Prayer bead chain

main
This is a prayer bead chain that I made. It isn’t a rosary, but it kind of is. It is a reminder to pray but there are no set prayers for it. I’m open to adding more beads to it in the future, but it is still good the way it is. It would be too heavy to make into a necklace. It is meant to be carried in a pocket so that it is ready to be used as a prayer aid whenever needed.

cross
The cross is a replica of the cross that Pope Francis wears. It is not a crucifix – rather than depicting Christ crucified, it celebrates his life and teaching by depicting him as the good shepherd, one who seeks out the lost and protects them, even willing to lay down his life for them.

heart
The next bead is a heart, as a reminder of God’s love for us, that God loved us enough to come down to earth to experience life among us.

recycled
This bead is made from broken pieces of glass that have been put together and remade into a new bead. It is a reminder that God can make something new out of our brokenness.

This bead is a chevron bead.
chevron1

It doesn’t look special until you see the sides.
chevron2

The only way you can see it is if you cut the bead and then grind away at the edges. This is a reminder that our true beauty isn’t on the surface, but is what is revealed after we are tested.

copal
This bead is made of copal. It is a reminder of the incense used in churches as “an aroma pleasing to the Lord”. Instead of making animal sacrifices, our prayers and work are what God desires.

millefiori
This millefiori bead has six pointed stars, as a reminder of the faith of Israel that told the world about the One God.

egg
This is a glass bead that I made myself many years ago. Unintentionally, it looks like an egg. It is a reminder that what I did many years ago can still be of value and needed today. It is also a reminder to use whatever talents I have to glorify God.

people
This bead is also a millefiori bead, but it has faces. Because it is made of many different canes of glass fused together, it is a reminder that the Body of Christ is made up of many people, all working together in unison to do God’s will on earth.

Dwell

brace
I made this bracelet to illustrate God dwelling among us. This is the picture of the whole thing, which has three units of the same “story”.

Here I’ve blocked off just the story itself. It reads going up.
brace2

This is how you read it –
(light green beads) God created the world. God sustained it for thousands of years.

(Deep green small bead)
Then, God said to the Jewish people
“I want to dwell among you”
and the Mishkon,
the traveling tabernacle, was built.
The tangible reminder that a non-tangible presence was among them.
It wasn’t a house for God
so much as a reminder
that God was already present with them.

(Large deep green bead)
Thousands of years passed with Jews following the One God.

Then the Holy Spirit (red bead)
spoke to Mary (blue bead).
God wanted to dwell among us even more intimately.
God took up residence inside Mary.
It wasn’t something forced.
She was asked.
She said “Here I am. I’m your servant.
Do unto me according to your will.”

God took up residence within her and created a pure, holy, being, a blend of past, present and future, fully human, fully Spirit, and the culmination of the Jewish hope. (Bead with green, red, blue, and white)

Never before in human history has God spoken to someone and asked them to make a place for God within themselves. He’d asked plenty to trust and to follow, but never to actually have God dwell within.

When Jesus came into the world, he asks us to do the same – to make a place for God in our hearts, to let God work through us. God is not in a building – God never was. God is here, within us, now.

Poem about beads

I could lie
and tell you
an amazing story
about these beads,
the far reaches of the world
I travel to get them,
the famous people
who previously owned them,
the magical powers
they have.

Instead,
I’d rather spend
my energy
making the necklaces
than making up
stories
about them.

If you want stories,
read my books.
If you want beauty,
buy my jewelry.
I won’t lie to you
ever
but especially
to sell you something.
Beware of people who do.

Once more with feeling…

I’ve finally gotten over the idea that I can’t repeat myself when I write. I found that I was bringing up the same examples, the same stories. I really wrestled with this, feeling that I should go back and rework what I had already written, to update it perhaps.

But sometimes it is good to just write, let it go, and move on. If I go back and rewrite pieces, I feel like I’m not moving forwards. And sometimes what I wrote wasn’t immature, necessarily. It was my viewpoint, from that day, at that time. On another day I’ll want to talk about the same topic, from a different perspective.

Beads have helped me with this. Here are two different necklaces, using the same main beads.

bead combo

themes

In neither was I able to “say” what I wanted to express when I got the beads. I’ve come to realize that is normal. When the beads are jumbled together in the store or in bins, they spark ideas in my head. But when they have to be put together in a line, such as when they are in a necklace, they just don’t come out the same way as they are in my head.

But here’s the thing – what came out looks good, and nobody knows what I had in my head anyway. The only unhappy person is me.

Now – what I do with that feeling is what matters. It could cause me to stop creating. Or, it can cause me to create more, to try to get across what I was trying to “say”. Or, it can cause me to totally reinvent how I use beads. That too might happen.

I’m looking at incorporating beads and paint and collage. Essentially going 3-D with 2-D stuff. While beads are three dimensional, they aren’t in a way. They lay flat on the body, and you only look at them from one side. Going multi-stranded helps – you have colors and textures “rubbing” up against each other from west and east, rather than just north and south. But wrapping around, and under, and through? That is 3-D, and engages the viewer. The viewer can’t see all that is there in one glance, and will never see the entire piece at once. It is constantly presenting new viewpoints and things to discover.

Is that where I am is going? Maybe. I currently don’t have the skills for that. Yet. But that is part of art too. I think part of what makes an artist is a constant low-level feeling of dissatisfaction. If you are happy with things as they are, you don’t need to create.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

But unhappiness is the mother of art.

It doesn’t mean that I’m depressed. How about unhappy, in the sense of dissatisfied? Or feeling like something is missing? That sense is what drives me to create.

It is funny that creating itself, whether music, painting, collage, writing, beading – can lead to unhappiness. I keep feeling like I almost have it, that it is close, but no cigar. But I’m learning how to be OK with that feeling, and use it to create more. I’m learning how to use my tools and get better at what I do. I’m learning to be patient with the process.

When I first started writing, it could take me five hours to get across what I felt I was trying to say. I feel like I’m much more efficient now. And I’ve learned that with anything I do, the “message” may not come across with the medium. No matter how much work I put into it, the audience may not get what I was trying to give them.

That is OK too. I’m learning that just creating is the goal. I’m learning to just let go, and let God work through me, and in me. I learn when I create. The creations aren’t the goal. It is what I learn while I’m making them. If I can sell them to get more materials to create more things, all the better.

Meditations on cheap beads and cheap jewelry

There weren’t many bead stores when I first started making jewelry. This was over twenty years ago. I hadn’t even thought about making my own jewelry until I met someone who did. She took me to a bead store in DuPont circle in Washington DC, near where I was living at the time. When I moved back home to Chattanooga there weren’t many options for beads.

There was one bead store, way out in the middle of nowhere, thirty minutes away from my house. It was a rarity for that time. That lady was forward thinking. It was called Fat Jane’s beads, and while the owner was named Jane, she wasn’t fat. It was a joke from when she was pregnant. Her store stocked a lot of beads, but they were all in containers and all the containers were in display cabinets. It was a long drive to get there, and a lot of work to find the beads I wanted while I was there.

I prefer to look for beads unmolested. I like to study each strand for as long as I want to pick out the exact shade and variety I like or require, without having a shopkeeper stare at me. I also don’t want to have to ask for each box to be pulled out of the cabinet. It is as if she didn’t want to sell the beads at all. Beads were the main focus of the store, not a sideline, but it didn’t feel like that at times.

Another place that sold beads was called the New Moon Gallery. They didn’t have many beads, but at least they left me alone to study them. Beads were not their main source of income. They sold books and clothing and music and jewelry to the New Age crowd. I even sold jewelry to them for a while.

The best place to buy beads was Goodwill. I bought necklaces and tore them apart carefully to learn how to make my own. There weren’t books or classes about how to make jewelry then. I figured it out in my own. Goodwill was the best for beads. Not really for selection, but for price. I could buy a necklace for a quarter and redesign it into a triple stranded bracelet and sell it for $15. Cheap price, huge profit. The ladies at that one knew me and saved off the good stuff just for me so I’d have first dibs. The selection wasn’t great but the prices were.

Too bad people don’t understand how much beads cost these days. They aren’t cheap at all. Goodwill sells all the really good stuff online now. Plastic junk is all you’ll find. Bead stores are more plentiful, but the prices are way higher. At the price per amount of space in the bag, beads cost way more than I remember pot ever costing.

Back then, the two went hand in hand. I’d smoke a bit and bead a bit. Creativity flowed. Now I’m sober, I don’t create with beads near as often. I’m just as likely to write or paint or draw now. But I still like creating jewelry and I still like selling it, but the prices have had to go up because the cost of the beads has gone up.

I can certainly make everything cost $20 or less but it will be watered down. There will be lots of cheap glass filler beads. There will be very little design. Boring. Bland. Blah. People have to understand that they get what they pay for.

Who am I kidding? This is a society that eats food with artificial colors and flavors and chock full of preservatives. They don’t like homemade, organic, good for you. They don’t appreciate individual, artisan work. They don’t get one of a kind.

I could lower my standards or just expect people to raise theirs.

Paternosters

decade

Paternosters are one-decade rosaries. They are more easily documented than rosaries, since many rosaries were destroyed during the Reformation. Beaded cords used to recite prayers have been found in many cultures and over many years. In fact, our word “bead comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “biddan” meaning “to pray” and “bede” meaning “prayer.”

It was very dangerous to be a Catholic during the Reformation. To possess a rosary or any other Catholic paraphernalia was to risk imprisonment or death. One way that Catholics chose to practice their faith in secret was to carry Paternosters instead of rosaries. They were easily portable and concealable. It was possible to use the paternoster discretely while going about daily life in public because it could fit in the palm of a hand.

Pre-Christian people valued certain stones for their talismanic or protective qualities. Among these were coral – to strengthen the heart, rock crystal – for purity, amethyst – to protect against drunkenness, and agate – for protection. Other materials that were used included amber, carnelian, and emeralds. When Christianity became popular, beads fell out of favor. God was to protect you – not the beads. But old habits die hard. When people made rosaries, the used the same stones, for the same reasons.

Paternosters are not meant to be worn, but used. Following the standard order for rosaries, the prayers go as follows: at the cross, recite the Nicene Creed. At each of the ten following beads (Aves), recite the “Hail Mary” prayer. At the final bead (the Paternoster), recite the “Our Father” prayer.

References –

The Book of Beads – Janet Coles and Robert Budwig
The History of Beads – Lois Sherr Dubin
Sacred Origins of Profound Things – Charles Panati

Leftovers

We are the remnant.
We are the crumbs.
We are the forgotten.
We are the ones
we’ve been waiting for.

We were lost
And now we are found.

cross

Empty cross necklace made with leftover, irregular beads. Each one was pulled for a project and then not used either because of an imperfection or being superfluous.

I feel this beautifully illustrates the church I’m envisioning, full of all the people who were cast out from their churches for being misfits.