malcolm marler

on a mission to embody grace and compassion in all relationships

Month: January 2013

A More Radical Way

Selma MarchWhen I was as smart as most fifth graders in 1965 in Montgomery, AL, two of my heroes were Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Most everyone I knew shared the feelings for the former.

But I didn’t tell anyone about the latter when he led a march in March from my birthplace in Selma to my hometown in Montgomery.

Dr. King was one of my heroes because he was a Baptist preacher like my daddy, a preacher’s kid like me, and he believed that everyone should be treated with respect and loved because we were children of the Most High.  He taught that when someone hit you, don’t hit back, just like my daddy coached me in life.  And so I didn’t, at least as best I can remember.

My daddy also taught me about a man named Jesus.  And as I’ve grown older and become a preacher myself, I’ve realized just how radical this God Man Jesus was and is.

Luke 6:27-38

 ‘But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

 ‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.’

Wow.  That is radical stuff.

So when I say from my 30+ years of ministry with persons who are single, married, partnered, or divorced, straight, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgendered, that all of us are children of the Most High, we may disagree.  But if you disagree with me, I cannot write you off.  For if we only seek those who agree with us in our faith, what credit is that to us?

For today our words can become our water canons, and our judgment of others our own path to condemnation.

With God’s help, let us choose to be more radical to listen, love, bless, pray, turn the other cheek, and give away what we have.  Otherwise, what credit is that to us?

Thank you for your patience, this is going to take awhile.

Transforming Trash

I was inspired today by children in Paraguay who live on a landfill, and wanted to share it with you.

Children make their own musical instruments, transforming trash into music.  This is about love, courage and creativity.

Their creativity has me wondering.  Maybe if we take whatever we have, as little or as much as it is, and offer it freely to the world, God can use us in ways we never dreamed?  What do you think?

Thank you to Sonya Sutton of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Washington, DC for passing this along on her church’s blog.

Please see the video below.

Peace be with you,


Facing Fears


Looking up at the climb ahead.

A few months ago I participated in a Healthcare Leadership Academy retreat for about 20-25 leaders from the Health System where I work.  This was not a lecture day, but an experiential learning about leadership via a ropes course.

The goal of one of the exercises was to learn to push through the boundaries of your fears as a step to being a more effective leader.  “Face your fears head on and push through your personal boundaries,” was the main message.
Climb to the top of this pole (30 ft high), and when you get to the top, I want you to stand up on top  (18 inch diameter) and let go and put your hands out to your side.  Then jump.I stood before a telephone pole on the course that had small steel handles on each side.  The instructions were:

Did I mention I get a pit in my stomach and wobbly knees at such heights?

I stood at the bottom of the pole and looked up.  Our facilitator coached me.

“What are you feeling right now?” he asked.  “I’m afraid of heights,” I said with a nervous smile.

He responded, “That’s ok, you are not alone in that feeling.”

He continued, “What do you know that is absolutely true for you right now?”

I responded, “I know that these safety ropes will keep me safe even if I fall.”  “Exactly,” he said.

Now, start climbing and when you become afraid, remind yourself of the truth you know.”


Standing on top of the pole.

I took a deep breath, said a prayer, and I climbed the pole with my heart pounding.  After pushing through the fear of falling, I stood on the top with my hands out to my side as my teammates below cheered me on.

Today, I am keenly aware of that same pit in my stomach.  I will drive to Sewanee, TN and check into a dorm room at the Episcopal Seminary.  Over the next 3 and 1/2 days I will do what all persons do who want to be ordained as an Episcopal priest.  I will take “General Ordination Exams” keenly aware that I graduated from seminary over 30 years ago.  Seven tests, three and 1/2 hours each, over 3 and 1/2 days.  Twenty-one hours of testing.

How am I feeling?

I am afraid I will embarrass myself.  I may look foolish when my test results are in.  I may not measure up to my peers.


Relieved after pushing through the fear.

And so today I take a deep breath and acknowledge the truth I know:  This is a spiritual practice, a trust that all will be well even when I don’t feel that way.

My safety ropes are snug and tight around my waist. I am not alone in my fear.  No matter how I do on these tests, I will return to the job I love next Tuesday.

I grab the handle, look up, say a prayer, and take the next step to see what God might be up to in my life once again.  Prayers are welcome.

How do you deal with fear?  How have you overcome it?  I’d love to hear your story.


Below is a 10 minute slideshow from our Retreat (you can move the time bar to 7:40 to see a couple of pics before/after of my pole climbing experience)


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