Following the Rules


When do you start listening to Christmas music?

I used to belong to the ‘not until after Thanksgiving’ school. One holiday at a time – let’s follow the rules, hey? Then I discovered the liturgical community, who eschew Christmas music until Christmas Eve. Until then, only Advent music (you know, that dirge-like, minor-key stuff) is allowed.

And they are just as militant about their musical beliefs as the after-Thanksgiving folk. Although I now consider myself part of the liturgical crowd, I never could jump on board with this. Instead, I argued that traditional Christmas music IS the preparatory music of our era. I made little headway with them, nor they with me. After all, we each know that we’re the one who has it ‘right’. Right?

Every year, people come to verbal blows about when to listen to Christmas music. But, really, this is such an insignificant issue in the larger scheme of things. It’s no wonder our world is so full of strife! And we lose opportunities for joy when we spat about these arbitrary rules.

Over the years, I’ve loosened up a lot. These days, I wear white after Labor Day. (Avert your eyes if you must.) I drink bubbly whenever I feel like it, not just for special occasions. And I listen to Christmas music any time I please – be it November or even July.SONY DSC

My goal this year is to follow only the important rules and to let go the rest. But what is important? Well, this being the Christmas season and all, I decided to look to Jesus, who says ‘judge not, lest you be judged.’ (I think he means this to apply to music as well as everything else.) He says ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ (And everyone is my neighbor, according to him. Even dirge lovers.)

Most importantly, he says, ‘I was hungry and you fed me, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you took care of me. How did you do these things? As you do it for the poor, you do it for me.’

These are the ‘rules’ that matter. It’s not about when I listen to certain music; whether I sit, stand or kneel while listening to particular types of music; or if I wear selective colors (or styles) of clothes. Instead, it’s:

Have I loved? Have I welcomed the stranger? Have I fed, clothed, and cared about others? Have my resources – including my taxes – been spent to help the poor?

Because this is what Jesus said and what he did, and if I’m going to truly follow him, it’s what I need to do, too.

May the new year bring less division, and may we all remember the actions and attitudes that matter. (And quit bickering over the ones that don’t.)

Choose Ye This Day

jesusMy politics is driven by my Christianity. If my politics doesn’t match the words and actions of Jesus, then my politics must move. It’s not a matter of liberal or conservative, fascist or Marxist. Those are all labels used to justify or to attack.

What did Jesus say? What did Jesus do? That’s my politics, beginning and end.

Jesus’ message is not complicated. Love one another. Shelter the stranger. Feed the poor. Heal the sick. Pay workers a living wage. If my neighbor (and EVERYONE in Jesus’ mind is my neighbor) is hungry or thirsty or sick or endangered – ensure their needs are met. Without applying a ‘deserving’ test. (Good Samaritan parable, for reference.)

This is called: Following Jesus 101.

I’m not very good at it. I’m not very good at loving, at abstaining from judgment, or at most of what Jesus is about. But it doesn’t stop me from aiming my spiritual, emotional and political ship toward the North Star. (If he hasn’t been called that yet, well, now he has. lol.)

And it doesn’t stop me from pointing out when ideology that purports to be aiming toward him has gone awry. It’s not rocket science. Does ‘this’ (any this) jive with what Jesus says we should do? If it doesn’t, all the justification in the world will not make it magically align.

As a Christian, I am not called to pretend that it does, for civility or unity or any other reason. On the contrary, I’m called to the opposite.

And not following Jesus is not following Jesus. Which is fine. People don’t have to follow Jesus. People can choose to follow their political ideology instead. But they must be HONEST with themselves about what they have chosen.

What this election has done is to throw back the curtain on left and right alike. Unmasked the ugliness that has masqueraded as Politics In The Name Of Religion. The light of day has finally flooded in, and no one can pull the curtain closed again.

The bottom line is, “Choose ye this day whom ye will serve. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

I’ve chosen. Not Democrat, Republican, liberal or conservative. I’ve chosen Jesus, in the strictest sense. Does a policy (a stance, an attitude, etc) contradict what Jesus said, what he did, what he envisioned? Then I cannot support it, and I will speak against it if asked.

Does it affirm his vision of unabridged love, care, concern, and acceptance? Then I’ll do my best to affirm it and help make it so.

I don’t care to hear excuses about why doing something Jesus commanded (feed, clothe, house, provide medical care) isn’t practical or possible. My motto: the impossible just takes a little longer.

I’m a terrible servant of Christ. I’m gritchy, judgy, cranky. I know this. But I will keep trying until I run out of days to try.

Good Friday

Silhouette of Jesus with Cross over sunset concept for religion,

Good Friday thoughts:

I don’t believe in substitutionary atonement. As I’ve commented in the past, I don’t believe God set up all of creation, called it good, then turned around and ‘tested’ the first two people, who – of course – failed the perfection test, whereupon God HAD to declare ALL of humanity fallen forevermore, destined for hell, until God finally sent Jesus, God’s own son, who God had murdered so God could call it even-steven-all’s-forgiven.

Another reason I don’t believe the substitutionary atonement story is because the focus then becomes ME. I am such a worm. I have sinned. I have fallen short. I am the reason for every lash, every thorn prick, every pound of the hammer. Me, me, ME. It’s all about ME. I spend my finite emotional energy feeling ‘bad’. And doesn’t that feel good? Look at how contrite I am. Look at how Christian I am.

Except that’s not what Jesus asked me to do. He was pretty darn clear about where he wanted his followers to spend their time and energy. And that was in feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, clothing the under-clothed, caring for the sick, visiting the imprisoned.

Jesus’ statements were truly visionary in light of today’s world, where companies like Nestle are buying up water rights (including the right to rain water), which means that poor people in many parts of the world have NO ACCESS to water at all.

His statements were truly visionary as we look at America, which refuses to provide all of its citizens medical care, instead doling it out to those who can pay, and turning a blind eye when the financially insecure are ruined, or when the poor die.

And when he commanded his followers to do these things, he did NOT add the caveat, “If they’re deserving.” He didn’t ask us to set up a complicated system to be sure only the ‘truly’ needy received help. He didn’t ask us to judge everyone to be sure ‘cheaters’ weren’t included. He didn’t ask his followers to be watchdogs for ‘laziness’. (In fact, he had a pretty pointed parable that advocated for equal pay regardless of hours worked.)


And he also said DON’T JUDGE. He said this a LOT.

When I play the ‘who is deserving‘ game, I become the judging crowd who shouts, “Crucify him!”

“Why don’t they just get a job?” Crucify!
“Why don’t they get a BETTER job?” Crucify!
“Why don’t they move? (But not here)” Crucify!
“They must be lazy.” CRUCIFY!

These statements are the nails. If I say them, if I believe them, I am the hammer. I am the rough, unfeeling, unyielding cross upon which Jesus bleeds.

For me, the meaning of the crucifixion is clear. Stand up for justice, not ‘legality’. Stand up for food for all, water for all, clothing for all, health care for all, compassion for all. Then, and ONLY then, may I kneel at the cross and say, My God and My Savior. Anything else is wallowing self-service.

The Sentinel

dark-heavensA client commissioned me to create two joyful pieces of angel art, and I did. They fit her personality – light, bright, open. She was delighted. (Which, of course, delights me.)

Yesterday, on the eve of the new year, the second piece whispered to me. “I need to be darker, stronger – a talisman to guard the way for the year to come.”

So I followed where she led and, sure enough, a sentinel appeared, full of power – standing between light and dark.

The Sentinel

Hear the cosmos
swirl and sigh:
comfort! caution!
conflict! cheer!
Breathe deep
take courage
stand firm
I am
within you
around you
armor of joy
be heartened
look skyward
eyes filled with hope
the brightest star of all.

She will be my reminder – I have a sentinel, I AM a sentinel, for the months and years to come.

If she speaks to you, as well, she is available on watercolor paper. Here’s where to find her: The Sentinel

Celtic Christianity

celtic-cross“Celtic tradition is ancient or elemental – a return to the elements, the earth, stone, fire, water, the ebb and flow of tides and seasons, the pattern of the year as it swings on its axis from Samhaine, 1 November when all grows dark, to Beltaine, 1 May the coming of light and spring. To pray the Celtic way means above all to be aware of this rhythm of dark and light. The dark and the light are themselves symbols of the Celtic refusal to deny darkness, pain, suffering and yet to exult in rejoicing, celebration, in the fullness and goodness of life. This is in itself a recognition of the fullness of my own humanity.” – Esther De Waal, The Celtic Way of Prayer.

Arrow of the Divine

goddess with arrow

This morning during altar time, I pulled an oracle card. It read:

“In the same way that if we were moving house, we would need to sort through our possessions and sometimes it’s an opportunity to let go of that which we do not wish to take with us into our new life, as we prepare to move into a higher level of consciousness, there are old habits, stuck emotions and stagnant energy that do not belong in our new life cycle.

“The path of purification and initiation by celestial fire is preparation for spiritual enlightenment, greater happiness, wellbeing, prosperity, success, spiritual responsibility and leadership. It can be a challenging time as that which would stand in the way of a new level of spiritual potency must be eliminated…we cannot let go if we don’t even realise what we are holding onto within us.

“This initiation will help you release any old baggage or pain that will not resonate with the higher levels of light you are preparing to live. It can feel challenging, but know that NOTHING IS WRONG. There is actually something quite right behind these experiences. “To pass this initiation, we must be prepared to surrender that which needs to be burned away. It is safe to let the heavenly fire have its way. Soon the celestial fire will have done its work and you will arise like a glorious phoenix, ready for a new life.”

And then I entered into meditation, and this is the vision I had:

A pillar of fire, arising from my head, fueled from deep within by the burning & purging of all that does not serve me. A Presence steps from the pillar, dressed in beautiful orange-pink robes that are flame.

“Do not worry. Do not fear the flames. I am guiding them. They will burn only the chaff.” Then she held out her hand. “Come!” she commanded. And I lept, eager & delighted, into her hands.

“See how beautiful and perfect you are? Perfect for the purpose for which you were created?”

And I saw myself, an arrow. My head was sharp, beautifully carved of diamond that reflected sparkling light all around. “Your mind is sharp & swift, able to cut through all obstacles, able to find the target toward which I loose you.”

“Your shaft,” and I shivered with pleasure & joy as she lovingly caressed me, “your shaft is smooth & polished to great depth. It has been burnished by the fire. See how strong? See how flexible?”

“And your feathers will hold you true. See how beautiful I made them? I didn’t have to, but it delighted me to make you beautiful. Now I will nock you to my bow and release you. Fly true, beautiful arrow.”

(I was, of course, crying by now.)

“Don’t worry about harming others as you fly, because I hold your course. Worry neither left nor right. Fly for the joy of flying, and for the joy of the purpose for which I send you.”

I understood that the disquiet I’ve been feeling is the burning of attachments that do not serve me, of expectations that do not serve the Divine, of attitudes that would prevent the arrow – me – from flying true. What is left is eagerness, joy & a sense that I am ready. I am perfectly designed for my divine purpose. I am who I am.