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An Announcement, an Experiment, and a Contest

Quest

I love all things Chris Guillebeau. I was first introduced to him a couple of years ago. I emailed him to thank him for inspiring me and he wrote back! I was (am) a nobody in blogsphere. He had a growing tribe of over 10,000 people and he took the time to reply to my email! What’s more, he had heard of me! He liked my style, even. And these shalom-y schemes of mine. I was so smitten. But I knew intuitively it wasn’t my awesome that prompted him to respond. It was his own commitment to reply to people to who reach out to him. ALL OF THEM.

I don’t know if he still does that. I don’t know how he could! His community is overwhelmingly massive. At some point, I’m sure something’s got to give. But I admire him for caring. And for other things.

Like quests.

The Happiness of Pursuit is a book about quests. About Chris’ quest to visit every single country in the world (all 193!). And about the people he encountered with quests of their own.

I will pretty much devour every book he writes and I’m loving this one. I signed up to receive an early copy so that I could help (in my own small way) promote it. But this is not just to help Chris out.

I read a lot. I recommend selectively. I will not suggest you read most of the books I read unless you’ve expressed an interest in a particular topic. Or you’re struggling in a certain area and I’ve read a book that helped me. I don’t want to bore you or waste your time. And I want my recommendation to mean something. If I sign off on it, it’s freaking good, yo.

But this book. THIS I would recommend to everyone. We don’t all need to achieve massive success. We don’t all need to heal our bodies or learn how to rest or even dare greatly. But, maybe, we could all benefit from a quest. Even if it’s small. Especially if it’s small! It doesn’t just give us purpose, it makes things interesting.

Now for the fun part. To celebrate Chris’ book launch, I’m hosting a contest. But before I get to the details—an experiment and an announcement.

I had an idea. You could say it’s a vision. I want to create a respite for creative healers. A safe space to dream and be rejuvenated. I’m launching this Big Dream early in 2015, but before I do that, I want to flesh it out more. And I need your help.

For six weeks, from Oct 12th to Nov. 22nd, I want to explore this vision by creating a mini version. We’ll choose a book and a theme. We’ll connect and I’ll share a prompt every week day in the secret Facebook group. And we’ll come up with new ideas for even deeper soul restoration. Participants will have the opportunity to help me design this respite. And truly have a hand in helping me create a space that inspires.

I’m calling it The Shalom Experiment. And you can click here for all the details. It’s $40 to join, but that brings me back to my contest.

Three Winners

When you enter, you’ll have the chance to win:

—Your Own of The Happiness of Pursuit!

A Spot in The Shalom Experiment!

A Spot in The Rebel Diaries!

To enter, subscribe to my newsletter here AND leave a comment below telling me which prize you’d like to win and why. (Hint: if you have a book in your head that’s itching to get out, The Rebel Diaries might be the thing for you.) If you’re already subscribed, make sure to mention that in your comment below (and you’ll be entered)! And if you know of anyone who could benefit from one of these gifts, please pass this on to them!

The deadline to enter is Monday at midnight PST (because I’m a west coast girl at heart). I will announce the winners Tuesday morning.

Good luck! So much love. And shalom. And happiness. And a little bit of quest.

Week Two :: The Weirdness of Our Forefathers

Brandy Blogs the Bible

 

The Skinny (From Genesis 17-28)

Chapter 17—God makes a 3rd covenant. This one is a little below the belt. That very day, Abram, who is now Abraham, has every male in his household circumcised. Chapter 18—The Lord appears to Abraham as 3 men. Abraham has a meal prepared for the Lord and pulls out all the stops. Sarah overhears them talking (predicting that she will bear a son) and she laughs at the idea. Then, when confronted, Sarah denies laughing because she’s afraid. Abraham says, “Oh yes you did laugh.” Next, there is this fascinating scene where God wants to destroy Sodom and Abraham bargains with him—using phrases such as, “Far be it for you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked!” The Lord allows this banter and in the end agrees that if there are even 10 righteous people in Sodom, God will not destroy the town. Chapter 19—Two angels show up in Sodom and some really bad stuff happens. Lot urges them not to stay in the town square, fearing for their safety. He finally talks them into coming home with him, and then the men of the town practically beat down his door. They are apparently obsessed with raping these angels? Lot offers his virgin daughters to spare the angels. Just as they are about to break down the door, the angels afflict the wicked men with blindness. An intense action scene follows where the angels hurry Lot and his family out of the town and tell him to go to the mountains. But he doesn’t want to go to the mountains and pleads with them to let him go to a little town. Lot’s wife looks back on Sodom and, no kidding, she’s turned into a pillar of salt. Lot is afraid, and apparently changes his mind about the mountains, leaving the town to flee to them. Then it gets even weirder. His daughters get him drunk and have sex with him so that they can procreate. Chapter 20—Abraham meets Abimelech king of Gerar, and again he pulls the whole “She’s not my wife, she’s my sister” bit. And so Abimelech takes Sarah but then has a dream where God exclaims, “No—wait! You don’t want to do that!” Abimelech confronts Abraham and Abe skirts the issue saying “Actually, she really is my sister.” Chapter 21—Issac (which means “he laughs”) is born! Sarah kicks Hagar and Ishmael out of her house and God tells Abraham to listen to her. Hagar and Ishmael end up in the desert very near death and the Lord shows up and saves them with a well. Scene shift—Abraham and Abimelech make a treaty (at Beersheba) to resolve a quarrel about a well. Chapter 22—God tells Abraham to go offer Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham listens and is just about to drop the knife when The Angel of the Lord shows up and stops him, repeating the covenant. After that, we get a little excerpt about Abraham’s brother’s sons which foreshadows Isaac’s future wife. Chapter 23—At 127, Sarah dies. Abraham goes to the Hittites and insists on paying them for the plot of land to bury his wife. Chapter 24—Abraham asks his servant to swear that he will go back to Abraham’s hometown to pick a wife for Isaac. The text notes that if the woman will not agree to come, the servant is freed from the oath. The servant prays and God answers that prayer. Enter Rebekah, Isaac’s bride-to-be. Chapter 25—We find out that Abraham took another wife and that he had concubines—and a whole mess of other kids. Then, Abraham passes away at the “good old age” of 175. We get a little excerpt on the sons of Ishmael, his death and that he lived to be 137. Another scene shift—Rebekah is barren, but Isaac prays for her and she becomes pregnant with twins! Jacob (meaning he grasps the heel (or figuratively, he deceives)) and Esau (which may mean hairy) are born. The Lord tells Rebekah that the older one will serve the younger. We are told that the parents have favorites. Isaac loves Esau and Rebekah loves Jacob. Next, Esau sells his birthright to his brother for some stew. Chapter 26—Freaky deja vu. Like father like son. Isaac tells Abimelech that Rebekah is his sister. But then they’re caught getting up close and personal. Abimelech calls him out and orders his men not to touch either of them. They too make a treaty a Beersheba. Chapter 27—Isaac is aging and blind. He wants to bless Esau before he dies so he tells him to go hunt down something tasty and fix it for him (so Esau can then receive his blessing). But Rebekah overhears and convinces Jacob to go and pretend to be Esau so he can get the blessing. He even puts on goatskin to become hairy like his brother. Which raises the question, just how hairy was this guy? Jacob succeeds and gets the blessing. Esau comes back, no blessing for him. He is devastated and wants to kill his brother. Rebekah suggests Jacob gets the heck out of there until Esau cools down, and so, Jacob flees. Chapter 28—While on the lamb, Jacob has a dream and encounters God in a very real and powerful way.

Wow. That’s some crazy stuff. It begs the question—what the heck??

A quick Bible study lesson before we get hopping:

 

What Biblical Narratives Are (recapped from How to Read the Bible for All its Worth)

In essence, they are “purposeful stories retelling historical events” (pg. 90). I mentioned in week one that one of the overarching themes of the Bible is that God is the ultimate protagonist. Satan and evil people/powers are the antagonists and folks working with God are the agonists. Every narrative has a plot and characters.

Also, there are three levels to the biblical narrative (pg. 91). The 3rd level was basically described above: a Great Big God leading his people to redemption. The 2nd level is the idea that God is redeeming people for his name—twice. First by the former covenant and second by the “new” covenant (ie: Jesus). The 3st level is all the little narratives (what Scot Mcknight calls “Wiki-Stories”).

Why does it matter? For me, keeping the levels in mind helps to read the bible as Story.

 

What Biblical Narratives Are NOT (according to the book above)

—Allegories or stories filled with hidden meaning (though they do often have an “implied” meaning—one with cultural context that would have been obvious to the original listeners)

—Intended to teach a moral lesson (thank God, right?)

 

Why I’m Doing This

Again, I want to quickly recap why I’m doing this. First, I just want to read the whole Bible through. It’s a long time goal and it feels important to me. Second, I want to create a space that is safe where questions are welcome. We get to doubt and wonder and wrestle here. I believe the questions matter more than the answers. I believe it’s always more important to be loving than to be right. I’m mainly just hoping to start a conversation.

 

My Comments, Questions, and Wonderment

I’m not sure I fully understand the whole circumcision thing. But, then again, I’m not sure I’m supposed to (nor am I sure Abraham fully grasped it either—gentlemen, can you imagine being circumcised right now? Or at 100?) I think it’s about obedience. We don’t get all of God’s reasoning. We don’t have to. We can’t see all the pieces. But we can trust God, I think that’s the broader message.

Still, that’s a hard pill to swallow.

Phyllis Tickle (in a teaching about the Holy Spirit at Mars Hill Bible Church) said the story of the three visitors is the first reference to the Trinity. It is clearly stated that there are three and yet the three are referred to as one singular being.

The story of Lot and his family is just bizarre. I feel like Lot’s wife really gets the raw end of the deal. I’ve heard the argument that she was salted because looking back signified that she was tempted to return to the evil ways. But it’s frustrating when Lot offers his virgin daughters to apparent sex fiends and then when the daughters get their father drunk and take advantage of him. Neither offense seems to warrant so much as a cough from God. Again, it helps to keep the idea of a biblical narrative and purposeful retelling in mind. But I cannot help but feel like the original author had some very specific world views and agendas that are, to say the very least, difficult to wrap my brain around.

The Abraham /Isaac dealings with Abimelech (“She’s my sister” and “Let’s make a treaty”) seemed odd to me. Is this the same guy? Did he really fall for the sister gag twice?

Did Abraham know that God was going to stop him from sacrificing his son? He seemed so ready and willing for whatever God had in store. He has so much trust in God. And that’s good, I guess. As a mother, though, this is hard.

Abraham having concubines gives me pause. I know it was a way different culture. And I know that it doesn’t mean God is condoning it—narratives exist partially to simply give a true account. I can’t help but think about Lot’s wife, again, though. Why are some people made to pay so severely while others get along with a million second chances? Personally, I fall into one of the people who has received all those second chances. And I am grateful. But what about all the people who aren’t so lucky? Why does grace and mercy and justice seem so overwhelmingly unfair sometimes?

A theme that keeps coming up (according to How to Read the Bible Book by Book): God often chooses the younger, or weaker, or most unlikely to bear the righteous seed. I like that a lot.

Okay, but really, who sells their birthright for some soup? Amiright?

Next week, we’ll be diving into Genesis 29:1-40:23. If you’d like to sign up and get the weekly updates of these Thursday posts and all the rest (that’s one email a week), you can do that here. Plus, I wrote good book and when you sign up, you’ll get that, too!

shalom:restored

shalom

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Today is the great Mary Oliver’s birthday. To honor her, I’d like to share a poem I wrote about this crazy dream I have called the restoration of Shalom on earth.

 

shalom:Restored

Spirit-breathed dust collects water from the heavens to flush toilets
among other miracles.
Rooftop gardens thrive.
the pavement remains,
but it’s cracked
gorgeous greens sprout through the splits.
our hydro-solar cars don’t vroom as fast
but we like it that way.

As we chew our delectable local fare
we wonder how our ancestors survived their half-lives
on fast food fries and Twinkies.

aspartame is nothing more than a bad dream.

the war is over
the guns melted
we garden with them now.
Pimps look for work
the slaves have all gone free
the abolitionists have retired. We gather at their feet while they share the stories of old.

prostitutes philosophize
they run countries and collect trash, respectively
because everybody knows picking up what other people discard
leads to all kinds of fantastic discoveries

we’ve only just begun.

something happened when we stopped waiting for
Jesus to come save us
and began to work on saving ourselves
from ourselves.

doomsday did not fall upon us
the way some feared it might
instead we learned that mushrooms could clean up oil spills
and create a superhighway of healing.

it spread like a virus.

God is with us.
we let her hold us without fear.
She’s still intangible
but we can touch her.

the earth is a breath-taking, life-giving paradise.
the earth is a breath-taking, life-giving paradise.
the earth is a breath-taking, life-giving paradise.
and human history has only just started to live.

This poem just scratches the surface of what it might look like if there were complete peace on earth. And it’s only one interpretation.

What do you envision? What does Shalom restored mean to you? No need to wax poetic (unless you want to). Set a five minute timer and let your pen run wild. Don’t edit, just flow.

This is an excerpt from The Co-Conniver’s Guide to Saving the World. To read the book in its entirety, sign up here to get your free copy.

How to Collaborate with Other Creatives (and not lose your mind)

collab

 

How do you approach someone you want to work with? How do you make that initial ask?

What do you do when it feels like there are too many cooks in your kitchen?

How do you come up with a dream that feels good for all parties?

How do you remain open and loving when things get hard and it feels like the trust has dissolved?

What do you say when it’s time to go your separate ways?

We seen it all. Or most of it, probably. We’ve had matches made in shalom and nightmarish collaborations that left us swearing we were DONE. We’ve survived. And we’ve thrived. And we’ve learned so much along the way.

We realized that this isn’t a topic a lot of creative entrepreneurs in our sphere were covering and thought it might be helpful. So, we—Elora and Brandy—are hosting a webinar this Wednesday at 7pm ET to discuss all the ins and outs of creative collaborations and answer all your burning questions.

Everyone is welcome! Grab a cup of coffee, or something stronger and join us as we dive in the art of partnerships.

And, as we gear up for the second round of the Rebel Diaries, we’ll open a few minutes at the end of the call to answer any questions you may have about rebellion as a spiritual discipline and finding your unique rhythm as a writer.

Click here to RSVP and reserve your spot.

Elora Ramirez is the author of Every Shattered Thing and the founder of The Story Sessions, a community of 100+ women—poets, authors, journalists, and creative entrepreneurs—convinced that their words matter. Brandy Walker is the author and curator of Wild Goslings: Engaging With Kids in the Mystery of God, which is a collection of essays from 20 different writers. She’s a copywriter and a life coach who runs this blog called brandyglows, which strives to be a safe haven for creative healers.

Memoir Mondays :: The Soul and the Ego

the soul and the ego

 

Self is a funny thing. It seems like too much is very bad. But too little can get you into trouble, too.

I think one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is that too much of myself is always a problem and too little is usually too much disguised as scarcity and fear.

But our true self, our soul—we can never have too much of that. What creates all the issues is what many call the ego. Honestly, I don’t completely understand how it all works. But I know my ego loves a bunch of stuff that’s bad for me.

The ego, I think, is a survivalist. Maybe most of the problems of this world can be stripped down to all our egos trying to run the show, and succeeding. Legitimate needs for love and security and hope and joy have been hijacked by our egos. Our personalities become this strange mix of the armor we’ve constructed.

But beneath all of that, that’s where the true and beautiful quirks live. Our gifts. Our passions. Our strengths. Our weaknesses. That’s the deep beauty. And it’s also what many of us are afraid of. It’s the stuff that we’ve fiercely protected our whole lives. We’ve piled so many layers of ego on top that we don’t even know what it looks or feels like anymore. We are afraid we’ll lose it if we don’t guard it with our lives. We don’t realize that it’s in the losing that we are saved.

We have no idea how strong we really are. How closely our soul is tied to our true strength. It can be terrifying at first, to throw away those piles of ego. But the untold beauty that lies at our core—oh my God—it’s so worth it.

This is kind of what I do. Even though I am full of all kinds of ego. I think mine has taken a different shape than a lot of others. That makes me feel special, “chosen” even. Which doesn’t really help, heh.

I found solace in a strange kind of false vulnerability. I’m an oversharer. At my core, I am magnificiently vulnerable. It’s one of my gifts. But the false version, when I do it for attention, that’s my trap.

When I started to realize all of this, I walked into a new snare. Shame. Shame is a horrifically gratifying ego-massager. It’s the worst kind of drowning. Well, maybe the second worst. I would overshare and then I’d realize it and then I’d hate myself. And the cycle would start again.

It was back to back sessions at the 2012 World Domination Summit where I first realized what I was doing. Brené Brown spoke on the main stage, immediately followed by a breakout session with Danielle LaPorte. I bawled the entire time. Dr. Brown talked about shame and vulnerability. Danielle talked about giving away too little or too much.

Slowly, it dawned on me, the scope of what I had shared on my public blog. I wanted to vomit. I felt like a prostitute.

I got home from Portland a few days later and I shut the whole thing down. Not having an outlet to tell all was difficult, but it was what I needed to do at that time. I didn’t relaunch for six months and when I did, I got very clear about what was okay to share and what wasn’t.

I still overshare occasionally. But I’m much less apt to give you my entire life story at our first coffee date. It’s funny because the sharing—the honesty—that was a huge part of healing and recovery 10 years ago. But what started out as a process for healing, unchecked, became an all too revealing dress for my ego.

I have to be careful, though. Because I could see myself swinging too far the other way. My days of oversharing left me wide open for well-intentioned judgers clamoring to offer unsolicited advice about all the problems they’d like to fix. It’s a constant process of growing deeper into myself. Remaining vulnerable and open, sharing deeply with people I trust, discerning what is good to share publicly, and accepting criticism with a grain or four of salt.

In my own (still ongoing) transformation, I stumbled upon an amazing technique for getting to the heart of the soul. I didn’t realize what was happening at first. I only knew that people walked away from their Shalom Sessions practically floating.

The art of meaningful questioning, what I’d done to excavate my own soul, was helping them find theirs.

I’ve shared a few questions, here and there, on my blog and in guest posts around the globe. I wanted to offer a few of my favorites to you today. Questions that are very close to me. If you’re struggling with something profoundly difficult right now, I pray these questions help.

The Shalom Questions

What patterns have you noticed recently in your life? What keeps popping up? What might it be trying to tell you?

Where do you want to be, one year from now? What are your plans to get there?

What does God see when God looks at you?

So much love, friend. And if you’d like to dive deeper, you can sign up for a Shalom Session here.

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