Thursday, March 27, 2014

When World Vision Stands Up -- and Love is Knocked Down

I know, I know. The last thing the internet needs is another post on the World Vision debacle, right? But I have to speak up, because so many won't, saying it doesn't affect them, and because so many others are spewing words of poison and bigotry.

Here's what happened, if you haven't heard. In a nutshell: World Vision (Christian organization for the sponsorship of children living in poverty) announced that would be employing gay people, and gay marrieds. The evangelical Christians immediately reacted by pulling their financial support of said children living in poverty -- allegedly 2,000 sponsorships were retracted. As a result, World Vision reversed their decision, apologizing for having been willing to hire LGBT married folks.

Okay. So.  This makes me angry. As in, tearing-at-my-hair, wailing-in-grief, taking-to-the-streets, profound fury at the so-called Jesus lovers, so-called "Christians" who acted in this hate-mongering way. At those in power who call it morality to punish needy children in their fervor to condemn those who are different from themselves.

I despise this. I am thoroughly disgusted. I am so grateful that I no longer wear the name "Christian." I am so sad for those of my loved ones who do wear this label, and wear it in a grace-filled and lovely way. A way that seeks to follow in Jesus' footsteps, to walk his talk.

And so, I have a few things to say.  I know I speak for more than myself.  I hope that I speak for more than I imagine.

To those who call it a victory of morality, of the gospel, of Christ that the World Vision decision was reversed -- I am disappointed in you. I think it's time for you to reread the book you love to pound on others with such a heavy hand. And when I read it, I mean all of it, not just the two to four references to homosexuality. Try on the more than four hundred verses on serving the poor. Or how about the more than five hundred verses on love (depending on the version)? And while you're at it, take a close look at the gospels. Remind me where Jesus starts spitting on non-hetero people?

To those who work at World Vision and/or were involved in these two decisions in any way -- I thank you, and I am sorry. Thank you for being willing to stand up for equal rights, to stand against bigotry. I am sorry for the vehemence that knocked you back down, that forced you to align with the prejudiced privileged in light of your goal of serving needy children. I am sorry that you were forced to cater to those who are too blind to value this goal as highly as you.

However, World Vision, I am also deeply saddened by the letter written by your president and chairman detailing the reversal of your decision to employ LGBT marrieds. In it, you asked for forgiveness. Why? I understand that you may have been backed into a corner, that the reversal was not what was in your hearts to do. But to apologize? To claim that you made a mistake? To not point out the hypocrisy and hatred that forced your hand? To not thank the members of the LGBT and progressive communities who rallied to support you and to cover the revoked sponsorships? Grevious oversights, all. These are, I might remind you, the same people who are committed to completing the terms of their sponsorships, unlike the supposedly morally superior evangelicals. I would love to have seen your reversal come with a blazing defense of those you wore purple for today.

To the church leaders and members -- I entreat you. The reason why over 2,000 members of the church thought it was not only acceptable but necessary and applaudable to walk out on the poverty-stricken communities they had made financial commitments to is in large part because of you. The gay marriage debate is perpetuated by your past responses -- either actual words or communicated via silence, and both speak equally loudly. Whether or not these 2,000 evangelicals are members of your church or not is moot. We are one body -- and I mean, one human people. Perhaps the gay marriage debate does not affect you right not (or, more likely, you are just blind to the ways it affects you and those around you). But it will. I entreat you to recall the heart of the Jesus that you preach of, and speak out against hypocrisy.  This is your responsibility.  This is our responsibility.

Also, church leaders, I hear that you are wondering why so many are leaving the church. The lauding, sanctioning, or ignoring of wide scale un-love might be a major clue.

To the LGBT community -- I grieve with you. I ache with you. I stand with you.

To the children sponsored by World Vision -- I am horrified. Horrified that you were thrown away more easily than a piece of rubbish by the ones who vowed to support you. I am so sorry that these who are charged by the faith they flaunt to love "the least of these" will only do so as long as it does not conflict with their high-horse agenda. And when it does -- well, we've seen what happens. I am so sorry. You are worth so much more.  I am ashamed of how we in the west have wielded our privilege. 

To the people of this "Christian nation" -- get ready. Equal marriage rights for homosexuals is going to happen. And it's going to happen because it is fair. Because it is wrong to treat any person as sub-human or lesser because they are different. How did the women's rights movement not teach us this? Or how about the civil rights movement?  Regardless of creed, color, origin, income, gender, age, orientation, and so forth, there's room in the heart for all us.

"Love one another as I have loved you." ~ Jesus

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Everyday Acts of Courage

I used to rely on circumstance, on arranging it all just so.  The creative process relied on so many things: that table in that one particular cafe that is yours, the one that you must have . . . that certain drink . . . the just-right assemblage of shirt and shoes and bottoms and tops . . . and, most important of all, the perfect state of mind.  Perhaps you know the one?  You transform into being of purest inspiration, of dancing between worlds, where your mind soars but your body is grounded so that the words may flow directly from Spirit to the page, where you are the divine conduit.

Holy, creative bliss.

And if any one of those plethora of things was askew or absent – if your table was occupied or the blouse you wanted to wear was buried at the bottom of a hamper of soiled garments, if your drink was too hot or too acrid or too expensive-feeling today – well, then heaven could not kiss the earth, and the words would refuse to fall. . . .

I'm so pleased to announce that I am now a regular monthly writer for the very fabulous Secret Rebel Club!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Creative Kindred Conversation at {e} everyday art

If you know Erica of {e} everyday art, you know what a delight she is.  And if you haven't met her yet, I hope you will trek over to her internet home posthaste and get acquainted, because she is luminous.  A woman who is crazy creative in her own right, Erica is also one of the most gifted encouragers that I have ever met.  I'm serious, people.  She is on a mission to ignite the creativity that dwells within all of us, no matter how long it may have lain dormant. 

She interviewed me for her Creative Kindred Conversation series, and today that interview is live!  I feel so honored and privileged to be featured on her blog. Thank you, Erica!  Check out a few of her luscious questions and my replies below, and find the full interview here
find prints of this piece here
:: Describe your creative practice in three words.
Discovering, deep, truth (and if I’m allowed I’d also like to add quirky, colorful, and textured.  rule breaker!)

:: What or who inspires you?
Everything!  Ha!  :)  I know, that’s not really helpful.  But I have a hard time pointing to one or a few specific things and saying, “That is what inspires me.”  The sunrise and moon, the frosted grass, my son’s breath, my husband’s lips on mine – these are all fodder.  And I also value expressing truth very highly, so my art and writing tell my truth about grief or my spiritual wrestling or whatever it is that’s most important to me at the moment.

I do know that I get my very best ideas (usually my art ideas) while running on the treadmill, so I am constantly typing misspelled notes into my iPad.  And I also know that I grow very stagnant if I stop reading and viewing art and art process videos.

I’ve recently also started a vital indulgence in artist dates as recommended by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way.  It was a bit awkward at first, but so richly reward…and fun!

:: How do you “love through” obstacles or stagnancy back to your creative center and passion?
I don’t force myself.  I am mama to an amazing toddler that keeps me on my toes, and just finished up single-handedly running the Made ecourse in addition to my art shop…and that’s before factoring in stealing time to write and/or paint, and hanging with my hubby.  All that to say – I’m in and/or just coming out of an intensely busy and draining season.  There’s a lot going on, and I often feel like I’m being pulled in every direction.  So I try to be gentle with myself, and not try to shame myself into getting back to work. . . .

Monday, March 17, 2014

Redemption Stories

Soul at Sea (prints available here)
I didn't know that stillbirth still happened in the western world until it happened to me.  Thirty-one weeks of pregnancy and all the evidence I had for my daughter's life were a few precious items and the yawning ache in my soul that still throbs, two and more years later now. 

After we returned home from the hospital, empty armed, I was brokenhearted but determined.  Determined to grieve well, to to feel it all, to let God use it.  And I did, and he did, I guess.  I don't know, really, who did what, only that I showed up to the pain, to the searing of reality.  And it changed me – and it changes me.

In the church, we like to talk a good line about redemption.  And that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Jesus is redemption with skin on, after all.  But we – especially we here in the first world – like our redemption to be neat, tidy.  We often want to come in on the after of redemption; not the before, and certainly not the during
It's odd to me, that we have become so ill-used to mess.  Jesus' life is anything but orderly and expected.  He went to the wilderness, willingly and often.  I don't think you can go there and come back anything but unkempt, with tossed-about hair and a strange new light in your eye.  I wonder if it's the desert that gave Jesus the courage to live and die and live again as he did.

After my Eve girl died within my body,  after my first pregnancy ended in birthing a dead body, I tried so hard to be the after of redemption, even while I accepted that grief was unpredictable and long.  I thought that if I could be – or really, act – faithful enough, Eve's death would be somehow worth it, redeemed. 

Perhaps it inspires you that I could birth my dead daughter and still profess to love the God that didn't save her.  If it does, I am truly glad.  May he lead you ever deeper through my attempts.

 But it didn't work for me. . . .

Today I'm writing  over at the lovely Crystal Neubauer's blog for her redemption series!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Life Lately {3/14/2014 Edition}

Somehow it is already half way through March.  When did that happen?  Apparently, while all this was going on . . .

art journaling
I added some lovely new prints to the shop, like this one.  check them out here.

I've been writing a novel!!  what.  watch for it soon!

sunny adventures.  light is my love language.

I've been reading this. it's really good*:

What is your life lately like?  I'd love to hear about your everyday holy.
*affiliate link

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Girl I Once Was

The difference is as miraculous, as mundane as the ever-cycling day and nighttime.

She used to be so sad, so small.  And maybe she is still, but less.  Life was one big contraction, growing inward while never releasing, birthing, breathing out.  Each year was a new level of rot growing down into her being, her heart an abscess.  And she did not know.

No one that mattered had ever taught her in this fragile, formative years of her starshine, of the intrinsic value of every one of earth's vibrating lives, hers included.

It was a decay born of self-hate, self-loathing.  The not-enough words she heard eventually became her own, whispered to herself as she wept tears she did not, could not comprehend.

It was love that broke through the thick loam of putrid shame and disgust.  Love in the midst of suffering.  Love when she was her worst, when she never seemed to get any better.  Love when she wanted death.

She writhed under the searing light tunneling in through the unhealed strata of her soul.  Love lanced the abscess, unleashed the pus and vile stench of too many years of untended wounds, and it felt excruciating.  Depression's thick dark rushed in, thicker than before, the dank, dismal night of her soul unending, it seemed.

But this new pain, it was a different kind.  Because now there was breath and air on the freshly bleeding places.  And oh, it stung, it screamed, but with the pain of healing.  Slowly, s l o w l y, fresh flesh grew where the foul disintegration used to ooze.

Sun broke through, warming her skin, and for the first time -- she felt it.  And nothing ever was the same, in spite of the new wounds that would come, the new fears and joys and unknowings.

She never was the same. The girl grew, at last, into the woman, as is right and true and necessary.  The girls she once was is glad, grateful to have been given space and light and love, to become. 

The woman she is will brook no criticism for changing.  The universe, the human heart is change.  Do not spit you've changed her way as if it is legitimate for a single cell in this wide world to do anything but.  She is awake now, eyes ever more opened.

She is awake now.

linking up here.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

On Strength and Weakenss {Lent 2014}

I am not used to living in my own strength.  

I've never been in this place during our six years of marriage, during my three decades of life, where I am the strong(er) one.  Depression, an eating disorder, illness, stillbirth -- these battles crushed me.  And the messages I was grown on, the ones that leeched deep into my core despite their untruth, agreed.  My name is Beth, and I am a problem.

It has taken me years to realize that I was not (am not) a problem, even when I struggled, even when I floundered and the the salted waters closed above my head and it took the hands of others plunging into the depths to bring me back to air because my muscles were too atrophied for swimming.

I have spent [too] many of my years longing for death -- not in an I-have-a-plan sort of way, but just wanting to be dead, for this charade to be finished.  I am grateful for the ones who sang me back to Life.

All this to say -- I have become accustomed to the being the weaker partner.  And our culture and our western church are inclined to agree.  I am, after all, a woman.

* * *

My husband is not well.  He lives in pain without relief.  The doctors have neither remedy nor answer.  He can no longer work.  The future is a question.

I find myself given an excruciating opportunity to feel something like what he felt as he watched me struggle for all those years.  Now I am the strong one, the one helpless to do anything but witness.  Now I am the one plunging a hand down after him as the ocean of tragedy tries to claim him.  

I do not know if I am strong enough for this.

* * *

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  I grew up Catholic, raised on mystery that no one quite knew how to celebrate or speak of.  As a child, I was ashamed of wearing the Lenten ashes on my forehead.  As a teen and young woman, I embraced them.  Even before I had awakened, the ashes spoke to me, whispers of something deeper, of joy blooming from pain. 

I haven't worn the ashes in many years now.  But they still call to me.  Perhaps you may remember that this blog used to bear the tagline "beauty from ashes."  Three decades of dwelling more pain, disappointment, and sorrow than in the joy and the light have taught me to embrace the fact that the earth is more fertile after it is burned, that spring cannot bloom without the frozen winter.

Last night, I burned my own earth.  Because the ground I have been walking has grown over-hard and unyielding.  It is growing fallow, because I am resisting the turning of the wheel.  I didn't mean for it to be so, but my daughter's death inside me was the last straw.  I grabbed hold of the metaphorical steering wheel of life and resolved to never let any hands but my own on it ever again -- not God's, not the hands of love or friendship or joy.  

I would pilot my own ship, no matter the consequences.  

In some ways, this has been a good thing.  It has made me less lazy, less good-things-come-to-those-who-wait.  Because of this, Made was born, and my soul awakened more deeply.  I believe that my son will reap the priceless benefits of parents who refuse to live numb.

But in other ways, it has been very much a not-good thing.  Because this clutching at control?  Another word for this is fear

And a life lived in fear . . . well, what kind of life is that at all?

* * *

I think that we in the western world have been conditioned to believe that control is strength, a virtue.  In American, we pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, after all, white-knuckled and sweating. 

But what are we pulling ourselves up to?  More money?  More sex?  More square footage?  More power for the sake of more power?  More [false] youth?

These have become the American Dream, it seems.  I hope I am wrong.  But I don't think I am.

* * *

Traditionally, our Lenten fasts have been populated by fealty sworn to ego-stroking self-abnegation.  At least, mine have.  One year I gave up chocolate, for example, and another year it was Skittles.  And while less candy was certainly beneficial for my health, my fasts have not ever dealt with any of the actual dark chinks in my soul. 

This year, therefore, I am giving up fear.  Because fear is ruling me.  It literally contracts my muscles, pulling my spine down and down until my body is curled into the tightest ball and breath is hard to come by.

I am afraid of my child dying.  Of my dying, or my husband's.
I am afraid of illness and accident.
I am afraid of failure.  I am afraid of success.
I am afraid of falling behind, of running out of time, of not spending myself wisely, of coming to the end of my days and tasting only regret.
I am afraid of silence and stillness.  
I am afraid of hurting.
I am afraid of the God I read of in ancient texts.  I am afraid that there is no god. 

Last night, I tremblingly scrawled my fears onto paper, and then burned the paper away to ash and painted the ash into art.  

I am planting the seeds of my sorrow.  I do not know when their spring may come, but I hope that I will recognize it when it does. 

* * *

What is strength?  Is it gritting one's teeth and pushing/pulling/straining, tendons bulging as one forces victory?  

Maybe.  Maybe sometimes.

But I think there is another kind of strength, too.  The kind that gathers the ashes with blackened palms and uses them to fertilize the heart.  The kind that watches a loved one's struggle and, stretching out a hand to help, knows that the hand can only help it the drowning one decides to take it.  The kind that folds, skin on skin, into weakness, into life's inevitable pain, and says, welcome, lover.

The kind that sets flame to fear, when the burning feels (ironically) like terror, because letting go takes more courage than holding over-tight and the sensation is utterly unfamiliar.  

The kind that allows all things, sits with all things, embraces all things.  

I do not know if I am this kind of strong 


literally painting my ashes into art with Christine