Category Archives: My novels and writings

Children

bridesmaids

Soul blog inspired by Isaiah 11 and Mark 10: 13-16

In Isaiah we read that The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.  This is a beautiful metaphor about the possibility of unity within the world, the world of peace, the one a God of love seeks for all people and also for all of creation which includes animals and landscapes and little ones.

Children are precious to God–and yet we also read about how the Disciples (Jesus’ friends, students, and chosen ones) tried to prevent little children from getting near Jesus. Perhaps they hoped to protect Jesus who they thought was tired, but it is not up to us to protect God.

In a perfect world, all babies would be welcomed. The first glimpse of a newborn infant would fill moms and dads, granddads and grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends, with happiness and excitement.

But what about when they bring the baby home? That’s when the work of raising them begins. That is a difficult and important purpose in life. We all want the children in our lives to end up like the beautiful description in Isaiah of a child upon whom: The Spirit of the Lord will rest—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and awe of the Lord—

But wait a minute, how does that happen? I just watched the Last 24 Hours about the last 24 hours of Sid Vicious’ life. Perhaps more importantly we should look at not how one dies, but how one lives, and how one is raised up.

Sid was the child of a single mom. The dad deserted when his son was only two years old.  The mother had no skills and no sense of the sacred.  She raised her son not as a mother ought but as a friend. He was raised on drugs and no boundaries.  It is no wonder he ended up a punk rocker part of the Sex Pistols.  He cut himself, made a spectacle of himself, and was part of a group with no self-respect, in full rebellion, proving themselves unrespectable.

Oddly, Jesus loved the most unrespectable, the prostitutes, the embezzlers, the partyers.  He saw their potential. It was hard for me to see Sid’s potential.  He wasn’t even a particularly talented musician. He ended up accused of the murder of his equally lost girlfriend after a drug/sopped night. He did not remember a thing, but his knife was in the girl’s gut. He was bailed out of jail and met by his mother.

What does she do?  Well, she was his friend, right? And not a parent.  She gave him heroin.  Eventually, she gave him enough to kill him.  So he wouldn’t go to jail.  She too died of a heroin overdose.

Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

A child needs guidance in order to grow into a person full of the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding. And we are all children in one way or another in need of grounding in what is holy, sacred, and gives peace.

A Native American Elder (as described by Kent Nerburn,) said “If you see life as a straight line, where the young and old are weak and those in the middle are strong, and if you think that to be important you must be useful, you do not see value in the young and the old. You see them as burdens, not as gifts, because they cannot lift their hands to be of use to the community. But the young and old both have other gifts…The old have the wisdom of experience. They have traveled far on the journey of life and give us knowledge about our own road ahead. They have lived what we are still waiting to learn.”

When Jesus gladly blesses the little children, he demonstrates we need one another, young and old. Parents provide daily care, food, shelter and clothing, as well as love, which sometimes must be tough-minded. Older people are wisdom-givers and sometimes also provide the daily care for youngsters.

Let’s remember though, that as Isaiah says, A little child will lead us: they teach wonder, trust, and innocence, requiring older people to become more selfless, developing perseverance, strength, tolerance, forgiveness, and tough love. As Jesus says, Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

***

Allow yourself to be filled with wonder, and dwell in the awe of the beauty that surrounds you, whether it is within nature, or within your family, or within yourself.

Trust the warmth of your loving God, the process of life, which seeks only the very best for you.

The Road Ahead

 

Roads

Inspired by Exodus 17:1-7

On my drive along Interstate 64 I saw ahead of me was an oversized load with one of those accompanying pickup trucks that block the lane so you can’t pass on the bridges or narrow areas on the road. Sitting on the tractor trailer was a huge dark building swaying ominously. Even when the driver kept his rig well over on the right side of the highway, there was very little room to get around him. I got in the left lane but I didn’t have the confidence to zip on past. At last, I pulled in behind him, so that other drivers, braver and more confident than I, could get through.

Since I’ve come this way many times before, I knew before long we’d all be in a construction zone. Road Construction

I was well aware that the lanes would narrow and the chances of getting by this oversized vehicle would be nil. I felt sorry for all cars that got trapped behind that oversized load. Not one managed to get past. The construction only lasted a couple of miles before I had to get off on my exit . So, going slow, 50 or so, didn’t worry me. I was in no hurry.

It’s great when you can anticipate the road ahead, but that doesn’t happen very often.

Take the Hebrews freed from bondage in Egypt—they courageously left behind slavery, but here they were in the desert thirsty and upset, wishing they’d never left. There was no going back. The waters of the Red Sea had closed behind them. They had no understanding of what was to come, and this Promised Land wasn’t looking too promising. They were so angry, they felt like stoning their leader, Moses. Can you blame them for feeling betrayed—had they been freed so that they would die of thirst in a barren land?

Sometimes life feels that way. We are going along merrily enough expecting the best, but we don’t get what we’d bargained for. Instead we get that late night phone call that not only upsets all our plans, but causes us to despair for someone we love. It happens so fast.

How can we trust the flow of life when it puts obstacles in our path and tests our ability to proceed safely?

We simply do not know what is coming.

We do not know the road ahead.

In the Old Testament reading, the people mistrust Moses, and they mistrust God.  Yet they surely remember how Moses got them out of Egypt and how Moses led them through the Red Sea. They were accompanied by the pillar of cloud during the day and the pillar of fire at night letting them know God was there for them, showing them the way.

But then they come to this water-well where they are expecting water to quench their thirst. It must be dry out there in the desert. And hot. Their feet hurt. Their mouths are parched. The well is dry. They become so angry that Moses is worried they might stone him, and he appeals to God for help.

Moses trusts God. His life has demonstrated, even in the most difficult moments, that God will bring about positive results. After all, he was a baby who almost got killed by the Pharaoh, yet was rescued by a princess. He killed a man and had to flee from Egypt, but God showed him the way back, and turned him into a leader. He became the voice of God to his people and is leading them towards the promised land. Now, God uses him to bring water out of a rock.

The Hebrews in the desert received water to quench their physical thirst, and that was important as surely as it is important for all people to have enough to drink and eat, but life is about more than merely satisfying physical yearnings. Once our basic needs are met, we begin to need something more.

We seek and need love, and frequently we equate love with physical pleasure, with sex. Think about how advertisers use sex to sell products. Cars + sexy women + strong handsome men. What does that say? Viagara with the two old people in tubs looking smugly out to sea? Sex = love, we are told, and if we have that, we will be satisfied.

This is a common human misunderstanding. In the Bible in the gospel of John, there is a deep and remarkable story about a Samaritan Woman. She has lived with several guys, but her promiscuity has not quenched her deeper yearnings. Instead, she’s gotten herself off track from her family and her community. They won’t talk to her and they avoid her. She has disgraced them by her behavior.

You might say the Hebrews’ anger is disgraceful too given all that God has already done for them.

But God doesn’t give up on them. Water, at Moses’ command, flows from a rock for them.

When we come to the New Testament, there is another water well in another land, the land of Samaria, where respectable Jewish people did not go. Good Jews would rather go a thousand miles out of their way.

But Jesus, this very Jewish man, does not go around Samaria. Instead, he walks through it and stops for a drink of water. This well unlike the well in the story about Moses and the people is not dry. It contains plenty of water.

The Samaritan woman is at the well by herself. Normally, women would be chatting with one another, talking about their kids, what they were going to cook for dinner, the latest gossip. But not this woman. She’s all alone with her water jar balanced on her head.

When Jesus, this Jewish guy, asks her for a drink, she becomes aggressive. She has deep emotional wounds. Her people don’t hang out with her, and now this Jewish guy, who according to all she’s ever heard about Jews, thinks he’s better than her, is telling her about living water. She is as angry as those Hebrews not because she lacks water. But because her life is dry and lonesome.

Jesus engages her in a conversation. She is probably surprised and shocked any man is willing to talk to her, and listen to her, any man who isn’t after something from her.

Jesus reaches her right where she lives. In her abandonment, in her loneliness, and in her anger.

Jesus successfully becomes living water for her right there at the well. His inclusion, his willingness to be present for her quenches her thirst. She is alive again.

The Hebrews in the desert received water to quench their physical thirst, but Jesus gives spirit and truth to renew emotional and spiritual life.

Jesus always fills us with what we need. He comes into our lives to relieve suffering, and to give us the means to become whole. Healed. Free. Community-minded.

We attend churches to be refreshed, to taste and see God.

We attend to be renewed, in the spirit and truth of Jesus Christ

Through our continuing awareness of Christ, as we quench our thirst for what gives everlasting life, we increase our trust in the God of compassion, power, strength, and forbearance.

We come to understand the importance of other people as equally loved by God, even the angry Hebrews who had it in their minds to stone Moses, even the Samaritan woman whose promiscuity has isolated her just as surely as drug addiction, alcoholism, food addiction, poverty and disease isolate us from one another.

We come to be reminded, who we are and whose we are, and that we are people with eternal hope, people who can trust the road ahead even when we can’t quite see where it leads because we know God is with us and will never leave us on the broken highways of our lives, but will restore and refresh us and bring us through all the ominous burdens that hold us back.

***

Listen and dance for joy–trusting in God, in the process, in the Mystery, leading you through the wilderness times with a heart of help, and even when you don’t feel as if there is much hope, fear not…

New Swahili Gospel music 2014 Saido The Worshiper Ni Wewe Tu Bwana  

The choir at Bates Memorial sang an upbeat Swahili anthem today: Yes, Jesus is My Savior

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szFWoi9nQQ4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLVHllx5VmQ

 

Charge: Go into the world trusting the mind of Christ is in you and the Spirit of Christ is with you.

Blessing: May you be blessed by the love of God protecting and preparing you for the road ahead.

 

Armstrongs

  Television Interview with Christina St Clair

I wonder if it is merely coincidence that the name of the local TV network, who interviewed me for a show called Chapters, is Armstrong which is the name of my co-author for Ten Yen True (TYT), Amanda Armstrong.

Carl Jung, the eminent dream psychologist, coined the term synchronicity about psychic/physical phenomena.  Apparently he noticed one of his patients dreamed about a Scarab beetle, and in their session, an actual beetle appeared. This beetle was a focal point for Jung to help his patient understand something new and free her from a neurosis about death.

Synchronicity, therefore, is a physical phenomena, that manifests in response to a psychic need/desire/intention. My psychic intention and prayer is for my books to find wide readership.

And this television interview was a generous invitation from another writer/professor/media guy, Eliot Parker. It is a physical manifestation of my hope and dream, but more than that, the interview has gone live just as my prequel Ten Yen, has been published.

And the prequel was in answer to David Armstrong’s wish to know just why the monk in TYT became a monk.   So if you want to know what makes a man enter a monastery, and you like Japanese lore, and are interested in what happens to defeated people (or at least what happened to the Japanese after WW II) read Ten Yen–you might enjoy finding out about Amaya and Joumi…

Guess who the beautiful couple in the photo are? They are strong giving people…with an interesting surname of excellent lineage.  Read about their name origin

Ken and Barbie

male

Driving in this little town I want to call home.
I see a man, with startling eyes,
Heading towards midtown Kroger’s.
I wish I could love him, but I don’t.
I prefer the tattoos he no doubt oozes from his very pores,
Explanations, perhaps, that he is important.

He might be.

I hope he is important, does not need to shout to the media his next
Aborted terrorist attack on the local high schools, who did not love him.
Enough.

I see his eyes beneath his narrowed lids, glaring, dry.
So I do my best to understand this male whose angular face, whose spindly arms
Sprouting muscles condemn,
Try to convince me he is tough, good, right
And not a criminal

He does not need my forgiveness.

Which is just as well.
I am not convinced.

A woman, I notice, and cannot not notice,
Is sprouting blond hair, and has eyes of an Egyptian queen.
Barbie
She is an ancient Barbie
Not all tits and sweetness,
But power, invincible, incredible.
Or perhaps, if she could fathom the depths of her heart, that would be her wish.

I don’t feel very pretty these days, these years of decline,
when I am not Barbie and never was.
Those Egyptian eyes. The eyeliner perfectly applied.

Now perhaps I would welcome plastic breasts, stretched face,
And splotched them into an early grave,

And yet,

And yet,

Who will eradicate the lines etched upon my

Ancient face?

wrinkle

Bad Hair Days and God

dogbadhair

 Blog inspired by John: 12: 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume (NIV John 12: 3).

No woman in the world would use her hair to wipe up grease, would she? Mary’s hair was long and glorious, her pride and joy. She poured a very expensive liquid, not quite like fuel oil, but something equally thick and tangy, onto the feet of Jesus. This expensive oil must have run all over the ground. Mary threw herself down. On her knees, head bowed, she wiped up the grease with her hair. Why did she do it? To make Jesus notice her? To straighten her hair once and for all?

I went to the hairdresser for a new style because I was having a “bad hair day.” I came out of the salon very pleased with my shiny smooth tresses. If only this straight hair had lasted, but after a wash, it turned into frizz. Nothing I did, not the spray, not the mousse, not the gel, not the Aussie shine serum, not the straightening iron restored it to its hairdresser prettiness.

When I was a girl, I was convinced that my hair was without curls. I later saw photos of myself as a teenager, and to my surprise, my hair used to be wavy. Often, we are unrealistic about how we view ourselves. Often we think we are okay and not in need of anything in particular. We certainly don’t think we have spiritual kinks. When we are children, our parents and the people around us teach us values. If we are lucky, we are loved and the values we internalize will be straight and narrow. We might well be honest, generous, kind and hardworking. That doesn’t sound too twisted, does it? But what if we are also greedy, self-centered and mean to small animals? How do we actually grow beyond what are often ingrained behaviors and ingrained ways of thinking? How do we influence Shiites to live harmoniously with Sunnis, Palestinians to get along with Israelis, Aunt Betty to take back her estranged oldest daughter?

There are many places we can seek understanding about life’s mysteries. The church is one such place. The church, however, has sometimes done as much harm as good. Think inquisition. Think the Crusades. Think of exclusionary statements such as “you can not be a member because you are living with someone who is not your legal married partner” or “you cannot be a member because you refuse to believe that the mother of Jesus was a virgin.” Yet, from the church, goodness has also arisen. Hospitals and schools have been opened. The poor have been fed. The destitute and abandoned have found inclusion. Blankets are distributed to displaced peoples. A very long list exists of positive actions from Christian people who have turned their lives over to a spiritual reality beyond the worldly notion of self-gain.

When we begin to grow spiritually by choosing selflessness, the impulse arises from some deep resource. Although GI Sue and GI Joe might well have joined the military out of need (poverty, scant opportunity, lack of self-esteem and so on), when she (or he) takes the shrapnel for her friend, she is doing more than what we normally expect from any person. Her limbs might be shattered, but her action of self-giving beyond her need for physical well-being, is the path to spiritual wholeness. In other words, wholeness results from acting in accordance with holy principles. It is the result of holy living.

Consider Betty Williams in Northern Ireland. In agony over the bloody death of a little neighbor girl whose legs had been blown across the street by an IRA bomb, she could not sleep. She could not get the terrible image of that innocent child’s dead body out of her mind. It might have been easier to stay home and get drunk, but something greater than herself motivated her to go into the streets and bash on front doors. “Is this,” she screamed, “what we are teaching our children?” Can’t you hear that cry? “Is this what we are teaching our children: death and revenge and a thousand years of hate, and an endless cycle of violent oppression?” Betty began a peace movement that has ended years of angry separation between the people of Northern Ireland.

Grand acts such as those of heroic soldiers and courageous women are not the norm of the spiritual life. Most of us must take small steps towards spiritual wholeness. Every time a person is able to rise above negative behavior, such as refusing to worry about the future, or not telling someone else a juicy piece of gossip, then he or she is acting in accordance and in unity with God. Our bad habits, though, do not simply disappear. We invariably need spiritual help. By learning and practicing the teachings of Jesus, we eventually become spiritually one with Jesus, yoked to his life of holiness. Jesus, like our spiritual mother, gives us birth. Justice, strength, truth, fearlessness and concern for others will become our normal way of life. We will contain the heart of God and be contained within its universality. We will be able to give our all to and for God.

Mary willingly gave what she most prized to Jesus. Hair for women in ancient Hebrew culture was even more important than it is for modern women today. Hair was one of their most prized attributes. It not only made them sexy and alluring, it gave them value and prestige. Mary taught that we have to let go of the old ways we think are precious in order to serve Jesus. She taught us that this is joyful and not to be feared or denied. She taught us that it is okay to be spontaneous and generous with and for God. Did she gain anything from this encounter? Yes. Her love for Jesus freed her. Her focus on God prevented her from feeling embarrassed about being an unwelcome person at an exclusive party. Instead, Mary’s gift of oil demonstrated Jesus’ inclusion of women. In Hebrew culture, anointing with oil was a symbolic rite priests performed, reserved for royalty.

God is the only one who can and will straighten out our lives. We might be awed over a golden sunset, we might hear the rhythm of angels in the sweet song of the blackbird, we might experience the ultimate in physical union with another human being, but these beautiful moments are only the good hair days of life. They look and feel wonderful for a short while. They are holy moments from God for us to enjoy. They are the promise of something even better. To enter into the wholeness of God requires more than casual observation. It requires commitment. It requires a willingness to be rooted in holy practices such as prayer, meditation, worship, fellowship, and the study of sacred literature. The Bible is the sacred text of the West preserved by the Institutional Church. The Bible is a good place to begin the job of getting rid of spiritual kinks. It won’t be easy though. It’s kind of like weighing wavy hair down with heavy objects to smooth it out. Curls of resistance will pop back up, but eventually with a lot of effort, and grace, the reward is a fully engaged life bringing about peace everywhere, for everyone.

***

Jamie’s World–Bad Hair Day  laugh at yourself

Chakra Meditation Series 7th Chakra/Sahasrara using B Note Singing Bowls in HD love yourself through a ten minute meditation to open the crown chakra (at the top of the head)–the body’scenter of spiritual energy, God-energy, universal love and wholeness.

Contemplative Prayer Exercise: September 18    http://www.pray-as-you-go.org/home/

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)  

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

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…

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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

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