Sunday, March 29, 2020

Looking in the Mirror... Holy Week

   Art by HeatherThompson Blue.     
   Phoenix Art 2020 (Digital Prints)

This Holy Week...vulnerability, love and strength are on my mind. 

I'm reminded of St Claire of Assisi's discussion of Jesus as a mirror on the Cross. 

She asks, can we look at Jesus suffering in horrific ways without giving into the temptation to look away?

Then she invites us to take the position of the mirror on the cross and look outward at the world.  Every person has a perception, but they are looking at a mirror of themselves, not truly SEEING the God-man crucified.  Standing in that place, can I allow others to be as they are with their own perceptions in the midst of my own extraordinary vulnerability.  This is the work of LOVE.

Some may say that vulnerability is weakness.  I used to feel that way too; then I learned in seminary that vulnerability is rooted in strength, and it is essential for authentic courage. 

Brene Brown discusses the power of vulnerability in this great interview on 60 Minutes.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Finally Healthier, but COVID-19 Self Quarantined

As I go to bed tonight, I'm healthier than I've been in a long time (amen!), yet surrounded by "widespread outbreak" of a potentially deadly virus given my illnesses.  

I'm so surprised by the unexpected sources of love and support (including the most healing conversation with my exhusband), yet I'm deeply hurting by dismissive statements and an almost deafening silence within some of my communities... The saddest part is that I want to be silent about it because I don't want to cause problems.  A typical mindset for the disempowered. 

Social connection helps heal social isolation they say, but I have discovered another way. Being of service, no matter how small, that's the path to emotional and spiritual well being.  Otherwise, I dwell on today's hurts, not today's miracles. That's not what this life - my life - is about.  Service is where I renew my authentic power rooted in love giving and gratitude.

This is Week 3 in self quarantine due to chronic illness... I'm a single mom home schooling my kiddo - an accelerated curriculum no less - I was devastated that the school marked her absent when she had to stay home and we had communicated so well! All those 9 hour days of hard work adhering to the same schedule as the kids at school, doing homework, building systems to help other kids catch up...

This is where I have a choice... where do I choose to focus my attention? 

I don't know the answer for tomorrow and the next day, but today the focus is today.  

And I have a feeling I will be saying oh well also. Perhaps some swearing too.  And lots of laughing.  I know this because we've been doing it. 

I have control over my attitude.  So, I made the choice a couple weeks ago to think of this as a hermitage. We're focused on wellness, rehabilitation, God and learning.  

Getting angry is okay; staying angry won't help. But being authentic and daring to speak feels like the way to move forward - stuffing my inner fire at a time like this feels downright dangerous.  Perhaps that's where the mystics got their courage in the face of tremendous adversity?

Its been 3 WEEKS. 
I'm used to being home bound.  I am privileged to have a home that I am happy in... always. 

That said,  I haven't had to keep this pace in many years.  I'm used to significant alone time.  Now it's my daughter and I confined together. 

We must stay home. Even her dad is sacrificing in ways I never thought possible to preserve my life.  

To the others out there, please stay home if you can!!! Stop messing around.  We must stop this virus so that C and I can come out by August like they are saying without risk of my kid losing her mom. No drama, real talk. 

Tomorrow we officially start school again, at home, alas, not gonna let it break my stride.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Poetry: Ticketmaster Dreaming

When Neurons fire 


Body responds



So F-CKING tired


So lonely

Scroll through FACES

on FACEbook 

Like strolling a city WALK.


I DREAM of your 


Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Seminary? Monastic? Ordained? Perspective from an 11 yo kiddo.

Last night, I had a moment of sadness when I was weighing whether or not I'd eventually return to seminary.  It rolls through my mind often. 

Will I pursue ordination (I have no idea)? Can I call myself a Monastic given that i am only half way through seminary? Im Franciscan but not a part of an order.... so I question myself. (The answer is yes, it's a New Monastic Movement in the world, outside the walls of the church.)

As I briefly mentioned this internal struggle to C, she put her hand on my foot, sitting across from me in the cozy room, and she said,  "Mom, you don't need a label. You don't need to be ordained. You already are a minister and a very good one.  And we have our church here...people come here and find rest... and we have our animals with our very Franciscan life....And mom, any time two people are gathered in His name it's church right? That means we have church all the time mom!"  

I burst into tears.  This Kid. 

There's a moment that comes along when a parent realizes that the Kid has absorbed the good stuff, even in the midst of hardship.  This was one of those very rare moments.  Thank you God.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Roots of Contemplative Christianity

I am a Contemplative. It started the moment of my concussion. Although I didn't have a name for it,  nor did I fully comprehend what was happening when I first picked up the pastels and later began to paint,  my entire being had shifted into a new way of knowing.  This piece by Father Richard Rohr explains the theological roots of contemplative Christianity, something I later learned in Seminary.

All Spiritual Knowing Must Be Balanced by Not-Knowing

Monday, January 27, 2020

It is amazing how religion has turned the biblical idea of faith around 180 degrees—into a need and even a right to certain knowing, complete predictability, and perfect assurance about whom and what God likes or doesnt like. Why do we think we can have the Infinite Mystery of God in our quite finite pocket? We supposedly know what God is going to say or do next, because we think our particular denomination has it all figured out. In this schema, God is no longer free but must followourrules andourtheology. If God is not infinitely free, we are in trouble, because every time God forgives or shows mercy, God is breaking God’s own rules with shocking (but merciful) freedom and inconsistency!  

In the fourth century, as the Christian church moved from bottom to the top, where it was protected and pampered by the Roman Empire, people like Anthony of the Desert, John Cassian, Evagrius Ponticus, and the early monks went off to the deserts to keep growing in the Spirit. They found the Church’s newfound privilege—and the loss of Jesus’ core values—unacceptable. It was in these deserts that a different mind calledcontemplationwas first formally taught.  

The Desert Fathers and Mothers gave birth to what we call theapophatictradition, knowing by silence and symbols, and not even needing to know with words. It amounted to a deep insight into the nature of faith that was eventually called the “cloud of unknowing” or the balancing of knowing with not needing to know. Deep acceptance of ultimate mystery is ironically the best way to keep the mind and heart spaces always open and always growing.  

We do needenough knowingto be able to hold our ground. We need a container and structure in which we can safely acknowledge that we do know a bit, in fact just enough to hold us until we are ready for a further knowing. In the meantime, we can happily exist in what some have calleddocta ignorantiaor “learned ignorance.” Such people tend to be very happy and they also make a lot of other people happy. 

Friday, December 27, 2019

Divine Creativity

I wasn't raised in the Church.  I got to God by other means.  But each time I went to Church with friends, I felt confused by the sermons that spoke in unfamiliar lingo and seemed to make God so certain and predictable.  I felt ashamed that they had such certainty, and I kept questioning.  Fast forward to seminary. I learned that certainty isn't faith; rather it's questions and doubt that affirm faith in action.  I believe we must start discussing more theology in contemporary churches.  Why not introduce congregants to the depth of Christian thinking from Iranaeus to Kierkegaard? I believe that People are hungry for it.  

Divine Creativity
Beatrice Bruteau (1930–2014)

The traditional understanding of the Incarnation is that the Person of Christ subsists in two natures, a divine nature and a human nature. But Christ is only one Person, the divine Person called “the Word.” . . . What would seem to be the [opposites] of Being are held together in the intimate union of a single Person. Without ceasing to be God, the Word becomes human. And without ceasing to be incarnate as a human being, this Person is divine.

It seems impossible, but this is what Christians claim we believe. . . . Indeed, we could never have proposed such a thought to ourselves if we had not sensed its reality in ourselves. We do not pretend to understand the Incarnation in an analytical abstract way. We rather understand it in an experiential way. We know what it means because we resonate with it in our own being. Whatever meaning it has for us comes from the deepest level of our sense of our own reality. . . .

In the case of the cosmos, we can say that God as Creator is incarnate as self-creating universe, including self-creating creatures within that universe, such as, for instance, ourselves as human beings. Creativity itself is what’s evolving in the cosmos, and . . . we are in a position to realize ourselves as incarnate divine creativity. 

This has two effects. It makes the whole thing intensely meaningful. . . . We are part of this, creative contributors to this. And this is the other effect: we bear some responsibility. We have to take our part in the work.

Trust in the Slow Work of God

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

"We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability—and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually—let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.
—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Written in 2018 while undergoing diagnostics for Autoimmune  Dysautonomia.

I took this picture yesterday after completing 40 minutes of electric shocks to my major nerves (a wonderful test called an EMG), while awaiting the next phase - shocks with NEEDLES!  (Little did I know that this was the easy emg. The sfemg that came later in 2019 involed needles, digging and shocks in the corner of my eye for an hour.)

This has been a non-dualistic journey...both a vacation with my daughter and a medical investigation into the mystery of invisible illness. While it is good news that the test came back negative, the unknown remains a very difficult space. 

We must continue hunting for the diagnosis, which means more discomfort - more MRIs, a hip tap, potentially a muscle biopsy, and anything else they can think of to figure out what is wrong with me. In the midst of this diagnostic process, however, i find myself struggling with doubt. I believe this is human. It's a survival mechanism in the face of pain, discomfort and judgement; it is ultimately a manifestation of shame. 

As I was falling asleep last night, exhausted and suffering with a migraine induced by the electric shocks, I found myself wondering..."Why am i hunting for what's wrong with me? Maybe I could just make the decision to be better, and that will do the trick? What if this is all in my head?" 

I noticed my internal dialogue, and recognized it as the same voice that kept me going on the treadmill during my days with an eating disorder. The voice sounds like that of a drill seargent, telling me that I lack discipline and forcing me to keep going beyond my own capacity. This voice has been a useful survival skill over the years, but it no longer serves me. The voice of shame, doubt and criticism isn't confined to my own internal dialogue, however, as I deal with the judgements of doctors, friends, family and others. Undergoing the torture of diagnosis is bad enough...encountering doctors that don't understand is equally terrible...but the hardest part is staring into the abyss of the unknown and wishing that you could just decide to be better. 

No one would choose this path willingly. And yet, in the face of the unknown, I must keep walking. It would be so much easier to believe that there's nothing wrong, but you can't make this up. In fact, we often joke in the rare disease community that if I were to fake it, I'd make up something much more believable! When faced with strange blood work and debilitating symptoms, the responsible thing to do is keep hunting. Why? Because I have an amazingly beautiful and wonderful daughter that needs me...because I have a lot of life to live...because I know exactly what it feels like to bury a man who pretended "nothing was wrong" for years until the colon cancer ravaged his body.

No, pretending isn't an option. So we hunt and treat simultaneously.  As I walk this journey, I have also learned to keep living, because God has a plan for me - I see it every day! 

To those that don't believe anything is wrong; that wish I wouldn't talk about it; that would prefer that I live beneath a facade of "I'm OK"; that choose not to take the time to understand; that cannot grasp the privalege of their own health... I will say this - feel free to part ways. It is the most empowering feeling in the world to be able to stand authentically in my truth and allow others to do the same. 


It's also excruciating to lose someone I love. There is so much grief and loss that goes with chronic illness.  

Update January 2020. I'm grateful to be in remission from the big bad bagel (that's what I call it) that knocked me down harder than the career ending and life changing concussion in 2011. A year of toe curling, anaphylaxis inducing ultra high dose prednisone and IVIG did the trick. Now im on the long walk back from the edge. 

I welcome the path that God has before me.