Holy Moments

Holy Moments.

Holy Moments

There was such movement and energy present in an interaction today.  I encountered a woman today in her human holiness.  I was privileged to talk with this woman and to see before me a physical representation of why faith is so important to me.

What began as a typical lunch ordering and desire for a cold Diet Coke gave way to good-natured ribbing and conversation and we exchanged humourous sarcasm with my colleague.  A thin and powerhouse waitress,  she revealed bits and pieces within her conversation that made me think.  It made me wonder what was underneath the sarcasm and the bravado.

I showed her a picture of one of my boys, cause that is what parents and grandparents do.  They brag on their kids and show anyone they can the latest pics.  She talked about her child, a gorgeous 3 1/2 year old.  She will spend some time in and in depth PTSD program.  She wants to move on from a past that has brought her such pain.  With tears brimming in her eyes she talked candidly about her first husband and losing him in the midst of the Iraq War.  More conversation revealed a second husband who was abusive to her.   Out from the clutches of this marriage, and her daughter safe, she wants her life on more solid ground. 

She mentioned that she stood in the middle of a Christian book store the other day, wondering what Bible study would best direct her path.  She said she stood there completely confused and at her wit’s end.  “Someone told me Beth Moore?”  I told her that would be a great choice, but more than that is being ok with the identity that she has already been given.  Aside from the work, the parenting, being a widow, and wanting to put a painful past behind her…she simply wants to experience the love of just being.

I heard her heart, I saw the struggle, the raw pain….and it spoke to me.  As she continued to bustle and bring soup for my colleagues pile of crackers….I had to speak.  “When you return, can you spare a moment for a prayer?”  She came, she sat down, we entered into a more holy moment with this young woman, whose bday was recently.  I saw this beautiful and courageous woman….I saw reality.  What an honor.  I told her how courageous I thought she was in tackling those hurtful obstacles.  What a warrior.

I often think of that when the moment lends itself to sharing of our stories with one another.  Those are precious and holy moments….and they don’t come around every day.  Scratch that, I think they happen all the time, and we miss them.  I think sometimes they are staring us in the face and we neglect to see them for what they are, fail to respond the what our gut tells us to do.  I am guilty of that more times than I can count.  How often have I yearned for that from someone. As I reflect on this today, I can’t help but think that some of the reason that I have not had that in my life is because I refused to notice it, or I threw the gift back.  What a lesson to learn.

At the end of the day, even though the chance was there to be present for another, she spoke to me.  I am not done thinking about today and its impact on me.  As I tackle my own issues of identity, she called me to reflect on humility and realness.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for the chance to see up close-humanity.  My colleague mentioned that many would not see or sense what happened today.  If they did see it, fear would cripple many from acting.   I told them that is where I live and what I understand every day.  The beauty of raw life and the ever-present grace that is not earned, but simply accepted.

Simply accepted…that is my soul cry for each of us tonight.  To be simply accepted and to simply accept it when we are.

Shalom and Shalom,

cahl

Pride, it Goeth.

Pride, it Goeth..

Pride, it Goeth.

<a href="http://http://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/x7gab9
Pilate And Christ Jesus Christ Superstar by roniyy“>

I feel compelled to scribe more on this topic of pride and identity, especially since it may not be just me that struggles.  One of my favorite artists is U2.  The moment I hear the word pride, I instantly go to the song, inspired by the life and work of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I always smile ruefully to myself as the lyrics play in my head and I again commit to be part of making a difference in my generation.  It always serves as a moment of inspiration for me, then the smack-down of the real world sets in and I realize what an attempt that would be.  Still, there is always that flicker of a bigger flame that is fanned.  Much as I would love to shove down the passionate change advocate, she rears her ugly head and demands that I reexamine the chance to set the world on fire.

I have to admit having to examine my motives for fanning that passionate flame.  I have to ask myself if I   be part of change because there is a desperate need to see real and positive change happen, or because I have a need to be elevated?  That is a tough question, one I am convinced the great social and political change artists wrestled.  I hope they struggled, I hope they did and do as much as I feel called to tussle.

It is not an easy question.  I explored it when I first became a teacher.  Did I want to teach for the glory of standing up in front of a classroom and speaking to a new generation?  What were the real reasons that I wanted it?  The fact is, the more I did it, the more in love with “my kids” I fell.  There are many that I have as Facebook contacts, many that have emailed upon marriage, or a new baby, or when life has gotten away from them.  I consider that a holy honor.  There was always that nagging idea of my motivation at the back of my head.  If I were not teaching, what else would I do?  Without that title, who and what was I?

Fast-forward that same notion to 2012.  I entertained the idea of a lead pastor in a congregation and realized about a year and a half ago that was not my intention.  I can do the administrative work, but I would rather not.  Every stinking inventory test that I took confirmed that.  I had a battle of sorts as to what that meant as an MDIV grad if I were not in charge of a congregation…any congregation, including the big ones.  Now as I work on a non-profit and in the mix of all the nitty-gritty work it entails, I find that the question comes into focus again. 

I am forced to ask myself why I am involved, why I feel so passionate in telling the stories of those affected.  Is it the energy of starting something new?   Is it the impact and potential difference that doing the work and telling the stories provides?  What happens if it blows up and nothing happens?  Am I still ok? 

Henri Nouwen, writer and philosopher, invites me to consider a couple of understandings.  Our society relegates us to find our validation in what we own, what we do, what others say about us, and what we believe about ourselves.  Every conflict that I can think of falls into one of those 4 categories.  Either I am at odds with what I am, people say that I am, what I have/or don’t have, or what I do/don’t do.  Most of the conflict I encounter entail ones where I am at conflict with myself.    When I hear other people comment on appreciating me for who I am, I want to scream.

That is correct, I can acknowledge that there are many people in my life that I love like family–to whom I am not related, who would walk through fire for me, simply because I am me.  The concept of that makes me want to tear my hair out.  WHY??? What have I done to warrant such a connection? If that means that I have done nothing to warrant it, that also means that I can do nothing to keep it.  I think that scares me most of all.  As humans, we are conditioned to expect the worst from other people–to expect that given the opportunity, they would destroy us in a heartbeat in order to get ahead.   I spoke to a relative the other day who told me about how someone had gone off at them for no apparent reason.  This person mentioned that it would be ok and necessary to totally cut off people who intentionally hurt another.  I thought that that made sense, but at the same time was so sad.  I know there are many times when I have either intentionally or unintentionally hurt someone else.  I also know how bad it makes me feel to know that I did so–regardless of the reason. 

I also know what it feels like to be cut out of someone’s life.  There is no more hollow feeling than to know that a person that once regarded you as either a friend, colleague, or family member no longer believes you worthy of their acknowledgment.  That is the main reason that I cannot stand apathy.  At least when we hate someone/something, we care enough to hate it.  Apathy is a void of caring–it feels so hollow, so empty, so alone.    I would rather someone hate my guts than to refuse to believe that I do not exist.    I have felt that, experienced the painful void of connection.  It stinks in a place that I cannot describe.  It is what makes it almost impossible for me to believe that someone would care about me simply for who I am, not what I do.  I cannot wrap my mind around this concept.

It is also the same reason that I struggle with the idea that Abba Creator would care about me unconditionally and without reserve.  I must have done something to earn it, therefore, I must keep doing in order to make it last.   I know the last statement from a  faith standpoint is wrong, yet my experience shows me different.  If, then, my reasoning and faith are in conflict, one must rise to the forefront of being more right or acceptable.  (sorry, debate training in full gear here)  If my faith is more acceptable, then my reasoning has flaw.  If that is the case, then what I have based my understanding of acceptance as is also flawed.  What do I do with that?  How do I respond?  How do I let go of personal pride long enough to embrace a more faithful understanding of acceptance?  Do I have the courage to do that? 

Someone challenged me to embrace the idea of accepting other people’s care for no other reason then that they care.  This idea scares me to the core.  I am terrified that if I do not perform or meet their standard of my existence, then I will lose their care, and ultimately, their love.  I know intimately the feeling of losing that, and am terrified to risk the gamble again.  You may call out my hypocrisy here as I type this and know full well that I would never hold my children to this standard.  That I tell them each day that no matter what they do, they are dearly loved.  That they are beautifully and wonderfully made.  They know this to their core.  I want to scream from the mountains that of all the ideas that fill them each day, they KNOW this!!!! YES!  Today, that hard work is established.    Even if they become mass murderers (which they won’t), they know that they are loved without expectation, without reserve.

So, what of my pride that will not allow me to breathe in the love from others not related to me?  What of this pride that requires that I push ahead and never let up?  My mother told me something yesterday that hurt the second that I read it.  She mentioned that I have always pushed and pushed and pushed to do it right and perfect and to have it happen NOW–and that I never change.   It was the last statement that hurt so deeply.  It felt like I had been disregarded and written off because I struggle so.  That is my struggle, and not one that she can fix for me.  I am not sure what I would have liked her to say instead, I just know how raw a chord that struck with me.

Again, I refer back to JC Superstar and this silent king that exuded such grace, such compassion.  I want to emulate that.  I want that more than I have wanted anything in the world.  I believe it is the hallmark of some of the heroes of social and faith change that I look to for inspiration.    ” An amazing thing, this silent King.”

I need to sit with that, I need to ponder what that means and what application that has for our world in 2012 as well as in my personal life.  If it was the extreme and rare concept then, it is even more baffling today.  How do I embrace that, and how do I model that for my generation and for those following?  This is a burden I feel intensely, and the flame of passion will not subside.  I pray for the courage to boldly love in compassion and mercy, and to accept it wholly.

Shalom,

cahl.

Consumed by Pride…response to my last blog.

Consumed by Pride…response to my last blog..

Consumed by Pride…response to my last blog.

Video

Who do you Say that i Am?

Who do you Say that i Am?.

Who do you Say that i Am?

Identity.  This word has been coming up in conversation much lately and I am compelled to contemplate why.  I’d like to say that at my advanced (almost 40) age I would have this identity question figured out, I don’t.  It is interesting for me to note that others struggle with it too.  The pastor with whom we share office space struggles with it in his 40’s.  My female colleague and fellow seminary grad does, I do, my husband does.  There seems to be no end to the dilemma. 

The other day my eldest son brought home a book, “When I Grow Up.”  In it were the short descriptions and pictures that he and his fellow 2nd grade classmates want to be when they grow up.  Typically the half dozen male football and basketball stars littered the page as well as a couple actresses and teachers from the girls.  In the mix were a couple of military men and one woman police officer (You go GIRl!)  Displayed proudly on page 3 was my son, the snake hunter.  Of all the professions that he has discussed, snake hunter makes the pages, complete with an illustration.  A couple years ago it was a marine biologist, a volcanologist, or a demolition derby race car drive.  I remember hearing him at age 3 telling me he wanted to study underwater volcanoes and bring new meaning to volcanologists.  Yup, he was 3.  When he CHOSE his first Halloween costume (also at age 3) he was a pickle monster-an invention of his own mind.  You bet I made him a pickle monster costume…it is amazing what green pillowcases and a beanie can do!

Why did I share this?  His imagination allows him to be whatever he wants to be.  He rattles off the newest idea with flair and confidence, never believing that he won’t accomplish them.  I can’t tell him he won’t be a snake hunter ( although I hope he does not bring them to me when he visits).  I am not sure his future wife will want them in the house.  I can tell him that I would rather he not be a demolition derby race car driver because I would prefer he keep safe.  However, if that is what he is bound to be….let him at it.

I envy that confidence. I am smack dab in the middle of that conflict right now.  I am adopted.  That is no secret.  I grew up in one identity, knowing that I was chosen by that family.  I will not go into the adoption card right now as that is mine, and no one elses story.  Some want to know their birth, others choose not to and that is a deeply personal choice.  For me, it caused a constant struggle as to who I was and what I was to do.  No skin felt right.  I was not an athlete.  I was not quiet and meek, I was anything but.  I was a communicator from birth, not quite the powerhouse I knew in my heart I could be.  Never had the look or grace to be the actress I felt in my gut….or the confidence to belt the song that my shower and car heard.  Never was the pretty girl to match the attitude and talent others saw, and I knew it.  I was a good communicator and I was a good teacher.

There again, however, the skin did not fit.  I did not want to teach to tests.  I wanted to teach children, high school students.  I knew there was limitless potential in them and I loved watching the dawn of personal understanding come into their eyes.  I relished the conversations, the wrestling with creative concepts, the chance to look at something in a new way.  I loved it~  call it a teachinggasm!!!

Then I entered Seminary, not a pastor i would be.  3 1/2 years later, I am not a total teacher, though parts of me are.  I am not a congregational pastor, though I understand Chaplaincy and pastoral care.  I am a writer, though I have nothing published.  I am an actress though I have performed in nothing since college, and even that was minimal.  I am an MDIV graduate, with no set congregation or place to call home.  I am in charge of communications and marketing for a non profit that is seeing such momentum that it amazes me, but for the last 3 1/2 years I have brought in hardly any cash revenue.  The guilt weighs heavy on me.  The moments that I brought in the most dough were when I was management and sales at the mall, and then my children never saw me.  I KNOW i am not supposed to do that for a living.

So, here i sit listening to my sons come in from outside as they watch Veggie Tales and the Pirates who don’t do Anything.  That’s how I feel.  Like I do not do anything.  So, where is that identity?  Am I content without a title, a home, security?  Am I ok just being and letting ideas and dreams go for the greater good?  I do not honestly know.  In my family, excellence was expected, a 2nd place trophy brought sarcasm, ( and i came home with many of them).  Conversely, good grades, scholarships, and 1st place finishes got me notoriety.  I knew it.  I feel like I have failed in my quest to be a good kid and prove to my family and others that I was worth their time.  You see, they chose me, they did not have to take me.  They did, and there were so many times I failed them–all of them.  Now, with a grad degree and a cauldron of dreams, I have nothing to show them or anyone.  What have I done?  What legacy have I left?  Of what would my children be proud?  When other kids make  fun of my son’s mother cause she looks funny ( they do make fun, we know that), what grounds my sons and what will they say mom does?  What contribution do I make and does it matter?

The scene in Jesus Christ Superstar comes into play every time I think of this topic.  when Jesus is being questioned as to His identity–“Who do YOU say that I am?”  This resonates with me.  What do I want and why.  To what end do I work and work and work.  I cannot answer.  I hate that I can’t answer that.  It makes me feel selfish and it calls me to question my motives.  Why do I want what I want?  For fame, glory, money, or respect?  Maybe part of that is true.  Maybe I don’t want to be the loser I believe my family and classmates and college colleagues believed I was/am.  Maybe I want what I want to validate my own existence and my rightful place in my family.  Maybe I have been chasing that the whole time in an effort to feel like I belonged and was needed–not just needed but wholly wanted.  Typing that last sentence brought tears to my eyes as the human part of me battles with the spirit that knows what I just said is wrong.  Damn, what will I be when i GROW up!  I don’t know and I am coming to knowledge that I just may have no clue as to how to get there.

Maybe admitting that is step one..maybe, just maybe.

shalom,

cahl

Something must Give

Something must Give.

Something must Give

Gonna be honest, I am wiped tonight.  My week has been chock-full, albeit all manner of good and desirable moments.  I am working full force on a major fundraiser and the connections that have been made in terms of partnerships is astounding.  Who knew when I graduated from Seminary I would put to use my marketing and connections ability…I so thought I would be pastoring a church congregation somewhere.  Amazing how moments change.

I think of last year and where I was this time a year ago.  It is nothing short of breathtaking.  I was in the midst of my first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education and serving as a Chaplain in a mental behavioral facility.  I learned so much and had such a good time.  I loved the people with whom I spoke and the people with whom I worked.  I even worked with a classmate from high school, granted he has Dr. in front of his name…but the convergence of worlds…wow.

My seminary education had been put to the test during this time and my call and vocation as I knew and understood it was in question.   My son had spent time in the mental facility that I worked and I did not know which way to turn.  I felt alone and desperate.  I did not see answers in my path, I did not see light.  John of the Cross likens these moments to a Dark Night of the Soul.  I understand that.  Those moments when you come to the end of all that you are and all that you know.  Where faith seems paltry and prayers seem to fall on deaf ears.  When energy is gone and you question all that you are doing and its purpose.  I understand that so well.  It is not that I did not believe, it was just that it seemed every door I encountered closed and I did not understand why.  Had I done something wrong, was I trying for the wrong path?  Why, when everyone told me that I was bound for wonderful moments and full of ability did I feel so alone? I felt targeted.

In the midst of what I thought I was doing correctly, I encountered opposition.  No tears would fix the situation.  It hurt.  It still does to reflect back on it.  Having graduated Seminary, I get to party and receive my diploma and hood in may!!!!  May 19 to be exact.   Feel free to come celebrate with me!!!!   That was an extremely dry time for me as a person of faith.  In the middle of that dry and parched land, were moments of extreme growth.  Moments of poetry fell from my pen and an awareness of our connectedness to one another surfaced. 

Although I felt deserted, I was not.  There were people around me in a physical sense and the Great Cloud of Witnesses that I had only conceived of in my mind, existed.  I could feel their presence, cheering me on and standing guard with and for me.  I know that sounds weird, but I could sense that there were others who had felt as I did.  That provided some comfort, if not answers.  There was an odd peace that I had knowing that historically there were others who had fought and fought and remained faithful.  I felt that I had to rise to the occasion to honor their stories and their legend.  I HAD to fight to maintain. 

There are times dear ones, where I am tired of fighting and I would like to throw my hands up in the air and say, “Ah, to hell with it.”  Somehow I can’t.  Somehow I have been charged with the honor and task  to be a voice.  I say honor because I consider it a privilege to hear from others and to share the journey and somehow I can speak to the soul of matters.  To finally feel that I have solidified my call or vocation is such a relief…to step forward is scary as hell.  There are times when my energy has been so depleted that I want to burst into tears and bawl and fall into a deep sleep.  More than anything, I want for the road to be easy.  It’s not meant to be that way. 

No, I am not going to wax poetic and pour out a bunch of platitudes that speak of refined gold and pure wonder.  BAH!!!!  We all know that to get there is some of the roughest junk to wade through.  It’s not fun, it’s not a good time, and it’s not easy.  It does produce wonder and amazement.  There are times when I wonder how I made it through the last couple of years.  Graduation in May will produce tears of joy mixed with relief and the realization that I DID IT!  Through all the odds and the cards stacked, a great cloud surrounded me and I made it!    I will sob and most will never know why I will barely make it across the stage.  Then again, I will square my shoulders, smile and do what is expected.  In the days and weeks that pass before then, I need some pressure to release.  I need to know that light will dawn and all that I have been working towards will prove fruitful.  I need to know that I am not alone.  I want to be someone’s little girl and have them tell me what I have done and will do is right and good and faithful.  I want that person to be proud of me.  I want my children to know they are loved and to feel that each day.  I want them to think I am a good mom…who loves them fiercely–always.

I think I want some people to fight for me as much as I am willing to fight for them and I need to discover the fight in me for me, not everyone else all the time.  I have no clue how to do that.  I know this is more heavy than a Friday night would normally allow.  Humor me. 

I pray the eternal Shalom that envelops you to your souls

cahl

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