Who or What

Who or what is this thing called God?
God is the one who directs my studies,
who nods and smiles approvingly
and pats me on the back and says
Job well done
while another of God’s countless hands
is pulling the rug out from under my feet.
And as I go down,
hitting my head on every sharp corner,
and somehow finding with my heart,
exposed and open in my moment of accomplishment,
the one long slender thorn, hard as steel,
growing up from below,
and managing, as though destined, to run myself through,
I look up, bleeding, and see God
smiling and nodding, and saying
with infinite kindness,
Very well done.

More art from the Althea Center for Engaged Spirituality.

Sound-maker’s Prayer

Oh Great One
You Only know the highest potential of each heart
and You Only know what will call it forth,
but Oh
if you can tell us
just the word or sound
that will cause the first leaf
to unfurl from its seed-shell,
the sound that is like sunlight to each soul
and that whispers to each destiny
Awaken Now …
I do not need to know
what each soul’s mission will be;
I do not even need to know
the name of the town
at the end of these directions
that I blindly follow.
Just give me that tone
that will set each heart awakening,
and Beloved, I will sound it
with all my breath
till no seed remains

Dying Every Day

I’m kind of into Easter this year. And by Easter I mean the overdetermined cultural phenomenon that includes Pagan celebrations of spring rebirth as well as the Christian holy day honoring of Jesus’ resurrection, with some woo woo “it’s the season of renewal” thrown in too. (And maybe one or twelve Reese’s peanut butter eggs. Wait, where did they go?)

Maybe I’m extra turned on about Easter because I spent so much of 2016 so far being ridiculously sick, and now that I finally feel like I’m solidly BETTER, I am about as excited and energized as if I’d literally crawled out of the cold earthy grave, dragging crocuses behind me. It’s also renewal time at home: we’re redoing some rooms, and I’m getting my own bedroom/office/studio, something I’ve been longing for over the past several months. My outer space is being repurposed, or in a sense, reborn. Maybe it’s putting me in the right frame of mind to tune in to this seasonal energy. 

On a different level – a heart level, not a head level – I have felt drawn back to the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. 

I’ve been attending Althea Center for Engaged Spirituality for just under a year – I started going soon after the big Easter service last year. Apparently it’s traditional for them to have the Queen City Jazz Band come and lead a jazz-gospel service. !!!!!! What an incredible treat that was! 


And as part of the service, some scriptures were read that I haven’t heard for yeeeeaaaaaarrrrrrrrrs. It has been a while since I heard these passages straight from the Gospels, rather than the paraphrased modern version of events. And my heart being already an open state, the words went in deep, like a long needle, sharp and healing at the same time. 
This being an inclusive, interfaith community with a mystical orientation, the story of Jesus’ last moments was told not as an example of what a perfect being is like, but as a teaching about how WE can be — more humble, more trusting, more forgiving, more welcoming — and closer to God. 

There were lots of things said that I will be taking away to mull further. The most striking for me, though, was the phrase said to be Jesus’ last words as a human-embodied person:

And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Having said this, He gave up the spirit. 

Luke 23:46,  Modern English Version

The minister said something like, What would it be like to begin each day with this declaration of faith?

But I also wonder: What would it be like to say this in each moment?

A Sufi perspective might be that we die with each exhalation of the breath. Who we were, dies. What was, dies. And to the extent to which we are aware of each moment, to the degree to which we are present and alert, we can let go of anything that shaped or controlled us in the past, and we can become new. We can be, in each new moment, innocent, childlike, free. 

If you want to be reborn, you have to die.

Of course most of us don’t want or need to experience total ego death in every moment. But in each moment, we do have the opportunity to die and be reborn. And there are some moments when, believe me, I am so grateful for that opportunity. I tend to take it only in extreme situations. But I think I would be a lot lighter, a lot less encumbered by useless mental and physical baggage, if I died more often. 

In some ways I have so much trust in the will of the Divine. Any seeming tragedy or hardship that befalls me – a heartbreak, a loss, an illness, a financial setback, a dream that dissolves into impossibility – even in the midst of my tears, I find myself saying, But it is God’s will, and I am learning so much from this right now. This is truly taking my soul where it needs to go. I don’t know where this dark path is leading, but God does, and I trust God. 

The external stuff, I’m often cool with (sooner or later). Everyday internal business, though, is a different story  … What am I doing here? I’m wasting my life. I’m ignoring my calling. I don’t even know what my calling is. Will I be able to pay my bills in the future? What if I never write a book / see the world / have children / make enough money to retire? What if I get sick or disabled when I’m old? I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing, but I’m sure it isn’t this. I’m going the entirely wrong way. I’m such a failure.

Into Thy hands, Father, I commit my spirit. 

When that verse was read, I thought of diving into unknown waters, leaping head first off a dock into a lake that might be freezing, that might have sharp rocks on the bottom, or be polluted with dangerous germs. This is something I regularly do. Though I can be very nervous, even scared, standing on the edge of that dock, the pull of the water on my spirit is so strong that I know I can’t do anything but dive in. To overcome my fear, or my resistance to leaving the “known” behind, I’ll often invoke a name of the Divine as I jump. 

Life can be like this. In so many moments every day, in big and small ways, I resist leaving the safety of what I know from the past. (The future, the moment that’s coming next, is scary. I could die. Or I could experience pain, and maybe I’ll WANT to die. Literally ANYTHING could be waiting to attack me in the moment that’s coming …) Instead of diving with a prayer on my breath into a stream of time that calls my soul inexorably onward, I hang on to the boards and have to be dragged off by the current while I distract myself from what’s happening. Because either way, it’s happening. But one way is exhausting, while the other is exhilarating.

Since Easter is all mixed up with multiple traditions anyway, I’m going to make an Easter resolution — or maybe call it a seed I’m planting in the wet, fertile soil: That I’ll remember this verse, this prayer, this mantra, that I’ll repeat it and try to remind myself of it whenever I’m afraid of the future. I’ll begin now. 


What Is Possible

In the silence of night,
God asked me: What is it that you want?
An encounter with you, I said.
Said God – But here I am,
And yet you don’t fall down,
You hear without hearing, see without seeing me.
I said, Then what I want is a vision
For my life.
Said God, But you have a vision
And lack only to follow it
For your every happiness to fly to you.
Perhaps, said I, what I need is a healing.
God said to me, You are already healed and whole.
I asked God then, What is possible?
And God said, You may finally receive the blow
That shatters you irrevocably
Into such wide-scattered pieces
You can never be closed again.


Yay! Mosaic!

If you were in my choir — which is Mosaic Gospel Choir, part of the Wesley Fellowship at CU in Boulder, CO — you would have gotten this awesome reminder from our choir director, Gary, yesterday:

Because God loves the shit out of you. And so do I.

And that is just one reason why I am so excited for our first rehearsal of the spring season, which is tonight!


I joined this choir last fall with Sam and I’ll admit that at first I had, not a love-hate, but maybe a love-indifference relationship with the group, and until about two thirds of the way through the semester I was like “Yeah this is pretty fun, but I probably won’t do it next semester.” I think this was because I had to miss a few rehearsals and the rehearsals were already shorter than most choirs I’ve been in, so perhaps it took a little longer than average for me to be fully brainwashed, I mean absorbed into the juicy goodness of this choir.

But then one day I was going through some emotional crap and I found myself singing one of our songs over and over again, and then even doing what the song said:

There’s power when you call His name,
With faith to believe why He came.
Even with the faith of a mustard seed,
Just call His name when you’re in need …

(As you say that in your head, make sure to put in lots of bad-ass triplets and syncopation.)

Then the call-and-response,

Call Him — Jesus — Call Him — Jesus —
Call Him ———

(that’s where you hold it out really dramatically)

So that’s what I started doing. Just speaking the Name, and letting all of the pain and struggle and need pour out through the voice. And what do you know? Emotional crap gone!

God literally loves the shit out of me.

Of course the shit comes back. Because you know, we give our problems to God but we obsessively grab them back again. And we give them up again. And we take them back again. But throughout this process nothing has been more comforting to me than singing the Name.

So … Thank you, Mosaic Gospel Choir, for bringing me back into conversation with Jesus! I appreciate it soooooo much!

And not only that but, it’s the kind of gospel choir that talks to Krishna too. One of the first songs we learned was George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”! And you don’t have to pretend that you’re committed to any particular Christian denomination. And you can be as “out there” as you are, in any way that you are. All you have to do is want to sing and share the love in your heart with a bunch of other awesome people and with God.

And, astoundingly, when I am singing in this choir, my body feels like the exactly most perfect vehicle for the expression of my unique praise. What drew me to gospel music in the first place was that what I do when I worship — stand up, raise my hands, move my hips and my head and my feet — isn’t weird. And this group does me one better: if my belly sticks out between my shirt and my pants when I do stretches — it almost feels ok.

And if all that wasn’t enough, it meets in this funky blue chapel that looks like a chalet:


And that’s why I’m coming back for another season.


Learning to Pray

I feel like a dork sometimes, admitting the things I don’t know how to do.  Like, for example, praying.  I am learning to pray.  Last night I went to Bible study at my church for the first time (the first time I have been to a Bible study since college) because I was drawn to the topic — “Purpose, Power and Practice of Prayer.”  It was described as being for anyone who wants to improve and deepen their prayer life in any way.  When I saw that, I thought, Cool.  That’s me.  I want to improve and deepen my communication with Spirit.

Last night’s study was a beginner’s lesson in praying, addressing common fears and hangups that tend to block people’s growth and risk-taking in that area (which I never would have even thought about).  The study leader (the pastor of the church) talked a lot about the ways that some people make prayer out to be very difficult, tricky, or complicated, with specific skills required for the prayer to count, and he emphasized instead simplicity and the need to find the right way for you personally to talk to and with God.  I would say that over the past few months I’ve been becoming more comfortable talking to God in a heartfelt, sincere, and conversational way, spontaneously, with words coming from my heart. 

Something I have not really understood, though, is how to pray in a group, as they do in the church I go to — what is the attitude, the intention one should have, how do I align myself with the person who is praying aloud?  Do I silently repeat the words they say, in my head?  Do I mentally and with my heart respond, “Yes, yes, yes, yes…”?  Sometimes I felt like I was pretty much saying to God, “What she said,” and I felt like I just wasn’t getting it.  I wasn’t feeling satisfied with the experience I was having, wasn’t feeling linked up.

Tonight, after choir practice ended (with closing prayer), I was pondering this question and something came into my mind which helped me to connect with the practice.  When praying as part of a group, being led in prayer, the person can join with the circle — truly become part of it.  Become no longer the individual self.  Then the circle or the gathering becomes as one body, praying with the voice of the person leading as the voice of the body itself.  It came to me that the more I can feel the reality of being part of one body, united on a deep level in the act of prayer, the more I (or anyone) can touch the edge of the experience of the elimination of the illusion of separate selves.  It is an opportunity to communicate with God as a larger, many- souled being.  That kind of blew my mind when I stopped to think about it — the idea of a many-souled being, and being a part of that.

So that’s the way I found in to group prayer, and it resonated with me as a way to express myself in prayer with God in a way that is right for me.  I offer it in case it resonates with anyone else in a helpful way — just a different take that turned my head as it was passing through! 

Blessings and love to all, and may you all have an ever-deepening and ever-evolving relationship with Spirit!


Heartland Soul

As all the trees together are one forest ... (This is at Split Rock in MN)

Things I’ve Prayed For Lately

A moment of grace happened tonight, that I thought I’d share:

My partner Hawk and I are planning a church service together.  We’re co-leading the service at his aunt’s Unitarian Universalist church.  I think it has come as a surprise to both of us that the planning process has been fairly contentious.  I.e., on most things we are not tending to see eye to eye.  From how we were going to actually compose the sermon to which affirmation to use for the benediction, we’ve been disagreeing on everything.

Things had gotten out of hand, to the point where it seemed like every time we sat down to actually plan the thing, we ended up having a big fight!  I kept thinking, For crying out loud, this is supposed to be a sacred occasion and an opportunity to be of service (to the Great Love, no less) and here we are fighting!  What is going on?  But I also knew that I was as responsible as anyone for the condition our process was in.  And, truthfully, I didn’t really have any faith in my ability to not start or engage in arguments with Hawk over bits and pieces of the service.  I could see that something was pushing my button for “feeling threatened and powerless” — I didn’t know why it had come up, but  I was stuck in a pattern of feeling like all my opinions were being steamrollered, if that is the right word — feeling like I didn’t have any say and my creative contribution ws going to be lost.  This is something from my childhood.  I don’t really know why it’s been coming up at this particular moment or what triggered it in the first place, but I was definitely feeling stuck, and I was really suffering because of it.

I have, however, been praying for grace — this was both strongly encouraged by Hawk and inspired by the Caroline Myss book I mentioned in the previous post (in response, in fact, to just such fears as as I described).  Once I humbled myself enough to be willing to let go of the pain (and to try something Hawk suggested) I prayed for my heart to be strengthened enough that I would be able to choose things that were harder but right.  And I prayed that my actions could be aligned with God’s will.  (This phrase, for me, expresses my knowing that I am out of alignment and also not honestly knowing how I will — or can — bring myself into re-alignment; I guess it is an expression of trust in grace, that somehow even if I don’t actually think I have the strength of will to always do what is of the highest good, it can — somehow — end up being done through me.)

And also I took a page from the AA book — one I never really got into while I was going to AA, but which felt appropriate now — and prayed that God would take away my character flaws.  Jealousy, for one, and the fear of being overshadowed (itself actually an expression of choosing the ego over the higher self).  I did not groove on the language of “character flaws” in my AA days, let me tell you.  But I’m at a place now where I see the value that concept can have … I can see how such a prayer could really be the gateway to having a big step up.  (I think the twelve step program is actually a wonderful path of prayer, self-knowledge, knowledge of God, and service — not unlike the path of mysticism that I was talking about before.  Note how I never got a sponsor or did the twelve steps, either.  🙂  )

Anyway, when I wasn’t actively engaged in prayer, I wasn’t really thinking about these things as I went about my day, but I gradually realized that a shift was happening in the way Hawk and I were working on the service — or rather, in the way I perceived the process.  I actually started being able, when I noticed a potential conflict coming up, to not start a fight!  Sometimes this meant just letting something pass by without question or comment, and sometimes it meant telling Hawk that I wasn’t thrilled with some element he was proposing, but I was willing to go along with it if he was excited about it.  I felt glad that we seemed to have achieved some degree of peace, though it felt precarious to me.

then we got to the subject of the affirmation to use in the benediction.  Hawk had proposed something; I had objected on the grounds that it wasn’t specific enough to our topic; yadda yadda yadda; I had made a whole fuss about it the last time we tried to have a planning session.  This time, I said to myself, I will go with the strategy that seems to have been sorking so well — just go along with whatever he proposes for the sections he’s in charge of.  So when he brought it up, I just said, Ok, sure, that’s fine. 

But even though I said it was fine, he went on to explain why he liked it, why he felt like it was a good finish to the service, and how he thought it related to our sermon.  At first, I started to get a little defensive — I could feel some resistance coming up.  Then the thought occurred to me — and this, I think, was the moment of grace — like a little voice in my head: “Wow, ok, he’s trying to share with me why he thinks this would be a good fit, and I’m just dismissing it because I still want to hold onto my feeling of being right, regardless of whether we use it or not.  What if I just — allowed myself to listen to his reasoning?  What if I opened just that much?”  And … as a matter of fact … I did start really listening to what he was saying.  And I did feel my heart opening — and I did get where he was coming from.  Really. 

So I was able to say, Yes, let’s go with that, and actually mean it.  And some peace was sustained.  But really the true moment of grace was in the sudden flash of light with which I saw that I was really attached to the feeling of being right — that up to this point I’d been choosing that over my love for my partner.  And once I am able to see that that’s the choice I’m making with my actions (in this case, my words as actions) — I definitely do not want to stay there!  But I might still not have the moral courage to change my direction — in essence, admit that I was wrong, and change my actions and words accordingly — were it not for God’s grace and the strengthening of my heart that I prayed for.  In fact, it may be that every time I admit to being wrong, and that someone else was right (or even just that they have a good point!), that is happening because of an intervention of grace.  Because the habit of clinging to the sense of rightness is very strong in me.  And I think that much of the time I don’t even realize I’m doing it — let alone realize what choices I’m making from that place, and what those choices say about my priorities!  I’m saddened every time it strikes me how far away I am from the ideal … but I do have faith that I can get better, step by step.  And moments of revelation like this one tonight, where I realize how much I am reliant on grace for any change I make for the better in my self … are really pretty mind-blowing to me, pretty heart-filling.  And I just have to say I’m grateful for being shown a glimpse of what I was actually doing, difficult though it may be for me to witness, and I’m grateful that although I didn’t know if I would be able to do it, the right thing happened through me. 

Good night and love,