Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Soul Feast


Title: Spiritual Wanderlust
A Field Guide to Deep Desire
Author: Kelly Deutsch
Pages: 149
Year: 2019




When I first ordered my copy of Spiritual Wanderlust, I prophetically announced: “I will savor it in the days to come like Babette’s Feast (one of the most profoundly spiritual stories out there). I’ve no intention of swallowing it whole like a Happy Meal, as there is no fast-food lane for soul.”

And a feast it was. Although you can read it in a single day, I chose to sit with it during lexico divina. Nothing like a long languorous chew during a divine meal. It’s not the kind of book you want to race through like a detective novel, as every page flows with wisdom – wisdom the author has gained from her own life experience and from the words of her friends, Augustine and John of the Cross. 

Spiritual Wanderlust is filled with wonder and awe, purpose and meaning. It could be the one book seekers of divine union in modern times have been searching. It explores longing, where that longing comes from, and how to listen to what this desire is saying. Kelly Deutsch guides the reader to the deep place within – into the depths where the hidden treasures lie beneath:

“There are certain things we prefer to keep buried, well-hidden under feet of defenses, blindness, and plastered smiles. Yet the more we unearth, the more room the divine has to fill. It is this inner space of silence that we must foster.”

Spiritual Wanderlust is a must-read for all who hunger for what is authentic and real. As Blaise Pascal once said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.” Which is the heart of this book.

Richard Rohr was right in saying, “Kelly has a gift for making deep truths edible. “Spiritual Wanderlust is a soul-nourishing and delectable read.

What scrumptious, rich-with-meaning books have you read lately?

*~*

Kelly Deutsch is a Personal Growth Coach based out of South Dakota. She accompanies people on their interior journeys, to find new places of freedom, spaciousness, and vivacity. With a bit of spark and a real reverence, Kelly makes space for her clients to encounter their deepest selves, and there, to encounter the divine. 


Order Spiritual Wanderlust on Amazon

You can find her over at KD Coaching 





Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Wrong Garden


There’s this TV channel that features movies with titles like, The Wrong Neighbor. The Wrong Stepmother. The Wrong Son. The Wrong Teacher. You name it, it’s wrong. Everything’s wrong. So I’m calling this post, The Wrong Garden. 



It’s a response to Kelly Deutsch’s question last week: “How do you demystify mysticism?”

Short answer. In some circles you can’t. Just as in certain sports you aren’t allowed to tackle your opponent to the ground while he’s running toward his goal… try that on a basketball court or a soccer field and see what happens.

But back to Kelly’s question, which sent me hopping down the bunny trail where I landed in Mr. McGregor’s garden. After contemplating the question for days, that’s where the trail led. I don’t know why I’d dare go back there, but I did. And I can promise you, he was not holding a garden party for me. Or you either.

Please Keep Out!

Not long ago I ran across a certain farmer serving up pesticide-laced lettuce – all the while warning the people gathered around him not to eat from other gardens because of the poison. You can’t be gnawing “doctrines of demons” he said. You can’t empty your mind and let devils in. He got out his flannel board and posted a picture of an eastern guru in lotus pose, chanting ‘om’.   

He called it contemplative prayer and warned that it was just wrong. I quietly hopped off but kept thinking about returning and telling him that he was just wrong. Did he not know that long ago and far away Eastern Christians gathered to empty their minds of stray thoughts which were, to them, like snakes entering their secret gardens? That they even took up their garden hoes to chop off the snake’s head the minute they saw it trying to creep through their gates?

As I pondered all this, imagining his reaction if I did tell him the true story, I heard a voice inside saying to me, “Are you seriously thinking about casting more pearls? You know what’ll happen if you do that? He’ll take up his garden hoe and run your little cotton-tail on out of there. Or worse.

Then I heard the voice of a tiny little child parroting his parent, saying, “Don’t do that anymore, ok? No!” And to this day I keep hearing that wee voice warning me to stay away from the wrong garden.


How about you?

When have you found yourself in the wrong garden?

Or the wrong anywhere.

Do Tell. 



Thursday, May 2, 2019

Old Soul at the Party





I found it in the mailbox one day. A card inviting me to my friend Meg’s retro-themed dinner party. “Come as a literary character from the 20’s – or come as any writer from the past.”

Meg, the hostess, wore a long black dress with rows of fringe from top to bottom. I showed up as myself: An Old Soul. I came as my favorite writer: myself. Crazy sounding, I know. But it’s true. Why not be honest about it? Most of the current writing I’ve read doesn’t speak to me like my own words. Just being real.

I sat my wallflower self at the table over the spread of hor d'oeuvres while the butterflies mingled, laughing and talking about whatever. The old family dog with his gray chin stood under the table, his head on my lap, eyes looking up at me as if to say, “Hey, it’s you and me, kiddo.” I went into the kitchen and retrieved dog biscuits so the two of us could have our own little party. If dogs could talk he’d have said to me, “Back in my day the only toy we had was a stick.” 

After a while one woman came over and spoke. “So what are you reading these days? An awkward moment. I had to think about it. No New York Times bestsellers, that’s for sure. I wasn’t in the book club. I hardly know what’s out there these days. Finally I basically said I was writing the book I wanted to read: A story about Jonathan: a young man who’s an Old Soul himself, trying to navigate his way through the modern world, struggling to reconcile opposite worldviews. An excerpt showing this Old Soul’s thought process:

“How to find the middle ground between science and superstition? When reading the gospels it was clear that Jesus went about casting out devils and unclean spirits from all those possessed. I found at least 30 deliverance stories from Matthew through John, so there was no denying that he had authority over evil spirits. After sending them scattering he likely brushed off his hands and told his disciples, “Nothing to it. It’s super-natural. Bring ‘em on, I got this.” But nowadays people aren’t demon possessed. That’s crazy talk. Archaic superstition. We’ve advanced beyond all that. We’ve outsmarted the apostles of old and their charismystic ilk.

Jung wrote, ‘Since the world began, mankind has been possessed.’ Evil spirits, renamed, have become unconscious complexes. Nowadays they aren’t cast out but subdued with drugs. Nowadays Legion would be institutionalized for life along with Charles Manson, and his psychotherapy sessions would continue until the day his possessed soul left his body. When asked what made him happiest, he’d tell his shrink, ‘I love it when they come to my room and say, Time for arts and crafts.’ Which was also my sister Lizzie’s favorite part of the day. Nowadays folks aren’t oppressed by demons, they have a chemical imbalance. ‘Nothing a little electroconvulsive therapy and antipsychotics won’t take care of,’ says the White Coat from his hierarchical throne.”

Throughout history Old Souls have struggled to reconcile these opposite worldviews, which is evident in their writings. Mark Twain is the first one that comes to mind. “We have not the reverent feeling for the rainbow that the savage has because we know how it is made. We have lost as much as we have gained by prying into that matter.”

Robert R. McCammon is another. “We were born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of us.” Carl Jung said that “only fools think that everything can be explained. The true substance of the world is inexplicable….”

You might be an Old Soul if you’ve managed to maintain your sense of wonder and belief in miracles in the postmodern age. If you can still view the world through kingdom eyes like Mary Oliver, who communed with God through creation, you might be an Old Soul.

You might be an Old Soul if your vision of the world comes from within rather than from external sources. If the sights and sounds you hear come from dreams and inner visions more often than from a computer or TV screen, you might be one.

What about you? Are you an Old Soul too? I’m not talking literal age but mindset. How would you characterize an Old Soul? What reasons would you have to show up at the party as your Old Soul Self?   






Sunday, March 24, 2019

Are You Good Enough?


Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in. 
~ Leonard Cohen




Life was a meritocracy. You earned good grades in class, gold stars in Sunday school. God was a Santa in the sky bestowing gifts upon nice boys and girls, or either bags of switches and lumps of coal to the naughty children.

Speaking of switches, in my mother’s generation corporeal punishment was a must, sparing the rod a mortal sin. She chased me around the kitchen table until she caught me, and as the switch cut into my legs I’d yell, “You don’t love me!” And she’d say, “I love you when you’re good.”

She confiscated my older brothers’ Lash LaRue bullwhip and used it on them. But when I came along I had the good sense to hide it forever. If she didn’t have time to wait on us to go outside and fetch our own switch she’d grab the nearest thing on hand: the fly swatter. When we were adults my brother said, “That fly swatter really helped my self-esteem.” 

When all of life is governed by systems of punishment and reward that’s all you know. The gold stars in Sunday school would some glad morning translate into the starry crown you’d earn upon entry through the pearly gates…

 If you could only be good enough.

I tried. I tried and tried and tried again. Two steps forward. Three backward. I spent my life trying to please and appease God. What do I need to do to earn his favor? There must be something more I can do to satisfy his taste for perfection. Where do I sign up to give my body to be burned?

Don’t Change. Wait, what? Don’t Change?

I won’t tell you my life story. Anthony de Mello already told it in his vignette, “Don’t Change” from Song of the Bird.

“I was a neurotic for years. Anxious, depressed, selfish. And everyone kept telling me to change. And I resented them, and agreed with them, and wanted to change, but simply couldn’t, no matter how I tried. What hurt the most was that, like the others, my closest friend kept urging me to change. So I felt powerless and trapped.

One day he said “Don’t change. I love you as you are.” Those words were music to my ears: “Don’t change. Don’t change. Don’t change... love you as you are.” I relaxed. I came alive. And, suddenly, I changed! Now I know that I couldn’t really change till I found someone to love me whether I changed or not. Is this how you love me, God?”

Yes it is. Absolutely. When the Good News sank from my hard head into my broken heart I got the unconditional-love memo, just as the prophets, poets, and apostles got it. The still small voice inside saying: “What part of ‘Just as I Am’ and ‘Love Lifted Me’ did you not understand?”

If you’ve managed to successfully change on your own, congratulations. But if you’re sick of the old stale wilderness manna, and if you’ve worn out the cartilage in your knees crawling through the wasteland in sackcloth and ashes, you can trade in those filthy rags and get a life.

Get off your worn-out knees and look up and behold the Sabbath Rest sign. And if you keep on down that road you’ll find the Perfect Offering and peace of mind. You’ll enter our Home, mine and Emily’s. Here you don’t have to be fancy. Just bring your ragamuffin self on in. No offerings needed. Just show up with your empty soul and your beggar bowl.

Come with me this morning
to the church within our hearts,
where the bells are always ringing,
and the preacher whose name
is Love — shall intercede for us!
 ~ Emily Dickinson

What do your struggles to be good enough look like?

Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Time Is…




He put out a “Gone Writing” sign for the world to see. He had to set aside what was important for what was essential. He had books to write. 46 titles. He said that if he only wrote one book per year he’d be 115 when he finished. If he wrote three books per year he’d be 80.


He said the most valuable real estate on earth are cemeteries. Because of all the unfulfilled dreams buried therein: books never written, songs never sung, paintings never done, poems never penned, sculptures never shaped…








Alas for those who never sing,
But die with their music in them!

~ Oliver Wendell Holmes



In other words, people go to their graves every day without releasing into this world what God placed in them to bless humanity.


Recent life threatening trials in my own life have awakened in me the need to seize the day. Every day. When your world is shaken to its core you see just how fragile life is and how vital not to waste valuable time. At the moment I have more songs to be released and at least 3 book titles. One finished, 2 titles to go. Possibly more, as new ideas emerge.



What Legacy Will You Leave Behind?


“Oh very young, what will you leave us this time
You're only dancin' on this earth for a short while…”

~Cat Stevens


A few short years ago my youngest daughter and I discussed her new word of the day: “procrastinate.” Yesterday I found in a drawer a poem she wrote when she was very young.


Tomorrow


I’ll pick up my room
Till it’s tidy and straight
I’ll eat cabbage and broccoli
And clean my plate
I’ll visit my next door neighbor
(who’s 82) and fetch her paper
I’ll grab my nature journal
And sit under the crepe myrtle
And be a Real Writer
Like … Beatrix Potter!
Tomorrow I’ll…
Hey wait – why don’t I
Just start today?  


But back to the fellow with the 46 book titles to finish. I’ll ask you the same questions he asked me.


What dream is in your heart? 
What do you really desire to do?
 What’s holding you back?


Monday, February 18, 2019

Becoming Real


Remember the popular catchphrase from a while back, get real? The general meaning: you need a reality check. Stop believing things that aren’t true. Although, like another fashionable catchphrase, real deal, it was all relative. Because what’s true or real to one person may not be to another.

For instance, I recently engaged in a conversation with someone who had an entirely different take on real. At the brunch we gravitated toward our little corner of the world and talked shop. Two writers of opposite ilk.

“What are you working on these days?” I asked him. The wheels in his brain started turning as he searched for words to spell out in lay terms his scientific hypothesis which he hopes will aid in artificial intelligence. As he spoke, his countenance shifted from social small talk stance to deep studious mode.

By the end of his spiel I was none the wiser. Because of the language barrier. Once in a while, though, a comprehensible word emerged, at which point I’d stop him for clarification.

Me: When you say, imaginary, do you mean like saints and angels?
Him: Yeah, and like God. 

There were a few other words I understood during his talk. Words like “corporeal.” Which, in his vernacular, can be interpreted to mean that only the the empirical is real.  A scientific worldview you might expect from a prominent neurologist.

So when he asked about my writing I simply said, “Mary Oliver meets Flannery O’Conner. That’s what I’d say if writing a blurb for my own book. I work on distilling language, painting light and dark pictures.” I didn’t mention that one of the poems in my forthcoming book is called, “How Imaginary Friends Become Real.”   

What is Real? 

It all depends on who you ask. The neurologist would tell you that it’s how you’re made, as he believes that only the corporeal is real. All else is imaginary.  Granted, corporeal is real in the same sense that caterpillar is real. It is what it is, as another popular catchphrase goes, but it isn’t all it was meant to be.

But if you ask the Skin Horse, he’d tell you what he told the Velveteen Rabbit:



“Real isn’t how you’re made. It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real…It doesn’t happen all at once…You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.

“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Real isn’t how you’re made (in the image of God). Real goes beyond how you’re made. Real is what you become. Real is being who you are while becoming who you were meant to be. It’s being still and still moving.

“It’s a thing that happens to you.” This metamorphosis comes with the divine revelation of eternal love that came to dwell within. That came to transform from corporeal to spiritual, from mortal to immortal. To make you come alive, to make you Real, as he is Real. It’s the mystery that once was hidden for ages and generations: Christ in you, the hope of glory.

What does Real mean to you?




Monday, January 7, 2019

TODAY’S PARABLES


Modern religion, for the most part, keeps spiritual reality confined to a historical context, as though Christ is no longer living and moving among us. As though he no longer speaks or conveys his ways or will today. But this I know: he still favors parables and remains the quintessential storyteller. He doesn’t give up easily.

He still dramatizes his message, sometimes in unlikely venues. Is it any wonder that he’d speak through horror movies, given the current state of affairs? Think about it: why are post-apocalyptic thrillers on the rise? Mind you, most are trash, but once in a while spiritual treasures can be gleaned.

I’m not an avid movie viewer, but on the rare occasions when I do see a film it’s with my daughter, at her invitation. The most recent two we saw together were A Quiet Place last year and, last week, Bird Box, both packed with spiritual symbolism. Both films like modern-day scenes from the book of Revelation. Both cautionary tales warning that we must guard our senses or be devoured by evil. 

 

Monsters Lying in Wait

In A Quiet Place noise summons the beast and the only hope for survival is found in silence and stillness. Better to remain quiet and hidden than to invite destruction. The prophetic significance in this film is rich, as evil is forever out to kill whatever divine is being birthed in you, and noise is the destructive force.

Bird Box depicts the necessity of walking by faith, not by sight. Better to blind yourself to evil than to behold its face and be transformed into its image – which is suicidal. Because those who gaze into the face of evil become what they behold. They become deceptive liars. And deceptive liars are rampant out there, as you well know.

But as you also know, when one sense is missing another fills the gap. Blindness begets keener hearing. There’s a scene toward the end of Bird Box where Malorie (Sandra Bullock) is struggling to navigate her children blindfolded through treacherous terrain while deceptive voices increase, pretending to be the children’s mother, aiming to lure them away from her. 

She is begging, begging the children to “Listen to my voice. Don’t listen to them. Listen to me.” Sound familiar? My sheep know my voice…and a stranger they will not follow, but will flee from him. 

Those who don’t discern the flood of lies gushing from news channels and social media are both deaf and blind to reality because they’ve immersed themselves in the cesspool of deception. The flashing neon sign in both A Quiet Place and Bird Box says this: walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time for the days are evil.

When you see a movie and later find yourself moving like the characters, on the que vive, more guarded against invading thoughts that try to creep through the door like a snake, and when you become as mindful of the unseen world as what your natural eyes reveal, you know you’ve touched a deeper dimension of  reality.

I’m well aware that most won’t perceive any spiritual meaning in these parables. But maybe that’s the point. What parabolic treasures have you gleaned from a movie – any movie? Do share. 

Below are questions I’ve pondered over the past few days, questions I’ve asked myself and now ask you:

How will you redeem the time in 2019?

Will you find a way to escape the river rapids (the dragon’s flood of lies) and find your footing on solid ground and make it to your sanctuary safe and sound?

What are you birthing that must be guarded with your life and protected at all costs from the devourer? You mission? Your life work? Your creative dreams? Your joy and peace? Your soul? 



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