Wednesday, October 23, 2019

New Art!

"Garden Tendrils"



9x12 Ink and Paper 

Prints available

DM for Purchase Information

When Serious Diseases are Just Side Effects

Did you know that diabetes can damage the vagus nerve and cause gastroparesis?  I always thought I'd be able to take the great meds that they advertise all over TV....alas...I can't.  Im allergic, and the side effects are NO JOKE.   Mix food poisoning with anaphylaxis and you've about got it.   So I had to go straight to insulin.


Thankfully I have a great doctor (Fran) whose been watching metabolic syndrome set in as I underwent ivig therapy.  We knew I had to lose weight and reverse the damage to my pancreas,  but I had to be stable.  We had to rule out poryphria.  And we needed to be certain that my liver could handle it.  


Thankfully i got the go ahead, and now Fran's entire team is helping me rapidly heal my liver and put the diabetes in remission. Time to reverse the damage done by the medicines that saved me.


Isn't that interesting?  NAFLD and DIABETES are significant problems, but they were necessary side effects given what I was fighting.  Puts it in perspective.


And yet as I write this,  I know there are those who think I've been making this up, or sharing about it to get attention.   There are no words.  Just the women warriors I've begun to paint.


Facebook reminded me today of all the people who helped me through a year of grueling treatment. Thank you.   I mean it. Words can't express my gratitude today. 

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Francis and the Wolf

An alternative way to respond to the issues of the day.  As a contemplative, I find myself in this stance more often than most alternatives. There isn't a right and wrong way. In my case, as in the story below, it's often a matter of how we are called to be in the world.

Francis and the Wolf
Carlo Carretto (1910–1988) was a member of the Little Brothers of Jesus, a community of contemplatives based on the spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi. In his book, I, Francis, Carretto speaks in Francis’ voice, combining biography with what Francis might say to us today.

Carretto describes Francis’ experience with a hungry old wolf who had been terrifying the people of Gubbio and preying on their livestock.

Francis went out to meet the wolf armed only with love. The townspeople were sure the wolf would eat Francis. But Francis simply considered the needs of both the wolf and the community. He discerned that the wolf was too old to hunt wild animals and just needed to eat, while the people needed safety for themselves and their animals. Francis proposed that the wolf be given food each day, and the wolf agreed to leave their sheep and chickens alone. Carretto writes in Francis’ voice:

No, brothers [and sisters], I was not afraid [to meet with the wolf].
Not since I had experienced the fact that my God is the wolf’s God too.
What is extraordinary in the incident of the wolf of Gubbio is not that the wolf grew tame, but that the people of Gubbio grew tame, and that they ran to meet the cold and hungry wolf not with pruning knives and hatchets but with bread and hot porridge.

This is the miracle of love: to discover that all creation is one, flung out into space by a God who is a Father, and that if you present yourself as [God] does, unarmed and peaceably, creation will recognize and meet you with a smile.
This is the principle of nonviolence, and I want to recommend it to you with all the enthusiasm I can command. . . .

If human beings go to war, it is because they fear someone.
Remove the fear, and you re-establish trust, and will have peace.
Nonviolence means destroying fear.
This is why I, Francis, tell you this once again: Learn to conquer fear, as I did that morning when I went out to meet the wolf with a smile.
By conquering myself, I conquered the wolf. By taming my evil instincts, I tamed those of the wolf. By making an effort to trust the wolf, I found that the wolf trusted me.
My courage had established peace.
You can deduce the rest by yourselves.
Just think what would happen if one day you became nonviolent, and took the huge sums of money you spend on defending yourselves against fear and used them to help the people of whom you are now afraid. . . .
You will know peace then.
Is that too much to hope?
Perhaps someone is listening to me!
To whoever it is, I, Francis say: Be brave!

The above excerpt was prepared by Fr Richard Rohr.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Savant Wins America's Got Talent

It brings me to tears tonight watching #agt America's Got Talent... THE FINALS!

Kodi Lee, a blind, autistic, neurodivergent musical savant won by popular vote on one of the world's biggest stages.  POPULAR VOTE.  The voting audience saw his brilliance.  He didn't hide his disabilities.... he was himself-authentic- and he sang his heart out.  To see him win brings me to tears. 

Im not autistic like Kodi, but I know how it feels to be neurodivergent with disabilities and a savant talent.  It's easy to feel invisible sometimes.  Worse, there are times where people only see the disability/illness, and the judgment hurts.  It's challenging to choose to share my savant ability (painting) under those circumstances.  Still, I keep painting no matter the reactions of those around me because it's in my soul!

To see that expressed in an even more powerful way this season on AGT has moved me to start a new artistic expression.

To watch Kodi soar in the finals and again tonight.... well.... I'm inspired in ways that leave me speechless.   The color I feel, though, is a deep sparkling and swirling bowl of thick purple liquid with tinges of turquoise, fuchsia and gold spreading to every cell in my body!  Ahhhh.... if only synesthesia could be my language!

All my love to #kodilee for his extraordinary win tonight!  Your fellow neurodivergent savants are cheering you on!  I think my daughter and I need to finally get on a plane and go to Vegas.

Monday, September 9, 2019

My Wish for Today

Never take the simple things for granted.  Do you have your health? A solid job? Good family? Can you drive? Can you walk? Are you able to work? Are you healthy enough to parent your children?  Do you have loving relationships? A faith that nourishes you? Do you live without pain? Can you breathe unassisted? Can you smell the earth after a rain storm? And the list goes on.

St John of the Cross (one of my favorite mystics) was imprisoned and beaten by fellow monks for months.  During this painful time, "the dark night of the soul, " he found gratitude in the miracle of a flower blooming outside his cell window.  

Every day is filled with miracles, if we open our eyes and learn to see.   It often requires radical stillness to finally open up eyes that have been trained to see according to the dominant culture.  "Be still and know that I am God." I too have been guilty of setting goals higher and higher without noticing the miracle of where I am. Many times ive been leveled, forced into stillness, and reminded that my call is in the quiet.

Every day, I see people take things for granted... everyday things like walking up stairs.... but I notice because I'm fighting to be able to do those very same things. 

Today I paused with C to observe the difference between where i am now, where I was a year ago, and where I was two years ago.   I'm making huge progress, yet I'm not going to take a single moment for granted.   Living wakefully is my imperfect hope for today.   Amen. 

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Who Will I Be Tomorrow?

Ive been through so much medically,  spiritually, physically. There are moments that I recognize my face again, but that's only on the outside. Mu eyes remain the same.   As I reflect, I've transformed more through this last two years of painful healing work than ever in my life. I never thought I'd go through something more challenging than the TBI and divorce in 2011.   Yet here I am...walking out of another formative maelstrom. Im not looking backwards; no, I'm embracing what is to come, even as the ultimate outcome is unknown.

Thus,  I hold onto the prayer....

I come trembling to the feet of Jesus and ask, who will I be tomorrow? 
Amen

Thursday, September 5, 2019

My Heart Breaks

Living in one's truth...
Dying because of it.
My heart breaks.
Lord, hear my prayer.
It's beyond words
Where I'm speechless
And there's only a deep
yearning, hope, longing
That we learn to LOVE
One another
Because I feel broken
Every time we KILL
One another.
Amen.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

I DID IT!

I did it.  I rode my horse Harvey after 2 years. He's a 17h warmblood. A former grand prix jumper.  My warhorse.  It's humbling, as I've ridden horses for 30 years.... but you start where you are.... and after 2 years of painful treatments, I'm ready for rehab.  Harvey is my warhorse,  my heart, the blood in my veins.  After everything I've been through, I'm grateful to even be capable of riding again.  Thanks be to God.

Watch Video

Friday, August 30, 2019

Almost Back in the Saddle

I did it!  3 visits means that tomorrow,  for the first time in two years, I'm gonna get back on my big warhorse. 

It's something that ive been fighting for... my Harvey literally has my heart beating in his chest.  I need him.  But he's not like other horses.  You don't just get back on a horse like Harvey.  Ive been close many times, only to crash.  And today, I almost lost my chance.  A mandatory orientation at my daughter's school did me in. Im sure none of the people there noticed that I was having a tough time,  but my adrenal system struggled to made it through.  Thanks to stress doses I did it!  Then i came home and slept to recover.  This is life with an #invisibledisability.  Kiddo always comes first, even if it means waiting on Harvey.

But......As I sat here pulling myself back together (this is why I don't attend group activities... I'm not antisocial...I just can't do it!), I thought for a moment that I wasn't going to be able to ride tomorrow.  It's all I wanted for my birthday.   I prayed for God's will.... and slowly i could feel my body begin to rejuvenate.  Yes, i can ride tomorrow! 

We need something to keep us reaching. Harvey is my constant reminder that God is Grace.  And tomorrow I get to feel his great power beneath me.   Thanks be to God.

Friday, August 23, 2019

I am Concerned

I am neither Democrat nor Republican. Having taken Masters level courses in criminology and social justice in my youth, and having become a contemplative monastic in the second half of life, It's no secret that I walk with those on the margins.   This is the core of my secular Franciscan theology.

But I don't live in a vacuum.  My study of constitutional law and political science in college cultivated a love of our Republic, especially the constitution and the supreme court.  I remember standing on the steps of the Supreme Court with pure admiration.  Why?  Their only job is to interpret the Constitution.  Wow! They are the protectors of our freedom.

Why am I writing all this?

Im concerned.  The political discourse is raging, taking on constitutional issues like the 2nd Amendment, the electoral college, abortion, and more.  As our constitution takes center stage in this election, people on both sides of the aisle are debating issues using a present day lens and/or considering intent of the Framers.  

Im looking at it differently.  Im curious about the precedent we are setting for the next 400 years....1000 years.... if we are lucky enough to still have a nation.  Our fellow nations around the world have histories that go back thousands of years.  Can you imagine how that perspective impacts governance?

As a contemplative I'm sitting with the question: How will the decisions we make today impact the future of our nation, a future that we cannot imagine?  It's a big question, and sitting with it makes it impossible to easily take sides on current issues. 

Thus sitting with these questions helps me better grasp the various perspectives with curiosity as I discern my own opinions. 

Those who have discerned that they are called to fighting for what they believe, this is not a statement to stop.

This is my statement of concern and questioning. A statement I felt called to share (which I rarely do).  Perhaps it might ring true to another who feels similarly,  and it opens space to take an alternative position. 

Art by Heather Thompson
Blue Phoenix Art
www.bluephoenixart.com

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Long Healing Road Before Me

I'm becoming aware of the road that lies before me.  It's not about getting back to where I was. No,  this has been more akin to the head injury I sustained in 2011.  I have transformed again, and I have come to accept this new normal. This body is beautifully imperfect.  This soul carries a connection to God that I never could have imagined,  and im at peace in my contemplative monastic life. 

And yet the time has come to begin walking my body through the phases of healing. It feels daunting.  Im choosing to focus on the present moment.  I am at peace in this moment.  God, how can I serve your will in this moment?

I would welcome prayers for healing and for Gods will in my life.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Healing GOOD NEWS

Prayers are answered. Yesterday I learned from the neuromuscular experts at UW that I no longer need to be concerned about neuromuscular disease.  What a relief!  This includes LEMS, and it means that I can come off the firdapse immediately.  That's one less medicine (HOORAY) and one less avenue of diagnosis.  Whether it was an entire year of high dose IVIG that did it,  who knows?!  I'm grateful. Thank you God.

The Doctor identified something wonky with my eyes yesterday,  so I have to follow up on that.... but that's small compared to the other issues that have been on the table.

Although I still have other health stuff to deal with, including a still undiagnosed inflammatory something, I'm beginning to see things heading in a new direction of healing.  Im having much less breakthrough pain and im able to move around more without crashing.  That said,  my pace is slow.  I get very tired very easily.   The nausea and body pain are my reminders when ive done a little too much.   If I really over do it, then it's usually an attack of some kind... so I will keep everything "country slow" as I make the adjustments that my doctors ask of me.  My stress level will remain as low as possible, therefore no school for now. Painting, mothering, spending time with my animals, REHAB with Harvey... this is my life as I heal.  Slow and very steady. 

As I surrender to God. Not my will but thine.
Amen

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Im Not Looking Back...

... that's not the way to going!

It's been almost exactly 2 years (2017) since the machete pain suddenly hit my back.  3 years since I lost my hearing (2016), was placed on prednisone for the first time and discovered I had adrenal Insufficiency. 4 years since the CDIFF superbug landed me in the hospital (2015) followed by a microbiome transplant at Harborview that cured me,  but changed my body forever. 6 years since the divorce was final (2013).  Nearly 8 years since the TBI that changed everything (2011), and the day I learned my husband didn't love me anymore.  Almost 11 years since the life threatening birth of my daughter (2008)...

I could go on but I won't. It's been a decade of learning!

And after all of this,  today I came to an important awareness, which I will share.

Im whole exactly as I am.
Im not trying to get back to something I was before this latest fiasco with my health. 
Im moving forward into the unknown of healing.
May God lead the way.
Not my will, but thine.
Amen.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

NEW ART!


Humanize the OTHER

In this election season, many are surrounded by like minded individuals, steeped in likeminded commentary, fed news by likeminded outlets.  Ive heard the rhetoric on both sides grow progressively more polarized since the last election, even describing the other as evil.  Dehumanizing others is dangerous, no matter how despicable we find their views and actions. Ive returned to reading lessons from Etty Hillesum to remind myself of LOVE even in the most hateful circumstances.

In my spiritual tradition, Jesus prayed for those that tortured and murdered him.  This is not a lesson to be taken lightly.  This is a reminder of just how deeply we are called to LOVE in Christianity.

I am now asking questions, including the source of my information.  Where am I learning about what the other side is saying?  What would it look like to actually discuss opposing views, human to human, with someone with whom I disagree?  Finally, as community is replaced by online forums and large hives of people with similar views, where's the every day communal interaction that pulls us to the center?

Monday, July 15, 2019

Kindness on Social Media

My daughter and I were discussing social media and why we're holding off on it for her...We discussed the way that kids can be mean to one another on the internet. We also discussed that it's easy to feel left out when kids are posting about their outings and parties, and you weren't invited. Sadly, even with my very tight friend list, I was able to show her examples in my adult world- moments where mean things were said and times when I felt left out.  Even if I can't go to things because I'm sick,  gosh it's nice to be invited!

Empathy.  Compassion.  Awareness of others.  Think before speaking/posting. Consideration.  Im not perfect. That said, Im contemplating digital citizenry, because our online world creates distance while making us feel artificially connected.  As we become more distanced from one another, we run the risk of dehumanizing the other as OTHER.   Kids and adults together.... we must do better.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Connectedness - Etty Hillesum

Etty Hillesum was a contemporary mystic who died in a Nazi Concentration camp. At the end of her life, she wrote about the connectedness of all things... I believe her insight is timely, as we become even more polarized.  We need to learn to see our connection before fighting over our differences.

"Through me course wide rivers and in me rise tall mountains. And beyond the tickets of my agitation and confusion there stretch the wide plains of my peace and surrender. All landscapes are within me. And there is room for everything. The earth is in me, and the sky. And I well know that something like hell can also be in one, although I no longer experience it in myself, but I can still feel it in others with great intensity. And that is as it should be, or else I might grow too complacent." (Page 156).

Monday, July 8, 2019

FAT - Removing the Shame

This weekend I was challenged (again) to remove the negative power and cultural shame of the word FAT.  Just as I've done with other words that used to raise deep fears of abandonment, the word FAT comes with huge judgments and socially acceptable discrimination hidden beneath the auspices of concern for what's healthy.   Unfortunately, one only has to look at those that lose weight due to chronic illness (people say...you look great!) compared to those that gain weight due to illness or treatments like steroids (silent uncomfortable stares, gossip, and unhelpful physician commentary). 

So im working on this right now.  Im learning to take the power out of the word FAT.  This is another layer of healing from anorexia, exercise bulimia and orthorexia.  No more justifying my body, whether larger or smaller.  No more determining wellness by what the scale says.  Im just loving my body as she is.  And this next level of healing is badass.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Finding a Deeper Love of Self

Many don't realize how before and after photos could hurt those living with disability or chronic illness.   Perhaps they don't see the inherent privalege associated with being able to do something about their image or weight, because their body has the ability to move,  exercise, take in food properly,  etc. Being able bodied is truly a gift.

It's hard to explain to people what it's like to NOT have the above options for the first time in my life, and to walk alongside many who are also struggling with such basic things as eating.

Generally I don't mind the side by side posts, as i want to celebrate the success of others!  But ive noticed an increased number of side by side pics that say "This is what health looks like. This is what self care looks like.  This is what self love looks like. " In other words, losing weight is what self care,  self love and health looks like.  

This is the assumption that must be challenged.   I was not healthy as an anorexic, even if all the men in my life thought I was "HOT AF" when I was 100 pounds.  Im not healthy now because of multiple chronic illnesses, not because of weight.  In fact, my doctor (Chief of Metabolic and Bariatric Medicine) has instructed me to stop focusing on my weight because it's causing harm to my body.   In other words, my weight is out of my control as my injured hypothalamus has a temper tantrum.  Furthermore, losing weight can cause harm right now, as I'm in the final stages of diagnosis for a very rare disease where weight loss and low carbs can cause excruciatingly dangerous acute attacks.

So when you can't change the external appearance because you're not able bodied, the time comes to find self love and acceptance in a much deeper space. 

Loving myself as I am in the midst of illness, with total loss of control,  has been among the most challenging and badass things I've ever had to do.  That said, it's the journey I'm on toward healing, and I continue to walk it one day at a time.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Total Surrender

Today I begin a few days with no neuromuscular meds prior to a super fun test (needle above my eye measuring muscle weakness) on Tuesday.
Next week I meet with the Porphyria expert.  And lots of dr appts.  With Mayo July 30th. 

It's moments like these that im grateful for a cross based theology,  as I know that God is walking with me in the midst of my struggle.  I know that God has experienced so much for suffering than I could ever imagine having been tortured and crucified, and therefore God pours out grace and compassion for those of us that are experiencing hardship....God understands what it is to be human...God gives us strength to endure and persist especially when the suffering is great...AND God will guide me through all of this toward the right outcome for my life. 

Just as Jesus prayed in the Garden, not my will but God's. I am allowed to complain, but in the end it's total surrender.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

SPEAKING in Color

I read this last night thru random opening of scripture, and it illuminated something deeply important about my use of language.  As I try to force myself into linear writing to produce a book,  I keep crashing.... but the language of art,  color,  poetry, Theopoetics... it all comes so easily... and it IS language.   Just as my deaf grandmother spoke in the imagery of sign language, I speak through art.  Then I read this verse from Corinthians and it literally left me collapsed. I slept better than I have in recent memory. Now it's time to paint, and I believe I have something to say.

1 Corinthians 2:12 NIV

12What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.

13This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.

14The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

15The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16for,

“Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

We'll See

We'll See - Taoist Story

There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit.

"Such bad luck," they said sympathetically.

"We'll see," the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses.

"How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed.

"We'll see," replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

"We'll see," answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

"We'll see" said the farmer.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Conscious Love by Richard Rohr

"Cynthia Bourgeault continues reflecting on authentic love, distinguishing it from infatuation or romance. She begins by sharing insights from Scottish psychiatrist Maurice Nicoll (1884–1953), offering a basis for understanding union within the Gospel framework. Nicoll suggests that laying down one’s soul for our neighbor “is the supreme definition of conscious love.” Cynthia explains:

That is to say, through a life of conscious love—the persistent practice of laying down one’s life for the other, of the merging or union of wills in the effort to put the other first—the conditions will gradually come about for the creation of one soul. As long as the life goes on, in a renewed union of wills, one may speak of one soul, “for the soul is the image of the life.”

This union of souls cannot be done out of sheer romanticism, that initial rush of erotic attraction that is all most of us ever know of love. It is not a product of attraction, but rather of purification: the commitment with which the partners adopt the spiritual practice of laying down their lives for each other—facing their shadows, relinquishing old patterns and agendas, allowing all self-justification to be seen, brought to the light, and released. In other words, without a mutual and conscious commitment to bring one’s human love into sympathetic vibration with the sacrificial and giving love that is the font of all creation, there is no union of wills or souls. The willingness to die, on whatever level, for the other’s becoming is the practice that gradually transmutes erotic attraction into a force of holy fusion. . . .

Love calls forth the reality of the beloved, and the act of loving calls forth our own most authentic and dynamic center. The result is a mutual thrust deeper and deeper into becoming, the unfolding of the wonder of each person. . . .

If there is a secret to love’s transforming power, surely it must lie in its uncanny ability to call forth who we truly are. “Love always seeks the ultimately real,” says [Beatrice] Bruteau [2]; it has an infallible knack for pushing though dim outer shells and inner dark places and bringing the essence of who we are into the light. Love always brings an increase in being, and it does so by giving us the courage and power to live out who we truly are. . . . Love actualizes essence.

One fact that contemporary psychology has made eminently clear to us is that wholeness can come about only if we embrace the whole of ourselves—not only what is highest in us, but the shadow as well. For majesty to grow in us, all must come to the light, both the dark parts of oneself that need healing and the light parts that need birthing."

For more information, look up the Center for Action and Contemplation and Fr Richard Rohr.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Supporting Single Parents

When I was married,  it was a difficult relationship, but on a very base level, there was backup when one of us was sick. This was something we argued about,  but even partial backup was of incredible value.   If one of us went to the hospital in the middle of the night, the child was not affected.

As a single parent, there is no backup except the tribe you build.  I've learned that this tribe must be at a level of communication and support like a marriage,  so you can say yes and no authentically... and so that mom can ask for help without the worry of being perceived badly.  

Imagine waking up very sick (borderline ER sick)... The kid still needs to get to school.  How's that going to happen?  This is real life.  And it's something most single parents don't discuss.  And yes,  it's different than having a husband who travels alot.  It's a sense of helplessness... and in my case, I built a community of people that are there for us so that we've got back up.   But many are on their own.

Our society can do better with single parents.  Building a tribe is hard!  You endure endless occasions of people treating you like an inconvenience before you find your people.

As a monastic, minister, and a single parent living with chronic illness, I invite you to consider if you have something extra to give to the single parents in your community.   Can you say yes AND no when someone asks for help?  You must be able to say NO otherwise your YES isn't authentic.  That's all you need.

I've thought about starting a single parent tribe,  but it scares me to think about strangers helping strangers.   So the best thing I can do at this moment is encourage my community to look around, and offer to be of service.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Am I Worthy?

I've been contemplating.... from the professional athlete to the bed-bound quadriplegic...what makes a person "worthy?"  In this culture, we place too much emphasis on what we're able to DO, assigning more value to the person who can DO more. Im grateful for this time in the quiet,  with limitations, as I've learned to separate worth from what one can DO.  All humans come with inherent value as a part of the body of Christ.  From the newborn to the dying, we're all gifts from God.  We must remember that human worth is not tied to production, intelligence,  athleticism,  etc. Human worth is given freely to all those who are human.  We're all endowed with gifts.  Our culture simply needs to learn to notice.

“Unworthiness is often the greatest barrier to receiving love and pleasure. Even when someone gives us a genuine compliment, it can be hard to receive if we don’t feel equal to what’s being said. Imagine how difficult it is then to receive divine support when we don’t feel equal to the generosity of life.

Worthiness is the value, importance, and goodness that we ascribe to ourselves and to the world. But so much of what we value was inherited from our families and our culture. On the path to belonging, we must untangle our true values from our inherited, collective ideas of worth - and lack of worth - that have been woven into our beliefs.”

Excerpt from “Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home” by Toko-pa Turner (belongingbook.com)

Sunday, June 2, 2019

"My grace is sufficient for you."

Progress.  Im making progress.  And im learning about new potential diagnoses in the midst of what we already know.   As we name the diagnoses, I become increasingly empowered.

Im up to 3500 steps and I'll increase by 500 every 5 days as I can handle it.   For the first time, I'm on a normal replacement dose of hydrocortisone for adrenal Insufficiency. The pain has been down for the last two days (after a brutal flare last week).  I'm off insulin. Off ivig. Off high dose prednisone. Less nausea. Slowly driving more.  Slowly getting more energy.  And a week of doctor's appts coming up before I head to Mayo in July. 

I'd say im making progress.  We still lack a full understanding of my diagnoses and how they all work together,  hence the Mayo trip.   But we're getting closer.  In the mean time,  I'm healing my microbiome after a month of massive antibiotics.    But holy cow, my weight is going up like I'm on ultra dose prednisone!!!  Grrrrrrr.  Thankfully I see the dietitian and the naturopath this week too.  No advice needed here from the hive... I'll look forward to teasing it apart with my medical team.

This is all to say..... I'm healing so slowly.  And im so thankful for all of the amazing people cheering me on.... helping me to walk this path.... helping me to accept my body as she heals... helping to drive... helping me to finally love myself regardless of whether I'm "perfect" or a mess or somewhere in between.

As my spiritual director encouraged me to explore.....

"My Grace is sufficient for you. " 
Amen.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

At Least it's Not Cancer

This woman did a beautiful job communicating something that I've experienced..... hearing "at least it's not cancer" can be indicative of just how little people understand the spectrum of disease.  We have a culture that gathers around those with cancer as they undergo treatment, with a motto that we're fighting cancer!  But how do we react when someone knows they won't get to remission,  and cancer becomes a chronic illness that they live with?  I dont know the answer as I don't have cancer.

What I do know is that we tend to ostracize those with serious chronic illness because there is no end goal.   The illness waxes and wanes, and people grow tired of the illness pattern (heck, I'm sick of it too!).   We push people away knowingly or unknowingly even as they undergo the same treatments as cancer patients, because we don't understand the magnitude of the disease.   Let's face it,  who could understand what it's like unless they've lived it?!  An analogy.... how do you explain natural childbirth to someone who has never experienced it?

I've had my fair share of minimizing and disbelief from other people,  even those closest to me.  I've been a part of communities that have rallied for those undergoing cancer treatments, yet have never spoken a word to me.  And this is what I've learned....

Never minimize the suffering of others.  Those in pain are worthy of support,  not judgment.  I've endured enough judgment for a lifetime.   That said,  it's been a beautiful teacher as I've finally learned to let go of the opinions of others and walk God's path.

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10214270164652657&id=1372003195&sfnsn=mo

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The LOVE of the Spirit

A Meditation by Franciscan Fr Richard Rohr

"The highest expression of the spirit is the one that opens us to the Great Other, in love and trust. It establishes a dialogue with God, listens from the conscience to God’s call, and delivers us trustingly into the palm of God’s hand. This communion can be so intense, say the mystics of every tradition, that the soul of the beloved is fused with the Lover in an experience of nonduality; by grace we participate in God’s very being. Here the human spirit is touching the hem of the Holy Spirit’s garment. —Leonardo Boff


The Holy Spirit is the love relationship between the Father and the Son. It is this relationship itself that is gratuitously given to us! Or better, we are included inside this universal love. This is salvation in one wonderful snapshot.
Jesuit Richard Hauser (1937–2018), who focused much of his teaching and writing on the Holy Spirit, saw that the indwelling Spirit leads to union and love:

This love has as its object God, as well as other people. Christian theological tradition has most often seen the Holy Spirit in the Trinity as the bond of love between the Father and the Son. . . . The primary effect of the Spirit acting in people . . . will be love, both for one another and for God. . . .

God’s Spirit joins our spirit; it does not replace it. The good acts we perform are truly our acts, not simply acts of the Holy Spirit in us. The deepest part of the self is the spiritual dimension. From the center flows all our freedom and love; at this level we remain free to choose to move or not to move with the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is indeed active in us at all times drawing us toward greater love and service of God and others, but the Spirit does not control our response. That flows from our freedom. [2]

This loving relationship shows itself in myriad forms, such as the endless diversity of insects and wildflowers, culture and art, medicine and science. Each manifestation expresses God’s endless desire to create new forms of life and externalized love. All things good, true, and beautiful are already baptized in the one, same Spirit. (Read Ephesians 4:4-7 anew!)
The Holy Spirit shows up as the central and healing power of absolute newness and healing in our relationship with everything else. Anglican mystic Evelyn Underhill (1875–1941) defined mysticism as “the art of union with Reality.” [3] The Spirit is the artist painting this union through us!


The Spirit’s work is helping us stay in relationship and building connection. The Spirit warms, softens, mends, and renews all the broken, cold places in and between things. Invisible but powerful, willing to be anonymous, the Spirit does not care who gets the credit for the wind from nowhere, the living water that we take for granted, or the bush that always burns and is never consumed."

Monday, May 20, 2019

Contemplative Rain

There's a fine line between feeling like a bump on a log and noticing that you're practicing good self care before a fledge that will most certainly be physically taxing. 

The difference of course is attitude. My attitude sucked this morning.  

As I have attempted to be quiet, I have felt the engine within telling me that I need to make progress on my to do list in order to feel worthy of even being called human.   Negative self talk has been coursing through my brain today as i attempted to gently take on one task at a time. Knowing that I was being hard on myself,  I went so far as to Google what it's like to heal from a serious infection.  Turns out the CDC had a fact sheet on the topic.   Ahhhhhh yes.... the message was simple.... go slow.... healing takes time.  

So I opened the back sliding door on my mountainside home to let my dog out,  took a deep breath of moist forest air, and then it began to RAIN.   Sitting here,  listening to the pounding RAIN running through the boughs of old growth cedars and down rivers of rockery, it became clear that time in the quiet is one of my spiritual practices... and I have gotten away from it recently.   Yet meditation is a key component of my monastic life.   I needed to see that I had reframed meditation into some kind of laziness.  How unkind.  What part of me is pushing so hard against the contemplative monastic life that I joyfully feel called to lead?

I need to paint the answer to that question. In the mean time, i shall be grateful for the insight today.   Healing means listening to my body, avoiding judgment of where I am, and giving my body what she needs in the moment.   Be still.

https://link.medium.com/l3K3xwkWQW

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Meditation 2. Choosing to LOVE my Body.

This is the second day of my writing experiment. It seems so simple — a selfie and a meditation/reflection every day for a while…8 days, 8 weeks, 8 months…how long will I go? I don’t have an answer this morning, as my focus must remain in the present moment — today is only Day 2.





Click here to read the story on Medium.... 

Monday, May 6, 2019

Meditation 1. The Pain Clinic 5/6/19



It begins today with me. Join me as I walk into the unknown of treatment for chronic illness and rare disease…

“Meditation 1. The Pain Clinic 5/6/19” by Heather Thompson
Read the full text on Medium https://link.medium.com/jNp4vKM6tW




Sunday, May 5, 2019

Speaking Up

Reading all of the quotes from Rachel Held Evans,  a young theologian writer who suddenly passed away this weekend.... i'm feeling deeply moved.  She had the courage to be bold with her voice. She spoke openly of doubt and faith.  And now it's her voice, translated from thought to writing,  that remains as she is gone. She was only 37.  Watching this unfold creates a sense of urgency for me. I have so much in my head that I haven't said aloud,  things i'm afraid to write,  but things that need a voice (art, poetry, words).  I shall pray for the courage to speak with the bold voice that I have been given.  I will give the implications of my words to God, as St Augustine teaches that my words can be an interior journey between me and the DIVINE... it doesn't have to be for anyone else.  And as I pour out the truth as i know it, avoiding my desire to spin things for the comfort of the audience,  my body will heal. Am I finally ready?

Proverbs 31:8 ESV
"Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute."

“There is so much I thought I knew... A meditation on Empathy.”

Go to Medium to read this latest article.

“There is so much I thought I knew... A meditation on Empathy.” by Heather Thompson https://link.medium.com/VeBo6JiIqW

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Empathy - A morning meditation on Rumi

There is so much I thought I knew... in my business and personal life I really thought that I understood what another was going through because I'd gone through something similar.  With empathy at the core,  I attempted to relate,  advise, coach, and teach on everything from sales training to business strategy to the painstaking challenges of growth.  I had a strong voice for keynotes, and I was therefore in high demand on stages across the country.   I focused on the importance of bringing empathy back into healthcare, placing it at the center of an organization's brand and making it an authentic cornerstone of all aspects of operations. It was a powerful message, one that arose out of the pain of walking the hospice path with my former father in law.  

While my words were motivational and inspiring to business entities, I had a lot to learn about empathy in the very human to human interactions of daily life.  My former understanding of empathy placed me at the center of relating to another.  In other words,  I found myself saying..."I too have traveled a road like that so I understand how you feel. " 

As much as I don't want to acknowledge it at times,  there's an arrogance that can accompany this kind of empathy.  Even with the best of intentions, I find myself judging the other person because i'm only looking through my own experiential lens.   

How could I possibly know what it's like to stand in their shoes?

I can't.   This is among the most humbling realizations of my life so far.   It's why I embrace the "little way" of Franciscan Theology,  and do my very best to acknowledge the reality that I don't know what another is experiencing...i simply can offer to walk with them, sit beside them, or hold them in prayer.

Today, i'm learning to use my voice in new ways.  I'm learning to listen without attempting to relate from my own life experiences.... and instead attempt to relate from the field that Rumi describes..."Out beyond ideas of right and wrong is a field,  and I'll meet you there. "

Alas, i'm also human.  So i'm I know I'll make mistakes and exist in the non dualism of my own failures. I suppose that's why Maya Angelou said that "when you know better you do better. "

Today's meditation may give rise to more meditations.... and if they do...I will share them as i'm realizing that my voice is emerging and i'm choosing to let it flow.  Perhaps using my voice in this way will heal me as it has done for so many others.  I cannot know; I simply keep walking. 

Friday, April 26, 2019

Choosing the Contemplative Path

Have you considered a contemplative life, but don't know where to begin?  How do you know if God's call is contemplative or more extroverted? 

The following is an excerpt from a blog post on Contemplative Light:

"All that is required is a desire and an intention. If you are reading this it means you already have a desire and I'm willing to bet your intention is just around the corner. I'm willing to bet you have been finding the usual ways of culture and society are no longer appealing to you. I'm willing to bet the things you once enjoyed no longer satisfy the longing in your heart. That you feel less and less connected to the people around you, as if you feel called to something they don't even know exists.

If any of these describe you then God has already called you to the contemplative path and that indescribable longing you feel is your guide on that path. Trust it. Follow it. Let it lead you into the silence. Let it lead you into a deeper way of being human. Let it transform you into the image of God. Because it will if you let it. If you decide to follow that small still voice within it will never lead you astray, even if you have no idea where it's taking you.



Just know that longing is calling you into the unknown. It is calling you out of the bright and easy pasture and into a darkness and a mystery. But it is infinitely better! Follow that small still voice into the shadows and the unseen places and there you will receive true light that opens your eyes and makes you new."

Read the full article by clicking on the link below...

https://www.contemplativelight.com/blog/to-people-who-want-to-be-contemplatives-but-are-afraid-to-get-started

New Pieces Sold!

Several new pieces have gone to new permanent homes in the last few months...It's a beautiful experience to witness the immediate connection that often happens between a patrol and the art.  Here are a few of the pieces sold!











Gallery Mack Seattle Represents Artist Heather Thompson

After an exciting evening hosted by Paint my Meditation, Gallery Mack made the rare decision to add Heather Thompson / Blue Phoenix to their roster of represented artists!  You can now view a sampling of work at Gallery Mack next to Pike Place Market in Downtown Seattle.  





Saturday, April 20, 2019

Holy Saturday and The Darkness of the Tomb

For those who celebrate Easter,  we cannot skip over the darkness of the tomb.  Today, we pause to remember that humans crucified the begotten son of God... and for the time before the resurrection, humanity lived with the reality that the messiah was dead.  This "present moment" mindset challenges us to think about the suffering involved in the liminality of the unknown. 

This was described Richard Rohr,  so i'm passing it along...

"As I shared earlier this week, Jesus replaced the myth of redemptive violence with the truth of redemptive suffering. On the cross he showed us how to hold pain and let it transform us rather than project it elsewhere. I believe one of the greatest meanings of the crucifixion is the revelation of God’s presence in the midst of suffering. God suffers with us.

Even when we may feel alone and abandoned, as Jesus did on the cross—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)—we can trust that divine love is holding us. Thankfully, we know the end of the story from the beginning, that after death comes resurrection, after injustice comes liberation, after wounding comes healing. But we can’t skip over the darkness of the tomb.

On this Holy Saturday, before the joy of Easter morning, befriend and be close to sorrow, whether your own suffering, that of a loved one, or the pain of creation." Fr. Richard Rohr

Why the Name Blue Phoenix

Why is my art studio named Blue Phoenix? My theology is an integration of Chinese Medicine/Tao and Ancient Christianity.  The Chinese Phoenix is a powerful symbol that integrates both the flow of the Tao and the Eternal Christ in one artistic image.

Blue Phoenix is derived from the Chinese Feng-huang, which is described in the attached article.  Note that this phoenix is different than the mythical birds of the western world....the Feng-Huang is immortal without needing to go through a cycle of death and re-birth.

"Beautiful, graceful, loyal, and honest, the Feng-Huang represents all the virtues, calling us to a higher level of life, filled with justice, peace, prosperity, and faith. Such symbolism needs no physical counterpart; the Feng-Huang already has the best of this world in its imagery. It is up to humankind to manifest these virtues substantially on the earth."

Click here to learn more about the Chinese Phoenix.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Notre Dame and the Path of Descent

The symbolism observed by the devastating fire at the Church of Notre Dame this Holy Week is profound.  The path of descent, Pascal Mystery, Death and Resurrection, Yin/ Yang are readily apparent in the destruction.

Everything must be held loosely.

Moments like this remind me of the root of Christianity- God CRUCIFIED and RESURRECTED.  It's shocking. As Kierkegaard said,  it doesn't fill the pews when you preach the very real suffering and loss that stands in juxtaposition to new life in Christ.   The reality... humans CRUCIFIED God.  And we are loved by God beyond comprehension.

Loss accompanies life.

Hard lessons to contemplate tonight. 
Jesus prayed....Not my will but thine. He knew... and still he surrendered.

From my hospital room,  unable to sleep, feeling compelled to share... may I walk gently this holy week.... may I try to dance as I heal (from my Spiritual Director)... May I maintain a loose hold on things temporal, and a firm grasp on my faith in the Divine Source with heartfelt hope for genuine healing.  Amen.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Not My Will.... Thoughts on Holy Week

I'm ready for Easter.  Not the cute bunnies and egg hunts (those are great too), but i'm talking about movement through the suffering of the cross and into the goodness of resurrection.

Advent and Lent get me every time.  EVERY TIME.  Alas, one doesn't get to skip Holy Week.  I'd imagine Jesus wished he could simply skip this week too.  But he didn't ask to be absolved from the suffering when he saw what was going to happen.  Instead he completely surrendered to God.

“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

Not my will, but yours.
As I contemplate the immense suffering of Jesus this week,  combined with the joyful resurrection, I will not complain about my situation. I've been very sick and fighting.  I still am sick and fighting a bad infection.  Yet there's been so much grace...I see it every step of the way...I feel as if the Spirit held me in her care all week... and I shall continue to rest there while I heal. Asking for God's will, not mine.

Courageous vulnerability.
Courageous surrender.
That's what this faith is all about. 
Totally badass when you think about it.
Amen.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

God as my Hiding Place (Psalm 32 Theopoetic Reflection)


I used to think I was the only one that experienced shame, as shame has a way of creating isolation. For years I put on a mask of perfectionism and hoped that people wouldn't see my significant insecurity. Then I suffered a life-changing brain injury on March 6, 2011, and everything changed. I could no longer hide behind my well crafted facade. My life changed in an instant.

Just how much my life changed is a topic for another day. That said, I was gifted with relief of my shame in the wake of the injury. It was a kind of grace beyond comprehension. For the first time in my life I no longer felt the need to hide my truth.

Over time, through years of healing work and now seminary study, I've come to realize that shame is common among us: It's part of the condition of being human. As I allow myself to be vulnerable with others, I break down the lies that shame tells me and I am strengthened in my authentic self.

But as I write this, I feel compelled to note that human beings won't always do a good job of understanding or engaging with my vulnerability. Sometimes they may even perpetuate my shame by saying something hurtful. My courage comes from a deeper source, one that loves me exactly as I am. I've come to realize that my safest space---the hiding place mentioned in the psalm---lies with God. Snuggled up against the down feathers of the Creator, I bring all of me without pretense... and I am loved. It is this love that I yearn for in my life now as an artist, seminary student, and emerging theologian, because I am free when I turn toward God and allow myself to be fully embraced.

St. Augustine said, "Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee, oh God." In Al Anon I learned that "you're only as sick as your secrets." Leaving nothing hidden, nestled into the comfort of love itself, my soul releases perfectionism, and I simply ask God to show me the way.



Heather Thompson

The Gift and Toll of Chronic Illness


I'm feeling astonished by what chronic illness has done to my body....I look so different! But, the truth is that i'm lucky to have discovered what's wrong with me so that I can finally heal. 

 
I'm still fighting, transforming, becoming.... and I like who I am today ON THE INSIDE. I have a strength and a confidence that I didn't have 5 years ago. This former beauty queen is no longer defined by appearance. I stand in complete surrender to God's will for me.

It's lent. Imagine surrendering everything that has defined you up until this moment... money, job, appearance, marriage.... could you trust God enough to place all of these things into the hands of the Divine?

This is my journey. It was initially forced upon me with the brain injury, but now I walk with awareness of the surrender as much as I am able every day. Over the years, I've discovered that although the path is far from easy, it is filled with grace as i have exactly what i need when i need it.

I wouldn't go back to the woman I was in 2013 below (shortly before the divorce was final).... I've grown so much since then.... and I cherish who I am now.

Speak God, thy humble servant is listening.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Flepped

So few people understand chronic illness until it happens to them.  It's one of the reasons I speak so openly about it.  It keeps me honest,  as lord knows I'd like to pretend that all is well and that always gets me into trouble.   But there's more to it... we live at a time when Boomers are aging with multiple chronic illnesses and the system isn't prepared to handle it.  Let's face it,  families are often unaware of the journey involved in extended care of someone with chronic illness.  So we must talk about it.

How am I today? Well,  I'm flattened. Flepped. Stuck on this sofa until my fever goes back down. That's why I am so careful around people who are sick.

Yesterday was a good day.  Tomorrow might be better.  But today sucks.  There are good days and rough days and everything in between when living with chronic illness. Just for today I cancel everything and rest.

Monday, March 18, 2019

From CEO to Artist Overnight

It's Brain Injury Awareness Month.
This is an older UK article,  but it tells my story....a life changing brain injury,  the rare miracle of acquired savant syndrome, and a new life filled with art and poetry. 

I post often about the challenge of my current struggle with several rare diseases,  but I never lose sight of the rare GIFT that I was given in the wake of a life changing injury... To be among the few people in the world that have a sudden new ability after neurological trauma... THANK YOU GOD.

And so I live my life from one surrendered posture...
Speak God, thy humble servant is listening.

https://metro.co.uk/2017/04/23/meet-the-female-entrepreneur-who-became-an-artist-overnight-after-a-brain-injury-6590731/

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

It's been 8 years since the Concussion...

Would you say YES to God?

Today is the 8th anniversary of the traumatic brain injury that changed my life completely.   As I step into the significance of this day every year,  I reflect on life before and the path that has emerged since.   My life looks NOTHING like life before,  and yet I'm the happiest I've ever been.  

I was forced into this new life.  Therefore it makes me wonder....Would you (would I) say yes to God if not forced to do so?

Scripture says...
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11

It's a question that I often ponder, especially since my younger self thought that the answer was simple. Of course! Saying YES to God is the only way to live, right?

Well, time has shown me that saying YES to God is among the most vulnerable and brave actions that a human being can take. It is the moment of complete surrender, followed by an infinity of continuous letting go of my will as I further allow God to become the guiding force in my life. It is an act of trust so deep that it is simultaneously freeing and terrifying, as I relinquish control over my life.

Be still and know that I am God.

Allowing the flow to carry me means that I grieve the life that I felt I "should" have had in favor of the life that God has planned for me. It begins by simply lifting up my feet, floating, and noticing that even as I am still, I am also moving. What is the force that is moving me?

The Creator is revealed when I become quiet. I learn to trust the flow of energy moving beneath the wave that I am, as it becomes the force that animates my body and nudges me toward God's path.

But I am not perfect. Continuously, I put my feet down and struggle against the current with thoughts of how I want my life to be dammit!

This is the root of suffering - resistance to what IS. With an abundance of pain reminding me that my efforts are futile, I once again remember that if I gently lift up my feet, I will feel the flow and it will save me from drowning.

The Courage to BE

But MY LIFE is a STRUGGLE! I am not going to lie, I thought it would be easier to live a life in harmony with God's will for me...but that is not the case. No wonder I resisted all of these years. Bringing myself into alignment has been anything but easy, and yet I have had everything I needed at each moment of the process. This is grace. It is not necessarily the promise that life will be simpler; rather, it's being given exactly what I require in order to manifest God's will in my life. This is "the Courage to BE" according to Tillich.

Kenosis

I have come to the recognition that life isn't meant to be easy; quite the contrary, it is a journey filled with struggle every step of the way. The pain arrives when we feel that it should be different somehow.

Thus, life becomes a process of emptying oneself of ideas of how it SHOULD be, and growing through the suffering letting go. 

Rather than filling myself with theological musings and scriptural references in my formation for ministry, I have discovered an alternative path rooted in kenotic love. Every step of my journey with God embodies the art of emptying my vessel so that the Spirit can fill me up and direct my life.

Make no mistake, this emptying process is among the most difficult experiences of my life, yet I have every resource that I need to walk through all of it in peace - grace.

I am brought to my knees almost daily, as God reminds me that I am a humble servant. "Speak God, thy humble servant is listening."

This brings me back to the original question. Would you - would I - completely surrender to God's will without being forced to do so? I have come to realize that I needed to be pushed into this new life, largely because it was so contrary to the way that I thought I SHOULD be living. Every day I surrendered to God, but I didn't mean it. Why? Because I was unwilling to change the really difficult aspects of my life. Then, one night as I was drifting off to sleep, I said the prayer that changed everything - "Speak God, thy humble servant is listening." And like a scene from a movie, my life was different from that moment forward.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Ivig Day 1... Gotta be Flexible

It's day 1.  When I get ivig I feel it's important to write "from the trenches."  Few people know about this treatment.  Chemo.... we seem to have an understanding... but ivig is still not very well known.

I'm trying to remain flexible today.  I'm getting a different brand today because of a shortage in the brand I was using.   Remember... this product requires human plasma donation.  So supply can get low.

Unlike many treatments, Ivig is an all day thing. I'm here from 9 to 530.  Today,  we are running into problems right and left.  I pray that this goes ok. 

At this moment, they are having trouble with my port so they are doing a procedure to declot it. Gosh it feels BAD to have fluid going into my neck when my port isn't flushing properly.

And...I need iv fluids badly. The closer we get to 11 am, the more likely it is that I won't get fluids.  I may have them get a separate iv into my arm so they can run fluids while they do the ivig because we are running out of time.... and dehydration means a bad reaction tonight. 

But through it all, I remain grateful.  I'm alive.  I have access to this treatment.  It's working.  And I have the best nurses helping to make this all happen.  

Awake.  Alive. Blessed.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

En Christo

I may be a Christian monastic, but I believe we all worship the same God. We all are a part of the body of Christ, although it goes by different names in different religions.  We all are one. And this idea it's rooted in a rich theological history.

I'll add that this INCLUDES all of my LGBTQIA siblings who are just as much a part of the body of Christ as anyone.  The recent acts of the UMC are unfortunately very human (our need to exclude and make rules).... but not very Christian. 

From fr Richard Rohr today.

Succinctly put, Pauls term En Christo means humanity has never been separate from God—unless and except by its own negative choice. All of us, without exception, are living inside of a cosmic identity, already in place, that is drawing and guiding us forward. We are all en Cristo, willingly or unwillingly, happily or unhappily, consciously or unconsciously.

Paul seemed to understand that the lone individual was far too small, insecure, and short-lived to bear either the “weight of glory” or the “burden of sin.” Only the whole could carry such a mystery of constant loss and renewal. Paul’s knowledge and experience of “in Christ” allowed him to give God’s universal story a name, a focus, a love, and a certain victorious direction so that coming generations could trustingly jump on this cosmic and collective ride.

I hope that Christians will come to enjoy the full meaning of that short, brilliant phrase, because it is crucial for the future of Christianity, which is still trapped in a highly individualistic notion of salvation that ends up not looking much like salvation at all. Paul calls this bigger divine identity the “mystery of his purpose, the hidden plan he so kindly made in Christ from the very beginning” (see Ephesians 1:9-10).

Every single creature—the teen mother nursing her child, every one of the twenty thousand species of butterflies, an immigrant living in fear, a blade of grass, you reading this meditation—all are “in Christ” and “chosen from the beginning” (Ephesians 1:3-4, 9-10). What else could they be? Salvation for Paul is an ontological and cosmological message (which is solid) before it ever becomes a moral or psychological one (which is always unstable). Pause and give that some serious thought.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Flashback to An Earlier Post about The Journey of the Cross

I wrote this a while back for Holy Week, but it feels apropos for today...

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.


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.


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?



Monday, February 25, 2019

A Religion of Inclusion

If religion,  particularly Christianity, encourages a person to question the fundamental worth of a fellow human.... if the pastor encourages parishioners to lean more toward exclusion rather than inclusion.... if churchgoers feel a sense of certainty about who is "in" and who is "out" as far as Church, God and Heaven are concerned,  then I'd suggest that it's time to take another look at the Christianity being followed. Christianity has a lot to atone for,  especially as humans have used the religion to further human interests for thousands of years.  Look for the paradoxes. It should be difficult to grasp and full of Mystery.  Prayer should ultimately lead to humility AND greater LOVE.... and I'm personally devastated repeatedly by the ways humans use Christianity to cause harm.  As a Christian, I say NO.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

We are ALL Connected

We are ALL connected. We have different language for it,  but it's pointing to the same Universal Mystery.

From Richard Rohr
Another Name for Every Thing

What if Christ is a name for the transcendent within of every “thing” in the universe?

The Christ Mystery anoints all physical matter with eternal purpose from the very beginning. The word translated from the Greek as Christ comes from the Hebrew word mesach, meaning “the anointed” one or Messiah. He reveals that all is anointed! Many people are still praying and waiting for something that has already been given to us three times: first in creation; second in Jesus, “so that we could hear him, see him with our eyes, watch him, and touch him with our hands, the Word who is life” (1 John 1–2); and third, in the ongoing beloved community (what Christians call the Body of Christ), which is slowly evolving throughout all of human history (Romans 8:18). We are still in the Flow.

All of us take part in the evolving, universe-spanning Christ Mystery. Jesus is a map for the time-bound and personal level of life; Christ is the blueprint for all time and space and life itself. Both reveal the universal pattern of self-emptying and infilling (Christ) and death and resurrection (Jesus), which is the process humans have called “holiness,” “salvation,” or “growth.” For Christians, this universal pattern perfectly mimics the inner life of the Trinity in Christian theology [1], which is our template for how reality unfolds, since all things are created “in the image and likeness” of God (Genesis 1:26-27).

For me, a true comprehension of the full Christ Mystery is the key to the foundational reform of the Christian religion, which alone will move us beyond any attempts to corral or capture God into our exclusive group. As the New Testament dramatically and clearly puts it, “Before the world was made, we have been chosen in Christ . . . claimed as God’s own and chosen from the very beginning . . . so that God could bring everything together under the headship of Christ” (Ephesians 1:3, 10, 11). If all of this is true, we have a theological basis for a very natural religion that includes everybody. The problem was solved from the beginning!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Blue Phoenix WOMAN

A compilation of my exploration of WOM•AN through digital painting.  I taught myself to use a digital platform,  then cultivated my own style of drawing over the last few weeks.   Now it's time to translate this drawing to HUGE canvas paintings. Stay tuned.   Prints available at www.bluephoenixart.com

https://youtu.be/6qkUPYSpug0

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

From Fr. Richard Rohr... The Jesus Paradox

From Fr. Richard Rohr today...
The Jesus Paradox

If we are humble and honest, Christians must acknowledge that most of our churches and leaders have not consistently read the Gospels in a contemplative way or with “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). Without contemplative consciousness, we severely limit the Holy Spirit’s capacity for inspiration and guidance. We had arguments to win, logic to uphold, and denominational distinctions to maintain, after all. Without the contemplative mind, humans—even Christians—revel in dualisms and do not understand the dynamic unity between seeming opposites. The Jesus Paradox (i.e., Jesus being at once God and human) was meant to teach and exemplify this union. [1] The separate self fears and denies paradoxes—which is to deny our own self, which is always filled with seeming contradictions.

“Unless the single grain of wheat dies” we see everything as a mirror of our separate and small selves, rather than whole. As Jesus put it, we “will not yield a rich harvest” (John 12:24). We are unable to comprehend that Christ is our wholeness (see 1 Corinthians 1:30)—set forth for all to imagine, trust, imitate, and comprehend. He is the Exemplar of Reconciled Humanity, the Stand-In for all of us. At this wondrous level, Christianity is hardly a separate religion but simply an organic and hopeful message about the nature of Reality.

I believe the world—and the West in particular—is experiencing a rapid evolution of consciousness in recent centuries. Only in the past few decades have Western Christians even had the capacity to think nondually! While mystics throughout history have recognized the power of Christ to overcome dualisms, dichotomies, and divisions, many Christians are just now realizing what this means. As Augustine said, we are being offered something “forever ancient and forever new.” It is revolutionary because it is so traditional and yet so hidden. This traditional teaching can still create a revolution of mind and heart—and history itself.

As Amos Smith writes: “My core truth about Jesus isn’t rooted in mainstream Christian tradition. It’s rooted in Jesus’ essence. It’s about the deep stillness of silent prayer and a theology big enough to give that blessed stillness words.” [1]

Jesus has always been so much bigger than our ideas about him, our readiness to surrender to him, and our ability to love and allow what he clearly loves and allows in creation. He is the microcosm of the macrocosm. He is the Great Coincidence of Opposites as St. Bonaventure taught. Only the Jesus Paradox gives us the permission and freedom to finally and fully love the paradox that everything already and always will be.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Kenosis - Cynthia Bourgeault

The path of descent - living a life of humility...Even today, we tend to look down upon those that are living a "lower" life, as opposed to one that reaches for status or accumulation. This is a beautiful discussion of Kenosis - Written by Cynthia Bourgeault

"In Jesus, everything hangs together around a single center of gravity, and we need to know what this center is before we can sense the subtle and cohesive power of his path. What name might we give to this center? The apostle Paul suggests the word kenosis. In Greek, the verb kenosein means “to let go,” or “to empty oneself,” and this is the word Paul chooses to describe “the mind of Christ.”

Here is what Paul has to say (Philippians 2:6-8):

Though his state was that of God,
yet he did not deem equality with God
something he should cling to.
Rather, he emptied himself,
and assuming the state of a slave,
he was born in human likeness.
He, being known as one of us,
humbled himself, obedient unto death,
even death on the cross.


In this beautiful hymn, Paul recognizes that Jesus had only one “operational mode.” Everything he did, he did by self-emptying. He emptied himself and descended into human form. And he emptied himself still further, “even unto death on the cross.” In every life circumstance, Jesus always responded with the same motion of self-emptying—or to put it another way, descent: taking the lower place, not the higher."



Contemplating WOM-AN

While looking up WOMAN in the dictionary, I recently discovered that the word is broken into syllables in a manner different than i thought - WOM-AN. I always thought that it was WO-MAN, as in the Christian belief that woman was created from the rib of a man. AHA!

WOM-AN acknowledges that which is fundamentally feminine - the WOMB. It is the place that MAN emerged from...Thus, we see KENOSIS playing out in the creation story, where MAN Adam emerges from the INCARNATIONAL space of the great WOMB of Mystery Itself...then the incarnate woman EVE emerges from the man...and so it goes. It's a different way to see women - and I think it is much more appropriate.

New Art Contemplating WOM-AN











Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Beyond Shame - The Courage of LIving with Chronic Illness




Even though I spent most of my career throughout my 20’s and 30’s working in home health and hospice, I wasn’t able to grasp the reality of living with chronic illness until it happened to me. While this is true for many things in life, it is particularly applicable to those of us that live in a constant state of discomfort, pain and/or disability because of a disease that cannot simply be “fixed.” We struggle to find physicians that are patient enough to treat us, friends that are willing to stand with us during the ups and the downs, and employers that can accomodate our limitations. And that is just the beginning…

Prior to the Traumatic Brain Injury that changed my life in 2011, I had the same “acute mindset” that drives me nuts these days! In other words, you have an episode, you go to the doctor, you fix it, and you recover. Most people can’t imagine a paradigm different from this.

As an example, people asked me after the TBI…”What is your recovery timeline? When are you going to be back to normal?” These questions seemed so strange, as there was no “recovery” from a TBI like mine. My career ended in an instant. My healing trajectory was completely unknown. Although I had a tremendous gift as a result of the accident (I became an artist overnight – I am an “acquired savant”), I lost almost everything in the wake of the injury…including my marriage. Therefore, I had to adjust to a “new normal.”

The best advice that I was given after the TBI was to let go of the person that I used to be, and begin to fall in love with the person I was becoming. That is exactly what I did, and it made my healing journey that much more meaningful.

Fast forward to 2019, and I am now living with several chronic illnesses. Some are remnants of the TBI (dysautonomia, migraines, adrenal insufficiency), some are rare diseases that I had before the brain injury (LEMS Myesthenia), and others are newly emerging on their own (Diabetes and Reactive Arthritis). I have been flattened in ways that I couldn’t fathom before it happened to me over the last two years; but the great news is that I am finally healing! We have found treatments that work, and I am slowly on the path to recovery. That said, it is going to be a new normal, one that is yet to be defined.

For some reason it feels more difficult this time around.

Recovery is difficult; yet it is only made more challenging by the things that people say when they think I don’t notice. The looks from people that see my disability placard, or the comments from people that can’t understand why I have to cancel commitments. These are the encounters with people that that don’t get it. I could lie and say that it doesn’t bother me, but the truth is that I have to consciously work at letting it go.

I know I am not alone in the shame that I feel when I run across the looks or the whispers. Most people who live with chronic illness have heard it all – “She’s just being dramatic. Why can’t you just snap out of it? It can’t be that bad. You know, I get the sense she’s just looking for attention. He’s making it up. Why does she have to talk about it so much?”

Addressing this directly, there’s a reason we have an equal protection clause for people with disabilities. It’s because our culture is messed up when it comes to issues related to chronic illness and disability. Not only do people not know how to show empathy and/or support people living with chronic illness, but our society has a tendency to judge those with illnesses.

From doctors to employers, family and friends, the idea that people are making up symptoms for attention is astounding to me. Furthermore, the notion that people would go on and on about their chronic illness in the public eye because they want people to feel sorry for them is even more strange. Shame is placed upon those that are sick as if to say – “Your illness is making me uncomfortable, so I wish you would stop talking about it.”

Just like anything else in our culture, people who are chronically ill or disabled should not be shamed into hiding their illness in order to make other people feel more comfortable. Sometimes we can’t hid it, whether it’s assistive devices, mobility aides, or perhaps the extraordinary swelling that comes from massive solumedrol infusions. In my case, it’s all of the above along with a port in my chest and the IVIG treatments that take huge chunks out of my life.

Believe me, I am aware of the discomfort of those around me, and I would prefer to hide my illness. I don’t want this kind of attention. I certainly don’t want to be dependent on others for rides on IVIG days. That said, this is the path that lies before me, and I am going to courageously walk it because that is how I heal. Furthermore, I am teaching my daughter how to build community, and that we are not alone in this world, and that is just good parenting. So we keep going….

This brings me to my final point – most of us will experience chronic illness as we age. It could be living with cancer, autoimmune disease, diabetes, heart disease, and so much more. Things that used to kill are now becoming chronic. How would you like to be treated if your body suddenly began to malfunction? Imagine how you would want your friends, family, loved ones to care for you…and that is the beginning of learning what you can do for others.

In my case, I have lost relationships. I think this is true for many people with serious chronic illness. In spite of these losses, however, I am consistently amazed at the goodness of the people in my life. My tribe now is among the most beautiful creations I could have ever imagined for myself and my daughter. It is through their loving support that I have learned the most important thing – I used to think that I was strong when I didn’t need help. I have since learned that there is great strength in the vulnerability of asking for help, having people in your life that will authentically say Yes or No, and knowing that I can trust in that truth. This is life in community with others. It’s REAL and I am deeply grateful.

Thus, if there is one thing I can pass along from my current life with chronic illness, it is this – we don’t need to live in isolation. We don’t need to be perfect to be loved. There is value in the vulnerability required to be a part of a real community. Finding that community is among the most important things that we do as we grow older….AND….I will continue to remind myself that those who would shame me or ask me to be anything other than who I am are not my people…and then let it go.