A Point of Clarification

Heh, this stock photo actually features a deck I used.


So last Sunday I shared some changes in my life for which I am quite grateful. What I forgot to point out is that I am also grateful for the things that were there before.

Without my weekly (& sometimes more frequent) slogs to Saint Thomas, I may never have had the appropriate historical & liturgical background to recognize the worth & beauty of Saint Nicholas. I also would not have made amazing friends like Arthur. I am contractually obligated to mention Arthur in every third blog post now.

Without 7 years at The Psychic Eye, I would never have decompressed from 20 years in medicine, nor unwound after my fibromyalgia diagnosis. I would not have met the phenomenal clients I met. I would not have had some of the very moving conversations I have had. I would not have managed to connect some people to Christ.

I hadn’t actually been looking specifically for a new job. It just came, as every job I’ve ever had that’s worth a damn did. Like The Psychic Eye did. Like GVA did, my last & best medical employer.

What I’m saying is that God has gently led me like a very slow & stupid & somewhat obstinate cat to each new place to eat. And it is very good. Nothing I’m doing is “better” than what I did before in & of itself. It’s just better now.

As we always say in the psychic advising business: does that make sense?

Sense of Humour

  
I cried “Why don’t you help me?” and
God said nothing I could hear.

I said “You have abandoned me!” and
God said “Have I?”

I declared “You don’t exist!”
and God said “If you say so, dear.”

I studied and read, I sought mentors. I had
magic, incense, candles, bells, incantations, circles, water, salt, spells, dragons, quarters, elements, cords, herbs
fucking craft projects
God said “Well, this is all very interesting! What does this one do?”

I studied and read, I quoted Lao Tsu & Chong Tse & Sidartha & the Lotus Sutra & I breathed mantras to Kuan Yin through tears and then
God said “Well, this is familiar.”

And then God said “Look, here is a shiny thing. Behold; it is well formed and kind.”
I beheld the shiny thing and breathed in its light and cried.

God said “I am calling to you, but I know how you are. Do you know how I am yet?”
And I said, sniffling, “Maybe.” And then, “Show me more. Please?”
And God said “I know how you are & I know what you need. You are a funny girl.”

And he led me to a dense place, packed with love as gauze fills a wound. There was room for me.

I became sicker and God said “I know how you are. I know all of you. Help each other out.”

The power of Christ compels me.

I writhe unable to sleep just trying to comprehend
what is the end
why didn’t this one thing happen
or this other
then it does
and God laughs and says “You are a funny girl. Don’t you know me by now?”

My Lord & My God

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Long ago I made noises about posting my reactions to Father’s sermons here, & true to form I think I did that a whopping two times before senility & busyness claimed me yet again. Well, catechism is over, I & my sister & my fellow brothers & sisters in Christ are confirmed/baptized, & I’ve now been a year at Saint Thomas. I should probably FOCUS. Is it wrong to picture The Rock with angel wings, screaming at me?

Today’s gospel was, as the liturgical year demands, John 20:19-end. I really enjoy the whole of John 20. I love that Mary Magdalene calls Him “rabboni” (from the Easter service), a term of respect mixed with affection. If I were her, I’d be sobbing with joy as I said it. Can there be no greater happy shock than finding your beloved friend & teacher alive after watching Him suffer & die?

But back to this week. Here Thomas is not having any of this “Guys, for serious, I’m Jesus!” nonsense. He wants to poke the poor guy. Thomas is saying, in modern parlance, “You best bust with the holes in your hands & your side or you can get out.” We can’t be too hard on Thomas; this was the guy that was late to the party. Everybody else was present when Mary saw Jesus & told the other disciples “YOU GUYS! HE’S BAAACK!” Then He came to them & they got to have a jubilant old time with breathing the Holy Spirit & whatnot.

Thomas was that dude who found out a week later & was all WHUT?

So Jesus indulges him & Thomas says, in stunned joy & chastisement, “My Lord & my God.” Father points out Thomas does something very different here by acknowledging that Jesus is God. This is super hard for us to wrap our heads around (& is triply hard to explain to your Japanese roommate in college), but Thomas sees it. He feels it. He recognizes that Jesus is the entirety of God’s divinity in human form, that God deigned to live amongst us as one of us. He suffered as we suffer, & more so than most of us ever shall.

Jesus says to Thomas “Because thou has seen me, thou has believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

Father asks us to imagine what it would be like if Christ returned today. What would we, creatures of 24 hour news & immediate gratification, need to believe that Christ was indeed Christ? In the scriptures, He performs many miracles that Bronze Age people immediately associate with the divine. But we see miracles every day. Cardiologists revive the dead on a daily basis. Man has walked on the moon. Bubble wrap & Hologram Tupac exist. We are a nonplussed people. Seriously, what would Jesus have to do to make Himself known to us?

Have that little conversation with yourself, & be honest. Most Christians would immediately say “Oh, I’d know,” but would we? We’ve all piled our personal aspirations on Christ. We’ve assigned him our politics. We have numerous distractions & points of cynicism to engage us. How would you know you were talking to the actual Christ?

I answered this question silently to myself in the pew, immediately. “If I hugged Jesus, I would be instantly healed. I wouldn’t have fibromyalgia any more, or celiac disease, or arthritis, and my metabolism would work, & then I would drop everything and follow Him because I actually could.”

Two things struck me later as important to examine so I could root out my own biases. First, the act of hugging was assumed. Of course Jesus is a hugger. Deacon Walter is a hugger. Father Davies is a hugger. Jesus would hug, right? Well, maybe not. Would a firm handshake suffice? Would I even need to touch Him?

And the second assumption is of course that I would meet Him. Now if you know me, you know that I eventually meet everybody, because that’s what I do. It’s not intentional; it just happens, no matter where I live or am. But there are 7 billion people on this planet and utterly no guarantee that Jesus would have even the faintest interest in visiting Los Angeles, or even America. His agent would argue that He needs to be out here, but that’s applying our ideas of publicity & outreach to Christ. Maybe Christ doesn’t reach people through media. Maybe He’s a Reddit poster, or an astronaut, or majors in interpretive dance. He could be a soldier or a cat fancier or a stay-at-home mom. This is the 21st century; He need not appear as a Jewish male in order to get people to hear Him.

So then what would Christ have to do to get you to believe?

Later in the sermon, Father mentioned that we are all, currently, the body of Christ on Earth. You have His hands, His feet, His eyes. I think Father was quoting someone but I missed that part thinking about how crappily I was treating Christ’s body. I was treating it very well, when I had a trainer. I was fueling it properly & exercising it properly. Over the past few months, though, as I continue to recover from injuries, I’ve been treating Christ’s body like the Play Doh Fun Factory.

If I ever needed a message to get me to properly think about how to feed Christ’s property, that was it. For lunch I chose brown rice & chicken breast, plus vegetables. Ok, I had a Chipotle bowl. There is no reason Jesus wouldn’t like Chipotle! Especially if He had fibromyalgia & couldn’t cook today cos of His neck & shoulders.

Anyhow when Father’s sermon is posted to YouTube, I’ll add the link here so you can see that what he said is a lot more learned than how I heard it.

Oh, & the picture above? Father gave the Class of 2014 catechumens personalized Byzantine icons. Mine depicts Archangels Michael & Gabriel. I think I know why.

KJ Adan also has a book out, in case you actually wanted to read something longer.

Woo HOO! Lent!

Is it weird to be excited about Lent?

This is the first year in my life I’m observing Lenten season. I’ll be 40 at the end of this month, so for 39 years I’ve been blissfully & ignorantly unaware of the benefit of a penitential season.

My friends without faith may find penitence to be a useless exercise prescribed by a litigious God. If you’ve grown up with unrelenting self doubt, survivor guilt, victim guilt, & low self worth, limiting your reflection & restriction to 40 days is somewhat freeing. Instead of serving a sentence limited only by your own limitless self loathing, 40 days with a giant pardon at the end granted by the death & resurrection of your Saviour is like BOOYAH!

Concentrating your reflection is also useful. When studying treatment modalities in a heavily behaviour-focused psychology program, you spend a lot of time talking about goal-oriented therapy. You also mock the indulgent rambling of psychoanalysis (for both the client in the starring role as the constant victim in their own life & the therapist collecting the cash). You can & should teach healing mechanisms to your clients & you should measure their progress within a limited time frame, just as you would a client at the gym or a patient healing from a physical disease. This has the benefit of giving the client self sufficiency as well as simultaneously evaluating the efficacy of the therapist & their methods.

And just like a personal trainer’s client, a therapist can only expect success if the client is ready to genuinely change.

Lent gives us the opportunity to figure out if we are ready to change. When we reach the end of the season & we find ourselves enjoying smaller, simpler meals & committing to an act of faith, we can ask ourselves “Have my priorities changed? Am I happier with simpler needs? Am I over being distracted by trappings & cravings?” If you’re not, you can try again next year (if not before).

By giving up my slavery to food & sloth (& all the reasons I became their bitch, including some valid medical ones that Lenten fasting rules do allow us to address), I hope to find an inner strength & a clarity. Jesus is hella awesome at showing us that stuff.

I know I’m supposed to be solemn & shit, but I’m kind of stoked.

The Small Intestine is Faithless

A little while ago I shared with you my first communion experience at the wonderful & welcoming Saint Thomas the Apostle of Hollywood. To summarize this experience, I took Communion without thinking & didn’t become immediately ill.

I continued to take Communion. I never became immediately ill, ever. I felt like I was the embodiment of perfect faith, or perhaps incredibly lucky.

Then my fibromyalgia seemed to be acting up.

I blamed June gloom, which is a phenomenon in Los Angeles whereby every Beach Boys song becomes a flaming harmonized lie. We start the day, even in the valley, with what in the beach towns is typically a “marine layer”. This sounds like dolphin porn but is actually some meteorological thingy you can Google or whatever. Anyhow, it blankets the whole of SoCal except barometric pressure changes come with it, which every fibromyalgic & migraineur has learned to associate with suicidal ideation inducing pain levels. So I figured it was that.

Then the June gloom stopped, but I was getting worse. I cancelled event after event, plan after plan. People I wanted to see & things I really wanted to do pale in comparison to wishing you were dead because you’re 39 & nothing works properly. You’re having painful spasms everywhere. Your brain stops thinking clearly. Your digestion becomes a kaleidoscope of conflicting complications, all of which are potentially embarrassing. I was conserving all my energy for church & Communion.

Well…the wafers are not gluten free.

I have never been glutened & not had the near immediate urge to teleport to the nearest loo. As this was not happening after Communion, I figured I was fine. My faith in Christ was all like “What up, stupid wheat protein? How you like me now?”

My small intestine was all like “Oh hell no, ho, I ain’t playin’.” Because my small intestine is Wayne Brady & it had to smack a ho the only way it knew how–neuromuscular failure.

I had a very nice chat with our rector on Sunday. He seemed alarmed (in that very gentle Welsh way) that I was essentially tormenting myself & instructed me to chat with the folks in the sacristy before mass & gluten free host will be provided me. “You needn’t worry; it’s already consecrated,” he assured me with a hug.

So.

He didn’t judge my faith nor my intestines, who are jerks. He doesn’t judge the faith of others with celiac or an allergy or autism, either, as the gluten free host is all ready to go. He just wants me to be able to enjoy the sacrament & not make my fibro worse & not get cancer & die. That’s pretty Christ-like.

So anyhow have I said enough times already how much I love St Thomas??

The Body of Christ: Is It In You?

I have avoided Communion every time I’ve had an opportunity to receive it, because I have celiac disease. As anyone with that affliction or even a mild gluten intolerance knows, the slightest bit of wheat will send us running to a bathroom within 20 minutes, & to pain meds & antidepressants within days. It is hard for even those of tremendous faith to get past the fear of crapping themselves dead in church.

A while ago a dear friend of mine (who also happens to be a staunch atheist) questioned the trend in Italy to go to gluten free wafers. “If the wafer becomes the Body of Christ as it passes the lips, why worry about gluten?” I explained the above, that how once you’ve felt gluten tearing up your small intestine & thrusting every last particle of food in your body rapidly toward your descending colon, faith wavers. What if there’s a crumb on your lips that didn’t transform? What if your faith was recently tested and wrung & you kneel at the railing utterly convinced that your bowels will let loose in front of the whole congregation? “What if what if what if” is the enemy of faith &, of course, the mantra of the celiac sufferer.

But I took Communion on Holy Saturday, kinda by accident.

I went up to the railing of my new church with the intent of receiving just a blessing. That’s what I normally do. Christened in the Church of England, I am welcome to take Anglican Communion but, you know, celiac.

When the bishop approached, she had the wafer, & I don’t know what happened. This was the first church I’d been to since I was a small child where I felt the presence of Christ. I opened my mouth, & she gave me the bread. My sister, next to me, shot me a concerned look.

As I shuffled back to my pew, I swallowed & simply said, in my mind, “This is the body of Christ, washed down by the blood of Christ. I’m fine.”

Twenty minutes later, I was still fine.

Two hours later, I was still fine.

The next day, at Easter service, I wept during a moment of silence after the liturgy. Christ’s sacrifice was so great; who am I to begrudge this sacrament? I just about ran up to the rail on Easter, so eager to receive Communion. I had an hour drive out to see my Mum after, & I didn’t care. I wanted that wafer & that wine.

And I never got sick.

On the drive I pondered this. Is my faith in Christ so strong now that gluten has no effect on me? “Don’t be stupid,” said my sceptical mind. “They’re obviously gluten free wafers.” But then I had the thought “Does it matter? I accepted the wafer without question, & either way my faith was rewarded.” And it will continue to be. There is no one on the planet more fired up about Communion than this girl.

As the radio blasted “It’s got to be real” I laughed, car danced to ridiculous disco, & told God I loved Him & my new church. Then “Hot Blooded” came on & I was forced to remember that embarrassing Bones episode.

SURPRISE!!! God!

We all have crises of faith. We beat ourselves up, because He’s done so much good in our lives, but we’re human and we have whingy, needy moments brought on by Daddy/abandonment issues. Don’t be cross with yourself! Jesus was always having to tell the disciples “Oh ye of little faith!” As he was a Jew, I imagine this was said with a bit of world weary exasperation, possibly accompanied with a smack upside the back of the head. He probably also said, “What, I heal the sick in front of you, I turn water into wine, I raise a guy from the fricken dead, and you people are worried about what’s gonna happen tomorrow? Oy!” But that part was not transcribed.

We don’t have the pleasure of the physical presence of Christ in our lives any more, but He’s with us all the same. He’s just on speed dial. Check it:

I describe God’s mysterious work to my clients thusly: you tell your friend your birthday is coming in two months. Your friend gradually becomes more & more secretive. He doesn’t invite you over any more, he doesn’t really talk about what he’s up to, & you think he doesn’t like you any more. Two months later he calls you & asks you to come over. You can be pissy & refuse the call, certainly.

But if you answer it, you’ll find he’s been transforming his home over the past two months into a giant birthday surprise party for you. There’s a bouncy castle IN THE LIVING ROOM. He knocked out walls to accommodate it! He built a waterslide of champagne down his own stairwell. And he made your favourite cake, 50 ft high, so you can literally walk into it & eat it. He invited all your friends & somehow got Kanye to play. In this scenario, pretend you like Kanye.

It was an even better birthday than you imagined, huh?

That’s God.