Archive for the 'Spiritual Journey' Category

15
May
13

re-drawing sacred circles

Drawing Sacred Circles transformed: the story in three parts:

Part I • The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century rejected religious imagery as being idolatrous—the baby was thrown out with the bath water. Five hundred years later, the baby struggles to make a come back, crawling inch by inch over ideologically traditional terrain looking for water in which to bathe away years of neglect.

Part II • Despite attractive altar flowers and holy season decor, much of what greeted me when I returned to the church after being gone nearly 30 years, seemed trite, contrived and lacking in a sense of spiritual mystery. I was unmoved and wanted to see visual art taking its place as a significant element of worship equal to music. Although there was some movement afoot in this area, centuries of visual deprivation seems to have left a gap in terms of spiritual nurturance.

Part III • I began introducing liturgically oriented art forms into the church I was attending. My efforts were not an immediate home run. Sadly, thanks to the esoteric quality of modern and contemporary art, many people distrust their own visual sensitivity. (The world is turning so fast…we see without knowing and know without seeing.)

In 2010, I started Drawing Sacred Circles, a blog where I could present visual art as a creative process inherent in human beings—circular and sacred—whether designed for church/synagogue/mosque worship, gallery viewing or personal enjoyment. I sought to give form to this view by keeping two separate, yet parallel archives—liturgical art under the heading, Worship Circles and personal art under the heading, Meditation Circles.

Having spent considerable time presenting art in this manner, it’s time for these categories to meld into an inclusive celebration of life expressed through any and every art form, at any and all levels of accomplishment, whether professional or amateur.

“The practice of art isn’t to make a living. It’s to make your soul grow.”
Kurt Vonnegut, Man Without a Country

I like the sound of that…it’s all about soul and spirit. We engage in the arts because something within wants to reach higher and go deeper  all the days of our lives. This kind of growing is at the spiritual core of doctrine, creed and liturgy. When the creative thing we do reaches another soul, a connective circle is made. Connective circles complete and make sacred, the artful process. How and why we do this soul-growing thing through the arts is the nexus and raison d’etre of Drawing Sacred Circles...take a look…subscribe.

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27
Feb
12

Mondays not Sundays

In the 1970s I was a member of an intentional Christian community north of Chicago. It was a mixed bag of positive and negative experiences in those days. Living in Community was a total immersion experience with shared purse and decision-making. The positives could reach beyond imagining and the negatives could inflict deep wounds that only confession and forgiveness and the passage of time could heal.

I met my life partner there. We left together at the end of a very dark time, re-entering a world that had changed in a myriad of ways. Time passed…30 years to be precise…with the best aspects of community living ingrained within us. Although we prospered in many ways, we could not even remotely re-assemble the best of those times. These were years of growing and learning the ways of the world. We did well.

In 2006 our world fell to pieces when I was diagnosed with non-Hodgekin lymphoma. I survived the attack of the cancer beast, fell in love with God again, and a year later found myself  returning to the church, which was and still is, in change-process. Change within the church, or any large organization for that matter, is slow and tedious with its own litany of hits, runs and errors. It has been both a painful and an enlightening experience, as many of my previous postings can clearly show. Writing this, remembering the events of the past half decade, I feel battle-scarred and tired. I am an artist, a seeker and a visionary. Moving forward within the church structure is a slow and burdensome process. I do not naturally travel slowly. Sometimes I wonder why I am still here…in church…any church at all for that matter? Good question.

Yesterday was another Sunday survived. Today is Monday, the day of healing—the day I get to dance in a spaciously beautiful room—with beautiful Jane, who is my teacher and friend. We come together in this place, with its strips of colored sunlight streaking across the old wood floor,  and a ceiling that dwarfs us by its height. We come with our body spirits as is—a come as you are party of two. Through the various InterPlay forms, and her years of expertise and training, we shake it out, sing it out, shout it out and dance it out. We dance for ourselves, for each other, and with each other in familiar forms. We even create new ones. We are clay on the potter’s wheel, laundry on the line, birds unfolding, flags unfurling. We are movement in time and place—each of us doing our best, reaching for our personal sense of wholeness within and without. And when we achieve it…when it happens…we are altogether amazed and elated. We are uplifted—a Lazarus moment in time that requires a bit of exclamation and a roll or two on the floor!

And that is why I find myself so looking forward to Mondays with Jane, when my body-spirit regains its equilibrium and I am One with all of Creation.

15
Feb
11

a note on another note:

Before my valentine salutation yesterday, I wrote about my search for an visual enhancement for our church lectern, appropriate to our Lenten theme. (See posting, on another note for February 10th) For those who wonder how it all worked out, I can happily say that, 1) I have relearned my laundry lesson and 2) my intuition about the burlap being appropriate did turn out to bear fruit.

After cleaning up all the mess in the dryer, I spread the burlap out on the ironing board and pressed it as flat as I could, then hung it up to dry overnight. The next day I looked in on the piece, which had acquired approximately 1 to 1-1/2 inches of fringe on both sides of its 48 inch length.  It hung there in its ugliness for most of the day while I set about searching in fabric stores for a piece of cloth that would speak of homespun, and be a naturally neutral color. After hunting high and low, I came home with 1-1/2 yards of unassuming linen, but no sparks had flown from this selection. I left it alone on the table and read another chapter of Taylor’s previous book, Leaving Church.

I could not get the burlap out of my mind, despite its menacingly ugly color and stains. By evening I wove a plan to color it with fabric spray, and began rolling through a number of color choices, settling on a variety of interlaced of tones. It is winter here and there is a ton of snow outside where I would have to do the spraying, so I went to bed with a plan to start the next day.

The next day was Saturday. Although the sun was out and the air beginning to warm up, I still couldn’t open the back door. Resourcefully, I devised a plan that would allow me to suspend the 48 inches of ugly burlap outside in front of the garage door. It took only a second to realize that my plan for multi-coloring was off the mark, so I just started spraying with ivory, then quickly switched to flat white. Each swish of white spray brought me joy. I knew this was the way to go. It took a heap of spraying to bring this remnant to a visual semblance of human/humble. While it was drying I flew back to the fabric store for the piece of purple I saw in my mind, draping along the left side of the human, humble, now whitened, burlap. I flew back twice. The first time I chose two beautiful fabrics based on color and texture that turned out not to fit the bill at all. On my second tour I found a dark purple, plain-knit jersey that spoke to me: Take me home, I’m the one! I was skeptical and concerned about all the money I’d already spent, but determined to listen to the intuitive voice over the, let’s just get it done, voice.

So I brought it home, set up the whole thing and there it was, like magic: the human/divine connection creating yet another altar in the world. I am pleased and relieved this is done. I am ready for my cataract surgery tomorrow. They say I will see instantly, but the following several weeks could be a bit of a trial. If I’m lucky and receive perfect vision, I won’t need glasses anymore. If I am not, I will have to hobble along for the 3 weeks it takes before receiving a new prescription and the additional week or two before new glasses are sitting on the bridge of my nose.

******

The surgical center just called. My appointment time is 7:45 am. By 9:00 the doctor will be making a small incision in my right eye, removing the failing lens and slipping in a new model straight off the assembly line. I don’t like to think about that. I prefer to think about the 5 mg of Valium I will get before, and the lovely nap I will have all afternoon long. After that…I throw myself on the mercy of all that’s good and holy.

03
Feb
11

longing for home

I’ve been away too long. My last posting was nearly 7 weeks ago on December 20th. Not sure what all happened in that time to keep me from writing. Seems like a dark time in many ways, nothing to do with Christmas, but a lot to do with the intricacies and vagaries of church polity. Whether it’s broadly denominational or narrowly congregational, the church world is a complex one where I simply do not find the promise of the Gospels all that often. What is wrong with this picture? Is it me? Some would say yes. I have said yes on far too many occasions. In fact, for most of my lengthening life, I have tended to come to this conclusion. Now in my 7th decade, with some degree of history to call upon, I know that I am a very small cog in a very large wheel. I am not the elephant in the sanctuary.

What I am is a cracked jar—a crystal clear, cracked jar lying in an old river bed, muddy with the millennia of human misdeeds—some of them mine, some of them yours. I am not alone, everyone is some sort of a cracked or broken jar, and yet I feel quite alone way too often. I long for a community of caring where, when necessary, friends lay down their lives for one another (John 15:13). This does not mean standing in front of a Mack truck so your friend can saunter across the street. But if the truck is an offensive ideology, bias or untruth that causes great harm to your friend, and you can do something about it, do it! Stand up, speak out. Risk your comfort zone for your friend’s safety, dignity and well-being. That is what Christ followers are called to do. I do not see it happening very often in the church world. What I see is self-interest and a lot of maneuvering for a slice of some kind of store-bought pie.

I am a cracked jar, many times broken and many times packed back together, forming glue seams and stress points that never quite forget themselves. I am a cracked jar standing open, filling with rain until the weight of it overturns me into a bell ringing its song along the river. Some days the sound is clear and resonant. Some days not, and I am once again standing upright in the river bed. Inevitably, I fill with rain and it seeps out through my seams and cracks onto the mud in which I stand. I long for home.

Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing, Only a signal shown, and a distant voice in the darkness; So on the ocean of life, we pass and speak one another, Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

God in me and me in God, passing through the narrow gate together. It is harder than the righteous would have you believe. It is Home.

20
Dec
10

red velvet cake and the spirit of christmas

I have a lovely Christmas story to share and a fine storyteller to introduce, but first I must give some background.

In the mid-1980s, members of the historic peace churches began seeking new ways to express their faith. Out of this desire came the Christian Peacemakers Teams, an organization, which seeks to embody an inclusive, ecumenical and diverse community of God’s love in partnership with local peacemakers worldwide. Denominations and organizations supporting active CPT chapters are—Church of the Brethren, Friends United Meeting, Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite Church Canada, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, Congregation of St. Basil, Every Church a Peace Church and Presbyterian Peace Fellowship.

My friends Mark and Sara—peace and justice (CPT) activists from my church—entered a letter writing program to prisoners through a Church of the Brethren friend of theirs. Through this program they met Glenn, an inmate at Alabama’s Holman Prison, where he has been on death row for the past 25 years. Mark and Sara have visited him 3 times since 2002 when their correspondence began. Each time, they found that they were the only visitors Glenn had that year.

A couple of days ago Mark sent this remarkable story….Red Velvet Cake and the Spirit of Christmas…to the congregation through our listserve :

Glenn called today and left a voice mail saying, “Brother, I have something important to share with you.”  I called him back.

He said, “You know what my favorite dessert is?” He’d told me some time ago, but I couldn’t remember. “Red velvet cake. Everyone (the inmates) around here knows that. Today, a ministry (program) was here distributing food packages.’

(Aside: there are a few ministries that distribute such food packages throughout the year. The inmates look forward to these. On death row, I’ve learned, food is a BIG deal. The daily prison food is awful, so anything normal is a major event.)

“Sister Antonia gave me my package and I told her my date was around the corner. I looked through the package and saw that there were a lot of good items. It was a pretty good collection.  And the dessert was…red velvet cake…home made!  Of all the desserts to be in there….I told her it was my favorite.”

“A little while later, she came back, and pushed another piece into my cell.”

“A little while later, another piece came, passed on down the line by the guys, from cell to cell.”

“And a little while later, another, and another, and another, until every guy on the tier had passed their red velvet cake.”

Glenn was choked up at this point in the phone call. He said jokingly, “I must have male menopause.” I told him it was a very touching thing and he was just being human and that the guys were just giving back in a small way what they’d received from Glenn over the years.  Glenn said, “Whatever they’ve received, it has been from God, not from me.”  Glenn is deeply faithful and very humble and attributes whatever positive influence he’s had on others as God’s working through him. And I believe it.

Mark goes on to share some about his friend Glenn:

Here is a story of part of Glenn’s transformation—one that happened in spite of the brutality of the so-called correctional system, and because Glenn opened himself and listened to God.

“When my sister was young, she was put into a mental hospital where she was raped repeatedly by one of the workers. As a young man, I was so angry. I pictured the man in hell, and I wanted to torture him to the verge of death so he’s feel pain like my sister.

“While in prison I asked Jesus into my heart. God said, ‘You shall know the truth and it shall set you free.’ I had to tell the truth before I could be free, and the truth was that I wanted to kill the man. The truth was not that I wanted to try to love the man. I wanted to mutilate him.

“Once I confessed to god this truth the way opened up. In a dream I heard the voice of God say:

“Glenn, there are people in your life that you hurt, not in the same way, but pain is pain, and they want you to hurt. But I don’t want you to hurt because I love you. And guess what, I love that man too, and I don’t want you to hurt him.”

“I Woke up and cried like a baby. I said to God, ‘I can’t do it, but I’m willing to let you, God, do it through me.’ I got to a place where I could envision being in the same room with the man, and telling him that I forgive him and that I love him.

“People who knew me when I was 19 (when I entered prison) will not recognize the person I’ve become; God’s love allowed me to forgive.”

In the 25 years Glenn has been on death row, the courts have denied his appeals and he will be executed in early 2011. Mark and Sara are his friends. They see a deeply wise, intelligent, compassionate and religious person in Glenn…a very different person today than who he was when he committed his crime. I believe this is true and do not understand the twists and turns that keep a redeemed person  pinned to the past. Many people say we are a Christian nation…if so, where is the repentance and compassion that Jesus taught us? He asked  the woman caught in adultery where her accusers had gone and if any condemnation remained. She tells Jesus that no one remains to condemn her. Jesus responds with compassion, and tells her that he does not condemn her either and exhorts her to go and sin no more. (John 8:1-11)

Our penal system practices an ancient code of an eye for an eye. It does not redeem, but God breaks through walls. I believe people can, and do change. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught: “You have heard it said, `an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not set yourself in violent or revengeful resistance against an evildoer.” (Matthew 5:38)

As Christian Peacemakers, Mark and Sara speak for me.  If you would like to contact Mark…write a letter of inquiry, or one of kindness to Glenn, here is Mark’s contact information:

Mark Frey, Administrative Coordinator
Christian Peacemaker Teams
PO Box 6508
Chicago, IL  60680-6508 USA

Phone: +1-773-376-0550
Fax:   +1-773-376-0549

And a little child shall lead them….

04
Nov
10

update and post script

My posts have been few and far between for a while now. I have been on a journey and not through yet, but thought I’d just try to bring this blog somewhat up to date before doing so becomes a gigantic, uphill climb with a backpack too full of stuff to sort out, let alone write down for public consumption.

This year’s summer was a hard trek, but in a different way than last year’s summer when I was torn into pieces by the church we were invited—then uninvited—to join. Last summer the pangs of betrayal I experienced were felt in the warmth of my family—Big Dawg, Adopted Daughter Bettina and I. We set about fitting into the little church that welcomed us in on the rebound. We were beginning to breathe, but by September Bettina’s cancer returned for a fourth and final time. She died just ten weeks into the new year.

I was completely absorbed in caring for Bettina, and completely involved in helping her to die well. For a long time afterward I was equally absorbed in the loss of her and of our family of three. There were many losses since my cancer diagnosis in 2006 and they came swarming together in a great anguished whoosh. The repercussions were enormous. By spring, I no longer knew where I belonged or why. I was a traveler on the grief road without a sense of direction…just drifting in deep pools of sadness and disconnection. Toward the end of spring and the beginning of summer, quite unexpectedly as if by magic, I became a mother-in-law and a grandmother. There was no time to practice. The summer wore on and still the quiet, disconnected sadness. I yearned for spiritual connection and began attending Catholic Mass, while at the same time continuing in my position as visual art maven at the little quirky church on the edge of the city. The grandchildren were pinpoints of joy—lone stars in a dark sky. I became a woman with many faces, but no mirror in which to see them.

August was a particularly desperate time and called for desperate measures. I could not relate to the little church and could not keep from receiving the sadness bubbling up within. It was a time of affirming forgiveness, 70 x 7 and then some. My path became stony and disorienting. In response, the little church said don’t leave…let’s talk, and formed a small listening group around BD and me. Many things happened in rapid succession, both inside and outside the group. Issues fell into place as we became aware that four years of losses with little time between amounts to post traumatic stress. I don’t normally cotton with these labels, but this time it is fitting, and we are glad to have this understanding as a way to make sense of our wobbly-top selves. I am grateful to the several persons who were angels unaware in this drama, for I was not always so lovable. These people were willing spiritual conduits, each with a different message, each with a different angel’s feather touch. Each bearing God’s love and grace.

In the end, an aha moment was this:  understanding that in the loose, laid-back character of this quirky little church, lay freedom and trust and possibilities, and in return, I must give it all I’ve got. I’ve been busy ever since, not with more than you younger readers are prone to taking on, but with more than I am accustomed to taking on in quite this faith centered way. There are not enough days or hours in the days, and certainly not enough weeks in the month for me. I am swimming in a rushing river to some where that I know not…every now and then caught by an eddy of old thoughts and memories that must be untangled and set out to dry. In a couple of weeks I will turn a ripe 72… Despite my good health report, I am very aware of the time I have left—sensitized to it. Insomnia plagues me lately. It’s not a workaholic compulsion that is the culprit, it is this sense that I am in transition—in training if you will—for the last chapter of my life as a doer/giver. I am such a late bloomer…I want 20 years doing and giving in the space of 10! Sometimes I feel like a child who cannot wait for Christmas morning. Other times I feel like skipping Christmas morning entirely, for surely a gift with my name on it will be much too heavy for me to manage.

Called by name…that is the word I received many times in the dark chemotherapy nights.

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame  shall not consume you. Isaiah 43

So when I am not wobbling over with extremes of joy and anxiety, I generally say, Here am I. Send me!”

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! Isaiah 6:8

06
Oct
10

after accounting for the selves

My late-life crisis is nuancing into the light of day. I am relieved. Having stepped outside myself to see my many selves and all those lives they’ve lived, I see progress and that is reconciling. The windy corner is calming and I see the rainbow…most of the time.

A voice speaks to me:

Your days will be an autumn harvest way before winter sets in.

A place at the table is waiting for you.

Follow the raven. He knows the way.

And in so doing, many blessings came my way this past weekend. On Sunday my oldest granddaughter, Miss Green and I spent a lovely afternoon, doing and being. What a lovely bit of gentle light children can be. I can hardly believe I am saying this. How did I get to be old enough to talk this way? That in itself is a mystery. Apparently an additional self has been added to the collection. I shall have to get used to her so I don’t think I am channeling my mother!

Both of my granddaughters attend a bi-lingual school…not Spanish/English…Japanese/English! How extraordinary! Nothing like this would have been in existence way, way, back when I was a child. I am amazed. They are both half Korean, which is really not a whole lot like Japanese except for being Asian. At any rate, they are learning Japanese and bringing home interesting little examples of their lessons with writing I can only look at and admire. Very pretty.

This is my name is Japanese written by youngest granddaughter, Miss Pink (5-1/2).

And this is BD’s name written by oldest granddaughter, Miss Green (8-1/2).

And this is BD’s characterture of them.

And as for me and oncology…I am still in complete remission and might not need another CT/PET scan until January or even March. What luck! Surely, the hairs of my head are truly counted, even the ones that fall to the sink as I comb through in the morning 🙂




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