a hopeful beat,
   The fertile darkness of the womb!

Longing for the Deep Peace

A Merry Mystical Re-Run

This past month, my spiritual practice has been shot to hell.  Oh, I’ve prayed frequently—but briefly and distractedly.  Have you ever just sat in the presence of God, or just taken a walk in God’s company, and wholly escaped the passage of time?  Have you ever surfaced from deep reverie to notice—how odd!—that the sun has set, or the sun has risen?  I have, but not this month!

In fact, I’m embarrassed to confess that my life right now is just totally berserk with work.  I’m helping put on a play this month, as performer, accompanist, lighting and sound designer, you name it.  And I’m preparing to start a new job, and to move my extended family next month.  It seems to be one of those seasons when there just aren’t enough hours in every day.

Anyway, there certainly weren’t enough hours to squeeze out any new work for The Merry Mystic this week! Instead, I took some comfort today in listening to this old song of mine. This was The Merry Mystic in May of 2016. I hope you’ll find this re-run as comforting as I did.

May you be blessed today with deep peace: the deep peace of the running wave, the deep peace of the flowing air, the deep peace of the quiet earth, the deep peace of the shining stars—the deep peace of the Prince of Peace.

Midwives of Hope

A Hymn Celebrating Those who Help Hope into the World

In the legend of Moses’ birth (Exodus 1:15-2:10), there are two official midwives: Shiphrah and Puah. Then there are three other women who, in their different ways, also help bring hope into the world: Moses’ birth mother, his sister, and his adoptive mother. Here’s a new hymn celebrating their work, and the work of all midwives everywhere.

Sheet music for “Midwives of Hope” is in our Free Stuff area.

Slogan Survey Results

The Merry Mystical Motto: Humorlessness Is Next To Godlessness

In this week’s video, I report on the results of last week’s survey.

In addition to the results reported in the video, there were quite a few write-in candidates. Here are the slogans proposed by other readers, unedited and in no particular order:

  • Progressive Christianity – Christianity’s Progressive Rock station – all Yes, all the time.
  • Get in touch with your own personal spirituality
  • Progressive Christianity– because we really want to remain Christian.
  • – because we don’t know everything -yet.
  • “Accepting new knowledge since _(fill in your own date)_”
  • “Where thinking is still allowed, and encouraged”
  • “Tell your story, then listen to ours”
  • Progressive Christianity – because we need to progress!
  • Progressive Christianity – It’s on my bucket list!
  • Progressive Christianity — Sounds better than retrograde Christianity
  • Progressive Christianity – Practicing more than we preach.
  • Let us begin to live the life that Jesus modeled for us.
  • …because what if they found Jesus’ body; would it negate His life and teachings?
  • Love yourself and your neighbor.
  • We may not be 1st but we are way ahead of whatever is 2nd. ( just saying )
  • Progressive Christianity- because Jesus way was always forward into the midst of life
  • Progressive Christianity-because saying, “I have faith,” isn’t a valid replacement for evidence.
  • Progressive Christianity: Because we are one big friggin family!
  • Progressive Christianity – marching forward towards world peace not backwards to world domination.

Thanks to everyone who participated! I’m going to close the survey now, but please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below.

Which Slogan Is Your Favorite?

The Merry Mystic Ventures into Marketing

Hello, friends! This week, I’ve been aware of a number of really bland church slogans.  For example:

  • “Everyone welcome”—as if there were any church in the world that didn’t make that claim.
  • “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity”—as if that settled anything. (That epigram goes back to 1617, when Marco Antonio de Dominis, an archbishop of the Roman Catholic church, wrote, “in necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas.”)
  • “Jesus loves you”—not a bad claim in itself, but often used as a launching pad for cruelty. As in, “Jesus loves you, so it’s too bad you’re gay and going to hell.” I wonder whether the love of Jesus wasn’t being pronounced over the body of Marco Antonio de Dominis, while it was being exhumed, dragged through the streets, and burned for heresy, along with all his works.

Anyway: I’ve invented some slogans for an advertising campaign for progressive Christianity. I’m looking for something less anodyne than the usual stuff—something with a Merry-Mystical touch of irreverent humor. It would help me if you’d take just a minute to read my suggested slogans here, and vote on your favorite. There’s also a place to suggest a slogan of your own.

So please, take the survey: which slogan is your favorite?  I’ll share the results, and any (printable) write-in votes, next week.

Thanks and best blessings,


River Poetry

The Merry Mystic Goes to Xanadu

Today I’m thinking of an old poem: “Kubla Khan; or, A Vision in a Dream: A Fragment,” written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1797. I’m also thinking of an even older poem: the Book of Revelation.

(Perhaps I should apologize to those whom the title of this post fooled into expecting a clip from “Xanadu,” the 1980 roller-disco movie featuring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly. But I’ll try to do something with that movie next week!)

A Message from my Papa

The Merry Mystic Doesn't Fall Far from the Tree

In honor of Father’s Day, here’s a guest missive from my own dear father, Howard Webber. On this rainy morning in Holderness, New Hampshire, he offered some affirmation for me, and some wise words for fathers everywhere.

(Incidentally, I asked my mother to do a guest missive too. She only laughed and said, “That’ll be the day!”)