My writing

HUMANITY: Shaping God On Earth

May 13, 2016

We walk around on Earth, bumping into each other and claiming to understand nothing about why we are here or what we are supposed to be doing here. Sometimes we grab onto something, a thought we convince ourselves is a belief in something or an enthusiasm that flashes its appeal at us, and we carry it with us as though it has real meaning. In a way, Christians have it the hardest. We have a book put in our hands and are told, Here, read this. This will tell you everything you need to know to live a holy life. No one actually tells us what is a holy life.  We get a lot on what is not a holy life.  But very little on the is-ness of God on Earth. And so we read the Bible and pretend to “get it.”  We nod our heads at one [...]

HEALING: Skin Deep

April 15, 2016

All my life I have known that one of my greatest weaknesses – a downright stupidity, in fact – is the way I viewed my body. At most, even as a child, I saw my body as existing solely to house my brain.  It is here so I can think. That’s it. A body might receive a prayer of healing from time-to-time.  It may get the attention it screams for, but only because it is screaming. Because I have given birth, I do know that giving a body rest is essential for all to be well.  But only enough rest to get to the point when getting up and running around again is enabled. I have become something of a professional at being seriously ill.  With being faced with death.  And taking the moments required to straighten it all out. So I [...]

FORGIVENESS: Surviving The Quicksand Of The Soul

April 8, 2016

It is no wonder that people are so confounded by forgiveness. It is either treated so lightly that it is given like a blessing to someone after they sneeze. Or the challenge of 70 times seven feels too great a summit to reach. But I have discovered something recently. When we forgive, we forgive an act. You (name act)ed me. I understand why you (name act)ed me. I have come to terms with why you (name act)ed me. I forgive you for (the act). So why is it so hard to let go?  Why do shades of the act come back and haunt us? Does forgiving an act have to be done in layers? What are we missing? What we are missing is what is under the act.  The violation. Kathleen Norris, in her book, describes at great length the idea of acedia.  She calls [...]

FORGIVENESS: Lent 2016 — Tasting The Blood

March 10, 2016

Knowing God’s heart means consistently, radically, and very concretely to announce and reveal that God is love and only love, and that every time fear, isolation, or despair begins to invade the human soul, this is not something that comes from God. (Henri J. M. Nouwen / In The Name of Jesus) I am here at my 30th day of Lent. Thirty out of 40. Or 47, depending how long you make your Lenten disciplines. Plunging around in my imagination to find blessings from people I’ve only always associated with a grunt and a shrug is like having to go to the dentist every day and having a root canal. Being scraped and scraped and scraped.  Down to the nerve.  And then scraping the nerve. And, then, every day after the procedure, having [...]

FORGIVENESS: Lent 2016 — God, the Rumpelstiltskin

March 3, 2016

Rescue me and deliver me from the hand of foreigners, Whose mouth speaks lying words, And whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood— That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; That our daughters may be as pillars, Sculptured in palace style; That our barns may be full, Supplying all kinds of produce; That our sheep may bring forth thousands And ten thousands in our fields; That our oxen may be well laden; That there be no breaking in or going out; That there be no outcry in our streets. Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the Lord! (Psalm 144:11-15) I never expected this from God, to be honest. And I’m not sure there would be many who would either.  Unless they [...]

FORGIVENESS: Lent 2016 — Playing The Hand The Fool Dealt

February 18, 2016

There is a saying, Only a fool plays the hand he’s dealt. But sometimes, I’ve found, it is The Fool, himself, who deals the hand. I have learned a lot about forgiveness this week. A whole lot. One thing I have learned is that we all lie to ourselves about the nature of forgiveness. We want it to be all about resolution. About peace-making. About love. But what it is really about – what it is about when we are alone with ourselves in the darkness – is justice. We want justice for the pain. For the inconvenience. For the disruption to our lives that the injury caused. And we use forgiveness as payback. I know this now because what I saw before me this week, working hard to find something to be grateful for for some people [...]

FORGIVENESS: Lent 2016 — Turn Around

February 11, 2016

Where to begin? I think of people lost on the moors.  Lost in swamps.  Lost in endless stretches of forest.  Or desert. Direction becoming a matter of wishful thinking.  Of good intentions.  Of wondering where it will all end. So this particular beginning begins with Lent. The usual organizational push.  What to do.  How to structure it. Pieces.  Like a child sitting cross-legged on the floor.  Building. One at a time. Watching for an imbalance that will bring it down. Only to be pieced together again. Lent. Stillness. But with a different hush than the one that belongs to Advent. Instead of the glow of ahead-ness, there is the slow choking, the tightening of the heart and mind and soul and body. It Is Coming. That which we [...]

FORGIVENESS: Pre-Lent 2016 — A Matter Of Dust

February 4, 2016

And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. (Matthew 10:14) I am planning to write one of these days my thoughts about the difference between spiritual growth and healing.  It’s pacing there in the back of my mind somewhere, but other matters seem to be more eager to be played with. So it seems that my life is all about dust these days, and the kicking-off thereof. It all began with some writing.  Two responses to the promptings of poetry.  Followed by a challenge thrown down: Now Write About This!  The challenge accepted.  Mulled over. I have not found the process of writing in response to someone else’s words “fun.” [...]

SPIRITUALITY: Finding God Within vs. Finding God Without

January 21, 2016

It is very tempting to write that our age is one where streams of people seek to isolate themselves from others in terms of God, and in doing so, create a self-made spirituality.  But it doesn’t take much of a look at Christian history to see that our religion has been strongly shaped by people who have done just this. We have the men and women who sought out the desert in order to eschew participation in corporate worship and acts of charity in the towns. We have famous mystics, people like Marjery Kempe, who left her husband and children behind in order to go on extended pilgrimages on which she wept and wept and wept. We know of the famous anchorite, Julian of Norwich, who walled herself away from the world and was declared dead [...]

MYSTICISM: Stepping Into The Silence

January 7, 2016

The last handful of years have seen my Advents becoming an experience very unique to me, and to my mysticism. They have become purposeful, directed, month-long visions of an intensity that is truly impossible to describe. I remember one year actually feeling as though I were going into shock during one of the visions. So intense.  So real.  So overwhelming. But, until this year, following the path that God has laid out for me has never caused any conflict.  Obedience is one of my best traits.  God points – like one of Scrooge’s ghosts of Christmas – and I follow.  There is no flinching.  No doubt.  No hesitation. I just go. But this year was different.  I was told to let go of what I was doing, what I was feeling; and I [...]

SPIRITUAL WARFARE: Evil In Threes

November 24, 2015

My mind is a funny thing.  Sometimes watching it do its thing, I’m amused. Sometimes I am amazed.  Sometimes I am horrified. Lately, though, as it has been doing its thing, I’ve been impressed. Something it does best is sort.  Categorize.  Order. When I was young I used to have a recurring thought that were I God, this universe would be better ordered.  Too much chaos all the time all over the place. Let’s get it cleaned up.  Everything in its place. Right.  No chance of that. But I always have my thoughts that I can play with.  And play with them, I do. All of a sudden, one day, my categorization of evil expanded, revealing different aspects of the evils.  And even to approaches to them. Distinct. Neat. [...]

REFLECTION: The Problem With Being A Mystic

November 3, 2015

I was very young, not even in school yet, when I was first seized by God.  Frozen.  Held.  Captured. And learning to recognize what was happening to me after that, learning how to connect on a regular basis, as though it was a natural thing to do. And it was for me.  Natural to talk with God. More natural than running around with other children.  Or being a part of the family. Real life, real people, was a real part of me, and I endured it the best I could.  But it was those times sitting on my grandmother’s high wall beside her house, snuggled under a spreading tree, or sitting with my back against a tree at the edge of an open field with the blue sky dabbed with clouds above me, that made me feel whole. There was so much to [...]

THE MECHANICS OF PRAYER: In Returning And Rest Shall Ye Be Saved

October 27, 2015

I have always had the impression that people basically understand prayer. People know that prayers can be answered just the way we imagined.  We know that prayers can be answered in a way we didn’t imagine.  We also know that sometimes prayers aren’t answered. And that confuses us. There are a lot of possibilities for the silence from God as a response to a prayer. One is that “no” is the response.  That we can’t pray our way out of a certain situation, or pray for someone else in the way we want to.  That whatever is real in this case is the way it is going to stay real. Understanding some of the reasons for “no” takes a lifetime of quiet listening to God.  And, yes, sometimes not-so-quiet [...]

EVIL: The Shock Of Orthodoxy

October 13, 2015

So a few weeks ago now a short man in a tiny car tooted around three cities in the United States. And the Earth stood still. I kept wondering what Barack Obama, President of the United States, was thinking about all of this.  He who officially believes that Christianity should be eradicated because of all the harm it does in the world. Christians shot in a mass shooting?  Well, thank you for helping me clean up some of the mess. He’s not subtle about his hatred of us. But then this little, tiny man shows up.  His little cape (a pellegrina, technically) blows up around his face.  He snatches his little skullcap (a zucchetto, technically) off his head so the wind won’t blow it away. And he just stands there. He waves a bit. [...]

REFLECTION: Yea, Though We Walk Through The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death

September 22, 2015

The world around us is changing.  The dark forest that is war grows taller and denser.  The light of God is increasingly being blocked out. We invite it more and more into our lives through our insistence on remaining ignorant to what is happening around us. Four million refugees from Syria alone seek asylum somewhere else in the world.  Anywhere else in the world.  And countries compete to turn their face away from them. Let the ocean swallow them up, the world seems to say.  Like our other trash. Some people wait hungrily for ISIS to release another film of executing people.  They yell when their pleasure is delayed.  Free snuff films.  And legal to watch.  Some of the best pornography out there. That’s where we are in the [...]

REFLECTION: Lying With Death

September 8, 2015

When my children were small, we had a general yearly plan for them.  School, friends, choir, soccer, and all things that belonged to these kind of activities were done there at home in Maryland. Free time was in Maine. Except for a while, my family came down on Thanksgiving and Christmas. I was, for a while, “home base” for those kind of formal occasions. But anytime there was a week here or there, and most especially when summertime came, then we shot home to Maine to relax and be foolish.  Not competent.  Not studious.  Just time walking dogs, picking through rocks on the different shores, eating ice cream, and watching old, stupid movies. It became a real quandary for me, though, when I realized that spring vacation in [...]

HEALING: Listening To The Hound’s Howls

August 17, 2015

It was that time in my life when, though not exactly a time that I want to forget, exactly, but, rather, the time that never really existed for me. A shadow time. A time of not existing. I had had my first vision before I had ever had my first school lesson. And so it went. Happily, really. Intensely, certainly. Until the call vision. Julia, come do your work. But I was seventeen.  I was aware of my budding womanhood.  And of the potentially budding world around me. So I said, No. I want to be normal. I said. Normal. None of this vision nonsense any more. And I took up my stick with my bandanna full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches tied tightly inside, hoisted it onto my shoulder and walked out and into the world. To be normal. So [...]

HEALING: The Gentle Soul

June 29, 2015

I’m at that stage in life now where everything is defined by how long ago it happened.  A few things happened a few days ago.  But most, especially things involving God, have much longer measuring sticks.  Months don’t even have that much meaning for me any more.  Everything peeps through a gauze of decades ago.  I realize I have no real use for the term, fortnight.  And the word, age, though I love how it feels, seems too much of an exaggeration. I am constantly wanting to stretch out my arm and pull things closer.  As though my far-sightedness is being challenged by my age.  Even my spiritual far-sightedness.  Or perhaps I’m just getting lazy.  Why strain?  Why work to make everything precise and clear? [...]

FORGIVENESS: Finding Our Voice, Finding Our Time

June 9, 2015

More and more, it strikes me that we make healing much more difficult than it has to be. We get it into our heads how something should look in action.  We try to understand God’s intentions in our own best intentions, only to find that we’ve gummed up the process in the process. OK. Fine. I do these things. You, on the other hand, may get everything right. I can’t imagine how old I will have to be to be able to get to that point of getting anything right with God. I have one redeeming feature, though.  At least I know when I’m wrong. That’s kind of easy for me.  I am wrong all the time. All.  The.  Time. Let’s just take my most recent “study”: forgiveness. I remember in the good, [...]

FORGIVENESS: The Prodigal Son Comes Home

April 30, 2015

I could see him from the path.  Up there, on the hill.  Waving at me as though I were old Aunt Bertha coming back from attending some childbirth or something. How did he know that I was coming back?  Who tipped him off? Of course, he may have thought I was someone else. Someone he would be glad to see. Not me. Surely. I can’t believe how he treated me. He cried all over my tunic.  As though on top of everything else I’ve been through – and in – I needed that on my clothes too. What a wimp. Crying over me like I’d just come back from the dead, or something. And there was my brother, Joseph, waddling around, nodding and nodding that fat head of his.  I wonder when the last time he could poke himself and find a [...]

EVIL: Our Impending Night

April 23, 2015

The conversation started without referent. This was something well known to me, conversations beginning without any referent. My daughter is wont to do that: Just start talking as though we were in the middle of the conversation, throwing out thoughts about and allusions to who-knows-what.  Sometimes, even, in the middle of a conversation, she will just take off down a side alley, one that I hadn’t seen as we passed it by, and start all over on an entirely new subject, while I search desperately about, trying to figure out where I am, what had been said that connected with what she was talking about now. Except there had been nothing that connected the two trains of thought, unless somewhere deep in my daughter’s brain. [...]

FORGIVENESS: Finding The Room To Forgive

April 16, 2015

Ash Wednesday, February 10 That long ago. An assignment in forgiveness.  Except, for me, the assignment was narrowed.  I was to focus on my unforgiveness, my refusal to forgive. And I initially thought, this is good.  This is healthy.  Like fasting for the body.  A deep cleansing. That’s because I thought that this was just going to be an expansion of those aspects of forgiveness that I’ve worked with nearly all my life.  What I know.  Just more.  Bigger. Improved. Huh. It turns out that forgiveness for those big things that have happened to us in our lives isn’t the worst expression of letting go.  Because, I have discovered, big things give you room to move around.  They give you memories that you can finger. [...]

PRAYER: A Change Of Words

April 9, 2015

When the visions came, right before the beginning of Lent, I was neither surprised nor upset by them. There would be a change in the way my day was laid out.  No longer would there be periods of prayer throughout the day.  No time would be given to morning prayer, blended with the first period of contemplative prayer.  Or for the playful time that I called noon prayer: listening to scripture, reading thoughtful bits by a wide range of writers, listening to music.  No rosary. No compline.  No Thomas Merton. Instead, there would be study.  One of the studies would be forgiveness, with an emphasis on those people for whom I carry unforgiveness like stone pillars encircling my heart.  Then there would be an even more intense, more [...]

LOVE: The Discipline of Love

February 12, 2015

In a few days there will be Valentine’s Day, a day of frenzied chaos for some or a day of soothing quiet for others.  It’s a day of chaos for those running around looking for last-minute restaurant reservations or a shop that still has some red flowers.  It a day of serenity for those who turn their back on it and instead curl up and read Jane Austen. It’s clear to anyone alive, even to a 120-year-old women like myself, what the focus of Valentine’s Day is.  There are glimpses of headlines of advice columns that try to convince a wife to not be too hard on your husband for getting the “wrong” gift. There are suggestions of why a couple should stay at home instead of going out. There are endless [...]

REFLECTION: An English Major Goes To Seminary

January 22, 2015

At the time, I hadn’t realized that studying English at a major university would mold me.  I thought, as one would, that studying English would do just the opposite: unmold me.  Loosen the screws in my brain.  Make me see the world with a wider scope. I studied Shakespeare, for Heaven’s sake.  And poetry. Shouldn’t I be like one of those blankets used on picnics, spread out, sat on, accommodating? But no. I decided at one point in my life, the point where I had two small children and a serious, life-threatening disease that I needed something to do.  I found, in truth, that discussing small children (and just where does the snot end?) and ill health were overwhelmingly boring.  I really needed something [...]

PATHING: Of Doors, open and closed

January 15, 2015

It’s funny how our pasts poke their noses into our current lives.  Like a stray puppy who finds your sliding glass door cracked open just a bit, and strains to open it wider in order to gain entry. Not completely an unwanted intrusion. But neither an invited guest. Mostly just confusion with a soupçon of chaos. Memories have to be retrieved.  Quickly, quickly, before he realizes that he has faded to a pastel wash against the setting sun. Feelings have to be sorted, put back in place.  Anger, here.  Tenderness, over there.  Resentment, just sit in the corner, please, and do your best to behave. But today isn’t yesterday.  Bodies have changed.  Minds have reshaped themselves an infinite number of times. [...]

DIVINITY: Natural Woman

January 8, 2015

I think that perhaps what I have experienced recently in visions may be considered the sharpest turn in focus that I have ever experienced.  Yes, there have been an infinite number of times when, having come to the “end” of a vision quest, the ultimate revelation is so far from what I expected that it sometimes takes years – decades, even – to mull over, absorb, and understand. But, for the most part, the path has seemed a logical progression.  From this step to the next, perhaps a curve here and there, a moment to remember the rules of the road so as not to get too discouraged, and then the light at the end.  The finger of God pointing.  Here it is, Julia.  This is what you have been looking for. And then, of [...]

CHRISTMAS MEDITATION: The Gift

December 25, 2014

Defining things is something of a passion of mine, I find. This year, I was forced to define, in concrete terms, what Christmas meant to me.  Just me.  My definitions. And I found that Christmas, for me, has two real meanings: one public, the other very personal. When I was growing up, there was a tradition in my church.  It was a tradition that, for me, continued into my adulthood. Before the Midnight Christmas Eve Mass, there would be an hour of hymn singing.  It was quiet, so quiet.  The lights were lowered.  Most spent the time on their knees.  The familiar carols were sung in almost a hushed voice, crooning soothing sounds to the newborn Jesus.  Hymns as lullabies.  It was so beautiful.  So moving. So reverent. This Advent [...]

MYSTICISM: Stripped Naked

December 18, 2014

Like today where I live, it was a time that wrapped itself close in darkness; night falling in the afternoon, morning blinking itself awake. And so, for me, it was a time of wrapping myself in the darkness of the nave, letting the music fill me, the words caress me. Advent. It was a year, however, that had given me a significant study: a study of evil that I could almost touch.  I could sense it, surely, but I had never encountered a force of evil that dominated an entire space.  It, too, liked being wrapped in the darkness of a church.  Safe and warm.  Hidden. I had to define it.  I had to track it.  I had to find it. And I did. All this meant to me was that I was in flight, in that realm that lies between Earth and God, where my [...]

HEALING: Perfect Hell

December 4, 2014

I am not obsessive-compulsive. I have actually been tested. The same test, however, showed that I am a perfectionist. When I saw how high on the scale of perfectionism I tested, I felt an urge to sit down right there and write tearful apologies to my children. I had always considered myself a patient parent.  But perhaps my patience had really been aimed at generously waiting for them To Get It Right. As I wrote, tearful apologies are way overdue. Back in the days when I roamed the Earth in Brooks Brothers suits, with gleaming nails on hands and feet, when I found myself having to meet the challenge of working with both attorneys, with their own ideas, on one end of the spectrum, and printers, with their own ideas, on the other, [...]