Shadow Lands


“. . .he want break a bent stalk, and he won’t snuff out a smoldering wick, until he makes justice win. . . Matthew 12:14-21

C. S. Lewis wrote a book entitled Shadow Lands  describing his time of grief after his wife’s death. The title describes my experience.

April 20th I was accidentally given in water a hallucinogenic which was poisoned, three weeks later a well dressed couple came to my door asking for information about  their son. I told them I did not know him, and the man pulled a gun and pointed it at me and said: “He calls you his friend on face book,” and I looked at him and said, “I am his priest–I will not share any information.”  We stared at each other, with me looking at the gun for who knows how long, and I urinated all over myself. The wife was begging her husband to stop and he broke down and started crying. I simply laid my hand on his shoulder and prayed, and than as they were leaving the wife said: “Are you going to call the cops?” I said, “Go in peace.” In reality I wanted to take my walking stick and beat the SOB to pulp.  They left. Since than I have been overwhelmed with depression. I have  simply done  my work.  Along with that has come the daily face book comments, and not so nice emails. But in talking to my therapist this may have been the best thing that could have happened, because it knocked me into looking at my life.

My therapist gave me a quote along time ago by Ta-Nehsi Coates which reads:

“The streets transform every ordinary day into a series of trick questions and every incorrect answer risks a beat down, shooting, or a pregnancy.  None survive unscathed.”

The streets for me began in an environment of wealth and privilege where the only word known for being gay was “fag”; they continued as I entered the church, where I remember a District Superintendent saying to us ministers”If anyone says you are a fag, you will be gone that day.” And I was gone and totally cut off from my friends, and my family.  The streets continued in Hollywood where every day was a series of quick questions and every incorrect answer a beat down, shooting, or rape.  You never survive unscathed. My life has not survived unscathed, and those scars simply heal and ultimately become more beautiful, but you can never go back, only forward.

I have chosen the streets of San Francisco, I have chosen a life “outside the gates” that bring with it the risks, and I do so each day because it is my call and it makes me supremely content.  My whole life has been a call to the streets.  One of the things that each day, teaches me is that I have plenty of judgment, and I do my best not to let it out–I with hold it, because my judgment can “break a bent stalk.” We have to walk with people where they are–our judgments from our own cultural experience can destroy lives. People’s judgments almost destroyed my life, and continue to try to beat me down, and hurt–but I have learned there is only One for whose judgment I am accountable to, and Christ will not “bend the stalk”.

Several nights ago a possible seminary intern went out on the streets with me. At the end of the night she told me “You scare me.  Frankly you talked a language like pig Latin all night.  I believe you bring people up to your language so you can change their lives.” I could not keep from laughing, which made things worse.   And I said: “Only God changes lives, and “pig Latin” I talk every day–from one social strata to the other, for  all of us have our own pig Latin, we simply need to talk each others language.” Needless to say I am not number one on her list.
What I am learning from the past couple of months is that I will listen to any one’s pig Latin, but when they start imposing their way of looking at life on me personally, I will “dust my feet off.” When they have the “right answer”–it is time to move on.  We are all called to listen to each other, and can disagree, but when we have the “right answer”, we are in danger of “breaking a bent stalk.” We close our minds, we close ourselves off from people. For example I literally hate alcohol and tobacco, because of the lives of my family members they have destroyed, but I will never tell anyone not to use them, they have to come to that choice themselves.  It tears me up to see the damage done to the lives of my guys by street drugs–but it is their choice and their decision. I have to respect their decisions–influenced by hurt, rejection, and pain I have no idea of.

We all walk in our own shadow lands, let us go about  not breaking the bent stalk,” so that we can help each other on the journey.

I affirm that Jesus is Lord because he is the Sun that has beamed throughout my life and whether there is life after death–that does not matter–what matters is the Sun shines now.

Soul Food – by Gloria Klinger

Soul food
the food that blesses us
when we sit at table in communion
when we hold out a hand to a stranger
when we walk in another’s shoes
when we practice compassion.

Soul food
the food that nourishes us
when we act from our hearts
when we join with others for a cause
when we rise to meet adversity
when we celebrate abundance around us.

Soul food
the food that connects us
when we prepare meals to mend broken hearts
when we sit in stillness with another’s grief
when we give laughter to the aching world
when we choose to live from our essence.

Soul food
the food that enlivens us
when we nurture others on the path
when we recognize our gifts and use them
when we give and receive joy
when we feed the world with our light.

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Fr. River Damien Sims, D.S.T., D.Min. candidate

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