February 4, 2010

Turning My Black Thumb Green

Posted in Art, diversions, Soul, waiting tagged , , , , at 5:19 am by Eostre

Flowers in water color pencils, done on a rainy day in winter

 My friend Becky once told me about this idea she had, where she thought of her life as a compass with the needle constantly spinning. She said that in her life her interests periodically shift. Sometimes she is intensely interested in poetry, sometimes art or fiction or music. Without knowing why, her internal compass will shift, sometimes pointing at one, sometimes at another.

This analogy has stuck with me, because I feel the same way. I have periods of intensely prolific artistic output, but what I am doing, and what I am interested in, is constantly shifting. The usual suspects are painting, writing, making jewelry, knitting, sewing, and crocheting. Over the past 10 years or so I have shifted between these things, spending a month or so painting canvas after canvas, or crocheting a whole menagerie of stuffed animals for my niece. Then just as quickly as I started I stop and pick up something else, and I am writing short stories or building up inventory for a craft fair. I

one of my necklaces

have no control over the shifts, they are subject to some higher authority, and they don’t consult me (this is the case in other aspects of my life as well). I think perhaps it is a combination of restless energy and boredom, most of the time.

I have been sewing a lot lately, but now that has shifted, and I have taken up gardening. This is a new thing for me, because every plant I have ever owned has died a sad, lingering death. I get them verdant and perky, and all too soon they droop and wither, and I never know why. But this time is going to be different, I tell you! I have the right soil and I am planting the seeds, I water carefully and according to the directions on the seed packet, I am determined to make something grow. I want to watch creation that I help along, but don’t control, unlike all of my other cycles. I think this is a step forward.

At least until I shift again.

The first growth in my new garden

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October 15, 2009

Jesus was not white, and other reflections

Posted in God, Goddess, Jesus, religion, Soul, Spirituality at 4:29 am by Eostre

Growing up in the Evangelical Church, we knew who Jesus was, we had pictures of him! Jesus was white, quasi-attractive, and full of good ol’ Amerijesus playing keep awaycan pride (our Church had an American flag right next to cross, behind the pulpit).  And since, as we all know (and out Sunday School teachers showed us on felt boards every week) Jesus was more than just a man, he was GOD, the implications were clear. Jesus was just like us! And more than that, he might have lived in Ancient Israel, but apart from that small point, he was American!

Unfortunately, this Jesus was created out of whole cloth by the American Church and fed to little minds every week by well meaning (but maliciously misinformed) adults. I don’t know which would be worse, a concerted effort to do away with the Jesus of the Bible and replace him with this permissive, smiling, white man, or blinding ignorance. Either way, irreparable damage has been done to generations of Christian children, who grew up to be Christian adults who then went on to perpetuate the lie.

As I became aware of the glaring inconsistencies in what the Bible actually said and what was presented in Christian media, I was appalled. The lie is so widespread and so ingrained in Christian (and Western) culture, that there seems to be no way to counter it.  Suddenly, White Jesus was everywhere I looked. I couldn’t escape his bland, permissive gaze. Christian bookstore’s send me spiraling into depression.

So what do I do with this? How do I deal with this tangled, snarled knot of misconceptions and angst? I tried declaiming to anyone who would listen that Jesus probably looked more like Osama Bin Laden than Brad Pitt, but I soon discovered that it was a fruitless exercise. The lie was too prevalent, too ingrained in our collective consciousness.

So I gave up. Not completely, of course, I’ll still pull out the soap-box given the opportunity, but I can’t let it consume me anymore. I can’t fight the White Jesus, but he has ruined God personifications for me. I can’t try to imagine a human God without spiraling back down into the angst, so I have had to find a different way of imagining God. It wasn’t easy, and it still isn’t well defined, but now, when I care to, I imagine God as a sort of amorphous cloud that can envelope me in warmth, like laying on the grass in the sunshine when it’s not too hot, but just right, and you can see the patterns of the shadows of the leaves on your eyelids when you close your eyes. And all I want to do is curl up and rest. God, for me, now, is a feeling. God is safety and comfort and warmth, all encompassing and incorporeal, no gender, no race, God is both the sunlight that warms my face, the grass that cushions me, and the clean scent of rain that lulls me to rest. Simple? Yes. Uncomplicated? No.

September 21, 2009

Spirituality in Images and Art

Posted in Art, SoCal, Soul, Spirituality at 4:46 pm by LadySophie

When I was in 8th grade, I took at art class and felt I was destined to be an artist. I loved to paint, work with charcoals, and sketch. It’s funny to me now because I am such a verbal person – everything I do in life right now revolves around words. But what I found in art, was a way to express myself even beyond words.

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I led retreats off and on in my last ministry – and I learned about art cards at a conference. They are sets of postcards you can buy that have fine art printed on them in small form. I used them as an introduction exercise. I.e. “everyone choose a card that represents who you are and share it with the group.” It was a way to take us deeper as a group more quickly. You would be amazed at the depth of meaning people found in art.

Since I have been in SoCal, one of my fav places to visit is the Getty. My profile pic is actually the floating labyrinth in the garden there. I’ll attach a few more pics here for you to see. The Getty is such a fulfilling experience. One room is my favorite. It is a room of women. One scene is a wedding in Greece with women dancers. Another frame has a portrait of a regally dressed woman by the beach. Another is a haunting portrait of what looks like a sad wife. I am always stirred in that room.

Not only do I find meaning in images others have created, but I find images inside as well. If I stop and listen, images come to mind of what I am feeling or desiring. In my journaling, I could imagine the place where my soul could rest, could be myself, could be restored. It is a beach house (of course). Huge windows that face the ocean. Crisp white couches – the comfortable kind that you can nap on. A beautiful kitchen. Rooms for different things I enjoy. Only peace lives there. I can walk around without my shoes on. No one else can go there unless they are invited. That image has stayed with me this year in a powerful way.

Even if you are not an art person or a journaling person – try both one time. Go to a local art museum. Sit down for 10 minutes and be still. See what images come to mind. What a gift – that we have this ability to connect our soul to the world around us. Art and images help me see what is inside my own heart spiritually  – and express it in a way words never could.

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August 16, 2009

The Christianities I’ve Lived

Posted in Faith Transformations, feminist theology, Relationships, religion, Soul tagged , , , , , at 9:54 pm by Lakshmi (LaChelle)

Since 6th grade, I have grown up in the protestant evangelical charismatic movement. For all of you who don’t know, or need to be reminded of what that means, well, for me at least it included the following: mission trips, FIRE (which was a 6 month period of no television, no music or reading not Christian-focused, and weekly meetings), Bible Quiz, youth church on Wednesday nights, Sunday morning and night services (where the night service was more Holy Spirit filled and might go on until who knew when), raising hands and falling slain in the spirit, speaking in tongues, dancing and waving flags around or whatever you wanted to do during praise time in the church, sorrowful deep weeping confessions, loving Jesus more than anything, revivals, big televangelists coming as visiting preachers, MY preacher on television, prosperity preaching (preachers with big beautiful white houses and large Washington D.C sized gated lawns), the Left Behind books, Christian romance, praying and telling other people about Jesus, speaking about abstinence at Youth Leadership Conference, listening to on the radio and singing at school talent shows CCM (Christian Contemporary Music), buying clothing at Mardel Christian bookstore, knowing that it was creation and not evolution that caused the world that breathed God, understanding the devil was a real entity that wanted to bring you down and especially would be after you the more you belonged to Jesus, being awed and terrified of my literal reading of Revelation, and reading the Bible everyday and everywhere, and praying/talking to God as much as I could.

Christianity, in some ways, is a culture with language and dress and behavior, definitely a worldview, of its own. Like a person from any country will have adopted and understand the codes of her country’s culture/society, the Christian culture has been inside of me, and I have not and will not probably reject it. That said, where I am at now in my late 20s is a very different place than I was ages 12-18. How?

UNDERGRAD: I went to a private Christian church that allowed my evangelism to pause since everyone around me was already a Christian (scotch-taping the “footprints” poem to the inside of bathroom stalls would be “sweet” and not subversive). And the conservatism of the school (women were not really allowed a leadership role, Christian music was actually of the devil) allowed me to see myself not as self-righteously more conservative/pure/godly (I just couldn’t be!) than those around me, but rather as more liberal. Which in a way, pushed me to a certain freedom to explore that liberality. Also, (thank godde), my professors were progressive Christians. They challenged me to question the assumed male gender of “god” and asked me to respond to the parallels between the stories from the Bible I had known to be sacred and absolute and the stories from classical Greek and Roman and even earlier mythologies; they allowed me to see evolution and sexuality as something other than a threat to my faith. And just being in college in general helped me realize that there were so many ideas out there and so much knowledge I didn’t know, uncertainties that were real.

GRAD SCHOOL: I moved from the midwest to the east coast and came into contact with people very different than me. My Christian undergrad was a safe place to start wandering around in possibilities because I knew that my professors and the people around me were exploring and they were so strong in their faith. In graduate school, I did not have any Christians around me. I was forced to look at people of different religions and views or no religion at all and see them as okay people, even good (whatever that meant), even more moral than I. Which was a new idea, because I had been taught growing up that it was religion, the Christian religion specifically, which made people moral. I took an interest, via my feminist classes, in feminist theology (I hadn’t even known there was such a field), and started to let myself be critical of my faith tradition, understanding that the sacred text was also a historical text in the sense that it was created in a specific time and has been used for specific reasons not necessarily inclusive or liberating for everyone. Graduate school was a rich time of awakenings and explorations, and so it was also a gorgeous time of fear and depression too. But it was something I needed to go through.

MY RETURN TO UNDERGRAD: But this time as a professor. And as a professor, I was to integrate faith and learning, which I enjoyed doing, especially since Christianity had started to become so nuanced for me. I tried out serious theological issues with my students and encouraged them to consider alternatives to what they had thoughtlessly assumed previously. During my time there (about two years), I realized that I wanted to completely focus on religion, but this time, from a feminist standpoint.

NOW, NEW GRAD SCHOOL: So here I am, in a Women’s Studies and Religion program, with girls and professors who are all together considering the endless possibilities of what godde, spirituality, Jesus, and our relationship to other faiths and people mean. I love this exploration, and it feels good and safe and right. And I want to continue to see where it leads. My theology now is more defined by social justice and Jesus not as one who wants to be worshiped, but as one who gave up being God for a moment to show us that idolatrous worship was not what he wanted. He demonstrated the message of liberation for the impoverished, for women, for all who are oppressed. And my theology is also pluralistic, because I feel, even though Christianity is the right path for me, other faiths carry a similar message. Evangelism is no longer a part of my Christian faith. That is just how it is, and I’m sorry if you don’t agree with it or feel that it is wayward or something. But evangelism does not feel ethical for me personally.