Friday, April 18, 2014

Unbelieving Easter: When Good Friday Comes Alive

Easter is two days away.  It is my favorite holiday.

At least, that's what I would have said with ease six months, a year ago.  

Now, I'm not so sure.  I've distanced myself from the things of religion that, when I hear them or read them or taste them, shut me down faster than you can say "He is risen indeed."

The many problematic and conflicting Bible passages . . . being encouraged to believe in an abusive and terrifyingly mercurial version of god that is not very unlike the ancient pagan deities . . . people who tell me how bad I am, how bad we all are, "for my own good" . . . theology that completely denies the value of darkness . . . ideology that requires me to marginalize any minority group, or yield faithfully to abusive individuals and/or doctrines . . . all things absolute -- the briefest of encounters leaves me swallowing back a sudden, visceral nausea, my hair tangling from the breeze of my soul's walls of protection flying up.  Danger, danger.

I am left wondering what Easter can mean to me when the Church that proclaims the paschal message has, in my opinion, gone so wrong at the core.  Because the heart of the gospel is, in my understanding, love.  From Duck Dynasty to the World Vision debacle to Chick-fil-a's protests, and so on and so on and so on, Christianity isn't coming off so well in the love department.

Which pains me to say, because I know so many Christians who are doing an amazing job at being love with skin on.  Our local church family, the women running some of my favorite babyloss support organizations, the online community of doubters and deconstructors and "free-range Christians" that has refreshed my life blood -- there are still people getting it right.

But I still don't know what to do with Easter this year.

* * *

When it comes down to it, though, it's not the dysfunction and hatred and cruelty I see infesting and infecting the Church that drives me away (although it certainly is a huge turn-off, and something I will continue to address and, in doing so, hopefully help heal).  It's the Bible itself, the fact that every time I turn those impossibly thing pages, I come away hurt and confused and sick-feeling.  It's the fact that I begged God, begged Jesus to please fill the empty parts of me, and those parts remained devastatingly empty.

It's the [delicious] reality that I only began experiencing Jesus' promised "through and through" freedom after I stepped away from religion, only after I walked and then ran with abandon into the desert with its gray sands and harsh sun and endless sky. 

It's the fact that I am experiencing deeper peace here in the borderlands, in the wild country, than I ever did inside the prescribed bounds of Christianity-dictated safety.

I used to wish I could find a happy home inside churchianity's expectations.  That I could find peace being the dutiful evangelical so many wish I would be.

But I don't wish it any longer.  Because I've found more of Jesus' gifts out here with the heathens and the homosexuals and the written-off wastelands than I ever unearthed when I faithfully peeled open my Bible's cover each morning, when I prayed the kinds of prayers I'd learned to utter, when I tried to mold my soul and my skin so I'd fit in on Sunday morning.

* * *

The Jesus I thought I knew is dead.  My right answers died with him.  I don't know if I'll ever see him again.  The future is wide and uncertain. 

This is Good Friday.  This is the Good Friday experience.  I have never lived it more truly. 

I wouldn't trade it.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

When We are Awakening

Big news -- I am so thrilled to be a part of the Sprout Online Magazine team!  I'll be contributing new pieces every month to the pages of this incredibly luscious publication.  And even bigger news, friend and Sprout creator Amanda interviewed me for this month's Thrive interview.  Yay!

This month, Sprout is all about awakening.  As I feel that the past months of my life have been all about awakening, rebirthing, opening my eyes to the sun at last, this issue is near and dear to my heart.

Here's a peek at my conversation with Amanda from Sprout: Awaken . . .

Beth, you’ve declared this your year of fearless living. What does that mean to you? 

When I picked this word, I thought it would teach me how to defeat fear, to erase it from my life. That by the end of 2014 I’d have learned to live without fear, or beyond it. But now I’m learning that it can’t be erased from life, that it is part of the human experience, and that it can actually carry important messages for us. So, for me, to live fearless means to do the things I need to do or want to do, to be the way and the woman I would like to be, even though I am afraid. It means feeling the fear and doing the thing in question anyway, as bravely as possible.

For more inspiring words and amazing artwork, nab your copy of Sprout: Awaken here.  Or join the Sprout community on Facebook.  Yum! 

*this post contains affiliate links -- thank you for your support!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

When World Vision Stands Up -- and Love is Knocked Down

I know, I know. The last thing the internet needs is another post on the World Vision debacle, right? But I have to speak up, because so many won't, saying it doesn't affect them, and because so many others are spewing words of poison and bigotry.

Here's what happened, if you haven't heard. In a nutshell: World Vision (Christian organization for the sponsorship of children living in poverty) announced that would be employing gay people, and gay marrieds. The evangelical Christians immediately reacted by pulling their financial support of said children living in poverty -- allegedly 2,000 sponsorships were retracted. As a result, World Vision reversed their decision, apologizing for having been willing to hire LGBT married folks.

Okay. So.  This makes me angry. As in, tearing-at-my-hair, wailing-in-grief, taking-to-the-streets, profound fury at the so-called Jesus lovers, so-called "Christians" who acted in this hate-mongering way. At those in power who call it morality to punish needy children in their fervor to condemn those who are different from themselves.

I despise this. I am thoroughly disgusted. I am so grateful that I no longer wear the name "Christian." I am so sad for those of my loved ones who do wear this label, and wear it in a grace-filled and lovely way. A way that seeks to follow in Jesus' footsteps, to walk his talk.

And so, I have a few things to say.  I know I speak for more than myself.  I hope that I speak for more than I imagine.

To those who call it a victory of morality, of the gospel, of Christ that the World Vision decision was reversed -- I am disappointed in you. I think it's time for you to reread the book you love to pound on others with such a heavy hand. And when I read it, I mean all of it, not just the two to four references to homosexuality. Try on the more than four hundred verses on serving the poor. Or how about the more than five hundred verses on love (depending on the version)? And while you're at it, take a close look at the gospels. Remind me where Jesus starts spitting on non-hetero people?

To those who work at World Vision and/or were involved in these two decisions in any way -- I thank you, and I am sorry. Thank you for being willing to stand up for equal rights, to stand against bigotry. I am sorry for the vehemence that knocked you back down, that forced you to align with the prejudiced privileged in light of your goal of serving needy children. I am sorry that you were forced to cater to those who are too blind to value this goal as highly as you.

However, World Vision, I am also deeply saddened by the letter written by your president and chairman detailing the reversal of your decision to employ LGBT marrieds. In it, you asked for forgiveness. Why? I understand that you may have been backed into a corner, that the reversal was not what was in your hearts to do. But to apologize? To claim that you made a mistake? To not point out the hypocrisy and hatred that forced your hand? To not thank the members of the LGBT and progressive communities who rallied to support you and to cover the revoked sponsorships? Grevious oversights, all. These are, I might remind you, the same people who are committed to completing the terms of their sponsorships, unlike the supposedly morally superior evangelicals. I would love to have seen your reversal come with a blazing defense of those you wore purple for today.

To the church leaders and members -- I entreat you. The reason why over 2,000 members of the church thought it was not only acceptable but necessary and applaudable to walk out on the poverty-stricken communities they had made financial commitments to is in large part because of you. The gay marriage debate is perpetuated by your past responses -- either actual words or communicated via silence, and both speak equally loudly. Whether or not these 2,000 evangelicals are members of your church or not is moot. We are one body -- and I mean, one human people. Perhaps the gay marriage debate does not affect you right not (or, more likely, you are just blind to the ways it affects you and those around you). But it will. I entreat you to recall the heart of the Jesus that you preach of, and speak out against hypocrisy.  This is your responsibility.  This is our responsibility.

Also, church leaders, I hear that you are wondering why so many are leaving the church. The lauding, sanctioning, or ignoring of wide scale un-love might be a major clue.

To the LGBT community -- I grieve with you. I ache with you. I stand with you.

To the children sponsored by World Vision -- I am horrified. Horrified that you were thrown away more easily than a piece of rubbish by the ones who vowed to support you. I am so sorry that these who are charged by the faith they flaunt to love "the least of these" will only do so as long as it does not conflict with their high-horse agenda. And when it does -- well, we've seen what happens. I am so sorry. You are worth so much more.  I am ashamed of how we in the west have wielded our privilege. 

To the people of this "Christian nation" -- get ready. Equal marriage rights for homosexuals is going to happen. And it's going to happen because it is fair. Because it is wrong to treat any person as sub-human or lesser because they are different. How did the women's rights movement not teach us this? Or how about the civil rights movement?  Regardless of creed, color, origin, income, gender, age, orientation, and so forth, there's room in the heart for all us.

"Love one another as I have loved you." ~ Jesus

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Everyday Acts of Courage

I used to rely on circumstance, on arranging it all just so.  The creative process relied on so many things: that table in that one particular cafe that is yours, the one that you must have . . . that certain drink . . . the just-right assemblage of shirt and shoes and bottoms and tops . . . and, most important of all, the perfect state of mind.  Perhaps you know the one?  You transform into being of purest inspiration, of dancing between worlds, where your mind soars but your body is grounded so that the words may flow directly from Spirit to the page, where you are the divine conduit.

Holy, creative bliss.

And if any one of those plethora of things was askew or absent – if your table was occupied or the blouse you wanted to wear was buried at the bottom of a hamper of soiled garments, if your drink was too hot or too acrid or too expensive-feeling today – well, then heaven could not kiss the earth, and the words would refuse to fall. . . .

I'm so pleased to announce that I am now a regular monthly writer for the very fabulous Secret Rebel Club!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Creative Kindred Conversation at {e} everyday art

If you know Erica of {e} everyday art, you know what a delight she is.  And if you haven't met her yet, I hope you will trek over to her internet home posthaste and get acquainted, because she is luminous.  A woman who is crazy creative in her own right, Erica is also one of the most gifted encouragers that I have ever met.  I'm serious, people.  She is on a mission to ignite the creativity that dwells within all of us, no matter how long it may have lain dormant. 

She interviewed me for her Creative Kindred Conversation series, and today that interview is live!  I feel so honored and privileged to be featured on her blog. Thank you, Erica!  Check out a few of her luscious questions and my replies below, and find the full interview here
find prints of this piece here
:: Describe your creative practice in three words.
Discovering, deep, truth (and if I’m allowed I’d also like to add quirky, colorful, and textured.  rule breaker!)

:: What or who inspires you?
Everything!  Ha!  :)  I know, that’s not really helpful.  But I have a hard time pointing to one or a few specific things and saying, “That is what inspires me.”  The sunrise and moon, the frosted grass, my son’s breath, my husband’s lips on mine – these are all fodder.  And I also value expressing truth very highly, so my art and writing tell my truth about grief or my spiritual wrestling or whatever it is that’s most important to me at the moment.

I do know that I get my very best ideas (usually my art ideas) while running on the treadmill, so I am constantly typing misspelled notes into my iPad.  And I also know that I grow very stagnant if I stop reading and viewing art and art process videos.

I’ve recently also started a vital indulgence in artist dates as recommended by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way.  It was a bit awkward at first, but so richly reward…and fun!

:: How do you “love through” obstacles or stagnancy back to your creative center and passion?
I don’t force myself.  I am mama to an amazing toddler that keeps me on my toes, and just finished up single-handedly running the Made ecourse in addition to my art shop…and that’s before factoring in stealing time to write and/or paint, and hanging with my hubby.  All that to say – I’m in and/or just coming out of an intensely busy and draining season.  There’s a lot going on, and I often feel like I’m being pulled in every direction.  So I try to be gentle with myself, and not try to shame myself into getting back to work. . . .

Monday, March 17, 2014

Redemption Stories

Soul at Sea (prints available here)
I didn't know that stillbirth still happened in the western world until it happened to me.  Thirty-one weeks of pregnancy and all the evidence I had for my daughter's life were a few precious items and the yawning ache in my soul that still throbs, two and more years later now. 

After we returned home from the hospital, empty armed, I was brokenhearted but determined.  Determined to grieve well, to to feel it all, to let God use it.  And I did, and he did, I guess.  I don't know, really, who did what, only that I showed up to the pain, to the searing of reality.  And it changed me – and it changes me.

In the church, we like to talk a good line about redemption.  And that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Jesus is redemption with skin on, after all.  But we – especially we here in the first world – like our redemption to be neat, tidy.  We often want to come in on the after of redemption; not the before, and certainly not the during
It's odd to me, that we have become so ill-used to mess.  Jesus' life is anything but orderly and expected.  He went to the wilderness, willingly and often.  I don't think you can go there and come back anything but unkempt, with tossed-about hair and a strange new light in your eye.  I wonder if it's the desert that gave Jesus the courage to live and die and live again as he did.

After my Eve girl died within my body,  after my first pregnancy ended in birthing a dead body, I tried so hard to be the after of redemption, even while I accepted that grief was unpredictable and long.  I thought that if I could be – or really, act – faithful enough, Eve's death would be somehow worth it, redeemed. 

Perhaps it inspires you that I could birth my dead daughter and still profess to love the God that didn't save her.  If it does, I am truly glad.  May he lead you ever deeper through my attempts.

 But it didn't work for me. . . .

Today I'm writing  over at the lovely Crystal Neubauer's blog for her redemption series!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Life Lately {3/14/2014 Edition}

Somehow it is already half way through March.  When did that happen?  Apparently, while all this was going on . . .

art journaling
I added some lovely new prints to the shop, like this one.  check them out here.

I've been writing a novel!!  what.  watch for it soon!

sunny adventures.  light is my love language.

I've been reading this. it's really good*:

What is your life lately like?  I'd love to hear about your everyday holy.
*affiliate link