Jerusalem a Quarter Century Ago ~ A Celebration of Diversity

On the evening of November 18, 1986, beneath a full white moon, I walked across the city limits threshold into the Holy City of Jerusalem, entering on foot as pilgrims have done for thousands of years. My first act was to take a picture of the moon from the rooftop of the Moriah Hotel. What irony that Jerusalem (Salem) has been called the City of Peace since ancient times, for it's been completely destroyed twice, attacked 53 times and captured and recaptured 44 times in its six thousand year history. Yet, up on the Mt. of Olives in East Jerusalem there is the Church of the Pater Noster on whose walls the Rabbinic Prayer taught by Rev Yeshua and commonly known as the Lord's Prayer is inscribed on 140 separate illuminated ceramic tiles, each in a different language, including Chaldean, thought to most closely resemble the sound of the ancient Syro-Aramaic language which Yeshua/Jesus would have spoken in addition to Greek, which has recently been revealed to have been the primary language of the Galilee at the time when he was growing up and entering manhood there.


My personal mission in traveling to Israel was to do a Native American style grief Giveaway marking my first year of life without Phil walking beside me, tall and bearded, as he had for the fifteen years since we'd fallen in love while I danced to his guitar music one evening and then he joined me in sacred interpretive dance when someone put on the new recording of Jesus Christ Superstar. The first song Phil played for me was "Here Comes the Sun," which we sang at our rose garden wedding nine months later, with three white volcanoes looking on to the north and east.

I had vaguely thought to leave some of Phil's ashes somewhere in Jerusalem, but feeling the tension in the air which would soon erupt into the full-blown Intifada, I decided to head north to the Galilee. There I went out in a small boat onto Yam Kinneret ~the Sea of Galilee~ which is really a large lake~ and committed some of my Beloved's ashes to the sacred waters brought down from the snows of Mt. Hermon in Syria via the Jordan River from its triple source flows in the Israeli panhandle at (Dan) Banias (a mispronunciation of the Greek Panias), the most likely site of the Transfiguration of Christ near the city of Caesarea Philippi. I had saved some of the ashes to entrust to the base of a eucalyptus tree up on the Mount of Beatitudes on the north end of the lake. I picked up a small, alabaster smooth white stone from over the tree's roots to keep as a sacred exchange gift.

In mid-March of the following year, I was invited to return to Israel with my friends Mary and Martha (I was ordained to the priesthood on the Feast of Saints Mary and Martha and felt perfect harmony in joining their namesakes on pilgrimage to the home of the original sisters in Bethany outside of Jerusalem.) We were joined by a Roman Catholic priest as well. One morning back at the Sea of Galilee with Phil's ashes already blessing the water and hillside, my three companions and I shared Holy Communion on the shore of the lake near a Jewish cemetery where we stopped to honor the grave of Rachel, a young poet who was a founding member of an early kibbutz following the United Nations Declaration of Statehood of the modern nation of Israel in 1948. Finding refuge from the Holocaust, among the survivors were the people who brought ingenious irrigation engineering to the parched land and restored fertile green gardens, bringing bloom and food to the desert. The image below was taken right after our Eucharist as part of the story of our experiences by Martha Sawyer Allen, religion editor for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It was the Easter Sunday front page lead story in 1987, sensitively written by Martha on our pilgrimage together. She used Intercession Form B from the Eucharistic Rite in the Book of Common Prayer to divide the sections of the story thematically, with beautiful images of the people of the land, Arab and Jew, old ones and children, families and neighbors. In this image after we had prayed for all of them and for the world and our loved ones during our liturgy, I'm throwing crumb remnants of our hotel breakfast bread which served as consecrated communion bread into the holy water near the Jordan River estuary where Jesus had been baptized and on whose shores he walked and prayed alone and with friends.



To return to the first trip the preceding November, the day after my Giveaway of Phil's ashes in Galilee we returned to the City of Jerusalem. I marveled at standing in a square near the King David Hotel west of the entrance to the walled Old City, counting the many languages I overheard in lively conversation, whether political discourse or cultural comparison: Hebrew, Arabic, French, Polish, Russian, German, English, Japanese, English. And I heard them all while standing still, simply tuning alternately to the air waves within a few yards all around me. 

Later that afternoon I did the unexpected and broke into a spontaneous solitary prayer dance to consecrate my Giveaway grief to God, moving barefoot on stone a thousand years old in a former mosque upper room where the Last Supper of Christ is commemorated, above the site where King David's Tomb is thought to have been on Mt. Zion. As it happened, I was not as alone as I thought, moving freely in the sunlight pouring through a high southern window onto the stones at my feet. A month later one of the other American pilgrims who'd become a dear friend sent me the photograph she'd quietly taken, leaving others in our group to come back and see what I was doing, having lingered behind on my own. She peaked around the corner of the doorway and pointed her camera, for which I remain deeply grateful. Now I have an image of what grief looks like when it transfigures into the movement of Divine Grace and human gratitude.


Love Mantra for Letting Go
I bless you, I release you.
I set you free, I set me free.
I let you be, I let me be.


We went up to the Mt. of Olives after that, and I was again alone for a few moments among the gnarled and dwarfed olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane, just behind the viewpoint image below, a taxi and camel area from where one can look out over the Old and new City of Jerusalem. Both the Jewish and Arab Quarters are on the other side of the sealed Golden Gate on the east side of the wall, where pilgrims and commerce enter and leave together as ever through the same open gate ~ Lion's Gate, called Stephen's Gate by the Christians for our first martyr saint. There also, and both in the Muslim Quarter, are the healing Pool of Bethesda and the Church of St. Ann, mother of Miriam, mother of Yeshua~ Jesus' grandma. Today more than ever, Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem.



On the road between Galilee and Jerusalem lies the city of Nazareth and the Church of the Annunciation. Around the walls are large renditions of the Madonna and Child given by different nations. The Chinese Madonna was enthroned with a crown of pomegranates encircling her head, symbolizing the fertility of the Mother of God. My favorite was the Japanese Madonna, whose sleeves were composed of ten thousand pearls. A Franciscan friar took this picture of her with a visitor, blessed by the Christ Child among lotuses and pearls.


 
The Southern Poverty Law Center has an important service called Teaching Tolerance. In these inflammatory and anguished times of suspicion and fear, religious tolerance is essential, and it's also a lesson to be learned and lived in order for reconciliation and the restoration of peaceful coexistence such as that enjoyed in the 700 year Golden Age in which Jews, Christians and Muslims flourished together in diversity, mutually enriched by their appreciation of each others' cultural contributions between the eighth and late fifteenth centuries in Spain, most prominently in Cordoba.


Our Million Names for the Divine

There is a common human intuition for One Divine Source Being,
and each language has its own name for that Being, derived from
a meaningful source of origin within each one’s tribal culture.

The Arabic name for Divine Being, Allah, derives from the Semitic
root, El or Al, meaning Essence, Mystery, or the Great Mysterious,
as in Alleluia, meaning, Praise to the One Who Is.

The Hebrew name for the Holy One  (YHWH/Yahweh, “I Am that I Am”
or “I Am Becoming Who I Am Becoming”) is not spoken in common usage,
but the earliest reference name for Divine Being was El or Al, as the often used
Elohim (feminine plural form) in earliest texts of The Book of Genesis.

The English name for Divine Mystery, God, comes from the Germanic,
from which we also derive the word Good. Other Indo-European cultures
have their names, such as Durga, Dieu, Dio, Dios, Goddess, and there is
the Lakota Wakhan Thánka, and so on. Yogananda said that “the Divine Being
is revealed to us through the forms we hold dear.” The Holy One perhaps
enjoys these countless names, our highest human terms of reverence or
endearment for the Divine Beloved, Who alone fully knows  
Who It/He/She Is . . . and perhaps, who we are as well.

The Lakota/Dakota/Nakota Nations acknowledge the kinship of all life
when they enter and leave a sacred gathering with the words,
Mitakuye Oyasin ~ All My Relatives.
                     

Our Prayer to the Holy Oneness

Elohim/YaHWeH/Alla/God— 
Intervene.

Holy One, Yahweh— Mystery of Being—
Elohim— Many-wombed Mother—
Allah— Mystery of Being, All Compassion—
Christ— Anointed One—
Wakan Tanka— Child of Holy Oneness—
Intervene. 

We three Peoples of the Book
have abused and made it dangerous.
Meant to be the drama of God and awakening
humankind, meant to inspire, encourage and comfort
us, we have misunderstood and misused our sacred texts
as manuals for abuse and division.

Meant to guide the moral being toward the common good,
to comfort and deepen humanity’s soul with a sense of awe,
showing us ways toward intimacy with Mystery,
we’ve blasphemed the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Scriptures,
the Koran and You— confusing the One for the Other.

Throughout our histories we’ve committed this idolatry
in Your Name. For all of us, I am sorry—
especially for past and current rationalizations
we have made and do make, to attack and violate
each other irrationally—

Suffering Children of Israel
harden their hearts to others who suffer—
Misguided Followers of the Prince of Peace
condemn and torture each other—
Frustrated Children of Allah the Compassionate
wage violent war— 

All of us presuming or pretending license
to express human rage in Your name,
but in reality, our common motive
has been greed of the human ego for power.

Enfold us all with Your Love.
Illuminate us with Your purpose
for the good of all creation.
Shake us out of our immaturity.

Take us to Your Heart.
Let us listen to its rhythms.
Let us learn them.
Let us become them.
  
Let us become them. 
Let us become them.             

        Alla Renée Bozarth  

Purgatory Papers,
© 2008








                                             
                                                                           I AM

       You are

       I    mmortal

      A   stonishing

      M   ore

You have no need for a name —
          You are.
 
But we need to know You,
we need to be able to call on You,
greet You, invite You, entreat You,
wish You Good Morning and
thank You for a good day and
all the stars.

And so we ask
Who are You?
meaning, What
is Your name?

The only time You spoke
You spoke in fire.
Did the prophet hear
crackles of Your laughter
coming out of the glowing
green boughs?
 
“I have no name but
you want to call Me
something, Friend, and
I agree.

"You cannot call Me No Name,
so call Me what — I Am. 
Essence of flame
Breath of sky
Being of light
Sound of the dark
                                                                               I Am

                                                                               And  
      I Am Becoming What I Am
  
“And remember, Beloved,
                                                                           You are 
My image.
To give Me worth and praise
you must simply be yourself,
claiming all complexity and
infinitude, for you are I Am.

“We are relatives,
Essence and essence,
Mystery and mystery,
            We are.”


                                                              Alla Renée Bozarth
 
                                             This is My Body— Prayers for Earth,
                                            Prayers from the Heart, iUniverse 2004

Format: Paperback
Shalom/Salaam/Peace: A Liberation Theology of Hope in Israel/Palestine (Religion and Violence)
The Rev. Dr. Constance Hammond wrote this book from deep personal passion for the plight of the people who share the land of Israel/Palestine today. With equal parts compassion and well-documented historical and theological perspectives, she outlines the story of the land and its people as one of Biblical proportions in which oppressed people and people in power bring mutual animosities and transcendent discipline as they struggle through and try to resolve ancient conflicts in modern terms. The author indeed creates a theology of hope which includes peace with justice for Jews, Christians and Muslims in the land where each tradition is historically and spiritually rooted, and where periods of peace in the past have been fragile and few.

Dr. Hammond draws from the experience of her involvement in the struggles of refugees from war-torn countries in Africa and Latin America as the backlighting for her perspective on Israel/Palestine today. She founded the Refugee Immigration Ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts during the height of the conflict in El Salvador. Though Dr. Hammond's ministry has been in Oregon and Washington State since 1990, her original work is carried on by a new generation of workers. She is much beloved by the hundreds of families who have received the care and determination of her ministry, both in helping them create new lives and in nurturing the faith which has kept them alive.

Her frequent visits to the Holy Land place her in the pilgrimage tradition of its people. Her voice is that of a Christian priest of the Episcopal Church in America, while her vision embraces the Three People of the Book and offers them the basis of Liberation Theology that emerged from the struggles and faith of people in Latin America.

This book opens the heart and clarifies the mind as the human family ponders the specific and global challenges of Middle East politics. I recommend it for all who care about the Holy Land, its history and those who live there now. May they find their way, each within their distinctive cultures, and together as human beings trying to share a piece of land that is shockingly small compared to the millions now claiming turf there. Peace to them all.That is Dr. Hammond's core message.

The Rev. Dr. Alla Renée Bozarth, author of Moving to the Edge of the World, iUniverse 2000 and This is My Body-- Praying for Earth, Prayers from the Heart, iUniverse 2004.
                                                                                                            


Each Mortal Life

Suffer me not to be separated . . .
        Anima Christi77

Everyone’s life is a continuation
of the Gospel, the Torah and the Talmud,
everyone’s life is a psalm, a song
from the Sacred Koran, expressing or not
a Noble Truth, following or stumbling or falling
from the paths and ways of Wisdom and Sense,
a bane or beatitude, and in these realms
of dark and light mystery, at least sometimes,
a strange journey through beauty.

{And unnoticed beauty is still beautiful.}

This is my station of torment,
my Zen farm of peace,
my strengthening studio, my dojo,
my tantra and metta, my yoga
and heart’s temple,
my love nest, my cloister,
my Mecca, my House of God,
this is my exquisite tea room,
my concert hall and cave,
my chaotic workshop
and holy well, my beautiful
sanctuary, my new and ancient
fullness of meaning, my altar
of celebration and thanksgiving~~
O God, while I am in Life,
Suffer me Not to be Separated
(by distraction, despondency or willfulness)
from this suffering paradise.

                      Alla Renée Bozarth 
Purgatory Papers and Diamonds in a Stony Field
Copyright 2012



Ghost of My Childhood

The Indian mother sitting in dazed silence,
rocking her grief inside her empty arms
like the children she’d lost in the fire,
her elder daughter standing mute beside her,
noble in her stillness that had now gone beyond
tears, words, movement.

The orange flickering wakened me
at three in the morning, the crackling noise,
even in the darkness of dream sleep
at nine years of life I knew the signs
of overwhelming catastrophe.
I woke my father. That is how he entered
his thirty-third birthday, November 25th and already
hard winter. It was the cold. Two cheap heaters going,
and the Indian family still shivered and froze,
until one of them exploded into a killing heat.
The bitter, violent east wind beat their thin shack
clear through, breaking the burning bones of its togetherness,
breaking them into heart-piercing splinters and spears.
Through the charred and smoking remains
the next morning, fire fighters found a child’s arm
beneath the window, where, outside, someone had tried
so hard, so terribly hard, to pull the girl through
the wildly broken glass. Afterwards, after the smoke and wind,
after the family, now half of itself, all female,
went to a shelter and waited for Welfare to help them—
my father wept. He thought no one saw him
confess his frustration, how he felt when he held
that bloody, cindered, tiny body in his arms,
lifeless, the same age as his daughter.

There were many times in my life later on
which echoed that night and the next morning,
when I stood before a grief so complete, so cosmic,
so silent, offered hot soup or tea to unseeing hands,
when I stood respectfully mute to the side of eyes blinded
by too-much of what they had seen, and knew
that not my kindness, not anything, could get through
to comfort a sorrow I could not imagine,
not even when life had finally brought it also to me.

                  Alla Renée Bozarth
       Purgatory Papers, copyright 2012.



Broom Wars in Bethlehem             

You think the Arabs and Jews
are the only people fighting for turf
in the Holy Land?

Why leave out the Christians?
Aren’t they also human beings?
Where there are humans
there will be power struggles
and turf wars.

Even if there is only one human,
sooner or later, a fight will start.
Ego will try to crush superego
and have its way, then id will come up
and wipe out everyone.

But as long as there are two humans,
the mind won’t have to go after itself.
It can beat up the other person.

Didn’t the Holy One (Blessed Be He?)
tell Adam and Eve to dominate everything?
Well, that’s the translation anyway.
Top creature has rights, and God (or someone)
said that humans are here to dominate and
use everyone else, even each other if they can,
and everyone and everything else is here
to serve and please the new species.
I ask you, does that make sense?
What kind of a nutter creator
would allow that? No, it was
the person telling the story,
period. And translators didn’t help.

All three People of the Book
go by the Book when it tells them
they are at the top of the hierarchy of creatures,
but they still want the chance to prove food chain supremacy.
What’s their most recent display?

In the Holy Land today all is calm for the moment between Arabs and Jews.
The Christmas pilgrims have cleared out of Manger Square and left
the Church of the Nativity a mess. Dust, sand, mud, gum wrappers, 
used Kleenex, you name it. Cleanup means trouble. 

Even though the Orthodox Christians won’t be coming until 
their Christmas Eve (which is Western Rite Epiphany), 
everybody else did enough damage.

The situation is ripe for the local clergy to start acting up.
They all get out their brooms, priests and monks, all men.
They start sweeping. In less than two minutes an Armenian sweeps over
the arguable invisible line that marks the borders between Armenia and Rome 
on the stone floor. First it’s a verbal warning. Then a loud defensive call,
then the shouting begins and dozens of men in black— Latins, Russians, 
Greeks, Armenians are clobbering each other with their respective brooms.
A hockey fight breaks out among holy men brawling again.

This happens all the time. Over at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
it’s worse. If any nuns are around they try to break up the brawling brooms
and separate the boys, but pretty soon, they’re yelling too, 
first at the idiot men who’ve completely lost dignity, then 
at each other as territoriality overtakes everyone.

The rule is that anyone who cleans or repairs a portion
of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem or
the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem owns
that part of it. You can see how the problem arises.
After the stress of the crowds, the caretakers need a release
and a turf war is bound to break out. A custodial moment
is just the occasion.

Back in Bethlehem dozens of fools for Christ
have forgotten all about Christ and are trying
to kill each other, but local authorities intervene.

The Israeli Army shows up to pull them apart and restore order.
Good. Just in time for Palestinian musicians to come forth with Peace
and serenade the masses with a Christmas Concert of Beethoven, Mozart, 
Tchaikovsky and Gabriel Fauré. It was beautiful. The musicians were superb.
Merry Christmas, everyone.

The liberal Israeli evening newspaper Haaretz featured a story 
about the event in praise of the gift of music while cautioning readers 
not to forget that there was no peace while denizens of Palestine and 
citizens of Israel were still fighting one another, and walls wrapped up 
holy places in stone and turned towns into prisons, in a land where 
Palestinians and Orthodox Jews both  throw stones at secular-owned 
Israeli buses carrying international peace-keeping passengers on Jewish 
Shabbat, for different reasons and from different directions.

Similarly, a decade ago in northern India the Sikh Golden Temple
(center of a religion founded to be a reconciling bridge between
Moslems and Hindus by standing against religious discrimination
and all forms of prejudice and oppression) was attacked and under
a long siege by both Moslems and Hindus.

I still remember the Holy Land Christmas story I read forty years ago
in The Chicago Tribune. It reported a tragedy. A donkey was tethered 
in Manger Square. Someone had painted a sign and draped it over
the donkey’s back. On one side the sign said “Jew,” and on
the other side it said “Arab.”

The donkey was dead in an hour.
The sign was riddled with holes on both sides.
It was impossible to know which bullet had killed her.

She may have been a nursing mother.
What would have become of her orphaned child?

Around the corner on a small side street behind Manger Square
there is a modest shrine called The Milk Grotto.
It commemorates the Nursing Madonna.

The Blessed Mother feeds her infant the gift of life.
He, too, will be killed before his fortieth birthday.
The land is holy but its history is marked by unholy wars
and all who live there are in hell.
 
It’s always something. But no matter what it is, 
the mothers feed their newborn children 
and tears flow from their bodies with milk as they pray,
“Live long and in peace, my child. Live long and create peace,
and be safe. Be happy, my child. . . . My child.”                  

 Alla Renée Bozarth
Purgatory Papers
  Copyright 2012



Freedom and Forgiveness

The Grand Tragedian or the Great Comedian~
the Mind within the Universe gives us baffling
inconsistencies and infinite possibilities— and
from time to time we would like to ask for an apology.

Being broken fragments of that Loving Intelligence,
we contradict ourselves and forget who we are.
Our prayers go sullenly silent to punish the Holy One.
And the Holy One takes the punishment, grieving and
suffering over and also within us.

From time to time, Love goes wrong.
We miss the mark, offend or harm, and from time to time
we are harmed by others—

The way to overcome such things
is to give or receive forgiveness as needed—
Its actions are threefold, but only one or two
may apply in the moment. One must feel remorse
to ask for forgiveness, and therefore most rarely,
forgiveness can free the offender from guilt and grief;
more often, forgiveness can free those offended or harmed
from the soul-bending burden of resentment and festering rage;
forgiveness can free a loving bond from alienation.

Bitterness keeps the broken hearted broken.
Forgiveness mends shattered selves
and binds torn relationships anew, and deeply.

Forgiveness liberates the soul from ill-will.
Forgiveness liberates the grudge-bound mind.
Forgiveness relieves the body from sickening stress.
Forgiveness gives freedom of the spirit from oblivion.
Forgiveness frees the broken heart to live again.

Forgiveness re-minds each person to be more care-full,
to dissuade hurtful words and acts of omission or commission.
Forgiveness liberates lives to fulfill their nobler destinies
and to love again.                                                                  
                              Alla Renée Bozarth
                Purgatory Papers, copyright 2011.


A Prayer for Giving and Receiving Forgiveness

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those 
               who trespass against us.

Holy One, Loving and Beloved Source of All that Is,
into Your Wholeness I surrender my brokenness. 

You Who contain what is whole and what is broken
in an inseparable bond of Possibility and Grace, free my spirit
of uninformed expectations and bless it with true hope
in Your Power to transform evils into blessings.

Though I know not the way, I surrender my grief to Your Healing Light.
I surrender my anger to Your Soothing Balm.
I surrender my self-loathing to Your Absolute Love.

You Who Live Within those whom I’ve harmed by will or by accident, 
or who have passed on their harm to me— I align my desire with Your own, 
that they be deeply healed, not only of the injury and hurt I’ve caused them 
or they have caused me, but of all the harms they have endured in their lifetimes.

Especially I ask this with all my heart for the person whose hurt 
sits in my heart like a fractured stone, piercing it through. . . .

By their healing may I be forgiven, 
and by this forgiveness may I also be healed.
Though I know not how You will bring well-being about,
I entrust them and myself to Your Infinite Mystery and Hidden Mercy,
and the secret and surprising ways by which You cherish us all
and restore us each to Oneness with You.

So that I may be open to Your Workings within me, I ask You to empower me
with the ability to release others from the harm they have done me.
I hold in my own vision the particular burden of blame which I carry . . .
I breathe out my cleansing breath and with it surrender the vision of it to you.

Open my inner eye to see those who have hurt me as You see them,
with mature detachment—  their own hurts and limitations,
the tangled and poisoned routes along which they have sojourned, 
the burdens they carry and the battles they endure, in life and in their spirits and minds.

Let me bear no further anger against them to compromise their own healing.
Let me nurture no negative emotions toward them to prevent my own healing.

May the contaminants of resentment which I have contributed to the Universe
now be obliterated and All Creation be healed of them.

Into Your Loving Wisdom and Absolute Acceptance, I release them all.
May they be dissolved in the sacred flame that transforms lead into gold.
Blessed Art Thou, Intimate Friend, Mother and Father, Sister and Brother, 
Lover and Source~ Living Essence and Pulse of the Universe. Amen.

                                   Alla Renée Bozarth
                   Purgatory Papers, copyright 2011.


A Creature’s Prayer for True Community

O Mysterious One,
You who longed us
into reality, guide us now
into its fullest and best.
O Lonely One,
You who desired us
into our being, bless us now
with kindly kinship—

  Let there be between us
  and growing among us
  that trusting spirit
  of true cooperation,
  whose creative power springs from
  mutual good will,
  reciprocal expression
  and convivial intention—

    and manifests in that luminous outcome
    that is Your Own dream coming true. Amen!

                 Alla Renée Bozarth
 The Frequency of Light, copyright 2011.

                                       *   *   *
 
                       A Prayer Room for All People

        From “Praising Allah at a hospital,” by Nancy Haught
                  The Oregonian, September 30, 2006

         For Dr. Masud Ahmad, faithful in prayer, and
         Christine Wallace, who made the vision a reality.

When you begin {any of the five times daily prescribed}
to praise the Holy One ~ Allah ~ which means
The Mysterious ~ The Source ~ The Essence ~
it will lead you into a river current which you will not
be able to stop, until it takes you to its still point,
the place where names and meanings merge ~
as in the ancient El/Elohim, for Whom the mouth forms
its Alleluias beyond all meaning and thought.

The man who walks and has walked the halls of Providence St. Vincent 
Medical Centers for over thirty years now, to listen to the hearts
of men and women~ those committed to his care~ this doctor needs
to offer them in prayer to The One Who Is All. With all these precious,
strong and fragile hearts in his holy, healing hands, his surgeon’s nerves
unfurl before the Nameless, the Invisible, like wings flying toward heaven
to be blessed, to be guided, to be true to the Spirit that leads them
through the millions of rivers that flow out and return in to the core.

But where? In a broom closet? A locked medicine room?
A porch outside an Emergency Exit door?
Or a tiny patient interview room  
“deep in the heart of the giant hospital”?

And where will the compass be on such dark walls
to show him the direction of Mecca?
And how will he spread out his prayer rug to kneel
in such a small space, or touch his forehead to the floor,
and then stand again to pray so softly but yet aloud,
for passing angels to hear and stop to add their blessing energies?

The pastoral care minister came to notice the doctor’s dilemma
in finding a quiet place to pray, and she was able to arrange for a room near
the Roman Catholic hospital Chapel to become the Muslim Prayer Room.
 
It is said that Moses advised Mohammed to petition for mercy when
Allah/Elohim decreed that the Surrendered Soul should pray fifty times a day.
“Your followers will not be able to bear it,” the Prophet told Mohammed.

The Holy One cut the number in half, but Moses insisted that, too, was too much, 
and a second and finally third appeal concluded with these times
through the day for a person to pray: Upon arising, When the sun is overhead,
At mid-afternoon, At sunset, and Upon retiring.

For whatever shift the Muslim worshipper might be on duty
in the Roman Catholic hospital, whose doors are open to serve all people,
this room, filled with natural light from high windows, will also be open.
People receiving care and their families will find welcome here. 
At night, witnessing stars will burn as prayer candles through the window glass.

Two women artists pray as they paint the wall which indicates
the direction of Mecca~ an exquisite sacred abstraction
in intricate curves of green~ the color of Islam, the color of Peace~
with accents of burgundy and gold~ an elaborate geometric design
that rises from a straight line to a diamond form crowned by an arch.

Her head covered in a white scarf, the brush at home and steady in her hand,
Tasneem Rahman says that this Center is a holy place for her, filled with joys
and one great sorrow. She bore three children here, and her son Mustafa died
here as well, from injuries following an automobile accident.

“I prayed in the rooms where my children were delivered,” she reflects,
but goes on to say that when her son died she longed for a private sanctuary,
a safe enclosure where she could feel one with God.

Now the artist completes such a place for herself and for others,
hoping that people of other religions who might discover this room
will recognize symbols of their own traditions within the sacred design,
and find peace. As a blessing she says with a looped stroke of her brush,
“We wanted to make it easier for people of all faiths.”
Blessed indeed are those who will come, and every prayer from among them.

                                         Alla Renée Bozarth
                       My Passion for Art, copyright 2011.

God Speaks My Language

God speaks the vernacular.
Anybody’s, any time, anywhere.
Speaks the vernacular of any mood I’m in.
Say, when I want to ask my computer
for a blank piece of paper, what do I ask for—
Give me a blank piece of space?
Along some comes, and says, “Go ahead, Honey.
Say what you mean. God speaks computer.”
Imagine that. God can read, too.
And in computereeze.
(See, now, the computer, bless its rigid
little heart, doesn’t like that, tried to correct me,
but God knows what I mean and says)
“Leave it be, Child. Get on with it, now.”
So I just tell Her, Mama, I sure am glad
you talk my language and know stuff
without words or even with wrong words.
Just wanted to say, Thanks.
This is the mood I’m in now, and it turns out to be
some kind of subjunctive mood. They all are. T e n t a t i v e. Provisional.
It could change like that and turn medieval English, or Chinese,
or not so friendly, even get cold and mad and sulky.
Well, That’s all right. But you gotta know
everything’s okey dokey with the Divine.
God don’t mind attitude. That means,
I can give it to Her when I’m huffy stupid.
She just laughs. I like that! Lets me be.
God don’t even mind atheists.
Hell, you and I exist, whether anyone believe it or not.
So, why not? That’s just the way She Is. Big. Really,
really Big.  Bigger than everything put together.
Bigger than your hopes and dreams and memories
and everything you can imagine combined.
I like that. I like somethin’ That Big.
Bigger than the ocean and bigger than the whole sky.
Bigger than forever.
Somethin’ That Big that loves me. It loves you, too.
So we better find a way to love each other.
That’s all.                              

           Alla Renée Bozarth  
The Frequencies of Sound 2011.

           A Creation Story

Perhaps even the Creator struggled
not to let success be a ruin to the solitary visionary artist.
Perhaps that is why there is so much apparent failure
most of the time before first sight of success. Even after.

A writer whose work was rejected 129 times,
then after decades of nothing became a best seller,
said this: Who knew, through all those years when I thought
I was stuck in failure, deteriorating in addictions,
absorbing one demoralizing rejection after another,
that I was really creating a meaningful life?

Alice Sebold wrote a novel, The Lovely Bones, about the fourteen year old
girl who had been raped and murdered in the same tunnel a few weeks before 
her own rape twenty years earlier there, and in creating the work, she overcame
despair and the long, reactive deformation of her psyche, from which even
identifying the rapist and seeing him receive the maximum sentence at his trial
had not saved her. 

When the book came out and was instantly praised as triumphantly
compelling, the story told in the murdered girl’s own voice from heaven,
she said, “It's very weird to succeed at 39 years old and realize that
in the midst of your failure, you were slowly building the life that you wanted.”

Who can know when immersed in it what one is really doing?
Political prisoners incarcerated, isolated and half-starved
for decades, one day with no explanation are suddenly freed,
pass through open doors and into a world that has had the time it needed
to welcome them back and make them its president and virtual savior.
Look at Mandela in exhausted South Africa, bringing equality and new life
and respect to the people, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, economist
and grandmother, elected president of ravaged, woman-hating Liberia,
cleaning out corruption, ending the common practice of gang rape 
on women and children as young as three month old baby girls, and 
passing a law making rape punishable, with no exceptions, by life in prison. 

It still can be a world where innocent captives survive their tortures
and live to be freed to free others, and those who are truly guilty
are punished and permanently put out of business.

Other than failure, the way to cope with success
is to shift your focus, as the Creator did in the common tale,
attending to a different aspect of creation each day,
to keep it all moving toward its own eventual wholeness,
and then, to leave sufficient imperfection in the specifics
of the design that it could go on shaping itself according to its internal
options and evolving nature, the Creator also changing in creative interaction~
and thereby Creation would become Co-Creator, each partaking in both,
and relieving the other.

The final thing in the familiar story that is valuable to note
is that when Her main work was done, the Creator rested.
My guess is that She slept as well, between one day of creation 
and the next, even before Her big rest at the end. 

Which is why She invented the good idea of sleep 
for creative and creating creatures, a category which includes you and me.

And also, it can be safely assumed that in-between active phases
of work and play and rest (which allows for deeper activity), 
the Creator played with Her Creative Creation, and loved it all,
one way or another, in each of its phases and particulars.
And since the story is told in mythic time, it is still going on,
all of that wonderful work, rest, play and love . . .
still going on in all of our lives, a rhythm that happens naturally
when we play along, when we let ourselves be what we be,
and love us because and anyway, and every eighth day or so,
start creating our world all over again.

               Alla Renée Bozarth 
Purgatory Papers, copyright 2011.



                 God’s Knees                         

Sometimes I feel like a little kid
lost in the department store or circus, and
desperately trying to find God’s knees.
All I can see is a confusing kaleidoscope
of hodgepodge colors, people’s pant legs
or skirt hems and shoes and bare skin.
They all look like they’re lost, too.
Then I feel a tug on my arm.
In my desperation I forgot that
Someone was holding my hand.
I look up and see my little hand
tucked into a large and well-worn hand,
a rough worker’s hand, competent
and strong, but gentle too, and smooth
where it holds onto mine.
I follow that big hand up a huge, muscular arm,
all the way to its shoulders, and there I see this
amazing face, old and young at the same time,
rough and smooth and pink and brown with all
the rainbow dancing around from the light
that comes out of nowhere. I don’t know
if it’s a grandmother or grandfather face.
But it’s looking at me and it smiles.
It smiles like it knows all it needs to know, and it knows me
through and through. And one of its eyes winks
at me and then the smile opens to a grin,
and the Face lifts up to move ahead and the Hand
squeezes mine, and we’re walking together,
side by side, and I don’t feel so small anymore,
even against the biggest body I’ve ever seen.
We’re walking together, and somehow
the One holding my hand lets me know
that even though I’m scared and don’t know
where I am or where we’re going, and even
if we get hurt somehow, we’re okay, and we’ll be okay.
And I’m not just being cared for and loved—
I ~tiny, lost me~ am being respected.

                    Alla Renée Bozarth   
Diamonds in a Stony Field and  
Learning to Dance in Limbo, copyright 2011

       The Maze

In a field of maize,
a man made a maze~~
let the crop grow
taller than a man,
tall as a giraffe, then
mowed and cut and trimmed it
into the shape of confusion,
and gave it to Great Mystery
and said, This is life, isn’t it?
And Great Mystery said,
You said it.
Question mark and all.
You know, said Mystery,
it’s what you’ve made so far
out of what I gave you
to begin with.
It’s not done yet, either.
Other folks are coming along
through this thing behind
and ahead of you, some of them
not human, some of them invisible,
and everybody that’s coming through
does a little adding and subtracting
and multiplying and dividing,
and some even make bridges and 
segues to new mazes.
What a contribution!

Now everybody has to figure it out,
this multi-mazed complexity,
and get on through it. First thing
they decide out loud is, I better call out and
see with my ears if anyone else is here,
and ask them to help me figure out
where I am, Yes, just where in the world
I am. Pretty soon everybody is talking
at once and the shape of confusion
becomes downright audible. By and by,
though, they start to figure out the best ways
to communicate and from that, the best ways
to go. It takes time. It takes everyone time.
But it’s better than boredom. This maze
is better than being bored somewhere else.
So folks are willing. Folks go through it.
They find it is an amazing thing.
They call out to each other, Where are you?
That far? or Don’t worry, turn left now and
three steps forward. Stand still and I’ll find you.

And they do find each other. They hold hands.
They synchronize their paces, separate, explore,
find each other some more. They remind each other to rest.
They help each other when a stick pokes someone,
or someone gets sick or someone goes crazy and shoots someone,
or does something else really stupid, instead of moving along and discovering
things all around that appear on their own, and prove to be amazing.
And by and by, they begin to notice that Everyone and Everything is a-mazing.
They say, You are amazing! They stop in their tracks and stand there and
take a big breath, and with a hand over their heart they say, I am amazing!

                                              Alla Renée Bozarth
                       The Frequencies of Sound, copyright 2011


 A Prayer for Luminosity

I pray that you will be tuned
to recognize all of God’s sweet
surprises for you throughout your life,
and when Luminous Presence appears,
you will feel the great joy of gratitude.
I pray that your life will give you
more joy than sorrow,
that pain will be small and fleeting,
and that you will learn ways
to turn pain into blessing.
I pray that in hard times you will be able
to recall the beauty that shines
among prickles and thorns.
I pray that you will find the beauty within you
to respond to the beauty outside you.
I pray that you will know every day
how fully love embraces you.
I pray that you will live and move and be in Grace,
and that this Grace will give you the power to give,
and the freedom to receive.
I pray that you will grow in wisdom.
I pray that you will create your own ways
to celebrate the Mysteries, and to be happy.

Alla Renée Bozarth
 The Frequency of Light, copyright 2011.

My soul friend Anne Shams, a Portland artist, neuromuscular therapist, teacher and dancer, brought her dream to me one day many years ago. She dreamed of a sacred pillar, which either bore wings then or grew them later in her waking meditation. I told her about the Shekhinah, the Divine Feminine appearing to the pilgrims on the Sinai on their way from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land of their ancestors in what later would be called Israel, the name given to Jacob after his successful night-long wrestling match with God's angel in a dream. The name means "One who wrestles with God and prevails." The Shekhinah,  meaning "Dwelling," as the dwelling place of the Holy One among Earthlings, stayed with the wanderers in the form of a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day. She accompanied them and kept up their faith and their strength in their times of loss and doubt and sheer exhaustion. After 500  years of slavery, they perhaps needed 40 years to get used to freedom, which turns out to have hardships of its own. By the time that Moses finally peered over the summit of Mt. Nebo in today's Jordan and died fulfilled, and Joshua and Caleb went on down and over the Jordan into the Promised Land as standard bearers carrying the Ark of the Covenant between them, the identity of slavery had become a dim memory. Following the sound of the shofar they entered the holy land of deliverance as people made strong by adversity who had grown free in their minds. When they'd started out, it was the dancing prophet Miriam, sister of Moses, who'd played her tambourine and danced a thanksgiving prayer of praise for safe passage across impossible waters which did not engulf them but gave them a bridge of light and hope, opening the way for the long pilgrimage home. The pillar of light and the pillar of fire formed for the day and night Divine Duty to sustain them. When Anne heard this story, she was moved to continue her own outer research and inner reflection. She created a large glass painting consisting of four grids of 12 panels each, and invited two other artists, a young male Muslim and an older Jewish woman painter to create their own works reflecting on the Wilderness Journey from their traditions. With Anne's Christian heritage tradition, she and they displayed their works as an act of creative reconciliation and cooperation among the three People of the Book: Jews, Christians and Muslims. The show called Wilderness Journey was displayed at a Jewish Community Center, in a church and in a mosque in the city of Portland, Oregon. Be sure to click on the images to see them beautifully enlarged.


                                                             
The Wilderness Journey
 
Beautiful Fused Glass Work of Art by the artist, Anne Shams is for Sale from the Artist's Studio! "The Wilderness Journey" is available for purchase as a special acquisition for a synagogue, church, mosque, seminary, retreat center, diocesan center or other institution or individual. Please pass on this information wherever or to whomever you think there would be an interest. Please share on your own Facebook Timeline and post today!

"The Wilderness Journey" ~To view close ups of sections and the other side, and for purchase and installation information:  anneshamsart.info/AnneShamsArt.info/Work_for_Sale.html

In response to the comment and question posted with this piece, "No other religion is Biblically the 'right' one. So how is it that Christian churches are blending with Jews and Muslims who are not right with God?"
+  +  +
Because not all Christians feel that God turns away those who do not follow strict doctrines of our own or any religion. We believe that holiness depends on the goodness of a person's heart and mind, and above all, behavior of loving kindness toward others. We regard the example of Jesus as teaching this attitude of non-judgementalism and acceptance of all who are in need of soul friends. He rebuked his disciples for pushing away those in need who were not one of their own group, and he treated outsiders the same as he treated Jews, such as the Syro-Phoenician woman who did not share the Jewish faith of Rabbi Yeshua. Her story is found in Mark 7:25-30 and is paralleled in Matthew 15:21-28. Likewise, the woman of Samaria (the woman at the well) was an outsider, yet Jesus saw into her heart and treated her honestly yet gently. She is actually considered the first evangelist for being sent by Jesus to tell others the "good news" of their conversation at the well. Whenever he saw someone ill or in trouble, he helped, without asking for their religious agreement with the Jewish laws. He accepted everyone and saw them with a loving and non-judging heart. Only hypocrites (such as the Pharisees) or those who wanted him to stop associating with "outsiders" received his rebuke. This example leads me to believe that Jesus taught about the God of open arms who took all beings into the warmth of the Divine Embrace, who recognized the suffering of all creatures and responded to all with unconditional compassion. Common belief in such a loving Creator allows people of different faiths to treat each other with respect and good will. Only those who violate the laws of loving kindness, goodwill, justice and mercy receive condemnation, not only from Jesus in his time, but from all people who practice the code of human decency and goodwill, and who live out their faith with loving kindness, justice, mercy and integrity. That is the important factor that allows Jews, Christians, Muslims and others who share these values to come together now to condemn hatred and violence practiced by whoever commits crimes and sins against humanity and creation, not only as guilty of terrible crimes, but guilty of blasphemy and sacrilege by committing atrocities against any part of Beloved Creation ~ in the very name of the Holy One, as all faiths regard our Loving Creator.  +  +  +

Some years later Anne began a new series called Al-Andalus: Pardes/Paradise, in celebration of the Golden Era centering in Cordoba, Spain, the seven hundred years of peaceful coexistence and mutual respect, friendship and enrichment among artists, scholars, government and religious leaders of all three sister traditions: Jewish, Christian and Muslim. She painted beautiful images of the Tree of Life representing our origins in Paradise~ one an olive tree and one a pomegranate tree, the masculine and feminine colors of each symbolizing our human ancestors in the garden.

                                                                  Pomegranate Tree of Life


                                                Paradise Lies at the Feet of the Mothers



Dancing toward the Promised Land

I, Miriam, took my tambourine
and finger cymbals with me
out of the land of slavery
with its daily insults and petty
exemptions, and so remain always
ready to dance on the long, long journey,
dance at every victory, beginning with
surviving the Passover, then the strange
occurrence when the Red Sea dried beneath
our feet as we ran, safely passing over the narrow
strip onto the Sinai Peninsula, all the way out
from the land of longing toward the storied memory of Home.

I danced to the song that spilled out of me,
loud up to Heaven, rejoicing on hopeful feet,
rejoicing with arms flying through warm air like wings,
and water followed me all the way through
the great desert, to keep the people alive and faithful.

God knows it may take a long time to return.
It’s been five hundred years, after all.
A long time gone, but our stories keep it alive
in our hearts. I wonder if I’ll live to see it from
the mountains across River Jordan. I wonder
if I’ll be an old woman, and dance down
the side of Mt. Nebo with arms wide open,
heart fluttering strong, leading the way
with cymbals and songs into the Promised Land.

  Alla Renée Bozarth
My Blessed Misfortunes, copyright 2011.
Also shown on the "Philadelphia Ordinations" post and page.


To view all of Anne Shams' beautiful interfaith contributions of art, the greatest transforming agent of human consciousness to which religious, philosophical and scientific traditions refer, visit her website:

www.anneshamsart.info/AnneShamsArt/Welcome.html

Except for Anne Shams' art works, all pictures not of Alla were taken by Alla.