May 15, 2013
[This is a reprint from a couple of years ago. I've used this particular prayer practice in the Shalom Sessions and in my Lent course. It's powerful. If you're smack in the middle of the suck, this might help.]
Spiritual practices fascinate me. Sadly, many days I think about these disciplines much more than actually doing the deeds. I’ve struggled lately with uncomfortable feelings – mostly money and babies. Sometimes together—having a child is expensive!
Finding out I was pregnant this past January was considerably more fun than the first time I peed on a stick. Still, I’ll admit, I was hoping I’d be in a safer place financially the second time I brought a life into this world.
Whatever. He’ll be just as funky-cool as our other child. And whether we have money or not, I’m sure we can still find a way to screw him up somehow.
That’s why we pray. To remind ourselves we’re not alone; Someone’s got our backs, the backs of our children, even the backs of our enemies.
I hate asking for directions. Really, I hate it. Call me a guy, I fight it at all costs.
Last Saturday, I went to a breastfeeding information party (bytheway, if you were wondering, this is how to tell you’re officially a mom). I drove to an unfamiliar neighborhood so new it’s not on Google Maps. My friend had written out directions for me, but awesomely, I’d left them at home—along with her phone number.
I remembered the street name, so I just drove around, hopelessly lost, over an hour late. I wasn’t upset, I like exploring new neighborhoods. I have a pretty good sense of direction; I knew if I found the street, I’d feel all shiny and proud. However, 20 minutes into my expedition, I realized I could be at this for a looong time. I said a little prayer—dear God, can You please help me find this road?
Shortly after, it occurred to me that I could ask for help: I could call Jermaine at home and ask him to get the directions and the number for me. My ram-shaped heart bucked ridiculously. If I asked, then I wouldn’t feel the satisfaction of finding it all by myself.
Heh, and now I knew I needed to call.
I picked up the phone, pushed his name. It rang just once when I saw it – that beautiful guidepost—the street sign I was looking for. In less than a minute I was parking. God answered my little prayer. I don’t think it was a coincidence the divine reply came right after I’d released my pride.
God is funny that way. So willing to give us what we need, if only we’d ask.
Today, thinking about the money and the baby stuff, I remembered Patsy. She was one of the pastors at my old church and a dear friend, she’d once walked our congregation through the Welcoming Prayer:
Find a quiet place to sit for a few minutes. Close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply. Pay attention to your body. Are you tense? If so, where? What emotions are you feeling? Do you have pain anywhere? Mentally take note of what you’re feeling. Sink into these sensations. Don’t fight them. For now, just become aware that they exist.
Next, welcome them. Acknowledge the Divine presence in this negative space. Welcome your anxiety, your pain, your tension. Continue to breathe deeply. Sit with your feelings.
When you are ready, let them go. Repeat the following sentences:
“I let go of the desire for
security or affection or control.”**
“I let go of the desire to change
The exercise will only take a couple of minutes. It’s something you can do every day. The underlying belief is that the three desires listed above—security, affection and control—cause our scary feelings. If we can let go of these yearnings, our tensions will release us.
** Can you tell which one you’re working with?
I write about feminism, purpose, passion, and a new kind of Christianity. My yoke is light. And if you need a safe place to explore the scary stuff, I got you. You can subscribe here and we’ll do just that.
May 14, 2013
All the Barbies would be destroyed. Right after the Bratz dolls. Magazines for women would feature casserole recipes alongside stories about female CEOs changing the world. The models on the front of those magazines would be chosen for the way they love and lead instead of the way they look . Eating disorders would cease to exist. Little girls and little boys would dream of being the president or the pope. Everyone would learn the value of great communications skills.
Men would teach kindergarten and ballet on the regular. Women would preach in the streets and climb trees every day. No one would be afraid of their sexuality. We wouldn’t need the word rape because we’d have no sense of a weaker sex.
Android cases would be prettier. No one would fear being taller than her husband. Nerd girls would just be nerds. Men, we’d discover, are natural nurturers. To say you run like a girl would be an esteemed compliment. Husband and wives would share dreams and household chores. Men could finally wear murses and carry all of their crap without fear. Women could shave their heads or wear flowing gowns, whichever they fancy, without scrutiny. Stretch marks and laugh lines would be considered hot . . . Read the rest at The Bomb Shelter, where I’m hanging my fedora today.
May 13, 2013
I have an experiment I’d like to try on you. I don’t think it’ll hurt. Much.
Every so often, I get the bug to blog every day. The problem, of course, is that there are only 24 hours in a day and I have a good amount in the fire already. When I break it down – how long it would take to craft the blog, post it, share it, eat dinner, take over the world – the time just doesn’t add up.
But then, the other day, driving home from one of the saddest things I’d ever done, I got the urge to spill my guts again. In a matter of five minutes, ideas for three different blogs had been scrawled messily in the crevices of my brain. And I was excited (as I always am when new ideas flood my being) but overwhelmed. I have lists and lists of posts yet to write. By the time I sit down at Peyton (my loyal laptop) to sculpt the next masterpiece, my Play-Doh is brittle. And that’s no fun.
Ohhhh. But that’s why I’m so excited about this latest scheme! What if, I thought as I drove melodramatically, I just gave it a go? What if I just scribbled them all down – like this one – and if it felt right, hit publish like a boss? What if I didn’t start out my latest scheme, “I’m going to start writing every freaking day for an indefinite amount of time. This is going to be something I do.” What if I put an expiration date on it?
Well, that’s just crazy enough to work.
I take the craft of blogging, the time and prayer and play it takes to make something that matters in a 1000 words or less, very seriously. I write. And then I walk away. And then I come back and cut and edge and trim. I add more flowers. Or more dirt. Sometimes worms. It’s all part of it.
But today I wondered if there was a way to respect the craft, allow it to grow, and still cultivate an atmosphere of experimentation. Because the ideas just keep coming. And the Notebook app on my phone only has so much memory.
So, here we go. For the next two weeks, I’m going to write a blog post every day. I’m going to share the crazy and the beautiful. And I would like to invite you to Play-Doh with me. If you would like to take this “challenge”, if that’s what it is, leave a comment below with a link to your blog and we’ll make a party of it.
And if you want to make sure you don’t miss the crazy and the beautiful, sign your bum up here.
Apr 29, 2013
Wow. This Story Retreat. Elora Nicole, you’ve outdone yourself.
These last couple of days will go down for me as some of the best in my life. And part of me is sad, because it seems like all of the transformative retreats leave my husband and kiddos at home, far away. I miss them desperately. Maybe I’ll have to figure out how to put together a restorative family retreat. Hmmm.
But as for this weekend . . . there’s just something about these women. I don’t always feel like I connect with people. I have long felt I can turn my extrovert on and off like a switch, and be Bubbly Brandy when she’s needed. This weekend, her services were not required. I could be my introverted self. I could drink and laugh and dance and pray and still go to bed before most everyone. I could be serious or I could be funny. I could steal away to run or write for hours and still feel deeply connected to every woman. Every single beautiful soul.
That never happens. Typically, I will connect with a few people, be Switzerland to a couple of others, and nearly dislike the rest. Usually, feelings of intimidation overwhelm me and my insecurities come out to play. And it’s fine, because still, I’ve connected with that small few, and the others aren’t aware that I’ve dubbed them unapproachable.
But this weekend was different. These women are more than just casual acquaintances. They are my friends. They are my sisters. They are my anam caras. And my soul has been made better because of them.
I think part of it is that we are all writers. Even the ones of us who aren’t ready to own that title. We feel it in our blood, the words aching to get out of our guts and into the hearts of the people we long to bless. Our children. Our brothers. Our sisters. Ourselves.
This weekend was particularly special for me because I got to teach my first Shalom Session workshop. The entire week before I left for Texas, I prepped and prayed. I marveled in excitement. I knew these women online, and so I wasn’t exactly nervous, I was just full up grateful to be able to share my gifts with them in this way. I had a feeling it might go well, but it went better than I could have imagined.
Since I started the Shalom Sessions, I have used John O’Donahue’s book, To Bless the Space Between Us to pray a blessing over each of my clients at the start of the session. I pick out a special one just for that person, and I read it to them out loud. It calms us both and sets up a shalom-y mood. I love picking out their blessing, but sometimes I can’t quite find the right one. For some time, I’ve wanted to get to the point of writing a blessing for each sweet soul.
This weekend, though, working with writers, I knew I could take that one step further.
I did write a blessing, for the Story Session community at large. And then, I used the idea of the Compass that I usually create for them; I flipped it around. I asked them to look inside their answers to the probing questions I’d asked, to use the Compass to guide them to write a blessing for themselves. Because our dreams are holy and they matter. And for some, that’s the easiest thing in the world to forget.
I say it went well because they just kept referencing it. In writing a blessing for themselves, they were actually blessed. I am humbled that God used me in this way. As the weekend progressed, I started to realize how much I’d loved leading that workshop. How much I’d love to travel all over, and bless others in that way. With the Shalom Sessions, the hardest part has been figuring out how to explain why someone would need one. Once they have had one, they get it. They love it. They know.
And so, on the last day of the retreat, we were future-casting, and I was thinking about the Shalom Sessions. I asked them what they thought. If they would pay for a workshop like the one I taught.
“Brandy,” Elora smiled, “I would pay for you to come to my future retreats to do your Shalom Sessions there.”
That’s when I realized: my dreams matter too. Wow. And amen. And thank you, more please.
I’d like to share the blessing that I wrote for them. And if you would like to dive deeper into the sacredness of your own dreams, I think I can help.
For the Story Sessions
the girls we once were are coming back to us now.
whispering their stories, our stories, in our ears.
let us hear.
let us listen to the little one that is who we were that is who we are before the shame and obligation took their toll.
that voice inside of us, she knows where the shalom is.
may we trust her.
and let her lead.
may the creativity birthed in the sacred pages of the story sessions grow into a garden of hope.
a masterpiece we could not have conceived alone.
may we be brave learning to rebel as a spiritual discipline.
may we know the difference between religious bullying and the gentle whisper of our Maker.
may these sacred relationships help to heal the deep wounds we all carry.
may our scars remain visible so that we never forget the power we all possess.
the meaning and the magic,
why we share our stories.
my anam caras.
may we always know that someone who loves us is forever just a Facebook message away.
Apr 24, 2013
The dark places are where the light comes in :: Your emergencies can lead to unimaginable breakthroughs. I dedicate this post to the women who shared that cell with me. To people who tell terrible lies. To folks who struggle against their nightmares. This story unfolded nine years ago on July 15th, 2004. I hate what happened that night, but I’m so grateful for what will be birthed the same day this year. And I know I’m not alone.
Marie* and I planned a girls’ night. I’d been looking for another excuse to let loose and The Breakfast Club, an 80′s dance dive, seemed close to perfect. I picked her up in my little gold Ford and we drove off into the night.
I had $31 in cash. Not much, but enough to buy three Long Island Iced Teas, one Red Stripe and still have a little left to tip the bartenders. We ordered our drinks and sought out a suitable place to spin right round (like a record, baby). Marie nestled in between pink painted walls and a couple of tables.
I set my sights on the stage.
One of several stages, it gave me a triple shot of adrenaline, power, and pulse. As the iced teas worked their magic, a lanky dude attempted to share my limelight. Not looking to hook up, I offered him as cold a shoulder as I could. Marie would never let me leave with a stranger.
That’s the last thing I remember until the handcuffs. And the cop pushing into the backseat of his vehicle.
I guess the first thing I remember is trying frantically to light a cigarette. Somewhere deep in my drunken stupor I realized it’d be my last for a while. The officer would have none of it. Which left me deeply offended.
Ahem. I am old enough to smoke.
I don’t remember much about the ride to the station. I get flashes now and then. Before this evening, I had always thought a backseat with bars terror-inducing. I had no filter that night. I’m sure I mentioned it to my driver.
In-processing, I met a fellow arrestee. I don’t remember her name, race or anything about her. Only her hysteria.
I tried to use this to my advantage. My alcohol-soaked brain schemed. Perhaps if I could calm her down, they’d let me out on good behavior.
Cringe-worthy now, and obviously as brilliant as any other drunken hustle. As soon as I realized it’s fruitlessness, I switched gears entirely.
Contained in a large room with vomit-inducing white lights, and cold, hard chairs, sat all the people who had managed to get themselves arrested that night. Cops and clerks filed paperwork capturing our misdeeds.
“If you keep at it, I’ll have to put you in a cell!”
I don’t remember what I did to make the guard threaten me. Nor do I remember my response. I can see the cell I shared with two other women. Hard women. Women who would have scared me if I were sober.
“Damn girl, what’d you do?” I sensed she was talking to me. I stared up at her blankly.
“Your face is all busted up. And the bandage on your arm.”
She pointed to my elbow and I inspected the band of gauze that surrounded it. I don’t remember being hurt. I don’t remember being bandaged.
“I . . . um. I – don’t know.” I frowned and tried to look unapproachable. In hindsight, that was not the best plan.
I sat in the rubble of that explosive night for years. Eventually submitting to the only logical conclusion. There’s a reason I’m still around. Blogging, for me, has been essential to sorting this out. This isn’t the end, of course. I finished the story on page 003 in my free book, Think Love Create. Right click to save it to your computer (you might not be able to see the entire book before it’s saved).
I could have died. Or killed another person. That night, I thought of nothing but alcohol and cigarettes. I loved no one, least of all myself. And I created massive amounts of destruction. I didn’t know it then, but it marked the origins of my journey toward Shalom. It was, as they say, the epitome of an Aha Moment.
Right now, I am working on a new project that will launch July 15th 2013. It’s called Wild Geese :: Engaging with Children in the Mystery of God. My hope is that it might play a part in changing the way we teach our children about God and spirituality. The way we teach our children about their mistakes and ours. Because the only way I know to move forward in the face of such utter failure is to write a brand new story.
We don’t always know how to love each other. May this be a space to learn.
*That’s not her name.