for Christians

I don’t often wax on (or off) about my faith on this blog–mainly because, if you’ve found your way here, you probably did so for the writing and reading and snark, not the “religion” stuff. (Note: I’m not religious. I’m a Jesus-follower. There’s a distinct difference. If you want me to wax and polish that in another post, lemme know. 😉 )

Anywho, ballyhoo.

The current social and political climate in the United States of America is bringing me way low. Still, I sit in a place of privilege because I’m white, educated, and middle-class-ish. Husband has full-time & long-term employment, gets benefits; we’d do better financially if I took at least a part-time job, but we’re not in a position that I *have* to, so I can stay at home with kiddo and stay at home and write (sometimes); we have biological family who help us out with kiddo’s schooling and with LIFE; we have an adopted community that helps with LIFE; we have a network of local connections going back 25 years; we speak English, blah blah more privileged stuff blah.

So, I can sit here fairly comfortably at my newish laptop, reading Twitter and Facebook and news sites and bemoan the state of the Union in *empathy* with the under- and non-privileged, but it’s not like I’m out there getting shot for wearing a hoodie. I know where my next meal is coming from. I can walk into a bank and immediately get service and talk to personnel in English about my needs. I don’t have to know what month Flag Day is before I’m allowed to be a citizen.

That said, my heart still breaks…my soul is crying…my spirit feels, in many ways, broken–all because I see (with my limited sight) the pain and anguish people are suffering all over the world and all over this country, and I see the leaders of this country apparently doing everything they can to increase that suffering instead of diminishing it as they swore to do.

And what rends my heart to shreds most violently is that I see humans who claim Jesus Christ cheering on these corrupt ones instead of rejecting them.

So, I have something to say to my fellow humans who claim Him as their Lord and profess to pledge their allegiance to Him alone (wording intentional, *ahem*). If you’re not one of them and don’t want to read further, I understand, and I hold no negative thoughts or emotions toward you. If you’re not one of them and you *do* read further, please don’t hesitate to ask me anything you like about what I’ve written.

I am always open to talking of these things.
They are the core of my very existence.

If you are one who claims Jesus as Lord and feel moved to converse, please also do not hesitate.
If you are one who claims Jesus as Lord and feel moved to excoriate me or anyone else who comments, check yourself or wreck yourself. I will delete inappropriate or abusive comments and block you from this blog without hesitation.

If you’re a Christian, this one’s for you.

(I have also posted a version of this on Facebook.)

“Take a good look at her. She has had five husbands. And the sixth man in her life, with whom she is presently living, is not her husband. But Jesus Christ does the unthinkable. He introduces himself to her as her new Husband–the seventh* man in her life, the heavenly suitor who will love her like no man ever has. He will turn her tragedy into purity, her ashes into beauty, her misery into joy.

“This woman is a Samaritan; she’s a half-breed–half Jew and half Gentile. In other words, she comprises both Jew and Gentile in her body. She depicts the bride of Jesus Christ, comprised of fallen, tragic humanity, Jew and Gentile, who have been re-created anew to be the masterpiece of God’s matchless grace.”

–Frank Viola,
FROM ETERNITY TO HERE
(*7 symbolizes perfection)

So. If you’re going to ally yourself with Jesus the Anointed One of God Eternal, here are a few facts about yourself you’re going to have to accept:
(Note: every following “you” is collective, not singular.)

You are a hybrid.
You are a half-breed.
You are a wayward, fallen, tragic creature.
You are hunted.
You are a foreigner.
You are a stranger.
You are despised.
You are destitute.
You are homeless.
You are a refugee.

In His glorious, immeasurable Love, God the Father has handselected you to be the Bride for his Son.
In His glorious, immeasurable Love, Jesus the Anointed One has paid the bloodprice that is your dowry.
In His glorious, immeasurable Love, the Holy Spirit has led you to the Lord Your Bridegroom.

(Again, every “you” is collective, not singular.)

You are become His Bride, one day to become His Wife.
You are adopted into His Family.
You are a Living Stone being built into His House.
You are redeemed.
You are safe.
You are a citizen under His Lordship.
You are known to Him.
You are Beloved.
You are abundantly rich.
You are home.

You are still a refugee.

You have refuge in Him.

He does not reject the poor, the homeless, the destitute, the desperate, the alien, the stranger, the foreigner. He does not reject the refugee. He gave Himself to such as these, NO MATTER THE COST TO HIMSELF. This is His courage, His strength, His obedience, and His Love.

(Again: “you” is collective.)

And He lives in you.
His fullness lives in you.
ALL OF HIM lives in you.
His love, his courage, his strength to act in compassion and grace.

Is there a risk in welcoming the stranger? Is there danger in harboring the refugee?

Maybe. Maybe not. “But that is not for us to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
With the time that is given us.
With His Love that “tabernacles” inside us.
With His strength and the courage that reside in us, the Bride of the Anointed One.

The Lord has purified for Himself a Bride who shares His spiritual DNA. As Eve shared Adam’s DNA because she was made out of him, so the Bride has a nature identical to the Bridegroom’s. There is no distinction between the two of them, and when God looks at the Bride, He sees His Son.

Jesus the unique, Anointed Son of God welcomes the refugee.

So does His Bride, the church, the collective of the Called-Out, who is Herself a (formerly destitute) refugee from a fallen world.

The Bride of Christ does not reject the refugee.

And if “the Bride” does reject the refugee, then she is not of Him; she does not belong to Him; and she is not the Bride.

a new hope (in the quiet, not in silence)

What a deceptive title.

One, because this post has nothing to do with Star Wars, at least not directly.
Two, because the hope I’m thinking of isn’t new in the conventional sense.

It’s more of a renewable hope. Or a continually-renewed hope.

I sit here in the final minutes of 2016 (it’s literally 5 minutes ’til midnight), typing on my laptop while the TV regales me with the blatherings of announcers, the poor enunciations of music artists, and the weird ramblings of a woman with green glitter lipstick worthy of Panem’s Capitol. I think of the illusory and foundationally meaningless construct of calendars and years’-ends. We humans get in such a tizzy at this time every year, never mind that flipping a calendar page from one month to the next or one year to the next has absolutely no connection to actual, tangible change.

I set my laptop aside to check windows for fireworks as 2017 A.D. rolls through the door.

The fireworks are audible from inside my living room, but I can’t see them from any of the windows. A quick call to my parents — one I make every year on January 1st at approximately 00:05am — sends love reverberating through the atmosphere. A good start to the new iteration of this particular human construct.

My husband went to bed at 22:35 (that’s 10:35pm); my four-year-old daughter trundled off to sleep at her usual time of 20:00. None of our friends were partying this year.

No one texts me.

This is probably the first time in 20 years that I’ve rung in the “new year” completely alone.

Shouldn’t this make me melancholy? I don’t know if it should (don’t should on me!), but it doesn’t. It’s kind of cozy, really. Until the timer turned them off a few minutes ago, the Christmas tree lights splashed a warm glow across my typing fingers; I’ve turned off the TV, so all is quiet, if not silence; I can hear my husband snoring, my clock ticking, my fridge chuckling. Sporadic fireworks still grace the night behind me, on the other side of the window.

I don’t type in silence, but I type in the quiet.

Ah. There’s the first ambulance siren of the year.

Peace. Peace for this year. Grace and mercy to those who aren’t starting 2017 in peace.

The clock is ticking.

The cat is sleeping under the darkened Christmas tree.

The year 2016 A.D. held so much grief.

Deaths of people I’ve long admired from great distances.
Death of confidence in the basic decency of humanity.
Death to idealism and optimism and other beneficent -isms — all of which are intimately connected with fellow humans-being.

I still like to think of myself as Eternal Optimist Woman, even though that belief has been sorely tried this year. I think the EOW has disintegrated into ash for the time being; I can only hope that, like the phoenix, she will rise from the ashes again.

She’s done it before.

And there’s that word again.

Hope.

I’ve pondered again and again whether or not I should wax political about the goings-on in the United States of America in 2016. And if I decided to wax that way, just what could or would or should (!) I say? But the emotional energy required take for such a blopgost (yes, blopgost) would be an expense I cannot afford.

The Babadook still lives in my basement*. He demands my intensive self-care, which includes not feeding my strength into something that won’t benefit anyone.

(*If this reference makes no sense to you, I recommend watching the movie The Babadook, which is basically a metaphor for depression.)

I will say this, since it relates to hope: I don’t hope for anything Good to come from the USA’s current president-elect. “I hope for no hope from him…poor clown,” as Amalthea told Molly Grue. (Although I know I’m doing Schmendrick an injustice; still, allow me my nerdy references, would you?) He has proven himself ridicule-worthy, dangerously unbalanced, selfish, self-absorbed, greedy, incapable of empathy, ableist, racist, misogynist, bigoted, prejudiced, childish, fiendish, and just plain gross.

If I were to put him into a novel, readers would mock me for writing such a parody of a villain. He’s so much Chaotic Evil as to be unbelievable. No one would read him.

(“He lied in every word, that hoary [emotional-]cripple with malicious eyes….”)

I cannot describe to you how much it cost me to write the preceding two paragraphs. I feel completely exhausted.

But.

The point is, I have no hope for the next year regarding the president-elect of the USA, his cabinet, his advisors, his family, his decisions, his intentions, his cronies, his sycophants. I have so little hope regarding any of those, it has passed zero and dropped squarely onto the negative side of the axis. And on the negative side, my hope moves ever more rapidly away from zero.

Thank God — literally — that the Reality which gives me hope is no human construct or human system.

When I was 19, my atheist friend said to me, “Courtney, I don’t care if you believe in God or not — but if you’re going to believe, you have to be able to tell me why.”

I had no answer for him then.

Nowadays, I have answers squooshing out of my ears, but that’s another tale and shall be told another time. 😉

My thought tonight is that because of my faith and in spite of the Chaotic Evil that has created a safe place for so many other evils to reveal themselves, I still have hope.

A renewable hope.

A continually-renewed hope.

What if we humans had a leader who cared? Who empathized? Who accepted us all, every one? Who wanted to build something beautiful and glorious and beneficial, instead of promising dread and fear and harm? What if we had a leader who actually did represent us and count us in and protect us and serve us and live for us and die for us? What if we had a leader truly “for the people” and “by the people”?

What if we humans had a leader truly made of Love?

I know of so many people who profess to follow this man named Jesus of Nazareth, the Anointed One (that’s what mashiach–“Messiah” and “Christ” mean) — and yet, they are so terrified of someone misleading “their country,” they actually believe that a human construct could “close the doors” of their churches.

(Fellow believers, how could you vote Chaotic Evil when you claim to follow the Perfect Lawfree Good, which never restricts freedom?)

The Good News is that no matter what any man-made system decides or does, the house being built by this Jesus of Nazareth will never close.

After all, He is a carpenter. He knows how to build a house with uncloseable doors.

But it’s not about the closing of doors. It’s about the closing of minds, the closing of hearts, the tearing-down of the differently-opinioned, the shutting-down of empathy, the removal of “with” from compassion (which leaves only passion, and of an undirected, malignant sort).

(Compassion, in case you didn’t know, means “suffering-with”; to have compassion on someone means to enter into their suffering, to become part of it and to make it part of you.)

And this closing off and shutting down is coming from those who profess to own the One who personifie(d)s opening up, feeling with, suffering with, building up, welcoming in.

My so-called fellow Jesus-followers rejected his example and his indwelling Lifespirit.

That, in my very subjective view, is the real tragedy of 2016 A.D., for it leads to the suffering of humanity, most especially including the impoverished and the unbelieving.
In regard to so-called Jesus-followers, this felt more like 1016 A.D.

They have forgotten their hope.

They have forgotten that their hope can be “new every morning”

(great is thy faithfulness).

Jesus the Anointed One, Son of God Most High and Head of His Body (the collective of Different Ones [definition of “saints”] in this world) — He is building a house.

His house has nothing to do with physical buildings ornamented with made-up names and stained-glass windows.

His house encompasses the universe itself.

He will build that house with or without those followers of his who happen to name themselves “American” (for you can be sure that *he* didn’t name them that). He will build his house with the people on the street corners, the ones who actually hear his words and listen to them and respond (Matthew 22). He doesn’t care where these people came from; they listen, and they come to him, and he loves them and takes them in.

They take his Hope and they eat it. They chew it. They swallow it whole.

And his Hope has no relation whatsoever to the construct of human politics or calendars.

In the vastness of the universe and the multi-directional eternity of history, human politics are less than a footnote. I’m not sure they’re even mentioned between the covers of the entire book.

I have hope.

Because I’m a stone in a wall that’s going to last forever. I am a stone in Reality.

That Reality behooves and encourages and enables me to feel-with and suffer-with those who feel deeply and suffer. And it’s the kind of suffering-with that leads to action. Compassion leads to getting my hands “dirty.”

I’m okay with that.

His hands were “dirtier” than mine ever can be.

I didn’t intend for this blopgost to turn into such a revelation about my beliefs. I wanted to keep it simple, really. But it just seemed like the words wanted to come out exactly as they did.

There goes the second set of sirens of the New Year.

No one wants to read a sermon first thing on January 1st (at least, I don’t know of anyone who does.)

Also, I’m tired and starting to fade toward sleep. And starting to type in my sleep; I’ve already had to delete two sentences because they made no sense. 😉 So I’ll wrap this up. There really should be some more thoughts here, but I don’t have any.

I’m too tired.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, everypony!

Peace.

these are the truths

Every time I clean, I lose things. Organized chaos tells me exactly where things are.
I try not to get too philosophical about this.

Living my faith is harder for me than giving faith up.

I am more aware now of the reality of my privilegedness than I ever have been in my life.

Chocolate-flavored vodka is my jam, but I don’t put it on my bread.

I have forgotten how to blog.

Freedom means more to me than ever before, and it has not a smidgen to do with patriotism.

I am weary of holding my tongue. I wasn’t built for it. (And neither were you.)

Writing cover copy for a short story anthology is vastly different from writing cover copy for a novel. This sucks.

I have come to the conclusion that no one who cannot bear or has not borne a child should have the right to tell me when or how I should bear one.

Pinkie Pie.

I possess more materials for unbegun art projects than any one human should.

It’s okay if you end a sentence a preposition with.
I think I decided this after learning Koine Greek.

ἀγάπη is the highest, and no single English word expresses it adequately.

If I could tell my late-teens self any three things, it might be: (1) dye your hair and get a tattoo, (2) turn every moment of your life into the most glorious dance, (3) but don’t dance in front of that fireman named Michael, because he’s going to get the wrong idea and it’s gonna be really awkward later in front of your mom and his sister.

This year I have read only women authors, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Nowadays I laugh at things I used to look down my nose at.
This isn’t a bad thing.

I still love sparklies.
I don’t think that’s ever gonna change.

Yay. 🙂

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in 2015 i read 47 books. what about 2016?

2015’s Reads, 2015’s Faves, and Projected Reads for 2016

Books I Read in 2015

I’ve starred the ones I enjoyed most, and following the list you’ll find brief notes on each of those faves. My goal for 2015 was to read at least 50 books. Missing that mark by 3 isn’t too bad. And I beat last year’s tally of 45, so BAM.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s not important how many books I read, just that I’m intaking story and enjoying myself. But having a number goal keeps me focused on reading during the times when the sheer pleasure of it isn’t quite enough. I don’t know if other people go through phases like that, but I’ve been dealing with more of them since the depression hit. My yearly competition with my past self helps me get through the rougher patches. It’s a useful coping mechanism, keeping that little extra bit of joy in my life when I need it most.

Anyway, without further ado or adon’t, here’s my 2015 list:

1. Plague of the Dead by Z.A. Recht
2. More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon *
3. Queen’s Own (Valdemar: Arrows of the Queen, #1-3) by Mercedes Lackey (*)
4. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt *
5. Stellar Science-Fiction Stories, #7 edited by Judy-Lynn del Rey
6. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle *
7. The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga
8. From a Buick 8 by Stephen King
9. Legends II: Shadows, Gods, and Demons (Vol. 1) edited by Robert Silverberg (Robin Hobb’s “Homecoming” *)
10. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss *
11. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia, #3) by C.S. Lewis
12. The Day I Met Jesus: The Revealing Diaries of Five Women from the Gospels by Frank Viola and Mary DeMuth *
13. The Silver Chair (Chronicles of Narnia, #4) by C.S. Lewis
14. The Horse and His Boy (Chronicles of Narnia, #5) by C.S. Lewis *
15. The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis *
16. The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis *
17. Prophet by Frank E. Peretti
18. Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King *
19. 77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz
20. The Moonlit Mind by Dean Koontz *
21. The Lurker at the Threshold by H.P. Lovecraft
22. Beyond the Shadows (Night Angel, #3) by Brent Weeks
23. Resist the Devil by Watchman Nee
24. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
25. The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum
26. The City by Dean Koontz
27. The Harvest (The Heartland Trilogy, #3) by Chuck Wendig *
28. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
29. Rite of Passage by Alexei Panshin (*)
30. Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum
31. A Demon in the Desert (Grimluk, Demon Hunter Book 1) by Ashe Armstrong
32. Red Rain by R.L. Stine
33. Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
34. Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber *
35. The Road to Oz by L. Frank Baum
36. Three Slices by Kevin Hearne, Delilah S. Dawson, and Chuck Wendig *
37. House by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker
38. Catwoman: Selina’s Big Score by Darwyn Cooke
39. The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree (The Outlaw King, #1) by S.A. Hunt
40. Protector by Becca J. Campbell
41. The Walking Dead: A Larger World (Vol. 16) by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn
42. The Walking Dead: Something to Fear (Vol. 17) by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn
43. Nightwalker (Dark Days, #1) by Jocelyn Drake
44. City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments, #5) by Cassandra Clare
45. My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland
46. Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues by Diana Rowland *
47. Hounded by Kevin Hearne *

The Faves

More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon
–a great story with unexpected twists
–cramazing character development
–classic sci-fi
–a writing style that turns the reader’s imagination into a co-storyteller

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
–utterly engrossing and heart-breaking
–McCourt’s style is so vivid and immediate, I felt like I was right there living it with him through the whole story.
–made me keenly aware of my own privileged upbringing; expanded my world

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
–HOW did I never read this book as a kid?!?
–SO GOOD
–in the vein of C.S. Lewis, which means brilliance & excellence in imagination, theme, message, story

“Homecoming” by Robin Hobb in Legends II: Shadows, Gods, and Demons (Vol. 1)
–Hobb’s story gets my vote for best character-development of this year’s reads; I’m just a sucker for the redemption of the snobby, spoiled, rich-girl type 😉

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
–GAH THIS IS SO INCREDIBLE
–some of the best fantasy I’ve read in YEARS
–almost read this too fast; it’s truly UPDA
–can’t wait to read Book 2 this year!!!

The Day I Met Jesus: The Revealing Diaries of Five Women from the Gospels by Frank Viola and Mary DeMuth
I don’t talk a lot about my faith on social media. But I will say this: “high church” has done the world a disservice by painting women into a powerless, subservient, subjugated role for the past two millennia. Whether you’re a believer, an atheist, or an agnostic, Viola & DeMuth’s book challenges what you think you know about the Christian Bible’s treatment of women (especially in the New Testament). I can’t imagine anyone reading this book and not finding something that surprises or even shocks them — in a good way.
This book about women is a wake-up call.

The Horse and His Boy (Chronicles of Narnia, #5), The Magician’s Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia, #6), The Last Battle (Chronicles of Narnia, #7) by C.S. Lewis
–simply a pleasure to re-read as an adult
–beauty, truth, challenge

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
–classic King, thrilling and excellent from start to finish
–HOW does the man manage such perfect character development?!
–loved the female characters in these stories — such powerful agency!

The Moonlit Mind by Dean Koontz
–classic boy-and-his-dog-in-creepy-world Koontz
–dark and gritty, captivating and ethereal

The Harvest (The Heartland Trilogy, #3) by Chuck Wendig
–another UPDA
–sucked me in from page 1 & refused to let go
–excellent wrap-up to the trilogy
–really hope to read more stories set in this cornpunk world!

Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber
–another non-fic that all of my fellow Jesus-followers need to read
–insightful, heart-breaking, heart-warming
–this book will offend a lot of Christians
–I loved it. 🙂

Three Slices by Kevin Hearne, Delilah S. Dawson, and Chuck Wendig
–loved getting another *slice* of Miriam from Wendig
–perfect intro to Dawson and Hearne, made me want to read more of both
–cheese?!?
–delightful

Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues by Diana Rowland
–thought I loved the first book in the series until I read this one
–rare that a sequel upstages its predecessor, but this one does
–fun, “fresh” (LOL) take on zombies
–MC Angel’s voice reminds me of Sookie Stackhouse
–will read more in series

Hounded by Kevin Hearne
–fun frolic of a druid story
–reminded me of Expecting Someone Taller by Tom Holt
–loved the characters’ voices
–at first distracting but then fun to puzzle out the Gaelic names as I read

Runners-up:

Queen’s Own (Valdemar: Arrows of the Queen, #1-3) by Mercedes Lackey
–rich, detailed world-building
–enjoyed seeing how the main character’s growth determined the intricacies of the plot

Rite of Passage by Alexei Panshin
–yummy to read some classic sci-fi with a strong, scrappy heroine!

Q: What’s in store for 2016?

A: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE LADIES.

Right now, I’m reading Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It’s a humdinger of a novel, penned in Jane Austen style (in A.D. 2004, mind you) and clocking in at 1006 pages. Uffda. I’m unused to reading this style of doorstop anymore, so it’s slow going and takes a lot of concentration. BUT it’s a fabulous challenge and a great read. I’m loving all the subtly sarcastic asides about early 1800s British culture. And reading these characters is like watching a movie. And it has magicians and fairies. Just fun.

Projected reads this year include: Jade Kerrion, Tana French, Susan Kaye Quinn, Marissa Meyer, Kiera Cass, most of the female authors listed here, Delilah S. Dawson, Cidney Swanson, Carrie Ryan, and Julie Hutchings. After these, I’ll turn some attention to Wendig, Gaiman, Hearne, King, Koontz, Yancey, and others.

Why all this focus on female authors? Because I realized some time back that I read mainly male authors, and I want to support my sisters of the written word. Plus, women’s voices simply aren’t heard enough, and I want to redouble my efforts to hear them. I’m exited to hear them, to discover the nuances of their words and imaginations, to let their sounds thread through my soul in new ways. The gentlemen will have their turn, but for now, it’s the ladies who get all my love. 😉

Happy reading in 2016!

grandfather: a poem

Today is the last day of National Poetry Month, so I’m finally posting a poem. Better late than never, right? ; )

I wrote this the day after I came upon my Grandpa sitting in his rocking chair in the sun room, peering toward the outside beyond the window, and quietly singing “Amazing Grace” and “It Is Well with My Soul.” It was a beautiful, simple moment in which I felt overwhelmed with love, respect, and reverence. Grandpa gave me a gift without compare. I’ll never forget it.

grandfather
by Courtney Cantrell

he is ninety-four years old
and much has changed

he has set aside the politics
he has rejected the lies
he has turned his back upon the old ways
that once told him

     grace is conditional
     deity is wrath
     love depends on the boxes you check off

          tradition becomes less necessary than Truth

he is ninety-four years old
and can barely see

old retinas give him darkening blurs
where faces used to be
and yet some Sight remains
and yet he can still recognize

     the children of God
     the house of the Messiah
     the bride of the Savior

          clarity becomes less important than Compassion

he is ninety-four years old
and the musica universalis is his symphony

his rocking chair creaks
like his voice as he lifts it in praise
“sometimes i just have to sit and sing a little”
his wavering melody weaves peace into the heart

     cruel death has no power
     he rests in amazing grace
     it is well with his soul

          proficiency becomes less significant than Passion

     simplicity is his father’s wont
     love is his father’s Word
     these are his father’s world

          and he adores his Lord.
 

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; his hand the wonders wrought.

–Maltbie Davenport Babcock

I’ve never been suicidal. Not really. But.

The title of this post might serve as adequate warning. But. In case it isn’t, please note that this post concerns suicide. If reading about suicide is a trigger for you for suicidal thoughts, please don’t read this. Instead, call someone you consider a friend. Or call 800-273-TALK. Or click here for resources.

On the blog of Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, I read this morning that today is World Suicide Prevention Day. The goal is to raise awareness of suicide, reach out to those who are suicidal (which we all should be doing anyway!), and possibly help prevent more suicides from taking place.

In honor of this, Take 5 To Save Lives is asking everyone to light a candle near a window at 8:00pm, Monday, September 10th (today). The site also encourages us to read their warning signs of suicidal behavior — and to have the courage not to ignore it.

I can’t claim to know or understand what it’s like to feel suicidal. Certainly, when I was a teenager and miserable and felt as though the entire universe were aligned against me, I had moments of thinking, “I wish I were dead!” But those moments resulted only in bathroom crying jags and passive-aggressive behavior toward my parents.

For me, the I-wish-I-were-deads never led to thoughts of how I could go about killing myself. I never even used poetry, my avenue of most intense emotional expression (still), to delineate my frustrated misery.

Because that’s all it was: frustration and misery. Through it all, somewhere in the back of my mind and in the depths of my heart, I continued in faith and in hope. I knew — whether I felt it or not, I knew — that life would change (it did), things would get better (they did), and these feelings wouldn’t last forever (they didn’t).

As an adult, I haven’t had the I-wish-I-were-deads per se…but there have been times during which I looked around and saw the pain other were going through, and I thought, “God, I can’t bear to see this anymore. Help them…and if their pain doesn’t stop, then please, just take me so I don’t have to see this anymore.” And yes, I do recognize the hypocrisy and selfishness inherent in that prayer.

This, too, passed.

Depression lies. Through faith, in spite of the cloud of doubt and fear and sadness, I’ve always had that assurance and held on to it.

Suicidal people don’t have that assurance.

I can’t know how it feels not to have that.

I can’t know how it feels not to have hold of that faith. I can’t ever say to a suicidal person, “I know how you feel.” I can’t even say, “I understand,” because how can I understand an emotion I don’t have? It would insult you and invalidate your emotions if I claimed to know something about your feelings that I can’t possibly know.

All I can say is that, even though I don’t understand how you feel, I do understand that you feel this way.

I’ll never be the saving light at the end of someone’s tunnel; I’m not created to be that. (No human is.) But I can be a way station, a guidepost, a mirror that reflects the true Light. We can all be that for someone else at some point, I believe. We can all brighten the world by lighting our tiny corner of it.

Sometimes, that little tiny light, reflection of the true Light, is all a suicidal person needs to hold on for one more moment. And then one more. And then one more. Until they can see the Light that guides them out of the darkness.

Shine a little light into the darkness today.

In Which Pregnancy and Car Wrecks Don’t Mix

A little less than two days ago, I had what was probably the scariest experience of my life: At 36 weeks pregnant, I was involved in a car accident.

My car. Click to biggify and behold.

I won’t say much about the details, because I’m not certain of what legalities I need to be aware of in discussing this in public (before all insurance claims are settled, that is). But the bare bones of it is that I was driving on a city street and another driver pulled out of a parking lot in front of me. My car collided with the other driver’s.

As far as I know, the other driver was not injured. Both vehicles sustained damage. The other driver received a citation.

Me, I went on my first ride as a patient* in an ambulance. By the time the EMTs were loading me up, the husband had arrived. I asked if he could ride in the ambulance with me, but the EMT said, “No, the police need him to stay right here and take possession of your car. He can come to the hospital afterward.”

Having witnessed the understandably reckless manner in which the husband had arrived at the scene in his pickup, I asked, “Is he okay to drive?”

The EMT shrugged and grinned. “Well, he drove here.”

And that was that. In the ambulance, the EMT checked my vitals and stuck an IV and some saline in the back of my hand. Over the next 15 hours, I would come to hate that IV. But in the meantime, I lay there on the gurney, watching the highway recede between my outstretched feet, wondering what would happen if one of the cars following close behind us plowed into the back of the ambulance.

The EMT talked to me in a soothing voice, especially as he explained (after I asked) that hearing a fetal heartbeat through a stethoscope in a moving ambulance was practically impossible. I took the opportunity to practice my yogic breathing.

When we reached the emergency room, the EMTs took me straight up to labor & delivery triage. On the way there, we passed through multiple winding corridors and rode two different elevators. The EMT who had driven the ambulance looked at me said said, “After this elevator, there’s a set of stairs.”

I looked at him, looked down at myself strapped to the gurney, and looked back up. “You guys have fun with that.”

He grinned. “Oh, no. We’re riding. You’re carrying.”

I motioned at my belly. “I’m already carrying!” And I was even able to chuckle through my tears as I said it.

Once I was in a room, a nurse came in and started doing things. A fetal monitor was involved, strapped to my belly. When I said something about Braxton-Hicks contractions, the nurse said, “Oh no, these aren’t Braxton-Hicks. These are the real thing.”

I managed an askance look and a shaky, “Oh.”

The most beautiful sound in the world was our baby’s steady, strong heartbeat, loud and clear over the fetal monitor. The most beautiful sight was her snub nose and plump cheeks on the ultrasound. (This was when I finally truly stopped crying.) The best feeling was her regular, healthy movement inside of me.

From triage, they moved me up one floor to labor & delivery, where the husband and I spent the (restless but as restful as could be expected) night. Tuesday morning, my doctor came in, pronounced the baby’s condition “excellent” and my lessening contractions “normal for anyone who’s 36 weeks pregnant,” and sent me home to relax for the remainder of the week.

I see the providential hand of God in every moment of this entire, terrifying experience. I see his protection of the baby and of me. I see his kindness and gentleness in the ministrations and the humor of the EMTs. I see his knowledgeability, his efficiency, and his loving care in my nurses and in my doctor.

In the story of my life, God is always present — but in this particular chapter, he’s obvious.

Have a good day, dearies. And tell someone you love them. : )

___________

*When I was 7, my grandparents came to visit us in Germany. Parents, grandparents, and I took a trip to Berlin. On the way there, we were involved in a 10-car pile-up on the Autobahn (which word, by the way, is nothing more than the German version of “interstate”). My dad had to stay with the car and talk with the Polizei. As the only other German-speaker among us, I had to ride in the ambulance with my grandma. At age 7. But that’s another story and shall be told another time.

An Interview with Christian Smith on The Bible Made Impossible

Hello, my lovelies!

It’s been awhile since you’ve seen me around here regularly. I know, sweet things, I’ve missed you, too. Just a brief update: Pregnancy is going well, and Week 15 begins tomorrow. Nausea is receding, and energy is returning. Can I get a hallelujah?! It feels soooooo good to be back among the living!

I promise that come next week, you’ll get several, more detailed updates. But for now, today’s post shall step off the “Court Can Write”-beaten path. Today’s post shall showcase a little bit about something called faith.

If you’ve been Faithful Readers (and I know you have, you adorable dears, you), you know that I don’t talk about my faith a whole lot on this blog. The main reason for this is that “Courtney’s faith” is not the reason most of you visit me here. Most of you settle in for a virtual cup of coffee and the reading of All Things Writerly, as well as the occasional, (hopefully) entertaining anecdote.

But. If you’ve read my Demons of Saltmarch series, you also know — or have probably guessed, anyway — that faith is a cornerstone in the foundation of who I am. If you’ve read Demons of Saltmarch, a paranormal Christian fantasy series, you will also have noticed that this cornerstone is of a Christian persuasion. ; )

You might even have guessed, based on the themes in these novels, that my own understanding of the nature of that cornerstone has been in flux for the past few years.

I don’t want to go into a whole lot of detail, because that would take a whole separate site. What I really want to do is point you in the direction of fellow blogger Frank Viola. To summarize: Viola is a non-fiction Christian author who has written a ton of books, six of which I’ve read and which turned my belief system upside down — specifically so that a bunch of nonsensical traditional junk could spill out.

Recently, Viola blogged an interview with author Christian Smith concerning Smith’s book The Bible Made Impossible. I haven’t read the book yet, but what Smith and Viola present in their interview intrigues me. To me, who grew up in a denomination that touts (but does not actually adhere to) the famous line “speak where the Bible speaks, silent where the Bible’s silent,” the book’s title alone touches some chords offers a resonating challenge to a plethora of preconceptions. Some of the things Smith mentions in the interview directly contradict principles I was taught in church my entire life. To say this book would blow my mind is likely an understatement.

I’m adding it to my To-Read list.

You can read the complete interview with Christian Smith on The Bible Made Impossible here.

I recommend it if…

…you’re a believer who has questions about how to approach the Bible.
…you’re a believer who finds the title of this book offensive. ; )
…you’re a not a Christian but have questions about why Christians think/feel the way they do about the Bible.
…you’re not a Christian but would like a peek at a “non-traditional” take on a pillar of the Christian belief system.

You’re welcome to leave comments here, as always — but I encourage you to comment on Viola’s post as well. The comment threads on his blog generally contain some pretty thought-provoking discussions!

See you next week, sweet thangs.

C.

Confessing My Creative Sins, Pt. 2

Tangled

Last week, my lovelies, I started telling you the story about how I forgot my creative purpose. When I first pondered relating this tale, I thought I would approach it in logical, yea even chronological fashion.

Alas and alack and forsooth, I’ve discovered that I just can’t do it. Too many threads of my personal history are too tightly interwoven with each other, and there’s nary a way I can untangle them all so that they make chronological sense.

In Part 1 of my Confessions, I talked about giving everyone in my life permission to determine what I did with my creativity. I gave it to everyone except myself. In Pt. 1, I described to you some of my thought patterns back then…

…and now, I must needs pick up a different thread and follow that into the creative tangle.

And that thread, my darlings, is the religious one.

Zounds and gadzooks, this one is gonna hurt.

Tangles and Tarnation

I won’t spend time delineating the particulars of the faith I was raised in. Suffice it to say I grew up surrounded by religious folk who were conservative, tradition-minded, and focused on Doing The Right Thing. As an adult, I’ve come to realize that within the confines of the United States, the denomination I was raised in is considered pretty rigid.

In Germany, however, flexibility was vital. The church my parents and I attended was composed mainly of American military servicemembers and their families. Because of military rotation, the congregation had a new face every few years. People came and went — people who hailed from various stateside cultures and religious backgrounds. If the church was to survive as a group, everybody had to swallow their pride in certain traditions. Some rituals and patterns of thought remained the same; but nobody had the luxury of resting on the easy laurels of dogma.

On top of that, I was blessed with parents who demanded I think and speak for myself. I asked questions, requested honesty, and made a beloved nuisance of myself to the church leadership. (Fortunately, the leadership changed every few years, so I didn’t develop a reputation.) *grin*

But in spite of all this freedom of religious thought, I still managed to tangle up a few things. I heard a lot of preaching and teaching about self-sacrifice and about putting others’ needs ahead of my own. Both fantastic principles — when understood and applied correctly.

Unfortunately, I neither understood nor applied correctly.

Over time, I developed a view of God that ate away at my soul like a ravaging disease. Somehow, I came to believe that if I didn’t do things to make God happy, he would send me to hell. And the only way I could make God happy was to sacrifice whatever I held most dear about myself.

And, of course, what I prized most about myself was my creativity.

Torture

I told myself that I loved God. I told others that I loved God. You’d be impressed with my acting skills, dear inklings: My surface faith was so convincing, it would numb your brain. I had myself convinced, that’s for sure.

But all the while, I feared that God would someday demand I pay up. I lived in terror that God would say, “You’ve put your creativity on a pedestal long enough! It’s time to give that back to me.”

I came to see myself as a type of Abraham. Abraham laid Isaac, his son, on the sacrificial altar with a knife poised to plunge into the boy’s chest.

I believed that God would require me to stretch my artist child out upon just such an altar — and rip the artist child’s living heart out.

Remember what I said in Confessions, Pt. 1 about how I bent to society’s expectations? Take what I just said about sacrifice and extrapolate:

When society insisted that I should Get A Good Job, Make Something Of Myself, and Contribute Responsibly, I thought it was God, telling me to pay up.

When individuals demanded that I write or paint only Happy Encouraging Things instead of gritty truth, I thought it was God, telling me to sacrifice.

When people I trusted told me to give up my writing time in favor of what others needed of me, I thought it was God, putting the ritual knife into my trembling, unwilling, sinful fingers.

The result?

Years of depression. Years of fear: fear of God, fear of rejection, fear for my inner artist child. I was terrified of what looked, to me, like a bleak and unbearable future. I berated myself for my secret unwillingness to sacrifice. I thought I was just weak of soul. I questioned my worth.

I all but quit writing. I had nightmares of murder and guilt. My paintings turned ever darker, and I received criticism for them. The word “demonic” was used.

I thought it was God, telling me I had no right to cause such trouble with my controversial art.

Truth

I was wrong.

That was not God.

The Creator does not work that way.

But I wouldn’t realize those Truths for a long time.

Come back Thursday. I’ll confess another thread of the story — and point us toward a happy ending.
_____________________

I welcome all of your thoughts on these things.

Shared experiences?

Residual heartaches?

Current heartache?

What questions do you have for me?