Posts Tagged ‘Miracles’

The Power of Love, Vulture style…..and a Poem.

January 6, 2012

I have a sisterinlaw, who has a sister  I have never met.  This is not unusual, as many  families today are not in close contact or have knowledge except  for those in some immediate circles. My husband and I are not in a particular immediate circle because we don’t believe like some in our family.  We are not religious fundamentalists, hence we don’t belong.

But this  ‘unmet’ woman expresses more of what I have come to believe  what God calls us to do: attend to those who are abandoned, unfed, unclaimed, unwanted, and not socially ‘acceptable’ or with value. 

Yesterday I stepped out in some sort of faith and called this sisterinlaw.  We had not talked in two years and I didn’t know whether she would or not. My birth family is wanky like that, full of hurts, bruises and perceived insults.  Some of them finding their marks, too.  But talk we did, over the course of the day.  It was good,  it was a ‘reclaiming’ of a particular part of family, if only limited to her.

She is a fundamentalist Christian, and I am not. She is very much involved in the arguments of church and theology.  She attempts in her own way to build paths to  human hearts.  She is what I would consider a ‘good’ theologian for a fundamentalist: she doesn’t beat you over the head with such finely wrought arguments that you are left dizzy.   I believe she proceeds from love. I found, in talking to her, that I had missed our discussions, even if they are limited to her attempts to get me to her side of religious arguments.  And then she told me about her sister in Florida, Diana.

Diana is just about my age, and lives in an area where there are many homeless and abandoned animals.  She feeds probably two dozen cats, some of them hers, most of them not.  She also feeds dogs, stray dogs, ducks that come from the nearby pond, a mother racoon and her kit, and Frank.  Frank is a vulture, and Frank has been coming around for kibble for four or five years.  Sometimes, Frank brings his friends to the porch for feeding.

I am left in a state of awe, wonder and amazement.  Right now I am also left in a weakened state of tears: whether this is because it is early, and tears are a normal part of being overwhelmed by the beauty of the morning or because of what I am writing about, Frank and Diana and all her ‘the least of us’, I don’t know, but I’m not ashamed.

I have been giving a lot of thought recently about my own state of faith.  We’ve just passed a season of outward love, and I am wondering how much of that really sticks.  Churches are embroiled in theological issues, much beyond my simple understanding, or my wanting to be involved in; it seems that we have put aside, along with the Xmas tree and tinsel, our ‘good tidings’ to our fellow men, and what are we now left with?  The  forecasters of economical  ‘good tidings’ are mostly happy with the glut of merchandise and the money spent on the Xmas season but still, where is the ongoing love and message of this season?

I have a particular problem with fundamentalism: to me it is anti-creativity, not respecting the individuality of a person, demanding compliance and conformity in a particular religious dogma.  This goes for Christian, Jewish, etc. doctrine. I believe that we, those who think otherwise, should leave the churches to these fundies: give over the buildings, the candles, the properties, the altarcloths, etc.  Give them what they are fighting for, as is shown in so much of the Episcopal brouhaha right now across our country, and outward. The rest of us should drop these battles and get on with developing our own beliefs and developing a community that is inclusive, not exclusive.  I think we have a fine precedent in creation-based spirituality.  We have Hildegarde of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Francis of Assisi, and these are just a few of the Christian ‘mystics’.  People most fundamentalists never learned about. 

We also have our own modern mystic, Father Matthew Fox, a former Dominican priest who is now an Episcopalian. People interested in this  movement of Creation Spirituality should read him.  It is inclusive, deep and to me, a joyful spirituality that proposes ‘original blessing’ rather than ‘0riginal sin’.  Redemption comes to us, not as a power alien to own natures but as an ‘aha’ experience that transcends.

Diana is not a rich woman. She makes sacrifices to do what she does.  I called  just to introduce myself and to find out more about Frank and the rest of her flock.  We talked and I am so deeply moved.  I am  impressed that this woman has cut through  the arguments in life and just does what she does as an article of faith.  She puts her actions where many put  just their mouths, words.  Oh, there are dangers to her and to Frank and all those she feeds and loves.  The locals are not generally happy, and have threatened her and Frank and company, but Frank thankfully is protected by laws down there.  So the taunts of shooting him would get the humans in deep trouble.  As they should.

I was told by my sisterinlaw that when it gets cold down there in Florida, and it does, Diana puts a heater outside for those abandoned to huddle against and keep warm. It does take hours to feed everyone, and the miracle here is this is a real “Peaceable Kingdom”.  Frank is eating from the same bowl that cats are eating from, and ducks are coming from the pond to join the table: It must be something to see a bunch of vultures eating quietly (??) with a bunch of cats.  I would definitely call this God’s Miracle.  I would rather sit and watch this miracle than listen to a book of sermons.

Sometimes Frank will eat from a bowl held out by Diana, and then he turns sideways and watches her.  She is not afraid of these huge birds, carrion eaters, and I believe she is a special agent of God’s love.  She has to be.

As we go into this season of Silence, Stillness, Scarcity and bone-numbing cold, I see the hope of life and love that is real in Diana’s actions.  To some, foolhearty, dangerous, a ‘waste of time’, but to me, Diana expresses exactly what we are called upon to do: to set aside our own comfort and extend ourselves to others, even those who have no ‘value’ to most. Diana is a real example of God’s love, and what we are called upon this earth to do.  We can froth at the mouth about all the theological arguments we want, but this is all about the head and a too-worldy ego.  What Diana does cuts through to the real message we are called to embrace. 

She cuts through to the heart of the matter, and that is good.

Lady Nyo

Ode to a Coopers Hawk

Come to me.

Come to me,

Winged celestial beauty.

Come to me with your notched

Mermaid tail,

Your silken roll of feathers.

Fly down into my hollowed-out soul,

Fill me with your sun-warmed glory

Nestle in my arms

And bring the curve of the horizon

Embraced in your outstretched wings.

I need no white bearded prophet,

No mumbled prayer, no gospel song

No hard church bench, no fast or

Festival to feel close to the Divine.

The glory of the universe,

Is embodied in your flight

As you tumble through heavens,

Ride the invisible thermals

Screech with joy at freedom

Fill your lungs with thin air

And play bumper car with an Eagle.

I, earthbound,

No hollowed bones to launch me,

Just tired soul to weigh down,

No soft plumage to feel the course

Of wind through glossy feathers

No hunting call to herald my presence.

Still my soul takes flight

The breeze lifts my spirit,

My eyes follow you,

And we will find that glory

Transcend a sullen earth,

Transcend a mean humanity

And soar together into the blue eye of God.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011

Interview with Bill Penrose, Author of “Anne the Healer”

January 29, 2010

(Bill Penrose is a friend of over three years standing I met on a  website, ERWA (Erotica Readers and Writers Assoc). I don’t participate much there anymore because I can’t seem to get the submissions of others  on a regular basis. (I am told it’s a server problem on my end.) It was a good classroom for those years,  and I would recommend it to any beginning writer for what you learn.  Most of us benefit from our time there and go on and perhaps broaden our writing from erotica. Or not.

Bill Penrose was one of the best people to come out of the ERWA experience. He took me, a very raw writer, in hand, and gently mentored  and encouraged  until I  started to stand on my own.  There were others who did the same, Nick Nicholson for one, and I remain very grateful to these two fine friends and great writers. Bill also has taken on the publishing of my first book, “A Seasoning of Lust” and is soon to do the second, “The Zar Tales”.

Thanks, Bill.  You know…you know.

Lady Nyo)

Bill, this book is rather different from “Ancestors of Star”. It delved into Catholicism, faith healing and other social issues, like homelessness.

I was still searching for the right genre. I began this novel as my Nanowrimo 2004 project, and finished it about a year later. Finally, I grew tired of letting it sit on my hard drive and decided to put it out there, first on, and finally on . I think it’s a good story, but I wasn’t really trying to get a message across, only to entertain.

While I was teaching at Illinois Institute of Technology, I was close to several contrasting neighborhoods in Chicago, including Bridgeport, Chinatown, and Bronzeville. Each neighborhood had its own peculiar characteristics, but Bridgeport was most interesting because of its cosmopolitan, transitional character. It had traditionally been Irish-Italian working class, as well as the home of the Daleys and the center of the famous Chicago Democratic Machine. But with the recent dramatic influx of Hispanics, it was becoming more diverse every day. It wasn’t just the broad ethnic spread, but the class distribution. There were the very poor, even some who lived in tents made of plastic garbage bags and duct tape, and others in narrow homes over a hundred years old. The shops on 31st Street reflected the fascinating variety of the area.

In other words, it’s an area where you almost expect unusual things to happen, much more so than in the homogenous suburban area where I lived. Although ‘Anne the Healer’ could have been set almost anywhere, it was a natural for the Bridgeport area.

Why did you write a novel about faith healing? Could you speak a bit on your own religious or spiritual convictions? How did you come to these?

I like to put a little magic in my stories. Life itself is magical in so many ways, so for me, it’s not much of a stretch to add just a little more magic, just enough to disorient and make the earth shift a little underfoot. I think it’s also important to merge it with the universal magic by making the special magic, e.g., Anne’s talent for healing, ambiguous. In other words, it should be possible to read ‘Anne the Healer’ without believing in faith healing or divine powers. Like the universal magic, it should be possible to interpret her healing power as self-delusion or coincidence.

‘Anne the Healer’ actually spun off from the character Mary the Healer in my first attempt at a novel, ‘The Sisters of Kali’. One of the Sisters, Mary Bell, discovers that she can sometimes cure sick or injured people by praying for them. At first, she is doubtful and then frightened by her mysterious power, with justice, because soon it takes over her soul and her life.

While ruminating on Mary’s character, I thought of other scenarios involving a reluctant healer, and wrote a short story, ‘Anne the Healer’, a tale of a brief liaison between a faith healer and Tim Hardy, a minimum-wage bookstore worker. I soon fell in love with Anne, but Tim was too passive to suit me. When I decided the story merited novel-length treatment, I made Tim a petty criminal with enough cynicism to doubt Anne’s talent, and later, when faced with evidence of her power to heal, plan to exploit her for his own purposes. But of course, they fall in love instead, Tim first.
I know that you are a scientist. Did you find that you were searching for different answers or was this not a conflict with your scientific views of life and death?

I never had a problem keeping science and spiritualism in my head at the same time. I’m not one of those scientists who claim to ‘leave God at the laboratory door’. Two people can look through a microscope at, say, a bacterial cell. One person will see an agent of disease, or perhaps a useful tool for the making of yogurt, or an intellectual puzzle to be solved. Another will see an actual miracle, the whole machinery of life packed into an impossibly tiny space, a spectacularly complex and beautifully constructed living device capable of reproducing itself, and involved in a vast web of interactions with the living and nonliving worlds. I find it difficult to do science without being caught up in the beauty of all things, from the mind-boggling structure of atoms, to the incomprehensible vastness of the Universe. The likelihood that these structures arose through a long process of variation and natural selection doesn’t dilute the miracles one bit. In fact, the more we understand, the more marvelous the Universe becomes.

Somewhere in ‘The Sisters of Kali’, my main character, Phyllis, says, “Miracles are everywhere. They happen every day, all around us. But we only question the new or different ones, the ones we haven’t become jaded with.”

No one has to believe in a god, or even a vague spiritual force, to appreciate Nature. Whether or not we attribute the Universe to a great spirit or to random chance isn’t due to the careful study of Nature, but something that comes out of our own character. No one really sets out to study the Universe in order to discover God or prove Her absence. They begin with the assumption that God exists, or doesn’t exist, and interpret all they see and hear from that perspective. Belief trumps facts every time.

I’ll go one step farther and say that the Universe is constructed in such a way that it’s impossible to prove or disprove the existence of a spiritual force. This ambiguity is built into the world, and it’s absolutely essential to the existence of Free Will. If we could solve an equation, or run a statistical analysis that conclusively proved the existence of God, Free Will would vanish instantly. Every decision after that would be conditioned on whether it would offend or please God. We’d have no choice but to try to discover what this new God wanted from us, and try to do things to satisfy Her demands.

You are not a writer who turns from the sexual issues in your books, but in “Anne the Healer” you handled this in a very different way. Why was that?

Mostly, I thought it would distract from the main story. I’d just spend a half year with two different critique groups who found the sexual interludes in ‘The Sisters of Kali’ too explicit, and intruded on the main story. In my current WIP, I’ve run into the same criticism, and I’ve decided to dumb down or dilute those scenes in the next rewrite.

Thank you, Bill.  What you write about Free Will expands my thinking on the issue.  I wish you had been my teacher in chemistry.  I think you would have made it all…’plain’.

And very much more illuminating.

Lady Nyo

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