Tuesday 22 February 2022

Career Changes and Following God

 Oh my, it's been almost a year since the last time I posted on this blog (though I've been busy on one or two of my other blogs...).

I turned 65 in the summer of 2020 and since then have been thinking about changing my business path, seeing as I'm theoretically old enough to "retire" but would rather just make some changes to my business, Pen And Paper Mama Services. What changes? Why? Let's see...

For the past 10 plus years I've been doing mainly tutoring and editing, along with some other "pen and paper" type activities. My tutoring was initially working mostly with young students who were struggling with basic literacy issues and who had various learning differences and/or special needs. More recently, my tutoring has mostly been with middle school and secondary school students, still with LD/SN, but more in the form of "homework/assignment" help rather than helping them develop important academic skills and life skills that will help them become successful lifelong learners. And while the editing part of my business started out more with helping writers become self-directed, better writers, in the past while it's been more and more simply copyediting (line editing) and proofreading. As you can see, with both tutoring and editing, I've been moving away from being a helper and encourager to being a technical aide. And while I can do that fine, it's just not "me." And it doesn't line up very well with my own life goals and beliefs. So: what do I really want to do? What's really important to me? I've been making a list of thoughts about this. I dream of:

- writing from my personal journey and life passages, consistent with God's Word and my spiritual wrestlings
- being open to the Holy Spirit, Christ flowing through my giftings and talents and longing He has put within me
- co-writing with the Lord; defined by Him, not by people and systems and institutions
- discovering who I am, what are the most true things about me, in Him
- change, transition, journey with the Lord, eyes open to His doings; invigoration in relationship with Him
- figuring out if "my dreams" are really God's dreams for me, or just my own (selfish?) dreams? (intentional community, participating in family camps and retreats, being a "teaching Grandma," bus/RV living, helping at places like Esperanza, spontaneous road trips/travels, cohousing, volunteer in developing nations, help young women develop old-timey skills (canning, sewing, quilting, gardening, etc.) ... and beautiful, whimsical, adventurous dreams like having a cabin by a wild Pacific beach
- reach out with my writing and other skills to people who are seeking, searching, journeying
- flowing freely, like God's river, in my blog writing, emails, short writing, poetry, memoir writing, etc.
- dance and flow with my Pen and Paper; follow my heart; smile, be joyous (vs. "shoulding" and "duty" and "guilt")
- move beyond the usual systems and ruminations; seek "beyond me"
- write from my own experiences and viewpoints; freedom to use my own pathways, imagination, creativity; freedom from "the system" ... "We inherit creativity by virtue of being begotten by His Spirit."
- pick up writing with humour once again
- blogging on diverse topics, whatever I feel like ... I'm a "Jill of all trades!"
- my ideal audience: people searching, wondering, on pilgrimage journey, seeking truth, not content with pat answers, non status quo
- journeys of the heart, healing hearts and minds, stories from suffering?
- story and conversation; Community

In case you're curious about what this means in relation to my career path, I'm currently exploring potential changes and perspectives for my business, over at my blog https://normajhill.com/2022/02/22/thinking-ahead-1-coaching/ 

Sunday 14 March 2021

Athiesm for Lent?

 So ... "Athiesm for Lent" ... Lent is a time when we give up something we hold precious in order to draw nearer to, and depend more upon, God. Isn't that right? I may not be totally clear on that, seeing as I wasn't brought up in a Lent-practicing arm of the church, but that seems about right to me. I'll just leave a space here to look it up later, but right now I want to write down my personal thoughts before I lose them, which often happens when I go online and get distracted.

(later insert after researching "Lent": searching for God among the brokenness of life; replicating Jesus' sacrifice and withdrawal to the desert for 40 days; discover purpose and make a difference; penitential preparation and repentance for Easter; praise, pray, worship the Lord; purification; weaning from sin and selfishness; coming close to and communing with God ... ha! that last definition is the one I relate to).

Anyway, why would I want to delve into athiesm at Lent in order to draw nearer to God? Okay, so I can understand letting go of my "picture" of God, which has been taught to me by church culture in which I was brought up, and "confessions" and books on "basics of the faith" and lists of "beliefs" and courses on "apologetics" (how to defend your faith) ... and threats/fears on what might happen in one does lose the particular beliefs instilled through all those means ... like hell instead of heaven ... and doubts about the existence of God himself (sorry, I'm not going to deal with gender pronouns just now) if one lets go of any of these "denomination distinctives" (it's a "slippery slope" you know--just look at Darwin and his exploration of nature and science and where that took him ... and then many fine young Christian men (what about ladies? Hmm?) who went off to seminary and "lost their faith" ... and all those leaders of "mainline churches" who turned their "calling" into nothing more than a career/money-making endeavour that they truly no longer believe in, and in the process, lead astray so many people who follow them and trust them because they supposedly are educated representatives of Jesus ... and, of course, the descent into madness of people Neitzche when he went from a pious youth to a total athiest ... and/or perhaps, "mystics" who believed so fervently that they ended up going kind of "crazy" in the opposite direction ... not to mention extremely charismatic folks who left the "safety" of accepted, fundamental(ist) beliefs ....

To be honest, I really don't need a study of athiesm to accomplish giving up my picture (okay: understanding ... even "belief" ... and--oh dear--relationship) of/with God.

When I was a child, I easily memorized the facts about God that I was presented with and even won lots of Bible sword drills, and got prizes for memorizing scripture, and earned the top prizes and a gazillion badges/pins in Pioneer Girls and Christian Youth Crusaders, and knew all the "answers" in contests about the facts of the Bible and/or Christianity (at least as accepted by the branch of the church I was brought up in). We had family worship at home every single day and went to church and Bible camps and evangelistic meetings multiple times a week, and I read through the Bible myself at 9 years old and multiple times thereafter. I even won an airplace ride (a big deal at that time) for getting the most points in Sunday School.

But, with all my "head knowledge" I really did not "get" the whole "heart knowledge" thing. I knew the theory about "giving your heart to Jesus" and "having a personal relationship with Jesus" (and being ready, at all times, for heaven, and not "backsliding" and losing my salvation). But I just couldn't seem to muster up the emotion (many tears) I was supposed to show, or feel the necessary remorse for my sins (which perhaps was the result of having internalized and mostly lived up to the list of rules of living ... a lot of "Thou shalt nots" but perhaps not so much just knowing God in a real, intimate, personal way). Anyway, I was pretty much a "good little girl" and had a strong "intellectual foundation in the faith" which did well for me, at least until my early teens.

Funny thing: in grade 7, I was one of 20 students my age chosen from our entire school district to be bussed every day to the "Major Work Program" (what would later be referred to as a "gifted program"). My parents seriously didn't want me to go because they feared I might end up outside the "protection" of the life I'd been carefully brought up in (in other words, I might to think too much, and start to question things...). And, indeed, the teacher was a proudly avowed athiest and did challenge everything we'd easily accepted in the past. Still, armed with my arsenal of "Christian beliefs" I really did stand up for what I'd been taught previously. 

But oddly enough, what really made me start "questioning" (doubting? wondering?) was attending a Christian youth camp when I was almost 14 and having a "cabin counsellor" who had been a longtime missionary, and told all of us young teen girls that if we were going through anything in our lives that we couldn't share with our parents, we could confide in her and she would counsel us and never tell anyone else. I have no idea now what dreadful secrets or thoughts or ideas I "shared" with her (I was so innocent at the time that they must have been really minor...), but she immediately spilled all my deep, dark secrets to my dad ... who immediately freaked out at me. That was the beginning of the end of a good relationship with my dad ... and of my "trust" of "very Christian" people (we were brought up to highly admire missionaries). Who'd have thought such a thing would start me on the slippery slope of doubt about my "faith"?

I was a pretty typical teen and was curious about the "fun" my friends were having, and I did hang out with some of the pretty "tough" kids and "dabbled" in things--though I was really innocent compared to them: in fact, one group called me their "mascot" and literally protected me against people in the group who wanted to remove said innocence! Anyway, I started to drink alcohol a bit in my mid-teens, and smoked a bit of marijuana later on, and so on. But at the same time, there were "revivals" going on in our area which a lot of previously non- or nominally-Christian kids were enthusiastic about, and I really did try to be part of that, too. Sadly, when I didn't instantly turn into a perfect, serious saint after "going forward to the altar", my dad was really upset with me, and I pretty much gave up on that.

When I went off to University, I was attending a nice, middle-of-the-road-evangelical church, including faithfully attending a Bible study group (and running the Sunday School program for the elementary age kids). Sadly, again, I made the mistake of asking questions about some of the "basics of the faith" and was asked to leave the Bible study group as I was apparently damaging the faith of new Christians (I think maybe the group leader just didn't have any answers and was himself afraid of my questions). It was at that point I realized that I really did have a lot of questions and wonderings and so on. 

After University, I started my teaching career, and really got into drinking, and pretty much quit church, and started "living in sin" and had a "baby out of wedlock" (though definitely on purpose. Having a baby sobered me up, because I'd seen a lot of kids with fetal alcohol and knew I didn't want to damage my babies, for sure.

I really did "return to the faith" as much as I could for a long time, as we had 5 children in 8 years (yes, we did get married), and my husband even went to Bible College. I took a course there in "apologetics" which unfortunately made me wonder about a lot of what they were defending. As I tried so hard to be a "good Christian" in those child-rearing years, sadly (this does seem to be a pattern... sadly...) we ended up in a series of churches which ended up "splitting" and/or in which my talents/skills were appreciated (teaching Sunday School; church office admin skills; etc.) but my deep, honest questions were seen as suspect at best and perhaps even heretical in some cases. I ended up, for a time, not attending church at all (although, ironically, I was hired to run a church office during that time).

Then my mom developed dementia and I became the "primary caregiver" from our family. I could not understand how God could let such a truly "saintly" woman (she really was) go through such a terrible decline, and I became terrified it could happen to me, too. In that same time period, my dad suddenly died of cancer, and mom eventually died of severe dementia. I had job losses, and church losses, and my kids grew up and left home (and church), and all my careful plans went terribly awry, and I was teaching at a "Christian school" where I ended up losing some more of my "faith," sad to say. In the end of all that, I went through a period of deep clinical depression, which really changed my outlook on life. It has been a very long and slow "recovery" over 10 plus year, and my emotions were very flat (self-protection?). Surprisingly, though I feel like I "lost my faith" in terms of many "points of doctrine," I started to gain a deep certainty of God's reality (although I did--and still do at times--have intellectual doubts about God from a traditional doctrinal perspective).

Lately, there have been some new "stressful" events in my life in which I really have longed for that deep "bedrock knowing" of God. And then suddenly I am confronted by this "Athiesm for Lent" course which our church gathering group decided to explore. And it seems like all the "doubts" and "wonderings" I've confronted in my life (I'm 65 now, so for over 50 years) are being dug up again. The ironic thing is that as I'm facing these in a really heavy, condensed format, at a stressful time in my life, the reality of God, for me, has been strengthening ... which, perhaps is what Lent really is about, after all!

The other people in our little group seem to be very interested, even maybe enjoying, learning about and thinking through athiesm and the "death of God" etc., but I feel like I've been there, done that, and I have no desire to go through it all again. This week I haven't even bothered exploring the daily reflections in preparation for today's (Sunday) gathering, and am not even sure I want to take part in it or even just observe it.

The reality of God, for me now, is "outside the box" of doctrinal definitions. But it is far more real--maybe what I've really been seeking/wondering about/looking for all these years. Maybe I've already been through the "psychology" and "philosophy" and "intellectualizing" and "institutional doctine" of it all and just don't need (or want) it any longer. I feel like I'm maybe on the cusp of a new part of my journey with God (I was going to write "spiritual journey" but that's a loaded phrase these days that doesn't reflect where I'm at, though I gone there, quite recently in fact ... and it isn't a "church journey" for me either, which is what this blog started out to be). I've "been there, done that" with the other things I've mentioned here, and I have no interest in rehashing or reliving them, especially "intellectually."  

I feel like knowing God is far beyond human reasoning, although I sure tried that path. Which is probably why dementia has terrified me so much. I've depended on my intellectual "giftedness" but now it seems so ...  I don't know ... so shallow, perhaps, in view of the "knowing God" which I am beginning to finally glimpse (like the glory of the sunrise this morning out my window here, after the deep darkness of the sky before it). I've always wondered about, and longed to see/experience, the "glory of God." And I'm not interested in wading back into the mire I've gone through (though I realize it is part of my journey, too. 

I've also realized it is important to allow others to find their way through their journey with God, in whatever way he might have for them. This is another thing I'm understanding about the immensity of God--beyond immensity, in terms of human understanding--which I'm starting to glimpse and experience--and KNOW. The journey's details are unique for each person, I believe (yes, I do believe). Maybe part of my long meanderings has been trying to follow/imitate others' apparently successful journeys. When God has a journey with me that needs to be walking with him, however that turns out, rather than trying to fit myself into others' ways and experiences. That's a huge relief, actually. And so much more real that any imitation of other humans, no matter how "saintly" (or not, if one depends on "definitions" of saintliness) they might be.

This is enough. For now, anyway. Maybe more later... in this journey.

Friday 1 January 2021

Am I a Liar? Maybe More Than I Realize?

Do you tell lies? More to the point, do I tell lies? A good question, maybe, for the beginning of a new year when we're encouraged to resolve to improve ourselves, eh? It's a question I've been pondering a lot over the past year, seeing as there seems to have been an ever-increasing amount of fake news, alternative facts, and other truth-stretchers-and-twisters whirling around us moment by moment, and which for a good many people seem to be totally acceptable—even approved. Of course, it's easy to judge others for their twisting of truth, but what about our own "little white lies" (are those really a thing? Another good question for another post, perhaps).

From the time I could string two or three words together, the adults in my life took pains to impress upon me that telling lies is a terrible sin. Adam and Eve picked it up immediately from the "father of all lies" himself, you know. And being caught in a lie (however "little" and "white" it might have been) was a sure path to getting my mouth washed out with soap. This was an effective punishment for me, as I hated the taste, but my brother quite enjoyed it—he enjoyed eating crayons too, as I recall—and thought it much superior to a spanking; I remember how, when he was in trouble, he'd beg for the soap-in-the-mouth-treatment, which I could never understand. But I digress. Anyway, depending on the size of the lie, especially if it led to another and another, which is one of those things that lies tend to do, mouth-soaping could lead to other harsher punishments, so you'd think I would have caught on and swallowed any falsehoods before they could pop out....

The trouble was, telling a lie successfully (e.g. not getting caught) was such great for avoiding punishment for the many other misdeeds we committed, whether intentionally or unintentionally. And oh, my goodness, there were so many possible sins (rules and regulations) which could snare a little person who might not even realize they had done something wrong, or couldn't understand what was wrong with the behaviour or attitude in question. Even a "tone of voice" or a "sassy" phrasing of a statement could invoke judgment by those who loved me dearly and were terribly concerned for the state of my soul—or who simply decided I had crossed a line they'd drawn. Sometimes, of course, I was a line-crosser on purpose, but quite often I found the said line to be very puzzling indeed. 

Certainly, there were things I did that I knew and understood were unacceptable: clearly stated rules like the Ten Commandments which we memorized early on (at least superficially; I wasn't always clear about, for example, about how being angry at someone could be equated to killing, though we were often warned about slippery slopes; and I had no idea for quite some years about what adultery might be and how it related to me as a young child). Other rules ("Thou shalt sit quietly and not wiggle during long sermons in church" — my poor wiggly little brother got spanked quite often for breaking that one, and I once got spanked as well, since Mom felt it was a bit unfair for him to get more spankings and she told me it wouldn't hurt me to join in receiving the spanking so he wouldn't feel so picked upon. That's one of those occasions in my young childhood that inexplicably has stuck with me these 60ish years later!). I suspect Mom did not enjoy spanking us, but it was a well-accepted and even expected way to keep children on the straight-and-narrow, and perhaps she felt under pressure to do so in order to be a good parent. At any rate, she once told me, many years later, that she suspected I often got away with things I hid much better than my poor brother, who found it much more difficult to appear as angelic as I did. And, yes, that brings us back to telling lies.

So telling lies successfully was appealing, as it avoided punishment for other crimes committed. While I was generally a "goody-two-shoes" little gal, usually obedient and respectful, I was also in fear of breaking the many rules set before me by definitely caring parents, grandparents, church, elderly folks who felt a direct responsibility for my soul; school teachers and the dreaded principal; ministers and Sunday School teachers; moralistic stories in Sunday School papers and Christian children's books; sermons at church and Bible camps and church children's groups and evangelistic services and prayer meetings, and so on. Naturally, there was also the Bible, which I had been thoroughly schooled in from birth, and read through it completely myself for the first of many times at nine years of age; one of the things that puzzled me about that was that it did not include many of the rules and regulations I'd been taught so thoroughly. 

Therefore, the usefulness of "the lie." The thought of spankings at home terrified me, though they were few and not terribly painful; and I was also quite terrified of getting in trouble at school. Detentions were shameful, and while I mostly kept out of trouble (I remember once having to clean the entire classroom floor by crawling up and down the aisles pushing my ruler in front of me), I saw enough punishment of other students (being sent to the principal for "the strap" being most frightful, but also ear-pulling, knuckle whacks with a ruler, shoes and chalk brushes thrown at students, "writing lines" and so on—my, how things have changed since then...) to encourage me to avoid incurring the wrath of my teachers. 

It didn't take long to discover that there were various ways to lie that didn't require an outright, in-your-face lie (which I was never very good at; my guilty facial expression tended to give me away when I tried that; though oddly enough, as an adult, I was equally poor at "reading" the expression of my children's and student's faces... ). There were tactics like "mostly telling the truth" but conveniently leaving out a few minor, troublesome details; transferring the blame to someone else; looking very sad and pitiful; hiding out somewhere until the potential punisher was distracted or forgot; pleading that I didn't realize I had done something wrong; telling a long, convoluted story that would distract from the point of the actual offence; get busy doing something that would win the favour of the potential punisher; and so on. 

Eventually, I grew up and far fewer adults felt the need to be responsible for keeping me on the straight-and-narrow. But the "little white lie" habit had, unfortunately, been well engrained. Because not only did telling lies help to avoid punishment; it also turned out to be an excellent way to keep people approving of me. Being approved of was, of course, closely related to all those rules and regulations. This has been one of the greatest difficulties in my life: the desire to have others approve of and accept me. And telling "little white lies" works so well. Often, I don't even think them through; they just slip out and there they are. The older I get, the more I realize what I am doing, and while I really try to overcome this, it is very difficult. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever conquer it. I know, of course, that this is one of those things that "only the Spirit of the Lord can change in your heart as you give it over to Him" and that "you just have to love Him and want His approval more than the approval of people." All very well, but when His approval was so wrapped up in the approval of the significant adults in my life from the earliest age, giving up the approval of others is much easier said than done. Still, the fact that I've come to recognize this problem in my life and want to change it gives me some consolation that maybe I am discovering the real "straight and narrow way" rather than the "rules and regulations" way.

One more thing related to all this. As you might gather from my ramblings, I love to write—and to tell stories. Entertaining ones. Especially stories from my childhood (and adult life, too). A perceptive uncle told me that perhaps my stories are more "creative" than "memoir" — though he also added that this is a family trait. So I'm wondering if the "creative" aspects of my memories are also related to the whole "approval" thing? Embroidering past events to make them more entertaining--and thus more approved, as my audiences laugh heartily. But that's another post for another time. 

Friday 7 February 2020

I Want to Know You as You Really Are

Photo by Reinhart Julian on Unsplash

(originally journaled Oct 7, 2019)

Lord, I want to know You as You really are, not some human interpretation of You. I believe You are far beyond and above any small "divine spark" humans think they can find within them. And beyond and above, yet within and totally involved in and caring about, every moment of all Your creation. Certainly far, far more than some "Gaia" figure. Yes, You are my root and my eternal future ... should I choose to follow You. But how it is that You could let our puny human minds make that kind of immense decision. "Free will." Our understanding of the choice we are offered is so limited and we are so wound up in our narrow, overwhelming physical existence. Having the opportunity to reject You--with all its consequences--doesn't seem very "loving" to me just now. But yes, my human mind just doesn't "get" You. Yes, I know. Trust. Obey. Have faith. Let You be You.

Do we all yearn for You? It does seem we are drawn in some way to a need, even a desire, for Your "divine spark," to You, our "Source." But it is so easy for us to get distracted by our physical lives ... and even by the so-called "spiritual" baubles that sparkle enticingly. Maybe sparkles are easier to handle than Your overwhelming brilliance, glory, power, Presence. Maybe we do like the darkness, the "shadowlands" we dwell in. Maybe we fear the sunshine that the early rays of morning, of dawn, promise—yet which seem so far away in the long night of our earthly existence. Maybe we'd rather settle for little rays of flashlights (usually ones whose batteries are flickering) rather than stretch out, work toward, open our hearts and arms toward Your brilliance that is promised just beyond the mountaintop horizons of our earthly journey.

Do you really open some people's eyes and hearts more than others? It does seem like those least distracted by both the physical baubles of life (wealth, power, respect, good physical health, human intelligence, human relationships) and even spiritual baubles (all that double-speak that our human ideas of "spirituality" and  "religion," and the "light side" and "dark side" too) which offer themselves as a ready, shiny alternative ... those least distracted by these baubles are the the ones most attracted and open to You. The ones that have the "least" of this world's attractions. I can see why Jesus loved the poor. I can see why they were drawn to Him while he sojourned here on earth in a so-limited physical body (yet still filled with Your Spirit).

Maybe it's true that we have to be like little children. That the least on earth are the greatest in Your kingdom, because they are indeed humble and have had to learn to trust You completely, to lean on You fully.

Maybe I am fortunate in a way to have had that childhood training in "being humble" and avoiding anything that would make me "proud." It so often feels like an "albatross hanging around my neck." And yet ... I am attracted to being praised and glorified and admired. To be approved of and accepted and embraced. And it is terribly easy to be distracted by those moments. To want to be a "little god" even if the footlights are flickering at best but always just strong enough to keep my eyes drawn downward to the cheering crowds (and to my self-adulation and pride ... and to the enemy who really does dress himself as "light") instead of lifting my eyes to the promise of Your glorious, eternal, perfect light waiting just over the hilltop for the Son-Rise that is so near, that is available even now within my spirit if I welcome Your Spirit in, and let go the so-limited, so temporary and flickering floor-level lights drawing my eyes and heart down to the tinsel promises of earthly glory ... which will be burnt up along with the dead branches and broken ornaments of the momentary sparkle of the Christmas tree moments of our existence.

You'd think we'd be able to recognize those moments as promises, as glimmers, of the eternal glory You offer. Yet our eyes and hearts seem most apt to become glued to the Christmas tree, the symbol, instead of being drawn upwards to the star at the top of the tree ... and beyond, to You, where the star is pointing. Why do we worship the tree, which starts drying up and dying the moment it is "born" by being cut from its roots, instead of seeking out You, the root, the source, the very Life of our existence and the only promise of Life eternal?

It is the poor ... in wealth, power, health, spirit, in all things this world offers, who are blessed because they understand that You are the only true choice.

Listening for Your voice is hard for me in the clatter of this world. I find it so much easier to listen to the voices of TV, radio, internet, books. The distractions. Sometimes the voices of friends and family too. I don't like the silence of those tossing and turning hours when I wake at night. I don't like moments of deep quiet, of peace. It's like I want them filled in, filled up ... no matter how inane, repetitive, even ridiculous the words are that I turn on with the flick of a switch to block out the quietness. Oh dear God, please help me accept the quiet moments. To long for them. To sit patiently and wait ... for Your voice. For You. Please.

Saturday 27 July 2019

So many gospels that aren't God-focused

(journaled October 16, 2018)

Maybe we've presented a gospel that is too easy and too "me-centred." On the other hand, it seems like religious groups that demand "good works" and utter consecration and dedication and FEAR of God are more likely to hold on to their adherents—and control them. Maybe that's why some churches really focus on good deeds and fear of hell and such.

But I'm wondering if we've gone too far the other way. Celebrating our "freedom" and "happiness" (which is sometimes joy, but not if it focuses on us and our own happy-clappy feelings) and "love" (but to whom? me-centred or God/Jesus/Holy Spirit centred and then reaching out to others?).

What about the cross and persecution and servanthood and humility (and rest in You in the midst of the storm?).

How can we see our culture, western ideas, politics (and their marriage to Christianity) as Godly? Is there any part of our lives — and "values" — that are truly God-focused and believing, following, trusting?

What about my life? I'm feeling more and more ashamed of the shallowness of my "belief" in You. And the depths of my attraction to the world's "values" and "philosophies" — even the ones that seem "Godly" or at least seem based on "godly principles." Maybe that's it. Maybe we've grasped our "reasoning" and rejected Your Spirit and guidance.

I have found it so hard the past few years to follow You. I just seem to be so distracted by everyday living. And the bewildering, rapid changes in morality and politics. And even in the church.

There was a time when I was younger and really didn't want to die. But now, while I don't have any urge to die, I am not afraid of it and sometimes I look forward to it, for I will get to see You face to face. (I will, won't I? So often I wonder if my lack of deep relationship with You is acceptable by You or not. I know You don't give up on us ... but are You disappointed in me? Do you sometimes want to cut me off from the vine? Sometimes I seem to cut myself almost off, and sometimes I do feel cut off.)

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."