Random Acts of Grace

While the material aspects of existence have been troubling, over the last four months I’ve had sublime experiences in the spiritual realm.

Since starting hypnotherapy full-time in January, the practice has been a financial disaster. I won’t go into the details, except to say that it appears that destiny is testing my commitment. By stretching out my credit cards and pulling down my 401(k), I should be able to make it through to September, at which point I’m going to have to throw myself on the mercy of strangers.

But hypnotherapy is only a metaphor for the greater work, and having freed myself from the projections of anger and greed contingent upon my employment, what emanates from me now stimulates grace-filled events.

When walking to Ecstatic Dance LA on Easter, a drunken youth waiting with three friends at a bus stop calls upon me for a blessing.

During a conversation with a new friend, I ask if she would mind if I projected the song she had offered to play for me. It resonates powerfully on the right side of my mind, and my female friends in the office building whisper and bow their heads to me the next day.

Having overcome the political cabal that has sought to suppress my business, female friends start showing up at Dance Tribe on Sunday. In the early morning hours, I have a terrible dream about trying to research hypnotherapy on the web. While one of them waits in the background as a passive support, I can’t type the terms into the search box. Another female presence tries to push me toward her, but I cry out to heaven, “Father! Help me! I can’t do it any more!” I wake up and announce to the air “You’re just trying to beat me down,” while I fix my attention on the female Chinese hypnotherapists that had set up the scenario.

And again today at Ecstatic Dance LA, where on Easter I first called the Tree of Life from the center of the floor. A graceful young beauty appears for the first time. She assumes that I’m trying to seduce her until I project that I’ve got far more important things to worry about. We skirt each other for two hours until the end of the dance, when I hold space for her as she winds herself into my energy. Assured, I reach down and raise the Tree of Life over the gathering. While I project the broad canopy from my outstretched palms, she starts to dip toward the floor before flinging her arm imperiously upward. And suddenly my heart cracks open and I scream in grief – two long agonizing cries before I realize that multitudes of men are escaping my heart. Men that died for love, now seeking healing among the leaves.

I guess that I’ve got your attention, ladies. What happens next?

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,


Perfect Time

Sister Gloria chose the transfiguration [Luke 9:28b-36] for our reading this week. I was torn between two phrases: “Listen to him” was my first impulse, but later I was drawn to “his face changed in appearance.” When the lady next to me took, “Listen to him,” my contrarian nature took hold.

The thing that I wanted to explore with those gathered was what exactly the phrase meant. Was it that Jesus’ face expressed an unfamiliar emotion, or did he really look like a different person? When I began to speak, however, the power of the contemplative unity overwhelmed me again. I was confident that it was the latter.

Our avatars come down and occupy bodies, bodies that become corrupted by their struggle to bring us to grace. In offering “his face changed in appearance,” I believe that the gospel conveys the enormous power of this event. Jesus appeared in his perfected form. The transformation was accompanied by Moses and Elijah in their glory. The text relates that they “spoke of [Jesus’] exodus…in Jerusalem.”

Not quite. The reason they appeared in glory was because Jesus had progressed in his exploration of his age to the point that he was ready to work with Moses and Elijah to construct that future. This was not idle chatter, but interaction between those involved in doing a powerful work on human nature.

The Old Testament is the record of the struggle by God to prepare every person of faith to enter into direct relation with the power of unconditional love. The root of the process was the Law, which in application required rationality and discipline, but we also have the assignment of the Levites as philosophers and teachers, something truly unusual in the era. Moses guided this social transformation, and understood intimately the intention of every line in the law.

The problem was that advancing the into unconditional love was difficult so long as the people were preoccupied with migration. So the Israelites were given Canaan, but the possession of the land brought with it conflict. Awed by the military power of their enemies, and not trusting in God’s intervention to ensure that they would eventually escape domination, the people demanded a king. It wasn’t long before the kings began to compete with the priests for authority. It was Elijah that struggled with greatest integrity against this corruption, his final act of power being to annihilate the king’s horsemen that arrived to force him to descend the mountain for an audience.

So the three men looked into Jesus’ future, and when a confrontation arose, Moses would offer counsel that stymied the priests, and Elijah counsel to stymie the kings. Not confront, not intimidate, not destroy, but stymie. Those other paths had been tried, and found impotent.

So I see in this event a moment of exceptional power, unparalleled until the moment of his resurrection. Yes, even greater than the crucifixion: it is not recorded, as it is here, that “his face changed in appearance.” In that final submission to human brutality, Jesus was still trapped in the throes of his human manifestation.

Against this glory, we have the contrast of the three witnesses: Peter, John and James. Why them? Was it that among the disciples only they were ready to experience the grace of this moment, grace that once might have brought the warning “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” [Exodus 33:20]

Somehow that seems unlikely. The importunity of Peter is recorded in this very passage, and caused Jesus on one occasion to rebuke him with “Get behind me, Satan!” [Matt. 16:23] And of John and James, we know them as the “Sons of Thunder.” [Mark 3:17] No, I would hazard that these three were apt to act on their own counsel, requiring Jesus again and again to turn from his way to clean up after them.

The Greeks were not big on punctuation, and so most adopt a tone of gentle reverence when speaking in God’s place. But in this case, I can’t help but hear the cloud with the intonation:

This is my chosen son. Listen to him!

Whitenessing the Truth

My response to Sera Beak’s “Redvolutionary” theology has been pretty passionate, and I’m planning a post on programming to let things cool down. But before I do, I’d like to elaborate the claim that I made yesterday: “There’s so much more for you than that.”

Perhaps the most popular spiritual autobiography at the opening of the 20th century was that of the “little flower”, St. Terese of Lisieux. While I was at first disturbed by Terese’s testimony to desire to die so that she might embrace Christ, I have come to understand that her recorded life was probably a last parting from those that were bound to her in family, in particular her father.

What was she releasing herself into? The answer is given to us in her revelation of a vision: Terese found herself in the company of three veiled women. One of them, Teresa of Avila, was the founder of her penitent order, and a woman who famously experienced an erotically ravishing love from Christ. Teresa parted her veil for the daughter of her grace, and Terese reported being bathed in the purest light. With an embrace, Teresa offered this paean: “Christ is well pleased with you.”

Why do these women hide their light from us? I offer a parable in that regard in Golem. We here on earth are a mixture of grace and corruption, a mix that cannot be sundered easily. When the pure light of truth shines upon us, the corruption must flee or be destroyed. The light is veiled because, as Moses was warned in Exodus, those not prepared to receive it will by destroyed by its power.

With the saints encountered by Terese, so it is with Christ [NIV 2 Peter 3:9]:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

And so to experience life in the fullness of its beauty. Can you imagine, ladies, what it would be like to have souls passing through the healing cauldron of your womb, not in a brief spasm, but as a steady stream that grows into a mighty river?

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

[NIV Rev. 22:1-2]

Please follow me here: Eve had her own gifts to tend, and to share them with men was never going to work. You, O woman, were meant to manifest the Tree of Life.

Taking Up the Cross

While Christianity is filled with joy in the certainty of Jesus’s promises, those promises are balanced with assurances that we will face suffering. In fact, suffering seems to be tendered as a condition of our Christianity, for Jesus says [NIV Matt. 16:24]

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

It’s hard to avoid the impression that if we don’t find a cross to carry, we can’t call ourselves a disciple of Christ.

Now the obvious thing about the cross is the pain involved. But if the experience of pain was a condition of grace, Jesus would have come into the world a cripple, and shown us how to overcome that deficit. And to be healed would be contrary to grace, rather than an act to be celebrated – as Jesus so joyfully did – as a demonstration of great faith.

So we should be cautious against ascribing a long illness as a cross to bear, nor a difficult relationship or financial challenges. Jesus presented us another tool to use in overcoming those difficulties: an openness to the unconditional love tendered from the divine source, and a sharing of its riches with those around us. It was a message of truth that both revealed our nature, and the grace of the relationship that God seeks to share with us.

It is this observation that leads us into an understanding of the metaphor as Jesus offered it. The cross was not just the place of suffering – it was a tool wielded by the rulers of the age to prevent Jesus from sharing his message. Those authorities achieved their position largely through fear. In the case of the Romans and Herod, it was fear through threat of violence. In the case of the Temple priests, it was fear gained through the threat of spiritual corruption.

To take up the cross, then, is to offer the world the experience of our love, and to be harmed by those who use fear to control those to whom we offer hope. It is to speak truth to power, to do it joyfully, and to make courage born of faith a demonstration of the weakness of our persecutors.

There is no place in which it is more important to do this than in our churches. Consider: the only direct assault Jesus mounted against the rulers of his age was against the money changers in the Temple – the intermediaries that profited by standing between the faithful and the healing love of God.

So do not make too much, fellow Christians, of finding that we have pain in our lives. That is not what qualifies us in the eyes of Jesus. We find certain grace as Christians only when our pain serves to overcome the institutions that stand against love: either the perfect love of God, or the love that we offer each other.