Successful Failure

This week I facilitated a class at work for a team who wanted to learn more about each other and how they could work together more productively. I actually co-facilitated with an AWESOME co-worker, despite the fact that he legally had his name changed to Timm so he wouldn’t be like all the other Tims. That’s another story. Anyway – the class. I didn’t feel good about it. I felt like I got some stuff wrong, I didn’t prepare enough and that I came off looking like an idiot. It wasn’t a super interactive group and as I sat there, I was very conscious of how the energy (or perceived lack thereof) of the group really affected my energy. I was confronted with the symbiosis of learning & development – the kind that’s not as good. The last class I did was the complete opposite.

The most interesting thing about this event was how much I allowed the vibe of the room to affect my view of my performance. It was a mark of an amateur to me, which is what I hated the most. I was attuned to it, for sure, which is good, but I allowed it to drag me down and that was something I wish I could learn to avoid.

The day before this, I was on-boarding a group of interns to our store, and one of the fears they express is making mistakes and doing something wrong. I told them that first, they do not have the power to single-handedly bring down our company. Second, for most of them, this is their first job ever, so I want them to see our store as a safe place for them to make mistakes. They will need to fail to learn, but I want this to be a positive start to their working lives.

Then I go and send myself down a shame spiral for one bad class. Can I bring down the company for one less-than-stellar workshop? No. Will I learn from this? Yes. It’s taken over a week for me to bounce back from this. I have been unable to celebrate even the smallest successes and I’ve been dressing REALLY cute to work (for those who don’t know me, the better I look on the outside, the worse I feel on the inside). I have lost 6 lbs in the last 4 weeks. I should be happy about that. Instead, I’m focused on how much I have left to lose. I’ve led a successful onboarding and have completed summer seasonal hiring. All I can think about is what could go wrong. This is not awesome or normal for me, but this is where I am.

I’m starting to get better – the last 2 days, I’ve just dressed normally. I am sleeping better too, which helps me immensely. I’m asking myself how I’m being formed and healed through this experience, for which I have no answer but am open to the process.


This past Sunday, the Christian church observed Pentecost. It actually is a originally the Jewish celebration of Shavuot which commemorates the anniversary of the day God gave the Torah to the Israelite nation at Mount Sinai. For Christians, it commemorates the first obvious appearance of the Holy Spirit following Jesus’ ascension. It always comes 50 days after Easter.

I didn’t grow up observing Pentecost, or much of the liturgical year, for that matter. I grew up in a Baptist church, and in case you’re not aware, Evangelicals in general and Baptists in particular have a great fear of appearing either Catholic or Pentecostal, so all those pesky church traditions are thrown out. They also have a huge fear of being seen in public consuming alcohol, but that’s another post.

Since attending a Presbyterian church the last 5 years, I’ve been more involved in these types of observances. One year, I preached on Pentecost, which happened to also fall on Mother’s Day, and my sermon title was Your Mother is On Fire. Love when that kind of thing happens because in scripture, the Holy Spirit is always referred to in the feminine, so the tie-in w/ Mother’s Day is a no-brainer.

The great thing about the Pentecost story in Acts 2 (posted below) is that it is both a miracle of speaking and a miracle of hearing. The Christ Followers were holed up in a room and the Spirit busted in and caused them to speak in other languages. Any day that would have been cool, but about as relevant & necessary as any garden variety party trick. It was perfectly timed this day because there were people in town from all over the known world to celebrate Shavuot and they were able to hear about God’s revelation in a way that they understood.

Torah was about God revealing Godself to God’s people. Jesus was another way God revealed Godself, and the Spirit another. The message for me this time around is about hearing. God’s revelation of God’s self is sometimes quite obvious and sometimes not. In the case of the Pentecost story, that’s pretty much out there. Setting people on fire and causing them to speak another language is a little showy, if you ask me. But God was so radically changing how God related to humanity that it was probably necessary for God to make a big deal of it.

I think that God speaking to people in ways they understand is also a miracle of hospitality. Making people feel welcome in God’s reality is something the church isn’t super good at. The only way we can do that is to first be able to listen to God and then be open to God changing our language.

Questions for discussion:

1. Have you experienced a moment of God’s clear revelation of Godself or God’s message?

2. How do you best receive truth?

3. What would another “language” of spiritual practice look like to you?

4. What is your reaction to spiritual chaos?

5. Does your religious tradition emphasize or de-emphasize the less “dignified” side of God?

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.7Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ 13But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 “In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Friday Five: Firsts

Dorcas writes:

I have a little story to tell.  Earlier this spring, my husband won three tickets to a concert presented by the symphony orchestra of a nearby city–featuring Mozart’s Requiem.  We debated for a few days about taking Trinity, our four-year old granddaughter, to such an adult event.  In the end we decided to give it a try.  After all, the tickets were free, so we didn’t have a great deal to lose if we had to leave.  (There she is in the picture, all dressed up and ready to go hear, “my Mozart!”)  You may wonder why we would consider taking a preschooler to the symphony, but this child loves Mozart and listens to a CD nearly every night at bedtime. Once I tried to sneak a CD of Bach in, and she cried, saying, “Grandma, that is NOT Mozart.”

She was hopping with excitement, but we gave her lots of coaching, and when we arrived she gazed about with wonder at the lovely venue, and when the orchestra began to tune up she sat up straight and gazed, enraptured, with her mouth literally open. It was pure delight to watch her enjoying brand-new sights, sounds and surroundings.

This experience led me to remembering times of discovery, of new experiences.  Some were my own experiences and some were remembered from my children, or those of others.  Share with us today about five memorable moments of insight, discovery, awareness–from childhood or later, something you experienced or something you shared with someone else.

1. First ride on Space Mountain (or probably any roller coaster)

I was five when we took our first trip to Disneyland. We had family in Pasadena, so we could stay with them and we all piled in the car and headed for the Happiest Place on Earth. This was 1977 and it was the days of ticket books. For those of you who are only familiar with these heady times of general admission, let me assure you that things were not always so general back in the day. Upon paying your admission price – a whopping $8 – you were granted a ticket book. The tickets were lettered from A – E and different rides corresponded to different letters. The A rides were the little kiddie rides and the higher you went in the alphabet, the bigger the ride. Consequently, there were fewer of those lettered tickets. There may have been 2 E tickets.

Keep in mind, this was 1077. The world was safer and parents more trusting. Also, my brother was an infant and was basically a millstone around my eager, adventure-seeking neck. I don’t have a ton of crystal clear memories from this trip, but I do remember Space Mountain. I think my dad went with me the first time and I was completely hooked. My aunt & uncle were in their 40’s (gasp!) and my mom was tethered to my brother, so I went through all their ticket books (with their permission) and took out their E tickets. They all sat at the end of the ride patiently as I went back over and over. By myself. At age 5. Again – 1977.

2. First Movie

1978 – The original Jar-Jar Binks-free Star Wars movie the way God intended – on a GIANT 70mm screen with major sound for its time. I got to go with my friend Cindy Hart after my sixth birthday party to see Star Wars. It was a re-release because the original was released in 1977, already a banner year for me (see above).

3. First Trip Overseas

My first time on an international trip was 2001. I was a seminary student and a team of us from the music school went to Kenya to teach for 2 weeks. I raised enough money for my trip and some extra to buy some instruments that we brought with us and left with the students there. It was a 10-hour flight to London, 6 hour layover, then 17 hour flight to Nairobi. Then a 2-hour drive to where we were staying. To say I was disgusting would be an understatement. Kenya is  such a beautiful country and the 2 weeks I spent there were amazing. After that time there, my mom met me in London and we spent a week there. That was her first international trip as well. We had an amazing time and discovered that while we don’t live well together, we do travel well together. We’re hopefully taking another European adventure together next spring – can’t wait!

4. First Car Accident

1980 or 81 – I was 8ish and my brother was 3. We were in our super sweet brown 1979 Pontiac Bonneville. Jealous? I don’t remember the exact logistics of the situation but I do know that I was  in the rear passenger seat and my door was hit by a motorcycle driven by a big scary dude who kinda looked like this:

Obviously, I was shocked & then scared & then I start to cry. Our car barely stopped moving and my brother was out of the car like a shot. He ran up to the biking behemoth and proceeded to bang on the man’s knee caps and yell at him: “You hit my dad’s car & you made my sister cry!” The guy was abjectly apologetic. He bent down as far as he could and begged my brother’s forgiveness over and over. It was quite hilarious.

5. First Trip to San Francisco

1987 – The first time I came here was when I was a freshman in high school and we were here for a choir trip. We flew in to San Francisco & spent the day and then went to a competition in San Jose. I was absolutely blown away by this beautiful city. We only had one day and we did only touristy things, but in my gut I knew I would live here someday, and I moved here in 1998.

Friday Five: Summer Reruns

Songbird writes:

It’s that time of year when the only new things on television are music/dance competitions (the 21st century answer to variety shows?). Yes, it’s the season of reruns.

This week the clock turned back to last fall and the Glee kids went back to school and still got “slushied,” and Michael hired his nephew on The Office, which was not something even he would be likely to repeat.

In honor of this annual Time Warp, please share five things worth a repeat. These could be books, movies, CDs, recipes, vacations, or even TV shows

1. Weeds

One of the most witty TV shows on right now. Yes, it’s completely inappropriate on many levels, but so funny! And well acted. Mary Louise Parker is so brilliant. The whole cast is, really. It’s such good TV. It’s streaming on Netflix, so I watch it over & over.

2. The Secret Garden & A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I first read these books when I was 9 and I still love it. I love the contrast of the two main characters, one sour & lonely, the other gracious & popular. Both experience great tragedy and both are changed by it. I can read them over and over and still get something out of them.

3. My cleaning movies.

I’ve got certain movies that I like to put on and watch while I do work around the house. There’s no real link to them, just that I love them. They are: Kissing Jessica Stein, Legally Blonde, Beauty & The Beast (Disney), The Sound of Music, Something New, and Shining Through. I know. Random. Whatever – it’s my list.

4. Glee Soundtracks

I work in the fashion industry, I’m surrounded by gay guys in their 20’s. Enough said.

5. Morning routines

I have a little routine I like to do in the mornings that gets me going. I program the coffee the night before so I’m ready to go. Then when I get up, after the teeth brushing, I get my fave mug (even though I have many) and fill it up w/ coffee. I add 1/2 & 1/2 & brown sugar, and I must get the formula just right. Then I crawl back in bed, check email, facebook, & then read the daily office. Then I get ready for work. It’s a little me-time at the beginning of the day.