Monday, November 30, 2009

Freedom OF

I've been meaning to throw this out to you for a few weeks, and now seems the time given the connection to Thanksgiving.

I've been wondering when the shift occurred from freedom OF religion to freedom FROM religion. Does the frantic fringe have any recollection that the separation of church and state was instituted to protect religion and faith rather than the other way around? Do they see that the very tyranny the founding fathers sought to protect against is happening now, to Christians?

How dark the darkness...

Happy random set of circumstances day?

I am back from Thanksgiving festivities, and wondering about something.

Why do we still celebrate Thanksgiving in the US? Isn't it a violation of the separation of church and state? After all, thankfulness requires two parties; the person giving thanks and the person being thanked.

I don't understand, therefore, how this can remain a federal holiday, given the fanaticism of the freedom from religion crowd.

I wonder how many years of it we have left...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

To adore and obey

I was not born to be free. I was born to adore and to obey.

-- C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A gift of sweetness

I woke again in the middle of the night, this time for a different sort of rescue.

I did something strange, in half wakefulness. I reached over, put my hand on my husband's head, and told him that I was going to give him some sweetness. I woke knowing that that was what I was supposed to do. It was not that I was to -be sweet to him-. I was to bestow a gift of sweetness within him.

I was to impart it.

Bestow it.

I was instructed to do it, and I did.

I fell back asleep quickly and forgot about it. But he came downstairs this morning smiling, and reminded me. He obviously liked it, and thought I was -being- sweet, which I was not, and I needed to explain it.

Astonishingly, he was not dismissive, though I did give him an out straight away, saying that I didn't expect him to believe it.

He asked how it was that I -knew-, and so I tried to explain the certainty that you feel when the Holy Spirit is directing you to action. In response, he said that he believed me, because the way I had said that I was giving him sweetness sounded exactly the way I described it. As gift. As a bestowing upon and within.

This has never happened to me before, in all the hundreds of times I've prayed for people. I told him that as well, and he was tickled.

He is in an open state.

Holy Spirit, come. Keep him in that place. Bestow on him many gifts. Shower him with your love.

Monday, November 23, 2009

No other fount I know

I have been thinking about blood, and in particular about menstrual blood.

One of yesterday's hymns was Nothing but the Blood of Jesus, and so of course, being me, I had to connect the two.

I thought about how Christ's baptism sanctified all the waters of the world, and wondered if his pierced side did the same for our blood, setting it apart and making it holy.

Women, in the cycle of life giving, pour out His blood in a perpetual flow of love and glory. A perpetual blood letting for the life of the world. A shedding of fecundity. A constant fount of blood and water, pierced like his side.

No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Flower lined

While reading a Psalm I realized that sometimes the pit you need to be rescued from is beautiful and lined with flowers.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Have I already said this?

Our experience of unfulfilled desire mimics the pain of God. Through it we understand the frustration He must feel at not being able to give to the beloved one. Through it we participate in His suffering.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The soul feels what the mind cannot

My staunchly secular and rigidly rational husband had another nightmare last night. I pulled him from it's clutches when his moans of fear woke me.

In the dream he encountered an evil woman, deeply evil, who had the ability to know the thoughts of others. He looked through a white book she had authored, filled with grotesque drawings in raised purple. He realized that he was the only one who could see what she was, and as he thought this, she began to repeat it and move toward him. He tried to escape, crying out "No, no, no!"

It was at this point that I woke him.

I often rescue him from darkness in the night.

I find it interesting that this secular man, so certain of the boundaries of the rational world, can realize the existence of evil only in sleep. There can be no denying of it then. He feels it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Male and female, He created them

I have been thinking about women, and the love of women in particular.

There is a feminine character to love, and a masculine. I can't speak much about the latter given that it would be mere observation. But I am getting a deeper understanding of the feminine.

It amazes me that God always wants to show us more. To take us deeper. Just when you think you understand, He takes your hand and leads you further. It is breathtaking.

When women love, they want to give fully. They want to give all. They want total consummation, total gift, total consumption. They give heedlessly, recklessly, without counting the cost.

Our God, in His wisdom, knew this, and made us to be complementary. Male and female He created them, because the swooning giving of two women would be too abandoned. Too unmeasured. We need a masculine reserve to achieve balance.

The feminine gifts soften the masculine reserve. The masculine strengths protect the feminine vulnerability.

He is so wise...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Why settle?

Happiness. I've been thinking about the idea of happiness.

We strive for happiness, thinking it the summit. The ultimate accomplishment. The ultimate state of existence. The ultimate goal.

But happiness is flabby compared to joy.


In contrast, joy is blood-filled and pulsing.

But joy is always accompanied by at least a soupçon of pain; a whisper of loss or absence or some harder thing.

And so we content ourselves with mere happiness, to avoid it.

Turns out I don't particularly want to be happy.

Why settle?

To give and to receive

My BP has spoken of people who have a charism of love. In the past I have thought that this meant a capacity for giving love. And it does. But my beloved DiDi has shown me that it is much more. She has tremendous ability to give love, but also to receive it. She is all open arms and heart. I pray that I may also be both.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Be still?

God has been showing me how He provides realizations of Himself through other people.

This sounds so tame, when what I mean is so untame.

So wild. So excruciatingly joyful. So wonderfully heartbreaking.

He says to be still and know that I am God. Know that I am God.

Know me. Just as Adam knew Eve.

He sends us people so that we may know them and so come to know Him. Through mess and sweat and tears and blood. Through heart-pounding, pulse-racing, soul-wrenching love.

Through joy and grief, sometimes combined.

Through highs and lows and hurts and restorations.

Through passion, we know Him.

Lord, you are a mystery... It hurts to know you.

Please pray for time

Beloved reader,

It has been less than a week since I have written, yet it feels like an era has passed. Funny how time can twist and change shape based on what is unfolding.

There is so much that I am like a thimble trying to catch a torrent. I have no time to capture it, let alone process it and then form it the way He would have me.

Please pray for me. I hope to post a few drops soon. Pray for time.

Always yours,


Thursday, November 12, 2009


I was recently introduced to the Jewish idea of soulmate called bashert, at a theatre production of the rather bizarre "Clean House". After poking around on the web, I found the following description from an article on

"A Jerusalem rabbi once told me that when we're born, God whispers the name of our beshert -- our soulmate or destiny. The cleft above our lips, he said, is where God places a finger, to silence our ability to reveal the secret."

Rather lovely I think.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sacred scaring of the hard nosed

I've been thinking about Dr. C's comment re. the difficulty of some to accept the mundane as sacred, and will be writing more on that soon. I think the problem is connected to their abandonment of sacramentality as a whole. (Apologies if that was obvious...)

Both sides now

My beloved DiDi is teaching me many things. I am in awe.

Today I realized that she somehow stands on both sides of the veil.

It is as if it runs through the center of her, so that one eye sees the things of this world, and the other eye simultaneously sees the things of the Other.

I am in awe.

So sing!

"The reason people no longer believe is because believers no longer sing!"

--Friedrich Nietzshe

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What is not said

Some of my favorite parts of the scriptures are things that are not stated. For example, what happened between the Holy Spirit and Mary once Gabriel left. More recently, I've been thinking about Lazarus, and what it must have been like after he was returned to life.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Reflections on a teapot

I've been talking to my BP about Thomas Howard's idea of everything meaning everything, as it relates to the reawakening of the Christian imagination. I thought it might be good to offer an example of the concept in an easily digestible form, and was given an image of a teapot. So here goes.

Let's say that you were shown an old metal teapot. The empirically minded would note that it is made of scuffed metal and has a wooden handle. They could see that it has been used and looks old. If they open it they can see the stain of yesteryear teas, and perhaps even catch it's scent if they dare dip their noses.

All of these things are real and true and give insight about the pot.

An expert on teapots could look at the workmanship and tell more about it. More facts could be collected.

But what happens when you see it, and know it to be your grandmother's?

When you look, you see the dent on the side and it's flame-darkened bottom. You picture it sitting where it always did, on the back of the old gas-burnered stove. You see the black stick-match holder mounted on the wall nearby, and smell a brief sulfurous blast when one is struck.

You remember the cabinet in which a box of Red Rose rests, and the drawer filled with the tiny Wade figurines you played with year after year.

You remember orange pekoe being offered as a treat, and wishing that you actually liked it.

You remember taking grandma's tea-and-dry-toast cure, and wanting just a touch of butter.

You remember the sound of her coming through the swinging door from the dining room, where Jesus' painted eyes followed her as she walked.

You remember how she poured for sorrows and joys, for calming and reviving, for waking up in the morning, and for restlessness at night.

You hear her voice telling the teapot story again; how she received it as a wedding gift some 30, then 40, then 50 years before.

You remember clearing out the house when she died, and having to throw the old pot away...

These memories add more than mere facts to the reality of a simple teapot. The associations and interactions and emotions provide context.

They give the object meaning.

The Enlightenment would have us strip things down to the essential facts, to isolated collections of details theoretically comprising a whole. None of which have meaning, only existence.

In the enlightened view, the teapot means teapot. There is nothing more. Just the facts.

In Thomas Howard's view, the teapot means love, and comfort, and contentment and safety. It means stick matches and squeaky doors. It means pillowy hugs and powdery old lady scents. The teapot means grandmother, and love.

Going beyond that, it means the technological evolution of man; the forging of metals and hewing of wood for our purposes. It means the alchemy of molecular change and the ritual of seed, seedling, sapling and tree. It means the interaction of man and nature and God.

What if we could see all the interconnections of things all around us? What if we could see them stretching out like spider webs dew-sparkling in the early sunshine? What if we could see the beauty and the wonder and the majesty behind the exterior of every single thing?

I can only imagine...

The why of things

I am one of the people who love the why of things.

--Catherine the Great

Sunday, November 8, 2009

So much more to discover

One of the most wonderful things about knowing God is that there's always so much more to know, so much more to discover. Just when we least expect it, He intrudes into our neat and tidy notions about who He is and how He works.

-- Joni Eareckson Tada

Saturday, November 7, 2009

False evidence

From the radio this morning:

Fear is false evidence appearing real.

Final notes from Chance or the Dance? Ch. 8

" is in the nature of union to produce fruit, or, conversely, that the fruit owes its life to a prior union. Further, he might observe that it is in the nature of that union to be ecstatic, and he might thus conclude that joy is somehow written into the sources of life. And he will undoubtedly see that there are pain and agony involved and will have to come to terms with what he can see only as an intrusion or an ambiguity--that pain is somehow bound up in the whole process of joy. ... And he will see at work over a long, long span of time the difficult notion that reward or fulfillment commonly follows rigor and renunciation and austerity... and is not available on demand."

"It will occur to him that one of the oddities of love (erotic, paternal, filial, social) is that its motion is outward and away from itself, and that it experiences this motion as joy"

" issues from death--that spring rises from winter, and the oak from the dead acorn, and dawn from the night, and Pheonix from the ashes.

These are old moral saws. Nothing new here. Bromides. But then there is nothing new anywhere. The business of the poet and prophet has always been to take the saws and astonish and delight us into a fresh awareness of what they mean by discovering them suddenly in this image, and in this, and this. And the rest of us may see it all either as a pointless jumble of phenomena, or as the diagram of glory--as grinding tediously toward entropy, or as dancing toward the Dance."

Friday, November 6, 2009

On depths and heights

From prayer time this morning; some thoughts for my friend who fights to be where He wills her.

When we give to Him all the achings of our heart, when we cling to obedience despite every inclination to do otherwise, when we pour out our sorrows and yearnings while laboriously struggling for the good, He brings out of it a soaring joy.

Your heart may burn from the pain, but your spirit will soar with His Spirit and witness sights that can only be seen from those great heights.

Lord, keep me there.

Keep me in the depths so that I may experience your heights.

On not opening it now

More from Chance or the Dance, Ch. 7:

"We are all familiar enough with the mystery that attends the private. ... sometimes the mystery suggested an ecstatic rather than a horrible revelation. The tall knight who appeared to us in the gusty wood and who lifted us to his saddle--where was he taking us? Not yet, little one; trust me. You shall see. There are many dangers ahead, but if you will be strong and brave and patient, you shall see. Wait. Or the beautiful and kindly lady with the shining face who beckoned us silently with a finger to her lips. She would not tell us her secret, but we knew it was worth waiting for. All these situations called to something in us that was intensely aware that secrecy, or privacy, is in the cards, and that it is a higher consciousness that bows to this and waits for the time and the permission, than that which shouts, 'Open it now! I want it now! I shall have it at once!'"

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Jam tomorrow

I hunger for you
hunger for you

--Chantelle Franc

Forgive the confusion: recent posts reordered

Gentle Reader, I ask your forgiveness for any confusion about the reordering of recent posts on Chance or the Dance? I often schedule posts in advance, and discovered that I had numbered entries which posted out of order. I have therefore changed the post dates so that they appear correctly.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chance or the Dance? Excerpts from Ch. 7 (Sex) Part 3

"The view that is being put in this book, however, is that the rush into the fenced-off place is a desecration and not an emancipation. It proceeds upon the assumption first that the idea of the private, the set apart, is a legitimate one, and that on the one hand it is not only worthwhile but necessary that some things be set apart, and that on the other, there are some things whose very nature demands such a setting apart. Second it would suspect that the human imagination has not been mistaken in handling the sexual phenomenon as one of the things to be set apart in the exclusive place.

It would suspect this because it would see the body as the image of the person, and the person as a thing vast and mysterious and not to be raided. ...The human imagination has set the sexual rite into this veiled sanctum. It does not occur in the marketplace, or at the table, or in the drawing room. Not even the parody of it (whoredome) occurs there. One goes behind closed doors. But the closed wooden doors are themselves only the sign of the closed doors behind which the human imagination keeps the phenomenon. They are not the closed doors of embarrassment, or of shame, althogh some eras have acted as though they were. Rather, they are like the veil into the holy place: up to here you may all come, but I must go alone beyond here, in unto this personhood whose being is to be opened under this particular modality to me alone. (And of course the physical actualitites of the rite so exactly correspond to this awarenes of entry into the secret place byond the veil that they hardly need pointing out.)"

"...those who honor the shrine begin to participate in an exchange and a communion whose nature eludes those who traffic in holy things. ... But... those who honor the shrine move, by their very attendance on the rubric, toward some great and unimagined Unveiling when the ecstatic secret is opeoned to those who have learned that no churl will see the Holy Thing; to those who have learned that it is not by pushing into a thousand shrines that one becomes able to pass through that final Veil, but rather by brave and single attendance on the one shrine committed to one; who know that an unveiling is a real unveilling only to the extent that what is veiled is set apart from the other things around, and that one's appreciation of the reward is in some ratio to what one has experienced of patience in waiting for it; and to those who have recevied the ecstatic communion entrusted to them as an image of some final Communion when the knowledge of all beings will be ecstatic; who, by their participation in the rite (or by their wait for it--those who for one reason or another are denied the foretaste here) have apprehended the knowledge of other beings as a high and holy thing, not to be flung open at random."

Friend cleaving to friend

This from my beloved DiDi.

... in friendship are joined honor and charm, truth and joy, sweetness and goodwill, affection and action. And all these take their beginnings from Christ, advance through Christ and are perfected in Christ. ... And thus, friend cleaving to friend in the spirit of Christ, is made with Christ but one heart and one soul ...

--Aelred of Rievaulx

Chance or the Dance? Excerpts from Ch. 7 (Sex) Part 2

"Oddly, the rite of life, this most common and most mysterious thing, describable both by plumbing and mystic terms, appearing as both ridiculous and noble, slimy and sublime--this was not only the rite of life, but of knowledge. That is, the act which generated life was at the same time the act which signaled the high point of knowledge between two beings. It suggested that the nature of that knowledge between the one mode and the other was fruitful. The old term was 'know'. Adam knew his wife. "

"Then, finally, it finds its perfect form in the enactment by the two unveiled images, the images of male and female, of the energy that strains toward total union. That is, the thing that I want passionately to know, while I am aware that it appears only under this fleshly image and is itself more than that image, I can only know via the greatest possible experience of that image.

Here the distinction between spirit and matter disappears, as it does in the Sacraments. For here I experience the oddity that flesh is the mode under which I apprehend the truth of the thing. It is the epiphany of the thing. There is, in the sexual rite, a sense of struggle. It is the mad straining of the two images to get through to the very center of the thing (and this is not merely a pun; according to the view being put here, the anatomical placing of things would be itself a perfect image of what is at work in the situation, so that the fact that the final rite occurs at the 'center' of the bodies is to be expected.) There is, ironically, in this most soaring of all satisfactions a radical sense of incompleteness. The ecstasy accompanies the exploration, an exploration that never quite finds that ultimate elysium where the union is unimaginable to us, but toward which union we strain again and again, and which very attempt we find to be ecstatic."

"...the human body is available for any number of activities (sports, medical inspection, work), but when it is taken into the service of the sexual rite, a univrse of significance comes upon it, like God into the Mass, and immediately the participants are less than the thing in which they are participating, and it is theres to oserve the rubric with awe. The equipment is no longer merely object; it is image. Taken into the rite, it is transformed. As in poetry, courtesy, ceremony, or any of the ritual ways in which we shape our experience, so here the imposing of a form upon mere function paradoxically elicits the true significance of that function from the raw material. ... A doctor may probe it strictly as a complex of organs and tissue; a gymnastics coach may maniuplate it as a pattern of muscles. But the sexual exploration of this mass of tissue and muscle puts the bread and wine on the altar: the real presence of the person must now be reckoned with."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

On Mary Magdalane

I recently had a Facebook exchange with a former parishioner who is a 1970's-style feminist (I'm the new kind) about Mary Magdalene. Her position was that the Catholic church conspired to label Mary as prostitute. I'm not clear on the perceived motivation. The topic came up because I played Mary at a recent All Saints festival. Here is my response to her query of whether or not I had fallen for the lie:

The Mary I portrayed is one compiled from scattered gospel accounts. She was:

Sister of Martha and Lazarus. Delivered from seven demons. Forgiven sinful woman. The one who sat at His feet rather than wash dishes. The one who had the most intimate exchange with Jesus of any person in the accounts; being allowed to wash, kiss, and anoint His dusty feet. The one who watched His blood pour out, and the one to whom He first showed Himself after resurrection.

She holds a place of great honor within the church, and within my heart.

The Biblical accounts don't say that she is a prostitute, only that she was sinful. But the idea of prostitution does not raise red flags for me, given it's importance in explaining God's relationship with us. Throughout the Hebrew scriptures we are likened as unfaithful wives or worse; sometimes even as prostitutes (as in Hosea). Jewish and Christian history is the story of the Bridegroom and the tarnished bride to be who becomes spotless.

Mary Magdalene is the culmination of this pattern, distilled into a beautiful woman. She demonstrated the most love of anyone in the gospels, and that love came in part out of her past brokenness, her sinfulness.

I relate all to closely to this to find it objectionable. It is too beautiful.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Chance or the Dance? Excerpts from Ch. 7 (Sex)

"The viewpoint that is being described in this book has nothing to do with Victorianism, if by that we mean a frightened or a reluctant view toward sexuality. Indeed, it would probably have to be located at the other end of the spectrum from that, in that it understands sexuality to be perhaps the supreme image in human experience of the way things are. It is at once an ebullient and an austere view."

"Anthropologists have never found the tribe to whom it makes no difference at all what man spends the night with what woman, and to whom the idea of my wives and his wives, or at least my concubines and his, has no content whatever; where sexuality exists on a par with breathing and defecating--one of the random functions of the human body, without the complicating ideas of intimacy and warrant with which the rest of humanity has set it about."

"The sense of humanity, in other words, has been that this blissful and procreative function is wildly charged with significance that reaches in all directions form the mere bed in which the two bodies happen to lie. We live in an epoch whose doctrine is that humanity may have been sadly mistaken and that the edge of the bed is as far as one can carry the significance. But this is a doctrine hardly borne out by the emotional experience of armies of outraged cuckolds and jilted lovers down through the centureis. In any case, we shall have to have scriptures weightier than Playboy to bring about the apocolyptic shift in sensibility that this idea asks. For it asks, in effect, that we scotch the whole corpus of poetry, myth, ritual, and drama by which the human imagination has, from the beginning of history, spoken of its apprehension of experience. I know of no serious work of the human imagination which proceeds upon the idea that there is nothing but dalliance in sexuality."

No explanation necessary

"When one is in the sphere of the beautiful, no explanations are needed"

--Constantin Brancusi

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Enthralled by ice and Mystery

From Climbing the Sphinx (included in The Best American Spiritual Writing, 2007):

"Forever in a state of becoming, ice is never static. Whether forming or melting, this fluid newness holds me enthralled. Ice is like lava or fire--the longer you look, the more you feel yourself on the cusp of revelation. To stare into this frozen skein of light and shadow is to rub up against Mystery itself."

--Fred Bahnson