Crazy in the church

“Being considered ‘crazy’ by those who are still victims of cultural conditioning is a compliment” – Jason Hairston

I left a church when the minister thought I was crazy for praying to God and hearing a reply. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that in the three years I’d been a member there, not a single person had talked about hearing from God – including her. God and Jesus were past tense and future tense – not present tense. They weren’t right now. You’d think getting people to feel comfortable talking with God would be the goal of church, but often it isn’t. Often the goal is mute submission to authority.

I remember that even Jesus’ family thought he was crazy, and the religious authorities decided that he was possessed.

(This is from The Condensed Gospel)
When the Pharisees heard about this they said “This man drives out demons with Beelzebub.” Some, to test him, were demanding to see him perform a miracle. Even his own family thought he was crazy.
Jesus knew their thoughts and said “A divided kingdom cannot stand. No one can enter a strong man’s house and steal his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Thus, if the king of demons drives out demons he is fighting against himself. How can his kingdom stand then? If I drive out demons by the king of demons who is it that your own people drive them out by? Accuse them of the same thing you accuse me of! Now, if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then this is proof that the kingdom of God has arrived among you. People will be forgiven for whatever they do and whatever they say unless they speak against the Holy Spirit. That is unforgivable. Anyone who is not with me is against me, and scatters rather than gathers.” He said this because they were saying he had an evil spirit in him.
MT 9:32-34, MT 12:22-32, MK 3:20-30, LK 11:14-23, LK 12:10

In John 7:5 we learn that even Jesus’ own brothers didn’t believe in him. They lived with him and knew him well, and they thought he was a crackpot.

If this is how Jesus was treated by his own family, it stands to reason that his followers would be treated likewise, but it is sad that it happens in the church. He even warned his disciples that they would be accused of everything he was, and suffer his fate – but he meant that it was going to come from the religious authorities that they were trying to usurp, not from within the faithful.

“Crazy” is the modern way to silence someone, especially a woman. It is said to discredit or diminish her impact on others. It is used these days in the same way that the accusation of witchcraft was in years past.

If you have been told you are crazy by a church member or minister, leave right away and find people who hear the same voice you hear. You aren’t crazy. The ones you left are, because they can’t hear the One who they say they follow. How can you follow God if you don’t even know God’s voice?

Blue escape

A meditation on leaving bad doctors, clubs, churches – of feeling ignored, part of a machine, a number but not a name. How big community isn’t community anymore. And – an excuse to make use of an art supply that others don’t think of as an art supply – aluminum foil. Thus – Seeing things in new ways. Making use of a bad situation.

Gesso
Crumpled thin aluminum foil from Baja Burrito
Tissue with distress ink stains
Stamps
Envelope
Copied money
Acrylic paint
Crushed glass sparkle glitter
Glazing medium
14 x 11 canvas

Whole
b1

Top left
b2

Top right
b3

Bottom left
b4

Bottom right
b5

Current iteration worked on March and April 2016. (It may or may not be completed.)

Poem – Alive

I was never introduced to a living Jesus
in church.
He was a character in a story
that happened
long ago and far away,
to other people.
He was a boogeyman to come
in the future,
when I least expect it,
to settle accounts
and even the score.

He never was real,
never was solid and present,
always Christ,
never Jesus,
never a friend,
always more like a big brother
who beat up your enemies
and might
beat you up
if you talk smack.

Then I met Jesus.
The real one.
I met him in the Gospels,
I met him on retreat.
I met him in a spiritual director.
I met him in myself,
hiding there in plain sight.

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.

Finger-painting and leaving church

I finger-paint. I’m 45, and I finger-paint. I admit it. I’m getting in touch with my inner 5 year old – but I’m skipping the tantrum part. In fact, by finger-painting, I’m doing my best to avoid a tantrum.

So far, it is working.

I’m not a great artist. I admire people who can paint or draw better than reality. Right now I’m just learning how to get the paint somewhere near where I intended. That is a good start. I’m trying to be patient with myself. I’m trying to just enjoy the process.

I’ve figured out how to save money on canvasses. I go to Goodwill and buy a large canvas there. I paint over what was on it. So instead of paying $50, I pay $4. Then I don’t feel bad about smearing paint around. It frees me to have fun.

I used to paint on the interior walls of my house, but I’ve run out of space to work. It is a small house. Painting on my walls with my fingers gave me that delicious feeling of going against my parent’s rules. They used to get so upset when I’d draw on the walls. Instead of providing me with paper or canvas, they just yelled at me.

This was my normal.

I’m glad to be painting again.

When I think of it this way, I feel that finger-painting, whether on walls or on canvas, is similar to me leaving church.

I left church when I got chastised by the priest for daring to rethink church. I dared to say that organized religion is in direct opposition to what Jesus meant. I could have gone silent, and played the dutiful, obedient church member. I could have been a drone, like so many others are.

I didn’t stop writing or thinking about what church should be, about what Jesus meant it to be. It just gave fuel to my fire.

Something about finger-painting feels the same. I was told not to, but for no good reason. It wouldn’t have hurt for me to draw on the walls of my room. They could have painted over it when it was time to sell. Heck, I’m the one who had to sell the house. I could have done that. But no, the walls were pristine. Well, except for thirty years of cigarette smoke, staining everything yellow. My doodles were far safer.

I wasn’t given another outlet for my creativity. I wasn’t given a choice. I wasn’t asked. My feelings didn’t matter.

Obey. Obey. Obey. Parents and priests have a lot in common.

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.

God is in the darkness

dark1

I was painting the background for a space picture. This alone is a new thing for me. I’m trying to learn that it is OK to work on a project over the course of time. I’m trying to learn to do things in stages. I don’t have to do the whole thing at once.

I’m not sure where I got the idea that I had to finish a painting all at once. I have wirework projects that I can’t finish all at once. The work is too hard on my hands and wrists to complete it in one day. There are certainly beading projects that are sitting in plastic bags in bins right now, half finished. I may never finish them.

Perhaps part of it is that acrylic paint can’t be worked with once it is dry, and it dries very fast. Beads don’t care. With beads, I can take the whole thing apart and redo it as many times as I want. Paint isn’t forgiving like that.

But I keep reading about image transfer and collage, and I keep thinking it is cool. I’ve got all the materials I need (I think) and I’ve read quite a number of books about it. I still don’t think I know what I am doing, so I haven’t tried. But I’m trying to convince myself that if I don’t try, it is worse than trying and failing. Not using art supplies for fear that I’ll mess them up is worse than using them and not getting what I was aiming for. At least when I use them, I’m learning how to use them, and I’m learning what works and what doesn’t.

All the image transfer and collage techniques are multi-day projects. You have to paint the background, and let it dry a day. Then you paint a layer of clear glue on it. And let it dry a day. Then put something else on. And let it dry a day. You get the idea. Lots of waiting. Lots of days.

Part of my issue is that I want results now. I’m trying to get over that. I’m trying to use these kinds of projects to get over that. I always have “quick” projects to give me that “I made something” buzz, in the meantime.

So, back to the painting. I needed a black background, but I didn’t want to use black. That is too easy. So I used a really dark grey called Paynes Grey, and a really dark purple called Dioxazine Violet (Hue). I squirted some of each on the canvas and swirled them around and together. I really like the color I got. It isn’t traditionally black, but it is plenty dark. I figure space isn’t black, but more purple/grey, if it had to have a color.

In reality, I figure it is the absence of light, and that doesn’t have a color at all.

But then I didn’t like the lines in it. Because I use my fingers to paint, there were large lines in it. No matter how I swished and flicked my fingers, the lines were still there. I don’t want lines, because they will draw attention to themselves. This is a background. Backgrounds are supposed to stay in the back, right? They are the supporting role, not the main character.

So I started “writing”. I have a friend who does “light language”- which is really the gift of tongues. It can be done with the voice or with writing. Her coming out about it has reminded me of the fact that I’ve done this for years. I stopped doing it because it felt silly. I got really self conscious of it and stopped. I never showed anybody what I was doing. I guess there was some shame in it, because I felt like an oddball.

You aren’t weird if there are other people who do the same thing, though.

So I’ve started doing it again, intentionally. I’m letting the Holy Spirit work through me in this new/old way, and it is really freeing. I’m still really aware how unusual it is so I don’t do it all the time. I’m mindful of my audience.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget that a minister told me to stop talking about how God was talking to me, was waking me up at night to give me messages. A minister, telling me to stop talking about God. In church. To church members. Isn’t that the place where people who have those kinds of experiences go? Isn’t that the place where people seek to have those kinds of experiences? Isn’t that the place where people read about other people in the Bible having those experiences?

I’m glad I chose to leave that church rather than to be silent.

So when I started to write on this painting, I learned something. I didn’t write down or record my experience. I spoke the words out loud and “wrote” them in my light language shorthand. When I write this way, I write left to right, then right to left. I kind of make an S across the page, going back and forth, until I am done.

Here is what I remember of it:

Under the sea, and deep in space, it is very dark. The darkness is vast and silent.

There is potential in darkness.

Babies grow in darkness.

The seed is the same way, swelling, stretching.

And God is there in the darkness.

This reminds me of Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

Which then leads to Psalm 139-12-16
…even the darkness is not dark to You.
The night shines like the day;
darkness and light are alike to You.
13 For it was You who created my inward parts;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You
because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made.
Your works are wonderful,
and I know this very well.
15 My bones were not hidden from You
when I was made in secret,
when I was formed in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw me when I was formless;
all my days were written in Your book and planned
before a single one of them began.

I was afraid of darkness when I started this project, and now I am at peace. I’ve gotten the message that God is there, at work, even if I can’t see it. I’ve gotten the message that God has a plan for my life.

Then this leads me to Jeremiah 29:11-13
11 For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the LORD’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

What an amazing message to come from just painting the background to a piece that I don’t even know what it is going to be.

Thanks be to God.

seed

An apple seed, sprouting.