Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ghetto Queen Goes to Africa

I use to be a black queen, at least that’s what *Raphael told me I was. For a ghetto girl with subterranean self-esteem his proclamation sounded like really good news. Nobody saw me as royalty. Sometimes I wondered if anyone saw me at all.

I met *Raphael at, of all places, the African World Festival. This event in the late 80’s was a premier cultural event that took place each summer in Detroit’s Hart Plaza on the waterfront. That August weekend Hart Plaza would be an explosion of color, African music, and all the taste, scents, and textures of a homeland us African American’s because of our painful history were estranged from. Few in our numbers would ever set foot on African soil, so we reveled in the heart of downtown Detroit once a year, because Africa came to us.

I’d looked forward to it for weeks. At twenty-three I was prodigal weary, having left the church where I was a missionary at sixteen, stumbled about until I discovered sex, and it all went downhill from there. Now I hungered for something to fill the Jesus shaped void in my soul. A few artsy friends of mine had discovered Africa. They wore African clothes, and spouted a few key Kiswahili phrases—or whatever African language they could articulate. They weren’t choosy. They seemed to have found a sense of identity in reclaiming the African essence that was denied our great, great, great grandparents who arrived in America, not as immigrants, but as captives. Some of them had changed their names and were now Rafiki, or Sala, Olu, or something as solidly grounded in our estranged homeland as Zaire, or Nubia.

I wanted an identity. I’d forgotten who I was. Africa seemed like a good starting point.

I’d stored up a stash of money from my job at an art supply store to buy African clothes at the festival. You had to look “conscious” too. By conscious we meant, awake, aware, alive to our African identity, and engaged in whatever nebulous idea of struggle we could muster for African liberation world-wide. Unfortunately, for most of us “the struggle” just meant we suffered for being black in America. We were kids. We had no practical applications for saving a continent thousands of miles away. We hadn’t even figured out how to rescue ourselves on the continent we lived on.

I remember with bittersweet irony my excitement that weekend. I felt like I floated three feet off the ground. All of my senses stood at rapt attention.

Seeing *Raphael for the first time was one of those Some Enchanted Evening moments, only I saw him across a throng of festival-goers trying to get their Africa on.

Six feet tall, and high yellow, his fierce face framed by a man of thick ropy, dreadlocks, *Raphael looked like a lion to me. He wore a permanent scowl, and had the unflinching confidence of a dictator. As I looked at him, I truly believe God spoke to me.

“He’s going to be important to you.”

That’s what a still small voice, one I didn’t hear from much at that time, said to me. I knew with everything in me I’d have an unforgettable encounter with him.

And unforgettable it was. I would learn, very quickly, that *Raphael’s intelligence bordered on brilliant. He was articulate, charismatic, compelling. Kind of like the Antichrist. And he was just as deceptive and dangerous.

I fell in love with him. He told me he wanted me to be his disciple. He would take me to Africa and teach me who I am, and where I belong.

According to *Raphael, I was a black queen, lost in Detroit’s Cass Corridor ghetto. He would be my great, black god, and free me from my bondage.

We would change the world.

It didn’t quite happen that way.

He seduced me. I succumbed. I got pregnant in such short order it astonished (though delighted) me. This made me “instant wife” in his book, without the benefit of license, marriage ceremony, prayer between just the two of us or anything else that would really make me feel married to him. I tried to make the best of this sucky situation. I may have been far from God, but I had *Raffi.

Oh, joy.

At first he called me Queen. Then called me Malaika, his angel. He progressed to calling me a number of unpleasant things like liability, worthless piece of excrement (he did not say excrement), and hefted abuse at me with startling regularity. He called me everything but Claudia.

That was a slave name.

He never took me to Africa.

He said I wasn’t worthy to go to Africa. Yet.

So for four years he dangled it like a carrot on a stick in front of me. Okay, I wouldn’t have wanted a carrot on a stick. We were strict vegans. I had all the carrots I could stand. He held it like the love I craved and dangled some sense of worth just out of my reach. After four years of every kind of abuse—physical, sexual, emotional, spiritual, I left *Raphael, with my driver’s license and social security card in the pocket of my dress. I had to wrap a few dollars in Saran Wrap and insert it in my body like a tampon when I left, because I knew he’d frisk me and take anything that might mean I could truly liberate myself.

I left because God finally convinced me, through a deeply feeling friend who was a dedicated Jehovah’s Witness that he was going to kill me. And he surely would have had I stayed. God gave her a dream that he murdered me, and buried me under the house I worked like a slave—I should have reclaimed my name--to help him buy. In the dream, after he hid my body he went on to Africa, taking our two kids, never to be caught for his heinous act.

I knew it was God speaking. When you are in as desperate straights as I was, and as isolated, God will use whoever He can reach you.

I left after he slapped me around and I was so tired I threatened to kill him. I’m not being facetious. I had a knife in my hand, and I was ready to do the deed and end my suffering at his hand. But I was weak, an eighty-nine pound weakling who was pregnant. I had one shot, and I’d better make it good.

But I knew I couldn’t. He was bigger, and stronger on so many levels. He’d have killed me on the spot a moment of real remorse.

I find it interesting now that he let me take me driver’s license and social security card with me, evidence of my identity. But he didn’t think I was worth anything. Those trifling documents didn’t make a blip on his radar.

I returned home ravaged in the aftermath of his torments. I was an eight-nine pound shell with all evidence of my identity he could get his hands on like shredded wheat in my soul. I couldn’t figure out what my name is. And truth be told, I’ve had trouble with that, even recently! He’d told me if I left with the children he’d hunt us down and kill us. And if he couldn’t find us, he’d kill my mother or my best friend.

I left without my babies. The one I carried within me died in utero a week later.

I didn’t wish I were dead because I already was.

How would I even begin to start over?

With a new man, of course! I was completely out of my mind, but still fertile. I could have new kids. New everything! I could still go to Africa. I could still find a queen. So, I looked up sweet artist I knew when I use to be plain old Claudia. Before I became an African queen. When I was just a ghetto girl with big dreams, who wanted to be an artist.

I asked him to give me a baby, and he did. We gave ourselves new African names. We would steep ourselves in the music, and color, and texture and tastes of Africa that I left with *Raphael, only we’d do it on our (which meant my) terms.

We were a dismal failure.

I tucked my dream of touching African soil deep in my heart. In the fourteen years that would pass, I’d call myself Claudia again. I’d stop going to the African World festival. I’d stop pulling out my kinara every year and celebration Kwanzaa the seven days after Christmas. I’d let the baby have a white doll. I’d stop grieving the regal feeling wearing African clothes afforded me. I’d stop telling the kids about African and African-American heroes and sheroes. The dream of Africa that once burned inside of me seemed permanently deferred. I knew what Langston Hughes meant in his poem:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Does it explode? I suppose it depends on the grace you get while you wait.

My dream did none of the things Langston wrote so poignantly of. It existed on some ethereal realm like frozen embryo with little chance of being born. Yet, it still had the stuff of life in it. And it, like all lives, belonged to God.

Fast forward.

It’s 2007. Another deferred dream is now reality. I’m a multi-contracted novelist, in a dry season of writing, writing, writing, and waiting, waiting, waiting for actual books to hit the shelves. That year I grieved the aborted effort of my first novel. And filled the time with rewriting them, and trickling out bits of my work to whosoever asked me for it.

Only three people asked for it. An Orthodox women’s magazine wanted poetry and a book review. A one-year, life verse devotional wanted a little piece about my love affair with poverty of spirit. And Will and Lisa Samson wanted a devotional for their call for social justice, Justice in the ‘Burbs.

Of course I’d do it. Lisa was my BFF!

I begin that meditation was a pivotal work for me, turning me from what I believe amounted to years worth of spiritual navel gazing, to seeing Jesus in the incarnation of the world’s poor and suffering. This is what I wrote:

Jesus lives next door. He’s an eight-year-old girl and her three-year-old brother. The Son of Man looks like those starving Ethiopian children. He only gets breakfast and lunch at school, when he makes it. His mama is a crack whore. Nobody knows where his daddy is. I heard his mama lets her “Johns” do things to him.
Poor King of Kings.

Jesus is two houses down and has six children. Now he’s pregnant with the seventh. I don’t know if he hasn’t figured out what birth control is, or what, but how does he expect his husband to feed all those babies on that salary? And you know with all those kids the Lord of Lords can’t work. That means hardworking taxpayers’ money has to go for Christ’s food stamps!

He needs to get fixed!

The Lord is a crazy man-paranoid schizophrenic. If he doesn’t take his medication, he walks up and down the street, cussing and spitting on everybody he passes. He’s homeless. Nobody knows where his family is-if he’s got one. Digs out of the trashcans for food. Somebody ought to get him off the street.

Jesus is nothing but a nuisance.

I’m starting to see the Son of God everywhere I go. He’s always crying or begging or looking pitiful. Why doesn’t he pull himself up by his bootstraps? This is America! Makes me mad. He’s ruining our neighborhood.

Somebody ought to do something about him.


Despite my earnestness, right away I knew I had a problem. I wasn’t doing anything about Jesus. Not really. But I wanted to.

I started hanging around Lisa’s blog watching like a voyeur as God took her life, spun it like a spinning top, and set her about on a path of change that effected everything from the light bulbs she burned to the life she lived in community with others, believer and non. She cared for refugees. Her fiction changed, and became a call to arms for Christians to become the hands and feet of Jesus. She and her teenage daughter were going to Africa. She’d linked with Tom Davis, President of a mission organization called the children’s hope chest and his passion for AIDS orphans and widows now burned with her.

I’d go vicariously through Lisa. That is until late one night.

I’m greedily seeking rest for the unrelenting feeling of being a lost soul that keeps me awake at all hours of the night. I go to Lisa’s blog. There’s a video. The woman is in Swaziland. I never connected much with South Africa. We, my “conscious” brothers and sisters, were mostly of West African origin. Much of what *Raphael taught me is his warped perception of what it was to be Nigerian. He was not Nigerian. He was just crazy. I think he believed he was Nigerian. He didn’t talk much about South Africa, except to spout his Free Nelson Mandela rhetoric. His lessons did not touch on Swaziland.

I clicked on the little arrowhead familiar to You-Tube video watchers. The frozen image of an black woman, who could have been my aunt, my sister, my mother, grandmother, or even myself, came to life.

Tom was feeding her questions she seemed to struggled to answer. He finally conveyed to her the question he wanted us, back in the United States to hear her answer too.

“What’s the longest you’ve ever gone hungry?”

She nodded her understanding, smiled toothlessly at the camera. “Two months.”

Something in me snapped. In a good way.

I lie back in my comfortable bed, fifty pounds overweight. Two months. The heavenly gavel feel. On the scale of social justice, I had been measured, and found wanting. How could I be fifty pounds overweight when someone in this world hasn’t eaten for two months?

Somehow, I thought because I got foodstamps, and my housing was subsidized through the HUD Section 8 voucher program I was poor. Despite lean days, we never went hungry. Two months!?!

Two months devoured my insides.

I went to my email program. It was three AM. I am notoriously unreliable at three AM. Much of what I say in that hour I mean, but some of it is just my various chemical imbalances speaking. Those emails usually leave me mortified in the clear light of day. But what I said to Tom that night was this:

“I have to go to Africa with you. I have to go for myself. I have to be there. To see for myself. To be with and touch the people. I can’t just write a check.”

But how in the world would I do that?

I wouldn’t. Couldn’t. I had no means for such extravagant love.

Nonetheless, I dreamed again. I met Tom Davis in Atlanta at the International Christian Retail Show. We were both signing books for our shared publisher. I think we saw a kindred spirit in each other, instantly. Only Tom was bringing good news to the poor and needy. And I believed I was the poor and needy.

We laughed and exchanged stories over outrageously expensive coffee. I asked him how I could serve him, and he said, “You are a voice. I need people to hear what’s going on over there.”

A voice?

Okay, I could be a voice. If only I could get there.

He said he wouldn’t let my lack of money keep me from doing God’s work, if this was His will for me. Tom assured me he’d help me raise the money, and I left him feeling hopeful.

That Tom Davis sure was a man of his word! When I returned home he called to tell me an anonymous donor had paid for my trip to Africa.

God found me worthy, despite my weaknesses and faults, to go.

I can’t even begin to tell you how I felt when I told that to *Raphael.

Pray for me, lovies. I'm on my way.

*I changed his name because someone I love very much asked me to. Thanks, lovies. If his real name was mentioned in a comment I'm removing it. No offense to the commenter. Okay?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Mair's Big Catholic Mail Day

So, last night I'm praying. I believe God is leading me to use the rosary in my devotions, so I've literally spent weeks searching for just the right one. I have the itty-bitty necklace one, but it's really hard to finger those tiny beads. When I have to look fabulous and pray sure, but it's not good fore everyday use. Now, listen. You really don't want me to start thinking too hard about anything. Thoughts turn to agonies when I'm not medicated and it's winter, and this rosary thing was no exception.

Should I get a Sacred Heart chaplet? The Sacred heart has really been meaningful to me, lately. I've even dreamed about it--a God dream, and trust me, I know my God dreams when I have them. Should I get something black that everything I wear? I want the beads a good size. What about red? Chaplet of the Holy Wounds. Something dedicated to Divine Mercy. St. Francis? Padre Pio or Our Lady of Sorrows? All of these things touch me deeply.

I was stuck, and not obeying God either.

Last night I got good and sick of myself. I decided to just pray about it.

"God," I lamented, "If you want me to pray the rosary you're going to have to bring one to me. The one you want me to have. And that way I'll know it's from you."

I just prayed this LAST NIGHT! Today the mailman brings me a parcel I didn't remember ordering. And can you imagine??? A ROSARY was in it. It was a surprise gift from my BFF. And she'd ordered it DAYS ago. I'll tell you, that God sure does love us. And He wants us to pray, too! And you gotta love my BFF for being so in tune with The Holy Ghost.

(To my Catholic sensitive friends. I promise I will not worship Mary--who really is mothering me, or have unseemly communications with the saints.)

But I digress.So, yeah, ignore the unruly, willful dreadlocks. The rosary is made of these seeds called "Job's Tears". Man, does that sound tailor made for a sistah, or what? And your can see the back of the crucifix has the Stations of the Cross. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the stations of the cross, in fact, in Wounded Gina walks her own stations, and this is such a tender reminder of the passion of Christ I can enjoy daily now. Is my BFF the freakin' bomb, or what?

Okay, next up, I got my big, crazy, kitschy Sacred Heart of Jesus shirt. I told you I was really feeling that Sacred Heart thing, and yeah, maybe I'm known for excesses. And this is truly excessive. If this isn't a bipolar moment purchase I don't know what is.

I got it off Ebay. Came all the way from Thailand. It has that random weirdness that comes from foreign objects--and I don't mean the kind that lodges uncomfortably in your eye. What you can't see--and brothers, please don't try to determine the size of my tatas. I have very unimpressive breastuses. God gave me a lot, but He didn't give me that--anyway, it has these weird letters and designs that look like money but don't really spell anything. Or look like money, even. And could somebody, ANYBODY tell me why Jesus has so may hands! And what's that on his forehead? Did I make a mistake and get the Sacred Heart? Third Eye Chakra of Jesus combo shirt? I don't understand the symbolism here! Is this a cultural thing? Did somebody mix Kali with the Sacred Heart of Jesus??? Juxtapose some kind of Hindu thing on my sweet Jesus! Is this shirt from the devil? And I forgot to tell you, the WORST thing about it is that it smells weird. Like gasoline or something. What the heck kind of paint is this???? It feels rubbery and strange and I keep thinking any minute I'm going to burst into flames, and I don't mean tongues of fire that precedes heavenly languages flowing from my mouth. Are there issues with the safety standards in Thailand? The smell is making me kinda SICK! Is this some kind of plot to eliminate Christians. T-shirt poisoning! I'm going to be a fashion martyr! Okay, I know, I'm already a fashion martyr, otherwise I wouldn't be caught dead in this shirt. But I won't get to be a saint for dying like that! Lord, have mercy on my Sacred Heart of Jesus lovin' soul.

And worse still, I have to admit. This shirt is so bizarre, that it strangely appeals to me. I feel like I'm wearing a big icon. No, I feel like I AM a big icon. A wildly unfamiliar one I hope is not accursed, albeit, but I meant well when I ordered it. Not a trace of mockery about my purchase. Honestly. And I do like it. If it is damned, I only paid ten bucks for the insane thing.

You can't see this, but Jesus is also on both my arms, so when I pose a certain way, it looks like I'm wearing Sacred Heart triplets. Some weird, The Son, and The Son, and The Son Trinity. And Jesus is on my back. Now there's a metaphor that may be useful, if I could only survive the fumes.

Other than that, I got a few bills and direct mail offers, but all and all, it really was a big Catholic mail day.

And as an aside: I called a local priest about RCIA classes this morning, and found out their parish doesn't offer one until the fall. The Religious Education direct, who called as I blogged, said, "You can try another parish. SACRED HEART may have a class available sooner."

"Sacred Heart, huh?" I said, thinking how God really does move in mysterious ways.


I think not!

Pax et Bonum!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

My Epiphany

One of the gifts the ancient Church has given me that I missed in my earlier spiritual formation is the gift of Epiphany (January 6), as a day to celebrate in and of itself. I kinda let Epiphany go here on the blog, though at least I did put something here for you to celebrate Advent and Incarnation. I'm trying y'all. I really am.

I don't know exactly what I did on the sixth, when the Church was gazing at wise men coming to Christ with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. I'm sure it amounted to a whole lot of nuthin', as has most of the past week has been for me. But I did mull the matter of Epiphany over quietly, somewhere deep inside myself.

Maybe I didn't want to deal with it a few days ago because right now, I'm in the midst of my own personal epiphany. I am realizing that I see a glimpse of the Christ Child in His Incarnation, and He is somewhere other than where I thought He would be, once again. But I am moved to go to this strange and wonderful place just the same. I am now going forward, with faith, on another perilous journey to kneel before Him and bring Him my meager gifts. All I have are a few stories to give. Some of them are shiny and bright, others bear the dull pallor of work executed too fast, while others still are marred by the mistakes of one who hasn't mastered her craft--in fact, it's clear that I'm a beginner. But it's what I've got. It's the best I've got, in fact. I want the Baby to have my stories.

Right now, in the wee hours of the morning, I am thinking about those wise men who sought the Christ child. I am thinking about their long journey, and the treacherous king who wanted them to find Him so he could murder the King of Kings who was not so big, kingly and kick-butt now, but a mere infant. What a wimp that evil king was.

So these wise man, they're following this weird star. They're packin' gifts. They aren't sure exactly what to expect, but they know He will be good, and holy, and hope-full. I don't think they knew they'd have the dreams they'd supernaturally share later, or that the path they took to get there would not be the path they took to go back to their homes. How could they have known such at the onset? But when you go seeking after God, prepare to be surprised and redirected.

I used to be virulently anti-Catholic. I had the rhetoric, the propaganda, and the books (and lots of Jack Chick comics. Remember Alberto?!?) to support my position. Never mind that I was young and believed whatever I was told if you just said, "God said so." That was back when every faith healer on television was a miracle worker. And Chick's Alberto was a victim of a vast Jesuit conspiracy to destroy all Protestants. And the Pope was no doubt the anti-Christ. That was before Christian investigative journalists revealed Alberto to be a liar and a hustler. It was before report after report (in the secular arena) exposed my beloved miracle working television prophets to be greed infected wolves in (expensive) shepherd's clothing, fleecing the flock to build their own kingdoms instead of God's. Before I grew weary and confused. Before I was broken in a million pieces by my own wretched choices. Before a wise man told me, "We know where God is, what we don't know is where God isn't." Before I knew an Orthodox church existed, and that, will wonders cease? Yes, Catholics are Christians who believe the same Creed as I do. Before I knew that none of us, has it all. We all see through a glass darkly.

And now I found myself walking on a path that feels like I'm on my way home. I thought the Church of God in Christ was home. And then the Word of Faith Church. And then the Emergent Church. And then the Orthodox Church. Yes! Yes, they were all home for a weary pilgrim to rest her head for a bit. But they weren't heaven. I was not truly home. I've still got a few more miles to go before I sleep. I still have more journeying to do. I'm still a pilgrim.

I've decided to stop telling God where I want to go or where I'm going, and to just listen so when He says "Follow me," I'll just dutifully trail behind Him. No hesitation. No wondering who will find me flaky. Just, "Be it unto me according to thy will."

Yesterday I said to God, regarding my currently spiritual journey, which has taken a decidedly Catholic turn, "You're doing this to get back at me for all that Jack Chick stuff, aren't You? You think this is funny." But He didn't answer me.

I don't think He thought any of it was particularly funny. Okay, He thought some of it was funny. I know He has a really wacky sense of humor. But some of it He had to find remarkably sad. All those years of smug and arrogant posturing on my part because I was "saved". I had the truth. I had comic books that were compelling! I was right! How much did I hurt my poor Catholic husband with my misguided notions? I don't even want to know. And I wonder why I can hardly get him to darken the door of any church at all.

I spoke with a kind and gentle Byzantine Catholic priest last year who was once an Orthodox priest. He said to me, "I found the Orthodox Church a little damaging to my soul. I had such spiritual pride. When I came into full communion with the Roman Church, I had to admit that I don't know it all, and I don't have it all. I gave myself some room to be wrong about a few things, and it made me a better person."

I was so moved by this. All my spiritual life I've wanted to be "right". I wanted what is true. And don't get me wrong, I still do. But maybe 27 years of seeking God and finding Him in some very unlikely places has taught me to look with the soft eyes of grace at my brothers and sisters in Christ, and do exactly what Jesus said. "Judge not." That leaves a lot of questions, doesn't it? Like, well what did you mean by "by their fruit you will know them?" It's a good question. Something to pray about and ponder. It's not a license to judge.

Gosh, I know there are even more troubling questions. What about Orthodoxy, big and little "o." What about apologetics? Defending the faith against heresy?

I have no idea. My head would explode if I did, so right now, He's just wooing me to where He wants me to go through His passion--I mean that in every sense of the word--and a great, spiritual/intellectual tradition. If I stumbled into Orthodoxy, I am reading my way into the Catholic church, one, scrumptuous, intellectual, passionate seeker book at a time.

Today I got yet another dose of anti-Catholic sentiment regardibg my new novel Wounded. Some one was put off by the book dealing with stigmata. To not be a Catholic person (yet) people have no problem kicking my butt about my interest in stigmata, and being quite vocal about it. Last year I had to publicly apologize for recommending Mariette in Ecstasy in a book review because of the stigmata thing in that novel. I mean, it really seems to bother people. Not that I can't see why. But fiction is just a big, "what if?" if you ask me. I asked myself, "What if a person, a younger version of me, inexplicably got stigmata?" I wondered how it would play out, so I wrote a novel to see.

I didn't get all my questions answered, but I did get some surprising gifts. One of my editors said she could hear "whispers from heaven" as she read. I didn't put them there. They were little God gifts I got (I believe) because I'm still trying to get to the Baby. I'm still on the road, traveling, not quite sure what to expect, guided by crazy stars and angels, gut instinct and dreams. An urge to find what (or Who!) is good and holy and protect him drives me. I'm still moved to get at that Baby, so I could give Him my gifts: my golden stories. My sweet-scented stories, and even my healing stories. And I still want to hold Him, the baby, in my arms. Like the wise men, I am finding He is still not exactly what I thought He would be. And it's a real education--epiphany! for me.

He's still a surprise, a gorgeous, incredible surprise.

In every way.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

In the interest of being fabulous one day...

I decided to start 2008 with a New Year's revolution to live more artfully and authentically. Remember the dreadlocks I told you I'd have in my 2012 dream? They'll be cascading down my back then, and it's highly possibly they will be multicolored. However, before any of that could happen, I had to actually start the dreads. And so...

That's me. With new, starter dreads. I also have fabulous accoutrements of faith disguised as jewelry that I got for Christmas. Check out the funky silver and black rosary, my Benendictine Jubilee Cross, and my Mater Dolorosa (Sorrowful Mother) medal, which is my personal favorite. Sister Lily Watters had one just like it. She's the punk nun on Joan of Arcadia season two. I LOVE her! And I fell in love with that medal.

A few weeks ago I dreamed Elohim gave me His name and two Sacred Hearts of Jesus. My Sacred Heart medal reminds me of mystical dreams and Jesus's passionate love. All I need is a St. Christopher medal for traveling mercies 'cause I'm on my way to the Motherland, Africa!

Man, I love this stuff. They're gentle reminders of interceeding friends in high places. And much more wearable than icons, which I also love.

But back to the locks. They didn't take days like the zillions braids did, just a couple of hours of twisting and manipulating. This is my fourth day. At first they were little curlicues around my head. Now they're stretching out. They'll go through several, unpolished stages that will be the death of all personal pride for me, but hey, who needs pride? Doesn't it goeth before a fall? Dreadlocks for the ascetic in me. Ha!

I know they kinda look strange, and trust me, I put myself at the most flattering angle possible to highlight them. They're kind of blah right now, which just goes to show you, you have to begin a thing and tend to it before you reap the fabulousity that will come later. Isn't that like so much in the spiritual journey? Patience really is a virtue.

I'll keep you posted, lovies.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A New Year Blessing, 2008

I found this blessing in the book, Ragamuffin Prayers and posted it a few years ago. The name of the person who said it wasn't credited in the book. It just said he was Henri Nouwen's spiritual mentor. This lovely soul, who I found out was Larry Hem, also mentored my beloved Brennan Manning, or so I learned after hearing Brennan speak last year. Can you imagine the kind of man he must be to have mentored such remarkable pilgrims? Anyway, when Brennan finished his soul-altering talk, he left this blessing with us, and I'd like to give it to you, once again. Don't be afraid of it. God is not what you think He is--if He were He wouldn't be God. Don't be afraid to let Him surprise you, and if you follow Him, He will surely surprise--and delight--you. Don't be afraid of anything, because there is no fear in love. Let love chase all your fears this year.

Here's the blessing:

"May all your expectations be frustrated. May all your plans be thwarted. May all of your desires be withered into nothingness, that you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child and sing and dance in the love of God the Father the Son, and the Spirit." Amen!

Happy New Year, friends. God grant you many years!

Much love,

New Year's Day 2008
Feast of the Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God