Wednesday, July 31, 2013

You Are Light

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.Matthew 5:14-16

Dear friend,

You know how when you look up at the sun, you can’t stare directly at it because it’s so bright? We carry that kind of light within us. We just choose to cover it up most of the time, or have actually listened to a world that’s told us otherwise. But I’m telling you now: you carry that kind of light within you. One so beautiful it makes others squint, peering at you through clasped hands or shaded eyes. One so bright it illuminates the surrounding darkness, gives hope with its very being. One so radiant is warms all it touches, helps the world around it grow.

Keep following the light. Keep searching for it. Keep believing in it. It starts with you peering down and realizing the majesty of whom and what you are. It starts with remembering you are the daughter or son of royalty. It starts with noticing every freckle, every vein, every wrinkle, every hair is a divine signature. It starts with believing that you are made for glory.  

"Jesus says ‘You are the light of the world.’ I like even more what Jesus doesn’t say. He does not say ‘One day, if you are more perfect and try really hard, you’ll be light. He doesn’t say, ‘If you play by the rules, cross your T’s and dot your I’s, then maybe you’ll become light.’ No. He says, straight out, ‘You are light.” It is the truth of who you are, waiting only for you to discover it"
 -Greg Boyle, SJ, Tattoos on the Heart  

You are light.  Dust yourself off or get a new bulb. Break through the rain and the clouds. Remember who you are and shine on.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Team Players

Dear friend,

I wanted to share with you some great news: we’re on the same team. I don’t care if you like the colors of your flag better or think your national anthem’s tune is catchier than mine. I don’t care that your skin is lighter, darker, more freckly, wrinkled. I don’t care if you even understand me or not. Or can decipher my alphabet. A smile trespasses all frontiers. A tear dances on boundaries. Laughter melts away formality, music erases stiffness, steaming food lifts perimeters. And we all understand those things. We all understand.

What I care about are not our differences, our colors, our unique identities—beautiful as they are. I care about our oneness despite it all. And I wanted to remind you of the great news despite your political affiliation, religious denomination, language, gender or yearly income in case you forgot: we’re all on the same team.

We all have the same beginning and end. There is an end, you know, whether you care to think about it or not. I can’t tell you what happens after this now that we’ve been given. But I can tell you that this now is important because it’s all we’ve got. And I wanted to remind you that it can be used to build up the rest of our team--the one with millions of different players--because we’re stronger that way.

We’re stronger when our players are better nourished, better rested, better educated, better treated. We’re stronger when everyone shows up bringing their hundred percent. We’re stronger when our needs and wants and actions aren’t always the center of attention in a world so obsessed with gratifying these first. We’re stronger when we can weigh our wants, discern them, and realize that those of others may be more dire or relevant or important.   

It’s easier said than done. I wanted the fourth taco, for example. But I said I was full. Why?  It meant I got even stronger nourishment: my mom’s smile…and a sigh of relief from my thighs.

Friend, life hurts a lot of the time. So we jump from small, fragile, beautiful moment to the next, savoring each along the way. Sometimes, the leap seems too far, to take too long. We barely reach the next stepping stone or have to swim a while before getting to it when the next leap comes along. Sometimes there’s fog. But the next stepping stone is there. And this knowledge, and the knowledge of the past one, sustains us for the next leap. Sometimes it doesn’t. That's when we need our teammates to step in—offering the knowledge of the next stepping stone, directions, encouragement or just a partner to leap with. This is how we get stronger.   

My beautiful moments, my stepping stones, take many forms these days, in phone calls, texts, e-mails, conversations.  In the prayer sent, the reading referenced, the link to that article or comic or viral video, the quote from the movie, the song they can’t get out of their head, the letter in the mail, the picture of the moon.

These moments sustain me in the fog, the rain, the silence, the sunshine, the moonlight, the dawn, the leap. These moments poke me into remembering life’s meaning: that we are all on the same team. And it’s time to help one another keep playing. Not so that we may win every single day. Because we are not going to win every single day. Not so that we may be the best. Because we are just called to be better. But because we win when we reach the next stepping stone or when we help someone else to. We win when our teammates are their best selves. We win when we are our best selves. We win when we share our best selves with others. But we need each other's help sometimes in order to get there. I need your help and you need mine.

So cheer me on, will ya? And in the meantime, I’ll cheer for you.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Be patient

Dear friend,

It’s hard sometimes, isn’t it? Waiting.

You stand there, dressed in your pencil skirt or coat and tie, holding your briefcase or resume, ready to take on your destiny and guess what? It got caught in traffic. You’re determined though. I mean, you ironed your shirt for crying out loud. You gelled your hair. You’re wearing heels. You are not going to give up that easily. 

You eye your imagined clock—trying to stare it into submission. Maybe if you concentrate hard enough the answer will arrive in your fireplace out of thin air like Harry Potter. Maybe you’ll pull a Matilda, squint your eyes, and POOF, something magical will happen.

Nothing happens.

“I can be useful!” you elbow life. Look, I can dress the part, act the part. I have the honors, the internships, the work experience, the GPA. I can wear business casual (emphasis on casual), tuck in my shirt, get to work early, do a cartwheel. Tell me what you want and I’ll do it.

Nothing happens.

I mean, your twenty-three years old. You need to have your entire life figured out. You need to impress parents and peers and future employers. You need to take on the world, show everyone that you’re a fully-functioning almost adult that buys organic food, puts the toilet paper on the right way, folds her laundry, separates paper and plastic, showers occasionally.

But right now, nothing seems to be happening. Not at your pace. Not the way you want it to. It doesn’t fit into your cardboard cutout of how you want your life to go, and you’re impatient. There's no time to waste time. You’re so busy focusing on this that the other change and growth and beauty going on in life threatens to slip away unnoticed.

That’s failure—allowing the beauty in life to slip away unnoticed. Happiness is disguised in nice clothing, a confident smirk, your pristine resume and other so-called evidence of success. And while all of that is well and good, you've mixed things up. You've forgotten to live in spite of not having a schedule, itinerary or game plan. Those aren't life. They're tools to help you through it, or organize it, or maximize it. Don't confuse them for life itself. 

Stuff is happening. 

Wonderful, beautiful stuff. Like friends getting jobs, taking marriage vows, moving across the country, going on retreats, traveling the world, starting graduate school, having babies, or just waking up every day in spite of pain and hardship and living. Life is going on, even though you may have no idea what you’re doing.  It's not all about you and your plan. And that is also a beautiful, beautiful thing.

As I washed my face the other day, then a guest in a house I used to call home, I looked next to the sink to find a small paper with these words: “Good things come to those who wait. Be patient.”

Patience is my word right now. Not my favorite of all time, but I’ve been learning to tango with it slowly and gracefully: with lots of eye-rolls and sighs. 

I heard someone say recently that this is a time when we don’t see a lot of miraculous things. I think it’s because we’re not looking.

Keep waiting, friend. And start looking.

All the best,