“by our love, by our love” .. and a good podcast episode

What does it mean to be a Christian in this political and social climate, from the inside, looking out?

The election.

The executive orders.

The flared up animosity, rage, hatred, fear, and uncertainty.

The mess we seem to be making of the age-old adage,

“and they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.”

Really? How? Where is that love right here, right now?

Knowing that white evangelicals helped secure the election of Trump leaves me in an awkward position with friends or clients who assume that, because I am a Christian, I contributed to that. I am not one of those, but I am also not willing to vilify people I love simply because they draw their political lines in the sand differently than I do. I need to be open to them because I’m related to some of them, friends with some of them, sitting next to some of them in church tomorrow. So how do we cross the chasm that lies between us politically, and hold in tension our mutual deep love for God, and some undeniable differences in how we are engaging today’s political climate?

It all seems too much to talk about, too much to dig into, and too fresh. This week I listened to this podcast, an open and honest discussion between three Christian leaders with three different stances on Christianity and politics. It’s comforting to me because this conversation, with three generations of Evangelical Leaders (the late Chuck Colson, Greg Boyd, Shane Claiborne) happened in 2008.

As Krista Tippet so bluntly puts it, “to be evangelical is not one thing.”

I took a lot of comfort in hearing this discussion. Mostly because I think it’s beautiful to hear others wrestling with the same tensions I wrestle with. To hear similar lines of argument used and reactions given, it made me feel less alone in how I’ve had to navigate these waters with my Christian brothers and sisters.

I keep coming back to the love and grace of Jesus and the fact that we live in a broken world and we all contribute our own broken hearts to each conversation we have. I think there’s hope in those realities, and a path forward that involves mutual respect and love, even amidst an “agree to disagree” relationship.

have a listen. I highly recommend it.

 

Image by Colleen Scheck

 

 

click here to visit the episode page and have a listen.

Marriage is hard .. and more

Marriage is hard. Yes it is. That’s exactly what it is.. and more.

I spoke to a friend recently who, after going through a divorce, got remarried. I asked her how married life was and she said, “it’s hard, of course..”

Of course it is.

I spoke to a single friend about marriage and she said she didn’t want to marry if it wasn’t going to make her life better. If there was a risk that life would get worse, she didn’t see the point in messing with the system she’s got in place.

Being a wedding photographer for the last decade has given me plenty of opportunities to hear and ponder wedding vows. These humans stand and publicly promise the terms of the marriage — better, worse, sickness, health, richer, poorer, good times, bad, to be true, love, honor, cherish one another until death. Death, what a statute of limitations! Only someone on crack would believe it’s possible to keep these promises to the grave.

image by Joe Webb

I’m not saying I don’t love and agree with the promises Jeremy and I made fifteen and a half years ago. I’m just saying I don’t know a single human who has been able to love, honor, and cherish their spouse in all circumstances perfectly. That’s why marriage is hard. That’s why you don’t get the guarantee that things will only get better. In fact, you make a promise to stay when they get worse. It’s right there in the vows so you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.

Marriage is hard. Of course it is. It’s also partnership, an ally in a rowdy world, a dance partner during dinner prep, a walking buddy. It’s bearing witness. It’s a crook in a neck where my head fits like a puzzle piece. It’s being seen, known, and somehow accepted anyways, most of the time. It’s sharing a million secrets about tastes and preferences, constellations, trains of thought, jokes and fears, history and body parts and hygiene. It’s someone to fight with and someone to fight for. It’s the ability to be human in a deeper way. It stretches your own ability to stay, to accept, to open up when everything inside of you says, “leave!” “push away!” “shut down and self-preserve!”

image by Joe Webb

After all that, it’s the hand you find grabbing for yours when you see your kids go to the first day of kindergarten or struggle in a hospital bed. It’s the one who holds you when you weep like a child over the loss of a parent. It’s the laugh-till-you-cry lines you know better than your own and the ability one person has to rescue you from yourself with one glance. It’s the invitation to go beyond yourself into something holy enough to carry you to the grave.

As I said before, marriage is hard. Yes it is. That’s exactly what it is.. and more.

Because marriage is also this:

that, if well fought and you’re lucky, becomes this:

Which seems pretty worth it to me.

 

 

 

photo of us by Nate Kaiser

photo of old couple by Emanuelle Carbinatti

a letter about social media and the creative life

Our social media hiatus is nearing its two year anniversary. Within these past (almost) two years, we’ve had the opportunity to answer questions and give a perspective that others have lost. A decade ago, living and creating looked similar to what it had for thousands of years. Relationships were cultivated around a table or, in more recent decades, over land lines. Art making was done out of a desire to do something with the ideas in one’s head, many of which arrived out of sheer boredom or quiet contemplation.

Things have changed. Relational and creative life look a lot more like this these days:

art by Kristen Sims

Every week we receive a letter or two asking about our social media fast, and the benefits and struggles we’ve encountered. I got another couple of emails this week and I thought I would share parts of my response to one of them here, in hopes that it may shed some light on our growing perspective as social media platforms get further and further in the rear-view for us.

…………………………….

Dear _________,

Thanks so much for writing. Oh gosh, I totally hear you about social media and the inauthenticity being bred on these platforms. I think that was one of the big factors for us just needing to walk away and take a break, and one of the biggest factors for not returning after the break. I think we humans are hardwired to live authentic, truly connected lives, and the curation and lack of connection that social media breeds wares on us all. I can hear and understand your weariness with it all, and I totally feel for you because I remember exactly how discouraging that was. 

Unfortunately, it was a love / hate relationship, some days awful but some days really fun, which made it difficult to finally pull the plug and walk away. I agree with you that there seem to be some really wonderful creatives out there, but they did seem fewer and fewer as the platform got more widely used and became a copycat Pinterest board of sorts. 

I think there are two aspects to consider when it comes to using or leaving social media. Personal and Creative. When it comes to the personal aspects, you are the only one who can decide what it’s doing to your insides. I had attempted to stop following the people that seemed fake, formulaic, or repetitive. I tried to draw some boundaries around when I would and wouldn’t allow myself to use it. But I proved to be pretty bad at keeping my own rules, and knew that I wasn’t going to be able to use it in a way that was responsible or honoring of my time or the time of people I was with. 

Creatively is a different issue. I really think we soak up creative inputs like sponges. whether we realize it or not, our brains are logging all of this “inspiration” and using it for fuel. I really saw a culture of lemmings being developed creatively on Instagram. It’s hard work to walk away from that constant visual input, to allow yourself to get bored enough to form your own ideas and come up with your own inspirations. But that hard work is the work creatives have been doing for hundreds of years before social media came along. And those are the artists we praise and admire the most. So I see no real benefit in the culture of artists being bred right now.. people who don’t actually remember how to take a long quiet walk alone (without their phones) or spend a day reading a book and sketching ideas in the park (without their phones) or even sit on the toilet without their phones. 

I / we felt insane freedom and a surge of new creativity when we walked away, deleted the apps, and even chose times to turn the phones off and just let ourselves begin to exist and think again. Now the way we reach people is different because we’ve thought of new ways to connect and serve them as a result of all this time on our hands. Time and boredom breed creativity that others “don’t have the time” for. 

..Here’s the little secret that no one remembers when it comes to marketing and growing our business.. just because we aren’t on Facebook and Instagram doesn’t mean our couples and fellow vendors aren’t. We get annoying emails from Facebook every week trying to get us to come back, letting us know that our reach went up 300% that week because people posted about us or shared a blog we posted or an article we wrote. Everyone else is still living on those platforms and sharing on them. So we only have to work hard, do a good job creatively, and follow our guts and they will talk about it. It’s an unexpected reality that we were shocked and surprised to discover as we got further and further away from our dependence on social media. 

Here’s the sad reality – you either give your life to it or you jump ship and do something new. (the something new is actually something thousands of years old.. creating without dependence on these silly platforms) You mentioned feeling behind if you aren’t posting all the time and we get it! the sad truth is you are! There are too many competing voices out there, some of whom pay to be heard louder than all the others, not to mention fighting with algorithms you can’t control. It’s enough to make any creative heart lose it’s will. 

I’d love to talk with you more about what it looks like to at least take a breather, a little step back, and reconsider your relationship to social media. … I hope that helps and that it feels like a pat on the back from a friend rather than a firehose of too much information! 🙂 I’m here anytime you want to chat more.

warmly,

ash