Sunday, December 6, 2015
Monday, November 23, 2015
He told Pilate he was born to testify to the truth.
Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”
In the face of violence, he answered.
He choose a cross,
and a grave.
He testified to it again yesterday:
Sunday, November 15, 2015
So, where are you?
Paris is burning
128 are dead
her borders are tightened
like Japan, again
under a tsunami warning.
High speed trains derail in Echwersheim
killing at least 10
while millions of homeless refugees
seek asylum and are turned away.
Not here! We must keep ourselves safe.
O, and what about those 147 murdered by Islamic extremists
at Garissa University College in Kenya back on April 2
barely a blip on our radar
the news media failed to report.
“Black lives matter”, too.
We’ve seen the sign of the fig tree
generation after generation after generation,
twenty-one now, and
still you don’t come.
So perhaps we’ve misunderstood the Scripture?
Who is this Son of Man coming in clouds?
Are we looking for the historical Jesus
riding on his white horse?
or should we be looking for our own enlightened conscious Selves,
humankind evolving into a greater force of love.
the sun is still dark,
the moon still fails to give its light
stars still fall
and no one comes to the rescue.
by Sheila Conner
Sunday, November 8, 2015
Monday, November 2, 2015
So, yesterday was my first challenge, and TWO poems came from that Gospel. The first, written before church.
Barton’s and Courtney’s lives spun out of control,
if you had only been here when
Monica determined, “Enough is enough,” left, and took Joe with her,
if you had been here when
Laura walked out on Mike, broke his heart, and shattered his body…
That’s what I’m tempted to say Lord,
Where were you?
Then I could let the blame rest
at your feet.
But my theology tells me you were here,
and still my family broke,
still my children suffer,
still my heart aches.
Sometimes I wonder what good God is…
Then you turned the table...
“Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
Shit, Lord, that’s not fair.
I believed, I believed so damn hard,
and it all broke anyway.
So, is this what your glory looks like?
a garment torn to pieces?
from singing to ashes?
If so, it sucks.
If not, then what?
What will your glory look like in the lives of my children
and my grandchildren?
Do I believe?
I believe Lord, help me in my unbelief.
where are you Lord?
Settled in her quiet space that dreary gray morning,
pen and paper in hand,
she read the Gospel for the day,
In her own dullness,
eyes blinded by fear and despair,
all she saw was blame:
Mary’s, “...if you had been there…”
His own, “...if you believed…”
Her heart a cave*
a stone lying against it.
Bitter tears fell,
hot anger flowed thick black ink on the page.
She wrote, The Blame Game.
The priest read from the same Gospel later that morning
and the stone was rolled away.
“Father, I thank you for having heard me. I know you
always hear me.”
Faith means someone sees.
The leaf continues to float down the river.
She leans into the flow.
Sunday, November 1, 2015
Rub thumb’s fingernail over
what was once an open wound,
no longer raw, but instead scabbed,
My heart seems on this day
to be likewise,
dense, scarred and dumb
Flat, deflated, depressed, empty.
Om namo Bhagadvate vasudevaya…
Rip open my heart Beloved,
soften and lift it.
Cause the petals of this lotus
to open again
that the fragrance of our Love
might fill my senses.
Brighten this day with
Monday, October 26, 2015
Sunday, October 25, 2015
Saturday, October 24, 2015
She appears about this time every Fall.
This is her 7th year.
She has a large clutch here on the Coast of Texas,
Her voice is not gentle dove-like cooing,
She swoops in, gathers us around her, and guides us
And we wait, another year, for Hamsa to return.
Hamsa* is a Sanskrit word for a migratory bird, usually pictured as a swan or a wild goose. An “animal mask” of both the universal creative impulse and the self-realized saint. It “symbolizes the divine essence, which, though embodied in and abiding with the individual, yet remains forever free from, and unconcerned with the events of the individual life.” (Heinrich Zimmer), from The Yoga of Breath, by Richard Rosen.
And Hamsa, in this poem, is our own Richard Osler, flying in from Canada each Fall to lead us through a wonderful weekend filled with grace, a poetry-writing weekend, poetry as prayer.
This weekend we had a pre-writing assignment, and we shared our first poems last night. Here is mine.
Thursday, October 15, 2015
And dear old Fr. Richard Rohr was the first one to tell me, "You can't be born again until you die first." Who knew?
Anyway, I woke up very early this morning remembering a poem (an epic!) I wrote a number of years ago, entitled Born Again. I want to share the poem with you - it's long, but so too is the journey of new birth. As I wrote this poem, I became the baby being born, feeling the difficulty of being born. I don't think I had ever thought about what it felt like to be born. I knew what it felt like to give birth, and believe me, that's not easy, but the morning I wrote this poem, I was experiencing "transition" as the baby in the womb, instead of the mother giving birth, and I think, from the baby's point of view, it has to feel like death.
As I wrote the poem, I think I came to the conclusion, that you and I don't "choose" to be born again. That doesn't fit my old evangelical understanding, but babies don't make the choice to begin the journey from womb to birth. That choice is made for them because they outgrow the space they are in. You've outgrown your old space son. You don't have any choice but to be born again - or to die, because that's what will happen if you stay where you are too long. Now, I don't have a clue how long "too long" is - it's metaphorically speaking, of course.
So, before this letter gets so darn long that even a blog post won't hold it, this is the poem I wrote. I think it must have been about 2010? I think I wrote it before I went to Arizona (2011), which is when I think I "broke through that damn door" and was actually "born again". At any rate, this is MY experience of being "born again". I told Scott McKay MANY years ago that I had been born again and born again and born again, many times...but this new birth was probably the most excruciating new birth of this lifetime. I think maybe it's the only time I truly "died" first. OK, so here's the poem...
Ok, so see, it is long. You only took 4 hours to be born, my quickest delivery, but Joe took 23 hours, so consider this a 23-hour birthing poem.
I have no clue how long this process will take for you. I think mine took about 7 years before I felt the break through. Saints of old called it "the dark night". No matter what you call it, it's a death to an old way and a birth into something new. I am praying for you - for a safe delivery through this "transition" period. I love you. I believe in you, and I believe in God IN you. Transition is the most difficult part of giving birth. And in THIS process, you are both mother and baby, so, no, it's not going to be easy. It will be the most difficult thing you've ever done, but you will be born into a spacious new place, and a spacious new way of living your life. I have no clue what it will look like, or how it will feel for you, except there will be a place inside you that knows you've done it. You've done the work, and you are a new person indeed.
Saturday, April 4, 2015
Sheila, do you believe in hell? Do you believe in eternal damnation?
So what is "hell". If hell is defined as a lake of fire in which damned souls burn forever and ever throughout all eternity, no, I don't believe in that "place." And at this point in my life, no, I don't believe in eternal damnation. What I believe is that Love never fails. God is Love; Love is God, and Love never fails. Period.
I do believe in hell as a state of being unable to receive Love. This thought came to me a number of years ago, probably around 2002, because the thought included Sadeem Hussain, our modern-day Hitler. In prayer one morning as I was contemplating hell and eternal damnation of the wicked, I thought about this wicked man and all he had done. But I also considered the culture he was raised in and his own possible childhood of abuse, and I considered Julian of Norwich's revelations of Love, that God never blames, but looks on humanity with pity.
As my mind wandered through various thoughts, I considered life after death. I don't know anything for sure about all that anymore, except I believe in life after death, but I have no clue what it looks like...so, what if after I die, I find myself right next to Sadeem Hussain, and the only thing that divides us is that around us everywhere as far as we can see and feel is Love, and I can receive that Love, but he can't. That would be hell. And it seems we can be in hell while we're still alive, here, in this state of being.
I have a picture of Holy Saturday that has stayed with me for 23 years now. On the night before Jim and I married, our soon to be joint family sat around a little table made for 4, Jim and his two girls, me and my 3 sons, his mom and day, and my mother, 9 of us around a very little table meant for 4. And Jim's youngest got mad about something. Her favorite word at that time, at the age of 3, was asshole, and she knew exactly how to use it. In retrospect, I'm quite sure she was afraid about losing her daddy and all the hubub of all that was happening was shaking her little world, but at that moment, she was just mad, and she proceeded to yell her little heart out, calling everyone around the table an asshole. It was not a pretty sight, and me, being the disciplinarian I was demanded that Jim do something about her, or I would. Finally Jim sent her to her room. He condemned her to her hell. She marched straight there screaming and crying and continuing to hurl the word asshole over her shoulder back at us. She got to her room, went in and slammed the door.
I was so embarrassed. That's what their sin does to us. It embarrasses us. So we condemn them to hell. You and I do that - Love doesn't do that. We do.
And the screaming and shouting continued until I leveled with Jim about how important it was to take charge of this situation - "Either you make her stop and control her, or I will!"
So Jim dutifully descended into her hell - but the shouting continued, so I marched myself down the hall to correct the situation and to practice parental discipline. Thanks be to God, I didn't barge in, but quietly opened the door and I saw Jim, sitting in the middle of the floor holding this 3 year old banchee indian who was still kicking and screaming and flinging insults. He was rocking her and whispering into her ear, "It's ok, Daddy loves you." Over and over he would smooth her little flailing arms and legs and seek to calm her down, rocking and whispering his love to her, until at last, she rested and slept.
That's the picture I have of hell, and Jesus' descent into hell. In all our pain and screaming and hurling insults at the life we've been give, even in all our anger and rage toward others, he sits with us, holds us, rocks us. Hell is the inability to receive Love. But Love never fails. Love is stronger than death. And Love will finally and fully win.
Have a blessed Holy Saturday.
Friday, March 27, 2015
And I find myself pondering Jesus again. I started a new book this morning, The Mystic Way of Evangelism. In the Introduction, author Elaine Heath defines evangelism: "Evangelism rightly understood is the holistic invitation of people into the reign of God as revealed in Jesus Christ."
That phrase, "...as revealed in Jesus Christ," got me to thinking about Fr. Bede Griffiths' and Mother Theresa's "evangelism" of India, their witness of Jesus as compared to the colonization evangelism of India, which required Russill Paul's dad to give up his Hindu name to become a Christian.
As I pondered for just a moment the difference between the two styles of evangelism, once more I heard a Voice (Jesus?) asking me, "Who do YOU say that I am Sheila? Forget your fears of whether or not I'm God's 'only begotten Son' (whatever that means). Forget about right or wrong expression. Forget about your question, 'Was that really Jesus, or just my Essence speaking?' Forget all that, and right here, right now, tell me about your experience of me. Who am I to you?"
I met Jesus "face-to-face" so to speak when I was 40. Already some of my spiritual foundations were beginning to crumble and my physical life was a mess. My oldest son was away from home in the Army with the first Gulf War brewing. My middle son was in the hospital in Houston. My dad died, and my husband left us. I was no longer my Daddy's daughter, or my husband's wife, and I was quickly becoming a mother to grown children. All of my identifiers were on their last leg, but I didn't know that yet. All I knew was the thing I wanted the most was to have a husband, a real partner who would love me and not leave me, someone who would help me make decisions and someone who would love my children as much as I did and who would "be there" for them as they became young men - someone who wouldn't leave them, either. I needed someone who wouldn't walk out on us, someone who wouldn't desert us, but instead would love us. That's what I needed from Jesus. And his answer to me was, "Here I am. I won't leave you or desert you or your sons. I will be a husband to you, your life partner."
And that's what Jesus was to me for the next 10 years or so; he was my husband, my Beloved, my partner, lover, friend, encourager; whatever I needed on my journey through my everyday life, Jesus morphed and filled that need. Interesting as I look back, it seems he put ME first. He never made any demands on me, but would instead invite me to make the harder choices, to take the more difficult path, but he never once insisted that I be a "good wife, a good mother, or a good Christian". He just stayed with me.
Then a shift came, and I lost my definition of him. He lost his "shape", and I could no longer find him. Again, in retrospect, it feels as if he said, "I [Jesus] must decrease so that she [Sheila] can increase." He stepped out of my line of vision, left the role of "leader", and pushed me forward with, "Who are YOU Sheila? What do YOU want from life? Who do you want to be? Don't ask me anymore what I want you to be. YOU have a choice."
Then Jesus literally went silent for a number of years. Truthfully, he doesn't talk to me nearly as much as he used to. But I still feel his nearness. Jesus is loyal to me. Jesus supports my heart and my dreams. Jesus defends my right to make my own choices, even about him! He encourages me. HE GIVES ME PERMISSION! He doesn't say "no" to me. Shoot, when I wanted to go check out the Catholic Church, he said, "GO!" If I want to learn about Buddhism, he puts a book in my hands and a Zen Roshi to teach me. If I want to explore other spiritualities rather than my Christian roots, he beams at me, smiles, and says. "Go for it!"
By this time, Jesus is beginning to look a lot like Jim.
Neither Jesus nor Jim ever doubt me. Jesus never says to me, "No you can't." He TRUSTS me to make my own decisions and my own choices. He blesses me and challenges me with , "Go ahead! You can do it!" Shoot, he even works behind my back lining up little synchronicites that show up later so that I know he's still there, in the background, loving me and supporting me.
So maybe that's why I can't answer like Peter. Maybe that's why I can't figure out "who" Jesus is. He's NOT what I expected. He's different than I was taught. His expectations of me are different from what I had been told they were. He didn't say to me, "Lay down your life," nor did he say, "Pick up your cross and follow me." Instead he said, "Sheila, you have a brain. You have hopes and dreams. You have two legs and two feet. Take up your mat, your own life, and WALK. BE! Become who you were intended to be, not who you were EXPECTED to be! BE YOU, BE SHEILA"
And at times that has been the scariest thing ever. Jesus turned my tables upside down. He sat before me an unmarked path and told me to forge ahead and to make my own way. He told me to explore, to go on an adventure, and to evolve! And that wasn't what I expected at all.
And right now at this moment, I seem to hear him say, "You are all together lovely my Bride." And he chuckles.
Tonight at St. Timothy's, we begin The Daring Way, with the motto, "Show up, be seen, live brave!" And THAT'S what Jesus has done mostly in my life, double-dog dared me to be myself, to live unafraid, to go ahead and be that Dissident Daughter instead of that Proverbs 31 woman. Yes, Jesus looks more like Jim every day.