Sunday, February 23, 2014

THE GIFTS OF IMPERFECTION: MEANINGFUL WORK by Cheri Holdridge (with an assist by Kurt Young)

We have been talking for several weeks now about what researcher Brene Brown calls “wholehearted living.” People who live with whole hearts are not able to be so drug down into the morass of shame – the feeling that we are not enough, not good enough, smart enough, beautiful enough. We practice self-compassion. This is the self-love that Jesus says is at the heart of being one of his followers: loving God, loving others, and being able to love ourselves fully. Living whole heartedly, as we discussed last week, also means that we are able to be still and calm. When we experience anxiety and fear we do not allow this to be a way of life. We recognize anxiety which is natural, and then use practices such as breathing and meditation to invite calm back into our lives. 

Another common thread that Brene Brown discovered in the lives of people who practice whole hearted living is cultivating meaningful work embracing who we are. As people of faith we would say this is living out our call. I like to say: you know why God put you on this earth, and you live out that purpose. 

My friend Harry Knox has a way of talking about meaningful work. I have heard him speak at numerous public events and he almost always talks about his job his this way. He says: “I jump out of bed every morning and run to work.” Isn’t that a great image? For a while he was the Faith Director for the Human Rights Campaign which is one of the largest advocacy groups for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in the US. Now he is the is Executive Director of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, an organization working to provide legal access for women to contraception, abortion, and health care. Harry is a gay man with a graduate degree in theology and a keen mind for political organizing. I spoke with him recently and I said: “You know Harry, your move from organizing for LBGT rights to rights for reproductive justice wasn’t necessarily the brightest move.” Because we are winning the LGBT fight. It is just a matter of time before we have legal protections for against discrimination and housing for LGBT persons. And we will have same gender marriage in every state. But we are losing ground in reproductive justice. That work is some of the hardest justice work out there right now. I said to Harry, tell me the truth: “Are you still jumping out of bed and running to work every day?” It’s getting a little harder for him. We are both getting older.   We’ve been doing this a long time.

But he still loves his work. Because it is not just work. It is his calling. This is what God put Harry Knox on this earth to do. He is grounded in scripture and religious tradition. Harry is from Georgia and he has Jesus on his side. He can go round and round with those Southern evangelical good old boys. They have nothing on Harry. And he is so smart. He gets invited to the White House and he talks to those political leaders and talks circles around them, and does it with Southern charm a quick wit. And he gets the job done.

I love it when I meet someone who has found their purpose in life. We don’t need 1000 Harrys. We only need one.  Because each one of us has our purpose in our life. We each have our own body of work that contributes to the whole.

When Paul was writing to the church in the city of Corinth, he used this metaphor of the body to help them understand that each person has a place and a purpose and everyone has something unique to contribute. AND no one is more or less important. 

He was talking about how it is when we are really paying attention, and allowing God’s Spirit to work in and through us. We start to notice the Spirit in our lives, when we say “Yes” I want follow Jesus. I want to line my life up with the ways of Jesus. We say Yes I’m ready.  We start to feel the presence of God more intensely. God was there all the time, (because God is everywhere) but we notice the Spirit of God more intensely because we have chosen to pay attention. 

Paul says, this is when the Spirit will show us our unique gifts and how we can use them to make the world better, and more beautiful, more compassionate for all. We want to be more like Jesus: more generous, more forgiving, and we want the world to be more just for everyone so we start looking for the skills we have and the opportunities we have to use them.

Paul says: now just like the body has parts with certain uses, the Body of Christ is like that. The body does not need all eyes and no ears or hands. The body would be no good with all feet and no lungs to breathe. Every part has a purpose. They are all interrelated. No one is no more or less important. Those of us who have broken a big toe, know how it can cause you great pain and really throw off your balance. We can attest to the fact that every part has a purpose. (And don’t start nit-picking with me about the spleen.  Just let me make my point.)

So, it’s like this with our community of Jesus followers. Every one of us serves a purpose in the community. Some of us spend a good part of our adult lives trying to figure out what our purpose is… but that’s okay. The journey toward meaning is sort of a work in progress. 

Paul says this: “26 The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part,… If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.
27 [We] are Christ’s body—that’s who [we] are! [we] must never forget this. Only as [we] accept [our] part of that body does [our] “part” mean anything.”  (I Corinthians 12)
Now, I hope this all sounds good to you. I understand that in the real world there are some challenges to finding our purpose in life, and living it out. So, let’s talk about some of those challenges.

First of all, to find our purpose in life, or meaningful work, or our call, we need to identify our gifts or our strengths. For some of us, that is the first roadblock. Some of us don’t think we have any gifts of strengths. Something happened along the way, and we heard the message that we are no good and we believed it. So, we are stuck in shame. We are not enough. Someone in the world told us we were not good enough at something and we took the bait: hook, line and sinker. 

Well it is just not true. God created everyone with gifts and strengths. You are good at something. God created everyone with gifts and strengths.  You may not know what that is, but you are good at something. So if you don’t know what that is, I invite you to start there. Take some time with yourself, and dig deep inside and consider what you are good at. And if you can’t think of anything, go find someone who likes you and ask them and they will tell you. Or make an appointment with me and I will help you. Everyone in this church has gifts and strengths and we will help you name them.  God made you and you have gifts. PERIOD.

Now, sometimes we know that we have gifts and strengths, but we just don’t use them. We are squandering them. We have just gotten off track. This is just as detrimental to our well-being as not knowing what our gifts and strengths are to not be using them. Brene Brown says: “When we don’t use our talents to cultivate meaningful work, we struggle. We feel disconnected and weighed down by feelings of emptiness, resentment, shame, disappointment, fear, and even grief.” (The Gifts of Imperfection, p. 112). So we need to find a way to use our gifts.  We need to get back on track.  

One challenge to living out our purpose and using our gifts is that it takes a great amount of commitment. In many cases it does not pay the bills. Some people, like my friend Harry, are able to line up their gifts with their work for pay, but many people have to do a juggling act so they live out their call and make ends meet. It takes some work to live out your call and use your gifts to be the person that God put you on this earth to be.  So it may take some planning, some coaching, some realignment, some calibration to use your gifts.  

One more challenge is this: you have to find your own call. No one call tell you what your purpose it. You may see someone and say: wow she is building houses for Habitat every Saturday. That is so cool and she is so energized by that. I want to help people who don’t have any place to live. But you (like me) are the most uncoordinated person on the planet when it comes to building things.  As much as you might want that to be your purpose. It is her purpose and not yours. Now, you might be able to help Habitat in some other way. If you love to cook, they need people to make meals for the volunteers. Or if you are good with data, they may need help in the office, doing bookkeeping. Or maybe you could be their volunteer coordinator because you love what they do and you know lots of people and you would love to call people and ask them to help. You get the idea.  You have to find your own call, not someone else’s. 

Finally one of the things that makes it hard to live out our passion in life is because in our culture we are defined by our work. How many times have you met someone and they asked you “What do you do?” Well I do lots of things: I’m a mom, I volunteer at my kids school, I read, I preach, I advocate for justice, I’m a blogger, I’m a community organizer, I coach church planters, I’m a wife. I’m lots of things. But in our world people expect you to say one thing: what is your one job for pay. 

Brene Brown tells about a book written by Marci Alboher called One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success (ibid, 114). She interviewed hundreds of people and discovered what she calls “slash” careers.  People are creating meaningful work by “refusing to be defined by a single career.”  Examples include: artist/real estate agent, lawyer/chef, and surgeon/playwright rabbi/stand-up comedian. Brown tells the story of meeting someone who is an accountant/jeweler. She asked her how long she has been a jeweler. And the woman said she wished she were a jeweler. She said: “I’m a CPA.” Brown was wearing her earrings at the time and told her that yes she was a jeweler (p. 115). The woman did not feel like she was “enough” as a jeweler. It was not legitimate. But it was. We need to claim what we love. She creates beautiful things. This is her gift and her passion. This is what God put her on this earth to do. It brings her joy and it brings joy to other people. We need some beauty in this world. It is enough to create beauty.

Howard Thurman says this: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world need is people who have come alive.” 

Sure, when my friend Harry goes to work every day, he is doing work that will affect the quality of life for other people, but it also brings life to Harry. And that is why he leaps out of bed and runs to work. 

What makes you come alive? If you can answer that question you will be well on the way to knowing why God put you on this earth and finding your meaningful work and embracing who you are. Remember it may or not be your work for pay. What makes you come alive?  You can share it here on the blog, on our YouTube channel when this sermon is up, or on the Facebook page.  We want to hear how you follow Jesus and change the world.  That’s what we do at the Village and by reading this you’re part of our community. So share and inspire us and others by what brings you joy and inspires you. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Gifts of Imperfection: Letting Go of Anxiety by Cheri Holdridge (with an assist by Patti Lusher

Today we are about half way through our series called “The Gifts of Imperfection.” We live in a culture where there is a constant striving to be better, faster, smarter, more beautiful and more successful than everyone else. This often manifests itself in pressure that we put on ourselves to be perfect. Of course, we know here at The Village that there are no perfect people, just people living under the illusion that they can be perfect if they work hard enough. We all make mistakes. We all suffer setbacks in our lives.
The researcher, Brene Brown, who wrote the book “The Gifts of Imperfection” studied this phenomenon of our constant striving for perfection and discovered that the people who did not get sucked into this illusion had some skills that gave them what she calls “whole hearted living.” These people are able to be vulnerable, and accept their imperfections. Whole hearted people are able to deal with the sense of shame that we all experience – the idea that we are not good enough. They have had some sort of spiritual epiphany that helped them see they are worthy just because they exist. We don’t have to DO STUFF to be worthy. We just have to be.
And it does us no good to get caught up in judgment of ourselves and all this comparing ourselves to other people, Jesus told his disciples, don’t judge one another, just love yourselves, love God and love one another. So, one way for us to move toward whole hearted living is to follow the teaching of Jesus to have compassion toward ourselves.
That is a brief re-cap of the past two weeks. In Brene Brown’s work, she has come up with the practices that we can cultivate in our lives. These will help us let go of our shame, (the idea that we are not good enough according to someone else’s standards), and will help us let go of anxiety. One of them is to be still and to meditate. So I thought I would start off today’s message by asking Travis to share with us a little about his personal practice of meditation.
Travis, can you tell us how you meditate and what this practice looks like in your daily life?
Travis:  I go into a quiet space, usually the bedroom, and sit on a cushion and let my mind rest.  I rest my hands on my knees and focus on my breath.  It isn’t about trying to achieve something, it is spending some time with the silence of creation.  I start to notice my breath and focus on it.  Thoughts start to come back in so I realize that I’m getting caught up again, so I bring myself back to breathing again,  for about 15-20 minutes.  You don’t have to have a designated space, I do it in my car at a stoplight.  Use that opportunity to appreciate the gift of creation.  You don’t have to make a big deal about it.  It’s about being o.k. with God and o.k. with yourself.
Now, I’m going to guess that there are seasons in your life when you are practicing your meditation regularly; and that there have been seasons when you have not meditated. Can you tell me what the difference is in your life when you are meditating on a regular basis?
Travis:  Lately I have not been meditating as much as I used to.  My mind tends to get more carried away with concerns.  I still have the same concerns and problems when I meditate, but I handle them differently.  When you come from a place of stillness, the problems are not that much of a big deal.
Thank you Travis.
One of the reasons people meditate is to be less anxious. Anxiety is defined as fear or nervousness about what might happen, a feeling of worry, or unease. I believe that anxiety is something we have all experienced. But some of us experience it more intensely than others. Author Harriet Lerner says that there are generally two ways that people react to anxiety. 1) overfunctioning – “Overfunctioners tend  to move quickly to advise, rescue, take over, micromanage and get in other people’s business rather than look inward” (The Gifts of Imperfection, p. 109). 2) underfunctioning – “Underfunctioners tend to get less competent under stress. They invite others to take over and often become the focus of family gossip, worry or concern. They can be labeled…’the problem child’” (ibid).
To get more healthy, overfunctioners can learn to embrace vulnerability when they feel anxious, to be more honest with themselves about the fear and anxiety they are feeling rather than running around trying to fix everything. This is the way to move toward health. Underfunctioners can “work to amplify their strengths and competencies” (ibid, p. 110). In this way, they are not paralyzed by fear but find a way to move from fear and claim their strengths.
Let me give you an example, from scripture. Today’s scripture gives us an example of anxiety.
35 On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Now, do you think the disciples here are overfunctioning or underfunctioning? They are underfunctioning. They are paralyzed by their fear. They become helpless and pitiful. Like the “problem child” in the family, they wake up “dad” and want him to fix everything. For goodness sake, some of them have been fishermen on the Sea for all of their adult lives! They know that storms can come up on this Sea suddenly. Surely they have seen a thunderstorm before. But they let their anxiety get the best of them. In fact, they are not only scared, they get mad at Jesus for not caring about them!
Jesus calms the storm. (Okay, that is something that does not happen in every situation). But even if the storm had not calmed down at that moment, I think Jesus could have said the same thing to them: “Relax. Why are you so afraid of a little rain? Have you no faith in this boat? Have you no faith in yourselves and your ability to swim? Have you no faith that God loves you and that no matter what happens you will be okay? Don’t be so excitable.”
I can’t read Jesus’ mind. But we have all read more than just this scripture about Jesus. He was, I believe, the King of calm and cool. He did not get anxious and riled up much. Jesus knew about meditation as a practice to keep himself on an even keel.
There is another story of Jesus and his disciples being out on the water. He sent them ahead in the boat and he went up on the mountain to pray and meditate. A storm came up and Jesus walked on water to get to them in the boat. They were, once again, afraid, and he had to calm their fears. He was able to do that, I believe, because he had been praying. Jesus had a rhythm to his life. It was a rhythm of work and prayer.
We can do that, too. We can find a rhythm to our lives. We can take time in our lives, as Travis and I talked about. I try to do this every morning. I read some scripture. I write in a journal. And then I just sit in silence and breathe. Sometimes I pray one word: peace. Sometimes I breathe in peace and breathe out anxiety. In the midst of the work day if I find myself getting anxious, sometimes I just close my eyes and take a few deep cleansing and calming breaths. It’s a way to find my calm center and to remember that I belong to God and I am enough.
When Brene Brown was doing this research project, she figured out that her perfectionist-wound-too-tight life style was not working. She also realized that she had a high level of anxiety. She was so anxious that she was literally starting to feel dizzy at times. She told her therapist that she thought she needed to try to figure out how to keep standing in the midst of this deep anxiety.
Then it hit her: “I don’t need to figure out a way to keep going with this level of anxiety – I need to figure out how to be less anxious.” (106) Duh!
She says that the people she studied who were living in what she calls whole-hearted living were aware of their anxiety. They did not live under the illusion that they could avoid all anxiety. But they were committed to recognizing anxiety “as a reality but not a lifestyle.”
She isolated a couple of practices that she says help people manage our anxiety. These practices are cultivating both calm and stillness.
Brown says that calm means “being slow to respond and quick to think” (ibid). When we panic we just increase the panic and fear in the people around us. Psychologist Harriet Lerner says: “Anxiety is extremely contagious, but so is calm.” (ibid, p 106-7).
One of the best ways to practice calm is simply to breathe. Take some deep breaths. It is really hard to be anxious when you are breathing deeply and slowly. Another way is to count to ten slowly. Calm yourself down by counting to ten.
The other practice that people reported to Dr. Brown that related to whole-hearted living was stillness. Some describe it as prayer, others meditation, and some just being quiet. They all spoke of this: “quieting their bodies and minds as a way to feel less anxious and overwhelmed” (108).
Stillness is creating open space. It is “clearing.” It is not about emptiness but about making space to dream and listen. We would say to listen to God. We may encounter fear when we are still, but if fear is there, then we need to make space for fear. We need to honor our fear, breathe through it, and invite it out to have less control over us.
Jesus knew about stillness. He knew about taking time to be still and be with God, to listen to God and to allow God to speak to him and to soothe him. Jesus was all the time going to a quiet space to be still and rest in God.
When we are anxious, we have a choice. We can ramp up our anxiety by becoming a whirling dervish of activity; thinking about all the possible things that can go wrong, dwelling on all the possible bad outcomes, blaming those around us and just stirring up more anxiety, like the disciples did in the boat.
Or, we can de-escalate our own anxiety by moving toward calm and stillness. We can meditate, take a slow walk around the block. Or simply breathe in order to create some space for God to still our anxious hearts.
Let’s try that right now.
Breathe in calm, breathe out anxiety.
Whatever it is, isn’t going to get any better with us giving into fear and anxiety. Jesus said: Why are you so anxious? Trust God.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Gifts of Imperfection: Letting Go Of Self Judgment by Cheri Holdridge (with an assist by Kurt Young)

When I was in seminary I decided to take up weaving. I was spending lots of time using my brain, studying, thinking hard. I needed to do something creative. There was an arts center just down the road from the seminary and I thought it would be fun to learn to weave. So I signed up for a class. I found it really relaxing because it was different from everything else I was doing in my life.

I tried to find my first weaving so I could show you. It was a sampler, a practice piece where we tried lots of different weaving types. One of the hardest things for a new weaver to do is to get the edges, called the salvages, even. You can always tell a beginner because, for example, a scarf might go from being 5 inches wide to 6 to 7 and back to 5. Not good. My selvages were a mess on my sampler, but my teacher taught me not to worry. There is no such thing as a perfectly woven piece of fabric. The imperfections tell you it is hand-woven. I can look at a piece of cloth and tell you if it is hand-woven or machine woven as the hand woven ones have imperfections. I love the imperfections of a hand woven scarf or shawl any day. 

I learned in weaving class to let go do judgment and comparisons. Weaving is not a competitive sport. It is about being creative and having some fun. It’s about weaving something beautiful for yourself or someone you love. When I graduated from seminary, my church gave me a loom as a gift. So I kept weaving for a few years. But then I got married and had two kids and I did not make time in my life for weaving.  And now the loom is an interesting conversation piece in our home.

Brene Brown tells a story in her book about The Gifts of Imperfection. She says that she remembers a time in her childhood when her life changed. Her family lived in New Orleans when her father was a law student. They lived in a funky little apartment near Tulane University. They would go to the market in the French Quarter. She and her mother would bake and do creative things. They would do creative arts projects. They wore bell bottoms and had fun. Then her dad graduated from law school. He took a job and they moved to the suburbs in Houston. She says she remembers thinking that everyone’s living room looked like the lobby of a Holiday Inn. They were all pretty much the same. This is how she describes it: “Things changed and in many ways that move felt like a fundamental shift for our family. My parents were launched on the accomplishment-and-acquisitions track and creativity gave way… to comparison” ( p 94). “Comparison” she writes, “is all about conformity and competition” (ibid).

When we are caught up in comparison with other people we lose all sense of joy and happiness. Comparison in hard. We can never live up to the person we are comparing ourselves to. There will always be someone who seems to be better, smarter, faster, prettier, stronger, or more successful, in some way.

Dr. Brown says, that one way to whole hearted living, is to let go of this need for comparison. One tool we can use for doing this, regain a sense of joy, is to reclaim our creativity. We need to once, again, as I said last week, be like children: be vulnerable, dance, draw, cook, plant seeds, finger paint, play with play-doh, build a snow creation, sew, knit, make a model plane, work with wood, build a house, write a poem, or a song. Do you get the idea? 

But, with no judgment. Hear that NO JUDGEMENT.  So, we have to leave that old life of judgment behind, that life of comparison and thinking we are not good enough. It does not work for us. 

The Apostle Paul knew something about that life of judgment and comparison. He called it a life of sin. Sin takes many forms. Sometimes it means we pick up bad habits. Paul refers to the practice of letting the world tell us how to live. The world wants to tell us how to live, doesn’t it?  The world will tell us to live with shame, and to judge ourselves. The world will tell us to get caught up in the race to acquire more stuff and compete with our neighbors and our co-workers. 

We give in to this need to look better, to sell more, and to buy the best stuff. We must be perfect because being perfect will keep us from feeling any pain and we want to avoid pain at any cost. Remember those numbing agents we talked about last week.  And we sure don’t want to look bad. 

But when Paul is writing to the early Christians in Ephesus, he applauds them for leaving their life of sin behind. He says that God takes our sin dead lives and makes us alive in Christ. He writes:
Saving is all God’s idea, and all God’s work. All we do is trust enough to let God do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish!
It’s like this: If we trust God, God can save us from all this judgment. Salvation from all of these expectations is God’s gift to us. 

Jesus had something to say about this too. He said: 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. (Luke 6)”.  Isn’t that nice?  We could love by just this and live very well.  Now he was probably telling people here, not to judge or condemn others, but it follows that he would not want us to judge or condemn ourselves, because he also said we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves. 

Jesus was simply not into this judgment and shame way of living. His way was the way of forgiveness and grace.   Forgiveness and grace aren’t those great.  Don’t you wish you could take a shower like that every morning.  Not a shower of shame, but a starting over grace.

American journalist and novelist Anna Quindlen once said: “The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself” (quoted in The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, p. 55). 

You see, God wants us to be ourselves – the person God put us on this earth to be. God does not want us to live striving to be someone we are not – some unrealistic image of some superhuman model of perfection. 

When we strive for perfection, we end up failing and then we fall into shame. Shame is a bad place to live. So, the alternative choice is to see the flaws in the fabric of our lives as gifts. The cracks in our pots are signs that we are human and human beings have good days and bad, ups and down. 

Now just to clarify, perfectionism, is not the same as wanting to do our best. It’s not about seeking excellence. Those are good values. Perfectionism is the 10 ton weight that paralyzes us. 

Perfectionism is also not about self-improvement. A little healthy self-improvement never hurt anyone. But perfectionists take it too far. We learn this from an early age. We are raised as over-achievers, being praised for good grades, being good at sports, having good manners and the like. But somewhere along the way it becomes “debilitating” (p. 56). We become what we do. Healthy growth is focused on one’s own goals: what do I want to do to improve at something? Perfectionism is other-focused: what will they think of me?  Healthy living is what do I want to do. 

Dr. Brown thinks that we all practice perfectionism to some degree. It is on a sort of continuum with some of being very caught up on perfectionism and others of us not so much.  We are all somewhere along the continuum.  

A way to overcome perfectionism is to embrace compassion and to be more loving toward ourselves. I love this because one of our core values here at The Village is compassion. We usually talk about showing compassion for people who are poor and living on the margins. But it would not be a stretch for us to decide to extend this compassion back toward ourselves. 

Remember, Jesus said, that the greatest commandments are to love God and to love your neighbor as yourselves. These three are intertwined. We love God by loving ourselves and our neighbor.

But you see, we cannot practice self-love and self-compassion, when we are killing ourselves with the unrealistic expectations of perfectionism. The two things they just do not fit together. 

So, the challenge, invitation for us, is to allow ourselves to be imperfect. There are no perfect people, just people trying to be perfect. Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem” has a line in it: “There’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.” Can we celebrate the cracks in our lives? The imperfections. Because those are the places where the light of God can come in and heal us and love us and remind us that we can’t do everything. We can’t possibly take care of everything or be enough. But it’s ok because God loves us and God will walk with us through the hard times. And God will bring joy back around to us.  Joy always comes back around.

So I want to take you back to my story of learning to weave. I told you that during this series about the “Gifts of Imperfection” we would learn some practices to cultivate what Dr. Brown calls “whole-hearted living.” In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, which I recommend to you, in each chapter, she has suggestions for ways we can let go of who we think we are supposed to be, or who we think the world is pushing us to be, and embrace who we are. I would add that we can embrace being the person that God put us on this earth to be. In the chapter on “Letting Go of Comparison” she encourages us to practice creativity.

I think when I was in seminary, which is graduate school, and can be a highly competitive environment full of opportunities to compare one’s self to other students, I needed a place to be creative in non-judgmental space. So I found my way to the arts center and the weaving studio. My teacher there taught me not to worry about the imperfections in my weaving but to just work with them and have fun creating. 

I did not have to produce when I was weaving, I was just creating beauty for the sake of beauty. It was for me, but I did not have to do it. I am making a promise to myself that soon I’m going to dust off my loom and use it again. I need to do something creative and practice something without judgment. 

So I wonder, what can you do to get your creative juices going, and to practice letting go of comparison and judgment? Can you draw, cook, plant (inside right now if you want it to live), work with wood, write, sew, doodle, landscape, build, paint, sing or dance? 

We put some crayons on the tables in worship.  You can do it at home right now, even if it’s just pen or pencil.  I want to give you a few minutes to doodle and ask God how you can be creative and do something in the coming weeks that will allow you to be more like a child, and have fun, without judgment of yourself.  As people in our worship celebration decided, it can even be gathering shells on a beach (as another 2-6 inches of snow fell into our soon to be record winter), writing or singing a song, and some great pictures were created.  

Do you have somewhere to be imperfect like this?  At the Village, the only people not welcomed would be perfect people.  Then again, no human is perfect so everyone is welcome.  Come join us if you’re near the corner of The Anthony Wayne Trail and Conant Street in the Maumee Indoor Theater. We’re there Sundays at 10:30 AM and out in the world the rest of the week.