Texting Jesus

One day the autocorrect on my phone decided I needed to get in touch with Jesus instead of my friend Jessica. Simple as that, “To: Jesus,” right there on the screen. What if I could text the Son of God? What would I say?

In all honesty, my first thought was to ask for stuff, maybe lots of stuff. After all, this is a direct connection to the Almighty, and listing our desires is the first form of prayer most of us are taught. Plus, you know, a new dining table would be nice.

But maybe I could do better; maybe we could have a deeper, more meaningful exchange. “Thank you” seemed like an appropriate choice. A little vague perhaps, but there are infinite options for what to say next and nothing opens up a connection like gratitude.

Then I wondered what Jesus would want to receive in a text. What would make his face light up with joy when his phone binged at him? And while we’re at it, what’s his ringtone?

I decided Jesus wouldn’t care what the words said—he’d just be glad that I got in touch. The Divine wants nothing more than to be intimate with us. It’s just waiting for us to wake up to its presence already permeating our lives and shoot off a quick “OMG!”

Jesus would love for us to be as constantly attuned and attentive to the movement of God in our lives as we are to our phones. Just imagine if we checked in with our connection to Spirit as often as we check our messages. I am always conscious of where my phone is. What if I were equally conscious of where my attention is and whether it is focused on growing in unity God?

If we were that tuned in, we might just get a text message from Jesus.


Note: The blog and I will be on vacation next week.

Giving Up the Effort

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog (which continues below) to bring you an actual emergency broadcast, not merely a system test. New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur has been clobbered by winter storms this year, as have all the inhabitants of Big Sur. The monks are currently cut off from any deliveries or travel, with Highway 1 closed north and south of them. The road has been closed much of this year, making it impossible for them to host retreats and visitors, their main source of income.big-creek-768x447

They’ve set up a gofundme page, and if you feel so inclined, I encourage you to contribute to their relief fund. Due to the closures, a friend and I missed our annual retreat there, which reminded me what a rare gift of silence and contemplative solitude New Camaldoli offers. As my friend said, it is a place where we can more easily access the holiness that suffuses all of creation, and we all need those spots.

That concludes our emergency broadcast. We now return you to your originally scheduled programming.


Lent has arrived. Giving things up, ashes, penance, alms, the whole nine yards—ready or not, here it is. As this essay by Mags Blackie reminded me, it helps during all this to remember that the end game is resurrection—a rebirth in love.

In A Homing Spirit John Dunne writes, “My pilgrimage of heart was not a fathoming of hearts so much as a being fathomed in my own heart….It is being known that leads to knowing, being loved that leads to loving. I had to give up the effort to know, the effort to love, and instead let myself be known and loved, be given the gift of knowledge and love.”

Fathom means not only to understand but also to measure the depths of. As long as we come to love through our own efforts, the depths to which we can go will be limited. God’s depths, on the other hand, are infinite. Allowing God to explore our hearts and reveal the mystery that we are—that life is—will uncover and expand our capacity to love.

So for Lent I’m giving up the effort to know and the effort to love—once I figure out how to do that.

Dunne says, “I had to go from striving to prayer.” I do a lot of striving through inner admonishment—I will go to bed earlier, I will do an evening meditation, I will respond kindly instead of with irritation. The effectiveness of this method is either zero or it is short-lived. It does not lead to resurrection.

A prayer is a request for God to act, not a reproach to ourselves to act better. In prayer, God gets to do everything and take all the credit. It’s terribly unfair to our egos, but there’s no getting around it.

To start recognizing God’s action in my life—to practice seeing that I am known and loved already—I’m going to start with radical gratitude, paying more attention to the thousand things I take for granted every moment. I’ll let you know where it takes me—hopefully to resurrection.

Impossible Happenings

The fall of the Berlin Wall was one of my first historically conscious moments, the first time I was aware that what I was watching on TV would be in the history books. And that’s because it wasn’t supposed to happen.

The Cold War was a fact of life, an eternal not a bounded period. For people of my parents’ generation who had crawled underneath their desks for bomb drills, the end of the Cold War must have been even more surprising. In my childhood world, no one was actually going to use a nuclear weapon, but just as certainly, the Soviet Union would always be our enemy.

I’m imagining someone in their early twenties reading the paragraphs above, and I feel as if I’m trying to explain a time before cell phones. For them, the Berlin Wall has never existed. So perhaps for their children, there will always have been peace in the Middle East.

It sounds like a ridiculous and naïve suggestion, but if someone had said, in 1984, “In five years, there will be no Berlin Wall,” that person would have easily been shouted down by a world full of people with all the evidence on their side.

Which is why I wonder if the wall fell because of things that are usually not considered to effect such solid substances as concrete. I wonder if it fell because of small kindnesses, because of prayer, because of hope.

Richard Rohr says that as we grow we learn to have “aimless hope.” I don’t think I have it yet, but from his description, it is an underlying certainty that, as Julian of Norwich wrote, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” It is not believing in a specific impossible event—I will finish this newsletter on time despite not even having started one of the articles yet—but rather believing that, in ways our minds are too limited to grasp, things will be all right.

I have a knee-jerk reaction to this idea as being unreasonable and fantastical, not based in reality. And then I look at those pictures of pieces of the Berlin Wall scattered around the world, turned into memorials or pieces of art, and I remember that feeling of watching the impossible happen and think, well, maybe so.

Minding Your Peas and Quinoa

When my brain gets really out of control with its negative messaging, sometimes I believe it and curl up in a ball and go to sleep. Other times, I remember that there are some things that help.

One thing that helps me is using these slightly adapted gathas (verses) from Thich Nhat Hanh as a mealtime prayer:

While serving food: In this food I see clearly the presence of the entire universe supporting my existence.

Looking at the filled plate: All living beings are struggling for life. May they all have enough food to eat today.

Just before eating: The plate is filled with food. I am aware that each morsel is the fruit of much hard work by those who produced it.

Beginning to eat: With the first taste, I promise to practice loving kindness. With the second, I promise to relieve the suffering of others. With the third, I promise to see others’ joy as my own. With the fourth, I promise to seek God’s peace. (The original says, “With the fourth, I promise to learn the way of non-attachment and equanimity”—I have a hard time with “non-attachment,” so I changed it.)

Finishing the Meal: The plate is empty. My hunger is satisfied. I vow to live for the benefit of all beings. (Thanks to The Endless Further for putting this online.)

I find that paying attention in this way quiets my mind for a few reasons. First, I have to slow down, at least for the first four bites. It’s hard to rush through a promise of loving kindness because it’s a rather large promise and always makes me gulp a little.

Second, these verses have a bunch of gratitude built into them, and it’s hard to think either that you’ve recently ruined the world or that the world is out to get you while recognizing how fortunate you are.

And third, this practice puts other thoughts in my brain. I usually mentally cross my fingers during “I promise to relieve the suffering of others,” the way you did when you were a kid and were promising to do something but knew you were lying. It seems such an onerous thing to promise. But tonight I thought, if I just worked on relieving my own suffering, other people wouldn’t have to deal with it, and that would probably do them a heap of good.

Thanks, Thich.

Life is Good

‘Tis the season to remember everything that makes this life fabulous. My gratitude list for 2012—partial of course:

Colors, all types, from Rothko’s squares to that electric turquoise fashionable in purses a season or two back to the jacaranda tree’s purple flowers.

The days Elm St. is inexplicably empty allowing me to catch the van despite the the space-time continuum’s attempts to thwart me.

The way that people’s creativity flourishes in different mediums—paint, clothing, conversation, leadership, gardens.

The rotations of nature, from seasonal changes to a single day’s palette of light, morning’s yellow, speaking of promise, distinct from evening’s paler shade of repose.

Food—that it exists, that we are required to eat it, that one of its subcategories is chocolate, that said subcategory correlates with production of Nobel Prize winners. I am not making this up. Read the article on chocolate and Nobel Prizes. Thanks to my aunt for passing on this essential knowledge.

The times I remember to pray instead of attempting to solve something far beyond my powers.

Quirky things—people, movies, my cat, possibly all cats.

The astonishing difference a smile can make in someone’s day.

The times I remember to have a sense of humor about myself.

People—the ones who are passionate; the ones who do jobs I never could, such as home healthcare worker or probation officer; the ones who are incalculably kind; the ones who love me and tell me I’m doing a wonderful job of being human on those days I can’t find that belief anywhere in my universe.

The stunning abundance of all these things in the lives of so many. Here’s hoping that this time next year, those who lack food or love or the chance to express their creativity are sharing in the abundance.