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Nepal and Bhutan

My first book SPIRITUAL AUDACITY: Six Disciplines of Human Flourishing took twenty months to go from concept through eleven drafts to published author.  It has been on the market for about seven months now and seems to have found its audience, exceeding my admittedly modest expectations.  But before it was even published i had the genesis for my second book.

Over the last eighteen months Spiritual Pilgrim: Mystic Journeys of Pilgrimage has gone through thirteen drafts.  Today I sent the final manuscript to my publisher for proofing and interior design with a planned launch date of September 2018.  Hurrah!  Having spent 18 months reflecting, remembering, dreaming, and writing about spiritual pilgrimages, it feels like time for me to go into the mystic once again and embrace the divine mystery on its own terms.

I’ve just scheduled my Uber to pick me up in twelve hours and take me to Logan airport to embark on a pilgrimage to Nepal and Bhutan.  We will begin by visiting the Swayambhunath and Boudhanath, and Pashupatinath temples in Kathmandu.  Then off to the rural parts of Nepal before flying on to Thimphu, Bhutan to study and reflect upon Tantric Buddhism.  I have been planning trip for almost a year, and it feels good to finally be underway, especially having just finished the manuscript for my second book.  May blessings abound for all sentient beings.

April 19, 1775

This is the tale of intrigue you perhaps never heard behind the battle that morning of April 19, 1775.  Rebellious English colonists had been preparing for this day for months.  On February 1st the Second (illegal) Massachusetts Provincial Congress, with John Hancock presiding, called for the rebellion’s growing military supplies to be gathered and stored in Concord.  By March 9th General Gage, Massachusetts’ Military Governor, had a complete list of quantities and types of weapons stored there, and where exactly each item was hidden.  Many weapons were stored on the farm of Colonial Militia Col. James Barrett.

On March 20th Gage sent two British soldiers in disguise to Concord to meet with those citizens loyal to king and country to plan the route for a military excursion to destroy the weapons and military supplies.  They dined and spent the night with Daniel Bliss, a prominent lawyer and son of the former minister of the village church, First Parish in Concord.  Concord had been turned into an armed camp, with fourteen pieces of cannon, a large magazine of powder and cartridges, and ten men standing guard over the town at night.  Midway through dinner Bliss was informed by a neighbor that he would be run out of town if he was still there in the morning.   Mr. Bliss fled to Boston and would never be seen in Concord again.

On April 2nd a ship arrived in Marblehead carrying word of secret orders being delivered to General Gage to arrest the rebel leaders and to dispatch a military force to confiscate the weapons and supplies.  The Provincial Congress ordered Paul Revere to establish a network of spies and rebel look-outs to monitor troop movements.  John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and most known rebels in Boston fled to the countryside.   Hancock and Adams moved in with Hancock’s kin Rev. Jonas Clarke near Lexington Green.

So, when 766 British regulars set out after dark on April 18, with secret orders to arrest Hancock and Adams and capture the weapons in Concord, nobody was surprised.  The rebel minutemen militias had been training for this day for weeks.  In March the British spies had mapped the route over the frozen terrain, but now the soldiers endured a miserable seventeen-mile forced night march through the muck and marshes of New England during mud season.  Riding a little ahead of them Paul Revere warned Hancock and Adams so around 3:30 am they escaped by carriage to the relative safety of Woburn.

Late into the night rebel riders were arousing local militia even while the supplies were being quietly spirited out to more remote farms for safe keeping.  You can imagine the frustration of the military officers as they arrived on Lexington Green around 5 am, not only to find the rebel leaders escaped, but also Lexington militia defiantly armed and standing there.  A shot rang out, a skirmish ensued, and eight rebels lay dead, with another ten wounded.  The British troops must have been even more frustrated as they approached Concord and heard the First Parish church bell ringing out the alarm of their arrival.

The British troops entered Concord about 7:30 am.  About 150 rebels from Concord, Lincoln and Acton were already standing on the ridge above town where they had hoisted a rebel liberty flag.  The British troops quickly captured the ridge without shots being fired.  The greatly outnumbered rebels fell back across the North Bridge to take up their positions on Punketasset Hill.  The soldiers secured the bridge and searched for the now non-existent military supplies.  It might have ended there.  But it didn’t.

The tired troops found very little weaponry in town so in frustration began burning some empty cannon carriages and other objects which the April winds whipped to soaring flames threatening to set the whole town on fire.  The rebels on Punkataset Hill saw what looked like the town going up in flames.  And the militias of Bedford, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Westford, and Littleton had now arrived meaning the rebels finally outnumbered the British regulars.  A skirmish broke out at the bridge.  Shots were fired.   A few dead on both sides.  The British soldiers withdrew back to Concord center to regroup.

But the war had begun.  Now as the British troops formed up to march back to Boston, the colonial militias ran ahead of them to ambush and destroy them.  Of the three thousand seven hundred rebel militia who mustered that day, only 49 died and 42 were wounded.  Of the more than one thousand nine hundred British soldiers who eventually took to the field, 65 died and 181 were wounded.  Rebel Minutemen beat the world’s strongest army.  This outsized victory for the rebel forces launched the American Revolution.

Rev. Dr. Jim Sherblom is a transcendentalist author, Concord guide, and longtime Concord resident. He is the author of SPIRITUAL AUDACITY: Six Disciplines of Human Flourishing.

Talking and Walking Transcendentally

On the cold and drizzly afternoon of Sunday, April 15, 2018, Rev. Dr. Jim Sherblom lectured about “Transcendentalism in the 21st century” to a packed, standing room only, crowd at the new Walden Pond Visitor Center.  He spoke about experiencing reality bounded by our senses alone, or guided by reason, intuition, and ultimately unknowable mystery.

Jim then led the crowd on a journey of the imagination along the Old Carlisle Road in Estabrook Woods, into the wildness of the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, paddling along parts of the Assabet, Sudbury, and Concord rivers, and finally from Concord village along the Emerson-Thoreau Amble to Henry David Thoreau at Walden Pond.

Along the way Jim indicated where archeologists have found artifacts from indigenous people in the fields of the Old Manse, and along the Reformatory Branch Trail where there was a campground of the Nipmuc tribe of the Algonquin nation (yielding Concord’s oldest artifacts at 11,000 years old).  Their imaginative amble crossed over Nashawtuc Hill, walking in Tahatawan’s footsteps, and out to Egg Rock, before circling back to the Clamshell Bank where thousands of indigenous people once feasted.

Jim pointed out the places at the margins of Concord society, the so-called waste lands, where a few last indigenous people lived in Thoreau’s time along with poor Irish immigrants and formerly enslaved people of African descent.  Great Meadows was where John Jack bought land in the 1750’s after being an enslaved farm hand for Concord yeoman farmer Benjamin Barron.

This land was later owned by freed slave Caesar Robbins, on which Caesar’s children built a substantial two-family house in 1823.  Ellen Garrison grew up in this house to become a founding member of the Concord Women’s Abolitionist Society and Concord’s leading African-American scholar, teacher, and activist.

This transcendental tour then led through the Hapgood Wright Town Forest, Walden Country, the Walden Woods Project, and down into the wilds of Walden Pond.  There they explored Thoreau’s beanfield, the granite quarry, cabin site, Concord’s shanty town, and amusement park for Lake Walden.  By then all of these imaginary tourists through time had become 21st century transcendentalists, so Jim led them on a final saunter across the railroad tracks over to the cliffs above Fairhaven Bay to watch the sunset over Conantum.

This imaginary adventure was followed by an actual walk around Walden Pond.

Gratitude for Suffering

Three weeks ago, I was preparing to lead a church workshop on the power of mental framing in determining how we respond to suffering.  Borrowing a Buddhist concept, I framed it as becoming aware of the inextricable links between dukkha (suffering) and sukkah (joy).  I didn’t know how I would illustrate this reconciliation of spirit, then a forty-foot tree fell towards our house from thirty feet away.

Over thirty years ago Loretta and I bought this house surrounded by tall trees.  For three decades they have grown taller.  About thirty feet from our house is a marshy area that had become super saturated in the early spring thaw.  Then a particularly heavy and wet snow was more than that old tree could bear.  It was torn out by its roots and toppled directly towards the bed in which I was sleeping.

The suffering is a big tree fell on our house and startled me awake.  The joy is it crashed off our roof and fell just outside my bedroom.  The suffering is that it smashed our pool fence in two places and we lost our internet connection.  The joy is that it did not harm any of us.  The suffering is that it will cost over a thousand dollars to repair the damage it caused.  The joy is we can afford it.

This is how I am approaching Easter this year.  Jesus came so we may have life and live it more abundantly.  On the night he was betrayed, he had a last supper with his closest followers before he was arrested while praying in a garden, joy and suffering.  He was condemned to death, whipped and flagellated, tortured, watched his mother in emotional distress, this is all suffering.  But Simon the Cyrene stepped in to carry his cross, Veronica wiped the sweat from his brow, and Jesus consoled the daughters of Jerusalem, all sources of joy.  Jesus was stripped of his garments, ridiculed, and nailed to the cross through both his hands and his feet, suffering.  As he was dying his beloved disciple promised to look after Jesus’ mother and his final words were to God saying, “Into thy hands I commend my spirit”, joy.

So this Maunday Thursday I will cherish communion and a gracious meal with my godly friends.  On Good Friday I will mourn Jesus’ death on the cross in a Tenebrae service of bewilderment and despair.  Then on Easter morning, mindful of how inextricably interlinked suffering and joy always is, we will celebrate both Jesus’ death and his resurrection.  For there is no possibility of resurrection without death, but love and joy is ultimately stronger than suffering and pain, so life is abundant.  Happy Easter!

 

Transcendentalism in the 21st Century

Walden Pond State Reservation and The Thoreau Society proudly present…“Transcendentalism in the 21st Century,” a lecture by Reverend Jim Sherblom, author of Spiritual Audacity: Six Disciplines of Human Flourishing

PLEASE JOIN US!

Sunday, April 15, 2018, 12:00pm-2:00pm, at the New Walden Pond Visitor Center, 915 Walden Street, Concord, MA. Phone# 978-396-3254

What is transcendentalism and how does it fit into modern life? Are you a transcendentalist??? Come learn about transcendentalism from a twenty-first century Concord transcendentalist, Reverend Dr. Jim Sherblom, whose journey led him from poverty to Harvard Business School, then from biotech entrepreneur to Brookline Minister through a series of vision quests and theological studies. He emerged as a spiritual teacher, preacher, and friend of God.

Jim will lead you on an imaginary journey over some of the ninety miles of wild trails that Henry David Thoreau so often walked, leading to Walden Pond and beyond to the Fairhaven Cliffs. The verbal journey begins at noon on Sunday, April 15, 2018.

Following Jim’s talk, join him for a transcendental walk through the wildness of Walden Pond. Jim will also be available to sign copies of his new book, Spiritual Audacity.  Part memoir, part philosophical history, and part manual for living, Spiritual Audacity guides you from black and white to color, from formless to form, from dark to light, and from curious to enlightened.

Rev. Dr. James Sherblom is an author, mystic, theologian, entrepreneur, investor, company creator and venture capitalist.  Jim holds a BA from Yale, MBA from Harvard, and Masters in Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Andover Newton Theological School.

 

Icy Transcendence

A transcendentalist embraces the world differently than a materialist does.  We often are sillier, more engaged with nature, and find joy and equanimity where others might find misery.  I was walking around Walden Pond one cold day last month, where we had had several days of bitterly cold weather already, without any snow or other disturbance of the pond’s surface.  I discovered the ice was several feet thick and as clear as glass, walking on it I could look down six or eight feet through the ice to the clear pond bottom below me.   Further out onto the pond it was like looking down into the abyss of the deep.

This brought to mind Ralph Waldo Emerson’s seasonal transcendence walking Walden Pond.  In many of his winter journal entries he wrote about embracing icy cold winter days.  In one he wrote, “Pleasant walk yesterday, the most pleasant of days.  At Walden pond, I found an instrument which I call the ice-harp.  A thin coat of ice covered a part of the pond but melted around the edge of the shore.  I threw a stone upon the ice which rebounded with a shrill sound, and falling again and again, repeated the note with pleasing modulation…  I was so taken with the sound that I threw down my stick and spent twenty minutes in throwing stones singly or in handfuls on this crystal drum.”  So, I decided to try it.

Skipping stones across the thick ice generated a very satisfying sound.   I began to play.  Generating music somewhat more resonant and deeper but akin to Henry David Thoreau’s summer wind harp.  This is seasonal transcendence.  Looking further across the pond I watched the ice fishermen adjusting their lines for their winter catch.  Then a couple of ice skaters came whizzing across the pond much as Henry David was wont to do.  I became enraptured.  Here was my transcendental paradise.  Concord’s form of transcendental meditation is deeply connected to the seasons of nature and discovering our wildness.

Jim Sherblom delivering Andover Newton Theological School 2015 CommencementJim Sherblom delivering Andover Newton Theological School 2015 Commencement

God’s Time

One of the Andover Newton at Yale Divinity School students in my Unitarian Universalist Ecclesiology, Ministry and Polity class last semester invited me to participate in her Mid-Degree Review along with other YDS professors and ordained clergy.  As this distinguished group talked among ourselves about the challenges of ministry today, a recurring theme centered around church time and expectations management, until it dawned on me, we were often seeking to follow our own sense of time and priorities, rather than God’s time.

To walk with God requires that we humbly adjust our expectations to God’s will, in God’s sweet time.  This felt like a humbling Lenten reflection, this time of the church year when we are annually stuck in this already/not yet pilgrimage of waiting for God’s time to finally arrive. For those of us who are over achievers, or simply seeking to exceed expectations, it can be difficult and frustrating when we are not able to set our own pace.  But discerning God’s call for us is best done in God’s time at God’s pace.

So, I took a breath, remembering we cannot walk with God, except we walk at God’s pace.  We cannot comprehend God’s purpose, yet we can trust and obey, and thereby go with God.  I need only to focus on my faithfulness, rather than my accomplishments or lack thereof.  This is the blessed assurance that carries us through the Lenten season all the way to Easter.  Thank God!

 

Rev. Dr. Jim Sherblom, YDS Lecturer

Author of Spiritual Audacity: Six Disciplines of Human Flourishing