Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Who Gives Humans the Power to Preach?

It's Holy Week. I find that the stories leading up the crucifixion of Jesus are relevant today. In fact, many of the criticisms that Jesus had of the organized Church back then are the same things that people criticize today. So I am openly pondering some very revolutionary scripture. I'll start with this one -

Who gives humans the power to Preach?
(Mark 11:27-33; Luke 20:1-8)

23When Jesus returned to the temple courts and began to teach, the chief priests and elders of the people came to Him. “By what authority are You doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave You this authority?”

24“I will also ask you one question,” Jesus replied, “and if you answer Me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25What was the source of John’s baptism? Was it from heaven or from men?”

They deliberated among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will ask, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26But if we say, ‘From men,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all regard John as a prophet.” 27So they said to Jesus, “We do not know.”

“Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things,” He replied

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Healing is a GIFT

Because HEALING is a GIFT.
I can see it happening....And I'm deeply grateful.

From Richard Rohr Today

"All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image that we reflect. This is the work of the Lord who is Spirit. —2 Corinthians 3:18

We are created in the image and likeness of God from the moment of our conception. The Creator gives us our core identity as sons and daughters of God, “from the beginning” (Ephesians 1:4-5). Throughout our lives we co-create our unique likeness as we grow and mature. Yes, we have a say in the process! God creates things with the freedom and permission to continue the act of creation. (See Romans 8:28-30.) Many people struggle to think this way without an evolutionary worldview. Religious folks often attribute transformation entirely to God, and secular folks think it’s all up to them. But of course, you who read these meditations are nondual thinkers and can say both/and!

Life gives us opportunities to discover our image and develop our likeness, often in the form of necessary stumbling and falling. Throughout it all we are always held inside of Love. Challenges and disruptions invite us to move from what I call the first half of life to the second half, from forming and serving the ego to the ego, in fact, serving the soul. With the guidance of the Spirit and the help of wise mentors and elders, all of life, including our “false” or small and separate self, can lead us to our True Self or “who we are hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

Most of us tend to think about the second half of life in terms of getting old, dealing with health issues, and letting go of our physical life. But the transition can happen at any age. Moving to the second half of life is an experience of falling upward and onward, into a broader and deeper world, where the soul has found its fullness and we are consciously connected to the whole.

It is not a loss but somehow a gain. I have met enough radiant people to know that this paradox is possible! Many have come to their human fullness, often against all odds, and usually through suffering. They offer models and goals for humanity, much more than the celebrities and politicos who get so much of our attention today.

Helen Keller (1880-1968)—an author, pacifist, suffragist, member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and a woman who was deaf and blind—was such a model. Once she discovered her own depths, she seems to have leapt into the second half of life very early, despite considerable limitations. She became convinced that life was about service to others rather than protecting or lamenting her supposedly disabled body. Keller’s Swedenborgian mysticism surely helped her grow and “fall upward” despite—or maybe because of—her very constricted early experience. Helen had to grow; she had to go deep and broad. She clearly continued to create herself, even though she could have so easily complained about how little she had to work with. Where did God end and where did she begin? It is an impossible question to answer. Helen and God somehow worked together."

Friday, March 23, 2018

Entering into Holy Week

"Tree 2"
A Meditation on Kierkegaard 2016
Original Art by Heather Thompson, Blue Phoenix Art

Entering into Holy Week, as a person that did not grow up in the Church, I have been continuously shocked at the way that American mainstream Christianity seems to skim over the shocking reality of Jesus's walk to the cross, then into death, and then resurrection. Forget Easter Bunnies, pretty dresses and delightful hymns...there is a deeper issue with how we package his journey from death to resurrection...

We tend to look at the path from the perspective of hindsight. In other words, we know the ending. The suspense is eliminated, because we know it turns out okay in the end. We know that God delivers on the promise of resurrection. We know that Jesus ascends to Heaven.  

But what about pausing to consider the journey on a moment by moment basis?  What about removing hindsight and placing ourselves into the present moment alongside Jesus as he began the journey to the cross?

The pattern of walking into the unknown - and suffering there - can be found throughout the Bible, from Moses to Abraham to Jesus and more. The great Philosopher/Theologian Soren Kierkegaard dissected this theme throughout many of his writings, but most notably in "Fear and Trembling." Kierkegaard explored the story of Abraham...asking us to imagine the suffering of walking for three days KNOWING that God has asked you to kill your son. 

Erase the benefit of hindsight - eliminate the knowledge that it turns out okay in the end - stand in the midst of that horrific walk - from that space, faith looks entirely different. 

Faith then becomes the humble choice to continue to walk in the way of God, even when the outcome cannot be seen or imagined...even in the midst of great suffering...even when it seems absurd or impossible.  Faith is the recognition that even if the very worst happens, God will redeem it...God will turn it into something beautiful...God will give us the strength to endure. 

I spend a great deal of time contemplating the path of Jesus to the cross and beyond.  He was betrayed, mocked, tortured, and crucified. He suffered more than any human at the hands of fellow humans claiming to do the work of God. He both cried out to God to forgive his persecutors, AND he questioned God from a place of deep human suffering ... "Why hast thou forsaken me?" But this was not enough. Jesus was then sent to Hell for three days only to then return to Earth for 40 days....and it was only after that incredibly long and painful road that he finally ascended to Heaven. 

In the Apostles Creed, the above journey is recited, from the perspective of hindsight. Pausing again to imagine what Jesus endured on a moment to moment basis...not knowing if God was going to deliver on the promise of resurrection...the journey begins to take on a different feel...one that is so powerful that it should both inspire and deeply offend our human sensibilities. 

God became fully human. God was tortured. God was crucified. God endured unimaginable suffering. And in doing so, God gave us the prototype of what it really means to LOVE. 

I see this as my personal challenge during Holy Week. How can I be more LOVING? How can I endure the pain of the present moment, allow myself to cry out to God (as Jesus did), and simultaneously deepen the vessel of LOVE within my spirit? 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

New ART! Primordial Differentiation

Primordial Differentiation
24 x 36
Original Art by Heather Thompson, Blue Phoenix Art

pri·mor·di·al  prīˈmôrdēəl/adjective

existing at or from the beginning of time; primeval.
"the primordial oceans"

synonyms: ancient, earliest, first, prehistoric, antediluvian, primeval
"the primordial oceans"

synonyms: instinctive, primitive, basic, primal, primeval, intuitive, inborn, innate, inherent, visceral
"their primordial desires"

(of a cell, part, or tissue) in the earliest stage of development.


verb: differentiate; 3rd person present: differentiates; past tense: differentiated; past participle: differentiated; gerund or present participle: differentiating

To recognize or ascertain what makes (someone or something) different.
"children can differentiate the past from the present"

identify differences between (two or more things or people).
"he is unable to differentiate between fantasy and reality"

synonyms: distinguish, discriminate, make/draw a distinction, tell the difference, tell apart
"he was unable to differentiate between fantasy and reality"

make (someone or something) appear different or distinct.
"Twain was careful to differentiate Huck's speech from that of other white people"

synonyms: make different, distinguish, set apart, single out, separate, mark off
"this differentiates their business from all other booksellers"

WHY? Suffering and the Cross - A Lenten Meditation

Today, in this season of Lent, I am contemplating the cross. St. Clare of Assisi spoke of the mirror of the cross - she boldy asks us to dare to witness the suffering of Jesus without looking away. Holy cow! As I think about that, I imagine the scene of Jesus on the cross...mutilated...tortured...dying in the most disgusting way possible...and to dare to SEE him?! Oh my.

But this is where there is the paradox of suffering. I have come to realize that I am able to sit with another person in the midst of their suffering only when I am at peace with my own suffering.

In this sense, I must stand both in observation of the cross - staring into the mirror of the crucified GOD - while at the same time looking outward from the cross.

As stated by Ilia Delio...“To find oneself in the mirror of the cross is to see the world not from the foot of the cross but from the cross itself.”

Thus, I must boldly walk into my own suffering...my own questions...and allow the questions to be what they are. For this, I paint...

The artistic journey behind my new painting WHY? began simply. I wrote my emotions and embodied sensations on the canvas in black.

Then I wrote what I wanted to feel in pink....along with a prayer from 2013....
"I come trembling to the feet of Jesus and ask WHO WILL I BE TOMORROW."

Boldly letting go...I layer words and images on top from a local publication....

And then COLOR.

AS my hands scrape the canvas I realize I'm asking the question WHY?!?!

Why must there be pain? Why suffering? Why is this the fractal journey?

And now the painting holds the question.

Original Art by Heather Thompson, Blue Phoenix Art
12 x 36
Mixed Media on Canvas

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Journey Update - I am HEALING

I blog about my healing journey because I am a healing artist. Art is an expression of my path to heal my body, explore spirituality, interpret theological principles, and enter into the sacred contemplation of colorful language.

I cannot separate my body from my art, just as emotions and color are intimately intertwined for me. I paint because I see color as a language to express the inexpressible. This gift - called synesthesia - requires that I maintain an integrated and holistic view of myself and the world around me.

It has taken me 41 years (and a deep dive into the early Theologian Iranaeus) to realize that MY BODY IS GOOD. I spent most of my life lamenting all that was wrong with my body. No more! I have come to realize that God created my body - God created everything - and everything that God created is GOOD.  Therefore, this body - MY BODY - contains the very essence of God.  Why not dare to HOPE that this body - MY BODY - can heal?

I am walking a very challenging path. No one would blame me if I felt like complaining about the pain and suffering I have had to endure; yet, I find myself instead noticing the presence of GRACE. I don't understand my journey all the time, but I see the ways that suffering is transformed into beauty on an almost daily basis.  It is through this perspective that I gain the courage - every day - to put one foot in front of the other and trust that God will provide me with everything I need at each moment. This is the promise of the path of descent...Yin/Yang...the Paschal Mystery...Death and Resurrection.

Daring to be REAL is essential in this increasingly FAKE and disconnected world. Authentic connection is everything. I share about my path because there is strength in vulnerability.  It is my sincere hope that we can remove the shame around chronic illness and disability, thereby engendering a more compassionate community in which we all can thrive.

My body is HEALING. I can feel it, and it is reflected in my art. I am transforming. I have dared to HOPE this Lent, and with my latest IVIG treatment, I am amazed to say that there is indeed a good chance that I will experience life changing improvement. Now I just have to go REALLY SLOW down the healing path. Slow, steady, consistent. Keep walking. Walking by faith.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Heather Thompson Featured on King 5 TV!

King 5 Feature of Heather Thompson

The following article published by King 5 TV in Feb 2018

An Issaquah businesswoman hit her head during a trip to the store and brought home an unexpected gift. She says she has been transformed into an artist after a traumatic brain injury.

"I have a cross-wiring in my brain," said Heather Thompson. "The color becomes an actual language."

Seven years ago Thompson was a CEO and award-winning healthcare strategist. In the spring of 2011, she suffered a traumatic brain injury when the tailgate of her car came crashing down on her head, and everything changed.

"By mid-July I started painting," said Thompson. "By the fall I was painting all day, every day. I had to do it."

Doctors believe a condition known as "synesthesia" took over. One common form of the condition is when numbers or letters are perceived as colors. In Thompson's case, synesthesia allows her to see color as a language and transcribe it through painting.

Prior to her injury Thompson said the best she could draw was a stick figure.

"My hands just knew what to do. There was no thinking involved," she said. "It was like breathing."

Experts have labeled Thompson an "acquired savant" – meaning she had zero artistic ability prior to the brain injury and suddenly acquired it. She also suffers from two rare diseases likely connected to the accident and says painting helps her heal.

"If I don't paint everyday I will actually get sicker," said Thompson.

Giving up her CEO status for that of an artist meant giving up Thompson's impressive paycheck and Seattle home. She now lives in the country with a horse, two goats, a bulldog, a couple of cats and her daughter. It is a much different world in both body and mind – one she accepts as a gift she never wanted but perhaps always needed.

"I would take every aspect of the hard parts of my life for the life that I lead now," said Thompson. "I am the happiest I've every been."

Thompson's work recently won an award and will be on display next week in Washington D.C. as part of national Rare Disease Awareness Day.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

When my Daughter's Friend called me FAT (I am on Prednisone)

Published in the Mighty

This morning my daughter bravely told me that one of the kids at school called me fat. She was so scared that it would hurt my feelings. She told the other kid that she was offended. I was very proud of her. I was also grateful that I'd had a conversation with a friend of mine about this very issue earlier this week, so I was prepared to help my daughter navigate this tricky discussion. Thankfully, though, I have done my own emotional work on this topic; therefore, I was ready to engage without reacting with anger or sadness. Let me explain...

I feared being called fat my entire life. It was the root of my eating disorder (I was anorexic/orthorexic/exercise bulimic and less than 115 pounds for more than 15 years). It was a deep awareness that the contract of my marriage was based upon me looking a certain way. It was seeing myself through a male lens that expected me to be small. It was a craving of the attention I'd receive if I was considered attractive to men. It was allowing boyfriends and partners to constantly comment on my body, including what they liked and didn't like...and even allowing them to say things to me like "don't ever get fat." As I have entered my 40's, I am still shocked at the things I allowed men to say to me over the years.

But the rabbit hole goes deeper. In my former life, there was something worse than being called fat. Being sick, and unable to maintain my break-neck level of performance, was much worse. There was an unwritten time limit for being sick. If the limit was hit, then relationships were at risk. I learned to use my bootstraps to pull myself back together. After sustaining a life changing Traumatic Brain Injury, however, bootstrapping it was no longer an option. I had to face the worst fear of all - gaining weight, unable to work, disabled, sick. And yes, I lost my marriage in addition to a few other relationships...but I gained something more important...I found myself.

In the years since the TBI, my life has changed completely. I've had many opportunities to face my own issues with feeling WORTHY and LOVEABLE regardless of my health, ability and physical appearance. It's been a very humbling journey. Through it all, I've learned that I'm fundamentally LOVEABLE. We all are. There is absolutely nothing that I (or anyone else) has to do to be worthy of love. For this lesson, I am deeply grateful.

Right now, I'm sick. I have limitations. Yes...I'm FAT and swollen and I don't look like myself. I'm on high dose prednisone for an undiagnosed autoimmune condition in addition to adrenal insufficiency. I am also healing from a neuromuscular condition that has leveled me over the last year. I'm currently taking in the antibodies of thousands of people through IVIG treatment...and it's working! But yes, my body shows that I am sick. It's exactly the same as if I had no hair from chemo treatments... I'm healing and I'm willing to surrender to the wisdom of my body in the present moment with gratitude.

I have FINALLY released the need to control other people's perceptions, as they are a reflection of who they are, not a reflection of who I am. And that is freedom.

My Eating Disorder Days...When i was most unhealthy!

Current Healing Body! FREE!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Art Reduces Cortisol

The researchers found that 75 percent of the participants’ cortisol levels lowered during their 45 minutes of making art. And while there was some variation in how much cortisol levels lowered, there was no correlation between past art experiences and lower levels.


Looking Back to 2011 this Brain Injury Awareness Month

It's brain injury awareness month. March 6, 2011 was the date of my life changing injury. As I look back on the year after my TBI (Facebook Memories), I feel shocked at how bad it really was. The incapacitating brain fog, headaches, fatigue, vestibular disruption... It's hard to believe that loved ones walked away during a time that I was so injured...hard to believe that I was expected to just bootstrap it out of such a serious crisis...and yet I am grateful. Why? It was through that sifting process that I found God. I also found myself. And I learned to notice those that stayed, those that walked into my life, those that lifted me up when i couldn't do it myself, and ultimately the grace of GOD. When I finally let go of attempts to control and "make people stay," I discovered a power that I couldn't have possibly imagined...and I discovered that I am worthy simply because I am human. I have come so far, and for that I feel deeply grateful...I don't take a single step for granted! Boy does that put this pain flare into perspective <3.