Heron as Teacher

Great Blue Heron by Mike Baird

Philip bought me two Mary Oliver poetry books for my birthday. Why I Wake Early, and Dog Songs. I love them. They are spiritual refreshment, beautiful to read, and sweet to go to sleep with, giving me hope, reinforcing my sense of mystery and anchoring me in the ordinary which is extraordinary.

Whenever I see a blue heron, by breath is taken away in a sense of awe.

Mary Oliver’s poem catches the Mystery, simple, eloquent, full of hope and the joy of life:

Heron Rises From The Dark, Summer Pond

So heavy is the long-necked,
long-bodied heron,
always it is a surprise
when her smoke-colored wings

open
and she turns
from the thick water,
from the black sticks

of the summer pond,
and slowly rises
into the air
and is gone.

Then, not for the first or the last time,
I take the deep breath
of happiness, and I think
how unlikely it is

that death is a hole in the ground,
how improbable
that ascension is not possible,
though everything seems so inert, so nailed

back into itself–
the muskrat and his lumpy lodge,
the turtle,
the fallen gate.

And especially it is wonderful
that the summers are long
and the ponds so dark and so many,
and therefore it isn’t a miracle

but the common thing,
this decision,
this trailing of the long legs in the water,
this opening up of the heavy body

into a new life: see how the sudden
gray-blue sheets of her wings
strive toward the wind;
see how the clasp of nothing takes her in.

natural wild life heron the heron is a large species of bird that ...

***

spiritual practice

Laugh with a Blue  You tube by Katylynndean

Posted in Blogs for the Soul, Miscellaneous | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

For Heaven’s Sake

The Kingdom of Heaven is Within You" by Swami Krishnananda

Inspired by Matthew 16:21-28

When Peter said, “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God,” he got it about Jesus. Right?

But here he is responding to Jesus who is trying to show the disciples he is facing suffering, death and resurrection. Peter takes Jesus aside and begins to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”

“Get behind me, Satan,” Jesus responds.

The phrase, You are the Messiah, the son of the living God, is well-known. It reminds me of a student saying what they think their professor wants to hear.

Get behind me, Satan, also well-known, attributed to Jesus, always gets our attention.

We squirm. Is Jesus talking to us?It seems to me Jesus is probably fed up, feeling cranky and alone. He has spoken truth to power. He is well aware the Pharisees and Scribes are out to get him because he threatens their understanding, and their authority.

He knows they are going to kill him and it is going to be ugly. He also trusts God to raise him up into more abundant life. Maybe he snaps at Peter, Get behind me, Satan, because here is Peter, his companion and friend who seemed to understand, and now doesn’t. Perhaps Jesus is feeling isolated without a friend in the world who understands him fully.

Have you ever felt truly alone?

Perhaps you’ve been divorced.

Maybe someone you love has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Perhaps you’re a teenager whose best friend has thrown you over.

Or you have just gotten a horrible diagnosis with a frightening prognosis.

Maybe you are a mom or dad caring for little children, home all day alone, with no adult conversation.

Perhaps you are caring for someone who is ill.

Perhaps your beloved has died.

A preacher acquaintance of mine wears a ring from his deceased wife and he tells a poignant tale of the death-bed promise he made to her.

He is now in his eighties, still active, a tall, stately, handsome man who is intelligent and articulate. His wife has been dead for many years, but she has a strong grip on him. She made him promise to never remarry.

This faithful man kept that promise. When he told me about it, I felt such sorrow for him, and a little angry at the dead wife who was so possessive. I wondered what their lives might really have been like. He was coping okay but was clearly lonely.

When Jesus begins to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised, Peter does what we all want to do when we face our death or the death of a loved one. He tries to find a way to protect Jesus. He doesn’t want Jesus to suffer and he certainly doesn’t want him to be killed. He does not hear the part about Jesus being raised on the third day.

As human beings, it seems to me we should bless Peter for caring so much, for wanting to step in and offer protection, but Jesus will have none of it. “Get behind me, Satan!” He is exasperated with Peter. Perhaps in today’s language Jesus might say, “For heaven’s sake!”

Jesus wants everyone to understand the nature of divinity and to experience the presence of God in the here and now as well as trusting in an afterlife free from suffering, immersed in the energy of love, the wholeness of eternity.

So what does he, this man who is also God, this man who is completely plugged into Grace, this Jesus, what does he teach?

He says, For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

For my sake, for Christ’s sake carries with it deep meaning.

Jesus is going to die on the cross. We’ve heard endless times that his death “saves” us from our sins. Yet, even more important is the message of love, “I am going to lay down my life for you.”

So what can we do for Christ’s sake?

We can do nothing unless we are plugged into grace and understand that the true nature of divinity is not death, but love. The true nature of divinity is not crucifixion but resurrection.

How are we to lose our lives for Jesus’ sake?

Mother Teresa of Calcutta says, We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread, but there are many more dying for a little love.

Take Ruth, my mother-in-law, Philip’s mom. She was a woman of great faith which fed her ability to love others. Most of her life she worshipped in a Disciples of Christ church in Warren, Ohio.

Starting out when her children were tots, she took care of the little children in the nursery. She kept on working in the nursery for 40 years. 40 Years! What began out of love for her own children grew into love for the children of others.

Once she got older, she retired from the nursery and was finally able to spend her time in the sanctuary in Worship. She loved that.

Outside of the church, her life reflected how rooted she was in the holistic life of Christ.

She was a good mother, and raised 4 children. She was a good wife, preparing meals, keeping house, baking fresh bread every week for her husband, and o, her fruit pies were second to none.

As an older lady, she got a job at a hospital serving people their meals. She loved doing that, serving not only chicken and jello, but offering a kind word to ailing people.

Another Teresa, one of the saints of the church, Teresa of Avila says: All things must come to the soul from its roots, from where it is planted.

This is important. We cannot be what we are not.
In every human being lies a seed waiting to be watered to life. To be encouraged to pursue our interests, our talents, is life’s greatest gift. The people who encourage us never die to us; they live in us always for having made our own lives full.  Joan Chittester

Heaven is a state of being–it’s allowing the divine to guide our lives. Divine guidance might come in the form of dreams, prophecies and visions, but more likely it comes through the activities we most yearn for, and is found in the people who encourage us–realistically, but lovingly.

Peter is not misguided when he wants to protect Jesus from what is coming. He undoubtedly does not want to lose his teacher and friend, the man who has encouraged him to become so much more than he ever thought possible. His desire to keep Jesus safe arises out of love. Imagine how lonely he will feel without his best friend, Jesus.

Loneliness is so common. You can be in a crowd of people and feel a total disconnect.

I looked on the Internet for ways to combat loneliness. There were some good ideas about joining a group, taking a class, and so-on. All good ideas except they missed one thing. For Christ’s sake, for heaven’s sake, the antidote to loneliness, and the answer to life is to forget ourselves.

Babies, children and youth are by nature more self-centered. They need care and direction from adults. Alas not all adults, and in fact most adults, are not one hundred percent mature, free of issues. We are not perfect beings. Yet.

So where will we plant our feet in the holy ground of connectedness to life and to other people?

We all know heaven is not found in the accumulation of things, or power, or prestige, but is found in the open heart who gives himself or herself to God which simply means becoming a font of love, becoming the living water for others.

Not only did Ruth take care of the little ones, she also quilted, selling the quilts to raise money for the church. Sewing for her was practical, an art-form, and the basis of lasting and enriching community. Thus, she used her skills, doing something she enjoyed to help other people and to help her church.

When we say yes to Jesus and do our best to follow his teachings, out of our passions, our interests, coupled with love, immersed in the wisdom of Christ, the chains which bind us will be loosed and loneliness is bearable, and life is more abundant.

We are like Peter and would much rather protect ourselves and our loved ones from death. No one knows the hour or the time, but when we forget ourselves for Jesus’ sake, we enter the kingdom of heaven.

For heaven’s sake, on the third day, Jesus was raised, and we too will be raised into a radiant love beyond the boundaries of this life.

Spiritual Practice

be genuine in sharing your love, arising from the love of God.

share the joy of those who rejoice,

mingle your tears with those who weep.

welcome everyone, especially those who feel alone and afraid.

***

God is a term, a word, a name for an eternal process…

You are never alone.

Listen to sung psalms. so much wisdom in these poems, these inspired moments through, well, through us: Saint Paul Cathedral Choir: Psalm 121   

psalm 23 sung in Hebrew with English text

Psalm 23 (ဆာလံ ၂၃) – Cer Khun Sung (Akuk)  

Posted in Blogs for the Soul, Miscellaneous, My novels and writings, Spiritual Practices, Spirituality | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Love is of God–Ten Yen

Hi,
I’m trying to get the word out about my latest book.  I am excited that it has just been published as an e-book, and it will also be available in print.  It’s a love story.  Perhaps the greatest desire of all people is for love.  This is a love story between two people, turbulent and difficult–demonstrating how love overcomes barriers, and how love is a mystery that ultimately deepens people.  At first, it is only the beloved we wish to please mainly for personal gratification, but this love must mature into a desire to share burdens, be a helpmeet, discern what is best even when it does not suit us. Ultimately, all love, the mystics tell us, is a search for God, which is Mystery, and a process of wholeness that embraces all people and all life.
Perhaps it will interest you?  I ask your help to get the word to others you think might be interested?
Thanks Everyone
May you be blessed with ever-deepening love.
Christina
Posted in Miscellaneous, My novels and writings, Spirituality, Ten Yen | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

What’s in a Name?

trying this for the umpteenth time so the naming ceremony first some ...

Many traditions have naming ceremonies.  In the West we even have ceremonies to name ships, but this blog/sermon is a different sort of naming inspired by Matthew 16: 13-20

Simon, son of Jonah. Simon Peter.

You’d think it would be obvious to the close-knit group of Disciples just who Jesus was. But they all thought and imagined different things.

Jesus starts off, though, by trying to find out from the Disciples who the people think he is.  “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

The Hebrew expression “son of man” (בן–אדם, ben-’adam) appears 107 times in the Hebrew Bible.[1]

In Judaism Son of Man refers to normal human beings, ordinary folks.

But people are seeing Jesus as not merely a normal human being–he is someone more, bigger, and they are trying to name him in terms they understand–the people say Jesus is John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.

When Jesus asks the Disciples who they say he is, Simon Peter is the one to pipe up with the answer. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus seems genuinely pleased at Simon Peter’s response but he doesn’t elaborate on just what Messiah means. Instead, he proceeds to name Peter. And I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

Wow. What an accolade. Peter who has named Jesus the Messiah, is now named by Jesus as Peter the Rock, a man who will be foundational to the Church.

Can’t you see them giving one another a hug, punching each other’s biceps?

Yet what might Peter have understood about being the rock, the foundation of Jesus’ church?

Messiah ben David is who Jews were awaiting. It means “Messiah, son of David”. To Peter, a Jewish man, it must have signified a great political leader who was descended from King David. A person specially annointed as a King, a person who was going to carry on Jewish traditions, a person who would free the people. For sure, Jesus was to Peter the leader he’d been awaiting, someone who’d freed him from being a fisherman, teaching him, and now naming his potential.

So here is Peter, charged with the fulfillment of the name God has given him, which in Greek, the language of the New Testament, means the Rock.

Yet he started out as Simon, son of Jonah.

Simon is a Hebrew name which means to be heard.

And is Peter ever heard! Always in the forefront, a blustery, determined, forward sort of person who cares deeply and often acts impulsively and sometimes unwisely:

He walks on water for a moment, but soon begins to sink…

He tells Jesus no way is the Lord going to wash his feet, misunderstanding the humble nature of true Discipleship.

Contrary to Jesus’ instructions, he cuts off the ear of a servant of the High Priest.

How often do we act contrary to the call of God in our lives because we have not fully understood?

Does anyone have perfect and complete understanding?

There is a storm arising in the Presbyterian Church over the LGBT issues and same sex marriage.

I do not intend to tell anyone how they ought to think or what they ought to do, but rather explore the issue of how we name ourselves as followers of Christ.

Peter, the Rock of the Church, is our example of how we might be renamed, and how we often don’t get it right.

Peter is unable to stand by his friend, Jesus. It is heart-breaking.

Jesus predicted on the night of his arrest. “I tell you the truth,” “This very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.

Later that night, Jesus was arrested. Luke 22:54-57 … they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. Peter followed at a distance and when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.

How are we here at Bates to hold up our intention to follow Christ?

People on either side of the LGBT, same sex marriage issue believe they are right, and many of us walk a middle path, not a hundred percent certain.

All of us in our religious communities are trying to be good people with good intentions. We might well respect our gay brothers and sisters but still oppose same sex marriage.

Are we right? Are we wrong?

When should we take the Bible literally?

Marcus Borg in his book Reading the Bible Again for the First Time, casts some light onto how we might understand the movement of the sacred, of God, in our lives.

He says, if we insist the Bible is the inerrant word of God, we are compelled to follow the Bible in every fundamental and see the laws of the Bible as God’s laws. The ethical question becomes, “How can one justify setting aside one of the laws of God?”

The Bible, Borg tells us, in his opinion is a human product, a way two religious communities–the Ancient Hebrews and the new Christians–tried to understand God.

In Exodus, when Moses is on his way back to Egypt, “The Lord met him and tried to kill him.” Thanks to his wife, Zipporah, who circumcises their son, God lets him alone. If we take this literally, we would assume God is punitive and malevolent.

Whether or not we eat cuckoos is irrelevant to us, but was a law those ancient ones were taught. Who knows why?

We are selective in what we take from the Bible. We apply what suits us, not taking into account that the writers of the Bible were human, and although inspired by God, were not God. A flute cannot make a sound like drum.

So we face this dilemma. How are we to respond to a General Assembly ruling that allows Same Sex marriage in the church?

What are the deeper issues?

Peter is a reminder to us of just how limited we are, even when we mean to do what is right. Peter certainly had good intentions but he denies his friend, Jesus, more than once.

How can we know what is right?

Jesus teaches and demonstrates a resounding lesson, time and time again. That is the lesson of inclusiveness and forgiveness.

We so often fall far short.

Take divorce. I am divorced. I never thought that would happen to me. I was married 26 years to a man I loved. We had a good life. No children. I was 44 when I discovered my husband was having an affair and they were expecting a baby together.

It would be easy to condemn my ex. I had right on my side. At the time, I was enraged.

My rage stopped radios, mangled tapes, and caused me to fall down a staircase. That was when I sought God to help me forgive, because this rage within me was tangible and it was dangerous.

The grace of forgiveness I sought came in answer to my prayer almost immediately, but my understanding had only just begun.

Understanding is a lifelong process of deepening awareness.

I found myself reflecting over my life with Martin, and began to recognize it hadn’t been all his fault, that there were many issues buried within our psyches that contributed to the betrayal and abandonment.

Reflecting about this same sex marriage storm arising in all Churches, causing schisms makes me wonder are there underlying issues for the church and for us as individuals when we vehemently wave our fists and cry out against the injustice, the immorality.

We feel betrayed.

And it seems like a betrayal when something you’ve been taught all your life, or like me trusted for 26 years, is now not merely in question but has been overturned. Your life is in a turmoil. Your beliefs are challenged. You want to do the right thing. But you are confused, hurt, wounded, uncertain and angry.

Anger, unexamined, causes blindness and destruction.

Church splits are also incredibly complex.

When Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses onto the door and split the Roman Catholic Church, he had some good reasons. But he was not acting only out of his understanding of Scripture and the need for faith versus rigid belief. I am not going to repeat his words, but he was vehemently against women. He viewed them as evil, temptresses, almost subhuman. Yet down the road, in time, his view changed. God was certainly in this softening of Martin Luther who later married and had six children.

Sometimes reconciliation is neither possible nor desirable, but surely the God of inclusiveness, the God who welcomes all people, doesn’t want us to live in isolation from one another, breaking up our religious communities.

Betrayal is an opportunity to forgive. Betrayal is an opportunity to look within and seek the help of Christ.

In today’s New Testament reading we find Peter and Jesus slapping hands, smiling, getting along, but it’s not too much further down the road of their relationship when Peter is going to utterly deny Jesus Matthew 26:73-75: After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Peter wasn’t strong enough to stand up for right, for his best buddy. He just wasn’t strong enough. He was weak and afraid. He didn’t fully understand. Do we blame him? Do we condemn him? Or do we learn to embrace and forgive him, to raise him up so he might live into his full potential.

Borg says, “Being Christian is about a relationship to the God who is mediated by the Christian tradition as sacrament. To be Christian is to live within the Christian tradition as sacrament and let it do its transforming work within and among us.”

We don’t have the answers. All we can do is keep on trying to grow in our understanding, our tolerance, and our behavior within our community.

Simon Peter is still Peter, a fisherman, an impulsive guy, a man with a mission, a man Jesus renames as Peter the Rock. It isn’t that Peter is suddenly a new person. He isn’t, but step by step, day by day, he grows in strength, wisdom, and character.

Peter is more than he was, more than he could ever have been if he had not encountered Jesus, his friend, teacher, Rabbi, helper, and healer–the man-god he betrayed three times, the same man-god who forgave him, and forgave him, and forgave him.

Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Charge: The Son of Man grounds you on solid rock; The Son of Man names you. May your name become known for love, wisdom, forbearance, persistence, and faithfulness.

Blessing: May you be filled with a heart of forgiveness in the small matters of everyday life. So that when the big issues arise, you are ready to kneel and cry out to God: even this, help me to forgive.

***

Pray, Sing, Love, and Be a Help

Native American version in honor of Saint Kateri Takawitha: They’ll Know We Are Christians (Peter Scholtes).wmv  

Jars of Clay – They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love

Pilgrims: They Will Know We Are Christians by our Love   

Posted in Blogs for the Soul, Miscellaneous, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Ten Yen–the Making of a Monk–now available as an e-book

Ten Yen 2

I am excited about this book which was released on August 21.  It came about after Ten Yen True, the sequel, was published.

Why?

My co-author, Amanda Armstrong’s husband, David Armstrong, wanted to know about the monk in Ten Yen True and how he’d chosen to become a monk.  This one is for you, Dave, and all the people who are interested in the sacred within our everyday struggles.

It is a historical romance–Purchase from All Romance ebooks

About the book

Amaya and Joumi meet, a few years after WW II has ended, at an American party in Tokyo. It’s not easy to be a conquered Japanese citizen. Both have done things to survive that they regret.Joumi and Amaya immediately form a bond, but it is to be a stormy relationship with many inner demons to overcome if there is to be any hope of a lasting connection.The story incorporates accurate historical details about life in post-war Japan where people learn how to embrace defeat in ways that bring about love, community, and triumph. It is the prequel to Ten Yen True where a Buddhist monk brings healing to westerners he has never met.

An excerpt from the book

Amaya came out of her reverie. Yokatta koto, my goodness, the Japanese man lo oked as if he intended to approach her. She needed no patron these days. She was glad when people stepped in front of him and got in his way. Still, she always kept her options open. Amaya slipped past the people, coquettishly lowering her eyes and fluttering her eyelids theatrically. After a suitable interval when she was standing directly in front of the guy, she gaily smiled up into his enthralled eyes. For a moment, saying nothing, she merely sized him up, keeping the pretty smile on her face, strongly aware of his masculine scent. His presence, in spite of his lanky height, reminded her of a samurai. Better still, she thought to herself, he is a Buddha. He certainly has the ears. “You,” she said, reaching a tiny hand toward his lapel, and gently straightening his tie. “I will call you my Ookii Mimi!”

~ * ~

Joumi couldn’t help but grin down into her exquisite face. To be nicknamed Big Ears seemed quite a complement. He certainly did have some money, as people believed about men with long earlobes but not because he was lucky as they surmised. No. He’d worked hard and ruthlessly to earn every yen. “What might I call you?” he murmured, bowing to her deeply. As he straightened, he intentionally moved closer to her, his hair grazing her cheek. He could smell a faint fragrance of koh and wondered if she burned incense to the gods or had perhaps been recently in a temple. “You are a living incarnation of Amaterisu,” he said sincerely.

“You may call me Amaya. That is my real name.” She daintily covered her mouth with one hand and giggled. “If we are to be friends, you will soon find out I am not the goddess you wish me to be.”

Her face made-up as perfectly as a Geisha was not painted with the traditional white rice powder, but rather glowed with health. He suspected beneath her makeup her skin was healthy brown, perhaps even tanned. “Let me take you to dine somewhere more suitable than this place.” He waved his hand dismissively towards the food tables. “Unless you prefer a cheeseburger?”

“I don’t even know your name,” she responded, enjoying their game.

“I am Joumi, Amaya,” he said, tasting her name on his tongue. “If you are to be my Amaterisu, you must indeed call me Ookii Mimi.”

“Perhaps.” Amaya’s eyes gleamed with delight. Did he think she could be bought? Somehow she thought he would not attempt anything so brutish. “Let us go somewhere more private where we can get acquainted properly. My place or yours?”

Joumi hid his surprise. Surely not. Was she propositioning him? How very flattering, he thought. “Why, yours,” he said, and wished he’d said his house, but he did not ever bring women into his spotless home, preferring to fulfill his needs with local prostitutes in Nerima-ku, the last of the twenty three wards recently formed to satisfy the occupiers’ intention to turn Japan into a democratic state.

Amaya hid her irritation with this man. He was no big-eared Buddha, holy and beyond physical needs! She couldn’t imagine why she’d so impulsively invited him to her flat. Even the men she played around with weren’t allowed there. Hotels were good enough for them.

Joumi watched Amaya’s sudden look of disappointment, and felt his heart shrivel. He didn’t want her to be a high-class prostitute…

Purchase from Amazon

Posted in Miscellaneous, My novels and writings, Ten Yen True | Leave a comment

Plugged into Grace

tumblr_m1i9xg2bvm1qc7d5ho1_500

This blog was inspired by Matthew 15:(10-20), 21-28: The Faith of a Canaanite

***

Jesus did not say a word when the disciples asked him to send away the Canaanite woman.  He says nothing. Perhaps he is remembering what he just taught his disciples.

In Matthew 15:10-28 we read how Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’”

There were lots of restrictions on what to eat or not eat in the Bible. Lots of things were considered unclean: You could eat fish and goat’s milk. You could eat locusts and beetles. Some birds were allowed. But you’d better not eat a cuckoo, or a lapwing. No hares as in rabbits were allowed to be eaten. Fat was forbidden. That was to be burned on the alter for God. Snakes, snails, swans and pigs were off-limits.

So when Jesus talks about what really makes a person unclean and that it is not related to what a person eats, not surprisingly the Pharisees are offended.  They are quite convinced that they are doing what God wants and are pleasing to him.

So here is Jesus, this time in the region of Tyre and Sidon, having withdrawn from his own country. Why has he withdrawn–perhaps he is in need of rest, perhaps he wants to spend time with his friends away from the needs of the crowds or the misunderstanding of the Pharisees–the Scripture doesn’t say.

What happens next, what Jesus says, has puzzled scholars and Christians for centuries. We want the warm fuzzy Jesus pulling us from the sea of our doubt.  Yet this is a scripture that challenges us to understand faith from a different point of view. This pushy woman, a Canaanite, a person who Jews do not like and who does not like Jews, shows up on their doorstep, kneeling, begging for help.

Jesus says nothing, not a word. Why does he hold his tongue?  Could he be demonstrating to his disciples how not to defile themselves through wrong speech? Could he be showing us saying nothing might be preferable to saying something that causes aggravation?

Yet, after the disciples ask him to send this woman away, he enters into conversation with her: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel,” Jesus tells her. She is persistent. She won’t take no for an answer. “Lord, help me!” the woman says. “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs,” Jesus responds.

Nasty. Ugly. Humiliating. A woman talking to a Jewish man in public.  Unheard of.  The disciples say to Jesus.  “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

Isn’t this how we all are?  We find it easy to help the people we love, the people we know, the people who share the same customs and traditions. But this Canaanite woman shows us a love greater than that; she has come into their midst because her love is so strong for her demon-possessed daughter.

Today perhaps we’d consider the demon-possessed to be people addicted to drugs, booze, or sex, people who are sneered at by others.  These people might be our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives. Oh sure we want to help them, but don’t bring the drug recovery house into our neighborhood where we want peace from the worries and needs of others.

Yet when it’s not the OTHER in trouble but our own flesh and blood, we respond differently. We forget ourselves, even if it is but for a moment the way Peter did when he walked on the water towards Jesus. Out of love and an awareness of our inability to change things, we become desperate.

So we call upon a Mystery so much greater than our limited understanding. In the face of great difficulty when do we refuse to take no for an answer? We certainly might refuse to take no for an answer out of great love for a daughter or a son. When we are loving mothers and fathers, we will defend and protect our young to the best of our ability.

This strange woman holds her ground. You give even the crumbs to the dogs, she says. She dares to argue with God.

Perhaps Jesus wants to see what the Disciples will do about this woman. The Disciples aren’t in the mood for a Canaanite. She is abomination to them. Someone despised. They wouldn’t help her on their best day. Can they not have understood all that Jesus has been teaching? They urged Jesus, “Send her away, for she keeps yelling at us.”

Jesus goes right along with them. Perhaps a demonstration of what happens through association.

What happens if you follow your friends who tell you to come get drunk and try out dope or drugs to make you high, or hey grab a candy bar and stick it in your purse—Walmart can afford it—or let’s make fun of someone who is fat or old. Do you go along with them or do you think for yourself and consider what God teaches about the heart.

When Jesus goes along with the crowd of his disciples, he appears to be going against his own teachings. But the Mystery of this story points to something greater. It points to our need to act out of great love for everyone. Through such love coupled to the power of God, of Mystery, through Christ, there will be redemption.

In many ways. Jesus speaks as if he is a normal Jewish man with a poor opinion of people who aren’t like him. People who don’t worship the same way. People who look different. People who aren’t good enough. Can’t you see the satisfied looks on the Disciples’ faces. “You tell her, Jesus!” Of course, they’ve missed the point. If they had been not only listening to the teachings of Jesus, but also putting it into practice in their lives, they might recognize that their attitude about foreigners, about women, have not been planted by God in their hearts. These attitudes are alien from God’s inclusiveness. They separate us from Mystery, from God.

The woman could care less what they think of her. She demonstrates genuine concern for another, for her daughter. She is willing to be humiliated. She is willing to humble herself. Yes, Lord, You can treat me like a dog. But even dogs get the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table.

God’s love is so great.  The enormous persistent love of this mother, this parent, this strange foreign woman is united to the Mystery of love.  She is the manifestation of God’s love. She represents the possibility of the redemptive power of love.  She is doggedly persistent just as surely as God persists in offering us the love that brings us the healing we need for our minds and spirits and sometimes our bodies too.

The energy, the power of spirit is moving through the love of this woman. Her gender doesn’t matter. Her nationality doesn’t matter. Only her love for another person.  Only that matters. And through that love, her daughter is restored.

When have you been like this woman, unwanted, in a foreign or strange situation, and yet something impels you to persist, to not give up? We probably have all been the unwanted man or woman in some situation. What impels us to overstep boundaries?

During a particularly difficult time, my prayers plugged me into grace, the Mystery of God’s presence. My new husband had suffered all his life from painful sciatica. He never complained but I could see it in his face. I was praying and even laying my hands on his back. I was desperate for him to feel better. One night, I dreamed I was in a flood.  In my dream of the flood, I knew I was helpless.  Nothing I could do was going to stop what was coming.  Whatever was going to happen, I fully understood it was not my issue. As I was being swept away in the water, I heard the voices of my mother and father, both deceased, say: Everything will be all right. Everything will be all right. Not too much later, a disc in Philip’s back broke off and he was paralyzed.  The doctors in Ashland decided to send him in the middle of the night to Lexington for emergency surgery. It was a hundred miles away and I didn’t know the territory. I was mortified. For him and for me. I was helpless. But I had those words from my parents: Everything will be all right. A Grace from God.

It was midnight, and though I tried to follow the ambulance in my husband’s 4-cylinder tinny Geo, the ambulance stormed through a red light and left me in the dust feeling lonely and scared. I got completely lost in Lexington. But even though I didn’t fully comprehend at the time, Grace was right there for me. And in my mind I heard again those words of comfort. Everything will be all right.

Eventually, I made my way to the hospital, where a stranger guided me to my husband who was in a hospital room. He was joking with the nurses.

Later, shivering in the surgical waiting room in the wee hours of the morning, a woman from a very poor family whose nephew had been in a 4-wheeler accident that had crushed his legs came over and wrapped her cardigan around me.  Such grace.  It was everywhere. Not only for Philip, but also for me.

Did I really hear the voices of my deceased parents? I cannot say, but I know this was a God- experience from start to finish. It was grace. During this time, I felt surrounded by angels, including, I might add a young black guy in a ghetto area of Lexington, drug-infested and frightening. Lost, I pulled into an all-night deli frantic to find the hospital.  This young man looked to be on drugs, but he got himself together and gave me directions.

Love coupled with prayer opens the doors of the Spirit to intervene, to connect us to one another, to be Love for one another.

Jesus answers that foreign, desperate woman, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed that very hour.

Even when we are floundering in the sea of life, as was this woman, as was I, as we often are, our desperate calls to God are answered in many ways, many of them mysterious. Prayer of the heart plugs us into the Grace of God.

Everything will be all right.

***

Spiritual Practice

• When your prayers seem unheard, pray about the courage and persistence of the Canaanite woman. • In times of crisis ask God for the gift of great faith.

Amazing Grace

Celtic Women

Amazing Grace Lyrics  

Amazing Grace – Christian Hymns with Lyrics ( John Newton )       

Amazing Grace My Chains Are Gone CCHS Concert and Chapel Choir      

Amazing Grace, Gospel Choir, St. James Episcopal Church, Florence, Italy  

Amazing Grace – Diane Bish & St. George’s Episcopal Church Choir & Congregation       

Posted in Blogs for the Soul, Children's Moments, Miracles of Healing, Miscellaneous, Spiritual Practices, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Best Present

jesus knocking at the door painting artist

Jesus is knocking on the door. Prayer opens the way for grace in our lives in many ways.

When I was a little girl, one Christmas Eve, I couldn’t sleep, I was so excited about the present Father Christmas would put on my chair during the night. Father Christmas is what little English boys and girls called Santa Claus.  So here I was wide awake.  How could Santa come? I asked Jesus to help me go to sleep. Guess what happened? I got this lovely warm feeling of being surrounded by love. Next thing you know it was Christmas Day. What I most remember, the very best present, was the love that enfolded me.

***

God is Always with Us by Brianna: So I thanked God

One day I woke up grouchy. I thought if I took it out on my sisters it would help so I did. But then I thought if God is real he would help get the grouchieness away. So I asked him to; but he said it was up to me to decide either be nice or be mean. I was nice and to my surprise the grouchy went back to the devil’s side. So I thanked God.

I’m Brianna and I am a red headed 8 year old. I once thought of God as a joke, but I realized it wasn’t.

Posted in Blogs for the Soul, Children's Moments, Miracles of Healing, Spiritual Practices, Spirituality | Tagged | Leave a comment

Treasure

artist s conception of the patriarch joseph s coat of many colors

In a drawer where I keep tea-towels, I came across a secret compartment and found treasure, a bag containing silverware. Three pieces were vintage children’s cutlery, mementos from a Disney trip: Micky, Minnie, and Donald. I speculated that the former owner, a very old lady, kept these hidden because of how much she valued her children and her grandchildren.

Surely her love reflected the love of G-D for all people. We often hope to find valuable treasures  worth money, but there is a much greater treasure to be found in the spiritual literature of all the religions.

I am not a scholar but I often find wisdom in the timeless stories of the Bible that speak to families and people regardless of culture or nationality.

For instance, Genesis 37 is about Joseph, a boy who God speaks to through dreams and visions, a boy who wore the many colored robe his daddy made just for him. Joseph was Daddy’s favorite, the baby of the family, the child of Daddy’s old age.

Joseph’s half-brothers were probably jealous.

Joseph finds himself tossed into a cistern, a dark pit, and then sold into slavery, into a life not at all what he’d expected, especially considering he’d had a vision from God telling him his brothers would all bow down to him.

It didn’t help when Joseph lauded it over the brothers about his expected superior status. It didn’t help when Joseph told tales: “Dad, they weren’t watching the sheep. Dad, they’re chewing tobacco…”

The brothers were fed up with Joseph, that goody two shoes. “Dad, Joseph is telling lies. Dad, Joseph thinks he’s better than us.”

Sibling rivalry gets old. Dad may well have told them to leave Joseph alone. But they’d had enough. So they came up with a plan to get rid of the pesky younger brother. They were going to kill him, but instead threw him into a cistern and then sold him as a slave to some traveling nomads.

I’m not sure who I feel sorriest for.

Joseph in the cistern, a dark hole–a literal pit.

The brothers in their dark mood–a psychological mine-field.

Do you ever find yourself in a dark place? Sometimes it’s through no fault of your own. You are helpless against stronger forces than yourself.

Perhaps your friends have let you down.

Perhaps there has been an accident and your car is wrecked.

Perhaps you are facing surgery or difficult medical treatments.

Perhaps a boyfriend/girlfriend says he or she no longer loves you.

Perhaps a beloved pet or someone dear to you dies.

Perhaps you are a student newly arrived at college, and you are feeling bewildered.

So here you are in this dark time of your life. You might have begun with the silver spoon of parental favoritism on your side, but now you are facing a perilous, lonely, difficult existence with no human being coming to your rescue, no Daddy to tell tales to, no Daddy to call upon for help.

Joseph must surely have felt helpless and let down.

But in spite of his struggles with slavery and many other temptations, G-D goes with him into these times of despair, feeding him wisdom, keeping his resolve strong.

So it is with the spiritual life. G-D feeds us what we need to help us grow.

Personally, I have found my Christian journey transformative. The Bible is a treasure, a wealth of wisdom full of people who might dress differently and eat sheep, but are much like us.

Bible stories  help us understand more about ourselves and the nature of life and death–they teach us how to live in ways to create harmony in our lives and in the lives of others.

 ***

Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z06vEUfmuMQ

Dolly Parton-Coat Of Many Colours   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vr4GT4ltvBk

Posted in Blogs for the Soul, Miscellaneous, My novels and writings, Spiritual Practices, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spiritual Refreshment–The Light of the World

 

Recent Photos The Commons Galleries World Map App Garden Camera Finder ...

Today is a special feast day in the life of the church called Transfiguration.  It’s when three of the disciples go with Jesus up onto a mountain and experience a numinous, a supernatural moment, a moment of intense light.

It scares and awes them.

Christe Lux Mundi, is played on http://www.pray-as-you-go.org/home/

It means O Christ, light of the World, Whoever follows you will have the light of life.

The prayer on August 6, 2014, took about 12 minutes.

I found myself on the mountain looking on to the radiant Christ, grateful to be in such an awesome presence, aware also of how slight I am in the face of Shekinah, of God.  My prayer was to be a help in this day to others.

When I opened my purse, there was an opened packet of yeast I’d used for a children’s moment. It spilled everywhere.  That is how the spiritual life is.  The more we are immersed in the light of loving kindness, in  the compassion of the Buddha, in the wisdom of the Upanishads, in the light of the welcoming Christ, the more whole and healing we become in our lives.

***

Taize Chants

Taizé – Amor de todo amor ( album completo 52 minutos de música celestial ))   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOWwuH6pOKI

Capella Taize Christe Lux mundi   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGQvYXMhbfo

 

Posted in Blogs for the Soul, Miscellaneous, Spiritual Practices, Spirituality | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Grouse of Helplessness

 

... Flying Grouse Silhouette , Ruffed Grouse Silhouette , Duck Silhouette

We are living in anxious times.

I took a walk on a nature trail and startled a grouse and watched him flurry away. When I got back to my house, I noticed something brown lying on the ground. It was a dead grouse. It must have hit the window. I felt helpless. I wanted to bring him back to life but realized that was G-D’s realm, not mine. Though I prayed for the little bird, I didn’t expect it to revive. I laid it to rest on a tree trunk, still hopeful that G-D would restore its life.

The Iraqui people are trapped in what continues to be a war zone. North Korea threatens the US with a nuclear attack. Israel is killing hundreds of innocents in what some might consider justified retaliation for the rockets fired by Hamas. Immigrant children from central and south America are flooding away from gang violence into what they hope is the Promised Land, a land where they have opportunity, peace, and fellowship.

All people who are like us on either side of national borders want to live normal lives, go to work, enjoy their families…

Often we feel helpless, but one thing we can do is pray for leaders to be filled with G-D’s wisdom. We are also advised by the Christ to pray for our enemies. This is perhaps the hardest thing to do, when we are emotional and impassioned for or against any particular group or side.

Scripture can help us find peace in our hearts, which will lead to peace in our families, and peace in our community. We can become the pebbles dropped in a big ocean of anger and fear and misunderstanding. The ripples of our compassion and truth-telling and human decency can encompass and bring others into a peaceful, strong and holy life. Holy means whole.

Jesus’s world was not so unlike ours–people were oppressed, struggled economically, and were not given equal rights. But Jesus does not physically try to kill the oppressor. He rises spiritually above them, (in his day it was the Romans). We are to pray for our enemies.

Say what? Pray for our enemies. Have you ever tried to pray for someone you are furious with? Someone you are positive is in the wrong? It’s almost impossible. But when you manage to stammer in your mind a few conciliatory words, your heart is changed, your eyes are opened. It might be possible that you are both partly right. We can’t change the hearts and minds of political leaders set on conflict, but we can and must change and grow our own hearts.

How does Scripture aid us in overcoming our helplessness to change even ourselves?

Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” He is talking about basing one’s life on a spiritual footing that spreads into everyday living. The way we learn from Jesus is by reading and repeating and living out his stories.

In Ephesians 5: 1, Paul tells the people in the church, “Therefore be imitators of G-D, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to G-D.

If the grouse had not been fearful, he could have sat quietly in the weeds. I wouldn’t even have seen him. But out of fear he fled, and in his panic he flew into a window, and he was killed.

When we are feeling safe, resting in the big hand of G-D, aware that we are loved by a force greater than ourselves, then we no longer panic, no longer scurry away, no longer cause conflict. In Christ, we are never helpless no matter what we face: war, illness, loss of job, loss of someone close, anxiety over childrearing, unjust behaviors against us.

In G-D’s perfect love, taught, shown, and empowered by Jesus, fear and helplessness will eventually be extinguished forever.

***

Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline says:

“Repetition regularly channels the mind in a specific direction, thus ingraining habits of thought. We may smile condescendingly at the old teaching method of recitation, but we must realize that sheer repetition without even understanding what is being repeated does affect the inner mind. Ingrained habits of thought can be formed by repetition alone, thus changing behavior. This is one reason why so many forms of spirituality emphasize the regular rehearsal of the deeds of God…” p.65

Read the psalms. Wonderful prayer/poems that cover all of human emotions.

Psalm 23, The Lord is my Shepherd

C & W:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-qLa_2GPcM

Acoustic/gentle: The Lord’s My Shepherd – Stuart Townend: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN4tPkX0MG0 Gentle

Traditional Choir: The Lord is My Shepherd (Psalm 23) [Goodall] — Choir of Wells Cathedral     

 

 

Posted in Blogs for the Soul, Miscellaneous, My novels and writings, Spiritual Practices, Spirituality | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment