Changing gears

When I made a lot of jewelry in college, I would go on binges. I’d feel really creative and make just one earring of each set. I’d make about twenty different single earrings like this. To slow down long enough to finish out the pair would stop the flow. I’d leave the tray of singles aside until another day, when I wasn’t feeling as creative but I wanted something to do. Then I’d make the other one.

I’m finding it is the same with writing. I’ve reached a slower part. It is now time to condense everything and sift out what needs to go into a book.

There are plenty of contenders for the first book. I feel like I’ve written about three, all at once, over sixteen months. I certainly hadn’t planned on writing this much.

It isn’t all awesome. Some of it is rambling. Some of it is just a warm up for the rest. Some of it is pretty worthwhile. Some of it surprises me. Some of it I don’t remember writing.

The funny part is that with writing and jewelry it is the same. The stuff that I really like, that I poured a lot of work into, is the stuff that gets ignored. My “throwaway” pieces get far more notice and attention. Well, except for the stuff I publicize. When I’ve posted stuff on well-trafficked pages on Facebook, I’ve gotten thousands of hits.

For a while I was writing three posts a day. Sometimes five. For a while I’d wake up with a new idea for something to write every morning. Then I’d get new ideas during the day and I’d jot them down in my notebook. For a while I felt like the ideas were wrestling for my attention, demanding to be written. For a while it was overwhelming.

It has slowed down quite a bit, and I’m glad in a way. I’m a little concerned it means that things are drying up, but I still have my notebooks full of ideas. They are like little seeds. Just water them with a little time and they will grow into full sized posts. They are like zip files – compressed information. The ideas were coming so fast it was almost like I had to take shorthand in order to catch them.

Now is the time of sorting. I’ve sort of pre-sorted all along. I’ve put posts into categories and I’ve tagged them. The only issue is that some posts are in multiple categories and some have multiple tags. While this is fine in a blog, it isn’t fine in a book. Books are very linear. Blogs are very, well, not.

I’m not a big fan of sorting, but it doesn’t do itself. Sometimes I think I’d like to have minions. It would be nice to have an assistant to sort and sift. But then whatever comes out of this is going to have my name on it, so it needs to be all stuff that I not only like but can stand behind.

I’m sorting things roughly now. I’ve created a separate blog just for the religious/spiritual pieces to help me organize. Interestingly, that blog has its own set of followers. I don’t advertise it. But creating it gives me a different way to look at what I’m sorting out. I put the posts in folders on my computer as well. Then I’ll go through and look at them again, closer, and weed out what isn’t quite useful at this time.

It is kind of like making a jigsaw puzzle, except it doesn’t have the ease of visuals. I can’t just look at a post like I can with a puzzle piece and tell that it has a bit of sky in it, so it goes over here. I have to read the posts closely for themes. It takes longer.

Just getting them from one blog to the other (and the folders in between) takes a long time. It was really slow going for a while but I’ve finally learned to open up two browsers. I’m almost embarrassed to admit how I was doing it before. It was quite clunky and I was losing posts. I was also getting confused as to how I was sorting them.

This work is pretty dull in some ways, and interesting in others. I’m coming across some posts that I’ve forgotten. I’m also a bit amazed at how much I’ve written. I have no idea if this will do well as a book either. I may spend a lot of money self publishing it and nothing will happen. Sure, it is already “published” on the web, but there is something about having an actual book that says “real author”. Of course, having it published by a “real” publishing company versus self-publishing says that.

The stigma is going away for self-publishing. People don’t look askance at it. There are plenty of stories of authors these days being turned down by major publishing houses, only to go ahead and publish their work on their own. Then they make a lot of money, and the publishing house begs their forgiveness. Then they show a contract to the author, and the author realizes that she would lose a lot of money to get her book published by them. It is kind of like going freelance versus working for a company. An electrician who works on his own charges a lot less and takes home a lot more than the one who works for a business. Plus, people seem to like the renegade, the rebel, the self-starter. People cheer on the underdog.

I’m reminded that Emily Dickinson’s poems were unknown to anyone other than her in her lifetime, and that Mozart wasn’t acclaimed anywhere near what he is now. I’m also reminded that even Thoreau self published a book.

Do I want fame? Not really. Do I want the ideas that have come to me to change the world? Yes. Do I trust that God’s hand is in all of this? Yes, and no. But this is normal for me. I want to make the frog’s legs grow faster, because the tadpole is too slow. I feel like my “push”, my desire to get things done, is from God. Is it, or is it just me being impatient? A lot of it is trusting the process, and just showing up, right? I think if I pray hard and work hard, then what will happen next is what is meant to happen. I think that if I work to align myself with God, then I’m on the right path no matter what happens. I think that even if I think I’m off the path, it turns out that is part of the path too.

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Writing a book.

I want to write a book. Well, essentially, I’ve already written a book. I just need to put it together.

I’ve been writing a book all along with this blog. I’ve actually been writing several books. Each post is a page or two. I’ve got way more than enough posts and enough topics to write about three books right now. The problem is sifting through everything. In a way it is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. Or maybe it is like disassembling one.

Ideally, I would have been copying what I’ve been writing into a Word document, sorting it into folders, all along. That way it would already be done. I didn’t do that, because I didn’t know that was what I wanted to do. Now I know better.

The problem is time. I still have a forty hour a week job. And the new ideas keep coming. It is hard to do it all at once. But then again, I am having a hard time believing that I’ve written as much as I have in sixteen months. When I started I had the goal of posting three times a week, with the hidden goal of at least once a day. I’ve far surpassed that.

What I need to do is sit down and start sorting. I’ve done some of it. There is a lot more to go through.

I just have to commit to doing this daily. Even a little bit a day and it is done. While feel obliged to post something new every day, then I remember that nobody is paying me for this. Some days I’ve posted anywhere up to five things. So I’m ahead.

I think I’m using the idea of “I have to spend the time working on new things” as a diversion to not work on this project.

And that lets me know it is the “yetzer hara” doing the talking. This is the Jewish idea of the “negative influence” that tries to stop us from doing good things. I have learned to use its powers against it, like in aikido. When I feel it trying to prevent me, then I know I’m onto something really good and amazing. It actually spurs me on, rather than preventing me – once I notice it.

So, it is time for a shift in energy. Time to start sorting. I’ll try to post new things too because that is a good exercise for me. But I’ll try to use things that I’ve already worked on part-way rather than stuff I have to start from scratch. There are plenty of ideas that I’ve gotten some of the way into and just not finished. This way I’ll be using them up and not taking as much time. This way I’ve got more time to sort.

But mostly, I’m going to spend some of my writing time as book time. This stuff doesn’t do itself, and I don’t have minions. Even if I did, I’d want to make sure that anything that has my name on it is the way I want it.

The only thing to it is to do it. Wish me luck. Sometimes the biggest battles are in our heads.

Paint the background first.

I’m not very good at painting yet. I’ve just read a tip that sounds really interesting. Paint the background first. Somehow this seems like it is backwards.

In life, you focus on the main part. You’ll see the building, or the dog, or the person first, and then maybe you’ll see the background. Maybe you’ll see the trees, or the clouds. But you never look at those first and happen to look at what is smack dab in the middle of everything, virtually yelling at you to look at it.

Paint the background first. If you don’t paint the background, you don’t have a way to paint the focal point. If you don’t give it a place to be, there is no place for it. If you paint the main thing first and the background last, you may smear the sky or the trees over it. You may end up leaving a weird edge around it.

This sounds a lot like life.

We have to set up for the big things. We have to make space for them. We don’t just graduate from college. We have to go to high school, and before that, middle school, and before that, elementary school. Maybe even there is kindergarten or pre-K in there too.

In order to write a book, you have to know how to write. In order to know how to write, you have to know words. In order to know words, you have to know letters.

Nothing is in a vacuum. Nothing exists on its own. Everything is connected.

Paint the background first.

Money and church – a dangerous combination.

I really don’t want money to be involved with a church. I don’t want people to feel guilt about having to tithe and I don’t want the government to get involved.

The government has nothing to do with church. If there is no money involved then it is simpler all around. Forget the idea of registering a church as a nonprofit. A church isn’t a business and shouldn’t be run like one. It is a group of people, united in a common goal to serve God and humankind.

Tithes make people feel excluded. They are guilt inducing. Have I paid enough? Is it ten percent of my net or of my gross? The poor person knows that he hasn’t paid anywhere near the amount that the rich person has, so he feels that he is not an equal member.

To expect people to pay to go to church is to exclude some people. It certainly will shame some of them. It will make some people feel like modern day lepers.

To have the alms basin pass through the pews right before communion is even more excluding. If you pay, you can play. If you put some money in the plate then you get to meet Jesus. I suspect that most people don’t see it that way. But you notice the alms basin isn’t passed at the beginning of the service, or at the end. It is right in the middle, right before communion. This is the worst time ever.

I get it. People would bring their offerings to the Temple. They would bring an ox or two doves or some grain, depending on the degree of the sin that they had committed. The bigger the sin, the bigger the offering. Since we don’t deal in animal sacrifice any more, we use money. It is a lot more portable.

Also, the modern idea of offerings is to make us mindful of the idea that everything we have comes from God. Everything. If we hold on to it like it is all ours then we start to think that we are responsible for our fortune, and by fortune I mean not only money but luck. When we give some of our money back to God we are acknowledging that it isn’t ours. It wasn’t really ever ours to start off with.

But I just don’t like the idea of money mixed up with church. Jesus never collected money for his services. Jesus never carried money.

The disciples rarely carried money either. When he sent them out to preach he told them to not take any money (or much of anything else) with them.

Jesus says in Luke 10:4,
“4 Don’t carry a money-bag, traveling bag, or sandals; don’t greet anyone along the road.”

We are told to not worry about money or material possessions.

Jesus says in Luke 12:27,
“Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.”

Now, of course people have to have stuff to survive. They need food and clothing and shelter. But we aren’t supposed to worry about it.

When they got to a certain town, they had to pay the temple tax. Jesus tells Peter to go fish. Jesus tells Peter to use the talent he has, that he is good at and trust that God will provide. And God does provide in an amazing way.

In Matthew 17:24-27 we read this amazing story.
24 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” 25 “Yes, he does,” he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?” 26 “From others,” Peter answered. “Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27 “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

But churches need money too, right? Of course they do, if you think of church as being a building. Of course they do if you think of that building being staffed by paid ministers.

But this isn’t the model that Jesus gives us.

In Luke 12:33-34, Jesus says,
33″Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. 34″For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

In Matthew 6:19, Jesus says,
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”

We’ve started to think of the buildings as church, and forgotten that the Church is the people. The Body of Christ is made up not of bricks but of bodies. Every one of us is a living, breathing cell in the Body of Christ.

When we forget this, we start to worship the building and not even notice the Body.

Jesus never built a building. If you go to the Holy Land, you can’t take a tour of the First church of Jesus. Jesus never ordained anybody. Jesus never consecrated a place or a person. Jesus said that everything and everyone was of God. So why are we doing otherwise?

We shouldn’t spend our time and our money building up a church made of bricks and stones. We should spend our time and our money building up a Church made of people. If we spend our time and our money on education, on health, on arts, on healing people inside and out, we will have a stronger Body. We’ll have a stronger world.

If we wake people up to their true potential then this Body will be very strong indeed.

Magic marker, indeed!

There are several children’s books that feature a child who draws with a pencil (or marker, or crayon) and things magically appear from what they draw. They are all enjoyable. Here are some that I’ve particularly liked.
AUTHOR Gilliland, Judith Heide.
TITLE Not in the house, Newton! / Judith Heide Gilliland ; illustrated
by Elizabeth Sayles.
NOTE Everything Newton draws with his magic red crayon becomes real,
and heeding his mother’s admonition he flies the airplane he
draws right out the window.
AUTHOR Johnson, Crockett, 1906-1975.
TITLE Harold and the purple crayon / by Crockett Johnson.
NOTE Harold goes for an adventurous walk in the moonlight with his
purple crayon.

AUTHOR McCarty, Peter.
TITLE Jeremy draws a monster / Peter McCarty.
NOTE A young boy who spends most of his time alone in his bedroom
makes new friends after the monster in his drawing becomes a
monstrous nuisance.

AUTHOR Collins, Ross.
TITLE Doodleday / by Ross Collins.
NOTE Despite his mother’s warning, young Harvey draws on Doodleday,
but when his drawings come to life in frightening ways, only
his mother can help.

“Dog Loves Drawing” by Louise Yates

“The Pencil” by Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman

Aaron Becker’s series – Journey, Quest, and Return

Words

I kept using the word “crazy” to define myself when I was with my spiritual director. She knows my history with bipolar disorder. She knows I hear from God. She, unlike my former minister, doesn’t freak out when I say that. She doesn’t like it however when I say I’m crazy. She thinks my difference is a gift. She thinks that God made me this way on purpose, that it isn’t an accident and it isn’t a handicap.

She asked me recently to ask Jesus what words he would use to describe me. When I did, instantly I got back these two words:

Anointed. Chosen.

My reaction to this? That again? You have to be talking to someone else. Nobody is going to believe me.

Then I think of Moses, arguing with God. He didn’t want it either. He kept trying to get out of it. Moses was one guy, untrained, with a speech impediment. God told him to go in front of the most powerful person in the world at the time and ask him to free thousands of people. God was asking him to liberate people from a tyrant.

With no army.
With no diplomatic skills.
With nothing, except the word of God.

God called to Moses from a burning bush. He didn’t send an angel. This was a bush on fire, yet it wasn’t being consumed by the fire. Sounds like a hallucination.

It all sounds crazy, right? Yet it happened. Why can’t something like that happen now? Why wouldn’t it? If we believe in an active and living God, then we have to believe that God still talks to people.

Why does God call amateurs? Why not call the experts? If God keeps working through the amateurs, why become an expert? What is the point of becoming ordained? If “God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called” as is frequently said, then it means the call is more important than the preparation.

God made the waves part for the Israelites to escape from the Egyptians. God made water come from a rock when they were thirsty. God made bread for them too.

Blessed are you God, who makes bread come from the earth. This Jewish prayer said at every meal where bread is served. It is a reminder of the manna from heaven. It is a reminder that God provides for us all the time. We didn’t buy or bake that bread. God gave us the ability to buy it or bake it. God made the grain grow from the earth. Sure, somebody planted it. But God made it happen.

If by my faith I am healed as Jesus says throughout the Gospels to people, then I want to believe that God has called me. I want to believe that I’m not making this up. I want to believe that the voice I hear is God’s voice. I want to believe that it is real.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 4:4 that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from God.

Now, Jesus is the bread of life, and the Word.

When my spiritual director tells me I am amazing and special, I think that she tells that to everyone she directs.

Sure I’m special. And different and unique. I stress that to everybody how special they are and that they should celebrate their uniqueness. And then I have a very hard time fully believing it myself.

Perhaps my hesitancy is part of it all. Perhaps God needs me to be certain of my call. It has taken me a lot to tell ministers of the call I first heard when I was 12. It took me a lot of self convincing before I even told a minister. I had to convince myself first. There were a lot of walls that had to be overcome in my own heart first.

Why not believe that Jesus has made a home in my heart? Why not believe that I am called to build a new church?

What is the danger of believing this?

Embarrassing the church. Leading people away from the truth. Having them be mislead. Like David Koresh. Like Jim Jones.

Going so far that I am discredited, that the message is not heard.

But, then I think, if the message is from God, it will get out. If it really is of God, it will happen.

I ask to not get in the way, and to be the way. It is both at the same time. God made me the way he made me because he needs me this way.

My diagnosis means I am mindful and careful. It means I ask for guidance and for oversight. It means also that I self limit. This is good and bad.

I’m still upset that the place I asked for training and oversight didn’t know how to handle me. But then again if I am to do something new, I can’t follow an old pattern.

New wine, old wineskin, and all that.

Ego

The world goes out of its way to bring you down. Don’t join them.

Many people will show modesty. They will refuse to say that they are good at what they do for fear of being seen as arrogant.

I take it another way. God made you special. For you to downgrade or diminish something that you are good at is to talk badly about God.

Be proud of who you are. Let your light shine.

When someone tries to bring you down, they are really just jealous of you. They think they have to bring your down to raise themselves up. There is also a good chance that this is how they were talked to as a child. Their parents taught them that this is how you talk to people. They taught them to only see the bad. They taught them that they were bad.

This is a teachable moment.

You have a chance of re-educating them. You can respond gently, with love, that you are not the dirt they think you are. They haven’t seen your flowers yet.

If you let someone treat you like dirt, you’ll start to believe it too.

Don’t let somebody knock you down, even if that somebody is yourself.