Today is a day for
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Today is a day for
I walked into the entry corridor of a large, tall building (think Boston Science Museum, if you’re ever been there). As I walked, I noticed how light I felt and that I was almost floating off of the ground. “Like being in water,” I thought. And I remembered that there was a swimming pool on top of this corridor and wondered if I could swim up to it. So, I started swimming. The bottom of the corridor was very warm, but the air/water around me got cooler and cooler as I swam up, until it was indeed very cold by the top. And when I reached the top, I felt anger, because the swimming pool was covered, I was cold, and the water I’d had no trouble breathing before suddenly didn’t seem as breathable. So I punched out at the cover and managed to push it aside. As soon as I did so, I was covered in light and it seemed that there was nothing at all between me and the sky. The light warmed me and the beauty overwhelmed me.
When I returned to the “floor” below, I left the corridor and proceeded into the building. It was a school that taught all species all kinds of subjects. I overheard an art teacher talk about the struggles he was having with some of his animal students. I suggested to him that the four students did as I did: swim up to the surface of the pool, that the light would inspire them to greater creativity. He followed my suggestion and the students did as I suggested.
Moments later, the teacher was furious at me: two of his students had committed suicide upon reaching the top of the water. With sadness, I realized they must have thought the darkness and the cold was all that was there, that they had not breached the cover to bathe in the light.
Last night, as my thoughts were wandering as they usually do right before I fall asleep, I started thinking about my favorite memory of Sugar. We used to lock her up at night in Rob’s office (with food/water dishes, two beds and a padded office chair, and two litter boxes), so we could get some sleep. Most mornings at 5 AM, she’d start announcing quite loudly (she was a Siamese, after all) about how she was tired of being locked up and wanted attention. Some mornings, I’d give in and go to her. And when I did that, I’d open the door and she’d be there literally beaming at me, rubbing her whole body against my legs, and nearly jumping into my arms. I’d pick her up, she’d wrap her forelegs around my neck to “hug” me, and then nuzzle under my chin with such force that I’d have to bend my neck up. She was overjoyed at seeing me again, after only being apart from me for 5, maybe 6, hours.
I started thinking, “I wonder if God’s that happy when we come back to Him after being away? How wonderful would it be if God overflowed with joy when we came back to Him, even if we were only gone for a few hours.”
And then I remembered a story in the Gospels that I’ve had explained to me dozens of times in Mass or CCD (Catholic Sunday School) or in books, blogs, etc.
In this parable, Jesus tells the story of a man with two sons. One son is faithful, always does what he’s supposed to, and isn’t the focus of the story. The other son leaves his father’s home, squanders his inheritance, realizes he’s been a fool, and returns home, begging for forgiveness and asking to be treated like a hired hand and not a son. The father is so happy to see the son he thought lost to him that he throws an enormous party to celebrate his son’s return. (To read the actual Bible verses, click here.)
So: Yes, God does overflow with joy when we come back to him. And the image of God being like Sugar, so abundant with love and joy at seeing me again after such a short absence, is one that makes me smile. And it also gives me a new understanding of the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
Most of the times, I’ve heard it explained that the Prodigal Son parable is about how God will always forgive us after we’ve sinned if we only come back to Him and ask forgiveness. I always thought, “Well, wouldn’t it be better just not to sin in the first place and be like the faithful son?” But now I understand that parable in a different light. It’s not just about sinning and forgiveness, it’s about moving toward and away from God.
Most of us couldn’t bear to be completely saturated in God’s presence. I know I couldn’t bear it. We need a break, a time to enjoy being human and our current, personal, selfish experience. And, frankly, I think that’s okay, because we’re not God, we’re people. We’re people that can commune with God, that are part of God, but we are not God. So it makes sense to me that we would need a break from communing with the Divine once in a while.
But when we’re done taking a break, and want to go back to being with God, imagine how wondrous it’d be if He were ecstatic we’d returned, no matter how long we’d been gone. If we’re only gone for 5 minutes and then come back, it’s cause for celebration. And if we’re gone for even longer and come back, it’s time to throw a party.
Being shown God through the love of a cat. Will wonders never cease.
Let us do our God-given duties.
Let us wage our God-sanctioned wars.
Let us scorn those God calls scornful.
Let us never ask what for.
But in the silence, there is a glimmer.
And in the glimmer, there lies a seed.
And from this seed, all of Creation —
Never knowing what we truly need.
From the Light, the shapes of sin
Now too visible to be ignored.
Self’s worthiness torn bare,
Left as remnants toward
That life within, that Light within,
That removes the without,
Until all the world is made one Being
And outside, now unfeared, rests doubt.
As I went to raise the shades this morning, my eyes burned from the light that seeped through. Knowing that the light would not burn when the shade was raised, I raised it. This seems to me an apt metaphor for my relationship with God: when the shade of my soul is intact, His Light can burn me. But what were to happen if I let go? I don’t feel ready for that yet, but I hope that I will, one day, be able to raise to shade of my soul and let God in.
One of the best gifts Quakerism has given me has been the idea of God as light. This is not a gift unique to Quakerism — after all, it has its roots in the New Testament — but it wasn’t until I found Quakerism that the idea really seeped in.
On Easter of this year, I made a post renouncing my identity as a Christian, not for lack of respect towards Christians or towards Jesus; but because I could not say that I believed in the Resurrection of Jesus or as Jesus as Savior. I felt that God was calling me to let go of that label and see what would happen. So I did.
But here is what it comes down to. Relating God to light has drawn me infinitely closer to Him. I am not willing to give that perception up, not unless He asks that of me, and I’ve felt no such call. Yet one of the reasons I initially was drawn to the light metaphor was that light has three parts: Source, Visible Light, and Heat. All are God, but the Source I equated with God as Creator, the Visible Light as Jesus, and the Heat as the Holy Spirit. In this way, Jesus literally is the connection between man and God while the Holy Spirit is the evidence of that connection.
Without that connection, what is left? Though I know that my in-laws don’t really consider me a Christian (they wouldn’t be praying for my salvation so much if they did), it’s not really up to them to choose my religious label for me. The reality is that my main holy book is the Bible, though I see divine inspiration in many other sources. The language that best speaks to me about my faith is Christian; even a day before Easter, I wrote a poem about the Resurrection!
Jesus is and always has been my inspiration to live a better life: his love, his teachings, his ability to dedicate his entire self to God. Others in my life showed me his love, but it is he I follow, not them.
Whether Jesus died for our salvation is not a question I’m ready to answer. I suppose one could say I’m agnostic about Jesus as savior. The truth is that I am more concerned about living my life today as best I can than about what will become of my soul when I die. It’s not that I don’t find that question important; it’s just that what becomes of my soul when I die is a question for God to answer. It’s not one I feel even moderately capable of trying to answer, not for me and certainly not for anyone else.
I’ve gone astray in this post, and I apologize. The point is: if Jesus is my connection to God and if Jesus inspires me to live as he did, how can I not call myself a Christian?
Bunches of snow like little
White flower buds on bushes as
My soul gazes out in wonder at this
World He has created —
The bunches of snow like the
Promise of Resurrection.
Today, there. Tomorrow,
but not lost.
This is an entry I wrote last night in my journal:
“An image has been in my mind for weeks; one I wish I had the talent to paint: me, kneeling on the floor crying, with a light shining down on me. I’ve just realized the significance. When life’s good, there’s other light around me. His Light is still there, but it’s hard for me to see it with the dazzle that surrounds me. When life’s dark, His is the only Light I see.”
If any of you want to know how my health is doing, please read my livejournal.
In front of my desk on the wall hang several items. They hang in this place of honor because these items inspire me and make me happy. Recently, Marshall Massey added my blog to his recommended blogs list and made this post about the Quaker blogmass community. Like the Quaker blog entries I read on daily from Quaker Quaker, these images not only inspire me, but remind me of what I value most in life and what is most important to me.
Let me tell you about these images, of which there are 6. In the upper right is a portrait of me my mom’s best friend drew when I was about 6 years old. The younger me is smiling honestly, though hesitantly. She reminds me of the dreams I had at that age and that feeling with sheer abandon is not only okay, but wonderful.
Left of her is a picture frame that contains 8 pictures. In the upper right is a picture of my mom with my niece and stepnephew, who are also displayed, on their own, to the left and left below. Under that image is a picture of me at age 9 holding a very young Siamese cat named Sugar. Sugar is now 16 years old and has been with me through thick and thin. She’s been there for me at times when no one else could possibly calm me the way she can. She inspires me daily about love. The leftmost two pictures in the frame are of me and my husband, one right after our wedding and one at our 2nd wedding reception (we had 3). The two next to that are also of family members, one with his sister and my father’s fiancé and one of Rob, me, my sister (very pregnant at the time), my father, and his fiancé at Christmas Eve 2 years ago.
The bottom right image is a diploma from Camp Dartmouth Hitchcock, a camp for kids with arthritis that I attended for 8 years. More about that camp in a moment. In the middle on the bottom row are two calendars, one of young baby animals and one of cats. In the bottom left corner is the image of which I am most proud, even moreso than my college diploma (which is not even hanging on this important wall).
This image is the Joshua Burnett Award, from Camp Dartmouth Hitchcock. Here is what the certificate says:
“Dr. Joshua Burnett, a family physician with an ear for the need of his patients, became the first Rheumatologist in the state after hearing of a need. He willingly returned to school to learn to provide this specialized care for this patients. As a Staff Rheumatologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center he saw the need for a camp for children with arthritis. A place they could go and enjoy camping as any other child their age. It was his unselfish gift of caring for others that we honor with this award.
Each year one camper is voted on by their peers as the camper that exemplifies the spirit of Dr. Burnett. This camper is caring and unselfish in his or her interaction with their fellow campers.“
Being given that award showed me the best person I could be. I had dreamed of winning that award each previous year at camp, but I had given up on my last year. Though I was not the person I am today, the person I was during that week of camp was the best person I can ever hope to be. Each day I try to live up to that award. For I know that for each day that I do not live up to that award, I am not honoring the camp that showed me what true community, love, and caring is like.
For myself, I have that award to strive towards. For my Meeting community, I have the loving, accepting, and caring community of camp to work towards. Each evening before heading off to bed, we would sit in a circle in silence. Sometimes, we would speak. Though camp wasn’t a religious camp and religion was never discussed, I have never felt God’s presence, Jesus’s love, and the Spirit’s acceptance more powerfully than I have in those nightly circles. It is the combination of these two elements, the divine and the active, that I most wish to share with my Meeting community.