What came after selling my soul

This video I stumbled across today (after I dreamed of a place much like this, even though I don’t remember ever seeing this video) speaks to where I have been, but I hope you won’t think this is a tale of how I wish I could go back to a time before I had sold my soul. We can only learn and move forward.

See, once you sell even one tiny piece of your soul, it becomes easier to peddle more and more of yourself off–for security, respect, legacy, recognition, and ‘love.’

We live in a culture that prizes selling our souls to attain everything we can dream. We rationalize this as doing the right thing, being responsible or fixing our mistakes so that our shame can’t hold us back.

Often selling our soul is an attempt to buy band-aids that we can place on our sins and our scars.

As a Christian, I am not immune to the selling of my soul. In fact, the Enemy can fashion new evil currency out of twisted bits of tradition and Holy Scripture to entice me.

If Jesus can be tempted in the wilderness by Satan, so can we.

Don’t forget our Lord’s temptation had to do with showing the world who He was. While his soul fashioned from the word of God testified that his death and resurrection would be the defining moment, Satan told Jesus to bow down to him and then Satan would give him the world’s nations. (Exactly why America CAN’T be Jesus’s nation, because Jesus did NOT succumb to temptation.)

Just so, my worst temptations come in forms that promise quick return. For me, this is a fast bandaging for sins and scars that I carry that I fear will keep me from my soul’s truth–serving my Creator and Savior. But we can’t approach God as zombies, our wounds oozing through the bandages, staggering and lusting for more blood.

Jesus offers us his own blood in order to transform us into new life.

However, our soul, even by itself, which was created by God, thus splintered and scattered by the Enemy’s temptation is still a force to be reckoned with.

Reading Palmer Parker yesterday has given me an understanding of the soul that rings truth to me as I look back on the last five years.

You see, I can’t shake the feeling, my soul’s truth, that I deviated from a path several years ago. The path was definitely yet in the wilderness of hope, full of temptation, difficult but also there is no shortcuts.

Just like when hiking, what seems to be a short cut, can end up getting you hopelessly lost.

When we are lost, we may try to find the stars to navigate by, but sometimes we are only left with airplanes, wishes and shooting stars.

And sometimes, when we are lost, we sell off bigger and bigger chunks of our soul.

So what can save such a soul dispersed?

For me, it is pain.

A life coach I know says “Rejection is sometime’s God’s protection.” That’s true.

And why is that?

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”― C.S. Lewis

Left on its own, I am sure the soul, like a wild animal, chews it’s way out of traps, leaving bits behind. I humbly must allow Christ to put me back together, but I must do my piece as well.

Even after I have treated my soul so terribly, sold it and abused it, forced it to go where it knew it had no business being, my soul pulls itself together and cries, “God, not my will, but thy will be done.” When I have sold my soul, my soul struggles to become whole, and Jesus is my ransom. I am not my own, I am Christ’s own.

But if I persist in abandoning my post, acting as if I’m my own to do with what I please, soon I will lock myself into the prison of my own personal hell.

Perhaps even as I sold my soul, I only sold my ability to commune with it. Perhaps it becomes trapped with me in my own prison, my own hell.

I dreamed last night that I was in a private prison with a lot of people. I had comrades who I didn’t wholly trust, either, and it was the sort of gruesome place where I wasn’t safe from anyone or anything, and I knew my death was foremost on the minds of those in power.

At one point, I was in a cell at night with prison mates all around me, as an assassin, a beautiful, thin but strong woman with long, dark hair and bronze skin snuck in to attack us. She thought we were all sleeping and she sought to do us violence. I jumped up with a toddler fork in my hand and stabbed her in the throat. I can still feel the thick, sticky blood pouring over my hand. She left then, alive, and I waited for her to die, but I am not sure she did.

Next, I was in a big room in the prison watching TV, and I was trying to keep my back to the wall so that nobody could sneak up on me.

After that, I was in a smaller room, seemingly sorta forgotten about, so I was more ambitious. I spoke to one of the warden type people, a woman, and offered to help her make money from the side. I asked her then, who owned the prison. She spoke in sentences, but the only word I remember, was that the missionaries had built it.

Then somehow, I was outside in a park, still being watched, but suddenly one of the assassins or fellow prisoners stumbled past me, incoherent and hurting.

Thinking of my own safety for a moment, but discarding it, I grabbed her and helped her into the back of a pickup of their fallen. Upon seeing this sacrifice of safety and act of love, I was tolerated by those who had caused me misery.

So, what on earth does all that mean?

I believe that I have escaped a prison of my own making (all those people and women versions of myself) based on the lies and history of those who have come before.

I think that the capitalistic system of South Dakota was built on the backs of those who were supposed to be doing Christ’s work and that now the Church must face a time of reckoning.

And my small part in that is to bravely speak and live my soul’s truth to the incoherent, drunken babbling of power that built itself upon the work of the Church of which I’m a tiny part.

And to not act like the capitalistic fool I have personified before now.

This is what God created me for. There’s probably more, but this is what I know now.

Danger abounds. My fake self and social constructs must die, if I am to save my soul from spiritual death. I must stay the path that allows me to do that.

What truths does your own soul speak?

It seems other creatives face something similar, as the videos below show. What about you?

There is no place that is home

The ground of my campsite in the Black Hills, SD, somewhere nearish Hippie Hole.

The comforting stones below me, a scrabble of shale and limestone, soil and granite and quartz, I sleepily breathed in the holy pine scent and readjusted myself under my brand-new orange sleeping bag that already felt…

like home.

The feeling stole upon me so abruptly that even in a haze of fatigue, wine, travel-dust and star-gazing, I took notice.

Where I was the last time I felt the feeling of home, I couldn’t tell you, but I think we all know the feeling of arriving home after a long day or a long trip.

I had flown in a ridiculously small plane into the South Dakota Black Hills just hours before.

Or maybe it was the day before.

I don’t remember for sure, actually, now. The details of my memory now about 7-months-old fades some.

I had desperately missed my children and South Dakota. Before getting into a rental car and driving to see my kids at their dad’s in Eagle Butte, I decided to go camping and try to “center” myself a bit.

The last year had been really intense.

Okay.

The last five years have been pretty intense.

Really, the last fifteen years has been crazy.

To be honest, I am not sure I have ever successfully ‘set up house,’ as an adult. The reasons why vary, but much of it has to do with me not fully realizing where home truly comes from.

And perhaps I am ready to live that truth and why this all has come upon me now, as I turn 33-years-old.

As a kid who moved around a lot, I learned at an early age how to pack and unpack my bedroom and help my mom set up camp wherever we were. My mother is an amazing homemaker, but for some reason, I have not followed suit.

In fact, until last Labor Day weekend while cozied into my new sleeping bag, my head on a friend’s pillow and the South Dakota wind whipping the tent above me and the sacred stones of the Black Hills below me, I marveled at this feeling of home.

It was a feeling I knew I knew, but yet, rare.

That feeling would continue to haunt me as I found a roommate and then would set up house for just a couple months before facing a company restructuring and shocking lay off barely 6 months into the gig.

[Yeah, seriously. I couldn’t make this crap up if I wanted to.]

Anyways, I have felt since I was a teenager that how we do home has a lot to say about my faith in Christ in many ways. The nuclear family heresy of the Religious Right has infested my heart and hearth in ways I’m still discovering. Even as a freshly launched progressive, I lauded other forms of homemaking without really ever feeling ‘at home.’

Holding all this up to the light of Christ, I have revisited the memory of feeling at home often since Labor Day weekend. Tried to understand it. Cautiously hoped to somehow recreate it. Sometimes, instead of outside myself like that epiphany, I feel a similar glowing within.

What could that even mean?

Most bothersome, when did I even feel that sense of home last in the same way as on that hilltop?

That question bothers me, and I can’t answer it.

As a young wife almost a decade ago, I manufactured a false idea of what home should be compared to who I really was. I have spent the last nine years trying to fix our home and our broken marriage even after our legal divorce.

What I do know is that my ideas of home, the would’s and should’s, chore lists and broken relationships, a hasty marriage and devastating separations and divorce throughout the last decade has probably stolen the ability to feel at home. Since the birth of my last son, I found myself giving up on all that insanity.

As Natalie Imbruglia once so famously sang, “Illusion never turned into something real.”

Finally, I gave up all those false tries and notions, while I looked ahead to a job change and move last summer. I would be in and out of hotels and three different states, technically homeless, and faced with myself for what could possibly be the first time as an adult.

And in the midst of all that, on Labor Day weekend, I received my unlooked for, but much welcome epiphany.

As this past winter dragged on, I came to the sense that it wasn’t the company nor place, per say. Well, perhaps it was, but that feeling of home that overtook me was a testimony of my surroundings to the fact I was in a place where I could be wholly myself.

Home is not a place. Home is inside of you.

As spiritual creatures, our body is our home and while as Christians we say our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, our body is also the humble home for our own spirit and manifestation of our soul.

While a grievous thing to contemplate, I have not set myself up as an adult where I could be wholly myself, in all the flesh and glory, sinful and yet my soul’s anchor hidden in Christ.

Therefore, in this body, in my loves and cares and creations, by the work of my own hands, I am home wherever I am, provided I don’t edit myself wrongly.

Home comes from within, perhaps even most especially for the Christian, and we create that home around us by our actions and nurturing a space to be ourselves outwardly that is true to who we are inside.

Even if it is in a sleeping bag, on the ground, in a tent, on a borrowed pillow upon a hilltop in the Black Hills of South Dakota with a tolerant and inviting friend who knows me well.

Stripped of almost anything else, except the most basic comforts and the Holy Spirit that dwells within me, I finally could be myself.

To be at home.
Finally.

Resurrecting “Between Leaf and Sky” as I embrace the journey

IMG_1757-EFFECTS

Several years ago, dang over 5 years ago now, a friend of mine who was in grad school then inspired me to write a personal mission statement.

I had been around organizational mission statement writing, so the novelty of a personal one was pretty huge to me, especially since at the time I had just left the church I had been a part of for the most part of a decade, since I was 17-years-old. I needed a compass for living my faith into my every day.

Using various websites that are meant for that sort of thing and reading up on personal mission statements (not too narrow, for example, but getting to the core of what was behind the activities you naturally gravitate to and feel most strongly about), plus a lot of prayer, I wrote this:

My life’s journey is loving Jesus and what He loves, for the benefit of Creation, for His glory.

After attending a prosperity gospel church, I became ashamed of the upheaval that my life often brings me, sometimes by my own design and just as often due to outside influences. Even after I left that church, I would end up becoming enamored of permaculture and place making as a progressive, yet, respectability-inducing endeavor of land ownership under the guise of progressive ideals.

Instead, my life’s journey seem intent to make sure I am humbled as often as necessary to preserve me from the trap of wealth.

I often ‘check in’ on how various things I’m reading resonate with my mission statement. It seems my nomadic trajectory, even as I busy myself setting up a base camp in Brookings, SD, seems also influenced by my personal mission statement. After all, it begins, “My life’s journey…”

I had chosen that wording because my meaning is hidden in Christ Jesus, as is any other true part of my identity. I have died and have been resurrected in Christ through baptism and recommit myself in communion. That is ‘who’ I am.

My daily experiences though and my time here on earth is a journey towards eternity. In that space, first found between leaf and sky that I reflect on when contemplating heaven and earth.

However, when I first wrote that statement, I had no clue it would become rather literal. My life would begin to focus more and more on both mobility and nomadic creative movements as well as a simple life and ethical ecological ethos–all for Christ’s sake.

While I don’t think words are quite magic, they are powerful.

This blog, “Between Leaf and Sky,” was also taken offline for awhile. This was in part due to other blog projects, jobs where I feared to allow more ‘me’ out there than what my work required, fear of what family and friends would think and even a sense of nostalgia when being faced with words written during old seasons of my life.

I have tried hard to be a truthful person, but really, I am afraid I was still living in half-truths.

Today I restart with the words that shape how I started this contemplative journey following Jesus Christ, “Between Leaf and Sky.”

So, you may now expect the following here on “Between Leaf and Sky”:

  • I am done with writing for any particular audience in favor of writing the truth of my own experience to the best of my ability (perhaps that’s my audience–people who care about genuine things, but I refuse to think long upon that either.)
  • Sharing my experience may well be a telling of current events that affect me or that I stumble across. Most of my academic training has been in journalism, so that will probably surface at times.
  • While not a purveyor of poverty porn, poverty and other low-income issues will be commonplace here in an effort to destigmatize the daily realities of so many people.
  • I am all about opting out of the system of American and global empire. However, I’m also a product of it, so that struggle and a huge dose of ‘Midwest Work Ethic,’ will feature heavily, too. I’m not afraid of hard work and sacrifice, but what is worth that hard work and sacrifice? What isn’t?
  • What I’m reading and listening to and watching. I don’t always share these things, but I think it is important to share even if I don’t have time to critique.
  • In general, just more me, I suppose, including the projects and business I work on and care about. If you know me from somewhere, then good chance my blog will touch on that ‘hat’ I wear at some point.
  • More blogginess. I’m bad about trying to write articles or essay type posts. No more. I’m probably for the first time really doing the web log thing.

Why write about any of this?

Because we live in a world of lies, marketing, self-serving deceits and utter bullshit. And that’s us on a good day.

We need to know that real people are out there so that we can begin the realization that as fun and useful as our media sources can be, most of them create in us expectations that have no basis in reality let alone heaven.

I also feel that the Holy Spirit is calling out to us to become untethered from Empire and yet wise as serpents in order to lead others to the fierce gentleness God longs us to live in. People like this, and even myself when I actually get close to this ideal, can seem scary and even dangerous to many people. There’s some Christian women writing about that, including Sarah Bessey, and even lately I read a wonderful interview called, “Dangerous Love,” shared by the contemplative blogger, Jonathan Erdman (who has roots in South Dakota btw).

This is not to be confused with the brash anger of the Religious Right, but nonetheless I find people sometimes drawn to me for their own reasons (share of liberal politics or some such thing) and then realize they are in the presence of a vastly different animal altogether.

So this blog is not to warn off folks or to explain myself, but instead to share so that others who are of kindred spirit or of a similar nudging by the Holy Spirit have a friend with whom to be themselves a while. That is the message I love so much in the video I posted below.

Let’s enjoy the journey and keep our chins up, looking for that place between leaf and sky.


READING:

“Dangerous Love: Reverend Lynice Pinkard On The Revolutionary Act Of Living The Gospels” by Mark Leviton
http://thesunmagazine.org/issues/466/dangerous_love?page=1

MUSIC:

Jessie J has long been a favorite of mine, but this song is what is rocking my world currently. Sometimes we just need to feel a bit bad ass, because rebelling against pretty much everything to be authentically ourselves is exhausting work. Her strength as revealed when watching various videos of her on YouTube and from the Voice is when she is interacting with her audience (which they worked into this video, too). As a writer, I love that. However, she is definitely working into mainstream and money-making, and I feel the tension in that deeply and personally even if on a much smaller scale.

Eighth Day of Christmas: Claiming the Hydra Within

Ego rears it’s ugly head in a myriad of ways.

Like many praying Christians, the more I pray the more I am aware that I am flawed and selfish.

However, sometimes that inner roaring, while dangerous in the midst of the tantrum of ego, is actually a God-given part of you trying to be heard.

Recently, I had a bit of a bumpy road vocationally in the main street, everyday career I have found myself in.

You see, I thought with a new job, I was over most of that. I believed (thanks to being a Recovering Evangelical and still often programmed with prosperity gospel heresy in my mind) that this was my reward for a bumpy road I had just left professionally and personally. Then I was laid off due to a restructuring and back on the job market.

Ouch.

Add to that a few other instances that wounded my already bruised pride.

My inner screaming ego was frantic to get my attention.

This wasn’t the first time my inner Hydra roared. It had recently almost been my undoing, as I struggled with so much anger by the time I left a bad situation of a failed relationship and difficult work situation. I had ignored it for so long that by the time I realized that anger was part of healing, somehow, I barely knew myself.

After my most recent bout with my inner Hydra, I realize now that it was ego then, roaring, and ultimately, I think it saved my life, though I didn’t realize quite how at the time.

I kept ignoring my ego, bouncing between false humility and anger, shoving it all down, one foot in front of the other, self-martyring, confused, wrong, struggling to love.

You see, as a Christian, I used to believe that we must ignore self in the guise of ‘let Christ increase and me decrease.’

This is true Biblically, but not how I often act it out. Someone once said, probably C.S. Lewis, that humility is not thinking of yourself less, but of others more.

True humility is caring for yourself as you care for others. Sometimes in order to care for yourself you have to set boundaries and move forward with your life when others no longer want to travel with you or won’t create a place of habitation with you where you can stay.

If you stay too long, anger, that inner ego, will start to roar, but it can be baffling and humiliating to someone dedicated to becoming more like Christ and to a life of humility.

Our egos are our inner toddler. As a mother of four sons, I love the toddler/preschool stage–raw emotion, raw curiosity, raw intellect and the transition to realizing self apart from mother and father and family.

I don’t meant that it is easy, and not all toddlers face that transition the same way. Some are much more spirited than others, trying their own patience and that of everyone around them. If this isn’t taught through and mentored well this will persist into the grade school years and further.

Some of us, after all, are just more spirited than others in general.

I think this inner toddler never really leaves us, and has many heads and oftentimes, like the Hydra legend, when we lop off one head that is raging, we create two in its place.

So are we called then, like Hercules of the same Greek mythos, to kill this Hydra? Eradicate our souls of it?

Not so fast.

The Bible also mentions, ‘out of the mouths of babes.’

I was explaining some of this in the car today to my sons while on our way to get hot chocolate and hit the comic book store. My oldest told me I sounded like Yoda, because Yoda preferred the honest company of younger Jedi than the older.

Gotta love Yoda. I agree, there is a brutal honesty and simplicity in the emotions of a toddler. Now, that doesn’t mean how the toddler manifests those emotions is simple on the outside. It can be utterly confusing why they are screaming because the piece of bread you just gave them when they asked for it is still wrong somehow, but a toddler with a loving family is not shy about being unsika.

In Lakota, unsika didn’t used to have such a negative connotation as it does now. It simply meant, ‘to have need.’

Toddlers, especially those who are secure, know they can share that they have a need and with some thoughtfulness, often, we can get to the reason why that bread wasn’t right. For example, perhaps mom forgot she always sings a little song while she butters it and that break in routine is just too much change in an already unusually busy day. This isn’t about bread, butter or sing-songs, but about a threat to their perceived security. That is a need and must be honored.

Our inner Hydra is a monster, but it is God-breathed and like the rest of our humanity is corrupted by sin and mere flesh, but it also can be put under God’s sovereign grace and love.

In the myth, Hydra actually guards a gateway to Hades or the spirit realm. Perhaps our inner ego guards something similar?

Recently, my Hydra was roaring. Again. Without getting into details, I finally realized after visiting with wise friends that my inner ego was screaming and throwing a toddler-like tantrum that even as an adult I was having difficulty in controlling, because it was really trying to protect me.

Every time I ignored the crying, thereby lopping off a head, the two that popped up just screeched louder.

With toddlers, the secure toddler will cry but quieter and the need can be quickly ascertained. If ignored, the screaming escalates. Eventually in unsupported toddlers, the screaming quickly goes high-pitched and they fall apart quicker. Too much of that, and the worst thing happens, they simply stop asking.

A quiet ego may not be a redeemed, Christ-like ego at all. It could be so utterly ignored that it ceases to assert itself.

After I realized what situations and events this monster within was so afraid of, was so desperate to call to my attention, when I acknowledged the specific times of crisis where I was in a bad situation of rejection and disrespect, playing the martyr instead of caring for myself, I then also realized the role my inner ego had taken even then.

My inner toddler was attempting to save me from myself.

Praise God, then, for ego.

Thank God, my inner toddler refused to shut up.

And praise God for Christ, who unlike Hercules, would redeem Hydra, rather than vanquish it.

Sure it is a beastly thing at times, scary even. Letting it run amok could cost me greatly leading to immature decisions and un-Christlike behavior.

But ignoring it is foolhardy as well.

Once I realized what my ego was crying out about, in fear, and acknowledged the previous hurts and how hard I had worked to get out of bad situations (thanks to the same ego), my inner Hydra instantly became silent.

Further, I gave it to God and felt an assurance that even something as scary and problematic as ego does not have to be a destroyer, but can actually act as a gargoyle for our very spirit, dare I say maybe even our soul.

I have learned that even ego is not beyond the grace of Christ.

This eighth day of Christmas, I actually feel like I’ve unwrapped an amazing, protective gift from God. In an otherwise difficult season, I feel less alone, even, knowing that this amazing beast is standing guard.

God never ceases to amaze me with his gifts, like the good dog laying at my feet, I can trust that I am so not alone, firmly cared for even by natural design in ways I can barely even imagine.

Merry Christmas!

PS I feel I must note that this post is not about a bad day or a grumpy mood, all things we ought to mitigate and deal with. I am talking about the times when we are baffled by an inner screaming monster that can’t be dealt with as a mature adult would deal with a bad day or week or even month. Where we try that and fail, over and over, until we are utterly confused at the why. I offer this as a possibility for those times. Just had to put that out there. Blessings.

Days 10-19: God the Father is the Great Editor

If Jesus is the Word of God Made Flesh and the Author and Finisher of our faith as Christians, then assuredly, God the Father is the Great Editor.

Recently I shared a post on Facebook letting people know I found out last week that I was being laid off of work.

The response was almost overwhelming. I’m not sure anything makes one feel so alone as being out of work, let alone laid off at Christmas-time.

A few folks wondered out loud what God’s plan in all this could possibly be, but they were trusting that it would turn out all right yet. I appreciated their gift of faith at this time when my faith in the same thing seems to run like an old engine on ethanol fuel–fits and starts, hesitations and sometimes full throttle before sputtering again.

Not only was the outpouring of faith wonderful, but some strong job leads came of it, as well.

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” -Jeremiah 29:11 NRSV

I was thinking of this some last night, but this morning as I was on the edge of waking up, the verse came back to me with PLANS.

Looking at several translations, this verse is worded various ways of course, but there is no singular plan.

God has plans.

Greg Boyd, a contemporary Minnesota theologian I admire, says that God knows multiple futures at any given time.

This is so important, because fear often creeps in when we feel like we have forsaken God’s plan and have wandered away. Now, I’m not saying that can’t happen at times, or in my case, a job vanishes at no fault of our own and we are left wondering what plan God could have.

God is just so much bigger than getting thwarted by a job or even reducing himself to playing job fairy.

However, He absolutely does know the planS He has for us, because He has faith in Himself to edit the story of our life as we move through it.

Nothing can shock God or catch Him unaware.

As a humble God, yes, God is humble, He waits for us with open arms to see the small miracles that can turn travesty into triumph.

We can even be certain that in our deaths He weaves our stories into the greater epic of creation as only He can know best.

Nothing is lost that can’t be redeemed by a Great Editor.

I won’t even rule out that God didn’t want me to have that job, or that He only saw it being in my best interest for a season.

I simply trust that God has all of this well in hand.

In Narnia, Aslan tries to get Lucy’s attention. Her and her siblings have been gone from Narnia and arrive back centuries later in time and nothing looks like it should. They are lost. Lucy sees Aslan, but her brothers won’t listen to her, so she bites her lip and goes on with them.

Later on, Aslan asks her why she didn’t just follow him. Even alone. And she asks well if I had would all this bad stuff have happened?

He says we can never know what might have been.

I don’t know how my story might have been different in this job. Life is full of change, but God knows all the plans He has for us.

He doesn’t just have a Plan B. He has multitudes of Plan A’s and any contingency plans can even be better than the original.

Even in the stumbling and in our sins, in our abject poverty and neediness, we are never without redemption. The various plot twists and turns in our story, the plans God has for us, is overwhelming for a human mind.

In faith, we can trust God to weave together our story, cut out the stuff that doesn’t matter and to bring all His good work in us to completion.

We just must be willing to surrender all of it to Him.

All things surely do work to the good of those who trust in Him.