Thursday, August 11, 2011

Contemplating Lots of Quotes and Anne Lamott

I'm working on material for the next retreat, "Finding God and Oneself in the Digital Age," along with working on a small piece for the YDS journal, Reflections. Tonight I banged out possibly the worst first draft ever. In these moments, I have to think of Anne Lamott's words from her "Bird by Bird" book. She says you have to get that first draft out of the way and then you can move on.

But, I've had lots of quotes on my mind. This always happens, I'm trying to write my own presentations and sometimes other people have such profound insights.

For this retreat, I'm reading The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, Digital Disciples by Adam Thomas, and I may pick up something else from Richard Rohr. I'm in love with the Ragamuffin Gospel, it's quickly becoming one of those books that is getting dog eared, underlined, and taken everywhere I go.

In other news, little Zoom turns 11 months old today. I can't believe it's been nearly a year. Today to mark the occasion, he threw up in Joann's Crafts after gagging himself with a rubber ducky. Truly one of the stranger things I've seen happen. He's fine now, and I know better than to leave the diaper bag in the car.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Put Away the Spiritual Cosmetics: Every Life Has a Story

This week I was in "New Employee Orientation," and while I work as a project manager in a credit union, one of the videos we watched was a training video for Chick-Fil-A. I found it to be riveting:

From an HR perspective, our trainer wanted us to think about how every "customer" has a story if we just choose to ask them about it. I think this is valuable. I really do feel moved to help our "members" (as we call them) because they have entrusted us with their money. It's an honor. I'm lucky to work amongst people who keep that kind of thing in mind, every day.

The thing that struck me as I watched this video is that everyone is broken. Everyone has something they keep to themselves, that haunts them, and yet everyone puts on a happy face when they go out into the world. Everyone has bad days. I try to give others the benefit of the doubt when they are unkind as I don't know what kind of day they've had.

What's even more striking is that God knows each of our stories. He knows without asking, without our telling. He knows, and he loves and accepts us. And this is the meaning of grace.

This is the heart of Brennan Manning's book, "The Ragamuffin Gospel," which I'm reading now. In the people of this video, I see parts of my own broken-ness. I see the little bits of personal history that people often hide from themselves and try to hide from God. And it resonates deeply with Manning's thoughts that God's grace and acceptance means that "When I go to church, I can leave my white hat at home and admit I have failed. God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don't need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to Him. I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness."

It's this idea of putting away spiritual cosmetics to cover up our perceived flaws, that appeals to me. If we could all just admit and embrace those pieces of our broken-ness, wouldn't that be freeing? If we could give up feeling judged and judging others? If we could know that everyone, all around us, has as many shadow moments as we do? There is power in that kind of knowledge, along with great freedom, knowing that we are accepted just as we are.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Step into the Light onto New Holy Ground

Sean and I have been at odds with one another over some lingering divorce issues. Suffice to say that divorce is never, ever easy. Two lives that had been combined are irreparably being separated, worlds, thoughts, love, things, all torn apart. I know, I have been there, and it's one of the hardest things I have ever done.

I'm going to be honest. It's not easy for me to see Sean having to go through this. We are supposed to be getting married, but now that there is an issue that has to do with debt and alimony, and lots of money things, it seems we must wait to be married. As a planner, a project manager, I do not do well with things when they are out of my realm of control. It's not so much that I am impatient, but that I like to be informed and I like to plan. This whole situation has placed me squarely outside of my comfort zone.

It's made me realize that loving someone means that you sometimes have to support them, love them, even when you are uncomfortable. This has moved us beyond the new-found squishy cutesy-name kind of love. This is love, big and bold, loud and brash, screaming in your face. This is when you hold on, dig in, and pray. Pray for strength, pray for direction, pray that you have done the right thing. Pray that you will make it through, together.

This morning's discussion was going poorly. I knew I had to challenge myself, and so I admitted to Sean that I was as scared as I've ever been. That I've been pushed out of my comfort zone and I know that I've come across as angry when I don't mean to. I'm trying with all of my heart and strength to stand my ground and make things work. I told Sean that I have to keep telling myself that I believe in us, even in the moments when I part of me says I shouldn't. That I believe we can get through this, even when my old self would have turned tail and run. That great relationships are met with trial, that the strong ones find strength in each other, and that together couples overcome adversity, instead of crumbling beneath it. We cried and agreed, and stopped arguing.

On the way in to work, I wanted to hear a song of hope. Of courage. I wanted to hear Craig Taubman sing that "in the bitter and the sweet, in the calm and in the storm, all of life is Holy Ground." I typed "Holy Ground" into YouTube and got back a long list of results, including a song by OMD.

OMD (Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark) is my favorite band. They were big in the 80s, perhaps you remember them from "If you leave," "Dreaming," or "Forever Live and Die." They hadn't recorded anything in years, and last I knew they were not together or touring.

Today, I found OMD's "New Holy Ground," which is a off of an album released last year that I have never heard. It's a song full of hope. I firmly believe that this was no mistake, no random event. The universe heard my words and knew I needed to be bolstered. I feel that this song was an affirmation of the growth that happens when someone admits they are afraid. I had stared down the demons, I had quieted all the voices in my head that said to run and hide. I spoke my heart, and I recognized and chose love instead of listening to my own ego, which always wants each of us to choose fear. I was proud of myself. And here, being sung by my favorite band, in words I had never heard before, was a song that spoke of my decision and my current journey:

"Take a look at yourself and walk to the edge
And take a deep breath and be someone else
Take a look at yourself and see what is found
Step into the light onto new holy ground"

A Video 'Trailer' for the August Retreat

I whipped up a little video trailer on the August retreat Father Rusty and I are working on, hopefully for use on the San Damiano home page. Here's a sneak peek before it goes "prime time" -