Bead Shaman

I love to invite people to my home to help them create their own custom jewelry, or to take orders for it. I am like a shaman, but with beads. I use beads this way for myself, and I know there are others who have this need but don’t know how.

This is about more than just making a necklace or a bracelet. This is about making beaded items that have energy and meaning.

Making jewelry for the beginner isn’t easy. Perhaps you need only three beads, but you have to buy the whole strand. That is way too expensive for individuals. Perhaps you have an idea in mind but you aren’t sure how to do it. Perhaps you don’t know how to use crimp beads or clasps.

This is where you need expert help. There is an art to making things look simple.

Now, this doesn’t mean that making jewelry is simple.

Sometimes I’ll try to get across an idea and I just can’t do it with one design, so I’ll try with another. Sometimes even that doesn’t work. The beads are beautiful, they just aren’t beautiful together. This happens a lot more than I would like. When things happen in my head they work great. In reality the colors don’t work together or the proportions are off or the textures clash. I’m starting to realize that I’m better off if I just don’t think about it too much and just start trying it out in reality.

Sometimes I’ll buy a strand of beads just because I want to work with them. They are beautiful or rare or have a texture I’ve never seen. This happens a lot. When bead shopping, it is best to buy whatever catches your fancy then, because you won’t see it the next time. I’ll make something, and then have beads left over.

But being a bead shaman is more than that. Perhaps it is pretentious to say the word shaman, but I can’t think of anything else that comes close. How else can I describe an ability to create exactly what someone needs and I’ve not even seen them? How else can I describe being able to use beads as medicine?

If someone is grieving, giving them beads that are sharp or angular will only make it worse. Smooth beads, and ones that are oval or round, will be more soothing. Giving them beads that are neon colored will only make them hurt. Colors need to be muted.

This is part of what I mean. It is about knowing the effect that color and shape has on a person.

Knowing the history of beads is important too – where did they come from? Who made them? Are they used for any ritual purposes? What is the material? All of this knowledge comes from years of study. Beads aren’t just beads. They have layers of meaning.

Sure, there are books that talk about the powers of gemstones, and I know some of that. But I’m more interested in the other layers of meaning. For example, knowing that the majority of beads in one necklace were made by refugees gives the necklace a certain kind of beauty that isn’t apparent to the eye.

I love making power necklaces, and that other people can sense it. I love that I made a necklace in honor of the Holy Spirit and a lady wore it to a meeting in defense of her disabled child and prevailed.

I have studied beads over half my life, and there is always something new to learn and share about them.

The best thing anybody can do is give me a rough outline of what they want – a color, or a particular stone that they like – and then let me do the rest. A lot of this is by feel, and for that to work the person has to trust me. I’ll make exactly what they need, even though they may not realize it at the time. And when I make it, I pray for them. That energy goes into it too.

Beads are prayers made visible, and are stories in miniature.

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Oak trees, oak pews.

The Christians of old had a habit of taking the old tradition and making it theirs. This made it easier to convince the natives that they were on the same page. Sometimes it is the other way around. The natives will acquiesce to the Christians, but secretly keep their old faith.

Look at the Celtic cross. It is a cross superimposed on a circle. The trouble is that the symbol was perfectly fine before the extra lines got added. Originally it was two equal armed lines inside a circle. Think of a plus sign, limited by a circle. The Christians came along and said “Hey, look, we agree!” And they added lines past the circle to make a crucifix.

Trouble is, the symbol means more without the extra lines. The symbol means that we are all connected. It symbolizes the intersection of the divine and the mundane. It symbolizes where spirit meets flesh.

The cross says the same thing, but the cross only appears when Christians have appeared and put it there. The circle cross, or equal armed crosses, appear all over the world and all mean the same thing.

They mean that the divine is with us. This is a holy place. This is a place where God is.

The fact that these different cultures have the same symbol meaning the same thing – that there is something larger than this perceived reality – is pretty amazing. It is even more amazing when you realize that these cultures had no contact with each other. To me this is proof that God exists.

Then there are the Druids. Christians took the oak groves they worshipped in and tore them down. They took the trees and turned them into pews. Instead of a faith that celebrates the Creator in the midst of creation, people were made to sit passively on the very trees that had sheltered them.

Rosary beads are another example. The pre-Christian people used beads for protection. They used amethyst as a ward against drunkenness. They used rock crystal for purity. They used red coral and garnet for similar purposes. Then the Christians came along and said that they are worshipping the stones themselves so they made that a sin. Then when they started using rosaries as a way to measure their prayers, guess what stones were used?

This is no more evident in the Haitian beliefs of Voodoo. They took their gods and folded them into the Catholic saints. They are still worshipping their gods. They just have different names now when the priest comes around.

The old faith gets transformed into the new faith. It gets recycled, reused, repurposed. The old never left, it just changed its face.

Dream of Fields

I had a dream the other night that didn’t mean anything at the time but now feels relevant.

I was driving on a freeway and got off. I parked in a field, newly sown with seeds. There were hundreds of thousands of seeds. The land soupy, even bog-like, with them. I laboriously slogged through the field. The excess of seeds kept slowing me down.

After I had gone far enough from my car that I couldn’t see it because of the trees in the field and a bend in the land, I noticed that the field had an end. I saw a guardrail and the freeway again. It wasn’t an endless field.

I turned around to get back to my car. When I came back to it I saw that there were other people who had followed my un-beaten path and had also parked in the field. They had followed me, but they weren’t doing what I was doing. They weren’t walking in the furrows or studying the unusual amounts of seeds. They were taking pictures of the field, like it was a tourist attraction or a historical landmark.

I was a bit disgusted with them. They didn’t get anything about the field.

And how is this not different from my path?

I’ve left the road of church as usual. I’ve gotten off the path and found a field of green seeds. There is so much life and growth and vibrancy here that I am getting bogged down by it all. There are so many ideas for posts to write that I get overwhelmed at times with where to start.

I hope that my posts are helpful. I hope that they have spoken to fellow travelers. I hope that they have provided encouragement or enlightenment. I hope that they have shown a way out or a way in.

The last thing I would want is for anybody to follow me off the road and then treat it like it is a game or a show. It isn’t. It is hard work. It is like growing your own food or building your own house. There are some books offering suggestions but they can’t really show you exactly what to do.

By definition, they can’t.

Nobody can give you a blueprint for your life. It is your life and yours alone and they can’t really know what you need to make it work. They can offer advice from the sidelines, but they can’t play the game for you. They have a different perspective from seeing things from the side, but they can’t see it the way you are seeing it.

So I want people to read my words and get them, sure. I feel that I have useful things to say. I feel that they can help people get out of ruts or avoid falling into them in the first place. But I don’t want to be followed or iconized.

I want people to pull off their own roads and find their own fields and wander around them for a while. I want them to be inspired by my journey to take their own. I want them to question everything. I want them to be awake and conscious and intentional about life.

It all goes to fast to spend it in someone else’s field.

Stop – on being still.

I’m trying to reassess stopping. Taking time out is hard for me. I think some of it has to do with my upbringing. The more I read of the affirmations for my inner child, the more I think it was programmed into me. It isn’t part of who I am. It is part of what my parents taught me to be. Thus, it can be unlearned.

Stopping is good if you are in a car. If you don’t stop at a red light, you’ll get run over. If you don’t stop to get gas you’ll be stranded.

We stop when we leave jobs or boyfriends. We stop when we drop out of college. We admit that we just can’t take it anymore, so we walk away.

But I want to stop before I get to that point. I want to stop as a sign of strength, not of weakness. I want to stop so I can go.

I stop every day. I stop and make time to sleep. I have an uneasy relationship with sleep. That is a third of my day, thus a third of my life just gone. But I know from hard experience that if I don’t make time for sleep then nothing ever works right. Not getting enough sleep put me in the hospital. Sadly the medical answer was to give me sleeping pills and not to teach me good habits that will promote sleep, so I had to figure that trick out for myself.

So now I’m learning how to stop. I’ve signed up for silent retreats. I’m taking time off from work. I’m turning off the TV. I’m trying to get into the habit of sitting still. I’m trying to not cram “stuff” into my day the same way a hoarder crams “stuff” into her house. Sometimes I feel that every moment has to be filled with something to do. I’m starting to see that as a result of my childhood.

It isn’t healthy. Sure, there has to be a balance. I don’t want to lapse into not doing anything. I did that for years. But I don’t want to do so much that I stop being able to enjoy life.

I think the more I learn how to stop, the more clearly I’ll be able to think.

“Silent Night” with candles.

I love the experience of singing “Silent Night” in the darkness. Every person has a candle that is unlit at the beginning. By the end of the song the whole room is lit up.

There is something magical and amazing about the symbolism of sharing candlelight. A couple of people light their candles from the Christ Candle – the center of the Advent wreath. They share the light with a few others nearby. Then they share with others next to them. The light spreads out exponentially. Within a short time, everybody’s candle is lit, all from the light from one candle, and the effort of one person at a time sharing with another person.

This is how faith works. A few people get lit up by the light of God, and they share it with others. It is shared by personal experience and testimony. It is shared person to person. This is part of what we mean when we say that we believe in an apostolic faith. We mean to say that we got it from someone who got it from someone who got it (and on and on) from an apostle, who got it from Jesus.

There is also something magical about watching the light spread in someone’s face when their candle lights. They are in darkness, and then the light gets to them and their candle flame is low at first, and then gets stronger. As it picks up strength, the light blooms in her face. This too is what faith is like.

Share the Light, my friends.

Christmas Eve, 2013

I’ve forgotten what it is like to get my husband out the door to go to church. Is this what it is like to have children?

It has been six months since we last went to church. I’d figured he’d have time to work some of this out. I’ll find other church services and he says they are either too early or too far away or in a bad part of town. Or the place is too big – he’ll feel lost. The place is too small – we’ll stick out.

He says he wants to go to church, but when it comes to actually going to church he drags his feet.

I’m starting to understand why so many people who go to church are married women without their spouses.

It is embarrassing to me to go to church alone. We aren’t supposed to be “unequally yoked” after all. We are supposed to be on the same page. But the more excuses he comes up with and the more he drags his feet, the more I think I need to choose. Him, or God.

It isn’t fair. I use that phrase a lot. I’m tired of being the brave one and trying out new things. I don’t mean divorce. I mean going to church by myself.

I need church. I need community. I need order. Otherwise I drift away. Without making a regular time for God, I start to do my own thing and I’ve learned that my own thing isn’t that great.

I want to go with my husband. I want him to be excited about church. When I left our old church I told him that he could continue to go, and he hasn’t. He stays up late Saturday night and gets up late on Sunday morning.

I don’t think he knows what he wants.

We’d talked about going to church on Christmas Eve. It wasn’t a regular Sunday. It was special. Many people, if they attend church irregularly, will go on Christmas and Easter. It was important to me to do at least this.

I’d found a local church that met in a middle school gym. It seemed OK. Methodist – so it wasn’t Episcopal. I feel like I’ve burned my bridges with the Episcopal Church. Because it didn’t have a building yet, it met some of my requirements for church. I’m wary of churches that spend all their money on a building. Sure, they have a minister, so there is that, but the further away I get from the “normal” church service, the less likely I’m going to be able to get him to go with me.

Mid afternoon on Christmas Eve, I was preparing to go, and he wasn’t. I couldn’t believe that he wasn’t going to go. My whole Christmas plan started to crumble. I didn’t expect him to blow this off. He hadn’t said that he wasn’t going. I’d sent him email reminders. I’d told him about it. It wasn’t a last minute thing. It wasn’t a surprise. Christmas Eve is a given. Just like tax day, you know when it is going to happen.

He saw that this was important to me and he dropped everything and raced around, getting ready. It was a big ordeal. He was running late and a bit crazy. He doesn’t do well with last minute plan changes – even though it wasn’t. I started to wonder what was going on in his head. I started to notice the time ticking by and thinking that maybe I should just go on my own. I’d rather be alone and on time than with him and late, as usual. I’m really getting tired of being late.

Finally we left for the service. It was a quiet drive. And when I say quiet, I don’t mean peaceful. I mean that stony silence two people employ when they realize that whatever they say might cause a fight and a fight is the last thing they want.

Sometimes silence is golden. Sometimes silence is deadly.

We got there and I lost it. We were sitting in the car, in the cold, in the parking lot for the middle school which just happens to be the space for the church.

I sat there and I cried. I cried about loss. I feel like a person who got fired from her job of 20 years. I wasn’t at St. Philip’s for that long, but I was in the Episcopal Church for that long. I put a lot of effort into it for the last three years. I was an acolyte. I was a chalice bearer (you have to be licensed by the Bishop to do that). I trained the chalice bearers. I made the schedule. I trained the lectors. I took Communion to home bound members. I was training to be a deacon.

I was there every week, and one way or another I was serving every week.

I was starting a career with the church, and it was all over in a flash. I had the audacity to wonder out loud if we were doing church according to the way that Jesus meant, and I was stripped of my responsibilities. The priest got really angry at me. A story was invented as a cover. I don’t think anybody cared. A handful of people seemed to have noticed. I think that hurt the most.

All that time and all that work and it was as if nothing happened.

So I feel like someone who was laid off. I’ve been unemployed by church. I’ve gotten bit jobs here and there. (I’ve found alternative “church” experiences) It hasn’t paid the bills. (It hasn’t filled me up.) So now I’m searching for a new job/church and it is scary. I’m searching outside of my field, outside of my experience. (I’ve left the Episcopal Church and possibly church as we know it.)

And I’m scared and exhausted and tired.

I thought about just turning around and going back home. My face was a mess from crying. I wouldn’t know anybody. It will be weird. Church in a gym? How strange is that? Where’s the script? What do I do?

We were there already. I’d feel really bad if we skipped this. It wasn’t what I was used to but it was something. I steeled up my courage, cleaned off my face, and went in.

One advantage is that almost nobody knows me there. So a teary face wouldn’t be a big deal. And church is a place for the hurting. It is a hospital for the soul.

We sat in the bleachers. It was full! Our old church would have dreamed of having that many people for a service. And there was going to be two services.

The service was pleasant. The pastor was funny and kind. He didn’t read from a script. There was Communion, and the words were familiar even though the execution of it wasn’t. I’m not used to Communion with real bread and grape juice, but beggars can’t be choosers you know.

At the end we all sang Silent Night in darkness and lit candles one by one, just like how I like. That never happened in the old church because the head of the altar guild hated dealing with real wax. Fake candles lit by batteries just don’t cut it, in my opinion. But then she is a control freak.

After the service we went to a friend’s house and had a simple supper of chili and cheese and watched a quietly wrong Christmas movie (Rare Exports). They aren’t Christian, but they wanted to share a bit of Christmas with us. It was a pleasant time.

On the way back we were driving by a Catholic Church and saw someone pulling into the lot. Midnight mass, anyone? Scott, raised Catholic, suggested it. I am used to midnight mass starting at 10:30 and ending at midnight, so since it was 11:45 pm I thought we had missed it. Nope. I checked their website using my phone and their service started at midnight. We debated it. It was last minute. We weren’t members. I am not Catholic. It was very late.

Oh. Why not? So we did a U turn and went. The place was packed. We found a seat towards the back. Nobody stopped is and asked if we were members, or even if we were Catholic.

We played along. There is no “Book of Common prayer” like there is in the Episcopal Church. They kind of expect you to know what you are doing. I think this is how they weed out fakers like us. There is a booklet in the pew, but it is hard to understand and it doesn’t have all the bits in it. Fortunately there have been some wording changes to the service so some of it is printed on a handy laminated card. Even the priest was referring to it. If the priest can, we can. We won’t stick out.

Then it came time for Communion. This church is arranged in a semi circle around the altar, so I was interested in watching how the flow of people went. I watched and figured it out and then it was time. Up we went, and the people in the pew next to us stepped aside – they weren’t participating. I was tempted to tell them how to fake being Catholic but then that would out me.

They hadn’t said anything about Communion at the beginning. Not who could, who couldn’t. It is written inside the front page of the booklet in the pew, but they hadn’t even referred to that. I went on the “don’t ask don’t tell” idea, just like when I was in college.

As I was walking up I was really excited. I was glad to take Communion earlier in the gym, but this felt more real to me. Plus, there was the added fear of being caught.

I’ve taken Communion in a Catholic Church before, for many years. I had a friend who swapped out churches with me every other week. One week we’d go to mine, one week to hers. We stopped going when she admitted that she thought I shouldn’t take Communion in her church because I wasn’t Catholic. We stopped being friends then too.

I was in line before Scott, and I put out my hands together, palms up, right over left. The lay minister held up this cube of bread and said the words “the body of Christ, the bread of heaven” and put the cube in my hands. I looked at it. So weird. Dense. Not a wafer at all. An actual chunk of bread. Thick and dark and perfectly cut. It was the size of a die.

I popped it in my mouth and walked towards the chalice bearer. She looked a little foreboding. I thought I wasn’t clear yet. Maybe I was still going to get busted. Plus, I was still dealing with the odd texture of the bread.

Some churches ask you to dip (instinct) the bread/wafer, and some are OK if you sip from the chalice. I saw everybody sip and that is what I prefer. I got to her and looked in the chalice. Red wine. Good choice. Some use white because it is easier on the altar guild if there is a spill. But white ruins the symbolism. This was a paler red. Maybe it was watered down? The lights caught the hammered gold on the chalice. It was quite beautiful and it was all I wanted.

I don’t miss church. I do miss Communion.

In that moment I was allowed to commune. I passed. I faked it.

And in reality, I shouldn’t have to fake it. Jesus didn’t make any such rules. I’ve already written about it and I doubt there will be any change. But you never know. This Francis is a pretty progressive pope.

When it was all over we went out and greeted the priest. I hugged him and wished him a merry Christmas.

I think it has to be hard to be an unmarried priest. To have to work on Christmas and then have to go home to an empty house sounds very sad. Again, this is not a rule Jesus made up. He didn’t even want people to be ordained. We are all ministers.

So we had Christmas, even though it wasn’t what we were used to. Mary and Joseph didn’t expect to become parents like they did either. Alone, in a barn, away from home and help, they welcomed Jesus into the world and into their lives. I think this is what Christmas is about. It isn’t about what we expect, but what we allow. It is about being open to whatever God wants us to experience. God knows what we need far better than what we do. Our job is just to get out of the way and let it happen.

God bless us, every one.

Poem – friend. (predictive text)

First of a little (there are some)
for example and I am not a lot.

Remember the old standbys?
Remember what you want and need.
Rather than being eased
really our own feelings lead.

It isn’t about making a lot of friends.
In fact you can spend the time
If you want on your own site.
I don’t think that you can be found there.

Now what?
Your note for the way home is stuck
to the side of your shoe
caked with mud.
Torn.
Unreadable.
Lost.

Don’t worry about it
Did you get the best in show?

Who cares if the result is beautiful or well groomed or well trained?

Give me a mutt any day.

—————————————–
Some thoughts on this poem/meditation.

What is a friend? Does it matter if she is popular or polite? What is more important, amount of friends or quality? I’m relearning what friendship means, and a lot of it is about being accepted for who I am and having a cheerleader for who I am becoming. Old friends who complain a lot are being cut out of my life, no matter how long I’ve known them or if they are family and I’m expected to be friends with them. People who don’t take my correspondence with them as private and discuss it with others behind my back are being cut out too. I need honesty in my life, and if it means having only a handful of people that are helpful and healing for me, then so be it. People who don’t make time for me aren’t worthy of my time either.

This started out with the letters in “friend” and then needed a little more so I free wrote the fourth stanza and the last two lines.