So, I’m writing a book. (On believing in myself and my message.)

Recently I’ve had several people interested in the fact that I am writing a book. They ask what it is that I’m writing about. I always hesitate. I started to wonder why.

Perhaps I’m hesitating because I don’t know if these people are religious or not. A lot of people have a knee-jerk reaction against organized religion, and religion in general. I understand that. In fact that’s part of what I’m writing about. But I don’t want to say I’m writing about God and Jesus and have them immediately stop listening to me. So I have to figure out a way to warm them up to the idea.

It reminds me of the elevator speech that I would give to people when they would show up at the library. There were members of my former church who I would see at the library and they would say “How come I haven’t seen you in church in a while?” I needed an answer for that. Sometimes they wouldn’t say anything at all and I would tell them anyway. I wanted them to understand that how we are doing church is completely opposite of how Jesus wanted us to do it.

What I’m doing is stripping everything down and rebuilding from the ground up.

Some churches are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Some churches are doing what is right, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God. Some churches are clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and feeding the hungry. But some churches seem to be more about celebrating God than following God. They get that good feeling once a week by saying that they are Christians but during the rest of the week they don’t live like they are. Jesus didn’t die so that we can get dressed up for an hour once a week and sing songs. He didn’t die so that we would live badly. So part of what I’m writing is about saying what we are supposed to do.

Perhaps part of why I hesitate when they ask me what I’m writing about is because of my lack of credentials. I don’t have a degree in theology. I’ve not been to Divinity school. And let’s face it – I’m a woman. The apostle Paul says that women shouldn’t talk in church. So by extension they certainly shouldn’t talk about church. But let’s look at who Jesus called. Jesus called the leftovers, the has-beens, the never-was. Jesus called tax collectors, fishermen, and laborers. Jesus called people who weren’t authorities at all. That’s important to remember. So just because I don’t have any training doesn’t mean that I don’t know what I’m talking about.

I want to wake people up to their true calling as followers of Jesus. I want us all to connect with the true Vine that is Jesus. I want everybody to know that they are ministers, and they are called. I want people to read the Bible for themselves, rather than have it fed to them. I want the church to be about the people and not about the building.

That. That is what my book is about.

Will it sell a million copies? Will I get to retire and write all day long? Doubtful. Will it change minds? Hopefully.

It is already written – it is in this blog. I’m just putting it together in book form and then self-publishing it. Fiddling with the format is tedious. I’ve looked at getting help for this and the price they want to charge exceeds what I think I’ll make on it. So I’m plodding along on my own. Meanwhile, I’ve got more ideas coming. It is hard to juggle it all. But I think the first thing I have to do is believe that this book needs to happen and stop apologizing for writing it and for believing that it should exist.

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Cherry picking

Every now and then some stranger will disagree with one of my religious posts by saying that I’m “cherry picking” the Bible. Of course I cherry pick. The whole tree is too hard to digest. That is the silliest thing to accuse somebody of.

Perhaps I should just say what I’m going to say and not reference chapter and verse at all. Perhaps I should stop citing any references and just assume that everybody has read what I am referring to.

Jesus did that. He just said what he was going to say and assumed that his audience had read the whole Bible for themselves. He assumed that they could follow along with his logic and know that what he was saying was true.

When people accuse me of cherry picking they’re saying that I’m picking and choosing what I’m using to cite. Of course I am. Everybody does that. That is part of writing. Perhaps they want me to use an argumentative structure? Perhaps they think it would be best if I quoted all sides of the debate? That would draw away from my argument. No writer would do that.

Well, I’ll do it if Jesus’ words disagree with what I’m saying. Paul’s words don’t count. He isn’t the Messiah, and his words aren’t counted as the Gospels. Too many people think they are, but they are the ones accusing me of “cherry picking”.

How about this? I’m going to write what I write and quote what I quote and if “they” get it, then great. If “they” don’t, that is their problem. Jesus’ message wasn’t accepted by everybody either, so I’m in good company.

Empty, but not gone.

Some of you may know that I have (had?) a mirror site to BetsyBeadhead. It is (was?) called Empty Cross Community. It has (had?) only my religious writings. It is (was?) a place where I could sort out what I want to put in my first book, and also is (was?) a place where I could direct people who might be interested in just that topic.

I’m not sure what verb tense to use, though. It is a bit like Schrodinger’s cat right now. Is it alive, or not? Does it exist, or not? I hadn’t put anything new in it in a while because I was working on the book. Mostly it is sorted out, and I didn’t have anything new to put in it. For that, I’m grateful. In a way, it has served its purpose.

Yesterday I went to put a new post into it and discovered I couldn’t. I discovered that my page had been shut down for a violation of the Terms of Service. There has been no warning and no explanation. I’ve written WordPress and not heard back so far. I’ve reread the Terms of Service and I don’t know what I’ve done wrong. I also think it is a bit severe for them to shut it down without a warning or a notification. There was no chance to correct whatever error they have found.

It is kind of like trying to go home and discovering that the bank has repossessed your house because they think you are doing something illegal in it.

Fortunately, it isn’t my house, but my “vacation home”, and I have copies of everything I’ve written. So nothing is lost but time. And some links. I have a website using the same name and it has a link to the blog which is broken now. I was using the blog to give more information than I could put on the website.

Possibly there is an issue with the name itself. There is a sculpture called the “Empty Cross”. The creator has trademarked the name. The idea of the cross is in harmony with the idea of my page. I’m not saying I’m part of them, but maybe they think I am – and because I’m not, they protested.

Maybe someone thought that the second page was stealing from the first page. Because there is nothing on the Empty Cross Community page that isn’t on the Betsy Beadhead page, perhaps they thought that someone on that page was stealing and reposting my blog.

Again, I don’t know. There was no warning, and no explanation.

Perhaps I need a new name for the second page. Perhaps I need to let it go and just focus on the book. But, I do like the idea of a focused blog page just for my religious writings. I don’t want to direct someone to my vision of a new church or a Bible study, only for them to get stuck in my rants about patriarchy, or wonder about my reading list for zombie fiction.

Or maybe that is the point. I am all those things.

I am a Jesus follower who reads zombie fiction, who has tattoos, who thinks that women are getting the short end of the stick, who works in a customer service job and gets annoyed at being treated like a servant, who tutors ESL and LD kindergartners… I am a lot of things, and some of them may seem to conflict with the idea of what defines a person who follows Jesus. Perhaps that is the issue. I want people to know that they can love Jesus and they don’t have to fit the mold of “Jesus freak”. That loving Jesus isn’t about wearing long dresses and homeschooling your kids and listening to “Christian” music and reading “Christian” books.

Well, it is about those things. But it isn’t JUST about those things. You can love Jesus and do none of those. Or all of them, and other things as well. Jesus’ arms are big enough to embrace us all. He was about turning the conventional way of thinking upside down back then too. He still is.

I certainly was having a problem with posting to both pages, using one browser. It is impossible to log into one WordPress site and then post on another one. It simply will only let me log into one at a time. So I can’t check the second one to see if I’ve already posted something from the first one in an easy way. I’d thought about installing another browser, in addition to Chrome, but now I’m thinking I need to use another blog platform.

And find another name. Anybody know a good name for what I’ve been writing about? I looked at ReVision – and that name is taken. I need something about how church isn’t what we think it is – it is less, and more at the same time. I need something that is easy to remember. I need something that embraces Orthodox and Pentecostal at the same time. I need something that goes back to the roots of what Jesus said and strips it all down. I need something that takes away all the pomp and puffery of two thousand years of humans getting in the way of God. We’ve put so much onto and into Jesus that we can’t see him anymore.

I need a name for that. I’m open to suggestions.

To create a book. Thoughts.

I’m having debates in my head about how to do the book and if I’m ready to publish. I realize now that I’ve already said it several times – it is already written, I don’t need to add more.

I’m still writing more, and I can and will always write more. I have finally realized that I can publish the new stuff later. I can republish old stuff and put it with new stuff if I find I’m writing a lot on one theme – like Communion, for instance. This book is a taste, a start, a beginning.

I’m weary and I worry about going through editing. But then I remember the only thing to it is to do it. Just start.

Also, then I remember the Jewish idea of the yetzer hara – knowing about it is helpful. I’m seeing all these distractions as a sign that I’m on to something good. It is a sign now, when I stop to notice it playing this game on me.

Just like how a child learns “this” feeling is a sign to go to the bathroom – “this” feeling of being distracted is a sign that outside influences are messing with me, trying to stop me from doing what I’m being called to do, what I’m made for. Sounds paranoid? It isn’t. It is actually very healthy. The idea of the yetzer hara isn’t mine, and it isn’t new. It was very freeing to learn about it. I’ve written about it many times before. It is an indicator to me now. I’ve transformed it from being a stumbling block into a steppingstone.

The idea of the yetzer hara needs to be introduced in mental hospitals. Heck, it needs to be introduced to people before they get into mental hospitals.

So the more I write about writing, the more I’m not putting my book together. See, it is a game, a distraction. This is all part of being human. I still feel a need to publish something every day. It is a way to stretch and clean out my head. But I need to use this unintended vacation time (the library is closed for remodeling) to work on my book, as I’ve said all along.

Perhaps there is a good reason I found out that Internet Explorer isn’t to be trusted. I was using it and Chrome to work on the book. I had my main blog open on Chrome, and I had the Empty Cross Community blog open on IE. I’d post from one to the other, and check to make sure I’d not already posted something. I created the second blog just to create file folders for my book. My first book. Which is already written, mostly. I’ve not added anything new to Empty Cross Community that isn’t already in BetsyBeadhead. It is just more focused – just the religious stuff. No rambles, no pictures.

I found out that IE is highly suspect, so I stopped using it. It is impossible to look at two WordPress sites using the same browser – I can’t log into both and look at both. It thinks I’m “BetsyBeadhead” when I’m on “EmptyCrossCommunity”. It won’t let me post to it. So I had to stop. I’m starting to see this as a good thing – it has created a stopping point. Start on the next part of the project. Stop adding to it. Start formatting.

Time to get going. Wish me luck, and say a prayer if you are the praying type. Pray that my words are of use to people, that they lead them towards God, and towards healing.

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.

Way out and way in writing

Writing is my form of self defense. Writing is my way out, and my way in. Writing is how I understand the world and myself.

I’m coming to learn that drawing is just like writing. It is a way of slowing down and really looking at the situation, really seeing what it is. Now, of course, I’m not seeing THE truth of what is there. I’m seeing MY truth. I’m seeing things from my perspective. I can’t see the whole picture, but I can accurately report what I see. I also fully understand that what I see is filtered through my perceptions and experiences, and that is fine too.

Whatever it is that I see, at least I’m looking at it for a change. I’m not running away from it like I used to.

I haven’t written, not really, in the past few weeks. I’ve compiled things. I’ve made some sketches, if you will. I’ve pulled up old notes where I started a piece and finished it off. But I haven’t written like I had been writing. I think I’ve kept my original goal of one post a day, but I’d gotten away from my recent two-or-three posts a day. I’ve just not had the push.

I’ve just not pushed myself, really.

I’ve taken a break.

Just like with yoga, I’ve reassessed it, and my lack of stretching, both with yoga and with writing, has made me feel out of sorts.

While I never want to do something just for the sake of doing something, I’m learning that there are some things that I just have to do. Writing is one of them. But it was starting to feel that I was using writing as a way to hide, rather than a way to experience.

I’d taken to writing while on my walking break at lunch. I was using the walking path as a sort of treadmill. I knew where everything was. There was nothing that was going to trip me. So I could write, using the notes feature on my phone. I was able to get in lots more posts that way.

The only problem was that I was missing all the stuff that was happening around me. I was missing the birds that were nesting in the airplane wings that serve as a sundial. I was missing the little stream that goes into the sinkhole. I was missing the dragonflies.

While I had my eyes directed to the screen and my mind directed to what I was writing, I didn’t have my brain open to new things.

I took time off, not because I didn’t have anything to say, but because I thought I was saying too much. You know, the whole one mouth and two ears thing. I wasn’t balanced. I was producing more than I was consuming. I wanted to rest and receive.

But then I went too far, and at the wrong time. I’ve been a little tense anyway because my schedule has been weird. A retreat, an odd schedule at work, Circle training, a vacation to pack for… There is a lot going on that isn’t autopilot kind of stuff. A lot of new balls in the air to juggle.

I’ll remember from now on that one of the balls that I have to keep is writing. It seems to center me and ground me. It seems to make me who I am. It keeps me present.

Alphabets

If you want to gain an appreciation for how hard it is to learn to write, try learning another alphabet. I’ve always thought that the English alphabet is fairly simple. But that is because I was raised with it. I’ve been using it for years.

When I started tutoring kindergartners, I realized that are a lot of letters that look alike. Lower case “p” and “b” and “d” and q” look a lot alike. A lower case “n” is just a “u” upside down. In one way this is useful. It is a great way to see if a child has a learning disability. If she can’t ever “see” these differences, then perhaps her brain isn’t processing them.

Part of learning to write an alphabet is learning at what point a letter isn’t that letter anymore. This comes into play when you are handwriting the letters. At what point is an “n” an “n”, and at what point is it an “h”? If you put just a little too much tail on the “n” it changes into an “h”. If you put the tail on the right it is wrong. If you put the lines in the wrong place then it isn’t a letter at all. It is just a squiggle.

Writing is just an agreed-upon set of squiggles. Teaching letters to a child is just teaching these symbols, these agreed-upon squiggles. They are symbols because they have meaning. They have meaning because we agree that they do. In and of themselves they mean nothing.

I’ve come to appreciate how hard it is for anybody to learn the English alphabet because I’m learning Hebrew these days. I’m learning to write, read, and speak it. Well, maybe not the whole language. Just now, I’m learning the prayers. I bought a siddur, a Jewish prayer book, but it didn’t show the pronunciations. It showed the Hebrew words and the translation. I want the middle bit – the how-to-pronounce-it bit. I have a book by Blu Greenberg called “How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household” and it has a lot of what I want. There is also a website called “Hebrew 4 Christians” that is very helpful. But none of this is portable. So I’m making my own prayer book. And this involves handwriting the prayers.

Sure, I could literally copy-and-paste, but that would make my little book not so little. Pasting paper onto paper makes the book too thick. Ideally, I’d find some way of assembling this online and then printing out my own little prayer book, but I’ve not found a way to do this. Other alphabets aren’t always supported. And, ultimately, I do want to learn this alphabet. I like learning alphabets. So the best way is to write the words onto the pages myself.

I’m learning a lot of the letters look the same. Some look like just slight variations on other ones. I don’t quite know what makes one letter different from another. What must be included to make sure this letter is this letter? What is too far? What isn’t enough? It is the same as with the “n” and the “h” – what is the line that makes this one different from this one?

I want it to be perfect, but it isn’t going to be perfect without practice. I’m sure that if a reader of Hebrew looks at this, she might be able to figure out what I’ve written. Sure, I could practice on my own, away from this book. I could try to write the prayers and the letters out by hand and then copy them over to this book when I feel that I’ve gotten it – or I can just do it. I think there is something honest about that. I think God likes us to just try, to open ourselves up to being able to make mistakes.

You’ll never learn to walk unless you let go of the table you are holding on to. You have to try to take a few steps on your own. And when you do, your parent is overjoyed. Your first few baby steps are beautiful to her. They are awkward, and wobbly, but they are beautiful. They are beautiful because you are doing it. And with every step, you are walking closer to your parent’s open arms.

I think God thinks the same about my little prayer book. The letters are awkward and wobbly, but they are beautiful. I’m trying. And with every stroke I’m getting better. And with every stroke I’m walking closer to God.