Saturday, December 3, 2016

What I Learned This Fall

Emily over at chatting at the sky, is now doing quarterly link-ups for what we've learned each quarter. Previously, it was each month and before I knew it the month was over and I hadn't gotten around to posting. So, here's hoping quarterly does the trick!

1. I love painting intuitively.

I took Flora Bowley's Bloom True-course this fall and finished a painting that just glows with color. But the more important thing was that the act of painting (by making a series of marks, grooving, just seeing where the color and marks take you) brings me joy, even when I'm angry or upset. Putting paint on a canvas really makes a difference. Am wondering if this should really be my meditation practice...

2. Being open to other worship experiences can bring clarity

It helped me to remember what is important about worship. In a short time span, I attended an interfaith labyrinth service, a UCC church and three other Episcopal churches. One of the latter is St. Gregory's of Nyssa which has great music and a beautiful way of punctuating the scripture readings with a series of Tibetan bowls. Really magical.

It brought clarity as to what is really important about worship: which is worshipping in community and worshipping in a way that brings joy, whether that is the Tibetan bells, bare feet, or singing from the pews and receiving the music instead of delivering it.

3. It's okay to stop doing church.

By that I do not mean to stop going to church, but to stop doing it. Stop with the committees and the planning and all that and just being in the church and being the church. This is my current season, and I'm really rather enjoying it. 

4. "Sleepy" hand lotion from LUSH 

It is not just dreamy to look at, but dreamy to smell on sleeping and on waking.

5. New Christmas albums: 

I haven't bought a full Christmas album in a while but I've bought two this year: check out Jordan Smith's "'Tis the Season" and Leslie Odom Jr.'s "Simply Christmas"

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Should We Let this Election Continue to Bring out The Worst in Us?

This week I have seen a lot of hate on my Facebook feed. Hate toward Trump voters, non-voters, third-party voters, Clinton voters. Nasty comments in people's posts that are filled with disdain and viciousness. I have read about reported acts of hate toward people of color, women, muslims and LGBTQI people.

I have a mixed crowd of all kinds of people and politics on my Facebook feed. Over the course of the election, I felt the need only to unfriend one person who was viciously mean and disrespectful.

Now my feed is full of meanness and disrespect. Imagine two monkeys so angry at each other they start hurling their excrement. That's what it is like now and we're starting to stink of shit. I've taken refuge in art (I am having an amazing time taking Flora Bowley's Bloom True e-course), posting photos of my dogs, and I am seriously considered taking a Facebook fast.

So why are my friends behaving so badly? Have we, lost in our hurts, forgotten who we are? Beings created in the Divine image?

First, I am pretty sure that everyone on my friends list on Facebook would go to the aid of someone who is in need, no matter how dissimilar that person is. I am pretty sure that everyone on my friends list wouldn't tolerate someone being abused, verbally or physically, in their presence.

I would hope they realize that we need to continue to speak out against harm coming to our fellow human beings.

Before the election, I wanted to write something about reaching out to those who have been hurting throughout this election cycle. In addition to this hatred of Other, there are those who are hurting economically, those who are crying out to be heard in the face of the establishment.

Who do I want to be in this situation?

I want to be the one who listens. The one who stands with the hurting. I think, despite feeling horribly ill-equipped, this is why I will be wearing a safety pin.

Diana Butler Bass posted this before the election.

I still believe (and trust in) this.

If you're struggling to find your way in this, that's okay. Life is a process and we move through it and our emotions in different ways. I don't know if the links that follow will help, but they are helping me.
And this nation, and probably the one you live in if it's different to mine, needs healing. Hate has been held back, through civil rights legislation and political correctness, and it has burst through, a whole ugly mess that has been there all along, that people of color, LGBTQI, immigrants, and other groups have known and experienced all this time. There's no hiding it now, no stuffing it back into the cellar. We need to heal it. We need to heal us.

To that end, my reading list now includes:
(links all go to Amazon, but are not affiliate links)

Some of these have been in my to-read pile for a while. (The forgiveness book for a year and I haven't been able to find it yet, Bonhoeffer for at least five years.)

I close with the benediction Diana Butler Bass gave at a church the Sunday before the election:

Blessings upon you all. All.


Friday, November 4, 2016

A new creed...

Diana Butler Bass shared this on her Facebook page and it is worth sharing for reflection in these last few days before the election ... and after.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Why I am developing my artistic style

ok, so not one of my recent "strong women" portraits.
but this post should give some reasons as to why you don't
get to see them.
Lately, I’ve been working in the Ever After class which, while on the subject of fairytales, is a big step for me. It’s the step beyond “learn this technique” or “follow an artist’s footsteps” to uncovering my own style, and create paintings of my own.

I am loving this — learning what I like and don’t like, struggling to create expressive faces, and coming up with ideas that feel true to me.

I have learned that I like to paint strong women. Women who not only survive, but thrive. And weirdly, the eyes have decided to get larger lately. Maybe because I am seeing more.

But then the question hit me: Why do I want to develop my own style? What is wrong with following along with lessons? What am I going to do this style of mine?

First, I want to tell my own stories. Whether they reflect what is happening to me, or whether they are imagined, creating a portrait is a visual way of sharing that story. Even if they don’t look the smallest bit like me.

Art has always been just for me. Not for anyone else to see, although I do share with some trusted people. It’s to bring me joy and happiness and getting stuff out of my system. It sounds selfish but this is just for me.

I want to do more of it, but there are other demands on my time that I can’t give up. Such as the day job and walking the dog. I’ve trimmed back my television watching and blog reading, for example. I also can’t remember the last time I vacuumed the house.

But — you say — you can give up your job and work for yourself by making a creative business!

That is not for me. This is what I have learned from my last creative business endeavor (which was being published in romance): the moment it is work, the magic and joy goes away. (I also didn’t make a living from it.)

That is a very simple answer. It is more complex than that. Yes, I hated marketing myself and my work. Yes, I had some fear of “exposure” issues that needed work (and have been mostly healed, but the scars remain). And, yes, writing itself was no longer fun. And yes, reinventing myself for the third time just to get another book contract started to feel tedious and where was myself in all of this? Why was I doing this to myself?

Art is a safe space for me to dream, explore, play AND express myself.

I will not buy into the “if it’s good it must be commodified” thinking. That this must be productive work in the sense that it must make money in order to be of value, to be worth my time. I don’t buy that (pun intended). 

Making a product means finding an audience, who wants what you want— or, as I’ve heard it bemoaned among professional artists— going down the rabbit hole of making something that will sell that is not them. That is not me. Even ye olde painters and composers had patrons whose tunes they had to dance to. 

So, selfish it may be. But right now, my art is for me. My style will develop so I can visually tell my stories, and my art journals may all end up in the dust-heap when I die. But then, so will I. I’m not creating to make a legacy either.

I am creating for joy, for happiness, for self-expression, for empowerment. With uncovering my own style, that creating will be with my own voice, not my teacher’s.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

God's love stories ....

Here are some interesting stories and thoughts found on the internets this past month. Aiming for stories of love and thanksgiving...

Have a wonderful weekend...

Monday, August 29, 2016

Grounding with Some Zest

In April, I finished reading "Grounded: Finding God in the World -- A Spiritual Revolution", by Diana Butler Bass. There were many things that were great about the book, and it was a good beginning (it inspired me to write a poem) but by the end it felt like a whole other book could now be written.

This is because I had some reader-baggage / preferences that came up as I read the book, and rather that writing to the author and complaining, I wondered what about the book discomfited me.

Each chapter starts with a theology of grace, even abundance (in the non-prosperity gospel sense of the word!), rejoicing in these gifts that we have been given on "this earth, our island home" (a quote from a Book of Common Prayer Eucharist service) but halfway through a number of the chapters it switched to a scarcity-based theology: good soil and clean, fresh water is disappearing, air pollution, etc. 

It is all true. Good soil is disappearing, air pollution is making a comeback and that needs to be acknowledged. But to be grounded, we need to come from a place of love and gratitude; scarcity and fear aren't the answer. That's the mindset we have now and it makes us grasp ever more tightly.

It turns out I didn't need to write Diana Butler Bass about it. She's on it. In an interview, she said: “Yes, you’re right, this book is ‘urgent,’ but it is beautiful and useful as well,” Diana says. “We’re not at our best when we feel threatened. I want people to know that, if we pay attention to those things, I think that’s where spiritual peace and wellbeing on a global scale will emerge.” (from Read the Spirit) On Facebook, she hinted that her next book that she is working could be called “radical incarnation re-enchantment”, so yes, I will be getting Diana’s next book!

We need to fall in love with our island home instead of treating it like an inexhaustible resource. We and the earth need to flourish together.

Teilhard de Chardin writes of a "zest for life", a passion or a drive to live fully. I read about this in an essay entitled "The Zest for Life: A Contemporary Exploration of a Generative Theme in Teilhard's Work" by Ursula King in "From Teilhard to Omega: Co-creating an Unfinished Universe" edited by Sr. Ilia Delio. The essay itself had some issues (not sure if it was Teilhard or King's point of view about humanity's right to use resources), but coming on the heels of reading "Grounded", it was a "Yes. This." moment for me. 
"(The zest for life) relates to an awakening to the fullness of life with all its joys and paints, its growth, diminishments, and sufferings. ... within oneself, in others, and in one's environment. Growing into the fullness of life ... now requires a strong ecological awareness, and a new ecological Earth-consciousness and responsibility. ... Another idea associated with the zest for life is the idea of flourishing, especially the flourishing of people and planet. Flourishing means to thrive and proser. It refers to a dynamic drive rooted in a continuing source of energy which nurtures people's attitudes, motivation, and action." - Ursula King, pgs 190-91 [emphasis mine].
Yes, we need that zest! We need to flourish!

The essay is rather academic (and repetitive, hence the ellipses) so let's unpack it a little. The zest for life is a drive to live fully. It's perhaps easier to think of the opposite to zest: boredom or ennui. Having zest is about living life fully, both the good and the bad, and it means living sustainably. Flourishing, if you will. The abundance is in having enough to live. It's not about the materialistic "must haves, must dos" that the media and commercials tell us we must possess.

If we live fully, with our basic needs met, we can bring that fullness of life to others. An incredibly moving example of this is an article in the New York Times in July, about Canadian families taking in and "adopting" Syrian refugees. Which I will now let you go off and read. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Finding sanctuary

I have gone silent a bit lately because well ... I have dogs once more. Two adorable, smarter-than-me, could-do-with-some-training (and they're getting it), wee dogs that have been taking up a lot of my attention lately as we settle in together. They're shelter dogs, were turned in as strays, and had terrible matted coats so they have some serious separation anxiety issues but we're working on them.

Earlier in the year, I finished reading "Grounded", by Diana Butler Bass. The opening introduction inspired me to write a poem about the two Mt. Calvarys. (Mt. Calvary is a monastery retreat house in Santa Barbara.) The one on the hill top before it was destroyed by fire and its current location. I thought I'd share the poem.

On a mountaintop
My heart broke open,
filled with God's warmth

In a city sanctuary:
Conversations with bees,
Rubbing wood prayer beads
As storm blue clouds loomed,
bad exhausts and loud music
Whittled away into quiet frog song.

I'll share more thoughts about "Grounded" in a later post.