Spiritual Practice: Relearning History

If you’re confused about why the Asian community is calling out racism over the eight people murdered last week, it’s because you weren’t taught a full history in school. Neither was I.

If you’re white like me it can be hard to understand concepts like systemic injustice. When we went to school the history we studied left out important parts of our nation’s history that were less than flattering for white people.

Jesuit theologian Walter Burghardt once described contemplation as taking a “long, loving look at the real.” If we are to grow as lovers of God, and of people, we must be willing to take a long, loving look at what really happened in our nation’s history to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color). Otherwise, we will never understand the outrage our brothers and sisters in the Asian community feel over the eight people murdered last week and how it is impossible not to see that event as a hate crime.

Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

For instance, we all know about the transcontinental railroad, right? There was a great race from the east and west to see who would get the railroad track to the center of the country first. Our history narrative features much talk about the rich guys who funded it and a mention of the 20,000 Chinese laborers who built the majority of it. But, did you also know that hundreds of those laborers died, and after the railroad was finished, the Chinese men who poured their blood sweat and tears into the railroad were denied citizenship?

To take a long, loving look at the real in regards to the Asian American experience, watch this PBS documentary.

In history class we learned about slavery, but there are stories we didn’t hear. Like the fact that some black women were imprisoned with white men. When they got pregnant from being raped by those men, or by their guards, their children were allowed to stay with them until they were ten years old,; then they were sold as slaves and the money went to fund white schools. Nope, I never heard that story in my history class. You can read more about that here.

And if you want a deeper dive into the problems with our prison system, how it is a racist system, and how that came to be, please watch the Netflix documentary, 13th. It is hard to watch but it deserves a long, loving look at the real.

Obviously, these are only two examples of the many ways BICOP have suffered. How do we deal with the truth that our privilege is based on other suffering of others? How do we deal with this kind of history?

  1. Face it. Take a long look. Don’t turn away. It really happened. Our ancestors did these things and our friends continue to suffer because of them.
  2. Lament. Grieve. Cry. Allow yourself to feel it. Mourn with those who mourn.
  3. Do something. Educate yourself, listen. When BICOP says something is racist, listen. Don’t argue, don’t dismiss. LISTEN. Believe them. Then act. Vote for their rights, run for office, write letters, call, march. Stand next to someone who is being harassed. Turn on your camera to film injustice.  Do whatever is in your wheelhouse so that your friends will know they are not alone in this pain.

What is the difference between Germany and the USA? After the Nazi era, Germany admitted their national shame and made reparations. They were able to heal and move forward. Until we admit our national  shame of racism and make reparations, we will not be able to move forward and begin to heal.

If we each do our part, perhaps the world can heal.

How have you been responding to the pain in our world around racism? In what ways are you learning, growing, trying to make a difference?

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Spiritual Practice – Finding Your Calling

Finding your spiritual “calling” can be confusing because of three misconceptions:

  1. The idea that a calling is to a specific thing, like a “call to the mission field.”
  2. The idea that a calling is for life and never changes.
  3. The idea that other people know what you are called to do in this world.

Let’s look at each misconception. First, the idea that a calling is a specific thing. I believe that our calling from God is to “be” not to “do.” God created each of us with a divine spark that can make the world a better place. The Quakers say that we are all born with “birthright gifts.” We bring these gifts, or that spark, into the world with who we ARE no matter what we DO with our lives. Whether we work in a call center or on a mission field, we are all equal and precious in God’s sight and worthy of using our unique calling to bring hope and healing to the world.

It always bothered me how there was a hierarchy of gifts in Christian circles. If you were a missionary, it was the top of the pile, followed closely by any kind of full-time ministry position. Then there was everybody else. This creates a false separation between sacred and secular work. God makes no distinction. ALL work is sacred.

Then there is the idea that a calling never changes. Well, if WE are our calling and we change and grow all the time, the places that benefit from our calling will also change over time. When we are young in faith, we might be trying to find our gift-set by broad experimentation. We try a lot of things — for instance we might work in the church nursery, or a campaign office, or with the homeless. Over time we learn where our true gifts lie by noticing what gives us joy and energy. We realize that working from our “flat-sides” drain us. We learn to surround ourselves with people whose gifts complement our flat-sides. In this way we hone the use of our gifts and apply them in less broad, more specific ways. We do higher quality work with less effort as we are working from our true selves, the selves we were created to be.

Third, a calling is not a conference call. There is a tendency in certain churches to have folks give “a word” or “a prophesy” over someone else’s life. This can be an encouragement and a blessing. It can also be dangerous. I caution people to take those words with a grain of salt, especially if they involve “greats,” “mates,” or “dates.” Who wouldn’t want to hear they were going to be a famous speaker, or marry a certain person, or have something specific happen on a certain date? But God doesn’t usually give us that kind of information to us in advance; hold it lightly and prayerfully. We can allow people we love and trust to speak into our lives and compare that to how God has made us and what we know of ourselves as we make decisions for our lives.

For me we are all called to the greatest commandment:

To love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love others as ourselves.

(Matthew 22:35-40)

THIS is our CALLING. To be who God has made us to be, gifted us to be, for the healing of the world. To LOVE others from a place of wholeness and not neediness, which takes some internal work as well. To be in relationship with God, to know and love ourselves, and give from the center of that love — that is our calling.

In what ways have you found God’s calling in your life?

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Photo of sparkler by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

Photo of conference call by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Spiritual Practice – Embracing the Divine Feminine

I hope my male readers don’t skip this one, because we females have been embracing the male divine for millennia! We don’t want to replace the divine masculine; we just want to explore what life would look like with a balanced view of God’s self as male and female — as each of us has characteristics of both.

And, the consensus among mystics seems to be that the world is in desperate need for the divine feminine right now. We are in a global pandemic, everything has been shaken, the earth is dying, and our national sin of racism is front and center, to name a few of the unprecedented challenges we are facing. HELP! We have been cracked open and many feel the divine feminine energy is what we need to bring us back into balance, healing, and unity.

Growing up in the evangelical world I had no concept of even where to start seeing God’s feminine side. There was pretty much only one nod given to the divine feminine in the churches I attended. Genesis 1:27 says,

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

This verse implies that God is both male and female (yet note the pronouns)! It was the only verse mentioned in most of the churches I attended about the female side of God. When women read the Bible, we read all about a male God, with male pronouns, and very few feminine images. Scriptural references to God, which are gender neutral, are often translated as He. Our churches are full of male images, patriarchal structures, and worship music that only speak of God as He. How do we even begin to press into the female side of God?

For me this journey usually begins with reading. Sue Monk Kidd wrote a book over twenty years ago that followed her journey from her years as a Baptist who began to deconstruct her patriarchal view of God. This book covers years of unlearning and relearning and exploring. She finds female names for God, female images for God, and ultimately a balanced view of God. That book is called The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from Tradition to the Sacred Feminine.

In this book I learned many things. For instance, did you know that in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, the word for the Holy Spirit is a feminine word? In Greek the Wisdom of God is referred to as Sophia and represented as female. Even the personal name of God, Yahweh, is a remarkable combination of both female and male. The first part of God’s name in Hebrew, “Yah,” is feminine, and the last part, “weh,” is masculine.

After reading Kidd’s book I watched a discussion she had with Elizabeth Lesser. Lesser recently wrote, Cassandra Speaks: When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes. In it she tells the Greek Myth of Cassandra who was so beautiful all the men wanted her. She was a mystic. Apollo wanted her and promised her the gift of prophesy which she greatly desired. She didn’t know his gift came with a catch, that he wanted sex in return. He gave her the gift but she refused the sex. So, he spit a curse into her mouth that she would have the gift, to know the future and tell it, but no one would believe her. If this hasn’t been the curse of women for all time, I don’t know what it has. Lesser tells the stories of women from their perspective and suggests it’s time for women’s voices to be unstoppered. We must speak our truth; the world needs our wisdom.

Last week I attended the Shift Network’s Mystic Summit. The host was Mirabai Starr, is a gracious and loving woman. She wrote Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics.

That book is now on my list to-read as well. The summit had many speakers who brought up the need for the divine feminine to arise and heal our land, our nation, and our communities.

This movement of the Spirit is becoming too important to ignore. The need for feminine wisdom is bubbling up in the zeitgeist; the very air we breathe is calling out for the female side of God to be recognized, heard, and heeded.

What do you know of the feminine side of God? Do you have images of the divine feminine that work for you? Names you use? I’d love to hear your opinion on why this is happening in our world right now.

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Spiritual Practice: Preparing for the New Year

            Well, 2020 is winding down, and now is an excellent time to reflect and prepare yourself for a new year. I mentioned this to some friends, and they looked at me blankly as if 2020 has been such a dumpster fire there was no way to switch gears and even think about a new year. But alas, the new year is upon us, so first we need to process 2020, then perhaps we will have the capacity to prepare our hearts for something new in 2021.

Give yourself some time to think about or journal these questions. You might need to open your calendar to remember anything positive.

Thinking back over 2020; what new things did you learn?

For me, one thing I learned was Glennon Doyle’s mantra, “We can do hard things.” This has been hard! Zooming constantly for work, not being with people we love, finding out how to work from home — hard things. Yet, we did them, and we will continue to do them.

Thinking back over 2020, what are you proud of?

I’m proud that I decided to use the pandemic to get serious about my health to give myself a fighting chance if I did get COVID19. I started Weight Watchers and lost thirty pounds. I exercise almost every day. This makes me happy, and I feel stronger than I have in a long time. I don’t share that to make anyone feel bad. Most folks gained the “Covid 19,” which is what they needed to do, but it is a huge win for me.

Thinking back over 2020, what do you need to grieve?

Oh, so much, but not as much as those who lost people they love, or jobs, or health. Not as much as those essential workers who never stopped working and were exposed every day. The things I grieve are temporary. I grieve traveling. I grieve not being able to go on my monthly spiritual retreats. I grieve getting hanging out with my friends and hugging people. Others have faced crippling loss, and I recognize that.

Thinking back over 2020, what are you thankful for?

I’m thankful for the world to slow down, for nature to have a chance to recover, for me to keep writing because I have a wonderful critique group to hold me accountable. I’m grateful to have started two new spiritual direction training cohorts and to be able to do my work from home. I’m thankful to be well and that my family is well.

Thinking back over 2020, what else comes to mind that you need to get off your chest?

For me, it’s the election and the train wreck of our country, and the extent of the racism that is remains in our nation, and the deaths of so many. Oh my, I could go on.

Thinking back over 2020, what has helped you the most?

I’d have to say the Memes have been fantastic. Humor really helps, and streaming services like Netflix offered some great shows, allow us to relax and blow off steam.a As a therapist, I can see this pandemic tends to make or break a marriage. I’m grateful that my husband and I still like each other. This New Year’s Eve will be our 37th anniversary! I’m glad I married my best friend.

Writing about these questions will help clear your mind to begin to think about the New Year.

What word or phrase might you want to press into for 2021?

I’m thinking mine will be related to teaching others some of the things I’ve learned. I’ve enjoyed teaching writing classes and spiritual classes. My fifties were the best decade ever! I learned not to care as much what others thought, to stand in my truth against tremendous pressure to conform, and to tell my stories. Now I’m on the cusp of 62 years old! I want to share more about what I have learned.

What dreams do you have for 2021?

I’m hoping and praying for a vaccine so we can all live without fear. I long for a sane government to restore humanity to whole of Washington. I long for racial healing to move forward and the recovery of our environment to be taken seriously. And, I’d love to travel and see more of the world, and publish more books.

What fears must you face about entering 2021?

For me, it’s that the dreams I’ve listed above won’t happen, that we will continue in this polarization and ridiculousness. But I’m not going to dwell in that place. I want to look forward with hope.

What else do you hope for 2021?

I hope to release a new book by the end of January. I’ll keep you posted on that.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on 2020 and what you are hoping, praying, and working toward in the New Year.

Photo 2020 by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Photo 2021 by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Spiritual Practice: Faithing Over the Lifespan – Stages Five and Six

As we’ve looked at the stages of faith development, we’ve moved from the early stages of black and white thinking (stages 1-2), to the stage of belonging (stage 3). Then we generally “hit a wall” of some kind, which leads to stage four, a great time of spiritual disorientation.

Stage five is a time of reorientation and tremendous spiritual growth, like stage three, but with very different parameters.

As I mentioned in the last post, in stage four it’s as if the “God Map” we’ve built from our earlier experience has been blown apart. Suddenly God gets much bigger, less definable, and yet more all-encompassing. The image of using a larger basket to collect spiritual understanding is helpful. We find we relate to truths found in other religions and become less about “us-them” and more about “we.”

In stage five faithing we learn to talk less and listen more, especially in prayer. Words become less critical, and being present to the Divine and to others becomes profound. Contemplative practices begin to feed the soul more than those in stage three faithing, where Bible Study, Worship, and Church attendance were the primary means of spiritual growth. Now growth comes from silence, solitude, and contemplative faith practices.

Just a bit of history here: Contemplative faith practices (as those written about in this blog) are not new, or New Age, as some say. In fact, the early church was known for them. If you look at the Bible, you will see these kinds of practices in both the old and new testaments. Elijah hid in a cave, where he found God was in the still, small voice. And Jesus often went to a lonely place where he prayed. God did excellent work in deserts, wombs, and tombs.

What changed? Christianity became the state religion after Rome’s ruler, Constantine, ended the persecution of Christians. And whenever you mix faith and politics, things go sour. (This has never been more evident than now). So, after Rome got involved, the state church became corrupt, and many believers fled into the desert to be alone with God and try to reclaim their faith. They became known as the desert mothers and fathers, and they taught the way of contemplation. These desert communities grew into monasteries, and the practices of contemplation got trapped there, available to only those who lived inside.

During the reformation, the protestant churches threw out the contemplative practices baby with the Roman bathwater and only trusted spoken prayer, Bible reading, and preaching. In Catholicism, the contemplative practices stayed mostly inside the monasteries, unavailable to the congregations.

But, every five hundred years, as Phyllis Tickle says in her book The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why, God throws a garage sale to get rid of all the barnacles that have calcified our faith and bring something new. We are in the middle of that kind of cosmic shaking right now. This shaking has allowed these ancient spiritual practices to reemerge.

And, people seem to be coming to these practices sooner. Perhaps because young people are experiencing much pain early in life, or maybe it is time for something new to come to the church. I hope it is the latter.

Whatever it is, stage five is a lengthy exploration of a new relationship with God. People in Stage Three might look on someone in Stage Five and assume they have slid down the slippery slope into “liberal Christianity.” I know I used to think that way. Now I understand it is actually a place of deeper faith and increasing love of God, not less. This is where we will probably spend the rest of our days, exploring the ever-increasing depth and breadth of God—finding the Divine in all people and all sentient beings, often feeling closer to God in nature than in church. However, I still believe that being part of a congregation is important. Most of us will not move beyond stage five faithing.

So, what of Stage Six? I imagine few people get there. It has been described as a Oneing with God. Some people are so united with the Divine they care only for others. Think of Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., or Gandhi. These were not perfect people but people whose whole lives were to serve others and eventually died in that singleness of purpose.

What happens to what we learned in the previous stages? It is not lost; it is integrated into us as we continue to grow. We are not to disdain the things we believed in the past, but to honor them and hold them as foundational to what we have now. This is not a linear progression either. We can revisit previous stages at any time.

The goal of understanding faithing over the life cycle is not to box people into stages but to make us more compassionate to others on their own journeys and give us words for our own experience as we go through these passages.

I’d love to hear what you think of the idea of stages of spiritual development. Does it make sense? Does it help? What have you found to be true in your experience?

Cornucopia Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

Rock Carin Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Monastery Photo by Julia Volk on Pexels.com

Gandhi Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Spiritual Practice: Faithing Over the Lifespan – Stage Four

We continue our look at how people grow and develop spiritually over six different stages of faith. To look at stages one and two, the early black and white stages, click here. There, you will also find links to books on this topic for further reference.

To read about stage three, the time of significant belonging and foundational growth, click here. 

Today we face more challenging topics. What generally happens to force us from the warm cocoon of stage three into continued spiritual growth is something difficult. It has to be a strong push to move past the confines of intense “us vs. them” thinking and into the ambiguous beyond. Generally, we hit what is commonly known as “a wall” in our lives. Perhaps we face a divorce, a health crisis, a job loss, or the loss of someone we love, and our equilibrium is tilted into a time of deep questioning and we begin to realize the old pat answers don’t work as well anymore.  It can be a dark time when heaven seems closed to us, when it feels like our prayers are useless, when worship or Bible reading falls flat.

St. John of the Cross coined the term, “The Dark Night of the Soul” to describe this transitional space. You can read about it in his book by that title.

It is a grumpy time. We may feel betrayed by our faith tradition as we realize that almost every religion has a creation myth, that there are different ways to view Christ’s atonement, and just as many ways to think about the end times. I remember reading books during this period that challenged the things I’d always heard from the church, and they made sense to me. I remember thinking, “I’ve been a Christian for thirty years. Why have I never heard this before?” It can be a time of great spiritual disorientation. We no longer fit easily in our cozy Christian bubble, but we don’t fit anywhere else either.

This disorientation leads us ever reluctantly into stage four faithing. It’s as if we are given a bigger basket to hold all the disparate realities, ideas, experiences, and people of our lives. We suddenly find the gifts in other religions, like in Rumi’s poems, the practice of Yoga, and other things that, at stage three, we would have considered off-limits. God gets bigger at stage four. We are less judgmental and more loving as we identify with marginalized populations. A stage four bumper sticker might read, “I’m spiritual, not religious.”

The most significant changes in stage four seem to be in how we relate to God. Our prayer lives change dramatically. Instead of praying with lists of words, we find peace in sitting in silence with God. Walking in a forest or gazing at the ocean will do as much for our souls as sitting in church. Contemplative practices, like those offered in this blog, become more meaningful.

Slowly we leave our anger at being pushed out of our happy clappy Christianity and begin to find others who are also on this journey. We move from the order of stage three to the disorientation of stage four and eventually to reorientation, which comes in stage five.

As with the other stages, we can get stuck in stage four. We are hurting and in pain, and we feel betrayed or violated by “the church.” I’ve heard a lot of people say, “I love God. I just don’t like his people.” That is understandable, but we can get stuck there. Hopefully, we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are wonderful people of faith we can connect with—places where our questions, ponderings, and pain will be welcome. Hopefully, we move forward in our faithing to a new spiritual depth, which we will cover in the next blog.

Can you relate to hitting a wall or to stage four? I’d love to hear what moved you into this time of disorientation. Take heart, it won’t last forever, and we are in this together.

Photo credit:

Top Photo by Dark Indigo on Pexels.com

Second Photo by Francesca Zama on Pexels.com

Third Photo by Mathias P.R. Reding on Pexels.com

Spiritual Practice – Reading Fiction

Okay, you might think this is a stretch, even for me, when I can find a spiritual practice in anything; but hang with me a minute, and I’ll explain. Fiction is what has kept me sane during this pandemic. You see, as a therapist, it is my job to keep all my clients sane, so who keeps me sane?

Well, apparently, it’s Robin Hobb. My spiritual director recommended Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice, the first book of The Farseer Series, and 12 books later, I’m still enjoying her writing. It’s a riveting fantasy with memorable characters, but with even deeper themes running through the book about racism, spirituality, loyalty, etc. I’ve been unable to put them down. 

I’m sure no one would argue the spiritual power of The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, or A Wrinkle in Time. So, here are some other books that have resonated deeply for me from the fiction world.

I may have read these several times and still watch the movies to cheer me when I’m down.

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series: I had a disagreement with my bestie when this book came out. She said it was of Satan because of the wizards and witches (see the last paragraph for a rebuttal). Of course, that gal never read the book. For me, the series overflows with Gospel themes: love, loyalty, friendship, bravery, doing the right thing even when it’s hard, and ultimately laying down your life for your friends. Beautiful!

Susan Howatch’s Glittering Image: This is a classic for people in the world of Spiritual Direction. It speaks of our true and false selves and how we need to peel back the onion of the glittering image we present to the world to find our true selves.

Angie Taylor’s The Hate U Give: I may have read this book twice AND watched the movie. Talk about an education in systemic injustice: so much goodness and pain in one book. Everyone should read this one.

Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games Series: Talk about a hard look at the 1%. The Capitol is where the money is, and all the other districts starve. Or The Capitol could be compared to America, which uses most of the world’s resources. This book is about the hard facts of war and what it means to sacrifice for those you love. Good stuff.

Jan Karon’s Mitford Series: I have to include this since I read all fifteen books. Such a charming town, and the main character, Father Tim, is the priest we all wish we had. He is kind and loving, gentle, and awkward. So fun to read.

Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing: Opens our eyes to how slavery separated families and the repercussions—beautifully written. 

Honestly, I could write on this topic FOREVER! So, I’ll end with one of my own.

Jacci Turner’s The Retreat: I wove a storyline in with spiritual practices, so you feel like you’ve been on a retreat after you read it! At least, that’s what the reviews say.

I’d love to know how fiction has encouraged, challenged, or informed you spiritually. Drop me a line and share a book!

Photo by Mark Neal on Pexels.com

Spiritual Practice – Making an Altar

Six months into the pandemic things are getting difficult. Civil unrest around seeking justice for people of color continues and America can’t seem to get a foothold on this virus. Massive numbers of people are dying and sick. Today, I may have forgotten to put on pants. Thankfully, I don’t really go anywhere these days. Anyway, I thought it would be a good time to focus on something positive.

In the Old Testament people were always stopping to build altars, or memorial stones, to mark important events in their lives with God. I’ve been reading the coolest little book by my friend Cindy Bunch. She and I went through our spiritual direction program together. Her book is called, “Be Kind to Yourself: Releasing Frustrations and Embracing Joy.” In it she has a ton of very accessible spiritual practices.

The one I want to highlight is making an altar. I’ve never tried this, although Cindy makes alters all the time to celebrate or mark significant events. They are temporary things that she takes a picture of to remember each event. She may leave them up for an hour or for weeks; she may make them indoors or outdoors. She marks what she  calls “moments of grace.”

“You could pick up items on a walk, arrange them outside, use the altar for prayer and meditation, and then walk away from it as a way to reinforce the moment but not hold on to it. You can, of course, take a picture to preserve the memory and return to those moments of grace.”

I decided to make an altar representing what is getting me through the pandemic. First, I thought of books. I’ve been reading Robin Hobb’s Assassin series (I’m on book 13) and it is so engaging, I just love it. So, I put a stack of those on a chair. Then I added a paint by number kit I sent for. It’s ridiculously hard but I’m enjoying it in small bits. Of course, the Black Lives Matter protests are ever on my mind and I’m committed to learning and listening, so I added two books I’m reading with my book club. And I added a candle to represent my spiritual practices, which I am enjoying most every morning. Without these I would probably not be surviving at all.

If you’d like to give this practice a try, I’d love to see a picture of what is helping you get through this pandemic. And I’d highly recommend Cindy’s book as it is a very important time to Be Kind to Yourself! Otherwise you might just leave home without your pants.

Photo of altar rocks by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Second pic is mine

Spiritual Practice – Enjoying Art

One beautiful thing to come out of the Pandemic is an unprecedented outflow of art. Suddenly musicians are releasing songs from their living rooms, art galleries are opening virtual tours, and DYI arts and crafts are booming. I ordered a paint by number art canvas and when it came, I thought I’d lost my mind. But, working on it slowly is actually relaxing. Why is there such a deep need for art during a time of crisis?

Somebody help me!

I remember reading about Solomon building the temple in Jerusalem. He was directed by God to put as much beauty into the temple as there was structure. God knows we need beauty. Of the interior walls alone it says, (1 Kings 6:14-22)

He paneled the main room with cypress, which he overlaid with fine gold and decorated with palm trees and chains. He adorned the temple with precious stones for beauty, and its gold was from Parvaim. He overlaid its beams, thresholds, walls, and doors with gold, and he carved cherubim on the walls.

An artist’s idea of Solomon’s temple

Then I think about Burning Man, where artists spend a year building art features that will be burned when the week is over! It seems like such a waste, but the artists want to enjoy making art for art’s sake, not for the commodification of art in the outside world.

Black Rock City Temple, My son helped build this!

Paul Gauguin said, “Art is either revolution or plagiarism.”

In Reno, artists are meeting every evening to create art around the #BlackLivesMatter movement. It is giving them joy, passion and expression during a very dark time. People who come to watch them work end up in conversations that would be difficult otherwise.

They agree with Louise Bourgeois who said,

“An artist can show things that other people are terrified of expressing.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda made his play Hamilton into a movie to be released in theaters in October of 2021, but because of the virus, he released it on television so that millions could enjoy it. If you haven’t seen it, find a way. It is amazing and the songs stick in your head forever!

Gerhard Richter said,

“Art is the highest form of hope.”

We need hope right now more than anything else. So, I encourage you; take some time to draw, sing, paint, dance…whatever you enjoy. Watch other people share their art. Let your soul be lifted by beauty. It is not a waste of time. We have a God given need to experience beauty, now more than ever.

Let me know how you are enjoying art and what art means to the health of your soul.

Pictures: Burning Man art top, Paint by numbers, mine

Temple Art Solomon’s temple

Spiritual Practice: Listening and Learning

            Wow, it’s been an intense few weeks, hasn’t it? Black brothers and sisters are sharing their stories of pain and suffering. They are being extremely vulnerable and we honor their courage.

            In light of that, I’ve had some white male friends reaching out with questions, and I must say I’m thrilled this is happening.

            The first person asked, “Is there a place for us in the Black Lives Matter movement?” The answer is, “Yes. We are invited to the table, but not to lead, and not to dominate the discussion — but to listen and learn. Then, we are invited to help our white friends as they navigate this conversation.”

Fantastic things are coming from this. Large numbers of white people are gathering to read books by black authors and watch informative movies. Netflix and Amazon prime are highlighting these movies. Large numbers of white folks are joining protests. There will not be a race war; we will stand side by side for equality.

I think I’ve gotten an email from every business where I’ve ever purchased something telling me they support Black Lives Matter. If you want to be encouraged by an example that shows people are listening, check out https://www.babynames.com/.

            Another white friend asked if it would help to share his story of suffering at the hands of the police when he was nearly homeless and supporting himself by dumpster diving. His story was horrendous and his pain and suffering were real, but the answer was “No, not now. Maybe later.” The black community has been unheard for four hundred years. It’s time to let them speak.

            Another white friend asked if it would help to share his history of pain and suffering because of his extremely white skin. It has been very painful for him and it has affected many parts of his life. The answer again is “No, not now. Maybe later.”

            The beautiful thing about these conversations is first, they are asking! And second, they are receiving the “no” answer without flinching. They are graciously stepping back and making room for black stories to dominate. This is wonderful progress. Thank you, wonderful white brothers!

            This reminds me of the #metoo movement. I’m sure there were men who could have used the #metoo awareness to talk about being passed over at work, but they let the women speak. Because of that, things are changing. High profile rapists are now in prison, and a record number of women are now holding political office, and we are witnessing renewed progress in in women in sports and other places demanding equal pay.

            The BLM protests are already having an impact as well. Policy changes and new legislation are being passed to change the way police operate. We can hope this translates to more black people and people of color moving into leadership in all of our places of power in the nation and to changes in the prison system as well. Only if we live, work, and get to know each other as humans will we truly learn to look beyond the color of our skin.

Lantern Festival, Nevada

            When my daughter adopted a black child, I wanted it to be easy. I wanted her to be “ours.” But I have to admit, it took a while to see beyond our skin color difference. She felt “other” to me. Only as I grew to know her and love her did that “otherness” fade away and she became bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh.

When my husband’s gay colleague started inviting us to birthday parties, I wanted it to be easy, but I felt on the outside. Only as I came to know them, to rejoice over their joys, and mourn over their pain, did they cease to be my “gay friends” and just become my friends. Now they are more like family to me.

            There is another kind of listening and learning that is critical right now in our polarized nation. A conservative friend who told me via text that she disagreed with me about a social media post I made about mail-in ballots. I suggested we meet for a stroll and conversation. We had a fantastic talk and I learned things from her I didn’t know. I now understand why some folks are against mail in balloting. The sad part is that she has reached out to other friends who don’t even text back.

I would never let politics get in the way of my relationship with someone I love. We are better together, if we can listen and learn from each other.

            How are you listening and learning? We need to encourage each other. If you have questions, this is a safe place to dialogue about uncomfortable topics. I have to approve comments, so no one can attack you! Comment away.

Photos: Top Reno Black Lives Matter Vigil, mine

Photo of white man by Inzmam Khan on Pexels.com

Photo of the Lantern Festival, mine