Breathing with the Enemy- looking at God’s world as already whole

 

This is a letter I sent out this morning to the folks who have been taking the course that takes you deeper into my album Behold, I Make all Things New.

Good Morning,

Some of you are nearing the very end of this course and I hope you’ve had a chance to walk more deeply with my album!

This is another Waterboys tune and I must mention again that Mike Scott does not affiliate with the Christian tradition.  Therefore I will comfortably veer a bit from one of the great Christian teachers today to Martin Buber, the great Jewish philosopher and author of the famous “I and Thou”.

Martin Buber

Martin Buber

 

I was reading this morning from this wonderful book and was struck by something, I think is rather profound.

“The prenatal life of the child is a pure natural association, a flowing toward each other, a bodily reciprocity; and the life horizon of the developing being appears uniquely inscribed, and yet also not inscribed, in that of the being that carries it; for the womb in which it dwells is not solely that of the human mother.  This association is so cosmic that it seems like the imperfect deciphering of a primeval inscription when we are told in the language of the Jewish myth that in his mother’s womb man knows the universe and forgets it at birth.  And as the secret image of a wish, this association remains to us.  But this longing ought not to be taken for a craving to go back, as those suppose who consider the spirit, which they confound with their own intellect, a parasite of nature.  For the spirit is nature’s blossom, albeit exposed to many diseases.  What this longing aims for is the cosmic association of the being that has burst into spirit with its very true You.

Every developing human child rests, like all developing beings in the womb of the great mother – the undifferentiated, not yet formed primal world.  From this it detaches itself to enter a personal life, and it is only in the dark hours when we slip out of this again (as happens even to the healthy, night after night) that we are close to her again.”  

He goes on to say more famously that it is “in encounter that nature experiences its formhood.”

I was struck however by the image of how we all of us, sleep at night.  (Or at least try to!)  I was able to parallel this thought with this song.  And here’s why:

In the questionnaire I have you consider someone you perhaps dislike as receiving the breath, and have you secretly sing this song on their behalf (which is really on your behalf because it is really about changing your negative feelings toward them).  

Now imagine this person that you dislike or a tyrant from history, sleeping at night.  Imagine them drifting off from their control, their power, their need to bully, and simply breathing in the Presence of who they have returned to as they have slipped out of conscious awareness into sleep.

Really, it is remarkable!  I have never before this morning pictured someone I feared or disliked, simply sleeping.  

Think of gang leaders, militia leaders and political tyrants resting their heads on a pillow, perhaps a bit curled up and just breathing in and out.  That same breath that gives them life is giving everything else life.  

For some reason this puts the world in perspective for me this morning.  As we face the tremors of changing tides, every breath is our Beloved’s and, as James Finley puts it in the new album Sanctuary, “fear has no foundation”.

Breathing with you today!

Listen to Every Breath is Yours below and get Behold, I Make all Things New HERE.  Consider going deeper with the album by walking through the course HERE

The Feast of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The feast of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is coming up on April 9th and below is a sample chapter I wrote for my friend Steve Bell’s Pilgrim Year App.  Pilgrim Year is an app that follows the Christian calendar and acknowledges feast and holy days with written word, poetry, visual art and music.  

The Feast of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor from Germany known for his beliefs in pacifism and also for his opposition to the Nazi Party and Hitler. During a rigged church election in 1932, many of the church positions of influence were given to Nazi-supported church men. As the Nazi propaganda continued, the complacency of the German church also continued, and Bonhoeffer was conscious enough to see and acknowledge the truth of what was happening.

From our vantage point, we might think the terrible reality of what was happening in Nazi Germany would have been obvious. But for Bonhoeffer, his heart broke as he watched many of his church comrades turn a blind eye and tow the Nazi line.

Ever since I learned the interesting fact that Gandhi read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) every morning, I have gained a new perspective of Jesus’ words. This text has compelled and moved me in ways that give me no alternative but to use it in the way Gandhi did, as a filter through which to view and critique our own dominant cultural narrative. This too, compelled and intrigued Bonhoeffer. His famous book The Cost of Discipleship is based on the Sermon on the Mount, and Gandhi was also a tremendous influence on him.

Bonhoeffer seems destined to be one of those people who found themselves in a time and place where their philosophy must be tried in reality. There were opportunities in his life when he could have chosen to leave the responsibility he felt toward his church and the people his church was persecuting, namely the elderly, the Jews, and those with physical or mental disabilities.

At one point, Bonhoeffer had the opportunity to live and learn with Mahatma Gandhi. Instead, he was compelled to begin an underground seminary in Germany, a very risky alternative but one that Gandhi would have respected.

Something very important to keep in mind is how the dominant theology and cultural norm of the German church at this time was seen as gospel truth by many good Christian people. Bonhoeffer’s help in forming an underground seminary and church was countercultural, courageous, and would have been considered rebellious and heretical by many upstanding Christians.

In his letter from a Birmingham jail, dated April 16th, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.” As young blacks courageously sat in segregated areas designated for whites, the law and the cultural Christian norm was not on their side. Accused of breaking the law, as though the law itself was the gospel, these courageous young people continued placing themselves in danger because they knew in their hearts what was right.

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“It seems that the path of Christ is often a misunderstood path.”

Right before the war was about to begin, after helping to form the underground seminary, Bonhoeffer was given the opportunity to teach at Union Theological Seminary in America. At this pivotal time, he was trying to navigate how to avoid swearing allegiance to Hitler, being a pacifist and deeply opposed to the Nazi party. Very quickly, he realized that staying in America would be taking the easy way out of the situation. Instead, he decided his calling was to walk the path of Christ back in Germany, saying “I cannot make that choice from security.”

Bonhoeffer’s return to Germany was met with required reporting to Nazi authorities and a ban from public speaking. He joined the military intelligence agency Abwher that was actually an anti-Hitler resistance group. His international contacts were seen as an asset, so the organization was able to protect him from being drafted into the German army.

After much work in undercover resistance, including aiding the escape of many Jews into Switzerland, Bonhoeffer was arrested just a year and a half before WWII would end. During his imprisonment the discovery of documents and diaries uncovered a plot by the Abwher to assassinate Hitler. Hitler ordered all associates with the organization to be executed.

Three weeks before the end of the war and a few weeks before Hitler hung himself, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was led naked into a courtyard and executed by hanging. Although not properly documented, this hanging was implemented by executioners renowned for torture, and therefore many historians believe that his execution was very painful and would have lasted many hours.

Regardless of more recent arguments on how to interpret the theology of Bonhoeffer, it is quite clear how he lived and from where he drew his strength to do so. Bonhoeffer’s belief that God’s kingdom and the physical world are not separate spheres but are united through Christ’s incarnation, helped him to act out his belief in the imitation of Christ. The fact that he left the comfort of free and peaceful places where he could comfortably dialogue about God, and instead willingly returned into danger shows us that he truly desired to embody the Sermon on the Mount in his particular, terrible circumstance.

May we, like Bonhoeffer, live life in such a way that we are conscious of the dominant cultural norms that do not align with Jesus’ teaching and life, that openly or inadvertently serve power and money, and crush those who have neither.

Listen to my song As the Father Sent Me below and get your copy of Behold, I Make all Things New HERE

lyrics:

As the father sent me, so I send you

 

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In all Verdant Greening, in All Creatures and in You

Last year, someone dear to me was diagnosed with cancer and was told he would need to undergo chemotherapy and radiation in order to treat it. I go for daily walks with my family and prior to this diagnosis, I had unconsciously become numb to my surroundings. What was happening in simply ten square feet in my very own yard was not something I was at all aware of (and still am only marginally!)

I am someone for whom a Calling has arrived and implied simply that I must devote my artistic efforts to furthering conscious realization of incarnation. My album Behold, I Make all Things New is a Christ Narrative that starts in the big picture of origins and the cosmos, then enters into Jesus of Nazareth and eventually into the consciousness of “everyman”. Sanctuary, the album on healing I am currently working on with James Finley, is about the incarnate wound.

When this Calling arrived, it had been a long time coming through absorbing the thoughts, revelations and visions of voices that have gone before us, that saw Christ in all things. 

To say “Christ in all things” is no trite, glib statement to make. It can be misconstrued and cause more defensiveness than anything else. But to say it and believe it causes one’s view to widen and to see God expressing creativity very holistically, everywhere. Even the worst pain, is being incarnated and transformed.

Naturally, when God is no longer simply “the man upstairs” and holistic expression begins to be unveiled, a person tends to think the healing solution to our sicknesses and our pain, must be inside and all around us.

This is not a story of natural healing. It is not a story of miraculous, instantaneous disappearance of disease. Modern medicine played a big role in the positive outcome, but the point is, that it got me widening my view of what was growing, and expressing God, all around me.

Our household is essentially on its way to being chemical-free. I make our dish soap, our laundry soap and our cleaners and we use very natural cleansers for ourselves. Now that spring is on its way, I have brought out my herbology book and am excitedly and curiously looking at, touching and smelling the buds on the trees when we go for walks.

I get ecstatic about digging, collecting and roasting dandelion root for “coffee”. I make pain rubs with what is growing naturally in our own yard.

The combination of the cancer diagnosis of a loved one and really “getting” that Christ is in all things, has caused if nothing else, a deeper sense of wonder for the mystery of the Word throughout creation.

quotememe1012th century Christian mystic Hildegard of Bingen wrote a book called “Physica”,
which was a book on health and healing. It was and is to this day respected as a holistic interpretation of medicine and wellness. I completely comprehend why she expressed her visions of Christ through painting, music and natural healing. When we begin to contemplate that this whole universe is sacred and any and all suffering is being permeated and transformed by this same sacred Something, we cannot help but begin to see this everywhere

I’m not saying I’ll never get sick. I’m not saying I’ll never need modern medicine. This is not a treatise to be either/or about certain medical practices. My point is that I do believe our limited awareness of the sacred in this world directly contributes to lack luster living, and quite possibly is part of the cause of many illnesses. What if the way we live truly numbs out the very obvious fact that we were built to continually awaken to wonder?  

They say if a bee stings you, there is often something growing nearby to alleviate the swelling. Or if you react to poison ivy, there is a solution growing nearby. One article I read had a woman contemplating why so much stinging nettle began growing near her house right around the time she began developing acute arthritis (she claimed to be cured by swatting the arthritic area with nettle).

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I do find it interesting that in many articles I’ve read, dandelion root is said to be “nature’s chemotherapy”, which perhaps is or is not true. But wouldn’t it be just like us, culturally, to be cutting out, spraying (with cancer-causing agents) and getting rid of the very thing that is growing around us because it “senses” we as an overstressed, overworked, chemical-induced society need it?

Call me a flake if you want to. But I will continue to wonder. And my hunch is, even if I have to end up an old hag with shelves full of tinctures, I will continue to look for Christ in the “verdant greening”, in “all creatures” and in you.

May it be so.

The Kickstarter Campaign for Sanctuary is 90% funded!

For the past 2 weeks I have been running a campaign to pre-sell albums and raise funds to make a new album called Sanctuary ~ Exploring the Healing Path with Alana Levandoski and James Finley

We are up over $18,000 now and our initial goal is $20,000.  

I begin in the studio in 6 days and have the engineer set up to record James Finley in the coming weeks.

If you haven’t made your pledge yet, please head over to the kickstarter page to become a part of the collective that is making this possible! 

An email that went out today

 

I have a course available that walks people through my album Behold, I Make all Things New.  Every week they receive an email from me with some new thoughts and angles for how to work with the songs.  

I thought I’d share the email from today as my blog.  Please remember to head over to my kickstarter campaign and pledge for the new album, if you haven’t already.  Click HERE for that 🙂 

Greetings,

My family and I were away for the long weekend and I was away from email so here is your belated email in connection to the latest video.

I understand that you didn’t receive the Magi last week but yesterday so I have arranged for you to receive The Wisdom Teachings video today.

The two chant songs that accompany this section are selections of Jesus’ words that perhaps aren’t quoted enough.  Again, the first one, Leave all Things, hints at an inner worth that will shine forth when all else is left behind.  We have been walking through Henri Noewen’s book on Lent, using the method of lectio divina, and yesterday’s writings were on how “poverty makes a good host”.  Alluding to the concept of turning the tables in the case of a robbery asking “who will be our robber when everything he wants to steal from us becomes our gift to him?”

Leave all things that you have  and come and follow me could become the mantra for releasing what we anxiously cling to.  

I had an experience recently where someone said something critical about my 2 year old, and I noticed how I was not only protective, but defensive.  The protectiveness is necessary and good.  It is my job.  But the defensiveness is keeping what could be a gift to this person.  It seems that the balance of boundaries and love is ever before us.  Seeking the wisdom to know when we are “getting our back up” and seeking to defend a part of ourselves that we fear is separate from and not infused by the love of God.

I am reminded of the scene in Les Miserables when a desperate Jean Valjean steals silver from the church and when caught, the priest gives him even more than he stole.  How can we start considering that there is always enough? 


The second chant song is “as the Father sent me, so I send you.”

This call to living the “mythic life”, that somehow is inherently there in our desires and longings.  

I watched a sort of scattered and intense talk with a fellow by the name of Greg Boyd on The Work of the People last night and something he said in one sense reminded me of my old philosophical/rational self, but still hit home in a new way.  He was speaking about the way in which we long and what had brought him to a new place in his faith was through philosophically asking a question that went something like this: “why did we evolve to be beings that long for the Holy, if this is simply a meaningless, random empty universe?” 

And he went on to use a metaphor of a carp that evolved out of a desert who had an inherent longing for a water that never was and never would be.  He couldn’t resign himself to that sort of vacuum, and began to travel along the road to encountering God.

In a sense, as the Father sent me, so I send you, gives us full permission to embrace the mythic life it seems we were built for.  That we were built this way and then try to remain asleep seems to encourage “the gods” to send awakeners in our direction.  It usually takes some form of adversity, visitor or shift in life to wake us up to the much more interesting life of being sent, like Jesus, by the Father.

I will end here with another quote from the Noewen Lent book, Show Me the Way.  Perhaps this quote can be used as you meditate with the chants.  

“Our lives are destined to become like the life of Jesus.” – Henri Noewen

If you’re interested in the course, click HERE

Showing Up ~ an Artist’s Healthy Alternative to Entitlement

 

I am about to run my second Kickstarter campaign for the new album I am making with contemplative trauma therapist, James Finley. It is called Sanctuary ~ Exploring the Healing Path with Alana Levandoski and James Finley. This project has consistently bubbled up creatively for me over the past number of months, and I am deciding to trust that weird instinctual “voice” saying, “Please make me!”Album Cover James Finley Project

That being said, I have learned from the past, and from a recent fidelity to a sacred way of life, that I am not entitled to make or record music. Paradoxically, I do feel compelled, even required, to show up and do the work, whether it is made possible to be incarnated into the world and offered or not.  In other words, I have composed the material, have worked with the graphic designer and spent many hours building the Kickstarter campaign, but I am not entitled to the outcome.

I wanted to share this publicly to hold myself accountable, as I move forward with my Kickstarter launch. I also hold myself publically accountable to have fun during the process, for that too was lost to me in the old model! I don’t think it is possible to have actual fun and be entitled at the same time!

I publicly announce that I am showing up for this with my whole heart and will work to my utmost to deliver healing beauty into the world. But this “showing up” is my healthy alternative to “making it happen”. I am not self-made!

Amen, a million times, amen!

The first email from the online course that went live today

My very first online course went live this morning.  I built it for folks who want to go deeper with my album.  Below is the initial email that went out to folks who have signed up for the course.  Sign up by clicking HERE.

Hello and welcome to the online video course for Behold, I Make all Things New.

This album is one of those creations that ends up having a life of its own and some folks seem to really “get” it. My job now is to try and get it heard and help folks to go deeper with it if I can.

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To begin, I am not a scholar in the traditional or official sense of the word. I am a songwriter and writer who’s deliberated over becoming a priest in the Anglican/Episcopal tradition for many years, but keep coming back to this sense that if I were to head down the road of seminary, I may “lose the poetry” in the process. So here I am, without the qualifications to be a keeper of the jewel that is the Christian tradition, but perhaps I am still at license to approach the Christ Narrative with the eyes and ears of a songwriter, as one with a knack for story and maybe even a slight knack for the sideways nuances of wisdom teachings.

This morning I invite you to enter into origins. Experience the sensation of coming from mystery and moving toward mystery. Allow yourself to feel out of control of causes and outcomes.

As I sang Behold, I Make all Things New (Alpha), and subsequently (Omega), for this album, part of the way in which they were sung, was out of lament. I would call these songs, “hopeful laments”. As Walter Brueggemann says in his book Prophetic Imagination, “The task of prophetic imagination is to cut through the numbness, to penetrate the self-deception, so that the God of endings is confessed as Lord.” He goes on to include new beginnings in this context, but initially speaks to endings, to get the point across that we don’t want to hear about endings being a prerequisite to new beginnings.

Within this beautiful line from Revelation, (or as some might say today: “Christ from the future”), is held many, many endings. As many endings as there are. This was a hard lesson for me to learn over the years, but I have grown to know it is a hopeful lament that may come in the form of a relationship ending, or, in many conscious relationships, in the form of ritual and mutual understanding that supports the call to some form of change. It may come as a result of a job ending, a location change, the loss of an identity, the death of a loved one, or the dormancy of winter with the promise of spring.

In these times of endings and the challenge of being present to the pain, we are lost in chronos time in disbelief that anything good is on the horizon, but also, if we choose to, we get to hang out ironically in kairos time which is a strange inexplicable comfort during times when endings are prevalent.

I attended a talk on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin recently and one of the questions that was asked was that Teilhard often gets criticized for being too optimistic and where was the presence of the cross in his teaching? The answer was around the fact that Teilhard actually gleaned much of his hopeful insight through the experience of being a stretcher carrier during the 1st World War, as well as his exile to China. It was also through the pain of discovering as a child, the impermanence of matter that brought him to meditate on Christ’s intertwinement with the whole of creation. (This notion that Christ is at the mercy of matter, as we are.)

So I ask you to sit where you are, with whatever reality you are being asked to face, with this hopeful lament on the tip of your tongue and woven into your heart. Perhaps you will sense the presence of Christ in solidarity with what you are at the mercy of.

May you be nurtured and comforted amidst the grown-up reality of endings and may you flourish anew with love and hope.

With love,

Alana

 

The Family Hermitage ~ a New Monastic Way

 

My family and I have been abiding by a sacred schedule for the past year and in particular concentration since my husband Ian lost/left his job of 16 years through an amicable lay-off in July. This allowed enough time for me to release my album Behold, I Make all Things New but also for our home life to take on the tone of our own making.

Sacred Budget

It began even before that however, with a huge financial makeover that consisted of culling unnecessary, unconscious spending and being conscious stewards of whatever small amount we’ve been given so that if we made the move to each running a small business, we would be ready for trim living. This did not happen in the comfort zone. It was one of the biggest and best blowouts of our marriage (so far) but it confronted some ghosts and we were able to move through it. And it was necessary.

Sacred Space

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The wall in our great room.

 

We also needed a place in the world that was conducive to launching from, and at the time were living in a tiny house we had built, on our friend’s property. We started house hunting and soon realized that even with the salary we were used to, our options were pretty slim to make a home purchase and still be remotely near our teenage daughter (my stepdaughter, Ian’s daughter). Eventually, we found a ramshackle old cabin that happened to be on a double lake lot 30 minutes away from our daughter. It took a lot of work to figure out a way to purchase this property as a mortgaged asset. Eventually we discovered there is a “purchase plus improvements” mortgage option. We took possession May 31st, 2014 and with some hired help during the month of July, rebuilt this little 600 sq ft cabin from the ground up. I pretty much painted the whole house with baby Oliver in the snuggly and we worked when we could from dawn till dusk until late October and moved in before the first snowfall.

Our mortgage is less than a two-bedroom basement apartment would be in the city.

So now with a “place to stand”, we have been developing our little place which a friend recently called our “family hermitage”.

Ian spent the summer and turned our old shed into a studio with a lean-to addition. It is insulated and has electricity.

By reclaiming material and doing it ourselves, between the studio and the house, we spent less on all the renovations than most folks spend on their kitchen renovation. These decisions have enabled us to foster our small businesses and allows for me to put the music out there that seems to be asking to be made.

Sacred Time

Last New Years, we co-created a sacred schedule. I operate on a 3-hour workday in the mornings and Ian operates on a 4-hour workday in the afternoons. We use our studio as seriously as we would an actual job site. But the day operates on somewhat of a monastic schedule inspired by my time living with the Benedictines as well as my time studying at various L’Abri’s throughout the world.

Ian wakes up before Oliver and I do, and does centering prayer for 40 minutes. Oliver and I wake up and Ian and I read out loud to each other, and then chant the Psalms, often with Oli sitting with us or flipping through one of his own books. We have breakfast, and then go for a walk, which is a huge contemplative benefit to me because I’m a high metabolism, creative freak! I head to the studio and do a 15-minute centering prayer session, attempting to gently let go of all that feels pertinent or important for the day or in general. Then I get to work, either on the creative side or the business side (independent musicians spend more time trying to get their music heard than they do making music!). 11am is teatime and I head in to connect with my family. I go back out for another hour and come in to make lunch. We have a book of prayers we use for mealtime that is all about acknowledging the earth. Then it’s my turn to hang out with Oliver and be in his world and Ian goes to work in the studio. He comes in at 3pm for teatime.

Once suppertime is here, we are all in the house and we spend time together until Oliver goes to bed. I have had yoga one evening a week and Ian has a men’s group one evening. Oliver has a parent-led playgroup that he and Ian attend one morning a week.

Weekends are spent here with our daughter who has a loft bedroom in our little place. And we attend an Anglican church community on Sunday.

There are hiking trails nearby, we have a canoe that was given to us, and when our kids are older, we can cross country ski.

Sacred Service

We also serve out in the world, so some days don’t look exactly like I have just illustrated. Ian does an incredible cultural program in schools educating and inspiring healthy interaction using social dance. And I perform my music. This fall I did 20 performances.

Sacred Exposure

I also mention gently, without judgment, that we don’t expose our son to screens. He is 2, and has never watched a show and has only experienced FaceTime to connect with grandparents. He has incredible exposure to books, to music, and especially in the summer, to parks and nature. This is our personal choice and it has been a wonderful experience.   We plan to make special movie nights when our kids are older (as we do with our teenage daughter) but unconscious screen time is not on the future menu. Maybe he’ll rebel and become a video game addict when he moves out, but in the meantime, this is the foundation we are building.

Sacred Narrative

We use a regular calendar but were also recently given a liturgical calendar that operates on the Christian narrative instead of the months, which we use as a reminder that we choose to live outside of the dominant narrative of this culture. We use the monthly calendar to “be in the world”.

To get us started with chanting the Psalms, we bought Cynthia Bourgault’s book entitled Chanting the Psalms. It gives a history of the practice as well as a pretty solid reason why it is still useful today. Cynthia also has a very brilliant way of helping us to hear texts in a way where we don’t close too quickly or take it in too quickly. Using her book as context we are able to chant even the hard Psalms with subtle ears that hear across the plains of time.

This New Years, Ian and I have been developing a written Rule. We have been using the Franciscan 3rd Order as a bit of a guideline this year as well as a bit of inspiration from my time with the Benedictines. A focus on holy work, holy leisure, holy play, holy justice, holy creativity etc.

What makes it holy?

What makes this sacred?

Part of what makes this sacred might need to be put into a sort of “Walter Brueggemann context”. We don’t have a sacred schedule and aren’t developing a Rule with the intention of keeping everything under control, although chaos is not what dominates our household, which is a bonus! We have a sacred schedule and are developing a Rule because we choose to keep awake in the midst of what Walter Brueggemann would call “royal numbness”. It is not out of a need for control that we choose this life, but out of a desire to release it.

The other part that makes it sacred is that we see the whole of what we do, whether interacting with our children, writing an email or doing laundry as incarnate activity.

Sacred Hospitality

We also have hospitality in the mix of our life. We have had visitors come and stay in our studio, which has a murphy bed, or in tents during the summer. One American friend who needed to process a bunch of stuff, stayed on for two weeks last July. She is the one who calls our place the “family hermitage”. She even canoed with some intentions across the lake and fasted and slept under the stars for a day and night.

One of our closest friends just stayed here and used the studio all weekend to record the bed tracks for a children’s album.

Sacred Imperfection

I will disclaim that although this might sound utopian, this is all done in the midst of our imperfections. I am no picnic, and struggle with intensity (especially when I’m pregnant!). Ian has his challenging traits, just like all of us do. But something Jim Finley says sort of applies here “The master is just as confused as the student, but the master is simply no longer confused by his confusion.” We aren’t masters yet, but confusion is no longer ruling the roost. We may find ourselves on the defense, or hurt, or annoyed, but the ground on which we stand, enriched by intention and practice is beginning to have the last word. It massages our hearts into the capacity to say sorry and to forgive much more quickly.

And lastly, none of this cushions us from the vulnerability of mortality, loss or suffering. It is not something any of us likes to think about, but I want to say it here, because it is true. Madeleine L’Engle said “to be alive is to be vulnerable” and this way of life makes one very alive.

I will post the actual weekly schedule soon, as well as our Rule. If any of you are interested in this “new monastic” approach to family life, I encourage you to let this inspire you, but then move to co-create the schedule that works for your reality. If you feel it is right for you to change jobs or living spaces or whatever, let it be your heart’s intuition guiding you. That being said, always pay heed and draw from wisdom of the monastic tradition, because otherwise you will find yourself out on a rather foolish limb, hanging in mid air with no trunk or roots to hold you, when the storms come.

Answering the big questions with – “the whole shootin’ match is Holy”

The great contemporary American poet Wendell Berry said that… “the whole shootin’ match is Holy”.  I keep this as my deepest mantra these days as we are bombarded with cheapened versions of this world and of ourselves.

Because my album Behold, I Make all Things New is a Christ Narrative that runs from the mystery of origin to Advent, through the Jesus story and into the era of conscious incarnation, I have been asked by quite a few people to create a guide for folks to walk through the album with. 

Check it out here:

 

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Questions came to my heart when I approached creating this album and they seem even more heightened since the insanity of politics, violence and retaliation have practically exploded these past few weeks, creating a force field of dualism and fear, across the world. Because of how globally connected we are, I might go so far to say that the world has never seen such a force field all hooked up to the same issues, contributing energy on one side or the other to highly polarized politics.

How do we stay the course of love and wisdom in the midst of a barrage of opinions, outcries and retaliatory rhetoric?

How do we discern prophetic action from retaliatory action?

In his homily addressed to the Trinity Church on Wall St, Fr Richard Rohr recently said “we are more interested in Retributive Justice than Restorative Justice”.

How do we embody a desire for Restorative Justice as we approach the possible breakdown of our current way of life?

While I can’t say my album answers all of these questions, I can say that what I did was attempt to put Christianity’s best foot forward and really pluck the heartstrings of people who claim to follow Jesus in these times. I used quotes from Jesus and Paul and quite a bit of scripture as well as my own words, hoping to allow for my own participation to be included.

I couldn’t put Hinduism’s best foot forward because I wouldn’t know where to start! But I do know that every religion must, not out of competition with each other, but out of friendship and harmony, openly embrace the most beautiful and the most loving teachings of each faith if we want the hope of human survival.

This is my small contribution.

After receiving requests for this, I’ve made a course that walks you through the album. If you decide this is a course you’d like to use for your study group or individually, I would ask that you deeply consider how important meditating and waking up to incarnation truly is. I don’t know who originally said “the ground of being” but I can say that this ground is holy, and walking this ground with our eyes open and our hearts ready to love at whatever cost, is imperative at this time.

I am one of the keepers of the jewel that is Christianity… and part of that means that by its very origin, I have to acknowledge that, ironically, it is a post-tribal faith, (although you wouldn’t know it from history).  In other words… Jesus knew the “whole shootin’ match was Holy”.

Behold, I Make all Things New highlights one of the least historically highlighted treasures of the Christian tradition and invites us to awaken to incarnation in such a profound way, that come what may, we know whose we are. The very stuff the whole of Creation is made of is Holy. Everyone and all things. To stand in this awareness is to walk awakened in a world that generally forgets the stuff we are made of and spirals into revenge, violence and power posturing as ultimate virtue.

This course compliments the album and takes you deeper and deeper into awakening to conscious incarnation. If that won’t send out a force field of beauty and light and love, what will? But it starts with each one of us and the decisions we make everyday.

Do we treat this planet as sacred? Do we see Christ in each other and in all things? Do we take action, believing the Holy also permeates the most ridiculous politician, terrorist or racist? Do we hope and pray for Restorative Justice for them, even as we choose to speak out against their words and actions?

If we embody what my album is getting at, then that will be the challenge we face. It is no longer so easy as “us and them” when “Christ is all in all”!

One of my heroes, Denis Edwards, author of Jesus and the Cosmos and Ecology at the Heart of Faith, says this of Behold, I Make all Things New: 

“Alana’s songs sing of the Love that is at the heart of everything, the galaxies and stars, the animals and the trees of Earth. They tell of Love come to us in an unthinkable way in Jesus. They celebrate the transformation already at work in new creation. They lead me to a place of contemplation.” 

The prophetic call is one that can be very frustrating as we witness a spiraling chaos that always appears to have the last word.

We hope and believe that the Word made flesh, there in that first particle billions of years ago, is still here with us, suffering and enduring all things, outpouring love and wooing us to awaken to who we are. Beloved. Holy. Children of the Light. 

What you get in this course:

-16 Teaching Videos that walk through the album and focus/meditate on incarnation

– Downloadable PDF Questionnaires that will engage your study group or simply your own imagination

– Downloadable MP3s of each song from Behold, I Make all Things New

– Downloadable lyrics

– An email reminder with a 500 word current meditation PDF sent on the day your next video is available.

– Additional videos to share with your church, community or group

Get the course HERE.