” When belief was not enough, I accepted the invitation to an experience.” ~ MaryAnn Fry
That was the first line of my book proposal for Going Naked Being Seen. It took me about a year to write that line. And, it took me another year to really comprehend it; to realize it. For alcoholics like me that follow a twelve step program of recovery, we need a Spiritual experience to recover. Not a belief, an experience. I believed in God before I recovered, and was very religious too. But, I still drank. And, my ongoing recovery is dependent on the maintenance of a fit Spiritual condition. I’ve had those experiences, and they’ve changed the way I see and experience life. But many people haven’t, even though they have years of physical sobriety. Time and time again, the subject of a Spiritual experience comes up in discussion and I wait, and hope…
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A good friend asked me for some help last night, and I’m sure it’s because I’m a former trial lawyer that specialized in Child Protective Proceedings. I’m also her friend though, and she accepted my perspective and direction, when the solution was a spiritual one, and not the legal one she had called to explore.
We did discuss many things about the legal situation, including my take that the lawyer seemed to be sliding by some important ethical guidelines, and had not spent time preparing her for a hearing that was set for next Friday. But, I don’t practice anymore, and must deliver broader solutions. We ended the long conversation with plan for her to focus on her spiritual fitness; all that she could really do in the meantime anyway. So much is out of her control, not to mention that she really doesn’t have standing in the proceedings. She…
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Luke Storms, the Editor for Parabola Magazine, had a blog titled, Crashingly Beautiful. What a combination of movement, and image in those words. I became an instant fan of his work. Today, I used crashingly beautiful to describe something going on in my life, and I was reminded of how I felt the first time I saw those words used together; arrested, intrigued, and upright.
Tonight, I’m in love with life, and mine in particular. I’m home, and have some time. I’ve had conversations in the last few weeks with people I love, but haven’t talked to in years. The holidays do that; I’m thrilled to have such lasting relationships. I’m thrilled to want to talk; the past few years had me in some processes that rendered me speechless. And I couldn’t write either, and it nearly killed me. This is a humble beginning, and a welcome to the life that calls me.
At the end of a year, we make goals and plans and resolutions. We look back to measure the unmeasurable really, as if it matters what we jammed into a block of time. I’ve resisted all that behavior but I’m not unaffected by the collective vibe. I hear these conversations daily.
This picture is a Christmas card that I got 20 years ago from a dear friend. Laura died last year; a brilliant woman terrorized by mental illness. It arrested me the moment I saw it. Mary, holding the radiant being to her breast, alone, but in repose. I imagine Laura that way now, and it feels good.
On Christmas Eve, we held a midnight service at our chapel, and read from Maria Valtorta, The Poem of the Man God. It was a moving passage about how Mary experienced the birth of, and the loss of, this magnificent being we know as Jesus. The humiliation of her pregnancy, the poverty of her condition, and the humility of her service. What resonated in those words was a supernatural love, a crashingly beautiful love. Bloodied, and hurt, and healed and whole and pure, all at the same time. It’s all a part of love; every last fiber of thought and experience.
I see that now, and I feel it too. Last year I moved, and left a relationship with a man I loved, because it wasn’t right for either of us. It was painful, but beautiful because it was the right thing to do. There is a price to pay for authentic expression and freedom, and it’s crashingly beautiful.
I took a new job that has been insane; demanding, brutal, exhausting and rich. I could have easily justified leaving but I didn’t, because I wanted to master something. One day, I woke up feeling differently, and realized that the work has always been about my reaction; not the situation. I’ve become a better leader, and our team has accomplished the impossible. It’s crashingly beautiful really, and I’m glad I stayed until this rest to appreciate that.
We have so many superficial ways to evaluate whether we’ve had a good year, or a good experience, at year’s end. This one, with the Mother and her child, will always remind me to hold the higher vision. Feel the greater love. Risk the humiliation; endure the fatigue. The sphinx holds her, as the mystery holds me. Forever, always, and in rest.
“Where the lines connect but the points stay free.” Ferron, “Our Purpose Here”
So, I was pretty amazed with myself when I said to my friend as we talked about both last week,
“There is nothing more attractive than holiness, and nothing more powerful than humility.”
That’s my perspective, and it comes after years of living, and spiritual striving. That sentence rings with simplicity, and that’s how I know I’ve made some progress. After I said that profound statement…
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Euphemisms always intrigue me because of what they don’t say, or try to minimize. “Out there” is a way that most people in recovery talk about the time when they were sick, and actively using. It’s also used to describe a relapse. It was hard for me to feel that at first, until I got really honest with myself. You see, I never had to sell my body for drugs, or sleep under bridges because I had damaged every relationship and lost every stable residence or job. I drank in the comfort of lovely homes and with nice glasses; quality wines too, don’t you know. Over time, I’ve come to know how profound that description of the state of disease is. It feels like self-hatred to me, and I sure engaged in that; to the gates of death.
I just didn’t know I was angry. And I didn’t have a…
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Diana was a dear friend and helped me navigate the stormy waters of my mother’s mental illness. That was in 1990, and she was a psychiatrist. In a dream the other night, I was gifted with a memory. A searing moment of pain, and a phone call to her. I felt and heard her steady, solid voice as I told her my mother hanged herself, and I couldn’t make it for Thanksgiving dinner that night.
A long pause ensued, characteristic of those trained in her profession, but it was more. She held such a profound space for me as I struggled to breathe. She finally broke the silence, and said,
“Your efforts on behalf of your mother were heroic MaryAnn. I admire you, and I am so sorry.
Over twenty years later, I know that heroic efforts did not make me a hero, and certainly not a hero of love…
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A friend drove fifteen miles Monday night to deliver me a photograph of a man named Elijah, because we shared a powerful history with him. More than moved I was, because that man shone the light of God when I was in in the deepest, darkest hell. He died several years ago, and I thought I had missed the chance to thank him. Now that I see his beautiful face in a photo, he’s alive again to me, and this post is for him. The text below is from my forthcoming book, Going Naked, Being Seen: Mary Magdalene and the Return to God,
A smell hit me as I walked down the stairs to the intake desk. The air was heavy and the floors were dirty. Walking toward the desk, my eyes slowly adjusted to the dark basement. I felt eyes upon me as I descended the…
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