Giving of Ourselves

In Matthew 6:1, Jesus says:

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. [NIV]

But when the poor widow imposes herself as the rich make their donations to the temple treasury, Jesus celebrates her act with [Luke 21:3]:

Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them.

Jesus justifies his opinion in financial terms: the widow’s gift was a far larger part of her wealth than were the larger contributions of the wealthy. But why does that make a difference?

I was asked one Sunday to help with the collection. When the time came to combine the plates, I found myself under a strange compulsion, and arranged matters so that the collection ended up in my hands. The deacon was a little piqued when I carried the plate up to the front of the hall. As I set it on the table, my hands hovered over it, and I felt the angel thoughts rising up out of it. On a later occasion, when I did this while the minister held the collection, I felt one wing through my chest.

In Genesis, it is said that God made us in his image. We know that the Almighty does his work in love, so one way of understanding that likeness is that we are designed so that actions taken in love are far more powerful than those done selfishly.

I think that this is why Jesus celebrates the widow. We might wonder why she made this offering: it could have been as a political statement, a reminder to the rich of why they gave. Perhaps she had longed all her life to make a contribution, and in her last days, took her wealth to the temple in gratitude for God’s provision through the Law. Or perhaps she had woken that morning with Jesus’ voice in her ears, telling her to seek under a stone for two copper coins to bring to the temple.

Whatever the reason, I believe that Jesus is recognizing that her intentions would take root in the entire collection. The rich put nothing of themselves into the treasury, because their interest was in their own image. Once the money was surrendered, they walked off with their pride. The widow, though, brought her obedience, her gratitude and her thoughts for those in greater need.  In that surrender, she invested those intentions in the entire offering. No one touching it could avoid being influenced by those impulses.

When I give money, I always give to a charitable organization. I know that many among the poor lack discipline, and so direct donations of cash can be a temptation. But when asked by a homeless person to give, I never sneer. I smile, and apologize without explanation. As I pass, my thoughts linger on them, tendering silently my hope that they will find strength and assistance that will allow them to find the security, hope and opportunity to provide for themselves.

Walking with Grace

Reply to this post by Caralyn out at Beauty Beyond Bones:


Hey, Caralyn-

Great post. I hope that somebody takes the time to stop you on the street and share what a light you are. I know that you get that here, but sometimes that affirmation doesn’t transfer until it’s expressed in the specific context.

This came to mind: a friend told me that one day she saw Princess Diana walking from her hotel to a limo in NYC. Diana stopped and simply waved her hand slowly along the street. My friend said that she felt the grace wash over her.

We can do that. We can call God into the world and allow his love to wash over others in a way that they can feel palpably. The trick is to only let go of the angels that are guided by our love when they land on somebody that will employ them to love others. Otherwise we need to pull them back into our hearts. As they come to trust our judgment with greater and greater certainty, they gather around us more densely. This is what Jesus meant when he said “To those that have, more will be given. And to those that have not, even what they have will be taken from them.”

I realize that for women this can be a little like walking off the end of the pier. Some men will misinterpret. But you don’t have to be visible to make it happen. You can be looking out a window, riding by in a car, or passing in a train.

I hope that you don’t mind my writing a sermon. I know that you’ve experienced this. I just want others to join in the process. When the joining of our little bubbles persists, the world will be changed. People will realize that they have a choice between the pain of the world the live in and the joy that surrounds those blessed by grace (which is to be given the support of angels in loving others).

Wishing joy, grace and love upon you in all things,

Brian

Rebuking Rebuke

Response to a post on the Archangel Michael by IB:


I have this wisdom from Jakob Boehme taped across the top of my monitor at work:

If you ask why the Spirit of Love cannot be displeased, cannot be disappointed, cannot complain, accuse, resent or murmur, it is because the Spirit of Love desires nothing but itself.

Mi-ke-el translates roughly as “seeker of the godly.” I would guess that in most cases the fear felt by others was fear of self-knowledge – of their distance and isolation from God. Even worse, perhaps that the seeker Michael would penetrate the fortress of personality that guards what little of God remains in us, and thus bring about the loss even of that portion.

The ultimate rebuke of love is for the sinner to become aware of how badly they have hurt themselves. It is to gently show them what they could be if only they surrendered self-love and accepted the gift of love that is tendered from the Divine Source. So when I see someone pointing a finger of condemnation, I always look at their faces and body language. Are they hurting themselves with their rebuke? If so, I tend to question their motives.

I see this as being very much of a piece with your post yesterday. Well done.

Presenting Ourselves

When Parashakti runs her Dance of Liberation workshops down at LA Ecstatic Dance, she begins by facilitating the pairing of spirit buddies. While my first experience with her was pretty intense, more recently I’ve been working in service to others. That means that I am chosen, more often than choosing, when she finally says: “Look around and find a spirit buddy, someone close to you. Once you’ve found them, describe your intention for this dance.”

So I pivoted slowly and found myself hooked on the eyes of the really pretty woman, standing tall enough to almost cover my chin. Another gentleman tried to step between us, but she raised her hand to gesture to me.

I’ve never heard such a strongly worded statement of intention. It went on for nearly ten seconds as she spoke about preparing herself in this year to let love flow through her and into the world around her. I brought it to a close by holding my hands over her shoulders and then lowering them until they hovered over her chest, encouraging my angels to fill her heart to the brim. “Thank-you,” she murmured.

“That’s my intention.” Parashakti then told us to stand back-to-back. Feeling that I wasn’t quite connecting with my partner, I tilted my head back until it contacted her crown. She nestled in a little more closely.

I had been right behind her as we danced a circle earlier in the ritual, and had noticed her hands moving as though warding the space around her head. Asthe blindfolds went on, that image came back to me, and after the closing circle thirty minutes later, I told her that I had received something to share with her.

She was the object of a lot of masculine attention during the open dance, and I half expected her to avoid me. But forty minutes in she took a break for water, and gazed pointedly at me. I guided her into a corner, leaning in close to block the pressure of the music, and began, “Our culture projects a lot of ideas that negate a woman.”

“What?”

Not sure whether she was just buying time to process what I had said, I repeated myself. “When you were dancing next to me before the ritual, I noticed you doing a lot of work with your hands around your head, as though you were warding things away.” Stretching my right hand to touch the heavens, “We tend to look to each other for validation, but there is a source of eternal truth.” Hesitantly, I moved my hand closer to her crown, gauging her reaction. “I was offered a message from them: they want you to know that they are reaching out to you.” She just gazed at me, frozen. “When I went through this process, I had to surrender my thoughts and let my heart guide me.” I reached out with my left hand, palm upwards, and envisioned cupping her heart in it. “I had to let my heart energy rise until it merged with my mind.” Raising my left hand until it was just under her chin, I concluded “The heart guides the head, and the head protects the heart.”

I was shirtless and slimy with sweat, so she embraced the air around me, murmuring “Thank-you, thank-you so much,” fleeing and returning two or three times before returning to the floor.

She continued to be popular on the floor, mostly among the younger men that I can now only join briefly in frenzy. I worked the room in my usual manner, spreading joy and tenderness where it was accepted, but really wearing down at the end. As the afternoon drew to a close, I sat on the floor to down dinner, watching as she was intercepted by man after man. Getting up to change clothes for Contact Improv, I came back to sort through my backpack and offer my gratitude to Ataseia. She passed by and I caught her eye. “One more thing.”

She didn’t hesitate. “What you said earlier explained a lot to me about myself as a woman.”

Thinking of her confidence on the dance floor, “Yes, I could see that. But the challenge is hanging on to it. We have to stay focused on them. They have their own purpose, and if we fail in our devotion, they tend to wander away.”

She leaned into the frame of the closed doors, hands clasped before her. That wasn’t what she expected. But her lips offered a gentle bow of curiosity.

“You projected a great deal of positive energy into the room today, but when you began to dance with a man, it turned inwards. I could see you winding inwards, and the source of that energy was left adrift.”

She stopped to reflect, and voiced her agreement.

“If we want to hang on to them, we can’t do that. We have to present ourselves, and wait for the other person to open to us in turn. It’s not a winding into, it’s an expanding through.” She looked uncertain, so I reached out to cup understanding in my right hand, brushing it gently across her.

“I’m not sure that I understand.”

I stepped back. “I present myself. All of myself. And if you respond, I come closer, not directly, but slowly spiraling as my angels introduce themselves to your angels. It’s not always pleasant – some things really don’t belong together. But that’s what we do here. You danced with a lot of people today, as did I. We gently join our personalities, and then the magic happens. We go out into the world and draw upon our shared wisdom and energy.

“But we shouldn’t make too much of that. We need to stay devoted to ourselves, waiting for that encounter to which all of us announces ‘yes!'”

She raised her hand tentatively to demonstrate her understanding. Her eyes narrowed as my entourage resisted her, and I caught them sending “Not without our permission.”

We embrace twice, and she departed with a wistful “Maybe I’ll see you next time.”

“I look forward to it.”

Being Atypical

I met a new friend today who blogs as Anonymously Autistic. She writes honestly and openly about the challenges of adapting to the world of conventional interaction. I have had my own struggles in this regard. After listening to Amythest Schaber’s testimony of a life spent learning to love herself, the following experiences came to mind. I don’t know if they will resonate with those that are autistic, but I offer them in that hope.

When I went through the darkest part of my life, I went through six jobs in eight years. Job six was a bail-out from my scientific peers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. It required me to move away from my sons, which was difficult for me.

The interview was not attended by one of the program principals, who was away on travel. He actually drove down Interstate Five to my house (rather than flying) to converse with me. He said something unusual at the time – he said that I have “presence,” comparing me to the great singers that he had worked with as a member of the San Francisco choir. It was the first time anyone had been that direct with me.

The team I had joined worked with a community of information security specialists in the federal government. When the director brought her team out for a program review, we gathered at a winery so that they could meet me (I had not completed my security clearance, and so was not part of the review). When we had been introduced, we collected around the table and my friend, noticing the reactions of the team, suggested “One of the characteristics of autistic people is that they have trouble with personal boundaries.”

Both characterizations surprised the hell out of me. I have since recalled the young lady in college that, after our introduction, held on to my hand and laughed, “You are incredibly dense.” When I protested, she clarified, “No, not stupid, just – DENSE.” In fact, I didn’t encounter somebody that could roil my waters until after I was forty.

Amythest talks about dancing with her hands, and I think that I know what she is talking about. When I was in junior high school, at the dances I would enter into a trance-like state, dancing with an energy that the other students found hilarious if not disturbing. I have since learned to manage that focus. The way that I characterize it, to those that ask me how I dance as well as I do, is that my Higher Self is looking down on me. I actually don’t know what the heck I am doing, and could not possibly reproduce it later. But afterwards people go out of their way to tell me that I am a great dancer.

The point that I am working towards is that when I became aware of how much spiritual energy I was managing (that “density” mentioned by the coed), I spent a couple of years trying to organize it. I began to have burning pains in my sides (often reported by those with shingles) and burning at the base of my skull. When I focused on those side-effects, I realized that I was trying to channel spiritual energy through physical constructs that were simply incapable of handling the load. It was like trying to run 30 Amps of current through a wire rated for 20 Amps. In that instant, I simply shifted the flow out of my brain, and began to work directly with the spiritual structures that generated it.

Amethyst talks about the enormous depth of the love that she feels. My experience causes me to wonder if she isn’t an angel trying to squeeze herself into a representation that people can relate to. Part of that includes forcing her to engage them in the normal way. If she’s in any way like me, however, that’s just not going to work. There’s too much energy in her soul, and it overwhelms her physical apparatus. She needs to find things like ecosystems and cultural moires to channel it into.

The Soul of Technology

My father, once holder of an open fascination with Darth Vader as the ultimate integration of man and machine, for many years sought to keep me focused on technology by disputing the validity of my spiritual experience. He’s mellowing in the last few months of his life, and we’ve had some great conversations. Sunday afternoon’s brought us around to Elon Musk’s ambition to terraform Mars. He asked my opinion of the idea, and I said that I felt a certain sympathy for Mr. Musk. I countered the claim that we needed an escape route from the mess that we were making of Earth. We’re going to have to solve our problems here, and when we do, the personality of Mr. Musk – from wherever it is at that point – is going to look back on this life and say “Wow. What a boondoggle that was! What a complete waste of my time!” He seems like a man with good intentions, and I’d just like for him to be able to look back and be proud of what he has accomplished.

When I was blogging out at Gaia, one of the most persistent voices in the “Question of the Day” group was a Kiwi nearing the end of his life. Every question produced a number of lengthy posts on the same topic: the necessity of investment in digital technologies that would allow us to monitor everything, and then to link the information to a master control system that would ensure the well-being of everyone on earth. When pressed, he claimed that this was important to him because if it didn’t happen really soon, he knew that he wouldn’t be able to live forever. I offered him the observation that he seemed to need God so deeply that he believe that mankind must create him.

The protagonist in both Ma and Golem is an alien named Corin Taphinal, come to Earth to try to protect life from destruction at humanity’s hands. He describes the situation this way:

The digital technology of [Earth’s] civilization had fascinated him. It was based upon the conversion of the most mystically inert substance in the universe – amorphous silicon – into precisely contaminated crystals. Its proponents spoke of blanketing the globe in digital sensors, constructing communications networks and data centers to aggregate the data, and the development of expert systems algorithms to assure the stability of human communities in the face of massive ecosystem disruption.

Why, in the name of all that was sacred, would anyone choose such methods? Over billions of years, the insinuation of Life into any planet’s surface established a far more sensitive and detailed sensory apparatus, supported by the most widely and freely distributed source of energy available, with representatives far better adapted to local conditions than people.

With this background, you might ask, “Why, Brian, do you work in technology?” Is it just to pay the bills?

I’ll protest my own rhetoric: that’s just going too far. Just because I don’t believe that technology is the ultimate solution to our problems doesn’t mean that I don’t find merit in its pursuit.

First, the world is an unstable place. I’m not just talking about natural disasters: for large parts of the year, seasonal variation makes life pretty tough for most animals. Technology stabilizes local conditions, allowing us to focus on developing our personalities. I appreciate that I don’t have to think full-time about weather, but can rely upon sensors and actuators controlled by computers to do it for me. That our solutions are making the challenge more difficult (global climate change) doesn’t mean that the technology isn’t valuable. The problem is that most of us, rather than developing our personalities, use our freedom from existential threat to indulge our procreative urges.

The solution to that is education. While knowledge is dangerous (life is incredibly vulnerable in engineering terms), I believe that understanding empowers us to make far better choices. We know that when the value of a woman’s mind has been affirmed through education they become pretty determined to limit the number of their children. The response of traditionalists has been to beat women down with fear. In that case, the best means of breaking down the rationale of political demagogues is disintermediation: bringing people together to demonstrate that the “enemy” is a lot like us. Communications technology addresses both of these problems, providing open access to knowledge in the privacy of the home and bridging the distance that separates us.

And finally – motivating my particular fascination with programming – software rescues philosophy from academic obscurity. The purpose of philosophy is to strengthen our ability to describe experience and thus to negotiate solutions. Through linkage to our financial and industrial infrastructure, software allows us almost instantly to express the solutions we negotiate. That is not just a one-off experience when (as in object-oriented design or COBOL) the software is defined using terms understood in the application domain. These act as sign-posts for the maintenance developer given the task of implementing new requirements.

I spoke, however, of rescuing philosophy, and I mean that. Software encodes philosophy, not as a book on a shelf, but as an agent for delivering solutions to the philosopher’s constituency. With the Affordable Health Care Act, software allowed us to implement social programs, assess their effectiveness, and adjust the rules to achieve better results. This is a demanding test of our philosophy, both as regards the degree in which they reflect the truth, and its value in organizing the use of our intelligence when conditions change.

As I have offered before (see The Trust Mind), I believe that eventually we will be freed from the material infrastructure we use to distribute power. However, as I see the long period from the Covenant of the Flood (in which humanity was authorized to create Law) to Jesus as an exercise in demonstrating the fallibility of fixed systems of rules, so I see this era (as articulated by Jeremy Rifkin in The Empathic Civilization) as a proving ground for our compassion. As technology accelerates the pace of change and resources become more and more scarce, only ideas of real merit will survive. Every thinking being will be confronted with the necessity of disciplining his thoughts.

While the demagogues continue to rant and rave on television, conditions are evolving under which every individual will find such blathering contradicted by direct personal experience. Then we will progress beyond the “birthing pains” mentioned by Jesus into the full flowering of the influence of Christ in our lives. When our ideas are angelic, they will be received and implemented by angels. Life will be vastly different then, and our digital infrastructure, with all its energetic excess, will largely fall away.

I see my work as intimately connected to the manifestation of that future. My work in motion control creates systems that relieve people of drudgery, thus liberating their energies for mindful and compassionate engagement with the world around them. My work in as a software developer builds discipline that is essential in organizing and propagating ideas that I believe are of merit. It’s not enough that those ideas are clever – they actually have to work.

Women: Being Loved by Christ

When Jesus first taught in the synagogue in Jerusalem, his neighbors received him with skepticism verging on outrage [NIV Mark 6:2-6]:

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

This contrasts with the events just prior with a woman who had bled for twelves years, and was healed simply by touching Jesus’s clothes. Shocked by the experience, the woman hid in the crowd, but Jesus persisted [NIV Mark 5:33-34]:

Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

How does this work, spiritually? The aura that forms around the head of a saint is generated by souls pressing against their minds in the hope of discovering meaning and purpose. Meaning and purpose are discovered most readily in the saint because they have surrendered themselves to love of the world, and the world in turn reveals itself to saint’s examination. It is as said by Tagore:

Power said to the World, “You are mine.”
The World kept it prisoner on her throne.
Love said to the World, “I am yours.”
The World gave it the freedom of her house.

The saint looks into the world and sees its spiritual needs. Among the souls that surround the saint are such that can fulfill those needs. The saint has the privilege of facilitating the union of the two parties. But where the party in the world (the soul currently “living”) seeks instead power, the union fails. The souls choose to remain to the company of the saint. That saint, honoring the compact of their company, accepts them back.

Spiritual union can be ravishing, having many of the aspects of intercourse. For this reason, Catholic nuns once referred to themselves as “brides of Christ.” But the union can be a tenuous thing. If Jesus had not been present to voice his approval, would the hemophiliac woman have maintained her cure?

When I encounter woman struggling with this dynamic, I offer the encouragement, “Believe in yourself!” There are angels in the air wishing to enter into you to heal the world. Yes, it feels wonderfully sensual, but you don’t need sex to receive them. You don’t need the approval of a father. Spirits becoming angels yearn only for the spiritual union we know as “Christ” that found its steward when Jesus took up the cross. To receive them, you need only their approval, an approval gained most powerfully through a commitment to love and heal the world.

Why God Is Love

As a man of faith, my greatest challenge is seeing selfish behavior validated in the world of things. In the extreme case, the perpetrator of psychological abuse secretly withholds resources from the victim, blames others, and then meters out sustenance while saying “You’re so worthless. Nobody will ever love you like I do.” As a result, many victims actually identify with their abusers and seek to protect them from the authorities.

How can the victim see past that trap? Typically, it’s by looking at the circumstances of their abuser. People that love us share their power with us. If we are truly loved, we should feel stronger every day.

So let’s now step back and take the long view of this process – the process of merging our souls into heaven. This is described in all of the great religious traditions. But should we seek that so eagerly? Heaven is described as a place of love, but why should it be that way?

We know that there is conflict there: Lucifer rebelled against God. So could heaven not be a place just like Earth, with different types of pain, the pain of angels struggling against each other?

Imagine the evolution of the angels. Did they have wars and battles before love ruled the heavens? If so, why did they choose, ultimately, to submit to Unconditional Love?

To understand this, we have to recognize the difference between angels and us. Angels are beings of pure spirit. They relate to each other not through the exchange of material objects, but through interpenetration of their spirits. It is impossible for an angel to destroy another angel, only for one to suborn another’s will to their own. So naturally, selfish angels would want to establish boundaries that kept their captives from having the opportunity to join another personality.

Then along comes Unconditional Love. Love says, as I explained above, “Let me create strength in you.” What an attractive proposition! Who could resist it? But unconditional love goes beyond that. It says “I love everything equally, and want nothing for myself.” So the selfish angel, in serving only itself, must push away unconditional love, thus losing the benefits of its power. The alternative is to be infected by Unconditional Love, and thus to submit to the re-organization and eventual liberation of its captives.

Is renouncing love that a big deal? Maybe not initially, but you see all those smaller angels now find a place of refuge inside unconditional love. It enters into them and says: “Look, if you join with this other angel, you’ll be more powerful.” Unconditional Love is a restless seeking to find strength in the other angels. As that occurs, the angels that submit to its tutelage become more and more powerful.

In the warring regions of heaven, parts are broken off from the combatants, and some turn to Unconditional Love as a refuge. The most aggressive angels, to penetrate that refuge, must allow themselves to be infected by unconditional love. If they manage to seize part of the community of Unconditional Love, the lost part immediately withers and loses its vitality. Fighting against Unconditional Love is a losing proposition all the way.

So in the realm of the angels, once Unconditional Love came into being, there was no sensible angel that would resist its ministrations, no selfish angel that would survive an assault on it, and no conflict between angels that would not liberate pieces to join Unconditional Love. In the end, the corporate personality of heaven had to be ruled by love.

As we will be here on Earth, at least once enough of us realize that the soul is what matters most.

Who Is in Charge Here?

A common motif in corporate management is the analogy of competition as a sport. A certain visceral energy comes into a community of people when they stand over their fallen enemies.

One of the challenges employers have in managing me is that I recognize the fundamental nature of that experience: the energy comes from feasting on the spirits of our foes. It’s literally vampirism. It’s wrong, and I refuse to participate.

A survey of the lives of prominent business and political leaders reveals a trend – not universal, but powerful: many of them crave attention. They are needy. They are unable to bring energy from within, and so must consume that produced by others. This creates conditions in which the culture of our organizations is not controlled by the needs of its constituency (workers and customers), but by the personal needs of its psychologically neediest members.

This is not an abstract problem. It severely damaged America during the terms of Presidents 42 and 43: Clinton hungered for the attention of women, and his indiscretion led to wasteful impeachment proceedings. W hungered for a father, and his need to outdo Bush Sr. in the Gulf lead to rash decision-making that cost the nation trillions of dollars and tens of thousands of ruined lives.

Why does that happen? Why do we allow these men (in many cases, empower them) to run our lives?

This is, in fact, the central conundrum of the Bible, starting with Cain and ending with Christ. Some women think of Christianity as a “men’s club”, but I don’t see it as something to be proud of. The Bible focuses on men because our weakness is the greatest problem to success in the mission we have been given.

When John is invited into heaven (Revelation 4), he encounters twenty-four “elders” celebrating the presence of unconditional love in their midst. Twelve are identified as the patron angels of Israel; the other twelve are encountered in the tiara of the holy mother who comes to bring the savior to humanity. So in heaven, there is a balance between the masculine and feminine angels.

Why don’t we feel the presence of those angels? The intimacy of their involvement with the doings of Earth is described so beautifully by John [Rev. 4:9-10] (emphasis added):

And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever

In reading this, I have the image of a great welling up from all the living things of the Earth: the animals, plants, fungus, even the bacteria. This welling up travels up through the souls of the elders where it literally forces them to their knees in praise.

But after Eden, humanity was placed under quarantine. We are not allowed to participate in this upwelling, for as it says [Gen 3.24]:

He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Being cut off in this way, our experience of life is dominated by the material world, and predominantly by the fear of death. When wielding fear to control others, men, whose natural participation with the creation of life is so distant, have less compunction than women. Too often, those that cherish life submit to the terrorism of aggressive men.

What Jesus demonstrated to us was the power that is available to us when we relinquish fear. It is to enter again into that upwelling, and with disciplined minds not only not to pollute it, but moreso to help to channel it. In so doing, we are embraced and sustained by it, just as Jesus was. It is this channeling, and not physical control, that was meant in Genesis 1:28:

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.

In that divine relationship, the power of love sweeps all else before it. I once had an employer tell me that I was a “free spirit.” Not at all: I am constrained to avoid the use of fear, which in this world is to surrender power over people. But in surrendering that power, I have submitted to the purposes of a power that overwhelms all others, and so I cannot be turned by fear as others are turned.

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. [Matt. 7:13-14]

Happy, Happy

I usually spend the Christmas season listening to Sarah McClachlan’s Wintersong, over and over again. This year, I couldn’t put my hands on it. I finally went down to Barnes and Noble this weekend to look for a replacement copy. The clerk shared that there was one copy in the store, but it was on hold. I promised him that I’d be the vulture in the racks in the hope that it would go unpurchased.

Sarah is my favorite muse of the soul. I went to see her live in concert at the Nokia Center a couple of years ago. Part of her way of connecting with the audience is to read notes out of a hat. They were pretty standard party fare, the most scurrilous being whether she goes “commando” on stage. Sarah was really patient.

She had just authorized the use of “In the Arms of the Angel” for the animal rescue centers. During her request that we make a donation to that community, Sarah told us that, much as she would like to respond to our questions, the entire band was wearing ear-plug monitors, and couldn’t hear anything that we were saying.

After the pitch for the animal rescue shelters, I focused my thoughts and said “Thank-you”. She almost jumped out of her skin. It was obvious to me that we share a connection somehow.

Sarah was going through a troubled time. Her husband had filed for divorce, and her children were travelling with the band. The next day I went out to her web site and posted a note to her, saying all the things that I wished I had been present enough to put into the hat for her.

I picked up Mirrorball maybe eight years ago, and it’s been a really powerful tool for me, rivalled in that sense only by Snatam Kaur’s Essentials. Kaur’s work is beautifully devotional, but Sarah gets really in deep with people’s pain. I don’t know how she processes it. It’s like a key for me when I’m in contact with people carrying deep psychic wounds. Even more, Sarah does it without bitterness. Almost all of Mirrorball sees life as a struggle that reveals the hope for grace in all of the participants.

So I offered her my perception that, if she would only recognize the healing forces that swirled around her, she might have some really beautiful experiences.

Last night, I had a strong urge to go back out to Barnes and Noble, and discovered that the CD was back on the racks. Happy, Happy!

I don’t know what possessed Sarah to create Wintersong in 2006. Most pop Christmas albums focus on the joy of the holiday season, but Wintersong is powerfully devotional, and not at all derivative. She sets “Noel” to the beat of African drums, and weaves it with “Mary, Mary” as a spiritual set to lute. “Wintersong” and “Song for a Winter’s Night” are originals that capture so beautifully the bittersweet feeling of being without the one we love on Christmas.

I’m listening now to “Little Town of Bethlehem”, and the rendering of “No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin, Where meek souls will receive him still, Dear Christ enters in” still brings tears to my eyes, even after four years of listening.

So what if it’s not party music? I don’t know why it hurts so much, but it’s a gift, Sarah, that I know leads me into the joy of healing.

Thank-you.