I Must Go

Yesterday my church blessed our children and our teachers as they prepared to head back to school this week. I can’t imagine a more fitting response to the hatred and bigotry displayed over the weekend across our country, most egregiously in Charlottesville. We prayed that God would “grant that through their study, they may gain the tools to grow in love and faith and service all their days.” And, where better to start a movement of love than among our children and among the teachers and administrators and cafeteria workers and custodians and counselors and nurses and coaches and all those who will touch their lives and influence their learnings?

As Nelson Mandela so wisely stated,

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

I’ve been struggling all weekend with potent feelings – feelings of sadness and disgust, anger and outrage, powerlessness and shame. I’ve read comments and made comments and shared posts, all the while wondering what am I really doing to create change? Our pastor preached a sermon entitled, “Interrupted Prayers,” in which he talked about Peter walking on water. His interpretation was one I had not heard before, and it stuck with me. Peter’s desire to step out onto the water was propelled by his desire to be where Jesus was, to DO what Jesus was doing. Jesus went away to pray, but life (a boat full of disciples defeated by stormy seas) drew him out of solitude and into the fray.

I’ll admit that it’s easier and much more comfortable for me to pray for our persecutors than it is to call out bigoted language like a college friend did when she overheard a group of teenagers “joking” about chanting “white power” at a peace rally (thank you, Rolyn). It’s easier and much more comfortable for me to hide behind my computer than to stand in solidarity against symbols of hate with my brothers and sisters of color. It’s easier and much more comfortable to avoid conflict altogether and just to monitor my own actions and mind my own business.

But, the children we blessed yesterday, and those teenagers my friend encountered over the weekend are MY children too. They are OUR children. MY silence, MY hesitation to speak up, MY willingness to look the other way teaches them a lesson about life and about what’s ok. Our children are not born hating. WE were not born hating. We were born of love and made in the image of LOVE. And, for love to win in these horrifying days, we have to be willing to step out of the boat – to rise up out of our comfort zones and speak love to hate, to DO justice, to show our children, and our brothers and sisters of color that love does indeed come more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

I pray that my own discomfort in these times will actuate within me the courage to step out of the boat, to go where faith calls me to walk boldly toward Jesus. I pray that my words become actions and my prayers become movement, that the lessons I teach on a daily basis will reflect Love, Justice, Mercy, and Humility. Even as I struggle with my own biases and prejudices, I pray that my desire to love well will win.

These are terrifying times. It would be easy to succumb to defeat, to give up hope, to lose faith. But, Jesus bids us, “Come.” And, as a follower, I must go.

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Adulting

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Adulting is hard. As I’ve seen all the “back to school” posts today, I’m aware that I really miss those days! Sometimes I wish I could go back to the carefree years when the most difficult decision I had to make was what to eat for breakfast. Today, when my friends’ kids were going back to school, I was checking off my to-do list: laundry, return phone calls, for the love – please finally clean up your office, pay bills… Seriously?!? I want to go back to school and receive notes like, “You obviously did not read the chapter assigned for review.” (Told you I was cleaning up my office). :-/

Nowadays, instead of being graded on music theory and sight reading, I’m being called upon to be an adult: to think, act, accept responsibility and believe as an adult, as one “who is fully grown or developed or of age” (according to dictionary.com). Some days I find this easier said than done. There are parts of this adult thing I get – I don’t necessarily like – but I get. Paying my own bills, making sure my dog and I have proper nutrition and health care, going to work on time, being a responsible citizen, paying taxes, etc. – these things I understand and can do without much consternation. But, the adult relationship stuff – hard. Being respectful of and willing to listen to opposite viewpoints – hard. Addressing conflict – hard. Owning my story (all of it: my privilege, my perfectionism, my heartbreak) – hard. Building bridges – hard. Allowing for what will be – hard.

Being an adult is hard, and yet, I am an adult. And I find myself in situations in which I am called upon to think, act, accept responsibility and believe as an adult who has been taught to love my neighbor, to reach out to those who are marginalized, to care for the vulnerable, to engage in dialogue and to look for ways to bridge the gaps in broken structures.

Hard – especially when the marginalized and vulnerable look so much like people I’ve learned to fear or judge. Hard – especially when my neighbor’s truck is covered with bumper stickers that make my stomach turn. Hard – when dialogue requires me to shut up and listen, really listen. Hard – when a structure seems so broken as not to have any hope of repair. Hard – when I have to examine my own part in perpetuating what is broken.

Adulting is hard because it often means choosing the hard thing: kindness over criticism, action over indifference, silence over insistence. Adulting means not always being right, making room for other viewpoints and perspectives, allowing the experiences of others to matter even when we don’t understand them. Ugh…

Being an adult is hard, but as adults functioning in community, we’re given the opportunity – no, the responsibility – to behave civilly and maturely with those whom we encounter. We’re called upon to work together to build community in places where opinions differ, where ideologies and platforms are as diverse as the number of people present. We’re called on to be community in the unlikeliest of places and in desperately troubling times.

I do miss the days when I didn’t think so much about what made people different. I miss innocently formed friendships based on chosen seats or alphabetically ordered desks. I miss relishing the excitement of learning and being stretched by new ideas and differing opinions. And, yet, I’m aware that with the right attitude and intention, I can “go back to school” too. I can approach life and relationships with an open mind and open heart, ready to learn, ready to hear, ready to explore.

Adulting is hard, but I am an adult. Good thing I get to choose what kind of adult I will be.

Are You Happy?

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I was visiting with a friend the other day who was expressing some concern about her not very motivated kid. She said, “I can’t tell if he’s happy or not.” It got me to thinking about what it means to be happy and whether we have the courage to examine our own happiness. I know, I know. Happiness is fleeting and all that jazz… But, come on, you’re either happy or you’re not.

I remember growing up in a very conservative church world, the message was pretty clear that happiness was not important. Nobody promised us happy lives. We were to take up our crosses and be miserable, suffering for our faith. Joy, the more “spiritually correct” feeling, was appropriate and sought, but not so much happiness which was thought to be tied mostly to materialism.

Well, I take issue with this. I think happiness is important too. Sure, I acknowledge that we can’t be happy all the time. Sometimes life stinks and happiness seems like a foreign concept. But, I think our happiness is an important measure of how aligned our lives are with our values. I think our happiness (or, perhaps more often lack of happiness) can serve as an important indicator for the need for change.

Now, before anyone gets all upset with me, let me acknowledge that I do believe we can experience joy without being happy. Our joy is tied to our gratitude, and we always have something for which to be grateful – even in the worst circumstances. I believe a daily practice of gratitude is vital and is the birthplace of joy.

But, what I’m talking about here is giving attention to our general state of being. For example, on paper, my life might look to some like a bit of a mess. It isn’t all neat and wrapped up in a pretty package like one might expect of a highly educated almost 41 year old. However, in my heart, I can tell you that even on my worst days, I’m really happy. I’m really happy with my life right now. A few years ago, I was very not happy. In fact, I was pretty miserable, and I needed to make some changes. So, I did. Not all at once. And, not always in the most successful ways. I made some mistakes. I chose poorly on occasion. But, I began to work towards a happier life. And, in many ways, it’s the most important work I’ve ever done.

When was the last time you stopped and asked yourself, Am I happy? Am I really happy? And, if you’re not – why? Why aren’t you happy? Perhaps a shift in perspective is all you really need, but maybe it’s time to shake things up a bit. Maybe it’s time to explore other opportunities or to step out and be brave. What are the values you hold most important? How does where you spend your time and precious resources reflect those values? What small, or maybe big, changes could you make to align your life with your values? What would a happy life look like for you?

See where I’m going here? I believe we’re meant to be happy. I believe we’re called beyond mediocrity and mere existence to full, wholehearted, happy lives. And, I know that perpetual unhappiness has something to tell us.

So, let me ask you a question, Are you happy?

Change is good

Sometimes you just need a little change. It’s a new year – 2016 (can you believe it??) – and I decided this blog needed a little facelift and a new look. I can say that last year did NOT go quite as planned. However, I can also say that in spite of some pretty heartbreaking circumstances, it might have been my best year yet. Last year I made a LOT of changes. I cleared some cobwebs out of my heart, purged all my stuff and freed myself of some excess baggage, downsized my life (and upsized my living), and woke up to what has turned out to be a really good life.

I’m kind of proud of myself. Don’t get me wrong. 2015 wasn’t the easiest year. In fact, most of it was pretty hard, and parts of it were downright brutal. Waking up can be painful. We get cozy tucked in our warm, safe, well-known lives, so when it’s time to wake up to something new, it can be hard. But, as Glennon Doyle Melton so aptly puts it, “We can do hard things.” I just read her book, Carry on, Warrior, in about 6 hours over this past weekend. There were so many things I loved about it. Her honest revelation of an often challenging life had me saying, “Yes! I get that!” One of my favorite lines, though, and the one that will absolutely stick with me was this: “Let go and believe that whatever it is, it will be beautiful (p 263).” Seriously. “Let go and believe that whatever it is, it will be beautiful.”

This might be my mantra for 2016. I gave up on New Year’s Resolutions a long time ago, because I usually just ended up failing miserably at them, then feeling guilt and remorse for being such a resolution reject. I saw an idea circulating on Facebook wherein people were choosing “their word” for the year. I waited a while for my word to come. When it did, it was so clearly the word I needed. It’s trust. I need to trust myself. Trust my journey. Trust God. Trust my friends. Trust my inner wisdom. Trust my gifts. Trust my training. TRUST. And, I need to let go and believe that whatever it is, it will be beautiful.

I actually think I do believe that. In this moment, anyway, despite the relative lack of beauty in this dreadfully rainy day. Usually the absence of sun puts me in really negative space. But, today my focus is elsewhere. I’ve been practicing gratitude lately, and it makes all the difference. Changing one’s perspective, much like freshening one’s space (even virtual space), can serve us in so many ways. It’s like waking up to a new day with renewed energy and anticipation.

So, bring it on, 2016. This year will be different. I will trust. I will keep being brave and inviting change. I will “Let go and believe that whatever it is, it will be beautiful.

May it be so.