Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The World Needs More of You

When I was a senior in college I decided to take voice lessons from Kathy Backlund, may she rest in peace.  I wanted to learn how to sing harmony.  I wanted to learn how to hold my own note while someone else was singing a different one.  I wanted to be a better singer.  So at 9 or 10 o'clock on Saturday mornings I would trek out to Kathy's house near Morgan's Steep for my voice lesson.  Other than singing Greensleeves and maybe a version of the Our Father, I don't remember much about these lessons except that I was inordinately proud of myself for getting up so early on a Saturday morning.  Ha!  But there was one moment.  One moment that I have remembered again and again.

I don't remember what prompted it.  I was singing something, and Kathy walked across the room to the doorway, and I think she was trying to get me to use more of my voice so it would carry all the way to her.  What she said was, "Your voice isn't taking up enough space.  It's like you're afraid of taking up too much space.  The world needs more of you.  You can take up more space."  Or something like that.  What has stayed with me all these years was the phrase, "The world needs more of you."  Kathy had pegged it.  I have spent so much of my life being small and scared, being afraid of taking up too much space, of bothering people, of people not liking me.  She encouraged me to let go of that, to make my unique contribution, to share more of my gifts and myself with the world.  She gave me permission.  She reassured me that my presence in the world was a good thing and that the world needs me.

I am so grateful to Kathy for those words, and I am especially grateful that I was able to tell her how much they had meant to me before she died.  I wish I remembered them all the time and lived by them every day.  When I do, I stop being small and become more willing to share the beautiful person that God created me to be.

So whoever is reading this, wherever you are, whatever is going on in your life.  Hear this:  The world needs more of you.  Yes, you.  You aren't just "good enough," you are a blessing to the world.  Share your gifts and talents.  Share your authentic self.  Share that beautiful soul of yours.  The world needs more of you.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Do It Afraid

"'Be not afraid' does not mean we cannot have fear.  Everyone has fear, and people who embrace the call to leadership often find fear abounding.  Instead, the words say we do not need to be the fear we have.  We do not have to lead from a place of fear, thereby engendering a world in which fear is multiplied." -Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak p. 94

I hate making telephone calls.  I'd rather go to the dentist than make a phone call - in fact, one of the reasons I don't mind going to the dentist is that they schedule your next appointment when you're there, so you don't have to call for one.  One of the best inventions EVER is online scheduling!  My "phonephobia" is something I can't explain.  Maybe it's my codependency that leads me to want to see another person's face while I'm having a conversation so I can see how they're responding to what I say and make sure they still like me.  Maybe it's the fact that my brains seem to leak out my butt when I pick up a phone and I babble inarticulately - especially if I'm talking to an answering machine.  Maybe I have bad phone memories from my childhood.  Who knows?  What I do know is that I would rather drive to the vet to make the appointments for the cats or visit a store to see if they have the thing I need rather than have to call and ask.  It's crazy and inefficient.  When I used to work at VA Stage Co. I would walk all over the building to talk to people so that I didn't have to pick up the phone.  Only a real urgency will allow me to bypass my fear.  (Or calling a good friend -  usually that doesn't bother me.) 

I am ready to get over this fear.  There is a phrase in the circles of recovery that says, "Do it Afraid."  It seems to fit well with the quote from Parker Palmer above.  Do it afraid.  Feel the fear, but do it anyway.  Palmer goes on to say, "We have places of fear inside of us, but we have other places as well - places with names like trust and hope and faith.  We can choose to lead from one of those places..."

Lead from a place of trust and hope and faith.  Even if I'm still scared.  Sometimes it seems so much easier just to give in to my fear.  But there are things that I need to do that involve phone calls.  Important things.  Things that matter.  It's time to do it afraid.  Just like jumping off the zip line platform.

Wish me luck. 

I'll let you know if I'm successful.

Whatever you're scared of doing right now, why don't you join me, and do it afraid?  We can jump off the platform together. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Healing Oils: The Extravagance of God's Love

Today I attended a workshop in Richmond given by the Rev. Becca Stevens, founder of Magdalene/Thistle Farms, a residential treatment program for women coming off the streets of Nashville.  The workshop was about surrender.  Not the kind of surrender that involves waving the white flag on the field of battle to concede that I am the loser and you are the winner.  But surrender that involves giving in, letting go, giving oneself up to something greater, like surrendering to love, surrendering to God.

Becca wove the making of healing oils into the conversation about surrender.  Healing oils are made by adding a few drops of essential oils into a larger amount of a carrier oil.  Carrier oils include olive oil, jojoba oil, and almond oil.  Essential oils carry the scent of the plant they come from.  Today's oils included cinnamon, sweet orange, lavender, bergamot, lemon, grapefruit, geranium, and cedar.  My hands and hair and sweater still smell like oils.  We got to make our own by using droppers to put olive oil in small vials and then mixing in a few drops of the essential oils we liked.  It was such fun to play with the scents and try to find the most pleasing combination.  Each oil has particular healing properties, too, and it was very prayerful to try to pick particular oils for particular people.

The most powerful moment of the workshop for me came at the end.  We had been talking about the woman who anointed Jesus with the costly nard, about the extravagance of the gesture, about the complete surrender involved, and about the healing that happened for the woman and, we are guessing, for Jesus.  Becca wrapped up by reading us the story of Jesus on the beach with the disciples asking Peter if he loved him.  She asked if there were questions.  In the long silence that followed, Becca poured a generous amount of olive oil into a small pitcher and then put the remains of several vials of essential oils into it.  She then invited forward a woman who happens to be an old friend of hers from Sewanee.  Becca asked her friend to take off her socks and shoes.  She then said a prayer while putting her hand in the container of oil and scooping a large amount onto her friend's feet.  She proceeded to bathe her friend's feet with the oil, rubbing it on from ankle to toe, soaking the feet in the oil.  She ended the prayer and then paused.  And then she continued talking about how God keeps reaching out with love for us, and she took another handful of oil and spread it over her friend's feet.  A third time, she poured the remaining oil over the feet.  When she was done, she wiped her friends feet with paper towels and gently put her socks and shoes back on.

I don't really remember what Becca said as she anointed her friend with healing oil.  It was a gesture that didn't need words.  In a visceral way, the extravagant amount of oil she used brought home for me the extravagance of God's love.  God keeps coming back and bathing us in that love, no matter who we are, no matter what we've done.  As I watched the oil spill over and drip down onto the floor, I thought about how expensive essential oils are, how Becca was willing to "waste" all that oil to make her point.  But not just to make her point.  To give us an experience.

Jesus continually compared the kingdom of heaven to concrete things that the disciples could see and touch and smell and taste.  Today I learned that the kingdom of heaven is like generous amounts of healing oil slathered on a woman's feet, dripping down onto the wooden floor, soothing and cleansing and overflowing.  It smells like lavender and grapefruit and cedar.  It lingers on your hands, on your clothes, in your hair.  And there is more than enough of it to go around.