Last night I drove about ten blocks to a Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.
The church I sang in as a child was Lutheran.
The church I'm singing in this Advent season is a "community church" which is sort of non-denominational.
The meditation group my writer friend is leading on Tuesdays in Advent is being held in this Lutheran Church.
I was going to be playing every Tuesday evening at a small bistro in town.
I decided not to do it after much soul searching, feeling it was something that was draining to me and not uplifting, not nourishing.
I was worried that if I didn't do it I would lose out on the potential to make some money in tips and I would miss out on the free pizza they always gave me when I played.
When I decided to cancel those shows I was afraid.
I didn't know how I would fill the void they left in my month of December.
The very next day my writer friend announced her meditation group, meeting near my home, at this Lutheran Church.
It meets at the exact day and time I would be playing at the bistro.
Also, there is free soup and bread served and there is no admission fee.
So I went last night, ten blocks in the opposite direction of the bistro, at the time I would normally be setting up the PA system and hauling in my guitars and setting up my merchandise and my tip jar.
Instead, I parked my car and walked into the church carrying my favorite pink journal and my favorite pen.
So easy, so free.
So all about anticipation of something new and different.
Nothing about cost and performance and value placed on me and my abilities.
I met all new people, I ate the delicious winter vegetable soup.
I spread the nice butter on a slice I cut from the braided bread loaf and it tasted like Heaven.
I hugged my friend the leader and told her that this literally filled a void that was frightening to me.
She started our new Ignatian meditation practice by telling us the story from the Christian Bible of the prodigal son.
She asked us which person in that story did we think we were.
We wrote things in our journals about the story and what it meant to us.
Then we all went anywhere in the church we wanted to be and we all took half an hour to meditate.
We were supposed to try to ask God (or whomever, whatever) to give us input about the story and how it relates to us personally.
Or just sit there and breathe.
I sat alone and closed my eyes and said that I didn't know why I was there to hear that specific Bible story.
I sat a long time and then I suddenly realized that I had written in my journal that I was the son who stayed and toiled for the family but was not acknowledged, while my brother went out into the world and squandered his life only to be repeatedly brought back into the fold.
I suddenly realized though, as I meditated, that I was also the son who had gone into the world and had lost everything pursuing my headstrong dreams of glory.
I saw myself now as the returning failed son, coming over the hill in shame and humility.
I saw myself being welcomed with open arms by the father.
And suddenly I realized that I had said no to the Tuesday shows which represented me forcing the world to give me what it doesn't owe me, on my terms, in my stubborn way.
I realized that I was sitting right then in a church, the same kind of church I sang in as a child.
I thought about how I also got a revelation to join the church choir for Advent.
I suddenly thought that I have gone from playing my songs in bars and breweries and bistros three nights a week to going to churches on Tuesdays for meditation, on Wednesdays for choir practice, and on Sundays to sing in the choir.
Damn, that's so weird.
Then I had a vision of the Tarot card that shows the hobbling beggars right outside the warmly lit stained glass windows of the church.
If you read about the meaning of this card, it says that the beggars are doggedly, foolishly, unnecessarily, struggling to survive on nothing when they could enter the doors of the church and be welcomed and be saved.
The father in the prodigal son story says to his boy who has failed miserably, "I'm just glad you're alive. You don't need to apologize or work off your losses for me. You are my son and everything I have is yours."
On nights when I had watched people walk right past my merch table and put nothing in my tip jar time and time again and I knew there wasn't enough in there to go to the grocery store on my way home, I would sing this hymn for my own sake, just to get to this line, "....all things are mine 'cause I am loved, how can I keep from singing".
All things are mine because I am loved.
Do you believe that?
Loved by whom?
Is Santa Claus coming?
Are you going to hang your stocking by the fire?
Will you come downstairs in anticipation and look in your stocking on Christmas morning?
When you are an adult and you think you have nothing and no one in this world, you have forgotten.
You have forgotten that you are loved.
Walk blindly into the church from the bleak cold winter streets.
Did my brother do this?
Did he shuffle past the warmly lit windows of churches while he could still walk, while he could still stand?
I'm not going to make that mistake.
I have entered the church and I am being nourished after my long time of toiling.
Tonight I go out to the little town where my mother lives.
She's invited me out for dinner before my choir practice.
I also get to pick up boxes of my "High Priestess And The Renegade" album which was sold out and out of print.
A great loving supporter and fan gave me the money to print more CDs.
Tomorrow would be my brother's sixty-third birthday.
He died last year at this time.
He died with nothing and no one in a hospice center for indigent people in California.
They didn't know who had dropped him there they said.
He couldn't walk, he was incoherent.
He had advanced circulation problems and heart problems from years of smoking and negligence of his health.
I was able to speak to the hospice nurse who had cared for him.
She told me that when he came to them his legs were swollen three times their normal size.
My brother the quarterback of the football team, my brother the black belt in Karate, my brother the coolest guy I ever knew.
She said that he became more coherent after a few days of treatments and medications, nourishments.
His deterioration was too advanced for them to save him, but he was able to identify himself.
He asked that his mother be notified but only after he was dead.
She said that he was delusional, fearful, angry.
He was not able to feel that he was loved.
We tried to make him feel loved when he was in our midst but he was filled with some kind of deep shame and his mind was in utter madness much of the time.
He was the beggar just outside the church but he couldn't pass over the threshold and allow himself to be embraced.
I am not going to let that happen to me.
I see love all around me.
I feel love all around me.
I am being held up by my co-creator and I am grateful.
I am learning to humbly give up and give in.
I am learning to be lead.
I'm following the warm light and it has lead me inside to be nourished.
I don't know what's going to happen after Advent, but for now, I'm soaking it all in and I am grateful.
Enjoy this stillness of the winter Solstice, of the weeks of Advent.
I don't know what I think about Jesus, but he certainly was a good guy, so whatever.
I'm going to stay humble and accept the beauty of the season.
With great gratitude and love,