Time to leave

Jane knew it was time to leave when she saw this. It was her car, sure, but he had paid for it. That was what he told her when she complained. It wasn’t hers.

Nothing was hers. She had no reason to complain. She should be grateful he even accepted her, even allowed her to stay with him as long as he had. And that was part of why she stayed. He’d convinced her she couldn’t survive without him, had no worth outside of his company.

She spent so much of her adult life with him that she had almost forgotten what it was like to not be with him. Now that she thought about it, she remembered asking him if she could get a tattoo, or even color her hair. He grudgingly agreed to both, but with restrictions. How many other expressions of her self had she suppressed?

When she mentioned to her friends that she was thinking of leaving, they said “But you should be grateful you’re in a relationship” or “Think of those people who have it worse and they stay” – like any of that mattered. It did, for a while. For a while she was fooled into agreeing with them. For a while she thought she was wrong, or crazy, or ungrateful.

But then the day came when she could no longer ignore the messages her body was telling her, but she tried. Back and neck so tight she had to get massages twice a month. Nightmares where she was trapped, waking up punching or kicking. Heart palpitations. She realized she was taking three different anti-anxiety medications just to get through the day. And still it wasn’t enough. But she ignored it, pretended she was fine. Everyone else she knew just seemed to accept it as normal. She even ended up in the hospital thinking she was having a heart attack but it was just anxiety. Even then he didn’t believe her, made her bring letters from the doctor, notarized, before he would be grudgingly accept her back.

She became suicidal in September, the life drained out of her. His response was to say she wasn’t the girl he had picked, had graced with his attention. He said she better pick herself back up and be cheery again or he’d kick her out. Never did he imagine that he was the reason for her despondency. That if only he had treated her with kindness and trust she would’ve blossomed instead of withered.

Maybe she should’ve left then, but she didn’t. Maybe she felt she couldn’t afford to live without him. Maybe she had gotten so used to feeling second rate and third class that she even agreed with him that there wasn’t any point to complaining. Maybe everybody in her position felt the same way and she should just accept it and not hope for better.

But then it happened. The day she never had even dared to hope for – that awful beautiful day when everything became crystal clear and her path lay before her. Stay, or die. He had made the decision for her with this message. She knew if she returned to him her life would be forfeit. It was no longer merely uncomfortable or difficult to be there, but deadly. A few phone calls and she was gone. She never looked back.

Ministry at the thin places

I’m called to the thin places, the holes, the edges.  I’m called to those moments where people are at the edges of life and don’t even know it.  They are at risk of death, due to overdose, or suicide, or both.  They’ve wandered too close to the limit.  One more step and they are gone. 

It took me a while to see this pattern.  I kept meeting people at these edges. 

I went walking in downtown Chattanooga with friends many years back at night, and saw a young man, thin, dark hair, alone at a water fountain that had been turned off for the winter.  I left my friends and walked up to this stranger and began to talk with him.  It was a month later that he admitted to me that he was going to kill himself that night.  It was the fact that I started talking to him that distracted him, that turned him away from the edge. 

I’ve had several boyfriends who drank too much, not trying to kill themselves but trying to enjoy life more, in their opinion.  I was there to keep them alive in those moments when the body starts to react badly to that abuse. 

I’ve dated two people who had attempted suicide before I met them.

My father tried to commit suicide when I was two.  My great-grandfather, his grandfather, did commit suicide.  They say that someone was “successful” at suicide, but is it really a success? 

I feel suicide and addiction and overdosing are all related.  We walk too far into territory that we don’t know, and it pulls us in with its own gravity, its own magnetism.  Before we know it, we are sucked in much further than we meant.  We didn’t know where that dark alley led to.  We didn’t know – or we thought we were strong enough to walk away.  These forces are older than us, and hungrier.  They will have what they will have and there is no arguing with them.  The only real way to survive is to never get too close. 

And that is where I come in.  I show up.  I happen to be there.  I’m called to it.  This isn’t something you can schedule.  There isn’t an app for this. 

I stand in the way, with death behind me, so they can’t see that doorway. 

This isn’t something you train for, not really. This isn’t something that people even talk about.  We don’t talk about death.  We certainly don’t talk about suicide. 

(Written 11/8/2015, updated 5/14/20)

Beggar

I think I’ve figured it out.

I should quit my job

with its low pay

and become an artist

and have five children

and have no health insurance.

I should spend everything I make

as soon as I make it,

saving nothing.

No pension plan

nothing to prepare for

the future

whether the future

is a month

or 20 years from now.

Then when anything happens,

when, not if,

I’ll go up to strangers

and beg for money.

But I won’t do it like people used to do it

standing on the street corner

like a beggar

or a prostitute,

I’ll do it the new way.

I’ll set up a “Go fund me” account

or a Kickstarter

and do it all digitally.

I’ll ask friends

and their friends

to pay for

my gallbladder operation

or my child’s new baseball uniform

or my pet’s funeral.

Meanwhile I’ll make art talking about

how awesome it is

to be free

from all the constraints

of a 9-to-5 job,

while conveniently forgetting

that my friends

in those 9 to 5 jobs

are paying for my bills.

Or maybe I have too much

 self-respect

and respect for others

to beg at all.

(Written 10/30/2015)

Illness

What are you afraid of?

What are you trying to control?

What are you holding onto,

 that you can’t let go?

Sometimes when people have an illness it is just the end result of a wrestling match that they are having. They are struggling with something in their life and they’re having a hard time releasing it.

It would help if they can slow down and listen to what their illness is trying to get them to pay attention to. There is some imbalance in their life, some incomplete business.

It reminds me of one of the mantras of AA, about fixing what you can, letting go of what you can’t fix, and knowing the difference. If you are fighting an illness, ask yourself who is in charge? Who is going to do the healing – you or God? If you are fighting it to the point that you cannot allow yourself to rest and you’re in a great deal of pain then perhaps it means that you are not trusting in God to heal you, but you think that you were going to heal you.

Healing doesn’t always mean a physical healing. Sometimes healing simply means that you’ve learned a lesson you were supposed to learn or what was supposed to happen has finally happened. One of the biggest things that holds people up is needing to know an outcome. Sometimes letting go of that need is the most powerful thing you can do.

(started 9/21/15, updated 5/14/20)

Story-time church

So many church leaders wonder why folks are leaving the church – they think it is because they haven’t heard the Gospel.  Little do they realize they have heard the Gospel, and they aren’t seeing it lived out in the Church.  

Church should be more like Second Harvest or the Red Cross, rather than a sing-a-long and storytime.  Church has been infantilized. Church is more like preschool than preparation for work. 

Let’s look at how church is done currently with new eyes.  Currently, this is what happens –

You sing hymns.  The choir has practiced and leads the way, and you fumble along.  You’ve all got the words in the book in front of you, or up on a screen if you are in a modern church.  The songs are designed to cheer you up, but also to wake you up.  You have to stand to sing them in many churches.  So you are getting a little stretching in too. 

They read stories to you from the Bible, telling you about all the things that happened way back when to everyone else.  You’ve never told how to be in those stories – how to make them come alive for you, or to recognize them happening to you right now. Over a thousand years ago, you’d not even be allowed to read the Word for yourself – you’d be expected to just listen.  Also – you probably couldn’t even understand it – it was in Latin, which nobody spoke.  The stories weren’t meant for you to hear and understand.  Somehow the words were supposed to have some sort of magic power, just the syllables were enough.  Even though the words are in the local language now, you still aren’t taught how to live them out. 

You aren’t allowed to discuss the stories.  Your participation is not required – and in many cases it is not allowed.  It certainly isn’t encouraged. You can read them for yourself on your own time if you want, but sharing your own interpretation is not OK.  You aren’t ordained.  You haven’t been to graduate school to get a degree in ministry – so you aren’t worthy of an opinion.  The interpretation of God’s message is for the minister – not the people in the pews.  This is just like pre-school – the teacher runs the class, not the students. 

You get to play dress up – you wear your best clothes, and if you go to a liturgical church, the choir, altar party, and minister put on robes.  You wear clothes you don’t wear any other time or in any other place. You can’t dress like you normally do.  This furthers the idea that what happens in church stays in church, and that God doesn’t show up at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday while you are at work. 

It is like God is a special toy.  God is pulled out to play with once a week, and not even for a full day.  Then God is put back into the box, to be forgotten for another week. 

You get a snack too – communion. It isn’t a meal – just a sip of wine (or grape juice) and a wafer or a cracker.  It isn’t a meal by any stretch of the imagination.  It is just a little tiny thing, a symbol.

What is evil?

How interesting that the Hebrew word for demon

שד

Is related to the word for fallow land

שדה בור

And battlefield, and minefield

And related to looted, robbed

שדדו

Evil is not using resources properly,

potential fruitfulness wasted,

through human means.  It isn’t an accident.

It is

intentional or unintentional

mis-use of a gift from God.

Unintentionally

wasting your life

has the same result

as intentionally wasting it.

Not choosing

to be mindful,

to be a good steward

is to choose evil,

to allow it in.

Tastes change

I’m trying to do what my spiritual director said and invite Jesus into this feeling.  I’m trying to let him be the gold that glues the pieces back together. 

Sometimes I don’t even want the old pieces anymore.  Sometimes I want it all to crumble away and have it all be filled again, new – a new pot or plate, or bowl.  To burn it all away in a refinery fire.  To have the good separated from the bad by the refining fire of God.  I want to be harvested and reaped and burn away and reborn and not be broken.  To not build on my past and my emptiness. 

I know God made me the way he made me because he needs me this way but now I feel that it is time to start anew.  (But it isn’t about what I feel)  I want to have a fire in my soul.  Start fresh, with new-to-me dishes and towels.  I’d probably buy new sheets.  But otherwise I’m OK with Goodwill.  I think there is a lot of God to be found in Goodwill.  But I digress. 

I am reshaping myself.  Or, I am allowing myself to be reshaped.  I am feeling my way into this new life and trying to see it as a child – that everything is new and worthy of testing.  Try it, you might like it.  I’m open to trying all the things that I tried in the past to see if I’ve changed.  Kale?  I like it.  Anything more than half a bar of chocolate – I’m a PMS monster.  What a surprise!

Tastes change and that isn’t just about your tongue.  This is for and against.  It is good to be open.  Don’t go with what has always been just because it has always been.  It might be holding you back.  It might be a crutch.  You might be allergic.  Treat every experience as a new thing.  Lean into it.  Feel it out.  Touch it, smell, it taste with new senses.  And be thankful.  It is good to be thankful for what you are about to receive, rather than what you just got. 

Everything is a gift. 

This is backwards and yet it is the Way.

I haven’t heard God in a while but I also haven’t been journaling or reading the Bible or any other religious book.  It is hard to hear when you are talking so much. 

(started 3/3/2013, updated 5/11/20)

Why God?

Why believe in God?


I had a friend who I decided was God blind.  Like color blind but for God.
He couldn’t see any reason to believe in God.  This blew my mind.
I’ve always known of God.

The time when I was a baby in the crib
The rescuing by an angel when I was flying too high on the swings.
It is like being a fish and not believing in water.

Some people are color blind.
My dad couldn’t see purple. We were in the car together and he saw
another car.  He asked what color it was.  That made no sense to me.
How could you not see this?  It is such a simple question.  But he had
an inability to see reds and greens. I’d forgotten, and to be honest
I’d never really understood.  How can I understand something so basic
as an inability to see color?

The same with God.

I have Buddhist neighbors.  The mom was sick with kidney disease and it was
really worrying the son.  He cried to tell me how concerned he was for
her health. I know a little about Buddhism but couldn’t remember if
praying was part of it.  Buddhism informs my Christianity.

I asked him if he could pray for his Mom.  No.  So I did.
I don’t pray with the idea that God is my waiter.  I ask and I
receive.  Yes, sometimes it is like that.  But I pray because I know
there is someone on the other end of the line who is listening and who
cares.

Sometimes I think of God as standing at the top of a pit I’ve fallen
in.  He isn’t in sight, but if I call to him, he can point out a hand
hold that I can’t see from my angle.

(updated 5/11/20)

False information is worse than nothing.

I’m getting frustrated with all the “information” being shared these days about how to defeat the virus, none of which has been proven by science. Why share something that isn’t true or helpful? Why theorize if you aren’t a scientist? So many armchair experts these days.

I have plenty of insight that I’ve received about how to make it through these unusual and challenging times but I have not shared them. Why? Because I’m not an expert. I’m not a doctor or nurse. I’m not a homeopath. I’m just a person. And my “information” isn’t based on science but intuition. I have no desire to mislead people. And honestly, most people don’t listen to me anyway.

And maybe that is part of this time: that we all must keep our own confidences. We all must follow the advice of our heart, and not anyone else’s. When you know, you know, and nobody can tell you otherwise. When you don’t know, you won’t listen no matter what.

Art Journal (digital) books

Need something to spark your creative side, but have to get the book digitally? Try these! Some are through Overdrive (the app is called Libby). One option is an urban sketching video course through Libby. Other options are e-magazines through RBI digital.

Overdrive (Libby)

Art Journal Courage: Fearless Mixed Media Techniques for Journaling Bravely    Author: Dina Wakley

Art Journal Kickstarter:  Pages and Prompts to Energize Your Art Journals    Author: Kristy Conlin

Art Journal Art Journey: Collage and Storytelling for Honoring Your Creative Process     Author: Nichole Rae

Inner Hero Creative Art Journal: Mixed Media Messages to Silence Your Inner Critic   Author: Quinn McDonald

The Art Journal Workshop: Break Through, Explore, and Make it Your Own     Author: Traci Bunkers

The journal junkies workshop: Visual Ammunition for the Art Addict     Author: Eric Scott

– Raw Art Journaling    Author: Quinn McDonald

The Secret Letters Project: A Journal for Reflection, Growth, and Transformation Through the Art of Letter Writing    Author:  Juliet Madison

 – Creative Wildfire: An Introduction to Art Journaling–Basics and Beyond      Author:  LK Ludwig

No Excuses Art Journaling: Making Time for Creativity      Author: Gina Rossi Armfield

Bible Journaling Made Simple: An Art-Filled Journey for Creative Worship     Author:  Sandy Allnock

The art of urban sketching: drawing on location around the world     Author: Gabriel Campanario

The urban sketcher: techniques for seeing and drawing on location Author: Marc Taro Holmes

Lynda

Drawing Foundations: Urban Sketching     Author:   Kemp, Will

RBI digital magazines

Cloth Paper Scissors

American Craft

(Completed 4/2/20)