Every morning for twenty years now, I wake early to write. I call it my spiritual practice. Early on, I explored the possibility of being a writer. Now, I just write. Most days, this habit summons me into a vast maelstrom where I encounter and address the questions on my heart. While swimming in this space of deep listening and creativity, I listen for God. And then, what I hear and what I write unfolds into messages from God, revelations for my work of composing a life. I’ve learned to trust that voice deep within. Now, I want to share that voice with you. I hope perhaps something you read here and in my books will guide you on your path, scatter some seeds of faith, hope and love, challenge you to unfold your own deep calling to live an abundant life. I hope that the revelations might also guide us into solutions for the challenging times in which we live.
So, first, let me tell you a little bit about my journey. When I first moved back to Ohio in 1994, I started my dream job in mediation and fair housing in local government, working for “peace and justice”, fulfilling what I believed to be my life calling. And I’ve continued in that job for 23 years now, serving the people in my city. My husband and I moved here from San Antonio to be close to my parents, after my father suffered a stroke. My early years in Ohio included nurturing our young sons through elementary, middle and high schools, while walking with my parents through their later years.
But something happened early on to take me on a new path. My Texas friends and I planned a retreat weekend in the Hill Country, a place I love north of San Antonio. That weekend, they told me that I’m a writer. This puzzled me in a head-scratching sort of way. Now, certainly, I knew I liked writing little poems from a young age. Indeed, I like to brag I captured my first boyfriend with a series of poems. But taking a writing life more seriously? A very peculiar proposition to me at the time.
However, that weekend, I made a commitment to explore the possibility. When I returned to Ohio, I started with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. In this program, I diligently began each day with “the morning pages.” This practice involves writing three pages, stream of consciousness, every morning. As the practice unfolded, such new life sprang from the pages of my journal. I found myself composing my own life as a work of art and gradually, I started embarking on some writing projects. I wrote a series of essays on “Living in Molasses,” considering the sweet, slow and sticky aspects of life in Springfield, Ohio. I started some projects that faltered. And then, one year, I decided to write a novel with God.
At first, I planned to emulate the writing of a cousin of my grandmother, Charles Sheldon, who wrote the classic book, In His Steps. From this book springs the phrase, “What would Jesus do?” But after exploring this idea for a while, it came to naught. Then I picked up a second plan, to write about Jesus’ teachings on peace. My path evolved from there.
For five years, I wrote my first novel, Revelation in the Cave. What an adventure that became! My husband and I journeyed to Greece and Turkey for me to do research on the early church, the Roman City State of Ephesus, and the Greek Island of Patmos, focusing on John who wrote the book of Revelation while exiled on Patmos, and on Thecla, a virgin saint canonized by the eastern orthodox and Catholic churches. I like to call that book a cross between the Da Vinci Code and the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, an alternative to Left Behind, shedding new light on the book of Revelation. The book introduced the MAMs, the Magnificent and Marvelous Book Club, an eclectic group of ladies who met monthly and let their books lead them into new ventures. In this book, they went on an archaeological dig in Turkey, digging up scrolls from the first century.
One reader told me, “I want to be in a group like the MAMs!” And so I began The MAMs Book Club, Springfield, which meets monthly in my house. And with this club, I began composing a study guide for each book we read, providing discussion questions as well as commentary by me and allof my fictitious MAMs. I posted these study guides on my website, hoping they might be helpful to other book clubs and readers.
After that, I began my second book, Revelation at the Labyrinth. And for the last five years, I’ve worked on this project. The seeds were planted for this this book, when I enrolled in a contemplative leadership class with the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Washington, DC. During my class, I created the Living Vine Labyrinth with friends at First Baptist Church, where I’m a member. Through my growing contemplative life, I fell more and more in love with God’s creation of our Earth, and began to hear its cry and a call by God to speak up for the Earth. Inspired by workshops by the Spirituality Network of Columbus and the Pachamama Alliance, I pledged to do my part. I began leading Christian contemplative experiences with the Earth. With my husband’s leadership, I joined Citizen’s Climate Lobby and began to speak up to build political will to address climate change. My growing concern about this spurred me to find ways to share my voice in ways that others might hear.
During this time, I participated in a local project called “Circles”, building bridges out of poverty by forming community around those wanting to move out of poverty. The possible transformations encouraged me. Think Tank, who started this project locally, later went on to develop re-entry circles as well, helping people coming out of prison rebuild their lives. They also brought a Triple Bottom Line Company to town to share a new strategy of a business that seeks profit, and the well-being of people and the planet as well.
The cancer epidemic influenced me as well. One of my good friends struggled with ovarian cancer for six years and I coordinated a support network for her. Her struggle found its way into my writing, as MAM Molly receives a breast cancer diagnosis as the story begins.
So, these various seeds planted in my life slowly developed into my new project, Revelation at the Labyrinth. Instead of going to distant lands, this time, I journeyed mostly into new worlds within my own community. I discovered a wonderful, local spiritual community of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Ala-non. They welcomed me into their meetings and I met strong people, relying on God and one another to fight addiction.
I signed up to be a mentor in a new recovery and re-entry house for women called Safe Harbor. There, I developed deep respect for the challenges of those re-entering society from prison, who also struggle to overcome lives of abuse and addiction. I also learned much from friends working with re-entry programs who offer a life-line of hope.
I signed up for labyrinth training and began facilitating labyrinth experiences at my church, at the Cancer Center, at the prison, and at Peace Camp. The labyrinth, once a place of pilgrimage in the middle ages, led me on a pilgrim journey as well, as I found a story about the Earth unfolding.
Revelation at the Labyrinth begins as the MAMs read a series of books on the environment, and walk the labyrinth to listen for direction. One hears a call to begin a re-entry organic farm for women in recovery. Together, they embark on this project, while struggling with climate change, cancer and the many issues related to healing and reconnecting to the earth. This book lifts the prophecy of Catholic priest and environmentalist Thomas Berry into the mainstream, naming the main character Thomaseena, after his legacy. Every time she walks the labyrinth, she receives revelation.
And there’s more, which I will unfold here over time. And so now, as I prepare to launch my second book which will be available by eLectio Publishing on October 17, 2017, I’m launching this blog as well, to provide a place to think with you about the themes and issues in my book. These are issues to which I believe God invites us to respond. There is so much facing us today. God isn’t finished with us yet. So much to consider as we answer a call to live creatively into the future together.
Welcome to the Revelations Blog. And I invite you to visit with me here often, and to consider what might be revealed about composing a life.
Photo Credit: Margaret Olsen, 9/10/17