The Owl

Two nights ago, I had a dream of an owl descending from the sky to land beside me on the shoulder of a busy highway, where I had pulled over for fear of driving further. The way from that point on was filled with roads splitting into multiple new highways (think Nashville on steroids), and I felt the traffic was too fast and I was too inexperienced a driver to choose the correct turns or navigate them safely. So there on the side of the road, I gathered the owl in my arms and buried my face into the fluffiest part of her back, breathing deeply and taking in the powdery smell of her feathers. I woke feeling a strange sort of kinship with this owl… as if I’d been chosen by her somehow, like she was trying to guide and teach me something.

Later that day I was reading a book called The Invention of Wings, in which Sue Monk Kidd writes a scene depicting one of the main characters seeing an owl flying overhead and it sparks in her the idea of setting her slave girl free in the only way she can: by teaching the slave to read. As I read this part of the story, my heart did a funny little leap as I sensed that the owl of my dream signified the same for me.  This beautiful, majestic bird showing up at the edge of the crossroads to comfort and guide me through a path that was foreign and frightening to me, her presence serving to teach me to embrace new ideas and possibilities unknown to me before: Setting me free.

The next morning, Jon told me he’d been woken by an owl during the night and my heart did another little leap, again feeling that strange sense that I’d been blessed with an owl as guide somehow, now visiting not only my dreams but also my home and family. Having little knowledge about such things, but trying to stay open to all possibilities, I decided to do some research on Spirit Guides, and the owl in particular as a guide. Knowing that there are as many opinions as belly buttons and that almost all of them can be found on the internet, I decided to trust the first site I came across and accept whatever I read there as a message from God. Turns out, the owl has a lot to say that I need to hear:

If Owl has silently glided into your life, you may need to remove yourself from the noise of life and become the still silent observer.  Yes, a thousand times yes.  For weeks, I’ve clung to silence as if I’m drowning, except its under the water that I breathe, suffocating when I breach the surface, choked by the waves of my own thoughts, fears, insecurities and (at times) sadness. I don’t go deep nearly often enough but I feel that I must learn from that place of stillness and discover how to carry it with me to the surface.
The Owl is the symbol of the feminine, the moon and the night. I can count on half of one hand the number of people who know this about me: I’ve long identified with the Holy Spirit as a female: Jesus’s Mother in the same way “God” is His Father. I see Holy Spirit as “Goddess,” although that word carries such baggage it’s difficult for me to use. It’s even difficult for me to refer to the Holy Spirit as “she,” although this is how I think of h.e.r. in my heart. The owl being a symbol of the feminine resonates with me in powerful ways, and I feel God is communicating approval of my desire to break the bonds of patriarchy and embrace our femininity.
Owl is often thought to come to those who need to let go of some part of their life that is no longer needed. To list a few: my static and too-small views about God, the bondage of the patriarchal system that has wrongly been the lens through which I [and most of my generation and those before] see and interpret the world, the long-held traditional view of God as ONLY male, the acknowledgment and release (through writing) of events from my past associated with both unforgiveness and deep shame, the necessary changes in certain important relationships in my life. I’m thankful for the much-needed encouragement to carry on – to keep letting go, even of that which I’ve held most sacred.
This totem gives you the power to extract secrets. Listen to its voice inside of you. You will hear not what others are saying but what is hidden…Most Owl people are clairvoyant because of this ability. It can be very scary at times. Learn to trust your instincts about people. In Christian terms this would be called “prophesy” or “discernment” rather than “clairvoyance,” or, if you prefer a more psychological term: “intuition.”  I’ve long had the ability to sense things about people that they’ve never told me – I think many women can – but I still struggle with trusting those instincts or even hearing them at all over the roar of my own thoughts. I feel this will become more and more important in the weeks and months ahead.
Owl’s senses pierce through shadows, beyond fear and darkness, through to the other side that promises light, happiness and knowledge. Don’t we all need a little more of this in our lives? For me, especially, I feel the need to travel through the fear… feeling it, perhaps, but not reacting to it and never, ever allowing it to guide my steps. On my wall, I have posted the following quote: “I have accepted fear as a part of life, specifically the fear of change, the fear of the unknown, and I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says ‘turn back, turn back.’”

And so, I’ve met my Spirit Guide, or perhaps the first of many.  It’s confusing and exciting and very, very special. And also a bit funny. I imagine Father, Son and Mother conversing amongst themselves, determining that meditation and yoga aren’t taking me far enough outside my Christian comfort zone. And then Mother has an idea: “Let’s give her an Animal Spirit Guide!” She’s sneaky, that one. What’s next, holding seances? Constructing idols? Voting democrat?! God forbid!

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Faith, Unraveled

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Tabernacles, 2016


Tabernacle Moon


My youngest daughter wakes me. “Nurse?” she asks. I roll over lazily and pull her close.   I hear Jon outside the door and call for him, he comes and takes my hand. We talk softly for a while before getting up, me to start my day and him to finish whatever I’ve interrupted him from, taking the baby with him.  When I leave the room I find her snuggled on a chair with her youngest sister, coloring and chatting quietly. “Do you want to come outside with me?” Jon asks and I tell him no, I’d like to pray for a while. I sit and listen to the sounds from the window: the older girls calling gently to the animals, the swish of milk hitting the pail, the ducks conversing with each other. The boys are working to start a fire. This is where we’ll spend most of our week, gathered together around the flames.

Posted in Bunchkin, Bundle, Daybook, Doodle, Farm & Garden, Missy, Parenting, PERSONAL, Shmooey, The Eigh of 'em, Who-Be-Bee | Leave a comment

Thursday’s Thoughts – Anne Lamott On Writing

“One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”

“Perfection is shallow, unreal, and fatally uninteresting.”

“Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

“Shitty first drafts. Butt in chair. Just do it. You own everything that happened to you. You are going to feel like hell if you never write the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves in your heart — your stories, visions, memories, songs: your truth, your version of things, in your voice. That is really all you have to offer us, and it’s why you were born.”

“It’s like driving at night with the headlights on. You can only see a little ways ahead of you, but you can make the whole journey that way.”

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Faith Unraveled


I thought salvation [meant] having the right opinions about God and that fighting the good fight of faith [required] defending those opinions at all costs.  I was a fundamentalist because my security and self-worth and sense of purpose in life were all wrapped up in getting God right – in believing the right things about him, saying the right things about him, and convincing others to embrace the right things about him, too.

– Rachel Held Evans, Faith Unraveled


I’ve dedicated my entire Christian life to the pursuit of correct doctrine. I’ve made unimaginable sacrifices and mistakes in my search for what’s “right” and I’ve held myself apart from all I believed was “wrong.”  Christianity – at least the particular fundamentalist/right wing/evangelical flavor I was marinated in for almost 20 years – is a religion based on fear and avoidance, its guiding principle: “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch.”  Months ago, after reading a book by Anne Lamott (a self-described “bad Christian,”) I told a friend that I felt I was standing at the edge of a precipice and the slightest step forward could result in the destruction of everything I’d ever known or believed to be true. I backed away from that ledge but couldn’t deny the pull of my spirit toward it and so I turned and walked alongside it for a while.  Now, almost exactly one year later, I find myself staring into the void again.  This time, I will allow myself to fall.  I will leave that which has been most important in my life.  I will leave my christian faith.*

Christianity taught me to do everything within my power to interpret the passages of the bible correctly. Now I must dismantle everything I’ve ever known, tearing it all down in order to build, as a friend recently put it, “an authentic faith.”
Christianity taught me to fear experiences that were central to other religions as “portals” to the demonic.  Now, I must open myself to instruction outside my own faith in order to discover a God without borders and limitations.
Christianity formed my identity as the lens through which I see the world and also the narrative through which I define myself.  Now, I must remove this raiment, although I’m not sure who I am without it, in order to discover the truth of my identity.
Christianity taught me that its particular brand of salvation could be lost.  Now, I must be willing to lose it in order to walk an exceptional path.

Stripped of everything except the very core of my beliefs, this is what I’m left with:

  1. I believe that God loves me and every one of the fallible, messed-up human beings who has ever walked this planet unconditionally No matter who we are or what we’ve done, His love for us – all of us – is infinite and irrevocable.
  2. I believe that Jesus died on a cross for the forgiveness of all my sin and that true salvation is a gift.  While I do not fully understand what salvation is or how it works, I do believe that it is NOT contingent upon my behavior or my knowledge of correct doctrine.
  3. I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God and that none of us interpret it 100% correctly.
  4. I believe that the Trinity is made up of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, (not “Holy Bible”) and it is the Spirit who gives direct revelation.  This means that if I experience God in a way that isn’t mentioned in the bible or get revelation from Him that seems to contradict the bible, my interpretation of the bible must be subject to change.
  5. I believe that God’s love compels Him to fellowship with us and that He does not limit His fellowship to one small population of the world (ie the Jews and Christians.)  While I believe that God made Himself known most comprehensively through Jesus, I believe He also makes Himself known in other ways and through other spiritual practices.  I believe that members of other religions can know God just as well as – and in some cases better than – those who claim Christianity.
  6. I believe that there are religions outside of Christianity that have done a better job practicing and defining certain principles present in Christianity (ie. meditation) and wisdom can and should be gleaned from these religions.
  7. I believe in God’s ability to protect more than Satan’s ability to destroy and that I must proceed without fear if I am to receive all that God wants to give. (I suppose “belief in Satan/Darkness/Yin” can also be added to this list)
  8. I believe that God has made provision for the salvation of those who do not know Jesus.  As CS Lewis wrote: “We know that no man can be saved except through Christ.  What we do not know is that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.”  I believe there is far more about salvation that we don’t know than what we do.
  9. I believe that if all these beliefs are correct, true salvation cannot be “lost.”  Even if I walk away from the Christian faith and even if this journey leads to a place of disbelief in Jesus (a possibility I see as remote but must – if I’m to continue this journey in truth and freedom – allow for,) I can still be saved.  Not by doctrine, but by the love of Him who knows me and has set me on this path.
  10. I believe that must take this journey seeking nothing but love. I don’t feel that I can move forward seeking “God” because there’s too much baggage associated with that word.  But I believe that “God is love” and I believe that if I seek love – the love of a “Being” without boundaries and interpretations, the love of others and the love of myself – I will be drawn deeper toward the truth.  I believe that in seeking to know and experience “holy” love (if I may be forgiven for throwing out a term I know entirely too little about,) I will come to know God more as He is than who we’ve made Him to be.

It is from this place that I must move forward.  It’s an exciting but vulnerable place to be and I will share as often as I feel ready and able to.  Although I plan to be more private and protective and gentle with myself during this journey than I’ve ever been, I also know that transparency is a necessary part of this process.  I must let go of my desire to be “right” and faithful and consistent.  Oliver Wendell Holmes writes:

Don’t be consistent, but be simply true.



*Please note that I have written I will leave “MY christian faith” and not “THE christian faith.”  Although I must allow that as a possibility, I don’t see it as a probability.  My Christianity is being reformed into something new, but I think the essentials will remain.  Or then again, maybe they wont.  I don’t know where this journey will lead, only that I am compelled to take it.


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Breaking Bad
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Posted in Consecration, Daybook, Evangelism, Faith, Love, Perfectionism, PERSONAL, Salvation, Victory Journal | 3 Comments

Posture toward Pain


You must look inside yourself and determine that from now on pain is not a problem.  It’s just a thing in the universe.  Somebody can say something to you that can cause your heart to react and catch fire, but then it passes.  It’s a temporary experience.  Most people can hardly imagine what it would be like to be at peace with inner disturbance.  But if you do not learn to be comfortable with it, you will devote your life to avoiding it.

– Michael Singer, The Untethered Soul


I recently learned about Vipassana meditation from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat Pray Love. The essential principle of this type of meditation is the practice of pure regarding: paying attention to your thought patterns.  It’s forbidden to move your body at all during Vipassana and rather than trying to stop thoughts or feelings, you observe them.  As clearing my mind during meditation has, of yet, proven impossible, this was a practice I felt might be beneficial.  So yesterday I headed outside for my first Vipassana-inspired* meditation session (please feel free to call it “prayer.”  I see “prayer” as the act of talking with God, whereas “meditation” seems to me the act of listening.)

As usual, I soon found myself narrating all of my experiences:

“The sound of the wind through the trees is so calming.”
“I wonder if that’s a goose or a duck?”
“I hope that cricket doesn’t come any closer.”

Rather than trying to keep these thoughts from forming as I normally would, I focused on simply paying attention. My mind floated calmly from thought to thought for a while, touching upon subjects lightly and gliding in peaceful silence for long stretches. As time went on, however, my thoughts became fixated on the alarm I had set to end my session. I wasn’t ready to stop meditating but I couldn’t relax, knowing the timer was going to ring soon. I began obsessing about it and realized that rather than simply being in the moment, enjoying the calm that surrounded me now, I was anticipating the sound of the alarm and longed to turn it off.  I began to wonder: how much of my life has been this way? How much drama and discomfort do I create for myself now, simply because I anticipate what will or might happen? My counselor calls this “preparatory misery” and I can’t remember a time in my life when it wasn’t my reality. And so I sat, watching myself be uncomfortable and irritated as I waited for the alarm to sound.

When it finally rang I was faced with new dilemmas. First: without the alarm, I wasn’t sure when I was going to stop meditating. As much as I was enjoying this session, I felt the pull of my house, my responsibilities. What if I didn’t meditate for long enough? At the same time, I didn’t want to turn this session into an ego boosting exercise. This was the longest I’d ever meditated before, and I found myself wanting to continue for as long as possible, just to give myself a mental pat on the back. What if I meditated for too long, for the wrong reasons? Without the timer, I wasn’t sure how or when to end my session without giving in to either impulse. My second problem was that my feet were falling asleep. I’ve long held the irrational fear that if a limb falls asleep, it could result in the blood supply being completely cut off and eventual amputation (welcome to the insanity of my mind.) And so began the struggle with not just discomfort, but fear.

My dual dilemma’s struggled against themselves. The discomfort and fear made me want to end my meditation session and also to prolong it. The point, after all, had been to sit with my feelings and pay attention to them and this was a new, disturbing feeling to pay attention to.  Finally, I decided to trust God to let me know when my meditation should end. Maybe a car would pull into driveway or one of the kids would need me and I’d take that as a signal it was time to stop. Until then, I would sit and do nothing about my pain and fear but pay attention.

With my mind’s eye, I looked at the pain I was experiencing and, perhaps for the first time in my life, didn’t seek to alleviate it. As I sat there, fully experiencing the discomfort, I slowly began to realize that I don’t have to do anything with pain and fear. I don’t have to give my mind the impossible task of eliminating discomfort, mental or physical.  Instead, I can allow myself to feel it.  I can let it in, let it through and let it go. I realized that I’ve created incalculable amounts of stress for myself as I’ve pushed my mind to succeed at a job it’s simply not equipped for: eliminate and avoid pain and discomfort at all costs. In that moment, I gave my mind a new task: Observe. Hang out and watch this with me. I don’t know how long we sat there together, watching my feet, but over time an interesting thing started to happen: the pain slowly started to dissipate and eventually vanished entirely. I sat, marveling at this new development, when I suddenly felt a large and forceful presence beside me. For a split second I wondered if I was having a transcendental experience, but a wet nose pushed itself against my face and I realized it was my dog, whom the children had let out to potty. With a laugh, I opened my eyes and stretched out my legs, surprised to find that my feet were no longer numb.


*  An introductory Vipassana course lasts ten days, with sessions lasting 2-3 hours at a time for a total of ten hours a day, so I obviously wasn’t actually practicing Vipassana, but following some of its principles.

Posted in Daybook, PERSONAL, Prayer | 1 Comment

The Stand


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Breaking Bad

My friends like to tell one another that I am not really a born again Christian. They think of me more along the lines of that old Jonathan Miller routine: “I’m not really a Jew- I’m Jew-ish.” They think I am Christian-ish. But I’m not. I’m just a bad Christian. A bad born-again Christian.”

– Anne Lamott

With the reading of this paragraph, my world shifts and expands. It’s one of the most freeing statements I’ve ever read in my life.

When I consider the books, articles, blogs and conversations that have touched me deeply over the past year, I come to the troubling conclusion that some of the people I respect and admire most in this world are pro-life, feminists, supporters of the LGBT movement and worse… democrats. In fact, some of the most Christlike people I know can’t be squeezed into my definition of the word “Christian” at all. And I realize, perhaps for the first time, that my definition of the word “Christian” has been too small. The God I serve comes with 365 spoken rules (the Torah) and 365,000 “unspoken” rules (the American Denominational system.)

The Apostle Paul says: “All things are permissible.” Later, he admonishes: “Why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’?”

Why, indeed?

I’ve come to realize that the only way I know of to be free – truly free – to serve my Lord is to forget (to the best of my ability) everything and anything the church has taught me about being a Christian. To lay all my ideas and preconceptions at the feet of Jesus and trust Him to keep me close and forgive me when I stray too far. Whenever something challenges my concept of what it means to be a “Christian,” I’ll act in accordance with the still, small voice of God and give myself permission to be what I should be and always have been:

An extraordinarily bad Christian.


Related Articles:

Faith Unraveled

Posted in Consecration, Criticism, Daybook, Faith, Guilt, Perfectionism, PERSONAL | 2 Comments