"...I am fully alive and flying with faith soaring above the clouds creating what will be from what is not yet and meeting God in me and all around me. I dance with the doubt so I can fly with the faith."
From "Dancing Into Doubt, Flying Into Faith" Diana Wilcox ⓒ 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Feeling "Adventy"

I love this time of year.  Yes, part of it is because of the music and lights, the smell of pine and the excitement of children.  But more than that, it is the feeling of expectancy.  Advent is a time of pregnant anticipation for Christians, when we begin our church year, and await the coming of Jesus.  Hope seems to spring eternal in the glow of Advent candles and hymns that lift up prayers of "Come thou long expected Jesus" and "Come, O Come Emmanuel."  

Why?  What fills our hearts so full that we cannot help but smile?  I suspect that it is the hope found in the birth of a poor child who came to show us a new way of being in relationship with ourselves, our community, and with God.  In the darkness of winter, we are given a light that shines within our hearts, a truth that is inescapable - that we are beloved, so much so, that God wanted to be incarnate in Jesus to be in direct relationship with us.  

So many lament the commercialism that erupts during this season, but I don't mind in the least.  Retail stores in this economy are hurting, and that means jobs.  But more than that, there is something magical about the music and decorations that seem to fill the world, if only for a little while, with a sense that there is more to life than cubicles, pagers, grades, or promotions.  We become children again, gathering to watch a silly animated Rudolph on TV, or wearing a santa hat to the office.  It is though for a moment we are able to step into one of those snow globes, to a different time or place.  We reconnect with people through cards and calls, wish each other blessings, and even seem to step lighter.  

Yes, there are pressures we place on ourselves, but it need not be that way.  It is not the fault of retail stores, or Santa Claus, or any other commercial expression of the season if we find ourselves stressed.  It is within each of us to say "no" to all of that, and "yes" to the warmth and joy.  This is most difficult for those in distress, lonely, or who are grieving the loss of someone dear to them.  This pain must be acknowledged and honored.  But for any of you who are feeling this way, know that you are not alone, and that there are many who care for you, most especially The One who chose to be born into this world so that we might know that we are loved - all of us, and most especially those on the margins and those who are spiritually and emotionally wounded.

At this time of year, we are being asked to prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus into our lives, for the incarnation of God among us.  So how do we do this?  We open our hearts, and let the feeling of anticipation overtake us.  Like a child waiting for Santa Claus, we stop and look around, waiting in hope.  We don't try to tell others how to embrace this time, but instead open our hearts so that we can embrace it ourselves.  We become Mary, the Godbearer, the chosen, awaiting the new birth.  We look at others as bearers of God too.  Remembering the words of Mary "My soul doth magnify the Lord," we are to allow our souls to do the same, and to see God magnified in the souls of all others.  

And slowly, day by day, we live into the moment when God entered this world as a poor child.  

So go out and be Adventy!  Live into the moment, and await the coming of Christ.

Chaplain Diana

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Do We Exist?

A student interjected the following a few weeks ago during a group discussion: "If a person is alone on an island, with no one else around, do they exist?  Can we exist outside of relationship with another?"  It is moments like this that make me thankful to be a chaplain, because I am in awe of the insight that I have experienced coming from these students.

He asks a great question.  What would be your answer to it?

For me, relationship is essential to life, but relationship with what or whom, and what kind of relationship?  It brings to mind this passage from the Gospel of Matthew:

‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ (Matt. 22:36-40, NRSV)

Jesus is telling us that the most important thing we should do, the foundation for everything else, is love God, love ourselves and love our neighbors.  We are to be in relationship with one another and with God.  Jesus himself is the very presence of God trying to be in direct relationship with us - no matter the cost, it was that important.

And, it is not just relationship,  but right relationship that is essential.  

We are to treat ourselves and each other as we would God.  Imagine the possibilities if we did!  Domestic violence, hate crimes, war - none of it would exist if we looked at one another and saw the face of God in the eyes that looked back at us.  And there would be no suicides, no cutting, no starvation dieting by young girls, if when we looked in the mirror (or our reflection from the sea) we saw the face of God staring back.  

So, back to the question my student posed.  "If a person is alone on an island, with no one else around, do they exist?  Can we exist outside of relationship with another?"  

You see, we are never truly alone on a desert island.  God, and all of God's creation, is always with us, and in us. We are always in relationship with ourselves, and with God, even if we have no neighbor with whom to share that love.  

If we can open our hearts to this, if we can truly see God in all of creation, if we not only read and hear the words of Jesus, but live them out, imagine what the world could be like!  

Just imagine.

And now that you have imagined it, let's go and live it!

Chaplain Diana

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Legacy of Tyler For the World and the Church

It has taken me some time to move to a place where I could write about the events of the past several weeks, and the tragic loss of young lives.  There are no words to describe the spiritual pain of those driven to suicide, nor that of those left behind mourning them.  It seemed any attempt to write about it would never do justice to what has become a growing injustice in our society - and perhaps that is fitting.  But, I know that another reason I could not respond was that I was just too angry and too saddened to find the words.

What has happened to us?

I will leave it to the sociologists and psychologists to scientifically explain why one person would mistreat another person, or an animal, or why that seems to be escalating in the last several decades.  I am much more interested in saying what I feel needs to be said everyday by everyone.


Every person is our brother or sister.  The Tyler Clementi's of this world, and yes, the Dharun Ravi's and Molly Wei's.  Everyone.  We have a responsibility to not only live this message, but to work to ensure that all children feel it in their souls.

We must address both the bullying, and the suicides that follow.  We cannot turn our backs and say that "my child would never do such a thing" because all children are our responsibility as a society.  But even more, the church bears responsibility for its complicity in this system of oppression against gay children.  The message cannot be "love the sinner, hate the sin." Implicit in that is a condemnation of those who were created by God to love those of the same sex.  The church must stop the squabbling over scriptural interpretation and stand up for all the world to hear shouting "all of humanity is a creation of God, and as such, is good and loved by God, and fully welcomed at the table."  Period!

Any person who feels a need to marginalize another is feeling marginalized themselves.  The cycle builds on itself, and we must stop this carousel of inhumanity and say "NO MORE!"  Whenever a part of God's creation is harmed, we are all diminished.

And to all those who might believe that suicide or murder is an answer to the bullying - STOP!  You are loved beyond words.  You have a life waiting for you that is filled with possibilities, and experiences beyond your imagination.  We want to know you as you grow along your journey.  You matter to us, and to God.  You are not alone.  Nothing can ever separate you from the love of God.  If you are thinking about suicide, please contact this number immediately and they will assist you:

1-800-273-TALK (English), 1-888-628-9454 (Spanish)

All of us must do whatever we can to pay attention, to be the ones to stand up against injustice, to stop our busy lives to listen to the silence of one who struggles to speak who they are, and to see in everyone we meet the face of God hungering for our recognition.

Whenever we face a tragedy, we hear the words "Never Again."  This time, let's make them more than just words.

God's Peace,
Chaplain Diana

Saturday, September 25, 2010

One Path To God?

I heard a chaplain say the other day, "there is only one path to God...the one you are on."  This wisdom is important for all to hear.  We try so often to box God in - defining who or what the divine is, and how we are to hear and experience God.  When we do this, we are also drawing circles around our understanding - and those on the outside of the circle, we mark as outside of God's embrace.  

I know that there are many Christians who believe that the only path to God is through Jesus.  On the other hand, there are many, myself included, who believe that there are as many paths to God, as there are grains of sand.  Jesus for me is the window that I look through to"see" God.  It is the teaching of Jesus that I follow, and that has helped bring me closer to God.  But to say that Jesus is the only way is to say that God could not have created other windows through which to look, other paths to walk.  It is to imply that God could not have sent others, or communicated directly to others.  Who am I to say what God can and cannot do?  In the "house" of God, I would imagine there are many windows and doors, as many as might be needed for all of creation to experience the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer.

When we make these claims of exclusivity in relation to God's grace we begin to define boundaries.  It is the beginning of marking some as God's children, and others as condemned in some way.  We are not here to judge.  God loves EVERYONE, not just those who share our chosen path to the divine.  

Also at risk when we attempt to box God into one religious path is ecumenical understanding and relationships.  If we start with Jesus as the only path to God, the only way to receive God's grace, then we fail to recognize the Holy Spirit working in other ways.  Worse yet, we may try to force others to walk our chosen path, without regard to the culture or spiritual path of those we try to "save."  The Crusades and many missionary efforts are a testament to what can happen when we box God in, no matter how well intentioned we may be.  And, if God is capable of creating other paths, other windows to see through, then our efforts are a misguided attempt to board those windows up, to block the other paths.  We are trying to play God.

So, what are we, who define ourselves as Christians, to do?  "Walk in love, as Christ loved us" (Eph. 5:2, RSV)  It is really that simple.  When we model ourselves on Jesus, when we follow the two commandments he said were most important - to love God, and love our neighbor as ourselves - when we stop judging and look at everyone as we would Jesus himself, then we live out the Gospel.  It is in living it out that we open the door to others to experience God through Christ, and it is in opening ourselves to the many possibilities of God's movement within creation that we can truly "walk in love" with respect and open hearts to the spiritual windows that God has provided to others.

"There is only one path to God... the one you are on."

Chaplain Diana

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"We are not the web of life, we are but a thread of it..."

As I sit here in the MSU Redhawk Nest, I listen to the life of the campus (commuters mostly in this case), and think about the beginnings that are all around.  For some, the campus is new and unfamiliar.  New students launching an entirely different experience of their life journey, blazing a whole new path.  For others, they are returning, perhaps to their final year of this college experience. But, whether we are new here, or find these spaces all too familiar, we share a common bond of life, love, fear, joy, pain, expectation...of being a community bound by scholarship, but held together by the connectedness of human beings.

It is most important that we remember as we live and grow in community these words based on a quote attributed to Chief Seattle:  "We are not the web of life, we are but a thread of it.  What we do to the web, we do to ourselves.  All things are bound together.  All things connect."

There is a reason these words appear on my contact card (aka. business card).  

When we forget that we are all children of God, 
when we forget that God loves everyone (and I mean everyone), 
when we forget that we are all, everyone of us, responsible for the other, 
when we forget that we cannot be full when others are hungry, 
when we forget that we are all responsible for what happens to each other 
and all of creation, 
then we ourselves are lost.  

As a graduate student, chaplain, seminarian, homeowner...  the demands on time and space can seem overwhelming, as I believe it to feel for many students, staff and faculty on campus. But I have found that the exchange of energy in the universe is constant, and that in giving, we really do receive.  Deepak Chopra says “The universe operates through dynamic exchange…giving and receiving are different aspects of the flow of energy in the universe. And in our willingness to give that which we seek, we keep the abundance of the universe circulating in our lives.” 

So, welcome back to all the possibilities that await you, and to another day to live into all you can be as a child of God, in whatever way you experience that divine presence.

Chaplain Diana

Friday, August 13, 2010

Dancing Into Doubt

I love to leap across the shadows
to dance with the doubt
to break the bonds of yesterday
and run into the newness of tomorrow
as a child swings to reach the tree tops

I run not away
but to
not casting away all that was
but opening to all that can be
unconcerned with the emptiness or fullness of the glass
but drinking with joyful thirst all the water there

I am fully alive and flying with faith
soaring above the clouds
creating what will be
from what is not yet
and meeting God
in me
and all around me

I dance with the doubt
so I can
fly with the faith.
Diana Wilcox  ⓒ 2010

The words above came into my head last week as I was preparing a sermon based on two of the Lectionary readings: Epistle - Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 and the Gospel - Luke 12:32-40.  After praying and asking to hear what the Holy Spirit was saying, the words "dancing into doubt" just floated into my consciousness.   

The very essence of faith is uncertainty.  If we know - then it’s not faith, but fact.  Uncertainty is the doubt that shadows faith.  Faith and doubt are intertwined like darkness and light.  It isn’t the doubt that we should fear, but what we do with it, or allow it to do to us, that immobilizes us like a deer caught in headlights or springs us free from our self-oppression.  Leaps of faith are just that, a giant jump, our feet lifting from the solid earth, stretching across a chasm of unknowns, in the hope of landing safely on the other side.  And, in that moment, in that mixture of heightened anticipation, we have not destroyed doubt, just passed through it.

Chaplain Diana