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“To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened (Luke 13:20-21). Jesus likens this pedestrian image to the kingdom of God, an image unique in his teachings and often expressed in parables.

During the time of Jesus, Palestinian women always put aside moldy bread or leaven—a kind of poison—for the daily baking for their families. Only the smallest amount was used for their loaves that ballooned in the morning sun.

But Jesus speaks of this woman hiding leaven in three measures of flour, enough flour to fill a warehouse with bread—an absurd exaggeration, until his listeners catch on. Jesus is referencing humankind’s relation with God, in all his disguises. Such parables inflamed the imaginations of his listeners: they would remember.

I, too, had a similar response to the parable, one that recasts my terminal illness in a different light.

Like the leaven hid in the flour, terminal disease hides out in my lungs, imperceptibly hardening their airways and compromising my breathing—a slow process, admittedly, but relentless in its damage. Yet, paradoxically, this disorder continues expanding my passion for communion with God, within this mysterious kingdom.

Just as the fire of the bake oven transforms the leavened dough, the fire of diminishment transforms the psyche: both, critical processes to be endured. This is Kingdom living, both here and hereafter.

A small fire at night.

How often does the seductive voice within our psyches discount our value as compared with another, whether in a boardroom, in a classroom, during a tennis match, or wherever others gather? Its insinuation in our awareness, as if the observation was our own? It clearly does not want us to thrive in our flawed humanness, unique to each of us. Instead, we feel less than, unappreciated, and prone to self-pity, and if addicted to a substance, lose our souls.

Before I entered Twelve Step recovery, I was under siege to this seductive voice: the worm of envy grew fat feasting upon my innards. Only later did I learn about boundaries, when breeched, and the need to maintain them.

Help to do this came by saying, out loud, “Kill the comparer,” a tool that was shared by a wise woman, decades ago. It works if used with Steps I to III, followed by the Step IX amends to ourselves.

I liken this on-going purification to warfare—The use of a proper sword is critical in the cultivation of the clean heart that Jesus speaks of in the Beatitudes…for they shall see God. And we will, even now.

 

 

A night of multiple dreams from which I recorded these:

2:30 A.M.

It is a balmy night, fireworks illuminating the sky. A festival is underway filled with people of all ages and backgrounds. Their merry-making attracts me.

7:30 A.M.

It is winter, the ground frozen and ice-covered. Lethargic and dispirited, I’m visiting a home care patient in the city who resembles me, not only in appearance but also in behaviors. She does not have much to say. Readmitted to the hospital for the recurrence of her infection, she remains aloof to my offer of prayer. I again visit her upon her discharge home. This time, she asks me to drive with her to her mother’s home. We head outdoors, mindful of our steps lest we slip and fall.

 Both dreams speak from my psyche’s shadowy depths. The first dream seems to counter Minneapolis’s fifth night of rioting and looting, further demoralizing our country with senseless torching of businesses and terrorizing surrounding neighborhoods. Such evil, however vicious, passes with the emergence of daylight and the resiliency of those afflicted. Humbled, tearful, leaning upon strength not their own, they carry forward their story for everyone’s learning: there’s vibrant life despite unjust systems.

The dream also suggests fresh grace of multiple colors, alive and well in my psyche, thrilled by my home-going in the company of others.

In the second dream, my psyche is frozen, inert, stifled by irreversible symptoms and attitudes that mess with acceptance of my dying body. In this story as chaplain, I’m still in control as I sit with this lackluster patient, another image of myself, better served if left alone to find her own God. More pain and suffering will eventually break apart defense mechanisms and open her psyche to radical healing. This has been my experience in hospice, and such will accompany my last breath.

Such dreams prod deeper faith in my spiritual awakening that’s working out, one day at a time. I’m grateful.

 

 

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