Friday, 19 July 2019

Early conditioning and its life-long effects--art



(originally journaled Sept 30 2018)

"Many of our present-day losses are connected to our earlier conditioning..."

The following journal notes are a response to the prompt, "As a kid, my dad thought my art was..."

Did my dad (or mom, or church community, or even school...) think about my art at all? What art? We just didn't do much art, that I have any recollection of. Even at school, art class was a rare occasion.

Sadly, I don't really recall my dad having any interest in my childhood efforts that were not intellectual/academic, or Christian, or housewifely. I expect Mom probably said nice things about my occasional drawings or whatever. But to be honest, many arts (drawing, painting, creative writing) just were not encouraged. Our church walls and windows were relatively plain, and most "art" on our walls at home was landscape paintings--though photography was a favourite hobby of my dad's, focused on family, friends, events, historical locations, and some landscapes.

Some arts were definitely discouraged or not allowed at all: dance particularly. I never did understand how dancing, especially square dancing and folk dancing, even in PE class, could be so evil since there was plenty of it in the Bible ... used as worship! (David's wife got pretty severely punished for being annoyed at David dancing before the Lord, so you'd think that there must be something good about worshipful dance, at least).

Sculpture was another thing to be avoided. I suppose because it was considered "too Catholic" and besides, a lot of famous sculptures were of naked people (think the "David" statue...).

Drama and theatre were pretty much seen as evil, too. We were not allowed to go to the movies at all, and drama/theatre was almost nonexistent for us unless it was a "church youth group play" or something. We didn't have a TV until I was 15 or so when my dad inherited my grandparents' TV, and even then it was kept in the closet a lot of the time. All of which is kind of funny, come to think of it, because Dad was really happy to get to teach drama later on. Oh, we were allowed to do funny skits at church kids' camp, andof course, there were Christmas pageants.

Music was the "Christian" art (sculpture and paintings and architecture were "Catholic"), even for those of us who weren't particularly musical. My grade 7 band and art teacher (a Christian, by the way) encouraged my parents to have me take art instead of music in high school, but Mom definitely insisted on band/music because it was Christian (though I certainly wasn't encouraged to join Glee Club--I suppose their songs were too worldly, but they were mostly the cool kids so I wouldn't have fit in anyway, no doubt).

It really hurt my feelings, though, when the church youth group only allowed me to do reading parts in their "Christian musicals" because according to them I wasn't musical enough (though non-Christian or new Christian kids could sing even if they were totally tone-deaf, in order to "encourage" them to be Christians. Well.)

I wonder why a "Bible-believing church" could be so opposed to so many things found in the Bible, like dancing, clapping during singing, instruments other than piano and violin (which weren't even invented in Bible times), story-telling and creative writing, literature, poetry ("non-Christian" story-telling and writing, lit, poetry, that is)--in other words, creativity that is a gift from a Creative God? Why were we never encouraged to enjoy even classical music like the great operas, so many of which were Bible-based? (Except of course, Handel's Messiah? All the church ladies in town got together every year to put it on in concert at Christmas). Never mind jazz, R&B, and, horror of horrors, rock 'n roll. (Well, some old-timey folk songs were okay ... outside of church events).

By the way, I loved taking English Literature in grade 12. Discovering all those amazing poets and writers--so many of whom, as it turned out, were Christians and based so much of their writing on their Christian beliefs. Surprise!

Maybe there was a fear of anything that might distract or tempt people away from being a "serious Christian," I guess. Christianity in my childhood was a very serious business. (Come to think of it, school was a pretty serious business, too. So little of the arts [or PE] in elementary school--and our parents got to choose which arts we could take in secondary. So it was academics for me, and playing clarinet in high school band, which I never got very good at).

I wonder ... would my life (choices, decisions, directions) have been different if I'd been able to enjoy a wider variety of the arts, and develop my creativity more? And would it have had any differing effect on my spiritual development? Hmmm?

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Look up - Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus



(originally journaled Sept 30, 2018)

This morning at the Anglican Church I was thinking about how I have felt so "apart" from God. I was looking at the big stained glass window, the picture of Jesus on the cross - and I suddenly realized I was looking at the bottom half, the people around the cross, but that I didn't lift up my eyes. It was like I heard Your voice, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus." And I realized that's a real problem for me. My eyes are too much on people and on "the church" and on prayers and devotions and even on "Father God" and perhaps the Holy Spirit ... but I haven't truly been looking at Jesus' face.

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace."

As Hebrews 12:1 says, "Looking unto Jesus."

Monday, 1 July 2019

As A Kid I Missed Out On ... or Not?



(originally journaled Sept 23, 2018)

1. As a kid, I missed the chance to ... dance! and pursue competitive stuff ... and join "non-Christian" groups like Girl Guides and sports

2. As a kid, I lacked freedom to ... make more personal choices

3. As a kid, I dreamed of ... being a Girl Guide, a meteorologist, a biologist, a journalist, a star or winner at something

4. As a kid, I wanted ... a pair of those shiny plastic toy high heel dress-up shoes

5. In my house, we never had ... enough encouragement to be ourselves (but maybe that was just the time, culture, religion, etc...)

6. As a kid, I needed more encouragement and freedom to .... try out things I was really interested in ... and permission to excel for myself in things I was passionate about rather than be expected to fulfill other people's plans for me

7. For years, I have missed and wondered about what would have happened if ... I did go on to get my Doctorate, or even get to continue in Major Work Class (gifted program at school), or take art instead of band, or have the chance to do Creative Writing in school instead of always serious writing

Would I be so conflicted and resentful (as I "should not be") about Christianity and church and all if I hadn't been so restricted in childhood? (No dancing, Guides, makeup, all those little "thou shalt not" rules...)?

The thing is, I never really felt like I was missing out on "things." I was loved and protected (maybe a bit too much of the latter) which was always wrapped in the limits imposed by church - or at least some people's interpretation of it - and - yes, I feel guilty to say it again, but my dad's ideas of what was good, interesting, etc. (And other people's ideas of what they wanted for/from me, which wasn't the adventure I craved...)

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Questions and doubts



(originally journaled Sept 12 2018)

Reasons I sometimes have had doubts about Christianity, or at least the religion of it:

1. I can't imagine why so many people are condemned to hell because they don't even know about Jesus' salvation.

2. I'm confused about the Kingdom of God - yes, it is within us, I get that. But what about heaven? Where is it, really? When? And is there really hell, and if so, is it really like it is so often presented? And is it bad of me not to be so sure about things other people seem to be so sure about?

3. If You know the future (okay, if You're outside of time and see it all at once ... or however that works) and You were able to see how rebellious we'd be, why would You want to "save" us (or even create us)? Has it been worth it?

4. Did you mean for Christians to have so many different opinions/ interpretations--and to be so sure they are right and everyone else (including other Christians, of course) are wrong? Or is that perhaps a hint that You are so much more immense and incomprehensible than our little minds would like to box You into?

5. Was the Bible ever (like in its very original writings) more or less infallible or whatever? Just because it's "inspired," does that mean it's perfect (seeing as how it was written down by dozens of obviously imperfect humans, and tells the stories of so many other imperfect humans)? 

What questions do you readers have?

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Feeling Sad About Not Feeling Properly Sad



(originally journaled Sept 10 2018)

Is it bad not to get sad easily? I do get sad sometimes, but I'm not often very good at shedding a lot of tears or feeling great despair, especially related to "spiritual" things.

One thing I do get sad about sometimes is that I haven't felt "properly sad" about the deaths of my parents ... never mind about all the other people whose deaths (and poor living conditions and so on) I "should" feel sad about. Instead, I just tend to feel kind of numb about it all - death especially - because it seems to me that it is inevitable, one way or another, and who but God knows when our time should come and how it will happen?

Now I know that I "should" also feel really sad about all the people who haven't accepted Jesus - and that should truly motivate me to get out there and urge them... But it doesn't happen, even though I've prayed about it many times. Maybe I just don't love You enough? But how can I change that (or You change that?)

And I did feel sad about the street people, and I worked really hard at "God's Kitchen" and got really stressed emotionally and physically, but it feels like I ended up just closing down mostly, in self-preservation, I guess.

Is there something wrong with me for not being an easily sad person?

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Should I Dream About What I Could Be and or Do?




I'm afraid that if I start dreaming about what I could be and/or do ... I will feel guilty, and I'll toss my dreams aside (after some of my dreams don't turn out at all even though I've really tried them, which has happened just often enough to make me scared to dream again).

Then there's the whole question of whether my dreams come from You, God, or from me--and how can I know for sure? What if they actually are from You, though I thought they are from me, so I didn't follow them, and now You are disappointed in me not being happy with Your plans and purposes? Or maybe my dreams not working out are my own fault after all, because of wrong decisions I've made and bad things I've done, and therefore I "deserve" things not turning out the way I hoped and wished and dreamed?

And after all, I do live in the 1% world (even though I'm not rich) and I do have a really awesome life compared to the 99% world, so what right do I have to complain, anyway--or need to dream of bigger things?

(And yeah, what about "Take up your cross..."?)

And related to dreams ... learning to ignore the expectations (dreams for me) and beliefs and criticism of others: that's really hard for me. Learning to not wish for and work for others' approval and acceptance and all. Being brave enough to not have to obey anyone but You (who is not nearly as scary as people are because You DO LOVE ME ... and I CAN TRUST YOU!).

Friday, 14 June 2019

Wandering, Wondering, and Welcomed Back


(originally journaled May 20, 2018)

A friend posted on Facebook that he's wondering if it's possible to return to Jesus without having to deal with church. Seems to me that the mere fact he's thinking about this means that You have probably already initiated the conversation.

It made me think of my own fears: that I won't be accepted after I've "denied" You or at least not stood up for You and complained about Your church and wondered if it's all trueafter all. Fear and embarrassment about what people might think of me if I "stood up strong and declared my belief in You" Fear of maybe "having" to go to church and be involved in programs and things there that I don't want to or am afraid of.

You know I sometimes even wonder if You are real, at least in the distinct terms or definitions of You I have been taught. Yet it's pretty apparent You keep calling me back--a miracle in itself.  Well, I know that my "wonderings" are more on an intellectual level since deep inside it always ends up that I know You are with me and always have been.

You don't let Your children go, do You (unless maybe they really, really want to, and really, really deny You)? I remember going to a church camp and there was a young man, a few years older than me, who had I guess wandered away, and then there he was, talking about how You'd drawn him back, and then they sang this song that has always stuck by me no matter my own wonderings and wanderings:

"Welcome back to the things that you once believed in,
Welcome back to what you knew was right from the start....
Welcome back to the love that is in your heart.
I know that you thought you could turn your back,
And no one could see in your mind,
But I can see that you know better now....
Sometimes you just don't know what you're missing,
Til you leave it for awhile.
Welcome back to Jesus."
(Chuck Girard).

I've found myself wondering, lately, where I got so off track for so long. And why? But maybe it was a stripping kind of time. Pulling away parts that were extras, padding that was blocking me from seeing You. (Which is maybe why I'm nervous about picking up so many things related to church--and even personal devotions and stuff).

I don't want to do things because I "should" but only because when it comes down to it, I know I do believe in and love You, even with all my doubts and wonderings and wanderings from all the paraphernalia that has gathered around You.

It's easier, I guess, to "do things" that "show love" than to actually bare one's heart and be vulnerable and actually love. I don't like to be hurt. I don't like to be scorned.

I like to be intellectual, because it feels safer. And it's easier to accept things that can be proved. I'm a bit skittish about things that can't be proved. Though it seems that a lot of things that once were "proven" haven't turned out to be so.

Faith is a difficult thing because we can't see it, quantify it. Can't even feel it emotionally a lot of the time. Yet ... You have always been here with me. I've never doubted You. (Though I've doubted, sometimes still do, the theology and theory of it).

I know I'm not the only one who thinks about these things. So many of Your children do (and yes, I'm pretty sure they're still Your children, even with all their wonderings and questionings and fears and stuff. Because You don't let go, do You? You patiently keep loving, drawing ...)

Like Octavius Winslow wrote:

"Child of My love, lean hard,
And let Me feel the pressure of thy care;
I know thy burden, child. I shaped it;
Poised it in Mine Own hand; made no proportion
In its weight to thine own unaided strength.
For even as I laid it on, I said,
'I shall be near, and while she leans on Me,
This burden shall be Mine, not hers;
So shall I keep My child within the circling arms
Of My Own love.' Here lay it down, nor fear
To impose it on a shoulder which upholds
The government of worlds. Yet closer come:
Thou art not near enough. I would embrace thy care;
So I might feel My child reposing on My breast.
Thou lovest Me? Doubt not then;
But loving Me, lean hard."