I don't remember all the dreams I have. And many times, my dreams are so Twin Peakish in their weirdness that I can't begin to understand what my subconscious was smoking in the middle of the night.
Sometimes, though, the subconscious has some pretty profound stuff to say.
Recently, and over the years, I have had dreams where I've received messages that, I think, are inspired by God. And God, in my dreams, appears in many different human forms...but most consistently as a black male. I also have a dream narrator who could be God or could be some other inner voice of wisdom who shows up to focus the message. So, here are just a few samples of my mystical and mysterious night visions.
From Feb. 15, 1996
A group of us from the Mickee Faust Club, including a tall African-American man named Roosevelt, were going to a house in the woods. An old lady lived there, a woman I knew to be Wiccan. Her hair was long, frizzy and grayish-white in color and her eyes were dark. I was attracted to her on one level, but very distrusting on another. None of the others I was with appeared bothered by her, so I thought there was just something wrong with me. She was reading Tarot cards, and doing palm readings. She also did some exercise involving gem stones. I let myself take part in this ritual where she placed a stone on each of my temples, and one in the middle of my forehead (third eye). Enter my dream narrator, who tells me if I clear my mind, she won't be able to read it. So I do my best to think of nothing as she put her hands on my head. She placed a bedsheet over both of our heads and moved her face close enough to mine that her hair was brushing against my cheek.
"You are critical, self-critical," she said. "Do you want to work on that?"
I didn't know how she could have zeroed in on that issue, especially since the only thought that I'd had since the ritual started was that of an egg. I said I did want to work on that, but then became distracted by the noises in the room from other people. Later in the dream, there was a knock at the door. I answered, and saw a tall, handsome black man in wire-rimmed glasses standing in the doorway.
"Hi. You've come to see the lady who lives here?"
"Yes," he said, smiling in a way that conveyed gentle kindness. I led him into the room, and Roosevelt was sitting with the woman. The way these three greeted each other, it was clear that they were old friends.
Interesting points on this dream: Roosevelt is a Christian. There were also images of a Tallahassee author and public radio commentator, Jerry Stearn, who was dying of cancer at the time. In the dream, Jerry calls me, insisting that people have to come to his reading. Then, he shows up and is carrying suitcases from the woman's house to his car. I can tell he's very sick. He died days after I had this dream.
March 8, 2004
I was in a church although the altar area looked more like a set for a television talk show like "Oprah". There were three bishops officiating. One of Tallahassee's local politicians was sitting with me in the pew. At some point, all the people lined up in the aisle and moved single-file toward the bishops, who were now seated with a bar across their laps. A thin, dark-skinned black man was in the church and walking across the stage at the front. The congregation, all-white, was in an uproar and the bishops yelled at him to get out. The black man slinked out a side door. I was incensed. As I approached the first bishop, I inquired as to what we were doing.
"Aren't you an Episcopalian?" he asked indignantly.
"Yes, I am, but I don't know what we're doing."
"The Confession of Sin," he responded.
So I knelt down before him, and started: "I believe in God, the Father Almighty..." I stopped myself because I realized I was reciting the Apostle's Creed. I started again.
"Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed..." I stopped and stood up.
"I think you should confess your sins!" I said to the bishop. He looked at me in disbelief. "You should confess your sins!", I repeated. "Why did you drive that black man out of the church?! Why should I confess when it is you who have sinned against me?! I can't get married, you treat people with inequality! You should confess your sins!" I grabbed the bishop by his ankles. He was struggling. Finally, he had a heart attack. People rushed to the aid of this man, and were able to keep him alive.
He screamed at me, "You're paying the medical bills!" as they wheeled him from the church.
I was exhausted and feeling sheepish. But the local politician who had been sitting in the pew with me approached.
"I'm glad you did that!" he said. "I'm an atheist!" The politician's wife was trying to stop him from speaking, but he kept going.
"You did the right thing." He placed his hands on my face, "You recognized inequality and you don't like inequality. And you believe everyone should be treated the same." His words made me cry, and I woke up from my dream.
Additional information on this dream: During this period, I was feeling estranged from the Episcopal Church in Tallahassee. Several priests had been quoted on television and in the newspaper as being opposed to the consecration of V. Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire because Bishop Robinson is living his true self as an openly gay and partnered man. I know Bishop Robinson, and know him to be a good man, and well worthy of being a leader in the church. I had already noted changes to the big downtown church, which had been the last one I attended with any frequency, that made me nervous about the direction that parish was moving (lots and lots of eagle imagery...and a noticeable absence of those signs that indicate "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You")
May 14 and August 7, 2004
Two different nights. Two, almost identical dreams. In May, the dream had been that I was trying to die, but God was not letting me do it. I saw many figures of various shapes and geometric forms...all in black and white. They were moving through my vision so quickly, and as they flew by I heard what I believed to be God saying it was "not my time." That dream, I recall, left me a little shaken. Then, almost three months later, a similar dream happened in which I saw black and white images of faces moving before my eyes so fast that I couldn't capture the picture of one before another came and replaced it. The faces were young, old, African, European, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, Middle Eastern, fat, thin, male, female, human, animal, hairy and hairless. A voice intoned: "These are the faces of God!"
October 29, 2007
I'm on a panel of the Healing Arts Alliance. There were two other women on the panel with me. Our meeting is happening outside in a parking lot somewhere, with some shade from trees planted around the perimeter. Many of the really active HAA members are there, and there's this one black woman who I didn't recognize. One of the other panelists begins to talk, never introducing herself or giving her background at all. That seemed a little strange to me, but I played along. The black woman interrupted her and quoted some Bible verse. That outburst made everyone uncomfortable. I was just puzzled by the whole thing. The presentation went forward, but the black woman interrupted a second time to play a portion of a song that had a lyric about the love of God. She wanted our panel to address that. So it was my turn. I decided first to introduce myself, and give my background. And then I looked at the black woman.
"You and I probably see things in the Bible differently," I said, and then went on to explain the violence that I had experienced in my life as a reporter, and now was wanting to teach my traumatized clients ways to reconnect with their bodies through a touch of unconditional love and goodness...which I used to segue into the story of the prodigal son in Luke. I woke up before the dream really finished, but I remember that because I spoke of the prodigal son, I satisfied the woman and there were no more outbursts.
Dream note of great importance: the prodigal son story was the requested gospel text to be read at my dad's funeral service in Tallahassee three days later.
In reconnecting with these dreams, I am amazed by what they tell me. My anger over the great gnashing of teeth in the Anglican Communion about gay people manifested itself in two very powerful messages: (1) Those making the most noise and holding themselves out there as the true standard bearers of Anglicanism are driving God (the thin, dark-skinned black man) from the church and (2) that one can see the Divine in everybody!
The first dream speaks to my belief in a God that has many messengers and has used many messengers over time in an effort to bring us all back to the house of the ultimate peace, love and happiness party. By which door you enter is entirely up to you.
And the last dream was yet another wake up call: as a Christian, and more specifically as an Episcopalian with my feet on the ground, if I want to live the Word, I need to just do it. Be it. Be alive and show up in body, mind and spirit. And know that I will always also find elements of myself in all three characters of the prodigal son story, and that's the kick in the pants about being human. I won't be perfect, but I can live trying.