Sunday, July 12, 2015

Echoes of Mercy, Whispers of Love

Being present to my daily life, allowing myself to remember and rest in the fact that I am loved and I am enough is a theme I have revisited again, and again, and again.

Because it is extremely important.

Because it is easy to forget.

It’s something we need to hear from the time we’re young, and that needs to be echoed, and whispered and sometimes even shouted from the rooftops as we grow and change and mature.

You. Are. Loved.

You. Are. Enough.

I remember being  in college and watching Reality Bites, when Troy reassures Lainey that she is enough:

                Lelaina: I was really going to be somebody by the time I was 23.

                Troy: Honey, all you have to be by the time you're 23 is yourself.

And in my early adulthood, soaking in the magic of Bridget Jones’s Diary, being loved for all your quirks and imperfections:

Jude: Just as you are? Not thinner? Not cleverer? Not with slightly bigger breasts or slightly smaller nose?

Bridget: (incredulously) No.

And even more bizarre, in Under the Tuscan Sun, that sometimes getting your wishes fulfilled can look nothing like what either you or others thought they would:

Frances: I don't want to be blind anymore. This house has three bedrooms. What if there's never anyone to sleep in them? And the kitchen, what if there's never anyone to cook for? I wake up in the night thinking,”You idiot. I mean, you're the stupidest woman in the world. You bought a house for a life you don't even have.”

Martini: Why did you do it, then?

Frances: Because I'm sick of being afraid all the time, and because I still want things. I want a wedding in this house,and I want a family in this house.

Martini: I think you got your wish.

Frances: My wish?

Martini: On that day we looked for your snake, you said to me that you wanted there to be a wedding here. And then you said you wanted there to be a family here.

Frances: You're right... I got my wish. I got everything I asked for.

In her hospitality to others, Frances got to experience everything she had hoped for, albeit in unexpected ways.

Your life doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s life, anyone else’s expectations.

All you owe life is to be present.

Be present to each day.

Be present to yourself.

Be present to those who cross your path.

You don’t have to make your life extraordinary. Embrace the ordinariness of life, and look for the little joys all around you. Love others, and allow them to be enough, just as they are, just where they are. Be yourself – even if that scares the hell out of you – and open your life up to others. Allow yourself to be filled with wonder at the mundane little ways you can practice love and mercy and hospitality daily.

Open your heart and open your table.

You may change a life by simply sharing a meal and listening to a story.

By forgiving. By being forgiven.

“If each one of us today begins this journey and has the courage to forgive and be forgiven, we will no longer be governed by past hurts. Wherever we may be – in our families, our work places, with friends, or in places of worship or leisure – we can rise up and become agents of a new land. But let us not put our sights too high. We do not have to be saviours of the world! We are simply human beings, enfolded in weakness and in hope, called together to change our world one heart at a time.”
~ Jean Vanier, Becoming Human

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Mystery, Gift & Grace of Persistence

Almost 7 years ago, after leaving a church experience drenched in narcissism, I wrote a post about church anxiety disorder:


“It’s kind of like hydrophobia. Say someone was out swimming in the ocean and encountered a shark… Now they find themselves unable to go near large bodies of water, even if previously they loved nothing more than to swim… They can no longer participate in these activities, much less enjoy them, because they have no idea what’s ‘in there’.”


Occasionally, I still have sightings of shark fins, accompanied by the theme song from Jaws. A post or announcement from the church I left years ago shows up in my news timeline. It’s inevitable. I have friends who are still there, and Facebook thinks it knows what you want to see.


This time, it was an announcement related to a building project they had started when I was still an early member of the church plant. (Followed, naturally, by a request for more faithful pledges of money.)


According to the announcement, the church acknowledges they “have lost some along the way.” How and why those people are gone is not addressed. They are simply collateral damage. They weren’t patient enough. They weren’t persistent enough.


“You, on the other hand, have stayed the course by exercising tremendous faith, courage, and sacrifice that will soon be rewarded. Indeed, it is you who will soon share in the joy and for the rest of your life have a story to tell of God’s faithfulness.”


“Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they’re so frightfully clever. I’m really awfully glad I’m a Beta, because I don’t work so hard. And then we are much better than Gammas and Deltas…”


One of those quotes is from a famous dystopian novel, and the other is from the social media post. I’ll let you decide which is which.


So there I am. Hurt, angry, betrayed all over again by a community to which I had devoted several years of my life. Once again I had to remind myself that, despite what I was led to believe, I had not caused disunity by leaving – disunity was already present, and it was the catalyst for my leaving.


Or to look at it another way, it’s not that the ones “lost along the way” failed to be persistent. They were absolutely persistent in pursuing a life of faith apart from an environment and leadership that had demonstrated an unhealthy leadership style, leaving a trail of damaged former members.



1. to continue steadfastly or firmly in some state, purpose, course of action, or the like, especially in spite of opposition, remonstrance, etc.
2. to last or endure tenaciously
3. to be insistent in a statement, request, question, etc. 


I was persistent in that I stood firm in my course of action to walk away from a toxic situation, even when it would have been easier to endure, to stick around in a familiar place with familiar people.


I was persistent in that I continued to pursue faith and community tenaciously (if somewhat timidly) despite my negative experience.


I was persistent by being insistent on my right to ask questions, on my responsibility to stand up for those who don’t have a voice.


I was persistent by pursuing a practice of faith in which I listen to the doubts and questions of others, where I am open to the diversity of experiences as people walk in the spirit of god, where the power of love is prominent and the love of power is diminished.


Solvitur Ambulando.


It is solved by walking.


Sometimes it is solved by walking together.


Sometimes it is solved by walking away.


I value rootedness. But sometimes, it is necessary to transplant into healthy soil. It can shock the roots, but eventually they will take hold and thrive in the new environment. 


And then, in the midst of near despair, something has happened beneath the surface. A bright little flashing fish of hope has flicked silver fins and the water is bright and suddenly I am returned to a state of love again—till next time. I’ve learned that there will always be a next time, and that I will submerge in darkness and misery, but that I won’t stay submerged. And each time something has been learned under the waters; something has been gained; and a new kind of love has grown. The best I can ask for is that this love, which has been built on countless failures, will continue to grow. I can say no more than that this is mystery, and gift, and that somehow or other, through grace, our failures can be redeemed and blessed.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle