Archive for January, 2018

Be Yourself

January 17, 2018

Be Yourself

Mark 3:1-6

In our Scripture this morning Jesus is judged harshly for healing a person, in much the same way we use our red tape and regulations to judge others who are  healers.

I am having surgery today, taken off all medication last night, and have have been crying in pain the last few hours. My doctors are concerned because I have been weakened by an illness prior to this injury and their are several possibilities with this injury. It is strange I am not afraid, not because of a “belief” in a Supreme Being, but because I see the face of Jesus in the guys who walk with me. They have been willing to get their hands dirty in my pain and fear. And they have given me the strength to survive, and to walk with people in their fears, to get my hands dirty, and to be myself.

Henri Nouwen once wrote:

“Often we want to be somewhere other than where we are, or even to be someone other than who we are. We tend to compare ourselves constantly with others and wonder why we are not as rich, as intelligent, as simple, as generous, or as saintly as they are. Such comparisons make us feel guilty, ashamed, or jealous. It is very important to realize that our vocation is hidden in where we are and who we are. We are unique human beings, each with a call to realize in life what nobody else can, and to realize it in the concrete context of the here and now.
We will never find our vocations by trying to figure out whether we are better or worse than others. We are good enough to do what we are called to do. Be yourself!”
I struggle with that, and in these last months the guys walking with me have taught me one thing: to be myself, and I am very good at what I do when I am myself. In fact I am damn good at what I do when I am myself.
Yesterday my friend Eric celebrated the Eucharist and anointed me, and as he repeated the words of the Eucharist I realized it is really the first time I have  not heard those words in a long time–because I am always repeating those words. I never hear them, and as the beauty of the the Book of Common Prayer touched my heart,  I saw Christ saying: “I have always been with you.”
He has been with me in my two seventeen and eighteen year old friends who showed up yesterday to see me. You would think they are just typical Marin athletes, but each has been Christ to me in these weeks. One met me in a park one day to simply hang out, and I broke down, afraid of the fever and depression I was having, and he put his arms around me and held me, and comforted me, and checked on  me throughout the day, with no judgment. K said, “You are my friend, you never judge me, you never tell on me, we are a lot alike; the other snap chatted me wanting to be friends because, “You are friends with all my friends, and you seem cool.” We have talked for hours on snap chat and I realized I shared all of my stuff as well, and he his,and there was no judgment, just friendship. These two have been the face of Christ. They have taught me to be myself. K’s photo is on my desk posing with two transgender women, and it is humorous because I was pushing his boundaries and he responded with just being him self.
There is E, 17,  who has snap chatted me in the middle of many  nights in my fear when I have high fever, when I was facing surgery three weeks ago, last night when I was over come with fear of no friends and of this surgery today. On the surface he is a crazy seventeen year old, but to me he is my friend, and the face of Christ, and he has taught me to be myself.
There is M and J, as close to me as my  brother was, homies, closer to me than anyone has ever been, have fought with me, and loved me despite myself, both 18; Marilyn  who is nearly 80 and knows me like the back of her hand. They all have taught me to be myself and in them to see the face of Christ.
All of these guys have offered me hope.  You see hope comes through getting one’s hands dirty, through facing people without judgment and bureaucratic crap as in our Scripture. It comes from meeting people where they are, and looking into their eyes and seeing their humanity.  We do not have to have education or skills to love people, only my friend Marilyn has those skills, and she has thrown them out the window and simply loved. We  have to open our  hearts–and let people in. We have to live in Hope as described by Henri Nouwen:
“Optimism and hope are radically different attitudes. Optimism is the expectation that things-the weather, human relationships, the economy, the political situation, and so on-will get better. Hope is the trust that God will fulfill God’s promises to us in a way that leads us to true freedom. The optimist speaks about concrete changes in the future. The person of hope lives in the moment with the knowledge and trust that all of life is in good hands.

All the great spiritual leaders in history were people of hope. Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Mary, Jesus, Rumi, Gandhi, and Dorothy Day all lived with a promise in their hearts that guided them toward the future without the need to know exactly what it would look like. Let’s live with hope.”
Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!
Fr. River Damien Sims, D.Min.
Temenos Catholic Worker


January 16, 2018


“Love is giving people  the ability to destroy you but trusting they will not.. .”

I gave the excuse to my friend Marilyn to go home to see her grand daughter yesterday. That was my excuse, I went home and cried for hours, just cried. It was funny, I could not stop crying, I just simply cried. Not from pain or fear, simply from my on inability to trust people who care, and I tend to push them away. I am always the strong one, the one who gives,now I need to accept help.

“Love is giving people  the ability to destroy you but trusting they will not.. .”

One cold, rainy night a number of years ago, sixteen year old, Sam came to my door. He had called me names, even spit on me, in the two months I had known him. He was running a terribly high fever, and I invited him in, and as he was laying down, said, “I was counting on you.” I took care of him for four days.

“Love is giving people  the ability to destroy you but trusting they will not.. .”

My friend Marilyn, who is nearly 80, flew from Michigan to take care of me. She was my boss, and friend, and cares, regardless of what I say; And I tend to push her away and she keeps coming back.

“Love is giving people  the ability to destroy you but trusting they will not.. .”

My friend, Matt, wanted to know when he could come in, and visit, and I told him “You are too busy with school and work,” and I bit my tongue, because of all people I want to see him more than any one else. We decided tonight that I was the “Chief of bitc…”. And I have been, through the nearly three years I have known him I have pushed him away many times, he keeps coming back, and tonight I told him that his list will be long when I die in a hundred years and he can read it at my funeral– he keeps coming back..

“Love is giving people  the ability to destroy you but trusting they will not.. .”

My friend Jacob, who is my homie, has put up with me from Amsterdam to now; and reminds me “you can not walk alone;” I try to push him away and  he is still here–

“Love is giving people  the ability to destroy you but trusting they will not.. .”

My friend Kevin, who one day listened to me in a Park in Marin, as I cried out my fears, and whom I continue to push away and doubt, and always keeps coming back–

“Love is giving people  the ability to destroy you but trusting they will not.. .”

My friend, Ethan, who has talked to me on snap chat in the late hours of the night as I ran fever early on and now as I have dealt with fear and pain; he always says “You are loved,” —

“Love is giving people  the ability to destroy you but trusting they will not.. .”

Vicki and Kevin who have for  years put up with me–

“Love is giving people  the ability to destroy you but trusting they will not.. .”

I am terrified of people seeing my weakness, seeing me not as strong, seeing me not as fun and happy–

but I am still learning that “A friend is one who sees through your act and still enjoys the show.”

The truth is that is all of us–we all are afraid to love.  Jesus loved  and was crucified, for it, and continues to love and calls us to love. He is continually hurt by our rejection and lack of compassion for our brothers and sisters.

He calls us to to give people the ability to destroy us-but trusting they will not, and when they do=to continue to love as he loves, for it is only in loving that we find true life. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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


Loving All People

January 15, 2018

Loving All People

“I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine, and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness” Thomas Merton

On my wall and desk I have photos of people whom I have known from the years–from Helen Prejean to River Phoneix, and photos of the youth I have served  and serve. There is the photo of the 18 year old who stabbed me, the man who murdered my son, and of whom I ministered to as he died, and the photos of street kids who struggle every day.

Around my neck I wear a broach  with the photos of my two best friends,  Photos for me are a reminder of the stories of people and of my interaction of love with them. Through them their spirits speak to me and remain with me long after they are gone.

Thomas Merton saw the same in people with out the judgments we put around people. A friend of mine says that “People are sh..t,” and I agree we all are, and it is in encountering the grace of Jesus that our lives are changed and we can enter into sharing love and care to others.

Our streets are full of tents, people laying in our alleys, and we pass by them, ignore them. The reality is that nothing will change until we make a self sacrifice in our lives of money, time, energy and each one of us give up something-for this to change. Self-sacrifice is not  easy, not very rewarding, but in self-sacrifice we encounter the risen

Christ in the face of each human being. It means we get our hands dirty.

Fr. River Damien Sims, D.Min


The Gift/The Ying and the Yang

January 10, 2018

The Gift–The Ying and the Yang

Mark 1:29-39

Tonight I sat by the bed of a seventy five year old man who has been suffering from cancer. I met him at Toast one morning while I was eating breakfast, several years ago, and we have walked together since that time. He was not a believer, he challenged me,and as he got sicker, screamed in his pain and fear. Tonight he asked me to baptize him and I did, celebrated Holy Communion with him and gave him the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and he said, “Do you think God will forgive me?” And I looked him in the eyes and said, “Most definitely,” and he died.

Yesterday 27 year old Sam came to my door with a gift, and he was wet, had his four dogs with him, and I took him out to eat, He is homeless, and has very little support, and he suffers.

Each day for over half of my life I have experience suffering directly, I look suffering in the eye, I hold the hands of suffering, I am abused and by suffering–this is my gift. Where it comes from, I have stopped asking–it is a gift given to me, and to not use it means my own inner destruction. Suffering and I have become friends through the years. That is the ying within me.

The yang for me is my own expectation of others to walk with people in suffering and to walk with me.  The fact is we all suffer, suffer immensely, we cover it up through drinking, pills, chasing the money train, and have trouble looking at others as they suffer. So I apologize to all if I have expected to much during the past couple of days, and in the future– I am sorry, really sorry. I have five people I trust and I worry I have put to much on them. I will not be looking at your responses, because I do better listening–my phone number is below, call me. We all meet each other where we are.

The truth is I have always lived life on the edge, I always am taking risks, I walk on the edge. I am always laughing at the face of death and daring her to take me.That comes from my own suffering, but also in so doing I see the face of the living Christ.

The shock is wearing off now, and as I see this injury  as challenge of a hill to climb. There will be pain and fear, but it is still climbing a hill from where I will enter into ministry in new and different ways. I will fall back into the yang, but in our Scripture this morning it is Jesus calling the demons out and Jesus will call my demons out and provide healing as he does to all of us. To the gentleman who died tonight he called his demons out and he is has entered into the kingdom, to Sam, our time together provided hope, and care. And I end with this:

Go slowly,

Consent to it

But don’t wallow in it

Know it as a place of germination

And growth

Remember the light

Take and outstretched hand if you find one

Exercise unused senses

Find the path by walking in it

Practice trust

Watch for the dawn.

(Marilyn Chandler McEntyre

Again I apologize for my expectations, any remarks I have made, and if I put to much on you!

Join me in watching for the dawn!

Fr. River Damien Sims, D.Min.


Temenos Catholic Worker

Living on the Edge

January 9, 2018

Living on the Edge

This after noon I saw my surgeon–and he looked me in the eye and said: “Father, the tear is worst than we expected and there is damage done to one of the bones, and it is going to be a very difficult process.” In other words there may be permanent damage. He then said, “I talked to your primary physician about where to go, and she called you a “street fighter”, that you would fight with everything you have, in every possible way to the death” so I should   give u a chance of a recovery through the most painful regimen of exercise and physical therapy,” and I will have to get down to 155 pounds. So that is the road over the next 12 months we are taking. And I will recover fully, and that you can bet on.

I felt alone, terrified,and was in tears,and called a friend, and I could not get a word in edge wide, but basically she told me, I would be alright,and she  had to go. Basically she reminded me that my “kid friends” were just that, “kids” as well and she would be their for me, such comfort. I am absolutely furious. Had no time to listen, to let me cry.

And I thought those “kid” friends have been with me these past months, and where were you. I became so tired that I got to my bed and fell asleep. I had shut my phone off so I did not have to talk to any of my “kid” friends, because I did not know what to say.

And as I went in and out of sleep I heard a comment my friend, my “kid” friend, the one I trust more than any one else in the world, said to me at 3 last night outside his house,”You are one of the boys, River”, and I looked into his eyes, and he said, “I mean it!” which meant I am simply their friend pure and simple. And this friend, and my other “kid” friend who happens to be my health care power of attorney, have put up with me, I have pushed them a way so much in the last couple of months, and they pull me back in-=so I do not tolerate criticism of either one of them.
They are the best friends I have ever had, like brothers.

I think back to the final evaluation before my ordination and being licensed as a therapist and my supervisor a kind woman, looked me directly in my eyes and said: “You have a gift, one in which you open your heart in such a way that adolescents can  enter in, and you are friends, and in that friendship, you are able to help them change their lives by simply walking with them, but this gift will cause you much pain, and one day you will be faced with a choice–to enter into their world almost completely  and in so doing you will do your best work, but also have much pain and rejection.”

One of the best friends I have ever had walked away from me because she saw me in their world, and I would not share anything about her grandson, I was simply a “kid”s, and immature–that is her opinion.

A couple of days ago I received a call from a mom whose son had broken his arm skate boarding who was in the hospital getting it treated, and she asked me to come and take him home and said. that “two of his and your friends are waiting to see you as well.” At the hospital there were two sixteen year old’s in their school uniforms and my seventeen year old friend in jeans and having his armed worked on. I commented, “you were stupid enough to try to skate down California” and he said, “Don’t give me that sh…t, you would have been  there with me accept for that shoulder, ” and we laughed. The other two were joking around and one handed me a Christmas card, with  a plane ticket to ski with them in Utah over the break, and one said,”Now you two can chase the girls while we are skiing” and laughed. I asked one of them if he would like to stay with me the night after the surgery since I was suppose to have someone there. He goes and comes back and said,”Well I need a 150 hours of community service, so I am going to come the night before, we will party, and than I will uber you to the hospital and stay with you, and come home and stay as long as you need, and we will party, or my mom says  you can come to my house, and I will have my hours,” and he laughed. You see I see them as only my friends, pure and simple.

This is what ministry is–simply walking, hanging out, loving, and in that walk show love, care, and acceptance. Ministry is about opening your heart to others, and taking a chance on being hurt. And ministry is being hurt. It is not easy, but the fulfillment, is hellar cool.

This is a time of pain and fear, accidents happen, sh..t happens, but what matters is friend ship and loyalty. I laugh at my accident even now where I tripped and fell flat on my face, but what I remember most of all are my friends who walk with me. Long after the pain is gone, the faces of my two friends, will stay with me.

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


Temenos Catholic Worker

Moment by Moment

January 6, 2018

One Second At A Time

Seventeen year old Andrew has just left. He came an hour and a half ago thinking of suicide. His life is not easy living on the streets. Andrew ruminates a lot about killing himself. As he was leaving he hugged me and said: “I feel safe talking to you because you never threaten to 51/50 me, you listen, but it is because you are just like me, you think of it to. I see it in your eyes a lot lately.” And I told him truthfully he was right. I do understand because it is moment by moment for me as well. As it is for so many, so many.


This upcoming surgery is scary. I have lied through my teeth to the doctors about having someone stay with me, even pick me up. Being in a cast for six weeks is scary. I will be alone most of the time. I have felt guilty when I expect to much of friends. I feel really like I have failed, and so I understand Andrew’s feelings. People ask me so many questions, and now I simply evade them because they wear me out.

It is moment by moment. What I hold onto are the simple things—being there for my guys, being there for Opal who is so totally a lone, and the fact I would hurt and disappoint so many people. It would also give my enemies satisfaction to say “he was a coward,” and that is one thing I am not.

And what warms my heart  and gives me hope more than anything at the moment, and gives me joy as I reflect is that my friend is giving me a dachshund for my birthday in eight weeks, and the thought of having a pet to love and be so non-judgmental means so much to me, and the fact my friend is showing me his love in that manner gives me hope. We have placed a part of our payment down, I talk to the breeder every other day, and the young girl is five days old today.

Scott Peck once wrote: “Life is difficult, once you understand that, you can live it productively.”

I will not hurt myself, but I think about it. Life is so f..cking difficult and painful.

There are no magic answers.  It is not a matter of money, housing, that prevents these feelings, it is having hope, having a trust in God that keeps us going.  The Spirit moves in the  little things of life to bring us hope, and for me it is a puppy at the moment. The little things. Moment by moment! Take time to listen and be present—the look in Andrew’s eyes when he left was reward enough. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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

Temenos Catholic Worker


Who Are You?

January 2, 2018

Who Are You?

John 1:19-28

Early New Years’ morning I tripped in a drive way and chipped my arm and the lower part of my side is bruised; last week my car was damaged in an accident; what I remember about New Years’ Eve it  was the most awesome time I had  with my two best friends, and with the accident it was a great night with four of my friends–if one of them had been hurt it would have torn me a part; you see sh..t happens, material items are unimportant, accidents happen, that is life, but what is important are the people. Items can be replaced. Items are nothing. People are everything.

I have two items that mean the world to me–a cross with a stone in its center, given to me by a young homeless guy in the Haight who had the opportunity to sell it for a hundred dollars and saw me and said, “I want River to have it because he loves us,” and a bracelet given to me by a friends mom.  For as I looked at it I saw a beautiful piece of jewelry and than I realized it was a gift from a lady who has struggled with me, and I  thought, “she likes me”, and that meant more to me than anything. Those are the two items that mean the most to me. What matters is the people in our lives. It is easy to understand accidents they are black and white. But an illness that is illusive, not detectable, that is a different story.

These past months I have been struggling with a fever, weigh loss, and getting weaker. I have been afraid, scared to death. I am so unsure of myself, I question, I doubt, and I keep on going. I have felt judgement from all circles–and people giving one opinion after another. Face book is horrible.  I broke down and cried in front of my physician the other day and she said: “F….k them, you are sick, you are recovering, but it is going to take time, just take it easy, and remember who your friends are,  you have found that out in this time, in a few months you will be back to yourself.”

Throughout this time people have commented, “You never judge me,” over and over, and I realize that is my greatest gift, and it comes from being judged through the years, it is a gift that is priceless, but it has come with a price, a great price, and I would not trade it for anything.

More importantly I imagine Jesus coming  to me in the middle of the night in so many ways as I have sweated off my fevers, and his smile is that of saying “I love you,” and that is all that matters, and there is no judgment.

And the words of Abraham Lincoln come to me from his first inauguration:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it we must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory–will yet swell the chorus of the union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels our nature.”

Those words are a reminder of what we can be. Let the “better angels of our nature” guide us as friends of all.

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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

Temenos Catholic Worker