Jesus’ birthday was here, and I wanted to get him something nice, but after three hours of slogging through one store after another, I was bogging down a bit. Okay- a lot. I was desperate. What’s he going to do with a leather coat? Or a pair of fluorescent teal Nike Air Max Lebron X’s? I couldn’t picture it. Okay, ha! I’m not that daft. I wasn’t really thinking the material gift was the thing, but I thought I’d find something funny, a joke we could share, or maybe I’d get inspired about something I could make. Nope…
So, finally, I started writing to say Thank You. That, I could do. At least it would be honest and I could write it from my heart. So I began.
Thank you for finding me when I was lost, and for standing up for me inside of my own heart, and for whispering all those things in my ear that reinvented the world and made it okay for me to be me.
Seemed kinda’ short, though, really. Here’s the funny thing about this note: I couldn’t really remember specifics. I know I used to write Jesus these long heartfelt notes that would bring me to tears, and then leave them in little nooks for him to collect- like underneath rocks in the forest, or tucked up in the branch of a tall pine tree, or rolled up in a bottle in the ocean, because I knew he would find them and understand them and take them away. Now I realized, without ever really noticing this day sneak up on me, that something was different- possible in a way it hadn’t been before. I was still me, but different. I didn’t need to write those long notes anymore. When I thought of Jesus, I just felt this warm glow that stretched from one end of the plane of my vision to the other. We were both inside of that glow, he and I, and everyone I knew, everyone that had ever been, and everything I could imagine was there, too. I felt fresh, and clean, like a newborn.
How did that happen?
PS – My heart apparently doesn’t feel shriveled up anymore, and now I’m having a hard time remembering if it ever did. I know it did, but I can’t remember it, actually. Something that once seemed so real, has disappeared entirely. Is this healing? BTW, I would like to take you out for a meal on your birthday and wondered if you had a favorite place?
As I finished writing the last sentence, I noticed he was standing next to me, and he said of course he would. Then he told me he was getting a hankering for a fig from one of the trees that used to grow in the hills near Jerusalem.
“Sounds good,” I said, “but… uh… you’ll have to drive.”
He nodded his head and told me to join with him. He’s always throwing out these double entendres. Then I literally did join him- right out the front door and onto said hills.
“I didn’t picture you craving a favorite food,” I said.
“I was a man, too,” he said, throwing his hands up in mock indignation.
We walked along the rim of the land, just the two of us, enjoying the air and the sun. A bird or two passed by overhead. We came to a tree full of ripe figs, and he plucked one and tucked right into it.
“Is this the tree you had in mind?”
“What? Ha! No… that tree is long gone. The life I had there, too, that has passed also. Good fig, though… Wow… Really good fig.”
I came to a stop, made the universal signal for time out. “What are you saying?”
“The truth of who we are will never change, but Creation doesn’t have an end game. No exit strategies. And no pause buttons. You with me?”
“You’re saying to move on? Leave the past behind us? Work with me here. I’m about to start writing you a whole new type of letter. A long one…”
“I’m saying the greatest gift you could give to me- to all that is- is the receipt of my heart, our heart, the heart of Christ, into your life. This is the fulfillment of the story I began, but this is not the end of the story… It’s been a good start, but…”
“What do you say we finish the start?”
“I’m asking you to accept that you’re the continuation of what I began. To accept there’s no going back, for either one of us. That we’re headed into something new, something that has never been done before in a world…”
(A crinkled brow. A curious heart. The desire to run. The desire to fly.)
“Come on…” he said. “It’s my birthday… I’d do it for you…”
Really love this Michael! Merry Christmas!
Thanks, Teresa. Hope you had a great and holy day!
How very, very charming. Isn’t it funny… the way of things, and people, and thoughts? I enjoy your posts very much, Michael. Happy Present Day. ~m
Thanks, Meredith. Yes… the way of things… And the way, sometimes, they remind us of Thinglessness, in our quirky little ways. That ten cent gift that takes on a light and a meaning because of what it is in the context of the specific giver and receiver- those are the best. To be known, and to highlight the knowing. It is wondrous. Wishing you a Happy Day in the Present. Michael
Thank you. This is one of those forward moment places when I hear what is written, and I stop. everything. And it’s a wonderful meditation to respond… and then receive such a mindful reply that’s like ‘hello. i thought about it, too.’ This is a great ten-cent gift! I’ve enjoyed the walk. thanks.
“Something that once seemed so real, has disappeared entirely. Is this healing? ”
I love reading your posts Michael. The light-heartedness and love of God jumps out from your sharings. Thank you!
Thanks, Debra. The feeling is mutual! Peace to you on this lovely day.
Hello Michael, really Nice! 😀
Thank you! Glad the gift was received!
I have to say, after experiencing no small amount of spiritual abuse by Christians. I was born and raised Catholic, but then married a Protestant which made life for me a spiritual tug-of-war for my soul and that of my daughters.
Yet, what you said here is so poignant that it’s making me well up with emotions.
People in my life have used their religion in damaging ways with me.
I’ve lashed out at the whole institution at times (not a pretty sight, mind you). Sometimes I’ve declared myself an atheist, sometimes simply agnostic. I’ve been slowly warming up to the idea of opening up my heart again to God, not necessarily because of what man has said about the matter, but because of things like this:
“the whispering all those things in my ear that reinvented the world and made it okay for me to be me.”
I’ve had my own personal experiences with God that I have no real explanation for. What people have said in the name of Christ, all the silly legalistic pronouncements; the neglect of mercy, the rejection of Grace; versus what I’ve experienced is different. I don’t find God in the Churches…although there was that time I sat in Rockefeller chapel at the U of C, all by myself I felt him there.
I hesitate to share this, because of what I said in the comments, but I’ll share it anyway. because I think you might like it.
Casey, thank you for the note. I am touched that you were touched. If you don’t mind, where were those pictures taken? For some reason they looked pretty familiar. I’m not sure if it is a place I’ve been or not, or just somewhere that has a universal appeal to it.
Anyway, I hear what you are saying. It is funny: I write about “Jesus” fairly frequently here on this site, but I hesitate to call myself Christian. The word comes with too much baggage for me. I just keep the presence of Christ in my heart, as I experience It, and try to write from there, because I think that quiet place within is the Reality of it.
The flipside of what you have written about is the way science– which I’ve just recently started writing about from time to time– is also a banner used in damaging ways. I hesitate to call myself a scientists, but I know the love I have of Nature is somehow at the root of what it means to be a scientist.
All these labels get in the way. I think the thing is to have our experience, and communicate it as best we can. In the sharing of it, something new and holy can emerge. No one controls that… It is what we offer, what we share, what we are becoming.
Thanks again for your kind words-
I used to consider myself a ‘lab rat extraordinaire’ – mostly because I wasn’t a scientist per se, but a clinical laboratory analyst and supervisor. I never did original research.
The location of the photographs is the Shrine of Christ’s Passion in NW Indiana. I’d be surprised if you’d ever been there…but stranger things have happened.
I appreciate your writing of Jesus, and more so because you seem to be as hesitant as I in that regard. I’m deeply spiritually curious and am finally becoming more comfortable in my experiences without having to label them.
I feel more intensely alive and gratified in Nature than I do anywhere else and I do agree how being a naturalist is at the root of the love of science.
I concur about how science is used to bash people as much as religion is. I’ll have to share something about that in one of the other comments, but I can’t get to it just yet. I will, though.
Thanks so much for the dialogue. I appreciate you.
Casey, although stranger things have indeed happened, and do so every day, you are right and proper to throw the flag of incredulity on the notion of my having visited the Shrine of Christ’s Passion in NW Indiana. I don’t think I have.
The lab rat extraordinaire’s are the ones that put in the blood, sweat and tears on which science thrives. It’s like in architecture- there are the architects that conceptualize and get the “glory”, and there are the construction architects in the field who oversee all the little details that are required as the building comes to life. They probably have more impact on producing livable structures than the big idea guys, but you really need them both.
I am reminded of the first experiments undertaken to test Bell’s Inequality, and reading about how these grad students scraped together the funds and materials to rig up this apparatus in the basement of some science building. All our big ideas in science rest on the bubble gum and duct tape moments such as these. It is fascinating to me, as it highlights the intersection of the spiritual and the mundane, the ideas and the clunky detectors and signal noise of the wires, our connection to eternity and our need to be capable of operating motor vehicles in many societies.
I appreciate you and the dialogue as well.
I came over at Casey’s suggestion.
“this warm glow that stretched from one end of the plane of my vision to the other.”
Redemption is the reversal of the effects of the Fall. You can compare Genesis with Revelations. A new tree, in the latter. No more death, no more tears. He will make all things new, it says.
Thanks for visiting! I agree and like the image of redemption being a reversal, and I especially like the idea of a new tree. It immediately reminded me of the ending of this poem I wrote, with something new, and a tree…