Season’s Dreamings

These next couple weeks until Epiphany are going to include a lot of Dream-Work. I’m sifting through the messages and images and questions presented in my dreams during this Liminal time to formulate my word or phrase or token to carry with me for the coming year.

Last night’s dream:
I am on a sort of retreat with friends at a house in a little mountain town. I sleep in a cramped little chair bed, although there are plenty of spacious and comfortable beds and couches and recliners all over the house, and my neck is stiff. The basement smells like a musty bathroom. I feel like my friends are accusing me of having created the stench, but I explain that it’s because of the old pipes in the basement bathroom.

My parents have decided to come pick me up. Even though it feels a little intrusive, I am excited to see them, and grateful that they’re coming. We decide to drive around the little town. I recognize it from previous dreams. It might even be the same town from the previous night’s dream that I was so sure was Lancaster.

When we get back to the house, some distant cousins are driving up to the house. I don’t recognize them from waking life, but in the dream, they’re a close connection from childhood. They’re conservative Mennonites. Only the father of the family is wearing a mask, and I suddenly realize that I am also unmasked. As I get out of the car, the mother rushes up to hug me, and I am frantically trying to pull my shirt up over my nose. She doesn’t notice or care, and wraps me in a giant hug, but I am pulling away and trying to cover my face. They’re in a hurry to get going, so they rush off. (This is the only point in my dream where masks seem to matter.)

While we’re getting ready to go into the house, the Evangelist drives up. He’s a famous evangelical Christian evangelist (not one I recognize from waking life). He’s attractive and charming. He’s wearing a fashionably rumpled brown wool suit. It’s like someone in the 1940s might wear–like a hip and dashing college boy, not a stuffy banker. He is charming and attractive and he knows it. And he knows we know it. It’s like a private joke between us. The press are snapping pictures and yelling questions. He’s posing and vamping for the camera, cracking jokes and being charming. His hair falls just so over his forehead. Then he gets sort of quiet and serious, and says that he has predicted the exact moment of the return of Jesus. Then he goes into the house, vamping and posing all the way.

We go inside to pack up my things. I have to remember to take the artwork that’s up on top of the wardrobe. It’s a six or seven foot high piece of lace, tacked onto a wooden frame. The pattern in the lace is of Jesus, and I have painted colors onto the lace to clarify the image.

Then I wake up.

My Dream-spinner seems to have been trying to organize some thoughts about Christians. I feel like she sent me tropes, like I already know this lesson, thanks. The loving and caring plain people of my childhood are ignoring mask mandates intended to keep people safe. The evangelical evangelisti are shallow and vampy and charming. Despite my disillusionment with so many of the forms of Christianity today, I have my own carefully and artfully crafted image of Jesus that I need to remember to take with me. I’ve started with the abstract images that others have created, and have filled in the lines and colors to create an image that makes sense to me. Some of my people may think my idea of Jesus is too fragile and insubstantial, and others will think it cheesy, like a painting of Elvis on velvet, but I am fond of it, and I keep it quietly in my own room.

I need to ponder how I am also the judgmental friends, the scofflaw Mennonites, the vampy Evangelist. After the first scenes at the house where I was at the retreat, the rest of the events of the dream seemed to happen to me and around me, and I took much more of an observer role.

What threads do I pull out to keep in my Dream Bundle? What messages rise to the surface? Jesus is a pretty strong thread. Community in many forms (with my friends, my family, the long-ago childhood connections, the town, the media). There’s the Charming but Shallow Evangelist (I think this is a message about my Leo energy).


“Stay close to those who sing, tell stories, and enjoy life, and whose eyes sparkle with happiness. Because happiness is contagious and will always manage to find a solution, whereas logic can find only an explanation for the mistake made.” —Paulo Coelho


“Souls love. That’s what souls do. Egos don’t, but souls do. Become a soul, look around, and you’ll be amazed —all the beings around you are souls. Be one, see one. When many people have this heart connection, then we will know that we are all one, we human beings all over the planet. We will be one. One love. And don’t leave out the animals, and trees, and clouds, and galaxies—it’s all one. It’s one energy.” —Ram Dass


“We’re all just walking each other home.” —Ram Dass (1931-2019)


“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” —Ram Dass


“It is important to expect nothing, to take every experience, including the negative ones, as merely steps on the path, and to proceed.” —Ram Dass


“Your problem is you’re… too busy holding onto your unworthiness.” —Ram Dass


“Only that in you which is me can hear what I’m saying.” —Ram Dass


“We’re fascinated by the words, but where we meet is in the silence behind them.” —Ram Dass


“Start from where you are—not where you wish you were. The work you’re doing becomes your path.” —Ram Dass


“We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.”
―Jonathan Gottschall


“We enter solitude, in which also we lose loneliness. True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation. One’s inner voices become audible. One feels the attraction of one’s most intimate sources. In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives. The more coherent one becomes within oneself as a creature, the more fully one enters into the communion of all creatures.” —Wendell Berry


“Sincerity? I can fake that.” —Hawkeye Pierce


“There is a way of beholding nature that is in itself a form of prayer.” —Diane Ackerman


“The best way to know God is to love many things.”
―Vincent van Gogh

Shouldn’t Be Surprised

Why am I surprised? Why am I always surprised?

After four years of watching people I thought were philosophically and spiritually interested in wisdom and truth and justice cast off their moral and ethical clothing, shed their philosophical and ideological grounding, I shouldn’t be shocked at the callousness and cruelty, the active denialism and cult-like disengagement with humanity. But I am. I expected people to be better, and I keep holding out hope that the cruelty and denialism have just been glitches.

But I don’t think so.

People who railed against the “holocaust” of children represented by the seed of life in a zygote have been shrugging their shoulders when born children are torn from their parents’ arms and locked in cages–ill-fed, cold, untended, subject to sexual abuse.

People who spoke fervently and passionately about a fertilized egg’s right to life are actively fighting against programs which offer health care and living wages to the families of born children.

People who called themselves pro-life, who dogmatically claimed to stand for the tiniest little possibility of living humanity in a fetus, saying, “It’s only old people who are dying.” Refusing to wear a mask because it somehow infringes on their rights, when wearing that mask could be the difference between life and death for someone they expose.

People who seemed like educated, thoughtful adults absolutely denying the science and the demographics and the numbers of a disease that is killing thousands of people every day, actively passing on the outright lies.

People who talked about a gospel of “Good News” for all the world, ignoring the suffering of a world in the grip of a global pandemic. Laughing at people who take it seriously, scoffing at mitigation efforts, actively encouraging others to behave in dangerous and irresponsible ways.

I have known that there were nominal Christians who fought for power and wealth and white supremacy instead of Goodness and Love and Peace. That’s nothing new. And there are plenty of Christians who are acting like they care about Jesus, who are standing for justice and caring about life. I guess I just thought there would be more who, when confronted with real life-or-death situations–with a global pandemic, with a profane president, with a world of suffering–would actually decide to walk humbly with Jesus, to do justice, and to love mercy.

Rivers of Life


I carefully outlined the significant stages of my life, but somehow forgot to put my 18-22 section on there–and that was a SIGNIFICANT part of my life. It’s where I met Jon, where I met my lifelong friends. Where I learned to hold on to love even through a rough patch. I want to remake it in paint or colored pencils.

I am pretty strongly anti-established-religion. White Christian evangelicals in the US today are complicit with such great evils that I want nothing to do with them. I see people who say they follow the way of Jesus shrugging their shoulders and ignoring the pain of children torn from their parents by a government they support. I see them rabidly calling for more ill-treatment of people seeking asylum at our borders. I see them fighting for systems and policies that further marginalize people who are ill and struggling with poverty. I see them speaking with vitriol and rancor toward people of color, LGBTQ people, women, people from other countries. The list goes on.

There’s a quotation, often attributed to Gandhi (though perhaps erroneously), that goes: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” I’m a fan of Jesus, too. I just don’t like a lot of the people who claim him. I don’t think it’s possible to really “get” who Jesus was and support a political administration that tears families apart, that regularly spews such racist and xenophobic and homophobic and misogynist hatred. I sound really judgey here, and I try hard not to be judgey, but I can’t withhold my judgement at times of great injustice and destruction.

On the other hand, I love a lot of Christians. In fact, despite its harsh beginning, this post is really about a church that I love, a place where I–with all my wild, witchy, unsettled, doubtful, defiant, questioning universalism–can feel belonging. We’re all welcome in this place, and questions are blessed, and crunchy feelings are held and observed together. Some people use very specific God-language that I couldn’t bring out of my own mouth, but I don’t feel uncomfortable because my own non-specific and outside-the-box language is accepted, too. I am not the only one who calls the Holy One by the name of Mystery. And I don’t want to be in a place where everyone believes exactly the same thing–just a place like this, where Love is the guiding principle.

And we sing together. And we make art. And we talk and dream and stand up to the powers together. We talk earnestly with each other and we laugh together, and cry. Our children feel safe and loved. It’s Real Church. It’s good community. I am grateful for each of the individuals who make up the circle of us.

Gratitude List:
1. Making collages with Chloe and Monica and the others this weekend at camp. Drawing the Rivers of our Lives with Josiah and Andrea and Maggie. Soulful art-making.
2. Storytelling. Vulnerable, life-affirming, tear-filled, laughter-filled, life-sharing storytelling.
3. Fudgy chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. I have severely curtailed my sweets intake in the past month, and I don’t let myself eat sugary things unless I am absolutely sure it will be worth it. This cake was completely worth it.
4. Christine’s Box of Tea. I tried the Stash Chocolate Hazelnut, which was sublime.
5. We are in the Golden Season: Goldenrod, sunflowers, slanting sunlight in the afternoons, Jerusalem artichokes, yellow walnut leaves. Glorious golden! Now for some coolness, please?

May we walk in Beauty!


“None of us are getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an afterthought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There’s no time for anything else.” —Christopher Walken
*****
“Who has not sat before his own heart’s curtain? It lifts, and the scenery is falling apart.”
—Rainer Maria Rilke
*****
“The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance.” —David Whyte
*****
“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its’ imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them.” —Annie Dillard
*****
“Forms are the symbols of formless divine principles; symbolism is the language of nature.”
—Manly P. Hall
*****
“One cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning; for what was great in the morning will be of little importance in the evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening become a lie.” —C. G. Jung
*****
From Omid Safi:
The great mystic Zol Nun (Dhu ‘l-Nun) met a woman at the sea shore.

He asked her: “What is the end of love?” She answered: “O simpleton, love has no end.”

He asked why.
She said: “Because God, the Beloved, has no end.”
*****
“Whenever one person stands up and says, ‘Wait a minute, this is wrong,’ it helps other people do the same.“ —Gloria Steinem
*****
In the silence before time began, in the quiet of the womb,
in the stillness of early morning is your beauty.
At the heart of all creation,
at the birth of every creature,
at the centre of each moment
is your splendour.
Rekindle in me the sparks of your beauty
that I may be part of the splendour of this moment. Rekindle in me the sparks of your beauty
that I may be part of the blazing splendour
that burns from the heart of this moment. —John Philip Newell
*****
Hafiz:
“I wish I could show you,
when you are lonely or in darkness,
the Astonishing Light
of your own Being.”
*****
“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution” —Emma Goldman

Walking Around Shining


Handsome.

I have an uneasy relationship with the first part of the Bible. I am not a friend of the deity who calls on a nation to enter a land and slaughter everyone, except for the virgins that the marauders want to take for themselves. The height of hypocrisy, in my opinion, is the Christians who pull violent quotes out of the Quran to prove that Islam is a religion of violence, when I could show you many verses in the Judeo-Christian book that show a Divine Force calling for genocide. Thank goodness, we have a little space for interpretation in our holy texts. Jewish people find the God of Love in their text, a God who cares for the people and the land. Christians find a God who sends God’s child in human form to teach the people to Love, Muslims find a prophet who tells them that doing good works is pleasing to Allah.

So here, in my list today, is a quotation from Deuteronomy, one of the books I tend to avoid, because it’s in some of those early books where we find an Accounting God, who keeps close record of every little infraction in order to prove you’re not worthy. And this is a total proof-text, I suppose, because it’s prophet speaking, and I am using it as a self-blessing.  The sentiment is beautiful, and a blessing to teachers who want their work to be about nurture and development and growth. We use texts for our own purposes, and find in them what we need. There’s danger in that, that we twist and manipulate words and ideas. Still, it’s often how we meet texts: we find that which applies to our own story, and say, “Yes! This!”


“Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.” —Deuteronomy 32:2
*
“There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.” —Thomas Merton (Oh, but I am going to try, Thomas Merton. I am going to try.)
*
Deep breath.
Straighten the spine.
Scan the wide vista before you.
Feel the morning breeze
as the sun rises
over the far horizon.
Another deep breath.
Spread your wings.
Leap.
—Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“It is better to err on the side of daring than the side of caution.”
—Alvin Toffler
*
“What comes, will go. What is found, will be lost again.
But what you are is beyond coming and going and beyond description.
You are It.”
—Rumi
*
“Though my soul may set in darkness
it will rise in perfect light.
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”
—Attributed to Galileo
*
“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” —from The Talmud
*
“An artist is a dreamer consenting to dream of the actual world.”
—George Santayana


Gratitude List:
1. The day ahead
2. The day behind
3. This moment where I sit
4. Work that is Work
5. Dreams

May we walk in Beauty!