Loving Redemption

The Liturgy of the Palms: Luke 19:28-40 | Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

The Liturgy of the Word: Isaiah 50:4-9a | Psalm 31:9-16 | Philippians 2:5-11 | Luke 22:14-23:56

From the invitation into the observance of a holy Lent on Ash Wednesday, we knew that it would culminate in our observance of Holy Week. But what are we observing, exactly? Heretofore, our primary focus has been on ourselves, focusing on our experiences, especially in regard to our sacrifices or additions that bring us to mindful attention to God’s presence in our lives. In Holy Week, given our cultural tendencies, we might place most of our focus on the crucifixion, the betrayal that led to it and the violence of it. But we are given a holy week to take in the story, even if we try to cram as much of it into today as we can in case you don’t come back until next Sunday. When we focus on the holiness of this week, let us turn our attention to the acts of love shown to us by Jesus.

  • We begin this week with our palms raised high with our cry of “Hosanna!” (“Save us!” or “Savior!”) We look to Jesus as Savior, the one who will save us, deliver us. He willingly goes before us, knowing that we hope but don’t fully understand.
  • Monday’s gospel lesson revisits the account of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet, which he lets her do and chastizes Judas for chiding her. Love often looks like calling out truth, be it beautiful or painful.
  • On Tuesday, Jesus’ words almost implore his followers to understand who he is and what is about to happen; he’s trying to prepare his followers, to give them understanding and insight as the time draws near. As frustrated as he may be, Jesus never forces anyone into understanding or submission.
  • Wednesday night, at the last of our Lent Soup & Study events, we will again have an agapé meal, a simple Eucharist around the table preceding our meal together. For us it’s a way we draw close to the experience of a meal between Jesus and the disciples, a feast rooted in love. In the gospel lesson that night, Judas betrays Jesus, yet Jesus continues to affirm that God has been glorified in the Son of Man. Jesus doesn’t prohibit Judas from doing what he has chosen to do, but many of us know the betrayal of a friend or loved one and how hard it is not to be attached to what they are doing, especially if it is destructive; it’s an extreme act of love.
  • Maundy Thursday we begin the Triduum by receiving the great commandment from Jesus to love one another, and we practice by washing one another’s feet as Jesus showed us, ending the service with the stripping of the altar. In our timeline, this might be the night Jesus was arrested, neither resisting nor condemning anyone.
  • Good Friday we observe the crucifixion of Jesus, from which he neither flees nor complains. Some of us will walk the Stations of the Cross to encounter more moments along the way when Jesus interacts with others, silently though it may be. Some may choose to make their confession as we, like Peter, realize that we have denied Jesus in thought, word, or deed. We will gather Friday night for the service that includes the recitation of Psalm 22 — “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We will have a cross before us, and we can choose to bow before it in veneration, recognizing that Jesus’ ultimate act of love was his death.

What does it mean for us that we recount Jesus’ acts of love and remember that our redemption comes after a great suffering?

If we pay attention to our dreams, some of us have recurring dreams. They might be the exact same dream or some variation on a theme. I’m not trained in Jungian psychology or even in dream work, but the little I have dappled in both, dreams have something to teach us, something that is often nestled deeply in our subconscious. A recurring dream could suggest that we are experiencing a similar situation over again–like stress expressed in a dream of being in high school again and not finding your locker or schedule or being late or unprepared for a test (yes, that’s one of mine). A recurring dream could also indicate an insight that we’re being offered but haven’t given it enough attention to discern what it is that we have to learn.

Holy Week for me–increasingly so since I’ve been ordained–is much like a dream, and this year the words of Paul resonate with me like the voice of the narrator in a dream. Maybe it has something to do with the Bible study, where we’re taking our time reading Romans. (The more time you spend with anyone, the more they can grow on you, right?) Again, Paul is writing from prison, and he sends this letter to the Philippians. Someone described the portion we read today as a love song since it shows some of the characteristics of love songs from the time. There’s union, a union not to be exploited, and an emptying of self, all of which are ideals in a mutually loving relationship.

But this isn’t a romantic love, the love between Jesus and God or Jesus Christ and us. Paul tells the Philippians to be of the same mind as Christ Jesus. If we are of one mind with Jesus, our thoughts, words, and deeds will present in tender love and humility, in an endurance of suffering, and in enduring hope–all characteristics present in Jesus’ acts throughout this week. In all that we do, can we have Christ’s mind about us? Can we be at one with Christ? As Jesus emptied himself to experience fully the human condition even through suffering and death, is there something we need to empty ourselves of so that we can be faithful to God, follow Christ, and be who God created us to be? This kind of faithful obedience underscores the prayer from the Gospel according to Luke where Jesus says, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Giving ourselves to obedience to God and God’s will doesn’t mean we don’t make conscious decisions.

The invitation to a holy Lent and even into Holy Week is just that, an invitation. We could, like many others, not observe a thing, and our lives would continue. But for those of us who have given thought and awareness to the presence of God in our lives, meeting that with the recognition of Jesus’ acts of love might illumine for us how we can further reveal to others the presence of Christ in our lives, in all our suffering and all our hope.


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What to do with this?

Lately I haven’t been having memorable dreams.  It could be stress, fatigue, or any number of reasons, I’m sure, but last night rocked the boat . . . and not in a good way.  I should have been up already, and maybe that explains the feeling of coming back to the dream a few times.  This dream was going to be heard.  I’ll try not to go into epic detail and probably can’t since I’ve tried all day to forget it.  The gist of the dream remains.

A group of us parents.  Night time.  One scene is like a bar, and there’s a machine that will make you look like someone else while singing karaoke.  I become Velma, noticeably slimmer.  Singing and dancing, I think maybe I should lose 50 pounds.  Another scene has kids jumping along rooftops.  They’re leaving a trail of disrupted shingles.  It’s almost an animation.  Another scene I realize that the kids never made it back home; one of them is mine, the other child one of our friend’s kids.  Husband, another friend, and I start searching the woods.  There’s some snow and ice.  I’m scared.  I see a frozen dead deer.  Pain and fear grip me at the thought of finding our kids like that.  It was too cold for them to survive overnight.  The scene jumps to me talking with the other parent.  His son had not come home the night before.  Fear confirmed, but he wasn’t worried or was in denial, more likely.  I feel like I’m procrastinating the search, but I’m trying to collect facts.  My oldest told me the last place the were or were seen.  We return to the search in the woods.  Fear and dread grow.

I finally woke up.  Late.  An alarm going off in the kids’ room.  I still had that horrible feeling.  I had to un-furrow my brow, remind myself that it was a dream.  But what to do with it?

What is trying to be revealed to me with such potent energy.  I am grateful for time tomorrow to reflect.


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Changing Tides

In my dream the other night, the tide was receding.  I can’t remember much else except for standing on the revealed sandy shore, much lower than those who were standing on the beach of the high tide.  I wondered how much lower the water would go and if I would be ready for when the water returned.

There’s definitely much moving about in my inner world as I continue my discernment process.  As an outward expression of that, naturally I want to rearrange everything in my house, clear all unnecessary items/clutter, and clean everything to the core.  It is (almost) time for spring cleaning.

It’s difficult to live in a way that truly honors our inner being if we are concerned about what others think and worry about superficial consequences.  Blessed are those of us with the faith to believe that all will be well, that as long as we’re following our heart, then in the long run, it will work out, and we will have no regrets.

What better way to honor your Divine than to create something . . . anything.  Honor those thoughts; honor all of them to keep the flow open and alive.  Do something today for you.  Take it a step further and either give it away or make something else to give to someone.  Love is best when given and received.

With it being Mardi Gras, it’s a good time to think of the inner work we need to do or are already doing.  The discipline I’m taking on is to journal daily (my writing, dreams and gratitude).  What I’m giving up is carbonated beverages and alcohol for sure, food that does not nourish my body positively at best; all these things can contribute to energy being blocked, inhibiting the flow.  One friend of mine is actually adopting a raw food diet for Lent, but that’s not my calling this year.

May acts of kindness be our practice daily, and may your mind be clear as you travel through the desert.  May we remember our dreams and the clues they give us to the unconscious for our spiritual growth.

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Non-striving, Full-feeling

This past weekend, our church hosted another insightful McMichael Lecture, with guests Bishop Larry Maze and Rev. Susan Sims Smith (more info).  Both speakers are influenced by Jungian psychology and their personal inner work.  Their topics this weekend focused on such inner work, relying heavily on dream work, but offered an insight into my own behavior and dreams, too.

I’m in a Jeep being driven by my (male) priest.  He’s driving fast, and the gravel road is rough and bumpy.  But he’s happy, smiling, assuring me nonverbally that it’s fine.  I’m holding on to the bar above me.  (The top and doors are off.)  It’s a sunny, beautiful day.  Finally he pulls off to the side of the road where there’s a gravel pull-off area.  We’re standing outside the Jeep but elevated enough to look out.  He motions his hand across our panoramic view of the lush, green, tree-covered hills and the beautiful expanse of lake.  He says, “Here it is.  The presence of God.”

Understanding that we all have masculine and feminine sides, our dreams share as much and often illustrate for us how balanced or out of balance we are.  Our masculine side is usually the task-manager, the goal-oriented aspect of ourselves that gets things done.  But think for a minute about the masculine side getting things done in a “non-striving” manner, as Sims Smith proposes, as my priest does in the dream.  Our masculine steps back and opens the gate for the feminine wisdom to come through, for intuition to speak.

In my dream, I think my masculine was telling me to listen, to be aware of God in the beauty all around me.  My gate was open to receive, and in the time since the dream, I’ve been working heavily on listening to the feminine energy — even if I’m just now realizing it.

Now, it’s time to listen to the dreams again (the above dream was from a year or more ago), to awaken early enough not to have distractions so that the dreams are fresh and present.

What are your dreams telling you?

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Falling into Reflection

bridge_autumn_fall_234841_l.jpgThe air gets cooler every morning now, and while it’s not officially autumn yet, the leaves in places on our cherry tree are turning a deep red.  Being a fall baby, I always feel like I’m coming home as it turns cooler and the skies are gray.  It’s a time to be honest with myself and others, a great time for reflection.

In a dream night before last, I was talking with my midwives about my new pregnancy.  (Just in the dream was I pregnant, so no one needs to get concerned about me having 5 kids!)  Of course I’ll be having “pregnant” dreams now; I’ve just started two new journeys — one the women’s spirituality group (which meets Wednesday nights) and the other a Servant Leadership course (which meets Monday nights).  Also right now we’re having rehearsals for the play “Birth” by Karen Brody for our local BOLD events.  The time is ripe for potentiality even though the light will be less and the earth will be retreating into slumber.  It’s a good time to go inward.

For a reality check, where are you in your journey of life, of spirit, of health?  It’s time to be open to new discoveries, to be aware of what Spirit might reveal.  O, if only that could be how I live every day!

Blessed be.

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I Died Last Night

After a particularly grueling day of parenting, my husband and I enjoyed several minutes of drowsy pillow conversation, quietly over the babe nursing/sleeping between us.  I vented.  We pondered and wondered how best to discipline, how best to exemplify the behavior we hope for them to embody.  We fell asleep before any epiphanies.

I know I am dying.  Sitting up in bed, I see it in my husband’s face.  Our younger sonmoon.jpg lays his head across my tummy.  While I’ve been strong up till now, as I run my hands through his unruly hair, my resolve breaks; my heart aches.  I love him so much.  No.  I’m not ready to die yet.  The bright white light comes.  No.  I need to see my older children first.  They have to know, have to hear me tell them I love them.  They’re here.  It’s okay now.

I awoke with that sense of breathlessness near panic.  I wasn’t dead, no matter how real it had seemed.  It was a short dream for me, one who tends to have the epic variety, but its strength and clarity remain with me still.

I’m not proficient at dream interpretation, but I’ve experimented enough myself and have been with others enough to know that dreams speak to us in ways we might not otherwise understand.  I’ve been fortunate to be in groups to facilitate dream work.  At a meeting recently, one of my spiritual teachers was there, too.  We had been in a dream group together, and I admire her immensely.  “In dream symbology, what does it mean when you die?” I asked her.  “Usually it’s the ego,” she answered.  (We could have been asking each other about the weather.  It’s good to have friends you can talk to without the small talk.)  It clicked into place, as it will when you get your right understanding of a dream.

I had fallen asleep wondering how best to deal with my children.  I must have offered my query to the Divine, for it was received and answered.  To best relate to my kids, I have to get out of the way and let love lead.  That doesn’t mean I am a pushover and let them run wild.  Kids need boundaries for what is acceptable or not, and there are consequences for inappropriate behaviors and actions.  What’s important, though, is that I shouldn’t completely freak out just because something isn’t done the way I think it should be done.  These kids may come from my womb, but I believe they’re designed by and for God.  Heaven forbid I mess that up.

So I’m grateful for this dream that reminds me to let go and to love as if this were my last moments.  It sounds so simple.  The lesson is so easy.  It’s the homework that’s hard.

The other morning, not long after my dream of dying, my husband told me that when he awoke the older kids to get ready for school, they both said the same thing.  “I had the most wonderful dream.”  I wonder what lesson they were given.  May they remember their dreams.

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On the Right Path

I don’t know how many times I’ve had dreams where I’m in a car and have to make detours, taking the long way around to my destination.  In another dream, I get into a car and have no clue how to drive it because everything seems backwards. 

Like many, I believe that in my car dreams, the car is the vehicle for the ego-self and the road my path representing where I am in life.  What I’ve discovered is that rarely do I take the easy path in life, and quite often I feel completely out of control, unable to guide myself anywhere.

There’s the rub.  Control.  Even standing alone it’s a powerful word.  I don’t recall ever having a dream where I’m in a car and not worrying about which way it’s going.  Do I always have to drive?  Wouldn’t it be nice just to trust my soul, my intuition, divine guidance?

Perhaps I’m just humoring myself into thinking I’m driving my own car.  I tell myself I’m making decisions, but really I haven’t a clue.  I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket.  But then things start to happen.  Synchronicities fall into place like landmarks telling me I’m on the right path.  You can’t help but feel that the universe wants you to continue forward.  You have the support of the Universe, the ultimate energy that brings life into everything.

Accepting the gift of the Universe, or God, if you will, might mean (and usually does) that you have to let go of the wheel.  You have to trust.  If you close your eyes in fear, you might miss the scenery. 

I’ll trust fully and keep my eyes open.  The colors look more vivid now, and I’m quite certain music fills the air.

* * *

photo from everystockphoto.com, taken by ellie

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