Monthly Archives: November 2012

Sunday Musings: By Faith Abraham…

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Scripture: Genesis 12:1-9, Hebrews 11:8-16, Psalm 16, & Ephesians 1

I sat down today with a goal of trying to catch up and finish my BSF lesson for tomorrow night’s study. A little light reading in Genesis 12 (ha!) about Abraham’s call out of his homeland, away from his family, and into the unknown. Of course anyone who knows the story of the last 2 1/2 years of my life and knows anything of the story of Abraham might see why this resonates with me.

For those that don’t know my story let me summarize in a few brief words:
Lost job…career in ruins
Lived my savings down to nearly nothing…nearly lost my home
Took job in a field I’d been called out of YEARS ago… barely paid the bills
Called to Denver… loneliest season of life thusfar
Called to Seattle…most confusing season of life thusfar
And all along…waiting, trusting, doubting, hoping & looking for the story to tell

Meanwhile back in Genesis 12, Abraham is being called out of everything safe, familiar, secure, and acceptable. He is going to God-only-knows-where with his life in tow and trusting in a God that is turning out to not be anything like what his parents & community had told him god(s) was like.

Flash forward to the words of the author of Hebrews…she says the following in Chapter 11:

vs 8 –By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out not knowing where he was going.
vs 9– By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country…for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
vs 14-For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had come out, they would have had the opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. 

Whew Jesus! These verses are hitting my homesick nerve and my “what are we waiting for?’ nerve today in a way they haven’t in a while.  Verse 14 in particular reads with a bit of self-imposed subtext that says “You can go back to NM if you want…or you can wait and see what I’m up to. Your choice Darling Girl.”
Don’t get me wrong…Denver and Seattle are nice places…and New Mexico is little more than a memory of home. My tender spots are all around the whys and whatfors and whens of this life of following Spirit. Waiting on the Divine…who stands outside of time…is a lesson in discovering joy in the midst of the waiting and finding laughter in the season of doubt and truth in the deep well of uncertainty.

So off we go to Ephesians 1 and our friend Paul who says:

vs 3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ , who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. 

Oh…so my blessings are spiritual and are in heavenly places? Hmmm…that sounds a bit like it doesn’t matter particularly where I live and that the I AMs gonna do what the I AM wants to do where the I AM wants to do it when the I AM wants to do it

vs. 17-20that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling.

All right now…I am opened right up to the spirit of wisdom and revelation, the knowledge of Him, and having my eyes of understanding enlightened. And even more important I love the hope of His calling. Knowing that there is hope is what he calls us to…as a people and as an individual is critical to my peace.

Peace…Hope…Wisdom…Yes Please!

And somehow these verses reminded me of a Psalm (16) that I haven’t read in years but of which verses 5 through 7 flooded my mind from some old memorization:

 Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.
    You guard all that is mine.
 The land you have given me is a pleasant land.
 What a wonderful inheritance!
 I will bless the Lord who guides me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
 I know the Lord is always with me.
    I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

At it’s simplest…this meander through scripture can be summed up for me with:

By faith, I have left all that is familiar to follow the Spirit’s call to a place that I don’t know, to do a thing I am not sure of, for people I don’t yet know. By faith, I remain sure that God is beside me and that our relationship is a good inheritance. By faith, I will listen and continue to connect to the things of the Spirit, and trust that the Divine will bring me more and more understanding, knowledge, wisdom, & enlightenment. By faith, I believe that the Creator of the universe will turn all of that into something…for me, for others, and for God’s glory.

I will not be shaken…I will not be moved (unless of course it is to a sunnier place…then I’m packing my stuff and calling the movers!) 🙂

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Wisdom on a Tuesday Night in Seattle…

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Saturday it was Dr. Dyer.

Tuesday it was Anne Lamott.

I have loved Anne’s writing for many years. Her books “Traveling Mercies, Grace Eventually, and Plan B” have been blessings to me over the years as I’ve tried to match up my feelings about social justice, politics, and my Christianity. She was one of the first authors that showed me that there were other kinds of Christians beyond the cookie cutter versions I was seeing in the mega churches and the denomination I was raised in.

Tonight she came to start a tour promoting her new book “Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers”. She did a reading but mostly she just shared her heart, her struggles with feeling distant from God, and she answered questions about writing, forgiveness  and the love of pets. She was hilarious and wise…something I aspire to be!

Here a a few quotes that I jotted down on the inside back cover of my signed copy of “Help Thanks Wow”:

  • I tell all of my writing students and anyone who approaches me about their desire to write one important thing…Write what you’d like to come upon. Write what you feel is missing when you are looking for books to read. There will always be someone else who reads what you share and says “THANK YOU! I thought I was the only one who felt that way.”
  • The truth of our existence is that we are all so-loved and so-ruined.
  • The fight we face is that we must let others feel what they wish to feel and do what they wish to do. They will anyway and no amount of struggle will stop them. What we should not do is make excuses for their bad behavior or spend our energy trying to make them miserable about their behavior. It’s all so boring. Instead I’d rather think and talk about God.
  • When someone offers you forgiveness it is the most precious gift they can give you. Keep in mind that in order to give you that gift they have to decide to relive the hurt you put them through. To experience it again. And if after doing this they can still offer you their forgiveness, what a blessing!
  • Forgiving yourself is even trickier. We make contracts with ourselves at very young ages to be perfect, to never make mistakes, and to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders  But then you live long enough and at a certain age you have buried enough people that you start to realize that you don’t have enough time to keep the contracts you made at 3. You start breaking those contracts with your younger self and choose to accept yourself and offer yourself forgiveness. When you realize that you’ve survived burying people you just knew you couldn’t survive burying, you start to give yourself some room and break the contracts. You realize that you are here on such a brief errand to connect with your source and to be love.
  • If you learn to respond in silence to requests from others for your advice, they will begin to see you as a tribal elder. (hahaha!)
  • That’s the problem with Jesus…I just keep waiting for the catch. But there isn’t one. He is just wonderful.
  • The voice of the devil speaks so sweetly. He doesn’t say “I want you to smoke two packs a day until you die.” He says “Of course you should quit. But now is such a busy time with Thanksgiving coming up. Let’s wait until December 1st.”
  • Animals are the closest to knowing the peaceful nature of the Divine that any of us will ever experience on earth. They are witnesses of truth. They see you for who you are and offer you love anyway.
  • There is always room for the prayer of Thomas Merton. It goes as follows (as read by AL from my iPhone):

Wisdom on a Saturday in Seattle

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Below you will find the notes I took yesterday during Dr. Wayne Dyers morning session and the afternoon Q&A. So much more was said but these were the moments that I furiously transcribed in order to remember them. Each one means something to me and over the coming days and weeks I will try to write more as I process what Dr. Dyer and Mr. Lipton shared. My reflections of grattitude yesterday speak to this experience as well. You can see those here: https://hippychristiangirl.com/gratitude-journal But for today…enjoy these tidbits of goodness with my blessing and encouragement. 

                     XOXO,

                           ~laf~

  • Divine love is not knowing God…it is the merging of yourself with God.
  • Jesus Chris, in his brief life on earth, was able to affect the lives and thoughts of innumerable people through the ages. If we could find one person to live with Christ consciousness and be consistent in that living, their effect on the world could re-calibrate at least 2/3rds of all of the other beings living at low levels of consciousness and infecting our globe with their negativity and harmful behaviors.
  • My friend Deepak Chopra says “What others think of you is really none of your business.” (LAF Note: My notes say “WHOA!” next to this and that is exactly how I still feel when I read this or think of it. What they think is none of my business and I must stop acting like it is or never get to Divine Love. This is particularly striking…or should be…for all of us following this election season and trying to transition into the holy days that come at the end of each year.)
  • The main question you must ask yourself, daily, weekly, monthly, or whenever you are faced with a trial is: WHO AM I?
    –I am not my body. If I were my body, when my body was sick, failing, or dead then I would cease to exist.
    –I am not my things. If I were my things, then when my things were burned, lost, or stolen, then I would cease to be me.
    –I am not my job. If I were my job, then when I lose my job or fail to do it well, I would no longer be.
    –I am not my relationships. If I were my relationships…If I were a father/mother, husband/wife, sister/brother, child/sibling…then when I ceased to have those relationships, or if those relationships failed by my actions or the actions of another, then I would no longer be myself and a void would exist where once I had been.
    –I am in the place where God is. I am the witness to my body, my things, my job, my relationships. In order to answer the question of “WHO AM I?” I must begin to cultivate that witness. I must begin to turn my attention to the me who is watching everything else. I must become the observer who watches the go. (LAF Note: My notes say “Must live like this! M.U.S.T. J)
  • We raise our children…we ourselves were raised…to believe we are ordinary and to believe the Divine is external. Then God comes to dwell in you and you are troubled…made anxious… by the Spirit’s desire for space, expansion, and acts of service. And we are shocked to find that we are extraordinary and have something to offer that is ours alone to give.
    It is this extraordinary essence that allows us to face the circumstances beyond our control. These circumstances challenge us to change ourselves.
    Nelson Mandela has said “The first step to peace is to be very honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society, if you have not first changed yourself.”
    This essential YOU-ness is what you must follow. You must ask yourself…”Will I listen to my excitement and follow it? Will I be that courageous? Will I go where it takes me…no matter where that might be?” If you will, you will be changed. The question is…do you want to be changed?
    Do you want to be extraordinary? Descartes said (paraphrase) that if you would be different, you must be willing to rid yourself of all the opinions and teachings of others and rebuild from the ground up…a new foundation.

The next few were in answer to questions from audience members:

  • We are so hung up on trying to name God. In doing so we often push those who don’t identify with the name we choose to the outside (LAF Note: My notes say “Fringe-dweller…so familiar!”)…make them separate…different…not the same…unwelcome.
    When we try to name God we might as well try to carve up the number zero into pieces and give each piece a name. Try it! Zero divided in two…still zero. Zero multiplied by eight…still zero. God divided by seven…still God. God multiplied by 11…still God
  • 3 kinds of love: (1) Human love-changes and varies (2) Spiritual love-never changes but varies (3) Divine love-never changes never varies
  • The great poet Rumi said “Sell your cleverness and purchase bewilderment.” We must stop trying so hard to be more than, better than, more clever than another. Instead we should look around us and be amazed, bewildered, stunned into awe at ourselves, our environment, and those around us.

What follows is how Dr. Dyer closed the entire day:

  • Herman Melville in his great novel Moby Dick said “For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half-lived life.” The goal of all that has happened today and all of my work these past years is that none who I encounter would ever leave this plane of existence having a “half-lived life”. Capture the grace that is amazing (LAF Note: We’d listened to Dr. Dyer’s favorite rendition of Amazing Grace), follow your excitement, and live fully. That is all that I can ask and that is enough.

Today I Vote Because…

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American Suffragettes and Suffragists who fought for my right to vote today:

Jane Addams

Susan B. Anthony

Annie Arniel

Addie L Ballou

Bertha Hirsch Baruch

Harriot Eaton Stanton Blatch

Amelia Bloomer

Madeline McDowell Breckenridge

Sophonisba Breckenridge

Reverend Olympia Brown

Lucy Burns

Frances Jennings Casement

Carrie Chapman Catt

Nancy Cook

Tennessee Celeste Claflin

Laura Clay

Minnie Fisher Cunningham

Marion Dickerman

Frederick Douglass

Abigail Scott Duniway

Max Eastman

Helga Estby

Janet Ayer Fairbank

Clara S. Foltz

Elizabeth Fouse

Matilda Joslyn Gage

Sarah Grimke

Eliza Caroline Calvert Obenchain

Florence Gaffray Harriman

Josephine K. Henry

Katharine Houghton Hepburn

Julia Ward Howe

Ada James

David G. James

Izetta Jewel

Kyllie Kempin

Daisy Elizabeth Adams Lampkin

David Francis McNamara Liakos

Florence Luscomb

Clara McDiarmid

Jane Hungerford Milbank

Inez Milholland

Harriet May Mills

Abigail Crawford Milton

Lucretia Mott

Rosa Parks

Alice Paul

Wenona Pinkham

Clara Chen Lee

Helen Pitts

Florence Kenyon Haydon Rector

Margaret Sanger

Julia Sears

Dr. Anna Howard Shaw

Mary Shaw

Mary Goslin Preston Slosson

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Doris Stevens

Lucy Stone

Lydia Taft

Melvin Thester

M. Carey Thomas

Ruby Cora Thompson

Sojourner Truth

Harriet Tubman

Mina Van Winkle

Ida B. Wells

Victoria Woodhull

The President’s Closet

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“This guy hasn’t done a great job. So let’s give the other guy a chance.”

This is a sentiment I’ve seen over the past couple weeks on blogs, social media and have overheard in conversation. I get the sentiment. But I find it infuriating.

Let me explain in simple terms…or a mixed metaphor for those of you who enjoy attempting to follow my crazy thought processes.

Have you ever cleaned a closet that had gotten so out of control that when you started what seemed like it would be a quick clean up, you soon realized it was a much bigger undertaking?

I have. And in these cases I often find that in order to get organized, I first have to empty the contents of the closet. In doing so the mess I make seems worse than when I’d first walked into the room. But it often takes a lot of unpacking to repack properly.

I’ve spent most of my career unpacking other people’s closets in order to try to put them back together properly and in order. I’ve made a living understanding the messy closets of companies and their clients, retooling bad and inefficient processes, forcing new thinking on old beliefs, and designing programs to assist after the fact with maintenance of the now organized closet. Through the years I’ve learned some pretty basic and consistent lessons:

1. The closet is ALWAYS messier than you think when you first open the doors
2. Unpacking the closet takes time, space, and usually money
3. It always takes more time, space, and money than you thought in the first place…no matter how good you get at unpacking and repacking closets
4. There is usually someone who really really doesn’t want you to unpack the closet because they don’t want you to know how bad it is. So they fight you, put up roadblocks, tell you to go away, and do EVERYTHING in their power to thwart your attempts at change and transformation
5. Often when you get through a couple layers of the closet debris you actually find that the last guy in charge of the closet left some dirty diapers or a full cat litter box in there and things are MUCH stinkier than you originally thought. This usually results in you being forced to back up, regroup, and formulate a new strategy for getting the closet clean.

The other lesson I’ve learned over the years is that there is always some douche-bag who waits until you are knee deep in closet overflow and then says “I could totally do that better!” This person usually waits until others are on the verge of doubting that you know what you are doing…because people DO doubt the closet unpacker about half way into the project. Just as people are CERTAIN that you won’t get the closet back in order in time for bed, the other guy starts talking about all the things you did wrong in unpacking the closet.

“Geez…why would you take the clothes off the hanger. I’d have just laid them on the bed still on the hangers?”
“There wasn’t any need to go through all those boxes. Just throw them away.”
“Why did you start on the left side of the closet. You should ALWAYS start on the right.”
“I’ve unpacked a lot of closets in my day and it’s always gone faster and been cheaper than how she’s doing it!”

Here’s the thing about that guy… if you give him the job half way through, he’ll spend at least half of his time trying to figure out what you’ve done because he hasn’t been paying attention to the detailed work you’ve been doing. He’s been pandering to the crowd who’s watching you nervously. In my experience, this guy has usually said a bunch of stuff that he can’t back up and when push comes to shove, he’ll hope you look away just long enough for him to shove the same piles of crap back into the closet and shut the doors. He will then usually walk away and go find a kitchen drawer and say “Now this drawer is where we should have been spending all of our efforts all along!”

I’ve had the job taken away from me and watched the other guy blow it. ANd I’ve been allowed to stay the course and have seen success. I’ve had ups and downs along the way but once I’ve been assigned to the closet, I’ve never left it in worse shape than when I opened the doors.

Neither has our President.

The closet is in better shape than when he opened the doors.
The closet was in worse shape after the last guy than he expected and the dirty diapers and full litter boxes were more numerous and well hidden than anticipated.
But giving it to the other guy now is NOT a solution.

I’ve voted to let the President finish cleaning this closet…we can discuss moving to the kitchen drawers just as soon as he’s done.

Friendship?

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Last night I had a conversation with a 15 year old girl who is contemplating what it means to have friends whose morals and beliefs are dramatically different than your own. She is wondering what the ramifications are of having friends who don’t feel as strongly as you do about the human rights of other people on our planet. And she is agonizing over the decisions she will have to make about who to spend her time with and who not.

I told her parents that these were decisions that at 15 I didn’t consider. I knew then that some of what I believed quietly in my heart and spirit did not line up with what my parents, siblings, and even my friends believed  Even when I went away to college I kept most of my “subversive” thoughts to myself.

But why?

One word…FEAR.

What Emma is afraid of and what I was afraid of are not the same thing. Emma’s fear is that people she spends time with will hurt others…that their bigotry, hatred, and desire for dominance will be something that she is thought to agree with. Her fear is that because of her association with those , she will hurt another living soul and not show them the love of God that is so important to her.

I was just afraid of being alone. Of having no friends. My fear was based on a significant terror of abandonment, rejection, and solitude.

Thankfully what I know of abandonment, rejection, and solitude is vast now. And the one thing of which I am certain is that no one has died from those things…ever. The second thing I know is that for most of us those things are temporary.

Though 21 years separate us…my fear and Emma’s are indeed the same in now. I never want my association with someone else’s bigotry or misogyny or jealousy or fear to cause another human to endure one more moment of suffering. Worse yet…should that in turn cause a person to turn away from God for fear that the creator of the universe has the same nature as the creation, there would be no apology great enough for that loss.

This topic is a sensitive one to many during this political season. I believe that people have disagreed…and disagreed vehemently…about politics and religion for centuries. The change in the air is that more and more people have a voice. Because of social media. Because of the change in freedoms for minorities, women, and those in poverty over the past 50 years. Because as our consciousness opens up to the world around us, we are realizing that it is more dangerous to keep silent than to speak up. More dangerous for the children, the animals, the weak, the ill, the oppressed…those who need our voice to speak courageously on their behalf.

The question becomes…who do we try to influence?  Do we remain friends with people different than us in an effort to influence them for change? Is there a point at which we call off the friendship and move on? And can we do so politely and with love? Or do we stick it out in hopes of change? I don’t know all the answers.

I do know that I never want anyone to stay my friend out of pity or some desire to change me. I don’t want people who actually don’t like me to be my friend. I don’t want anyone to feel an obligation to our friendship because of shared history or genetic bond. And I don’t think ending a friendship is something done by snipping a bond and walking away. It is a question that each of us must face in a world where we know our friends opinions on EVERYTHING even as they are thinking it.

These are discussions to be had over time…but here’s my simple plan for today:

Talking on behalf of someone in need is courageous
Talking respectfully to someone about a disagreement is admirable
Talking about someone else is boring

I choose to get only 66% of this equation correctly 🙂