John 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God…. Eternal life starts before we die, and eternal life is to know something, something that changes the way we live. We had a series of powerful storms here in the Bay Area this winter. The rain felt endless, but during a break in it I went for a hike and saw this tree. It had fallen, and a ranger had cut it with a chainsaw and moved the pieces out of the way, off the path. I was struck by the beauty of what was revealed. Like each of us, this Eucalyptus was dying even before the storm brought it down. The storm hit, the tree fell, and the tree was broken open, showing its truth—a sight we wouldn’t have seen if the tree had stayed upright, looking fine. Back before Easter, a prayer for […]
What can sustain us through the Winter?
Psalm 63:6 On my bed I remember you— I think of you through the watches of the night. I have a medical test coming up, and last night I lay awake spinning out possibilities. I’m not God, I’m not a doctor, and I don’t possess the facts. Even so, I want to believe I can figure it out. So on my bed I remembered me— I thought of me through the watches of the night. It didn’t feel good, though. Each fantastical, self-absorbed thought was delicious, but made my heart sicker. It reminded me of a time when I ate my way through several boxes of Screaming Yellow Zonkers. ← Not helpful. But as I was crunching away on my anxious thoughts, I remembered Psalm 63:6, and it sounded like healthy food. Antipanic medicine for my soul. I made an effort to do what the psalmist had done, to remember […]
Romans 13:11 But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! (The Message) This year, the four-week season of Advent begins on November 28th. It’s two lines crossing, one line heading up, the other down. Our cultural religion is turning the lights up, up, up to full brightness. We’re encouraged to be busy, surface-level Christmas consumers. In the bright light, but sleeping. Meanwhile, the trajectory of our inner life during Advent is meant to be downwards. Deepwards. Our tradition invites us into darkness, reflection, mystery, and even fasting as we go deeper in hopes of seeing the faint light grow ever so slightly brighter.
This is one corner of a soul collage, or soul card, that I made last week. One eye stays clear, in spite of trouble revealed from within and distortions layered on top. (I’d like to find a generic term for this process: SoulCollage® is copyrighted, and “soul card” can refer to tarot, but this video is not either of those things. Any suggestions?)
This hippocampus lives inside building 46 at Google in Mountain View. I walk past her* often, and I always stop. She is a dream trapped in a latex room. Most of the time she has nothing but electrical gadgets, event notices, and a couple of office plants to gaze at. Surprised (every time!) to see her, I stand by her head and let her gaze at me … and I’m reminded that I have forgotten something important, but what? What is it? Has even she forgotten, dry-docked as she is? For photos that do justice to the hippocampus, please visit the artist’s website (http://www.mardistorm.com/). * Is she a her? I don’t know. To me she is.
Isaiah 45:15a You are a God who hides yourself. I boarded the shuttle to work last Monday with a cloud over my head. A lot’s been going on. The bus was almost full. I sat in the second row behind the driver, next to a young woman whose laptop was open on her knees, its screen touching the back of the seat in front of her. I crammed my work backpack next to hers, under my feet. I made room for her elbow so that she could type, then lost myself in my phone’s browser. About 45 minutes into the ride, she began to rummage on the floor, as if surprised. Did she lose something? I looked down. To my astonishment, a Golden Lab was resting his head on my left foot. He was very quiet. He moved nothing but his big brown eyes, looking from one to the other […]
When someone is sick, people start talking about God’s will. Thy will be done. What does it mean? I’ve heard it used several ways: “Thy will be done” as a magical prayer. It’s easy to fall into the belief that if I say this special prayer before a frightening, uncertain event, then the outcome is God’s will—even if the outcome is terrible. I knew a woman who broke her neck in an accident. Just before the accident she had prayed for God’s will to be done, and so she believed that it was God’s will for her to break her neck. She lost her faith over it. This interpretation of “Thy will be done” imagines us having a lot more power than we do. If I say the magic words, then everything will happen exactly according to God’s will? No. My words and thoughts do not control the universe. “Thy […]
I spent three nights last month at Mercy Center in Burlingame, California. The Mercy Center has several walking paths that were created years ago by Father Thomas Hand, S.J. One of the paths, called the Water Way, leads you down a slope and into an area shadowed by trees, then along a dark creek that is criss-crossed with fallen branches and tree trunks. This depiction of the Tenth Station of the Cross is nailed to a post at one end of the Water Way. At this point in the story, Christ’s clothes are taken from him: one last humiliation before death. I am struck by the sadness in each man’s face, and by the way in which Christ is clasping the man’s hand. I don’t believe that redemptive violence is part of the Christian story.* Instead, I believe that God willingly entered into our suffering to be with us, because […]
Psalm 18:16-19 But me he caught—reached all the way from sky to sea; he pulled me out Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos, the void in which I was drowning. They hit me when I was down, but God stuck by me. He stood me up on a wide-open field; I stood there saved—surprised to be loved! In Addiction & Grace, Gerald May writes about how we often substitute one addiction for another. We are compelled to fill our life’s emptiness: the void. When people are delivered from addiction, he writes, it’s because grace enables them to tolerate spaciousness, at least to some degree. Grace transforms the void in which we were dying, and we find ourselves in a wide-open field. A void and a wide-open field are both spacious, but in a very different sense. The void that meant loneliness is transformed into space that means freedom. […]