Category Archives: My novels and writings

Big Ears–excerpt from Ten Yen

big ears

In Japan, having Big Ears is a very good thing.  Read more

Here is an excerpt from Ten Yen.  Amaya has just met Joumi at an American party:

Amaya came out of her reverie. Yokatta koto, my goodness, the Japanese man looked as if he intended to approach her. She needed no patron these days…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!”

Ookii Mimi means Big Ears.

You can buy the ebook or a print version of Ten Yen.

 

 

Resting in Gratitude

 resting2a This Soul Blog was inspired by Psalm 65 and Deuteronomy 8:7-18

Just how are we to rest in gratitude? Is it like resting in a warm bed?

There are two blankets on my bed covered by a pretty blue spread. I feel so blessed to be warm in the winter, to be so well-provided for. I remember only one occasion when I was seriously cold at night. Although I was raised in a house without central heating in damp and rainy England, in a rambling manor house called Camden Cottage, we always had hot water bottles in our beds, a roof over our heads, and the promise of the kitchen warmed by the gas cooker in the morning. And food, though not always overflowing, was enough.

For this I am grateful.

Who and what are you grateful for?

Gratitude is a spiritual discipline. There is the discipline of surrender, the discipline of listening, the discipline of selflessness, the discipline of waiting. And there is the discipline of gratitude.

Just like those blankets on my bed, gratitude is something to keep us warm in the dark times and the good times, so we will awaken refreshed and immersed in an awareness of a greater reality, Allah, Brahman, Shekina, Spirit, God, as our giver of all things good, and of life itself.

To experience gratitude completes a circle of holiness, of love. God gives. We receive. We rest in gratitude, completing a flow of love from God to us, connecting us with this greater reality.

Awareness of God, dwelling in God’s presence is not a momentary thing we sometimes do in a church but is an experience of a deep love that grows us from the inside out.

God frees us, forgives us, and blesses us with all the good things we will eat this Thanksgiving, but gives us much greater food even than the Thanksgiving turkey and cranberry sauce, or the baked ham and green beans, or the pumpkin and the elderberry pies.

God stills the roaring of the seas,     the roaring of their waves,     and the turmoil of the nations.

Remember, you are not alone. Gratitude is a way to feel connected to others and to God. It is important during the holidays especially to rest in gratitude by becoming deeply aware during your preparations, during hospitality, during each and every moment, that abundance is yours through grace.

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing…

Jesus gives thanks for the five loaves to feed way too many people. He gives thanks not out of fear and insecurity, but out of his confidence in a God of abundance.

Take time this holiday to be present to every moment aware it is a sacred moment. When you are chopping vegetables, remember all who are with you in this simple food–the farmers, the reapers, the packagers, the supermarkets, and not least, the One who provided the seeds, the earth, the rainwater and the feast.

When you take the browned turkey from the oven and smell the delicious aroma, and slice the meat, take time to be grateful you are able to cook, to smell, to enjoy, to be with others. Remember those drumsticks and those hams come from living creatures, and this is a gift from the same God who provided manna to the Hebrews in the wilderness.

God is Mystery and Abundance of spirit.

***

Spiritual Practice

Tonight when you are resting in your bed, bring to mind all the moments where you have experienced joy.

If you are alone, recall two people you’ve seen today. What do you know about them that you are grateful for? When you see them again, if possible, tell them how you are grateful.

When you wake tomorrow morning, take time to stretch and greet the day joyously. Stop worrying about getting everything ready, stop worrying about anything.

Trust in a process of Love. Rest in Gratitude

Listen and watch a beautiful video with images of nature, and the voices of a child and an old man: Gratitude | Louie Schwartzberg | TEDxSF  (~10 minutes)

Hyperlink to God

starry night

You are the hyperlink to God. Mystics, in all religious traditions, will tell you God is within you. Atheists, too, although not using God-language, recognize themselves as pivotal to life.

Yet God is also outside of us in the rocks and trees and stars, in the streams and bird-calls, in the supermarkets full of variety. And much much more.

We have our ideas of what God is, but God is not the white-bearded Santa in the sky any more than God is a stooped old crone carrying her basket of clothes. God/Goddess might be pleasant ideas, and maybe God is a crone or a wizened old geezer, but a richer way to experience and understand God is through yourself, through your perceptions, and through your life.

Awe, gratitude, love are some of the mighty experiences of the holy. They can be cultivated and grown within you. That is what worthy religions try to teach by nurturing ways to become holier, not more pious but holier, in the sense of becoming deeper, kinder, gentler, more loving people.

Slow down and notice your surroundings. Being present to your daily moments is important. When you are flying through life, busy, busy, busy, you are missing life. Slow down. Pay attention. Bird song or the voice of another is heard through your awesome ears, interpreted by your amazing brain, arising from a sacred source you do not even need to name.

Take time to be grateful for your ability to perceive. It is gift and goodness. Consider the many things you experience in one day from getting out of bed, to walking, eating, smiling, smelling, talking, being with others. There are so many perceptions to give thanks about, and if you aren’t a person who can thank God, then sit still and allow gratitude to permeate your being by remembering special moments and savoring them.

What about suffering and evil? Even these difficult and unwanted aspects of life move us to an awareness of the sacred within, of God arising. When we cry at losses, at pain, in pain, for others, for the brokenness of human beings, for the violation of the earth, we are empowered to consider how we might become the force of love against evil, how our lives matter. By developing our skills not only for our good and prosperity, but for the good of all the people, all the world, the whole planet, we hyperlink to God.

Allow the flow of love to move through your mind body soul into the world of teeming life and experience the sacred within the river of your life.

Hyperlink to God. Hyperlink to Love.

 

Children of Light

childrenoflight1

Soul Blog inspired by Psalm 123 and Matthew 25:14-30

In this parable about the Kingdom of Heaven, the Master praises the two who have used their talents to earn more money, but the one who buried it in the ground got into a lot of trouble. In fact, he is thrown out into darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Is this fair? What did he do that was so terrible?

Rev. Fleming McGurgan says:

“I mean, given what we have seen in the stock market and heard on the news in the past few months, digging a hole and burying some cash in the back pasture doesn’t sound so crazy, now, does it? 

Everyone who laughed at Aunt Edna—

(you remember Aunt Edna–

she stashed all of her money

in an old lard can under the loose floorboard)

is having second thoughts today.  

Maybe Aunt Edna had the right idea,

all along. Maybe taking risks—with banks, with investments,with demanding bosses, with life itself—is just too sketchy…  too uncertain…too dangerous.

After all, if you hide your treasure in a lard can or a cigar box, or in a deep, deep hole behind the wood pile, you know exactly what you’ve got and where you stand.  

You may not double your investment.

You may not impress your relatives or astonish your boss—

In fact, the entire world may treat you as their very own Aunt Edna… but at least it’s safe.”

Jesus is not in the fairness business, nor is Jesus in the safety business. Jesus is in the business of growing souls, developing people and increasing their wealth as human beings. Jesus is in the business of giving everything, even unto death. Everything.

The person who is unwilling to take a risk at anything new is not going to grow but is going to remain stagnant. It isn’t just the young, the adventurous and the energetic who are able to take risks. No matter our circumstance, we can all take risks.

But what risks does Jesus have in mind?

He is talking about taking “his property” that he has entrusted to us, and turning it into something more by investing it in some way.

He is talking about getting over our fear of what other people might say, of our inadequacy in new situations, or anything at all that stands in our way to increase the harvest of goodness in the lives of those around us, and in our own lives also.

The man who is given one talent (worth about 1000 dollars, and considered back then to be almost half a year’s salary) obviously is not as capable as the other two people who are given a greater share of the Master’s property.

Still, he has just as much opportunity to increase its value as the others. He could have outshone them if he’d tried.

But the truth is he does not understand the opportunity that is before him. He does not even understand the Master. He says: “Master, I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.”

Where does he come up with the idea that the Master, Jesus, is a hard man? He is obviously misinformed, latching onto his own ideas, and his own pettiness. He reaps what he has sewn. What he believes comes back and bites him. Jesus responds to his fear by throwing him outside into the darkness.

But he was already in the darkness.

His lack of understanding was a form of darkness.

His wrong-thinking was a form of darkness.

His fear was a form of darkness.

God is abundantly giving. God is light.

Those who give without worry about who is getting what back, those who generously share all they are and all they’ve learned for the good of other people and the world will always grow in more goodness and abundance.

They become the light because they are givers of the light.

Imagine a world without light, a world when the sun never comes up, where there are no stars and no moon. Imagine a world where there are no candles and no electric lights. Imagine a world of such utter blindness that there is no common decency.

Obviously, human beings are capable of great harm as well as great good.

We become the darkness or the light of the world.

We, as Rev. Fleming McGurgan says are

“Like the servants in this story, offered by God a partnership. The 5-talent and 2-talent servants saw the partnership as an opportunity—an adventure to be explored. They knew that what the Master gave them could easily be lost, stolen, invested badly—but they took the risk anyway.  

The third servant saw the partnership as a burden—a potential landmine to be feared. He knew that what the Master gave him could easily be lost, stolen, invested badly—and so he opted for damage control.  

This servant avoided the challenge of partnership, only to find that playing it safe can be the biggest risk of all. 

…This story reminds us that we worship a God who is willing to invest in us. A God who is willing to make a bet and take a risk.

This story reminds us that if we play it safe and risk nothing in return, we actually risk everything.” 

We must overcome our fear of being wrong,

Our fear of what people will think,

Our fear of being found out,

Our fear of losing everything,

Our fear of not measuring up,

And give one hundred percent to everything we do, trusting God, who has entrusted us with talents.

Jesus showed us that even death need not be feared.

We will live eternally as fully as we have lived our lives in the here and now. But do not feel bad for sometimes being afraid. We are often afraid. We are, after all, only human. It is hard to face medical tests, examinations, new jobs, life changes. That’s all right. When you feel afraid, when you tremble, when you feel lost, when you feel as if you are in the darkness, remember Jesus on the Cross, and remember Jesus is always walking within your increasing understanding.

Take the risk:

When you are sick, be kind to the nurses and medical people. Offer your courage to others.

When you are lonely, reach out to those who are also lonely.

When you are addicted, seek help not only for yourself, but also for those around you who need your experience to help them.

When you’ve got a test to take, study hard, be prepared and give it your all.

When you are uncertain, trust loving God is with you and all-powerful God is for you.

Become Children of Light.

***

Listen to an old Gospel hymn: Send the Light   Gospel, by the way, means Good News.

Become the light in your own way. Listen to Ellie Goulding – Lights   

     

 

Kurokawa Onsen–Ten Yen

hotspringamaya Amaya, the heroine of Ten Yen (prequel to Ten Yen True) is excited to be filming at Kurokawa. She only has a minor role, but it is a start. To be in such a beautiful place and get to bathe in hot spring water is an incredible luxury after the horrors of WW II. She is very happy. Even more so because once the filming ends, Joumi is coming to fetch her and take her on what promises to be their honeymoon. But she hadn’t counted on the leading man, Ebisu, making a pass at her.

Read what happens in Ten Yen.

Click for more information from the publisher Rogue Phoenix Press:

e-book

print

ebook also available on Amazon Kindle: $3.99

****

Water is very important both physically and spiritually. We need it to live. We also love to go to the ocean, or sit by a river because it is so relaxing.

No wonder it is such an important element in many religious traditions.

In Japan, Suijin (水神, water god?) is the Shinto god of water. The term Suijin (literally water people or water deity) refers to the heavenly and earthly manifestations of the benevolent Shinto divinity of water.

Listen to the following music and imagine yourself resting in lovely hot water: CHILLOUT MUSIC – Onsen   

You might just get as relaxed as this Japanese snow monkey:

Ten Yen Forever–sequel to Ten Yen series of spiritual thrillers

tenyenforevercover

Although I did not write this book, I was excited to learn it is coming out  January 1, 2015.  It’s the sequel to Ten Yen True  ($4.99) which I co-authored with Amanda Armstrong and was the first of the series of Ten Yens to be published by http://www.roguephoenixpress.com/.

It all started with a mysterious ten yen coin that found its way into my suitcase somewhere over the Atlantic when I was on a journey to visit my family.  What a journey it has become.

After writing Ten Yen True, which was so much fun, with a surprising ending, I wrote Ten Yen to explain how come the Japanese Buddhist monk, who sent Amanda and I the mysterious coin, sends four more coins to four people who need, well, help. We all have issues of course.  Ten Yen True is about how people can help or hurt one another–with, as I said, a surprise ending.

Ten Yen, the prequel about the Monk and the love of his life, Amaya, has a surprise ending too.

Ten Yen Forever will knock your socks off…so put it on your to read list.

And check out Amanda Armstrong’s website which features free short stories.

Spiritual Practice

Listen. Still your heart and mind, chant.

Namo Amitabha~Pure Land Buddhist Meditation    (8.39 minutes) 

And here is another chant (11 minutes) which will undo bad karma, so it is said.

It is said to repeat the name of the Amida (Amitabha) Buddha is to guarantee a place in the Pure Land (Heaven).

Lotus Pond Photograph

What you think, you become, so train your mind in holiness. Prayer and Meditation focus our minds and hearts, help us to be still and to keep the mind focused on what is holy such as Amida Buddha, or Jesus, or Allah, or even fiery Kali.

Come Home

ancient oil lamp, Antioch 350 AD already had streetlights. (Scotchmer ...

Ancient Oil Lantern

Soul Blog inspired by Psalm 78: 1-7 and Matthew 25: 1-13 (The Parable of the Ten Virgins)

Life is so full of awe, mystery, and struggle. Jesus surely understood and wants to teach people deep truth about the kingdom of heaven. He is always trying to help people understand how to live better, meaningful lives. Sometimes he talks about end times. Sometimes he uses hyperbole, exaggeration. The parable about the ten young virgins (or bridesmaids) employs humor.

Ten virgins, we are told, and one bridegroom are going to meet at midnight.  Imagine the people listening to him tell this parable about the Kingdom of Heaven. The men must have been thinking ooo la la, and the women were probably laughing their heads off at the idea of ten young women going meekly to meet one guy. It would almost certainly spell trouble. Ten girls vying for the bathroom, maybe bickering, and jealous of one another. I can imagine them whispering about who is the prettiest, kind of like who is the greatest. There probably wasn’t a lot of cooperation.

This parable, however, is not about cooperation. It is about the Kingdom of Heaven.   In the Gospel of Matthew, this parable follows Jesus’ strong speech about End Times. There are difficult days ahead. But in this instance, Jesus is in part trying to help the people relax and enjoy life, have a good laugh, as well as think about their lives.

There are five wise virgins and five foolish virgins. The wise ones use their heads. They bring extra oil for their lamps. The foolish ones maybe aren’t paying lot of attention and only bring lanterns and no oil. Maybe, they haven’t even checked to see if there’s oil in their lanterns.

The virgins represent the people. The lanterns represent the light of God. Bridegroom represents Jesus.

We are told clearly that no one knows when Jesus will come again. No one knows the hour of their death.

We have all been given the light of talents and skills. How we use them is important. If you don’t use your abilities, then you will lose them. That is a fact. So whatever light God has filled you with, you must attend to that light.

It is noteworthy that in Jesus’ talk about end times, within his warnings and woes to come, he says: “this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”

It is only AFTER everyone has heard the gospel of the kingdom preached that the end times of the whole world are going to happen. It seems then that everyone is going to get the chance to make a choice about what to believe and how to live fully.

We can add fuel to strengthen our faith, or we can let the flame go out.   Faith is a gift. Life is a gift. It is not easy. But like all gifts we must take care of them.

For years, I had a ceramic horse that my brother Edward brought home from Spain. It got broken and glued back together. My brother didn’t remember giving it to me, but it was special. He had loved me enough to give me something precious.

That is what God does too. God loves us all enough to give us something precious. He gives Jesus who teaches us about the sacred Kingdom, the preciousness of life.

Ultimately, we are responsible for the gifts we have been given. We make the choices.   The five wise virgins bring along extra provisions for the journey and for the waiting period. They act wisely because they do not know what is going to happen and they want to make sure they are prepared. What do we do to prepare ourselves spiritually for the return of Jesus? Are you ready? Helping other people is always a good thing, of course, but works alone are not definitive.

One minister wrote this: We’re told the wise maidens bring extra oil, and the foolish ones don’t. That sounds simple enough, but we’re on pretty shaky ground if we look for the easy answers, and decide that the oil represents Goodness, or Piety, or Works, or even Faith. If we do, then it starts to sound as though what’s important is the amount of oil we’re carrying around – as though we all ought to be doing extra good deeds, or praying extra hard, or living a perfect life, so that we can store up a spare flask full of midnight oil, ready to burn if the Messiah decides to pull a pop quiz at the end of days.

When the virgins are told that the bridegroom is coming, the five girls who have extra oil do not share it with their foolish companions. Why should they? Maybe they don’t want the competition.

But God is big enough for all of us, men and women.

So just what is Jesus’ point here?

In the parable of the worker in the vineyard, God pays the one hour workers as much as those who work a full day. It is God’s choice.   Who is getting into heaven is God’s choice too—the five who are prepared get to enter the doorway with the bridegroom.   The other five are off in a flurry of activity trying to buy oil at midnight. Everything is closed. When they rush back, the door remains closed to them. They are turned away from heaven’s gate.

The point is that we must get our priorities straight. What really matters? Do you feel sorry for the losers? Perhaps they were careless and lazy. Perhaps they thought they’d get to heaven no matter what they did or didn’t do. Perhaps they couldn’t afford extra oil. In any case, their lights went out.

The oil of the spirit is not about things. It is about the ways we enrich our faith and keep on trusting the process of the holy. All the spiritual disciplines help in this matter: prayer, meditation, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, fellowship and celebration (to name the ones Richard J Foster discusses in his spiritual classic, Celebration of Discipline).

Yet, even those of us who are deeply immersed in these practices can sometimes feel as if the light has gone out.

When we are true to the teachings of Jesus, we will be able to light the way though acts of kindness, charity, hard work, love, compassion, and fellowship. We will grow in these abilities not because we want to impress anyone else but because we are allowing God’s spirit to flow through us. We will use our skills, talents, passions to be a help to others. We will be ready to leave this earth when the time comes because even though we know there have been times when we have been the wise ones, there have also been times when we have been the foolish ones, yet God’s love is so great that we can trust his promises.

In the spiritual life, there is something called the Dark Night of the Soul. This is a time when a person feels disconnected from God. Unplugged. That is different than what is happening in the parable.   Henri Nouwen, one of the greatest known 20th century writers of spirituality, experienced a terrible Dark Night of the Soul. Everything he’d believed seemed to be crashing down. He was depressed. He could not pray. He felt a deep painful loneliness. He wrote, “There are two realities to which you must cling; First, God has promised that you will receive the love you have been searching for. And second, God is faithful to that promise.   So stop wandering around. Instead, come home and trust that God will bring you what you need. Your whole life you have been running about, seeking the love you desire. Now it is time to end that search. Trust that God will give you that all-fulfilling love and will give it in a human way. Before you die, God will offer you the deepest satisfaction you can desire. Just stop running and start trusting and receiving.   Home is where you are truly safe. It is where you can receive what you desire. You need human hands to hold you there so you don’t run away again. But when you come home and stay home, you will find the love that will bring rest to your heart. P. 12´ In “The Inner Voice of Love  

The five foolish virgins simply haven’t been paying attention. They are off running around being busy when maybe if they’d hung around at heaven’s gate, they would have gotten in. They were too caught up with getting things right at the last minute, when getting things right is not about anything we can do, but is about our hearts.

Did they not know that God is love and Jesus is the healer, miracle worker, teacher, and friend?

Come home by trusting that the Kingdom of Heaven is not only later in some unfathomable way but is also now.

Come home and experience God’s love by opening your eyes to the preciousness of every moment.

Come home and experience God’s love in the people around you. Celebrate richness of soul. Celebrate goodness in the midst of struggle.

Come home in the here and now by getting to know Jesus and walking the walk. If you are not baptized, you might consider finding a church and proceeding.

Spiritual Practice: Take time. Be here now. This evening, when you go to bed, take a few minutes to remember how you have been immersed in God’s love. Perhaps in a smile from a child or a hug. Perhaps you have smiled at someone. Or seen birds flocking, and leaves blowing. Perhaps it is the meal you enjoyed. Or the ball game you watched with friends…or perhaps it is through music.

Come Home, by One Republic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxW0cPo7F_o

Traditional Hymns

Softly and Tenderly   beautiful imagery of nature with personal letter at end to a woman, Lois, who has lung cancer. 

Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling sung by Pwaveno Bamaiyi 

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