Walk in the Way of Love

Geez, lectionary! I get it! I’m not saying the lectionary is centered around US politics per se, but it really seems the Holy Spirit was colluding with someone when they mapped out Year C. Today’s epistle reading was from the ever-challenging Ephesians 4

Ephesians 4:25-5:2New International Version (NIV)

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands,that they may have something to share with those in need.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example,therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

This is one of those passages that’s easy to use as a weapon but really tough to own. Yeah, the Dumpster Fire has run a campaign entirely based on lies. But my job is to shine a light on that in a way that builds people up. That’s harder than I can imagine and I am not sure how to do that. I can be angry, but not sin. I need to get rid of bitterness and rage. I need to be kind and compassionate. I need to forgive. I need to walk in the way of love.

Best. Weekend. Ever.

I kinda just had the best weekend ever. It was pretty low key, really fun, and very relaxing. I decided to drive to LA for the 4th weekend and see some friends, toodle around the area and just be away, and I gotta tell you – I made the right choice. I needed to be around good friends with whom I can be totally comfortable, it doesn’t feel like work and I can just have fun and love them and be loved by them. That super happened and it was great.

Brian was my original gay boyfriend. I have quite a gaggle of them now, but he’s the OG. He and I met at church (of course) about 15ish years ago and we used to go out on Monday nights and do happy hour and a movie. At the time he was trying to pray away the gay but he’s thankfully moved out of that phase and he has an AMAZING partner, Tom, with whom he has been for 10 years. They haven’t decided about getting married, now that they can, but if they do I REALLY want to at least sing but maybe even officiate. I’d BETTER be asked to do something major, boys!

I also got to spend some time with the Lilster. Lilyan and I have been friends since we were in middle school. She knows my crap, I know her crap, it’s all good. We went to a HILARIOUS follies show that was patriotically themed, starring a local drag queen celebrity and some former Disney cast members. Then we had a fabulous Mexican dinner at the restaurant that houses the theater, along with some of Lil’s co-workers and friends. Lovely evening.

I also go to go to Disneyland! I haven’t been since my 30th birthday, so for those of you keeping score at home, that’s only a couple of years, and by couple I mean ELEVEN. How does that happen? Anyway, Disney with Jaci the Irish dancer. Lovely girl, dancer, retail goddess and smart cookie. We had a blast being horrified by people’s outfits and behavior, eating corn dogs & ice cream and being jostled about by the rides.

Today I’ll head to San Diego to see some friends from SF who are there for a vacation and then I’ll head back to Phoenix. I’m feeling refreshed and relaxed and ready to back to work. Until my next trip, which is to San Francisco in about 10 days 🙂

“How’s WW Going for You?”

This week I received the following  message on facebook from a dear friend who is also doing Weight Watchers right now:

“How’s ww going for you? I’m at -23. Trying to hit 35 by Jan 1. Seems to be slow these last couple weeks ugh. Update me missy!”

I think her question can best be answered by a text interaction I had the other night w/ my good friend L.

L: There are cinnamon m&m’s at Target. Can’t decide if that’s yummy or gross. Leaning toward the latter. Couldn’t commit to an actual bag of them, so got the mint ones instead.

Me: Seems gross, but then I’ve been eating Nutella straight from the jar.

So, yeah, that’s pretty much how I’m doing. A jar of Nutella and a spoon. The last few weeks at work have been beyond stressful and I’ve worked more than a few 12 or 13 hour days. The good news is, however, that I am done hiring (176, thank you very much) and I am less stressed. This is a big week in retail, but I can now just do my work and coast through the rest until the week before xmas when we start deciding who stays & who does not.

Today was the first day off I’ve had that has been both restful and productive and I feel ready to go to work tomorrow. Up to now, days off have been for hard core crashing and still not feeling rested. I feel back now, though. Much less homicidal.

Back to Weight Watchers. I am going to make poor eating choices during times of high stress. I need to accept that instead of sending myself down a shame spiral. I am back on the good choice bandwagon now, so hopefully, friend, the WW will get better in the next few weeks.

Light Bulb Moment

I’m a bit of a fixer. When faced with a challenge, my brain goes into high gear and looks for solutions and I want to fix whatever is going on. Many time this manifests itself when people or organizations have opportunities to do new things, help people, roll out a program, whatever, and I want desperately to offer my services. I am learning to quiet the voice(s) in my head that would say, “I can TOTALLY do/fix/take care of/run that!” I know in my head that my over-eager jumping in can deprive other people of exercising & developing their own gifts & abilities, so I have been doing much better with recognizing my limitations and giving other people a chance to show their stuff.

There’s an element of self-care here as well, because my tendency is to chastise myself for my quick hand-raising. “Stop doing that! Let other people have a chance!” However, the other day as I was driving in the car, something dawned on me – I like the fact that I’m the type of person who likes helping people. That’s a good thing. I like the way my brain works. I like that I am good at figuring out solutions. Rather than yell at me for jumping up, I’m telling me that my desire to help is a good thing. I do need to keep it in check because giving other people a chance and respecting my own work load is necessary. The great thing here is that I’ve been able to flip the way I see this, not as a weakness, but a strength that’s gone a little bit overboard, so I can rein it in and get to a more balanced place without all the yelling.

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.

Pentecost

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.”

Iyanla Is Back

Twelve-ish years ago, Iyanla Vanzant was a regular guest on Oprah and really dug her. She had great insight and brought an amazing message about self-respect & dignity that I really appreciated and apparently is desperately needed. Then she disappeared. Then she reappeared on her own short-lived eponymous talk show. Then she disappeared again. Oprahland was mum on the topic. Hard to believe that a personality that large could go away so quickly, but she did.

Now she’s back. The last two Wednesdays on Oprah she’s been talking about what happened & where she’s been. Long story short, she’s lost everything – money, husband, book deals, royalties, everything. She rents a small house, lives check-to-check & makes soap. Seriously. Soap.

The wealth part of the “rich & famous” thing took her so by surprise and her naivete left her without the proper accountant & advisors & she owes the IRS more than she ever made. She filed bankruptcy. All the royalties from her first 10 books go back to her publisher to pay back an advance because she didn’t have the right attorney to make sure she had the rights to her own intellectual property.

She kept saying, “I was a millionaire with a welfare mentality.” She said it several times until Oprah asked her what that meant. She said that it meant that she lived in a mental state that all the money had to be gone in order for more money to come in. She wasn’t able to RECEIVE the money as a blessing because she didn’t feel she deserved it.

A couple of things about this were enlightening to me. First, as I’ve discussed, I have always had issues with money management and I’m definitely getting a handle on those now, but that description of a “welfare mentality” rings a little true. Sometimes the money just burns a hole in my pocket & there’s a Gap flagship a block away from work that can really put that fire out. I’m going to go full Wisconsin cheddar on you and say that since watching this I have begun to see my pay as a blessing that facilitates my goals, not something to be disposed of as quickly as possible. See – cheesy. Shut up.

The other part was her discussion of being able to receive. That right there is my huge stumbling block. My name is Tiffany, I am a control freak fixer who wants to be perceived as flawless. (Hi, Tiffany). Receiving is not a comfortable place for me. It feels vulnerable and powerless. Iyanla kept saying that she didn’t think Oprah wanted her for who she was, only for what she could do. I have such a tendency to believe that my value lies in what I can do, rather than who I am. I feel very uncomfortable with recognition at work, focused attention of any kind, and I absolutely HATE  compliments. The worst is people noticing when I get my hair done. Gah! Get a life. Seriously. Hate. It. I’m perfectly happy pampering myself at a spa or nail salon, b/c I’m paying people to do that for me. I’m in charge. But letting people just care for me for no reason? Awkward.

This is my “opportunity” as we say at work when you suck at something. Receiving. What am I supposed to do about this? Am I supposed to allow myself to be strapped into a chair and be forced to listen to people notice my hair like some sort of emotional reverse-aversion therapy? What I am doing is trying to be in the moment when I am in a position to receive and acknowledge my discomfort & let it pass.