Monday, July 30, 2018

Jody has Seen the Light of God

Life is filled with magical moments. If we keep our senses, our mind, and our heart open to the possibility of the miraculous, we can anticipate the appearance of the mystical. But, we must constantly aware, because these mysterious events can happen in the most unexpected places. This summer, I had the opportunity to visit my extended family in Oklahoma. We spent three wonderful days immersed in old pictures and family stories. Every moment felt like a new breath in a familiar setting; vital and precious. Amidst the laughter and tears, there plenty of holy moments. One instance, I would say, I even sat in the presence of the one holy living God—and we weren’t anywhere near a church.

John and I are cousins. He and Kathie live on several acres east of Tulsa. John is a musician, artist, craftsman, and a holy man, though he would never admit to the latter. Adjacent to the house John and Kathie built, sits Jody’s Little House. Jody is Kathie’s brother. He will tell you he is forty-six and that he has Down’s Syndrome. Jody is friendly, but not effusive. He laughs shyly, covering his mouth. And his stories often flow between his words, actions, and sign language. Jody makes me happy just being in his presence, like the laughing Buddha that sits in my office. John wrote a song about his brother-in-law. “No one has more friends than Jody, except God; well maybe Jody has more.”

On her visit, John was telling me about his mother, Jessie, who is very ill. Jody said he had been praying for her. He showed me how he prays. He sits on the floor in yoga pose; the back of his hands resting on his knees, thumb to middle finger, in mudra. He places his opened bible on the floor in front of him while he is surrounded by several small candles in a semi-circle.

Jody said he sits there in meditation. Pointing to his head then his heart, he said, “And I move my thoughts from here to here. When I get all my thoughts from here to here.” He repeated the motion of pointing to his head then his heart. “Then I ask God whatever I’m praying for…over and over again…Be with Jessie. Be with Jessie. Be with Jessie.”

I asked Jody if he ever sees anything while he’s praying. Pointing again. “When I move all my thoughts from my head to my heart. Then I pray over and over and over again…I see angels. And when I keep praying, the angels will open the gates of heaven and then I can go into heaven and pray to God.”

What does God look like, I asked Jody. “Light,” he said. We sat in the still silence of Jody’s glowing light for a long time. Resting in Jody’s aura, I could feel the warmth of the Light of the Divine.

At times, I have found myself praying to God to meet my needs; to meet the needs of the starving masses; and at times asking God to prove Divine existence by granting us a miracle. I have asked God all these things in the name of Jesus the Christ – thinking that Jesus might be the one who would perform the miracle.

But the scriptures teach us that Jesus didn’t walk on the earth preforming miracles, in the name of God, for the sake of those he healed. The miracles were to teach his earthly followers, including us, that they too could perform miracles for the sake of others. Jesus told his followers that they would do even greater miracles than he had done. (John 14:12)

Jesus taught us the key to the magic. But it’s so subtle, I have often overlooked it. Between the miracle of feeding the masses and walking on water, Jesus revealed his secret. “When Jesus realized they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” (John 6:1-21) Repeatedly, throughout Jesus’ life, he sought solitude—in the closet, in the garden, in the desert, in the mountains. He needed to get away from the swirl of the world so that he could be alone with God. In his meditation and prayer, he found the resources that he needed to fulfill the needs of others.

What Jesus discovered, however, was that he didn’t need God to “give” him those resources—whatever he needed, God had already given him. And that is what Jesus was trying to teach us. We already have the resources within our Self. We were created in the image of God. Therefore, in our godly DNA, we already possess the energy, the power, and the grace we need to be a miracle in some else’s life.

On the surface, though, it seems hard, if not impossible, to believe that we can bring about miracles in other’s lives. But, whether we believe it or not, we can be like Jody and we can pray for others. We can sit in stillness before the Word and the light of God. We can move our thoughts from our head to our heart. And when we can move all our thoughts from our head into our heart, there, in that place we can wait for the angels of God—who will open the gates of heaven—allowing us to walk into the Light and be heard by the one holy living God. And that’s probably miracle enough to change the world.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Changing the World without Words

I’m working on a new book, “Blue Jesus.” I’ve been trying to discover my sister’s silent inner world. Dinah has Prader-Willi Syndrome. She’s mentally and physically disabled and has a vocabulary of about forty-five words. Dinah speaks in sentences of one, two, maybe three words. What lies behind her blue eyes is a mystery. The paradox is that I think she’s a visible icon of the unseen inner world; the world where God resides. In her visible world that is silent, Dinah is a mirror of God—a God who is also a silent mystery.

To begin to understand Dinah as a total person—mind, body, psyche, and spirit—I started with her name. What’s in a name? I think Dinah, and I, and everyone would be a different person if we had been given some other name. A name can be a key to understanding who we are, our history, our psychic DNA—our name can give us clues to understanding our inner world, our soul, our unconscious if you will. “Dinah” a Hebrew name found in the Bible, which means, “one who knows and discerns.” That’s a pretty fair description of my sister. From out of her silence, at moments least expected, she can deliver a magical word of wisdom. For several years now, I’ve been on a quest to discover more than these few slivers of wisdom. I want to uncover her God given wisdom and I think that wisdom is hidden in her art.

Twenty years ago, Dinah created a linocut she titled, “Blue Jesus.” I’ve come to believe that “Blue Jesus” is Dinah’s self-portrait; it’s a picture of her soul. Dinah’s Blue Jesus is what Carl Jung called a mandala, a revelation from the inner world, the unconscious. Jung said that the mandala can reveal things hidden within our ancient unknown mysteries; even when we may not be able to articulate or even understand the meaning of the art we created. Dinah’s art, seen as a mandala, can reveal what’s happening in her silent world.

Along with Blue Jesus, at least three other pieces of Dinah’s artwork could be considered mandalas. In particular: The Rooster, The Stars, and The Sunrise. These four mandalas contain multiple layers of ancient hidden symbols and meanings that are windows into her inner world.

“The Rooster” is a sun-animal, a god of time, a symbol equated with resurrection. Dinah’s rooster has a blue heart—like Blue Jesus—blue often represents wisdom and clarity of thought. The Rooster is crowing at the sun. In the center of the sun, Dinah pained a green eye. These colors and images all have rich meanings.

“The Stars” depict heavenly images as squares, divided into four spaces, each surrounded by triangles. Such symbolism is alchemical and provides a profound opportunity to explore Dinah’s personal process of maturation; what Jung called individuation.

“The Sunrise,” I believe, is an expression of her journey into higher levels of consciousness. The sun rises out of a sea of mysterious faces. The brilliant yellow sun, the symbol of the philosopher’s stone, of higher consciousness, radiates with the multiple colors of the peacock’s tail—a symbol of the development of Dinah’s inner world.

I have yet to scratch the surface of the meaning hidden within these pieces of art. This is just a glimpse into the process of what it’s like for any of us to uncover our own inner, unconscious world.

Such inner work is vitally important for all of us. If we are willing to dive deep into our interior world, our psychic DNA, through dream work, exploring our own mandalas, meditation, and having a spiritual companion, we can expand our personal consciousness and deepen our relationship with the Divine.

The goal is to integrate our inner life with our outer life. By doing this work of the soul, we can begin to understand who we really are and who we can become. This work also gives us the chance to change those things about our lives that we don’t like. Those unwanted behaviors we repeat over and over again. Those things we hate about ourselves, but we feel like we are stuck with and can’t change. Instead of fighting against the things we fear the most, we can actually see those things transform. In other words, we might find a way to not repeat our personal history. Instead we can strike out in a new direction, into a higher plane of consciousness, into the realm of God, and into the life that Jesus the Cosmic Christ said would be “abundant.” A world where the sun rises out of the abyss.

According to Jung, what’s critically important for us as individuals is also important for our community. He says that if we are willing to do our personal work, it will, in turn, impact our community, our nation, even the world. This is so, he says, because our soul is connected to the soul of the community, the soul of the world, and, of course, the soul work of Divine. We are interconnected with all of the cosmic creation.

Carl Jung lived through two World Wars. He struggled in his attempt to explain how a country like Germany, enlightened, wealthy, and strong could fall prey to the mass hysteria of Nazism. His found his answer is the unexplored world of the personal and collective unconscious.
Jung found that if people are unwilling to do their personal work toward a level of higher consciousness, then they are doomed to follow the loudest voice, even if it’s not a rational voice. And eventually, he says, they will repeat history because they have not done the work to unite the inner world with the outer world.

How do we bring these things out of the shadows of the inner world and into the light of consciousness so that we don’t repeat our individual or communal history?

First, we must identify what’s hiding in the shadows of our community and then we must accept some responsibility for our work on these denials and repressions. Second, we have to look into our own shadow. What do we have in our personal DNA that feeds into this corporate shadow? Third, we must ask ourselves how we are going to work on our own stuff in a way that will positively affect the collective? In other words, how do we share our inner world with the outer world in ways that are not “all about me,” but instead for the collective health.

Such is my sister’s work. She can’t tell you what she’s thinking, but she can show you. Her art is sacred because it not only reflects her inner world, but the world of the Divine. She is an artist of the holy. Not because she is simple, or na├»ve, or untouched by the evil of the world. Actually, the opposite is true. She has suffered the fears that disturb us all, trauma, anger at injustice, death. Yet, by doing the hard work of revealing her inner world, she has moved her outer world onto a higher plane for all to see. And this level of consciousness has brought to her a place where she can hold power accountable by exhibiting unconditional love. She can hold the opposites of power and love in the tension of her own vulnerability. Those who have the ears and heart to hear Dinah are transformed, changed in ways they may not be able to articulate any better than she can. She is doing her part to change the world without using words.

Monday, May 28, 2018

The World between the Living and the Dead

It’s not uncommon for Trinity Sunday and Memorial Day weekend to intersect. It’s tempting for the preacher to focus either on the Trinity or Memorial Day. To tie these two days together, would seem, at best, a rather strained attempt to cover too much unconnected territory. But, I think these two are linked together for reasons we often want to avoid—that of the mystical connections between the living and the dead.

I’ve watched preachers attempt to explain the mystery of the Trinity by using rational ideas. But the Trinity is an experience, a relationship, a feeling that defies the rational. The Trinity is our webbed connection with the divine, the Other. The Trinity can be our path to become One with God. A path that demands the suspension of reality—it requires our willingness to delve into the unknown, the non-rational, the non-linear, the world in-between the living and the dead. The in-between world where God, the angels, and the dead work together. The world of the unseen—a world the living can enter only through active and creative imagination.

There is a mystical otherness of living into the relationship found within the Trinity. The irrational world of the in-between, where the intersection of celebrating the mysteries of the Trinity and honoring the war dead become possible.

On Memorial Day we remember our relationships with the dead. On this day, we turn our minds to honoring those who have died serving their country. Yet today, we live in a constant sea of violence and war. And still, we ache to experience a lasting peace

Forty-two years ago, my mother woke up from a deep sleep to see her younger brother standing at the foot of her bed. She thought she was dreaming, but he spoke audibly to her. “I love you.” She felt warm and comforted, while at the same time, alarmed. She spent the rest of the night dropping in and out of a dreamy, disturbing, and exhausting sleep. In the morning she received a phone call from her sister with the news that their brother had been killed in a helicopter crash.

Captain Eular M. Young had survived an extended tour of duty in Vietnam, which had caused a lot of anxiety in our family. When he returned, all seemed well because we thought he was out of danger. Then one stormy night at Fort Hood, Texas, he was sent out on maneuvers. Something went wrong during the storm and the helicopter he was piloting crashed, killing him and two other soldiers. To this day, no one knows what caused the tragedy.

My family, like yours, has had men and women serve in the military. To the best of my knowledge, my family members have served during the Civil War, World War I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and Desert Storm—and family lives have been lost along the way.

But the one person I want to remember today, the one I want to connect with to today, is my uncle Eular. We were close, he was the older brother I didn’t have—a confidant, a friend, a mentor. Like many relationships, ours was beautiful, complex, and hard to explain. And, the relationship seems to continue now as he lives in the world of the dead.

A relationship with the Trinity, the One Holy Living God—God the Parent, God the Child, and God the Spirit—can only be imagined in the world of the unseen, the unknown, the in-between. Except for the relationship with Jesus the Christ, the child. His experience transcends this world and the other. He lived as one of us and he died as one of us. It is through Jesus the Christ where our relationships with the living and the dead intersect.

We hear Jesus speak of these mysteries when he says to Nicodemus, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter of the Spirit World, without being born of water and the Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, what is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:1-17).

Nicodemus, was himself a teacher, a spiritual guide for his people. But even in his own wisdom, he went to Jesus, a younger man, to learn more about the ways of wisdom and the mysteries of the Spirt. As we know so well, Jesus rarely told cute stories with a simple moral. Jesus’ teachings were more often complicated and confusing, even for the wise. And Nicodemus, even in his wisdom, wrestled with Jesus’ complex mysteries of the seen and the unseen, the world of the Spirit.

To live in the world of the Spirit, Jesus told Nicodemus, he would have to become like Jesus himself—Nicodemus would have to be reborn into a life of the Spirit. This life of the Spirit would require following the teachings of Jesus about selfless love and sacrifice. This life of the Spirit meant that Nicodemus would forever be striving to be at One with God the parent. The life of the Spirit would demand that Nicodemus had to walk the path of wisdom. He would have to learn how to become a healer. He would have to be a servant leader for his people, teaching them that in the violent world in which they lived, they would have to be peacemakers.

If Nicodemus wanted to live in the world of the Spirit, he could no longer live in the world that others called “reality.” Instead, Nicodemus would have to become a Christ for others by living a life that would be lifted up for the sake of a peace that passes all understanding—a world that seems impossible to imagine.

For years, I’ve wondered what life would have been like for my uncle if he hadn’t been killed that stormy night. I’ve wondered what life would have been for his wife and his four young children. I’ve wondered how best to remember him and his service to his country on this Memorial Day. I struggle with the impossible complexity of it all—it seems beyond imagination.

I feel like the prophet Isaiah (6:1-8). “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

I have seen the work of the One Holy Living God; the One we call the Trinity. I hear Jesus’ teaching about how to live into the wisdom and peace of God. And I still find myself saying, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips.”

The only place I can find peace, is the in-between world; the world of visions, imagination, and prayer. The world in-between the living and the dead—Isaiah’s visional world.

“Then of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

I find myself praying, O God, send me into the world where the dead speak to us in visions and imaginations. The world where I can hear the lament of the dead. Where the sacramental bread and wine feel like burning coals in my mouth. A world where the Eucharist transmutes me into a living Christ for others. Take me into that world where I can imagine a different reality—a world where my response to fear and violence are words of peace and love.

For my uncle Eular, for all of your loved ones, and for all who have died while serving the in the military, I offer this visional prayer for peace written by Leslie D. Weatherhead (with my adaptation).

We give you thanks, O God, for all who have died that we may live; for all who endured pain that we might know joy; for all who made sacrifices that we might have plenty; for all who suffered imprisonment that we may know freedom. Now, O God, turn our deep feelings into determination, and our determination into action. That as we honor the men and women of our country who died for peace—help us, O God, that we may live for peace, for the sake of the Prince of Peace, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

A Four-Fold Method of Bible Study

A review of Alexander John Shaia's Heart and Mind: The Four Gospel Journey for Radical Transformation

Alexander John Shaia has been interviewed several times on Rob Bell’s podcast. On each occasion, he spoken about his brainchild, “Quadratos, a poetic word referring to the sequential fourfold journey of growth and radical transformation.” For Shaia, Quadratos is a psychological map for understanding life as a follower of “The Way of Jesus the Christ.” Indeed, every facet of life could be understood and mysteries revealed through a four-fold alchemical psychology.

“Heart and Mind” takes on the formidable task of pilgrimaging through the gospels of the New Testament looking through the Quadratos lens. Shaia sees the journey of the early church’s cycle of reading the gospels as transformative. His method attempts to take us back to the original intent of the gospel writers and the cycle through which the early church read those texts. He presents the possibility of living the Christian life with this ancient/future perspective. Even deeper, though, he presents a method in which to imagine the gospels as an integrated story. Keep in mind, this is not an attempt to bring synthesis to the four stories of Jesus; much less bring a unified version of the three synoptic texts with the disparate nature of the Gospel of John. Shaia uses the church lectionary as the method of integrating the four-fold natures of each story in a wholistic vision. In a sense, he is studying the text through the lens of God’s passionate love for Israel/Church in such a way as to be personally transformative. This method does not dismiss the historical context. It, however, does not give it primacy either.

The focus of “Heart and Mind” is an in-depth exploration of each gospel, through the lectionary cycle—a cycle which brings the story of Jesus the Christ into an integrated thread. Each chapter would make an excellent standalone Bible study, possibly for six to eight weeks. I would imagine studying the entire book would be on a yearlong project. (As suggested by Bishop Mark Andrus in the Foreword.) Shaia’s work would be an excellent follow up material for those who found Rob Bell’s “What is the Bible?” helpful in their understanding of Christian’s scripture. Shaia’s book provides approachable resources and expands possible practices in his final chapter.

Readers who come from a Christian tradition who do not use the lectionary cycle or follow the seasons of the church, however, may find Shaia’s premise a bit challenging. Especially those traditions that are steeped in Pauline theology, who might question Shaia’s statement that, “Paul’s impact is the most significantly unrecognized factor in gospel interpretation.”

I found Shaia’s book an excellent resource to consider for congregational Bible study. Particularly those churches who use the lectionary as their labyrinthine reading of the story of Jesus the Christ.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Jesus, Go to Hell, Please

Several years ago, I created a program entitled, “Resurrection, So What?” I invited guest speakers to make a case for the various theories about Jesus’ resurrection. Was it bodily resurrection? Was it a spiritual resurrection? A resurrection of the soul? A metaphoric resurrection? And more importantly, I asked each speaker to address The Book of Common Prayer’s question, “What is the significance of Jesus’ resurrection?”

Of course, the Prayer Book has an answer to its own question. “By his resurrection, Jesus overcame death and opened for us the way of eternal life.” That sounds traditional and comforting, while somewhat vague, which was probably the intention of the writers. But, honestly, what does that statement really mean?

We could look to the Bible for answers to questions about Jesus’ resurrection. The Gospel of Mark leaves the tomb empty with no sighting of Jesus. Matthew reports that Jesus’ appearance was “like lightening, and his clothes white as snow.” Luke tells us Jesus appeared like a ghost. John tells us that Mary Magdalene did not recognize him. St Paul and St Peter both write that Christ “died in the flesh and was raised in the spirit.”

Personally, I’m pretty comfortable with former Anglican Archbishop Rowan William’s answer from his book, “Resurrection.” He says simply that “Something happened.” (Resurrection: Interpreting the Easter Gospel) I don’t know what happened, but something pretty spectacular and even unbelievable must have happened at Jesus’ resurrection.

But I’m still left with the more important question, “So what does Jesus’ resurrection really mean for us, today?”

That is the question I’m often confronted with when someone faces the end of their life and then as the family grieves their death. And the two most popular scriptural texts chosen for funeral services are the 23rd Psalm and John 10:11-18 (which are the readings for the fourth week of Easter).

The 23rd Psalm is the poetic version of John’s mystical text about the good shepherd; the one who protects and guides his flock. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (better translated “the dark shadows”), I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod (symbol of the shepherd’s protection) and your staff (symbol of the shepherd’s guidance), they comfort me. Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever (better translated, “as long as I live.)”

Both the psalmist and the writer of John were using symbolic, metaphoric, mystical language to talk about the earthly experience of living in the emotional dark shadows—depression, fear, anxiety, paranoia. Most mystics, like Jesus, have suffered their share of the dark shadows of life. And like most mystics, some of Jesus’ followers thought he was out of his mind. (John 10:19)

But because Jesus had experienced the shadows of life he promised his followers he would be there with them in their times of darkness. He said he loved them and that he would search all of creation to find them, even into the darkest hell of their lives. And Jesus made those same promises to us.
The apostle Peter wrote that, “(Christ) was put to death in the flesh, but was resurrected in the spirit, (where) he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison (the dead in hell.) (I Peter 3:18-20, 4:6) In other words, Christ in the spirit will be present with us in the very hell of our life.

But what about life after death? Is there is a spiritual life after our physical death. Is there a resurrection into an afterlife?

One idea that some early Christians, like the theologian Origen, wrote about was the idea of the transmigration of souls (metempsychosis or reincarnation). Transmigration of souls is the eternal spiritual formation, or maturation, of the soul. You’ve probably heard of the term, “old soul.” That comes from the idea that the soul spiritually migrates through timelessness, constantly in a state of being molded, formed, into its true divine nature. Metaphorically, we could think of the soul as a drop of water in the ocean. The drop of salty water evaporates, rises into the sky to become part of a cloud. It travels over dry land and rains as fresh water on the earth. The drop evaporates again, rises into the clouds, and continues the cycle. We know that our bodies are made of star dust from eons past. That’s a nice idea to consider. And we know we are breathing the air dinosaur’s exhaled millennia ago. We are the sum of the spirits of ancient past. We are the dead. While the philosophy of the migration of souls was not popularized in later Christianity, it has continued through the ages. Seventeenth century Anglican priest, John Donne wrote poems about the transmigration of souls. And today, these ideas are still maintained in some corners of Christianity.

Still, we’re still left with the haunting question, “So what does this all mean? Here’s something to consider. Are your beliefs about life, death, and the afterlife congruent with the way you live your life? For example, if you believe that your beloved dog will be in heaven, why did you have a hamburger for dinner last night? Do you believe that there’s an afterlife? Then, where are the dead? And can you talk to them? Charting our religious beliefs against how we live can be a challenging but worthwhile exercise. And it could lead to some answers to the question, “Resurrection, So What?”

Try this experiment: make four columns on a piece of paper. In column one, make a list of the top ten things you believe are most important to your faith. In column two write why think each of these items are so important. In column three, write about how you came to believe these things. In the fourth column, answer these two questions: Is this one belief I hold congruent with the other nine on this list? Is this belief I hold so dear, congruent with how I live my life?

I tried this exercise and it was challenging. I won’t share my entire list, but here’s one of my top ten tenets.

There is a God.
Why? For me, this tenet is existentially more satisfying than true atheism.
Where? I have experienced God in the dark hell of my life.
Congruent? Indeed, the experience transmuted my life.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

"Living Revision" on the Page and the Soul

"Living Revision: A Writer’s Craft as Spiritual Practice" by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew is on par with Anne Lamott’s "Bird by Bird" and Stephen King’s, "On Writing." This book was provided gratis by a third party to write an objective review. Yet, I’ve gained such a great deal from "Living Revision" I feel compelled to send Andrew a check. Reading this book was the equivalent of attending a week-long writing conference.

As the title makes clear, this is not just another book on the skills needed to be a writer. Andrew takes her readers into the demanding work of becoming an artisan of the craft. “Revision is an inner work and thus a spiritual practice…Revision is the work of learning to love. Love takes time. Love is what brings us and our writing to fruition.” Andrew loved Living Revision tenderly for six years. My copy is now dog eared and marked thoroughly and a few weeks.

Andrew has taught the art of writing to all ages for over almost three decades. Her ability to speak to the beginner as well as the published author shines. Every detail of Living Revision has been carefully crafted. Even the shape of the piece mirrors a writer’s notebook. Each chapter is filled with wisdom from the library of literary queens and kings. She offers practical tips that have been matured on her own desk. Throughout the pages she gently suggests writing prompts that become progressively more challenging. I began to anticipate them with great joy. To become a better writer, one must write and it can be helpful to do so at the behest of a master.

As valuable as the practical application must be, it’s the inner work where Andrew drove me, sometimes in my reluctance. Her insistence that the art and craft of revision has both a contemplative and violent nature, reminded me of rejected drafts that are begging my return. To revise is to sacrifice the ego and the beautiful words no one else could scribe, yet for the sake of finding one’s true voice. “Voice, is relational.” At times, Andrew tells us, we must trust that our unconscious voice will speak to the unconscious of the reader. Such is the power of words that are birthed from love onto the page.

Andrew is forthright in her vulnerability. She reveals her truth in full display in order to model the writer’s demand to become authentically present to the page. The writer must do more than simply show up. The one who dares to write must expose to the reader what is at stake for the author. The writer must know and experience the “heartbeat” of both the inner and outer purpose of the project. “Why you write shapes how you write,” which is “usually born of some discomfort.” The more the writer is willing and capable of settling into this discomfort, “the better we can harness its energy.” Here, Andrew is revealing the psychic dark work of the writer in solitude. To write is to be alone with one’s life and recognize that “Perfection punishes the soul; it is an elusive and damaging goal.”

Typically, when I review a book, the critic in me rises easily to the page. For Living Revision, I have none. And now my critique of any future work, my own included, will be based on how much love is evidenced in the revision of the work. I need to find Andrew’s address so I can mail her my check.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Pink Jesus in a Wyrd World

Sometimes things are so weird, they can’t be ignored. This year, Ash Wednesday fell on Valentine’s Day and now Easter falls on April Fools’ Day. What an odd circumstance of synchronicity for two holy days in the same year. While it’s not the only time this has happened, it does me make me wonder about the confluence of the sacred and secular in our culture. There is a very murky space between the holy and the profane, but it’s often in this peculiar spiritual dream space where we can find illumination.

Illumination is not about receiving rational answers to unanswerable mysteries. Illumination is becoming comfortable living in a world of dream logic. (When dreaming the scene makes total sense, and then we wake up, the experience is difficult to explain.)

I’ve found in most forms of Christianity, people want Jesus and God to be something like the Magic 8 Ball, or an oracle who answers our questions. Let me introduce you to Pink Jesus. He was given to me by a young adult from St Brigid’s Community. He’s a very beautiful figurine of the Resurrected Jesus, a 12-inch, molded plastic that has a ceramic feel and a nice weight. The figurine has long flowing hair and robes. His right hand has two fingers extended in the sign of blessing. His left-hand rests upon the sash draped across his shoulders, representing the loving Sacred Heart of Jesus. And pink represents God’s love and forgiveness.

The most fascinating part of Pink Jesus is you can ask him questions. Inside the figure, floats a multisided dice. Anyone have a question for Pink Jesus?

Some of the answers are: Wait for a sign. The holy water will sting. Watch out for the lightening. Pray harder. I still love you. Let me ask dad.

Need an answer? Consult the Pink Jesus. Sounds funny, odd, maybe a little sacrilegious, I guess that’s why I like it. You kind of have to be willing to accept the idea of dream logic in order to imagine such oddities. The idea of resurrection lives in the world of dream logic.

Mary Magdalene was living in the world of dream logic on that dark morning when she went to visit Jesus’ tomb. She had gone there looking for the dead body of Jesus. The tomb was empty. Her grief of losing Jesus was compounded by believing that his body had been stolen.

In her despair, two angels appeared, asking her “Why are you crying?” She was not comforted. But then, she encountered a man she believed to be the keeper of the cemetery. He asked her why she was sobbing.

Then the man called her by name. Jesus the Christ, the resurrected one, whispered her name. Mary Magdalene herself was resurrected into the experience of Jesus’ resurrection. She had an unexplainable mystical experience. Hearing Jesus the Christ call her name was so powerful it transformed her life. So much so that Mary was eventually able to mystically translate her dream logic into a way of living her life. She lived in a perpetual state of being resurrected.

Her mystical experience gave her the power to become the disciple to the disciples. A woman, a mystic, would be the first evangelist, not Peter, not John, not Paul, but Mary Magdalene. She would use her mystical experience to hold the frightened community of Jesus’ followers together. Her mystical relationship with Jesus and her understanding of his teachings fueled the fire needed to inspire the followers of Jesus to move out of the prison of their fear into a life of discipleship.

Times I wish I could have an experience like Mary Magdalene.
A wise Irishman once asked me, “You wouldn’t be insulting God by looking for him, now would you?” My natural instinct is to search for God, to ache for a mystical experience. Yet, the more I look, the less likely it will be discovered. I search for answers and only find more questions. The more I cling to a dream, the more likely I am to choke it to death.

The story of Easter teaches us that Jesus the Christ will find us in the space between the sacred and the secular, between the holy and the profane. He will find us in our grief and in our despair. He will find us in our dark journey through the shadowlands of dusk and dawn. And in those in between places, he will teach us how to live with endless questions. He will teach us how to live in the world of dream logic. He will give us wisdom. And he will call us by our name. Amen.