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I know the plans I have in mind for you—it is Yahweh who speaks—plans for peace, not disaster, reserving a future full of hope for you. So wrote the prophet Jeremiah to the elders, priests, and prophets exiled by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon in 598 B.C.E.

Such encouragement speaks to today’s exilic experience, filled with psychic and physical suffering, provoked by the global pandemic and nationwide civil unrest. Hankering for the “flesh pots of Egypt” or the old ways appear to be diminishing as the new normal solidifies attitudes and behaviors. Cries of “Justice!” on the streets are beginning to lose their clout. Yet wariness persists among the masked and gloved studying the lay of the land before taking the next step.

Still pinioned by uncertainty, I join others praying for the resolution of this madness. Like chemical spills poisoning saturated zones of water tables, anger seeps into organs and joints, bludgeoning their functions and accelerating more disease and more protests. Such ruckus leaves scant room for inner reflection, for owning prejudices of whatever stripe and letting them go.

Certainly Higher Power wants us to thrive, to live as relational beings in union with Him, and not within self-imposed exile, for that’s what it is.

 

So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour—so Jesus of Nazareth concludes the parable of the Ten Bridesmaids in Mathew’s Gospel.

This imperative, if practiced, prickles waking hours with discomfort, stripped of defense mechanisms, distractions, and procrastination. It corrals wayward thoughts and motives and reveals them for what they are: sludge-pots obscuring the Sacred’s yearning for communion with his beloved creatures.

Such discipline, or Kingdom living, costs, as Jesus well knew. To engage his listeners’ imaginations—hungry for peace—he taught with parables often used by other rabbis, but bearing his imprint that quickened heart-conversions. A revolutionary manner of living inevitably followed.

Indeed, is not conversion of heart life’s deepest lesson? As I continue filling each twenty-four hours with prayer, study, writing, and phone contacts, I keep company with the five wise bridesmaids in the parable; they knew to carry extra flasks of palm oil for their lamps lest theirs went out while waiting to escort the bridegroom and his bride to the feast. With them, I keep my spirit well oiled while waiting for his call to enter the joys of the banquet prepared for all eternity.

That, indeed, will be a moment…

At 2 A.M., I awoke with this dream:

It is night. Only halogen streetlights illumine my situation: alone, anxious, seated behind the steering wheel of a U-Haul 17-foot truck packed with stuff. I’m waiting to make the delivery but need directions. I check my watch. It’s already been a long time. No traffic on the nearby Interstate.

And at 4:30 A.M.:

Again, I’m seated in a box-shaped truck filled with stuff. I wait for directions. It is night.

Mulling upon the message of these dreams led to two interpretations, the first one more appropriate to last week’s stance toward my terminal illness.

Night signifies the end of daylight living, old age, death. The image of being seated behind the steering wheel suggests the need to control my ILD, even to slowing it down with exercise, nutrition, and elimination, rather than surrendering to its inevitable diminishments. I’ve chosen to be alone in this process, despite some wishing to support this critical experience with me.

My stuff speaks of bits and pieces of decades-long behaviors and attitudes deemed unacceptable, their revelation, humiliating, now locked away within the rental. Exhausted, impatient, lethargic, I await directions for the disposal of these unsavory aspects of myself—as if checking my watch would bring the needed directions to do so.

The second take on the dreams suggests the responsible handling of my affairs prior to the death of my body: consciousness of my end-time with its solitary journey into diminishment and death, sequestering my stuff from harming others, willingness to properly dispose of it, and exercising patience as I wait for directions for the next right step.

Perhaps both dreams suggest last week’s glitch that led to yesterday’s willingness to let go of my body, a critical breakthrough that reframes each twenty-four hours, granted by Creator God. I remain in good hands.

 

 

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