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Struggling Faith: The God Of Green Hope

Digital artist journal page by Connla Freyjason for Iaconagraphy, using our upcoming ArtLife set of digital assets, by Frances and Connla.

May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your spiritual life, filled with the life-giving energy of inspiration, will brim over with hope!

I began my arduous search for the God of green hope in February of 2016, following the realization that I had become hopeless.  Clearly, Jesus wasn’t “that guy”, because He and I weren’t exactly on speaking terms by that point.  Lleu Llaw Gyffes wasn’t “that guy”, either, even though I had considered myself a practicing Druid for a number of years previously.  So I began my dive into the Norse Tradition, in hopes of finding “that guy” there.

I had been a “weekend Druid”, but I was anything but a “weekend Heathen”.  From the very start, my journey down the Norse Path led me to daily prayer, weekly blots, and active participation in my newfound Faith.  By June of 2016, I had finally begun to “feel better”, but I still hadn’t fully recovered my hope, nor had I met the God of Green Hope.  A year on, in February of 2017, I still had not found Him/Her/It, and those feelings of quiet desperation began to slowly seep back in, this time compounded by my inability to figure out the “riddle” within that verse that I had been given.

The truth of it was this: I couldn’t find the God of Green Hope because I was looking in all the wrong places.  I was looking outside, when I should have been looking within.

I am the God of Green Hope.  You are the God of Green Hope. We are the God of Green Hope.

I automatically hold anyone suspect who says in a serious tone that they are the god of anything. Sure, people may jokingly say things like “I am the god of homemade tacos”, and I’m perfectly fine with that, because it’s a joke.  But to claim godhood for oneself smacks of a brand of pretentiousness that I have a difficult time fathoming.  It’s part of why I take issue with the writings of Aleister Crowley.  Yet, hear me out.

For a full year, I prayed, participated in rituals, researched, and searched, trying to find that one, great, outside source that would fill me up with joy and fill me up with peace as that passage promised.  A full year, and yet I still felt that I was hanging on the tree.  I looked outside, and outside, and outside, but only on the rarest of occasions did I look within.  And even when I did, my focus was on where I fit into our business, rather than on where I fit into the World.

In March of 2017, I finally looked inside.  The business was tanking yet again, and as I sat in my office literally crying, it finally dawned on me that doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results is the very definition of insanity.  So I decided to do something different: instead of shaking my fist at the heavens, I took a deep, long look within. And I discovered something I definitely didn’t want to discover: I was the problem.  The good news was, if I was the problem, I could also be the solution.

Becoming the God of Green Hope:

  • Stop looking back; you aren’t going that way!

Mistakes and triumphs you’ve experienced in the past are precisely that: in the past.  The longer you dwell on either, the more they are allowed to control your present, which in turn leads them to shape your future.  Do you want a future shaped by your past mistakes and triumphs, or do you want a future shaped by you, yourself?

  • Stop mourning, and start celebrating!

Stop mourning all of the things you don’t have, haven’t accomplished, or didn’t do, and instead focus on celebrating what you do have, are accomplishing, and are doing via showing gratitude.  You’re likely great at sitting down and making detailed inventories of things to mourn; take that skill, and instead turn it towards making a detailed inventory of all the things about your life that are actually good.  These don’t have to be big things!  Things for which to be grateful can be as seemingly insignificant as a shockingly blue sky outside your window, or as mindblowing as having your art published on the cover of a popular newsletter or magazine.

  • While you’re making lists, make one of everything that worries you right now.  Read through it, and then discard it, and actually let go.

Worrying is basically looking towards the future with dread, instead of looking towards the future with eager expectancy.  We all do it, and we all have done it, and even after you make this list, discard it, and make a conscious decision to let go of those specific worries, the chances are fantastic you will find a whole new list of things to worry about at some point in the future.  When that happens, you should repeat this exercise.  Worrying is a useless endeavor: all it does is leave you feeling defeated, and make you tired.  It actually accomplishes nothing, so why keep doing it?

  • Rediscover joy.

The marrow of what we really want out of life is locked inside the bones of those things which bring us joy.  Make a third list: a list of everything in your life, no matter how big or small, that actually sparks joy in you.  In case it’s been so long that you’ve forgotten what joy even feels like, these would be things that create a sense of well-being for you; things that make you feel successful or fortunate; things that make you deeply happy or cause you to brim with delight.  Your gratitude list might be a helpful jump-off point for creating this list.  Once you have your list, take some time to actually spend time with these joy-sparkers.

  • Realize that you are enough.

Re-engage with yourself.  The first question too many of us ask when attempting to “find ourselves” is “am I worthy?”  That is an adversarial tone, and we all know what such a tone gets us when we’re talking about exterior human relationships, right?  So why do we think it will go differently with interior ones?   Think about it like this: let’s say you’ve just met a new person with whom you’re considering building a friendship.  What would happen if, upon first meeting them, you introduced yourself by saying “I’m me, and I’m wondering if you’re worthy of being my friend”?  That likely wouldn’t go over terribly well, now, would it?  They would likely find you rude and pretentious, and they wouldn’t be wrong.  So why do we approach our selves that way?  The simple answer: we shouldn’t.  Enough means “occurring in such a quantity, quality, or scope as to fully meet demands, needs, or expectations.”  If you are enough, that means that you are capable of meeting whatever life throws at you halfway.  Look around at your life: you’ve made it this far.  You’re still breathing; you’re still sitting here reading this.  If you’ve made it this far, that is empirical proof that you are enough, and enough is the first important step towards plenty:  a large or sufficient amount or quality; more than enough.

Once you have found the God of Green Hope within you, you should start experiencing more joy and peace in your life.  You may find that you need to do these exercises multiple times–I certainly did–and there’s no shame in that. Don’t worry if you don’t immediately feel as though you have been filled up with joy and peace; that will come with time.  This is just the beginning, and we’ll discuss where to go from here in the next blog post in this series.

 

 

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Struggling Faith: Hopelessness

Digital artist journal page created by Connla Freyjason for Iaconagraphy, featuring digital assets from our Imramma Page Kit, available by clicking this image. (Note: link opens in new tab.)

In my last blog post, I talked about “faith ruts”, how people fall into them, and laid the foundation of a pathway out of them, kicking off this seven part blog series on Struggling Faith.  My own struggle with faith began in December 2015, with the death of the family dog.  As I said in the last post, that may seem like a small thing to cause someone to completely lose their faith, but when you are already hopeless, even the smallest of things can be enough to send you reeling into a faith chasm, because faith is the simple, pervading presence of hope.

Let’s take a deeper look at the modern definition of that word, hopeless, courtesy of Merriam-Webster:

Hopeless:  having no expectation of good or success; not susceptible to remedy or cure; incapable of redemption or improvement; desperate; despairing; incapable of solution, management, or accomplishment; impossible.

Now, you would think, if I had reached a point where my outlook was that level of bleak, I would have realized it, right? You would think that as that downward spiral began, I would have noticed the signs, and begun to take steps to turn things around.  Given all the blog posts I have written here about looking on the bright side and positive living, you would think that I, of all people, would never have allowed myself to reach such a state.  Yes, you would think so, yet, there I was. I was hopeless, and I didn’t even realize it, until the bottom dropped out from under me.

At that point in time, I was operating this business in more of a “behind the scenes” capacity: Michelle was decidedly the “face” of the business, while I sat behind the screen every day, designing graphics, handling the web design, and making sure our marketing schedule was on par with the rest of the industry.  Our primary focus at that point in time was her then-newly-published book, Dragonfly Theology, and attempting to establish her Tarot-reading business.  The art was more or less a sideline: I was constantly churning things out, but with a focus on listing the art at RedBubble and CafePress, and under her name, not my own.  We had not begun the digi-scrap business yet and I was, for the most part, still “in the coffin” to the outside world. I was the dude there, in Michelle’s shadow. At that point, we were operating from a primarily Christian-influenced Pagan base; I considered myself a practicing Druid.

And I honestly thought I was happy and, more importantly, hopeful.  Turns out, I was wrong.

Looking back now, of course, I can see it. Hindsight is, after all, 20/20.  

Through the fault of no one, our business was tanking.  No one was buying Michelle’s book, which kept her perpetually depressed.  I felt really bad for her.  Her Tarot business wasn’t exactly sky-rocketing, either, and I felt bad about that, too, because it had been a lifelong dream for her.  I was doing fairly well in the art-sales department, but everything was listed with her signature, so it wasn’t exactly like I was experiencing a “moment in the sun”.  I woke up every morning and worked my ass off, yet never received any credit, because we had been taught for twenty years that our “situation” is one you “just don’t talk about”.

I was a “weekend Druid”, in the same sense that some people are “weekend Christians”: I “showed up” when there was a holiday, but beyond that, it wasn’t exactly a part of my daily life.  Prayer was a thing reserved for when things got desperate.  Candleburning was what one did when the dog farted.  I’m not exaggerating, I swear. I dove a bit more deeply into my Buddhist/Taoist upbringing around that point in time, and I was publishing a Daily Kuan Yin meditation on our Facebook Page, but, once again, posing as Michelle, rather than taking any credit myself.

I could “be me” with a handful of people, including my Beloved, and with the dogs and the cat.  I had already lost Elvis the previous Spring, and then I lost Boo.  The number of “living entities” who actually knew me for me was slowly dwindling….

No wonder I was hopeless.

Let’s take some time now to talk about what hopelessness looks like:

  • An inability to see that tomorrow might actually be a better day.

Hopeful expectancy becomes a pie-in-the-sky notion, when compared with empirical data.  In other words, yesterday sucked, and the day before that, and the day before that, so why in the heck should tomorrow be any different?

  • An unwillingness to believe anything or anyone can fix how sucktastic your life has become.

“Higher Powers” are viewed as “well and good”, but not profoundly helpful. In fact, They may be on the receiving end of the blame-game by this point.  I mean, They let shit get this level of bad, right?

  • An intrinsic belief that clearly you are the problem.

The Gods aren’t the only ones on the receiving end of the blame-game: clearly, there’s also something deeply wrong with your self.  You’ve come to believe that you are incompetent, incapable, and unworthy.

  • A constant, underlying need to simply sit somewhere and cry.

Even when everything seems rosey, you just can’t seem to shake it.  It’s not exactly clinical depression, but a part of you wishes that it were, because at least there are medications for that….

  • A conviction that there is nowhere to go from here but down.

No matter how much you try to see a way to change course or otherwise somehow reorganize your plans, you see no way that this situation could be better managed.  Accomplishments become hurdles you must cross, instead of accolades you can celebrate.  Solutions become dragons you must slay, instead of actual repairs of the problem.

So how did I climb back up, after going through all of this? Is there hope for you as well, if you’re going through this right now?

Trust me, it didn’t happen overnight, and chances are, it won’t for you, either.  As the kids say nowadays, the struggle is real, but it is a struggle that it is definitely worth enduring.

For three long months, that mantra with which I ended the last post kept running through my head, particularly in my darker moments:

May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your spiritual life, filled with the life-giving energy of inspiration, will brim over with hope!

So I began to try to unlock it, as if it were some riddle that somehow held the key to my very existence, because, clearly, it did!

Who was the God of green hope?  Where might I find Him/Her/It?  And would They really fill me up with joy and peace when I found Them?

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Struggling Faith

Digital artist journal page created by Connla Freyjason for Iaconagraphy using our Imramma page kit, available by clicking this image. (Link opens in new tab)

Faith.  It’s a word that often gets looked down upon in traditional Heathen circles, yet it is something with which we all struggle, regardless of our chosen spiritual path in life.  Many modern Heathens sneer down their noses at it, saying that as a concept it smacks of someone’s “Christian upbringing”, yet it can be found scattered throughout the Eddas and Sagas, and when we do not feel it coloring our daily lives, we tend to become listless beings; we suddenly feel lost. In fact, one of the most frequently posed conundrums that I encounter is this one:

How does one get out of a “faith rut”?

I personally believe that the number one reason that we fall into “faith ruts” in the first place is due to how we have come to define the concept of faith.  That overriding definition of the concept is also intrinsically bound up with that tendency for people to sneer down their noses at it in certain circles, because the primary word we find linked with faith is belief.  This leads us down the garden path to that ages-old issue of the dreaded blind faith: adhering to something without any true understanding, perception, or discrimination.  But faith is not belief: it’s more than that.

In Pagan and Catholic circles, faith also tends to become bound up with action or doing: when one is not routinely performing the actions of one’s chosen spiritual path, one feels that they have somehow lost faith, and fallen into a “faith rut”.  Such actions might include attending Mass regularly or saying the rosary, if one is Catholic, or attending rituals and doing workings, if one is Pagan.  For those of us on a Norse Path, these actions include offering blot, working with the runes, or perhaps performing galdr.  But faith is not action or doing: it’s more than that, too.

Faith is the simple, pervading presence of hope.

Unfortunately, hope is another word that we tend to misdefine in our society:

Hope:  to want something to happen or be true; to desire with expectation of fulfillment

Basically, we confuse the concept of hope with wishing.  There are deeper definitions of the word, however, which ring closer to the truth of it, as a concept:

Hope:  to cherish with anticipation; to expect with confidence; trustreliance

I find it quite telling that those last two words–trust and reliance–are listed as the archaic definition of hope.  No wonder so many people are out here falling into “faith ruts”, when we’ve lost the very meaning, not only of the word faith, but of that which is at its core: hope!

The five keys to hope are italicized in that last definition:

  • cherish
  • anticipation
  • confidence
  • trust
  • reliance

We tend to think of the word cherish when thinking of loved ones and pets: it has become, not unlike faith and hope, a somewhat sappy thing, drained of its original meaning.  What it ultimately means, however, is to hold something constantly in your mind and heart with esteem.  Things which are cherished are not only loved, they are also respected.  They become ultimate to us.  What does that mean, to “become ultimate”? It means that those things become fundamental to the basis of our very existence:  they are of central importance, defining and supporting our total concept of how the world and the universe actually work to a degree that we would feel lost without them.  Which is why, when we lose the concept of the word cherish and at the same time have nothing in life that we actively do cherish, we begin to fall into a “faith rut”.

But according to that definition of hope back there, we not only cherish, we do so with anticipation.  Anticipation is the act of looking forward with pleasurable expectation: it looks for the best in things, rather than the worst.  Looking forward which focuses on the worst outlook is the antithesis of anticipation. We have a word for that, too. We call it dread!  Cherishing with anticipation is how we can look out the window today, and see trees covered in ice, and think “My Gods, that’s beautiful”, instead of “holy crap, we’re gonna lose power and I’m gonna freeze to death”.  The first thought is cherishing with anticipation–it focuses on the best, rather than the worst–while the latter thought is cherishing with dread.  Cherishing with dread instead of anticipation is another way in which we begin to fall into a “faith rut”.

“Expecting with confidence” is part of how the concept of hope gets confused with wishing: we tend to focus on the expecting part of that sentence, and ignore the confidence that comes after it wholesale.  We all go through life expecting things: I expect to be successful with my business, for example.  You might expect to win the lottery.  But when we add confidence into that equation, our feeble wishes get elevated into something far greater: they become hopes.  Now, confidence is defined as the feeling or belief that one can rely on something or someone–firm trust–and also as the feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.  When speaking about spirituality, somehow we tend to divorce those definitions from each other: too often, people arrive at a worldview wherein you have to choose whether to believe in a Higher Power (that first bit, that we can firmly trust and, therefore, rely on someone or something greater than ourselves), or to believe in one’s self.  But the definition is not an or statement, it’s an and statement!  True confidence, as a key to hope, requires that we do bothrely, and, therefore, firmly trust in a Higher Power while at the same time feeling self-assured, thanks to an appreciation of our own abilities and qualities.  When we treat the definition of confidence as an or statement, losing our appreciation of ourselves, and thereby coming to doubt ourselves, while focusing solely on that Higher Power part of the equation, once again, we begin to fall into a “faith rut”.

Which brings us finally to trust and reliance.  When we speak of that first word, we tend to think of it in an either/or fashion, because once again, we bind it to the concept of belief.  Trusting is what we do when we know something can be believed; when we know something is true.  As with every other bolded word in this blog post, the actual meaning of the word trust goes way, way deeper than that, however.  The deepest meaning of the word trust is to live without fear.  But how in the heck can we do that when the world is such a scary place?  Newsflash: the world has always been a scary place!  Our Ancestors unlocked the way to live without fear when they “discovered” something larger than solely themselves to rely upon.  Yes, I’m talking about a Higher Power!  What you choose to call that really makes zero difference to me; It all boils down to the same thing anyway.  That reliance, shockingly, also has zero to do with belief: whether you believe in Them or not matters not in the slightest; what matters is that you believe in you enough to be worthy of Them believing in you, too!  When we lose these definitions of trust and reliance, once again, we fall into the dreaded “faith rut”.

I didn’t figure all of this out just today, in an attempt to write a pithy blog post that might get all of you thinking and feeling and perhaps shopping while you’re here.  No, I figured all of this out quite slowly and painfully over the course of the past year, and I was forced to figure it all out because I did not simply stumble into a “faith rut”, I was pushed, ass over teakettle, into a faith chasm.  On December 23, 2015, our family dog died.  Two days before Christmas–her presents already bought and waiting to be put into her stocking–she succumbed to convulsions, and our family was shattered.  That may seem like a very small and insignificant thing: the death of the family dog.  Even to a dog-lover, that may seem like quite a tiny thing to qualify as the gateway to a faith chasm.  Yet, that’s what it was, for me.

You see, I prayed to practically every God I could think of to save her, not because I was going to miss the family dog, but because of what this was going to do to our family as a whole.  There is, after all, no pain in the world quite like grief at Christmas. And then I was expected to go sit in a pew and celebrate the birthday of one of those Gods, as if nothing had happened; as if my prayers had not been heard and yet gone unanswered.  The whole thing smacked of the most vile hypocrisy, and I wanted no further part in it, if that’s what religion entailed. Bingo: faith chasm.

I have come, over the course of the past year, to realize, however, that my plummet into the faith chasm had far less to do with the surface issue of losing our dog coupled with unanswered prayers than to do with my own misdefinition of what faith actually is, and, within that misdefinition, my mistranslation and utter lack of hope.  Hope was actually something I had lacked for a very long time at that point, it just took the death of the family dog to bring that sharply into focus.  The Gods were doing me a favor, but as is often the case, it certainly didn’t feel that way, at the time.

I found myself returning, again and again, to the most inexplicable of all sources for comfort: a passage from the Christian Bible.  I would sit, head in hands, when no one was looking, and cry my eyes out, and there would be those words, over and over, echoing like a broken record:

May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope! –Romans 15:13, The Message

Let me take the liberty of making that a bit more Pagan/Heidhrinn for those of you who are currently squirming in your seats:

May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your spiritual life, filled with the life-giving energy of inspiration, will brim over with hope!

I have spent the last year unlocking the secrets of that mantra and climbing out of my personal faith chasm.  The next six blog posts will follow me along on that journey, in an effort to help you climb out of your own.