Thursday, June 11, 2015


I was struck this morning when I was watching the morning news with the story of the travelers in Malaysia who stripped naked on top of Mount Kinabalu and posted it on social media.  They were picked up at the airport and are now in jail for indecent behavior.  They disrespected a sacred place and according to some -  caused the earthquake that came a few days later. 

Eleanor Hawkins, one of the ten, was quoted by her father as being very sorry:
     "She knows what she did was stupid and disrespectful and she is very sorry for the offence she has caused the Malaysian people. She has never been in any sort of trouble before."

And as I read Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser, I wonder if this is one of these times that she is being "broken open. " There is nothing harder in life than those times of realizing that you really made a big mistake and there are consequences.  And there is nothing in life that is more important than those times when we recognize our humanity and our fallibility.  That is always the beginning of humility, compassion and wisdom.

Elizabeth Lesser writes about an affair that she entered into before the end of her marriage. And in the aftermath of it she learned alot about herself, life and God. She called this the ascent into the underworld and when you come out of it, you have lost your innocence and illusions.  She writes this:
"There is no more pretending that I could have a perfect life.  I knew now that I was a flawed being, capable of both sin and love.  From now on I could blame no one else for what happened in my life, nor could I look to anyone to save me.   My life was my own.  It was up to me to rechristen my evil with what was best in me........There is no getting around the fact that a Phoenix Process is both wounding and liberating."

Howard Ashman and Alan Menken write in the musical "Beauty and the Beast"

Tale as old as time,
Tune as old as song,
Bittersweet and strange,
Finding you can change,
Learning you were wrong.

This young woman,  Eleanor Hawkins is in jail right now awaiting a trial.  Now it is possible that her father did not speak for her.  It is possible that she continues to believe  that she had every right to strip down and that the Malaysian authorities are practicing a primitive faith and overreacting.  We have all kinds of ways to not admit our mistakes.

 But my hope is that she is aware of her insensitivity to others and is doing some real soul searching.  And my prayer is that in the midst of all of this struggle that she might encounter the presence of our God who loves her right now.

As I reflect on my own life, I can see lots of times that I have missed the mark and really had my priorities all messed up.  I also know that it is only because of these times, that I know intimately about the grace of God.  There is love for us  even when we  are stupid, selfish, unconscious and even hateful.  God's love never stops.

 It is because of the grace of God that we are able to live with ourselves.
 It is because of the grace of God that we are able to recognize the ways that we have really missed the mark.
 It is because of the grace of God that we are able to change.  And become someone new.

That is the "Phoenix Process"  That is the Gospel.

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