Stay in the path that leads to life

Deuteronomy 5:32-33 Moses speaks to Israel at Mt. Sinai –

32 “Be careful to do as the LORD your God has commanded you; you are not to turn aside to the right or the left. 33 Follow the whole instruction the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live, prosper, and have a long life in the land you will possess.”

Joshua 1:6-7 The Lord to Joshua, Moses’ successor –
6 “Be strong and courageous, for you will distribute the land I swore to their fathers to give them as an inheritance. 7 Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go.”

Joshua 23:6-8 Joshua’s final instructions as he is about to die –
6 “Be very strong and continue obeying all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you do not turn from it to the right or left 7 and so that you do not associate with these nations remaining among you. Do not call on the names of their gods or make an oath to them; do not worship them or bow down to them. 8 Instead, remain faithful to the LORD your God, as you have done to this day.

Isaiah 30:19-21 The prophet Isaiah speaks –
19 For you people will live on Zion in Jerusalem and will never cry again. He will show favor to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears, He will answer you. 20 The Lord will give you meager bread and water during oppression, but your Teacher will not hide Himself any longer. Your eyes will see your Teacher, 21 and whenever you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: “This is the way. Walk in it.”

(all verses are HCSB)

Poem – Tea house

tea garden

The Tea garden
isn’t a garden
but a path.
It is how you get to the
Tea house
for the
Tea ceremony.

Why not have the Tea room closer?
Why a garden?
Why a path?

Because you aren’t ready.
You need that time,
that space,
to take off your
everyday self
and to welcome
the stillness
and attention
that is the Tea ceremony.

You need that compressed walk
to the hermit’s hut
at the base of the mountain.
You need to pass through gates
real and hinted at.
You need to sit
on a low bench, sheltered with bamboo
long enough to shake off
the dust of the outside.

Why not have that experience all the time?
Why not be that cleansed,
that alert
that awake
always ready to welcome
everything
as a message
from God, the Creator, the Infinite?

Are there jobs that pay for
that kind of bliss?
Are there relatives who won’t
call the authorities,
worried you are out of your mind
when in reality
you are the only sane one?

By giving up your Self
and merging with
the All
you have truly
Remembered.

God provides – drum class

There is this drum class that I’m planning to attend. I heard about it months ago, and I felt really called towards it. I had no idea how I was going to justify the cost of it, though.

It is $500. This is for a two-day class. I’m kind of gasping at how much money the teacher is making. I wonder if I can get in on that kind of action. It is hard enough to get people to accept the prices I have on my jewelry, and they never approach three digits, much less close to rent-payment amounts.

Plus, I wasn’t sure what I’d do with this class. I’m not very good at drumming. I’ve never hosted a drum circle at all. I only have four drums, and I’m not really hot on lending them out.

But I felt called to this. It kept gnawing at me – sign up for the class. I feel that God is calling me to it. It isn’t something for me, really. It is interesting, sure, and I guess it goes along with some of the other classes I’ve taken recently.

I figured I’d pay for it and then earn the money with jewelry, and that hasn’t quite happened – but something else has.

I’ve earned $100 with my jewelry, and that is nice. But some surprising things, some unplanned things, have happened.

I got a raise at work, that amounts to $600 extra a year.
We got a discount on our YMCA membership that amounts to $72 off.
We changed car and house insurance, and that saves us $300 a year.

So unplanned, unrelated to this, we essentially are up $1000. I only needed $500.

Normally, when I sign up for a class that I feel led to, I earn the money first. That wasn’t possible with this one – they wanted the money right away. I trusted, and God provided.

This really lets me know that I’m on the right path, and that I really am supposed to take this class. God always makes a way.

Now I wonder what God wants me to learn out of it. That will be amazing to see. Perhaps this will be a stepping stone to something else. Perhaps I’ll meet someone who will help me with one of my usual projects.

I’ve got a lot of projects.

I’m not worried about it, just curious. God is always surprising me. That is one of the best parts about trusting that God is in control.

Translation

When I pray, it sometimes feels like I have to translate.

Sometimes I feel that when I reach out to the beyond it all comes back so fast that I have a hard time keeping up. Communing with the infinite requires an interface.

I feel like I have to translate what I experience into something I can share. I don’t do it right all the time. Sometimes I completely miss the mark and the images or words that I get are all jumbled.

Maybe it isn’t about sharing it or ever getting it perfect. Maybe it can’t ever be fully brought down. Maybe I’ll always lose something in the translation.

Maybe the point is to just show the way and tell others that there is more to just this world than what we see. May be the goal is just to be a conductor and not a guide. I’m here not really to help you get there, but to know that there exists. I’m not here to take you to my secret hiding place, because it isn’t secret.

You are just seeing a different corner of it.

The fact that I had to go in the back door doesn’t matter. You had to go in the window. Another had to go in the dog door. Another had to cut a hole in the roof.

But we all got there.

My way in isn’t the only way, or the best way. Sometimes it isn’t even the best way for me. However, the more I do it, the better it gets.

Blockhead – the journey of a wanderer.

I was asked by my spiritual director what words God would use to describe me. As usual these days I don’t get words but images when she asks this kind of question. Then I have to translate the images.

It is kind of like dream analysis. It has nothing to do with the images in the dream, and everything to do with your impression of those images. For example, a wolf could be seen as a predator or as a protector. It all depends on your experience with the image.

In this case I saw a wooden block. Simple, unvarnished. No paint. The natural lines of the block were visible.

I didn’t understand this and I started pushing harder. I was asked for words and I’m coming up with images. I need more to work with. And a wooden block? How boring is that?

I got further images, of deep pits going straight down. I’m reminded of Celtic burial pits, that were up to 20 feet deep and had all sorts of offerings in them, including entire trees.

What does this mean? I felt that it was in part about staying in one place, and being OK with it. About accepting that where I am now is where I need to be. About trust, and not struggling so much. About not having to come up with words all the time.

But a block? There’s more to it than that.

A block is finished by another person. It didn’t make itself.

I’m reminded of the Masonic idea of the finished block as a symbol for the completed person. It is called an ashlar.

It is stable. It stays put. It is a good base for other blocks. Blocks are used for cornerstones. Blocks, added together, create buildings. Each block has to be strong and well-cut. There’s something important in this image for me, but I don’t quite have it all yet.

I can see the pattern of the rings on the block in my image. Years and years of growth are required to get it to this point. It isn’t an overnight thing. That’s important too.

Then on Friday at yoga the image that kept coming to me was that of a blue robin’s egg. Simple and strong, this tiny thing has within it a bird seed. It will develop into a bird. In one way, it already is a bird, we just can’t see it yet. Time, plus bird egg equals bird. The bird on the inside doesn’t suffer from the definitions that we give it. It already is a bird even if we wouldn’t call it that.

It is so useful that things in nature are unaware that we have different words for them at different stages of their growth. The inchworm is the butterfly.

So all of this came from this image of a block. Be OK with where I am. Trust the process. Know that years and years of growth are necessary to get where I am. Know that others have shaped me, sometimes painfully. Know that that shaping has resulted in a stability that is useful.

This has been my biggest challenge, to get to this point. I don’t want to relax and slack off. I keep pushing myself because I know what I’m like when I don’t. But this image is telling me that I’m OK as I am, and to grow into it. The process is slow and painful, and I won’t do it all myself.

Somehow this image has helped me, even though it was so strange. It didn’t make any sense, but the more I thought about it and worked on it the more it was exactly the message I needed to hear at the time.

I’m still bummed that regular ministers aren’t like spiritual directors. If they were like spiritual directors, then I’d have stayed in church. Going to a spiritual director is very woo-woo, kinda New-Age meets Old School. It’s one on one and hard work. It uses visualization and it doesn’t make sense sometimes. Often I feel like I’m doing it wrong, but then I find out I’m not doing it wrong, I’m just doing something so new to me that I don’t know what to do. “Wrong” is to not do it at all. Doing anything openly, trustingly, honestly, is doing it right, even if it doesn’t make sense at the time.

So that alone is the best takeaway from having been part of the deacon discernment process. It wasn’t what I wanted, really. I didn’t want to be a deacon. I just wanted to learn how to be helpful to people on their spiritual paths. I wanted to be a soul-friend. I wanted to provide spiritual first aid. I didn’t want to be ordained, because I’m opposed to a hierarchy of lay versus ordained. But I did want the training and the accountability that comes with the training to be a deacon.

If nothing else, the bit of the process I went through was like turning the eye of the stove up to High. It boiled off quite a bit of unnecessary stuff pretty fast. It showed me the meat of the matter and let me know I don’t like meat. It showed me behind the curtain of the Episcopal church, and perhaps of all organized religion. That too was helpful. It showed me the machine has no heart.

So while I’m adrift right now, I keep getting messages from God that it’s OK. Adrift can be safer than stuck going nowhere.

Jigsaw puzzle

I did a jigsaw puzzle for the first time in so long that I’ve almost forgotten. Well, I helped some kindergartners do one a few months ago, but that doesn’t really count. They did most of it. I was just there to direct traffic and stop them from fighting. Something about not being able to share was part of the fight. They all wanted to work on the same parts or some were hoarding pieces.

Another lady had started a puzzle. It had 500 pieces. Most of them were green or pink, it looked like. The image was of a butterfly.

3

This looked too complicated for me. I think it was too complicated for her too because she left it on the table and moved to something else. She found all the edge pieces and put them together. Perhaps she was leaving it for another person to work on.

2

I was cruising around the tables to see if there was anything else to work on. There are all sorts of art supplies and things to work on.

4

There are essays and books and poems to read too.

5

It is all optional, but I like to take advantage of what is offered. I want to get my money’s worth, and I want to open myself up to new experiences.

I came across this cute bag. It is a recloseable puzzle for travel.

1

And it is of space. And it is a cartoon. And it only has 100 pieces. I’m there.

Nobody had opened it yet, so I ripped off the top. I’m glad that I don’t have a problem with this. I’ll totally go first at a buffet or a recital. I’m not afraid of claiming something as mine.

I started finding the edge pieces but then I didn’t know how big the finished puzzle was going to be. Would I have enough room? I was sharing the table with a painter. I didn’t want to get in her way. Then I started to see pieces that obviously went together.

My inner squirrel started to take over. What do I do next? Do the outer stuff or the inner stuff?

This is so like my spiritual journey it isn’t funny. Well, actually it is funny. It’s always funny how God works things out and I’m almost always the last to know.

I never have the map. Nobody does. We wander around, like the Jews in the desert, moving from camp to camp, from call to call. We go where we are sent. We don’t know where we are going until we get there.

So instead of focusing on the outside, the limits, I chose to focus on the inside, the images. Make a planet. Then make another planet. With this puzzle, as with life, I found myself heavily relying on words. The names of the planets held me together. I used them as a guide.

At times I felt I was cheating by looking at the picture on the bag.

This is the same person who complains that God doesn’t give me a map.

Here’s a map and I’m balking at using it.

There’s a lot to be understood there.

God doesn’t give me a map because God knows I’d rather figure it out on my own. I’d rather be happily surprised when I see the pattern coming together. I’d rather do it my way.

Also, it doesn’t matter if I work on the inside or the outside, as long as I’m working. It will all come together in the end. God’s got the pattern. It is just to me to work on it, and with it, and trust.

(Written on retreat, 1-18-14, 4 p.m. Finished on 1-20-14)

Dream of Fields

I had a dream the other night that didn’t mean anything at the time but now feels relevant.

I was driving on a freeway and got off. I parked in a field, newly sown with seeds. There were hundreds of thousands of seeds. The land soupy, even bog-like, with them. I laboriously slogged through the field. The excess of seeds kept slowing me down.

After I had gone far enough from my car that I couldn’t see it because of the trees in the field and a bend in the land, I noticed that the field had an end. I saw a guardrail and the freeway again. It wasn’t an endless field.

I turned around to get back to my car. When I came back to it I saw that there were other people who had followed my un-beaten path and had also parked in the field. They had followed me, but they weren’t doing what I was doing. They weren’t walking in the furrows or studying the unusual amounts of seeds. They were taking pictures of the field, like it was a tourist attraction or a historical landmark.

I was a bit disgusted with them. They didn’t get anything about the field.

And how is this not different from my path?

I’ve left the road of church as usual. I’ve gotten off the path and found a field of green seeds. There is so much life and growth and vibrancy here that I am getting bogged down by it all. There are so many ideas for posts to write that I get overwhelmed at times with where to start.

I hope that my posts are helpful. I hope that they have spoken to fellow travelers. I hope that they have provided encouragement or enlightenment. I hope that they have shown a way out or a way in.

The last thing I would want is for anybody to follow me off the road and then treat it like it is a game or a show. It isn’t. It is hard work. It is like growing your own food or building your own house. There are some books offering suggestions but they can’t really show you exactly what to do.

By definition, they can’t.

Nobody can give you a blueprint for your life. It is your life and yours alone and they can’t really know what you need to make it work. They can offer advice from the sidelines, but they can’t play the game for you. They have a different perspective from seeing things from the side, but they can’t see it the way you are seeing it.

So I want people to read my words and get them, sure. I feel that I have useful things to say. I feel that they can help people get out of ruts or avoid falling into them in the first place. But I don’t want to be followed or iconized.

I want people to pull off their own roads and find their own fields and wander around them for a while. I want them to be inspired by my journey to take their own. I want them to question everything. I want them to be awake and conscious and intentional about life.

It all goes to fast to spend it in someone else’s field.

Poem – path

The path that leads away, also leads to me.
It isn’t just for me to walk to the unknown.
The unknown now knows how to find me.

We are on the same path, it and I.

It, like the father of the prodigal son, is coming to me.

That which I am seeking is seeking me as well.

It is no longer a one day, someday goal.
It is already here, on this path, with me.