Tag Archives: love

Are You Ready?

23 Dec

It is 3 days before Christmas, preparations are well underway. Houses are decorated, kids are out of school, and traffic around anywhere that shopping happens has become a test of patience. I hear a familiar refrain wherever I go “Are you ready?” There is, as the song goes, “parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and caroling out in the snow.”

I’ve always (at least in my mind) responded, well, ready or not, Christmas will come and I don’t HAVE to do anything except be present. Growing up Christmas was usually just our family. It was this way in part by design and in part because my extended family lived states away. This was normal for me and it worked. My favorite parts of Christmas was the candlelight service and our Advent ritual. The one year we had Christmas a couple days early because of weather taught me that good results can come from being flexible (after I was quite resistant to the idea.) My mom, being a super mom, did of course manage to get the message to Santa and we got an early delivery.

In my twenties I moved far away from my family and got to make new traditions. All of this to say, when someone asks me if I’m ‘ready’ for Christmas I kinda shrug.

Because to me being ready for Christmas doesn’t have much to do with buying presents, preparing food, traveling places, or the exact right kind of chocolate (I’m looking at you Christmas with the Kranks).

To me Christmas is about preparing my heart to be filled with the Joy of the remembrance of the divinity within myself. Christmas is about witnessing humanity remembering each other and reaching hands across imaginary lines used the rest of the year to divide. Christmas is about lifting my voice and my hands in song to celebrate the rebirth of the light in the darkest time of the year, and remembering that it is within each being. Christmas is about sharing love and memories with our dear ones, and making new memories.

I am not saying that Christmas can’t also be the things that make it special and fun for others. I got my picture with Santa this year and there are presents under my tree. But those things are not required for me to be ‘ready’.

A heart filled with Faith, Peace, Love, and Joy. That is all I will ever really need.

Yes, I am ready.

PS As a minister of a church being ‘ready’ does take on a few more tasks than it has in the past, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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2015 Christmas Tree

Positive (all the time?)

19 Jun

The other day I was chatting with someone I hadn’t seen in a while who I know casually. We were catching up and I was telling her about the interesting possibilities I’m nurturing. She looked at me quizzically:

“Are you always this positive?”

Hmmm. Good question. My first response, “I have practiced” my second response, “I have a good friend who is very sick and other things like that on my mind, but it cannot be the story I’m always telling.”

I have heard criticism of Unity for being a happy feel-good religion. Which I think is a laugh, as I feel it’s far far from it, though I have heard the feel-good sermons cover-it-over affirmations. Unity to me is about personal responsibility. About acknowledging the shadowy parts, taking them out and making friends with the hidden depths. Honestly seeing your part in your world and life and taking action to heal, improve, reconcile, and make amends.

This kind of authenticity is not the norm for our society. Numbing out feelings so fear, unworthiness, sadness etc so they don’t have to be experienced also numbs joy, love, and connection. This according to the research of social researcher Brene Brown and my own observation. She also says that “in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen.” And to do this we must allow ourselves to be venerable.

I was so happy when I came upon her TED talks (see below) because it made so much sense to me and her she had real data!

You see, I live in this world of fullness that she describes. So when someone asks me if I’m always this positive, the answer is usually yes. I can live in the place of sadness about the imminent demise someone I care deeply about and still be very excited about the interesting opportunities unfolding before me. I strive to be present to the people and feelings that are here now. I don’t have a positive spin to place on this loved ones death, except that there is no more pain or suffering.

While it can mean these things, being positive or optimistic doesn’t mean you are faking it, inauthentic, or clueless. Being optimistic means that with the cards I have, I am doing the best I know and also knowing through faith that the cards I need will show up.

It means loving deeply knowing that people and relationships are not permanent. Boldly following dreams when the path is not clear. It means saying yes when your heart says yes even if your head says no. Garth Brooks sings in The Dance:

“Our life, is better left to chance, I could have missed the pain, but I’d a had to miss, the Dance.”

So I will dive in, knowing I’ll get hurt sometimes. I will be stubbornly optimistic, I will love, I will dance, I will follow dreams and cheer you in following yours.

And yes, I will cry. My tears will keep my heart soft, ready to love again.

Love All Hate None (my thoughts on Fred Phelps)

18 Mar

You may have heard by now that Fred Phelps, founder of the Westboro Baptist Church is in ailing health and presumed to pass soon. You probably are familiar with Fred and Westboro because of their penchant for picketing funerals, gay folks and soldiers are their favorites. They also like to picket productions of The Laramie Project which is a play written about the hate crime death of Matthew Shepard in 1998. Fred and Co picketed the funeral with their ‘God Hates Fags’ signs and by doing so, Fred became a character in the play.

Eleven years ago I was the stage manager for one such production at Central Washington University. The Laramie Project had been submitted for the season and not chosen by the committee who chooses such things. The students put together a petition to have it included, and it was. So there I was, 23, Stage Managing this powerful show with a zillion cues (ok, over 600) and we get word that we will be protested. Now their purpose is to get people to not do the show, but we had already fought for it, and we were committed. So we set up security protocol and what if procedures. Not really concerned that the Westboro folks would do something other than protest, but that some person influenced by them my go lone wolf.

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It’s not who you love… it’s how. Kevin Bacon

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All you really need to know: Love all, Hate none

As word spread, the Gay-Straight alliance started selling tshirts in support. The University had Love All Hate None shirts made up and the counter-protest was planned. The local ecumenical group wrote a letter to the editor that they didn’t condone hate, and that Westboro did not reflect their values. The first day of the protest arrived. Westboro had about 10 people on their corner. The folks under the ‘Love All Hate None’ banner? There was about 300. The wellness center had set up hydration stations, folks were drumming and hanging out. And then it happened again with about the same numbers the next night. Oh and we sold out our shows, which for a drama is quite something. One night, I swear half the audience was a sea of red wearing the shirts from the Gay-Straight alliance.

I know that our story is special, but it is not unique. I have heard countless stories about communities coming together to stand for love. In Shawnee Mission Kansas, just down the interstate from Westboro HQ, a high school turned their counter-protest into a fundraiser for AIDS. Recently a football player from the University of Missouri came out and 2000 students and supporters formed a human wall so that the player, Michael Sam, and the campus would be shielded from the Westboro protest. Motorcycle guards and more human walls are created around the country for soldiers funerals. The stories like this go on and on.

But why do I tell you all this?

Some have said we should ignore Fred, others have said we should love picket his funeral. Even before I heard that they don’t have funerals for Westboro members, making attending his funeral not a possibility, I was uncertain of what to do. (And I do live close enough to attend such a thing if I wanted to)

Ever since my experience back in 2003, I have felt that while the words and tactics they use are horrible and hurtful, there is some good in what they do. Now give me a moment to explain before you get out the tar and feathers. When you look at the countless stories of communities coming together for the common goal of respecting the fallen, standing up for love, or simply saying no to hate, can you really say there is no blessing there? The level of compassion and connection that happened in my college town was electric. Our town was rural, a cowtown, it was not liberal, and there was probably plenty of anti-gay sentiment under the surface. This brought people together like never before, to say hey, this kind of bullying is not acceptable. Not in my town. I know that this may not be the universal experience, but I have heard enough testimony to know it has been a common theme.

So no, even if there was a funeral to love picket, I would be staying home. It won’t be changing anyone’s mind. Westboro may be losing it’s founder, but it doesn’t show signs of slowing down it’s work. And to that, I think of a verse from the bible, Genesis 50:20 “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” I know it wasn’t your intention Fred, but you have brought together many people in compassion and in a search for greater understanding. Godspeed and may you finally find the peace you have so vigorously been searching for.

PS Let us all continue the work of acceptance, compassion, and standing up for others. Let’s make sure our own legacies deserves a love parade.

Feminism and singing bowls

19 Feb

In college I took a class about gender roles in the theatre and on stage. If we didn’t know it already, we were very clear by the end of that class that feminism was the belief that the genders are equal and should have equal rights. I think this definition is a surprise to many people. Feminism to many means a bashing of men.

Now to be clear, I understand that I see the world through the lens of someone who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s and never had the though cross my mind that there was anything I couldn’t do because I was a girl. Heck, I was 3 when Sally Ride made her first space flight. My mom was college educated and also could build things, fix cars, and sew. I grew up with the benefit of the equality that the women and men of previous generations devoted their lives to. And I am grateful.

Demanding equality for a marginalized group continues to be a theme of our society and I don’t pretend that there isn’t still progress to be made on many fronts. If there is discrimination, it needs to be dealt with.

But that’s not really why I’m riled up today. Actually, I’ve been working on this one for a while in my heart and mind. Equality doesn’t exist if one group is less than another.

Something I hear multiple times a week is a woman saying “well you know men, they always (fill in the blank.)” Usually, whatever they have put in the blank is #1, some blanket statement that is very over-generalized, and #2, applicable to about 50% of the population, but just as much women as men. This makes me squirm because it is creating a sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’, and  when it’s putting another group down, I can’t help but wonder what’s the point? Can we lift up this group, “wow, us girls did a great job building this wall” without having to say boys are ___? Then can we lift up the men, “hey you men did a great job ____!” without saying “we’re no good without you.”

We find ourselves divvying up along all sorts of lines, gender, race, orientation, hometown, ability/disability, then you throw in the chosen affiliations such as hobbies, sports and professions , and you have an infinite list of people to look down on. WHY!

A couple weeks ago I was chatting with a customer in the bookstore and she was looking at the singing bowls. One of the neat things about the brass singing bowls we have is that even if they look the same, are the same size and design, they still don’t sound the same. You have to play them to find the right one for you. Even though they look similar, they are all unique. And I thought to myself, that’s exactly like we are. We’re all a little different, and sometimes we aren’t in harmony with others, but that’s ok, it doesn’t make either of us wrong.

In fact, I think having differences is what makes life interesting. I’ve said for a long time that I don’t really know what I believe until I have had the chance to talk about it. But if everyone was the same there would be no need for that discussion. The discussion is what takes us deeper, to open to new ideas and strengthen others. But if we choose to see their different-ness as bad or a threat, how can we have the chance to learn?

We’re heading into a big election year. No doubt if I watched TV more I would have already started to see the ads. I’m disappointed in a political system that often seems to be more about how so and so is wrong instead of about why I’m right. It’s not any different than I tell my kids at church, Don’t be a Hater!

By the dictionary definition, I am a feminist. I believe in equal rights for women. But even more, I am egalitarian, I believe that all humans are equal in worth. I will not diminish a ‘category’ that I am not a member of because of the actions of a few.

Be the love!

Ra

the opposite of love

1 Dec

We’ve probably all been there, in a group conversation, maybe not fully engaged and then BAM! You hear something that sticks to you like fresh gum to your new sneakers.

Today’s topic happened to be God’s love, the anti-Christ, and a touch of Revelation. (don’t ask, just assume I spend a lot of time around people who talk about ‘churchy’ kind of stuff.) The thing that I heard that rocked my world in that moment was something like this:

‘If God is love and the Anti-Christ is the opposite of God, than that is the opposite of love, so every time we are acting out of fear and hate, we are worshiping the anti-Christ.’ 

Another way to say it would be that in every moment we have the choice to choose to trust God or not. And yes, somewhere about here we could dissect what we mean by all those theologically loaded words, but I’m not gonna go there, because I mean a one presence one power everywhere present God, and that’s all I have to say about it.

But back to the real topic. I get to choose to be fearful or not about whatever is going on. If I am experiencing physical pain, I can play thru all the scenarios that are the worst case, or I can take the time to rest and rejuvenate, taking time to bless and appreciate my body. Maybe I seek medical or spiritual support in easing my pain. All or some of these things may be necessary for me to feel better, but nowhere in the equation is fear, worry or hate required.

Many times I have felt myself lean towards being fearful around money, or more specifically, the lack of having enough of it. When I heard those words, that fear was worshiping the anti-Christ it really struck me. If I have fear of not having sufficient funds, how can I be walking a path of faith? Not that we shouldn’t be prudent and mindful of our budget, but we should also be mindful of the place from which we make our choices. Is it one of fear or one of being a good steward and giving thanks?

Now don’t get all over-metaphyzzie on me, I’m not saying we don’t all have times when we’re wavering, according to the bible writers, even Jesus had his ‘moments.’ I am grateful for the conversation I heard today, because I know, next time I have a ‘moment’ I will be reminded, where am I putting my faith? Love or fear?

Lotsa Love,

Ra

Love wash

5 Jul

I know I know, I haven’t blogged in over 2 weeks. I was away at South Central Bi Regional Rally (Bi-Regi) for a week and then I’ve been busy catching up. Some great blog worthy things happened while I was there however, so stay tuned 🙂

On the last night of Bi-Regi they install the new regional officers and celebrate the graduating seniors. Earlier in the week I had the chance to sit with the graduates and talk about ‘life after YOU’ namely NGU and encouraging them to stay connected as they go out into the world. I remember this time, high school is over, YOU is over… you’re an adult now… Now what?

But back to graduation, each graduate is honored on the stage and given a gift and then they are ushered to a love wash. In case you don’t know what a love wash (angel wash) is, a person usually with eyes closed is guided down a row with friends on both sides who whisper loving words in their ear as they pass. I had the honor to receive these graduates as they came off stage and be the first to whisper my blessings as I sent them down the love wash.

There is a family of things I usually say in these kinds of situations. It’s not that I couldn’t come up with different things to say, it’s just that I believe it so much. So I started with ‘You are here to be the light. There is nothing you can’t do when you shine your light’ Simple and powerful. A modernized affirmative version of Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world, a city built on a hill cannot be hidden.” It is my favorite verse and totally applies.

What was amazing and powerful to me was to hear what I started to say when I got into it. Some of these teens I have seen over the years, some I had barely met, a few I had gotten a chance to know some or very well. But I didn’t need to know them to know what to say.

I told them you are the light. There is nothing can stand in your way. You have everything you need in you. When you go within the answer is always there.

To one young man I said, ‘you are a strong centered caring man, and that is exactly what this world needs, for you to be an example of that in the world.’

To a young lady who expresses herself a little different than what you might call ‘the norm’, I said ‘you know who you are, and you are not afraid to show it. Keep being who you are and never let anyone tell you that you can’t be whoever you are guided to be’

To another, ‘You are here to make a difference in this world. Nothing can stand in the way of you doing what you are called to do.’

I spoke these words and many more, sometimes with background knowledge of the person, but often letting my own guidance lead. What was so powerful is that it clicked. I didn’t need to know ‘things’ about each of these beautiful young adults, I just needed to know their spirit and affirm their potential.

It was a beautiful night, it was wonderful to speak those words over 30 times, because to say it with the deep conviction I have, I had to believe it for myself too. Could you do that? Say to yourself 30 times a day that you are strong and centered. That you have everything you need within you. That nothing NOTHING could ever hold you back when you are following your inner wisdom.

As I said, it was a beautiful evening, and now I challenge you dear reader, what are you telling yourself? Try telling yourself how wonderful and full of potential you are every day, not just once, a bunch of times. Say it until you believe it. Say it to other people. Tell them how wonderful they are. Get out there and make the world a giant love wash.

Much Love,

Ra