Swapping sustainability for sufficiency

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If I have ever pretended, even to myself, that somehow my desire for an increasingly blameless ecological ethos was separate from my journey in Jesus Christ, I must beg forgiveness and grace from God, myself, and those who witnessed such folly.

We should always be careful not to peg one thing or another as being ‘Christian.’ That’s a great way to build up insidious heresies of the worst sort and cut limbs and organs from the body of Christ.

Last week I came across a blatant misuse of the term sustainable by a GMO seed company on a very popular eco-living blog.

I have known this to be an ongoing issue, so I have decided to swap sustainability with sufficiency.

With the former being a huge, problematic buzz word and given to much misuse, I also find in the latter an inherent call to remember my religious and spiritual convictions both on how I affect the planet as a human creature and how I cultivate my soul to bear fruit in Christ’s Kingdom.

Sufficient and sufficiency are used a couple times in many English translations of St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church. These are cringe worthy words to me, because while I still am unlearning to hear them used in prosperity gospel context, I cringe because there is no escaping Jesus’s and Paul’s teaching to fully rely on God.

Ha. I actually used to wear a wristband that said “F.R.O.G. Fully Rely On God.” Yikes.

Anyways, the truth of it remains eternal.

Now, I’m a typical, barrier crashing, rebellious American who loves innovation and progress. I am not against technology, etc.

So, with scientific ethics and other considerations, I think we need to look at sufficiency in two ways, both which honor the Biblical use especially regarding our souls, but also will help guide us into whether we are being good creatures on this planet.

If I am about to do, or use, or take, or purchase, consume, etc., something, I should ask two questions:

1. Will this increase or decrease my ability to walk in God’s sufficiency?

2. Will this increase or decrease the sufficiency of the earth?

I am hypothesizing that these questions will balance out much decision making that goes awry. You see, St. Paul’s teachings and Jesus’s examples, show us that what Christ is to us humans, we in turn are to the rest of the earth.

If we do not sacrifice ourselves to some extent, if we do not give the grace we have received, the sufficiency we have been gifted by God, in a real, earthy way, as He did for us by sending his only begotten son, then we have failed the very purpose for which we were created and redeemed.

A important note about sufficiency in God as well as in Nature is that it shouldn’t include our striving for it.

I know that sounds really weird. We are a culture that has do-gooders stressing themselves out striving for their perfect sustainability dreams. I know. I have seen it happen to others and to myself.

And I’m not speaking against short time periods of stress and doing buoyed by adrenaline, like any creature might be given to, but instead for the prolonged periods of ambition and pride.

In light of these things, I want to share the Bible verses that will cause many of us to go, “HOW?” I am humbly offering a ‘how’ of sorts above, but really there’s nothing for it but to heed St. Paul’s words.

C.S. Lewis wrote that if we seek earth, we will get nothing. But if we seek heaven, we will get earth thrown in.

These are harsh words, but I believe them to have much truth. I know agnostics who busy themselves creating heaven on earth, and in some way, I think they may find some spiritual treasures they might not even realize this side of the veil. I know far more Christians, though, who so seek heaven that they sell the earth out to hell for a pittance, and I wonder truly what sort of heaven they are really seeking.

I just know that seeking sustainability for myself, ahem, sufficiency, NEVER works for me, unless I seek God first and then natural (Nature’s gifts by His design) sufficiency second.

“My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.” -God’s words to St. Paul as recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:8.

However, I can’t fully rest in His sufficiency, unless I know I am creating a sufficiency and healing grace around me out of that same sufficiency He has bestowed upon me.

As various doors have closed to me recently, I can either choose to strive or to act out of God’s sufficiency. I have no doubt this will include breaking cultural norms and nailing much adult pretense and posturing and pride to the cross.

His power is made perfect in my weakness.

And I am very weak.

Of Blood and Soil

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Whether you consider yourself Christian or not, we must pick up our crosses daily–crucifying our evil desires for MORE and SECURITY in an ongoing, struggling attempt to be like Christ to our neighbors and creating heaven here on earth.

We are co-creators with God.

The earth reflects us as a species, because for whatever reason, out of the primordial soup of evolution, God chose us to baffle the spiritual powers that would play god themselves and instead give us both soul and soil.

Spiritual creatures in bodies of carbon knit together with our blood.

I am frustrated and angry at all the ways our post-modern society divorces me from the land.

How often do we feed ourselves back to the earth? Are we even able to anymore?

Even as a woman, a unique bearer of life from God, when I menstruate or give birth, all the blood and ‘mess,’ is wrapped in plastic and sent to landfills.

I have to stay the hands of the professionals from cleaning my babies too thoroughly that they won’t know how to find my milk.

We are disinfecting ourselves out of our proper role on this earth.

Life can’t come from nothing. Even God needed Mary to bring Jesus to us.

So, when even our most basic bodily functions are thus kept from enriching the earth around us, is it any wonder that our consumer-minded madnesses further causes us to turn away from the soil around us?

I believe the actual person of Jesus, hidden now in God in his very real soil-based (though transformed) body, will return to earth.

However, I don’t think he will return until he will be accepted. Until he can walk among us, almost undetected, because we ourselves have brought fruition to this earth for his sake. When we are image-bearers of him in how we live then he will return to us, and we will know him as our ‘king.’

I do not believe that God’s only begotten son showed up where he did 2000+ years ago by cosmic accident. As we celebrate Holy Week, may we remember that the bastion for Western Civilization, the Roman Empire, was seeded with Christ’s acts, love and death, so that we would have an answer to the ravages that would plague the earth not long after.

May we remember the soil around us. Mourn the loss of its health and seek to lead our neighbors in self-sacrificing so that our blood and sweat and tears may bring our lands to renewed life.

Blood and soil go hand in hand. In the Lakota story, Inyan was the first mother creation, and she pulled pieces from her own body to create places for all the creatures to live. She did this until all that was left of her was her bones, the stones, which Lakota still call inyan.

More barbaric cultures relied on human sacrifices to ensure good crops.

Jesus ended that sort of thing with his life, death and resurrection, but the truth of blood and soil remains.


Inspiring this post:

http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/Blogs/2782945/the_roots_of_life_and_health_elaine_inghams_theory_of_the_living_soil.html

http://www.yesmagazine.org/planet/this-activist-went-to-prison-for-the-climate-now-he-wants-churches-to-take-moral-leadership

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

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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.