Archive for May, 2018

Just Be Ready!

May 31, 2018

Just Be Ready!

“The only way to get something for nothing is to be lucky.

It’s easy to be thankful when you lucky.

Everyone wants to be lucky.

If I can’t be lucky

I’ll just be ready.

Psalm 126 Ivan Anderson, student, Psalms in Ordinary Voices: A Representation of the 150 Psalms by Men, Women, and Children.

“The great illusion of leadership is that man can be lead out of the desert by someone who has never been there.” Henri Nouwen

Last night I received an email from a friend, whom I have not even talked to in over a year, telling me that three Catholic Workers, had contacted him about my post where I shared being taken to the police station for being drunk, and was wondering if they should try to get me in a program. It amused me because if someone posts on
Face Book about having trouble with depression, suicidal thoughts etc, I contact them by phone, directly. It amused me because in reality there are no Catholic Workers in the area I consider friends, colleagues maybe, but certainly not friends, since I never see them. Rather than come to me directly, they went to another, made me wonder if I scare people that much.

Social media puts us in a surreal world. We can read, and not understand. The post was written to share my own journey, and to be open in case the press tried to accuse me of hiding it. This was a one time thing, and I wondered how much gossip and harm I have caused myself, and possibly others by this post. We are never aware of the harm we do on social media. My friend told me he thought I made a mistake, and apparently as always he was right.

I also realize I may have caused harm to others through my open posts during the past year when I have been sick. I had very little face to face contact with anyone, and so in sharing I said things that probably should not have been said, and I am sorry. Social media falsifies friendship and leads us to say things we should not say. The developers of Face Book use the term “friends”, and cheapens the real meaning, of loyalty, devotion, and sharing. 

On my desk I have two photos of me sitting with my friend at a bungee jump in Mexico. It had been a rough week, but the one thing I knew was that this was my friend, because through the last four years, and when I was sick, he was with me, and we shared with each other in person and on social media, but when things got tough always in person. The sharing personally builds bonds, not social media, sharing the flesh and blood with one another, builds the bonds. This bond which is unbreakable is not co-dependence, but a bond built through sharing, suffering, fighting, and always coming back together. It is a bond built on openness and honesty. Not one built on surreal interchanges on social media.

In the City there are homeless on every corner, in L.A. pretty much everywhere accept the Palisades. This morning I saw people scavenging for food on the tables at a restaurant across the street. In Marin I see people pan handling on car ramps. It tears my heart up, and when I am told I need to take a break, or harden my heart by well meaning people I can not, for one thing it is impossible to take a break living in the City–homeless are every where,  and to harden my heart, when I live sometimes on the edge would be in humane. 

When you have been in the desert you can never harden your heart. I am overwhelmed with raising money for the number of kids I work with on the street. And it is difficult with the numbers increasing.

We are all in the desert whether we want to admit it or not. We can hide, we can look the other way, but we are all in the same boat. Jesus became the Son of Man in living his life to fullest with people. That is our possibility.

As our young high school psalmist tells us, we should be “ready”. I have been lucky for so many years, now my luck has run out, so I am simply going to be ready, to be open to what comes, to take the tumbles, the pain, and live and walk with it. There are no certainties in life, no black and white guarantees, life is always uncertain, and only in living the uncertainties, living in the desert and being ready can we ever begin to grasp our own true humanness, and I am trying, but just beginning. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

That Sort of Savior

May 30, 2018

That Sort of Savior

I Peter 1:-18-25. .”love one another deeply from the heart”. Mark 10:32-45

The disciples really did not know who Jesus was–they questioned him, and ultimately they died following him as they evolved into knowing him as the one who loved them deeply.

Our experience of Jesus is one who walks with the poorest–physically, spiritually, who never judges, and who offers the heart of love. We try to live that out. Maybe we are wrong, but it is that experience that guides our life.

We live in a time where everything is in question. We are accused all the time of “lying”, very black and white. The reality is if you judge somethings from a black and white point of view, we do lie.

Last night a couple came to our door, angry. The father accused us of lying, “You said you did not know our son, and we found out you see him all the time?’  The response was, “We said we did not know where he was.” The gentleman started yelling when we refused to tell him anything we knew, and threw a cup of hot coffee in our face.

We make up stories when people want us to share about the youth we work with–we never tell people their stories. We keep their secrets. It is much easier to make up a story than to tell them we can not talk about it, because they feel hurt. A friend of ours mother said recently, “I knew you would never tell me the truth if I asked you, through the years, because of your loyalty, and now I appreciate that, at the time I hated you, it was your loyalty and truthfulness with him that changed him, he knew he could trust you.”
There was an article on Face Book about President Obama being a liar–he did lie-he could not always tell people the truth because of national security etc, but he was truthful about safety and other things. Frankly we do not want to face the pain, and the horror at things done in our name to protect us.

We have learned no one wants to hear of half what we see on the streets–the violence, the mental illness, the ineffectiveness of government services, the pain we experience at the hands of people. We either do not talk about it, or if asked, we lie.

So yes we lie, but when we are talking to each other, and about us, we never lie. I have two best friends to whom are absolutely truthful to about ourselves, and have learned that they can take the worst. They earned the trust. It is funny sometimes when they think I am lying, I am telling the truth. But what we share is about ourselves, not about others.

We want to be black and white–frankly somethings are none of our business, and other things can harm our neighbors. 

The truth is we all lie, about little things, for whatever reason, to protect others, to feel good about ourselves, we are simply human beings on the journey of life.

Ultimately for Jesus what matters is: .”love one another deeply from the heart”, as Peter tells us. For in loving deeply we never have to lie, because in that love we know what to ask, and how to respect each other.

Fr. River Damien Sims, D.Min.

The Bounds of Holiness

May 28, 2018

The Bounds of Holiness

“You are a people holy to me.” says God Lev. 20:26). We come to know how holy we are by facing into the horror of how we have been wounded, and have wounded. The deepening awareness of the wrongs, we have committed against one another is a function of the recognition of our holiness.

We are a paradox because we can not  participate in the holiness of God without committing blasphemy, because we are at once a holy people and a sinful people. We live in the grey areas of life. We walk in grace. We set boundaries and those boundaries are based on our loving our neighbor. And we violate those boundaries in our hatred and judgment of one another, our failure to provide for those without, and in our  ability not to forgive.

Today is Memorial Day.  Today we recognize those who have died for our freedom, in all wars. Granted there is a nastiness in war, and my own personal belief  is that war is evil in all forms. But we are called to recognize those who have given their lives, their limbs, who have sacrificed in war. From those sacrifices we have the ability to argue, to be free in our expressions, to make our own way in this country. These men and women fought for their belief in freedom, and justice, and for that we should honor them. We have what we have because of their commitment.  In the same way we honor the flag.

Jesus, who was truth, let the chips fall where they would. He called anything that violated the universal love of God wrong. That is the truth that sets us free, the boundary we are called to follow. He died for that boundary, and in many ways the people who have died for our country, died for the same boundary–but we live in the grey areas–and so we live in the paradox.

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Diversity/The Holy Trinity

May 27, 2018


Matthew 28:16-28

The concept of the Trinity is a symbol of the diversity of God, a concept of the evolution of God.

The God of the Hebrews was a tribal God, a God who was violent God who was magical, and who repaid with fire. He/She was a reflection of the evolution of humanity. For humanity has been evolving, from our beginnings in the jungle, and I believe that has been a part of God’s plan. We are continually evolving, continually growing.

Through out the Bible the God the Hebrews evolved into a righteous and a God of justice and love, truly becoming God the Father; and the Father in his love for humanity evolved into the person of Jesus, who became in tune with the perfect evolution of love. It lead him to go the cross because of that love; and from the oneness of the Father and the Son, came the power of the Holy Spirit who is God’s all loving arms for humanity.

This one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, calls us to see the diversity of all of creation and to love and care for that creation.

Throughout my own life I have come to see God not as a miracle giver–I was kicked out of my profession, out on the streets, I have been ill, and am difficult, and in the last year have been in fear really a lot, I lay here some nights and do not sleep in fear, and God does not take away the pain, the fear, the mistakes, but what God in Jesus has done he has  been present with me. And I know that “nothing will ever separate me from the love of God.” I expect no miracles. I expect no miracles for my kids on the street, I expected no miracles when my brother and son were killed, I have expected no miracles when  I have been stabbed and beaten, and am continually threatened, but what I know is that I am not alone, and that is enough.

The Holy Trinity expects miracles out of us, to be his hands, feet, and mouth in the world and to bring healing and wholeness to the world. The Trinity calls us to feed that person in front of you, to fight with all your might for health care, housing, and mental health care, and food for every one, and to give of our money and goods to all have. 

The Holy Trinity represents diversity, where we all are different,  and we accept that diversity–in race, creed, sexual orientation, education, and religion, and in that appreciation work for healing of the Planet.

Fr. River Damien Sims, D.Min.

P.O. Box 6242656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Be Merciful!

May 25, 2018

Be Merciful!

James 5:7-12

Last night there was a Face Book post from a homeless man. He described going to bed folded in a blanket, afraid of being beaten up, cold all night long, getting up with no idea how he would find food. He had “go fund me” app. He is a man who once worked in a  factory that laid off its workers and has been unable to find a job several years ago. The responses were a mixture of condemnation and  of telling him to keep his chin up. No much money on the app from his 1000 “friends”. Some nice words though (sarcastic).

Yesterday morning I  received call from a young man, who is in a private  school. He is a graduating senior. He was crying. The night before he was at party and got smashed (and I do not mean having sex), and found himself on the street in a suburb whose police chase dogs most of the time. He was picked up, taken in, parents called. Friends took tons of social media photos and posted them. The school will be taking action against him. We took a walk and talked, and he started crying, and I put my arm around him, as he talked of being betrayed, and of how stupid he was. He talked of how he felt betrayed by his friends and of how the social media had gone wild among the adults. I called his best friend and asked him why he posted the photos, and he laughingly said, “We are having fun, we all do that?” I responded: “How would you like me to post the photo  I received of you jumping off the pier in Santa Cruz drunk on your ass last month, maybe I can have some fun posting with a comment.”  I scared him to death. To him it was just posting, no thought of the ramifications. No thought of the pain he caused his friend. No sense of compassion in the moment, and he really felt sad, but social media, texting, email, take away the personal, we can not see the pain we cause. It is when you see the person that your heart is moved and compassion springs forth. We have become an age of distance from people.

I am depressed over both instances. I see people on the street starving, I see people who have everything being destructive towards others without caring, or even giving a damn. I sit with people over dinner who talk in theory about what the government and churches should do, no thought to feeding the person outside their door. And they are the most lonely people in the world.

People have asked me if I ever wanted to have children and my response is “No”, to live in a world that is deteriorating, dying, no. Pure and simple. I have had young friends tell me over and over their generation maybe the last to enjoy the best of what we have, and from what I see happening that is true.

The question that comes to my mind: Is are we just animals who have evolved, and basically are still uncaring primates?

or is their a possibility we can evolve into living out the words of the most evolved person in history, Jesus, who said: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That is the question.

Fr. River Damien Sims, D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Everything Is A Gift!

May 24, 2018

Everything Is A Gift!

James 5:1-6; Mark 9:41-50

Our readings today describe life as a gift to be lived for others. Poverty in spirit is a matter of gratitude. When we recognized that everything is a gift, we grow in love of the Giver, and in return we give out of that love.

There is a lady who lives on Nob Hill. She has a disability. This woman discovered a pizza shop that would give her day old pizza. And so she began picking up the pizza three or four times a week and coming down to Polk Street and giving it out to the homeless. She is known as “The Pizza Lady”.  She is not just giving out pizza– she listens, soothes, and loves, without asking anything in return. In the middle of the cold, the pain, and fear of the streets, she brings a presence of joy, and comfort, simply by listening. “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink belong to Christ.”

This lady is has salt in her life, and salt will permeate and and make food delicious. In the same way if each one of us would simply move out from our social media, our self-centered focus on making money, and simply go out and feed one person, listen to one person, in time that salt will spread, and in spreading it will change our lives, the lives of people on the street, and the lives of politicians.  It takes one person, and from that one person goodness comes, and spreads.

Poverty in spirit is a matter of gratitude–be grateful for life, the ability to get up in the morning, the ability to talk to people, and to enjoy people, be grateful for all of life, and in so doing, give to others.

Fr. River Damien Sims, D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Become As A Child!

May 22, 2018

Become as A Child!

“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me, but the one who sent me.” Mark 9:37

“It is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life.” Ephesians 2:8-10

Jesus has a tenderness for children, and in every adult there is an inner child: vulnerable, sensitive, playful, open. Before the world cast its film of familiarity, boredom, and cynicism the child in us was full of wonder.  It is only through wonder that we can experience the glory of God.

It is only through that wonder that we can laugh at ourselves, see ourselves as vulnerable, afraid, and yet unique and awesome. It is only through that wonder that we can see each other as equals regardless of age, IQ, race, creed, religion, sexual orientation.

There was a recent study that showed that adolescent males had a “deep inner life,” which we found humorous, because adolescent males are like adults–they think deeply, they hurt, and they suffer with the same questions of life, and may not express it in adult terms, but they think and live deeply. It is the cowboy culture, that man up culture that sets them back, that causes them not to express their feelings and hence the suicides and emotional problems.

When we move into our judgment of others as adults, we are destructive. Rather than judge, criticize, we should put those side, and wonder, and love, and play as children.

Many of the great saints retained that capacity for wonder, a delight in creator and creation, an enduring youthfulness. The great Dominican mystic, Meister Eckhardt, joyfully claimed that, “my soul is as young as when I was created, aye, much younger. And I tell you, I should be ashamed were she not younger tomorrow than today.”

We are God’s work of art–let us wonder a gain, let us be children in our wonderment! Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



Being Honest

May 21, 2018


This week end ended up for me in a way that has been the most embarrassing  in the time I have been in San Francisco. In fact it is the culmination of my experience in the last year. I feel so ashamed.

Saturday night I got so drunk I took a walk in Marin, and was picked up. I do not remember a thing. When I woke up the next morning a Captain came down and told me “There will be no charges, and all records of you being brought in will be deleted.” Privilege once again saved my ass. Well I do not feel privileged any more. I felt ashamed, embarrassed my friends, and I realized for the first time the work ahead, and what I had been looking at in therapy was really real.

For the first time I really faced the trauma of the past year, and admit I need to squarely meet it in the face. In therapy we have talked about the effect of truma, but I could not bring myself to really recognize the pain and destruction it was causing.   I am putting this on Facebook and social media because I want say I really do not give  a damn any more about what “advice” people give me–for each response that is negative, and that is judgmental, and that assumes one know me is painful, and that I have to listen that “still small voice,” that has always lead me home, and I am putting this on social media frankly to come out with the fact that I am far from perfect, and that all of us are far from perfect, we have warts, and it is accepting each other that we find healing for each other.Until we face that fact we are going to be hurt, and hateful, it is in recognizing each other as fellow travelers on the way that we find healing.

Last June when I accepted the responsibility of being chaplain for a young man on trial for murder my “assumption” was that my friends and others would understand I was just doing my job.

But it brought me back to a time in my first parish, on the first week there,where the “town bully” was shot in broad day light in the middle of the street–and no one saw anything, and no one has ever been brought to justice–I was asked to do his funeral because every other pastor in town refused, and I did the funeral. Afterward I provided pastoral care for his widow and children. For the next year and a half in that town I was shunned, threatened , hated by the towns people. I left there broken.

In the same way through old friends walking away, face book, social media, drop in donations, it began with this decision. I was counseled to let “this person go.” I do not let people go when they are in need of pastoral care, period.  Added to that was that was four deaths, one of which witnessed, and another where  I was there soon after, and holding both in my arms. At night I have night mares of the blood. And than the two surgeries, one of which I am still recovering from.

I have felt like I was drowning for along time,  thinking  of running away,and sometimes even suicide of which I know there is no possibility. So I began smoking pot and drinking heavily, to cover the fear and the pain of being alone. People always comment I know a lot of people and have a lot of friends. I am surrounded by people, people like being around me, but they are not friends, I have few friends, and now they are even less. Life has become very lonely.
This incident has made me hellar lonely, hellar afraid, and as my therapists said the first time “you see what we have been talking about, and you can face it.” He also told me: “It is in these times you know who your friends are, and you also know you have a gift for accepting people as they are.”

And so I get up, and I begin a gain.  I trust in Christ who loves me no matter what. What the future will bring, I do not know. whether it is here, I do not know, but what I know is ministry, and is my call, and I am depressed, afraid, scared as hell, wobbly, but I have to look the devil in the eye and and face the pain, I can not run away from this pain. There are no easy answers, but joy will come in the morning, joy will come in the morning. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



May 18, 2018

John 21:15-19–Reflect

Ramadan, the Muslim period of fasting, is a way of identifying with those forgotten in our society who have no food, housing, or support. Our papers are full of articles about the homeless, and our Mayoral campaigns have plans for solutions.

During Ramadan, Muslims fast and pray from sun up to sundown, and remember the marginalized, at night they celebrate with a large meal, and pray. They feed the marginalized.

As we fast, as our stomachs starts to growl, and as we pass by restaurants where we normally eat, we get a sense of what it means to be with out–to not be able to have the money to buy something in order to go the restroom, to be unable to buy something to fill our stomachs.

Let us join the Muslims in this period of fasting, maybe just forego one meal a day,give the money to someone on the street,  and as we go about our daily business, to look at people on the street, and begin to see them just like us–insecure, lonely, afraid of friendship, hungry both externally, and internally, and reach out and walk with them as brothers and sisters. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

My Bags Are Packed and Ready to Go!

May 13, 2018

My Bags Are Packed And I am Ready to God!

Last night at 11:08 p.m. was the anniversary of my brother’s Stacy’s death. He was taking his driving test  the next day and so we were practicing. He skidded, and Stacy died instantly, and I did not receive a scratch. I remember holding his head in my arms as we waited for am ambulance in the small town I served a church in. He was my life, he was the most important person in my life, and he was gone. His  death have shaped my life in good ways and in bad ways. I still blame myself for letting  him talk me into driving so late. And always on this night I see his face in those moment of holding his head.

A minister friend said to me after the funeral: “You now have a choice you can let his death define you in rigid ways, or let it free you into being who you are supposed to be,” and that is what his death did, freed me into living life in the fullness with out judgment, which I am still growing in. It also brought me into dark areas–that is why I live in the gray areas, nothing is black and white.

That is one of the reason’s that on the anniversary of deaths close friends and relatives of people I know I spend time with them, life moves on, but loss never fully does.

I was at a friend’s last night, thinking I could get through the night without crying, and I knew as the time approached, I was going to start crying. So I left. I am glad I left because I stopped on my way home and cried for an hour or so. Until today I never shared one word with them.

At 3:00 a.m. I received a phone call to come to the hospital where a fifty year old with ALS was dying, and I gave him the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and sat by his bed until 6 a.m. when he died. I saw a body ravaged by illness, ravaged to complete destruction. He has no family, his family rejected him because he was gay.

This morning I preached at a church in a fog, with much heaviness hanging over me.

Life is not fair. Scott Peck tells us that when we realize that life is difficult, than we can find enjoyment—life is difficult.

Right now I sit here and feel totally alone, for I feel like I fail with people, especially those I am the closest too, and I do the best that I can, but I feel like I fail.  I have a bag, ready to walk out and just go. Each day I struggle, and each day, I say the Apostle’s Creed and keep on tracking.

But what I do know is that I am good with sitting with people in their suffering, pain, fear, loneliness, and dying, listen, and be present to them.

  Memorial Service for Robert (Bob Reid)

Fern Alley, 1:00 p.m., Monday, May 14, 2018

The Call To Worship:

Affirmation of Faith: (Unison)

“I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the Virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died and was buried;

he descended to the dead.

On the third day he rose again, he ascended into heaven,

is seated at the right hand of the Father,

and will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life ever lasting. Amen.”

Call to Prayer, Pastoral Prayer, The Lord’s Prayer

Reading of the Holy Scripture: Psalm 23, Selected from John

Remembering Bob—Any one is invited to Share



Fr. River Damien Sims. D.Min.