Wednesday, September 6, 2017

GOD IS IN THE ARTWORK OF OUR LIVES


In my last post I wrote I was traveling through a dark valley with Jesus by my side. I’m writing now to report that I’m climbing my way out via a staircase made of counseling, psychology books, the Gospels, friendships, service, worship, prayer, meditation, beach meanderings, baking, photography, and stepping stone design. But, not so much with the blogging.

I see now that it wasn’t just because my journey had reached a level of “too personal” to blog about, but that the Lord was slowly guiding me through a transition. Things have picked up dramatically epiphany-wise!

One day last week, powerful ocean waves called me to the beach. Before I set out for my usual pier-to-pier walk, I asked God, what should I do, pray the Rosary? He said, Listen.

So, I listened to the boisterous waves, blustery wind, and silent belittling of hunkered down seabirds smarter than me. No signs or messages appeared.

What appeared instead was rain. And within that storm, I felt an invitation to a safe place in which I could open up to Him. Soon my tears mixed in with the raindrops, my glasses fogged up, and sand-speckled wind pelted my face. This blindness allowed me to focus inward on a deep level and see the thing that was bothering me the most. The thing I had to get straight with God about.

I was devastated by my belief that my issues and I had utterly, irrevocably, and absolutely blown it with a friend. The Lord let me cry it all out. It’s possible that He metaphysically patted my back and said, It’s gonna be all right. But, I might have imagined that part.

And then, I went home, took a hot shower, drank tea, and got back to reading the Gospels. I began thinking about how I would blog about the Saints of the Gospels, and it occurred to me that many of these Saints were Jesus’s friends. And you know what? I’m Jesus’s friend, too. He told me so this past spring on May 10.

This means that I can write about Him now. Directly. No longer only through the perspective of Saints through whom we focus our gaze on the Divine.

I’m intrigued by this assignment. But mostly, I’m marveling that I no longer feel afraid to write directly about Jesus, historical or otherwise. I no longer feel unsuitable, uncredentialed, or unworthy of this task. It's a miracle!

Speaking of miracles, long about 5 o’clock on that same day, while I was still immersed in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus whispered, Check your phone.

Okay. What do you want me to know?

And there it was in my inbox, sent three minutes earlier – the “all’s well” email from my friend that I had never expected but had, apparently, been waiting desperately for.

That Lord and His mysterious ways, man. He’s just so stinking good to me.

…………..

Speaking of friends, two of them taught me an invaluable lesson this past weekend. On Friday, I had an intermittent, but pretty much all-day amazing FB PM conversation with a friend in which we discussed everything we could think of. Then on Sunday, I had a three-and-a-half-hour deep conversation with a friend in a coffee shop that ended only when my blood sugar levels plummeted from lack of food and I almost passed out.

When I thanked these friends for spending their time with me, both said in their own way, What the hell are you thanking me for? That was fun!

And finally, miraculously, at almost 51-years-old, I believed them.

…………….

So, what’s with the stepping stones?

Well, see this one?


I started to place my beach meandering treasures in an intuitive random pattern. But, it quickly became "The Crucifixion." I added people and angels, and filled the empty space with purple for His Divinity and white for His Holy Light. Too late, I realized I had added so much to the scene no one could decipher what was going on in the center. 

There’s a powerful message in that experience. Sometimes, when we're suffering through our own “crucifixion,” while we might have a few people standing close by like Jesus had Blessed Mother Mary, St. John, and St. Mary Magdalene; most people, for their own reasons, step a little way back, like St. Peter and the others did.

It hurts, but on some level, you gotta know they are giving you space to get through your thing. You gotta have faith that they are waiting for you on the other side. You gotta believe your friends removed themselves temporarily from your scene so you can focus in on the center of your own story.

Because the center of your own story is where the healing happens.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

TEARS TO TRIUMPH by Marianne Williamson -- Spiritual Journey Book Review


I highly recommend TEARS TO TRIUMPH: THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY FROM SUFFERING TO ENLIGHTENMENT by Marianne Williamson! Her broad message -- although it ain’t easy, ego (and addictions) can be overcome by practicing a soul-led life.

I read this book recently because I’m in a dark place. Not, long-dark-tea-time-of-the-soul dark, but dark-valley dark. In other words, I have no doubt that Jesus is with me here in the valley.

I didn’t know it when I started out, but recovery is a major part of my spiritual journey which has been happening one epiphany and challenge at a time. This latest one was so difficult, I couldn’t do it by myself. In fact, I so couldn’t do it by myself that I didn’t realize I was doing it until right before I did it.

Jesus, in a confusing way that involved weirdness, another consciousness, and far too many people catching me whispering to myself, finally got through to me that I had to stop the train, get off, and climb aboard the wagon.

When I told my new recovery counselor about what was going on with me during the time it took to stop the train, he said, “You were under a tremendous amount of stress. It’s normal. You’re normal.”

Halleluiah. I mean, really, Hal-le-lu-iah.

Someday, I might include that other consciousness in a novel, or maybe I’ll keep that story locked away in my heart forever, or best yet, let it fade from memory . . . remembering only the part where Jesus was with me when I most needed Him.

One of the things my counselor asked me was why I had told so many people about stopping the train. I answered, “Well, I have this blog about the saints, then I started a spiritual journey which I also post about because people like to know they aren't the only ones. Plus, I heard from people going through the same thing, one of whom recommended you." 

Also, being authentic on social media slaps all three of my addictions right in the face.

But, you know, that’s it. I can’t blog about the specifics of this passage in my journey, it’s too personal. The clouds are thick down here, and I don’t know what’s on the other side of the valley . . .

Meanwhile, I’m also sad because my mother-in-law, Carolynn, passed away.

And Charlottesville and Hannah Heyer. I mean, how many times can one person’s heart break at the mess our country is in right now? How long can one person ignore what going on for the sake of inner peace? How long before the barriers one sets up to block bad news from one’s psyche shatter? And so, when they do, we grieve and step up our social activism yet again. But the grief doesn’t go away.

So why am I posting this book review now when no one would fault me for simply wallowing? Because this blog is my mission from God. At least, for now.

Here are some of my favorite passages:

The spiritual universe is the mind of God. Miracles are the thoughts of love, extended from the Mind of God through the mind of humans and out into the world. God is Love, and as God’s children, so are we. Our purpose on earth is to think as God thinks, which means to love as God loves. When our minds are attuned to love, things unfold miraculously. Loving thought creates loving feelings, and loving feelings create loving behavior. In this way, we create happiness for ourselves and for those around us. Page 48

The right time to be heartbroken is when the heart is breaking. Just as an expectant mother sometimes serves her pregnancy best by resting comfortably, her feet up and drinking chamomile tea; so, during times of grief we, too, are gestating the next phase of our lives and serve the process best simply by allowing it to be. We need to rest into who we are and where we are; in being gentle with ourselves, we make great space for the gigantic processes of personal transformation that are occurring deep inside us. Spiritually, we are always dying and we are always being born. Page 65

No matter what happens in life, it is our own choice whether to play it deep or play it shallow. And whenever we play life deep, we feel our feelings deeply. Times of great sadness might open up painful wounds that were buried before. They might be wounds that are not just ours, but generational or societal. Suffering through them with our hearts wide open is not for sissies, but for seekers. Those wounds were keeping us from being who we’re cable of being, and their coming up to be healed is part of our journey to enlightenment. Page 66

Author Paul Hawken has coined the phrase “blessed unrest” to describe a general sense of unease that many people feel. If anything should be worrisome, it’s how many people are not horrified by so much unnecessary suffering in the world today. Sometimes neurosis is best measured not by the things that make us sad, but by the things that do not make us sad. Page 80


The closer we are to genuine joining, the greater the probability that the weakness of one partner or the other – usually both – will be subconsciously triggered. “You’re needy and emotionally demanding” will meet “you’re arrogant and selfish.” Although the ego seeks relationship as a place to hide our wounds, the Holy Spirit uses relationships to bring those wounds to the surface – not to destroy the relationship, but to make it all that it can be.

In the presence of mutual understanding, compassion, faith, and forgiveness, our wounds can be healed. Page 119

The spiritual journey dredges up the mud of our subconscious fears, yet it does so in order to remove them. In the words of Carl Jung, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making darkness conscious.” Fear and negativity that remain hidden in the darkness of our unconsciousness have the power to hurt us; when brought to the light of conscious awareness, they can be surrendered to God and miraculously transformed. Page 145

The benefits of a spiritual practice to the sorrowful mind are that it changes our brain circuitry in relation to that which makes us suffer. It brings the mortal world into harmony with a greater truth when we see situations not through prescribed mental filters, but as they are. Each of us, when in our right minds, is more powerful than the ego – and more powerful than our sadness and more powerful than our fear. Page 170

What’s most important is the revelation that the God within us is our essential self; the essence of God is the essence of each of us, and the essence of each of us is the essence of God. When we are speaking from our true selves, or from love, we are expressing what the Voice for God has told us. Through prayer and meditation, we begin to hear the small still Voice for God. Our purpose on earth is to then reflect, in words but also in actions, what we have heard. Page 180

So, imagine this: you’re taking a walk, and all of a sudden you have an epiphany, or a sense of divine presence, and it doesn’t last just for a moment; it’s a high that lasts for a while. And it’s not just pleasurable, it’s directive. You get a feeling, a sense of mission, a calling – you have a very strong sense that God has work for you to do. Page 179

All of us make an Exodus in our lives; all of us are delivered from slavery to the Promised Land by a mysterious hand. The Exodus is our journey through suffering, as we suffer from bondage at the hands of the ego to freedom in the hand of God. Page 192

In being delivered to God, we’re delivered from the illusion of who we are to the reality of who we truly are. We go from being addicted to being sober; from being needy to being independent; from being afraid to being brave. We’re dying to the parts of ourselves that need to die in order to give birth to what is trying to be born. We’re burning through a lot of ego on our way to the life that lies beyond it, having to face whatever we need to face before we can face God. And this is painful, perhaps even torturous. It’s humiliating. It is terrifying. But that journey through the spiritual wilderness is not a waste, for it leads to the Promised Land at last. Page 193


Giddyup. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

JERRY GARCIA AND FALAFELS


Jerome (Jerry) John Garcia was born in San Francisco, CA, on August 1, 1942. He died on August 9, 1995, when his big ol’ heart gave out on him in the middle of the night at rehab. He’s remembered by many as a channeler of peace, love, hope, social activism, and, of course, music. Sweet music.

Twenty-two years ago, on the day Jerry Garcia died, I began to mourn him, not as a celebrity, but as a loved one. Yet, I couldn't figure out why he meant so much to me. In time, I boxed up my newspaper and magazine clippings, shelved them for a few years, and then moved them to the attic. Although I honored him on his birthdays, I was completely unable to face the anniversaries of his death. 

Everything changed this year when the Fatima saints and a Lent Madness post sparked a succession of miracles in my life. I'm now able to honor Jerry’s memory on his feast day and in this way thank him for a real good time.

Jerry Garcia is not a saint on any church’s calendar. However, he became a part of the Body of Christ and member in the Communion of Saints upon his baptism and dedication to Jesus Christ in 1942 at Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church in San Francisco. Therefore, we can call on him for intercessory prayers in heaven or the metaphysical realm, depending on your choice of vocabulary.

Author/Editor Dennis McNally captured some of Jerry’s memories and thoughts about church in his book JERRY ON JERRY: THE UNPUBLISHED JERRY GARCIA INTERVIEWS:

When we moved down the peninsula (to suburban Menlo Park) and the Catholic Church was quite a long way away, that’s when I started really lapsing out. So, I made my First Communion, but I wasn’t ever Confirmed. That’s when I lopped off.

I was never a deep Catholic. I never went to Catholic school, you know. I never was at catechism enough to get a picture of what they were trying to tell me about. For me, the most real thing about Catholicism was my presence in the church and the awesome sense that the church could fill you with just the reality of it and the rumbling of the Latin mass, the sensual – the theater got to me much more than any ideas. You know what I mean? So, I never developed a sense of morality of the Church. I wasn’t exposed to it. Nobody in my family went to church. Well, I was the kind of Catholic kid where my grandmother would give me a quarter, you know, to put in the collection plate, and that was church. Page 26

So, he was a lapsed Roman Catholic just like me when I attended Grateful Dead concerts in the late 80’s/early 90’s. I would find my way to the Episcopal Church in 1994. Jerry’s spirituality, on the other hand, grew wide and far from our shared traditional roots.

He got his first guitar at age 15 and never looked back at conformity. I mean, most of the history books on the Grateful Dead dig deep into their early years -- the people who influenced their music and life style. Plus, the whole thing with LSD. Jerry believed that the use of psychedelics affected his spirituality:

I think that too much of this thing is the fear of change of consciousness. Like it’s something that I think is something to be feared. It’s another level of, you know what, somebody wants us all to see reality the same way. You know? I never did get the reason. Now, explain to me again. I understand why it’s not good to steal. And killing. I get that. What’s the part about getting high again? What was wrong with that? You know what I mean? I don’t get the moral, you know, the structural, moral part of it? What is the reason? Why is it that everybody has this thing about getting high?

That’s what I wonder. Who is the guy that said – where does it say, even, in the Ten Commandments, “Thou shall not get high. Thou shall not change your consciousness.” Who says, you know? The way I understood it is that it was helpful to change your consciousness, sometimes, you know? That’s the way I got it, anyway. I just want to be part of that minority point of view. If it is, in fact, a minority point of view.” Page 124-125, Jerry on Jerry

Coincidentally, an article called The Spiritual Consequences of Alcohol Consumption answering Jerry’s questions popped up in my Facebook Newsfeed the day after I read the above:

We have to ask why is alcohol legal throughout most of the world, yet in many countries and specifically the United Sates, psychedelics are illegal. The conscious and safe use of psychedelics or “visionary medicines” are known to assist in mind expansion, to initiate spiritual experiences where people have communed with the divine, healed numerous physical and spiritual ailments, increased intelligence, helped repattern the brain in a positive way, assisted people in aligning with their soul’s purpose, and have inspired many people to create great works of art and other innovative creations. It seems that these substances would definitely be banned and discouraged if there truly is an agenda seeking to oppress the human potential and keep us “in the dark” regarding who we are as spiritual beings, our innate potential, and the path to empowerment.

As we strive to heal, awaken, and transform our world – I pray that we wise up to the dirty trick played upon humanity in regards to alcohol. Non-benevolent forces have wanted to keep us oppressed, disempowered, and asleep.

Look at the effects of alcohol in your life, in the lives of people you know, and in society at large. Make conscious, informed, and health enhancing decisions. The more people who awaken to truth and seek health and liberation from mind-control agendas, the more likely we are to make positive changes and co-create the world we feel good about living in.

Fascinating stuff. But, back to Gerry’s spiritual beliefs. In a discussion about his lyricist, Robert Hunter, Jerry said:

The lyrics to "Ripple" are a little talky even for me. When I sing that song, there is a moment or two when I feel like, am I really a Presbyterian minister? You know what I mean? It just – it crowds me just a little. It’s right within range. I mean, I can just manage it, but if it were . . . if it had one more word or cautionary moment in it, or whatever that is – yeah, I’d have real problems with it. I personally have a real low embarrassment level. Page 211, Jerry on Jerry

What Jerry was ultimately looking for in song lyrics was a way to connect with everyone in the audience, backstage, and on the stage:

But what I was thinking of when it came to me was, jeez, it would be great to have a song that was like, now it’s that moment on stage when we could all look at each other and say, okay, here we are. We’re in the now. Here we are in the now. Let’s address this situation as it’s happening in the now. You know? It was like writing a song that addresses that somehow, although how to do it without it being a total bullshit trip was something that totally escaped me. I don’t know what I would want to say apart from isn’t it great to be here and isn’t it swell that we’re all here. Page 215, Jerry on Jerry

Speaking of song lyrics, another significant Hunter/Garcia song is "St. Stephen." It’s significant to me because when I learned via a Lent Madness post by Celebrity Blogger Rev. David Hansen that Jerry’s funeral was held at a St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, the understanding that Jerry had an affinity for a particular saint and that he was a Christian dawned so inspiringly in my consciousness I haven’t fully adapted.

I previously had no idea, thinking he played all those spiritual folk songs just because he liked the style. This understanding led to numerous epiphanies including the most miraculous one of all:

Posted on Facebook, May 26, 2017

Right. So, I found the words.
If you’ve been following along on my timeline, you know that Jesus showed up and entwined my soul with His forever.
I’m about to tell you how this feels. Ready?
When Jesus shows up, it feels like requited true love.
And, according to the teachings of Miracle Max, “True love is the greatest thing in the world - except for a nice MLT - mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomatoes are ripe. They're so perky, I love that.”
It feels like Wesley and Buttercup:
“Can you move at all?”
“Move? You're alive! If you want I can fly!”
It feels like family after reading a good book:
“Grandpa? Maybe you can come over and read it again to me tomorrow.”
“As you wish.”
It also feels Stranger than Fiction:
“I brought you flours.”
By the way, I highly recommend this movie from 2006. Yes, I see myself in the character of the passionate baker. In fact, this has been one of my favorite movies for a long time and in watching it again recently, I see that this is likely where I got the idea to equate baked goods with the sweet love of Jesus Christ. Eh, I’m okay with this not being my original idea. I mean, what's the point of stories if not to create ripples of positivity?
Do I also see myself in the character of the addicted writer? Heck, yeah.
But, it’s Harold I most empathize with, because he faced up to and talked down that poetic voice of addiction narrating his life. Harold dared to write his own story.
Okay, so here’s what happened to bring me to this place:
This past Lent while minding my own business and playing Lent Madness (Thank you for existing, Lent Madness!), I came upon a tidbit of info in Rev. David Hansen’s post about St. Stephen (Thank you, David!) – Jerry Garcia honored St. Stephen. And Jerry’s funeral was held in a St. Stephen Episcopal Church.
This information rocked me to my core because I had always believed, without actually thinking about it too much, that Jerry played all those spiritual folk songs just because he liked the style. Also upon further pondering, I’m now pretty sure that back in the day, I was misinformed by someone. *ahem*
Uh, no. Jerry Garcia was Christian!
I suddenly realized that all those unchurched years in my twenties, weren’t. In fact, as we followed Grateful Dead tours (without actually quitting our jobs), we were attending “church” along with thousands of other peace-loving folks. Jerry Garcia’s spirituality and Love of Jesus Christ, drew me like a magnet. That’s why I loved him so much. That’s why I was so devastated when he died. Because Jesus. But now I understand that even though he’s on no Church calendar, I can call him “St. Jerry.” Because when Jerry accepted Jesus into his heart through Baptism, he became a part of the Body of Christ and a member in the Communion of Saints. So, I can honor him and pray with him to my heart’s content.
OMG, right?! I mean, this is a miracle that would have carried me a long, long time in great contentment. But, that’s not all.
Meanwhile, I was all over the whole Our Lady of Fatima story and the upcoming Canonization of Jacinta and Francisco Marta. Plus, our cat, Seven, by the grace of Mother Mary and Sister Lucia of Fatima, survived a medical emergency and thrived during Lent. She then passed peacefully away on Holy Wednesday. I was disappointed in myself for not being able to summon Easter joy on Sunday. I was so ashamed of my tears for a cat on our Lord’s most special day, that after receiving Communion, I escaped to the Ladies’ room and prayed, “I’m sorry, Lord. I know she was just a cat.”
He answered me, “Yeah, but she was yours.”
The words were said in my language, but I knew it was Him because Holy Communion opens up a divine aperture between the source of all Goodness and all us wee ones.
Then I really started to get blown away by all these miracles. I mean, each one could have been analyzed and blogged about as they were all so extraordinary. But I didn’t have time to adapt. Miracles were coming at me every day. I was able to post some of them to my timeline.
I was all into the Grateful Dead again. And also, still posting about Fatima – “Get ready, pray the Rosary, we need a miracle!” I even posted a Fatima miracle prediction – a generalized thing in which I wrote that time has no meaning in Heaven and that everything about the miracle would connect and make wonderful sense. As a joke, I added a reference to THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY in a parenthetical prediction that the number 42 would also somehow be involved. Because really, who am I to be making miraculous predictions?
A few days later, I heard a Grateful Dead song on GD Radio called, “We Bid You Good Night,” which includes the lyrics, “I love you. But Jesus loves you the best.” Oooooooo! So later, I found a video of it on You Tube. Interestingly, the clip was from a show recorded on October 16, 1989, which was Bobby’s 42 birthday. Oh, there’s another of those number signs which I tend to blog a lot about on Saints and Recipes.
So, I go to post the video on FB, and as I’m typing my intro, it suddenly occurred to me to check my ticket collection. YES! We were at this very show in the Meadowlands in New Jersey!
HOLY MIRACLE TICKETS, BATMAN!
And then I watched the song over and over until I understood. Via this video clip, Jesus time traveled me to this forgotten moment which had had a profound effect on me as an unchurched 23-year-old. Jerry Garcia, whom I loved, loved me back (because he loved all his fans), but Jesus loved me the best. Jesus loved me, even though I wasn’t going to church. I didn’t have to earn it, Jesus just loved me. It felt so good back then. And it felt so good to revisit such an important memory, which had drifted deep below my consciousness, and to experience it again from a totally different perspective.
And yet, the whole thing could still be considered a coincidence, especially by imaginary people for whom I felt I had to keep verifying.
But then, I looked back at the 42. And that was it. He had me at the 42.
Because Jesus was teasing me. Forty-two is not the answer to life, the universe, and everything. But in this case, it was. This was His cosmic joke to me. It was the ultimate speaking-to-me-in-my-own-language maneuver. He made me laugh.
And now, I’m His forever. He had been in my mind and in my heart. But now, and for all time, He’s in my soul.
Here’s the epiphany that finally helped me to put my feelings into the words of this post:
Not only does Jesus love the dedicated spiritual messenger, the devoted Communion Bread baker, and the diligent mom; He loves the repentant gossiper, the daydreamer, the crazy cat lover, the deadhead, the sci-fi fan, the shy high schooler who somehow managed to be voted class wise ass, and the seven-year-old who didn’t know her Catechism at her First Holy Communion.
I never had to earn it.
The survival/social skills I had developed as a child of an alcoholic and applied, not just to my parents but to everyone, created a veil of addiction that had distorted my vision of reality all these many years. But now He’s healed me, and I literally see it all so clearly:
Jesus loves me, and He always has, just as I am.

I know, right? It really is a pretty big deal.

Back to the song, "St. Stephen," the funny thing is I don’t really like it. It's too disjointed for me. You know? I like to picture the story of songs in my head and with this one, I can’t find the story. But, many people absolutely love it and maybe it’ll grow on me if I keep listening to it. 

Anyhow, for more thoughts on Jerry Garcia and spirituality I read, WHY THE GRATEFUL DEAD MATTER by Michael Benson who described their music, among other things as, “tie dyed angel music for spinning the sacred dance of life as a falling leaf at the jubilee.” Mmmmmm. However, he offers no direct quotes. Just lots of summing up of articles and books he’s read that are listed in the back as “Further Reading,” and his experiences as a life-time fan of the Grateful Dead. In other words, he rambles on from one topic to the next as if he were standing around outside the stadium enjoying the parking lot scene before the doors open.

Here’s his take on the band’s spirituality:

The musicians, Jerry, in particular, became aware of the divine aura in which they were seen, but they didn’t buy into it. You only had to look at the bad end that awaited most cult leaders to see what a trap that was. It was cool that there were dialed-in freaks out there in the dark who reported a group-mind experience, and sometimes a direct telepathic connection to what was happening on stage. If it were real, the musicians weren’t feeling it. They had no sense of being puppet masters pulling their audience’s strings. They were simply filling the air with wonderful sound, and everyone was free to get off on that in any way they chose.

One of the ways Jerry avoided the “ego trap” was to believe that the music was not something he created but rather something he channeled, that it was in the air and that he and the Dead, if they had their heads right, would make it audible, and the differences between a great show and a lousy one was their ability to snatch the music out of the ozone and blast it out their speakers. Page 94, Why GD Matter

Hmmmm. This seems to be the same story/different version of how healing prayers work.

Here's the author’s bit on the band’s social activism which pertains to our current political environment and why I list it as one of saint Jerry’s attributes:

The Grateful Dead philosophy eventually surpassed “it’s cool to get high,” and spread to matters of humanity, benevolence, charity, unity, and spirituality. One of the reasons that the band so drastically outlived the hippie/flower power media car wreck is they never bought into the naïve optimism that turned its slogans into national catch phrases, that led to rose-colored notions that all you had to do was put a flower in the barrel of The Man’s gun and there would be peace on Earth; that if you joined a commune in Big Sur then Capitalism would melt like the wicked witch. The band knew better. You can’t change everything forever. You can only change where you’re at right now, and for a lot of people that’s enough.

The band philosophy wasn’t as much about what it took, as what it gave. The Dead formalized their charitable efforts and formed the Rex Foundation, named after Rex Jackson, the roadie and tour manager who was killed in a car accident in 1976. Each year, the Dead played a handful of shows with the band’s portion of the proceeds going to fund a few handpicked causes. The money did not all go to formal charities, but it did all go to non-profit concerns, often projects or causes that weren’t actively seeking money. The Dead took great delight in surprising people who were doing good works with big fat checks.

For example, when one of their biggest – literally biggest – fans, seven-foot basketball star Bill Walton, told the Dead that the Lithuanian basketball team wasn’t going to make it to the 1992 Summer Olympics for lack of bread, the band sold a t-shirt showing a skeleton slam-dunking a basketball and sent the proceeds to Lithuania, where the hoopsters got to live their Olympic dream. That’s the sort of thing that makes a band rich in a way no bank account can measure. Page 79, Why GD Matter

Here he discusses Jerry’s thoughts on religion:

The Dead were always a persuasive voice against the “evil” aspect of straight culture: wall street, the military-industrial complex, intolerance, and yes, Gestapo-like law enforcement. Their liberal voice remained clear and strong even as the country shifted to the right during the Reagan/Bush era. The facets of straight culture that were not perceived as evil (such as religion and domesticity) largely received a pass from the band.

Jerry said he thought real Christianity was ok, not perfect. It was kind of weird when it came to death, taking what is clearly an abstract concept, what happens to consciousness when the body ceases to live, and overly personifying it into a concept (heaven) that the masses could get a grip on. Why would the universe bother to have consciousness evolve if it just ended with death? Page 103, Why GD Matter

This shows what happens when we don’t study our Gnostic gospels. Consciousness does continue to exist in the metaphysical realm in Christianity. (See my post on St. Mary Magdalene for more info on this topic.) I’m also pretty sure that now that his soul/consciousness is there, he gets it about the whole, “Dear saint Jerry, please pray for us,” thing.

Regarding Catholicism, he didn’t care for the exclusivity clause, but a lot of the rules for behavior set forth, the commandments, are the bedrock of civilized behavior. What religion really needed to make it a solid positive was ritual celebration, more singing and less listening, being preached to – but maybe no. If churches were better at ritual celebration, fewer people would come to Grateful Dead shows. People accepted Dead shows as an almost religious experience because it has ritual celebration, a ritual performed in a trustworthy environment. Fans feel comfortable in a predictable vibe, taking it closer to the edge at a Dead show than say, a show by the Who. If pressed, Jerry would admit he had no clue if there was a God, but religion taught him some important lessons. Don’t fall into the ego trap. Respect others. That stuff he could dig.

Once Jerry felt he was having a conversation with a higher intelligence, very cool, might have been God, the idea was exciting. Then he noticed that God had exactly the same sense of humor that he did. Page 103, Why GD Matter

And that’s it. I gotta stop right here. Because I’ve recently experienced the same epiphany – that the Jesus who speaks to me sounds a lot like me. There’s a lot here to play around with.

For example, Jesus, Mother Mary, saints, and angels speak to mystics in their own language. I mean, it’s convenient. I have no doubt that Jesus or Blessed Mother Mary spoke to mystics St. Catherine of SienaSt. Bernadette of Lourdes, and St. Jacinta, St. Francisco Marto, and Sr. Lucia of Fatima. However, if pressed, I’d be slightly less inclined to believe they spoke to St. Joan of Arc and Margery Kemp because the voices they heard sounded a lot like their own. 

On the other hand, if you really “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” (Mark 12:30) then you’ve become a divine conduit. You’ve become an instrument through which God does good. So, whether it’s His voice or your own that you’re hearing in your head doesn’t matter. It’s one and the same, the unique combination of you and God.

Speaking of instruments, St. Francis of Assisi did not write the prayer, Make Me an Instrument – it’s attributed to him falsely. See St. Francis’s Canticle of the Sun to understand his writing style and perspective. He was not so much with the “I” or the “me.”

And neither was Jerry. For him it was all about collaboration.

(Oh, man. Get this. After sitting for five hours working on this post, I got up to make dinner, and, of course, needed to blast some music. I turned on GDRadio and a song called "Lucky Old Sun" popped up. I’ve never heard it before. And yet, it’s a perfect companion to St. Francis’s “Canticle to the Sun.” Check it out:

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness. – Canticle

Take me across and wash all my troubles away
Like that lucky old sun, give me nothin' to do
But roll around heaven all day – “Lucky Old Sun”

Proving once again, to myself at least, that I’m not writing these posts all by me onesies.)

So, let’s see. Is Jerry Garcia saint worthy? Well, research showed he was a baptized (Roman Catholic) Christian. But, alas, I've been unable to find the moment in history when Jerry decided he believed in God after all and wouldn’t it be cool to entwine his soul forever with Jesus’s while still maintaining his broad, open, and accepting spirituality. 

And yet, I still believe it happened at some point, maybe during the eighties, because I can see and hear it in recordings of his expression and voice when he sings spiritual songs either with the Grateful Dead or the Jerry Garcia Band.

Also, I remember reading the quote from above about “Ripple” – “When I sing that song, there is a moment or two when I feel like, am I really a Presbyterian minister? I personally have a real low embarrassment level.” Page 211, Jerry on Jerry

Jerry was uncomfortable singing songs with lyrics he didn’t believe.

And there was the next quote regarding his goal of connection – “ . . . it would be great to have a song that was like, now it’s that moment on stage when we could all look at each other and say, okay, here we are . . . I don’t know what I would want to say apart from isn’t it great to be here and isn’t it swell that we’re all here.” Page 215, Jerry on Jerry

Well, at some point, he found the perfect spiritual folk song that he and the boys seemed pretty comfortable singing. In other words, he must have believed the words he was singing to overcome his low embarrassment level about seeming too preachy – "We Bid You Goodnight" includes the lyrics, “I love you, but Jesus loves you best.”

And, that's good enough for me.

Jerry Garcia died of a heart attack on August 9, 1995, at a drug rehabilitation facility in Forest Knolls, CA. He was 53.

His funeral was held at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on Belvedere Island, CA. On August 13, a public memorial service was attended by over 25,000 people in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.

In honor of saint Jerry Garcia of the United States, let’s make falafels -- the absolute best food to buy from the deadhead vendors in the stadium parking lot to enjoy, along with the scene, while waiting for the doors to open.

FALAFELS


Ingredients

1 box falafel mix
1 ¼ cups water
1 TBS olive oil
8 pita bread halves
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 small tomato, sliced
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
1 small avocado, peeled and sliced

Directions

1. Mix falafel mix and water in a medium bowl. Stir until blended. Let rest for 15 minutes. (Or follow directions on the prepared mix’s box.)

2. Roll mixture into 16 one-inch rounds, then mash into patties. Brush both sides with olive oil.

3. Broil in oven for about 3 minutes on each side.

4. Fill pita halves with two falafel patties, add some of each of the other ingredient.

5. Serve.

Options: 

1. You can mix up your own dry batch of falafel mix using this recipe.

2. You can prepare all the way homemade pita bread by using the recipe in my St. Philip and St. James post.

3. You can add store bought, or all the way homemade Tzatziki/Greek Cucumber sauce by using the recipe in my St. Barnabas post.

4. Instead of broiling, you can fry the falafels in olive oil. You can also cook them in round shapes instead of mashing them flat.

Bonus Material:

When it comes to writing about music, it’s best not to. Instead, I offer links to these Jerry Garcia Band and Grateful Dead spiritual songs so you can check ‘em out yourself. Some are traditionally spiritual and some are metaphorically, or metaphysically spiritual. 

Jerry Garcia Band:

Waiting for a Miracle

Sisters and Brothers
Like a Road
Lucky Old Sun
Gomorrah
I'll be with Thee

The Grateful Dead:


We Bid You Goodnight
Ripple
St. Stephen
In the Attics of my Life
Brokedown Palace
Terrapin Station
Lay Me Down
Eyes of the World
Estimated Prophet
Samson and Delilah
The Wheel
Let it Grow
Uncle John's Band

Ultimately, here's the thing about the Grateful Dead:


They're a band beyond description

like Jehovah's favorite choir
People joining hand in hand while
the music played the band 
Lord they're setting us on fire
-- 
The Music Never Stopped


Here's a link to the complete New Year's Eve 1988/1989 show we attended in Oakland, CA. The San Francisco area is such a beautiful place, I'd like to go back some day. I mean, there's got to be a shrine to St. Francis of Assisi around there somewhere. And this concert? Well, if nothing else, click through to see the amazing set list including a three-song encore with "One More Saturday Night" to finish. I knew as it was happening that it was the best New Year's Eve I've ever had and will ever have:


Grateful Dead Oakland Arena, Oakland, CA 12/31/88 Complete Show

Enjoy!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

JESUS, ADAPTATION, & HOT WATER WEIGHT LOSS


I ended my last post, Miracle Cats, Soul Mates, and Chocolate Brownies with the needing of a break from all the miracles and messages I was receiving. The Lord, on the other hand, indicated something more along the lines of, let’s finish this thing right now. You can do it! The subsequent miracles occurred so rapidly that I had neither time nor desire to blog about them.

It was easier for me to post descriptions of them on Facebook. Then THE MIRACLE, the one in which I finally recognized my Sweet Jesus, who had been standing right there next to me all along, happened on May 10. On May 24, I posted about miraculous doings related to Fatima, and on May 26, I managed to translate my feelings about having my soul forever entwined with Jesus’s into words.

Now here’s the part that some of you may not like. Sorry, not sorry. I’m not going to cut and paste all those posts together right here just for you. Nothing against any of you, please understand. It’s just that I simply need to be lazy about this one. I need to leave the posts on Facebook where they belong because that’s where the miracle happened. Also, because, apparently, there is such a thing as being overwhelmed by joy and some of this is simply too much for me.

What I'm happy to offer you instead is an invitation to friend me on Facebook at Maria Virginia Ross.

I know that a lot of people have disengaged with Facebook due to politics, but let me just say, you are the boss of your own Newsfeed. Learn how to use the “Unfollow” and the “See First,” buttons, and you’ll be amazed at how positive a social media experience you can create for yourself.

I’m also making you work for this information a little bit. In the past, I’ve made it too easy for y’all, my dearworthy readers, whom I love. Yes, Jesus is standing right there next to you, but if you can’t see Him, that means you have to take baby steps toward Him your own self. I offer friending me on Facebook and scanning for the above dates in May as your assignment for today. P.S. Friend me, read the posts, and unfriend me, if you want. I won’t take offense. Because really, it’s also all about allowing myself to be lazy.

Now, if the whole Facebook thing still doesn’t appeal, I offer this alternative as an enjoyable metaphor of what I experienced here. 

Okay, now I’m going to continue from the May 26 Facebook post:

If anyone would have ever told me at any time before Lent this year, that I would meet my Lord through Jerry Garcia, I would not have believed them. (I mean, maybe I would have, depending on their delivery and back up info. But, you get the idea.)

It was completely, totally, 100%, unexpected. And yet, completely, totally, 100% perfectly senseworthy. Mmmmmmm. I’m so stinking happy, I can’t stand it. Allow me to rephrase, I still need a lot more time to adapt.

So, this is a somewhat incoherent (I can’t help it, but yes, I’m well aware) transitional post or place holder. I need to take the summer off. I need to adjust to the recalibrations in my viewfinder and fine-tune the focus of my new lens. I have to practice reading books again without taking notes for a post or a book review. I need to remember how to read books for the sheer pleasure of it, just for me.

I will also travel with my family to visit family, and then a trip to the mountains. Travel helps you see your life clearer from the outside looking in, sort to speak. I need this. I need to shake up my snow globe and start over, metaphysically speaking.

My life is already different in so many ways. Here’s one delicious way I can share with you now -- Somehow, I ended up creating a career for myself in which I spend a lot of time alone. I prefer this. But, there are times when I long for a hug -- when my husband is off working or being a running fool; my kids are off living their grown-up lives; I have no plans with friends that day; and the nearest cat is roosting on the FA-ricking top of the refrigerator. Again. Really?!

This used to be a sad time for me. But now, when this happens, or when I’m having trouble balancing my inner joy with the world’s woes, I hear a voice inside my head telling me to listen -- the very same voice I always believe.

I turn on the Grateful Dead or the Jerry Garcia Band, and I hear it – a warm embrace.

Wait, how can you hear an embrace?

I don’t know. It’s a mystery.

Wait. Whose voice is it -- Jesus’s, Jerry’s, or your own?

Yes.

Because we are all magically, mysteriously, and miraculously connected to and through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

(I know. I would be annoying myself if I wasn’t so happy.)


Wait. Isn’t a thirteen-day novena a thirteen-day nine-day prayer? And isn’t that, by its very definition, impossible?

Okay. Maybe if you stopped asking questions and just believed, you’d have more fun here.

Seriously, I highly recommend your checking out at least the first video to see if it appeals to you. I love Friar Mario Conte -- he’s theologically knowledgeable, deeply spiritual, and did I mention his Italian accent? Mmmmmmm.

The novena ends on June 13, the Feast Day of St. Anthony which is also the 100th anniversary of the second Our Lady of Fatima sighting. I predict miracles galore!
………………………………

And now for something completely different and mostly rational:

A friend recently noticed that I had dropped some weight, and along with her compliment, she asked me how I did it. I explained to her how I had recently lost the last two pounds. And later I realized that I should have told her how I lost the first of the pounds and worked my way forward and down through the years. Here’s my answer in chronological order:

Maria’s Recipe for Weight Loss

 1. Mandatory disclaimer – Get your regular physical exams. Check for diabetes and thyroid issues, and, you know, don’t start any weight loss program that might be dangerous or even makes you feel sick. You shouldn’t feel sick in this process, ever.

 2. Weight loss works better with exercise. And exercise works best if you enjoy it. Walking counts! Vacuuming counts (sorry). Hula hooping during your favorite movie counts! You get the idea.

 3. Stop drinking sugar. Cut out soda, sweet teas, lemonades, juices, etc. Replace these drinks with unsweetened tea with 1 packet of sugar or Stevia, if you must, or a glass of water with a splash of cranberry juice. Do not replace with diet versions, because most sugar substitutes make you crave sugar which totally defeats the purpose. (Stevia is safe.)

Don’t try to do too many other dietary changes during this process. It’s hard to break these habits. It took me three years to lose my taste for Diet Coke. So, cut yourself a break here. It’s hard, but you can do it. And you’ll get the weight loss payoff.

Nowadays, I drink mostly water, either hot in a mug or cold with a splash of cranberry juice, unsweetened tea with no added sugar at restaurants, or unsweetened green or herbal teas if I have enough patience to wait for it to brew. I also drink coffee with ½ teaspoon of real sugar and a splash of whole milk which has its own sweetness. I add these extras because there’s really no point in drinking coffee without them.

 4. Oh, right. We have to have the alcohol discussion. Take the on-line test to see if you are addicted and take appropriate AA action or seek recovery counseling. If addiction is not a factor, understand that alcohol in small amounts is, in fact, heart healthy. Check on line to see how much is the healthiest amount for your weight and gender. Women get less. Of course.

 5. When you have numbers 1-4 sorted and handled, it’s time for learning about the nutritional value of foods. I joined Weight Watchers after weaning both of my babies. It’s a good program, either on-line or in person group meetings. From my experience, it’s one of the easiest to transition between dedicated program following and later applying what you learned to your food choices. In other words, the program ingrains good habits that you’ll take with you when you “finish” the program.

 6. About a decade after I did Weight Watchers, I got real with the carbohydrates in my diet, and realized I was eating way too much sugar and white flour for someone with borderline hypoglycemia. I had also learned that the female body stores extra carbohydrates as fat in the midsection. Empty carbohydrates also cause bloating.

Next, I had a food allergy/sensitivity test done, which I highly recommend at any point along your weight loss quest because food allergies and sensitivities can unknowingly sabotage your most diligent efforts, and I discovered that I have a sensitivity to yeast. It doesn’t just mess with my body, it messes with my brain functions, big time. So, I must limit the amount of baked goods I can consume. Which means I can’t eat too many of the sweet recipes sprinkled throughout this blog.

I even have to avoid the whole-wheat Communion bread I bake for my church twice a month. I can receive a pinch of it for Communion, but I can’t regularly eat slices of it for morning toast, or lunch-time sandwiches, or all buttery with dinner.

Oh, the cruel irony of it all!   

But, you know, not really. We learn to adapt to what life allows us and take greater pleasure in small portions and rare treats.

 7. At my annual physical last year, I had borderline high cholesterol numbers. And in a serious effort to OH, HELL NO the possibility of having to take prescription medication, I switched to a Heart Healthy diet. You’ll find ‘em online. The trick about heart healthy, is not so much what you can’t eat (although it’s important), but what heart healthy foods you should eat. For example, those Omega 3 supplements don’t do you any good sitting in the bottle in the refrigerator. Every day, you have to open the door, twist the bottle cap, pour a capsule in your hand, put it in your mouth, and swallow it. And if a cat lands on your head in the process, so be it.

 8. The other thing I do somewhat regularly is catch up on reading issues of Nutrition Action Healthletter by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. I learn a lot about nutrition and what we can do to avoid certain diseases. For example, I read an article a few months ago which discussed the scientific findings that foods that combine meat with nitrates such as cold cuts, hot dogs, and sausages, are carcinogenic. The more of this crap you eat, the higher your chances of getting cancer are, and the sooner you will die. Fact. They’ve worked out how many years you take off your life by eating different amounts of this stuff. Please do me a special favor and stop eating it.

Fair warning though, Nutrition Action is a bit boring. The articles about ailments you don’t have are boring. The recipes are boring. The covers usually display a photo of Brussels sprouts. Boring! Although, last month, the Brussels sprouts cover was replaced with a yummy photo of Benedict Cumberbatch, which is a miracle in and of itself.

 9. Okay, we are about to step into the emotional and metaphysical world of weight loss. But before I do, we have to talk about addiction. I honestly don’t know if there is a difference between stress eating and addictive eating. So, you’ll have to do your own research on that before proceeding because my experience is with stress eating.

If you feel you are addicted to sugar or other foods, or if you are addicted to not eating and are struggling with anorexia or bulimia, know that there really are quality specifically trained counselors in place waiting for you to call. Please call. I promise you that this is a baby step necessary to finding your Lord. In other words, I would have seen Jesus standing right there next to me a whole heck of a lot sooner if I didn’t have an addiction blocking my view.

Now because my weirdness is unique, I was unable to find a counselor who knew how to help me. I was too much to handle for three of them before I gave up and focused on helping myself through books. The book that jump started the sprint at the end of my spiritual journey was LOVE WARRIOR by Glennon Doyle Melton. I posted about it here.

My addiction is the people pleasing/approval seeking/shame avoiding that was conditioned into me as child of an alcoholic. Glennon’s addiction is anorexia/bulimia. Yet, addiction is addiction, and that’s why this book helped me so much.

What I’m trying to say is, some of us can get by with books and trusted friends who understand us and create a safe listening space, but some of this addiction shit is too heavy to sort through without professional help. There is no fault or shame in addiction. Instead there are proven methods of recovery and qualified people who are waiting to work stuff out with you, teach you important things about addiction, and hold you up. Please find yours and let them help you.

10. Stress eating. Okay, I’ll say it fast, don’t throw yogurt at me. I’m blessed to be afflicted with loss of appetite during stressful situations. I’ll tell you specifically why this is a blessing in a minute. But, I know I triggered some envy, so let me balance my brag with some of my other “blessings.”

Since I’m borderline hypoglycemic, I have to eat even if I’m not hungry. Otherwise, I can get lightheaded due to drops in my blood sugar levels. And if I habitually allow this to happen, I could end up with diabetes. AHHHHH! Where’s me bag of walnuts?! 

Also, I have this weird condition in which drinking cold water makes my tummy hurt by mimicking extreme hungry. So, I have to add some juice to my cold water. Or I drink water that’s been microwaved for one minute. You’d think I’d brew up some tea instead, but that takes two minutes in the microwave and another five to cool down enough to drink. I just don’t have time for that kind of nonsense.

Here’s why it’s a blessing for me to not eat a lot of food when I’m stressed -- whatever fat we add to our bodies during stressful times metaphysically includes the memory of the negative emotions we were dealing with at the time we consumed the fattening food. I know, it’s completely unfair and somewhat unbelievable. But, it’s true.

This is also why we need to be careful with our weight loss efforts. If you drop weight too fast, memories of past stress or trauma might surface unawares. Be prepared for this to happen and get counseling to help you deal with any unwanted memories that are too difficult to handle by yourself. Meanwhile, drink plenty of water to flush fat cells and their bad memories out and away.

I have two weight loss books I can recommend even though I have not read them because I can recommend the authors:

CONSTANT CRAVING: WHAT YOUR FOOD CRAVINGS MEAN AND HOW TO OVERCOME THEM by Doreen Virtue

BODY CLUTTER: LOVE YOUR BODY, LOVE YOURSELF by Marla Cilley and Leanne Ely

Speaking of Marla Cilley, she’s the Fly Lady. Ever hear of her? She has a great website and lots of books and organizational tools. She published a book called SINK REFLECTIONS in 2002, which is when I read it. On the surface, it seemed like a house cleaning book, but it’s really a gateway out of the perfectionism/procrastination that cripples so many people just like me. Recognizing I wasn’t alone in this characteristic was invaluable. (Looking back on it now, I'm vaguely aware that this characteristic had to do with my addiction. Fascinating.) But the guidance and procedures on how to break out of this limitation was a gift beyond description. 

Step one: Shine your kitchen sink. Step two: Take baby steps. If I had to credit the one book that helped me the most with my writing, it would be this one. Because baby stepping my way to a clean house helped me to literally clear space in my life for the writing of words.

Anyhow, in answer to my friend’s question -- I recently lost two pounds while purging a traumatic experience via the writing process in a safe space with a trusted friend. I drank a lot of hot water.

Bonus Material:

Blooms galore in the St. Anthony of Padua and Lisbon Garden -- Spring, 2017