Art is the ultimate truth telling. Tell it.

Art is the ultimate truth-telling. Creativity is given us so we can speak out the truths laying inside us, unspoken and unrecognised, that we might recognise them. Each word and brushstroke, every step in the dance and note in the song is us tracing over with our body what we see when we look inside our heart.

Art, like all truth, tells us not what it is, but what we are. We know what we know when we see it standing outside of us, looking us back in the face.

The tracings of our heart out in the world are truth, but there is never just one truth. If you close your eyes and listen to a choir singing, you will hear each voice inflected with a unique experience, with divergent timbre, age and accent and emotion. Art shows us the potential for harmony in our difference. It shows us it’s okay to be us, or think what we think and believe what we believe, and possible to be one, all at the same time.

In seeking to tell the truth from our spirit out into the world, we send an irresistible invitation to the unseen realm, from where all making and life and creativity comes. The silent, sublime power who formed us at the beginning will come and join the song with us. This is inspiration.

When the Spirit of truth comes and joins with us in our making, holiness ensues. With inspiration, the Spirit at our side, and a deep knowing of our truth inside, as well as a willingness and will to tell that truth, we can indeed make holy, Holy things.

But even a Holy thing is still just a thing.

Truth is confronting, challenging, even terrifying. The Spirit, always acts from love, but the truth she inspires in the teller can be confronting, challenging, terrifying. Not all prophets are inspired, many are mere fortune-tellers; our fortune and our truth are not the same thing. However, all artists and creatives are prophets, and, unlike fortune tellers, true prophets are seldom very popular.

Artists, creatives, prophets and truth tellers have long been persecuted and assassinated for their truth telling. Their Holy works and art and words have throughout history been dismantled, reinterpreted, appropriated and distorted to validate and defend all manner of things. The makings that come from our truth telling are powerful, but too fragile to be used as foundations, weapons and shields. When we attach our agenda to them, when we refashion them from mirrors into altars, into objects of worship and a foundation for culture or ideology, power crumbles and falls away like sand through the fingers. Truth is not out there. It is in us. Always, always in us.

Art is a mirror. Expression is a reflection. Even we are a merely a canvas upon which inspiration makes her marks. God knows this, and thus, in desiring to show us both who we are, and who God is, gave us the Most Holy Words in a work of art, accepting fully the risk every single word could be misunderstood, distorted and misused. Love is letting go. Besides, God knows when we are able to undo the cipher of who we are, seeing ourselves reflected in the inspired work of truth, we will then see and understand God, the ultimate creator.

And hopefully see and understand ourselves.

Love is a story worth telling, it’s a dance, a prophecy, your words, a song. It is the ultimate truth telling, and the ultimate truth is love.

 

Me, God, and the Moon.

“At night, I open the window and ask the moon to come and press its face against mine. Breathe into me. Close the language-door and open the love-window. The moon won’t use the door, only the window.” – Rumi

When I was four, I would sit in my bed and gaze up at the moon and feel God see me.

It is said the sun sees our body, but the moon sees our soul. When I was that very small girl, the light of the moon woke me up to the fact I had a soul, and it could be seen and known, by me, and by God.

And it, and I, and God, were good.

All my life, my spirituality has had its source in the silent, joyous conversations I had with God as a tiny child under the light of the full moon. I never doubted the conversations were real, nor doubted God was. I did not grow up in a believing or church-going family. I was not churched, nor did I know how to pray. But I knew how to believe, and so I did. Believing God was, and that I was loved and seen, right through to my little white bones was as natural as breathing.

Spiritual searching and yearnings of my heart and a need to belong led me in search of God-people. I had many years, most very happy, amongst those tribes. But then, to my surprise, I was led behind the safety and security of the tribes into the wilds, a place I’d never know, a place I feared God would not follow me.

But the moon, ever my brother, mother and teacher, taught me a precious truth. Just as the constant moon in the night sky can be found ever at my shoulder, no matter where I turn, so is my God in my sojourn through with wilds.

And just as I do not despair on moonless nights, so I don’t despair in seemingly Godless ones. For like the moon, God never truly disappears or leaves us. God is simply out of our sight for a time. If we are patient, and prepared to sit with a little darkness, God appears to us once more, and ever after.

No one can make me believe there is no God. Don’t try. I was convinced of God before I knew the earth was round, that I needed oxygen to live, before I could read, and way before I knew there was such a thing as the Bible or shame or heaven or hell.

God saw me when I was but a few days along the road in my spiritual journey, and said, little Small and Pure, you are Very Good.

I am, still. Always was. Always will be. So are you. We are born good, and God always sees us this way.

When I see the full moon, it reminds me the spiritual journey is all about believing that with all of our heart again.

Selah, my friends.
Jo xxx

The Price of Peace.

Things are tense.

People are tense.

Hadn’t noticed?

Been sleeping in a cave?

Sorry, that was a tension loaded comment.

Things are tense.

We have been slowly awakening to the reality of what it will mean for human beings to be alive in this age.

And for many of us, it isn’t measuring up to the brochure.

This isn’t the world we hoped to leave for our children.

For a great many human beings, this world isn’t promising peace, abundance, safety, shelter, blessing, or even life.

The borders are being checked, tested, even closed. To keep us in. To keep “them” out.

We can’t even tell who “they” are any more.

The lines between tribes and tongues and territories were blurred and broken down, sometimes in the name of love, sometimes of God, sometimes of war.

And we don’t know who to fear any more.

Things are tense.

Dear friends, I know you’re feeling it. Even in the relative safety of our peaceful countries, we sense the deep collective outcry of suffering and pain and distress – of fear – is being felt across the earth. We all feel it.

Or we try not to.

Fear doesn’t want to be found going about its business in your head. So it will disguise itself as other things to go undetected.

It knows you’d be repulsed to realize you were inhabited by raw, visceral fear, would see it as a weakness, and would attempt to evict it immediately.

So it disguises itself.

And it’s veiled presence causes your vision and perception to be distorted. It adds it’s toxic energy to your thoughts, feelings and perceptions, and what is suddenly becomes something other.

Your grace becomes intolerance.

Your smile becomes a smirk.

Your non-reactive presence becomes restlessness, opposition, even open hostility.

Your skin crawls with criticism just trying to work its way out of you any way it can.

And while your attention is directed towards managing the unpleasant feelings fear gives you, you don’t see the mindless actions you direct towards those around you.

You can’t hear the poison in your words.

Worse, you don’t even notice your indifference towards the pain and suffering of others.

This is how terrorism works. Those violent, random attacks push us into “fight or flight”, shove us blind and stumbling into panic and self-preservation, so that even if a few days ago we were accommodating and at peace, today, we would trample someone who stood between us and the way out if this horrible, chaotic fear.

Stop, my friend.

Yes, I know there are feelings.

And our culture has done a terrible job of teaching us to manage our fear, loss, suffering, even death.

We may have not learned how to feel the feelings that come with the threat of losing all we’ve feel we’ve become entitled to.

And yet, here the feelings come, whether we are ready for them, or not.

Breathe, dear one.

Things are tense.

Want to rail and scream and pick everything apart? Want to smash something? Someone?

Fear brings its own terrible, destructive energy with it.

It’s your task to direct that energy where it can do least harm to you or to others.

Things are tense. Are you tense?

Do things seem different to you the last few days?

Don’t allow the fear to turn from a veil to scales.

Those bastards are far more difficult to remove.

The merchants of fear are awake and moving. So you must move away from the marketplace, my friends.

Out onto the path with you. Out, into the wilderness of awareness, awakeness. The path we all are on that leads back to God, to source, to ourselves.

One step in front of the other.

Things are tense, but you are not of the stuff of those things.

Peace be with you, and between us, here and elsewhere.

Selah, my friends.
Jo

Your True Names.

Where are your names, dear one? What are your true names?

Do you know them? Can you remember them? Are they spoken proudly on your lips, written across your forehead, held in your hands like swords and shields, hung around your neck like an amulet, a symbol of power and identity and self? Or are your names hidden? Are they secreted away beneath layers, under covers, swallowed down and held tightly in the dark, closer than your heartbeat, lest anyone see them, hear them, mock them, take them away?

What names have you taken for yourself? What names did you once bear but have given up, lain down, thrown away?

When we are young, we yearn to be told who we are, what we are, where and to whom we belong. We join ourselves to tribes and to others who help us work out the edges of ourselves; where we blend, where we end. We drink their words and eat the portions meted out for us hungrily. Tell me who I am. Tell me what you need me to be. I will give you everything, do anything, I’ll be anything you need. Help me know what and who I am? And for heavens sake, don’t leave me. Don’t ever, ever leave me.

We took the names they gave us, we became what they wanted us to be, because we were afraid. We were afraid of the wild.

But they lied about it, you know. We won’t die out there. It’s what we are. We are made of the wilderness.

You do not need to be afraid of the wild. Your name is written there. It’s spoken in the wind. It’s carved in the rocks and hills and mountainsides. It’s in the call of the wild things. You are of the wilderness. They cannot threaten you with anything, nothing can hold you, when you trust the place they threaten to cast you into more than you trust them.

We will cast out all fear with courage, my friend, and the school of courage is out here – in the wild.

Trust You. God Does.

Why don’t you listen to your own good heart?

Why don’t you wrap your arms around yourself and soothe your troubled soul?

Why don’t you give your power to yourself, and not to others?

Why don’t you acknowledge those feelings as visitors, as mirrors, as signs of life?

Why don’t you treasure your intuition? Why don’t you trust you?

God does.

You are Sublime.

The truth is, we are sublime. We are filled with strength, beauty and knowledge. We are wiser than we have been led to believe. We are capable of incredible feats of grace, and of greatness. We can learn everything we need to know. We can command our own soul, and guide others into truth. We thrum with the breath and beat of life that has always been and will always be.

We can hear the very voice of God.

The Small, The Pure, The I Am.

Once, you were not ashamed.

Once, you knew instinctively you were good at the very core, and your heart was intrinsically pure. You were curious, you were adventurous and you were free. You were blissfully unaware the way you saw the world and everyone in it might be different from how others see it.

I Am – the most essential name for God or Source in many spiritual traditions – was your name for yourself. I Am happy. I Am hungry. I Am small, and I Am pure. I Am home. I Am Good as Gold. The nucleus at centre of an entire universe, an unending source of energy, life and beauty – this was who and what you were, and you embodied it completely.

When you were that little I Am, you were not an empty vessel waiting to be filled. You were the whole universe in a seed. You were like a pomegranate plucked from a tree. You were a complete sphere of perfection and goodness, with yet more seeds inside you. You were a life-giving ball of goodness. You smelt good, you felt good, you looked good, and you were good.

You held the capacity to nourish, both from within, and in giving of yourself to others, and to please and delight. You were joy, and joyful. Everything about you was right and worthy. If nobody had ever looked upon you, knew you or held you, if you were never named or had your feet and hands touch the earth, or given rites or blessed, or kissed by the sun or moon, you would have been no less good, no less pure, no less beautiful, worthy and perfect.

You were I Am.

You are, still.

Nature – You Are NOT Helping :/

Been a bit melancholy this week. Lots of deep writing and Victorian winter weather, amongst other things. But we have lambs. A lot of lambs, and they are good for the spirit. They do funny things, as well as just being generally wrinkly, fuzzy and ridiculously spindly-legged.

Went out to get obligatory photos of frolicking lambs for mood lifting purposes. Start videoing and realise there is a lamb all alone crying for it’s mother. Crying? BAWLING. Oh, God, Supposed to be happy moment, you brat, you’re ruining my HAPPY MOMENT…..

Mother is standing on other side of gully, bawling back. Get over there you cow, your baby wants you.

Baby bawls. Mother bawls. Bloody hell, sheeple, sort yourselves out.

I cross gully to go and collect lamb. It runs to the protective side of another larger lamb. “Stay away from her, she eats lamb.” Shutup you little….ah, god, this is not going well.

Cross gully, try to herd bawling mother across gully. She backs off with a group of others, melds into the flock up on the rise. Oh, this is just going from worse to worse.

In the meantime I can hear and see the baby with a small contingent back at the shearing sheds. She’s so tiny her umblical cord is still attached. I am furious at the the stupid mother, who is now back at the top of the gully on her own again, bawling.

I walk towards the lamb, I am going to just get you and put you with that other lot over the gully, that’s it – I am doing it. The small group she has joined herself with back up into a small pen, and I fear panicking them. I back off. The mother bellows. The baby squarks back. I give up in despair. Angry, cold, frustrated. I decide to go and get behind the picket fence near the cottage and just keep and eye on them until Ben gets back. He’s good with these things.

I go back to the cottage and as I am wiping my shoes, I turn in time to see the small group of mamas and bubbas the little one fled to walking single file down from the shearing sheds, quietly mewling. They walk about 100m towards the cottage and across a little ford in the creek near us, then silently, with the little lost baby, up the rise to meet the panicked mumma just a few feet from the garden where I stand.

The baby runs to mumma and nudges her udder, suckling frantically as her tails goes bananas.

I cry. Because mother sheep, other people’s babies, lostness and periods.

I’m going inside. I can’t cope with nature right now.

Why I’m Not A Christian Feminist

People have called me a feminist, and I’ve often wondered if I actually am. Many of those who accuse me of such don’t mean to compliment me, by the way. Probably, by a general societal definition, I am. But this I know – after thinking carefully about it, I am not a Christian Feminist.

Feminism as a movement came about when women, via critical and political mass, empowered themselves to begin to systemically overturn legal, cultural, political and systemic inequalities in society and culture.

Tired of being a marginalised minority, women set about changing that for themselves, their daughters and granddaughters. But it isn’t just women benefiting from feminism. Civil and social equity movements concerning race and sexual identity have paralleled feminism in helping bring greater equality and empowerment for and to the vulnerable and marginalised across society, across the world.

Recreating social fabric isn’t just a matter of anarchy and revolution. If you depose a despot, but merely instate yourself as the new despot, the problem isn’t and never was that one person; it’s your broken system, which allows despotic rule to ever take place.

Feminists, civil rights activists, environmental and LGBTI advocates, social changers of all kinds; all know you cannot simply remove the people who do things you don’t like from the systems and structures and occupy the offices yourself. To do so is to place yourself in danger of merely creating other people and people groups into new marginalised minorities to take your place.

And this is why I am not tempted to call myself a “Christian Feminist”.

I see Christian women rising up to assume their God-given voice and authority to be not just self-directed in life, faith and ministry, but to lead, teach and facilitate healthy church-life, where ever and in whatever form it can be found. And this is a good thing; not according to all, but to most.

However, what troubles me is the fact many women who come to recognise their power, voice and authority, simply instate themselves safely within a system which is still geared to marginalise, discriminate, create power-strongholds, and perpetuate abuse, also shielding the perpetrators with immunity and impunity. And let’s face it; as many women as men are capable of stupidity, abuse and power-mongering.

Many women, and indeed men, may have felt a “softening” female presence –  a kind of patronization or sharing of power-laden positions with women – is the “Godly” answer to “re-balancing” the church. This “softening” female presence is perhaps what many men in contemporary church congregations and denominations decry as anti-male and feminisation of the church. But lets not kid ourselves. Those women who have managed to behave themselves properly enough, or negotiate shrewdly enough, to be “allowed” to minister in such positions, are complicit with all the systems and the structures which keep less complicit, clever and well-behaved women out.

While I am loathe to simply ignore the implicit misogyny of lumping everything we hate about the “new way we do church now, with all the singing and crying and swaying with our arms in the air and public displays of emotion” and calling that “feminisation” (it’s simply annoying ways to do church, which an awful lot of women don’t like either) I can appreciate men’s frustration with the way simply knocking the hard edges off the old church, or, conversely, bringing in a few female pastors with crew cuts and tattoos, apparently equates to gender equality in the church.

It doesn’t. Not in any real way. I have tattoos by the way. Not knocking women with tattoos.

I don’t think it’s gender equality as such we want in the church. More women in exciting roles or top ministry or church executive jobs isn’t going to fix what’s broken about contemporary Christianity. It’s a reinvention of the Christian church into a new way of operating that’s needed; a way which does not heap power up into piles accessible by only a few. A new way which supports and empowers the marginalized, instead of simply creating new and re-branding old ways to marginalize. A way which facilitates more freedom and perpetuates less legalism. A way which empowers people in their unique and individual walk and faith expression, whilst bringing them into healthful, vibrant and diverse gathering together, creating life-filled and dynamic community. A way which trusts people with their lives and beliefs, instead of teaching them to distrust their hearts and yield control of their minds and hearts to safely well-positioned others higher up some hierarchical ladder. A way which disseminates personal power and control of thought and practice back to each free believer. A way which makes us truly brothers and sisters in Christ, instead of competitors for top jobs, parking spaces, social media platforms, places on the board.

I don’t want more women in church positions. I don’t want more women pastors, or more women on the Christian best-seller list. I want less church positions, and more people waking up to the fact they are the Church, and living their lives from that place. I want all Christians, men and women, to remember – or if they never knew, to simply empathise with – what it feels like to be marginalised and rejected, to be pushed down and out and away because of something about you that you’re powerless to change, and do something to ensure that never happens on our watch, to ANYONE.

If being a Christian Feminist is only about having more women speakers at huge Christian conferences, I’m not for that. I’m about less need for big Christians conferences in the first place, because people are being empowered at grass-roots level to take care of each other better, and lead themselves and other people in healthy ways. I’m about learning how to hold safe spaces for the vulnerable many, rather than preserve power tenets for the powerful few.

If being a Christian feminist means I simply depose a man who has a powerful job in a church I really want and really think I deserve because I am a woman, well, then I am not a Christian feminist.

Christian feminism is about what I think and do, as human being and a woman, who has often felt through the circumstances of life marginalised and disempowered in and out of the Church, even by the Church. It’s about me stepping into my God-given authority and voice as a woman, human being and believer to stand in the gap for those who are marginalised and disempowered, in and out of the Church, even by the Church, and supporting them to realise their own voice, power and authority in Jesus Christ.

It’s also about questioning and criticizing systems that marginalize and disempower, knowing full well it’s very often established institutional Church systems which need addressing, as well as established institutional Church people. I feel it’s my duty as a Christian feminist, if I can be shown to be one, to help undo those harmful, oppressive systems – and those harmful, oppressive people, if need be – if they can be shown to be perpetrators of disempowerment and marginalization – not by virtue of their gender, or mine, but of their actions, and mine. My Christianity demands no less of me than this, and I intend to deliver it to the fullest extent of my energy, and intellect, however limited they may be.

Christian feminism is not feminism if it merely seeks to replace men in positions of power with women. This, to my thinking, isn’t the re-imagining of life, love, faith and religion Jesus had in mind, for men or women. It’s simply gendered power politics, and I want no part of it. I’m under no illusion my femininity sanctifies me, any more than a man’s masculinity demonizes him.

Feminism is not a dirty word. In it’s purer forms, feminism is at the very heart of Christian practice, because it is about redistribution of power, recreation of harmful systems, and rethinking the way people work and live together. It’s about the Church – a church where men and women are able to fully express their full selves, sexual, political, personal, spiritual, social and intellectual, without fear. This is the church I have imagined, and my hope is feminism will be one of the various looms we weave the fabric of such a Church from.

Jo Hilder​