The room of abandonment (prose poem)

What does it look like?
Invite Jesus in, so you aren’t exploring this scary room alone.
What is in there?

Silence
Alone
No tools or toys

The walls are light blue, robin’s egg. There is a handmade wooden chair in the center. And a green fuzzy shawl, a gift from Jesus There is no door, but there is plenty of sunlight from the windows.

What situations, people are the cause of this room?
Why did I have to build it?

I must practice Self care to heal
be my own Shaman
Exercise food sleep, you know the drill.

What happens before the anger? Anger is a response, a protective thing. It shields from grief. Dig down to find the truth.

Don’t make God an afterthought. Make God the base of the building, of the life.

Anger comes from grief, a sense of loss, any loss. It is an unwillingness to accept change. That is also an unwillingness to accept things as they are. It is a desire to shape the world to fit me.

So roll with the punches. Accept, in a fluid way. Don’t resist. Turn the other cheek to stop that same one from getting too bruised.

(This is from an exercise I did with my first spiritual director, probably around 2013.)

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Words

I kept using the word “crazy” to define myself when I was with my spiritual director. She knows my history with bipolar disorder. She knows I hear from God. She, unlike my former minister, doesn’t freak out when I say that. She doesn’t like it however when I say I’m crazy. She thinks my difference is a gift. She thinks that God made me this way on purpose, that it isn’t an accident and it isn’t a handicap.

She asked me recently to ask Jesus what words he would use to describe me. When I did, instantly I got back these two words:

Anointed. Chosen.

My reaction to this? That again? You have to be talking to someone else. Nobody is going to believe me.

Then I think of Moses, arguing with God. He didn’t want it either. He kept trying to get out of it. Moses was one guy, untrained, with a speech impediment. God told him to go in front of the most powerful person in the world at the time and ask him to free thousands of people. God was asking him to liberate people from a tyrant.

With no army.
With no diplomatic skills.
With nothing, except the word of God.

God called to Moses from a burning bush. He didn’t send an angel. This was a bush on fire, yet it wasn’t being consumed by the fire. Sounds like a hallucination.

It all sounds crazy, right? Yet it happened. Why can’t something like that happen now? Why wouldn’t it? If we believe in an active and living God, then we have to believe that God still talks to people.

Why does God call amateurs? Why not call the experts? If God keeps working through the amateurs, why become an expert? What is the point of becoming ordained? If “God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called” as is frequently said, then it means the call is more important than the preparation.

God made the waves part for the Israelites to escape from the Egyptians. God made water come from a rock when they were thirsty. God made bread for them too.

Blessed are you God, who makes bread come from the earth. This Jewish prayer said at every meal where bread is served. It is a reminder of the manna from heaven. It is a reminder that God provides for us all the time. We didn’t buy or bake that bread. God gave us the ability to buy it or bake it. God made the grain grow from the earth. Sure, somebody planted it. But God made it happen.

If by my faith I am healed as Jesus says throughout the Gospels to people, then I want to believe that God has called me. I want to believe that I’m not making this up. I want to believe that the voice I hear is God’s voice. I want to believe that it is real.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 4:4 that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from God.

Now, Jesus is the bread of life, and the Word.

When my spiritual director tells me I am amazing and special, I think that she tells that to everyone she directs.

Sure I’m special. And different and unique. I stress that to everybody how special they are and that they should celebrate their uniqueness. And then I have a very hard time fully believing it myself.

Perhaps my hesitancy is part of it all. Perhaps God needs me to be certain of my call. It has taken me a lot to tell ministers of the call I first heard when I was 12. It took me a lot of self convincing before I even told a minister. I had to convince myself first. There were a lot of walls that had to be overcome in my own heart first.

Why not believe that Jesus has made a home in my heart? Why not believe that I am called to build a new church?

What is the danger of believing this?

Embarrassing the church. Leading people away from the truth. Having them be mislead. Like David Koresh. Like Jim Jones.

Going so far that I am discredited, that the message is not heard.

But, then I think, if the message is from God, it will get out. If it really is of God, it will happen.

I ask to not get in the way, and to be the way. It is both at the same time. God made me the way he made me because he needs me this way.

My diagnosis means I am mindful and careful. It means I ask for guidance and for oversight. It means also that I self limit. This is good and bad.

I’m still upset that the place I asked for training and oversight didn’t know how to handle me. But then again if I am to do something new, I can’t follow an old pattern.

New wine, old wineskin, and all that.

Spiritual director – probation officer

Sometimes I feel like my spiritual director is my probation officer. I have to check on with her every month to see how I’m doing. That makes it sound like I don’t know how I’m doing, or like I’m going to the doctor for a checkup. It is kind of both.

A spiritual director is kind of like a guru. Their goal is “intimacy with God”, and while that is pretty nebulous, it is a good goal. If any minister I’d ever had over me talked like she did, I’d still be in church. But sometimes it is really hard work. It is one on one, for an hour. It is really intense.

I feel awkward going. She cuts right through the muck, like a laser. She sees through my veils and obstacles that I put up, voluntarily and involuntarily.

Sometimes I hide. There are some things that I know we disagree on, like salvation. I don’t feel that Jesus came to save us. I feel that Jesus came to tell us that we aren’t broken and don’t need to be saved. There is a huge difference here. I know that I differ from mainline Christianity in this. I also know that I’m in alignment with the words of Jesus in my belief. So I keep on saying it in my blog. She and I, however, we butt heads over it. She says we are broken. I say that Jesus says we are as good as we are going to be and that is good enough.

I also feel that she’s holding back in telling me things. I’m the kind of person who needs explicit instructions, and I feel that she’s the kind of person who wants me to figure it out on my own. Perhaps she feels that if she tells me something that I should be experiencing, that I’ll fake it. Kind of like how if you read about a particular disease, you might feel like you have the symptoms and you don’t. Or like if you explain something a certain way, it will frame that experience for that person. I feel she wants me to have my own experiences.

I dread going almost every month, but this month is worse. After going, I immediately want to go again. Then a month later when it is time to go, I don’t want to at all. I think I don’t know what to talk about. I think that whatever I’ve experienced isn’t enough. I’m pretty sure I’m doing it all wrong.

Am I cheating, by wanting to skip? Am I falling to the wayside, or am I on the right path?

I’d like to work on the manuscript for my book. I’d like to catch up on sleep. I’d like to paint. Wednesday mornings are nice – I don’t have to go in to work until the afternoon. If I go visit her, I lose a lot of that time. It is only once a month, though.

Sometimes rules help, sometimes they hurt. What rule am I following here? Go once a month regardless? Do it automatically? Or feel it out? Discipline is the root of “disciple” after all.

Part of it is realizing that she works for me, not the other way around. I pay her for her services. It is like using a personal trainer, but for your soul. It is really weird and really awesome.

This month I decided to cancel. And I’m glad I did. I feel that if it is a choice, it is easier. God loves a cheerful giver, after all. If I go because I feel I have to go, then I’m missing the point. But then I also know that if I slack off too much I’ll get out of line/habit/practice. Order is important to me.

It is all a balancing act. Order / freedom. I chose order, of my free will. But too much order starts to feel stifling.

The pool of God, and betrayal by the lifeguard.

Right now, in my relationship with God, I’m about at a seven. When I was at Cursillo, it was at a ten. I want ten again and yet I’m terrified of it.

I feel like I’m being set up for a fall sometimes when I go to my spiritual director. She wants me closer to God, so close that we are together. So close that my actions and thoughts are married with God. Like we are one. Like the whole “I and the Father are one” kind of thing.

I had that at Cursillo, and I got busted for it. I told my priest what was going on and she nodded and smiled, and with her actions told me everything was fine. When I came back from Cursillo and the experiences were still happening, she told me that everything was not fine. She told me that I’d fail the psych exam for the deacon process. She told me that she was putting the process on hold. She told me to stop talking about how God was talking to me, because “it was a conversation stopper.”

I felt betrayed then. I’m afraid of being betrayed again. I’m afraid I’m being set up.

I’m not sure who to trust sometimes. That was an authority figure telling me to not get close to God, that what I was experiencing was crazy.

I know the feeling of being so close to God that it is like we are dance partners. My moves were God’s moves. My thoughts were God’s thoughts. It was amazing. And terrifying. I wasn’t really oriented as to day or time. I wasn’t getting the bills paid. I wasn’t eating. It wasn’t a healthy relationship.

That was many years ago. I knew then that things weren’t well. I went to the hospital to get back to normal. Taking care of myself is important. I don’t want to be a burden to others.

All of this reminds me of when I was working in Waldenbooks. One of the sections I was assigned was illogically arranged. It was the New Age section and it was all by author. I came across stickers put out by the corporate office that had the subjects for that section. I wasn’t making it up. There was an official way to do it. I took the stickers to the assistant manager and asked her if I could do it that way. She said yes.

I spent the next hour taking apart the section and reorganizing it. I had a lot of piles. Then I heard a noise behind me. The assistant manager was standing there with the manager and the most surly and snotty employee. They all stared at what I was doing. The manager told me in no uncertain terms that I had to stop doing that and put it all back in alphabetical order.

I didn’t have the voice to say that I’d gotten permission to do this from the assistant manager. I didn’t have the voice to say that this way would make more sense for the customers. I didn’t have the voice to say that there were stickers from corporate, so I wasn’t making it up.

I was silenced.
I was squashed.

I felt set up for that embarrassment, set up by an authority figure.

I’ve carried that experience with me all this time, and I fear it is coloring my experiences now. At Cursillo I feel like I was set up for betrayal by the priest, who in her encouragement at Cursillo of the experiences that I was having, encouraged me to go deeper in that pool.

So now, when I go to my spiritual director and she wants me to go into that pool again, I’m afraid.

I want to say I’m not afraid of the pool. I want to say that I know I’m safe there. I can’t say this yet because I’ve not been in the deep end for long. Every time I get there I get afraid, or I get told I shouldn’t be there.

I’m starting to feel that the people who have told me that I shouldn’t be there don’t actually know how to swim. They aren’t afraid for me. They are projecting their own fears on me. So when I go to my spiritual director, I’m not sure what side she is on. I trust her so far. She’s not lead me wrong. But I trusted my priest too. I was even grateful that she was going to Cursillo. I thought she’d be a great guide and able to help me if I fell in too far.

I’m trying to trust now, not on the voices of the people that have influenced me for ill in the past or on the voices of any director or guide now, but on the Voice, on the Call that I hear. I’m trying to remember the times when I felt I was drowning in the pool, I knew it and I got help. I didn’t have to be rescued. I was aware, which is rare. I’m trying to remember that now I have learned a lot about how to stay balanced, and how to walk a tightrope in a windstorm. I think I can go into that pool, and go deep, and still be OK. I feel like I have to go deep in order to really hear, in order to know the truth as clearly as I can.

Giving voice to my fears has become my strength.

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.

Victim beads part two – a month later.

I made a victim bracelet after I went to visit my spiritual director last month. She wanted me to focus on my pain and those people who have harmed me. I’m opposed to this. I want to rush right ahead to the “forgive and forget” part.

Mostly the forget part.

But, she hasn’t steered me wrong yet, so I’m giving it a try. She didn’t recommend making a bracelet to help me remember. That is just something I do. This way, all day long I have a reminder to think about this. Beads are good tools for me.

I made it, with a bead for each person who came to mind. This was a month ago, and I’m discovering that I can’t remember who each bead refers to. A girl I went to high school with. My aunt. The former branch manager of the library I work at. My mom. A lady in a social group I was in. My brother, of course. But I’m having a hard time remembering everybody else. It isn’t easy.

Perhaps Jesus is getting on there and healing the broken bits.

I don’t want to focus on my pain, but I know it is important. You can’t heal what you don’t know is broken. Emotional pain is harder to work on. You can see a cut on your arm. It is easy to spot. Just put a bit of Neosporin on it and a Band-Aid and you are good.

But emotional hurts are harder to spot. The longer they aren’t tended to, the deeper they go. The deeper they go, the harder they are to dig up and get out. They tend to erupt in ugly ways. They tend to come up like privet in your yard, unwanted, unsightly, and well entrenched.

I want to forgive them. They didn’t know better. They didn’t know they were hurting me. I didn’t tell them. They didn’t mean to be mean and thoughtless and cruel. I want to let them off the hook and be done with it. I don’t want to wear this bracelet because it seems like I’m advertising my pain.

But I’m not, not really. Nobody knows what this bracelet is about. It is private. It is just a bunch of beads. Nobody knows they have meaning.

And why would I care what others think? When was I taught shame for these feelings? How much of this is the old idea of keeping the family name, the family honor clean, unbesmirched? Stiff upper lip, and all that. Don’t air your dirty laundry.

I always feel a sense of betrayal when I talk about these things. Not that I was betrayed, but that I am betraying them. This is especially true when I mention my parents. Don’t speak ill of the dead, you know.

How bad is it when the victim is the one blaming the victim?

So I wear this bracelet sometimes to work on these feelings, and ask Jesus into them. This is still a foreign idea. I wasn’t raised with the idea of Jesus as being real, and present, and my best friend. Jesus was a guy back then and out there, not somebody right now and right here.

I’m catching glimpses of this Jesus, and I think I like him.
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Jesus as a BFF.

Last week I went to my spiritual director and she asked me to choose one of the times that we had been discussing. I talk with her about all sorts of events that have occurred in the past month. I talk about troubles with family as well as good times when I took time to take care of myself. She asked me to pick one time and “see” Jesus there with me.

This is still a foreign concept to me. I wasn’t raised with the idea of Jesus being right here with me, or being “crazy” about me, as my spiritual director insists that he is. But I’m playing along, and it seems to be helping. I often feel like I’m doing it wrong, but she seems to think differently.

I chose a time when I was sitting up in my “star stones” area, where I go to talk to God at the top of the back of my yard. It was one of the times where I did it not because I was mad but because I wanted to just visit. I’m trying to get in the habit of inviting God into each moment, not just the hard ones. I’m trying to be mindful of God’s presence all the time.

I visualized Jesus sitting right next to me on my right. She asked me what direction he was looking. I said he was looking forward, in the same direction I was looking. She asked me if he was saying anything to me. I said he wasn’t saying anything, but it was as if I could feel colors from him. She had me describe the colors.

This is the best picture I can provide to illustrate. I’d taken it the week before, on an especially “God” kind of walk.
winter4

It isn’t about the color, or what is in the picture, it is about what it makes me feel. These colors make me feel safe. They are calm and earthy and soothing.

She asked me to stay with that feeling and to think about it.

I started to cry. Nobody has ever made me feel like that. Nobody has ever made me feel that safe or loved or wanted. Nobody has ever just wanted to be with me and not wanted something from me. I feel like I’m constantly on my guard with people. I keep waiting for them to let me down or beat me up. With guys I’m always something to try to have sex with. I’m an object, not a person.

It was refreshing to feel that oasis of calm, where I’m not wanted for what I can give, but who I am. Everything that I am, my beauty and my bruises, my wisdom and my weakness, is loved and cherished and celebrated. Everything.

Later I started thinking that this isn’t fair, this feeling. This perfect feeling of peace just can’t be matched. Nobody else will ever live up to it. I’m going to get hurt. My feelings are going to be ignored and overlooked. I’m going to be treated like a thing, an object. Nobody is going to measure up to this feeling I get from Jesus. Why go to the effort of knowing Jesus more closely, when it is so beautiful? It is so fragile and strong at the same time. It is so heartbreakingly kind. Nothing compares. Nothing.

It reminds me of when I stopped smoking pot. Everything started to seem vanilla in comparison. Life was dull. Movies were boring and predicable. Food was tasteless. Friends were annoying. Family was impossible. I remembered why I started smoking in the first place. It added seasoning to my life and smoothed off the rough bits. Pot was the rainbow, real life was the black and white. Who wants three channels on the TV when you can have 187? Real life doesn’t compare well to altered life.

Jesus is always present and real and holy and pure and safe. He’s never thoughtless. Never pushy. Never aggressive, needy, groping. He always knows what I need. Nobody is ever going to measure up to that. So why even go there. It hurts.

And then I got a feeling back. I knew the answer in that moment.

Because He heals the brokenness.
He fills in the cracks.
Jesus makes up the difference in their lack.

Jesus is like this –
He pays the bar tab. He orders the cab. He holds your hair when you have had too much to drink and you have to barf. He wipes your face afterwards with a warm wet washcloth.

Jesus is in the face of all kindness
and is in all kinds of people
you’d never expect.

Focus on the light, not the cracks.

trinity tree