Please Don’t Let Me Die

That song is playing agan

The one I play to praise

when I’m afraid

I won’t make it this time.

“Even when it hurts”

I pray again with beads

Clutched in my hand

Like a holy card or nun

Oh, God, Please don’t let me die.

It’s another one of those nights,

I don’t know if I’m dying

Or if my body is lying.

And if my body is lying

Is that better or worse than dying?

If this thing I live in can’t be

Trusted, or relaxed in.

If that, then how do I live

Again, how do I live this way,

How do I exist in a body

That lies? Or dies?

When Did I Stop Writing Poetry?

When did I stop writing poetry?

Was it when I told you who I was?

Was it when this place online

Became a place in your face

Without somewhere to hide mine?

When did I start preaching

Like so many talking heads

Doing the things I don’t do

Yet learned to, but still don’t

Understand how to.

When did I stop writing poetry?

Was it when you told me to take sides?

When my guts were pulled in both ways,

When you told me I am empty

Until I decide to play your games?

Hush. Take a breath. Be still.

When the poet speaks in the dark

There is no us vs. them, me vs. you,

There is you and you and you.

And me. Waiting for the words to come.

“Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin.”

“On the fourth anniversary of Pulse.
In the middle of Pride month.
During a global pandemic.
Donald Trump’s cruelty truly knows no bounds.” ~ Joe Biden

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/06/12/868073068/transgender-health-protections-reversed-by-trump-administration. Note: this article has a left bias, but it was the clearest description of the bill I could find.

This is a powder keg.

Gonna dive in anyway.

In 5. 4. 3. 2…….

Ummmmm now?

Ok.

Come Holy Spirit.

“Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin.”

First of all, I want to note to those in my audience who are not Christian, are LGBTQ, or are already uncomfortable about this topic, this article is FOR you, not to you. Please understand that I am approaching this issue mostly through the Christian lens, though I will at times be addressing to you as an audience for your understanding.

Ok. Now.

Dear Christians, especially Catholics,

Yesterday, Trump created a rule designed specifically for you. He re-defined ‘sex’ as man and woman, removing the purposeful ambiguity created by Obama in the Affordable Care Act. The rule, should it pass, would make it so that hospitals and insurance could deny care to Transgender people. It also, for some reason encompasses abortion, like Obama’s did, which means Trump’s rule would allow Christians to refuse to give abortions, while Obama’s made it incredibly difficult for them to do so.

Here’s the thing. When Obama’s law passed it endangered human rights for Christians. Insurance companies scrambled to start supporting abortion and reassignment surgeries, but Christian companies cannot support abortion and don’t support reassignment surgery in every case. Colleges had to choose whether to go out of business or to go against their beliefs. Famously, Hobby Lobby, the controversial Christian icon, had to file a lawsuit in order to keep from funding abortion. Medical students I knew faced this on a smaller, but scarier, scale of having to decide whether to perform an abortion in order to pass medical school. It was a dark and scary time for Christians. No one wants to be forced to do something they believe is wrong, and that is what was happening to Christians at the time.

However, what many of you, Christians, do not understand is what this law meant for transgender people. This meant safety when they went to the doctor, it meant they could get care even if someone did not believe what they were doing was right. It meant that doctors who were ‘grossed out‘ by them could not fall back on religion as a way out of caring for their bodies. It meant that if they really did need reassignment surgery they could get it, even if their resources were limited. To them, taking their right to medical care without discrimination away, is justifiably terrifying.

An important part of the NPR article I posted above is when Andersen points out that there needs to be a separate bill which promotes the human rights of the LGBTQ 🏳️‍🌈 but it does need to allow for religious rights. The problem is, Trump didn’t suggest this bill. No, instead, he reversed their protections, without introducing any new resources for them, leaving them in danger of being discriminated against, and unable to defend themselves.

What’s more is he did this on the anniversary of the worst act of violence that has ever been committed against LGBTQ+ people. During a pandemic, when we are already facing a shortage of medical care, for a disease that is extremely dangerous. That means that doctors could deny them care because of who they are, and they could not do anything about it(unless of course they have the money to sue, which you know….no one does.) Trump did all of this in a time when he is not only failing to care for the human rights of Black people, but actively inciting violence against them, and also after abbreviating the secret service as the “SS,” the most iconic racist regime ever to stain our history.

Trump’s catchphrase MAGA, Make America Great Again, fails to mention that what he is built on has nothing to do with what made America great. America was great because it gave us a safe place to practice our religion, live our lives, exist, without one person or group of people being able to dominate over everyone else. We built our government as a democracy so that everyone would have a voice, we preserve freedom of speech, so that even those with whom we disagree will be protected. Trump destroys everyone in his path in the name of ‘Christianity’ but without respect to the personhood of people who are outside of his demographic. This is not Christianity.

Christians believe that every single person has value and is made in God’s image. In Scripture, a woman was caught in adultery, and in her time, that was an offense punishable by death. Jesus stopped them. Jesus protected that woman and sent the men away. Is that what we are doing here? Is leaving transgender people in danger during a pandemic the ‘Christian’ thing to do? I do not believe so. If this were being done in a Christian fashion, we would do everything we could to make sure the rights of both sides would be preserved and we would fight for justice for all of us, not just for our own agenda.

A phrase we throw around all the time is “love the sinner, hate the sin,” but do we really think about what that means. Christian “love,” what we are called to, is a desire for the good of the other person. Often, we use love as a weapon, everything we are doing that hurts the other person is ‘for their own good,’ but that is not what Christ’s love looked like. When he defended the adulteress woman, he could have used that argument to excuse her murder, but instead, He gave her life and He was gentle to her. That is what love looks like and it is what our love should look like in this situation. Please, in any way you are able, protect the LGBTQ+ community, preserve their lives and be gentle. Even if you do not agree with what they are doing or how they live, they are human and they have value. God loves them as much as He loves you.

Please also pray for them and the horrible fear and sadness they are feeling right now.

With prayers to the archangels, who have no gender(seriously look it up in Church teachings in angels).

Love,

Julia

RE: White Girl, I’m Not Sure I Trust You Yet

There was this article I saw for about two seconds at one point a couple of weeks ago. It was on my newsfeed for a moment before it disappeared, but it has sat with me so intensely that I just want to respond to anyone who read that article and felt something.

Dear ‘White Girl I’m Not Sure I Trust You Yet,”

That is OK! I’m not sure I even trust me yet! Who am I coming into this thinking I know anything about this situation? In order to be helpful at all I have to say something and do something, but I’m constantly afraid I will say or do the wrong thing. I want to help, and I don’t want to hurt, but I know at some point I will hurt because I don’t have any frame of reference for how to do this.

In fact, I hate activism. I’m not into it. I don’t like conflict. I can be that fearful fragile little girl that so many people are mocking now, sometimes. When it counts though, I am fierce, but I try to hide how fierce I am sometimes so I’m trying to figure out how to be fierce right. It’s loaded with all of these conditions and demands and I don’t always know what I’m doing.

So, Black Girl Who is Not Quite Sure You Trust Me Yet-it’s ok. Me too. I’ll try to learn from you how to be trustworthy in your world.

With love,

White Girl Who is Working on It.

The Tapestries(from PEACEWEAVER)

While I was practicing yoga regularly, I redecorated my home. My tastes were bohemian, but I was concerned about surrounding myself with tapestries made in India about gods I do not understand. I searched for Catholic art, but I could not find anything that even remotely hit the style I was seeking. What’s more is that everything was the traditional Catholic paintings that I had grown up surrounded by, the ones that embraced suffering so fully that it was all I could feel when I saw them. Other people may not have the history I have with them, but there is a lot of pain and confusion for me in the typical Catholic art. As I continued to search I eventually found a few pieces I really loved, but they were so expensive I had no hope that I could afford them within the next century. I was so angry at how expensive everything was, and so frustrated that I finally decided to just get the Indian tapestries, but I would only get the ones that had a strong Christian spiritual meaning for me.

I chose a popular yellow tapestry with the symbol for Aum in the center because of how God had revealed Himself to me in their philosophy, a tapestry of elephants-which God had used to help me pray about some issues in my life, and a peacock tapestry that as far as I could tell was not associated with any deities. I treasured these tapestries. I took every picture in front of them, I planned which one I was going to use in the baby’s room, when I hopefully someday got a nursery. I laid them on the bed gingerly when I needed color in my room during long periods of stress. I designed my bedroom around them when I was pregnant with my first child.

As my two babies grew into toddlers, they used to love to play with the tapestries. During a time of particularly difficult post partum depression and hormone balance aggravated by what I can only ascribe to spiritual warfare, my oldest pulled on the corner of one that I had awkwardly hanging from the curtain rod in our basement apartment. It shredded down the whole side. She had pulled on it before leaving little rips, but this time the whole thing was shredded. A postpartum rage rippled over me and a she ran giggling to the other room, I ripped the tapestry in half, holding my breath while I cried so she wouldn’t hear me.

It occurred to me that that particular tapestry was probably not a great one to have around kids. My husband and I knew and understood the reason I had it and what it meant, but my girls would not for a long time. I threw the remains of it away mourning the independence I had lost. I cried too about how in motherhood the pretty pieces of art I loved were getting destroyed, the worst was a painted bowl I ate from for practically every meal. It was a bag of chunks of ceramic now, and it broke my heart.

The thought that the girls would not understand the tapestries stuck with me. For about a month I prayed and thought about it until in a progesterone and anxiety and spiritual dark night induced haze I pulled them all down and threw them all out. I kept the peacock one a little longer because it didn’t have a deity, but one day in another of these turbulent days I read on google there was a cult that worshipped Satan in a dark blue peacock, so I threw everything in my house that had a peacock on it away. (I found out later that the peacock is a symbol for Jesus so take that for what it’s worth.)

I honestly don’t know if it was wrong for me to have the tapestries in the first place or not, God knew it was about Him. I think maybe it was ok for me, but not my kids who were too young to understand and impressionable. As I began to do yoga and decorate again, I got alternating answers from God, yes yoga, no idols, yes art, no misleading art. I began to pray that God would help me create art that would meet that desire for color I had, and that He would help me to help others with the same struggle.

At first I thought maybe His answer was no. I started finding all these Catholic artists who were amazing. Plus, what I was trying to do with tapestries wasn’t working. I was painting, and when I did I prayed beforehand. When I work on any art, it is a prayer with the Holy Spirit, I ask Him for help and sometimes I can feel His guidance, sometimes I can’t, but the best is when I dive see the plan and it suddenly turns into something amazing and I can’t take credit for it. I went through a phase where nothing was working, these weird amalgamations of color sort of happened and took over everything I tried to make.

I hated them, and I felt so down on my work, Until a few months later, when I realized that the paintings resemble the crystals and nature art I love so much, but are all actually connected to God. I could not wait to buy every single one(but I had to because we were on a low income budget with toddlers. 🤦🏽‍♀️) What’s more is I already had them available to buy as tapestries. When I built my page on a website I didn’t even know had tapestries, I allowed them but it did not even occur to me that this was an answered prayer. Months later, in the middle of the night I woke up and realized I had created a line of bohemian tapestries that were rooted in God and not gods. The tapestries I needed 5 years ago. I laughed to myself once again about how the Holy Spirit works, and wrote this out for Him.

Selah

Note: This post is not meant to be a promotional post, but if you are interested in my tapestries they are available at https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/julia-odonnell

#Throughfire

As Quarantine began, the community led by Catholic Creatives exploded with innovators inspired to help others through their struggles. We faced our own giants of fear and trepidation, but something in us drove us to community and fellowship. My desire was to fill social media with art to help with the constant deluge of news all over our feeds. I went to Catholic Creatives who had a similar desire and together we launched the #throughfire.

We asked that you create art and share it on every form of social media. Now, the quarantine is at an awkward point of being kind of over but not really, and #throughfire is changing. Catholic Creatives must get back to their daily projects, so suzannagoretti.com will be the new home for the project. I will be sharing your art and hopefully getting to talk to you as you create it. I hope to get all kinds of projects involved so we can all see how many of us are joining together to walk through fire hand in hand.

Please continue to share your amazing works, so that we can keep this fire going. Thank you for all you are doing to bring Beauty to the darkness.

The Man in the Moon

What if God is the man in the moon?

What if He loved us so much that His Son’s

Presence was not enough of a present.

What if He wanted to send His own face,

To watch over us, mourning our grief from above.

Write Where it Hurts: Quarantine

Quarantine.

For some of you it’s a dirty word.

For some it’s despair.

For some it’s loss and grief incomparable.

For me? It’s life.

For me, it was hope.

For me, it was a home

With incandescent joy and bliss.

Lie:The Problem with what John Cooper(of Skillet) said against Joshua Harris

https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/entertainment/2019/august/we-need-to-value-truth-over-feeling-skillets-john-cooper-reacts-to-christian-leaders-renouncing-faith

I grew up in the shadow of Joshua Harris’ “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” The parents all around us were ecstatic and excited about this reverent and holy new way of dating, while I gazed on in horror and watched the future of my dating life crumble in the flames. You might think that sounds melodramatic, and, to be fair, this was my teen self, so it may have been, but if you knew the nights that my mom and I spent crying and screaming at each other, and how much time I spent crying into my pillow in confusion about sexuality and chastity, you would understand that it isn’t dramatic, if anything, it’s an understatement. I still deal with repercussions of the confusing anti-sex but pro-marriage theology put forth by those who adored Josh Harris and others like him.

When Harris came forward and renounced what he taught, admitting it’s flaws and being honest about the struggles and defeat it caused in his own life, I was devastated to hear the pain he is going through, but it healed my heart to hear him renounce it. I had lived by it because that’s what my parents and faith community believed was God’s word on dating, but I could see the damage it was doing while it was happening and I felt so helpless and confused by it. Harris humility in coming forward healed a part of me that had felt so ashamed of my own anger and confusion.

Much to my dismay, soon afterwards a singer I admire for his authenticity and raw honesty came out against Joshua Harris and Marty Sampson(the lead singer of Hillsong United who also admitted his struggles of faith.)

He said:

“Ok I’m saying it. Because it’s too important not to. What is happening in Christianity? More and more of our outspoken leaders or influencers who were once ‘faces’ of the faith are falling away. And at the same time, they are being very vocal and bold about it. Shockingly they still want to influence others (for what purpose?)as they announce that they are leaving the faith.”

I was so disappointed in this. First of all, because I really like Skillet and I felt personally misunderstood because this was such a deep part of my experience. More importantly though, this is very dangerous thing for a Christian to say.

Here John Cooper is showing a profound misunderstanding of what Joshua Harris is experiencing, and giving way to some ways of thinking that could be very damaging to Christianity.

Something I find very powerful and admirable about what Joshua Harris did is that once he believed he had done something wrong, he did not repent and slink into darkness. Instead, he did everything he could do to right what he believed was wrong. John Cooper’s mockery of his ‘announcement’ completely takes for granted the pain that must have come along Joshua Harris’ experience. As someone who experienced a great deal of suffering because of him, it meant so much to me to hear him admit the problems in his work. What he gave everyone who had ever been hurt by him permission to do is to stop battling the fear that he was right, because he wasn’t so they can rest. That is so incredibly valuable and Cooper is devaluing it.

Cooper’s words about how people who ‘abandon’ their faith shouldn’t go talking about it is similarly insensitive and actually dangerous. On a human level, it is cruel to suggest that if you lose your faith after being an evangelist you should then be sentenced to a life of silence like some sort of permanent punishment for not believing.

More importantly, though, saying something like that calls into question the integrity of those who are teaching Christianity. Genuine testimony comes from the heart, from a real experience of God, especially in Protestant circles which is something I love about them. Cooper seems to be saying that those who are in ministry should only be public about certain experiences. That immediately makes me want to ask, is he being honest? If he believes he can’t speak out if he disagrees, can I trust when he says he does agree?

Now, I know on some level this isn’t really what he is trying to say. However, it does give an impression of cultivated truth that has been a struggle for me in the Church. Painting over Christian lives to make them look perfect and free of any doubt ever hurts ministry because people who are not of faith or who are struggling with faith can see this lack of authenticity. They may not know what it is or why, but they can feel it. I can feel it. When people push a Catholic to only write the positive things about godliness, or when people edited saints biographies to make them look perfect, or when authority figures tell teachers not to tell the truth, this all adds up to create a narrative of Christianity as full of unreliable narrators.

I would rather praise Joshua Harris for being genuine and authentic and pray that he keeps seeking truth than to condemn him for coming to a different truth than me. I believe God is truth and He will bring good out of our authenticity. On another level, part of the beauty of the Christian life is in conversion, and if one is not allowed to admit the feelings of doubt, or the suffering one is feeling in relation to the faith, it negates the possibility of sharing that story with others.bAfter my own miscarriage and some other trials, I was very honest about my trials with faith for a long, long time. These people also knew when I was fighting to get closer and when I felt like giving up. When I share my stories now, the know the blood, sweat, and tears that went into my conversion, and they understand that I am different than I was when I first believed. I had my phase of “la la la God is good,” Christianity, and a phase of “FEAR God” Christianity, and I am always journeying through deeper and newer understandings of faith and lacks of faith, but I could not share that story if I believed I could only share it when I was right. In fact, and a little ironically, for a long time I couldn’t write this post for that very reason.

Overall, I think something that Christians need to understand is that there is a profound value to allowing someone their own real life experience. God has given us free will for a reason and we all pursue truth in different ways and from different angles. There is something beautiful and perfect in that even when it scares us. I am not saying that everyone is right about everything, but we can’t just force everyone to share our opinions, instead we should encounter them where they are at, and try to help them through their experience. What if John Cooper were to put down his high horse, and write to Joshua Harris and say, “Hey man, I cannot imagine the pain you must be going through. More than a lot of other people I can understand what it feels like to be held up on a pedestal for my faith. Can I be here for you through this?” Maybe they could actually learn from each other and experience a profound community instead of Cooper seeming to shove Harris into forced isolation for struggling with faith the way that every Christian does at some point in their faith life.

Note: This post is not about John Cooper, I don’t know him he could be perfectly non-judgemental in real life. However, this particular incident is an example of the kind of things I have heard Christians say a million times and it is a great example to explain why this attitude is damaging. Please do not hate on John Cooper if you read this. If you are in a position to Joshua Harris some comfort and love though, be my guest. 🖤

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