Sunday, June 20, 2010


In some monastic, eastern traditions, one pauses as one goes through a doorway. It is considered a liminal place- a place between places. A doorway can lead us from sunlight into darkness or from exposure into safety. This doorway is from the garden into the chicken house. In the past, a family who lived at Blackwater Bluff for forty years and raised nine children had a cow in here. One day I hope to have a gas kiln here in my retirement, but who knows. Any one of us could be hit by a truck tomorrow.

The doorway is a liminal place and I think we have liminal places in life too. They are the in between places - not where I once was - not where I will soon be. In our interior life - our development into that person who is the hope of God - we have liminal places there too. In our "Nefesh" as the Hebrews would say - our everythingness, we have these liminal places in which pain and suffering, regret and sorrow, grief and loss are like spiritual chemotherapy - life-giving if they do not kill us. And on the other side of the breathless fog in which one hangs perilously on the edge between hope and despair, we pass through the doorway to the other side and, feeling our souls with the hands of our prayers, begin to realize - somewhat amazed - that we have survived. And not only that we have survived, but that we are better - transfigured - more of the hope God has for us and less of the reptilian seeking immediate pleasure, anesthesia, power or control.

It is these times in which we have awakened to a new self-realization that suffering deepens us if we let it. This may be what scripture means when we give up childish things. We give up our grabbing and our fear-based acting out in favor of a humility which can come only from deep and long suffering, isolation and post-catastrophic reflection.

When I go through the door in this photo, I am in a dark place - out of the sunlight and surrounded by ten chickens - most of whom are happy to see me and think I am their mother. I hold them and stroke their backs and they seem to purr. They used to run from me but now they simply crouch in preparation for being lifted up into my arms for a petting and a bit of cooing. For me, the chicken house is a dark place; but for them, it is a safe place. That is what my faith does for me - it turns the darkest places in my life into some of the safest places in which I can look inward and learn and learn and learn to be a better person - a better human - a better Christian - a better friend to my friends and even a better friend to me.

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