Far Between

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming (aka The CHB Diaries) for this important public service announcement. The email pasted below was composed and sent off to my family about 5 minutes ago. I got to thinking in those 5 minutes since, "I don't want just my family to know about this project. I want everyone to know." Yes, reader, I want you to know. And you. And you over there. There are cosmic changes coming about. Big swells of love and empathy and understanding are rolling through the dirt and waves. I don't care where you stand on this issue, you have room in your heart for all of God's chillun: gay, straight, or somewhere in between. I promise you, you do. Read on:

"Hi family,

I wanted to share a project with you that I've been working on. My friend Kendall Wilcox is an openly gay Mormon and filmmaker. He's working on a documentary right now called Far Between which is a compilation of interviews with hundreds of people who have tried to navigate the very difficult waters of being LDS and homosexual. Kendall doesn't have an agenda other than trying to open up dialogue and build empathy for people who are living on the margins of the Mormon community.

As part of the project, Kendall is posting short, individual interviews with gay Mormons on the Far Between website: www.farbetweenmovie.com

I've been writing summary blurbs for several of the interviews--giving you an overview of the clips. If you go to the website and click on the "Watch Stories" tab you can watch some of these interviews and read some of the blurbs. It's quite incredible how similar many of these stories are and yet, how differently each person has chosen to deal with their situation.

Kendall also made a short "It Gets Better" film with a group of gay BYU students. I can't tell you how empowering this has been for the gay and straight alliance community on campus. Here is a link to that film:  http://farbetweenmovie.com/it-gets-better-at-byu/

Kendall made another "It Gets Better Film" with the general Mormon population--I'll be in that film! I will send you that link once he posts it online.

I hope you get a chance to watch some of these clips--they're moving and at times heartbreaking.


Simple Gifts

Collection by Camilla Engman

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

--excerpt from the Shaker song "Simple Gifts"

I have been involved in an intense love affair with technology and media for the last couple of years. Like many of you, I am continually enamored with the vast oceans of information flowing through my computer screen from Google Reader to Facebook to Pinterest to Gmail. I am ever inspired by the musings and creativity of design blogs; I am delighted by the curated treasures of my Pinterest friends; I am amused and often edified by comments and links posted on Facebook. Yet. Yet...I think the time has arrived for me to claim God's gift of simplicity. For me, this means I need to harness those waves of information with a bit more skill than I have thus far; I need to spend less time immersing myself in the waters of the world wide web.

As the Shaker song implies, from simplicity flows freedom. Simplicity will gift me with the freedom of more silence, more experience in the world, a heightened awareness of God's words, and more embodied, human interaction. It will gift me with the freedom to surround myself with the things that make me happiest. The Internet is my momentary thrill, but I feel deep, roaring joy roll through my body when I am touching hands, looking into eyes, feeling breath, listening to voices (human and animal), standing before mountains, pushing against the wind, and smelling damp soil. God speaks to me not through pixles and binary code but through the soft underbelly of the earth where shiny beetles mingle with the knarled roots of a pine tree. This is the aliveness that I miss.

Like the Shakers, I want to find myself in the place just right where I sit with people and the outside air and give voice to love, offer my respects to lasting delight. I don't think this means I need to absolve myself of all Internet immersions, but rather decrease them so as to make more space in my body and my surroundings for this dynamic simplicity that is my gift to claim.

The Lived Experience

I just finished listening to a Radiowest interview with my friend Kendall Wilcox, an openly gay member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons!). Kendall is currently making a film about homosexuality in the Mormon church with the hopes of opening up a more empathetic conversation about what it means to be gay and Mormon; in his interview, Kendall acknowledges the complexities of this issue and seeks to understand everyone regardless of where they fall on the spectrum: gay and proud, gay and not proud, straight and gay friendly, straight and gay unfriendly, etc. I am inspired by his emphasis on empathy; he seeks to understand where people are coming from and why they believe what they believe. He carefully considers those different viewpoints even if they are at odds with or potentially threatening to his own worldview.

I was really struck by Kendall's use of the phrase, "the lived experience." He points out the dissonance that often exists between our beliefs in the way things should be and the reality of how things are. If we loosen our grip on ideology for a moment and really seek to understand someone's lived experience of being gay (or being an immigrant or being on welfare, etc.), we are one step closer to operating from a space of true empathy. Engaging with someone's lived experience doesn't mean we need to completely shift our opinions on a particular issue. It just means that we are opening ourselves up to more nuance, more compassion, and, frankly, better decision making.

After letting this interview stew for 24 hours, I've come to the conclusion that I would do well in taking a page from the book of Kendall. It is easy for me to demonize those who don't think like I do or to dismiss their beliefs as less evolved. It is a breeze for me to cling to ideologies and worship at the altar of liberalism instead of really sitting for a time with those with whom I disagree (mostly conservative Republicans. Ha!). Really, how prideful of me. That sort of attitude does nothing in progressing the cause of empathy. It doesn't mean that I can't speak up for what I feel is right or good or true. It just means that I should avoid snorting and sighing audibly when other people disagree with me. It really means that I could do better at seeking to understand the lived experience of everyone, especially those who see things very differently than I do.

I suppose that is enough of an "Aha!" moment for a Sunday afternoon. If you, too, would like to reduce your audible snorts and sighs and engage with the lived experience, I highly recommend listening to this Radiowest interview: http://radiowest.kuer.org/post/122111-far-between-part-ii

Offer A 'Holy Yes'

"Say a holy yes to the real things of our life as they exist."-Natalie Goldberg

A 'holy yes'. Not to be confused with 'just yes'. 'Just yes' means that I will endure life with stone-faced stoicism and a hope rooted only in the great hereafter. 'Just yes' means that I speak ill of pain, branding her the ugliest part and parcel of life--an inevitable evil, a cross to bear. 'Just yes' means that with each stripe I bear on earth I expect a reward in heaven: 10 choirs of angels, please. 'Just yes' is suffering the heat of the fire without praising her light.

But a 'holy yes'--A 'holy yes' means that I will bury my feet in the soil, rooted in the here and now, tilting my head to the sky in gratitude; I will make room for the sublime and the unsightly, recognizing that they are often one and the same. A 'holy yes' means that I will see pain for what she is--a glowing ember, a divine heart, a merciful gift disguised as my greatest fear. A 'holy yes' means "Thank you God. For everything. Even the shadows. I am made light." A 'holy yes' is learning slowly, ever slowly, to appreciate pain's sharp blade. What better way to carve a space in my heart for joy to grow?

Ring In The New Year: Bring Forth What You Love

Long exposure photographs of fireflies in Japan via This is Colossal

I haven't written in such a long time. My brain feels a little bit creaky and my words a little melted around the edges. Can you guess what one of my New Year's Resolutions is? You are correct! Write more! I know many people think the idea of crafting resolutions for the new year is silly. Why dedicate some arbitrary day to goals too slippery to keep? Well, I say, why not? Why not choose one day and bless it with your faith--a faith that you will be just a little bit better this swing around the sun? I love the symbolism of the New Year. We are submerged in the darkest, coldest part of the season (at least in Utah); in that darkness we are inclined to curl up inside of ourselves, dig around for a bit, and then bring forth what we love and what we would love more of.

Because I am an organizational freakshow (I say that lovingly), I made a spreadsheet with all of my resolutions and divided them into categories (e.g. Health, Creativity, Spirituality, etc.) Here are some of my favorite resolutions in no fancy or significant order:

1. Get married to CHB (I know I said these were in no particular order, but this definitely belongs in the #1 slot)

2. Improve my driving skillz. This includes re-learning how to parallel park and not saying swears in the car when I'm stuck behind slow drivers, the majority of whom are really sweet grandmas on their way to visiting teaching.

3. Get on the Downton Abbey fast track. I'm way behind on this trend. I haven't even seen one episode yet but I already know I love the show.

4. Always have fresh flowers in my home. I received some Orchids for Christmas, and my spirit skipped ten notches forward. What miracles flora can fashion for us!

5. Make a new meal every Sunday--I now have a cache of enviable cook books thanks to the matriarchs in my life. This is a spiritual endeavor for me; I want to learn more about feeding my body and the bodies of those I love with healthy food and honest conversation. I want to experience more of my eating and my cooking as communion with the earth, my family, and the Divine. 

6. Try not to get addicted to Pinterest. Oops! Too late!

7. Articulate my gratitude daily. Perhaps I will do this on my blog. Perhaps my journal. Perhaps in my evening assembly with God. Regardless, I don't want to forget how deeply blessed it is to be human.

I think that's enough for tonight. If I can accomplish one of these resolutions by the end of the year, I will be happy. Progress is slow and sweet. How do you feel about making resolutions for the new year?

Ten Spaces For Gratitude

Natsumi Hayashi, Levitation 5.18.2011, 2011

Today I am thankful for...

1. You, dear readers, for your wit, empathy, intelligence, nuance, and support. Your contribution to this blog mean so much to me. Thank you.

2. A curious spirit that is endlessly thrilled by opportunities to uncover, dissect, disassemble, reassemble, connect, and unveil.

3. Healthy legs and healthy lungs that take me on adventures near and far.

4. A close circle of friends who are wise and faithful, hopeful and creative, inspired and inspiring.

5. A family composed of members who are quirky, hilarious, optimistic, supportive, grounded and endlessly loving.

6. A Curly Haired Boy who seeks peace, creation, collection, faith, innovation, and me. I really love that he seeks me.

7. Nature: A bower bird's nest, tiny neon Jelly Fish, hazelnut shells, a starling murmuration

8. Food: Sweet sticky rice with mango, peanut butter and banana sandwiches, spicy ginger candy, honeycrisp apples, roasted parsnips, gooey brie cheese

9. Art: conceptualized, collaged, installed, painted, splattered, carved, spoken, danced, folded, exploded, hidden, hung, buried, printed

10. God. A divine that weaves itself through my DNA, my cells, my toes, the chunks of rock and dirt in the ground beneath me. A divine that lives in my pumping heart, in my cupped hand, in my sleepy eyes, and in my hopeful inhale. A divine that manifests itself in each person, animal, food, and object in numbers 1-9. For that everpresent God I am the MOST grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Unearthing The Sacred Amidst The Rubble

I went to lunch with an old friend last weekend that I hadn't seen in more than a decade. Over soup and salad we recapped the happenings of the last ten years. We discovered that we both got married young and divorced relatively quickly. We were both education and career focused with a tremendous amount of faith in our ability to succeed in the working world and a little (lot) less faith in our ability to succeed in relationships. The trajectories of our lives have stretched into twin arches.

At one point in the conversation she asked me, "Do you think God orchestrated your life in this way? Do you think God wanted you to choose marriage to B and then choose divorce as a means of leading you to where you are today?"

I've thought about that question a lot since my divorce. I've thought, "Well, if I hadn't married B and then gotten divorced from B, I wouldn't have moved to this wonderful place and gotten this wonderful job and made these wonderful friends and felt just generally wonderful about a, b, and c. So God must have wanted it to be just this way."  It's true that the poor choices I made before and during marriage--the ones that unearthed a deep reservoir of pain and self-doubt--also led to some of the most meaningful and joyful experiences of my life. With that said, I'm not convinced anymore that God was invested in things turning out one way or the other.

With a few (very few) exceptions, I don't feel like God offers much input into my choices. I have friends who pray with every step and breath. They seek guidance at each turn and feel God's approval or disapproval of their daily movements. I think this is a valid way to interact with God but it's not my way of interacting with God. On the contrary, He has been rather laissez faire with my small daily movements as well as my sweeping gestures (where to live, what to major in, who to love). I felt a clear and immediate prompting to move closer (geographically and emotionally) to CHB, but that experience was one of those very few exceptions.

I don't see God's minimal guidance in my life as an indication of abandonment, though. I have never felt far from Him. Rather I have felt that God gives me this great expanse of space to fumble around and find my way. And while I'm fumbling, He's always there with His offering: the opportunity to consecrate the pain that inevitably arises with being a human who sees through a glass darkly. Every misstep and slip and disorientation is met with God's voice. He says to me, "Place your great tangled mess on this altar and together we'll undo the tangles. Eventually, we'll weave those disentangled threads together into a tapestry that speaks of greater self-awareness, deeper compassion and more forgiveness. I'll help you see the ultimate wisdom in your movements no matter how clumsy or clunky they seem now. I'll even help you see the miraculous sparks of light that live in your most opaque corners."

God may not direct my every step, breath and turn as He seems to do with others, but there is no doubt in my mind that He is constantly at work in my life, tirelessly unearthing the sacred amidst the rubble and teaching me to do the same.

The Episode Wherein Krisanne Climbs A Mountain (Metaphorically And Otherwise)

Not my picture. Some nice person's picture from the internet.

My single friends and I joke about our menstrual cramps. We say that our cramps are screams of protest coming from our unfertilized eggs. "How dare you waste me!" (cramp, cramp). It's funny. It's the kind of funny that masks the rather sharp pain women of a certain age feel who are not married and wish to be. Women who are not pressing a babe to their breast and wish they could. Enter the jokes. If you can't laugh at yourself, you end up sobbing yourself into a melted mess of snot and drippy mascara, as they say.

I was never one of those women who dreamed of being a mother. I didn't play with my dolls in the anticipation of one day trading in their cloth and yarn bodies for real ones of flesh and bone. Even when I was married I never felt drawn to motherhood, which could have had something to do with the not-so-nice man to whom I was hitched. But maybe not. At times I wondered if there were something wrong with me. That I was missing some sliver of DNA that says, "A part of your heart will remain hollow just as your womb. When womb is filled, so heart will be also." Despite this perplexity, for the entirety of my 20s I felt generally content with my minimal interest in motherhood.

Now I am 32 years old, unmarried and childless, and for the first time in my life the wound is starting to smart. I am suddenly fascinated by childbirth because it's the closest I can get to experiencing something so profound and primal. I eagerly solicit birthing stories from friends who have given birth recently, and I am captivated. I am captivated by, what seems to me, the most unbelievable endeavor any human being could undertake. After the captivation, when I'm alone, I am crying. I cry because I feel sorry for myself. I cry because it's not me bearing down through the pain of labor. It's not me looking into a newborn face I helped illustrate. It's not me holding a baby to my tired breast.

Today, I climbed the most difficult mountain I have ever climbed. It was 2 hours of straight up augmented by slippery shale and paper thin air. For a portion of the hike I was scared of falling off of the mountain, and for another portion of the hike I was afraid my legs would give out beneath me. It was so difficult, but in the end I made it (mostly I made it...I collapsed about 15 minutes from the top but I'm still going to call it a success). At the top of the mountain, I was gifted with one of the most beautiful views in all of Provo. As you might have expected, I will now draw the obvious Mormon sacrament talk parallel; being in my 30s sans husband and child is my difficult mountain to climb. I feel scared of never reaching that summit, of slipping down the face of the cliff and birthing nothing more than a bruised and bloody heart. I fear that my legs will give out beneath me, and I will give up the endeavor all together. In my literal climb up the mountain today, I made it to the top. I made it. So this is the faith I cling to: I really hope that I make it metaphorically, too. And I really really hope that the view will be every shade of divine.

To Come Together In The Unknowing

The Good Samaritan, Ferdinand Hodler, 1886

This weekend I went to my first Timpanogos Storytelling Festival--an annual gathering where storytellers from all over the country (world?) come to share their tales at a small park in Provo Canyon. I attended one remarkable storytelling by NPR correspondent Kevin Kling. In his introduction, Kevin talked about the fundamental role of storytelling. Ostensibly, he said, we tell stories to answer questions. Our myths and sacred texts give us answers about the why, where, and how come of our existence. But, more importantly than giving answers, our stories serve to remind us of our common humanity. We tell stories to understand each other, to bear our neighbor's burdens, to forgive and seek forgiveness. Stories unite this grand human community of which we are all a part.

This got me thinking about Jesus Christ as storyteller. No doubt, he could spin yarns with the best of them. In discussions at church we try to find the answers buried within his parables. What did Christ mean when he referenced the ten virgins? What does the pearl of great price symbolize? Is the meaning of life packaged neatly within descriptions of the Good Samaritan and Prodigal Son? Christ's stories are instructional, yes. They present us with the moral blueprints by which we are to design our lives. But I wonder if his parables were ultimately intended to awaken us to our common human experience. As with the ten virgins, we all feel woefully unprepared for life at times and at other times feel like we are click clicking through our days with minimal effort. We all know how it feels to look the other way as our neighbor suffers and yet we are also intimately acquainted with the deep edification of the Good Samaritan as we mourn with those who mourn. We've all struggled to fully accept the traditions of our mothers and fathers and we also know the sweet release the Prodigal Son felt when he was restored to those things he once rejected.

Our stories remind us that we are united in the seeking. We come together in the unknowing. We hold the questions in our hands and support each other as we try to unravel some meaning to this messy human experience. If developing empathy is the fundamental purpose of storytelling (as opposed to providing definitive answers), I think it is imperative that we tell our stories honestly. Let's trash (and I mean TRASH) the facades we create for the benefit of the world out there. Let's invest our energy in expanding compassion instead of expending it in trying to look more accomplished, more put together, or more perfect than we really are. I really believe that in sharing our stories honestly, we open ourselves up to the healing of self and others. We all know how it feels to realize that we are not the only ones who struggle, doubt, and spin off our tracks--it's such a comfort! Such a relief! Personally, I feel less of a pariah and more able to tackle my demons when I don't feel alone in my hurting.

This must mean that to share our stories honestly is to involve ourselves with the real work of charity--we are engaging in an act where we seek to be known and seek to know others in equal measure. Perhaps this is what Christ intended all along. In this space of knowing, we inevitably love more deeply, forgive more quickly, and rejoice more easily in this divine adventure of being human.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Athena, Goddess of War

Life has been a little too harried lately. Too much chatter and clatter and clamber. Too much movement even for me who can't seem to keep my feet from dancing and twitching at any given moment. I attribute this to the new job I started at the Salt Lake Art Center. Although I love a million little things about the job (the hard working, kind and ferociously intelligent staff, the vibration and energy of an arts environment, the ritualized gestures of the workday: packing my lunch, wearing my fancy clothes), mostly I'm overwhelmed. Over-my-head-whelmed. I understand that part of this comes with new job territory. Yes. But I'm also feeling quite acutely that I'm not cutting it--that the skills and background that I bring to the work table aren't up to par. Feeling this way is monumentally difficult for me. So much of my identity and sense of self-worth is tied up in my academic and career success that when I flail and fail in either of these realms I get very grouchy and very existential (Ask poor CHB who has been patiently attending to my brooding self with positive affirmations and small acts of kindness).

Tired of the brooding, I've decided to organize an internal revolution to oust my ego from its hallowed seat. I want to learn how to beat back my need for external validation so that I can unearth that inside piece of me that speaks resolutely of my intrinsic worth. I think the fight will be bloody and long, but most successful revolutions are such. I've chosen this quote by Marianne Williamson to be my battle mantra:

"Our power doesn't lie in our resume or our connections. Our power doesn't lie in what we've done or even in what we're doing. Our power lies in our clarity about why we're on the earth. We'll be important players if we think that way. And the important players of the coming years will be the people who see themselves as here to contribute to the healing of the world."

What do you think of this quote? How do you cultivate a deeper understanding of your intrinsic worth?
Some Things Lovely...

*Something Japanese (via all the mountains)

*Something Tron (via Dezeen)

*Something Zen (via Upon A Fold)


That Smoldering, Spherical Heart

Shannon McCarthy, Prayer, 2007

"Prayer...brings together two lovers, God and the soul."
--Mechthild of Magdeburg

Prayer presents herself in countless forms. She is head bowed and knees bent. Breath in and breath out. She is two happy arms swimming through the air and grasping at the trees. She is a call out to the universe and a whisper into the heart. Prayer is the foundational element of our spiritual lives no matter where we fall on the religious spectrum. She is no respecter of persons.

I dress up in many of prayer's forms. I press my hands and face to the ground and imagine that my supplications reverberate through each layer of earth--crust, mantle, core--to reach the fiery center of God. As I wait with hands and face to the ground, God speaks from that smoldering, spherical heart. The message travels back up through crust, mantle, core, and into skin, muscle, and bone to reach the fiery center of me. This is the path of my revelation.

The Good, The Beautiful, And The Holy

Gustav Klimt, The Three Ages of Woman, 1905

"Child of God, you were created to create the good, the beautiful and the holy. Do not forget this."

--A Course In Miracles

This fills me with a flutter from my stomach up to my throat. What a remarkable and audacious thing to say, and yet I believe it's true. We all carry divine DNA, and so it is embedded in our tendons and toes (and all of our 2,000 parts) to multiply goodness, to create beauty, to make holy. That is the purpose of our existence? Yes, I really think so. What do you think?

Some Things Lovely...

*Something Parisian (via You Are My Fave)

*Something Regal (via The Impossible Cool)

*Something Orange (via Dezeen)

The Rituals Of Sin

A couple of days ago I watched Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus, a documentary about an alt-country musician's travels through the deep south--the juke box bars and two stop light towns south; the eggs over easy cafes and tattered confederate flags south; the come to Jesus or forever hold your peace in Hell south. What struck me the most was the vivid and unapologetic definition of morality within these Pentecostal communities; there seemed to be an almost mythical distinction between black and white, good and evil, and heaven and hell. A good portion of the film followed around those who didn't subscribe to their community's Christian ideal: the bar flies, the inmates, the sexy honky tonk bar dancers. The narrator said of those on the margins: "They bury their powerlessness in the rituals of sin."

I wonder about this idea of sin as it plays out on the personal stage. I'm not a big fan of the word 'sin' particularly because of the way in which it's often used. I think for many Christians, there is an albatross of guilt and shame that hangs heavy from that word so as to invite self-flagellation more often than divine restoration. The word 'sin' literally means "to miss the mark." For me, to sin is to mis-remember who I am; it is to aim my energy towards some thing that is inherently not divine, not godly, and thus not me. What is required to realign this misalignment? It is to re-member who I am; it is to re-invision myself as a member of all things holy; it is to re-orient myself with God through prayer, meditation, fasting, and studying sacred texts. 

I also wonder about this idea of sin as it plays out on the collective stage. In qualifying someone else as a sinner, do we collapse the space and compassion necessary to help them re-invision themselves as a member of all things holy? By way of example, the phrase, "Hate the sin but love the sinner" is deeply problematic in part because it creates a false distinction between those who sin (them) and those who do not sin (us). The reality is that no such distinction exists. We all miss the mark on a consistent and frequent basis; we are all the same in this regard. In thinking about appropriations of the words 'sin' and 'sinner', I have to get painfully honest with myself. In my fear of being cast as a sinner, do I ever bury my authentic voice under saccharine notes of all-is-well-in-Zion? Do I ever push those members of my congregation I deem as "sinners" so far to the margins that they are forced to seek communion elsewhere? Do I ever exclude some members of my spiritual community from the rituals of godliness and then shame them for finding comfort in the rituals of sin? These are hard questions. I have to check myself. Constantly I have to check myself.  What do you think?

Honoring The Integrity Of Our Experience

Wassily Kandinsky, Composition VII, 1913

"We constantly resist not only our grief but also our wild passion and sexuality, our anger, even our exuberance and joy, repressing their free expression. Big feelings overwhelm us. They can easily upset the fragile equilibrium of our lives. We keep a lid on ourselves, till we periodically explode. We don't realize that any deep feeling, pleasurable or painful, can be a wave we surf home into ourselves, into love."
--Arjuna Ardagh

I was talking with CHB this morning and expressing some of the frustrations I'm experiencing in my life right now (CHB is one of my favorite go-to-friends because he is a good listener and reflective which in turn helps me sort out whatever disorder I'm trying to order). Instead of being present with my feelings, I was engaging in some good ol' fashioned self-flagellation with thoughts like, "If I were a better person, I wouldn't be feeling this way." CHB responded, "There is nothing to be ashamed of, we all get frustrated." It's true. We all burn a little too intensely, all ache a little too deeply, all desire a little too passionately, and all exclaim a little too loudly for the taste of our more balanced, prudent selves. But those big feelings are nothing to be ashamed of. If I can honor the integrity of my experiences without judgment or resistance, I think I stand a much better chance of moving through the world with more joy in my limbs and greater love in my heart. What do you think?

Some Things Lovely...

*Something Instructional (via I Love Charts)

*Something Deconstructed (via Uppercase)

*Something Virginal (via Famille Summerbelle)

The Essential Existential Fact

"Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we have learned here. The spiritual journey is the relinquishment--or unlearning--of fear and the acceptance of love back into our hearts. Love is the essential existential fact. It is our ultimate reality and our purpose on earth. To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life."

--Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love 

I believe what Marianne Williamson says here: Our truest self (you know the way-down-deep-in-our-core self that's nestled beneath thick burlap layers of expectation and pretense) is composed of love. 100% solid gold love. How does knowing this change how you move through the world?

Some Things Lovely...

*Something Compassionate (via TED)

*Something Variegated (via Wolf Eyebrows)

*Something Intricate (via Peter Callesen)

We Are Living From Mystery

"Eating with the fullest pleasure — pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance — is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend." --Wendell Berry 

I recently read two of Michael Pollen's books The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food and have subsequently been thinking a lot about what an intimate act it is to eat. A spiritual act, even. When we eat, those things we put into our body literally become a part of us. Not only does the tangible stuff we ingest integrate itself into our cells and organs and blood but the intangible stuff settles into us as well; we embody the energy that went into the creation of that particular food which includes the well being or suffering of the animals we eat, the intentions and treatment of the farmers and the field workers, and the love (or lack thereof) of the person preparing the meal.

I had a very strong Impression a couple of days ago (this is capital 'I' impression which comes from God/Universe/the deepest part of me) that if I don't start making wiser choices about what I integrate into my body, my health will suffer serious consequences. Up to this point, I think I've been a little too flippant about such an intimate and spiritual act as eating. Some changes I want to make include consuming five servings of vegetables a day, drinking 64 oz of water, and offering a prayer of gratitude before every meal. Eventually, I would like to start shopping primarily from local food venues like farmer's markets, eat less meat, and spend more time cooking. I'm curious to know how you've made eating a more deliberate, healthy or spiritual act in your life...

Some Things Lovely...

*Something Inspiring: The Pleasures of Eating

*Something Practical: Word of Wisdom Living
*Something Delicious: Mousakka, Berry Brulee & Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

The Best of What is Human in Us

"As I see it, the essence of religious experience lies not in dogma but in poetry: in metaphor, in paradox, and yes, in uncertainty. That is, I think doubt is essential to faith. If you take a leap of faith, it really is a leap, a leap into the unknown...real faith is admirable because there’s a humility, a vulnerability to it. In much the same way you place your faith in a person, you can never be absolutely sure. This is what we mean by trust, and it strikes me as wonderful. Where certainty terrifies me, uncertainty seems to me to touch the best of what is human in us."

--Lesley Hazleton


Yesterday afternoon I read a poem about a mother who lost her teenage son in a drowning accident. By the end of the poem all of the emotion in my body (from stomach to heart to throat) made a grand and instant rush north to my tear ducts. For several minutes I ached. I felt cracked and bereaved. Somehow--in some metaphysical way--this mother's tsunami of grief had found its way into my body.

This morning, I read a blog post by a woman I admire but whom I've never met. She wrote "the past 3 weeks since my husband left me have been a whirlwind ..."

After decades of marriage, her husband left her?

I was still and quiet and disbelieving. Then, the tsunami. For those few minutes the emotional rush disorientated me; I felt jagged. Amputated. Alone. I have never met this woman, and she has no idea who I am, yet I was trying to manage the reverberating ache of her pain within my own body.

How does this happen? How is it that someone else's emotion becomes our collective experience? It's as if someone near us exhales and her sadness is a stowaway nestled among the particles of her breath. If we are present (physically or otherwise), we inhale her breath and then embody her heartache.

This afternoon my cell phone chirped. I looked down to see a picture of my best friend's baby boy, born just this morning. And there it was for the third time--that tsunami and those tears. But instead of distress I was washed over with wonder. I was filled. Elated. Her newborn gift was, in some very poignant way, my gift as well.

Come sorrow or joy, this capacity we have as humans to take upon ourselves the emotional depth of another person is a mystery for which I am ever grateful.

The Fellowship Of The Broken

When people near me are suffering, I often wonder what I should do. I think, "I'm not doing enough! What do they need? What do I do to help ease their suffering? I don't know how to help them!" But this quote reminds me that sometimes just sitting silently, touching a hand, and being a neutral witness of someone's pain is the kindest and most authentic way to cradle those in need.

"Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to the place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it. As busy, active, relevant ministers, we want to earn our bread by making a real contribution. This means first and foremost doing something to show that our presence makes a difference. And so we ignore our greatest gift, which is our ability to enter into solidarity with those who suffer. Those who can sit in silence with their fellowman, not knowing what to say but knowing that they should be there, can bring new life to a dying heart. Those who are not afraid to hold a hand in gratitude, to shed tears in grief and to let a sigh of distress arise straight from the heart can break through paralyzing boundaries and witness the birth of a new fellowship, the fellowship of the broken."

--Henri Nouwen

*Thank you for this, Jon

Pour Out Your Souls In Your Wilderness

For those of you not familiar with Mormonism, every Sunday two or three people from the congregation are asked to write and deliver a talk on a particular gospel topic (charity, faith, sacrifice, etc.). The gods conspired, and I was asked to give one of the talks in church today. I use some references from the Book of Mormon that you may not understand if you're not LDS, but that may be just reason enough to go read it. ;)

Pour Out Your Souls In Your Wilderness

Today, I am speaking on 2 Timothy 1: 7. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” On a cursory level we could say this scripture is quite easy to interpret. Fear is bad. Love, spiritual power, and a sound mind are good. And I suppose this is true to some degree. But I think there is something far more interesting going on here in terms of the interplay between fear and love. Fear is a strange creature. It can motivate us to do all sorts of unhealthy things such as lie, hide, stagnate, lash out, attack when we need to retreat and retreat when we need to attack. When fear lives at the core of who we are, every movement and breath we make lacks integrity and as all of us know, life without spiritual harmony is remarkably painful. With that said, the presence of fear in our lives IS meaningful as it plays the important role of harbinger; it relentlessly invites us to get to the heart of what scares us. It is in this investigation of our fears that we will come to know love, power, and a sound mind. In other words, it is in this investigation that we will come to know God. In Philippians 2:12 Paul says, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Perhaps this kind of soul searching is precisely what Paul is suggesting--it is only through working with and through our fear and trembling that we can be saved.

Throughout the scriptures we are asked to face our fears to attain our salvation. Often the scriptures use the image of the wilderness to symbolize our fears--it is the dark unknown, the home of wild beasts and angry spirits, it entertains the cold and the fury of nature. The characters in our scriptures are asked, sometimes compelled, to enter this wilderness to search for the promise land which is described as a place of rest, familiarity and prosperity. This is a beautiful metaphor for the experience of meeting God and attaining salvation--peaceful, familiar, overflowing. In the scriptures, our character begins a literal journey into the heart of the wilderness to find her promise land. Metaphorically, she begins her journey into the heart of her fears to discover God and salvation. For her journey to be meaningful, she must be willing to pour out her soul in the wilderness. In Alma 34:26 we read “ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness”. A wonderful example of this theme is in the story of Sariah from the Book of Mormon who we also know as Lehi’s wife and Nephi’s mother.

We love to tell the story of Nephi as Nephi experienced it probably because the account is in his words--we recount his courage and struggles and talk about the ways in which he made brave and difficult decisions. I love Nephi. I love him for his good heart and his honest intent. But I’ve always wondered about Sariah. We don’t know much about her but I would like to offer a conjecture. She was a wealthy woman and likely well respected in her community. She worked hard to nurture and nourish her family. She probably had a close group of female friends that she could turn to for support, especially when she grew tired of living in a culture that wasn’t particularly deferential to women or when she simply felt exasperated living in a house full of dreaming, precocious, vibrant, and energetic men. And then one day, she is asked by her husband to give it all up--to leave her wealth, her community, and her supportive circle of female friends to live in the wilderness in search of a dream. What a proposition. What a very difficult thing to ask of someone. And yet, she went.

Unfortunately, I think Sariah gets a bad rap within our Mormon culture because of those few verses that reveal her fear. In 1 Nephi 5:2 Nephi says of Sariah, “For she had supposed that we had perished in the wilderness; and she also complained against my father, telling him that he was a visionary man; saying: Behold thou hast led us forth from the lands of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.” Sariah murmurs. She cries. She complains. God bless her, she’s human. But this is the beauty of Sariah: she didn’t let that fear destroy her. She didn’t dance with the fear and drink herself into a numb oblivion. She traveled into the wilderness and lived there. She watched her sons disappear into the trees for a seemingly endless amount of time, not knowing if she had lost them to death. She suffered the realities of starvation and betrayal. Yet, amidst all of this, she stayed alert, she felt deeply, she wept and she rejoiced. She poured out her soul in the wilderness. It was in doing these things that she met love, power, and a sound mind. It was in doing these things that she met God.

To bring this down to a more personal level, I would like to share my own experience of walking into the wilderness. It is a vulnerable topic, and I am grateful that I have your support while I share this. A couple of years ago I fell in love. I was filled with so much hope about this man and so much anticipation about where our relationship could go. I prayed to God that everything would work out just as I had orchestrated it in my head. And yet beneath all of this dreaming and planning and orchestrating I felt the stab of a very sharp and insistent thought that it wouldn’t work out. I felt worried and wounded by the prospect that I would have to face my biggest fear: to be unloved. When this fear became more apparent I decided to seek God in the wilderness. I asked to be free from bitterness or defeat or resentment should I discover that this man didn’t love me the same way I loved him. I wanted to see the divinity of this potentially excruciating event in my life. I said to God, “I have taken the brave step and loved without knowing if I would be loved in return. I walked into the wilderness. If I am not loved in return, please consecrate my pain.” As it turns out, this man didn’t love me. And as it turns out, I was not destroyed by this information. Like Sariah, I stayed alert, I felt deeply, I wept, and I rejoiced. I poured out my soul in the wilderness. Never in my life had I felt such spaciousness or such an assurance that things unfolded as they were meant to. The role this man played in this experience became very clear to me: he was my teacher. He was placed in my life to help me face this fear in a gentle and merciful way. Through all of it I knew I had experienced some measure of salvation.

What happened to me in that wilderness? What happened to Sariah? What happens to any of us when we confront the fears and enter the dark places? We meet God. There, in the center of our terror, is a clearing of trees where Christ waits to continue the process of salvation. We give him our selves and he sands off the calcified layers of pride, anger, resentment, jealousy, misunderstanding, and self-loathing from our bodies. We meet him in the wilderness hundreds, maybe thousands, maybe millions of times until one day there is nothing left to remove. And on that day we stand there bare, in our truest form, radiating the light of our own divinity. What is salvation but the process through which Christ reveals us? What is salvation but the undeniable knowledge that we are the very embodiment of God?

I testify that when we face our fears and pour out our souls in the wilderness we will meet love, power, and a sound mind. We will know the truth of 1 John 4:16 when it states that “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him”.

Of these things I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.