In the Beginning

Full of Grace
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.”
The Gospel According to St. John

Now. Say this is the first time you have ever heard this. (And maybe it is). Christians LOVE this passage and have talked together for centuries about what it means. I am not writing this journal because I know what it means. Nor am I writing this so that you will know what it means. I include this scripture because it is regarding the GREAT beginning. The one that started us off from stardust to the super nova of humanity. As beautiful as this scripture is, it is equally as mystical. It is at once familiar and not of this world. We have heard it and yet do not know what it really means. Who knows what is REALLY happening here? MANY claim they do know. I know I don’t know. But I do know, that my seeking to know and to explore, is being in REAL relationship with Creator. I think God loves for us to seek God out – to ask – to ponder – to wrestle with the Angel of the unknown.

And so I will wrestle. This keyboard is my companion.

If I could make a guess at what it means?

God is infinite. God WAS before anything that ever was or will ever be.

But that is not why I am writing.

I write for one reason.

To seek. To explore. To pontificate. To ponder. To wonder. To consider. To invite.

Okay. So that was more than one reason, but they all point to the same place.

I have what some would call a fascinating journey as a Christian. It has not been at all traditional – but at the same time I have never left the Lord since I first met Him way back when I was a youngster in my early teens. Meeting the Lord for the first time was a mystical ecstatic life changing event that set me on a course that I could never have imagined. When I share my story with others, they often tell me I should share it. And so I am. (smile)

The thing is, my kind of evangelism is different than other Christians. I want to represent one tiny particle of possibility for someone to consider Jesus. One little itty bitty opening to show that not all Christians are (ahem. clear throat) like each other. I will give an example – Let’s just say that right after I met Him, well, about a week or so later after a Bible study I began to fear for the people in my life who smoked cigarettes, or were gay, that they were going to go to _ _ _ _. For a few days I pondered it, knowing in my gut that this was not anything like the gentle SOUL who came to dwell in me, with me, for me, by me, through me, whom they told me was named Jesus.

My mom was having none of this kind of Christianity. She promptly brought me to Glide Church in San Francisco and told me, honey – these are God’s children and love God as much as those folks back at church. Well. If you have ever been to Glide Church you know what I saw. FOLKS.Real Folks. At all levels of elevation and depravation. That day, I met Francis, who in a way is my St. Francis. She is a woman (very recently) who wears tall high heals and red dresses and red lipstick and claimed to LOVE the Lord. We joined that day, and I sat next to Francis and learned of her recent change from man to woman. I loved her. God opened my heart to her and I prayed then and there for God to remove from my heart that spirit of judgement that many Christians are known for. And I am glad to say, that God did.

I can just feel as I write these words how many Christians would think that women like Francis are not going to be saved. I have had folks write me recently who thought that my use of the word mystical was somehow associated with the devil. I am the point in my journey when I am not interested in pleasing the judging few. I have long since given up fitting in, I did that at about age five when it was clear I was not like the other kids. (Now I know that most of us felt that way, it is just that some of us were better at passing. Sigh)

I am interested in a REAL conversation regarding who we are in the context of this creation. If I hide my story so I will not be judged, I cannot be a witness for being a Christian who walks the line. I dont’ walk the line regarding choosing MY LORD and SAVIOUR Jesus Christ. That is a done deal. I walk a line regarding the conversation about how this is all working out. About what we are doing here. And how we are all so different. My version of Christianity will seem a blasphemy to some Christians. But for others – it will be a relief that they are not alone. And still for some others, they will know that Christianity is not limited to those who claim to sit in a judgement seat. I leave the judgement seat to God. I want to share about my journey, not conform to the point where I live the miracle of my path behind as something to be hidden. My journey has led me to this day. To this beginning. To this word. (speaking of words, does blogger have a spell check for goodness sake?)

There are so many stories lining themselves up right now, asking to be told. Where to begin?
At the beginning of course! And that will be with my Grandmothers, Helen and Eden. Two Christian women who guided my life with love, wisdom, discernment, faith and whom I miss with all of my very being. (heart ache)

I want to share about my relationship with Mama Mary, Theotokos, the God Bearer. And about how art intersects with faith. I want to share about my journey as I deepen into my faith and into the traditions of my anscestors who came from Russia and founded an Orthodox Church 100 years ago. That is where this Lipstick on the Icons comes in. (giggle)

This Christmas my husband and I decided to spend our holy days at one place, an Orthodox Church. I was afraid that once he saw the Lipstick on the Icons that it would freak him out – heck – I thought it might freak me out. But it didn’t. We felt blessed beyond words by this connection – as if entering through a hidden gate that was always there but we could not see it. One woman today called the church a hidden jewel. (More on this experience later…)

We are still going through Holy Days with them and are considering the Orthodox faith at a deeper level. I don’t know if any branch of Christianity has everything I am looking for. And so I have stayed so much to myself, not forming Christian community because different theological views went against my values. Like that I don’t believe in _ _ _ _. I am old enough now, 38, that I don’t need it all to agree with me. I don’t need it to match my experience or meet precisely with my feminist ideals. I do need the Mother of God to be acknowledged. I do need Jesus Christ to be called GOD. I do need a place where the great mystery is acknowledged. I do want the sacraments to be treated as r-e-a-l and not empty ritual. And so – for this moment in time and for who knows how long, the Holy Spirit has brought me into the church of my Grandmother Helen. Who’da thought? I can just hear her laughter now. A laugh of joy, of concern, of hope, of reconciliation, of caution, of family. (Her picture is right next to me. She has a big feather in her hat. It is her wedding day.)

A day or two before she died, Grandma Helen suddenly sat up and asked me for her pink lipstick. To be continued…

p.s. I have not actually kissed an icon of Jesus or Mary yet. I did kiss a gold cross though. One of my bestest girlfriends who is Greek Orthodox said she does not actually kiss it – as in literally put her lips on it. (They do have glass over them.) But today as the light filtered through the window I could see from just the right angle, lipstick on the icons. And a nose print right above it. And the chin print right below that.

(To find out what happens next in the scripture go to John 1 because it gets really exciting!
What do you think it means?)

The Setting: I am sitting at my new desk in my home, my kitty is snoring, I have a candle lit in front of an icon of Jesus and Mary and baby Jesus. It is an Orthodox Icon, although I didn’t really know that before. I have had it for many many years on our marriage altar. I put the cups from our wedding on either side of the icon. The cups are handmade ceramic with blue sky and white clouds and new moons and pink/peach stems. I am drinking tea. Loving God. Loving you. Loving life. Loving Christmas.

Dear Beloved Creator,

I send you a praise of Thanksgiving for dwelling among us. For speaking to us in so many ways. I ask that you will grant me wisdom, that I might share share your wonder-working ways in my life. Give us the MIND to think about you. The HEART to love you and to love others. The SOUL to contemplate and integrate all of the gifts you have for us. And let us seek to understand how the WORD was made flesh. How exciting this all is – to be in communion- with you. To be close. To know you are with us in every second. In every particle of spirit and matter -you are-. Amen.

May you find a moment of comfort that Creator is holding you wherever you are. Wherever Love is, God is. This is what the Priest told me today over scrambled eggs and sausage.
Blessings to all who read this.