creating me [using words]

Archive for the tag “healing”

The Murky Waters of Fearless Faith

“Invite your spirit-guides and your angels into your healing,” she said as her hands gently touched the soles of my bare feet. I was trying to relax, but I was momentarily distracted by how freaked out I would have been by a reference to “spirit-guides and your angels” just a few years ago, and I felt the old fears creeping back in, whispering to me that I must be crazy to be lying here on the table for a healing touch session.

But eventually I recognized that something real and entirely non-threatening was in fact happening to my body, which softened the fears and I relaxed into the experience. To my surprise, I felt my own Chi (or something like that) as my knees tingled without being touched and an odd sensation (which turned out to be an energy block) moved through my gut.

After the brief session, the practitioner talked with me far longer than the 20 minutes I had paid for, and she spoke with remarkable, but not creepy, insight into my life. It was not as if she was psychic, but like she had good intuition and knew the right questions to ask. I found myself telling her more than I tell most anyone, simply because she knew what to ask, and she asked with such genuine interest and care.

I have recently developed a tenacity about pursuing my own healing, even if it is a path that takes me outside the box of “acceptable” behavior. In this case, I began hearing about healing touch practices from other people I trust, which always makes a foreign thing more approachable, and I began to think it was something I was willing to try.

I am so drastically less afraid of stuff than I used to be that sometimes it scares me (ironic, I know).

When people ask me if and how my theology has changed since getting an education (college, then seminary), I say yes and no, but the most significant change is that I have quit believing in religion based on fear. I mean, theoretically, I always believed that God is not a God of fear, and I heard churches quote 1 John 4:18 (“perfect love drives out fear”) even as a child, but you tend to do what churches do, not what churches say, and every church I knew was motivated by fear, so for all my young life, I followed suit.

We were so doggone afraid of bad influences, evil people, Democrats and Disney. Beer, boys, bands, Halloween, a college education, evolution, Barbies, strangers, theme parks, Hollywood, hormones, Santa Clause: serpents lurked everywhere. It was best to stay home. (Fortunately, there were church services four times a week so you wouldn’t go stir-crazy.)

My intention isn’t to poke fun at the tradition that raised me, but I do think there are some absurdities at play, and we shouldn’t be afraid to name them.

The residue of past fear is veeeeery sticky, but love is an oil that washes it away. The fear keeps trying to draw me back within its sticky grasp, but the more I move ahead, the more I realize I’m just not anxious anymore, and why would I want to be? I’m not scared of contamination anymore. I am free, and this has bettered my faith, not damaged it.

Sometimes I think about all the fears I’ve given up and I am quite nearly alarmed to think what I may have inadvertently “opened” myself up to. But opening hasn’t harmed me, or caused me to lose my way, not once. It’s taken me deeper, every time. Deeper into myself, deeper into my faith, deeper into compassion and truth and justice and humanity.

Freedom is too great a thing to sacrifice on the altar of appearances and expectations. My friends, do the unexpected.


P.S. Anyone want to give a testimony?? What is a fear you have abandoned and did you discover anything beautiful and wholesome in the process?


Blind Bartimaeus

I am struck by his stubborn persistence. The way Bartimaeus refuses to be silenced. That’s guts, or desperation, or some of both. There’s the way Bartimaeus jumps to his feet and leaves his cloak behind. If I were blind, I wouldn’t leave any of my possessions behind, for fear I wouldn’t be able to find them again. There’s the way Bartimaeus walks (runs?) to Jesus when he is called. A whole crowd of people, and the blind guy knows without hesitation which one to walk up to. And then there’s the way Bartimaeus gets what he asked for, but instead of running off to live his life, he keeps following Jesus.

I am struck by the crowd’s sudden change of tune. One minute they are rebuking Bartimaeus. The next they are cheering him onward. Presumably they had been following Jesus along the road, listening intently to the Rabbi’s words, soaking up his wisdom. With so many people and so many footsteps, they were straining their ears to hear. And then, this invasion: they smelled him before they heard him, and they heard him before they saw him. This dirty unwashed beggar interrupting not just the silence, but the cleanness and the sacredness of the moment, intruding the quiet anticipation with which everyone else was clinging to Jesus’ words. Like the fly that won’t quit buzzing or the workmen down the street who won’t quit hammering, there’s this persistent shouting that is ruining the peace, and the people are understandably irritable and intent on stopping the noise. But to the credit of the crowd, as soon as they see Jesus stop and call the man, they take their cues and change their attitude. They suddenly see the blind man for the underdog he is, and they become instant fans. “Courage! Take heart! Cheer up!” they egg him on to victory.

I am struck by the fact, that although he stops, Jesus makes a blind man walk to him. I mean, it just doesn’t seem very Jesus-y to me, to stand there like a game of Marco Polo, when it’s no game at all to the man who is crying for mercy. Why doesn’t God always rush to our side when we are in need? Why must we stand up and walk when we are the ones who can’t see where he is and he’s the one who knows right where we are?

I am struck that Bartimaeus regains his sight, which means at one time, he had it, and then he lost it. How does one lose one’s sight? Is it aging, or tragedy, reading without light or staring into the sun? When did you begin to lose the sight you once had? Was it age or tragedy or too much darkness or strain or stress or a general loss of wonderment? When did you stop seeing the beauty of the world or when did you stop seeing its ripped-apart-ness? When did things grow so dim that your eyelids drooped as if in slumber? Richard Rohr says “true seeing is the heart of spirituality today,” but “most of us have to be taught how to see” . . . which leads me to wonder was it Bartimaeus who gained his sight that day, or was it the crowd? Who learned the most about proper seeing?

I am struck that the crowd first saw a filthy beggar, but they kept one eye on Jesus, and when they saw him stop and turn, they turned to the beggar again and saw instead a champion of faith who deserved their applause. They began to will him to his healing—was it his faith or theirs that healed him? Maybe it was all the faith mingling together that made a miracle possible.

I am struck that Jesus had enough patience to let all this unfold. Compassionate man that he was, he must have been dying to run over and wrap this man in his arms. He must have felt the urge to scorn the crowd for their initial rebukes and prove them wrong by his show of love. But instead, the text says he stood still. “Call him,” he said to the crowd, giving them a chance to change their tone, a chance to participate in the miracle, a chance to cheer on a stranger as he reached for his healing. Jesus could have rushed forward in compassion and rushed the crowd right out of the moment. He could have forced them to be outsiders to the event, and if he were a less forgiving man, he would have been certain that the outside was where they belonged. But instead he offers an invitation to let them be the inviters to a man in need of mercy.

I am struck that though he is blind, that doesn’t stop this man from groping his way to his healing. Healing always feels like groping, does it not? Like you’re grasping for straws, like you’re following a mirage, like you’re teetering on a ledge, like there aren’t any handles, like you’ll fall any second and be more scarred than ever, like you might never get there, like you’ve no idea if the healing is light years away or just around the bend. The movement towards healing always takes place with fuzzy vision and an unclear path, just the soft hint of a voice calling you forward. Sometimes the crowds boo you, silence you, poke fun, and rebuke you. Sometimes you are astounded to hear people cheering you on, believing in you when you don’t have enough faith of your own. You cannot control the outcome or the timing. You cannot manipulate things in your favor, and that makes you feel as helpless as a beggar. But your one job is: don’t give up. Stay loyal to your healing. Keep asking for what you know you need. Don’t let a mob of people shut you down. Because somewhere in that throng is a Savior. Keep on searching ‘til you find your deliverance. Don’t be too mad if you are made to get up and walk, because it is the journey that heals you. The journey is your faith. We think that faith is an idea in our heads, but faith isn’t in our heads. Or we think faith is something we feel in our hearts, but faith isn’t in our hearts. Faith is in our legs. Faith is in our bodies, faith is in how we move, where we go. Faith is the journey we take, and the faith-less are those who stay put. Jesus says your faith will heal you.

I am struck, that though the text doesn’t explain this, the crowd must have parted in order to make a path. I mean, they surrounded Jesus, but here was a blind man on the fringes who must get to him. So they cleared out of the way. They didn’t steer him or push him or force him. They didn’t point the way to Jesus, because this man couldn’t see them. But they made a clearing, a wide open space in which he could walk. They didn’t clutter the way with their opinions. They gave no advice: “Get glasses! Try LASIK! Try religion! Spit and mud are rumored to work!” They said nothing of the sort. They just made Jesus accessible, that’s all. They stopped interfering with their rebukes and their wisdom. They parted like the Red Sea and let that man pass through to his Land of Promise.

I am struck that Jesus heals people. I don’t know if it’s the pain in the world, or the unanswered prayers, or my own lofty logic that keeps me from seeing. Seeing Jesus heal people. It is a long journey, but he’s healed me too—bit by bit, piece by piece—but I’m not so sure I’m seeing yet. I’m skeptical, cynical, and hard to impress, and I rely on the skepticism to keep me safe from disappointment. But I’m starting to learn that I’d rather suffer a disappointment or two than never get moving at all. I’d rather fall and skin my knee in route to healing than sit on my rump and scorn the difficulties of standing up. I’d rather grope my way towards Jesus than keep questioning why he seems to be playing games with me, hiding, standing still. I’d just rather move, you know? I’d rather put one foot in and see whether or not the sea parts than stay put with the assumption that there’s no possible way through the chaos. I’d rather trust the voices that say, “Come here! Cheer up! Take heart! Courage! On your feet! He’s calling you!” than the voices that say, “Shut up! Stay down! You’re not worth it!” I’d rather be Blind Bartimaeus with a shot at life than the nervous little girl who is too ashamed to beg.

I am struck, that even after you regain your sight, the journey isn’t over. The first thing you’ll see is the road. The Jesus way continues, if you follow your eyes. Amen.

This is my sermon from this morning, “Stay Loyal to Your Healing,” based on Mark 10:46-52.  To listen to audio, go here. To peruse other sermons, go here

Richard Rohr quote is from Everything Belongs (NY: Crossroad Publishing, 1999) 17.

Toddler Legs in the Race to Freedom

(This is for Glennon, and for myself)

The truth is supposed to set us free. What I want to know is why being set free can hurt like heck?

I am starting to feel scared of the truth, for the way it burns. Truth, when hidden, causes ulcers (I have discovered). Truth, when released . . . well, I am still finding that out, I just know it is scary and searing and jarring. Like everything you propped yourself up with is now knocked away and you have to stand on your own two feet, but you have toddler legs that wobble and fail you. This just doesn’t seem fair at all: that you, beautiful you, with all your important jobs and all your serious efforts would wake up one day with toddler legs of all things and then discover the marathon starts today and you haven’t even trained. You can’t even run for goodness sake, what with these legs, but the race begins anyhow, without your consent.

Maybe freedom isn’t free and you will move so slowly it will hurt you as you toddle and trip your way to the first mile marker. But somewhere along the way you learn new skills, you find your own strength, you pick up speed. Someday you run, with the wind in your hair and the world both at your back and before you. It is such a surprise to discover just how many times in one life you can come back alive.

Being awake and alive is so much more painful that staying asleep, but we keep choosing to wake up and live. And our friends cheer us on from the sidelines.

To You Who Were Raped (by the Church)

To You, Who Were Raped by the Church
(and then I tried to make you be my friend)

I expend a lot of energy trying to earn forgiveness for the church from the world.

I want desperately to differentiate myself from the acts of violence, the crimes against humanity, the sickening hypocrisy:

Look! My congregation is not mean, I swear it. We are gentle and gracious. We do, in fact, use our intellect, even in the church. We allow for questions; we embrace those who are different. We are safe, we are different, we are a breath of fresh air.

Look! I am a pastor who will not manipulate, lie, or belittle, I swear it. I do not molest children or mishandle funds or sleep with my secretary while cramming abstinence down the throat of our teens. I respect the personhood of each individual. I am safe, I am different, I am a breath of fresh air.

Only all this effort to earn forgiveness from You, the Wounded, the Raped, the Lied To, and the Used . . . all this effort to prove I am different . . . it is about my ego. My need for You to approve me, accept me, and see that I am special. I am sorry. I won’t ask for Your forgiveness again.

Instead I say to You: You have every right to be angry.

If the Church raped You, I am not sorry. Sorry is the wrong word. As if I could make amends for such evil.

Instead I am devastated, and I get out of Your way. It makes perfect sense if You hate us. I can understand if You are suspicious of all clergy, even me. I hereby give up my need for You to like me.

I give up my anxiety that You come to like God again. If God is good, like I believe, then God can handle herself and soothe Your wounds in time. If God is evil (or not even there), like it must seem to you, then I am sorry for interfering in Your journey with my pompous opinions.

You have every right to be angry, and the only way to heal is through Your anger and not around it (at least, that’s how it works for me), so I apologize for trying to force a rushed reconciliation that would require You to stuff the anger. I’m bad at timing.

Somewhere (it was in church, I think) I got this idea that salvation was in my hands, and I had better dispense it quick or all of You would die. God, I was presumptuous.

I see You now, and You are so alive, and Your job is so hard. What obstacles You are up against: so much hurt to overcome just to survive, just to heal, just to find peace, and there’s hardly a church-goer alive who will let You be.

Even the kindest among us try to smother You with love, as if You were a wayward child we could win back with kisses rather than a victim of atrocity who needs Your space to heal. I wish we had not inserted ourselves where we did not belong.

Just to be clear, I’d still like to be friends with You. Not to satiate my insecurity, but because I think You are cool. I am fascinated by Your story, and I wish I could hear the whole thing. I think You are incredibly brave, and that You have something to teach me. I have this sneaking suspicion we could actually connect, more than either of us would have thought possible.

But I just wanted You to know, You are free to decline the invitation because I can see bad things have happened to You, and I promise to quit play-acting like they didn’t happen. I won’t trivialize Your hurt by pretending there’s no rift between us.

So goodbye, You beautiful person. I hope You find Your healing.

I hope one day, in Your own time, You say to me, “Hello.”

Be Loyal to Your Own Healing

Participate in your own healing . . .

~not everything you try is going to work~

~not every person in whom you bravely confide is going to listen~


~not every road is a dead end~

~not every obstacle means defeat~

sometimes you will grow




It will always catch you by surprise

to round a bend and discover

you can keep going

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creating me [using words]


creating me [using words]