Posted in Christianity, Priscilla Galasso

What’s Important?

When I hung around with evangelical Christians, I would frequently hear this phrase: “be in right relationship with”.  That was a core value in life.   I agreed then, and I still agree in some ways.  I very much resonate with the value of relationships.  I am “a lover” by temperament, so to speak, and being engaged with the universe is supremely important to me.  I also have a huge desire to be “right”, but that is exactly the thing I’m now trying to dismantle.  I was a compliant kid.  I was afraid of my father and of all authority.  I wanted to be “good” and “correct” because I wanted to be praised instead of punished!  Now, I find that being “right” is not all that great of a goal.  First of all, it can lead you to be self-righteous and judgmental.  Second, how do you even know what is “right”?  Is it “right” to do everything an authority tells you to?  What if that authority tells you to harm someone else?  See, it gets tricky.  How about if I just say that I want to have a good relationship with everything?  I think that covers it pretty well.

One relationship that I am really working to improve is my relationship with God and Christianity.  It has gone through a huge change in the last few years, one that has many of my friends scratching their heads.  Some of them are downright disappointed in the change and have told me so.  Some have just stopped communicating with me.  I am most in awe of those who are openly listening, talking, challenging, and engaging with me as I rework my theology and practice.  Yesterday was Ash Wednesday.  Instead of going to Church, getting ashes imposed on my forehead, and beginning a 40-day penitential practice (which is an indication of how I participated in that relationship for 47 years), Steve & I finished reading T.S. Eliot’s poem named for the day and discussed post-modern cynicism.  Despite Eliot’s conversion, he doesn’t seem very enthusiastic about life.  This morning, we had breakfast with his Aunt and talked about her church experiences with fasting and confession and Bible study.  Today, I got another e-mail from an old friend who is willing to discuss my journey and walk with me in it.  I’ve known this person since I was about 12 and she was 17.  Replying to her became my top writing priority for the day.  So, I’ve decided to use that material for my post today.  First, a photo or two to open the mind:

What is the value of a sparrow?

A cardinal, far from the Vatican.

My thoughts for today:

I feel like I have a continual discourse going on in my brain about my relationship with Jesus and the Church.  On any given day, other people enter that conversation and keep it going.  At breakfast, it was Steve & his Aunt Rosie.  As we walked to the library, it was just Steve.  Now you’ve entered the discussion.  Welcome!  Come, have a place on the panel!
The Church.  So much of it is about the social aspect.  Sometimes it acts like a group of people who are all friendly, who share affinities, who enjoy being together and taking care of each other.  Seems there’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m sure that’s not all Jesus meant the Church to be.  What happens when that group disbands, moves away or dies off?  Kind of like your Presbyterian congregation.  Or what happens when that group gets visited by people whom they don’t care for?  People of a different kind who don’t fit into their social circle?  How do they behave?  Is that what Christianity is about?  There is so much intolerance, so much judgment, so much exclusion, that it just seems to represent the worst of society as well.

Theology & Philosophy.  The Church getting down to what it actually believes about the universe.  And why.  I was taught by my Episcopal parents that there are 3 legs on the stool supporting what they believe: Scripture, Tradition and Reason.  My dad held up the Reason leg when he talked about Science. In the face of overwhelming evidence about evolution, for example, there’s no need to dismiss it.  It can be worked in with the other legs.  Scripture is about the story of human life, the salvation story, the emotional story, the behavioral story.  But it’s still a story, a Myth.  It is about Truth, but it isn’t literally true.  I don’t think it’s “true” that we are all sinners, or that we are all fundamentally separate from each other.  If you look at the biological universe, we are all very much interconnected.  I don’t know if there’s any evidence to prove that a historical Jesus even existed, much less that he was resurrected from the dead and will come again.  I still love Jesus’ teaching, whether he’s fiction or fact.  I love how he goes straight to the religious teachers of the day and preaches in their faces about how they have undermined values like compassion, inclusion, humility, spirituality, and forgiveness.  I think if it were possible for him to reappear in the US today, he would go straight to the Conservative Republican Christian Right and do the same thing!  Tradition seems to be aimed at behavior, how we live together.  The thing that is so tricky about behavior is that it needs to change, it needs to be responsive and responsible.  Most people think that Tradition is about keeping things the same.  I think that keeping core values is a good thing, but the way they are expressed should be flexible.
The thing I miss most about The Church is choir!  Singing!  And I have always loved Gospel more than classical, deep down.  Yesterday, Steve put on a new CD; I immediately recognized Odetta’s guitar and voice and purred with delight.  He laughed and said, “Priscilla wants to be a big, black woman!”  It’s so true!  I love the soul, the familiarity with humanity and suffering and the confidence.  I don’t want to be brainwashed or shamed or coerced by guilt.  I want to be free and respected for what I am.  And what am I?  A white Anglo, in part. But I am partly a big, black woman as well because we are all connected here on earth.

Anyway, that’s where the dialogue has me today.  I want to tell you again how much I appreciate you taking the time to engage with me in this part of my journey.  It means a lot.  I really get turned off by the tendency, especially in politics, for people to circle the wagons or form a fortress from which to sling rhetoric while refusing to actually come out peacefully and discuss something.  You know what I mean?  And the media just makes the whole situation worse, little Tweets & comments here and there but no real engagement.  Thanks for being willing to be real, to put your story and your thoughts and your experiences in writing and listen to mine as well.  I respect you for that.  I think that’s how Jesus was, too.  I think of the stories in the Gospel of John especially, of conversations with Samaritans, women, disciples, beggars, and Pharisees.  He didn’t just knock off a sound bite for the media and move on.  And as much as anyone stayed to hear more, he kept interacting.  What a great example!

– Priscilla Galasso

© 2013, essay and photographs, Priscilla Gallaso, All rights reserved

004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~  started her blog at scillagrace.com to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey.

Currently living in Wisconsin, she considers herself a lifelong learner and educator. She gives private voice lessons, is employed by two different museums and runs a business (Scholar & Poet Books, via eBay and ABE Books) with her partner, Steve.

Posted in Christianity, General Interest, Spiritual Practice, Video

GET SERVICE, a message about compassion and understanding …


Courtesy of the Fellowship Bible Church of Little Rock, AR via friends Laurel D. and Brian B. Thank you!

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the forty-day Lenten season which honors Christ’s contemplative forty-days in the desert. Whether or not you are Christian or even religious, this is a good time of year to step back,  take a breath and prepare for your personal spring and renewal.

Posted in Christianity, Poems/Poetry, Victoria C Slotto

Stars and Midnight Blue

Photo Credit: scienceblogs.com
Photo Credit: scienceblogs.com

i.
white rose in winter
miracles we don’t expect
our God comes to earth

ii.
silent star-filled night
newborn hope envelopes earth
flurries of pure joy.

iii

christmas eve arrives
children with eyes wide-open
stars and midnight blue

– Victoria C. Slotto

The title of this poem comes from a stunning Christmas album by Enya.
© 2013, poem, Victoria C. Slotto, All rights reserved

Victoria at the Palm Springs Writer's Expo March 2012
Victoria at the Palm Springs Writer’s Expo March 2012

2940013445222_p0_v1_s260x420VICTORIA C. SLOTTO (Victoria C. Slotto, Author: Fiction, Poetry and Writing Prompts) ~ is an accomplished writer and poet. Winter is Past, published by Lucky Bat Books in 2012, is Victoria’s first novel. A second novel is in process. On Amazon and hot-off-the-press nonfiction is Beating the Odds: Support for Persons with Early Stage Dementia. Victoria’s ebooks (poetry and nonfiction) are free to Amazon Prime Members. Link HERE for Victoria’s Amazon page.

Editor’s note: Congratulations, Victoria, on that the long awaited publication of print copies of Jacaranda Rain, Collected Poems, 2012, Beautifully done.

Posted in Christianity, Meditation, Poems/Poetry, Spiritual Practice, Victoria C. Slotto

The Challenge of Light–Advent Reflection

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.  Isaiah 9:2

Photo Credit: Mike Freisen
Photo Credit: Mike Freisen

The Challenge of Light

i.

advent is not about the coming

of a sweet baby.

it is not about sentimental,

trumped up emotion.

advent challenges us

to an adult acceptance

of the kingdom of god,

to social imperatives,

to self-forgetfulness,

to letting go,

to a deliberate emptiness.

ii.

we like to make the Christ

into a perpetual baby.

we can cuddle a baby,

a baby asks nothing of us.

the Christ is so much more demanding.

iii.

advent doesn’t just happen

the four weeks leading up to Christmas.

our lives our one huge advent.

our lives are about bringing light

into this dark world.

iv.

in advent and winter we wait for light.

do we forget it’s up to us

to be light in the darkness

of a world that is

confused

stumbling

blinded

afraid?

v.

it’s easy to get hung up

in religion,

in practice,

in institutional think.

it’s easy to feel complacent

because we go to church,

because we give money.

the litmus test

is giving of ourselves,

is embracing mystery.

advent is not just a passive waiting.

it allows that we are responsible

to be light-bearers.

– Victoria C. Slotto

© 2013, poem, Victoria Slotto, All rights reserved

Victoria at the Palm Springs Writer's Expo March 2012
Victoria at the Palm Springs Writer’s Expo March 2012

2940013445222_p0_v1_s260x420VICTORIA C. SLOTTO (Victoria C. Slotto, Author: Fiction, Poetry and Writing Prompts) ~ is an accomplished writer and poet. Winter is Past, published by Lucky Bat Books in 2012, is Victoria’s first novel. A second novel is in process. On Amazon and hot-off-the-press nonfiction is Beating the Odds: Support for Persons with Early Stage Dementia. Victoria’s ebooks (poetry and nonfiction) are free to Amazon Prime Members. Link HERE for Victoria’s Amazon page.

Editor’s note: Congratulations, Victoria, on that the long awaited publication of print copies of Jacaranda Rain, Collected Poems, 2012, Beautifully done.

Posted in Christianity, Liliana Negoi, Meditation, meditative, Mortality, mystic, Spiritual Practice

On giving

DSC_0313My kids had a small festivity at kindergarten. They sang songs, and recited poems, and then Santa Claus came and gave gifts to all of them…overall it was nice. And obviously crowded, because for each of the kids in the festivity, there was at least one adult in the public in front of them, admiring them and cheering them and…doing whatever adults do when attending their children’s festivities.

After we left, when we got back home and the kids opened their presents and began to play, I couldn’t help thinking about the children of this world whose Christmas gift may not be big enough as to contain more than some fruit, let alone toys or other things. And that’s sad, because, above all, Christmas is a time of giving. Not because of Santa Claus, but because of its original meanings. Go beyond the birth of Christ, which was a gift in itself, given to the world (yes, I know that according to some new calculations Christ was actually born in spring, but it’s the symbol I’m talking about here), go back to those times of yore, when the only thing celebrated during this period of the year was the winter solstice – the joy that, after slowly shortening its gift of daily light for six months, the sun was beginning to turn the wheel around and days were starting to “grow” again. This was the gift people got back then – light. More light. Which, come to think about it, is such an awesome and priceless gift!

Anyway, the point of this pondering was that of reminding you all that, even if I don’t believe that giving should be the appanage of Christmas time alone but a way of life, I do believe that this is a good time to remember about all the gifts that we have ever been given, no matter by whom, and to try and imagine how our lives would have been had we not received those. Starting with the gift of life from our parents, and to the gift of blessings from our children.

And if you can, if you have the means, help those in need by filling their Christmas time with a little more light. You don’t have to give huge gifts – the simple fact that someone thought about them and gave them anything at all will be more than what they would expect. And their joy when receiving your present will be a priceless gift you give yourselves.

© 2013 Liliana Negoi

The photo attached was taken from http://morguefile.com.

IMG_7667LILIANA NEGOI  (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru) ~ is a member of our core team on Into the Bardo. She is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

Posted in Christianity, Essay, Terri Stewart

Creating room and transformation at Christmas …

800px-Nativity_tree2011Originally published in Rethink Church. Published here with permission.

IT’S ALMOST CHRISTMAS!!! I hear this echoing in my head from years past—from my children’s years, from my own cries, and from my crazy Aunt Nancy (I love you!) who still calls me at zero-dark-thirty to wish me a Merry Christmas.

What I also remember is making lists of what I have bought for the in-laws to make sure everybody got the same quantity and the same monetary value. Making lists for my children so one was not valued in presents more than the other. And stressing out over finding that “perfect gift” for my oldest son who seemed to be unable to express desire for anything. ANYTHING. That is stressful.

But maybe he had the right idea all along! He was unattached to things.

Non-attachment to things of this world is a value greatly revered by the world’s great traditions. What if we slowed down, let non-attachment suffuse the Christmas* season, and began again? What would that mean? What would it look like in our lives?

What if we emptied our lives of the values of materialism, comparison to others, and over-abundance and instead filled it up with the values of spiritualism, self-inventory, and enough? What if we took a journey of emptying rather than filling?

The dichotomy is pretty stark. Empty vs. full. Nobody really wants to run around on empty or having nothing. But there is a trick. By slowing down our lives and refocusing our lives, we can begin again with an attitude pointed towards spiritualism, self-inventory, and being satisfied with enough. Adopting these three counter-cultural traits, creates freedom for new things to happen.

Simplifying creates room for more!

More what? More interior room to listen to that which calls you. More room to see those around you. More room to understand great joy. And more room to feel the world’s great grief. After listening, seeing, understanding, and feeling, there is one more thing—by simplifying, there is more room to offer great love in action to a hurting world.

By emptying, we create room. By making room, the possibility of personal transformation is created. By being transformed, the possibility of action is created. By committing acts of love, mercy, and justice, the possibility of world renovation is created.

And before long, we who were emptied have been filled with love.

Shalom,
Chaplain Terri Stewart

*Christmas season in the secular sense of the word as that time from the day after Thanksgiving to January 1.

©2013, essay, Terry Stewart, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ Jeff Weese via Wikipedia and under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

terriREV. TERRI STEWART is The Bardo Group  Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.comwww.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com

Posted in Christianity, Essay, Jamie Dedes, Peace & Justice

THE TIPPING POINT: Good will from and toward women and men everywhere!

Nativité_de_CostaThis is simultaneously blogged on Rev. Terri Stewart’s blog and my own personal blog.

Today begins the first day of our Terri Stewart’s Advent event. There are many bloggers participating in this event. Each day of the Christian celebration of Advent will be sponsored by a different blogger who will post appropriately on his or her site. Their posts will also go up on Terri’s site and the kick-off is on Into the Bardo today.

If you follow Into the Bardo  regularly, you know that we share work here that is not necessarily religious but is reflective of diverse cultures and spiritual paths and representative of universal human values, however differently they might be expressed. This is a space where we hope you’ll delight in learning how much you have in common with “other” peoples.

We acknowledge that there are enormous theological differences and historical resentments that carve wedges among and within the traditions, but we believe that ultimately self-preservation, common sense, and human solidarity will empower connections and collaboration and overcome division and disorder. We work for the tipping point when compromise – an admittedly imperfect peace – will overcome war and respect for life will topple resentment. That may not happen in our time, but it has to start somewhere and sometime and this is our modest contribution toward an end for which diverse people the world over are working.

For those who are not Christian, Advent is the period of time leading up to the Nativity of Christ (Christmas). It is celebrated somewhat differently by different Christian sects and by Roman and Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox churches. I think the details of the celebrations are less important than the scriptural quote for the day …

James 4:1-3
1 Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 2 You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.

Indeed, where do the conflicts and disputes originate: in the cravings that make us restless within ourselves, in coveting things or situations we don’t have (and may not really need), and in not using right means for just ends? These are appropriate considerations as we approach the annual celebration of the “Prince of Peace,” a celebration which is in the end a call for compassion and understanding.

May our compassion have legs.

PEACE ON EARTH
The tipping point:
GOOD WILL FROM AND TOWARD WOMEN
AND MEN EVERYWHERE!

… and Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah to those who are celebrating  …

Follow the entire Advent season
with Terri Stewart HERE.

… If you are so inclined, we would be grateful to have this post reblogged. Thank you! …

– Jamie Dedes

© 2013, essay, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ Pramzan via Wikipedia under CC A-SA 3.0 Unported 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic, 1.0 Generic license

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ Poetry remains a gift in disability and medical retirement. It’s a compact thing that I can still manage. I am the founder and host of Into the Bardo, a spirited international collaborative of word-play, music, art and photography where our core team members function independently and yet with a remarkable synergy. They do everything. They are the stars. I have simply created a space in which to share.

For the past five years I’ve blogged at The Poet by Day, the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight (hence the url). Poetry is my spiritual practice.