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

 

A small fire at night.

 

After graced stripping, the heart remains solitary, resilient, obedient.

 

 

 

Never have I been so awake, so full of purpose, and so filled with gratitude. Thanks for learning with me …

 

 

My decision to forego further medical treatment for my terminal lung disease came unexpectedly easy; it flowed organically from my willingness to change.

“Hi, this is Liz, living in St. Louis with chronic illness. Thanks for the meeting. Hi everyone!”

For over two years, I had been calling into daily phone meetings of Chronic Pain Anonymous. What I heard amazed me. Fellow sufferers, from around the world, applied the principles of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous to the negative baggage of their pain and illness. They still had a full life. Crippling physical disorders did not define them. At the heart of their recovery was a new God of their understanding to whom they surrendered, one day at a time; at times, one moment at a time.

Tired of my glum world, I would find my own God. As long months passed, I continued listening, studying our literature with CPA buddies, and praying for discernment. Occasionally, “charged words” heard during meetings stirred my heart. I knew I was on the right track.

And then it happened in that emergency room last month. Like the morning sunrise, the change emerged, blindingly evident, upon my former wasteland. My enthusiasm knew no bounds.

For those trapped within organs that barely function, with medication, for those with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, nerve pain, migraines, wasting diseases of any kind, there is a community waiting for you: Chronic Pain Anonymous. Information about this spiritual fellowship can be found on CPA.org. Join us and come alive!

 

Brown Pelican in flight at sunrise on Captiva Island, Florida

Available on Amazon

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