WOUNDS, HEALING AND LOVE: THE MYSTERY OF THE JOURNEY

Food, Forgiveness, Health, Icons, Imagination, Italy, Love, Meditation, Ministry, mystery, poverty, purpose, renewal, salvation, Spirituality, Strength, Travel, Uncategorized, vision, Work

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At dinner Friday night with some friends, I met a lady from their church. I remarked that I needed to find something on the Mexican restaurant’s menu that wouldn’t damage my wellness plan. I’ve been pre-diabetic for eight years now, but I’ve managed my condition with diet and exercise. I even have a Fitbit exercise monitor that links to my sparks people food record. “Gosh! That’s so much trouble” she said, “why do you worry with all that?” I looked at her and replied, “Because I have a family history of diabetes, I’m pre-diabetic, and my younger brother is insulin dependent and already had congestive heart failure. I don’t want to go there too.” “Been there, done that. It’s all part of life,” she said.

I have been on a healing journey for years. What, you say, are you just spiritually slow, recalcitrant, a backslider, sluggardly, or just too busy to take care of yourself? If our healing journeys are toward our recovery of our original image of divine creation, I’m not yet there, but I persist by the grace of God.

I don’t berate myself for not yet arriving, but the last few years I’ve had a hardness of my heart regarding others who have gone “so far, but no farther.” They have in effect become settlers and comfortable at some village located in a cozy hollow beside a pleasant stream. They have nice neighbors and maybe a few quaint nut cases to liven up the town gossip mills. I confess that as one who can hardly wait for the next adventure, the next project, or even the next day, I’m not big on being “settled.”

This is why I’ve had six careers in my working life: artist, real estate investor, art teacher, insurance sales, wife and mom, and ministry. Now that I’m in retirement, I’ve taken up writing and resurrected my artistic endeavors. I’m not settled enough to sit around, drink coffee and rehash my glory days or even talk about current events. I’m too involved in making current events!

This icon, “He Healed Others, Cannot He Heal Himself?” Is made of found objects which I picked up while walking around Mercy Hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas. This 1.5 mile circuit from my local YMCA takes me from one healing place past many others: doctors’ offices, cancer treatment sites, home healthcare training schools, pharmacies, and clinics of every type. Across the street one can get food for the body. The busy roads and highways are a bountiful source for the castaway chunks of this human life.

As I picked up these assorted pieces of debris, I thought of the cast off people in this world: the hungry, the dying, the disabled, the terminally ill, the deaf, and the blind. The greatest healing sign was raising Lazarus from the dead! I had an old postcard from a trip to Italy I could use, along with some old embroidery hoops from the grandparent’s house that I’ll never use on a cloth, but I’ve “saved for the memories of their name.”

In the first three Gospels, the “chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him” (Matthew 27:41-42). To “save” is to heal, to preserve from harm, or to get well. We speak today of “being saved” as if it were a one and done, but in fact it is both an instantaneous and a long term process.

We want our wounds to be healed NOW! By golly, and don’t leave any visible scar as a sign of our past pain, but remove all signs of our imperfection from our hearts, minds, and souls. Just as the Son of a God took a human body to taste all of our peak and low experiences, even to the abandonment of death, I think God may have a purpose in leaving us with our scars as we continue on our journey.

The scars we bear are signs to others of the journey we’re still traveling, much like the stamps in our passports. They are the marks of our past pain and brokenness. If God were to wipe those identifying marks away, no one would know to seek us out as guides along their own journeys. God may be leaving these wounds open so that we can pour God’s love out through our brokenness into the lives of this hurting and hopeless world.

Our world is full of people that have been told that they need to get well before God will love them, but what they are really being told is “My wounds are covered over with a fake skin of perfection, so until you adopt your fake skin, find another place to worship.” Our open wounds that let God’s love flow through to all people, the wandering wounded and the settled saints both, is what will bring us closer to God as we come closer to our neighbor. Sometimes it’s easier to love a holy God than an unholy neighbor, but loving God’s creation should be a goal of our spiritual journey.

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THE HOLY NODE AND THE FOUND BUTTERFLY

butterflies, Creativity, Health, Icons, Imagination, Meditation, Mental Illness, mystery, Physical Training, purpose, renewal, Strength, Travel, Uncategorized, vision

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I’m not a fast walker, for my first goal in walking isn’t to break any record for my usual 1.5 mile jaunt around Mercy Hospital here in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Neither do I stroll, for Bon Jovi and the Boss sing a strong striding cadence in my ear. I can manage the hills better in one direction than another, for at least one is nearly 45 degrees. I go up this hill once a week. It never gets less steep. The rest of the week I go down that hill. At my age, there’s no sense taking any more years off my life than necessary!

My goals as I walk are to be more conscious of my body, to care for it better, to build my body for endurance and health, to be outside in the sunlight (natural vitamin D), and to develop a better attitude (exercise releases endorphins that lift one’s mood). Walking also seems to clear my mind of worry and anxiety about others.

In that large hospital, I know that healing is going on. While some may be “losing the battle” against whatever dread disease has attacked them, they have “won the war” and received their final healing from God. We think our life is over when we close our eyes and breathe no more, but our life is just beginning in a newer and more wonderful way!

As I make my rounds about the hospital grounds, the wind blows through my hair, the sun falls on my face, and I see the sun shaped shadows of the pines and the pear trees. Even the ornamental lake reflects the colors of the sky and clouds. Heaven and earth are more connected here even though my path is just beside the eternally busy bypass of Highway 270.

There are nodes in space and time at which the intersection of heaven and earth seem to open up to one another. The Celtic tradition calls these “thin places.” All across the world we can find sites that were considered holy by one successive people & faith after another. When you walk into such a place, you can feel the years of prayers within the space.

This route I take, while short, has become a holy node for me. It was the reason for two found object works: The No Room Inn and The Healing Christ. I also did a landscape of that decorative pond. Now I am painting the various butterflies I have collected on my journeys. These are symbols of the new life to come because they wrap themselves in a cocoon (grave cloths). I think of them as an icon of the new life we live when we see the light of what is possible in Jesus Christ himself:

“I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.” — John 12:46

A ROAD IN THE WILDERNESS

Creativity, Fear, Forgiveness, home, Imagination, Meditation, photography, purpose, renewal, salvation, Stress, Travel, Uncategorized, vision

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As I am entering the outskirts of my city, I leave the local highway and climb onto the bypass that loops around the south side of town. I wouldn’t dare climb this route in a winter storm, but on one of our interim false spring days, I can negotiate the incline and curves without fear. On one of my journeys home, I arrived as usual near sunset, so I was driving into the setting sun. The light was falling between the low mountains with a flooding glow that didn’t seem to come from the sun, but from a holy presence.

Since I was driving sixty miles an hour on a two lane, one way elevated road, I did not whip out an Instagram memory. Instead, I committed this to my mind’s memory and sketched it out when I got home on the first piece of paper I found, which happened to be a magazine page I had ripped out and put into my purse. Then I unloaded the car and went inside to my home.

Where are the people? Where are the distinctive landscape markings? I didn’t make these on purpose so that this road can be everywhere for everyone. We each have our own personal wilderness in which we wander before we can come home. We can’t come home as long as we are just in this world, but we can come home when we realize that we are walking with God in God’s world. The problems that keep us from having good relationships with our family, our friends, our neighbors, and our god will be healed when we realize that God has already prepared the highway for us on which we are to travel homeward:

“A highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it,
but it shall be for God’s people;
no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.
No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” –Isaiah 35:8-10

One day we will climb up the entry to this bypass, the light will strike us as truly different from all other days we have been in this place, and if we are aware of God’s speaking to us in his world, we will hear his voice calling us home. The burdens will lift from our shoulders and the tears will dry from our eyes. Songs of joy will burst unbound from our hearts and our feet will leap and dance with gladness.