Coronavirus is a mirror of ourselves if we choose to accept the gift of perspective. This time of lockdown is a pause. It is a time for people to look inside, to see society from outside our normal daily lives.
Easter weekend. The first rays of the sun shine through the blinds. My family is still asleep, and all is quiet, a strange quiet. We have not prepared for work or school for several weeks. We are inside, ordered to stay home. “Social distancing”, a phrase new to our vocabulary and our lives. I miss my friends. I miss being around children all day at work. Humans are social. It is hard to live at a physical and mental distance from each other, the feeling even more poignant during this holiday. read more
Where does all this war come from? Why do we hate each other so? In the Bible, Jesus taught his disciples about the Father’s kingdom, a kingdom of Love. In the kingdom of Love, Jesus said we must learn to even love our enemies. At the end of Jesus’ life, Peter cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant to try and protect Jesus from violence. Jesus corrected Peter and responded in peace by laying his healing hands on the servant’s ear.
Jesus taught us to show love by healing the helpless, bandaging the bruised, washing the wounds of the world. As we recognize our oneness, we spread sacred Reiki healing around the world. We are all brothers and sisters, beloved children of the Creator.
The Creator is Love. God is the definition of love. God is an infinite ocean of love. Each of us is only a droplet in this ocean, reflecting the light of the Source. We become perfect when we embrace ourselves in that love, give voice to that love, embody that love on this physical earth.
War is the opposite of love. War is the opposite of God. Why do we divide ourselves in war? Why do we mourn our fallen soldiers, then go on and create more war? Why did my Christian community teach me to love war as I was growing up?
My heart cannot understand all the praise my family gave to war. My heart grieves the adoration my church gave the military and hi-tech weapons. There is big money, and greed, tied up in US weapons manufacturing. The masters or war sell this to the churches as “patriotism” and “pride”. My church taught me that the United States only fights “just wars”. They said that war is how we free the victims and the oppressed.
Yes, for sure, God’s heart is for the victim and the oppressed. But war creates oppression, not solves it.
Still, there is hope. I think of the American churches who welcome Syrian refugees with open hearts and homes. This New York Times Article is a great example. I think of the Quaker churches who have always preached peace and nonviolence. I think of the churches who have declared themselves sanctuaries. They are housing Latin American immigrants caught in political wars. Each of these churches flow as bright droplets of light in the ocean of Love. They understand the teachings of Jesus and the heart of God.
I am grateful to my childhood church for encouraging me to read the Bible. There is so much beauty and love in its pages. There is theological explanation of the human condition. There is grace for the many mistakes of imperfect humans. We are all learning to trade darkness for light, greed for charity, fear for hope.
The Bible teaches me that we must tame the war inside ourselves to stop all the war outside.
On this Memorial Day, I hold my Bible and I read the hope of Isaiah. I share the prophet’s hope that someday the whole world will beat their swords into plowshares. Someday we will practice war no more. Someday we will have no more fallen soldiers and refugee victims. I hold out my hands of peace and I pray for Reiki healing over this war-torn world.
3 Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4 He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore. read more
We are marching for a better world! A world in which our daughters will grow up to be seen as powerful contributors to society, not just a pretty body for men to grab. A world in which our sons will know that showing compassion and empathy is a truer sign of strength than being the top boss. We are marching for a world in which people experiencing disabilities are fully included in society rather than being mocked by the president of the United States. We are marching so that Muslims, and people of all religions, can live in peace, rather than live in fear that the president will order them rounded up and registered. read more
Art like a child
I love to make art with my preschoolers. We turn dot stickers into colorful bugs, collage paper and foil into swimming fish and mermaids, paint and toilet paper tubes into binoculars. We create with imagination, with abandon, with fun, with love.
There is healing in creating art like a child. Children delight in the process of art: feeling the paint squish between their fingers, smelling the scented markers that leave bold lines and shapes on rainbow paper.
Most importantly, children create without judgment of self or others. As an adult, I have been taught to make things perfect, to judge whether my creations are good enough. There is healing in creating without judgment, loving myself by loving the works of my hands.
Art, and life, is a process, not a product.
Understanding through creating
I majored in music in college. I flowed in beautiful sounds with my clarinet, collaborated with others to create fantastical symphonic worlds.
Sadly, that world is full of judgment and competition, a striving for technical perfection that can destroy the creative process. I had a wise professor who saw this and challenged me to defend the meaning of the music. “Why do you play and how will that change the world?” he asked me in my master’s thesis.
The answer is two-fold. The act of creation, without judgment, is an act of self-reflection, self-understanding. Little children know this when they delight in their work. Adults experience this when they flow in art, so totally absorbed in music, writing, painting that they lose track of time and the outside world and learn new things deep in the imagination.
The act of creation is also connection in the outer world with others. When I give a recital or create a picture or a poem that brings joy to another person, I have changed the world in a small way.
Art for art’s sake.
A world full of pain that I can’t fix
Watching the news can be exhausting. So can interacting on Facebook and surfing the web. We have so much evil in the world, and our modern technological entertainment tends to dwell on this, if not glorify it. It is good that we have intelligence in the war against injustice, but it can get overwhelming.
My empathy heart bleeds at every story of violent death or innocent wrongful conviction, every report on the endless wars overseas or the war against the poor back here at home, every statistic of a great shopping season or another percentage of families fallen into unemployment and hunger.
It’s all too much to bear and causes me pain. One powerful way to help with this pain is to create art. Unplug the stream of violence and chaos and create beauty.
I write. I write a lot. I blog, I have a fantasy novel in the works, a social justice spiritual novel, numerous short stories, poetry, and children’s books. I don’t know if anyone will ever read all this, or whether I write for myself, as a way to understand the world. I write from my imagination, like a child. I write to heal my world, inside and out.
Friend, won’t you join me on this journey of process and understanding? Dust off your pen, paintbrush, or piano and revel in the process like a child.
Heal through art. Together we can change the world.
Think of all the hate there is in Red China!
Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama!
Ah, you may leave here, for four days in space,
but when your return, it’s the same old place,
the poundin’ of the drums, the pride and disgrace,
you can bury your dead, but don’t leave a trace,
hate your next-door-neighbor, but don’t forget to say grace,
and you tell me over and over and over and over again my friend,
ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.
Here is a link to a You Tube video of Barry McGuire performing the song.
I am particularly taken by “hate your next door neighbor but don’t forget to say grace.” This is a giant problem in our world, particularly in America. We forget our oneness, our responsibility to love and care for our neighbor as Jesus showed us. Yet, as a Christian religious culture, we say grace in the name of Jesus when we bless our meals. Does anyone else see the hypocrisy in this? If we keep down this path of hatred and divisiveness, eventually we will meet our destruction as a planet.
On this Memorial Day, I am thinking about my neighbors, the poor soldiers who have given their bodies and their lives in fighting rich men’s wars for rich men’s definitions of freedom. Their pain is my pain. I am sending Reiki healing energy to the injured soldiers and their families, and to the families who have experienced the ultimate loss: a fallen father or mother, sister or brother, or child. The earth trembles with the pain, injustice, and destruction of war.
I also memorialize and send Reiki to the hurting victims and soldiers of our American culture and societal wars:
My own family was filled with chaos and secrets as I grew up. My father had a violent temper, and made liberal use of “spare the rod, spoil the child,” in order to beat (“grow”) us into godliness. My mother supported him and stood silently by, although she rarely raised her own hand to us.
There were also good times, tender conversations with my mother, and contemplative fishing trips with my father. These joyful waters never calmed completely, though, as the constant threat of another storm always loomed on the horizon. Even as a young child, my parents would argue with me and put me down over my liberal ideas of environmentalism, collectivism, feminism, and oneness. I was raised strictly evangelical fundamental, but my spirit rebelled against this from birth. At times I overrode my heart and tried my hardest to use fundie talk, and convert all my friends to Christianity, to earn my parent’s admiration. Even then, I felt like I never fit into my family, and, deep in my heart, I often questioned my parent’s love for me.
Many years later, after a painful excommunication by my church (my safety network of friends), unemployed, despite my master’s degree, because of a crap economy, homeless after exhausting all of my savings and credit cards, with a helpless toddler in my arms, my husband and I went back to my parents, asking for help. They said we were headed to hell for our “new age” views, we were in league with the devil, and God was judging us. After another religious argument they kicked us out the door and said they never wanted to speak to us again.
My tears fell.
My tears fell as Christian love died.
My tears fell as parental love died.
The pain of rejection was far worse than the pain of homelessness and the fear of the future. But the Holy Spirit spoke tender words to me in her healing grace. YHWH guided us to Minnesota in his wisdom. I found work and we have begun to rebuild our life.
The pain and sadness still linger, especially as so many people today on Mother’s Day are talking about the joy of their mother and how mothers forever love the children they carried, no matter what. Unfortunately, this is not always true. Today I am just finding joy in being a mother to my own son, and I know that, no matter where his life journey takes him, I will always love him.
If you, friend, are struggling today with memories of a mother’s rejection, or abuse, I feel your pain. I am sending healing Reiki out into the world to help soothe these wounds. Feel and acknowledge the pain, but embrace Life. Feel free to share your story in the comments, or contact me for a healing appointment.
Find joy in the journey.
Happy Mother’s Day.
I was a graduate student, studying music. I had left my car at home that afternoon and taken the bus to school for the week’s masterclass.
I had performed from the bottom of my heart. But the masterclass teacher had ripped apart my performance, picking at the length of my eighth notes and the sloppy edges of my articulation. Tiny details, but enough to make or break someone in the cutthroat world of classical music. And he should know. He was renowned in the music world, he had performed big gigs with big orchestras. My dream. Or was it? Now I found myself at the bus stop, warm tears threatening to overflow my eyes onto my cold cheeks in the brisk Michigan autumn.
“Details, Amy, details. Practice more. Technique. Your musicality is great, we can feel the emotions in your music, but details. You’ll never make it without the technical details.” The words echoed through my head like a hammer smashing and splintering glass. The glass of my psyche, which I always willed to turn to steel. They always told me I was too sensitive. Words of the masterclass teacher, words of many of my other professors throughout my high school and college musical years. I wanted to quit. I wanted to run away. I wanted to leave my clarinet case right there at the bus stop and run home, or run somewhere else, run anywhere. Run until the pain would stop.
I noticed the woman sitting next to me. She looked sad, too, another soul lost in the sea of broken dreams. I breathed deeply and said a small prayer for her. Reiki. I did not know much about energy healing at that time, but I knew the power of prayer.
A minute later, a bus showed up. Not my bus, but the woman stood up to talk to the driver. “Where is bus 75 tonight?” she asked.
“Sorry, ma’am, that bus came by fifteen minutes ago.”
“Oh, no, is there another bus to Haslett tonight?”
“No, ma’am, sorry.”
“OK,” she said and limped back to the bench. I hadn’t noticed the limp at first. I had been too self-absorbed in my own thoughts. Compassion and regret flooded over me. What should I care about stupid master classes and eighth notes when a fellow human being was suffering right in front of me?
“Are you OK?” I asked, timidly. I am an introvert by nature, so I struggle to start conversations with strangers.
“Oh, yeah,” she shrugged. “I just gotta get to Haslett. I guess I’ll have to walk again.”
“It’s such a cold night. Can I give you a ride?”
“You have a car? What are you doing at the bus stop?”
I shrugged. “I like to take the bus sometimes, but I do have my car at home. Here comes bus 84. Let’s take the bus back to my place, and I’ll give you a ride.”
“You sure?” She looked at me incredulously. I could tell that she was a woman not used to favors. Maybe her dark skin, her heavy weight, her stooped shoulders which betrayed years of poverty and hardship, worked against her in this rich college town. But why? Didn’t we talk in college about systems of oppression? Weren’t college students known for caring tremendously, radically fighting the System? Did I care enough?
“Yeah,” I said. “I’m sure. Let’s get out of the cold. My name is Amy.”
“My name is J.” she said.
I gave her a ride home that night, and we eventually became great friends. I prayed over her aching knees and other joints, her body groaning under the mental anguish of unrelenting poverty and discrimination. She told me of her struggles to get a job, her struggles to raise her children, and her dark journey of depression when social services took her children away because she could not maintain housing. I cried as she told me of undergoing knee surgery and then being released from the hospital to the street. I could only imagine her pain, but, in sharing the burden, she looked a little happier, a little lighter.
This is true Reiki healing. This is Holy Spirit healing. Yeshua came to seek and to save the least of these, and J. is his best friend. Reiki is holy, and the holy is intricately tied with social justice. I couldn’t pull J out of poverty, give her a better place to live, but I could offer a listening ear, compassion, Reiki.
This is the story of the Good Samaritan. Help everyone you can in any way you can, one hurting individual at a time. Open your eyes to the pain around you, my friends. I know that it can be hard to see others when your own pain is so overwhelming. I certainly struggle with this. But Reiki is a journey as much as it is a healing modality. Let’s link arms on this journey and carry the light of the Holy Spirit into the darkest of places.
Photo used freely, courtesy of that guy A on sxc.hu
The wind howled furiously around her, like a pack of ravenous wolves ready to devour the first living thing who dared to venture out in the bitter cold. She struggled and limped through the piles of snow on the sidewalk. Her husband walked beside her, mightily pushing their three-year-old son in his stroller, wheels catching and bowing to the pressure of the flakes, hardened by wind and footprints into biting balls of ice.
The young family decided to try to walk on the street, where snow plows had helped clear a way. Almost immediately, cars veered dangerously close to the child, and drivers angrily honked their horns. “Why don’t you get a job?” one driver yelled out as he hastily rolled his window down and back up. The woman bowed her head deeper as she thought about the years of schooling, her carefully crafted thesis, her pride when she walked across the stage to receive her master’s diploma. All for what? A low-wage, low-respect job with little opportunity for advancement. But “get a job?” She did work 40 hours a week already!
Indeed, she felt lucky to have any job. On a brighter, warmer day, she had owned a car and a better job. She had just married the love of her life, and the future looked hopeful as the bright morning sun. Soon, too soon, threatening storm clouds crowded out her sun, and the rain of life circumstances stole away her job.
A year after the wedding, she and her husband joyfully welcomed their new son into the world, but the pregnancy had destroyed all of her job interviews, and the bad economy winked at the selective racism discriminating against her dark-skinned husband as he struggled to find work. The mounting bills forced the family out of their heat and then out of their home by the time the infant was only three months old. They found friends to live with for a while, and then their car become their home.
That car was good to them and took them on a journey across the country to finally find a job and pay for housing once again. Life was getting better. But then the car, creaky and cantankerous as any soul who has lived past the fullness of her days, finally breathed her last, sputtering and sighing gently into death on the side of the road.
So here they were now, battling a snowy sidewalk, empty refrigerator mocking the hollow pain in their hearts. They finally made it into the warm air of the grocery store, festively decorated with holiday trees surrounded by the sounds of Salvation Army bells and piped-in songs proclaiming Merry Christmas and peace to all. As she stomped the snow off her boots, she thought about another mother long ago. “No room in the inn or in the hearts of men,” she thought. “Maybe nothing has really changed.”
They walked the aisles of the grocery store, carefully selecting items that fit into the carefully-planned, bursting-at-the-seams budget. They were grateful for the food, though, thanking God that their stomachs would be full tonight. They brought their food to the checkout counter and pulled out their food stamp card. They felt the angry stares bore holes into their backs and burn yet another scar into their hearts. “You are not welcome here. You takers. You just take and take from those who truly work hard.” The unspoken words thickened the air. She was suffocating, drowning in their hatred.
They left the store and turned back home. The cold wind sucked the air out of their lungs, and their small child began to cough. She reached down to pull the blanket up around his face, and a tear escaped from her eye and dropped glistening on her child’s forehead. She bent down and kissed him. “I love you so much.”
A divine voice whispered in her heart, “I love you so much, too.” She stood up and looked at the sky as the sun suddenly appeared from behind a snowy cloud. A beam of warmth landed on her face.
“But, God, life was never supposed to be this way.” She sniffed back tears and struggled hard against the depression, the hopelessness that threatened to engulf her life and snuff out the sunbeams.
“I know, my child. I see the cold hearts of people, I see how they’ve forgotten their oneness and their Creator and have become evil and oppressive to each other. I see it, and I will remember. Have hope. I am coming soon to restore righteousness on the earth. One day all will be well.”
She took a step forward and the air felt a little less cold, the wind a little less strong. She smiled. She thought about how healing begins with the least of these, and, somehow, she had been chosen by the mighty Creator for this journey.
Yesterday, a friend asked me what I think about Santa Claus. I have a three-year-old son, so this question is on my mind as we approach the holiday season.
I like the story of Saint Nicholas of Myra. He was legendary in his concern for the poor, bringing them gifts to lift their burdens. Legend says that he even paid the dowries of some poor young women so they could afford marriage and not fall into prostitution. This is amazing, and this is the kind of lesson I want my son to learn.
Unfortunately, the Santa Claus of today bears little resemblance to the saint of old. Our Santa Claus has become the happy, bearded patron saint of commercialism and corporatism. His tightly-run, efficient North Pole toy factory is a marvel of modern industrialism. His elves are willing workers who, much to the jealousy of managerial staff everywhere, never seem to gripe about hours or higher pay. To his credit, Santa Claus does provide his elves with all guaranteed basic necessities: food, shelter, health care, all in the comfort of his magical snowy village. This is far more generous than corporate America.
But his promotion of greed, and the idea of getting the latest and greatest gifts from Santa Claus, is the primary reason I choose not to promote this myth with my child. My husband tells stories of childhood Christmases in which Santa did not bring very many or any toys to his poverty-stricken family, while Santa reigned lavish gifts on his richer friends, who promptly flaunted their new treasures at school as soon as Christmas break was over. This is tragic and not a lesson I want my son to learn.
Unfortunately, I know I will have many teaching moments like this in the future, whether I teach him about Santa Claus or not, because I am raising him in a culture that is driven by ego and greed. I am already struggling with the best way to show him how to deny his ego and learn to care for the needs of all those around him. I want him to understand our human connectedness and the importance of his soul journey, both paths that are treacherous when mixed with greed, holidays or otherwise.
Another problem I have with Santa Claus is his stereotypical perpetuation of a cultural superiority. 99.9% of the time, Santa Claus is portrayed as a white man who visits children who live in nice, big suburban (or, maybe, country) homes by sliding down their chimneys. Now, I realize that this image has come down through the centuries from a European background and a time when most people probably did have chimneys, or at least fireplaces, but this image today is that of a middle-class or wealthy white family. That is not the face of my family; that is not even the face of America. What message am I really sending my mixed-race child by telling him that a White Man is responsible for Christmas presents and holds a list of all the naughty and nice things my son has done?
Considering the point of naughty and nice, this is another conflict I have with Santa Claus. No child, and no adult for that matter, is purely naughty or nice. The world exists in shades of gray. Even if Santa Claus puts all the naughty and nice acts on a scale to find out who is worthy of the gifts, who gave Santa the authority to determine the meaning of naughty and nice in the first place? If little Jimmy grabs a toy from the shelf while he sits in the cart at the store because the toy appealed to him, does that go on the naughty list, or is it simple immaturity? What about if little Jaleisha grabs a cookie from the deli and runs out of the store with it because her stomach was growling and her parent’s food stamps had run out for the month? In America, I know which child would get the most blame. Does Santa Claus think the same way? I want my son to learn how to grapple with situational morality, not lists of black and white crimes. Santa Claus does not fit very nicely with this life lesson. To that note, there is a children’s movie, Fred Claus, that I enjoy immensely that confronts these very questions.
Another children’s Christmas movie that I like with Santa Claus is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I’ve watched that movie with my son before. We talked about how Rudolph was special, and a very important reindeer, even though the other reindeer made fun of him because he looked different. I also talked with my son about the Isle of Misfit Toys and how there are no misfits on earth. Everyone is special and made to be loved by someone. We all must learn to love and accept each other. Rudolph is a great lesson in this.
Now, some people believe that it is wrong to lie to children about Santa Claus, to lead them to believe in supernatural myths. I actually don’t mind that part. I want my son to believe in the imaginary, see all the possibilities of the supernatural realm. I encourage him to make up stories, have imaginary friends, and believe in unicorns, dragons, fairies. How can we know whether these realms exist or not? I believe they do.
So my take on Santa Claus is that he is a cultural icon that surrounds us this time of year and my son will learn about him whether I want him to or not. I just use these moments and his questions as a springboard to teach him about the greater truths of loving and caring for each other during the holidays and all the time.