06 October 2014

The Dark of Night

In the darkest portion of the night, just before the world shifts on its axis to allow light to begin to filter into the skies, the sounds of shuffling is heard.  Halted breaths and deep sighs of anguish are expressed.  Another night's sleep has been disrupted by the vague awareness of pain.

It is the time of the month where my brow furrows at the reality of womanhood.  I sigh again, roll my achy body out of bed and into a pair of slippers so I can tend the flow of the moon.  Now my mind has begun to move.  There is no returning to the comfort of sleep.

As I prepare the morning brew and watch the sun rise over the horizon, I am struck by the constriction of abdominal musculature.  It reflects, in many ways, the feeling that has gripped the top of my sternum over my heart chakra since hospice was brought in for my father a little over three months ago.

The morning progresses.  I start a load of laundry and play with my kitties.  Watching them roll on the floor I find myself chuckling at their playful batting and pouncing upon the soft woven portion of an old shoe lace.  They lift my spirits from the darkness and pain.  I am thankful for the joy they bring to my day.

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Within the hour, I am shocked and amazed at the swiftness with which the strands of darkness of the night leap forth and entwine me once more.  Something that would normally seem like a small bump in the road, a little miscommunication over the phone, has now depleted my energy supply.  I find myself in the familiar terrain of the zombie virus.

For a time I am hungry for retribution, relying on the rudimentary and reptilian portions of the brain that cause us to be reactive rather than proactive.  Fighting the viral sinews causes physical and emotional exhaustion.  I am spent: a teary, snotty mess, curled in a ball on the floor.

In this moment, I am incredibly vulnerable.  I am glad no one sees me this way.  I am at home.  This, generally speaking, does not happen in public.

It did, once.

When my father was in hospice care, the heartbeat rhythm of the sacred drum as my father-in-law and husband played and sang a mourning song elicited such a response in my parents' home.  The same came out in the public sphere of our church when that song was played at my father's memorial service.  That may be the only time I have shown complete vulnerability in public.

I consider this, the revelation of the bare nakedness of the soul, a gift for those who were there with me.  It is a deep honor to be in the presence of total vulnerability.  It means that the people and the place are perceived as safe enough for the armor to come off.  In such spaces, where the soft underbelly of human experience is welcomed and encouraged, the zombie virus loses its power.

This can be the gift of the church, if we will only let it.  If we make ourselves aware of the spiritual, psychological and physical needs that those who are grieving, then we will be better equipped to be perceived as the light and love of Christ in the world.  If we will not be afraid of the dark night of the soul: the deep, agonizing pain of grief, then we will aid in spiritual healing.

My prayer today is that perfect love will cast out our fear so that healing might be felt within the walls of the church.  May this come to pass quickly, in Jesus' name.  Amen.

02 October 2014

A Child Leads the Way

I have been slowly digesting the delicious words of Mary Oliver's Selected Poems. Her work comes recommended by several of my closest companions along life's pathway. Today I have come upon a piece of work entitled "Mindful" that reflects my own interaction with the world.

When I was a little girl, I found myself often wandering away from the large crowds. Off into the little patch of "wilderness" I would go, into the small wooded area found in the park and the middle school behind my childhood home. There I would have respite from the nine plus people living in our house, and there I would find the Divine.

Photo by Theological Zombie - All rights reserved.

In the swimming tadpoles making their way down the little creek bed, in the dance of the scampering chipmunks as they stored their nuts and seeds for the winter, in the open wing of the robin and the hawk as they dove this way and that above my head – there, I would encounter my Beloved. Although remembering such times brings up memories that are perhaps less than pleasant, the experiences I had in these "wilderness times" were precious and life-giving. Remembering these things helps me remember what it is that once fueled my passion for ministry and comforting others. This causes a light, that has been dimming for some time now, to grow brighter once more.

“The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.” – These promises that came through Isaiah have been interpreted as speaking of the Christ child. Today, however, I am thinking of them in a different way. The child within has the antidote of peace.

Our memories are often at war with one another. Some, like a wolf, threaten to devour us whole, eating us from the inside out. Others, like a leopard, are quick to dart away and vicious when hungry or feeling cornered. The parts of us that are joyful and life-giving, like the lambs and the kids, are often chased into the recesses of our inner beings. We spend so much of our energy trying to keep the wolf and the leopard at bay that we forget to feed the lamb and the kid. In the process, we forget who we were created to be. The zombie virus of frantic activity and fear spreads through our veins causing us to loose sight of the delight that our Beloved has always had in us.

What is it, dear ones, that brings you joy? What caused your heart to leap like a young calf birthed in a stall when you were younger? Does that have an impact on what you are currently doing?

When we meditate on such things, dear ones, the child within begins to stir. The inner child that has been sleeping with a fever through the onslaught of the zombie virus hears the calling of the Christ who, from the beginning, has been stroking their hair whispering “Little one, arise.”

...It is what I was born for -
      to look, to listen,

to loose myself
   inside this soft world -
      to instruct myself
         over and over

in joy
   and acclamation...

Excerpt from “Mindful” by Mary Oliver.  Found on page 90 in New and Selected Poems, Volume Two. Boston: Beacon Press, 2005.

01 October 2014

New Life for a Frozen Brain

Grace to you, dear ones ~

I have spent much of the last couple of years adjusting to a new life here in Portland, Oregon.  Although it was my childhood town, I had been away for over seven years pursuing the last part of my BA and then my MA at seminary in Seattle.  The majority of my time back home was devoted to caring for my dear father as he prepared to pass from life to Life.  That transition happened this summer, the day before my birthday.  We have just passed three months since he died.

In the time since his passing, I often felt much like the walking dead.  No purpose.  No dream.  No hope for the future.  All was simply numb.  These effects of shock - which is our normal human response to the trauma of death - has only in recent weeks begun to dissipate.  My brain and emotions, it seemed, were in a cryogenic state - frozen in time at my Daddy's death bed.  Both have begun to thaw.  The time of healing has now begun.

For those of you who may be experiencing the loss of a loved one, or the deep shadows of grief as you care for an ailing parent or sibling, I write to offer you companionship.  New life, I am convinced, can be found when we tend one another's hearts.  I am here to walk beside you, accepting you with your permafrost brain, erratic emotional swings and physical aches that are a manifestation of your grief.  We will get through this together.  We will learn to live again.

"I have come that you might have life and have it to the fullest measure." -- Jesus says.

We have a promise from the Living Christ that new life is coming.  I am convinced that this is a deep, cosmological truth.  All life, from the smallest fruit fly to the greatest mammoth and basilosaurus, and everything in between, will all find newness and resurrection in the time to come.  For now, I am thankful to be receiving a small preview of this new life with the slow, gentle resurrection in my frozen grief brain.

I will do my best to write here once a week, both to walk with you and to record my own journey of resurrection.

Photo by Trista Wynne - Zombie 5K -- Dayton, OR -- October 2013