Monday, April 21, 2014

When the filters to perception are removed

The state between wakefulness and sleep is fecund; dark and loamy. Behind closed eyelids visions blossom, growing the way chrysanthemum fireworks pulse out from a central point into fullness. During a recent sleepless night two such visions appeared. One slipped away from my recollecting almost immediately, but a faded version of the second remains.

It was an image of green, growing things, like succulents pushing out of dark earth. They didn't sprout and bloom before my eyes, instead the fully formed image materialized out of grayness into clarity and then on to something more. It was like looking through the lens of a microscope where the first view is completely out of focus, but then you start zeroing in. The plants grew increasingly defined, the colors grew sharper, the lines between each leaf more intense. The picture quickly moved from non-existence to what I perceive as normal vision, but then kept going. It shifted into an intense clarity, and I knew that I was seeing more than I ever had before. More of what was real. More of what was there. At the same time, I was aware that there was still more to see, and that the dial had been turned up only minutely, offering just a tiny hint at what can be seen through the veil.

The image vanished before I could zoom in further.

In this liminal state a thought also appeared, fully formed. It was the idea that death is the process by which all our filters for perception are removed, when instead of losing contact with creation we are finally able to perceive it as it truly is, on all levels. From electric hazes of energy to swirling microorganisms to the magnetic pull of atomic structures. We will experience a cosmic give and take, exchanges of oxygen and consumption, of rotting and growth and feeding, of colors undreamt of by our limited cones and rods. We will see smells and lie down on a moving bed of cilia.

Perhaps we will watch our bodies decompose and dance with joy at the transformation of matter and energy. Dancing to the song of birds and the roaring of rivers and blood, the percussion of hearts and particles reforming, the silent sound of planets spinning and the burning of the stars.

In death with physicality stripped away and our essence released to join the eternal song of creation, there is no sin or offense, no judgement or worry. It won't matter how many times we lied or how many commandments we broke, if we slept with 400 men or the single, perfect girl. All of that is meaningless in the majesty of the vast, molecular moment. In this state of being there can be no separation from God or each other or the universe.

I'm not a fan of sleepless nights and the struggle to drift off into dreams. But then again, the thoughts of night are not the thoughts of the waking hours.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Not proof, but presence

"It is not the objective proof of God's existence that we want but the experience of God's presence. That is the miracle we are really after, and that is also, I think, the miracle that we really get."

 — Frederick Buechner

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Walking with Dry Bones

Today's Old Testament passage comes from chapter 37 of Ezekiel. It is the story of the dry bones. (Click this link if you'd like to read it.)

Here's the Reader's Digest version: a prophet peers into a valley and it is filled with bones. They are very dry. God instructs the man to tell the bones to listen and hear of His promises. Ezekiel does what he is told, and watches as sinews and muscles and skin grow over the bones. Last of all, God's breath enters them so that the bones came alive. As the scene closes, the valley is filled with a vast army of the resurrected.

I've previously found the story to be fanciful and a bit spooky. It seemed like a good reading for the Day of the Dead. It is very visual, and I think the imagery must have distracted me from the message.

Today I heard it differently. For the first time, I realized that it is my story.

While I had not been whittled all the way to bone, I was nearly dead, held captive by an idea and a hope of what could never be. My hair was brittle and my jaw so tight it ached. I couldn't sleep and my body was rigid with tension. If it weren't for my children and my church, I would surely have died.

The darkness was very dark and my bones were very dry.

But God watched, and waited. And finally, He spoke, His breath flowing in and out and around me, releasing my inert soul from it's shackles and hauling me to my feet.

Here is the final verse in Ezekiel's vision, with God speaking to the resurrected:

14 I will put my spirit in you that you may come to life, and I will settle you in your land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD.

And that is what He did for me. He breathed life into the decay, and carried me both symbolically and literally into my land, a land that is also His.

I am speechlessly grateful for my Lord's breath.

If you are hurting, broken, and hopeless may God send you a prophet to speak life and truth to all your places of captivity. Be on the lookout, but don't assume he'll bear the name Ezekiel.

In my case, her name was Diane.