Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The God Who Becomes

We are all different. God created a diverse bunch. Physically, we all come in different sizes, colors, and shapes. Emotionally, our demeanor and outlook, is equally diverse. In our lifetimes, we change constantly -- never the same from moment to moment. Even at a cellular level, change is happening - fast.

So if we are created in God's image, why do we portray the creator of the universe as static? Most people want a God who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. They cling to a God who they believe can make all the fast changes stall around us as if our life is a storm and we must hold tight to the mast -- the only way to survive. Nice image right? God the immovable when there is spinning all around.

But what if we are supposed to let go of the mast to seek out God in the storm of pain, hunger, debasement, joy, happiness and suffering? What if God is not the mast but the change? God sure likes to create but with the immovable God, creation is done. It happened a long time ago. With a God who changes, creation is on-going and we are participants in it. God and us are not has been but becoming.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Heart, Soul and Mind?

Those of us who embark upon the spiritual journey long to experience an inner peace so extraordinary our zen-calm outer self can't help but to elicit these types of comments from others: "she's got game," "he's arrived" or "she's comfortable in her own skin."  No matter what hits us, like the Dalai Lama, we are cool and calm. Our skin is Teflon.

But most of us eke out an anxious style of spiritual living: sometimes inner peace, sometimes white knuckle endurance, sometimes ripping our hair out, or the worst -- the gravity of heartbreak pulls us to our knees and we weep in pain begging our God to relieve our suffering.

Aging brings even more losses our children grow up and don't need us anymore; careers stall; friends and family members die; and our bodies break with the minor -- constipation, hair loss, wrinkles, fat redistribution -- and the major -- arthritis, back pain, cancer, dementia, and heart disease. Diminishment, if not death looms like a cloudy day. So it begs the question: how can we be comfortable in our own skin when our "skin" keeps changing?

Over the years, I've facilitated many grief groups and counseled countless people who have endured painful loss. Widows and widowers are often the most heartbreaking. To listen to them for any length of time conjures images of someone who is missing essential parts of himself like an arm or a leg. S/he is no longer whole. The widower perceives himself as halved. His fingers fidget in his lap; his lover no longer there to hold his hand.

But to a person, every one makes this claim: they wouldn't trade a single moment of the love they shared then for all the pain they endure now. It is attachment, love and relationship, and not withdrawal which brought them fulfillment. Love is the path to enlightenment.

Can the most healthy of our intimate relationships provide the template for spiritual love?  Template comes from both the word "temple" - a house of worship and "templet" - the horizontal piece undergirding a beam. Our calling is to love God at least as much as the person we love most in the world.  This kind of abiding love, a love than undergirds your being, can take you through a whole host of troubles.  Love of God and God's love for you can give you the wholeness you seek.

The goal of the spiritual life was never to be comfortable in our own skin but even in our anxiety, excitement, contentment or loss to bind ourselves to God through love.
"Love the Lord, your God with all your Heart, Soul and Mind . . . ."


Monday, February 11, 2013

Valentine’s Day
by April Coldsmith

I wait for the Mikimoto necklace
Swollen, milky-moon pearls
stretched lucent
A mother’s belly just before birth.
Beads nibble my neck
like kisses from you.

Or those diamond earrings,
pindrop hints in casual conversation:
“Can I zip you up?”
“Yes,” I turn and proclaim
“diamond earrings would look fabulous with this dress.”
I hope for square cut crystals
to catch the light
from my lobes.

My heart burns for a sapphire ring,
Oval shape embedded in diamonds,
blue orb surrounded by white iris,
I gaze into your eyes
with longing.

I could settle for a spa day gift coupon
Asian ladies press my feet,
paint my nails,
massage my skin until it
screams, passion for you.

But instead
you’ll waltz in with a
wrapped in cellophane
eclipsed by barren baby’s breath
studded with a waxy, fern leaf.

A red rose so perfect –
      free of blemish
      or scent –
it passes for plastic.

But you smile a broad strand
of Mikimoto Pearls,
A toothsome grin
dropped just below my neck

I try to be satisfied.
I really do.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Journey's the Thing

Photo by John Davenport

Ten years ago, I had the privilege to get to know and offer support to Brenna Liepold, an 18 year old who made the courageous choice to forego cancer treatment so she could enjoy her last year of life. "Getting chemotherapy isn't living," she told  Good Morning America's Charlie Gibson in 2003. After years of battling rhabdomyosarcoma, a nasty and often terminal cancer in children, Brenna chose to receive palliative care so she could travel to Italy, make frequent trips to Chicago, room with her mother and aunt in Texas and live life as normally as possible, but like all the kids I've worked with who endured or succumbed to life-limiting illnesses, there was nothing normal about Brenna. By far, she was one of the most extraordinary people I have ever met. She fought hard to experience the simplest of moments especially love and laughter.
Photo by John Davenport

Her favorite movie was Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. When I met Brenna, I had only seen the movie once in theatres, whereas she could quote it chapter and verse. After the second movie came out, I understood her obsession and often watched snippets of each with her, but I had not seen the Fellowship of the Ring in its entireity until after her death. Only then did I understand why it spoke to her so deeply. Yes, the film is about a quest, but not just any journey. For Brenna, the trek to destroy the Ring meant her own living in adversity -- in dying.

Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.
Even in the evil of cancer, Good would prevail. Brenna never believed her cancer would be cured. Her miracle was the journey in living life on her terms.

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human one.
Teilhard deChardin