I've had a blog for as long as blogs have been a thing, even though there are large gaps of time between posts. Sometimes that's because I'm unsure of myself and the post just gets deleted, and sometimes it's because I get myself all worked up and think I should just save the draft and revisit it the next day in a better frame of mind. And of course, I never do.
The main point of this post is simply to do it. I am always trying to better myself, push myself, understand myself. So last week I came across this video on Facebook that talked about the "2-minute rule."
Sure, it's simple. But all week long I've been exchanging my usual nap for just "2 minutes" of _____. The nap is sometimes because I haven't slept well the night before, due to the absolute JOY that is menopause. Night sweats SUCK! But sometimes it's because I go to tackle a project and for whatever reason, I just shut down, hit a wall, something. And the only thing I think I can do is go lie down in the cool and dark of my bedroom, turn my fans up and my noise machine even upper, and have a great dream and then wake up with less day to deal with.
So today I prepared for a nap, and instead I did "2 minutes of mask-making."
That is, making a Christmas face mask for my Nana, who is in a nursing home in Dallas, and making a couple of children's size masks to add to a pile that I'll be sending to a center for domestic violence that has put out word they are in need of more.
This actually ended up taking several hours because I had to clean off my sewing desk, iron some fabric, and them improvise around a few errors in judgment (measuring of course).
I also worked on some watercolor, practicing leaves to go with the poinsettia petals I worked on yesterday. I did this for quite awhile. But it all started with 2 minutes of intention and action.
So now, having started with just 2 minutes (but working a little longer than that once I got started), I'm going to click "publish" instead of "save as draft."
As an adult who grew up in a very Bible-y place, verses fly through my head in response to nearly every situation I come across. And, of course, these verses were originally taught along with their "accepted" interpretations, a la various, basically fundamental, Christian churches. I say this because although I grew up in the Church of Christ, as soon as I was old enough to dare I began studying other variations of Christianity, such as Baptist, Catholic, and Assemblies of God. Most verses have the same "accepted" interpretations, except a few used to validate or denounce certain practices singular to one denomination versus others.
So the other day I was contemplating the outright GREED that has overcome our lives -- yes, the whole world, but especially here in the United States. As a City on a Hill that Cannot Be Hid, we are radiating GREED to the rest of the world. In the name, by and large, of Christianity. In contrast, we are lighting our lamps and then hiding them under bushels. Yes! We're the best place to live! We have more, promise more, ARE more! But...we don't want you. Especially if you are actually in need and might drain us of our resources. Please drain elsewhere. We don't have enough.
Well, we DO have enough for luxurious airplanes and expensive entourages for golf outings. Political campaigns. Huge parades and celebrations of ourselves. Yay! Aren't we amazing? Wouldn't you like to be us? Well you can't. You weren't born here. Or maybe your ancestors were but we drove them out and that's just too bad.
Then there's this little verse in Philippians. Always brought up to demonstrate just how much Jesus loved us. But it carries so much more weight when we look at ourselves, as Christ's representatives here on earth. Here in America.
"Have this mind AMONG YOURSELVES, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who -- THOUGH HE WAS IN THE FORM OF GOD -- did not count EQUALITY WITH GOD a THING TO BE GRASPED, but emptied himself, taking the form of a SERVANT..." Philippians 2:5-11, edited and emphasized as per my interpretation of the text.
What if this were applied to us? To each American? To our leaders? Who, though being in possession of wealth and power, did NOT count that as a thing to be GRASPED, but emptied ourselves, taking on the form of... Servants? Immigrants? Criminals? Hungry? Homeless?
While Christ was in the form of God and WAS God, we are NOT. We should count ourselves BLESSED, not ENTITLED. And figure out exactly what it is we are considering a thing to be grasped, so that we can empty ourselves of that and take on the form of servant. And serve those in NEED not those who can in return serve our needs. I'll scratch your back, you ... enjoy it. You feel appreciated. Your betterment is not only my reward, it is my JOB.
What is it YOU count as a thing to be grasped? What would it take to empty yourself of it? Are you brave enough?
The article below is worth the read. Even if you are a gun owner. Especially if you are a gun owner. Not because you should be convinced to give up your guns. But because as a gun owner you should be open to promoting and demanding responsible gun ownership. My dad, a true gun enthusiast, throws this one out whenever the subject comes up, "There's a loaded shotgun on my front porch. It's been there all week. And it hasn't gotten up and killed a single person." I've been listening to that sort of rhetoric for years. But the truth is, it's dangerous rhetoric. It's flippant. It's not even true! My dad would never leave a gun out in the elements! But if it were true, some idiot who heard him say it could go swipe it and use it to commit a crime.
Attitudes about guns are changing. People are using them to win (get the last word in, so to speak) arguments. To "express themselves," as it were, in mass shootings in schools and places intended for recreation! And those who don't use them that way, those who own them and don't use them in bad ways, are starting to use these types of flippant responses that show just as much lack of respect for the guns they claim are so important in their lives. These attitudes are promoting and perpetuating the misconceptions about what guns should and should not represent, and how they should be used.
This post was written two days ago...I just saw it when getting ready to upload a new post. But apparently I was feeling so bad that day that I didn't trust myself to be able to live with the shame of this honesty. Yesterday I started feeling my spirits lift slowly out of the pit, and today is a little better than that.
If you suffer depression at any level, work (or wait) your way through to the next part of the cycle. Even if you don't believe it's coming! If you are considering suicide PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR HELP. If you are familiar with the feelings I describe below, realize that I don't feel the same way two days later.
>>ALL PANIC DISSIPATES EVENTUALLY<<
It could be anything. PMS. Peri-menopausal symptoms. The oppressively hot air outside. The amount of things to do just to be caught up, not to mention get ahead. Also, it's not like there's been a shortage of pain or trauma in my life over the last year. And it seems like when necessary I can muster up just enough energy and determination to do anything, and to be enthusiastic enough that I believe I'm becoming the person I want to be. The person who can answer yes to every, "Does anybody happen to have any _____?" Safety pins. Aspirin. Bandaids. Super powers.
It lasts enough to feel really good. And then inevitably I sink into a pit of stagnant self-loathing, self-pity, and insecurity. I spend a lot of time chastising myself. Like, it's because I drank too much last night (which always means 1 drink above my 2-drink limit) and alcohol is a depressant so I'm just living a well-deserved day of depression and misery. Trouble is, I find other reasons to explain it if I didn't drink last night.
I usually try to work my way back into my own good graces, then feel overwhelmed and go back to sleep for (hopefully) a good dream and a reboot.
There's also L-theanine, which if I don't feel TOO terrible might help a bit...giving me enough energy to lift my eyes above the quicksand of poo and see a butterfly off in the distance. But have you ever felt so bad you can't bring yourself to take the cure? Like -- it's right there on top of the fridge, and all you have to do is take it down and chew up two of the minty, TUMS-like tablets and most likely feel at least some relief from the oppressive weight. But you (I) walk right past. Because I can't believe I will ever feel better again and why take a stupid mint-flavored, chewable supplement?
This past week I attended the funeral of my uncle, who could easily have vied for "most gentle man ever." I remember him from a very young age, when he was dating my aunt and then right after they married and lived in a house on the street behind ours. I never saw him express ugliness, never heard him bark at his kids, never felt afraid of him. Everything he was was right there, worn like his clothes, deep all the way to his heart. As a young mother and wife, my husband (now ex) and I spent a lot of time with my aunt and uncle, as she helped me navigate breastfeeding and he encouraged my kids' dad to get his HAM radio license and then we all played with then-burgeoning technology. He taught me to write batch files and to download games from bulletin boards, and we would play a particular game over our computers while he and my kids' dad talked over their radios. He was there when my kids were born. In one instance, he used his HAM radio to tell my kids' dad to hurry back to the hospital because I was about to deliver (I had sent him out on a fool's errand because he was driving me crazy).
My uncle was born in Nigeria to missionary parents, and he and my aunt met in Campus Crusade for Christ when both in college in Austin. He did many different jobs in his lifetime, and in each of these positions made friendships with people who were drawn to his gentleness, and in most of these cases people were led to believe in Christ, very much a case of "What you have I want!" That's who he was.
Last year he was diagnosed with, treated for, and conquered leukemia. Then a couple of weeks ago he collapsed, his system having been attacked by an unknown virus. By the time they identified it and began treating it, he was in near-total organ failure, and though every day there was some spark of hope, in the end he was removed from life support and slipped away; even after life support was removed he was alert and went on for many more hours than expected, surrounded by family and, I believe, being a comfort to them before he left. He was that kind of man, husband, father, grandfather...uncle.
Now, I'm not the right-wing conservative Christian I was raised to be, and my uncle and his family for the most part toe that line. Actually a little over half my family stays in that range. So it should have been no surprise that his funeral would be a somber Baptist-esque service with a sermon-come-alter-call, complete with fire and brimstone. Actually this one was about stillborn babies rubbed with bloody sheepskins, but it's all the same. It's the grace of Jesus with the threat of horror, trotted out before a room full of grieving grandchildren who should not be hearing this shit.
I know, if you're a Christian that's part and parcel. I won't get in to why I object and how I came to my belief against church services and sermons in general. I have come to feel confident as I study the Bible and other religious texts myself, and seek out conversations and traditions outside what I was taught as a child and through my young adulthood. There is absolutely no reason on earth that I should sit still for an hour and be threatened by an angry man from behind a pulpit.
(See, the gentleness isn't as strong in me....my uncle married into our family and shared his with us, but it's all nurture, not nature!)
My uncle's life was a sermon, an offering of grace to everyone who was blessed enough to be in his sphere of contact. During his funeral, voice after voice told stories of how they met him, how his nature touched them, and how he eventually led them to Jesus. There was NO ONE in that room that needed to be exposed to the grotesque and gory pictures "just in case" they weren't saved yet.
I think I was a little mouthy afterward and although I believe I kept my voice silent to all except the person(s) I was talking to, I visibly objected, and I was angry! The truth is, the man who delivered the sermon has been on my poo poo list for many years because of his perspectives and the manner in which he delivers them. But that's another story altogether. I may tell it one day.
Don't get me wrong...there is a time and place for teaching about what life would be without grace. But when people come together to comfort, to be comforted, to say goodbye and be held in loving tenderness while they grieve...that's not right. I have instructed my children that in NO WAY should there ever be a sermon of any kind during my funeral or at my grave or wherever they decide to dump the body. If anyone scares or threatens my precious grandbabies or great-grands (yep...my non-gentleness will probably see me through another generation) I will come down and stomp their ass. I will be watching!!!!
Our lives should be the only sermon others ever need. Our funerals should not be a "captive audience" opportunity.
So here's the thing. I believe in magic. I believe that most everything around us is magic. Magic not as an illusion that one learns to fool and delight others. Magic not as a cloak of evil one wears to accomplish selfish means. Magic as an energy that moves around in the air unseen. Perhaps it is the air itself. Perhaps air obscures our ability to recognize the magic around us. Magic as moving with that energy to accomplish good in the world we are called to minister to. In II Kings 6:17, "...Elisha prayed and said, 'Lord, I pray Thee open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw: and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha."
In a non-Biblical reference, you might consider the movie "The Sixth Sense," where at the end you realize a thing that had been obvious the entire time but you were not aware of, that even the main character was not aware of, is at the core of the story. IS the actual story. I myself have rewatched the movies many times with that new information in mind and seen more each time. The truth of the story is not changed, only the perception or the interpretation of events.
I know that the word magic has all sorts of meanings to people, ranging from fun and harmless trickery to powered-by-evil sorcery. But I want to reframe the word to explain my perspective to others. What if we replaced instances of "miracles" in the Bible with "magic," if not in actual word, in implication. Miracles are things attributed to our Creator that defied "natural" explanation. At the time, anyway....once a thing is explained and defined by scientific method, it moves from under the heading of miraculous (magic) to natural.
But I ask you...does the explanation, the moving from not being understood to being understood actually change the magical properties involved? I just don't think so. I think God made this universe so massive and so dense with mystery and wonder that a thing doesn't need humans to define it. It simply is. It is, without being understood, and it is after being understood.
Trees and plants were believed to have magical properties for millennia. One thing explained by modern science is that plant life creates oxygen. I gotta tell you, that's magic. I breathe out carbon dioxide and trees and my ivy and my rosemary convert it back into breathable, a breathable, life-sustaining substance. So eventually the process was figured out, written down and explained to children in elementary school. The gooey gel inside aloe vera cactus is great for burns. In times past, people turning to a plant for its healing properties in this way could lead to punishment for witchcraft. Now it's sold in bottles in the first aid department. Chewing on the bark of certain trees relieved pain. Now it's sold in little tablets as aspirin, and is also used to combat heart disease. I don't think these things are any less magical before they were put through studies and approved for marketing. God imbued his creations with all sorts of gifts and uses and yes, even powers. "Not verified by the FDA" does not mean a damn thing in the grand scheme of what is and is not true.
So, I believe in magic. I believe it is God's power and energy (and I believe that power and energy are God) and that it flows in and through wherever it is welcomed. I believe God is bigger, more expansive, just more, than what is contained in the Bible. God is not confined to the records therein. Exploring the presence of God in other places and times is not evil.
Jeremiah 29:13 and you will seek Me and you will find Me when you search for me with all your heart.
Matthew 7:7-11 ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. What man is there among you, if his son asks for bread will give him a stone? Or if he asks for fish will give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more then will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
I always thought (and was taught) that that was about things, but what if it's about truth? I mean, Jesus said HE was truth, and the things he talked about always seemed to defy the personal or societal norm. I am seeking with all my heart to learn what is beyond what I've been taught. I am not looking beyond God for what is true, but I am exploring beyond what is recorded in the Bible for what else is true about God and His creation and His purposes.
This is causing a LOT of flak in my personal relationships. I understand that when I stray from what is solidly known about me, it's scary for others. But just as the truths about God are not affected by our beliefs and practices (or abstinence from certain beliefs or practices), the truth about me is the same no matter who thinks what about me.
And the truth about me includes the fact that I believe in magic.