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.

Friday, January 11, 2019


When I started in Seminary, I thought that I had to believe as so many contemporary evangelical churches do...that Christ died for our sins in substitutionary atonement. As I contemplated the meaning of this idea - sacrifice - I found that it was incompatible with my reading of the bible. I am grateful to find others within all segments of Christianity that share a similar belief - it wasn't about substitutionary atonement...no...it was SO MUCH BIGGER. It was about breaking apart all of the structures of punishment, violence and hate...from the cross to his murderers and even in the depths of HELL, Jesus showed us that we are called to respond in LOVE as the only response to evil, hate and violence. This challenges me EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

From Richard Rohr....
At the core of “substitutionary atonement” is a twisted belief in what has become a form of religious scapegoating. The philosopher RenĂ© Girard (1923-2015) argued that there is no known civilization on earth or at any time in history that didn’t have some sort of belief in “redemptive violence.”

In one way or another, every culture creates an “other” who is partially or wholly made responsible for our suffering and problems. We subconsciously believe that it is only through punishing or killing this scapegoat that our lives will improve. Scapegoating’s most extreme form, human sacrifice, has existed on every populated continent at various points in history.

Scapegoating is so deeply ingrained in our cultures and psyches that it’s difficult for us to discern it. Jesus came to reveal the lie of redemptive violence.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Redemptive Suffering

The following excerpt is from a book that I'm reading on the New Monasticism.  It is helping me to give words to my spirituality, so I'm sharing it with you.  It will be on my heart as I paint today.

"The day before brother Wayne was diagnosed with cancer, he had a powerful dream... one which foretold of an impending crisis followed by a unitive experience with the Divine in which the `Spirit took ahold of my entire being and poured love into me...saturating my being.`

Brother Wayne interpreted these events as a `harbinger meant to prepare him.... to put his mind at ease...and it was part of a special Grace.`

In recounting his suffering during this time, Brother Wayne echoed the Buddha who taught that suffering was fundamentally part of life, in terms of the suffering of birth illness old age and death. The Buddha also taught the in addition to this fundamental suffering there is a self-inflicted suffering that comes out of ignorance and our attachment to desire or aversion to emotions and events. Brother Wayne told how, during his illness, he was forced to give up many of his own ideas about happiness. `Suffering forces us to see beyond where we might be stuck. It helps us to transcend our attachments, our hidden agendas, our elaborate attempts to have it our own way. It throws us into utter simplicity; we understand precisely what we really need.

... Father Keating was convinced that brother Wayne's illness was a `dark night of the soul, an inner purification proceeding a permanent union with the divine. Father Keating told me that my illness was a step forward, a sign of real progress.` It is here that brother Wayne opens up for us a deeper understanding of suffering, not just as an intrinsic part of life or a misguided choice, but is disposing us more readily to Divine union. He understood suffering is something that arrives when we're ready for it, after years of being strengthened and studied through dedication spiritual practice and searching."