Monday, June 30, 2014

I Don't Make a Good Nomad

Over the past few months my family and I have been rather nomadic.  We moved out of Williamsburg in February and then we have lived in three different places here on the Outer Banks before finally landing in our place for this year in Kitty Hawk.  This weekend we were finally able to get our stuff from storage in Williamsburg (we landed here June 1 and have been doing a modified form of camping here in our new place). We have most of our stuff  although it wouldn't quite all fit on the truck (yes this is where you just go UGH!!!). So now I am writing to you from our couch (hooray!) surrounded by boxes and nothing quite where it should be. All three of us are exhausted and sore from lifting and carrying.

I have new found respect for Sarah and Abraham, the Israelites who wandered the dessert for forty years and all the other nomads of the Hebrew Scriptures. That is way too much packing and unpacking. Way too much of not being settled.  I would have been one of the loudest complaining Israelites and probably would have been barred from ever actually entering the Promised Land because of it.  Ok maybe not and I actually think the Divine is much much more benevolent that that but certainly the other Israelites would have been done with me.  Let's just leave it that I would never make it as a permanent nomad.

One reason I am terrible nomad is that I need way too much stuff with me.  I get a tad too frustrated with missing certain items - you know like spatulas and our really good knife!  We love to cook and we were very lucky that in most of the places we stayed the kitchens were well stocked. When we finally landed here we had very limited kitchen supplies (hence the no spatula and no good knife).  Secondly the constantly living out of bags, packing up our belongings every few weeks meant that I never felt settled and once I would get settled we were off again. I have discovered I have a deep need for place - I really need to have a place to spread out and call home.  Finally we are here and so is our stuff (ok most of our stuff) and all that is left is the long hard work of unpacking and finding homes for all our belongings.  We unpack knowing that we are here for this year and then life will shift again. My goal for this year is to put down roots, not hold back, enjoy all the Outer Banks has to offer and then know that I lived fully while I was here and knowing that I only have a certain amount time to enjoy it.  I am going to risk it being hard to say goodbye!  And I am certainly going to enjoy not being a nomad for the next eleven months!

Ah yes now to the unpacking!

So are you a nomad or not so much?  What are your best and worst memories of moving?
What makes a place home for you?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Becoming Fully Oneself - Revisited

I am rather enjoying this exercise of going back and revisiting my early blog posts. So much of what I wrote about then is true for me now.  Parker Palmer continues to inspire me and I have probably read Let Your Life Speak at least two more times since this post.

It seems particularly appropriate right now to re-post this brief reflection on Becoming Fully Oneself.  As you may have noticed I have just done some updates to this site.  I have changed the tag line to reflect more closely the writing and work I see myself doing now.  The more I read, whether it is Parker Palmer or Otto Scharmer, the work of living authentically and living from one's authentic self comes up over and over again. In a culture and world that seeks our conformity, that asks us to put up a false front in order to fit in and get along, the call and longing to live authentically is essential.  I see my vocation is to assist individuals and groups to live more authentically, to be more fully alive.  So please check out my consulting page to learn more!

Right now I am personally in the midst of a situation that is requiring that I claim all the events of my life, particularly events of my life that I feel a great deal of shame about and have run from for many years.  It is not easy, it is not comfortable and a part of me wishes it would all just go away.  Most of me welcomes this opportunity to stop running, face the past and no longer let it control me.  I am still on the journey to become "fierce with reality."  I can only become free of the past if I am willing to stop and face it; only then will it lose its power over me.

Is there anything in your past that you are running from?  Are there events of your life that you  failing to claim?  What does "becoming fierce with reality" mean to you?

PS. I also welcome feedback on the changes I made to the site!
Please let me know what you think or ways it could be even better. Also please share my posts!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Learning to Lead with Yes

So for most of my life I have led with no, no I won't do that, no I don't believe that, no you can't tell me I can't do that.  Now to some degree there has been success in that I have followed my call and my dream despite being told that it was not financially viable; that it could be my advocation but not my vocation. Now at times I did try not working in the world of faith and religion and I do enjoy higher education, yet time and again, like the irresistible call of the Sirens, I come back to my first loves of spirituality and faith. Yet despite that irresistible yearning and call, I have never full let myself believe that I could genuinely succeed at it. It was like unconsciously I had to prove those right who said this was not a viable way to make a living.  So sometimes I made myself small, sometimes I let fear and anxiety get the better of me, sometimes I kept waiting for permission, and always having a certain degree of success but not quite enough.

This week I had an encounter with a group in which I once again led with my no.  I didn't quite realize how much my "NO" came through. I thought I was really trying to be curious about a push the group was making toward certain options for earning money and yet what came through was very much my "No I won't do that!".  Needless to say the group came back at me hard and then I only felt more cornered, more trapped, like a small child being ordered to do something she did not want to do.  It was my partner who pointed out that all they heard was my NO and that was it.

I took the weekend off from the group and stepped back. What did it mean that I led with No and how might that be true in other areas?  I realize first that we live in a culture of No.  We always begin with why something won't work.  We mock ideas like world peace - we all say we want it but don't really believe it is possible.  We have an entire government right now predicated on no.  No we won't vote, no we won't even bring it up for a vote, we will stand here and refuse to even let the matter come to the floor for consideration no matter how much when Americans are polled they want our politicians to find solutions to our common problems.  Almost any time something is proposed it almost always begins with why it won't work.  So it is not surprising that I too have learned to lead with no.  Yet what if I stopped, stepped back and asked what if I could, what if I said yes to myself, yes to my dreams, yes to what I already know instead of going around asking for permission to even get started.  What difference would it make to lead with yes?

Brian Johnson from en*theos recently posted about the Angel Advocate. The Angel Advocate is the opposite of the Devil's Advocate. The Devil's Advocate is the voice that seeks to challenge and disrupt - it is the original Hebrew meaning of "satan" which is to obstruct or oppose.  The voice of satan is the one to offer challenge, to disrupt established patterns of thought. In our culture we love the Devil's Advocate - we love to obstruct and oppose before something even gets off the ground. It can take different guises but some of the more common ones are "it will never work" "there is not enough money" "we tried something like that before it didn't work" "we have always done it this way" and I am sure you can add to the list. What are your favorites?

So anytime a new idea comes along or a thought about something different immediately there are a hundred objections - for me anyway - before I have even opened my mouth to say anything to anyone else.  Johnson talks about the Angel Advocate as the voice that explores what is possible if it went right, to see all the possibilities if we lived fully into this idea or dream.  Johnson argues that maybe before we let the devil come in with all the reasons why it won't work, let the angel do the work of exploring what might be possible and how it could work.  What if we led with the yes first?

If I led with yes first and what might that look like? Maybe instead of just talking about turning Scattered Revelations into my personal brand and consulting business, I would actually do it. I would actually figure out how to market my blog, to increase readership. If I led with yes I would stop talking about creating a website to officiate at weddings here on the Outer Banks, I would actually do it. Instead of talking about offering classes, I would get started designing one and figuring out where to hold it, how much to charge etc. Instead of just saying I wanted to do x y z, I would actually start doing it and when I didn't know how to do it, I would figure out who does know.  Sure it may not work, maybe it won't give me enough income and I will still need some other ways to earn money but stopping myself and letting others stop me before I even start guarantees that it won't work.  I have spent a lifetime leading with no and I don't expect that overnight I will suddenly be an expert at yes, but it is time to start leading with yes. It is time to listen to that angel and a lot less to the devil.  It is time to learn a new way!

Are you leading with yes or with no?  What is the role of the Devil's Advocate in your life?  
What do you think of this idea of an Angel's Advocate?  
What might be possible in your life if you led with yes instead of no?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Embracing Monsters - Revisited

So I have been thinking how I can have two blog posts each week without having to create two original posts each week.  I now have 100 blog posts so for my second post each week I will revisit a previous post, add some additional thoughts and see how I have changed and grown over the years of this blog.  For my first such post I am revisiting a post from my first year of blogging, 2010 and my post Embracing Monsters.

Also I am still looking for feedback on my proposed new logo and tag line.  Please put your thoughts in the comments!

I read this post and I think how much has changed and yet how much remains the same.  I still struggle with the monsters of failure and success.  I wonder now how to dance with these monsters of fear - maybe figuring out that they are not always monsters and may be friends.  Maybe it is time to make friends with my monsters.

I have to say of late I have been struggling with the monster of scarcity.  I am seeking ways to earn more income and that is both exciting on the one hand and very challenging on the other. I wonder how to get started with being more entrepreneurial.  I have done some freelance writing which I enjoy but the jobs I have taken pay too little to be viable.  I wonder about how to market myself and put myself out there.  I think about writing a book.  I dance with this fear of scarcity and although lately it has felt more like a fight with me on the losing end.

Another thing that strikes me is how much in 2010 I wanted to dive deep and put down roots.  In many ways I did that and in others I didn't. Now I am in a place, in a job that I know ends in a year.  What does putting down roots mean in this context?  How am I both fully here and looking ahead to what's next?  Again the paradoxes abound - it is not just one thing or another - it is this and that and another.

I am still struggling to embrace the monsters, to ride them all the way down and to live authentically. So the dance with my monsters friends continues!

What are your monsters?  Are they new ones or old ones?  
How are you learning to embrace them and make them your friends?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Waiting for Permission and Asking for Forgiveness

This is my 100th Blog Post!  It took a mere 4 years to get here and hopefully the next 100 won't take quite so long! Enjoy!  Thanks for reading and please do share!  Here is a possible logo design for Scattered Revelations.  What do you think?

A note on this blog post, I am using binary gender language because I want to speak to the on-going way women are systemically shut out of opportunities due to male supremacy.  Gender is not just limited to two genders yet our society continues to operate on a rigid two gender system with men being superior.  We are still in a patriarchy.  All of what I discuss in this piece, is made worse if one is Transgender/Gender Queer. Transpeople face double discrimination, transwomen can find themselves very quickly on the receiving end of patriarchy and transmen often find no home among cisgender men and no longer finding a home among women, sometimes even being accused of trying to gain male privilege through transition. Those who identify as trans or gender queer without clear identification with one binary gender or another are often excluded from the conversation about gender altogether. So while I am using men and women in this piece because of my own experience, please know that I know that this patriarchal construction of power is even more complicated for those who are transgender. I welcome conversations with my transgender colleagues about how these reflections apply to your experience.

I have been doing a great deal of reflection on the differences between the two professional associations that I am members of and how they are so different in their effectiveness.  I have learned a great deal about myself during that reflection.  I am a member of both LREDA, Liberal Religious Educators Association and UUMA, the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association. Both are membership organizations serving the professionals that serve UU congregations and communities.  LREDA is for lay and ordained religious educators. UUMA is for candidates for ministry and fellowshipped UU ministers.  UUMA has been very successful in creating standards for ministerial positions within our congregations including expectations about salary, benefits, professional expenses and severance procedures.  LREDA has many similar guidelines for religious educators,  Yet the differences are striking.  While most congregations accept the majority of recommendations put forward by the UUMA (again most, not all and some willingly, some grudgingly), many of our congregations do not treat religious educators similarly.

Even in terms of issues like credentialing, most congregations will hire a minister from within those that are in fellowship or such as my case, a candidate for ministry.  The same does not hold true for Religious Educators despite the enormous amount of time, effort and thoughtfulness that has gone into the credentialing process. Unfortunately there is still an attitude that our religious educators do not need to be, nor are they professionals in their field with particular expertise and that their incomes are simply supplementary.  Now I know this situation has improved dramatically over the years but LREDA and religious education is still a far cry from the UUMA in terms of being able to demand professional salaries, benefits and treatment.

Now I know that these things are complex and political and cannot be reduced to any single reason or cause but I want to reflect on one huge difference - LREDA is well over 90% women and in the traditionally female world of education.  The UUMA while now over 50% women (something that would have appalled Unitarian Samuel Atkins Eliot II who found women unfit for professional ministry and sought vigorous and "manly" ministers and his efforts successfully weeded women out of Unitarian ministry for 50 years) can trace much of its success in demanding professional salaries and benefits to its male leadership and domination.

What I noticed is that it seems to me that LREDA is still waiting for permission to be at the table while the UUMA presumed its place at it.  Now this is not shocking given that women are still socialized from a young age to be nice, polite and wait their turn.  We are socialized to put others first and ourselves second.  We are called bossy if we are too assertive.  There are other less polite words that come our way too if we are seen as stepping out of line.

What really struck me though is how I saw myself in the midst of this.  I realize that I not only spend much of my life waiting for permission, whether agonizing over what I can claim on a resume about my skills or experience or do I really have the qualifications for a particular job.  Yes I have thought that I cannot apply to a job because I don't happen to have one or maybe two of the things asked for and usually they are things listed near the bottom.  By the way, men in general have no such problems, if they meet just one or two of the qualifications they will go for it, overall most women do what I do, taking themselves out of job if they don't meet all the criteria.  I learned that not only am I waiting for permission or asking for permission, I apologize for doing so. As I am asking, I will also apologize. Since many men operate on the "ask for forgiveness, not permission" and that is a popular leadership slogan there is no such asking for permission and even if in a particular situation a man were to seek permission, he would not do so while apologizing at the same time.  For me, as a woman socialized not to be too pushy, accused of being way too loud, to wait until I am given permission I find myself not only asking for permission but asking for forgiveness even as I ask for permission.

Now I don't have any magic solution for this but I am thinking that this is a lot of what Sheryl Sandberg is getting at in her "Ban Bossy" campaign and "Lean In" work.  Now I will confess that her book is on my list of books to read.  I have read plenty of pro-Sheryl and anti-Sheryl articles. Yet what I hear her saying is that we need to stop waiting for permission.  We have to stop waiting to be given a seat at the table.  What would it mean for me to stop asking for permission and apologizing for doing so?  What opportunities would I pursue if I stopped believing I wasn't qualified or I need permission from somewhere to pursue it?  What tables do I want to sit at that right now I don't even think about?

What are you waiting for permission to do?   What would it look like if you stopped waiting, stepped forward and did what you have been waiting to do?  

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Practicing Presence

I preached this sermon, Sunday June 8, 2014 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Outer Banks.

Story: Rusty Schweickart: A Change in Perspective - an excerpt
Text: An excerpt from Theory U by Otto Scharmer this is not the exact text I used but it will give you some background.

I have been reading a dense but wonderful book called Theory U by Otto Scharmer and learning more about his work at MIT and the founding of the Presencing Institute.  I became interested in Scharmer and Theory U when I asked a networking contact, so who is creating places to ask the big questions - who am I? What is my purpose?  - now that more people are moving out of faith communities.  He told me about Otto Scharmer and Theory U.  See Otto Scharmer works with big corporations, multinational corporations and NGO's - not faith communities.  He is a Senior Lecturer at MIT and a leader in studying and creating leadership programs.  Theory U is a process of connecting and learning from the future through an Open Mind, Open Heart and Open Will.  Scharmer argues that in becoming deeply present with oneself, with others and with all that is … that we can learn from the future.

Our culture is awash in things to keep us from being truly present - not just with each other but with ourselves. We spend most of our time simply taking in information around us and fitting it into our preconceived ideas and bias.  We are likely the people in Plato's cave who mistake the shadows for the sun.  Our culture rewards this, it is set up for this because if we were all truly awake, truly present to ourselves and to each other then life and reality would have to transform.

Now I want to be careful to place myself or us outside that culture because we are part of creating it and sustaining it.  One of the biggest lessons from Theory U is when people move from talking about the system or the culture or the organization as that thing out there doing this to them and saying "look what we are doing to ourselves."  What are we doing to ourselves?  We are not practicing being full present either to ourselves or each other.

So what does it mean to be present.  What experiences in your life have you had of being fully present - to yourself, to your surroundings, to others.  Just take a moment and bring to mind an experience of being fully present.

Now take a moment and remember a time when someone was fully present to you.  When you just knew they were fully in the moment with you.

What are the qualities of those experiences?  What did you feel or hear or see?  We know when we are fully present.  For some of you that experience may have come out in nature…walking on the beach, listening to the waves, watching the sun rise or set.  For some of you a particular moment of your life may have come to you - when a child was born, being with someone close to you when they were dying.

Parker Palmer, sociologist, writer and activist describes in his book Let Your Life Speak how a friend of his was so deeply and fully present to him in the midst of the darkest days of his depression.  Palmer's friend Bill came to the house every afternoon. After asking his permission, Bill came and rubbed Parker's feet.  Every afternoon, for a half an hour, he knelt at Parker's feet and rubbed them.  He would not say much Parker describes accept to mirror his condition - words like I feel your struggle today or you feel stronger today. Bill was fully present to Parker in those moments. Words were not needed.  He simply came and made himself fully present in that moment to a friend who was in deep need. (Palmer, Parker Let Your Life Speak, pp. 63-64)

As I was preparing this sermon I asked on Facebook, I asked a similar question I asked all of you - what is presence like.  My friend Layne said, " It smells like rain on hot asphalt washing away built up junk - it sounds soft - it excludes all 'devices' and has eye contact - it feels tingly and warm and it can 'look' lots of different ways. It calls in vulnerable energies balanced with trust and it is so missing in our world." Another friend, Maggie described a moment of present with another:   "sitting at the bedside of a dying friend... she'd lost her hearing, so we just locked eyes and conversed silently, if you will. and I was surprised that in those moments, there was only love and joy between us... nothing else... not even sadness. That would come but not in those moments, which felt like being "fully-present with another".  My friend Kit says "You feel blessed."

Presence does not require much and yet it requires everything.  It requires that first we become present to ourselves, that we stop staying stuck in our mind, constantly replaying the same tapes.  We need to stop judging and assuming probably the hardest things to do.  Then we need to become aware of who and what is around us.  In all of the examples, people were connected both with themselves and another.  The barriers were down.  The judgments were suspended.  In those moments, often without words, there was a deep sense of connection and knowing.

In our story this morning, Astronaut Rusty Schweickart has an experience of being present that went well beyond himself.  He came to see his experience as encompassing all of us, all the boundaries dissolved.  As he realized that we all too often see the earth divided with little lines like on maps and globes yet realizing  that those lines are a myth - they don't actually exist.  He realizes we fight wars and do harm over the myth of these lines.  He had an experience of what we call in our 1st source, that transcending sense of mystery and wonder.  He said that it took ten years for him to find words to speak of his experience and that it was not until he spoke in the 2nd person - to take his listeners and readers on the journey with him.  He invites us into his experience of presence.  This experience transformed him, he was forever changed.  An experience of presence is that powerful.

Yet I think precisely because it is that powerful, that we and our culture avoid it and long for it at the same time.  In being fully present, we become open, the walls we have built to protect ourselves come down - even if for only a brief time.  Yet what if we chose to be present more frequently that we actually adopted a practice of presence?  What might happen if all of us here at UUCOB adopted a practice of presence?  This community already has at its heart, a strong sense of care and concern with and for one another.  What if that care and concern would be taken to another level - a level of being fully present to and with one another? What would this place feel like?  What would it look like?  What would change?

And yes things would change because the experience of being present, fully present, changes people and changes organizations, communities.

Imagine for a moment if we adopted a practice of presence.  That each time we were together, we practiced being fully present to one another.  To putting ourselves in another's shoes; to walking with one another - suspending judgment.  In our reading today from Theory U - Scharmer describes his work with organizations as they move deeper from downloading - not present, not awake, to waking up and seeing who is there and what is there - an open mind, to connecting with who and what is there - an open heart, to thinking that is on fire, that is creative - being fully present - an open will- he calls this presencing.

Our world and our times call for this! This time in this community calls for it. It is a time to become fully present to ourselves, to each other and to what surrounds us.  We know the elements, we know what it feels like.  We know when we are present and when we are not.  We know when others are present with us and when they are not.  Will we do it perfectly, 100% of the time.  No.  Yet we can practice. We can begin here at worship. We can take the time to pause, to get quiet and get ready.  We can look and really see who is here.  We can look people in the eyes and ask "how are you" and wait to hear the answer.  We can shake hands and be aware of the feel of the person's hands.  We can listen beyond the words.  We can take it into coffee hour.  As we practice it, it will come more natural.  We will get better at being present.

So I invite you into a practice of presence.  I invite us into this practice.  Let's see what might change - for ourselves, for each other, for this faith community.

May it be so!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Visiting the Past

So last week I was visiting places of my past.  It was my 25th Reunion from Georgetown University. It was wonderful to be back on campus, sharing my love of Georgetown with my family. It was also great to connect with friends, listen to some great talks and enjoy being back on campus.  I found myself thinking a lot about who I was at Georgetown, what opportunities I took advantage of and which ones I didn't.  I had to really fight the impulse to be filled with regret with all I didn't do.  There is an element of the bittersweet - on the one hand it was great to be back and on the other I realize all that I didn't do, all that I did not explore while I was there.

Photos by Mollie Sequeira, design by me using Canva!

The second place I went was to worship at the Washington National Cathedral.  I worked for the worship department at the National Cathedral in the early 90's. It was the second full time job I held after graduating from Georgetown.  It was an amazing place to work, that I don't believe I fully appreciated until later.  I had the opportunity to meet Jimmy and Roslyn Carter, participate in the ordination and consecration of Jane Dixon, the 2nd woman bishop in the Episcopal Church and hear the Dalai Lama.  No regret here.  It was truly an encounter with the past when the Rev. Frank Wade was the celebrant and I worked for him at St. Alban's Episcopal Church while I was attending Wesley Theological Seminary.

Both Georgetown and the National Cathedral have changed tremendously since I walked their grounds.  Of course I have changed too.  In some ways it is true that you cannot go back, you cannot go home again and on the other hand, it is good to go back, to see how things have changed and it stirred within me things I have let go of over the years.  Am I being called to re-visit these things - is there a way I need to integrate them within my life now?

I struggle with this notion of living with no regrets for in some cases the regret does not come until later.  It is true as Maya Angelou says "when I know better, I do better."  For example I had always hoped to travel abroad but since I transferred into Georgetown I did not want to be away from campus during any part of my three years.  Later, much later, it dawned on me that I could have done a summer abroad.  Again, a regret, and one to let go of since I didn't know to do that at the time.  Now I think about what it might mean to live and work abroad so perhaps I can still turn that longed for dream into a reality.  I am not sure any more if regret should always be avoided, certainly not something to get stuck in, yet it can serve as a catalyst for new dreams.  Hey I didn't do that, I wish I had, is there some new way I can imagine it now.

The trip to Georgetown was also an affirmation of so much that I know be essential to who I am. This picture taken in front of this sign captures this well.  I took my very first theology class at Georgetown. Thank you Monika Hellwig and all my other teachers at Georgetown who seeded my life long love of theology. Thank you also for giving me a place to doubt, to question my faith, to wrestle with it.  Truly I would not be who I am now without the guidance and teaching I received at Georgetown.  I am forever grateful and forever proud to be a Hoya!

So visiting the places of my past has been an opportunity to reflect with both gratitude and to let the regret come. Because from those seeds of longing come new dreams. I am not letting go of my dream of travel, living and working abroad.  I don't know what shape it will take yet, but I am feeding this dream.  One day I will post here that my further posts will come from abroad!

What places of your past have you visited?  Do you have "regrets" that could become new dreams?