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.

Prayer by the Hours

prayerLent 2016 is almost upon us. Every time I’ve considered what my Lenten practice should be, the Divine Office has leaped up and raised its hand. And waved enthusiastically.

That’s probably because I’ve been studying Benedictine living. Benedict created a moderate schedule of work, rest, prayer, eating, drinking, and study for his monks – a HUMAN paced life, centered around the Divine Office.

It’s very appealing. A daily schedule of prayer breaks up the day; it could prevent me from slipping into the obsessive, hyperfocused, body/mind/soul-damaging ten-hours-without-a-break work mindset to which I’m prone.

But really – how practical is it with my life? Not at ALL. I’m busy. Really busy. I’ll forget. I’m lucky if I remember to pray once, much less multiple times, each day.

Sigh. That’s EXACTLY why I need this discipline. Lent isn’t about choosing the easy thing. It’s about choosing the needful thing.

And I need balance in my life. I need awareness of the Divine in my life during the day. Every day.

So I’ve created 2-5 minute contemplations, loosely based on traditional Divine Office services, along with a one-page conversation to explain what Prayer by the Hours is all about.

Would you like to join me? I don’t expect everyone will pray five times a day (or seven or three or…) There are no expectations. No success or failure. Just an opportunity to walk (stumble) together through Lent.

For 40 days we will:

* pace our daily lives ala Benedict
* increase/improve our prayer life
* explore who we are as expressions of the Divine

I’ll provide daily contemplations from scripture, Rumi and other Sufi mystics, etc, and together, we can see how it feels to Pray by the Hours.

Click here to join the group. Feel free to invite friends. Blessings!

What’s in a Name?

I was reading Psalm 113 today, and I got stuck on one of the words: LORD.

by John Singer Sargent

In America, where there are no lords (or ladies), we vaguely associate the word with jolly old England and people dressed in Victorian clothing. We picture expensive, elaborate garb, symbols of status and wealth. We imagine a life free from want. A life filled with servants who cater to our every whim.

Lords, then, stand in stark contrast to the serving peasants, those masses who live one week’s wage – or less – from hunger and homelessness. Ultimately, the word LORD evokes images of injustice and inequality. And that’s where I got stuck.

Now, I understand that LORD is just a placeholder for a concept, namely God. But as you probably know, I get cranky about language which validates privilege. (Or violence. We sing Onward Christian Soldiers in tribute to Jesus? Really?) The word LORD bothered me, because it arises out of a caste system which believes some are more important than others.

But we’re talking about God here. God IS more important, right?

Honestly, I’m not sure that’s true. If God resides in us, if we are God stuff through and through, if we are images of God, then we cannot be less important, can we? Because in some intangible but real way, we ARE God. All of creation is an expression of Godself, and therefore as holy as the God we imagine to be external.

by Leon Lhermitte

In any case, the point I’m trying to make is that we’re using a word that reinforces a stratum perspective: namely, that one person – a rich lord, say – is more important than another, perhaps a peasant down to her last penny. Regardless of our perspective of God’s supremacy, using class-reinforcing words for God also informs our view of one another.

Let’s be honest. We do stratify. We glorify doctors. Or musicians. Or baseball players. Or whoever our LORD happens to be. It’s so not WWJD. Jesus commands us to love each other as equals, and I believe one way we can bring our perspective more in alignment is by being thoughtful with language.

Words matter. Words define and create our perceptions, and thereby our actions. That’s why I get my knickers in a bunch (what are knickers and how do they bunch?) when I run across a word like LORD.

What does the Hebrew word translated LORD really mean? Is it a word of hierarchy, or is it something else? It turns out, LORD is the English substitute for the word YHWH, which is the unpronouncable name of God. The word YHWH comes from the Hebrew word havah, which means to be, to become, or to come to pass.

Ah-ha! We follow the God who is. The God out of which all becomes and happens. Or, to jump back onto my We-are-all-God bandwagon, this is the God who is, who becomes all things (us and creation and all that we can’t imagine), and who is in all activities.

Because it was a name not to be pronounced, Hebrews in early centuries substituted the word haShem or the Name. Today, they use Adonai. When the Bible was translated into English, LORD was the substitutionary word.

That’s a relief. The original word has nothing to do with a caste system. That means I can validly substitute a reverent word/phrase that carries less baggage. Perhaps I might even use the root word, Havah.

Oh, did you know? The modern form of Havah is Eve. Wait, you say. The most revered name of God is a variation of….Eve?

art by Linde Mott

Ah, yup.

So, now I’ll return to Psalm 113 and rewrite it without the word LORD. If it wasn’t equally classist, I might consider substituting LADY. 🙂